Archive | May 2010

Doctor Who? Exactly…

Here’s an interview with Doctor Who’s Steve Moffat, on the new series starring the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, and the vision charted for the show. This new Doctor may be every bit as dark as Chris Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor, and it looks like the idea of a ‘dark faerie tale’ will make the show very interesting indeed. I look forward to seeing the new episodes when I can get hold of them in the States. Who would have though the series would grow the way it has since it’s resurrection in 2005…

Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat: the io9 Interview

The Call of the Comment Threads

Each day, I gaze with trepidation at the comments box on this site’s admin page, unspeakable dread consuming my soul and sanity as I behold what eldritch horrors are unleashed upon me by those nameless terrors from the Outer Void, my commenters.

I get some rather colorful feedback in the comments threads of this site, and unfortunately, for whatever reason, I don’t always have the time or opportunity to properly respond.

This post is the first in an ongoing and intermittent series, my first opportunity to devote a little time to some of the more colorful thread posts from the last year and a half.

For one of my older posts on the contrasts between the SETI program and UFOlogy, prolific Hugo award winning fantasy author of three books, world-class professional pilot and erudite UFO scholar Don from Canada had this bit of coherent, brilliant and succinct wit to bestow upon this ‘unread debunker…’

You can use all of the cop-out words you want like Mythology and UFO believers (Do you understand the meaning of that UFO, incidentally-how can anyone believe in an as yet unidentified flying object), but that’s not going to solve the myriad of UFO sightings by pilots and astronomers and armed forces personnel, police and the hundreds of thousands of witnesses-millions by now- who report these things. Cripes you used every cliche word i the debunker lexicon except ‘flying saucers’ (incidentally the USAF and other air forces used this word for 5 or 6 years before they coined the unidentified flying object to use in their pilot /crew reports). Too often in the skeptical community these are the only arguments put forward-in the guise of science but simply pronouncements not supported by fact. I am a pilot myself and I haven’t spent the last twenty years looking into these cases to be fopped off by the Sherme-ites with just pronouncements rather than hard fact. You claim that there are excellent studies done by those who subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer. I’ve never seen this to be true, nor can any of the soft science on these sites be disputed because it’s closed list.
Anyway, any unread debunker can make up a blog site. The contents of these blogs is usually personal and un-researched opinion. Throwing around Sagan’s name will not prove a damn thing-and to use the nutball/religious flakes Sagan used as his detractors in Contact is just plain silly.
You really have to get off your pedestal and get down here in the research end and see what pops up. Google around and find out which scientists, engineers and physicists are looking seriously at a phenomenon that seems to have been a round for many hundreds of years. If nothing else air encounters are a menace and a hazard to flight and still NOT solved for the most part.

…Well! I just hope he has a well-payed editor if he writes books the way he does comments! I also found it a bit difficult to climb back onto the pedestal with him taking up all the room at the top while ranting from the screaming heights of megalomania, but one of my other readers decided to lend me a hand, and her response was more timely and much less abrasive than what I was thinking at the time, which involved cyber-flaying Don slowly over an open digital fire and poking his exposed virtual entrails with sharp objects.

Pumpkin, from Virginia had this to say in response to the previous without a hint of Malice…

OKay, hang on.. I’m not a skeptic in fact I have my own beliefs on aliens and my own thoughts stem from my own belief system. While everyone is entitled to there own opinions I find the fact that you are abusing that right. You mention Cop-Out words when Troythulu expressed that these are his views and not scientific rather his own journey and thoughts. Its hard not to know the definition of UFO but no matter how you look at it until there is actual solid proof any views on such things is a hypothesis. Anything in air space that isn’t yet identified can be classified as a UFO. You quote hundred of thousands of people as witness’s and no matter how many of them see something That’s not good enough, because of the constructive nature of human perception and memory. Anyone can think they see something but actually evidence is harder, since its oh so easy to photo-shop things these days.

As for using words in the de-bunkers lexicon each person has there own views and use there own terminologies for everything. You yourself seem to miss the ETH views.Siting information from the 1940′s-1960′s which is also the time that “flying saucers” were actually noted to be so. Given the large silver discs that were said to be seen.A Gallup poll from August 1947 found that 90% had heard about the mysterious flying saucers or flying discs, note had heard of them. You also mention the United States Air Force but are in Canada yourself, educating yourself I would assume, than you would know that the government itself debunked these. Here you can see and of course the BBC in England as well here CLick ME I personally do not disbelieve they are in existence but I also feel that I need more proof. Feel free to give links to support your view. As for the Skeptical Inquirer that was never mentioned in this post.

