"Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he."
-- Proverbs 29:18, King James Bible (KJV)

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Outdated Memes

Outdated Memes

As a Stanford University Law School graduate, the present author was pleased to read in the Scientific American at Science Research Needs an Overhaul, that John P. A. Ioannidis has co-founded a new center at Stanford University called METRICS (Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford) to deal with the costly problem that much mainstream research is wasted.

Ioannidis cites to The Lancet, which avers this applies even to 85% of medical research, a "hard" science.

So how bad are things in the soft sciences?

Ioannidis writes that the METRICS center:
"[W]ill seek to study research practices and how these can be optimized. It will examine the best means of designing research protocols and agendas to ensure that the results are not dead ends but rather that they pave a path forward. The center will do so by exploring what are the best ways to make scientific investigation more reliable and efficient."
We enthusiastically applaud this development.

We have been confronted for years by gullible, uninformed, and opinionated people in and out of science proclaiming the near infallibility of mainstream ideas and research methods and we really have little patience for it.

Having taught research ourselves at the university level, we know from experience that exactly the opposite is true: most of what is researched in science and is peer-review published as a result is a costly waste of time and often leads science in the wrong directions. It serves people's vanities.

One main reason for these follies of "scientific research", as we have written time and time again, is that science in the past has been predominantly "authority-based", i.e. it is not "what" but rather "who" determines the truth, whereas we think that "evidence-based" research must be given priority.

Outdated memes must be abandoned. That is our quest.

Meme is a term coined by Richard Dawkins, emeritus Professor for Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University in England.

Memes are by his definition: "replicated ideas, symbols or practices".

We view memes as describing the state of mainstream science at any given time. Indeed, memes explain many of the aberrations of science.

A meme is defined at the Wikipedia as:
"[A]n idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.... The word meme was coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ... as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given [in The Selfish Gene] included melodies, catch-phrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches."
In our view, what is normally called a "school of thought" in academia is more accurately defined as being a "meme", because "thought" often has nothing to do with it.

Ideas -- whether right or wrong -- become entrenched in various disciplines of science and propagate themselves as if they had a life of their own.

The same is true for politics and religion.
Truth is not at all at issue.
Unfounded belief is everything.

As written at the Wikipedia in Memetics:
"Memetics is a theory of mental content based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution.... Proponents describe memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.... As with genetics, particularly under a Dawkinsian interpretation, a meme's success may be due to its contribution to the effectiveness of its host."
In other words, and contrary to the notion that "truth" is the objective in science or elsewhere, people thus actually adhere to a given idea, school of thought, cultural practice or religion because the adherent of a particular meme perceives it as providing the holder of that meme with advantages.

That essential understanding helps to explain many of the backward ideas that are maintained in science. Presumably "rational" people are holding fast to long-outdated ideas and ways of looking at things, often at odds with the available probative evidence.

We look to the probative evidence. Science must look forward.

The next posting in this series of postings is:

The Great Avebury Challenge - Introducing the Avebury Stones of Avebury Henge and Circle

Maps of Avebury Henge - The Discovered Geometric Foundation - The Milky Way

This posting presents two very necessary maps of Avebury Henge and Circles and the numbered Avebury Stones, which numbers we use throughout our Great Avebury Challenge postings. The first map shows the layout of the stones and the second map is our discovery of the geometric foundation.

Map of the Avebury Groundplan
(We number the Avebury Stones – which we also call Avebury Megaliths – based on this map.)

The above Avebury groundplan and numbered stone location map is an independent illustration by Andis Kaulins based on the English Heritage map of “the Avebury Circles” found in Caroline Malone, The Prehistoric Monuments of Avebury, English Heritage, London, 1994, reprinted 2001, https://www.amazon.com/Prehistoric-Monuments-Avebury-Caroline-Malone/dp/1850742537.

Markings here are larger and the buildings have been removed. “North” is up and “South” is down. The upper right-hand corner KEY designates a map-numbered filled black dot as a standing stone, a filled black elongated horizontal symbol as a fallen stone, an empty black dot as a stonehole (plinth marker) and an empty horizontal symbol as a stonehole (location estimated). Stone I is not on the English Heritage map but is included here. Those keys are a bit changed from what is used by English Heritage as we think that our amended version is more easily understandable.

Please not that we are not convinced that circle-essential stones belonging to the present circle of stones once filled the markers now marked with plinths. The reason for that will become self-evident as the stones are deciphered.

Map of the Avebury Groundplan with
Right-Angled Construction Lines Added
(This geometric architectural plan of Avebury was discovered by Andis Kaulins, June, 2016.)

Early in the decipherment process we discovered that Avebury Stone #10 marked the Summer Solstice point in the stars. Please note that this is not the same as "Solstice risings".

Pinpointing the likely astronomical significance of Avebury Stone #10 was of eminent importance for the process of understanding the original construction of Avebury Henge and its Circles.

We drew a 45-degree line from Stone #10 through the Obelisk, leading to Avebury Stone #73, presuming it marked the Winter Solstice in the stars. Examination of angles and linear relationships showed that straight lines and simple 45° and 90° angles greatly explained much henge construction, tying together most of the important aspects of construction with just a few lines.

One consequence of this geometric formation was the hypothesis that the earthwork part of the henge represented the Milky Way, seen as two adjoining strands with differing length ends, as in the sky (as above, so below) with the large opening to the West marking the Milky Way's thinnest, most open, part.

