Friday, February 21, 2014

Mangling Science Part 4: Worms all the Way Down

It's a long way to the bottom of this tin

In blog post entitled “More Evolutionary Fiction” and dated 19 February Ken Ham confidently pronounces:

The book of Genesis tells us that God created every creature “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:25)—meaning creatures also reproduce after their kinds. And, unlike molecules-to-man evolution, we can directly observe creatures reproducing after their kinds in the world around us!

With this statement Ham is deceiving both himself and his followers. Reproduction “according to kind” is a concept that cannot be observed directly; we can adduce data samples relevant to the very general theoretical proposition of “reproduction according to kind” but we can never, of course, observe the super-set entailed by “reproduction according to kind” in its entirety. Compounding the problem of moving from observation to theory here is Ham’s failure to put the Biblical text in its historical context and therefore obscure what the text meant to the arcardian people in whose times it was written. In that context “Biblical kind” would not be a precisely defined category as per what one would expect of modern science, but a fuzzy category based on what was available to the senses of arcadian people. The inevitable fuzziness in this arcadian category and the fact that it refers to the n+1 th generation means that it actually provides enough latitude for it to be entirely consistent with a substantial drifting in organic form for the n+m th generation, where m is large; given what Ham stands for this is very ironic! If one attempts to give a more precise definition of “kind”, say along the lines of species, it inevitably leads into a more theoretical concept thus removing “reproduction according to kind” even further from “direct observation”.

Ham’s motive, of course, is that he seeks an epistemic criterion that allows him to declare so called “observational science” to be “real science” on the basis that this kind of science’s theoretical objects somehow have an assured connection to his senses, whereas historical science, he naively thinks is not “observational”. Ham’s distorted notion of observational science sets the scene for the grosser distortions of the Flat Earth society who attempt to give observational authority to their opinions with their so-called “Zetetic Method”, a method which labours under the false belief that the observations of “honest and true” people can lead very directly and logically to the “truth” of Flat Earth doctrines, thereby bypassing what Flat Earthers think of as highly theoretical speculations.

Observationally speaking the Sun is very different from the stars; so much so, in fact, that it is no surprise the arcadian Biblical writers put the Sun into a different category to the stars; after all, like the theories of geocentrism and Flat Earthism, this is a reasonable approximation given the very practical everyday farming concerns of arcadians!. However, one Biblical literalist has used this natural Biblical distinction to claim (“from the Bible” of course) that  the Sun is not a star!  It goes to show how raw observation seldom gives us a very direct depiction of reality. The kind of thinking behind “the Sun is not a star” is the same sort of self-deception that has motivated Biblical geocentrists and Flat Earthers – and, I might add, Answers in Genesis – all of whom are inclined toward the same kitschy sentiment which leads them to believe that solid no-nonsense right-wing rubes and Biblical literalists can trust the common sense of their direct perceptions and use these perceptions to challenging the theoretical subtleties of the much hated publicly funded academic community!

Relevant Links

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Benny Hinn Experience

If Binn has got his wallet in that jacket, it's no surprise he's knocking them over!

I'm a bit pushed to do any blogging just at the moment, so in the meantime here is a short post on my "Views, News and Pews" blog:

Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Paranormal Part 5: The Last Straw

Crop circles, Rabbit Holes and Time Loops - Rob Buckle

Crop Circle Truth, with Rob Buckle on Circlemakers

See also:
And the channels Zenrabbit1 and Zennrabbit on YouTube

The above videos are talks by crop circle researcher Rob Buckle. His interest is in human made crop circles – that’s right there really are human constructed crop circles out there and they are very impressive by the sound of it! However, as a result of his emphasis on the human aspect of this phenonmenon Buckle has earned the ire of the traditional circle researchers who have placed a huge stake in the “alien intelligence did it” hypothesis. Ironically it is these people, whose life’s work and businesses swing on this thesis, that have become the powerful crop circle establishment. As might be expected given the natural state of human affairs, this establishment via their well entrenched interests have backed themselves into a corner, unable to gracefully bow out. They have burnt their life boats and Buckle has not just rocked their ship, he has also pulled the bilge plug.

