Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Ego Trumps Truth

Some little upstart in Jerusalem - who happens to be female *gasp* - has thrown a blanket of doubt (more like a spear in the side) on the reality of the 'authors' of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1947 by, funnily enough, a shepherd.

"The texts are of great religious and historical significance, as they include some of the only known surviving copies of Biblical documents made before 100 A.D., and preserve evidence of considerable diversity of belief and practice within late Second Temple Judaism."

She says that the people who biblical scholars believe wrote the texts in and around 150bc didn't even exist. This has been the direction of scholars and their research for the last SIXTY YEARS. We're talking SIXTY years of Christian, Jewish, Catholic scholar waffle being thrown in the bin. It's like starting for the DISCOVERY of the south pole, researching and documenting your trip and discoveries on the way and finding out SIXTY YEARS LATER you were holding the compass upside down. lol It's HUGE.

Anyway, typically the 'Dead Sea Scroll Community' went "pffffft". They won't enter into the conversation.

When someone challenges the 'truth' - not saying she IS right, or wrong, I have NO idea - but they get written off without debate. I saw one dude challenging the generally accepted idea about the Aztec's (or was it the Inca?) once. He got vilified. Turns out, he was right.

It seems to me the study of the universe - ours as a species, and the big black one - is based on evidence and guess work. What we know as fact, really isn't, it's the generally accepted conclusion to the reasoning behind the evidence.

Reality is what the majority believe. Arrogance is a negative. Arrogance is our major fault as a species.

...that and not being able to fly. That would be cool.



  1. Another thought provoking post from Moko. "Reality is what the majority believe" -very nice.

  2. Thanks Lou. Have a read of this. It's from Veronika Decides To Die, by Paulo Coelho. Couldn't recommend him more.

    "I'm going to tell you a story," said Zedka. "A powerful wizard, who wanted to destroy an entire kingdom, placed a magic potion in the well from which all the inhabitants drank. Whoever drinks that water would go mad.

    "The following morning, the whole population drank from the well and they all went mad, apart from the king and his family, who had a well set aside for them alone, which the magician had not managed to poison. The king was worried and tried to control the population by issuing a series of edicts governing security and public health. The policemen and inspectors, however, had also drunk the poisoned water, and they thought the king's decisions were absurd and resolved to take no notice of them.

    "When the inhabitants of the kingdom heard these decrees, they became convinced that the king had gone mad and was now giving nonsensical orders. They marched on the castle and called for his abdication.

    "In despair the king prepared to step down from the throne, but the queen stopped him, saying 'Let us go and drink from the communal well. Then we will be the same as them.'

    "And that was what they did: The king and the queen drank the water of madness and immediately began talking nonsense. Their subjects repented at once; now that the king was displaying such wisdom, why not allow him to continue ruling the country?

    "The country continued to live in peace, although its inhabitants behaved very differently from those of its neighbors. And the king was able to govern until the end of his days."

    It can be taken in many and varying ways. Some quite controversial, and some really profound. But a good yarn nonetheless.

  3. They say the sign of a good scientist is that they will change or abandon their theories based on the discovery of better conflicting evidence. It would be interesting to hear Dr yobbos thoughts on this.

    I am arrogant enough to think I could fly if I really wanted to, is that a fault or cool?

  4. This is a classic example of current accepted belief being stung. So many people have a vested interest whether it be ego, pride, money, whatever in maintaining the currently accepted view.
    Flat earth anyone?
    Nice work Moko.

  5. I think I may have drunk from that well during a big night out a few years ago!

  6. I think the arrogance is in the 'knowing', not the believing. Just don't kill yourself trying to figure out the truth. lol.

    I hope he drops by.

  7. Therbs ~ Did you know the North Pole is actually the South Pole?. We've got it arse about face.

  8. I have no great experience with regard to historical, religious scholarship. So with that caveat in mind I would like to add my thoughts regarding claims by a lone voice outside the mainstream when in comes to challenging the orthodoxy.

    Your examples cited are true, and I can add a few more: Alfred Wegener’s proposal of Continental drift in 1912, ridiculed until the 1950s; the belief that meteorites came from beyond the earth, stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria…

    All these were championed by individuals against the dominant theory.

    However for every one of these there are another 1000 of lone individuals ‘challenging’ the dominant view held by people with a vested interest due to ego, pride, money, whatever in maintaining the currently accepted view, whose theories have never worked or even been supported by the evidence. If you read the annual reports from the patent office with the submissions on perpetual motion machines you can see how extreme, and unjustified some of these ideas are. Mearly being a claim against the orthodoxy is not sufficent in itself of validity no matter how entrenced the orthodoxy.

    In science the Popperian method is propose a theory based on a model of how part of the universe works that can be tested (is falsifiable), conduct experiment to test theory, if it passes then accept the results and continue to build the model. If it fails, revise the theory and develop new model.

