ever wonder why the ancient egyptians, who were infamous for covering every square inch of stone with hieroglyphs detailing the minutiae of their lives from weddings to ass-wipes, never actually etched a single hieroglyph in or on the pyramids at giza?
and, despite the numerous glyphs all over detailing the minutest detail of life, not a single set of glyphs speak about the creation of the pyramids? historians and egyptologists are assuming they built it as pharaoh tombs.
ok, so if they are pharaoh tombs, u dont think a single pharaoh thought of, idk, etching a glyph about it on or in the tomb itself?
also, we had to blast and dig our way into the pyramids just to find zero mummies inside, yet we insist they were taken by tomb-robbers.
i guess tomb-robbers who could walk thru walls?
people are teaching this crap to your kids. please tell your kids to constantly seek every source of info they can on the topics they are interested in before they believe anything they hear!
but, of course, as we all know, if its on the internet, its true. no one lies on the net!
Oh no, you have been reading that Erich van Däniken crap? To take just one thing that is plain false:
Even Wikipedia will teach you that the erosion of the Sphinx is a highly controversial issue, both regarding its causes and (among those who support the water erosion hypothesis) regarding the climate of ancient Egypt. The outcome of this debate could change the dating of the sphinx from anywhere to as old as the great pyramids (the majority opinion among Egyptologists) to the beginning of the Old Kingdom – either way, there is little doubt that it was built by Egyptians.
To come back to the point of plain falsity, it is not true that 100% of scientists believe that the Sphinx has been eroded by water. Furthermore, such a story about a photograph taken to “numerous geologists”, who were then “stunned stupid”, has all the marks of myth. Who took the photographs to which scientists, when? We get no details that would allow us to check the story because it never happened; it never happened, because this is not how science works. This is the kind of rhetorical story though up by crackpots who need to believe that there is some mythic “scientific consensus” out there which is protected by scientists not “looking at the evidence” until some clever freethinker “tricks” them into it. It makes me mad to see such nonsense spread, because it turns our legitimate wonder, doubt and curiosity into some kind of anti-intellectual conspiracy theory. Blegh.
Here is a fun fact, which I only recently realised: the Sahara became a desert only between 4000 and 6000 years ago (we are not sure). Before that, it was a savannah – not lushly forested or anything, but still the kind of place where lots of animals could live, men could hunt, and so on. The earliest Egyptian dynasty is from a little before 5000 years ago: they or their not that distant ancestors have actually experienced this. Have experience the greatest part of north Africa turning into a a desert. (And it is still going on: the north African coastal region was an important grain-growing centre for the Romans. Hard to believe now.)
Anyway, if you are interested in ancient Egypt – and I encourage anyone to be interested in ancient Egypt, it is fascinating – get a good book about ancient Egypt instead of reading the pseudo-science stuff. You will learn lots of things that you don’t know, you will learn that there are many other things nobody yet knows (because all scientific books I have ever seen are very upfront about acknowledging this, and reading science is the best way to realise how little we know), and you will satisfy your curiosity by the kind of knowledge that only excites further curiosity. That is a lot more fun than getting a false feeling of I-am-smarter-than-those-scientists by reading nonsensical arguments about the Egyptians covering every inch they built with inscriptions (wrong; no one is going to inscribe the outside of buildings, and certainly not buildings meant to stand among sand storms for millennia), or about it being so surprising that they didn’t paint the building of the pyramids (which, given that most of their paintings are meant to depict the afterworld, is the most unsurprising thing ever).
That was a bit of a rant, but none of it was meant aggressively, of course. I just… yeah, it really boils down to what I said. I hate how these people turn what is good (curiosity, the desire to know and understand) into what is bad (a false feeling of superiority and an antagonism towards even honest science, and most science is honest science) while that same good can lead people to wonderful discoveries.
Whose legitimate wonder, doubt, and curiosity? Is it legitimate to doubt the scientific community (or other intellectuals)? Is it legitimate to wonder whether the truth of a matter might be much deeper than the limited scientific understanding? Is it legitimate to harbor curiosity that cannot be satisfied by the explanations that are taught and offered to the public by the experts?
