Thursday, November 19, 2009

Skeptism and causes.

(On the topic of the Bermuda Triangle, "There's no statistical aberration and no need to speculate a mechanism to explain it. No more ships vanish there than any other equally sized body of water.")

Incredulous: So are we to embrace the whole "coincidence" ideology? Hundreds of reported cases of disappearing aircraft and surface vessels in a specific area, and the only reason why is that there is no reason why; someone just drew a triangle on a map...Everything upon everything is based on chance? Wouldn't that rule out the whole "cause and effect" thing?

No. It's not a coincidence either, it's not anything. There's no there there. It is no more likely that your plane or ship will go missing in that expanse of water than in any other expanse of water. The odds are the same. There's no phenomenon.

Let's say I draw an arbitrary triangle. Let's say between Hawaii, Alaska, and California. Now how many ships have gone missing in this region? Lots. In fact, it's going to still be the average number which is what the Bermuda triangle has. So is this mysterious? What's causing these disappearances? What has caused hundreds of reported cases of disappearing aircraft and surface vessels? Is it Atlantian power crystals, vortexes, or aliens? Perhaps it's the spirit realm. Amelia Earhart vanished while trying to fly the Triangle (that I just made up) and go from Hawaii to California. Very spooky!

It's not chance, but there is a random background noise of probability, and events will occur. If for some reason nobody vanished in the triangle I outlined there'd be need to explain that. But, as all reports are that the same number of people vanished as should be expected by sheer chance. I'm sure something could be said to have "caused" these events (mostly crashing and sinking) but there's not necessarily and overarching cause and as there's no statistical aberration there's nothing to fucking explain!

Sometimes things have coherent causes, sometimes they don't, sometimes the causes. Sometimes there are causes for the causes and sometimes there's no cause for it at all. Why did the Yankees win the world series? There's no one answer. It's a large list of varying reasons (one would presume, I had to google who won). Or we could have a long series of various causes: why isn't grandma here? Because she's at the hospital. Why is she at the hospital? Because she fell and broke her hip? Why did she break her hip? Because she fell? Why did she fall? Because gravity works and because she was standing on ice? Why was she standing on ice? Because she needed to find a shovel and slipped. Why did she slip? Because ice is slippery. Why is ice slippery? Because pressure causes a very thin layer of water directly where the pressure is applied to liquefy and act as a lubricant. Why is that a lubricant? Because it reduces static friction by filling in the rough edges while not adding extra friction. Why does the ice liquefy under pressure? Because ice expands as it freezes, and putting pressure on it causes the process to reverse. Why does ice expand as it freezes? Because the solid form of water forms crystals of hexagons that trap empty space between then in manners which liquid water avoids. Why does it form crystals? Because the shape of the water molecule and angle of the hydrogen and oxygen makes the crystallized state more stable as the amount of heat decreases. And so on and so on and so on...

And sometimes we encounter things like why did the radioactive isotope decay? And there's simply no answer at all because it's a causeless quantum effect.

The point is, there are coincidences. They really do happen. And the start to scientific inquiry isn't accepting a phenomenon at face value and starting to evaluate foolhardy speculation but actually measuring and seeing if there is actually a phenomenon that is above statistical expectation. How many people should we expect to report seeing strange things in the sky, a lot. How many people should we expect to report being abducted by aliens or molested by demons or assaulted by spirit figures? Plenty. Is there a reason for this? There are some. Sometimes there really was an object there, sometimes it was balloons or flares or clouds at night. Sometimes they were just seeing crap.

What causes alien abduction phenomenon? Probably the same thing that caused demon abuse phenomenon in the middle ages. Most of the descriptions are similar to reports of sleep paralysis. Many more are vivid after visiting a sympathetic hypnotherapist, are these recovered memories? Well, hypnotherapy has shown only one tangible effect of making people believe the stuff they confabulate while under hypnosis. We went through a stage of repressed childhood abuse by hypnotherapists and it was finally ended when a few high profile cases had people categorically prove their innocents and the "victims" sued the therapists and recovered massive injuries. And the entire phenomenon of repressed memories is completely discredited.

So are there causes, sometimes, sometimes not. Are there things we should look into, sometimes, sometimes not. But, what if even one of the millions of reports is true? -- Well that would be quite fantastic but so long as there's no demonstrative evidence behind it or reproducible phenomenon there's no point. We don't jump to evaluation of mechanisms without first figuring out if there is some phenomenon that needs a mechanism to explain it.


Mike said...

I always thought that, assuming that the Bermuda Triangle actually did have a larger number of disappearing vessels than other equally sized areas of ocean, was simply because it had a larger amount of ships and aircraft traveling through it compared to other areas. Throwing in the nasty storms and hurricanes common to the area, I would expect more lost ships with no need for any mysterious phenomenon.

I've had sleep paralysis a few times and it is a strange experience. But instead of demons or aliens, I imagined it was my cat sitting on my back, pinning me down and purring loud enough to cause me to shake. It didn't last long, but it sure did freak me out the first time.

Tatarize said...

I mentioned sleep paralysis a few other times and people similarly report this. I've never had it and I think I'm seriously missing out.

It's always described as kind of disturbing and when the connection to alien abduction is made nobody ever has gone through it bats an eye. It always seems like a collective "yup, I could see that presence in the room being a spooky alien". Wanting to have sleep paralysis is a bit like wanting a weight dropped on my toe but certainly seems like I'm missing out.