May 28, 2009 - May 21, 2009
. I may have misunderstood his intent, but well respected
InstaPunk reader Joshua Chamberlain seemed to be declaring his
impatience with the subject of UFOs in his comment on the Thursday, May
8 post, which concluded with the sentiment, "Too many credible stories
about UFOs and USOs. If any of
them are true, the scientists are full of shit. Which isn't that much
of a reach. Let's face it." Mr. Chamberlain's observation was, "You're
To be blunt, yes, I am. There are two poles of scientific certainty: the theories scientists are certain are true; and the theories scientists are certain are nonsense. Examples of the first kind are black holes, neo-Darwinian evolution, and man-made Global Warming. Examples of the second kind are ESP, reincarnation, and UFOs. Most people follow the easy middle path mapped out by the scientists, accepting what they say is true and rejecting what they say is untrue. Some have the temerity to question what scientists believe in while still following their lead in dismissing phenomena that are documented by more evidence than has ever been put forward for black holes. On the face of it this seems rather arbitrary. If scientists can be mistaken about subjects they have spent entire careers studying, why can't they be just as mistaken about subjects they've barely studied at all?
Yes, I know there are professional skeptics who make their money by wading into one controversy after another -- always claiming to be objective and devoted to the scientific method -- and always emerging from their investigations with exactly the same conclusion: nothing to it. To me they'd have more credibility if they occasionally (or even once) conceded that they don't know enough to be certain one way or the other. They're incredibly tiresome about repeating the Sagan Rule, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," but they almost never consider the possibility that the difference between extraordinary and ordinary may consist of baseless assumptions. Moreover, they're just as remiss in acknowledging that most of the phenomena they apply this standard to don't actually have what a real scientist would call a control -- that is, an equivalent population that can be compared to the population being studied or experimented on. There is no other self-conscious intelligent species we can look to as a basis for determining whether or not it is an extraordinary claim that ghosts exist, or reincarnation, or remote viewing, or Jungian synchronicity, or visitation by advanced alien species. If we really did have such a control population, it might be that the ordinary assumption regarding all these phenomena is that they're routine and to be expected.
If we could kidnap Leonardo da Vinci from the fifteenth century and bring him to ours, what would we have to do to convince him that a smaller unit of matter than any he was aware of could be split apart to produce an explosion that would level Florence and kill everyone who lived there? Would it be enough to show him the physics calculations and explain the technology? After all, that's all it would take to transform our faith that this is so into knowing certainty, and most of us aren't half as brilliant as Leonardo What if we showed him film of the first Los Alamos detonation and he didn't believe it? Is it really the claim that's extraordinary, or is it rather that his assumption set is simply too primitive? Even if he refused to believe it until we actually set off a nuclear warhead in his line of sight, it doesn't change the authenticity or the matter-of-fact correctness of the calculations and technology descriptions we showed him in the first place.
The Sagan Rule doesn't relate to evidence per se; it relates to the point of view of the percipient, specifically the closed-mindedness of the determined skeptic. If you're pre-disposed to disbelieve something, you're going to be harder to convince. That doesn't change the acceptable measure of proof at all. None but a handful of people has seen the wreck of the Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. But we all (agree to) believe it exists, even though photographic evidence can be faked and all the supposed eyewitnesses have an economic incentive for making us believe their claims.
Yes, but we all just know that the earth isn't really being visited by a extraterrestrial civilizations. Sure we do. We also know that there's such a thing as an electron, which is sort of there and sort of not there too, according to quantum physics. What kind of evidence do you accept for the latter? And why is that so much more plausible than the evidence you dismiss for the former? Or haven't you ever really bothered to look into either?
You're on your own in researching the reality of the electron. But I can give you a start into investigating the possibility that the UFO phenomenon is a deeply mysterious reality of some sort whose fundamental nature isn't understood by anyone:
1952 White House Flap
Edwards Air Force Base
Browse and sharpshoot to your heart's content. At the end you may think you know. But you won't know. Nobody does. And the scientists who keep telling us they're sure how the universe works are guessing along with the rest of us.
That might be kind of sad, and it also might be kind of wonderful. It sort of depends on your point of view. Like everything else.
