Saturday, October 22, 2011

An experiment in credulity

Yesterday Skyler, her father and I explored a few of the rutted and pitted roads of Mamaku, that forested pumice plateauland whose strange beauty James Cowan celebrated in a 1929 essay for the wonderful New Zealand Railways Magazine. As we rattled along between stretches of regenerating rimu and doomed radiata, my father-in-law and I swapped complaints about the irrationality of the world.

Alan bemoaned the Ufologists, psychics, crystal wielders, reiki-enhanced masseurs, and questers after the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria who have infested the Steiner schools where he has spent most of his career; I countered with gripes about Celtic New Zealand conspiracy theorists. We soon reached a comfortably smug consensus about the incorrigibility of human credulity.

My father-in-law has been collecting material on what he calls 'delusional thought disorder' for some years, and has talked about writing some sort of grand polemic against the impact of delusion on the Steiner movement. A couple of days before our adventure on the forestry roads of Mamaku Alan had, apparently in the name of research, watched a documentary, or faux-documentary, which attempted to demonstrate the truth of Erich von Daniken's claim that extra-terrestrials not only intervened in human evolution but eventually gave us all of our major religions. He'd been struck by the ability of the Danikenians to balance the weightiest of conclusions atop the most insubstantial facts.

After our return from Mamaku to the safety of Hamilton's newly-minted outer suburbs, Alan decided to conduct an experiment in credulity. He uploaded a few of the photos we'd snapped during our drive, made a slide show out of them, added some rather paranoid captions and some spooky music and posted the end result online under the title 'Mamaku Unexplored Forest Oddities Display'.

Will the Ufologists, Steiner-worshippers, pseudo-archaeologists, Danikenians, and pseudo-geologists be taken in by Alan's little slidehow? Is Mamaku about to become some sort of New Zealand equivalent of Roswell, or the Bermuda triangle, and attract flocks of paranoid pilgrims and crackpot investigators? Alan told me today me that one or two Ufologists have already picked up on his 'evidence'...

Footnote: since I've just been guilty of advertising one of the numerous pieces of silliness on youtube, let me try to atone by urging everybody to check out this marvellous clip at the same site, in which Tomas Transtromer, winner of this blog's Old Thumper Award in 2007 as well as the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature, reads and discusses a poem about Franz Schubert. Tomas' introduction to his poem reveals that it was written partly in response to the campaign against Schubert's notoriously bourgeois music in Maoist China. Richard Taylor may not be amused...

[Posted by Maps]

10 Comments:

Anonymous Even Ronald Reagan is more open-minded than you, shithead said...

Ronald Reagan's UFO Sightings

Grant Cameron Thursday, 13 August 2009

There are a great many stories about US presidents seeing UFOs. Few of the stories actually have enough evidence to back up the fact that a sighting seemed to have taken place.

One case with strong supporting evidence involves Ronald Reagan, who had two sightings that we are aware of.

Both of Reagan’s UFO sightings occurred when he was the 33rd Governor of California (1967 – 1975). The first occurred on the night that Reagan was invited to a party at the home of actor William Holden in Hollywood.

A number of key personalities were invited. Two of them, comedian Steve Allen, and actress Lucille Ball, both told the story of Reagan’s UFO encounter.[1]

Reagan was missing when the party began and the party was held up until he and Nancy arrived nearly an hour late.

According to both Allen’s and Ball’s version of events Reagan was very excited. He described how he and Nancy had seen a UFO while coming down the coast highway to Los Angeles and stopped to watch the event. Some unconfirmed stories stated that the object actually landed.

Lucille Ball, in her account of the event wrote, “After he was elected President, I kept thinking about that event, and wondered if he still would have won if he told everyone that he saw a flying saucer.”

The other Reagan sighting occurred in 1974 just before Reagan ended his second term as governor.

The story was told by Air Force Colonel Bill Paynter, who became the pilot of Reagan’s Cessna Citation jet plane following his retirement from the Air Force.

In a story Ronald Reagan told to Norman Miller, Washington Bureau Chief for the Wall Street Journal, the governor’s plane was making an approach to land in Bakersfield California.

