Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Going round in circles.

Disclaimer first - I don't study crop circles, never have, never will. So don't ask me for details because I don't care enough to look for them.

The only reason I'm talking about them is because they serve to illustrate something important.

Here's how it goes. Years ago, circular formations started appearing in crops. Nobody was seen making them, they just appeared. There was even a film which appeared to show a circle forming spontaneously.

These formations became ever more complex, including mathematical formations such as the Julia set and the diagrammatic representation of the first ten digits of pi.

Many theories were expounded - unusual weather could form the simple circles, but the complex ones defied such natural explanation. It came down to one of two options. Either they were made by a non-human force that nobody had seen (either spirits or UFOs), or they were made by humans in the dead of night.

The 'spirit' theory cut no ice with me. There was no reason for a ghost to communicate in this way. If they wielded sufficient power to make 60-metre circles in crops, then they had enough power to walk up and say hello. The spirit theory faded away fast anyway.

So it became a battle between UFO believers and non-believers, with the latter determined it was a hoax. I was not involved on either side, and I'm still keeping out of it.

Eventually a group came forward - well, partially forward, since damaging crops is vandalism and can lead to arrest - and admitted they'd been doing it.

"Aha," said the sceptics. "We knew it."

"Nonsense," said the believers. "You can't have made those complex diagrams in the dark."

The self-proclaimed hoaxers explained how they did it. They demonstrated their technique. They showed the diagrams worked out beforehand, the measurements, the means by which they planned out their formations and how they produced the swirling patterns in the crops.

"Humans can't form complex patterns visible only from the air" remained the cry. I beg to differ. Look up the 'Nazca plains' to see it done on a much grander scale, many, many years ago by people who had no GPS or laser alignment devices. Humans most definitely are capable of making these circles. The only argument is - did they?

The hoaxers say there are some circles they didn't do. They can't say that those circles weren't made by another group of hoaxers because nobody is going to stand up and say "Yes, it was me. I flattened a thousand pounds' worth of crop last night". So the mystery is not totally solved.

However, there is enough evidence to suggest that crop circles, in the main at least, are human-made and not alien-made. There remain a few doubtful ones but with no evidence for alien activity, my mind settles on a non-paranormal explanation as being most likely at the moment.

You would think, then, that logically, the crop circle story is pretty firmly done and dusted. Unless someone films a spaceship in the process of making one, the evidence available all points to a human hoax.

No. There are many who insist that the hoaxers are lying. In effect, that the hoax is a hoax. They insist that the circles are of alien origin and that no human could produce such accurate renditions using wood and string.

To be impartial, it should be noted that a lot of people made a lot of money selling books on crop circles, proclaiming their alien origins. Those people stand to lose book sales if the whole thing falls down. It's not all about belief, some of it is about money.

Anyway, there's no way to win for either side now. If the sceptics show how the hoaxers did it then they're just making up evidence to suit themselves. If the believers insist the aliens did it, they have no evidence to prove it. The whole subject is now a circular argument and can never be resolved. Neither side can disprove the other. Neither can offer incontestable proof.

Once a subject reaches this point, there's no purpose in discussing it further until one side or the other reaches an absolutely unassailable position. In this case, the only side that could reach such a position are the believers. Film of a UFO doing the deed would win their case for them. Replicating circles will never win the case for the sceptics. That just shows how it could have been done, it doesn't prove how it was done. Argument is futile. The subject is dead until new evidence shows up.

I feel much the same about the creation/evolution argument. Although I don't see why evolution specifically denies creation since I'd have thought that was an argument between big-bang theory and 'let there be light', which may yet turn out to be the same thing anyway.

Creation cannot be proven or disproven unless God shows up, in which case the world ends for most of us anyway. Evolution can be proven if sufficient incontestable data is amassed. There is considerable data, in fact, but there are holes still and those holes must be plugged for evolution to be definitively and finally proven.

But will it be proven to the creationists? If you have fossil 'A' which you say is a precursor to animal 'Z', then you will be challenged to produce intermediate forms. There is a gap.

If you find a fossil 'M' which is intermediate, you will be challenged to produce forms intermediate between 'A' and 'M' and between 'M' and 'Z'. Now you have two gaps. And so on.

Such challenge is not unreasonable, since it's how science works. You say 'M' developed from 'A', every scientist on the planet will say 'Prove it'. However, turning that challenge into a fight isn't how science works.

