Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Spinning Plait's...

I talked about the Phil Plait / Joe Rogan radio debate yesterday.

Well… there’s a PART II that was just put up, and I listened to it today.

I have to say that after talking about how much I enjoyed the first show, this second one was a wee bit more annoying. Joe stopped waiting for responses, and did the somewhat standard “conspiracy theorist” tactic of throwing out EVERY POSSIBLE question, and just saying that “it doesn’t make SENSE!” He would point out THIS inconsistency (and Phil would try to address it) and then he’d throw out THIS inconsistency (and Phil would try to address it) and then he’d…

After a while it just got tiring.

Phil did his best, but being on the phone end this time, I think he was at a disadvantage. Debating like this is VERY hard to do, especially when there is a set of FACTS that one side tries to adhere to.

Here's the thing: Complex systems are easy to pick apart. Period. When there’s SO much data available, it EASY to start seeing patterns and inconsistencies THAT AREN’T THERE. When you address and approach an issue with a PRE –CONCEIVED conclusion, that conclusion will only be RE-ENFORCED with every bit of “PSEUDO CONFIRMING” data you find. It happens with conspiracy theories, it happens with fortune tellers, it happens with “hidden messages”, it happens with Paul being dead.

You can look at ANY complex system and start to find internal inconsistencies or patterns and equate a general design or grand scheme to it, so long as you’re looking “backward” for a pre-established conclusion.

What Rogan kept on hammering away at were these as "inconsistencies." He also had the LOVELY position of not having to explain an ALTERNATE theory as to what went on. He could just say- “it all doesn’t make sense… we didn’t go to the moon…” and can ignore stuff like the thousands of people having to lie, the hundreds and hundreds of pounds of moon rocks, the observable remnants of the mission on the moon, the astronauts themselves, the fallacy of and sheer INCORRECTNESS of point after point he brought up…

Joe: the head of NASA resigned DAYS before the moon launch. Why?

Phil: Well no, he resigned almost a YEAR before.

Joe: Well yeah WHY!!!?? (ignoring the fact he just got wrong)

Phil: Well I don't know but it could be because...


AND he doesn’t need to offer ANY concrete reason why or more importantly HOW the landings would be faked on a such a grand scale. “I dunno man... it just doesn’t make sense…” isn’t the BEST argument.

(I still like Joe Rogan, but I think that his ire is COMPLETELY misdirected.)

OK. It is RIDICULOUSLY easy to make lots of DATA look like it’s supporting a PRE-CONCEIVED conclusion, ESPECIALLY when you gather said data with that very pre-conceived conclusion in mind.

Let’s try an experiment.

I’m going to show that the way things are arranged around my computer relate DIRECTLY to my date of birth. I have no idea if this will work, but what the fuck- let’s have some fun. (I promise all of the numbers and facts I’m about to spew are 100% accurate and not at all pre-planned. Seriously.)

This is my workstation. Pretty fucking glamorous, no?
There's always an intern under the desk ready to blow me.
I'm pretty sure his name is Eugene.

I was born June 8th, 1971. 6/8/71

That’s the data. Let’s go find it.

OK. First off, my keyboard is 17 inches across. 17 backwards is 71. SEVENTY ONE

Seven plus one equals eight. EIGHT

That very same keyboard is four inches away from the edge of the desk, and since two hands type on a keyboard, 4 and 4 is 8. June is the eight month of the year. EIGHT

My mouse pad is an eight by eight inch square. EIGHT.

My iMac monitor is 19 inches across. Nine minus one equals eight. EIGHT.

The screen on that monitor is 17 inches across. 17 backwards is 71. SEVENTY ONE.

From the left most edge of the desk (where Reginald the frog is sitting) to the right most edge of my mouse pad is 71 inches. SEVENTY ONE.

My mouse pad is 64 square inches. I used to have two mouse pads.
6+8+1+9+7+1=32 32 times 2 equals 64. 6/8/71

From the front edge of my desk to the center of my podcasting mic is 17 inches. 17 backwards is 71. SEVENTY ONE.

My lamp is 24 inches high. Two plus four equals six. SIX

My microphone is 16 inches from base to top. 16 plus 16 equals 32. 6+8+1+9+7+1=32. 6/8/71

The chord on my headphones is 85 inches long. 6+8+71= 85 6/8/71

Let’s get sillier shall we?...

Assign a number to each letter (a=1, b=2, c=3 etc…) and take the words JUNE and HRAB. June is 10, 21,14, 5. Hrab is 8, 18, 1, 2. Add all those numbers together and you get eighty-eight. EIGHT

Using the same system take the non-repeating letters in HRAB and GEORGE (hrabgeor) and add up their values. You get seventy three. Subtract two for the second G and E and you get… SEVENTY ONE.

HRAB = 38
1+9+7+1= 32

38 plus 32 equals 70, the year I was CONCEIVED…

I could go on and on… but this proves ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Doing all of this is the direct equivalent to saying:

  1. Wernher von Braun was a NAZI.
  2. Nazis lie.
  3. The moon landing WAS A LIE.


The real anti-intuitive thing about all of this is that the DEEPER you search for patterns, THE MORE LIKELY YOU’LL FIND THEM. It’s NOT because there are any patterns there to begin with. It’s because as you start to use more and more DATA to customize results that fit your PRE-CONCEIVED notion, you retain the confirming results and IGNORE the negative results. (I measured the distance from the wall to my computer. It was 20 inches. That number was no good, so I ignored it. IF it had been 19 inches, I would have said 9 minus 1 is EIGHT and used it. See?)

That’s why the deeper you delve into the JFK assassination, the Paul is dead mythos, or WHATEVER, the MORE stuff seems weird and bizarrely non-coincidental. It’s all equivalent to my desktop birthday scenario. BELIEVE me I could do all this again using my same “desk data pool” and find numerical connections to Zappa’s birthday, or David Byrne’s solo albums, or Stan Freberg’s shoe size or ANYTHING. The more I “researched”, the more “connections” I would find.

It IS kinda creepy though… kidding!

Regardless, kudos however to Phil Plait for TRYING to deal with a much more interruptive (this time) Joe Rogan.


Diane said...

Did you see the movie "The Number 23"?

George Hrab said...

I think I'll wait till the 5th to see it. You know... two plus three equals FIVE...


Haven't seen it yet... any good?

Looks creepy, but I kinda lost my respect for Joel Schumacher after Batman IV: The curse of the Bat Nipples.

(he is the director of it right?...)

Derek C said...

I was at TAM when this debacle was setup. I was also quite tired to listen to the second part. It really was a bad situation for my friend Phil. -sigh-

But, at least we now know exactly where good ol' Joe is coming from!

There is a big thread about this on our Skepticality forums as well... peolpe seem to have the same feelings... ;(