It was during the descent that Reagan noticed a strange light behind the plane. "We followed it for several minutes, Reagan told Miller. “ It was a bright white light. We followed it to Bakersfield and all of a sudden to our utter amazement it went straight up into the heavens."

Paynter, the pilot stated, “"it appeared to be several hundred yards away" and it was "a fairly steady light until it begun to accelerate. Then it appeared to elongate. Then the light took off. It went up a 45 degrees angle at a high rate of speed. Everyone on the plane was surprised."

Paynter added: "The UFO went from normal speed cruise to a fantastic speed instantly. If you give an airplane power, it will accelerate, but not like a "hot rod", and that's what this was like.

11:02 am  
Anonymous Ramos Gomes said...

It must suck to be so CLOSEDMINDEDNESS!

1:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get up on it and dance
http://www.youtube.com/
watch?v=mOHBqFevy0k

2:36 pm  
Anonymous Rustico said...

People whose hearing starts to go bad often, before they get hearing aids, become more paranoid about what’s being said about them. Give them hearing aids and the condition tends to clear up. This is a simple example of how paranoia is a default condition of human thought when its confronted by ambiguous and poorly understood phenomena (for example, blurred and hard to understand speech). It’s easy to see where this comes from. Those of our ancestors who, for example, tended to assume that rustling leaves denoted the presence of an unseen predator were more likely to survive than those who assumed that it was just the wind. Even if it usually is just the wind, the penalty for overlooking the predator is so much worse than the penalty for mistaking the wind for a predator, that humanity evolved to assume the worst in ambiguous situations.

7:21 pm  
Anonymous Rustico said...

Moral relativity removes any anchors that people might otherwise rely upon. This lack of grounding can lead to a personality that is much more susceptible to paranoid persuasions. This is exactly the way the Progressives want it. Moral relativity makes people much more receptive to the kind of outrageous propaganda you would need to buy into to willingly throw away your freedom.

7:23 pm  
Anonymous Rustico said...

Some conspiracies have good intentions, however costly and insidious they seem to an outsider.

The process of coming to reason is long and arduous, because at the minimum one has to mourn the loss of a cheap and bogus intellectual comfort that has been “therapeutic” (not therapeutic, really, more self-serving) for many years.

So check out for yourself if you have been having these things in your life -


1. A precipitation factor- a social setback or a slight or humiliation

2. A sensitivity to external contacts

3. An asocial withdrawal of some kind

4. subjective preoccupations

5. Hypochondriasis- the search for medical verification of illness and failure to find it

6. Increased concern, even obsession, with bodily functions

7. Increasing worry- Why? What? When?

8. Irrational revelation- the formulation of a manufactured insight into how the illness happened

9. Somatic delusions and retrospective falsification of the origins of the physical complaint

10. Projection- the belief that the illness is caused by an external factor

11. Systemization of the delusion, clarification, shift of anxiety and consequent reintegration of personality

12. Conspiracy logic (interpretation of events as links in a conspiracy) with a widening circle of persecutors worldwide

13. puzzlement about why persecution has focused on self

14. Delusions of grandeur

15. Recognition of an important mission such as saving the world or being a messenger of God

16. Cosmic identity- belief that “I am the Universe” or “I am God”.

It may not be your fault. Sure it may not. It may be someone else. But be SURE if you have been having those things.

7:26 pm  
Anonymous Rustico said...

Number 6 on the lost is a particularly common one.

7:29 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

There is nothing wrong with any of these "weird" ideas. It is true that Steiner and Jung were associated with some weird ideas (and by association and ideology had links to the Nazis etc.)

Mao tse Tung had some great ideas. His achievements for China were massive also. Perhaps not implemented by him by and his mates as well they might [of course there were huge set backs, revisionism, contradictions and failings as with all revolutions] have: but it has to be recalled he lead or he and a big proportion of the Chinese people lead successful revolution that at the very least rid China of Colonialism and enabled him to give freedoms to millions and of course to defeat the Japanese. The Chinese revolution enabled China to enter the Modern Age as a strong industrious and economically and militarily powerful independent nation. Your wont see the Yanks invading China in a hurry!