On the other hand, creationists say 'God made everything'. Responding with 'Oh no he didn't' isn't science, it's pantomime. Prove it. Creationists, prove he did. Scientists, prove he didn't. Without proof on either side the argument is futile. That's why I won't argue either side. There's no point.


The crop circle enthusiasts will never listen to the arguments put forward by the sceptics, no matter how compelling. The sceptics will never listen to the arguments put forward by the enthusiasts, no matter how logical. Stalemate.

Creationists will never accept that there is 'enough evidence' for evolution. No matter how much there is, they'll only see the holes. Science will not listen to the arguments for creation, even where such arguments present no conflict with what we know about the origin of the universe. (caveat: 'enough evidence' is a contestable position, and 'no conflict' does not prove agreement).

Stalemate.

Continuing to battle on when stalemate is reached achieves nothing. It descends into name-calling and silly things happening on both sides. In both the above cases, it would be better for each side to shake hands, go away and spend their energies proving their position.

And so we come to my own field of work.

I could insist, day after day on here, that there are ghosts and that I've met them. I could shout at sceptics like Dikkii until my throat bleeds, and he could shout at me. It would change nothing. It would achieve nothing. We'd both just get sore throats and high blood pressure. There can be no resolution through argument, only through research and study.

Of the two examples above, I'm closer in principle to the crop circles. Sceptics can never prove the statement 'there are no ghosts' but they can, in all fairness, reasonably hold that view in the absence of proof to the contrary. It's my job to find the proof, not theirs to find the disproof.

The question is, what constitutes proof? The photo a few posts ago? Dikkii has already stated he found nothing. SW did, without prompting, see what I saw in there. I don't need to convince SW of the existence of ghosts anyway. She's seen some of her own. So what would Dikki see as proof?

Not a photo. Photos can be faked so easily these days. Not a voice recording,. That's easier to fake than a photo. EMF meter readings, temperature records, video - all can be faked and without much difficulty.

What I need is a means by which anyone can see a ghost for themselves. I don't mean a tame spirit I can send over to your house to rattle the china. I mean a device whereby anyone, anyone at all, can visualise a spirit. Ideally, a device which would allow two-way communication but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

But how much proof is enough? If I can come up with a means which would make a moving outline visible, would that be enough? Or does it need to be a fully visible human form? Spirits don't always have a full-shape human form anyway. Will any shape do? It comes back to the other argument - how much evidence is enough evidence?

There will always be some fundamentalists on both sides of any argument. There are, after all, really people out there who think the Earth is flat, that the sun orbits the earth and that politicians can be trusted. Some people will never, never be moved.

There will always be some people who will never accept that their position is wrong. It's best not to worry about that because there is nothing anyone can do about it. If you can convince the mainstream, then, as far as I am concerned, the job is done.

I admit, of course, that the job is far from done. I'm not going to argue about it, I'm not going to fight with sceptics because as I've spent many words saying, it won't achieve a thing. Sceptics are entitled to their opinion. I know otherwise but can't prove it to them so their opinion is valid in the context of their experience. It's no good shouting at a sceptic because that won't change their minds. It just makes the shouter appear deranged, and that does not advance the argument - at least not in the right direction.

Working is more productive than arguing.

I'm working on it.

9 comments:

tom sheepandgoats said...

Three points in your post: crop circles, evolution, and ghosts. I can comment with smarts on only the 2nd, though perhaps the remarks will also apply to the other two.

You ought to be able to argue both sides of the issue, like any credible debater. Of course, the side you believe is true you will be able to argue more persuasively. But you ought to be able to do both.

When it comes to evolution/creation, I can argue the evolutionist side. Not so convincingly as a confirmed evolutionist, of course, but I can do it. They, on the other hand, can rarely argue my side. Instead, they dismiss my as side ignorance and superstition. But if I believe in creation, it is not merely because I think evolution facts are incomplete. It is as much or more because I think the Bible’s explanation of important questions of life is complete. Indeed, before I became acquainted with Bible teachings, I believed in evolution, having no specific reason not to and so I was guided by mainstream opinion.

The Bible gives convincing answers to why we grow old and die, also why suffering and evil exists. Evolutionists ought to be able to make those arguments. They need not believe them, just make the arguments, as I can make theirs. Only then will the playing field be level. Until it is, I don’t really know why I should defer to playing only on theirs.

Romulus Crowe said...

