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Discussing JFK at Cambridge

Guest James H. Fetzer

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Guest James H. Fetzer

It was my great pleasure to discuss recent research on the death of JFK during The Third International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities, 2-5 August 2005, which was held at Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK. Three days later, I made a presentation to the Dealey Plaza/UK Society on the topic, "Conspiracy Theories: JFK, 9/11, and Wellstone", during a meeting at the University of London. Both talks were accompanied by dozens of PowerPoint slides to illustrate the most important points. The abstract for the Cambridge talk follows at http://H05.cgpublisher.com/proposals/488.

Reasoning about Assassinations: Critical Thinking in Political Contexts

Dr. James Fetzer

Short Description: The application of principles of logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning has transformed what we know about the death of JFK and promises to resolve other cases.

Keywords: logic, critical thinking, scientific reasoning, philosophy of science, applied philosophical research, the death of JFK, resolving mysteries in history, historical research, "assassination science"

Stream: History, Historiography

30 minute Paper Presentation in English

Equipment: slide projector

Paper: Reasoning about Assassinations


The application of logic, critical thinking, and principles of scientific reasoning, involving collaboration between physicians, scientists, photographic analysts, and philosophers has transformed our knowledge of the death of JFK. Since 1992, a research group I organized has discovered that the autopsy X-rays have been altered, that someone else's brain has been substituted, that a home movie of the assassination has been recreated, and that the alleged assassin, Lee Oswald, was framed using manufactured evidence. This approach, which may be called "assassination science", benefits from applying the pattern of reasoning known as "inference to the best explanation" to important and controversial deaths, where political motivation may have contributing to bringing them about. By focusing on the "best evidence" — the autopsy X-rays, the autopsy report and photographs, the physical evidence (including the alleged assassination weapon), and other crucial evidence — we have undertaken a reconstruction of the case from the most basic evidence up, with special consideration for separating the authentic from the inauthentic evidence. When that has been accomplished, it becomes relatively straightforward to draw appropriate inferences, since the Mafia, for example, would not have been able to extend its reach into Bethesda Naval Hospital to alter X-rays under control of the Secret Service, medical officers of the US Navy, or the President's personal physician; neither pro- nor anti-Castro Cubans could have substituted someone else's brain for that of JFK; even though the KGB might have had the same ability to recreate a film as the CIA, it could not have gained its possession; nor could any of these things have been done by Lee Oswald, who was either incarcerated or already dead. As a novel area of application that might be viewed as "applied philosophical research", assassination science is establishing that the humanities in this new guise can make more than an incidental contribution to the solution of important mysteries in history.

Dr. James Fetzer

Distinguished McKnight University Professor

Department of Philosophy University of Minnesota Duluth

American Philosophical Association, Philosophy of Science Association

United States of America

JAMES H. FETZER, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Philosophy at the University of Minnesota, who teaches on its Duluth campus, has published more than 20 books in the philosophy of science and on the theoretical foundations of computer science, artificial intelligence, and cognitive science. He received his Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Indiana in 1970. His new study, "The Evolution of Intelligence: Are Humans the Only Animals with Minds?" (forthcoming), integrates his earlier research on the differences between thinking things and digital machines with his recent research on human and animal mentality. He has edited three books on the death of "JFK, Assassination Science" (1998), "Murder in Dealey Plaza" (2000), and "The Great Zapruder Film Hoax" (2003), and has co-authored a fourth — "American Assassination" (2004) — on the death of Senator Paul Wellstone. He is pioneering a novel area of research he has labeled "assassination science", which involves the application of principles of scientific reasoning, especially "inference to the best explanation", to investigate the death of prominent politicians. This is indispensable where there may be reason to suspect they have been assassinated by their own government. Assassination science thus has an essential role to play in evaluating official reports to insure they are not serving the purpose of covering up crimes. His work emphasizes that each case has to be evaluated by the rigorous application of appropriate principles of logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning to all the available relevant evidence. And it demonstrates the practical significance of philosophical explications.

Ref: H05P0488

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