I have to confess to some very strong anti-intellectual prejudices, taught both by my upbringing and by holding a minority viewpoint that few people in mainstream academic communities take seriously. Even though my prejudices make it difficult for me to discuss this in a fair and level-headed manner, I do admit that science is a good discipline, and that it requires a lot more knowledge and study to be a serious scientist than I will ever posses. I suppose that the notion of an organized intellectual conspiracy against other ideas really is absurd, at least on a large scale.
However, I don’t believe that those in the intellectual communities are the only ones with legitimate opinions. I don’t think that either general public consensus or the best opinions of experts are necessarily good indicators of the truth of any theory or teaching.
Ditto to Victor. And while I don’t claim to know anything specific about the pyramids or ancient Egypt – thanks for the information, Victor! – it might be worth noting that a pyramid-crawling robot very recently took pictures of what seem to be hieroglyphics in one of the chambers in the pyramid.
Pyramid-crawling robots photographing ancient hieroglyphic graffiti! Isn’t that cool enough?
All of that is legitimate and often praiseworthy when it comes to specific facts or theories. What’s not so praiseworthy is a blanket tendency to distrust scientists merely for doing their jobs (i.e. gathering and disseminating facts, theory and knowledge).
Someone who has studied a subject professionally should be expected to know more about it than a layperson. We may question the conclusions, but a theory should be countered with another theory, preferably a simpler one (in the terms of Occam, not more simple-minded) which fits the facts better. This is generally anathema to conspiracy theorists and fringe scientists alike.
A scientific theory is an explanation, a model. Ideally it’s an accurate one, but it’s certainly not supposed to be foolproof. It’s not enough, therefore, to poke holes in the theory in an attempt to discredit it: one must advance a theory that does a better job than the previous one. It must still adhere to the data.
Does scientific consensus today contain a lot of holes, even errors? Of course it does. Does that mean anything goes, that any explanation is equally valid? I don’t see how that follows. As Asimov once famously said, “when people thought the world was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the world was round, they were also wrong. But if you think the idea of the earth being round is just as wrong as the idea of it being flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
Like Viktor, I hope I’m not coming across as strident or aggressive. I’m not being very coherent right now, and can only hope the gist of what I wanted to say comes across.
Yeah, the idea of 100% of geologists agreeing 100% on anything is sort of hilarious in itself. (And the great reveal thing does indeed reek of urban legend.) I can’t speak to the evidence or lack thereof of the Giza pyramids, as it’s not really my area of interest, but the idea that scientists sit around all day congratulating themselves on the status quo indicates a severe underestimation of the intellectual curiosity and diversity of ideas out there, and a severe overestimation of scientists’ congeniality. The scientific community tends to have squabbles and competitions and rivalries just like any other profession. There would be no way to set up a global conspiracy. I’d be stunned if you could get a single university department to agree and execute a conspiracy. Even a conspiracy that would take a week.
Bainespal, I’m a little confused by your assertion that the theories of the people that know the most about something are no more likely to be true than the theories of people who haven’t studied it. Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying, or could you clarify?
Everybody knows that the pyramids were one of the major public works projects of Pharoah Ramses Flathead, of the Ninety-Seventh Dynasty. What is less well-known is that deep in one of the side-chambers of the Great Pyramid, archaeologists have recently discovered a battery-vending machine. An intensive search is underway to try to find a one-Gizamid coin; if such a coin can be found, the intention is to use it to purchase a battery, in order to see whether the battery is still functional after forty-seven thousand, nine hundred fifty-two years.
As for hieroglyphics, at least one chamber is covered with symbols depicting a grue eating a man (although its difficult to make out because its pretty dark). Another chamber shows an adventurer slaying a dragon with his bare hands.
Although unconfirmed, there have been reports of a pirate wandering around the interior since ancient times.
(And all of this makes as much sense as little green men from Mars building the damn things!)
Oh yes, it is. Scientists (and other intellectuals) certainly don’t regard each other as infallible in any way. Good scientists (and other intellectuals) don’t regard themselves as infallible either.
