Thursday, September 15, 2005

At the risk of beating a dead horse, here's the text of a never-used email interview I've had on file for over a year. Enjoy.





How did you get interested in the Face on Mars controversy?

I've always had an innate interest in the prospect of extraterrestrial life. When I realized that there was an actual scientific inquiry regarding the Face and associated formations, I realized that this was a potential chance to lift SETI from the theoretical arena; it's within our ability to visit Mars in person. This was incredibly exciting, and it inspired an interest in Mars itself -- its geological history, climate, et cetera.

What is your background?

I have a BA in Creative Writing. So of course there are those who will happily disregard my book because I'm not "qualified." I suppose my question is "Who *is* qualified to address potential extraterrestrial artifacts?" Certainly not JPL, whose Mars exploration timetable is entirely geology-driven.

We direly need to rethink how we practice SETI; in that spirit, "After the Martian Apocalypse" can be read as an editorial or manifesto.

For readers unfamiliar with the story of the Face and Mars and associated structures, what is the background to it, how was the face first identified, when, and who by?

The first two objects to attract attention were the Face and the "D&M Pyramid," both unearthed by digital imaging specialists Vincent DiPietro and Gregory Molenaar. Their research was published in "Unusual Martian Surface Features"; shortly after, Richard Hoagland pointed out a collection of features near the Face which he termed the "City."

NASA itself discovered the Face and even showed it at a press conference after it had been photographed by the Viking mission in the 1970s. Of course, it was written off as a curiosity. Scientific analysis would have to await independent researchers.

When and how did the controversy really start?

When NASA dismissed the Face as a "trick of light," they cited a second, discomfirming photo allegedly taken at a different sun-angle. This photo never existed.

DiPietro and Molenaar had to dig through NASA archives to find a second image of the Face -- and, far from disputing the face-like appearance, it strengthened the argument that the Face remained face-like from multiple viewing angles.

What were/are the primary theories of the leading independent researchers?

The prevailing alternative to NASA's geological explanation -- that the Face and other formations are natural landforms -- is that we're seeing extremely ancient artificial structures built by an unknown civilization.

What does NASA say about the controversy?

NASA chooses to ignore that there is a controversy, or at least a controversy in the scientific sense. Since making the Face public in the 1970s, NASA has made vague allusions to humans' ability to "see faces" (e.g. the "Man in the Moon") and has made lofty dismissals, but it has yet to launch any sort of methodical study of the objects under investigation. Collectively, NASA frowns on the whole endeavor. Mainstream SETI theorists are equally hostile.

Basically, the Face -- if artificial -- doesn't fall into academically palatable models of how extraterrestrial intelligence will reveal itself, if it is in fact "out there." Searching for radio signals is well and good, but scanning the surface of a neighboring planet for signs of prior occupation is met with a very carefully cultivated institutionalized scorn. And of course it doesn't help that some of the proponents of the Face have indulged in more than a little baseless "investigation."

What are your views/conclusions?

I think some of the objects in the Cydonia region of Mars are probably artificial. And I think the only way this controversy will end is to send a manned mission. The features under investigation are extremely old and warrant on-site archaeological analysis. We've learned -- painfully -- that images from orbiting satellites won't answer the fundamental questions raised by the Artificiality Hypothesis.

Do you believe all the perceived anomalous structures are indeed that or do you feel some are of natural origin while some are of unnatural origin?

I suspect that we're seeing a fusion of natural geology and megascale engineering. For example, the Face is likely a modified natural mesa, not entirely unlike some rock sculptures on Earth but on a vastly larger and more technically challenging scale.

What are your views on the idea that some more recent images appear to show signs of vegetation?

The Mars Global Surveyor has taken images of anomalous branching objects that look for all the world like organic phenomena. Arthur C. Clarke, for one, is sold on the prospect of large forms of life on Mars, and has been highly critical of JPL's silence.

Can you expand on this - theories as to what sort of vegetation (if indeed that is what it is), the areas it has been seen in, implications.

Clarke's most impressive candidates are what he has termed "banyan trees" near the planet's south pole. And he collaborated with Mars researcher Greg Orme in a study of similar features NASA has termed "black spiders" -- root-like formations that suggest tenacious macroscopic life.

Is there a relationship between the face and the pyramids and similar in Egypt? What does the research community think of this perceived connection?

There's a superficial similarity between some of the alleged pyramids in the vicinity of the Face and the better-known ones here on Earth. This has become the stuff of endless arcane theorizing, and I agree with esoteric researchers that some sort of link between intelligence on Mars and Earth deserves to be taken seriously.

But the formations on Mars are much, much larger than terrestrial architecture. This suggests a significantly different purpose, assuming they're intelligently designed. Richard Hoagland, to my knowledge, was the first to propose that the features in Cydonia might be "arcologies" -- architectural ecologies -- built to house a civilization that might have retreated underground for environmental reasons.

If these things are artificial, who built them? Martians? Someone visiting Mars? Ancient earth civilizations now forgotten/lost to history?

It's just possible that the complex in Cydonia (and potential edifices elsewhere on Mars) were constructed by indigenous Martians. Mars was once extremely Earth-like. We know it had liquid water. It's perfectly conceivable that a civilization arose on Mars and managed to build structures within our ability to investigate.

Or the anomalies might be evidence of interstellar visitation -- perhaps the remains of a colony of some sort. But why a humanoid face? That's the disquieting aspect of the whole inquiry; it suggests that the human race has something to do with Mars, that our history is woefully incomplete, that our understanding of biology and evolution might be in store for a violent upheaval.

In retrospect, I regret not spending more time in the book addressing the possibility that the Face was built by a vanished terrestrial civilization that had achieved spaceflight. That was a tough notion to swallow, even as speculation, as it raises as many questions as it answers.

Is there any way to determine when they were built (if they were built)?

We need to bring archaeological tools to bear on this enigma. When that is done, we can begin reconstructing Martian history. Until we visit in person, all we can do is take better pictures and continue to speculate.

What are your theories as to how Mars - if it once was home to intelligent life - was transformed into a dead world?

Astronomer Tom Van Flandern has proposed that Mars was once the moon of a tenth planet that literally exploded in the distant past. If so, then the explosion would have had severe effects on Mars, probably rendering it uninhabitable. That's once rather apocalyptic scenario. Another is that Mars' atmosphere was destroyed by the impact that produced the immense Hellas Basin.

Both ideas are fairly heretical by current standards; mainstream planetary science is much more comfortable with Mars dying a slow, prolonged death. Pyrotechnic collisions simply aren't intellectually fashionable -- despite evidence that such things are much more commonplace than we'd prefer.

What is the truth behind the questions about the amount of water that might be present on Mars?

Simply: Mars has water. It's been found underground, frozen. If we melted all of it we'd have an ankle-deep ocean enveloping the entire planet. I predict we will find more of it.

Is it possible that anything of substance still lives there beyond some vegetation?

Vegetation implies herbivores . . .

What prompted you to write the book?

Anger. I was frankly fed up with bringing the subject of the Face on Mars up in online discussion and finding myself transformed into a straw man for self-professed experts. It was ludicrous. The book is a thought experiment, a mosaic of questions. We don't have all of the answers, but the answers are within our reach.

Is the research community open-minded or biased as to what the face may be? For example, are the believers open to the idea that they could be wrong and vice versa with NASA etc?

Frustratingly, this has become very much an "us vs. them" issue, and I blame both sides. The debunkers have ignored solid research that would undermine their assessment, and believers are typically quite pompous that NASA et al are simply wrong or, worse, actively covering up.

What do you hope the book will achieve?

I hope "After the Martian Apocalypse" will loosen the conceptual restraints that have blinkered radio-based SETI by showing that the Face on Mars is more than collective delusion or wishful thinking. This is a perfectly valid scientific inquiry and demands to be treated as such.

What surprised you most of all when doing the research?

Our attitudes toward the form extraterrestrial intelligence will take are painfully narrow. This is exciting intellectual territory, and too many of us have allowed ourselves to be told what to expect by an academically palatable elite. I find this massively frustrating.

Do you feel there is a conspiracy within Govt/Nasa re the Face and the associated structures to either hide data, confuse the truth, or actively destroy pictures etc? If yes even remotely, why?

