Sunday, August 8, 2010

Olmecs and The History Channel

The Olmecs were an ancient South American civilization that predates the Mayans and Aztecs. We know almost nothing about them aside from aside from the fact that they made these enourmous stone heads, that have distinctly negroid features. So lets take a look at how both archeologists and The History Channel take this subject on.

First up, archeology. What do they deduce from the Negroid features? Well, since they know, yes, know, that people from Africa could not have crossed the Atlantic, then the features must not be Negroid. Yes, that is how it works, denial is king. They know no such thing, and instead of looking at this as potential proof of such a journey, they go the other way, the illogical way, because they don't like to have to rewrite history. Now, the history channel's narrator states that the Olmecs are the first structures society in south America, that they just walked out of the jungle and there they were. They state this as fact, despite knowing nothing about them. What I mean by that is this, we have no idea if there were earlier cultures. To be factual, it should be stated that the Olmecs (and if I remember right, we have no idea what they called themselves, we named them the Olmecs) are the earliest South American Culture that we know of. Oftentimes in this field, and especially when the media gets involved, 'facts' are thrown around that simply aren't facts. There may have been earlier cultures that we have yet to discover, or may never discover, that the Olmecs may have evolved from. If all we have from them are their megalithic heads, then who knows how many cultures were there before them that may not have made such lasting structures.

Now, since all we have are the heads, how do they make this subject last an hour? Well, speculation of course. So they have these huge heads, they know they moved them to where they are, and they have no idea how. So they start by talking to archeologists who tell them that we don't know how the Olmecs moved their heads. We have absolutely no idea. Followed by, well, maybe to speculate we should look at how other cultures moved large stones. Well the Egyptians moved their large stones with large amounts of slave labor. (Ok, problem number one. They did not. This is a theory that is thrown around but has been disproved over and over, in fact the idea that there was widespread slavery in Egypt is wrong, much less that they were used to move their massive stones. Simply wrong) So now let's take this wrong assumption and bind it to our current dilemma.  Now let's test this on much smaller stones. Hey, large amounts of people can move much smaller stones. Great, really doesn't prove or explain anything, but they can treat it like a discovery because it's TV. So, they come back from commercial doing just that, they state that they now know that the Olmecs moved these large heads with large amounts of human labor, as they have now proved. The wording is so important. If you don't know much about this stuff, you will walk away thinking that you know something you don't, because in essence, they are lying to you. They are telling that, that because a whole lot of people can pull a 1/2 ton stone a ways, that the Olmecs did this to move their 20 ton heads, they just used more people. There is no evidence that this is what they did. None. Yet, now, according to this show, Digging for the Truth, we now know how it was done. They don't state that MAYBE it could have been done this way, the narrator says, "We now know that they used many people to pull the stones along..."  But we don't. That is simply a lie.

When they come back, they are talking to an archeologist about how they moved the stones across the water. He tells them, clearly, that they have no idea. They speculate that MAYBE they used boats, but since absolutely nothing of said boats has survived, they can only guess. So with this guess, they make a boat out of the resources that the Olmecs would have had available to them. They barely get their ½ ton stone on three boats lashed together. On the up side, they did not claim that this is definitely how they did it, this time. But they then ‘did the math’ and stated that it would only take 14 much larger boats lashed together to hold one of the 20 ton heads. Yeah, only 14 boats. On top of this, they could barely get the ½ ton rock on the boat, yet clearly you just need more people to get a 20 ton rock up on a boat, right?

I admit, I find these shows interesting. They talked about a dig where they found the heads, and some floors of buildings they found and how one the heads was intentionally buried, a fact that I knew, but had forgotten. The problem with archeology, and oftentimes cosmology, is assumption. For example, the place where they found the heads is the center of the Olmec culture. This is what they state, yet, having found no trace of it anywhere else, how can you really say that. The same with saying that they were the first real culture in South America. They state this as if they know for sure, because it fits with their other theories about human migration. They, however, ignore the facts that don’t fit, like the distinct negroid cast to the heads, implying that they are not part of the typical migration into the area. This is the same behavior that causes Egyptologists to ignore the water damage to the Sphinx, because it disrupts their theories with those pesky facts. And then you let the media get a hold of this information, and it gets cast into a whole new light, despite the FACT that we know little to nothing about the Olmecs, we now have discovered all this new stuff while filming this show. We now know they dragged them like the Egyptians (didn’t) and they made incredibly massive boats to float them down rivers. Yet, despite having the know how to make these massive vessels, they never ventured off into the oceans or anywhere far from home, because people back then simply couldn’t. Despite the fact that I sometimes enjoy these shows, the problem with the misdirection of information, the lying, the assuming, makes them pretty useless. A casual viewer won’t know that, and then they will further on these lies and such. Some of these shows are worse than others. Some episodes are worse than others. So really, if this type of thing interests you, pick up various books on the subject, from various sides. Compare the information and make your own decisions. Sadly, like most other television, even the ‘historical’ documentaries are flash and garbage for the most part now.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Five Points...

