Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter 34: "Gullibility of the week award
Duncan Gill referred us to an article in The Australian about a man in India who claims he hasn't eaten or taken a drink in 68 years, a veritable inediate. Prahlad Jani also claims he hasn't gone to the bathroom in all those years. The story claims that Mr. Jani (whose name means Lying Through My Holy Palate) was put under round-the-clock surveillance at a hospital. Neurologist Sudhir Shah (whose name means I Am Too Smart to Be Fooled) said Jani was under watch for 10 days with a closed-circuit camera running and they didn't see him eat or drink anything or go to the bathroom. The story was sent to The Australian by 'correspondents in Ahmedabad, India' Ahmedabad means City of the Credulous and is the commercial capital of the western state of Gujarat (which means Gotcha!). When The Australian was contacted and asked if they had verified their sources' claims, they replied: 'No. Why do you ask? It could be true, you know.' Skeptics accuse Jani of surreptitiously sucking in prana through his nose ring.
The award must be shared with the BBC, CNN, Der Spiegel, China Daily, and the Hindustan Times. All report that Jani says he survives without food or water because of a hole in his palate and that his followers call him 'mataji' or goddess. He also says he has lived in caves since he was eight, so how he attracted a following is not known, nor is it clear how a man who lives in caves and doesn't eat grew in size from a child to an adult as if he were an eater.
reader comments (11 May 2010):
I am a skeptic and a strong atheist. This feedback refers to the report on Prahlad Jani. I, too, do not believe such stories; there are many in India.
What I object to is the language used in the report. The meaning of names (given in brackets) is wrong and in very bad taste. There is no need for such ad hominems (if my English is correct). Given below as the instances:
Mr. Jani (whose name means Lying Through My Holy Palate): Mr. Jani's first name is Prahlad. It is the name of one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu in hinduism, and it does not mean 'Lying Through My Holy Palate'. Prahlad possibly means 'first born'.
Neurologist Sudhir Shah (whose name means I Am Too Smart to Be Fooled): Sudhir means 'one of great patience', it does not mean 'I Am Too Smart to Be Fooled'.
Ahmedabad means City of the Credulous: Ahmedabad was founded in 1411 by Sultan Ahmed Shah and is named after him.
Gujarat (which means Gotcha!): Gujarat is possibly derived from the name of a hephthalite tribe (White Huns), whom the Indian chroniclers called 'Gurjaras'. 'Chinese chronicles they were originally a tribe living to the north of the Great Wall and were known as Hoa or Hoa-tun. Elsewhere they were called White Huns. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hephthalites)
It is good to be a skeptic, but it is not good to be a cheap stake skeptic. With regards,
Amar Nath Reu
RTC replies: Thanks for the 'corrections.' Humor is a matter of taste. What I find funny, you find insulting. Fair enough. Making fun of names may be in bad taste, but it is not a logical fallacy (as the ad hominem is).
For more on Jani see Open-mindedness and Skepticism and Dr. Sudhir Shah and Prahlad Jani.
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