When NASA/JPL released the first Mars Global Surveyor image of the Face in 1998, they chose to subject the image to a high-pass filter that made the Face look hopelessly vague. This was almost certainly done as a deliberate attempt to nullify public interest in a feature that the space agency is determined to ignore.

So yes, there is a cover-up of sorts. But it's in plain view for anyone who cares to look into the matter objectively. I could speculate endlessly on the forms a more nefarious cover-up might take -- and I come pretty close in the book -- but the fact remains that the Surveyor continues to return high-resolution images.

Speculation -- and even some healthy paranoia -- are useful tools. But we need to stay within the bounds of verifiable fact lest we become the very conspiracy-mongering caricatures painted by the mainstream media.

68 comments:

Marti said...

While I am not familiar enough with the details of the arguments on either side, I can appreciate your thoughtful approach to the discussion. Thank you.

W.M. Bear said...

Mac -- That's a great summary of your position. Definitely a keeper. I do have a question I wish the inteviewer had asked. In one early response, you state:

Basically, the Face -- if artificial -- doesn't fall into academically palatable models of how extraterrestrial intelligence will reveal itself, if it is in fact "out there." Searching for radio signals is well and good, but scanning the surface of a neighboring planet for signs of prior occupation is met with a very carefully cultivated institutionalized scorn.

I find it very curious that professional planetary science/SETI/academic communities are so obviously closed-minded on the subject of the Face and other possible Martian artificiality. I wonder why? I think in part its due to the simple scorn and arrogance that "professionals" in general seem to feel towards amateurs, who have done most of the dogwork in earthing (or "unmarsing") evidence for Martian artificiality. I still find this curious though, given Carl Sagan's apparent openness to the idea. You'd think for all the lip service that his scientific legacy receives, people would actually adopt his more open attitude. But I guess it IS just lip service after all. What do you think?

Mac said...

WMB--

A lot -- possibly all -- mainstream planetary scientists sincerely think the Face et al have been "debunked." No, they haven't done any independent research, but they're not being disingenuous because they assume the issue has been dealt with competently. Of course, it hasn't. (You still come across references to Viking's "trick of light," which was disproven in the 1980s.)

Add in the "ridicule factor" and you've got a perfectly stifling research climate, no matter what Carl Sagan might have said. Most of us have been "taught," through careful campaigning, that the Artificiality Hypothesis is nonsense perpetuated by "believers." At this point I think we need a fortuitous discovery favoring artificiality to make people look again.

The irony is that, as Johnson Space Flight Center's Lan Fleming points out in "The Case for the Face," NASA *needs* Cydonia to catalyze a flagging space program.

Mac said...

Thanks, Marti.

Is it raining in Grain Valley? ;-)

gordon said...

" A lot -- possibly all -- mainstream planetary scientists sincerely think the Face et al have been "debunked."

True :-)

"No, they haven't done any independent research, ..."

Not true :-)

Mac said...

"No, they haven't done any independent research, ..."

Not true :-)


Name one peer-reviewed study conducted by NASA or any other "mainstream" organization. How did NASA arrive at its apparent conclusion that the Face, etc. are natural formations?

"Science by proclamation" doesn't count.

gordon said...

Mac,

"'Science by proclamation' doesn't count."

With respect, that's all that yourself and others seem to be doing. Anyhow, a few citations I found from a quick database search:

Pieri, D.C. (1999) Geomorphology of Selected Massifs On the Plains of Cydonia, Mars, JSE Vol 13, No 3 pp 401-412

Dick, S.J. and Garber, S. (2004), The Martian Landscape, Scientific and Technical Information Office, NASA

Greenberg, R. (2002), The D & M pyramid on Mars Dept Mathemantics, University of Washington, [Online] World Wide Web, URL:http://www.math.washington.edu/~greenber/DMPyramid.html

There are _plenty_ of others, most in the negative, one or two supporting the possibility of an anomalous area (eg the Crater/McDaniel paper "MOUND CONFIGURATIONS ON THE
MARTIAN CYDONIA PLAIN", although mathematically flawed).

Regardless, I'm not trying to get into a shouting match. You asked for info on the next planned life-detection missions. As soon as the Dept. gets back to me, I'll let you know

gordon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gordon said...

Mac,

I just wanted to add, that despite my seemingly diametrically opposing viewpoints, I appreciate and respect your approach to most of these subjects, and your respect of the simple constraints of logic. Perhaps we'll meet on some common philosophical grounds yet!

Now, do you really want my (scientific) opinion on "How did NASA arrive at its apparent conclusion that the Face, etc. are natural formations?"

Or do you want a personal opinion?

:-)

W.M. Bear said...

Couple of fave bumper stickers:

Man's best friend is his dogma.

My karma just ran over your dogma.

W.M. Bear said...

Gordon -- Just one final point. I really don't want to rehash this whole debate again and my position is pretty much identical to Mac's anyway, plus he states it a lot better than I could, having much more Mars expertise than I do.

This point is in reference to your statement:

Now, do you really want my (scientific) opinion on "How did NASA arrive at its apparent conclusion that the Face, etc. are natural formations?"

The point Mac (and secondarily myself) are making is exactly that you CAN'T draw the definite conclusion EITHER that the Face is artificial OR that it's natural based on existing evidence. The evidence from orbital photography simply isn't by itself sufficient to MAKE a determination. And what NASA has done (UNscientifically) is just to make precisely such an unconditional determination and pronouncement. THAT'S what is really "science by proclamation" --to conclude that something like this has been "proved" to be a certain way when it HASN'T. And It's also true that the public/popular dismissal of the Face as being artificial by NASA was pretty much done politically rather than scientifically, using basic PR "spin" tactics instead of scientific arguments.

2 BTWS: 1) I would like to hear both your personal and scientific opinions on NASA's arrival at this conclusion, and 2) I do plan to look up your references if/when I can locate them.

Mac said...

"'Science by proclamation' doesn't count."

With respect, that's all that yourself and others seem to be doing.


I define "science by proclamation" as the unnerving tendency to jump to a conclusion and expecting everyone to unconditionally swallow it based on authority.

Having arrived at no final conclusions, and not having any "authority" to speak of in the first place, it would be quite a trick for me to conduct science by proclamation.

Nice list of references. I notice the first one is from the Journal of Scientific Exploration -- a nice publication, but not one I would consider "mainstream."

I would add Mark Carlotto's early paper on the Face in "Applied Optics" to the list; it's a good example of a mainstream journal allowing a nonconformist to have his say.

Ken Younos said...

I think that even if we DO send a manned mission to Mars, it will be to areas of geological interest only. And those who are sent will in all likelihood NOT be proficient in recognizing artifacts if/when they see them. They will be there to study rocks, nothing more (and within a strictly limited area, at that). I'm quite sure that it will be a very, very long time before any archaeologists or biologists set foot on the red planet (our loss). Of course, in the meantime there will probably be space-age pioneers, not unlike Columbus and Cortez, who are sent to Mars on politico-economic errands (such as the mining of precious metals and natural resources). They may return with stories of ancient ruins and exotic life forms -- but these will only be taken as fantastic hearsay for quite some time.

W.M. Bear said...

As Mac points out in his interview, if the Cydonian formations are ruins then they're likely to be extremely OLD, and some, like the Face, may be natural formations that have been artificially shaped. Given that they've undergone arguably at the very least MILLIONS of years of weathering and erosion, it may be difficult even on site to make a definite determination of artificiality. My bet would be for the discovery of smaller artifacts, like pieces of machinery, statuary, etc. I would also bet that we the public will be the last to hear; that, in fact, such a discovery will be kept as a state secret.

Mac said...

I basically agree with the paper Gordon cites re. the alleged mathematical properties of the D&M Pyramid. In my opinion, Torun's analysis is primarily flawed because he assumes a "reconstructed" shape based on (relatively) low-resolution Viking data.

While I think it's quite likely the D&M is artificial, this doesn't mean that advocates of artificiality necessarily buy Torun's work. This is a critical point that certain pop-skeptics might choose to ignore in favor of tarring all "anomalists" with the same brush.

Weevee: bfegsz (Well, I know what "BFE" means...)

gordon said...

Mac,

I have no idea what 'pop-skeptics' think in general, but yes, Torun's paper and conclusions deserved the criticism it got. And no, in itself it doesn't destroy the case for possible alien artifacts. But as I said earlier, the theory is essentially unfalsifiable - no example of non-evidence will ever suffice.

