Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hypotheses vs. The Truth

My recent exchange with proponents of the “Japanese Capture” school of Amelia Earhart Disappearance studies has given me a good deal of food for thought. 

Why, I wondered, did they react so vehemently to my suggestion that they recognize their hypothesis AS an hypothesis, rather than as THE TRUTH?

Some of my Facebook friends and internet interlocutors said “they’re stupid; ignore them.”  But I don’t think they’re stupid, and it seems irresponsible to ignore them.

Some said “they’re defensive,” and I reckon that’s so, but it’s an answer that doesn’t answer anything.  Sure they’re defensive, but why?

I really don’t have an answer, but it struck me after awhile that my reaction to them was much like my reaction to religious fundamentalists.  I simply don’t understand how anyone can believe with utter unshakable certainty that they know THE TRUTH.  About anything.

I have relatives who are fundamentalist Christians.  They say, and I have no cause to disbelieve them, that they know of a certainty that there’s a God in Heaven who sent his son to earth to save us all.  I guess that might be true, or at least partly true, or metaphorically true, but I just don’t see any basis for concluding that it absolutely certainly IS true.  And I look at the history of, say, relations between the White Christian American mainstream and Indian tribes, in which Christianity was deployed as a “civilizing” strategy that just happened to deprive tribes of their lands and water and give them to – hmm, White Christian Americans, and I wonder whether those who thus deployed their faith knew what they were doing, or truly thought they were carrying out God’s Will.  And if they did think they were carrying out God’s will, why?  Similarly, of course, every evening on the news we see the fruits of another suicide bombing or two, each involving at least one guy who, to judge from what we’re told, is dead (sic) certain that blowing himself and a bunch of other people up will land him in heaven with seventy-five virgins.  I always wonder what happens when he works his way through them; is the supply replenished, or what?  The sheer logistics of the business would give me pause to reconsider; how can anybody be sure enough to push the button?

Obviously I am befuddled by religious fundamentalism.  I’m equally befuddled by atheist fundamentalism; how can anybody be so sure that there’s NOT a god of some sort in some kind of heaven – or in everything, as my animist friends posit?  How does one KNOW?

It's the same with true believers in Earhart-on-Saipan.  To me, Earhart-on-Saipan is valid as an hypothesis to be tested – I’m happy to accept it as that, and encourage people to test it if they can find data with which to do so.  Crashed-and-Sank is a valid hypothesis to be tested; it just costs a lot to do it. Earhart-on-Nikumaroro is valid as an hypothesis to be tested, and testing it is what TIGHAR’s Earhart project is about.  But for an Earhart-on-Saipan fundamentalist, it seems, things just don’t work that way: Earhart getting offed by the Japanese on Saipan is THE TRUTH, and if you don’t believe it, you’re part of a vast conspiracy designed to keep the American people and everyone else in the dark, because if they ever found out, well…….  And you're disrespecting all the people who say they saw her, or saw her grave, or saw her briefcase, or were told by their uncle that they saw her airplane.  And those people -- some of them distinguished military leaders -- cannot be wrong, because, well, they're distinguished.  

Hell, I don't even believe in papal infallibility.  

I’ve finally concluded, and I’d love to see some neuroscientist test THIS hypothesis, that our brains are simply organized differently.  Some people’s brains can handle uncertainty and multiple possible realities; other people’s brains are tuned in to The Truth – whatever that means to them.  One kind of brain isn’t necessarily better than the other, but I’m really coming to believe (My god, is this the TRUTH?) that the meat in my skull is just differently constructed than that in, say, Mike Campbell’s skull.  If that’s the case, then maybe it’s fruitless to argue; we can’t possibly reach a meeting of minds that understand the world so differently.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

