Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What is "Intelligence"?

From time to time, I transfer verbatim the comments left on this site by readers and my replies to them, and make of them a main posting, should they raise issues which I think shouldn’t moulder in obscurity in the “comments” section.

Today’s is such a posting. The comments were a response to my previous posting. A reader, Giscard, remarked on Condoleezza Rice’s so-far less than stellar performance as Secretary of State. Somehow my rejoinder meandered into what IQ tests tell us about human intelligence.

Such is the nature of conversations. Like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Here now is the exchange between Giscard and myself:

From Giscard: It is a paradox indeed, that Condoleeza Rice, for all her education and intelligence, has not been a good secretary of state.

Consider that she has a PhD in Russian studies, was a university professor of political science, and speaks Russian, as well as German French and Spanish. This is someone who obviously knows geo-politics inside out. And she is luminously intelligent.

As a specialist in Russian affairs, she would be aware that the Russians, having been invaded so many times, not least by Napoleon and Hitler, and having their country devastated, and many millions killed as a result, are historically paranoid about foreign powers encroaching their borders. But Ms Rice signed on to an American foreign policy of extending NATO to Russia’s borders, and setting up US military bases in countries which were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, it appeared the old animosity between the US and Russia was at an end, as Russia embraced capitalism, and was co-operating with the US in defusing old quarrels. But as the US extended its power and influence to Russia’s borders, it raised again the old Russian paranoia about foreigners, and the equivalent of the old Cold War is the result.

How could Condoleezza Rice, with all her expert knowledge about Russia, have approved such stupidity on the part of the US? The same goes with the Bush foreign policy generally - particularly in the middle-east - behind which was Condoleezza Rice, first as Bush’s foreign policy advisor, then as his Secretary of State.

I don’t understand. I just don’t.

From Christopher: The issue you raise in my mind, Giscard, is the relationship between intelligence and stupidity. Why are so many of those who our society sees as very intelligent, so obviously stupid in many ways?

It is the Received Wisdom in our modern society that IQ equals intelligence. But does it? I make bold to ask. What do we mean by “intelligence”? What does IQ actually measure?

Two classes of people who have high IQs are computer-freaks and medical doctors, since you must score high on IQ tests to get into medical school or to be allowed to study computer science. The tests value quickness and the solving of puzzles. So if you are good at this, you’ll do well on these tests, opening the way for you to become a doctor or computer-freak.

In my life I’ve spoken with many a doctor and computer-freak, and while they’ve dazzled me with their expert knowledge in their chosen field – doctors babbling about intestines, aneurisms, CAT scans, punctured ribs, heart-bypass procedures; computer-freaks babbling about modems, motherboards, CPUs, RAMs, i-Pods, and all of that. But so many seem unable to think philosophically, unable to think in an abstract way.

If I move the conversation to an abstract or philosophical level, or to subjects like politics, literature, psychology, or the arts, these doctors, these computer-freaks, are out of their depth, sounding childlike and ignorant, causing me to think there’s something lacking in their mental or emotional makeup.

I’m not saying there aren’t some who can’t talk intelligently about non-doctor or non-computer stuff, but I haven’t crossed paths with too many.

The IQ (intelligence quotient) test supposedly - by virtue of its name - measures intelligence. So if you do well on it, you’re called “intelligent” or “smart” and given lots of respect. If you don’t do well on it, you’re called “unintelligent” or dumb or a retard, or worse, and you get laughed at.

As someone who doesn’t do well on IQ tests, and is therefore considered unintelligent, dumb, or retarded, I resent these appellations because, somehow, I don’t think I’m these things. But what I’m definitely not, is a fast thinker. Although I can solve puzzles, I’m slower at this than most others.

Thus I’m not considered “intelligent”, and therefore don’t get to enjoy life’s perquisites and the respect of my peers, as do those who do well on IQ tests – like medical doctors and computer-freaks.

There has been much discussion over I don’t know how many years, about whether IQ tests actually measure “intelligence” – a word with much emotional baggage. But might it not be more accurate to say that IQ tests measure “cleverness” rather than “intelligence”, so if you do well on an IQ test, you are “clever” rather than “intelligent”?

Looking at the dictionary, I see the two words have somewhat similar definitions, but I think to be “intelligent” implies something deeper, more profound than being “clever” – a word implying something more trivial. So we speak condescendingly of someone being a “clever fellow”, or, if they are carrying cleverness to an absurd length, of being “too clever by half”.

Since IQ tests emphasize quickness and the solving of puzzles, I believe it would be more accurate to say they measure “cleverness”. So why not, then, change the name of the “IQ test” to the “CQ (cleverness quotient) test”? It would eliminate so much confusion and angry debate. Someone having a low or merely average “CQ”, could still be respected because this would say nothing about their sagacity, emotional maturity, ability to look at issues deeply, or to take the long view, for these attributes have nothing to do with quickness or speed, which are so prized by the Businessman, who is the one who shapes the values of our modern society, of which the “IQ test” is a part and parcel.

Meanwhile we will continue to worship the traditional IQ test, from which emerge the clever ones, the Smart-Alecks, the Hot-Shots, who will continue to run our governments and corporations.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when we see rampant stupidity as the normal state of affairs in all the corridors of power - no matter where in the world they are – for they are the domain of the clever and the quick, the Smart-Alecks and the Hot-Shots.

It is they - not the wise, nor the thoughtful, nor the sensitive, nor the emotionally-mature, nor the meek – who have inherited the earth.

It is they who propel us to our extinction

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Of Blogs and Bloggers

I was recently sent a link to someone who offered to increase the readership of my blogging site if I would but paste on my site some hyperlinked information, which, if clicked onto by visitors to my site, would cause the address of my blogging site to appear on the blogging sites of others who have also posted the aforementioned hyperlinked information onto their own sites.

The result would be that my blogging site address would appear on more and more of other blogging sites in an exponentially upward curve. On first ingesting this information I felt as if transported into the heavens, as I saw a glorious future for this blog, with a readership numbering in the millions. And I, as the blogger, would as a consequence – like Glen Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy - get cards and letters from people I don’t even know, and offers coming over the phone.

Then the windmills of my mind began to whir, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel on an ever spinning reel. And what my mind said, was that the appearance of my blogging site’s address on the blogging sites of fellow bloggers, wouldn’t mean my blog would be read any more than it now is, for the reason that bloggers signing up to get their blogs onto the sites of fellow bloggers, will only do this, so their blogs will be read by the other bloggers, who, in turn, are getting their own blogs posted on the sites of yet other bloggers, so their blogs will be read by those other bloggers, who won’t read them because they are interested only in getting their own blogs read, rather than reading the blogs of others.

I thus concluded that for me to sign up to get my blog on to the sites of other bloggers, so that they read my blog, would be a waste of valuable time.

That bloggers tend not to read the blogs of their fellows might be taken as incuriosity. But we might better call it discernment, because, if truth be told, most blogs aren’t worth reading. For starters, most sites are confusing because they have so much incongruous stuff on them, one doesn’t know where to start. They have photos, drawings, advertisements, and all manner of other irrelevant information which obscures the writings of the blogger. And isn’t writing the raison d’etre of blogging?

As to the writings on blogs, most are bilge because they are badly written and boring, borne of the monumental ignorance, illiteracy, self-absorption, narcissism, and solipsism of the bloggers. “Ranting” is a favourite word among bloggers, who, proudly proclaiming that they “rant”, don’t consider that to read these seemingly interminable “rants” is, for the reader, to suffer a torture only slightly below water-boarding and the other ingenious methods used to extract secrets from the unfortunates incarcerated at Guantanamo.

While most blogs aren’t worth reading, there are some which are. These usually are blogs written by professional journalists or novelists, who therefore know how to write. But even these readable blogs tend to become repetitive and boring after a while, since, regularly to churn out pieces every day or so for the delectation of the hoi-polloi waiting impatiently for their morsel, will be to descend inevitably into hackwork and redundancy. I mean, if your predilection is American politics, there’s only so much you can say about George Bush which others haven’t already said. So what else can you unboringly write of, if all you know about is American politics?