So, if you were to play the Devil's advocate for a moment, how would _you_ go about proving that the proposal that there is (has been) intelligent life on Mars, is false?

If you think about it, it's a pretty impossible task. So condemning people for failing to achieve this (as some have done) is unfair.

On the other hand, from what I have (admittedly only briefly) looked at so far, many of the proponents of intelligent life on Mars _seem_ to be trying to make their point in two erroneous fashions:

1) By claiming that science/scientists cannot prove the reverse (wrong for the above reasons).

2) By proposing the existence of a species that is somehow tied to the human existence (the Face, cities, machines etc etc) without considering the context (Cydonia being millions of years old, evolution of life on Earth etc).

Without resort to anything but logic, it's a great story in a spotlight, that when the dark edges are looked at, you realise just doesn't _fit_. Nothing we know about the Universe gels with this story.

That doesn't mean one can say with any absolute cetainty that it is wrong. But it _does_ mean one can say that it is highly unlikely. So much so that, unless any concrete evidence comes to light, no one with a restricted budget choice (eg NASA) will ever give it serious consideration.

True, tectonic geophysics was in the same boat 70 years ago, and it matured into a real theory. But thousands of others didn't. You cannot blame anyone, scientists, engineers or others, for siding with the odds. Some might claim intellectual cowerdise, but the claim fails even a straight logical analysis, so just _proposing_ a rational scientific theory is going to be a difficult task.

Maybe someone will shine through and put all this together someday, but at the moment, I can't see any evidence that would enable this.

The existence of _some_ form of life on Mars is however, a completely different theory.

W.M. Bear said...

But as I said earlier, the theory is essentially unfalsifiable - no example of non-evidence will ever suffice.

So, if you were to play the Devil's advocate for a moment, how would _you_ go about proving that the proposal that there is (has been) intelligent life on Mars, is false?


Gordon -- Just one quick point. The theory that there are ruins and other artefacts on Mars IS falsifiable. It's just that, to falsify it, we would have to place human beings on Mars and they would have to examine these putative ruins and other artefacts up close and in an expert way. Granted, this is not likely to happen before mid-century at the earliest, but it WILL EVENTUALLY happen. And, in any case, what is important is that the Artificiality Hypothesis is FALSIFIABLE IN PRINCIPLE, which is really the criterion.

If NASA/JPL were doing real science in this regard, they would say. "OK, artificiality is an open issue. We don't currently have hard and fast evidence in favor of it but neither do we we have hard and fast evidence against. We will make it a priority to look for such evidence, since the discovery of artificial constructs an another species on another world would constitute a greater discovery even than the discovery of life."

Ken Younos said...

"you realise just doesn't _fit_. Nothing we know about the Universe gels with this story.
That doesn't mean one can say with any absolute cetainty that it is wrong. But it _does_ mean one can say that it is highly unlikely."

There's a lot we still don't know about the universe, Gordon. In fact, the more science discovers, the more gaps it reveals in what we thought we knew. One problem I see with today's professional scientists is their perhaps subconscious habit of wanting to make everything "fit". It's as if they're overly anxious to figure it all out -- to see and to know the big picture -- so that they end up fooling themselves into thinking that such knowledge has already been attained. Granted, if asked they will assert (at least in principle) that our knowledge of the universe is woefully incomplete. IN PRACTICE they tend to presume that we know a lot more than we do. It is this sort of thing that Bill Chalker (for instance) is referring to in his book _Hair of the Alien_, when he expresses some aggravation with professional scientists. "Nothing we know about the universe gels with this story" -- but does it follow from this that the story is unlikely? I find it unwise to make assumptions of probability relative to how much we think we know about the universe (which is not much).

Ken Younos said...

"There's something bizarre about that Cydonia area -- you know, it seems crazy but my gut tells me that the anomalies there are artificial...Let's go find out!"

"I know it doesn't make much sense -- but it almost seems as if there's an objectively real dimension to this 'alien abduction' business...Let's investigate!"

That, sir, is what I take to the be essence of scientific spirit. When, on the other hand, we attempt to cram reality into a make-shift conceptual box, we not only end up dismissing and/or throwing out factors and evidences that don't quite "fit" -- we also end up snuffing out the spirit of science.

Of course, when money is brought into the picture one begins to feel the need for more caution where the adventurous spirit of science is concerned. One now wants to "play it safe". Why risk wasting all that time and money on a project (such as investigation of the so-called "artifacts" on Mars) if we don't have enough evidence to take such expensive steps?? Besides, the idea of a humanoid Face on Mars just doesn't "fit" what we know about the universe...Let's put our money where we are guaranteed returns -- and that means the study of Martian geology.

This is the game that NASA is playing -- and not ONLY NASA...

;)

Mac said...

And, in any case, what is important is that the Artificiality Hypothesis is FALSIFIABLE IN PRINCIPLE, which is really the criterion.

Right. To avoid never accepting "no," we could -- and probably should -- limit the inquiry to a specific list of targets.

We can ask, scientifically, "Are there artificial structures in Cydonia?" and mount a proper investigation. It goes without saying that some will never accept a negative verdict; these are the same cranks who claimed that NASA "nuked" the Face to explain the "catbox" photo's unfacelike appearance.

I'm not particularly concerned with the cranks and neither, to my knowledge, are the working scientists interested in addressing this mystery.

gordon said...

WMB,

" ... The theory that there are ruins and other artefacts on Mars IS falsifiable."

Sorry, I stand corrected! What I should have said is that, given we are not in a position to travel to Mars, the theory is (currently) unfalsifiable. No side to the debate will be satified with the other's pictures. But you're quite correct - if we limit the proposition to "There are alien artifacts at Cydonia", it _is_ in principle falsifiable.

Ken,

The philosophy of science as I understand it, is similar to your stated position above - and I agree that it should be upheld wherever possible. The practicality of gaining useful knowledge however, is constrained by real-world resources. We all have to live with that.

There _is_ a lot we do not know about the Universe. But in a practical, marcroscopic sense, there is a lot more we _do_ know. Very little in established science gets thrown away. Generally, a new theory will encompass the old in such a way as to maintain the credibility of the latter, but often in a more restrictive sense. This is to be expected, as by definition the old has already passed some standard of utility. This is not _always_ true, but it _is_ the general case.

So although one can get the feeling that, as you put it

" ... the more science discovers, the more gaps it reveals ...",

it is probably a consequence of the fact that our greater knowledge-base allows us the luxury of examining the smaller and smaller gaps with greater and greater precision. It makes it look like the gaps are expanding. They're not. It's just fractal expansion of knowledge (in most cases).

You state that

"... I find it unwise to make assumptions of probability relative to how much we think we know about the universe (which is not much)."

but we _can_ (and regularly do) make assumptions based on a probabilistic outcome, derived from the structure of knowledge we possess. Prediction is the essence of science. If there is a major change to that knowledge structure, then we re-evaluate the probabilities. In almost all past cases, this has lead to a refining of error-bounds on the predicted outcomes, but rarely a complete change in the absolute values. There are one or two famous exceptions, but if that was the common outcome, science would just not work. Magic would. To follow such a methodology does not snuff out the spirit of science - it _is_ the spirit of science. It may snuff out certain lines of enquiry, but they usually lie in realms outside of science to begin with.

Following a scientific approach to the general question of alien artifacts at Cydonia does _not_ lead to the conclusion "it's impossible". It _does_ lead to the conclusion that:

"The chances of human-like artifacts millions of years old being present at Cydonia are vanishingly small."

There may (probably, in my opinion) be life on Mars. There may even be alien artifacts. But _human _ faces, or structures based on _our_ ideas of Euclidian geometry and mathematics, that pre-date humans? You'll need pretty striking evidence for that.

Mac,

I tend to agree.

Ken Younos said...

"we _can_ (and regularly do) make assumptions based on a probabilistic outcome, derived from the structure of knowledge we possess. Prediction is the essence of science. If there is a major change to that knowledge structure, then we re-evaluate the probabilities.
Following a scientific approach to the general question of alien artifacts at Cydonia does _not_ lead to the conclusion "it's impossible". It _does_ lead to the conclusion that:
"The chances of human-like artifacts millions of years old being present at Cydonia are vanishingly small."

