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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 7
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From Clark Johnsen's Diary, Entries in Four-Part Harmony
by Clark Johnsen

 

I. For Fear of the Gigglers: The Giggle Factor

This column is supposed to be about audio. All right, but first let's do some target practice.

Here's the thing, if I may, that prevents most people who realize elements of the truth, from expressing it openly: Fear of what They might say.

(Yes, Virginia, there is a They... )

Suppose you happen to know, for a fact, that certain events in cosmic, world or local history occurred not just randomly, or accidentally, as we are told, but rather as the result of, if you will, "interlocking directorates". With any kind of fame, or a family, you'd best stay silent, or, worst case, government agents may descend and/or dozens of lapdog journalists will start yapping in unison, "What are you? A Conspiracy Theorist?"

See how easy defamation of character is? Just get yourself branded "Conspiracy Theorist". The Giggle Factor! Nor do the shrewd Pharisees need to say who might be behind such a "conspiracy". You qualify for ridicule for suggesting even a hint of coordinated effort. One retort, however, provides a dignified exit: "So you think Windows conquered the world by accident, not by design, huh?"

Real-life conspiracy theorists, for the record, however, believe that collaboration among various factions, parties and institutions represents nothing very new or bizarre, only business as usual. But just try telling someone, for instance, about the key role in our national debt played by international bankers—i.e., those who lend to governments, who also collect huge interest payments—interest being the Number Two US budget line-item, after entitlements, for which noble purpose we incur that selfsame debt! Isn't that a wee tad… too… convenient?

Put it this way: The Very Clever, Very Very Rich somehow always contrive to expand government programs that cause government to go into debt and borrow money -- from them. With the principal, they hope, never to be repaid, the interest will be collected in perpetuity at taxpayers' expense. Deal?

Or should I say, New Deal?

And for good measure they sneer at the independent, not-so-very-rich, entrepreneurial and shop-keeping Republicans for not getting with the program.

A collaborative effort, don't you see, ladies and gentlemen, exists, just as in the days of slavery, to provide "the lower classes" with free room and board in exchange for their support, thereby (in the name of "caring") depriving them of initiative, self-respect and independent income. And all the while, those responsible for perpetuating their plight collect guaranteed interest on the debt—Hah!—such programs inevitably run up.

OK, just a theory, this road to serfdom. Please don't call me a conspiracy theorist!

But then we have what that old socialist George Bernard Shaw himself once said: "Whoever robs Peter to pay Paul, can certainly count on Paul's vote."

Or, outside the political and economic arena, suppose you've seen a UFO… And tell someone. You know what will happen.

The Giggle Factor: Just mention to most people, anything they've never been exposed to in the newsstand press or on TV—for instance, that hookup wires can sound different (to yank us back momentarily into audio)—and you encounter tremendous resistance.

At the 91st AES Convention, in the presenters' green room, I overheard the late PR-man Len Feldman remark, "Of course I can hear differences in speaker cables. I just don't write about it." Fear of the Giggle Factor rides again, enforced by Establishment policy and wrapped in the mainstream press's octopus arms. The "politically-correct" stance must be sternly maintained, since the risk in creating a conditioned readership is that they might turn on you, bloody in tooth and claw, should you ever dare to "change your mind".

A dangerous beast, that captive audience; they can get so very upset! Best to keep them content and unchallenged.

In society today, journalists command respect simply because most of us cannot conceive they may labor for a hidden agenda. Yet when a Columbia School of Cattle Prodding—excuse me, Journalism—a little joke—survey asked why graduates went into their field, a vast majority responded, "To change society." The inevitable result? Partiality, opinion, misinformation, cynicism and lies replace a simple reporting of occurrences. For instance, look how every bindlestiff of them in audio, imbibers in digital doctrine all, declared early for CD, further incanting the planted phrase, "CD quality sound" to describe every promoter's wetdream of massive sales down the pike.

Think: "CD quality sound". An oxymoron, if ever there were one. Just as in, "Museum quality prints".

Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you, and try not to let this destroy your faith in the integrity of journalism, that any given writer, unless you happen to know otherwise, must be assumed to be making the whole thing up. Creative prose, after all, is their principle calling.

Writers are natural-born liars.

And now I give you, two even more unpleasant propositions:

All writing is lying.

All reading, is lying to oneself.

Below I report on Dick Pierce's condescendingly P.C. presentation in 1999 to the Boston AES chapter. Now for further illustration I call upon John Watkinson's farewell column in Studio Sound. (Why do so few "quote" audiophiles monitor the professional press? More to the point, why does the press itself never monitor the press?)

"I don't see any need to suffer fools and it's nice to be sufficiently articulate to ease the suffering.* It has been particularly satisfying to lampoon the high-end hi-fi fraternity where conviction is in inverse proportion to knowledge.** I've recently fitted conical spikes and an oxygen-free interface cable to my line printer because it improves the quality of the printout.*** Naturally enough, lesser mortals with untrained eyes can't see any difference, but I can still justify the vast amount I spent because I've convinced myself that I can tell."

Well! Best not contradict the unpleasant Mr. Watkinson—or he might giggle at you!

__________________________________________________________________________________

* See, right away, writerly skills are exercised.

** Argument by assertion, with sarcasm.

***Pure sarcasm, and not even funny.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Wider-circulation writers, however, have learned how to disguise their weasely ways: Bill Wolfe, Gannett News Service, May 25, 1997 (emphasis added): "With the big switch to digital, TV viewers will see the same kind of change that came when recording companies switched from the vinyl LPs to digital compact discs." Oh, yeah? And that's supposed to be good?

Scorn and derision are forever heaped upon anyone who dares to stray beyond the narrow confines of "scientific" dogma. You know this, if you've ever heard an improvement offered by an officially unsanctioned change in, or addition to, an audio system. With reptilian aplomb They proceed to instruct you that, essentially, you are full of shite. Just kidding yourself, or suffering from an emotional illness. Trying to sell something fraudulently. Snake oil. Voodoo. Alternatively, if there actually is an audible difference, who's to say for sure whether it's an improvement? They ask.

Such highhandedness is no stranger in the sciences. Robert Koch (germs cause disease), Ignaz Semmelweiss (doctors, wash your hands!) and Louis Pasteur (living things produce fermentation) were all hounded by the science establishment of their day, and nearly to their deaths. When Marconi reported hearing a transmitted Morse code signal for "S" clear across the Atlantic, most scientists—who didn't know about ionospheric skip—denied it because there was no direct line-of-sight. More recently, to have talked to geologists about continental drift more than forty-five years ago would have gotten you booed off the platform.

Even today, anyone who points out the numerous palpably-faked NASA photos supposedly shot on the lunar surface is dismissed as someone who "thinks we never landed on the moon". Scientific (!) American, February 2003: "A fair number of Americans… believe that this whole business of moon landings really is a fairy tale. They believe that the landings were a big hoax staged on a set in the Mohave Desert, perpetuated evidently to convince everyone that U.S. technology was the bestest [sic] in the whole world… But I would estimate that 20 percent of Americans probably think that the Fox show Malcolm in the Middle is a documentary about a family in crisis."

Ridicule, ridicule, ridicule—the main tool of mind controllers, applied here with a giant trowel.

But not only have these scorners and mockers never admitted to inspecting the pictorial evidence (glaringly wrong shadow angles, odd reflections, obvious fill-in lighting, visible marks for set dressers, TV footage in disagreement with still shots) they also can't even divulge what most of the dissident analysts really believe, namely, that if we indeed landed on the moon, the photography got fogged and a visual record had to be reconstructed for public consumption. Is that so terrible, or unbelievable?

See? Once the material is presented properly, all of a sudden it seems perfectly plausible. And here you were, moments ago, thinking the whole idea was silly. That's what you get, for believing us writers and not checking it out for yourself.