2015 Nikumaroro Visit?

We're working with Betchart Expeditions to put together a visit to Nikumaroro in mid-2015; see the announcement on their website at, and if you're interested in coming along, let them know.  It's early days in planning the trip, but what we're hoping for is a cruise of a few weeks' duration with on-board lectures and discussions, a tour of the island, and a few small-scale search and study activities.  Not an intensive expedition, but an opportunity for a good number of people to see the island, learn about what we're doing, and share ideas.  Ric and I are both planning to be aboard.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

More About AE on Saipan

Les Kinney, a proponent of the "Japanese Capture" hypothesis, has posted a long discussion on the blog to which he contributes, responding to my recent posting here ("I'm Ric Gillespie's.....", December 22).  He invited me to post it here so I will, below.  I may respond to elements of it when I have time, but mostly don't plan to.  Mr. Kinney's post reminds me of the wisdom of Ric Gillespie's position on this kind of exchange -- don't get into them because there's simply no point.

Les Kinney says:
Dr. King, I noticed you a posted a rebuttal to my post on Mike Campbell’s blog in the everlasting debate on the Earhart mystery. I also have noted you posted a link to this discussion on the TIGHAR web site.
I believe it is necessary to respond to your comments, for no other reason than to set the record straight concerning my research into the disappearance of Earhart. There is much more to understanding the Earhart mystery than relying on TIGHAR information or simply skim reading a few poorly written books on the Earhart mystery. I think what gets Mike Campbell so incensed is the failure of critics not to include the preponderance of evidence pointing to Earhart’s capture by the Japanese.
Instead of acknowledging and accepting the statements made by veterans, citizens of Saipan, and the Marshall Islands, you have chosen to discredit their testimony. Coming up with the claim these witnesses were inflicted with a strange bout of memory creation is quite creative.
With that brief introduction, let me respond to your previous posted comments.
Dr. King says: ” Professional” researchers meaning those who make a profession of searching for Earhart, I take it? I.e. you, Mike, and your colleagues?
Response: Dr. King, you might have well have placed a (lol) phrase next to those remarks. In other words, how could I claim to be a professional researcher? The definition of a researcher according to Webster: Studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts.
For your information, my three decade plus federal law enforcement career speaks for itself. I was a senior manager for a federal law enforcement agency. I consider myself a professional researcher. I have investigated, (researched,) and reported on various international “issues” analogous to the Earhart matter hundreds of times over. I have spent months on single investigations where research was paramount in seeking a satisfactory conclusion. Discounting publicity, most issues were far more important than finding the answer to the Earhart mystery. I have testified in various courts dozens of times, whereby the title “expert witness” was accepted by the court. I have partaken in many crime scene searches not to dissimilar from archeological digs. I believe I am entitled to the term “professional researcher.”
Dr. King says: “If one takes all the witnesses (first, second, and third-hand) at face value, and pays no attention to the factors (discussed in our Saipan paper) that may have influenced them, then yes, they’re pretty overwhelming. But I don’t see any reason to be so uncritical.”
Response: Dr. King, if I understand your “false memory creation” argument, I believe there would be no convictions in any court of law which relied on eye witness, direct testimony, or secondary evidence, based on witness’s recollection of events. By your standards, all of these witnesses would be impeached. Using your logic, I would guess there are several million wrongful judicial decisions around the country needing immediate appeal. Those tainted witnesses must be suffering from “false memory creation.”
Let’s take your argument a step further. From Mike Campbell’s book, you chose to chastise Duda’s appeal to Marines for his November 1993 posting in Leatherneck Magazine and say: “We mean no criticism of Mr. Duda for publishing this notice, but was it not a leading question? It amounts to: “Did you experience anything during the invasion of Saipan that you would connect with Earhart, Noonan, and/or their airplane – which was found in a Japanese hangar at Aslito Field?” This sort of questioning pervades the record of eyewitness testimony elicitation on which the Earhart-in-the-Marianas stories are largely based. To judge from the psychological literature, it would seem almost made to order for the inadvertent creation of false memories.”