And this is the problem that I see: namely, that statements of probability cannot *legitimately* be made relative to how much we know thus far. Evaluation of probabilities are legitimate only insofar as the base criterion is absolute and inalterable. It has no meaning to say that such and such is "probable" only up until there is a major change in the knowledge structure.

Biology and anthropology have endeavored to *reconstruct* the history of our species -- but I would say that our knowledge is spotty and woefully incomplete *especially* in this area. A lot of it is guesswork, done on the basis of stringing together available evidences, but what *actually* transpired in the past -- taken together as a whole -- was PROBABLy much broader in scope and complexity (this is almost a certainty, since it is impossible to take the innumerable factors into consideration for which we are as yet to find evidence -- and there are always more historical factors to discover). There could very well be explosive discoveries in biology and anthropology in the years ahead which may completely subvert our present assumptions of human origins. Hence one should not try to evaluate the *possibility* of a humanoid Face on Mars as "vanishingly small" based on perceived "probability". As Mac has suggested in the past, our species may in fact be part of something much older and larger. Beginning with such a hunch, we pursue other lines of investigation (e.g., the alleged artifacts on Mars, UFO and abduction phenomena, etc.) in the hopes of gradually finding more pieces to this puzzle and fitting them together, bit by bit. We are working toward constructing a more complete picture: what will it look like when the puzzle is complete?

No rock is left unturned in this venture (nor should there be). If someone has a hunch in connection with the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon, by all means this route should be pursued. If another has a hunch in connection with the anomalies on Mars, a line of inquiry leading (hopefully) to actual investigation should be conducted.

Knowledge of ourselves, our world, the reality in which we live -- past, present and future -- grows by pursuing hunches in various directions. "Following our noses" in this manner is just as critical for the expansion of human knowledge as close attention paid to empirical data.

Ken Younos said...

I'm sorry, I've digressed. Let me get back on course: Regardless of what the philosophy of science is, there is always the factor of human nature to consider. Again I say, IN THEORY all scientists will assert that we must make do without conceptual boxes; IN PRACTICE they (like human beings in general) will incline toward cramming everything into neat little schemas and concepts. The "universe" as they understand it is a concept, a representation, an image. It is nothing more than yet another projection of the ego (which in turn arises out of a selective process that makes sense out of a chaotic barage and overload of perceptual data). But in truth, there is more in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy! Reality is always much bigger than we bargain for; it will not stay "fitted" within the strictures of our concepts. There is a lot of psychological insight to Act I of Shakespeare's Hamlet: Horatio the intellect does not believe in ghosts -- that is part and parcel to his schema of reality -- until that conceptual framework is shattered by an actual encounter with a phantom. We should take a lesson from that scene: we should all become ICONOCLASTS. The desire to increase knowledge of ourselves and of our world is another manifestation of the will to power. Knowledge gives us a sense of the increase of power. Free spirits cannot abide confinement in concepts; they feel a perpetual need to break out, to shatter the representation, to smash through that mirror in which the ego is reflected. What do we want? We want to KNOW -- and it is a desire that surpasses idle curiosity. It is a fire in our bones. We MUST KNOW. To hell with pragmatic considerations about playing it safe with the money! The spirit breathes most freely in an element of RISK. Fuck all those technobureacratic flea-beatles that lack a genuine capacity for vision! IS there a ruined city on Mars?? According to the *concept* we have of the universe, the odds are "vanishingly small". But fuck the concept; we go by what is felt in the gut. Give us this freedom first; then and only then will we submit to a rigorous empiricism.

gordon said...

Ken,

Yikes!! Where to start?? :-)

It seems a popular misconception that great strides in science are only accomplished by "gut instincts" and hunches. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The human quest for knowledge does drive many of us. Science, and its associated philosophies and methodologies is one way of focussing that drive. And for certain forms of knowledge, those that can be described within a causal, logical system, it is a particularly good way of understanding and predicting our environment. In some (mathematically restricted) manifolds, one can even do away with the necessity of causality.

So the fundamental question becomes, do you believe that our local macroscopic universe conforms to such constraints? If you do not, then science is of little benifit to you as an adjunct to understanding your perceived reality. But if you do, then throwing away all the interconnectedness of the various scientific disciplines, their sum of knowledge and the human endeavour that went before, is a pretty flippant attitude to take. It is precisely those human spirits and freedom to push the limits of knowledge that you champion, that have provided us with today's scientific platform.

I know that you're implying that the scientific community of today lacks that type of spark, and you know that I disagree with that. But we both would agree to the value of philosophical idealism, even beyond the pragmatic limitations of our reality.

However, a freedom to pursue scientific knowledge does not mean one blithely tears down those eddifices of knowledge already available to you without some serious justification.

There is no evidentiary path that leads one to a human species millions of years old. Not genetics, not anthropology, not socialogy, not planetary geophysics nor neuroscience. There is equally far too much evidence that we evolved on _this_ planet, not seeded (as humans) from somewhere else. To throw all that away so as to support the single contention that there are human ruins a few million years old at Cydonia is seriously bending the fabric of reality to support _one_ "hunch".

Science is not, nor has it ever, been done that way. Science might be wrong - that's a gamble we take for the benifit of being able to make sense out of our environment. But what you're advocating is wrong science. In the end it will not provide you with a level of knowledge on which you can rely.

RJU said...

Gordon, I agree with the spirit of what you are trying to say, but not the content. It appears to me that the real evidence that we have for the origins of man is vanishingly small and the story now being told by mainstream science on this subject it like a great big balloon puffed up from thin air that is ready to burst at any time. We have been reading for years that man had to have originated in Africa because a few bones have been found there. I recently read where the Chinese have some pretty good data disputing this story.

I honestly believe that nothing at all can be said with certainty about human origins and an origin on the planet Mars or somewhere else like Alfa Centauri is just as likely as any other story that I have heard. The thing that seems clear is that true homo sapiens appeared very quickly and spread very rapidly- in a geologic instant in fact. It seems very possible our demise might be just as rapid. Even if we understood human origins, I cannot see where this precludes intelligent life on Mars at some point in its history. There may or may not be any relationship and one says nothing about the other. It is quite possible that if civilization existed on Mars it might be billions of years old, not millions and any connection between this civilizaion and ours would be extremely unlikely.

The only pertinent question here really has nothing to do with any "evidentiary path" in our current scientific understanding. The only pertinent question is: are there anomalous structures that need further investigation? I am not certain about the answer to this question, but there are structures in the Cydonia region that seem very difficlut to explain by natural processes and I have yet to see any really serious attempt to explain them. If they are not natural, this would be a discovery of major importance and certainly worth investigating, even if they were later shown to be natural formations. It would seem that a serious investigation of these structures could be considered "serious" geology in any case. NASA's seems to be willfully ignoring the possibilities here and clearly has willfully tried and seems to have succeeded in a PR campaign aimed at obscuring the facts.

W.M. Bear said...

And old saw, still valid, I think:

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

Gordon -- Merely keeping an open mind about these questions is not "tearing down an edifice." You seem to equate open-mindedness with dogmatic insistence on a scientifically unorthodox position. Apart from all idealism, science is basically an ongoing conversation on a very high, technical level. But as currently constituted, this conversation simply shuts out a lot of dissident (and unorthodox) voices, not by reasoned debate but simply by the equivalent of, "Shut up. We don't want to hear it."

W.M. Bear said...

Sir James Jeans, BTW, is the author of said saw.

gordon said...

I think I'm being painted in to a corner here.

I am not of the opinion that Cydonia is _not_ interesting. Nor do I hold to some "rigid dogmatic" opinion that there is not life on Mars. I am open to the possibility of intelligent life having visited our Solar System, so why not Mars? But a corollary to WMB's interpretation of Jeans' remark is that open-mindedness does not demand that all ideas are given equal weight. Listen to all, yes. Not believe all. And that's where _reasoned_ debate applies.