UPDATE. On a different subject, faithful InstaPunk readers please note the update to the May 4 post about the Liberty Medal. I really am asking for some audience participation here. Not for Country Punk, who posted the original. But for Sid Mark, the amazing gentleman he was writing about. Thank you.
A Mother's Day Tribute to:
into the new NEW feminism now, the post-Hillary, post-modern, post-love
generation of git-up-and-go professional mothers to be. They'll be up
on all the pre-nuptial agreement laws, time-off for post-partum
murderous fantasies therapy, breastfeeding-till-puberty fashion statements, daycare-reimbursement rights, car-seat
regulations, divorce-the-bastard-to-death self destructiveness,
single-mother-I-get- the-house-and-everything- else-but-a-father
litigation, my-kid-can-do-no-wrong denial, and post-doctoral, Michelle Obama, permanent, pissed-off
hard-on about how-much-my- life-sucks-now politics. A breakthrough.
Thanks to the fearless pioneers of the last half of the twentieth
century, tomorrow's kids will have moms who know what men and phones
are for (although the order of those should probably be reversed if
priority is important).
Who could possibly have foreseen an age in which women would get "push-presents" just because they're maybe possibly capable of becoming mothers someday, and, well, basking in literally unbounded admiration just for the fact of their belonging to the superior female sex? Who could ever have anticipated the attractive distance and ennui of Michelle Obama?
Oops. maybe one guy foresaw it:
Yeah, he knew something about Princetion, and even Yale. But what the
hell did he know
about iPhones, text-messaging, and girl power? Women invented all that stuff. And
future babies will thank them forever. Especially when they figure out
how easily their moms could have ditched them in that incredibly
uncomfortable and vanity-assaulting ninth month.
Happy Mother's Day to all the old-fashioned mothers out there. We love you. Oh yes we do. You we absolutely revere and treasure. Because we know you never thought about killing us to keep your career, your figure or your boyfriend.
Nobody under the age of 40 can be really sure of that anymore. Moms.
WICKED. Try listening to the audio file as if it were a fetus talking to the neo-Mom of the graphic above after she'd decided to, uh, "end the pregnancy" for the good of all concerned. Would Gloria care? Would Michelle? Would the current Princeton female graduating class? [Text your answers to 98987.]
That's the basis of our heartfelt thank you to the real mothers who don't need push-presents or all the convenient empty clap-trap of post-modern narcissism. Which has always been there. It just never used to be regarded as a virtue.
The inspired diggers over at HotAir
found this terrific clip of Hillary Clinton acting out the final scene
from Sunset Boulevard. It's
too good to pass up, even if the only value-added we can provide is the
easy-to-find clip of the original scene.
Here it is:
But who, we wonder, is the dead guy in Hillary's pool? You know, the
murdered guy who narrates the whole pitiful story.
Has anyone checked on Bill's whereabouts today?
Never mind. We're sure he's fine. But, uh, what about that Mark Penn fellow?
. Okay. So this
is interesting. From a lot of different angles.
Let me count the problems with this bohunkus analysis of cosmology. I'm
not just having fun here. I'm demonstrating some of the principal
problems with official science the way it's practiced in academe. The
official logic is silly but important.
Let's start with the most disingenuous part of the story: "Previous models are founded on the rationale that intelligent life on Earth emerged from a sequence of unlikely 'critical steps'" [Italics added] The word 'rationale' is in this case a synonym for 'assumption.' An assumption that's suspect on several counts.
First, the universe is immensely vast, which means that even the unlikeliest events are, in sum, inevitable. Eventually, somebody does win the Powerball Lottery. All it takes is enough trials. Our universe provides an almost infinite number of trials. Which means there's a pretty big population of Powerball winners when you start multiplying billion-to-one odds by umpty-quintillion ticket buyers.
No matter what the odds are against life on earth, there are probably billions of planets where similarly 'unlikely' events have taken place.
Second, the assumption implies that the vastness of space somehow matters in terms of ET contact. There are two reasons to doubt this. There's Arthur C. Clarke's admonition that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Which scientists routinely discount in every specific question they look at. Why? Because they can't conceive that someone out there could be smarter than they are. Not possible. They sort of insist that everyone else would apply their logic to any situation they can imagine. The fact is, we have no way of knowing the process or technology by which a vastly superior civilization might discover that we exist and come for a visit.
