News of an Indian baby spontaneously combusting have brought the question into our collective minds of whether the phenomenon actually exists. As a man of science who rejects all superstition, I aim to answer this question: does spontaneous human combustion exist?
Even your garden variety auto mechanic will tell you that in order to have combustion, you need three essentials: fuel, which can be any flammable material, air,which is freely available because we live on planet Earth, and ignition, which can be either flame or spark.
A baby contains plenty of flammable material. I have never tried to set fire to one, nor would I, but a baby, or any person or animal, is basically, from a chemical standpoint, a bundle of hydrocarbons. In essence, fuel. Air, again, is freely available here on Earth. It is when we get to ignition that we hit the sticking point. Have the parents reported any kind of unusual electrical or chemical activity around their baby? If they have, I certainly have not read about it.
“When you hear hoofsteps, think horses, not zebras” is a nice way to make a summary of the concept of Occam’s razor. This, of course, does not mean that the simplest explanation is always the right one, but it does mean that a major claim countering the simplest explanation needs major validation. So far, on that front, there is none.
So what might be the most logical explanation in this case? To most people it might not seem logical, because who would burn a baby? The mentally ill and economically desperate people, that is who.
India is a very rich and vast country; but many of its people are very poor. The distribution of wealth in India is objectively obscene. A large number of the population does not even have access to modern plumbing, they have to take care of their defecation needs by squatting over a hole. So what is going on here? Is spontaneous human combustion really happening? Is that a thing that actually exists, or are the parents of a baby abusing him?
The concept of Münchausen syndrome by proxy has been explored before in media, perhaps most notoriously in “The Sixth Sense” when Haley Joel Osment’s character collaborated with the ghost of a dead girl in exposing her mother for killing her and making her surviving sister sick to gather attention to herself. Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not exclusive to motion pictures.
Let us explore further into this phenomenon of spontaneous human combustion. Why is it that it has never been documented in the presence of witnesses? Because if you stage this kind of dog and pony show, you are obviously committing not only an illegal act, but one that could get you a capital sentence. That could mean execution, or in the best case scenario, never seeing the outside of a prison ever again. Jurors are emotional, especially when it comes to a baby as a victim of his or her own parents burning him or her multiple times.
As it happens, the parents of the “spontaneously combusting” baby have decided to go back to their village after the doctors that evaluated the baby decided that babies do not have the means to set themselves on fire, and they have also denounced the parents to the pertinent authorities.
One can only hope that after these people are properly investigated, and their child abuse ruse is thoroughly looked into, we can put the myth of spontaneous human combustion to rest, and finally conclude, logically, that it does not exist and is only as real as abusive parents that burn their children. That is actually more terrifying than people randomly catching on fire, because if a baby’s parents cannot be trusted to not set fire to said baby, what can one really trust?
By Milton Ruiz