So goes the march of casuistry and denial, producing an enforced conformity of opinion. But what a heady pleasure it is, occasionally to be able to create cognitive dissonance in one of Them! To demonstrate, in no uncertain way, that polishing a CD makes for better sound despite no changes in the data stream. And watch Them hurriedly retrench.

But we all know whom to blame, really: Hacks who no longer care to distinguish, much less tell, the truth, and "scientists" who are enmeshed in their own strict orthodoxy. These are the true conspirators.

"Why doth conspiracy flourish? Because if it flourish, none dare call it conspiracy."


II. What is Truth?

Truth must be repeated again and again because error is constantly being preached around us, and not only by isolated individuals but by the majority! In the newspapers and encyclopedias, in the schools and universities, everywhere error is dominant, securely and comfortably ensconced in public opinion which is on its side.
J. Wolfgang von Goethe

A new scientific truth never triumphs by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck

Probably all education is but two things: First, parrying of the ignorant children's impetuous assault on presumed truth, and, second, a gentle, imperceptible, step-by-step initiation into the lie.
Franz Kafka

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer

An error is the more dangerous, the more truth it contains.
Henri-Frederic Amiel

I speak truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare.
Montaigne

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.
Winston Churchill


III. Analog Myth and Digital Hooey

Such was the title of a talk given by the reknowned Dick Pierce at the Boston AES Section, addressing "the pervasive myths about digital vs. analog audio reproduction." According to the announcement, these myths "originate because the principles involved are counter to most people's intuition. His goal is to illustrate the debunking process."

Well! If ever a flag could be raised to make this full-grown bull see red, the above blurb would serve very nicely. Can arrogance of such magnitude be allowed to pass unchallenged? Not while I'm in the 'hood!

Les' go!

What makes this assignment most delectable is that the tactics of his whole talk will surely be lifted, quite unintentionally, from a little tract called "Zen and the Art of Debunkery" (excerpted below). In other words, I predict that Mr. Pierce, a fierce and intelligent meterologist and a man righteously indignant about nearly everything, must needs resort to "debaters' tactics". For example, one expects to encounter the straw man argument, reasoning from particular to general, guilt by association, misdirection, the clever sidestep, reductio ad absurdum, the ad hominem, etc.

Such rhetorical maneuvers may all too readily sway an uncritical audience, but in a formal debate with real judges, they have a marked downside: If the opposition catches you, you lose!

This shall be no debate, however, so questions from the floor must suffice to tip his hand. Meaning, yours truly to the rescue! In this pursuit experience tells me that outright confrontation only confirms a conditioned audience's reaction. The best technique by far, especially given that I shall probably be the only person present holding anti-establishment views, is to play out enough line to let the man wind his own noose.

Rope-a-dope!

The meeting begins, as usual, with sandwiches and Cokes, as AES members gather and discuss the burning issues of audio today, such as new work stations and website strategies. The preliminaries over, chairman Ken Malsky introduces our guest. Mr. Pierce opens in affable fashion, except gradually one realizes that his numerous japes are all at others' expense.

Shortly he launches into the speech proper. "I am not debunking here, so much as explaining how I do debunking. If you're entrenched in the myths, I can't do anything about you. (Laughter)... Most of the driving force of myths has emotion behind it. When individual preference reigns supreme, the facts seem to disappear. What you get instead is bogus technical explanations.

"I'll project some quotes. Here's one from Laura Dearborn's book, Good Sound. You see how she talks about 'gaps between the bits'. Actually there are none. Noise, or the artificial noise known as dither, ambiguates the signal. Have you heard that word before, 'ambiguates'?..."

Mr. Pierce, unconsciously playing Mr. Rodgers!

"Let me show you some explanatory graphs... Although I know you LP-ophiles in the audience will laugh at this." (Laughter, but not from any LP-ophiles; we AESers are as one here, in our agreement on CD sanctity.) Our lesson continues, perfectly conventional and unassailable apart from that questionable slur on LP analog adherents.