What I do not believe is that _human_ civilisations were on Mars millions of years ago. Reasoned debate on _that_ question must take into account the relationship between humans and all other life on our planet. You _have_ to account for this first. Rju points to the controversy of the "Out of Africa" theory. This "sounds" reasonable, but in reality has no bearing on the overall time-line of human development - certainly not enough to change it by millions of years, anyway. Homo Sapiens share too much DNA with all other current primates on this planet to have evolved elsewhere. And primates do with other mammals. Etc etc. You would have to migrate the whole living biosphere here from somewhere else to account for this. And plant a few fossils for good measure. In the end the problems are similar to that of creationism, and should be rejected for the same reasons.

Tampering with human (or dog etc) DNA is a(slim)possibility, but again, a different argument that does not bolster the case for _human_ ruins on Mars millions of years old.

The exploration of the Cydonia region should occur. I think we can all agree to that. But as scientific endeavour, trying to interpret Cydonia as a human-based set of structures (faces, "power" pyramids, relationships to terrestrial structures etc) taints the case as one of pseudo-science, purely because of the mass of evidence against it. Scientific interest in the area does not require human civilisations on Mars. It stands on the geological anomolies of the area alone.

More esoteric ideas, such as time travel, or dimensional transpositions, can be invoked, but at this stage they are very much speculation.

Should we investigate Cydonia? Absolutely, even if only from a geological perspective. Do we need to believe that there was a human civilisation on Mars millions of years ago? No, and the weight of evidence is heavily against it. Has some alien intelligence visited Mars (and therefore, most likely, Earth)? We don't know, but we will never be able to discount it.

W.M. Bear said...

Gordon -- Believe it or not, I actually do kind of draw the line at theorizing about paleontological human-Mars connections with human development of the sort that have been put forth. I guess you could call me a "believer" in Martian artifice but I don't mistake my belief for "proof" and definitely don't "believe in my belief," for that way lies fanaticism. And I'd be the first admit that there's is still no hard and fast evidence for artficiality period, let alone for connections of the sort with Earth that have been suggested. In fact, it just occurred to me that perhaps this is (at least "unconsciously") why mainstream planetary and space science seem especially hostile to the idea that the Face is artificial. Because, if it IS artificial, since it is also clearly "humanoid" (indeed, very human seeming) it WOULD seem to imply such a connection. Personally, I think that most intelligent life (of the technological variety anyway) that evolves on other worlds is at least LIKELY to have a humanoid form simply because this form is relatively efficient (arms, hands, fingers, etc.) at manipulating the material worlds. For example, it's arguable that cetaceans have brains as complex and huighly evolved as ours and may communicate using languages of great subtlety and power. But for all their intelligence, given the limitations of their aquatic environment, how could they ever develop any technology beyond the simple tool-use that they've demonstrated such dexterity at?

Mac said...

WMB: In fact, it just occurred to me that perhaps this is (at least "unconsciously") why mainstream planetary and space science seem especially hostile to the idea that the Face is artificial. Because, if it IS artificial, since it is also clearly "humanoid" (indeed, very human seeming) it WOULD seem to imply such a connection.

You bet. From the interview:

"But why a humanoid face? That's the disquieting aspect of the whole inquiry; it suggests that the human race has something to do with Mars, that our history is woefully incomplete, that our understanding of biology and evolution might be in store for a violent upheaval."

Ken Younos said...

I still think that we as human beings are inclined to organize our knowledge into some sort of coherent system -- and there is that in us which reacts and revolts when this organization is challenged or upset by newly introduced possibilities which would create the upheaval to which Mac refers. Scientists are not exempt from this.

And for the record, I'm not a proponent of the theory that humankind is millions of years old, or that the Face on Mars was constructed millions of years ago by our human ancestors. My point was that as the scope of our knowledge grows, as new factors are discovered and/or introduced (some of them being quite subversive and explosive discoveries), our understanding of how the facts fit together must be reconfigured -- sometimes in very radical ways. Old concepts about what reality is *supposed* to be like have to be smashed and replaced...

Ken Younos said...

"It seems a popular misconception that great strides in science are only accomplished by "gut instincts" and hunches. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Really? Didn't Copernicus discover his helio-centric system after a *hunch* that perhaps the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa? And how do you suppose Einstein came up with his theory of general relativity? Likewise, Darwin began with a *hunch* that biological evolution involves some sort of natural selectivity, then pursued that line of investigation. In fact, science itself would not exist today if it weren't for the forgone hunches of philosophers. I think it's only today that scientists have dispensed with paying attention to hunches (again, a direct consequence of our society's rapidly materializing technocracy).

"I know that you're implying that the scientific community of today lacks that type of spark, and you know that I disagree with that."

Scientists will always have that spark; it's just a question of degree. IMO the scientific spirit is increasingly constricted by too much attention paid to exactness, precision, and regimented protocols.

"However, a freedom to pursue scientific knowledge does not mean one blithely tears down those eddifices of knowledge already available to you without some serious justification."

Nobody said anything about blithly tearing down established edifices of knowledge. My contention is that truths can appear contradictory from our limited perspective of things. A particular line of inquiry and investigation is not necessarily misguided or "wacked" simply because it does not "fit" with what we take to be the big picture.

"There is no evidentiary path that leads one to a human species millions of years old. Not genetics, not anthropology, not socialogy, not planetary geophysics nor neuroscience."

No? Have you ever read _Forbidden Archeology_ by Michael A. Cremo?

"Science is not, nor has it ever, been done that way...what you're advocating is wrong science. In the end it will not provide you with a level of knowledge on which you can rely."

I seriously think that the definition of what constitutes right science has changed over time. I am not saying that the human race is millions of years old, or that we came from Mars. In fact, the truth (if it is ever discovered) might not be so simple. Human origins could be considerably more complex than we imagine.

Conversely, much of what scientists today refer to as "knowledge" is in actuality a social construct -- i.e., it is a fictive absolute. Nobody knows for certain that human beings have only been around for 100,000 years; science simply draws this conclusion based on available evidences (I'm sure there is some filtering involved) and calls this "knowledge". But so-called "knowledge" that is subject to being revised or even jettisoned with the discovery of new facts is not really knowledge at all. Or do you disagree?

RJU said...

>>"But so-called "knowledge" that is subject to being revised or even jettisoned with the discovery of new facts is not really knowledge at all. Or do you disagree?"

I would say that what you describe is the only knowledge we have. There is no other knowledge available to us. Of course, this knowledge that we have is not truth (which I would define as the way things actually are), but only our perception of the the truth. I think it is very important to be aware that any knowledge we have is not truth, that it is always subject to change, that we in fact cannot know the truth.

Ken Younos said...

"I would say that what you describe is the only knowledge we have. There is no other knowledge available to us."

Here we go on the epistemology -- lol. I think that there are at least some things we can know. For instance, I know that I enjoy reading Mac's blog. I also know that 2 + 2 = 4, and that all triangles have three sides while all squares have four sides. So too, I know that nature works in terms of patterns of cause and effect (viz., if I drop something, it will most likely fall). I know that the sun is composed of gas rather than water, and that the earth revolves around IT rather than vice versa. I know that our genetic code is contained in our DNA -- and that tampering with that code can cause predictable physical effects.

"Fact" and "Truth" are not the same thing -- although our language tends to obscure the difference somewhat. "Fact" is an objective description of physical realities; "truth" is a subjective evaluation of "fact".

Science is pursuit of facts -- but since it is impossible for human beings to be purely and absolutely objective, every scientist is on a personal and private pursuit of truth. Which is one reason why I think they gravitate toward trying to make everything "fit" into a neat and picture perfect schema of what is supposed to constitute reality. ;)

gordon said...

Ken,

In fact, science itself would not exist today if it weren't for the forgone hunches of philosophers.

Philosophers _do_ like to think that, don't they? ;-)

Of the 3 examples of "hunch-driven" science achievements you provide, I would only concur with your Copernicus example. And it's likely that his "hunch" came from simple consideration of Euclidian geometry. We could go on - Hawkings, Thorne, Dawkins, Michaelson, Maxwell, Newton, Liebnez etc etc etc - I'm not denying that inspiration will drive the effort to discovery, but that's a far cry from stating that science is based on hunches.

As for your epistemological stance, most of those "things" you state you know can be proven wrong, if you change the base axioms. So how do you _really_ know? In the end, all your facts become subjective, and blur with your definition of truth. I'd look closer at Rju's statement.

"No? Have you ever read _Forbidden Archeology_ by Michael A. Cremo?"

LOL - Mac admonished me for using JSE as a scientific source, and you quote Cremo??!!