That analysis further suggested that Avebury Stone #24 might mark Crux, the Southern Cross, which led this author ultimately to locate a seminal work by Nicholas R. Mann: Avebury Cosmos: The Neolithic World of Avebury henge, Silbury Hill, West Kennet long barrow, the Sanctuary & the Longstones Cove.

Mann suggests that the Milky Way was an essential part of the stellar model that led to the construction of Avebury Henge, and we say that he is right.

His main point is that the ancients had become aware of axial precession, which was "lowering" the sky, and, indeed, at the time of the construction of Avebury Henge, was dropping the stars of Crux, previously fully visible, slowly out of sight.

A Milky Way that was previously fully visible to the ancients for thousands of years was now in part disappearing into the more southern world beyond the horizon. We recall here with more significance now a legend about the otherwise fearless ancient Old Norse that the only thing that they feared was "that the sky was falling". In truth, it was.
In our decipherment of the Avebury megaliths, Avebury Stone #24 marks Crux.

The next posting in this series of postings is:

Outdated Memes

The Great Avebury Challenge - How Did the World Actually Look in Ancient Days? Archaeology, Art & Astronomy

This posting introduces a series of postings deciphering the Avebury Stones.

Before you read any further about the Great Avebury Challenge, make sure you read an article by Timothy R. Pauketat, Questioning the Past in North America, in The Oxford Handbook of North American Archaeology, Edited by Timothy R. Pauketat, February, 2012, DOI:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195380118.013.0001 at http://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195380118.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780195380118-e-1

It is the best archaeological piece we have read in decades and it provides a balanced perspective on how to view studies of the human past.

What follows below is our own take on how to view the past for our work.

Many thousands of years ago, before the appearance of modern-day religions and sects, and before the advent of modern lighting, humans sat around their evening campfires and gazed up at the vast expanse of the starry night sky.

The few lucky persons living today who have seen the stars at night at a desert location free of city lighting know just how spectacular the Milky Way can appear as it spans the heavens. In an age where the term "awesome" is overused .... the MILKY WAY IS AWESOME, and was even more AWESOME for our distant ancestors, who did not have our modern astronomical knowledge.
  • What DID they know about the sky above?
  • How did they view their heavens?
  • How did they integrate that knowledge into their culture?
In ancient eras, the talk around the campfire surely centered at times on topics that are still manifested in news events today as the product of mankind's search to sensibly answer the following questions:
  • Who are we?
  • Where are we?
  • When are we?
  • What is our purpose on this Earth?
  • Who created all this? if it was created at all?
A good argument can be made that the ancients had better answers than we do in our contemporary world, given their prehistoric state of knowledge.

As we also do today, the ancients sought answers in the heavens true to the hermeticism of Hermes Trismegistus, "as above, so below". The sky was the presumed abode of the gods in ancient eras. Nothing much has changed in the interim. For modern monotheistic religions, "God" also resides "up there". We allege that such an "astronomical" belief goes back into prehistoric times.
  • How did our forefathers see the sky of stars in detail?
We are so used to living in a world dominated by the written word that we have lost sight of what it must have been like for prehistoric humans to confront their world without the tools of alphabetic or syllabic writing.

Imagine at the ancient campfires how the ancients pondered:
  • What is it that we see above at night (not knowing what the stars were)?
  • How does the night sky relate to the day sky?
  • Why does the night sky rotate, and
  • Why do the Sun, Moon AND Stars show numerous "regularities"?
We can see in our minds eye the shadows of ancient humans tracing figures in the ground with sticks as they discussed their various ideas about who they were, where they were, and what the sky above them was, and how it worked.

Humankind is never at a lack for answers -- be they right or wrong -- and so it was that some theories and ideas about the sky soon prevailed, all based on observations made with the naked eye (though there is evidence that the ancients may early have discovered the principle of lenses while glassmaking). Such theories fulfilled a need, even if they were less sophisticated than today.
  • What astronomical events did they observe?
  • How did they interpret what they saw?
  • How was this knowledge communicated to their peers or community?
At first, such "knowledge" was passed on orally, but explaining things with a stick surely led to "picture writing", to carvings on stone, and to rock art.

"Picture writing" was to the ancients what "alphabetic writing" is to moderns.

We will in future postings be discussing the art at Avebury Henge and Circles. Prehistoric art at Avebury, however, is not what is commonly called "folk art". Rather, we might compare prehistoric megalithic stone carving viz. "sculpture" and "painted" rock art to a modern form of art called Naïve art (viz. naïf art) described at the Tate as:
"simple, unaffected and unsophisticated ... characterised by childlike simplicity of execution and vision".
At the Wikipedia we find that:
"Naïve art does not necessarily evidence a distinct cultural context or tradition.

Naïve art is recognized, and often imitated, for its childlike simplicity and frankness.

[Naïve art has] a flat rendering style with a rudimentary expression of perspective. When ...
emulated by a trained artist, the result is sometimes called primitivism, pseudo-naïve art, or faux naïve art."
The above descriptions in fact reflect well our traced, colored astronomical decipherments of the Avebury Stones as they appear in subsequent postings.

We do our best to accurately portray the prehistoric style of art we have found, which draws figures within figures within figures in a simple manner.

Please be aware that the style of art on the Avebury Stones portrayed in our postings is by no means "our creation" as such. Rather, to the best of our ability, the style seen is intended to reflect the art of the ancients.

To remove further doubt, we had an exhibition of our own art works quite some years ago, and our own paintings are quite distant from naive art.

Our next posting is:

The Great Avebury Challenge - The Challenge - Can YOU Decipher an Avebury Stone Using Our Knowledge?