Also it would be nice if you respected the blog of people and not down talk to them over things. Telling others to get off there pedestal is both arrogant and presumptuous the use of bad language is just rude. No one’s cursing at you. Were all adults here I would like to think, and this is a discussion not a argument. More than one view being supported.

Excellent! I couldn’t have put it better! It’s nice to see that most of my readers are saner than the raving lunatics I sometimes deal with. Thank you, Pumpkin.

For my even older entry on the concept of Occam’s Razor, self-styled psychic healer and genius blogger Craig from California, had a bit of profound New Age wisdom to impart to me…

I think there is a problem with some of the logic here. One mistake a lot of people make is to take current physics theories for “the way things are.” To quote the song, -it ain’t necessarily so-.

We know that there is consciousness at the quantum level, reality isn’t there when we’re not observing it and all things in the universe are tied together in a way we don’t understand, but which has no regard for distance. No one has figured this all out. For all we know, the Holographic universe model may prevail. If that turns out to be the case, then the speed of light is irrelevant. There are other ways to cross the universe which we haven’t imagined yet.

The The problem here is that things are so wide open that it is so easy to be wrong that it’s better to be neutral. The truth about UFO’s for instance is that you and I lack the evidence to have an educated opinion. Pictures can be faked, videos can be doctored, eyewitness accounts may be wrong, granted, but all of them? Some things just have to be left in doubt.

Well, Craig. First, I have to congratulate you on the use of the Appeal to Quantum Physics logical fallacy (Thanks to Brian Dunning for that one!) in your argument, since it makes perfect sense to use something that depends on reality, such as science, to ‘debunk’ reality, as self-contradictory as that may be. Masterful obfuscation! Bravo!

I’ll have to call you on a straw man, though, since I never argued the current physics is ‘the way things are,’ but only ‘as we currently understand things to be.’ Note the distinction between them.

If no one has figured out that reality isn’t there when it’s not being observed, and that everything in the universe is tied together in ways no one understands, I’m interested in finding out how you know and understand this! Please, help me out here, I’m a little curious…

And yes, if you really want to know, it is entirely possible for every picture to be faked, every video to be doctored and, I know this is a stretch, every eyewitness account to be wrong. Your personal inability to accept, comprehend or imagine something places no constraints on reality.

Let’s face it, the tired old ‘where there’s smoke there must be fire’ canard needs to be taken out and put to final rest, since you can multiply zero by infinity and the product will still be zero.

I really have yet to see any reason to call your motives or sincerity into question, since I’m not psychic and can’t get inside your head, but I’m finding your arguments to be less and less credible as time goes on.

…and, speaking of raving lunatics, Claudio, who commented on a Michael Shermer YouTube video I had posted on Out of Body experiments using magnetic fields, had this bit of deep logical insight to volunteer…

The fact that the brain received magnetic fields does not proved that the brain “created the experiences”.
Our soul receives physical imput through our senses and the brain. It is logical that our soul reacts to the magnetic input.
This experiment does not prove that the brain can cause our soul to be on another country instantaneously, telepathy, etc.
It’s like saying “by typing in the keyboard of this computer I conclude that the keyboard is responsible to make me go to any website in the internet.”

Besides, there is a huge physical evidence of existance of ghosts (is that caused by our brains too?). Are the brains of animals useless? Only ours are good?

We are not a physical body, we are powerful “energy” beings connected in a huge multidimensional/multiuniverse network that some people call “God.”

Well, what to say, what to say…It seems to me from the generous use of scare quotes around the terminology used and highly coherent writing style that you are just as confused as I about exactly what you mean, though there is a certainty, a conviction, expressed in your claims despite this confusion that suggests a dire need to seek professional help.

And soon. Do it before you get into serious trouble. Believe me — Been there. Done that. Got the tee-shirt to prove it.

Well, that’s it for now. Critical feedback is every bit as important as the supportive sort, the latter exemplified by Pumpkin’s response to Don, but the former is fun to respond to as well, appropriately and on my own terms and in my own time. Keep your comments coming, supportive or critical, and you might see them posted on the homepage for good…or bad…depending on the comment and on my personal level of snarkitude and general vileness at the time.

As James Randi might say, “Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening as the case may be.”