"Now here's another one from the same source. I love this book, it has so many good targets to shoot at!" (Laughter) Now projected on the giant screen we see an excerpt involving a minor misconception of error correction, again an easy target that Mr. Pierce proceeds to annihilate, employing a Shakespearean quote no less! Still, no information here not known already to 100% of the audience.

What is this? A feel-good session?

A third overhead. "It's Ms. Dearborn again! 'Oversampling is how they do error correction.' If anyone has a camera here, take a picture of this one! It couldn't be more wrong!... Oversampling only helps with the aliasing situation." At this point Mr. Pierce graciously switches to some slides that illustrate the real problem. Then finally, "But I'm not convinced that aliasing is such a bad thing after all. No musical instruments have content high enough to..." Well, we know where this one goes.

Then a question: "That might be true for CD at 44.1 kHz, but lots of systems run lower and aliasing is clearly audible...?"

Mr. Pierce's response, in toto, on record: "Yes, OK."

Undaunted, he continues. "Now, about expensive cables and things like that: Most people don't realize that digital signals are in the RF area and sometimes it's not easy making everything talk together there." Here we get another schoolmarmish discussion about interface matching, but not without a sneer or two in the direction of cables costing more than, say, $20/meter.

Suddenly, it's over! That was quick! And not particularly inflammatory either. Darn! "Does anyone have further questions?" While formulating my own, I miss one that hugely animates the speaker. Here he goes: "...an investment in Purposeful Mythology. I object to cynical economic gain based on falsehood. Although don't get me wrong, cynical economic gain by itself is OK." (Good man!)

"Take the infamous George Tice, who makes products in the power connection area. His so-called Tice Clock, for three-hundred dollars or so, was nothing more than an off-the-shelf unit. They were totally unmodified. The special screwlocks were left untouched. What it actually did, was introduce RF hash into miserable high-end preamps without adequate RF filtration. And some people liked it."

Can that be true? How does a clock have much RF anyway? And why just preamps?

"Has anyone heard of Mpingo Discs? Little half-inch-or-so pieces of wood that are said to enhance performance by their mere presence?" (Mild derisive laughter)

"And green paint for CDs. That's a good one!" (Loud derisive laughter) "Here's what happened. Philips was making a player with green LEDs. Someone on the Net suggested—as a joke!—using a green pen for the discs themselves. Next thing you know, someone came out with a $30 Magic Marker. And they said that because green was the complement or something, the opposite of red, that's why it works... That's totally bogus!... The green pen does absolutely nothing." (Applause)

He's on a roll, folks!

"Back on some April First, someone posted an article on WD-40, about spraying it on CDs to lubricate them. Two months later The Absolute Sound was trumpeting this substance. It was a joke! And they didn't get it." The magazine actually was Stereophile, and the substance was Armor All, but never mind. Time for my first question to this sarcastic s.* b., pardon my French.

"On the Net and at other locations lately, there's been a lot of talk about CD decoulombizing, only they call it degaussing. You wave a tape demagnetizer over a CD and it sounds much better? What do you think?" Few people present can possibly know that the original instigator of this genuinely useful procedure was myself, there in person. How delightful to have one's secret pleasures!

Slowly the predicted laughter builds, more like titters actually, and everyone turns in my direction. Especially I shall never forget the expression on the face of the fellow nearest me, Michael Fleming, a personable young producer at WGBH-FM, the pure joy upon his countenance, the joy of sharing, even for one brief moment, such sheer lunacy. Then Mr. Pierce speaks: "What did you say, 'decoulom...'"

"Decoulombizing! Static discharging."

"Yes. I can't keep track of it because you get rid of one thing and they come up with another! And they've also got to come up with plausible explanations so they talk about iron in aluminum... But the content of iron in the aluminum surface is measurable in atoms. The other explanation they come up with is, distorted pit geometry."

Very clever of him, shifting the argument from static discharge to magnetic phenomena, then dismissing it all with a rhetorical flourish. But bottom-line, our distinguished speaker seems not to have investigated the phenomenon and simply won't admit it.