What can legitimately make people mad is the dismissal of scientifically collected and tested evidence in favour of haphazard data arbitrarily presented as conclusive falsification of whole branches of science on purportedly scientific grounds. That is when someone comes along, presents some data, and says: “These pieces of evidence that I lay before you and that you, professional scientists, consciously choose to ignore – these pieces of evidence scientifically and conclusively prove that you are mere humbugs.” It’s not hard to see how maddening that must be.
Scientific methods was and is developed precisely to guard against misinterpretations of data, hasty jumps to conclusions, prejudices, subjective influences, and anything else that would detract from an objective interpretation of data. This doesn’t mean that scientists always get things right (and I guess they’re generally well aware of that); it doesn’t even mean that the best opinions of experts are NECESSARILY good indicators of the truth of any theory or teaching; but it might be hoped that it is ACTUALLY a good indicator of the truth of theories that fall squarely inside their area of expertise.
It does happen, though, and ever too often, that scientists venture out of their areas of expertise into philosophy (I guess science often raises philosophical problems) and claim that quantum physics or behavioral science or whatever has solved the philosophical problems of free will or of the nature of mind or of rational thinking or of intentionality or of metaphysics or of some part of ethics even. They seldom have. Science of course provides data that philosophers have to take into account, but that’s another matter. Science only ever solves philosophical problems by coming up with new scientific methods for studying previously philosophical questions.
And presumably it happens that scientists venture into other non-scientific areas, too (theology or whatever, where they are no more experts than I). And I suppose that in these areas, too, the proper response is not that of trying to disprove scientific theories either scientifically, theologically, or philosophically, but of pointing out where they leave scientific theory and enter theology or philosophy or whatever.
Yes, I know that, even if I sometimes struggle with accepting it. Ultimately, scientists and scholars have much more accurate information and knowledge than I will ever have. I don’t have the skill and knowledge to create some of the unquestioned theories that I would prefer to be less unquestioned.
When another theory is offered, it shouldn’t be condemned out of hand, even if the people who offered the theory didn’t have the professional scientific background of those who framed the accepted theory. There are serious scholars who will probably never be considered anything other than “fringe scientists”, but if their ideas do the facts (to some degree, as nothing would ever fit all the facts perfectly), they should be given place. Really, there shouldn’t be any “fringe scientists”; the division should only be between real scientists who use the scientific method and those who are just sensationalists.
That sounds like a wise and balanced thought to me. However, it would be good to remember that the scientific consensus once held that the earth was flat.
Same with me. But neither of you came across that way.
Honestly, I’m a little confused too…
I certainly can’t assert that. Professional scientists and other scholars have much more knowledge, and their theories are probably very good as models. That doesn’t mean that they know the best way to interpret their knowledge.
That’s very understandable.
Great insight! That’s sort of where I was having trouble going with my thoughts. Scholars shouldn’t be able to lay down a dogma based on their interpretation of facts.
Fair enough. I think, though, that fewer theories than you might think are actually “unquestioned” among scientists. Note that I’m interpreting your use of “theory” to mean a theory in the scientific sense (“this is an explanatory model that can be falsified thus”), not the everyday term that basically means “this is my take on it.” Stop me if my assumption is incorrect.
That seems reasonable, and is in fact what has happened in any number of breakthroughs throughout history. I’d hesitate to present the dichotomy between scientific method contra sensationalists. Many would believe they adhere to the scientific method yet do not (a phenomenon by no means restricted to non-scientists!). Others would believe the scientific method has “holes” to it, that intuition or divine guidance or a thousand other things is to be preferred.
Above all else, however, a scientist or a dabbler must always be ready and willing to examine his or her assumptions. That’s an ideal, of course, and scientists can be hidebound or reactionary just as anyone else. However, the important thing is that there has to be a common format to the proposed ideas. Every author of an idea must be prepared for the possibility of being wrong. Every idea that is advanced must be falsifiable. One example of this is Charles Darwin saying, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” He was prepared and indeed willing to face refutation.
It did? I can name no society off-hand with a formal evidence-based tradition of science that held this belief. But yeah, the essence of your statement remains. The thing is, that only means that the prevailing theory is inaccurate. Once its axioms are established, a spherical earth is a simpler, infinitely more accurate model, and is fairly easily verified even with stone-age technology.
