Ed's Rants

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"It was amazing, this mystic business. You tell them a lie, and then when you don't need it any more you tell them another lie and tell them they're progressing along the road to wisdom. Then instead of laughing they follow you even more, hoping that at the heart of all the lies they'll find the truth. And bit by bit they accept the unacceptable. "

-Terry Pratchett

There is a problem with science and America's drooling slack-jawed approach to education. Most Americans don't have a clue about science and what science is trying to tell them. Realistically, the number of people who know the name of Paris Hilton's stupid little dog is exponentially larger than the number of people who could name ANY Nobel prize winner of the last 20 years. It's hard to deny the increasing impact of technology on modern America, yet Americans are becoming increasingly ignorant regarding the science that makes that technology possible. They do know an amazing amount about Paris Hilton though.

The French philosopher Rene Descartes provided the basic framework for the scientific method with his approach of methodological skepticism. He reasoned that genuine knowledge could not be derived from false assumptions and so knowledge must derived from a base of "undoubtable" knowledge. This base would then be expanded upon by rigorously proven additions of fact and observation. The operative point here is that if something can be doubted, it must be doubted.

Unfortunately, science has a profoundly retarded half-brother named paranormal research. I am using the "paranormal" badge to describe a variety of unprovable phenomena that exists on mostly on weekend cable television shows. Bigfoot, alien visitation, the Loch Ness monster, Micheal Jackson, and Atlantis are just a few of the choices.

The one thing that most clearly delineates between science and pseudoscience is that total lack of progress in the paranormal investigations. The UFO age might be said to have been born in 1947 when a Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine bright flying objects near Mt. Rainer in Washington state.In the 60 years since that report, the accomplishments of all the scientific disciplines have literally exploded. More has been learned during the last 60 years than in all of the previous history of mankind combined. Lets look at some of what has been accomplished;

The same explosion of knowledge has occurred in every discipline of science, but what of the paranormalists? What progress have they attained during the last 60 years?

                - Nothing whatsoever-

The paranormalists have remained glued in the starting gate. This is not surprising. Let us assume that you wanted to learn what the physical properties of ESP were; It would be easy to imagine experimental means of exploring these questions. As an example, you could test whether ESP can be blocked by having two people communicating VIA ESP and then introducing various barriers to see if any interrupt or degrade the communication. There is an obvious problem, you must first have two people communicating VIA ESP before you can test it. Having two people fail to communicate face to face and then fail to communicate when separated by a lead plate, does not advance human understanding. You cannot test that which does not exist!

One of the popular myths among the unwashed rabble is that really mean scientific types have "unfairly" rejected these beliefs without ever examining them. The technical term that scientists use to describe this is "bullshit." There are extremely good reasons to not believe in these myths yet unfortunately understanding these proofs require a level of education that is not present in the Jerry Springer crowd. As an example, it can be demonstrated that Loch Ness simply does not provide the biomass to support a creature of the reported size of the Loch Ness Monster, but the proof utilizes quantitative methods like least square analysis. The obvious problem is that the average American is functionally illiterate and requires significant assistance balancing a check book. The paranormalists may be making claims that only an idiot would believe, but there are a lot of idiots.

What is proof?

Simply put, proof is that which requires that the tested supposition be true in order for the proof to exist. Those are only an incomplete list of examples.

The "evidence" supporting paranormal beliefs is of a kind that does not require the actual existence of that which is being supported. Even the most gullible saucer enthusiast will admit that a minimum of 70% of the stories and fuzzy photos that presented as "proof" of alien visitation are false.

However, a lot can be learned from those false reports. In 1989, NASA released a cloud of radioactive cesium into the upper atmosphere producing a green glowing cloud that was used to track currents in the upper atmosphere. Over 400 reports of alien spacecraft resulted.Please note the wording. Yes, there were a few people who accurately reported a green glowing cloud, but the 400 we are speaking of specifically reported a spacecraft piloted by aliens. One report was of a triangular silver vehicle three football fields long on a side that hovered over a house humming "ominously." Another report was of a spacecraft that was "blacker than anything you can imagine," surrounded with a green force field that was impervious to any earthly weapon and that performed aerial stunts impossible for any earthly craft.One woman in south Georgia reported that the green cloud descended into her chicken yard and killed all of her chickens. The next day when a reporter from a Jacksonville Florida TV station showed up, her yard was full of live chickens.The woman's explanation was that the government came in the middle of the night and replaced her dead chickens with exact duplicates, but she could tell they were fakes!

Regarding photographs, I would like to present this one. The thing that makes photos like this funny is that we know what our eyes are telling us is impossible. But what if I used a photo presented a less absurd spray of water? There would be a point where the volume of water would be impossible for a human to produce, yet still not enough to cause the average viewer to doubt the photograph.

All of the "evidence" used in support of a belief in UFOs and other paranormal claims are, at best, disputable.Does that mean that you can't believe in them? No, of course not. Am I saying that scientists do not believe in anything they cannot prove? No, Einstein would not have done the work on Relativity if he did not believe he was onto something, but he had to do that work before Relativity could be established. The important thing is to separate that which we know from that which we believe. The reason that over 400 people identified a cloud of glowing gas as an alien spacecraft was because they ASSUME that anything they cannot recognize is an alien spacecraft. That is stupidity in it's purest form.

There is only one hypothesis that adequately explains why UFOs always match the current Hollywood version of aliens. It is because when people make up their stories they lack the imagination to come up with something original.

There is only one hypothesis that explains why no physical evidence can be found for these beliefs. It is because there is none.

There are actually two hypotheses explaining why "researchers" continue to deal with scientifically worthless evidence. One is because they know there is no hope of finding any real evidence, and the second is that they can make good money with even the crappiest fakes.

The only thing that keeps these myths alive is the believer's willingness to accept exceedingly poor results as "proof." The old joke goes that if the Psychic Friends Hot Line was really run by psychics, why don't they call me? Take the case of the lonely, miserable idiot who goes to a psychic to contact their dead husband. You will never, ever hear one of them ask John Edward what their dead husband's social security number was. He can't answer that and they know it. To state the obvious, people who are in denial do not ask hard questions. On the other hand, these pathetic losers are used to and comfortable with being exploited by their intellectual betters.

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