Sunday, September 25, 2011

Exploring the Unknown

Exploring the Unknown
Great Mysteries Re-examined
by Charles Cazeau and Stuart Scott Jr.

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When I first saw this book, I thought it was about the ancient mysteries and it would be again another interesting book on stories with secrets and excitement. However, the reverse is true. It is meant to be a myth breaker and it tries to expose the superstition and the incorrect perception on hearsay or deliberate lies.

The topics covered are very wide, including ancient relics like the pyramids and other megalithic structures, and also aliens, unidentified flying objects, Easter Island, Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, monster sightings, Loss Ness and Noah's Ark. The technique used by the authors is the scientific method of fact gathering and verification, validity of assumptions and logical thinking. The book uses an entire chapter to explain the method and the general fallacies found in pseudo-science. On facts, it is important to examine whether there are factual errors, contradiction, distortion or exaggerations. Assumptions may be wrong and must be tested. When too much assumptions confuse a topic, the Occam's Razor principle is always useful. On logical deduction, the process may fall wayside owing to hasty generalization, argumentum ad hominem, or appeal to pity, authority or faith. Each topic is unique but all can be analyzed under such principles. I note two topics which are easier to understand.

The Bermuda Triangle

The popular belief of the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle powered by the press mainly converges on six points. 1. There is an abnormally high rate of disappearances there. 2. All disappearances take place in or very close to the Triangle. 3. In all instances the weather was good. 4. Very few of the ships and planes disappearing gave any hint of trouble. 5. Despite intensive search, not a trace was found. 6. There are abnormal magnetic force there; compasses point to true north instead of magnetic north.

A detailed research by the authors based on records and statistics reveals the following:

- The average number of incidents connected to the Triangle region is about 2.5 per year. According to the records of the US Coast Guard, on 1975 alone, the number of sunk or capsized boats was 5600, 1300 were on fire, and another 1000 lost direction. Accidents as they were regrettable, were nowhere near abnormally high.

- The area of the Triangle is wide, but the Atlantic ocean is much wider. Of the cases examined by the authors, only 63% were actually in the Triangle, and 37% were not.

- Of the cases examined in detail, only 26% reported good weather. 52% recorded prevailing bad weather and 22% didn't show the weather condition.

- 12% of the ships and planes complained of trouble. 61% did not complain. Another 27% were unable to communicate; they could be in deep trouble with radio failure.

- There are definite records of debris, wreckage, oil slick found in 10 cases. In the vast Atlantic Ocean and being battered by severe storm, wreckage was difficult to be found.

 - True north and magnetic north are fixed locations. If one can draw a line connecting these two locations and extend it southward, it will pass through the Triangle. All locations along this line will have compasses pointing to true north.

The verdict: All we hear from the press are exaggerations aiming to boost sales.

Noah's Ark

All historians agree that this biblical legend may have some truth in it. Although there is no geographic evidence of a world wide flood less than 5000 years ago, there are records of floods in every ancient civilization. Flooding is a common natural disaster. The ancestors of the Israelis were living near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers a few thousand years ago, and there were frequent floods in the river plain. There could be survivors from an unusually severe flood, having built a good boat for his household and livestock. The legend might be derived out of respect of the lucky ones. However, biblical teachings and the ongoing myth present a distorted picture. The authors examined the stated facts and argued on the unreasonableness.

- The bible told the exact magnitude of the flood: Water covering the entire world, even the highest mountain with 22 feet of water to spare. (Genesis 7:20). This would amount to more than a billion cubic miles of water. There is simply not enough additional water in the entire earth for such disaster 5000 years ago. Even if it did, where would such large amount of water go. It would not be possible for such amount of water to drain or evaporate in a matter of months.

- The bible supposedly recorded the exact dimension of the ark (Genesis 6:15), about 450 x 75 x 45 feet, with a volume of 1.5 million cubic feet. This is an enormous boat by today's standard. Just think of the amount of wood and labour required. This is an impossible task for the 8 members of Noah's family.

- Even if there was such a large boat, it could not accommodate a pair of all animal species. Calculations based on very cramped condition revealed that a few thousand pairs of small animals might be squeezed in. Even if all of them survived, it would not be possible for them, in a span of 5000 years, to evolve into millions of different animal species we now have.

- The water came down for 150 days, and it receded in another three months. (Genesis 8:3) This meant the ark was isolated for more than 250 days. It is assumed that there were food and water to last for the period. 250 days is a very long time. The amount of supplies for the large number of animals should have occupied considerable space. There was also the task for the caring of a few thousand animals, including feeding and clearing of waste; all done by eight people. Another impossible task.

- All people on earth died except Noah's family. That means all people on earth today are descendants of Noah. In a span of 5000 years, it is not possible that human beings evolved from Noah's gene into many different races with different skin colour, built and outlook.

It may not be fair for such logical reasoning to be applied to a religious myth. A religious myth is supposed to be illogical just supported by faith. To believe it no matter what is called a virtue. It seems to me that the authors just saw the similarities of these subjects with other mysteries. They are all in their own way exaggerations, distortions and misrepresentations.

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