Evidently Buckle has some acquaintance with the circle of circle makers and can tell us which circles he knows for a fact to have been created by them. None of this is to say that Buckle himself doesn't have some rather exotic notions of his own: He appears not to rule out that some circles may have non-human origins, but he is more interested in the far more frequent human created circles and that is because of the strange lore and anecdotes that now surrounds the making of these prodigious works of art. In his talks Buckle relates some of the weird paranormal events that have haunted, yes, haunted is the right word, the circle makers; for example, frightening tall shadowy figures appearing in fields at night, presences that have barred entry to fields, lights, orbs, UFOs and this is just for starters: Particularly intriguing are the circle makers who have had to abort their corn circle mission for various reasons and then found later that either their planned circles were executed by other (unknown) parties, or, if they got only half way through, finding that by the next day someone, or something, had completed them.  Watch the videos to hear more. Unfortunately most of the evidences Buckle offers are one-off anecdotes that cannot be tested by traditional hard science; in fact it is all too likely that such peculiar phenomena are far too anomalous and erratic to yield to test tube precipitating and spring extending science. But having said that let me mention that Buckle also shows a video of a scientist who attempted to distinguish between so-called “real” and “hoaxed” crop circles using his instrumentation only to find that these instruments showed just as strong readings in circles known to have human origins.

Some time ago during the nineties “corn circle” (as they were then called) craze I remember watching a TV program where a farmer said that his parents, who were farmers between the wars, would find the occasional (simple) crop circle in their fields. In those days they just shrugged their shoulders and got on with their work. Since seeing that program I’ve had the sneaky suspicion that although the recent highly sophisticated circles are likely to be the product of expert and well practiced crop artists there has been all along a background of simpler formations that are not a product of human agency. Buckle, in fact, confirms this opinion in the comment thread of his second video above:

The few that still have a question mark over them are usually small and simple, but with swirled lays, done in one movement. These type were more common in the early days, but now are very rare.

In these simpler designs the emphasis is on their faultless machine like execution. That suggests to me a very algorithmic type "intelligence" rather than the very general necessarily mistake prone* all-purpose intelligence of humans. Who knows, perhaps the mysterious agency behind these machine perfect circles is becoming jealous of human efforts which have put their rather simple formations into the shade and this may explain why crop circle hauntings have had the effect of frightening away some artists!

It is wrong to call the crop circle creators hoaxers or pranksters – they are true artists who love the adventure, creativeness and artistic high that their clandestine work gives them as they have pushed it to the very highest level of development. Also, in view of the hauntings perhaps there is the added frisson of a dangerous encounter with the supernatural. But with that must go a warning; they are outlaws beyond the protection of society and opening themselves up to who knows what. Hauntings have a disquieting way of attaching themselves to people if those people find themselves in a position where they can become “infected”. Therefore I would categorically advise against proactive attempts to make a connection with the otherworldly. On the web site of crop circle researcher Colin Andrews (who has similar views to Buckle) we can read of a case where an off duty policeman who spotted tall white entities in the vicinity of a crop circle near Silbury hill and tried to interact with them. Faced by this custodian of the law these beings legged it over a hill pretty fast, but that didn't stop the officer subsequently picking up a haunt: See here

After the experience the officer suffered what he called poltergeist experiences. Several electrical items began to malfunction and there were strange knocks at the front door. When the officer answered the door there would be no-one there. The officer felt he had brought something home with him, several days after the experience he said that he had felt a presence within his home. Sometimes, when walking out to the kitchen, he said he saw in his minds eye a brief flash of a towering black figure (approx 8ft)) standing before him (Much like the figures circle makers see - Ed). These types of experiences are quite common with experiencers.
The officer’s continuing experiences show that whatever the origin of these events, once they enter into someone's life they seem to have a continuing presence.

To me that’s the equivalent of the frightening health warning picture on the back of a cigarette packet; I don’t think we have an inbuilt fear of the numinous for nothing. Better to keep to passive research rather than proactive research – that is, don’t try to stimulate "occult systems" to produce test output by poking them – instead just sit back, watch and think.  The occult is looking to me as if it’s a breakdown of the coherent rationality of our world in favour of some kind of cognitive delirium with, perhaps, a Freudian diagnosis of crises  in Jung's collective unconscious partly explaining it's meaning. But who knows; that's just a guess! If a passive approach helps keep this at bay it can’t be bad.

Other posts in my paranormal series:

* Due to a trial and error heuristic of "search, reject and select". Human minds necessarily use error feedback to learn.

Silbury Hill from West Kennet Long Barrow taken during one of my visits. I have never seen or felt anything odd! I suppose I ought to be pleased!

Addendum 3/2/2014