Readers comments left on blogging sites, particularly political ones, resemble nothing so much as the bleeting of sheep, or the wimperings of subordinate wolves before the dominant alpha male. To leave a comment which doesn’t follow the ideology of the blogger or his acolytes, invites as much venom and abuse from them, as anyone professing homosexuality at a Hell’s Angel’s convention.

I’ve heard that the increase in the numbers of new bloggers has now levelled off after the mercurial rise during blogging’s first halcyon years. This could reflect either that internet surfers recognise bilge when they read it; or they would rather watch videos on YouTube or My Space, than read blogs, because, being products of an increasingly illiterate culture, they find the written word too difficult for them.

I suspect it’s a bit of both.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnaval balloon
Like a carousell that's turning
Running rings around the moon
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it's own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream.
Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle your head
Why did summer go so quickly
Was it something that I said
Lovers walk along the shore,
Leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind
Like the circle that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Friday, October 12, 2007

ETs, UFOs, Crop Circles - Readers Responses

My most recent posting, “Those Amazing ETs And Their Flying Machines”, evoked such passionate responses from you, my esteemed readers, that I deemed them worthy of a separate posting. So I cut and pasted them, and here they are:

From LittlePage: I'm torn between the belief that extra-terrestrials exist or don't. For example, I watched a PBS film about crop circles, and they documented many people that create fairly complex designs, and created circles for the documetary maker's film.

However, given the increasingly complex designs you mention, some may be way out of the league (and time - they have to finish during the night) for the crop-makers, and so must be explained by other means.

From Christopher: Most crop circles in England appear in July and August, when the hours of darkness are the shortest. But, given that July and August are the hottest months, does this merely mean that human crop-circle makers find the warm nights of summer more pleasant in which to do their work than during the cold rainy nights of winter? Quite possibly.

On the other hand, since the nightly hours of darkness during July and August in England are only about four hours, this doesn’t give human crop-circle makers much time to do their work undetected.

So how about that the ETs are deliberately making their very complex circles during these short nights, to show us that these circles are not of human design?

I’ve concluded, for the reasons given in my previous postings, that the mysterious lights in the night sky, which so many have seen over so many years, are manipulated by extra-terrestrial intelligences.

By means of these lights, and the crop circles, the ETs are shouting out to us (figuratively of course) that they’re here. But we don’t listen, or at least Official Science doesn’t. So we have the absurd spectacle of government-funded scientific groups searching for extra-terrestrial life, but through listening for radio signals from other civilizations Out There. These efforts have gone on for decades but have yielded nothing.

Meanwhile, under our noses, and under the nose of Official Science, we may be getting continuous signals from extra-terrestrial civilizations, but in the form of lights in the sky and crop-circles, which our scientists choose to ignore because they (the crop circles, and night lights) lie outside the belief system of Official Science.

There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

From Guy de Maupassant: “……..There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see……..”. I do so like this, and wish I could have written it myself.

Yes, we all of us - or nearly all of us - see only what we wish to see. But there are scientists out there who do have the courage to go where evidence leads, no matter what they're investigating.

It’s sad that most don’t remove the blinkers which prevent them seeing beyond the boundaries of their belief system, which encompasses only the “natural” world.

Were they to remove their blinkers, they might see that the “supernatural” world - which crop-circles and their like are part and parcel of – would become as much a part of the “natural” world as are lions and dogs and the Eiffel Tower.

From Christopher: I’m so honoured, Monsieur de Maupassant, that you would read my web-log, let alone comment on it.

While researching your life, I learned that in your later years, you “……developed an exaggerated love for solitude, a predilection for self-preservation, and a constant fear of death and mania of persecution……..”.

This so perfectly reflects how I am, that I think I may have been you in a previous incarnation. How happy it makes me, to feel that not only may I have been you, but, as you, I may have hob-nobbed with luminaries like Charles Swinburne, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, and Ivan Turgenev. I don’t remember what we all talked about, but I feel it would have been above the intellectual level of who will become the next “American Idol”, which so obsesses the majority mainstream cultural illiterates of this twenty-first century.

And to think it may have been I who authored your short-story masterpieces like “Boule de Suif” and “La Parure”. When I look at the pieces I write on this blog, and compare them to what you wrote, I cringe. But should I allow a hypnotist to regress me back to my former life as you, I might, when returned, be sufficiently inspired to write as you did, and so write pieces which will become as immortal as “Boule de Suif” and “La Parure”.

If so, I would die happy, or at least happier than you, when you, yourself, died, after you were declared insane. I can only hope I will die before I, too, am declared insane by those who think that to be a back-slapping, gregarious, hail-fellow-well-met, is to be the epitome of sanity.

Allow me, Monsieur de Maupassant, to add to what you said about the blinkered views of mainstream scientists. These views are are reinforced by fear, the fear that if they stray too far from official orthodoxy they will find themselves unemployed and standing in a soup-line – a situation not to be wished if you have a mortgage to pay, and children to feed and educate.

The foundations and corporations which fund universities through grants and scholarships, would cease their largesse if professors employed by the universities they fund, stray too far from the official orthodoxy, whether in science, politics, history, or anything else.

I should like to assure you, Monsieur de Maupassant, that by adding to your comments, I did not imply that what you said was inadequate. It’s just that, in our twenty-first-century world of cultural illiterates, one must explain things which would be assumed in a culturally literate society, as your own 19th century France may have been.

From Professor Smith – Department of Astronomy, UCLA: The chances of an extra-terrestrial civilization visiting earth are, statistically, extremely remote, given that earth is a mere tadpole swimming in a cosmic ocean of thousands of billion stars - as many stars as grains of sand on your average beach in California.

In cosmic terms we are NOTHING, I tell you, NOTHING. So we can safely conclude that no extra-terrestrials have ever visited us, and never will.

Your assertion that crop circles and lights in the sky are made by extra-terrestrials is, consequently, piffle.

Almost all UFO sightings have been rationally explained, and hoaxers long ago admitted making crop circles, and have shown how they made them. And those UFO sightings not explained, would have been, if gullible amateurs like you had made more efforts in your investigations.

You need to read more, and pontificate less.

From Christopher: I do agree with you, Professor Smith, that – as you so picturesquely put it – “……earth is a mere tadpole swimming in a cosmic ocean of thousands of billion stars…….”.

But does this necessarily mean that no extra-terrestrial civilization would know about us, or want to visit us?

If we assume any ETs having a technologically advanced civilization would be thousands, perhaps millions of years ahead of us, they might have systems in place on their planets to alert them of the presence of other advanced civilizations, no matter where in the cosmos they are.

And on being apprised of us, they might want to visit, to see if we might be a threat, or simply to discover more about us out of intellectual curiosity – an intellectual curiosity of which you seem totally bereft.

Since any half-intelligent child would be able to understand all this, I'm surprised you don't.

Your obtuseness confirms that university professors like you are no more than ossified academic hacks, without imagination, slaves to the conventional wisdom, and terrified of change.

So I won’t waste my precious time arguing with you any further.

You are NOTHING. You are FILTH. You are SCUM.

Away with you, and bother me no more.

As I look now at how I responded to Professor Smith, I wonder if I was inordinately churlish. I think I was. But this is now, and what I wrote was then, and it was then when what I wrote seemed appropriate. So it must remain, immutable, fixed for all eternity.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Monday, October 08, 2007

Those Amazing ETs And Their Flying Machines

I happened, the other day, upon a story about a UFO sighting near Shakespeare’s birthplace of Stratford-Upon-Avon, in England, where, at about 10.30 pm one evening this past July, people on the street noticed four balls of light moving over the town in formation. Then they (the balls of light) manoeuvred themselves, with three forming a triangle, and one staying just outside it. Then a fifth orb came flying towards the group at a very fast speed, then slowed, then stopped.