Next comes a question concerning printouts of several moments of digital data off a CD, both before and after some exotic treatment has been applied, such as published in Mix (October 1991) by Dr. Toby Mountain; the "ones and zeros" in code turn out, of course, despite attestations of altered sound, to be exactly the same. Just as Mr. Pierce gleefully asserts.

"Yes, of course! But, ah! What about jitter? That's their response!" Now, Mr. Pierce has never identified who the "they/their" whom he has so often belittled tonight may be, although readers of this magazine know the answer, don't we? Us! Next he proceeds, unexpectedly, to "debunk" the whole jitter thing; and who knows, here he might be correct.

Another question is asked, in re the above, about an upcoming British AES section presentation. "Yes, I understand Gabe Wiener... has some hits. Differences noted from different pressing plants etc. But nothing I would go to the newspapers about."

Slippery guy! "Nothing I would go to the newspapers about." What is that supposed to mean, exactly?

Next: "George Cardas came up with the most bogus explanation of soldering I've ever heard... And he charges one dollar for a millimeter of wire!" (Giggles)

Then comes my second question: "What, if any, role should listening play in dismissing these 'myths'? Or should we be satisfied just with 'debunking'?"

Be careful, Dr. Doctrine!

"There's a lot of good data out there. But most explanations are bogus. If your perception is real, however, we need to understand that. But people are spending more effort explaining themselves, than in understanding what they've heard. Listening is very important—but you have to separate people from their prior opinions."

Damn! That's good! However, he ducked the question. So here goes the follow-up: "Then you've listened, for instance, to the '$30 Magic Marker' you mentioned?" Hmmm?

"Yes. I tried it. But a green paint chip fell into the mechanism and stopped it. Silence was the only difference I could hear." (Appreciative laughter)

Thank you, thank you, you supercilious... Sorry, but, gotcha! Can't talk straight about simple listening, eh? Must ever act the comedian, huh? But, sir, how does a "Magic Marker" flake off, anyway?

Do I detect an error here?

Oh, I can hardly wait until the moment you read this report, Dick, and realize, I am your worst dream about "CD degaussing," an extremely efficacious procedure, although why it works is a serious question, one which you cannot even begin to answer, obviously.

I'm high up there on your other unapproved lists too. Tubes. LPs. Wires. Oh, I exult!

Going way back, for non-local members of the reading audience, Dick Pierce was one of the principals in the long-gone but unlamented Suffolk Audio. This outfit occupied a small fifth-floor room on the old Music Row—Steinway, Boston Music Company, G. Schirmer & Sons—on Boylston Street across from Boston Common. We're talking circa 1974. I visited there three or four times, but the experience was always unnerving because they treated customers with utter condescension. Not the customer per se, actually, so much as what he owned. Almost nothing was good enough for them, except whatever they themselves provided. Suffolk Audio was the original snooty audio salon and roundly despised by everyone, except they did have some good stuff so one was forced to shop them. Nor, in my experience, were they much more pleasant over the telephone, making every simple inquiry a teeth-gritting affair.

No one that I knew understood how, with that attitude, they managed to stay in business, and indeed, soon after moving over to Cambridge (and out of Suffolk County), Suffolk Audio went belly-up. Perhaps they were too snobbish even for the Harvard crowd, if you can imagine, although in all fairness I must confess, I don't know what their business problems were.

So I suppose that it does not surprise me at all to find Dick Pierce still sustaining the grand imperious tradition. I am only saddened to discover that he seems to have wholly "gone over" to the other side, the side that dismisses listening altogether and disses whoever claims to hear differences among things where convention sternly decrees differences do not exist.


IV. Zen... and the Art of Debunkery (Abridged)
By Dan Drasin

Like all systems of truth seeking, science, properly conducted, has a profoundly expansive, liberating impulse at its core. This "Zen" in the heart of science is revealed when the practitioner sets aside arbitrary beliefs and cultural preconceptions, and approaches the nature of things with "beginner's mind." When this is done, reality can speak freshly and freely, and can be heard more clearly. Appropriate testing and objective validation can—indeed, *must*—come later.