Response: Dr. King, do you believe that logic? Let’s take a look at the typical law enforcement bulletin posted at post offices, various public buildings, along highway billboards, and for that matter on the six o’clock local news. This one is quite mild:
“On June 18th, at approximately 9 pm., the Sumner City High School was extensively vandalized. Any citizens who may have seen the perpetrators, witnessed the vandalism, or have information, especially all those who might have been in the vicinity of the school that evening, please contact police.”
Dr. King, according to your argument, no witnesses that come forward as a result of such publicity should be trusted or used in a court of law. Here is how you regaled the Duda appeal: “This sort of questioning pervades the record of eyewitness testimony elicitation on which these stories are largely based. To judge from the psychological literature, it would seem almost made to order for the inadvertent creation of false memories.”
Using your argument, we should never solicit the truth from witnesses in a court of law since they are suffering from false memories – or is it only those witnesses associated with the Earhart mystery inflicted with “false memory syndrome?
Dr. King, you state: “If one takes all the witnesses (first, second, and third-hand) at face value, and pays no attention to the factors (discussed in our Saipan paper) that may have influenced them, then yes, they’re pretty overwhelming. But I don’t see any reason to be so uncritical.”
Response: Dr. King, the “factors,” you have described in your paper ‘cherry pick’ conflicting accounts of witnesses. No doubt parts of their stories were based on hearsay accounts. But remember, whether the getaway car was red or yellow, or whether one of the bandits pointed a gun or a knife, does not discredit the fact a robbery of the bank occurred.
By focusing on a minor remark of a witness made in good faith and based upon hearsay, you have decided the witness’s entire statement must be impeached. When an Earhart witness said they heard a white woman was beheaded, and a another said she heard the white woman was shot, or that a third said the white woman died of disease, those collective statements still don’t dispute the fact they all saw a white man and woman on Saipan fitting Earhart and Noonan’s description prior to the war. Several of these witnesses said the white woman had a burn on her face. Except for one witness, Anna Magofna, none witnessed an execution, except for Mrs. Nieves Blas, who I don’t believe was a credible witness.
In further corroboration of the Saipan theory, educated Catholic missionary priests from the United States who witnessed the native testimony all said the same thing: Saipan natives would not lie in front of a priest.
A point needs to be said about the Marine witnesses on Saipan. Many did tell their loved ones and family members of their Earhart involvement long ago – they just didn’t tell the press.
As you are aware, Fred Goerner documented statements from three high ranking officers who were on Saipan and the Marshall Islands: Marine Generals Graves B. Erskine, General Alexander Vandergrift (who won the Congressional Medal of Honor) and of course Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the war in the Pacific.
All three of these distinguished men, told Goerner that Earhart was on Saipan. Vandergrift and Erskine wrote books about their time in the war. There have been several accounts and biographies written of Nimitz’s life.
According to your logic, Generals’ Erskine, Vandergrift, and Admiral Nimitz must have suffered from false memory creation. Since you state, “It would seem almost made to order for the inadvertent creation of false memories.” Don’t you think you should pen a review of their books on Amazon and make the public aware of that possibility? Or, do you believe these honorable men lied to Goerner?
Dr. King says: “the complete lack of credible evidence unearthed on Nikumaroro…” ..”Well, since you state that “lack” as a fact, I guess it must be true. Funny, we who’ve been digging up and studying the evidence find it at last mildly “credible.”
Response: Dr. King, please tell me the credible evidence unearthed on Nikumaroro. I am sincerely interested.