The other reason is that there's something unique about earth we already know about, something that sets us dramatically apart from 99+ percent of other planets. The moon. (Despite science's insistence that it understands everything important about the universe, it still can't explain definitively where the moon came from.) It is a stabilizing factor in our planetary orbit and rotation. It keeps us from flipping and rolling and having the high old time we'd no doubt prefer if we were the planetary teenagers Carl Sagan warned us not to be. Without the moon, and its exact size, rotation, and periodicity, there's no chance there'd be life on earth. The nature of the moon's relationship to the earth, and the sun, makes us a glowing signal to anyone out there looking for advanced life in the universe. We're a kind of neon sign to anyone who has the 'magical' technology to sift through galaxies in search of likely loci of life.
Beyond this, the root assumption still sucks. The four 'unlikely' phases of the development of life on earth have the flavor of Zeno's Arrow. In a proper logical context, life seems incredibly unlikely to the believers of neo-Darwinian evolution. Four big steps are required, each of which is prohibitively improbable. Provided you think it's all caused by mutation and adaptation. With no intelligence involved.
Uh oh. Intelligent design. The great non-theory of the non-scientific. Fuck off. If intelligence is possible as an attribute of organic life forms, it's also a pre-existing potentiality -- call it a built-in property of the universe itself, like leaf shapes and cranial brain location -- and maybe it drives relentlessly toward manifesting itself. If so, that would change the odds the Brit scientist is "rationalizing." No more Zeno. In this case, the universe is teeming with intelligent life and the odds are very different from what the experts would have us believe. Change the assumption, change the odds.
Why are they so resistant? The scientists, I mean. They're not behaving rationally at all. On the one hand, they chafe at the idea that a change in a few constants of physics would result in no universe at all. They tell us the fortunate circumstances that underlie this universe mean only that that all other combinations of physical laws are also being tried out in universes unseen. On the other hand, they insist that conscious intelligence is a freak by-product of an entirely accidental process and means nothing, while they simultaneously argue that it just might be the rarest thing in the universe. What happened to the infinity of everything being tried?
I think it's called having your cake and eating it too. Their very particular arrangement of probabilities makes them (purely by coincidence, mind) the smartest beings in the universe. Hmmmm.
Not buying it. Too many credible stories about UFOs and USOs. If any of them are true, the scientists are full of shit. Which isn't that much of a reach. Let's face it.
I don't know how CountryPunk
knew the race was over before the first votes were reported, but he
did. Now I have two tasks. One, to acknowledge that Obama will be the
nominee of the Democratic Party, and two, to renounce any possibility
of my support for John McCain.
America wants to reap the whirlwind. So be it. You want an angry young man for president? Have him. Just be aware that the best way to judge a man is to know his wife. Michelle Obama is no Jackie Kennedy. She's a good looking woman to be sure, but she's also a bitter, whining harridan who probably makes her husband as miserable as he will make us. I cringe at the thought of her being the hostess of state dinners. But we survived Rosalynn Carter and we'll survive the pissed-off, victimized Princetonian, too.
Now for McCain. My fleeting hope was that he was actually a politician. He isn't. He's just an arrogant asshole. His decision to speak to La Raza -- in clear defiance of the conservative base of his party, which believes in the rule of law and disdains race-based extortion -- is both unconscionable and incredibly stupid.
It's the last part that's so dismaying. Politicians routinely do unconscionable things. But they normally do them to satisfy the people who have worked and sacrificed and gone the extra mile to get them elected. John McCain is yet another of the new breed of western Americans who are willing to betray their country for the sake of Spanish architecture, Mexican food, and cheap gardeners. Only it's not that cheap. It's that the braggart of the Straight Talk Express is actually in the pocket of all the special interests who are willing to do anything to keep the flow of illegal low-cost labor flowing into the United States, law and cultural integrity be damned.
Forget the hero of the Hanoi Hilton. The John McCain of 2008 is corrupt. So corrupt that his debts to the illegal immigration promoters outweigh even his desire to be president of the United States. That's a big fucking debt.
We're all on our own now. Do whatever you want. The United States is lost. Run a third-party ticket for Ron Paul. Run a fourth-party ticket for Mike Huckabee. Stay at home and give Obama the biggest congressional majority any president ever had. The Democrats will have their day now.