So, I happened across this article on Digg earlier.

I felt after reading it, that it needed some commentary.

Number One, Lake Monsters. More often than not, I dismiss Lake Monsters. If one exists, ok, but evidence against them is rather strong, at least as far as what we expect them to be. That does not mean that people aren’t seeing monsters, just that perhaps they are not flesh and blood creatures, there may be a very good, and possibly more interesting explanation. However, number one holds some merit, good.

Number Two, Hoaxes. Also, good point, hoaxes at this point in time are so easy, not to mention the amount junk we have in our environment that may be misinterpreted. I find the UFO (read that as Unidentified Flying Object, NOT as Space Ship) sightings prior to our ability to fly sometimes more interesting because we know it couldn’t be us. There are plenty of those. Nowadays, hoaxes are so damned easy, and easy to make them look really good. So they are right that hoaxes are a problem, but they don’t argue against paranormal phenomenon, just a fact of culture and technology that it becomes a problem in determining real from fake.

Number Three, Unclaimed Large Cash Rewards. Here is where they lose ground. The problem with said cash awards is this, the die hard skeptics that offer them, make sure that no one will ever pass their tests. Of course they are unclaimed, they are more of a publicity stunt than anything else. If you live in New York City, and one day offer $100,000 to anyone who can bring you a live Moose in the next 5 minutes, good chance no one will, but that doesn’t mean that Moose are not real. Yet that is the logic of such cash prizes. Closed minded skeptics, like James Randi, mentioned in the article, will never see anything as proof. Nothing. Period. They have already made up their minds. No one will ever get the money, because no matter how much someone proves, it will not be enough. So on this point they fail miserably. This is not evidence against the paranormal, this is more a psychological exercise for the closed minded. Being an open minded skeptic is probably the best way to be, but a closed minded one will never learn anything new because they think they know it all already. It is not doubt that they have, but certainty.

Number Four, The Fermi Paradox. If we were to argue that space aliens were here, this may or may not add or detract from the argument. Basically, it is hypothetical. Everything in this point is hypothetical. What if. Sure, Richard Dawkins will tell you he is right, but that’s because he falls into that closed minded skeptic category. He already knows he is right about what he believes, so you can’t really make a point to such a person. Anyways, this is obviously an attempt to dismiss UFO sightings. Not only doesn’t it work on various levels, but any real analysis of the phenomenon does not point to ET, but something altogether stranger and more passive. And when that is comprehended, this whole point is, well, pointless.

Number Five, The God Helmet. This one is interesting. It proves that electromagnetic energy can produce interesting effects on the brain. This is a good point against the paranormal. Other things must be considered, though. Ok, so using this helmet can replicate certain paranormal mindsets. Feelings of others in the room with you, for instance. Two things must be worked out. One, are there? Just because we can’t see them in a normal state of being, by tweaking our brain, the brain in the case assumed to be a receiver, like a television, we tune to something outside the ‘norm’. Two, by pressing on certain nerves, you may feel like a part of you, which is not being touched at that time, is being touched. Does that mean that when it is really being touched it is just an illusion? Of course, you could go deep with this question, but I think we will stay on the shallow side for now. Research has been done that suggests that Ketamine can induce something that resembles a Near Death Experience. That is interesting. However, when someone has a real NDE, there is no trace of Ketamine in their system, so it really doesn’t work as a explanation, now does it? Just because something resembles the effects of something else, doesn’t mean that it is now explained. The people who did the initial research were pretty clear at the end that they did not think that Ketamine was in any way responsible for NDE’s, but that didn’t stop the skeptic army from eating that up and spitting it in everyone’s face. So, is the God helmet interesting? Hell, yes. Does it explain all spiritual states and paranormal experiences? Not even remotely. It is, however a tool that may be used for further understanding about the way our brain interacts with this reality that we share.

The problem with the paranormal is, for us to begin to understand it, takes a whole new concept of reality. As long as people try to squeeze it into our current conceptions of how things are, we will not understand. Our narrow belief in how things are does not accommodate many of these phenomenon, which is why you have people arguing that UFO's are space ships, while others arguing, that, despite the evidence of something going on that is causing these experiences, they are somehow not real (aka hoaxes, or hallucinations, or whatever). Both sides are operating in a narrow band of which the true UFO Phenomenon supersedes. That is what the term paranormal means, really. Outside the norm. Someday we may evolve the wisdom to understand many of these things, and then we will look back on what we believe now and laugh at how primitive we were...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pieces and Perceptions