Cremo is a writer and creationist. Like most creationists, his argument depends on the objective and omnipotent truth of a human-written set of documents a few thousand years old, that have no testability. He does not provide any physical evidentiary pathway. He quotes the Hindu Vedic scripts as evidence that humans have been on Earth for more than 600 million years. There are more holes in his supposition (I would not call it a theory, in the scientific sense) than even Hancock's ideas. Like many non-professionals, he takes just one part of a system (in this case humans, as apart from the rest of the bioshpere), re-invents a timeline and "facts" and ignores what this would mean for the 100 million other living species on the planet. Maybe _you_ should read some Tom Morrow.

Or Darwin ;-)

Regardless, I was not trying to debate Philosophy 101. It would seem we all agree that the Cydonia massifs were not built by humans millions of years ago. And we all agree they're interesting.

Mac said...

LOL - Mac admonished me for using JSE as a scientific source, and you quote Cremo??!!

To clarify: I didn't "admonish" your citing JSE; I just pointed out that it's not a mainstream publication, which was what I was asking for. Nothing against JSE, BTW.

Cremo is an interesting case indeed. I think his Vedic beliefs have colored his scholarship, but I think he's raised questions orthodox archaeology would prefer to ignore.

Ken Younos said...

"Philosophers _do_ like to think that, don't they? ;-)"

The scientific method arose from a particular philosophical world view which can ultimately be traced back to Aristotle. This is a fact of history.

"Hawkings, Thorne, Dawkins, Michaelson, Maxwell, Newton, Liebnez etc etc etc"

Aside from Newton and Liebnez, all of these gentlemen are contemporary scientists. I argued above that today's scientists have dispensed with paying heed to hunches due to the influence of technocracy. To cite these men would, therefore, be begging the question. I will have to take another look at Newton and Liebniz before I say anything further about them.

"As for your epistemological stance, most of those "things" you state you know can be proven wrong, if you change the base axioms. So how do you _really_ know? In the end, all your facts become subjective, and blur with your definition of truth."

Spoken like a true nihilist! Please note that things can be proven wrong only if there is also something factual about them. It is impossible to make any evaluation about whether something is right or wrong without a fundamental collection of facts to base those judgments upon. From what point, for instance, would one begin to argue that the sun is composed of water rather than of gas? Some facts must be conceded in order to make any meaningful statements about those things which are NOT facts. So it follows that there is always an aspect to our items of inquiry which MUST be factual in some sense. And I do insist that certain things CAN be known through science; for instance, we know today (thanks to science) that the moon is not made out of cheese.

"LOL - Mac admonished me for using JSE as a scientific source, and you quote Cremo??!!
Cremo is a writer and creationist. Like most creationists, his argument depends on the objective and omnipotent truth of a human-written set of documents a few thousand years old, that have no testability."

He also cites numerous evidences to support his case. To blithly dismiss all of that simply because he is a "creationist" would be to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Have you bothered to read his book?

gordon said...

Ken,

I am arguing that some statements have more value than others. How does that make me a nihilist??

I completely agree with your statement:

"It is impossible to make any evaluation about whether something is right or wrong without a fundamental collection of facts to base those judgments upon."

In fact I agree with (almost) your whole position as stated in that paragraph. Do you? If so, how do you reconcile this position with Cremo's argument? On the one hand you cite Cremo as evidence for the human race being millions of years old and in the next breath you state:

"I am not saying that the human race is millions of years old, ..."

??? But that is _exactly_ what Cremo _is_ saying. It is the fundamental proposition within his argument! In fact he is saying 100s of millions of years old. So why use him as support for Martian "human" artifacts?

Can you point to this "evidence" that is presented to support his case? Evidence that passes your own stated standards of factual reality?

Have I read his book? No, not the first one - I read the second, his reply to his critics, some years ago. Don't recall the title :-(

gordon said...

Just to add to my last comment:

Ken,

Although not my specific area of expertise, paleoanthropology has always been a pet interest of mine. ever since the age of 9, when my school ran an excursion to the Olduvai Gorge to visit Richard Leakey (Senior - quite a story in itself!). Of course, in those days I thought of it as archeology. But I've tried to keep up with the readings, controversies and discoveries over the years. And there are plenty of them (controversies that is) - from Stoneking and Wilson's mitochondrial "Eve" suppositions, to Gooch (and later Wolpoff) multi-regional evolution, to Hawks' critisism of hominid datings.

So I admit I'm no expert in this area. The field _is_ controversial, and although the evidence can be interpreted in a variety of ways, there _is_ broad concensus on a geological timescale. But when Cremo "blithly dismisses" all this, as well as planetary geology, paleontology, genetics, geophysics, solar and lunar physics, and biology (as you _must_, to posit that humans evolved on Earth nearly a billion years ago), without proposing _any_ replacement mechanisms or phenomena to explain the myriad of interconnections we see today between ourselves and our environment (except his personal interpretations of some old Indian scripts), you ignore this illogicality. Are you proposing that his "reality" holds a greater number of evaluable "fundamental facts" than the combined wisdom of the last 5 centuries of science? He must be quite a guy ...

Ken Younos said...

"I am arguing that some statements have more value than others. How does that make me a nihilist??"

If in the end all our facts become subjective, as you said above, I don't see how we can give more value to some statements than others.

IMO "facts" are *descriptions* of what is objectively real. Descriptions can be incomplete or they can fall short to a greater/lesser degree of the item under observation. Nonetheless there is an objectivity that comes into play when we are considering "facts".

"Truth" is a subjective evaluation of "fact". To make the statement that something is "true" is to add an emotional dimension of weight, appraisal -- however slight -- to what was previously just an objective description. Once something is labelled as "true", it acquires a value; it is no longer a mere "fact". This is not always obvious to us because the English language tends to use the two terms in such a way that it obscures the distinction between them.

Again, knowledge may be elusive in many ways but there are nonetheless certain FACTS that we can apprehend. Medical science, for instance, works because there is a factual dimension to the practice which can be KNOWN. Changing base axioms may alter certain areas of so-called "knowledge" in the medical field, but the CORE of the practice is solidly and immutably grounded in factual reality. Can it ever be proven wrong that the heart pumps blood and circulates oxygen to the brain? No.

As I see it, a problem arises among most scientists when they (subconsciously) take apprehendable facts and attempt to organize them into a neatly contained system. There is a tendency in human nature (especially among men) to want things "picture perfect". We develop an idea of how the world is supposed to be, and any suggestions that do not "fit" into this package are filtered out or debunked, rebuffed, what have you.

The drive to consolidate our knowledge is not a bad thing; it is another manifestation of the will to power. We need to remember, though, that our ideas are abstract constructs; reality will not necessarily correspond to them, as there are always newly discovered facts which intrude upon our neatly contained systems.

Cremo may be a "creationist", but it does not necessarily follow from this that all of the evidences which he cites are bunk. I am not saying that the conclusions he draws from these evidences are absolutely correct (viz., that the human race is supposedly millions of years old). I am saying that some of these cited evidences by themselves may serve to check the somewhat picture-perfect conclusions drawn by mainstream scientists and historians. As I've said before, human origins maybe considerably more complex than the simple assertion that we have been around for millions of years, or that we merely evolved from hominids only 100,000 years ago. Cremo's evidences could exponentially broaden our horizons to allow whole new questions and uncertainties about our past. Once again our scope of "knowledge" will be shrunken, we will feel miniscule and lost in an enormous world which we scarcely understand. But to me, this would constitute just another beginning with its own promises for the future.

"you ignore this illogicality."

I am not ignoring his illogicality, which I see just as well as you do. I am merely witholding my judgment on the legitimacy of his "evidences". I see nothing wrong with using them to counter and cross-examine the combined consensus of what most scientists and historians believe today. In fact, critically thinking through what they have to tell us maybe *imperative* to intellectual integrity.

At bottom, I think that one should read Cremo to see if he has anything substantial to contribute before his book is relegated to the trash bin.

W.M. Bear said...

I'm inclined to agree with Ken. I haven't read Cremo but I just put him on my list for essentially the reasons Ken outlines. I know enough science to also dismiss the but because I am not a believer in "scientism" -- essentially the metaphysics of "belief in" science -- I also do not dismiss theories like his totally out of hand simply because they are NOT "scientific" in the orthodox sense. (This is also why I can enjoy Hoagland as a "head trip" without necessarily "buying into" the logic of what he's trying to "prove" -- or thinks he HAS.)