    It is also true that prevailing or dominant theory can be shown to be in error at extremes but still work enough to use eg Newton physics breaking down on the quantum scale, Newtonian gravity replace with einsteinium space time on the massive.

    It is also recognised eg Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions - that it usually takes a generation of older scientists to die out before the newer, once radical theory is accepted.

    With regard to any theory that challenges this dominant paradigm then - If it is a theory that has been shown to work, can be used to predict behaviour and hasn’t been shown to fail then to overturn it I fall back on the axiom of Marcello Truzzi the skeptic’s skeptic.

    "In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis --saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact--he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof".
    – Marcello Truzzi, On Pseudo-Skepticism, Zetetic Scholar, 12/13, pp3-4, 1987

    Or more eloquently

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”

    So while it is possible the Dead Sea Scrolls are not written by the people who the scholars say wrote them, at the moment I would tend to side with the current orthodoxy on this debate until sufficient further proof turns up.

    Sorry for the long post but I have been trying to argue with a few people in the anti-vaccine camp and they tend to use the same “of course they would say that we're challenging the orthodoxy” argument a lot, which annoys me because they are using psudoscience and illogical to justify a decision that will put my child at risk by not immunising their child.

    Good post Moko, an interesting topic to discuss -the nature of how we investigate our historical place in the world and the very nature of how we evaluate information. With so many sources available the skills of critical thinking have never been more important.

  9. Yeah, they really should be debating the officially sanctioned 'safe' crap we shove own our kids throats as a risk to their long term welfare before the supposed drama with eradicating the 'plague'.

    Mate, long post all you want, glad I got you thinking.

    Through my little bit of law studying that I'm doing it seems the same can be said for senior judges.

    I think a percentage of acknowledging a new reality is acknowledging your own fallibility. For some I think that's toughest of all. At what point DO you write off another's efforts at altering your perception of reality?. When they start going on about crop circles?.

    I think ego, pride, and money are at the root of their reasoning behind them being dismissive.

    I think 'Extraordinary Claims' STAY claims until someone listens to the proof.

  10. The kingdom you described....with the crazy well? Those of us here in the US believe you just described the State of Texas.

  11. lol Yeah, and in Australia, it's the Aussie Capital Territory.

    ...and Auckland, in Un Zud.

  12. Hi folks.

    "The sign of a good scientist is that they will change or abandon their theories based on the discovery of better conflicting evidence."

    YES. Absolutely. In fact any scientist at all - good, bad, indifferent or me - is no scientist at all if they are NOT prepared to do this, once the evidence against is compelling. But the problem here is that all good scientists know they are good, are told they are good, are funded and published and promoted because they are good, and after a while, believe they are more than good but are absolutely shit hot. And hence ego, pride and competitiveness wins out over scientific integrity.

    "The arrogance is in the 'knowing', not the believing."

    Agreed. A scientist that genuinely claims to 'know' (rather than being misquoted as such by shit or lazy journalism) is moving from science into faith. All we can do - and all we should be telling people we do - is to come up with the best explanation of the facts as we can come up with from the data we can gather about the universe. Sadly because of ego, the need to get promoted/published/funded on the scientists side and the desire to turn an easy exploitational buck and the lack of giving a shit for factual reporting on the media's side, it ain't how it usually turns out.

    "Just don't kill yourself trying to figure out the truth."

    Yeah, but what else are we here to do though? If we're not trying to understand the world around us - if we're content to settle for the same old explanations (ie 'it is' because God/Allah/Darwin/some dude in a lab coat said it is) rather than having a crack at figuring it out for ourselves - then what are we doing? As the great Robbie Phillis once said, "We're not here to f**k spiders."

    No, I don't know what he was on about either, but he was pretty handy on a Kawasaki superbike.

    Re Barnesm's superb dissection of the history and philosophy of science and scientific method, very little I can add here but for a layman's look at the same territory - though more about the conflicting personalities than the ideas - Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything paints a persuasive picture about how nearly every breakthrough scientific idea was opposed vehemently by the establishment (religious or scientific), the propagators of the ideas vilified - from Galileo to Darwin and well into the modern era.

    "It would be interesting to hear Dr yobbos thoughts on this."

    Nah it wouldn't but probably too late now.

    Great post Moko.

  13. As someone who isn't the least scientific, I am always ready to hear new theories. Something that I have noticed when a new theory is presented is that while the scientist presenting the new theory is elaborate and descriptive, the ones refuting it are generally terse and somewhat vague.

    I guess when you get poked with a stick you get a bit sharp with folks.

  14. Now I am really confused, can I fly or what?

  15. Great post Moko. A bit early for me to sort out right now, but I'm going to think on it...after coffee.


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