I was enjoying our new receiver last night. It comes across as quite droll, I’m sure, but — apart from my car — I haven’t had good access to a high quality radio in years. The AM band still holds a certain randomized mystique of you-never-know what you’ll hear kind-of pleasure. Click the tuner up a notch and wait for the airwaves to bring you ears a frightful delight of engrossing, bizarre, and disturbing night-time talk radio.
I was not disappointed.
The auto-tuner spun up to the higher bands of the AM spectrum and landed on something in the 1400s, bouncing across the mountains and filling our darkened bog with something originally broadcast from Vancouver, nanoseconds previous. Occasionally, I imagine, a plane would fly between the distant tower and my little plastic antenna and the reception would frizzle into broken words mixed with annoying static — but mostly it was just audible enough to entertain.
And then it got fun. In fact, bring on the quack.
Now, I’m going to pause for a moment to qualify this entry: I do know the name of the aforementioned quack. I wrote it down, Google’d him, and bookmarked his website. I’ve been dabbling in formal skepticism as of late and this is kind of modern paranormal freak show is pure golden fodder — so how could I not? But I won’t mention his name. These kinds of loons are infamously litigious — their entire premise built upon a shaky foundation of flawed invented logic and contrived fictions — and they are smart enough to know that a few honest websites could topple their empires with a few strategically placed shots. I’m just not quite ready to be dragged down that way. So let’s just call him BG, and if you can figure it out from that, whatever I write is not going to change your mind either way anyhow.
But I digress.
So, I’m sitting in the bog, listening to AM radio from across the Rockies, and nursing a soduku. (Ah, parenthood.) And along comes BG. Now, BG is a “DR” — though a DR of what I’m not too sure. If a real educational institution gave him those letters they should promptly take them away. At the risk of falling further into my own fallacy of Ad hominem, I would prompt you to lift your index finger towards your temple and twirl it clockwise in the fashion of the big crazy.
The radio show went something like this (and yes, I did listen to it for an entertaining two hours):
A discussion of the technology of ancient Egypt –> lead to –> a discussion of the “advanced” technology of ancient Egypt –> lead to –> “proof” that the ancient Egyptians used alien helicopters to build the pyramids –> lead to –> aliens and a race of time travelers from the future have been controlling the fates of history –> lead to –> Atlantis existed for tens of thousands of years –> lead to –> Atlantis was infiltrated by time travelers –> lead to –> Atlantis nuked themselves out of existence –> lead to –> the “men in black” really exist and are covering it all up…
And — DING! DING! DING! — we have a conspiracy theory, folks!
Now, you gotta understand that this guy was not only completely off his boat (logically, scientifically, and with respect to virtually all his conclusions) but more disturbingly:
a) he actually seemed to believe every bit of twisted and imagined logic that was coming out of his mouth;
b) the host of the talk show was eating it up like Homer Simpson on a blueberry pie;
c) listeners were calling in to discuss their own crackpot ideas, stories of abduction, and theories in relationship to his own, and — without missing a beat — BG just wove everything right back into his own little reality. “Oh, well, that relates to this because…” You get the idea.
The show capped off with a point-form tip list on “How to avoid an alien abduction.” And I got to go to bed more entertained than I’ve been by any television show in months.
Now, as I wrote above, I’ve been dabbling in formal skepticism for a short while now and this whole radio show episode triggered off so many alarm bells in that corner of my brain it quickly moved from bizarre to disturbing to comedic right back to bizarrely, comedically disturbing all at once. I also am quite aware that there is a pretty hefty following for the world of the paranormal — too many people looking for answers in the sky. I’ll admit, I used to be there myself. Hopefully, not anymore — and I would try to debunk most of what this guy said, but that is a task for someone far more trained than I. Rather, I’ll cap this entry off with few of my point-form notes on “How to avoid being sucked into this kind of conspiracy nut, paranormal freak show.”
1) Just because there is not a scientific explanation for something, does not mean the alternative is a paranormal explanation. BG insisted that “science can’t explain this” — which is usually science code for “it’s so damned stupid no reputable scientist would be caught dead applying for funding and spending her career researching it.” Really. Science is work, study, and resources. Paranormal is pulling ideas from thin air and defending them without any of that. And frankly, just because someone contrives a crackpot theory, does not mean it needs to be formally debunked. The burden of proof, dude, is on you.
2) Proof from artwork is not proof. Because someone wrote a story, drew a picture, or painted on a wall does not make it real, no matter how old the art might be. Art, literature, and their likes are bits of “evidence” — but evidence is not proof. Evidence is a subject for interpretation leading to understanding the truth, and to be proper, valid evidence it needs to be open to interpretation in any direction. BG kept stating that “there are images of this” or someone “wrote about that” — but that doesn’t mean his modern interpretation of something that is very old and out of the context of time and of his understanding of the originating society holds any water whatsoever. Think what our surviving art and literature will say about us in five thousand years. Simply, it’s just likely that people have had vivid imaginations for a very long time — and usually a triangle is just a triangle, not an alien spacecraft.
3) Expert sources are worth everything. So, BG, unless you can legitimately name actual living or formally published human beings with training and experience specifically in a field of expertise, you cannot use the words “experts say” as any kind of proof for anything whatsoever. And, whenever you do have real expert opinions on something, you cannot take it completely out of context to support your point. Just because an engineer remarked that one thing resembled another thing is not proof that they are the same thing. Resemblance is rarely sameness.
4) Conspiracies imply effort on the part of lots of people, but — sorry — there are not enough people in the world both intelligent and malicious enough to pull it off. In fact, most scientists are smart, introverted, educated, and truth-driven people. I’ve been to scientific conferences. Trying to just get a handful of scientists out to the bar for a beer in a group is hard enough — trying to organize the entire collective of every trained science professional on the planet into a cover-up conspiracy of ANYTHING would be so close to impossible it is a laughable premise. BG and other conspiracy nuts fall back on phrases like “cover up” and “THEY don’t want you to know” — well, it’s flattering you think we’re so organized (and granted it’s been years since I’ve been down to the secret conspiracy lair) but… really? Conspiracy paranoia is often misguided trust.
Take a step back, use your brains. What else can I say but that I chuckled myself to sleep last night.