Science, BTW, is not by any means the only "way of knowledge" if you believe (as I do but without "believing in my belief") that there are other dimensions to the cosmos besides the physical and material. (For example, if it is some kind of higher order "simulation -- though a simulation of WHAT? -- this would certainly be the case.) My own recommended reading on OTHER ways of knowledge is, of course, Carlos Castaneda's series of books, even if you regard them (as some do) as essentially works of fiction masquerading as "fact." (Beyond factuality there is, after all, truth -- or so I like to believe, again without believing in my belief.)

Mac said...

I haven't read "Forbidden Archaeology," but I really enjoyed "Human Devolution." Decidedly metaphysical, but extremely interesting and provoking.

You can read my review here:

http://www.mactonnies.com/ufobooks.html

W.M. Bear said...

OK, Mac. Here we go again. Your review made me put Cremo's "Human Devolution" on my list too -- not that I don't already have a ton of books on Vedic this or that. Anyway, after Redfern, it sounds like a marvelous "head trip," which is kind of really all I'm looking for at this stage!

(BTW, "Cremo" sounds like the knickname of someone who's really into cremation, the preferred Hindu mode of dealing with the departed, of course.)

weevee: oiinilgo ("Oy, I ain't no way gonna sign up for a stint in Iraq, buddy!")

gordon said...

Ken,

(Apologies for the delay)

"If in the end all our facts become subjective, as you said above, ..."

Well, actually I _didn't_ say that (I said _your_ facts, as presented) - I was merely pointing out a flaw in your particular example.

Regardless, you have presented an interesting, but ultimately irrelevant discourse in philosophy. The argument is fairly straightforward:

1. I claimed there was no (scientific) evidence for humans millions of years old on Earth.

2. You presented Michael Cremo as rebuttal to that statement.

3. I noted that interpreting old Hindu myth documents is not evidence.

4. You replied that he (Cremo) also cited " ... numerous evidences to support his case."

Such as?? His ideas on Bigfoot?

Ken Younos said...

Gordon,

What Cremo does is analyze the already existing evidences cited by most scientists and offers arguments *against* the orthodox methods of dating them. Even Tom Morrow admits, "reviewers should have analyzed FA´s claims more seriously and professionally."

Thus Cremo opens the door to the possibility that humankind *could* in fact be much older than it is commonly supposed (or at least, from MY point of view, that the origins/history of our species could be much more complex than we imagine).

Physical evidence for his arguments are minimal -- but not entirely nonexistent. For instance, Cremo cites the enigmatic "mystery spheres" of South Africa. These are controversial; most mainstream scientists regard them as having an entirely natural origin -- but this is an observation which is not yet conclusive (at least not as far as I am aware).

There is also some evidence which Cremo does NOT cite -- such as the inexplicable 270 million year old inscription found in Ghuizou, China (http://w8.keepsilence.org/dm/uggc/ratyvfu.rcbpugvzrf.pbz/arjf/5-5-31/29172.html).

A relic left by time travellers?? The mystery deepens...

Paleoanthropology, too, has its seemingly insoluble puzzles -- such as that which is presented in the case of the "conehead" skulls (http://www.enigmas.org/aef/lib/archeo/askulls.shtml).

A statement made on the website above speaks volumes about the typical mentality of today's scientists: "There are some other sources that place all types of human genus in both Americas at much earlier dates based on numerous anomalous finds, but the academe sticks to its preconceived notions, no matter what. It's safer."

One final note: Check out Bill Chalker's book _Hair of the Alien_. It will leave you with a hundred-thousand question marks about the nature of our past. But again, IMO it is the courage (or rather the *audacity*) to posit such questions which lead to revolutionary (and often altogether subversive) discoveries.

gordon said...

Ken,

Ok, so Cremo does not present any new evidence, but re-iterprets exisiting evidence? Yes, I'm _very_ familiar with the South African "spheres" - I work in the exploration industry. I've seen them - have you? They are naturally occuring.

There is certainly room to argue that the evolution of Home Sapiens is not perfectly understood. It probably _is_ more complex than we currently understand it. And our calculation of the rise of the species could be out by 100 000 years or more. But think, Ken - 600 000 000 years ago, the Earth was a different place. Low oxygen atmosphere. High radiation saturation. If humans existed then, they would not _be_ humans - their physiology and anatomy would be vastly different. The modern-day gene sequences would be different. Our genetic relationship with _every_ current species on this planet would not be as it is today.

Now time-travellers is a different (and appealing) argument. It's a possibility.

Cone-heads? It's called "head-shaping", as practiced by the ancient Maya and some Bantu tribes of Africa. The skulls can be deformed beyond recognition by the practice of wrapping the heads of babies with wet cloth. It is what unstuck the "StarChild" case (that and the positive identification of the DNA as human).

I _have_ checked out Bill Chalker's case. A lot of conjecture and poorly-applied science. The DNA profiles are unusual, _not_ impossible. You would have to discount the possibility of the million or so people with a similar racial profile not being in Australia at the time, _before_ positing visiting alien women in a hotel.

One can have courage and audacity without having to resort to specious conspiracy theories. Time travel might be one example. I argue a lot with physicists over that issue. I generally lose :-(

gordon said...

Sorry - just adding a comment regarding the "hidden words" case from China, in case you thought I was ducking the example.

The Epoch Times is far from a reputable newspaper - the English equivalent would be the "News of the World". And as far as I know, Li Tingdong (the head of the China Geological Survey), who was quoted as investigating said stone, has never done so - at least he's never mentioned it, but I'll ask him if you like.

Ken Younos said...

"Yes, I'm _very_ familiar with the South African "spheres" - I work in the exploration industry. I've seen them - have you? They are naturally occuring."

So are you making an authoritative statement that these mystery spheres have been conclusively identified as purely natural phenomena? May I quote you on that?
And why don't these things turn up in my backyard here in Virginia, rather than just in South Africa?

"But think, Ken - 600 000 000 years ago, the Earth was a different place. Low oxygen atmosphere. High radiation saturation. If humans existed then, they would not _be_ humans - their physiology and anatomy would be vastly different. The modern-day gene sequences would be different. Our genetic relationship with _every_ current species on this planet would not be as it is today."

Point well taken. Maybe you should ask Cremo what he thinks about that. ;)

"Cone-heads? It's called "head-shaping", as practiced by the ancient Maya and some Bantu tribes of Africa. The skulls can be deformed beyond recognition by the practice of wrapping the heads of babies with wet cloth."

Hmmm...Did you read the website I suggested?

"I _have_ checked out Bill Chalker's case."

Yes, but have you READ HIS BOOK?? The DNA profile is not only unusual -- it is *chimeric*. In other words, what the DNA profile suggests cannot occur naturally. The shaft of the hair comes from a rare strain of Taiwanese -- but at the same time it is inexplicably *blonde*. Moreover, the root of the hair consists of a *completely different* DNA profile -- namely, Basque/Gaelic.

But I am not chiefly referring to Chalker's example of "alien" hair. His book is exhaustively researched. Again, you should read it if you have not already (Khoury's alleged experience does not take place in a hotel, by the way, which indicates to me that you HAVEN'T read the book).

"I'll ask him if you like."

Yes, I would like.

The inscription is comprised of unmistakable chinese characters, arranged in a grammatically correct and coherent sentence, which makes a definite statement about a real political situation. A hoax?? Maybe. Natural??? Yeah right -- and monkeys might fly out of my ass.

gordon said...

Ken,

"Point well taken. Maybe you should ask Cremo what he thinks about that. ;)"

Why should I ask him about genetic evolution? Is he some expert in the field? He obviously didn't even consider it.

" ... And why don't these things turn up in my backyard here in Virginia, rather than just in South Africa?"

You may as well ask why doesn't the Witts goldfield turn up in your back yard?? Some things require very specific processes and conditions to form. South Africa has quite a unique geological history. These spheres are essentially metamorphic nodules of a pyrite/goethite mix - quite soft (certainly no where near as hard as steel, as some dubious newspapers reported) and are on display at the University of the Witwatersrand (or were when my group was over there in 2001).