Hi Tom

A slight disagreement first - it seems to me a good debater should be able to put their point of view while at the same time listening to, if not necessarily agreeing with, the other point of view. A good debater must be willing to accept that their point of view might be wrong. To accept defeat if beaten, in other words.

The reason I'm not good at debating creation vs. evolution is that I don't see them as diametrically opposed, therefore I can't take a side. To me, one does not preclude the other. I can see a creation scenario that includes evolution, and I don't see why evolution is any kind of evidence against creation. As far as I can see it's all down to timescales and neither side can be absolute on those. Evolution might be faster than science says, the dates worked out from the Bible might be wrong (missing books,whether Adam's age counts from his creation or from when he was booted out into the world, that sort of thing).

I do agree that many scientists dismiss religion as 'superstition' and don't make any attempt to study it. I can agree, perhaps in a biased way, because it also happens to my own work.

As I said, when science just says 'Oh no it isn't' then that's closer to pantomime than real science. And yes, I admit to bias because I've experienced it. "Oh, you see ghosts? Then you need a psychiatrist, not a grant. Ho ho ho. Crackpot."

I know people who say they have experienced God in some way, and are convinced of his existence. This has not happened to me.

Those same people would tell me I am wrong, that I could not have seen and heard spirits.

Well, I don't argue with them. Why? They have experienced something I have not experienced. They cannot show me, or prove to me, the reality of their experience. That does not mean it didn't happen.

I have experienced something they have not. Likewise, I cannot present proof of that. Does that mean I'm making it up?

Science, to my mind, should be open to everything. Even to the guy who claims he can turn oranges into marmalade by the power of thought. Of course, that's not likely but science should look at it, test it, and if it's shown to be a silly claim, catalogue it as such.

For a scientist to just sneer and say 'Oh, I dont believe any of that' is, to me, embarrassing. It is not possible for science to argue for or against a subject it refuses to study.

As you say, you can see the evolutionists' arguments becaue they are catalogued and detailed. Science cannot see yours because they won't even look.

Yes, religion can be dogmatic but then religion makes no claim not to be so.

Science claims to be 'dispassionate' and 'disinterested'.

Despite what the groupies would like to think, science has never been any such thing.

ThatGreenyFlower said...

Ok, I looked at the photo a few posts below. I was really seeking something earth-shattering, but all I see--and without trying--is a horse tethered to a hitching post on the left side of the photo. Now tell me what you saw!

Southern Writer said...

Circular argument ... ha! Good one, Rom.

Greenie, you saw a horse? I'll have to go back and have another look. I'm glad you showed up to have a look-see. I'd hate for Rom's awesome capture to go unseen by anyone but me.

Southern Writer said...

Holy manure, Greenie. I just looked and saw your horse, big as all get-out. I didn't see that in my original view of the shot because mine was cropped differently. It's a dark horse, though. The things I saw ... well. Rom isn't going to let me give anyone any hints, and I don't want to mess up his test, so I won't say anything else. But you know what, folks? I didn't have to search the picture. What I saw jumped out at me just as quickly as the horse did. It kind of reminds me of the old saw that "the best place to hide anything is in plain sight."

ThatGreenyFlower said...

SW, that's fantastic! I don't see anything but a horse, and the horse is clear as day to me--I didn't have to try to find it. Now I'm going to go TRY to find whatever it was that YOU found!

ThatGreenyFlower said...

Meh. I don't see anything but a field, a tree, a well (or something like a well), a hitching post, and a horse. And a bunny and some underpants. (Just kidding about those last two...)

Romulus Crowe said...

So far then, two see the same thing (SW and me), one sees nothing at all (Dikkii) and TGF sees a horse. If there's anyone passing, I need a bigger sample size!

I can see the horse shape but I suspect it's formed from the mound behind the low fence - it could be a ghostly horse but since there's another possibility here (since it matches so well with the background) I wouldn't claim it. I wouldn't discount it either.

No, what I (and SW) saw didn't have any obvious pattern-overlay with the background.

Greeny, the little structure is an old railway hut (there used to be railway sidings here). It dates to around 1950 - 1960 at best guess and has no deaths associated with it. The area, however, does.

Damn, I'm itching to tell you where to look!

Instead I'll put up another photo of the same site, taken on a different night.

Southern Writer said...

It is sooooo hard not to point. Arrrgh. You can't though. You know you can't.


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