Seeing with humility, curiosity and fresh eyes was once the main point of science. But today it is often a different story. As the scientific enterprise has been bent toward exploitation, institutionalization, hyperspecialization and new orthodoxy, it has increasingly preoccupied itself with disconnected facts in a psychological, social and ecological vacuum. So disconnected has official science become from the greater scheme of things, that it tends to deny or disregard entire domains of reality and to satisfy itself with reducing all of life and consciousness to a dead physics.

As the millennium turns, science seems in many ways to be treading the weary path of the religions it presumed to replace. Where free, dispassionate inquiry once reigned, emotions now run high in the defense of a fundamentalized "scientific truth." As anomalies mount up beneath a sea of denial, defenders of the Faith and the Kingdom cling with increasing self-righteousness to the hull of a sinking paradigm. Faced with provocative evidence of things undreamt of in their philosophy, many otherwise mature scientists revert to a kind of skeptical infantilism characterized by blind faith in the absoluteness of the familiar. Small wonder, then, that so many promising fields of inquiry remain shrouded in superstition, ignorance, denial, disinformation, taboo... and debunkery.

What is "debunkery?" Essentially it is the attempt to invalidate new information and insight by substituting scient*istic* propaganda for the scient*ific* method.

To throw this kind of pseudoscientific behavior into bold—if somewhat comic—relief, I have composed a useful "how-to" guide for aspiring debunkers.  So without further ado...

How to Debunk Just About Anything

Before commencing to debunk, prepare your equipment. Equipment needed: one armchair.

Put on the right face. Cultivate a condescending air that suggests that your personal opinions are backed by the full faith and credit of God. Employ vague, subjective, dismissive terms such as "ridiculous" or "trivial" in a manner that suggests they have the full force of scientific authority.

Portray science not as an open-ended process of discovery but as a holy war against unruly hordes of quackery- worshipping infidels. Since in war the ends justify the means, you may fudge, stretch or violate the scientific method, or even omit it entirely, in the name of defending the scientific method.

Keep your arguments as abstract and theoretical as possible. This will "send the message" that accepted theory overrides any actual evidence that might challenge it--and that therefore no such evidence is worth examining.

Arrange to have your message echoed by persons of authority. The degree to which you can stretch the truth is directly proportional to the prestige of your mouthpiece.

Always refer to unorthodox statements as "claims," which are "touted," and to your own assertions as "facts," which are "stated."

Avoid examining the actual evidence. This allows you to say with impunity, "I have seen absolutely no evidence to support such ridiculous claims!"

If examining the evidence becomes unavoidable, report back that "there is nothing new here!" If confronted by a watertight body of evidence that has survived the most rigorous tests, simply dismiss it as being "too pat."

Equate the necessary skeptical component of science with *all* of science. Emphasize the narrow, stringent, rigorous and critical elements of science to the exclusion of intuition, inspiration, exploration and integration. If anyone objects, accuse them of viewing science in exclusively fuzzy, subjective or metaphysical terms.

Insist that the progress of science depends on explaining the unknown in terms of the known. In other words, science equals reductionism. You can apply the reductionist approach in any situation by discarding more and more and more evidence until what little is left can finally be explained entirely in terms of established knowledge.

Downplay the fact that free inquiry and legitimate disagreement are a normal part of science.

At every opportunity reinforce the notion that what is familiar is necessarily rational. The unfamiliar is therefore irrational, and consequently inadmissible as evidence.

Characterize your opponents as "uncritical believers." Summarily dismiss the notion that debunkery itself betrays uncritical belief, albeit in the status quo.

"Occam's Razor," or the "principle of parsimony," says the correct explanation of a mystery will usually involve the simplest fundamental principles. Insist, therefore, that the most familiar explanation is by definition the simplest! Imply strongly that Occam's Razor is not merely a philosophical rule of thumb but an immutable law.

