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Noise

drconspiracyIn my youth I was an enthusiastic shortwave radio listener. I’d scan the dial listening to faint signals through the static, looking for the elusive and rare. I was thrilled by hearing Radio Gulf in Papua New Guinea from half a world away and identifying a weak station like HRPC from Honduras. Noise was a problem. On the tropical bands not only did the radio signals from Central and South America propagate to the US, but so did the electrical noise from summer thunderstorms. “Esta es Radio [CRACKLE!]” The tape recorder was always running and I’d play it over and over and over trying to interpret the signal in the noise.

Life is full of noise, and picking out the signal isn’t always easy. We figure out who is innocent and who is guilty in a jury system where some people lie. Psychiatrists try to figure out who is crazy and who is sane when people try to hide their symptoms. We try to understand a politician’s underlying motivations from their actions in complex political situations. We try to find Waldo in a picture where everything looks a little like Waldo. Sometimes we see poodles in the clouds1 or hear messages when a song is played backwards — signals where there really aren’t any.  Some people are better at finding patterns than others – we revere them for their discoveries and their inventions and we reward with prizes. Some find patterns everywhere and cannot tell what is real and what is not – we tend to call such people crazy and medicate them.

Those people more prone than others to accepting patterns we call  believers and those less, skeptics. I don’t know which way I tend, but my life experience and education have turned me towards skepticism, and it is skepticism more than political ideology that brings me to the Obama conspiracy table.2

Learn more:

 


1I can’t think if anything that models the issues birthers raise about Obama’s long form birth certificate than seeing poodles in the clouds.

 

2While the byline of this blog is “Fishing for gold coins in a bucket of mud,“ an activity that suggests looking for messages in a noisy signal, I have long known that there are no coins in the bucket.

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22 Responses to Noise

  1. avatar
    J. Potter July 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    “I have long known that there are no coins in the bucket.”

    The reward is in the journey itself, contacts otherwise unmade, experiences shared, ideas exchanged! And the humor.

    “We try to find Waldo in a picture where everything looks a little like Waldo.”

    Thankfully, over on Amazon, the #1 search suggestion for “Where’s” is once again Where’s Waldo. Reason reigns.

  2. avatar
    Paul July 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    J. Potter:
    “I have long known that there are no coins in the bucket.”

    The reward is in the journey itself, contacts otherwise unmade, experiences shared, ideas exchanged! And the humor.

    “We try to find Waldo in a picture where everything looks a little like Waldo.”

    Thankfully, over on Amazon, the #1 search suggestion for “Where’s” is once again Where’s Waldo. Reason reigns.

    Just what I was going to say. Fishing, after all, ain’t really about catching fish.

    But there WAS “signal” when you played that Beatles song backwards (“Revolution 9”?). Seriously. A friend and I recorded the LP onto reel-to-reel and ran it backwards. “Paul is dead. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.” Clear as a bell.

  3. avatar
    Daniel July 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    “Some people are better at finding patterns than others – we revere them for their discoveries and their inventions and we reward with prizes. Some find patterns everywhere and cannot tell what is real and what is not – we tend to call such people crazy and medicate them.”

    I wish it were that simple, but I fear it is not.

    I think we are all skeptics about some things and believers about others. For instance, Doc, take the two of us.

    We are both men of faith. You are a Christian, and ancient and honourable religion that, as practised by most Christians, exhorts people to love and truth. I am a Witch, and I serve the Gods of my ancestors, and I am pledged to them to speak the truth and harm none. I am not honestly a skeptic, in the real sense of the word, where my faith comes in, and I suspect you would agree that neither are you for yours. Whether you’re talking virgin birth, or healing spells, our faith it the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    To an outside objective observer who might be an atheist, both of our religions are full of ridiculous unproveable theological claptrap. I accept that what I believe is unproveable, which is one reason I don’t try to get anyone else to believe it, nor will I debate on the logical merits of my beliefs.