Dr. King quotes me: “… three open cockpit US aircraft flew at 50 to 500 feet over this sliver on an island for 30 minutes within ten days of Earhart’s disappearance and saw no evidence of castaways.” Dr. King says, “Have you looked at the “aerial tour of Nikumaroro” on the TIGHAR website? Where the helicopter flies at the same altitude as the search planes and you have to look real closely to see a large man in a white tee shirt on the beach? The same chopper flew over me, jumping up and down and waving my hat, near the Seven Site, and nobody saw me. It’s a hard environment in which to see things on the ground.
Response: Dr. King, for some time, I was Special Agent in Charge of a large federal law enforcement field office in Honolulu. Our area of jurisdiction covered all of the South Pacific. During my tenure in Hawaii, we initiated a program what I would describe as a “Coastal Watch.” We called it the “Cook Project.” In conjunction with the Coast Guard, we supplied South and Central Pacific island governments with radios and if available, early satellite telephones. This equipment was used to track and identify marine motherships which were so common at that time. Many of these smuggling ships would anchor at these small islands to replenish, refuel, or just plain hide out.
With that said, I have been on most all of the islands that were part of the Japanese Mandated Islands. I have spent time in American Samoa, Western Samoa. I opened a Resident Agent (RA) office on Guam and have been on Saipan maybe a dozen times conducting various investigations. I knew all of the law enforcement officials and several of the leaders of the Government of the Northern Marianas. I island hopped on small planes to many an atoll in the South Pacific including the Marshall Islands.
I disagree with your comment that you could not see a large man hopping around on the beach. In fact, on some of these atolls, flying at 500 hundred feet, depending on the sun, you easily could pick out a fisherman 500 yards away throwing nets into the surf. I can only presume if you were jumping and waving at the crew in a helicopter they weren’t actively looking for you.
A pilot and crew chief searching for Earhart in the summer of 1937 said this to Fred Goerner in the 1980′s. (I paraphrase) “We flew at 500 hundred feet. We were alert and could have seen a handkerchief or a piece of paper floating in the water.”
Dr. King says: “I can think of several other possibilities, but never mind; it’s all speculation.”
Dr. King, even TIGHAR agrees Earhart transmitted post loss radio transmissions for up to three days following her disappearance. (I do too) You said there were several possibilities why Earhart might not have come out and waved to the three pilots of the Colorado, who flew numerous passes over Gardner Island for a half hour at 500 feet and even lower. Could you speculate why she decided not to make herself known to the pilots?
I have conducted several amateur audio tests and have concluded you can begin hearing a single engine aircraft in that environment under normal conditions from four miles away. I can only assume the sound of three aircraft would be much louder. Given that three planes cruised that four mile long thread of an island, for a half hour, specifically looking for Earhart and Noonan, I find it inconceivable they would not have been seen on Gardner Island.
Dr. King says regarding Griswold, Burks and Henson: “Well, I didn’t exactly ignore it; I just couldn’t figure out what to do with it. If I’m recalling the story correctly, Henson and Burks were ordered by Griswold to dig up a grave; and Griswold allegedly spoke the words “Amelia Earhart” to them, but years later Griswold denied it. Does that mean that they were digging up Amelia, or does it mean they were digging up somebody else and Griswold was playing with their heads? Or does it mean something else? I don’t know.”
Response: Dr. King, you need to do some serious research on this topic – it’s that important! Griswold ordered the two Marines to dig up a grave. When asked who are we digging up? Griswold responded, “Have you ever heard of Amelia Earhart. Griswold said after that they answered in the affirmative, “Enough said.”
Looking for Earhart was not a whimsical statement made in jest by command officers in the Pacific. ( I am not referring to Griswold) I have testimony from four veterans who stated prior to their landing on various atolls in the Pacific; they were briefed by command officers to be alert for evidence of Amelia Earhart. I doubt command officers made those statements in the field based upon seeing the movie, “Flight for Freedom.”
According to Henson and Burks testimony to Fred Goerner, Griswold wasn’t joking. If you listen to the original 1968 audio tapes of Henson and Burks recorded by the Kothera group, which I have done, you will quickly determine the two Marines did not believe Griswold was joking.
I am not positive the grave dug up by Burks and Henson in 1944 and later the Kothera group in 1968 is that of Earhart and or Noonan, but the evidence strongly suggests that to be the case.
