Friday, 9 October 2009

Skepticism & the Triangle

Science is merely the refinement of everyday thinking.” Albert Einstein

“Academic and Intelligent are very far from matching compliments.” Frank McLynn

To reason, one must wonder.

Skepticism is perhaps one of the best and most rudimentary spirits in mankind. Without it we cannot search; without it we cannot reason; without it we cannot wonder; we cannot inquire; we cannot contemplate. Without it we are not intelligent. We are a stray and hungry dog, and we will eat anything fed us.

Skepticism is a two edged sword, both sides sharp, as pure as blue steel and just as clean. One side does not allow us to believe everything off hand; the other does not let us necessarily dismiss anything off hand.

Skepticism is, in a way, the mediating influence upon curiosity which guides it toward wisdom.

Curiosity has made us to inquire; and inquiring we have amassed an enormous catalogue of causes and effects; of species of plants and life. This is knowledge.

This is the bedrock of scientific reference. In Latin Scientia merely means To Know. Ideally, before a scientist can contribute to the world of knowledge, he must first learn all that has been compiled before him; what others have observed and cross referenced, many times back thousands of years. “I stand on the shoulder of giants,” said Newton.

This is the world of a priori, which means the system of cross-referencing by accumulated knowledge. When you approach a zoologist with a report of a creature that has feathers, a bill, waddles on webbed feet and goes “quack, quack” there is an a priori reason for that zoologist to say “It’s a duck.” He doesn’t have to go and observe it himself and waste time because there is an appropriate cross reference for such a phenomenon. It’s a duck!

When you approach a zoologist and say “I saw something with scales, that was pink, has 5 legs and a bill like a bird but a tail like a fish.” You are not going to get a good reply because there is an a priori reason for him to say there is not such creature. There is no catalogue for such an animal as you described. “Now, go see your doctor or get off the gin.”

When a zoologist gets more reports of this type of creature from several people a world away, he begins to ponder if something new is not being discovered. Though he is skeptical, he begins to probe into it.

Skepticism, you see, is involved in everything that has to do with discovery, with inquiry and with intelligence.

Now, I doubt there will ever be any such creature as used in the above analogy. But there are still many things happening in this world for which we do not have as yet any appropriate cross reference. The complete disappearance of ships and planes in the so called Bermuda Triangle may be one, as well as stories about strange atmospheric phenomena and electromagnetic anomalies as reported by some pilots and ship captains that survived.

There is no a priori reason to dismiss the latter, since they are not speaking of things so completely unknown. The shape, mass, rotation, inclination and revolution of the earth play vital roles in some places of the globe as opposed to others. Because of this we know why hurricanes and typhoons strike along the same latitudes, why great winds frequent certain areas as opposed to others, and geology has taught us why earthquakes appear in some areas and do not in others.

The invisible forces of our earth may be subject and influenced in the same ways. The magnetic field is known to be effected by any number of events. It seems equally possible there are regions of the earth, again for a variety of reasons, which are more prone to these, as some regions are prone to visible catastrophes like typhoons and tornadoes.

One must approach the Bermuda Triangle and these possibilities with the curiosity of skepticism. This is not an oxymoron. Skepticism set in motion is an integral part of curiosity!

But I’m afraid the world and the world wide web are not always like this. There are those whose minds are so open their brains have fallen out; then there are those whose minds are so closed, their brains have suffocated. They are no better than a bowling ball in mud.

As a true skeptic, I have taken criticism from both sides: those who want me to believe and endorse the most fantastic claims at face value and those gentlemen of the-bowling-ball-in-mud-club who go no where and think all has been discovered.

There are groups who have gone to Bimini Island in a chartered boat and held rituals over the Bimini stones believing there is some stronger cosmic force here. They roll out stone and quartz phalli like dice and read the results. . . .Hmmm. I wont go on.

Possibly, the debunker is just as bad. What is truly sad is that they promote themselves to be the “skeptic” and promote themselves as the voices of science. They don’t even know what the word means. I consider most of them little better than hucksters who saw a good way to get attention and make money by being “devil’s advocate” to a popular subject. They stifle inquiry and make fun of those who inquire.

