Sunday, 12 January 2014

In search of Bigfoot

My dear friends,

What am I doing? People claim knowledge of statistics that say at any moment everything will change.

Life is not static. It's relentless. The millions of years of history prior to human consciousness and every moment since has been in a state of perpetual flux. Nothing is permanent. Everything dies.

Through observation of the cosmos we have glimpsed at the birth of galaxies, the death of stars. Forces so beyond our capacity for understanding that they almost scoff at our attempts at comprehension. The sequences that occur in the skies are played out through the rise and falls civilisations to the nth degree.

Human existence is so fleeting it makes a mockery of how seriously we take it.

So why do what I do? And by "what I do" I mean; think, discuss and write about all sorts of subjects. I do it, like many others, because I want to know. I hate not knowing. A criticism I have faced many times, even as a child, is I have an answer for everything. Some of you may agree with that I'm sure. However, not surprisingly, I have a more sympathetic interpretation of my perceived Smart Alekary. I don't have the answers, but I can assure you, no matter what the subject, I will have a lot of questions.

It has been my good fortune that, despite many attempts, I have yet to succumb to any mainstream world view. I am neither religious nor atheistic and I'm definitely not agnostic, whatever that means. I don't belong to any political parties, nor do I ever want to. I don't even vote (more on that in a future weblog, so hold your grumbles.)

As such I have a deficiency in my cognition of the world. I have no Denial-Reflex. When I hear of a new concept, or version of history, or remarkable discovery, I don't have that little gremlin in my head saying "That's impossible, according to my world view, and therefore must be some deception/hoax/fraud/illusion." It is a burden that I must bear and it is a burden. Some can so easily dismiss an idea before it is even fully formed and get on with their lives as if they were never privy to the paradigm shifting information that is being presented to them. I cannot.

Arthur C. Clark once wrote three laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

In recent history, the above laws, when applied to scientific advancement, have been proven true in sometimes comical affect.
Radio has no future. Heavier than air flying machines are impossible. X-rays will prove to be a hoax. William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, 1899
Why is it that people have such a vehement denial reflex? Why is it one's perception of the world must be set in stone? Why do learned members, of any field make such absolute predictions? 
Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction. Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology, Toulouse, 1872
There is a comfort in believing that the smart guys and gals who are at the forefront of their fields know what they're talking about.
Everything that can be invented has been invented. Charles H. Duell, Commissioner US Office of Patents, 1899
Yet what if what we think we know is just a fiction? An agreed upon fable that fits the current level of evidence for not yet fully discredited theories?
There is no likelihood that man can ever tap the power of the atom. Robert Milikan, Nobel Prizewinner in Physics, 1923
What if the people put in front of us as the last bastions of knowledge, the guardians of truth, are winging it? Not because they are deliberately trying to mislead necessarily, but because they're just making it up.
There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will. Albert Einstein, 1932
They know more background on the subject than anyone else, they have been appointed "expert" so why shouldn't they give their two-penneth? It's likely to be more correct than anyone else's.
Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics Yale University, 1929. Later that year the Wall Street Crash occurred leading to a decade of the Great Depression.
But what if they aren't "expert?" What if the comments they make are only there to protect the fragility of their world view? The fragility of their psychology?
The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives. Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project, 1940s
Imagine that everything you thought you knew, your entire life's work, is being challenged by some upstart. Some young buck, muscling in on your territory. Making wild accusations and predictions, which if true, would consign you and everything you "know" to be true, into obsolescence.
Young man, I am afraid you are wasting your time. If there were any more planets, they would have been found long before this. Visiting Astronomer to Clyde Tombaugh, before he discovered Pluto, 1930. (This means you Neil deGrasse Tyson.)
It is difficult for seasoned scientists, or anyone else for that matter, to admit being wrong, or misguided, or just plain foolish.
Space Travel is utter bilge. Sir Richard van de Riet Woolley, Astronomer Royal, 1956
Until a time is reached when the facts become irrefutable. Often the world will be a decade, or maybe even a generation older, before what was considered impossible, becomes ubiquitous and mundane.
There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home. Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
And even those whose vision has transformed the world have been made to look unambitious in their foresight.
640K ought to be enough for anybody. Bill Gates, 1981

So... What am I doing? I suppose what I am doing is justifying to myself and to a lesser degree to you, the reasons why I study the topics I refer to as High Strangeness but what most would call Anomalistics. Things that are there, but shouldn't be. They shouldn't be there because we have no model to explain why they are, yet there they are.

Over the next few months I will, from time to time, take you along with me, on voyages to distant lands and forgotten epochs to discover, rediscover and uncover many mysteries. It will challenge your understanding of both history and science, modern and ancient. It will leave you with many more questions than before the outset, but it is my sincerest wish that it will, in the very least, amuse you. I make no guarantee that what I present to you will be true, whatever your definition of "true" is, but that is not the point. Remember this...

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it. Aristotle
And why do I do this? Because...

"I'm bored" is a useless thing to say. You live in a great, big, vast world that you've seen none percent of. And Even the inside of your mind is endless. It goes on forever inwardly. Do you understand? Being, the fact that you're alive, is amazing. So you don't get to be bored.  
Louis CK

Yours in strangeness and definitely not in boredom,

the Filosofer


Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. The Christmas period and the time since New Year is a busy one as I'm sure you'll agree. But I'm back now, so you can look forward to weekly-ish updates on the weblog.

I am also going to host a series of interviews on the site over the coming twelve months. Sporadically at first, but who knows, perhaps in time it will become a regular thing. We shall have to see.

To contact the Filosofer you can:

twitter: @xmphilosophy

I'd love to hear what you think

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