According to government records, which I possess, there were three graves dug up by the Army and Marines authorities in the summer of 1944 on Saipan. Those graves were dug up as a result of interviews with natives. The native information was accurate and the remains of three aviators lost over Saipan prior to the invasion were found. (no false memory creation noted)
I have found no records of the grave digging mission under the direction of Marine Captain Tracy Griswold. In fact, the Marines have officially denied Griswold dug up a grave in the summer of 1944.
In 1968, Griswold met with the Kothera group twice. During these two meetings Griswold denied being part of this grave digging episode, yet his language clearly suggests otherwise. He kept repeating, “I’m not denying what you are saying but I have to go on record that I can’t recall.”
Griswold was identified from a legitimate photo spread viewed independently by Burks and Henson. These two Marine veterans gave witness statements to what they saw and heard. Their conversation was recorded. Burks and Henson recollection of events were near identical, although they were interviewed at different times, and neither had seen the other since 1945. They recalled Griswold was associated with the Griswold manufacturing family, (Griswold’s grandfather started the company) Burks and Henson’s story, identification of the cemetery, and location of the grave site were essentially the same.
If you read the intimidating and leading letter sent to Griswold from the U.S. Marine Corps in the mid-1960′s regarding this grave digging episode, you would think the letter might have been written by a mafia boss.
Dr. King said: “First, I appreciate the fact that you’ve actually read our paper. Thanks for that. Now, I don’t know very much about the stratigraphic relationships among things in Kothera’s excavations because the data aren’t presented in the kind of detail that one usually finds in reports of archaeological excavations, but supposing you’re correct that the bones were found in a grave that was deeper than the stratum of disturbed stuff resulting from the bombardment and leveling of Garapan — OK, so they came from a grave. Does that make it Earhart’s grave? I don’t see why, though maybe it was. Again, what you have is an hypothesis, not “truth.” Having lived on Saipan (where I found human bones in my flower beds) and excavated archaeological sites there, I know that there are lots and lots and lots of graves, marked and unmarked, resulting from thousands of years of human history, all over the island but especially on the leeward side in and around places like Garapan. … I can assure you that finding only fragmentary remains in a grave is not uncommon, on Saipan or pretty much anyplace else. A lot of things can chew up a grave.”
Response: Dr. King, I would describe your answer as inadequate and flippant. Burks/Henson and later the Kothera group didn’t randomly dig up a piece of earth on Saipan. The grave location was known to be a few feet outside a known cemetery complete with fence and headstones. The site had been mapped and identified. Neither of these two grave digging episodes was conducted in a random haphazard manner. Neither digs were initiated by wandering around Saipan looking for a likely place to dig as you have suggested.
In both digs, maps were used to identify the location. The nearby markers used for reference by the Kothera group were supplemented by Anna Magofna’s knowledge of the execution site. A location she walked by daily on her way to school before the war.
According to the later interviews of Burks and Henson, by the Kothera group, Anna Magofna led the Kothera group to the same spot they dug up in 1944. The location was a few feet outside the cemetery and near the markers previously described by Burks and Henson. I have the original film, picture shoots, and audio tapes of the Kothera dig.
The Kothera group included an amateur archeologist who had been involved in professional digs in the past. It also included a seasoned police lieutenant who was completely familiar with crime scene sites. The film shot at this dig would convince you the dig was professional.
Dr. King you mentioned a lot of things could have “chewed up” this particular grave to cause the larger skeletal remains to become missing. Could you explain what they might be?
The Kothera group found a few dozen pieces of small bones and a gold dental bridge in the 1968 dig but no skeletal remains. Could it be the skeletal remains unearthed by Burks and Henson in their rudimentary dig of 1944 was the reason only bone fragments were left at this grave site in 1968?
I don’t mind you posting this response on your web blog or linking it to the TIGHAR web page as you did with my previous response.