What is amazing is that debunkers are the primary source for most of the sensational claims made on behalf of the Triangle. They do this by taking out of context what other authors wrote, by making it look like there was a dogmatic assertion that some supernatural event occurred, and then they solve it by picking apart what they essentially created. An example comes from one noted debunker: “I had originally gotten hold of accounts by previous writers, threw them all together, and put a few transition sentences between them . . .” The quilt that emerged was truly not reflective of any one particular author’s thesis on the subject. Their books had mediating influences that debunkers distill from their accounts.

There were many mistakes made by the “sensationalists;” that’s true. I have not, however, found a higher degree of accuracy amongst the debunkers in their neat solutions to everything. But they always say their mistakes are never “intentional.” This may be true. What is indigestible is that they often claim the “sensationalists” made intentional mistakes for commercialism to subvert the truth.

There are no more mistakes in Charles Berlitz’s book, The Bermuda Triangle than there are in Larry Kusche’s book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery— Solved. Berlitz had inaccurate information upon which he based aspects of the theories. So did Larry Kusche for his solution.

I condemn neither. Berlitz dealt very little with the incidents. His was more of a theories book. Kusche dealt little with theory. His was more devoted to incidents. I believe, however, that Berlitz’s mistakes were far more innocent that Kusche’s.

When Larry Kusche thought it time to publish his book, he deferred to a large number of old newspaper accounts which he took uncritically as accurate information. “I found I couldn’t trust anything anybody else had written on the topic, because it was very flimsy.”

This is hypocritical, to say the least. Larry Kusche, in his position as a librarian, was actually the source for some of the greatest sensationalism. His Bermuda Triangle Bibliography, which he uncritically compiled at Arizona State University as source work for any inquirer, was the springboard for a number of writers. Charles Berlitz praised him in the introduction to his own bibliography. “Before mention of some of the books referred to in this present work, the author would like to recommend to the reader’s attention the Bermuda Triangle Bibliography compiled by Larry Kusche and Deborah Blouin, Arizona State University Library, April 1973, which contains numerous references, including books and newspaper and magazine articles, pertaining to the Bermuda Triangle.”

Kusche later admitted how he pitched his own book “ . . .we were swamped with requests, including orders from John Wallace Spencer, Richard Winer and Charles Berlitz. Harper and Row also ordered one, and I sent a note along, telling them I was writing a book. They offered me a contract based on two sample chapters.”

Kusche, however, did not use his own Bermuda Triangle Bibliography as the source for his own book, the source which had so impressed the other authors who tracked down its references and used them as sources for their books and lectures. Kusche instead used different newspaper accounts which he accepted uncritically as unchallenged fact. His “solution” was the result of these. Instead of updating his Bibliography, he seems to have pitched a book deal.

After Kusche’s book came out, with starkly different source material cited, and even condemning others for inaccuracy, Berlitz had his above praise omitted from later editions of his book, and made no reference to Kusche’s uncritical Bibliography.

Kusche received the praise as the “number one expert on the Bermuda Triangle” while Berlitz, Spencer and Winer were taking hits for sensationalism and inaccuracy thanks in part to Kusche’s Bermuda Triangle Bibliography. (These “sensationalists” had inquired at University level for information. I think that says something on their behalf.)

In an interview after his own publication, Kusche said “There’s a whole subculture of pseudo-scientific mystery writers who have been pumping out this kind of material on ancient astronauts, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, and other topics for many years, without opposition of any kind. I plan to bring my bulldozer in and show that their buildings aren’t concrete, but just bubbles and baubles piled high and deep.”

Kusche’s bulldozer, like all bulldozers, moved dirt around easy enough but stymied and choked at concrete, leaving many to feel that his book was better entitled “Bermuda Triangle Mystery Examined” rather than “Solved.” (Which would have been an excellent title because Kusche’s book has some worthwhile material in it as well.)

But Kusche’s bulldozer never moved a wealth of official documentation into public view. In fact, his purpose seemed to document and question public discourse on the Bermuda Triangle, not to document the Bermuda Triangle itself. This seems probable considering the amount of information available at his time that he overlooked. Searches of Civil Aeronautic Board records would have cued him into about 30 aircraft disappearances that had never been reported between 1964 and 1974. But because this would not be solving the Triangle but documenting it (indeed above and beyond the litany any other contemporary writer provided), we don’t see his “meticulous research” extending toward this aspect.

