Thursday, November 18, 2010

I am very skeptical of skeptics.

Maybe the reason that I was inspired to base my satirical novel, The Interstellar Incident on a UFO crash is that I enjoy watching TV shows that deal with UFOs and the prospects of alien life. I recall one such program wherein a group of people claimed that some years back an object that seemed to be under its own control crashed into the countryside near a small Midwestern community.

They claimed that shortly after the crash the military intervened and gathered up all of the evidence and then set about quieting everyone including the local radio station which was interested in doing a program about the event. The military later claimed that nothing had crashed and that nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened there nor had they ever been involved in anything extraordinary in that area.

Dozens of years later a group set about proving that something did happen. They found an eyewitness, who was a young man at the time of the incident, and he took the researchers to the exact place in the woods where the thing had crashed. He told them he had seen the thing in the sky and after a short search he had discovered where it had crash landed. He pointed out to them where it had sat down and to the trees that were broken off during its crash landing.

An old man at the time the documentary was being made, he still recalled clearly how the whole thing had unfolded. He had actually seen the thing before the military had arrived and closed off the area. He had watched them haul it away on a military truck. He didn't know what it was but he knew it was indeed something.

Subsequent to that visit to the woods with him, the people producing the documentary employed an arborist who inspected the trees and using proven scientific methods determined they had to have been broken at about the time the incident was alleged to have occurred.

Then the documentary producers introduced a skeptic into the discussion. He first suggested that what had been seen was a meteor which had been reported someplace over Canada a few weeks prior to the incident. He talked about group hysteria without using those specific terms. He suggested that trees break all the time, and that simply because someone was aware that a tree was broken about the time others were hysterically pointing out that the sky or something else was falling to the earth didn't prove anything. He concluded his testimony by repeating that the military said they had never been there so probably they never were.

The thing that disturbed me was not the skeptic’s observations. He is entitled to his beliefs. I have come to an alternative conclusion. I too am entitled to my beliefs. This is not an issue of conclusions or beliefs but rather of attitudes.

You see the whole time the skeptic was being interviewed and asked to make observations about what people claimed had happened, he was smirking. Maybe he didn't intend to do that but there was no denying the look on his face.

He was talking down to me the whole time. It was as though I was ignorant and he was not. It was as though I was uneducated and he, well he was something other than that. It was as though he was taking time out of his very busy and important day to help us disillusioned individuals understand just how incorrect we are. It was as though what he was really saying was, "There, there. Now go on home and don't get so upset about things you can't possibly understand."

I also like to watch Public Broadcast television, particularly documentaries. I recall a documentary I once saw about an individual whose name is Srinivas Ramanujan. He was an individual who was born in India and who had an unbelievable talent for mathematics. The program I watched about him was broadcast many years ago but I remember that it was well produced, very informative and very entertaining.

But it was the very last of that program which caught my attention more than anything else. It seems that after the death of Mr. Ramanujan, a box of his formulas was found which he had not had the opportunity to share before he died. There were wonderful discoveries in that box which addressed complicated mathematical problems still being researched many years after Mr. Ramanujan death. At least one of those documents found in that box actually helped resolve one of those problems.

The man who was narrating the program, a mathematician, who was trying to explain to us non-mathematicians what it all meant, was then forced to confront a problem that he was wholly ill equipped to address. It seems that when Mr. Ramanujan was asked about his technique for deciphering the complex and puzzling world of mathematics, he had replied that he did little of that work himself.

He said that many of his formulas came to him in dreams told to him by the goddess Namakkal. He would simply wake up and write the formulas down. Indeed, earlier in the program that very same narrator had suggested that one of the peculiarities of Mr. Ramanujan's work was that he often introduced complicated formulas without the work or proofs which generally accompany such presentations. That he presented his formulas without the proofs but with startling accuracy was considered a mark of his genius. Mr. Ramanujan, however, attributed that genus to Namakkal instead of himself. I note here that by its very nature your typical mathematician has little information or understanding of spirituality or the spirit world.

When the mathematician who was narrating that program finally addressed what Mr. Ramanujan said about the goddess, he was very nervous. He face was noticeably flushed as he attempted to explain what Mr. Ramanujan had said, and he finally dismissed the statement as being all tied up in the Indian mathematician’s cultural and religious beliefs. He concluded that given those beliefs it might be anticipated that Mr. Ramanujan would say the things he had said. The narrator was not able nor did he believe that any credit should be attributed to Namakkal. I believe that Namakkal fully understands all of that and is not offended in any way whatsoever.

I personally am not a stranger to skeptics. Shortly after I arrived in Boulder, Colorado, I was introduced to a man who was the only successful treasure hunter I have ever met. He had in fact chased down various old treasure tales and had recovered gold and silver long since buried and lost. And he authored an article titled something like "Why the Beale deal is no steal."

Many, highly educated individuals who have extensive training in cryptography have studied the Beale Ciphers. I actually had the opportunity to visit with one of them in his office in California, at least 20 years ago now. He is a highly educated man who believes the ciphers are an elaborate hoax. I understand that he has written an extensive paper on the subject establishing his arguments in various, indisputable mathematical observations. He is not by any means alone. Many others have also come to the conclusion that there is no substance to the unsolved mathematical tables contained in that old pamphlet.

I know differently. But you see my lack of education and my reference to all things psychic in coming to the conclusions I have come to at once disqualifies anything further I have to say about that subject. It matters not that Helen Gilman told me the solution was the third eye and soon thereafter I discovered that article in Fate Magazine by a Masonic scholar.

Nor do any of them care that there was that curious old book of mathematical games that the universe gave to my sister who gave it to me. It was that article in Fate Magazine, that curious little book of mathematical games, and my augury program giving me the hexameter word over and over again that brought me around to my conclusions. And that is precisely the reason they must at once dismiss my discoveries and theories.

There is nothing scientific or mathematical about any of my conclusions, but I know that they are correct. I do not smirk when I say that. I simply know there is a solution. I don't believe for a moment that there is any gold or silver. The story is an allegory and the gold, silver and jewels it talks about are something quite apart from the precious metals and stones we think about when we hear those words. But that does not mean that those mathematical tables are unsolvable or that there is no clear text behind them.

In my satirical novel, The Interstellar Incident, I note that Bobby Weaver is grinning. That is a grin of contentment when he has the solution in hand and there is no further speculation about how to solve the problem. That is not the same as a smirk which instead suggests, "I know better than you and you will just have to accept that because somehow I am more important than you are."

Next: Hints, and hope.