Monday, May 18, 2009


Anomalous Phenomena: The Para-Pachydermic Explanation


“Get your umbrella ready,” said the TV weatherman. “Lots of rain tomorrow.”

The next day considerable precipitation fell but not rain. Six inches of snow in the city, twelve inches up in the mountains.

Obviously weather forecasting isn’t an exact science. Despite all the data gathered, there could be a tiny bug in the system that throws off the prediction.

The chaos butterfly. An analogy that shows how an unknown element or X factor can make the weatherman look like an idiot.

Two months before the weatherman predicted rain, a butterfly in China flapped its wings a couple of extra times. This pushed additional air molecules along, a small action that kept building as the days passed, until it turned into a cold air mass that unexpectedly shifted, turning rain into snow.

Science itself isn’t an exact science. But there are those who act like it is, resulting in dogma that doesn’t allow any thinking beyond what it considered “normal.”

But UFO sightings and other strange events still happen. Yes, some can be explained as delusion, misidentification, fraud, whatever. But a few puzzling cases remain that can’t be conveniently swept under the scientific carpet.

If there’s the chaos butterfly, why not something analogous on a metaphysical level? Why not the chaos purple elephant? It exists outside of quotidian experience but sometimes it stumbles, protruding into our sphere of reality. Normalcy twists; weird stuff happens. But soon the chaos purple elephant is forced back into its own dimension.

Maybe the para-dimensional pachyderm sticks its trunk under the tent of perception. An UFO is seen. Or its foot stomps in to make an impression. A cyptoid is glimpsed. Or its tail brushes against the membrane of our existence. Ghosts pop into view.

After these seemingly unrelated events, three blind experts come along. The first makes his conclusion based upon the trunk incident. The second, the foot. The third, the tail. All three are wrong because each explanation is only based on part of the paranormal whole.

Of course, the blindest of the blind are the dogmatic skeptics. Trunk, foot, and tail – all nonsense to them, nothing extraordinary to be seen here, move along.

Maybe someday they’ll have to shovel up after the chaos purple elephant.

Until then, the circus goes on.


9 comments:

dizzyewok said...

Nice Blog, very interesting. Broadened my horizons quite a bit!
I never thought about science not actually being an exact science!

-Xav

Ray said...

Xav:

ThanX for the comment. I appreciate the feedback.

And good luck with your new blog, The X Blog. Did ever hear of The X Spot (www.xdell.blogspot.com)? No relation to me. (Maybe I should've went with the letter Z...)

Ray

dizzyewok said...

Nope, never heard of it! I'll check out though.
Thanks
Xav

X. Dell said...

Um, as engrossed as I have recently been with the Golden Ganesh, it seems that I'm up to my neck in para-pachyderms already. And then, I come here and see them again.

One of the most intriguing analytical frameworks for thinking of anomalies and science comes from Jung, specifically from The Undiscovered Self. He gives the example of a square meter of rocky beach that contains a number of stones of varying mass. One way of describing the stones in toto would be to weight them all, total the weights, and divide by the number of stones, thus giving us a mean average.

In this example, say that our average comes out to 238.867 grams. What is the probability that you can pick a stone at random that actually weighs 238.867 grams?

Actually, the possibility is remote. In fact, there's a good chance that none of the stones actually weighs in at 238.867 g's.

Jung's point was that science deals with norms broad paradigms, or idelaistic models that approximate various descriptions of the physical world, but at the same time don't accurately describe any one of the set under scrutiny.

I'm actually not one who dismisses science. I take it very seriously. But in order to do that one also has to realize its limitations. Thinking that science is the only true knowledge is kinda like thinking that you could play golf with only a putter. Dismissing science completely is like playing a game of golf without a putter in your bag.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

"True" science involves a method of trying to uncover the facts. As a method it can work. The problem is that a scientist or skeptic can take certain results found by the method and make them fit a particular paradigm. I have no trouble with the method, only a problem with the interpretation of the data. (Or in a few cases, how the data is fudged.)

Ray

X. Dell said...

Actually, I would take issue with the scientific method being the only intellectual tool. Regardless of the paradigms that follows, it has its strengths and its weaknesses, mostly, as Kuhn, Hanson and others have said, it is an art.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

Please eXcuse my ignorance but what intellectual tools are suited to accomplish the same goals of the scientific method? Do you mean a school of philosophy like phenomenology?

Ray

X. Dell said...

I wouldn't so much suggest a tool to replace the intellectual function of science as I would suggest that one use a saw to pound in a nail. After all, that's the hammer's job. I suppose one might be able to pound in a nail with a saw (depending on the strength of the wielder and the saw, and the type of saw it is). But it cannot replace the hammer.

By the same token, the hammer cannot fix everything. I wouldn't use it when I need a Philips head screwdriver, for example, because if I did I'd strip the thread. I wouldn't use a hammer to divide boards, because it wouldn't produce a clean and precise cut.

One danger in relying on scientific method as our chief understanding of everything is that it limits our understanding. Certainly intuition is an important intellectual tool, yet we don't have good pedagogical models to develop it. Induction (depending on how you define it, induction might be logical, but it's chief role in the scientific method is restricted pretty much to the formulation of the hypothesis) is one we rely on everyday. There's also a place for emotive reasoning (e.g., the initial arguments against slavery tended to be more emotive than rational--nevertheless, they were correct positions), although we (should) understand the dangers of overrelying on the tug of the heartstrings.

Ray said...

X. Dell:

OK, I misunderstood what you meant. I agree - the scientific method doesn't work as "one size fits all." As for the hammer analogy, some scientists transform the discipline into a clown hammer.

Ray