Kusche’s book turned out to be a paltry collection of only 57 incidents based on old newspaper accounts. Some were well known, others mediocre, some completely obscure that he could not find any newspaper accounts for. His “meticulous research” managed to obtain only about 6 accident reports. None solved the incident in question. Although he claimed he did not start out to solve the Triangle, some of the ludicrous statements he unashamedly resorted to belie this.

In regards the disappearance of the U.S.S. Cyclops he even went so far as to write. “I confidently decided that the newspapers, the Navy, and all the ships at sea had been wrong, and that there had been a storm near Norfolk that day strong enough to sink the ship.” On top of this, he writes: “Contrary to popular opinion, there never was an official inquiry into the disappearance . . .Had there been any investigation, the weather information would surely have been discovered.”

Three boxes (1068-1070) at the National Archives are composed of 1,500 papers on the official investigation into the disappearance of the Cyclops. There was no storm. Weather charts are in the information, testimonials, research, FBI investigations (when still called Bureau of Investigation). All the ships at sea, the Navy, and the newspapers had not been wrong. (Kusche even produced shadowy information from the Weather Bureau that proved “storm.”)

Kusche completely avoided, in his long recount and solution, that the vessel was due at Baltimore on March 13. Instead, he builds his case of storm for March 10, and places the vessel at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. This position would be a day or less from Baltimore. Thus, though he insists the engines were compounded and the vessel was making slower speeds, he places the Cyclops ahead of its ETA by 2 full days! But this position fits the rumors that a diver found a strange looking ship on the bottom here in 1968.

This diver’s fanciful description fits the Cyclops. “Hawes was stunned by the strange design of the ship,” reports Kusche, “Its bridge was high above the ship, supported by steel stilts. Upright beams like the skeleton of a skyscraper ran almost its entire length.”

Well, this fanciful description was not made up by Kusche, but I have found that he did have a hard time challenging patently impossible remembrances, especially if they contradict a simple solution, as his later work of misinformation The Disappearance of Flight 19 proved.

At 180 feet below the surface a diver is not going to be able to get such a good view of a ship as to describe it as such. If he spends enough time to do so he would easily have found its name. Also, I think most people are familiar now with the work of Dr. Bob Ballard. His research into such vessels as Titanic, Bismark, and the fleet of vessels of Savo Island, have consistently shown that the more superficial parts of the superstructures are swept away by the vessel’s roll under water when plunging to the bottom. This would include a bridge on stilts and the tall but thin derricks for loading coal on the Cyclops, which the diver Hawes claims to have seen picturesquely intact.

Kusche’s selectivity was remarkable in other cases. He accepted storms or bad weather unconditionally where a newspaper account has them listed. Where a vessel disappeared in good weather, he sought to quibble and find bad weather.

I don’t consider this skeptical inquiry.

The surfer of this web site will hopefully get a better feel for what skepticism is. I try to list as much factual information as possible regardless of how unpopular it might be to some. Hopefully, the surfer will at least learn the difference between a skeptic, an eager believer, and a debunker.

I hope all become skeptics, skeptics of many things. Without it, your curiosity becomes self-deception. Probe and study with skepticism but also with intelligence.

“Scientific Method” is often painted as some dull routine that haunts a laboratory. In fact, 9 of the skills of the Method are used by all people everyday. These, the 10 Process Skills of Scientific Inquiry which comprise Scientific Method, are:

Observe; Classify; Infer; Interpret; Measure; Predict; Questions; Hypotheses, Experiment; Model Building.

Today, the academic and scientific world is made up of true skeptics, befitting their scientific training and discipline. They discuss such things as inter dimensional physics, supersting, wormhole, hyperspace, light and heat’s travel on magnetism and any number of other theories in physics. As John Napier of the Smithsonian once observed: “Scientists are naturally gossipy people. They will tell all they know and allot they don’t know at the drop of a chairman’s gavel.”

The opposite end of such an attitude might be found in debunkers who ridicule such curiosity and optimism, public inquiry and debate. “Most people I’ve talked to thought they were doing creative thinking (“stretching their minds” is the current cliché), but all I ever heard was a regurgitation of one liners from Berlitz, von Daniken, and the rest of the gang,” said Kusche.