The orbs hovered in this position for half an hour, then moved slowly off over the horizon. Over 100 people, some with cameras, saw them. There were reportedly no stars visible in the sky just then, and the balls of light made no sound. The British Ministry of Defence reported no unusual aerial activity, implying nothing untoward was seen on any radar screens.

Sceptics - which is to say, conservatives - asserted the orbs were merely hot air balloons, fireworks, or lanterns which had broken loose from the premises of a local rugby club.

What, then, are we who weren’t there, to make of all this? If you click here, and look at the photo of the orbs, you’ll notice their positions are geometrically very precise. If you use a pencil and the edge of a piece of paper you’ll see that two sides of the triangle are the same length, and that the apex forms a right angle (90 degrees). Line your piece of paper along the three orbs which are the right point of the triangle, the orb just outside it, and the fifth orb further away, and you’ll observe they form a perfect line.

I wasn’t surprised at this degree of precision because it’s what I’ve seen in many videos of UFOs over the years. UFOs in a group often form perfect squares, rectangles or triangles, and move slowly across the sky in these formations. It’s as if there’s a controlling intelligence behind their manoeuvrings and formation. It may be the same controlling intelligence which creates crop circles, which are progressively becoming more geometrically complex.

That things can happen on earth which are caused and controlled by extra-terrestrial intelligences shouldn’t be surprising, considering we’ve landed mobile machines on the Moon and Mars, whose movements we control through radio signals from here on earth. A native Moonite or Martian might be quite nonplussed if, while out on a walk, he came across one of our machines moving around by itself, but which appeared to be intelligently controlled by something unseen. If our Moonite or Martian rushed back to tell his little friends what he’d just seen, they might tell him he was hallucinating and to seek professional help.

This brings me to a documentary film called “UFO Files – Alien Engineering” which speculates about the technology which extra-terrestrials would use in order to visit earth (and they may have already). Much of what the filmmakers - who include engineers and scientists - speculate about is based on technology we on earth have already discovered. For instance the shape and design of the US Air Force’s alien-looking stealth bomber was presaged by how some UFOs looked to those who saw them, long before the stealth bomber was even heard of.

The filmmakers opine that UFOs may get their incredible speed through nullifying gravity and using anti-matter. Scientists have already caused objects in the laboratory to move around and hover as if independent of gravity, and they (the scientists) have produced minute quantities of anti-matter. It may be possible to travel the huge distances across the cosmos by going through “wormholes”, the existence of which scientists have postulated, based on Einstein’s discovery that space is curved.

Also, to the degree that the speed of a spacecraft approaches that of light, time slows down. Thus if you travel at the speed of light over thousands of years to a planet far away, you would be the same age when you arrived on the planet as you were when you left earth. But all your friends on earth would be long dead on account of a thousand years having passed in earth-time.

Perhaps the “aliens” seen by so many of today’s earthlings are visitors from our future?

I’ll talk no more for now, so you may watch the “UFO Files – Alien Engineering”. The film lasts about 90 minutes. Because of the Youtube requirements, it’s chopped up into 10 parts, each lasting 8 to 9 minutes.

Not only do I think you’ll find it more intellectually stimulating than “American Idol”, I guarantee it.

Part One ; Part Two ; Part Three ; Part Four ; Part Five ; Part Six ; Part Seven ; Part Eight ; Part Nine ; Part Ten

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Epigrams for the Working Person.

Here's something to keep you interested, dear readers, until my next posting, which I hope will be soon.

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
Police were called to a daycare where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.
To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.
The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
A thief fell in wet cement. And broke his leg . He became a hardened criminal.
Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with stalking.
We'll never run out of math teachers because they always multiply.
When the smog lifts in Los Angeles , U C L A.
The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.
The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.
The dead batteries were given out free of charge.
If you take a laptop computer for a run you could jog your memory.
A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.
What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway)
A bicycle can't stand alone; it is two tired.
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
A backward poet writes inverse.
In a democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your Count that votes.
A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.
With each marriage she got a new name and a dress.
Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I'll show you A-flat miner.
When a clock is really hungry it goes back four seconds.
The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.
A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France, resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.
You are stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
He broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
A calendar's days are numbered.
A lot of money is tainted: 'Taint yours, and 'taint mine.*

A boiled egg is hard to beat.
He had a photographic memory which was never developed.
A plateau is a high form of flattery.
When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Acupuncture: a jab well done.
And finally, there was the person who sent forty-two different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them. Laugh. No pun in ten did.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Over Mexican Skies

On the afternoon of March 4 2004, ten thousand five hundred feet above the city of Ciudad del Carmen, in the state of Campeche, Mexico, a twin engined surveillance airplane belonging to the 501 Aerial Squadron of the Mexican Air Force, with its three crew members, was on a routine exercise of keeping a lookout for drug-smuggling airplanes by means of radar and infra-red video cameras.

Around 5.00 pm there appeared on the radar screen, and on the infra-red camera, an unknown craft. The surveillance plane moved closer so the crew could get a closer look. Then the unknown craft flew away at a very high speed, too fast for the surveillance plane to pursue it. It should be noted that the surveillance plane’s crew couldn’t actually see the unknown craft, which only the plane’s radar and infra-red cameras could detect.

Then the unknown craft reappeared on the radar and infra-red screens and it seemed to be following or chasing the surveillance plane. Then another craft appeared on the screens, and joined the first craft in its pursuit of the surveillance plane. Somewhat naturally, the crew were disconcerted, if not fearful, for, bloody hell, what could this be? Their confusion was made worse a few seconds later when even more unknown craft appeared on the radar and infra-red screens. This brought the number to eleven, which, again, the crew couldn’t actually see, but only on the radar and infra-red camera screens.

Then these strange craft enveloped the surveillance plane. What to do? Why not, thought the captain, turn out all the plane’s lights and see what happens. The lights were accordingly turned off, so everything became completely dark - except of course for the light emanating from the radar screen and infra-red camera, with their images of the unknown craft - whereupon they (the strange craft) disappeared from the radar and camera screens, never to be seen again.

The Mexican Department of Defense took this incident very seriously and investigated it thoroughly, examining the recorded images and the data, and interrogating the crew. After completing the investigation, the Mexican Department of Defense, instead of making this all a big secret - as the US Department of Defense would undoubtedly have done – went totally the other way, and, by the order of Secretary of Defense, General Clemente Vega Garcia, contacted the nationally-known journalist and UFO researcher, Jaime Maussan, and turned over to him all the relevant tapes and data, and gave him permission to interview the crew, so that he might evaluate what happened, and publicise it if he so wished.

After Maussan examined everything and talked to the crew, he gave a public presentation of his findings which you, too, can look at if you click on to the link at the bottom of this posting. But you should first know that, in his presentation, Maussan has expanded beyond the above-described incident, which we might describe as a Close Encounter of the First Kind, except that the UFOs themselves couldn’t be seen by the naked eye.

I’m led, by the way, to understand that if you point a TV remote control at a camcorder, and hold down the channel button while looking through the camcorder’s viewfinder, you’ll see the remote control’s infra-red light, even though you can’t see it with the naked eye. This may explain why the crew of the spotter plane could catch the images of the strange craft on tape, but not actually see them themselves.

I’m also informed that most of us can’t see beyond the basic spectrum of light. Some people, though, are more sensitive to the light spectrum, which might explain why they see UFOs but most of their fellow humans don’t. Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I had mentioned, before I digressed, that Jaime Maussan in his public presentation of his analysis of the surveillance plane’s radar and infra red tapes, expanded on the topic by talking about other aspects of the Unseen and Unexplained. Thus there is a segment showing film of certain people being distracted by funny noises and strange phenomena, while apparently being watched by beings with sticklike bodies and large heads with large sloping eyes - the classic extra-terrestrial beings seen by abductees.

You should, however, look at this segment with the proverbial pinch of salt, since such pictures and film can be faked. Jaime Maussan, the passionate ufologist that he is, has in the past sometimes allowed his enthusiasm to cloud his judgement, has allowed valour to be the better part of discretion, and so has sometimes innocently presented films, tapes, and photos of UFOs and related phenomena as true, but which were subsequently shown to be fakes.