Re the cone-heads, from the web-site you quoted:

"The cone-shaped types of skull are not found amongst the usual skull-binding samples"

No, they're not _commonly_ found, but they _are_ found - see http://www.amonline.net.au/bodyart/shaping/headbinding.htm for a live example. Or try Valerie Dean O’Loughlin. (2004) Effects of Different Kinds of Cranial Deformation on the Incidence of Wormian Bones. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 123(2): 146-155. for discussion on effect of combinations of artificial and natural (craniosynostoses) cranial deformation.

The only possible anomaly here is the internal cranial volume Connolly reports, and guess what? - he guessed that! The _external_ volume has no significance.

As for the "hidden words stone":

According to the CGS (China) the writings are a hoax. They're brushed on, not carved. It was similar to the "bird fossil" hoax of a few years ago near the same site. I don't think you need to resort to letting the monkeys out just yet ;-)

gordon said...

Regarding the Peter Khoury case:

The DNA was tested in 1998 - after being in Peter's possession since 1992, in a supposedly sealed bag. Such evidence would _never_ be accepted by a court of law or science review. Using the techniques of the day, shaft DNA would not even be accepted, due to contanimation issues and lack of stability of DNA from this area (indeed you would need a minimum sample of 20 or so hairs from different parts of the body just to create a pointer to a specific genetic pool). Follical DNA would be far preferred. In the Khoury case, a mismatch between the two would almost be expected, given the time for contanimation and catabolic breakdown of the sparse shaft DNA. I've noted before that Chalker is unwilling to put anyone in contact with the authorities who conducted the DNA profiling, so we can't analyse the methodology or results effectively. You shouldn't jump to the conclusion that the DNA profile is "chimeric".

Ken Younos said...

I see. Would you care to provide me with references to back up your arguments? I mean, forensic science is not your field of specialty, right? You must be drawing all of this knowledge from professionals in this area.

I would also like for you to email your thoughts to Mr.Chalker and share his response with me.

gordon said...

Mmm ........

Should I use the same evidentiary standards you employ?

;-)

gordon said...

Ken,

Apologies, that last comment on its own may have appeared a little facetious. But let me make the following observation:

When you (quite artfully) expound apon philosophic argument, you quote from Kant, Jung, Nietzsche etc. I don't see you using Joe Blogger's Cooking website as a supporting authority. Yet when you expound on things scientific you use World Weekly News (the source of your South African spheres story) or the China Epoch Times (the source of your "hidden words stone" story). Or quote writers such as Cremo or Hancock, who are not scientists in _any_ sense.

I've already provided you with one example of the inconsistency of Cremo's argument. That required nothing but a basic understanding of a few scientific fields that any interested science-minded student could accomplish. And yet you selectively quote Tom Morrow to try and maintain that Cremo's work is scientifically valid (you and I both know that Morrow's comment was within the context of admonishing other scientists for letting Cremo's work go uncritisised - he was _not_ trying to claim it had any credibility).

But now you demand that I provide you with references, and I imagine you wish to hold me to a much higher scientific standard than you've been providing. If you were a post-grad student of mine, or at least someone who shows some respect for how scientific argument works, I'd probably expound the energy and time doing just that. I actually went as far as to contact the Chinese Geological Survey (in truth I had to anyway) to get a comment for you - now you're trying to tell me who I should contact to "prove" myself?? And also tell me what I'm specialised in? With respect Ken, you know little about my "field of speciality". All I have ever said is that one of the fields I work in the Geophysical sciences. A lot of _very_ different disciplines are involved in that field. I work in a team of 22 scientists, each _one_ with a different field of expertise, within a group of 600 or so. One of my senior medical collegues founded the Dept of Forensic Medicine at one of the local universities.

I provided you references for your "coneheads" story. If you are _really_ interested in a scientific discourse on the pros and cons of DNA testing (specifically hair) there was an article in the Journal of Forensic Science - "A comparison of hair DNA testing methodologies" or similar in 2003 - I can give you the precise citation when I get to work Monday. Otherwise you'll have to take my word for it.

The bottom line is that there was _nothing_ non-human in the DNA profile. Absolutely nothing. There was an incongruous _mix_ of human profiles. Many _other_ sparse-methodology DNA profiles give anomalous results. Only one so far has claimed that this is proof of alien visitation.

ken younos said...

Gordon,

I stand corrected. My apologies.

ken younos said...

I actually agree with you that there is nothing alien about the DNA profile in the Khoury case. The results *are* odd, however. Is it possible to come up with a DNA profile that is a very rare mongoloid strain when the hair being analyzed is blond?

I suppose my point was that you are implying Bill Chalker taking us for a ride. He insists that the DNA results were obtained by a team of *scientists*. If this were true, they should have known better than to jump to conclusions based on one aged strand of hair, shouldn't they? This is why I want to know what Chalker has to say about what you just told me.

gordon said...

Ken,

Yes, it is _possible_ to come up with a blonde asian hair, but unlikely. It would normally indicate contamination of the sample.

Sorry, I wasn't trying to imply that Chalker is being less than honest. But he _is_ being less than forthright. We can't acertain whether a "team of scientists" or a team of technicians performed the analysis. He won't divulge that information. DNA profiling is very much about interpretation. The results have to be framed within the context of the initial question(s) and the scene from which the data (hair) was obtained. We don't know what was asked of the alleged team.

The frequency of distribution of alleles in the general population is still very much an open question. Current mitochondrial DNA testing is quite accurate (and far better than that available in 1998 in Australia), but for other than data matching (identification of an individual) still depends on what initial assumptions are made. And we don't know what they were.

Other than that, the problem with the Khoury case as I see it is

1. cross-contamination, which would most likely surface from the tests on the shaft of the hair(s).
2. the paucity of physical data - only one or two hairs.

I mean, how did Khoury extract the hair? Presumably with his fingers. Which were probably less than sterile. How did he keep the hair sample sterile for 6 years?

All a little concerning ...

Ken Younos said...

"We can't acertain whether a "team of scientists" or a team of technicians performed the analysis. He won't divulge that information."

In _Hair of the Alien_ Chalker clearly states that it was a team of scientists. He claims that they prefer to remain anonymous in order to safeguard their reputations among colleagues.

"I mean, how did Khoury extract the hair? Presumably with his fingers. Which were probably less than sterile. How did he keep the hair sample sterile for 6 years?"

Chalker says that the hair sample was carefully washed when it was analyzed by the PCR method. The appendix to the book contains exhaustive information on exactly how the DNA profile was extracted.

Again, I think you should read the book. There's little point in criticizing Chalker if you haven't read what he has to say first hand. And, clearly, the book was not written by a UFO-crazed wacko. Chalker maintains a fairly objective approach to the question of alien abductions throughout _Hair of the Alien_ (although he makes it clear that he inclines toward believing that it is a physical phenomenon involving ET), and the subject has been thoroughly researched. The book is intelligent and well written.

Ken Younos said...

Moreover, Chalker may SAY that the hair sample seems to come from an "alien", but his overall view is that the abduction phenomenon may be considerably more complex than something that merely involves ET. Page after page, he discusses various accounts given by abductees; the picture which begins to emerge is thoroughly puzzling and bizarre. Assuming that these abductions are actually going on, are they really being perpetrated by ET? Some abduction accounts oddly border on the paranormal; not a few others seem to indicate that our abductors are *human*.

Ken Younos said...

My own theory (if Khoury is not crazy or full of it) is that these "aliens" are not simply from another planet. It's almost as if they originate in that shadowy realm between the physical and the paranormal. Really, in some ways they behave like ghosts -- although alleged hair samples and scars left on abductees' bodies indicate that they are, at least on some level, palpable entities.

I'm personally inclined to think that there IS some amount of physical reality behind the "alien" abduction phenomenon. What exactly is going on, I don't know.

gordon said...

Ken,

I think we're perhaps moving into quite a different arena with the focus of abductions. I think I'll withdraw from this with the re-iteration that:

"there is no (scientific) evidentiary path that supports the proposition that humans built the Cydonia structures, millions of years ago."

That doesn't conclusively mean it didn't happen, just that there is no evidence for it.

As for your point about abductions, I tend to agree - there is an unusual componenent to these stories. We're missing something obvious here, just what that is I'm not sure.

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