Nevertheless, science has had far more esoteric debates and discussions that have yielded more than mind stretching, as can be seen in the work of John Hutchison and his Hutchison Effect, the search for new forms of energy; and Dr. Hans Grabber in his pioneering work in deciphering anomalies of the sea and rogue waves; and several astrophysicists regarding the relationship of Time to Gravity, the Event Horizon and black holes. Such things would no doubt have been condemned 25 years ago as paranormal pursuits or as heresy, as Relative Physics was by Classic Physics.

The sea is a vast world outside our daily endeavour. Many cannot imagine it is a different world. It continues to hold its mysteries into the 21st century, and will no doubt hold many into the 22nd. Though the greatest part of this planet, it is but a small token of its elements and of the potential interplay of power beyond our ability to consider. Those who have traveled it more than the rest of us have come out with strange tales of unexplained “forces,” if you will. They have never attributed them to any supernatural phenomena.

Despite this, the “Bermuda Triangle” is reputed to be some metaphysical place, and anything odd and unusual reported in it to be supernatural by debunkers. They are, basically, the only ones who have promoted this.

I am going to be updating my “Those who lived to Tell” section in the near future. The surfer will be able to decide for themselves on the stories. Doubtless, I will have to take criticism for merely placing them on the web. But the two first process skills are Observe and Classify. The rest can’t even be done without this.

Read More »

Monday, 5 October 2009

Bermuda Triangle Myths & Facts part 2

Myth 3

In short, the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle became a mystery by a kind of communal reinforcement among uncritical authors and a willing mass media to uncritically pass on the speculation that something mysterious is going on in the Atlantic.

Fact 3

Wrong. And the acrimony is hypocritical since that is how the first 2 myths above became established, usually by debunkers spreading “communal reinforcement” that they have evidence by having no evidence or that they reflect the status quo as experienced by suburban America.

Myth 4

In 1492, shortly before making land in the West Indies, Christopher Columbus recorded in his ship's log that he and his crew had observed a large ball of fire fall into the sea and that the ship's compass was behaving erratically.

Fact 4

False. That happened shortly after leaving the Canary Islands. The erratic compasses readings were recorded thrice while in the Sargasso Sea and Triangle.

Myth 5

The Bermuda Triangle mystery is answered with latest science - static electricity is the culprit, not 4th dimensional hogwash— that a severe electrostatic charge on the human body and in turn in the central nervous system and the brain is the cause for the human pilot to lose consciousness. This unconscious state happens both in astronautics and aeronautics and has also been observed and recorded in the Bermuda Triangle aviation disasters. The Bermuda Triangle is a static electricity exchange place. The Bermuda Triangle is on [sic] of Earth's places where natural electricity is neutralized.

Fact 5

False. The effects of the Earth as a weak driver is interesting and the subject of some studies, as well as overwater locations where it might affect electromagnetism. But there is absolutely no evidence for static electricity in the Triangle cases, as claimed above. The claim that there was is utterly untrue. No pilots have been reported to pass out. How could you tell in a disappearance anyway? This originates with a man named Peter Staheli. He accepts the old and defunct lines attributed to Charles Taylor “everything is strange, wrong” etc., and so forth. This gives you an idea of his research methods. Electromagnetic and electrical effects in the area are being studied by others right now, with far better research methods than those that sponsored Staheli’s strange dogma.

Due to the strange outburst demonstrated by Staheli in response to this brief statement, it was necessary to place a page up clarifying the ruckus. See Comments

Myth 6

Lt. Charles Taylor, the leader of Flight 19, was actually a lazy slob, a drunk, and a careless navigator.

Fact 6

This rubbish stems from Larry Kusche who was all over the place in his 1980 book The Disappearance of Flight 19 which he wrote between two of his other stellars on how to scientifically pop popcorn. I cannot answer for what was in Kusche’s mind, but I would consider the result akin to clear victimization, as well as misrepresentation. I suggest the reader browse two articles on this site for more. Creating Confusion & Flight DUI. As far as I am concerned there is nothing worthwhile in the book. I have criticized his methods in The Bermuda Triangle Mystery— Solved, but still recommend it. However, with Disappearance I see no reason. There is no mystery why in the last 22 years it was never republished.

Read More »