However this doesn’t apply to the Mexican Air Force surveillance plane’s tapes of the unknown craft it encountered, since these tapes were demonstrably genuine.

The final segment of Jaime Maussan’s presentation deals with crop circles. Just as the film footage of the surveillance plane’s tapes of the unknown craft is genuine, so also is the film footage of the crop circles, since crop circles are a fact, and what is shown of them in Maussan’s presentation is stuff most of us have seen before in other settings. But crop circles remind us all of how mysterious they are, for they aren’t all man-made.

A crop circle aficionado can quickly tell those which are man-made from those which aren’t. Inside the man-made circles the stems of the hay or wheat, or whatever, are broken – having being flattened by heavy rollers. But the non man-made circles are something else, since the plant stalks are bent over unbroken about an inch off the ground and near the stem’s first node (or knuckle).

But when these stems are put under a microscope it is found that their molecular structure, as well as many other characteristics, is somewhat different from that of plant stems outside the circle, the result of having had very intense heat directed at them, of the sort produced by microwaves or ultrasound. The same goes also with the soil inside the circles, which, like the plants, shows signs of having been on the receiving end of intense heat, and is molecularly different from soil outside the circles.

There have been over ten-thousand crop circles observed, most in England. They are usually formed at night, between two and four AM in the wee hours during the short English summer nights. The non-human entities, whatever they are, that make these crop-circles are very cunning, for they produce them under the noses of the crop-circle junkies who are looking for them. Some seekers have seen large balls of brilliant colour which project beams of light into farmer’s fields, which the next morning display a new crop circle.

In 1996, a pilot flying above Stonehenge reported nothing unusual below, but fifteen minutes later a huge 900 foot crop circle, of an extremely intricate design, had appeared next to Stonehenge.

In the matter of crop-circle designs, they are becoming progressively more complex as time goes on. You will see examples in Jaime Maussan’s video presentation.

We can only conclude that crop circles are made by intelligences we know not of, and that they are telling us they're here, but only a mere handful of us choose to notice, since the big Kahunas who own the MSM (mainstream media) and who rule over us have convinced us that we, who think non-humans make crop circles, are nut-cases, since if we all believed that mysterious intelligences Out There are monitoring us, and making crop-circles to tell us they’re here, and are flying all those UFOs which we keep seeing, this would be utterly subversive of the status quo, which the big Kahunas, whether in business or government, have a vested interest in maintaining, for without the status quo, we might become restless and begin to think, and to ask inconvenient questions of the Big Kahunas, who absolutely don't want us to do this.

Now to Jaime Maussan’s video presentation which you can watch by clicking here.


Mexican D o D Acknowledges UFOs Over Mexico
Mexican Air Force Pilots Film UFOs
A Brief Education on Crop Circles
Plant Abnormalities
The Crop Busters
Peculiarities of Crop Circles

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why We Believe Lies

Below is an article by Shankar Vedantam which appeared in the Washington Post on September 4th 2007, on why we are so gullible. I found it of great interest, and so might you, dear readers:

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine."

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC.

The psychological insights yielded by the research, which has been confirmed in a number of peer-reviewed laboratory experiments, have broad implications for public policy. The conventional response to myths and urban legends is to counter bad information with accurate information. But the new psychological studies show that denials and clarifications, for all their intuitive appeal, can paradoxically contribute to the resiliency of popular myths.

This phenomenon may help explain why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that
Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi. While these beliefs likely arose because Bush administration officials have repeatedly tried to connect Iraq with Sept. 11, the experiments suggest that intelligence reports and other efforts to debunk this account may in fact help keep it alive.

Similarly, many in the Arab world are convinced that the destruction of the
World Trade Center on Sept. 11 was not the work of Arab terrorists but was a controlled demolition; that 4,000 Jews working there had been warned to stay home that day; and that the Pentagon was struck by a missile rather than a plane.

Those notions remain widespread even though the federal government now runs Web sites in seven languages to challenge them. Karen Hughes, who runs the Bush administration's campaign to win hearts and minds in the fight against terrorism, recently painted a glowing report of the "digital outreach" teams working to counter misinformation and myths by challenging those ideas on Arabic blogs.

A report last year by the
Pew Global Attitudes Project, however, found that the number of Muslims worldwide who do not believe that Arabs carried out the Sept. 11 attacks is soaring -- to 59 percent of Turks and Egyptians, 65 percent of Indonesians, 53 percent of Jordanians, 41 percent of Pakistanis and even 56 percent of British Muslims.

Research on the difficulty of debunking myths has not been specifically tested on beliefs about Sept. 11 conspiracies or the Iraq war. But because the experiments illuminate basic properties of the human mind, psychologists such as Schwarz say the same phenomenon is probably implicated in the spread and persistence of a variety of political and social myths.

The research does not absolve those who are responsible for promoting myths in the first place. What the psychological studies highlight, however, is the potential paradox in trying to fight bad information with good information.

Schwarz's study was published this year in the journal Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, but the roots of the research go back decades. As early as 1945, psychologists Floyd Allport and Milton Lepkin found that the more often people heard false wartime rumors, the more likely they were to believe them.

The research is painting a broad new understanding of how the mind works. Contrary to the conventional notion that people absorb information in a deliberate manner, the studies show that the brain uses subconscious "rules of thumb" that can bias it into thinking that false information is true. Clever manipulators can take advantage of this tendency.

The experiments also highlight the difference between asking people whether they still believe a falsehood immediately after giving them the correct information, and asking them a few days later. Long-term memories matter most in public health campaigns or political ones, and they are the most susceptible to the bias of thinking that well-recalled false information is true.

The experiments do not show that denials are completely useless; if that were true, everyone would believe the myths. But the mind's bias does affect many people, especially those who want to believe the myth for their own reasons, or those who are only peripherally interested and are less likely to invest the time and effort needed to firmly grasp the facts.

The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it.

Indeed, repetition seems to be a key culprit. Things that are repeated often become more accessible in memory, and one of the brain's subconscious rules of thumb is that easily recalled things are true.

Many easily remembered things, in fact, such as one's birthday or a pet's name, are indeed true. But someone trying to manipulate public opinion can take advantage of this aspect of brain functioning. In politics and elsewhere, this means that whoever makes the first assertion about something has a large advantage over everyone who denies it later.

Furthermore, a new experiment by Kimberlee Weaver at
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and others shows that hearing the same thing over and over again from one source can have the same effect as hearing that thing from many different people -- the brain gets tricked into thinking it has heard a piece of information from multiple, independent sources, even when it has not. Weaver's study was published this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The experiments by Weaver, Schwarz and others illustrate another basic property of the mind -- it is not good at remembering when and where a person first learned something. People are not good at keeping track of which information came from credible sources and which came from less trustworthy ones, or even remembering that some information came from the same untrustworthy source over and over again. Even if a person recognizes which sources are credible and which are not, repeated assertions and denials can have the effect of making the information more accessible in memory and thereby making it feel true, said Schwarz.

Experiments by Ruth Mayo, a cognitive social psychologist at
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, also found that for a substantial chunk of people, the "negation tag" of a denial falls off with time. Mayo's findings were published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2004.

"If someone says, 'I did not harass her,' I associate the idea of harassment with this person," said Mayo, explaining why people who are accused of something but are later proved innocent find their reputations remain tarnished. "Even if he is innocent, this is what is activated when I hear this person's name again.

"If you think 9/11 and Iraq, this is your association, this is what comes in your mind," she added. "Even if you say it is not true, you will eventually have this connection with Saddam Hussein and 9/11."

Mayo found that rather than deny a false claim, it is better to make a completely new assertion that makes no reference to the original myth. Rather than say, as Sen.
Mary Landrieu (D-La.) recently did during a marathon congressional debate, that "Saddam Hussein did not attack the United States; Osama bin Laden did," Mayo said it would be better to say something like, "Osama bin Laden was the only person responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks" -- and not mention Hussein at all.