New Meso-American Pyramid Found…

Now this is interesting: A new pyramid has been discovered in southern Mexico, but this time it doesn’t seem to be for religious or ceremonial purposes, as opposed to most other Central American pyramids, more like those of Egypt in function — as a tomb rather than a temple, unlike, for example, the Maya pyramid at Chichen Itza.

It seems to have been discovered just yesterday, and I’m wondering what else they’ll find out about it.

This is so much more fascinating than Hancock-esque Atlantis theories or Von Dänikenite ancient astronauts claims that say all of our non-European ancestors were too stupid to manage constructing these things on their own…*feh* Anyhoo, take a gander yourself…

Oldest Pyramid Tomb in Americas Found in Mexico

Sad. Pathetic. This is a complete educational travesty.

Well, it looks like the Orwellian Ministry of Truth (*ahem* Texas Board of Education *ahem*) has succeeded in whitewashing U.S. history for the purpose of brainwashing students for their Right Wing authoritarian agenda…

…at least for now.

This can only increase the need for remedial education in higher institutions, maybe beyond the capacity of said institutions to adequately supply it to those who need it, and there will be many.

I can also see the litigation that will result when those of us who aren’t Right Wing conservatives object to these mind-control attempts and try to do something about it, like kick these revisionist nut-balls off the School Board.

Damage control…why is it so often needed?

Understanding Believers

Some proponents of pseudoscientific or paranormal doctrines have a notable tendency to go immediately on the defensive when their claims are called into question. This often leads them to react poorly to their critics. Not all of them, though. Some show thicker skin.

This is entirely understandable, since the claims of proponents are tied to strongly held beliefs in those who really do believe what they claim, but I will not presume to engage in undue speculation on any one individual’s sincerity or motivations, much less those of an entire diverse ideological demographic.

Such baseless generalizations and speculation without reason are inappropriate to fair criticism. I do not question anyone’s sincerity of motive unless given good reason to and solid evidence by which I can actually know it. I’m a skeptic, not a psychic…or a cynic.

These are beliefs which are often central to their concept of truth, their self-image and their worldview. Beliefs that are tied to what they personally Know™ to be proven facts.

It can be profoundly disturbing when these things are cast into doubt by we Evil Debunkers®, and often results in a great deal of frustration and anger on the part of those whose delicate sensitivities are thus disturbed by such seeming arrogant insouciance on the part of their critics.

No one likes to be told that what they claim, or by implication what they believe, is wrong…even when it is. But it’s important to be able to take criticism, to get to the truth, not just what one wants it to be, but what it is, to free one’s mind of erroneous detritus and move on to a clearer understanding. This is necessary even if the truth is that one simply doesn’t know the answer…yet.

It’s like putting a lot of time, effort, resources (such as money…)and often devotion into a doctrine or belief-system, and then when a skeptic comes along and opens his big mouth, having the proverbial rug pulled from beneath one’s feet, a rug until then thought to be rock-solid flooring upon which the believer had stood.

I’ve also noticed that mystery-mongering is common in the pseudosciences and paranormal claims, and though scientists appreciate mysteries as well as believers, the corollary is that scientists also try to seek answers to these mysteries rather than merely preserving and promoting them for their own sake.

Imagine a murder trial, in which the jury, after much deliberation, has come upon a verdict, and the judge, after hearing but disliking it simply dismisses it with the statement,

“The truth of what occurred is a question we’ll never know the answer to. Who knows what really happened?..”

It seems to me that some, not all, but some believers echo this attitude with regard to scientific ‘mysteries.’

Science can’t and doesn’t claim to have solved everything. I know of no reputable researcher who does.

This includes both those questions that truly have yet to be resolved and those questions that have been fully or partly resolved long ago, the resolutions of which believers are either unaware or are aware of but dismiss because of conflict with their beliefs.

The will to believe is strong, and complicated by a host of very powerful and significant human needs and motivations. Needs and drives which as primates we possess as part of our nature…

Among these, Michael Shermer, in his book Why People Believe Weird Things, lists the need for emotional comfort, that for meaning and morality, that for simplicity of understanding, that for immediate gratification, and that of our personal hopes. I would personally add a possible sixth drive for belief as well, that of our fears, though this might tie in with one of the others.

People aren’t stupid, and these drives are part of our evolutionary heritage. They can lead to the adoption of strange beliefs, often dangerous ones. But they will not just go away, and I feel that part of my growth as a skeptic and person requires me, not to mock or deride believers, but to better understand where they ‘are coming from,’ to attack the claims, not merely the belief or the believer. Fnord.