It is a common occurrence for conflicting statements to be present in a specific Ancient document. This may take various forms.
(1) Conflicting observations (e.g. Astronomy, chronology, details of specific incidents) between multiple versions of the same narrative (e.g. multiple manuscripts of Mahabharata, Ramayana, etc.)
(2) Conflicting observations can exists within different chapters/areas of the same manuscript
This leads to,
(1) Some researchers focusing on ONLY specific references, either in an arbitrary fashion or because the reference is convenient for their proposal.
(2) Other researchers act as if these conflicts do not exit, even when these references have direct implications for the very theory these researchers are proposing
(3) Still other researchers simply act as if these references do not exist or have no implications on their theory, to pull themselves out of this misery. Yes, they do consider this a misery (instead of an opportunity to grown knowledge, theirs and those of humanity at large)
The scientific approach is to:
(1) Note down all observations/references – both corroborating and conflicting with one’s theory
(2) Explain why one chose specific reference (from set of conflicting references) as corroborative evidence and also show advantage/superiority of such selection. The best criteria is to show why such a selection makes a theory more testable, and hence more corroboration (or falsification) is achieved
(3) While ‘acceptance’ of a specific reference, that is convenient to an individual proposal is a good first step, next necessary step must include critical discussion of conflicting references and why a researcher chose one reference over the other.
(4) This means, such conflicting statements can be discussed ONLY in the context of a specific theory or theories.
I want to end this note with stating of one such conflicting reference from Valmiki Ramayana:
Valmiki Ramayana states that Rama was married to Sita when he was 16 years old and that he and Sita lived in Ayodhya for one year before leaving for Vanavas, for 14 years.
Against these statements, there are conflicting statements within the same Valmiki Ramayana where Rama and Sita are stated to have lived in Ayodhya for 12 years (as opposed to 12 months ~ 1 year) before leaving for Vanavas and they were 25 and 18 years old, respectively.
It is not unusual for readers, researchers and critics of Ramayana to discuss such subject – ad infinitum – and without reaching a specific conclusion, but more important, without any GROWTH OF KNOWLDEGE.
How would one solve this problem? Your thoughts are welcome.