The psychologist acknowledged that such a statement might not be entirely accurate -- issuing a denial or keeping silent are sometimes the only real options.

So is silence the best way to deal with myths? Unfortunately, the answer to that question also seems to be no.

Another recent study found that when accusations or assertions are met with silence, they are more likely to feel true, said Peter Kim, an organizational psychologist at the
University of Southern California. He published his study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Myth-busters, in other words, have the odds against them.

Now we know why we’re so gullible and conformist, and therefore continue to believe nonsense even when shown it’s nonsense. Religion is as good an example as any.

But it’s not just religion, it’s everything we were told by our mothers and fathers, and rammed down our throats by society generally. For instance, girls throughout their childhood are told their object in life is to marry and become mothers. But should they, when grown, not want to marry because they see men as boorish and stupid, and not want children because they just don’t like them, or for other sensible reasons, they feel guilty nonetheless.

And boys when growing up are told they must be tough and stoic, must never cry, must be sun-loving extroverts and drink beer and love football. But should they be shy and bookish, and like to watch Ingmar Bergman films, and go for solitary walks in the rain and mist, rather than play football, and like to drink white wine, and wish, when grown-up, to study the violin rather than join the Marine Corps or become an investment banker, they’ll feel guilt all their lives.

Have any of you, dear readers, ever experienced visiting, after many decades, the neighbourhood where you played as a child, looked at the house you grew up in? Doesn’t it all seem now much smaller and shabbier than you remembered it? As a child, everything looked bigger because you were so small, everything you came across was fresh and new. In your middle-age you still remembered your childhood house as a palace, the scrubby field you once played in as lush and green, the pot-holed side-road you once skipped along as a wide boulevard.

But when you returned from your visit to where you grew up, and went back to your present life, and present home - your little Shangri-la - your nondescript childhood house returned to being a palace, the scrubby field again became lush and green, the side-road went back to being much wider and longer. Your impressions of them based on your recent visit were soon erased from your mind because they weren’t your first childhood ones.

The imaginary homeland of our childhood will live in us always.

Regarding human gullbility, Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion”, speculates about its evolutionary origins . Perhaps, he thinks, our propensity to believe anything, no matter how outragious, comes from when our distant forebears lived close to nature, so were vulnerable to attacks from wild animals and otherwise threatened by the elements. Small children not obeying their parents’ orders, in, for instance, matters of safety, because they thought it stupid, were more likely to be caught and eaten by a wild animal, than were obedient, more unquestioning children. Therefore the more gullible, the more unquestioning and conformist the child, the more likely it would survive to pass on its genes when grown-up.

This does explain so much about us.

And Now For Something Completely Different

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road,
It's the rest of a stump,
It's a little alone

It's a sliver of glass,
It is life, it's the sun,
It is night, it is death,
It's a trap, it's a gun

The oak when it blooms,
A fox in the brush,
A knot in the wood,
The song of a thrush

The wood of the wind,
A cliff, a fall,
A scratch, a lump,
It is nothing at all

It's the wind blowing free,
It's the end of the slope,
It's a beam, it's a void,
It's a hunch, it's a hope

And the river bank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the end of the strain,
The joy in your heart

The foot, the ground,
The flesh and the bone,
The beat of the road,
A slingshot's stone

A fish, a flash,
A silvery glow,
A fight, a bet,
The range of a bow

The bed of the well,
The end of the line,
The dismay in the face,
It's a loss, it's a find

A spear, a spike,
A point, a nail,
A drip, a drop,
The end of the tale

A truckload of bricks
in the soft morning light,
The shot of a gun
in the dead of the night

A mile, a must,
A thrust, a bump,
It's a girl, it's a rhyme,
It's a cold, it's the mumps

The plan of the house,
The body in bed,
And the car that got stuck,
It's the mud, it's the mud

Afloat, adrift,
A flight, a wing,
A hawk, a quail,
The promise of spring

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the promise of life
It's the joy in your heart

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road
It's the rest of a stump,
It's a little alone

A snake, a stick,
It is John, it is Joe,
It's a thorn in your hand
and a cut in your toe

A point, a grain,
A bee, a bite,
A blink, a buzzard,
A sudden stroke of night

A pin, a needle,
A sting, a pain,
A snail, a riddle,
A wasp, a stain

A pass in the mountains,
A horse and a mule,
In the distance the shelves
rode three shadows of blue

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the promise of life
in your heart, in your heart

A stick, a stone,
The end of the road,
The rest of a stump,
A lonesome road

A sliver of glass,
A life, the sun,
A knife, a death,
The end of the run

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the end of all strain,
It's the joy in your heart.

Friday, August 17, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (4)

This is a continuation of a discussion between myself and you, gentle readers, arising out of comments left on my previous posting.

The comment below was from a reader who wanted to know my opinions on a book, “The Language of God”, written by Francis S Collins, scientist and head of the Human Genome Project, and a believing Christian to boot.

From Bubba: You've evaded talking about the Francis S Collins book, "The Language of God" for long enough.

Now will you do the decent thing and tell us all what you thought of it, and why a scientist par excellence, like Francis Collins, is a believing Christian.

We can wait no longer for the pronunciamento from you, the Oracle.

From Christopher: I do detect, Bubba, a biting sarcasm in your comment that I can’t overlook. While this way of communicating may be fine among you and your two-fisted beer-swilling buddies, it isn’t fine when you are communicating with me.

You should consider yourself privileged that I deign to respond to your comments, for you should understand that my time is taken up in corresponding with refined educated men like university professors, scientists, and theologians, not red-necked riff-raff like you.

And don’t put on airs, like using foreign-sounding phrases like “par excellence” and foreign-sounding words like “pronunciamento”, so to try to sound refined and educated. It impresses me not a whit, for you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

You’re skating on thin ice, Bubba. So don’t overdo it.

Now, to Francis S Collins. He is the head of the Human Genome Project, and indeed a scientist par excellence, and so would not likely be a practising Christian, but he is.

What brought him to Faith was his observation of the ubiquitous yearning for God in all societies around the world, and that all societies live under a moral law, whereby the people are enjoined to live good lives, to sacrifice their own life in the defence of family and society, not to murder or steal, to be kind to children and old ladies, and all of that - everything which comes under sacrifice or altruism.

While Collins acknowledges the altruism in the non-human animal kingdom, which would be explained in terms of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, he sees that human moral injunctions, altruism and willingness to sacrifice for the good of others go far beyond the norm in the animal kingdom. What would explain that so many people are good, like Oscar Schindler, who risked his life and fortune to save the lives of Jews in Nazi Germany? What would explain this omnipresent human moral order? It must come from God, who, because science has adequately explained how we all came to be through evolution, would be a God existing outside nature, and so outside space and time.

While so much evil is done by humans, what is important for Collins is that it transgresses the moral law, the moral law which is the expression of God’s ubiquitous presence.

Human altruism and goodness are, in fact, easily explained, without putting God into it. It is simply the altruism of the animal kingdom, but at a higher level, a result of our much more developed brains. Animals will sacrifice themselves for their broods or families, but the human concept of “family” has now extended to our nation or country. Therefore we will sacrifice our lives for our countries when at war, and risk our lives to save one of our fellow countrymen being run over by a train, or whatever. In the case of Oscar Schindler, the Jews he tried to save at risk to his own life, were simply his fellow Germans, and therefore his “family”.

But it is important to remember that killing other humans is quite OK if those other humans belong to countries with which our own is at war. So we kill millions of those enemy humans, including children and little babies, by dropping bombs on their cities from our aeroplanes, and we regard our pilots as big brave heroes for doing so.

Collins, the scientist, accepts Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as true, and the primitive altruism in the animal kingdom as explainable under this Theory, without the need for God. But when he considers the more advanced human altruism, which manifests in our moral code, he thinks this must be because of God.

But Collins doesn’t think to ask that if humans are part and parcel of the animal kingdom, and evolved from the same primeval slime as did animals, why should our human altruism be divinely inspired, but not the altruism of the other animals?

