Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I like Bad Astronomy as much as the next guy, but this is one banner I won't be hosting on this blog.

I think Phil Plait's one-dimensional assessment of the Face on Mars is due partly to his inability to view Martian anomalies free of Richard Hoagland's inane breed of scientific analysis. Which isn't a unique problem by any means.


W.M. Bear said...

I like Bad Astronomy as much as the next guy.

Not this next guy. I do not like BA at all. I do not like its basic perspective, especially (most important to me) on matters occult but also including on issues such as Martian artificiality, where I agree with you Mac. This perspective seems to share most of the flaws (and none of the virtues) of most current programmatic "debunking" of any and all anomalistic and occult subjects from a supposedly "scientific" perspective. I will just draw one example from an area of occult study with which I am most familiar -- astrology. While it is true that some astrologers unfortunately make a fetish of trying to "prove" that astrology is a "science" (astrology is NOT a science, as I am constantly reminding my astrological friends, it is an occult art) and a few do try to connect the astrological "effects"
of the planets with gravitation somehow, most of the more knowledgeable ones prefer explanations that involve, in one form or another, the Jungian concept of synchronicity or meaningful acausal coincidence. And yet BA goes on at excruciating length about how gravitation cannot possibly cause the kind of planetary "effects" that astrology supposedly invokes. Astrology, in more or less its present form, was around for nearly two thousand years before Newton discovered gravitation.

As an aside, British astrologers are, by and large, far better trained in both science, as well as in writing the English language welll and, in general, tend to produce more cogent, less bullshit-filled takes on the subject -- with one highly notable exception: the very highly recommended Cosmos and Psyche by American scholar and culture-critic Richard Tarnas, just a brilliant, brilliant book on the connection between major astrological congficurations and the history of Western culture.

Mac said...

"Cosmos and Psyche" . . . sounds interesting!

W.M. Bear said...

You gotta read it. But don't try just dipping into it. Start at the beginning. It can be a bit heavy going at times but definitely more than worth the effort.

Carol Maltby said...

Hoagland makes the perfect straw man for them to bash, but otherwise (like most self-proclaimed "skeptics")they don't seem to have much familiarity with any of the other writings or perspectives on the Face. The consistant sneering "voice" that so many of the posters employ gets real tiresome real fast.

Recently someone decided to have a thread there that was going to methodically go through the first edition of Hoagland's The Monuments of Mars. and show what was wrong. Given that the book is in its fifth edition at this point, it might have been fairer to compare it with the fifth edition to see what Hoagland might have changed his mind about over the years.

They got to talking about the book's subtitle, "A City on the Edge of Forever." It's the title of a television episode from the original Star Trek (note that it's used in a different context, and different medium), and evidently Roddenberry had some sort of row with Harlan Ellison (who'd written the original treatment) over how it was changed. They figured both Roddenberry's estate and Ellison would have been ticked off at Hoagland for his use of it, though I can't trace any complaints about it from either one.

There was tut-tutting about how wicked Hoagland was to steal this title (even though titles can't be copyrighted). Then it was pointed out to them that Phil Plait's book Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" took its title and a major word in the subtitle from a book published several years before it:
Bad Astronomy : A Brief History of Bizarre Misconceptions, Totally Wrong Conclusions and Incredibly Stupid Theories
Zimmermann, Linda
ISBN: 0964513307
Publisher: Eagle Press, Chester, New York.

Strangely enough, the discussion ground to a halt after that and never resumed. ;)