The whole story is more complex, but good a poet as Transtromer is, he is probably basically a right-winger or even a very strong anti-communist. He is primarily a poet and we can take his views of Schubert in China etc with a grain of salt. Of course Schubert was a great musician (his lieder well sung is among the greatest of its kind) I didn't listen to his reading his poem as I really only like a few of his poems. (But I might listen later.) Also he seemed to me to be (in the US - the heart of Imperialism) attacking China and Marxism and taking "cheap shots" from his high and comfortable position (and recall he is in an affluent place, well to do and recognized himself, and probably quite rich, as a well paid psychologist (mumbo jumbo expert?)); basically he is a bourgeois like Robert Bly his friend. Bly is good in some of his "deep image" poems but after a time both Bly and Transtromer tire.

We need to look at say J H Prynne, Geoffrey Hill our own Smithyman, Michelle Leggott, and the Language poets. (None of them are non affluent or politically "innocent" either but many significant poets are "well to do" or are academics and so on... (Many if not most poets of any significance are in academia, and Prynne tried to "not be one" but was paid pretty well to loaf about at Cambridge for a long time...) We could give the Nobel Prize to all the Language poets and those following in their footsteps.

I'm not however necessarily interested in "political poetry" [although indeed the work of Mark Nowak of the US is maybe showing a new way that such poetics might work or be constructed around] only in truth [and the relative impossibility of the absolute of] or knowledge [always problematic] or accuracy as far as I see it, or in correcting or counter attacking the various biases...no absolute truth per se, only probabilities and uncertainties as consistent with an Art-Scientific approach.

I don't know that Transtromer is such a great poet. Paradoxically it is his very popularity that makes me suspicious of this.

Re "weird": I used to read Aku-Aku and other books by Thor Heyerdahl and they are very good.

It doesn't really matter how "true" they are. (As to his theory of origins they are dubious, but in fact, apart from the converted who will probably never be dissuaded from their "weird" ideas, others will bring sufficient skepticism to their reading.)
But this certainly showed how the stone statues (which contra Jacob Bronowski, who I admire in many ways and hates them, I think are great); could be placed upright by humans [this would go against Von Danniken's rather weak ideas (well so I think) about Pyramids etc as they can be easily be constructed by humans with ropes and pulleys and "wedges" and levers (a slope or a ramp is a lever) and labour as well as mathematics - all of which the Egyptians had. Later I studied Ancient Iraq and Ancient Egypt at University (1990-1.]...I have never had much time for him myself but others should read him and make their own minds up.]

7:38 pm  
Blogger Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page said...

Alan's montage missed mentioning the chemtrails -- that were no doubt surveilling your visit to the Mamaku.

8:26 pm  
Anonymous Honour Steiner - honour Christ said...

For the information of the stray sheep Alan Wagstaff -

A quantum leap in humankind' s intellectual development occurred in Sumer 6000 years ago when cuneiform writing was invented in order to record a dramatic starburst. Every pulsating thrust of the technology with which humankind surrounds itself today was initiated when a star died in a dramatic, brilliant explosion.

The psychological and cultural impact of the supernova on the inhabitants of Sumer was overwhelming. Literally "overnight" in evolutionary terms, the Sumerians gave the world a law code, the first love song, the first school system, the first parliament, and the first directory of pharmaceutical remedies. The origins of contemporary Western culture were nursed in Sumer, the cradle of civilization. The roots of the Judeo-Christian religious beliefs grew from the "tree of knowledge," the Garden of Eden, which tradition places in that same area.

Steiner theorized that the people of our prehistory had been largely guided and directed by a higher order of beings who interacted and communicated with certain humans--the smartest, the strongest, the most intellectually flexible. Eventually these select humans produced what might be called demigods, divine human beings, who, in turn, could relay instructions from higher intelligences.

The whole point of the efforts of these higher intelligences is to enable humankind to become more independent, more able to stand on its own feet without having to rely on the higher order of beings that directed us in ancient times.

SO HOW CAN THE STEINER MOVEMENT BE A CULT???????

GB Steiner school

1:36 pm  

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