Collins can’t have it both ways. Either the altruism of the animal kingdom, including that of us humans, is divinely inspired, or it isn’t. Since Darwinism explains animal altruism, it follows that it explains ours, which we call our “moral code”.

Collins is also impressed by the fact that all societies yearn for God, as manifested in their religions. Surely, he reasons, this would be because there is actually a God, and people intrinsically know this.

Possibly. But how about that we humans are the only species which are self-conscious, and who therefore can contemplate our own deaths, and we find this frightening? So we invented gods who assure us there’s life after death, and if we worship them, they, these gods, will look after us in the world to come.

In terms of Occam’s Razor, this is the obvious reason for the idea of “God”. No supernatural explanation is necessary.

But If Francis S Collins still wants to believe there’s a “God” out there somewhere, no matter how bizarre the idea, there’s no harm in this, I suppose, if it gives him comfort, which he says it does. An amorphous “God”, without the trappings of sectarian religion, would belong to everyone, no matter where in the world they live, no matter their nationality, language, or skin-colour. So this amorphous “God” shouldn’t be the cause of people killing and oppressing and mutilating each other, as they now do in the name of the “God” of their particular sectarian religion.

But Collins doesn’t stop at just believing there’s a “God”. He goes the whole hog by subscribing to a religion, in his case, Christianity. Not only this, but literalist Christianity, where Jesus Christ actually was the son of God, was born to a mother through parthenogenesis, made dead people come alive, rose from the dead himself on the third day, ascended to heaven amidst swirling dust, and all of that.

Collins was much influenced by the writings of the famous Oxford don and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who said in so many words that the New Testament had to be taken as literally true, so that Jesus was actually the son of God, and that he actually did and said all the stuff as depicted in the bible. If he didn’t, he was obviously a nut-case. So it was no use apologetic Christians trying to justify their Christianity to their non-believing friends by rationalizing that Christ was just an extremely wise man, and that what he said and did shouldn’t be taken literally, but metaphorically.

C.S. Lewis was having none of this. Christ was either a nut-case or he wasn’t. And if he wasn’t a nut-case, you had to swallow straight all of what was in the bible, with no questions asked.

Collins was so impressed by what Lewis said that he became an out and out Believer, no questions asked. But his not asking questions didn’t stop him rationalizing his new-found literalist beliefs, by saying that God, being beyond nature, and therefore beyond space and time, would not only know what each of us is thinking, and would therefore answer our prayers, but would also be able to interfere generally in human affairs, and did so by sending Christ into the world as his personal representative to save us from our sins.

Collins also read books by Christian authors which told him that the Gospels represented authentic eyewitness accounts of the earthly life of Christ. He also seizes on the account of a non-Christian historian of that time, Josephus, which tells of a Jewish prophet who was crucified by Pontius Pilate around 33 A.D.

But Collins ignores that the scholarship in the Christian-authored books he read is seriously disputed by biblical scholars; that none of the 27 Pagan writers who wrote about the middle-east of the time of the alleged Jesus, says anything about him; and that no serious scholar now believes that Josephus wrote what he is supposed to have written about Christ and Pontius Pilate.

We shouldn’t condemn Collins for being so gullible, for we, all of us, whether erudite scientists or humble ditch-diggers, airbrush out anything which interferes with what we wish to believe.

But Collins, in addition to being a highly educated scientist, is, by what he has done in his life, obviously a very good and moral man. But, while deciding to believe in “God”, he didn’t make a distinction between “God” and “religion”, and should have recognised that religions are inherently divisive, and that his chosen religion, Christianity, is notoriously exclusivist and divisive.

I consider that “God”, as Francis Collins sees “Him”, is a wrong way of looking at the idea of “God”, because it implies that “God” is “out there” somewhere; whereas “God”, as far as “God” can be postulated, makes more sense as existing inside each of us as the ground of our being.

So if you want to see God, all you need do is look in your bathroom mirror.

Nonetheless, “The Language of God” is very thought provoking, and I recommend it to those of you who actually read books.

But if you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, and therefore find the reading of books to be beyond you, you can read a partial transcription of a debate, adjudicated by Time Magazine, between Francis S Collins and the biologist and prolific author, Richard Dawkins, by clicking here.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (3)

This is a continuation of a discussion which began out of readers’ comments, which I’ve copied and pasted to form my posting for today. As you will surmise from the title, what is being discussed are the eternal questions which people throughout history have puzzled over.

The first couple of comments shown below are slightly off topic, but I’ve included them nonetheless for they segue into the main subject.

The first commenter was referring to my stated wish that this site might become the venue of a sort of new Bloomsbury Set:

From Bubba: As I read the content of your recent postings, it occurs to me that you are an intellectual snob. You make references to things which ordinary two-fisted beer-swilling guys like me wouldn't know about, and which you'd surely know we wouldn't know about, like the Bloomsbury Set.

What, pray, is, or was, the Bloomsbury Set?

From Christopher: Hi Bubba – To call me an intellectual snob is an ad hominem attack, and I’ll not stand for it. I could just as easily call you a “redneck”, but I won’t, because it would drag me down to your level. But don’t count on it.

So you just watch it.

Regarding the Bloomsbury Set (or, if you like, Bloomsbury Group), it was a group of writers, poets, artists, and philosophers, who, between 1905 and 1941, met regularly at different houses situated in the Bloomsbury area of London, to discuss philosophy, art, literature, and religion.

The group was centred around Virginia Woolf, and included luminaries like Lytton Strachey, EM Forster, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Vita Sackville West, and Stephen Spender. To be known to belong to this group conveyed prestige, as well as enormous influence in English intellectual and artistic life of that time.

Just think, Bubba, you’ve now the chance you may never have dreamed of, to be a member of a twenty-first century version of the Bloomsbury Set.

Tell this to your two-fisted, beer swilling buddies, and they’ll give you a respect you never had before.

From Professor Mangosutho Wong: As a professor of English, I'm naturally sensitive to infelicities of English usage and style in whatever I read. In this connection I noticed your phrase: "Another egregious example of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty is shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists......"

The way you've used "egregious" would indicate to the reader that the example of Karl Popper's Principle of Falsifiablity shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists is egregious, rather than that the reasoning itself was egregious.

But, taking it in the context of all else you wrote, I have a hunch you meant that what was egregious was the reasoning of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Am I right? If so, you should re-write this passage

Also your phrase "....the best and the brightest minds THAT would be the envy of Charlie Rose....." might better have been written ".....the best and the brightest minds WHICH would be the envy of Charlie Rose.....".

From Christopher: Thank you, Professor Wong, for your observations about my infelicious use of the English language.

Unlike you, I never got to go to the University, and so never became educated enough to write English properly. I do try, though, and will be especially attentive to the way I write in the future, knowing that you, a professor of English, will be reading what I write with your expert critical eye.

I am indeed honoured that you would read what I write, and I hope my future writings will meet your exacting grammatical and syntactical standards.

From Bubba: You said in a recent posting, that you were in the middle of reading "The Language of God" by the scientist and believing Christian, Francis S Collins, and that you would comment on it when finished.

Have you now finished, so that we all might learn what you thought of it?

From Christopher: Yes, Bubba, I have now finished reading the Francis S Collins book. But, before I talk about it, I’’ll comment on what was said by a Dr Phil Fernandes, a believing Christian, in a debate with a Dr Michael Martin, an atheist.

You can read what Fernandes said, by clicking here.

I’m making the comments shown below, before reading Martin’s rejoinder to Fernandes, since I wish, only afterwards, to see whether Martin, a learned professor, made any of the points I wish to make.

Fernandes’ main argument for God’s existence is that the universe must have started at some point, so there must have been a First Cause, and that God is that First Cause.

“First Cause” is a nice dry impersonal academic phrase. So no-one can say there was anything before the First Cause, or that there was something that created the First Cause, because the phrase “First Cause” means nothing came before it. I have no problem with this.