And it does happen. Arguably, the true utility of the scientific method is that it offers (some amount of) self-correction, and new ways of accomplishing old things.
Take one of my favorite stories, that of Fermat’s Last Theorem. It’s become a bit of a legend and deserves to be taken with a grain of salt as I’m not even remotely qualified to comment on the actual mathematics involved, but I know the reader’s digest version. Pierre Fermat, a great mathematician, was a bit of an odd duck. He was active in the 17th century and was by accounts more fascinated by mathematics itself than an audience.
This quote was found in the margin of a copy of the 1670 edition of Diophantus’ Arithmetica. Fermat never published the proof itself, and it baffled mathematicians for 300 years (imagine if you found an old document written by an authority you trust saying “I’ve discovered an infallible way to predict which stocks will rise. All you have to do is” with the rest of the paper having been torn off). As trolls go, it was fairly effective. People tried and tried and tried and there was, I imagine, no small amount of cursing in between attempts.
Andrew Wiles, a UK mathematician, finally solved it and published the proof in 1995. This proof, however, employed what could fairly be described as cutting-edge mathematics. There was no way Fermat could have arrived at the proof by that same route, because the tools to do so didn’t exist in the 17th century.
So did Fermat find a simpler way to arrive at the same conclusion? Could he have imagined seeing something which later turned out to be correct? There’s no way to prove conclusively. All I know is that it makes for a damn good story.
This theory, which has been totally discredited, is the result of a series of errors on the part of Professor Clyde Hickelbomper of the University of New South Wales.
Being from the Southern Hemisphere, Prof. Hickelbomper initially became somewhat confused as to which end is up, and mistranslated “flathead” as “flatfuss.” This is turn somehow became transformed into “flatfish,” or, in some translations, “flounder.”
I’ve been vacillating between talking about academia in general and science in particular, so I guess I mean both. I suppose we’ve been using science as the most straightforward representative of all the intellectual disciplines. My complaint about intellectual dogma applies to other disciplines besides science, but scientific theories come to mind most readily (though I can think of a few issues in theology as well – I don’t even know enough about the formal discipline of philosophy to know what the issues are).
Ah… I was simply trying to say that the division should be between honest scientists who sincerely investigate and carefully frame their theories by no other criteria than what they think is objectively true and those people who want to get famous or start a flame war or defend preconceived notions, etc. I don’t know whether or not the scientific method is perfect when it comes to science, but I’m sure that it’s not adequate for everything.
From everything I’ve heard of Charles Darwin, he sounds like a truly honest scholar, not deserving of the demonizing that some dissenters have tainted him with, and I’ve never heard of anyone rejecting the fundamental idea of natural selection, even if some prefer to use different semantics. However, the theories that his work helped to start don’t deserve a special unquestionable status, either. I’ve read books by “fringe” scientists who are ready and eager to present specific evidence against the notion that any given complex organ really could not have been formed by those numerous, successive, slight modifications.
Yeah, you called me on that one… I was just repeating what everyone says in an argument now and then about people once believing the earth was flat. Maybe that’s a little ironic.
Evolution theory is quite diverse at this point, and there’s thriving scientific theories. I think it’s accurate to say that very, very few scientists doubt evolution, but some other methods besides small modifications are well discussed. One theory is that relatively small changes in the genome result in fairly large modifications in the phenotype. (And this is an argument made by Gould, who’s not really a “fringe” scientist.) There are a number of other complications; evolutionary research is alive and well, and there are lots of varying arguments.
So without knowing specifically what you’re thinking of, things have gotten quite a bit more complex since Darwin’s death. But if you’re referring to, say, young earth theory, you’ll find a vanishing small amount of scientific support because objective evidence just really, really does not point that way. (But you will find plenty of evolutionary theorists willing to discuss that evidence, and why they think the evidence is inadequate to support, and contradictory to, young earth theory.)
If you re-read Robert’s post, I think you’ll find that he continued the joke.
That’s a nice thing about this forum, that posts like yours and Robert’s can co-exist with posts like Victor’s in a thread like this one. (I particularly like to thank Victor and others involved in that topic for the tone and content of it.)