And I have just stopped caring. Go to hell. All of you. Pretend that the Islamists don't want to kill you. Maybe they'll relent and give your wife and daughters an anesthetic before they cut off their clitorises. Pretend that Iran doesn't really plan to nuke Israel. Just remember to act surprised when it happens and Obama initiates a new round of talks to deal with the implications. Pretend that the Iraq War is nothing but a drain on American resources and explore the cornucopia of consequences when we abandon them for the tenth time in twenty years.
I. DON'T. CARE.
Me? I love Obama. He's so coolly eloquent. Isn't that the height of statecraft? Sure it is.
Whatever. I don't know anything. I thought the Republican Party would have the balls to defend their own president, who accomplished an absolute goddam miracle -- preventing another major domestic terrorist attack for more than seven years. But no. They don't even want to appear on the same podium with him. Fuck them. They don't deserve anybody's vote. Give the damn Democrats every single seat in the House and Senate and then see how quickly you want to throw them out of office. HINT: When they decide all your paychecks should go directly to them first, so they can decide how much you're not allowed to spend on Big Macs, spinner wheels, rodeo tickets, smokes, hookers, tattoos, cheesy lingerie, Southern Comfort, ten-gauge ammunition, and RVs. That'll settle your hash. Oh. Excuse me. No, it won't. You'll happily trade all that for FREE healthcare.
Thanks a lot, John McCain. There's more than one kind of traitor. There's the kind who talks when he shouldn't. And there's the kind who sells out the whole damn country because he's too smug and rich to remember what his country is even about.
And thanks, Obama. We need you. In a strange, fucked up way, we need you. We really do. Let's just hope the lesson you're there to teach us doesn't kill us. It probably won't. But not because you won't be trying.
Have at it, weed.
clear that CountryPunk
and, obviously, TruePunk
overreacted to last night's election results. As to their gratuitous
slamming of McCain, I can only assure you that I have sent them both
stern emails reminding them of the unfailing admiration we have always
had here for the Republican presidential nominee:
Ear to the Ground
InstaPunk Is Always Right
Where's the Dark Matter?
The Superior Conservative
McCain for President
Pressing the Point
A Surge McCain Doesn't Support
No Republicans Left in the Race
Six Is a State of Mind
McCain Reacts Angrily to NYT
Well, there's more, but you can see that we've been in the bag for McCain from the very beginning. Sort of like Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett were for Mitt Romney. But that doesn't mean we're incapable of being objective. We love the guy to death, but we can still speak from a certain distance. Just like Hugh and Dean said they could.
It's all going to be okay, people. Truly. It's absolutely not the case that Mr. McCain is some kind of loose cannon, egomaniacal, rude, arrogant, just-plain-nasty closet liberal control freak who thinks government should be limited except when people behave in ways he doesn't approve of. That's not who he is at all. He would absolutely talk to Rush Limbaugh if he didn't already know that Limbaugh is a treacherous, uneducated, and largely malicious distraction from the, well, sanctity of the ongoing dialogue between the American people and the mainstream press, which has always been so supportive of patriots like, uh John McCain.
I know from some of your emails that you're concerned I might be withdrawing my declaration of support for the Arizona senator's bid for the presidency. Not a chance. I understand the objections. CountryPunk has a parochial view. TruePunk is just crazy. But we all always knew that.
Why would anyone think it's reasonable to expect a Republican nominee to subscribe to all Republican positions? Isn't it enough to be vaguely pro-life? Why can't a Republican kinda sorta believe in Global Warming and the need to pulverize the entire global economic system to make it one percent cooler? Who wouldn't want to turn the American southwest over to an ethnic minority that would rather be Spanish than Indian if it means laying a more persuasive legal claim to lucrative lands developed by Anglos? And is it really so bad to have spent seven years undermining and sniping at a president who dared to undertake an attack on enemies who'd been bombing us for a decade before he took office? Of course not. That's just understandable maverickousness, common in Washington as a head cold.
I really want to be clear about this. Especially now that we know Obama will be the Democratic nominee. How should I put it? I want to be precise. Here's my best attempt:
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH! WE CAN'T ELECT OBAMA. WE JUST CAN'T.
Does that clarify matters for you?
I thought it would.