But then Fernandes begins to call the First Cause “God”, and to refer to “God” as “Him”, and to give him personal attributes like being loving, and intelligent, and listening to us when we pray, and all of that. God even sits on a throne up on high, judging by Fernandes saying “……..If there is no God who sits enthroned, then Hitler will not be punished for his evil deeds……”.

So it would appear that the First Cause is actually a human-like being, or even a person.

This raises the question: Who created this person, this “God”?

Fernandes can’t have it both ways. He can have either a “First Cause” - an impersonal academic concept which therefore wouldn’t have any human qualities, like being loving, or intelligent, and therefore wouldn’t have a creator. Or he can have a “God”, who by his description, would be a magic-man somewhere out there, and therefore would have to have a creator.

So, who created “God”, this magic-man?

Fernandes tries to show that there’s no such thing as infinity, by using the analogy of infinite points between two fixed points. If there were an infinite number of points between one’s house and the bus stop, no-one would ever arrive at the bus stop. But since people do arrive at bus stops from their homes, there can’t be an infinite number of intervening points. Therefore infinity is impossible. Therefore there cannot be infinite time, and there cannot be infinite space.

But I think the example of points between two fixed points, is a false one if you want to show infinity of time and space to be impossible, since time and space don’t have two fixed points at either end. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to see that for time to stretch back to infinity, and for space to stretch out to infinity is eminently feasible. No matter how far back in time you go, we’ll never reach the beginning, and no matter far you travel in the universe we’ll never reach its boundary. Even most six-year olds would understand this.

Using Occam’s Razor, the obvious answer to how the universe began, is that it never did begin, for it always was, stretching back to infinity. If we accept the notion of the Big Bang, the heavenly bodies of the Universe, because of gravity, will eventually stop moving away from one another, and will reverse course by moving closer to each other, to the point when they will all collide, and there will be a Big Crunch, whereupon they will again move away from each other as they do now. This pattern always was, and always will be. God is completely unnecessary for all this, and will always be.

It’s all quite simple when you stop to think about it.

I think that why most people talk such nonsense about “God” is the word “God” itself. The image attached to it, for most of us, is of an old gentleman in the sky. We cannot escape from this because this was how God was presented to us when we were children.

Also, “God” has always been a “God of the gaps”. If there’s something we don’t understand – a gap in our knowledge – it must have been caused by “God”. Then when a scientific explanation fills the gap, the God-believers find another gap somewhere else, and call it “God”, until that gap, too, is explained, or filled by a scientific discovery.

And so on.

The origin of the universe is the ultimate gap, so it’s understandable that the God-believers have filled this gap with “God”.

There would have been much less confusion if, as in algebra, we could simply have called the gaps in our knowledge, “x” or “y”. Since we don’t associate “x” or “y” with being loving and intelligent, or listening to us when we say our prayers, we would be a lot less confused about things than we are. And, perhaps, we would have had no religion. So all the mass cruelty and oppression and wars and genocides carried out in the name of “God” or religion would never have happened, and we’d accordingly be much better off.

Fernandes, by saying that life with no God would be meaningless, implies that no God means no life after death. This isn’t obvious to me at all. Why can’t there be life after death, but no God?

And when Fernandes uses words like “good” and “evil” and says life must have meaning, he shows he is an anthropomorphist par excellence . Who says that life must have meaning? Why should there be such things as “good” and “evil”? These are just human expressions, and human values.

Since we all create our own experiences, we have the power to create our own meaning in our lives, and in whatever we do. It is purely subjective, having nothing to do with whether what we do is meaningful or not. What we perceive is our reality, however preposterous that reality is.

I’ve gone on long enough, but not long enough not to comment on the idea of a personal “God”, which Fernandes believes in, and which most practicing Christians also believe in. This personal God is all-knowing and all-seeing. He knows everything you are thinking, and he’s watching you all the time. No matter where you go or what you’re doing, you’re never out of his sight.

Despite God spying on you all the time, you must not only love him, but must also constantly sing his praises. Life with such a God must be like living in North Korea, with the difference that a North Korean can always escape North Korea by dying, but the Christian can never escape God, with whom he is joined at the hip for all of eternity.

And we wonder why so many Christians have mental and emotional disorders?

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (2)

This is a continuation of a discussion arising out of comments posted on this blogging site by readers.

The intellectual level of this ongoing discussion surpasses anything else I’ve seen on other blogging sites, and this is due solely to you, dear readers.

Finally this site is attracting the attention of the best and the brightest minds that would be the envy of Charlie Rose, and I’m flattered this is so.

This site can be the venue of a new Bloomsbury Set, a safe haven for artists and intellectuals to say anything they want without fear it may seem too highbrow, for, to me, nothing can be too highbrow.

A new Bloomsbury Set………

Yes……I have a dream.

I pasted the comments below from the comments section of my previous blogging entry. May the discussion continue on many future postings.

This first comment below was a response to my impugning the veracity of the bible:

From Pastor Nebachudnezzar Jones - You don’t know what you’re talking about. Every word in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is true. I know this because God told me so, and what He tells me, I believe unreservedly, with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts”.

If the Bible is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you, is what I say.

From Christopher - Being the literalist you are, Pastor Jones, you are doubtless a Young Earth Creationist, and therefore one of the 45% of Americans who thinks the earth is less than ten thousand years old; that all species were created by individual acts of divine creation; and that Adam and Eve were historical figures created by God from dust in the Garden of Eden.

You would also be one of the 45% of Americans who believe the geologic strata and the fossils within the various layers were created in a few weeks by the world-wide flood described in Genesis 6 – 9, rather than having been deposited over hundreds of millions of years.

Judging by all those books and videos found in Christian bookstores, you would also believe that no intermediate fossil forms can be found for birds, turtles, elephants, or whales, despite such fossils having been found over recent years.

And you would believe that radioactive dating of rocks and bones and such, is wrong because decay rates have changed over time, which they have not.

You have probably visited museums and theme parks which show humans frolicking with dinosaurs, since Creationists, like you, don’t accept that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans first appeared.

That 45% of Americans like you, Pastor Jones, believe all this in our technological age, is as good an example as any of truth being stranger than fiction.

From Professor Alberto Nakayama - A brilliant riposte to that charlatan pastor, I must say, Christopher.

As a scientist I would like to add to your reply, by pointing out that if the beliefs of Pastor Jones and his ilk - which would include 45% of Americans – were true, it would lead to a complete and irreversible collapse of the sciences of physics, chemistry, cosmology, geology, and biology.

What Pastor Jones and his ilk assert, is like saying two plus two doesn’t equal four.

From Christopher - As a scientist, Professor Nakayama, you’ll be gratified to know the overwhelming flood of scientific evidence in favour of evolution, is beginning to breach the defences of even intellectual dinosaurs like Pastor Jones and his ilk, so much so that they are now arguing that all of this evidence has been designed by God to mislead the Believers, to test their religious faith.

Thus all the radioactive decay clocks, all the fossils, and all of the genome sequences have been intentionally designed to make the universe seem old, much older than the ten thousand years the Creationists know it is.

God is therefore The Great Deceiver.

From Professor Khama Wacky-Brown - As a teacher of philosophy at a prestigious university, I’m interested in the text-book demonstration of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, as displayed in the Young Earth Creationists depiction of God as The Great Deceiver.

For the edification of any non-university-educated readers out there, Karl Popper’s Principle of Non Falsifiability says, in so many words, that a belief is irrationally held if it cannot be shown to be untrue, no matter what.

Let’s take the Young Earth Creationists assertion that the universe is only ten thousand years old. When they (the Creationists) are presented with carbon-dated evidence of the age of an object, showing it is millions of years old, they assert that rates of decay have accelerated; therefore the results of the carbon-dating must be wrong.

Then when they are shown conclusive evidence that rates of decay haven’t accelerated, the Creationists change the goalposts by saying that God faked the carbon-dating evidence presented by the scientists.

Therefore the Creationist position can never be proved wrong, as far as they’re concerned, because no evidence, however conclusive, will show them as wrong.