Since the public tends to be unclear about the distinction between evidence and proof, do your best to help maintain this murkiness. If absolute proof is lacking, state categorically that "there is no evidence!"

In any case, imply that proof precedes evidence. This will eliminate the possibility of initiating any meaningful process of investigation—particularly if no criteria of proof have yet been established for the phenomenon in question. Insist that criteria of proof cannot possibly be established for phenomena that do not exist!

Although science is not supposed to tolerate vague or double standards, always insist that unconventional phenomena must be judged by a separate, yet ill-defined, set of scientific rules. Do this by declaring that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence"-- but take care never to define where the "ordinary" ends and the "extraordinary" begins. This will allow you to manufacture an infinitely receding evidential horizon; i.e., to define "extraordinary" evidence as that which lies just out of reach at any point in time.

Use the word "imagination" as an epithet.

If a significant number of people agree that they have observed something that violates the consensus reality, simply ascribe it to "mass hallucination." Avoid addressing the possibility that the consensus reality might itself constitute a mass hallucination.

Ridicule, ridicule, ridicule. It is far and away the single most chillingly effective weapon in the war against discovery and innovation. Ridicule has the unique power to make people of virtually any persuasion go completely unconscious in a twinkling. It fails to sway only those few who are of sufficiently independent mind not to buy into the kind of emotional consensus that ridicule provides.

Imply that investigators of the unorthodox are zealots. Suggest that in order to investigate the existence of something one must first believe in it absolutely. Then demand that all such "true believers" know all the answers to their most puzzling questions in complete detail ahead of time. Convince people of your own sincerity by reassuring them that you yourself would "love to believe in these fantastic phenomena." Carefully sidestep the fact that science is not about believing or disbelieving, but about finding out.

Employ "TCP": Technically Correct Pseudo-refutation. Example: if someone remarks that all great truths began as blasphemies, respond immediately that not all blasphemies have become great truths. Because your response was technically correct, no one will notice that it did not really refute the original remark.

When an unexplained phenomenon demonstrates evidence of intelligence (as in the case of the mysterious crop circles) focus exclusively on the mechanism that might have been wielded by the intelligence rather than the intelligence that might have wielded the mechanism. The more attention you devote to the mechanism, the more easily you can distract people from considering the possibility of non-ordinary intelligence.

Reinforce the popular fiction that our scientific knowledge is complete and finished. Do this by asserting that "if such-and-such were true, we would would already know about it!"

Insist that such-and-such unorthodox claim is not scientifically testable because no self-respecting grantmaking organization would fund such ridiculous tests.

Hold claimants responsible for the production values and editorial policies of any media or press that reports their claim. If an unusual or inexplicable event is reported in a sensationalized manner, hold this as proof that the event itself must have been without substance or worth.

When a witness or claimant states something in a manner that is scientifically imperfect, treat this as if it were not scientific at all. If the claimant is not a credentialed scientist, argue that his or her perceptions cannot possibly be objective.

If you're unable to attack the facts of the case, attack the participants—or the journalists who reported the case. *Ad- hominem* arguments, or personality attacks, are among the most powerful ways of swaying the public and avoiding the issue...

Fabricate confessions. If a phenomenon stubbornly refuses to go away, set up a couple of colorful old geezers to claim they hoaxed it. The press and the public will always tend to view confessions as sincerely motivated, and will promptly abandon their critical faculties. After all, nobody wants to appear to lack compassion for self-confessed sinners.

Fabricate entire research projects. Declare that "these claims have been thoroughly discredited by the top experts in the field!" Do this whether or not such experts have ever actually studied the claims, or, for that matter, even exist.

Equate nature's laws with our current understanding of nature's laws!

Accuse conspiracy theorists of being conspiracy theorists and of believing in conspiracies!

* * *

Daniel Drasin is a writer and media producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Excerpted with the author's permission.

The complete version of this document may be found at http://members.aol.com/ddrasin/zen.html

 

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