We perceive the world in pieces. This is something that doesn’t occur to most, but it is very true of everyone. We don’t see a complete picture, our brain selects what it will show us, and ignores 99% of the rest. It does this to avoid an overload of information. It is a useful thing, as we would never be able to process everything around us all the time. Because we process everything in pieces, though, we all perceive different things. There is an old story of the three blind men and an elephant. I forget now an exact version of it, but the basics will do. Three blind men are asked to describe an elephant, and one touches the trunk, one the body, and one the tail. They all describe three completely different animals. Yet, despite the fact that their descriptions seem completely wrong to each other, they are all correct in their perceptions. The large snake like trunk is just as right as the bulky large animal, which is just as right as the wispy tail. All three are correct for the pieces they are examining, and oftentimes arguments break out over differences like this. We may say that the one feeling the body is most correct, but that is not actually true, he is only correct for his piece. For someone with vision, their piece is different, they see the whole animal. It doesn’t mean that what they see is any more correct. People get caught up on things like this. People like to be right. And on some level our perceptions are always right. If someone says, “Hey, I heard something…”, and someone else says, Well, I didn’t.”, neither person is wrong. One did hear something, whether it was something outside them or something generated internally, they heard something. They are not wrong, but neither is the person who heard nothing. In another way, if I was to describe what I see, being someone very familiar with the insides of computers, when I open up a desktop computer, versus someone who has never opened up a computer and knows nothing about them, the descriptions would vary greatly. In fact, so greatly, that if you didn’t know we were describing the same thing, you may never realize it. I would be looking at something familiar and ordered, whereas the other would be looking at something strange and messy. Their brains would not isolate out what is important simply because they don’t know. This is true of all facets of life. Life is a selection of pieces. No one sees everything. We can’t.

If you want to take it a step further, what we all really see is waveforms. Vibrations. The physical objects we think we see are not what are really there. And since we can’t jump behind someone else’s perceptions, we don’t know if what we call a couch looks anything like what they call a couch. Their red may be our green, we just agree that such a vibration is the same. If we were behind their perceptions, we may see what we see as green when looking at something red. If that makes sense. Reality is agreement. Those vibrations are red. That is a chair. Somewhere inside our brains convert perceptions of waveforms to vision, sound, feel, smell, etc. We have no idea how this happens, but it does. Our reality is a loose agreement between us. Right and wrong perceptions mean that much less in that understanding.

We all know the type of people who think they know everything. You bring up a subject and they will comment or criticize despite their obvious lack of knowledge. Once again, though, this is a perception. When someone, lets say, less than very self aware, which is most of the planet, gets enough information to form an opinion, they then think, quite innocently, that they now know something about said subject. With some people, this is enough for them to comment, argue, whatever, but it falls to a level of perception again. There are subjects for which, if you look at them for the first time, one may say, well there is not much to learn about that. So they learn a little and feel like they have a grasp of it. The problem comes when the initial perception is wrong. They may have learned 5%, not realizing that there is another 95%, and will readily argue with someone whose knowledge of said subject encompasses 50%. No one can ever be at 100%. The assumption that ones knows more than they do it common. It usually takes a certain amount of wisdom to truly understand how much we all don’t know. This comes with age, sometimes. Too often, it never comes. A 22 year old who has some life experience thinks they know it all. It is common, and understandable from their perspective. They don’t realize that instead of 90%, they experience encompasses 2%. From their perspective, they have experienced a lot. From a 50 year olds’ perspective, they have experienced nothing. Schooling is not a substitute for life experience, but from the perspective of one who has had lots of schooling, they may see it that way. Look at all they know! Look at all they have been told and remembered! Unfortunately, only experience can gain a level of wisdom, remembering what someone taught you does not. Ever. We often dismiss elderly people, we think they have nothing of value to us, because they don’t get that the young already know everything. Culture may change, but that doesn’t invalidate experience and wisdom. Someone in their 50’s may really not understand why there are people who post their entire lives online. In detail. They may also believe this is a very bad thing to do. A kid doing it thinks that they don’t get it. That they are just out of touch. Until someone robs their house when they post online that they won’t be home for a week. Until someone starts easily stalking them because they are posting where and what they are doing every minute. Until they get turned down for a good job because of their facebook page. Until they get their identity stolen. Suddenly the wisdom of the 50 year old who clearly didn’t get it becomes a bit clearer. They’re had much more time to learn their lessons in this world. Good and bad. Their perspective is wider and richer than a 20 year olds’. You can’t skip that part of life, there is no shortcut. Life is pieces, at 20, your piece of perception is so much smaller than at 60.

For anyone who truly wants to understand other people, these things are mandatory. Understanding the difference in pieces and perception, and not trying to force yours on others. People care about different things, perceive differently, assess differently. The trunk of the elephant is very different than the body, but describing either still correctly describe part of an elephant despite their obvious contradictions. There would be far less arguing in the world if we truly sought to see the others perspective. To see what part of reality they are focusing on. One may say, hey that is red, and someone may pipe up and say, no, it’s magenta. Neither is wrong. The former is just focusing on the general color, the latter on the specific shade of that color. Yet an argument may break out about it. We share this reality, on loose agreement, and that is something we need to understand and accept, and remember.