From Christopher - That the reasoning power of so many people who should know better, falls victim to Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, is a sad reflection of the atrophying quality of so much of what is taught in our institutions of higher learning. So I do hope that you, Professor Wacky-Brown, as a university professor, are doing your bit to slow down this atrophying trend, although the battle, in the end, is probably lost.

Another egregious example of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty is shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, who assert that the planning for 9/11 was a White House inside job. Many millions believe this, and there are thousands of 9/11 conspiracy-minded web-sites.

One of the assertions the 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“conspiracists”) make, is that a 757 jetliner didn’t crash into the Pentagon. It was, rather, a missile.

The “conspiracists” say that the hole in the wall of the Pentagon building, which the jetliner was supposed to have made, was much too small for a jetliner to have passed through.

How, then, about a missile? since Donald Rumsfeld, who saw the explosion when it happened, said what he saw, seemed like a missile. So, a missile it became, in the minds of the “conspiracists”, based on the size of the hole, and Rumsfeld’s off-the-cuff remark.

But how about that there were over 130 named witnesses who either saw a jetliner hit the Pentagon, or saw it moments before it did? Well, say the “conspiracists”, eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable, based on what’s happened in so many murder trials.

How about that no-one has ever come forward saying they actually saw a missile? This doesn’t mean anything, say the “conspiracists”, because the hole in the wall was big enough only for a missile. Besides, there were no crashed aircraft parts discovered in the Pentagon.

What, then, about those photos showing some damaged aircraft parts amidst the Pentagon debris? Oh, the photos were faked. What, then, about those cell-phone calls received by friends and family from some of the passengers on the hijacked plane? Oh, this doesn’t prove it hit the Pentagon. Well, then, what became of the plane if it didn’t hit the Pentagon? That’s for the government to say, not us. And on and on and on.

Now, it’s possible some of those who say they saw the plane hit the building, did so because they wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. But it’s extremely unlikely that all did. Besides, aircraft, no matter how big, are very collapsible on impact because they are built to be as light as possible, for obvious reasons.

So the airliner in question would have crumpled up as it passed through the wall, making a hole much smaller than if the aircraft wasn’t built for lightness. And engineers have shown how the jetliner would have passed through the hole. But, admittedly, other engineers have disagreed.

As a non-engineer, I can’t say which of the engineers is right, but, based on the eye-witness accounts, the engineers saying the hole was sufficiently big for a 757 jetliner to pass through, were obviously right, and the other engineers were obviously wrong.

I’ve doubtless gone on at inordinate length about all this, but I wish solely to demonstrate the non-falsifiability tendencies of the “conspiracists”, most of whom are keenly interested in politics and public affairs, and would, for the most part, belong to the well-educated professional classes.

But this hasn’t stopped them from being as irrational as died-in-the-wool Creationists.

The human capacity for self-deception is infinite.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

The Flying Purple People-Eater

Do any of us really KNOW for sure that a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people-eater doesn't actually exist?

Friday, August 03, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum

I haven’t heard from Jeremy in a while, so I’m quite worried. Consequently I’ve nothing further to report. However, I did receive some comments from readers in response to statements I made in my last missive to Jeremy, about God, religion, and the bible.

Rather than let these comments, and my replies, languish in obscurity, I thought: Why not make them the subject of my posting for today?

So here they are:

From Obadiah: When you say there’s nothing true in either the old or new testaments of the bible, can I assume this means there’s no God?

To which I replied:

No, Obadiah, you should assume nothing of the sort. If God exists, He does so independently of what the bible says.

From Nehemiah: When you quote Christopher Hitchens saying “religion poisons everything” you seem to me to be quoting it with approval.

If you, like Hitchens, think religion poisons everything, why so?

I said:

Hi Nehemiah – “Religion poisons everything” is Hitchens’ phrase, not mine, but I do agree with it.

I would go further and say that religion is the root of all evil. If there was no religion there would have been no Crusades, no Inquisition, no Holocaust, no massacres between Hindu and Muslims on the Indian sub-continent, no Indian caste-system, no South African Apartheid, no Northern Ireland conflict, no Israel-Palestine conflict, no 9/11, no 7/7, no suicide bombers, no genital mutilation of children and less child abuse………..The list is endless.

Wherever there’s religion, there’s violence, bloodshed, hatred, ignorance, bigotry and intolerance, regardless of the religion.

Think of the words of John Lennon’s wonderful song, “Imagine”:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Note particularly the line in the second verse “…..and no religion too…..”.

In my reply to Nehemiah, when I listed some of the crimes perpetuated in the name of religion, I should have added the subjugation of women, and ethnic cleansing. In the matter of ethnic cleansing, we’ve seen lots in recent years, for instance in the former Yugoslavia, and now in Iraq. But, as Richard Dawkins points out, “ethnic” cleansing should more properly be called “religious” cleansing because the cleansers and the cleansed invariably belong to different antagonistic religious faiths.

From Boaz : You’re always going on about Christians. But it isn’t Christians who are the suicide bombers, and who carried out 9/11 and 7/7. It was Muslims. Why, then, don’t you re-direct your obloquy to Muslims?

I responded thus:

Hi BoazIf I appear to you to be going on about Christians, it’s unintentional. But to the extent I may have, it would be because I was raised a Christian, and so know more about Christianity than about other faiths.

But all religions are dangerous, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other. Spirituality and religion have nothing to do with the other, although spiritual people can be religious, and the other way around. But religious literalism is the very opposite of spirituality.

From what little I know of the Koran, I’ve no reason to think it less fictional than the Hebrew and Christian bibles. As Christopher Hitchens points out, the Koran is fictional even just to the extent that it incorporates material from the Old and New Testaments, which it does.

The extreme militancy of much of Islam today may be because Islam is 700 years younger than its brother religion, Christianity, and much younger still from its parent religion, Judaism. So Islam may be in the extremist stage of its life, where Christianity was, circa 1200 or 1300 AD, when it was harsh and bloodthirsty indeed (think only of the Inquisition).

While today’s suicide bombers are invariably Muslim, it shouldn’t obscure the fact that until less than a handful of years ago, Irish Catholics - Christians all - were planting bombs in Belfast and London.

But militant Christianity is once again flexing its muscles, this time in the US of A. The atmosphere is such that no-one can be elected to any elective office in the US if they don’t say they believe in God and go to church each Sunday.

Fundamentalist Christians who take the bible as literally true, dominate the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. Since rule by the religious is always bellicose, intolerant, oppressive, harsh, corrupt, and doctrinaire, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bush Administration has turned out this way.

In the middle-east, two of the three monotheistic desert religions, Judaism and Christianity, are facing off against the other one, Islam. Already there are credible rumours of yet another attack in the near future by Christians (Americans) on Muslims (Iranians).

And so it goes…………

A Partial Bibliography:

1. The Pagan Christ – Tom Harpur.

2. The Jesus Mysteries – Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

The above two books show that all of what constitutes the New Testament of the bible was lifted from the various Pagan religions.

3. The Bible Unearthed – Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein. This book shows that nearly all the archaeological findings in Israel and its occupied territories tell a story very different from that in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

4. The Inquisition – Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. A brief history of the infamous Inquisition, which, incidentally, still exists - although much watered-down - under the title of The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

5. The End of Faith – Sam Harris, who makes the case that, because of all the potentially world-ending lethal weaponry sloshing around the world, religions are a luxury we can no longer afford, for obvious reasons.

6. God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens. Showing how religion is the cause of all today’s conflicts and bloodshed around the world.

7. The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins. The pre-eminent evolutionary biologist shows that God isn’t necessary to explain who we are and how everything started.

Lest anyone think I’m being one-sided in my reading, I’m currently half-way through The Language of God, by Francis S. Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, who is a believing Christian, and explains why he is. Perhaps I’ll talk about this book in a future posting when I’m finished reading.

Incidentally there are two human genome projects – the US government one, headed by Francis S. Collins; and the privately funded one, headed by the better known and more flamboyant Craig Venter, an avowed atheist.

And now for something completely different:

I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman

Whatever since became of Whistling Jack Smith? I sometimes wonder.