    We see the same thing in many birthers, some of whom are quite accomplished and intelligent in other areas. Take Lakin, for instance. Obviously the man is not a moron, One doesn’t get to tbe a flight surgeon unless one has a high degree of intellect. So how does an intelligent person succumb to the stupidity of birtherism, to the point where you willingly bear incarceration and destruction of your career?

    Belief in this sense of the word, is chosen and willing acceptance of an idea without, and even despite evidence. Birthers believe Obama is a usurper, not because OF the evidence, but rather IN SPITE OF the evidence. Birthers are birthers, not because they are compelled to be, but because they have chosen to be.

    As such they are also capable of choosing whether or not to believe other things that fall into the non-evidential category. Many Birthers are Christian, but some are not. I have met at least one birther atheist. I have met birthers who were muslim, and others who were staunchly non-creationist. Some birthers are also multi-conspiracists, while other use the same sort of language for “9/11 truthers” that we commonly use for birthers.

    Even within the birthers there is choice of which fallacy to believe. There are those birthers who tell us that the “place of birth” is not an issue, as it’s obvious Obama was born in Hawaii, but that it’s his parentage that is the problem. Others say that his parentage is not relevant because he wasn’t born on US soil. Both accuse the other birthers of being either crazy, or else hired thugs.

    So no, I don’t think it’s as simple as just whether a person is inherently skeptical or not. I think that’s a part of it, to be sure, but I think it’s much, much more complex than that.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    I have always made a distinction between faith and belief. As you point out, there are probably those would say the distinction is false and that both are irrational. My recent articles here have been about belief.

    Whether the genes for altruism and selfishness are the imprint of God and the Devil or just something that evolved, they are nevertheless there and we express them within a mental construct. Mine happens to be the practice of a religion.

    However, if I heard a voice from the sky saying “Obama is a usurper” I probably would be looking for a non-religious interpretation of the event.

    I agree that the birther phenomenon is complex and no one simplistic explanation suffices. That’s why I have been writing this series of articles, and others before it, to explore different facets of the problem.

    Daniel: I am not honestly a skeptic, in the real sense of the word, where my faith comes in, and I suspect you would agree that neither are you for yours. Whether you’re talking virgin birth, or healing spells, our faith it the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

  5. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    The main article has been updated with a video link to an example of hearing things in music played backwards that isn’t there.

  6. avatar
    Paul July 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Dr. Conspiracy:
    The main article has been updated with a video link to an example of hearing things in music played backwards that isn’t there.

    It was there, dammit! IT WAS THERE!@!@#!@#@!@!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. avatar
    misha July 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Paul: A friend and I recorded the LP onto reel-to-reel and ran it backwards. “Paul is dead. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him.” Clear as a bell.

    I know – I saw something similar:

    I was working part-time in a veterinarian’s office. A man walked in, carrying his lifeless dog. I showed him into an exam room, and the vet joined us. The vet said, “I’m sorry, but your dog has died.” The man said he wanted a second opinion.

    The vet agreed, left the room, and came back carrying a cat. The vet placed the cat on the exam table, and the cat sniffed the dog from the nose to tail, and back again. The cat sat and meowed.

    The vet said to the man, “the cat has confirmed your dog has died, and it is irreversible.”

    “All right,” the man said. “What do I owe you?” The vet replied “$350.” The client exploded. “$350 to tell me my dog is dead?!”

    The vet replied, “my fee is $50, and it’s $300 for the cat scan.”

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

  8. avatar
    Majority Will July 23, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    misha: I know – I saw something similar:

    I was working part-time in a veterinarian’s office. A man walked in, carrying his lifeless dog. I showed him into an exam room, and the vet joined us. The vet said, “I’m sorry, but your dog has died.” The man said he wanted a second opinion.

    The vet agreed, left the room, and came back carrying a cat. The vet placed the cat on the exam table, and the cat sniffed the dog from the nose to tail, and back again. The cat sat and meowed.

    The vet said to the man, “the cat has confirmed your dog has died, and it is irreversible.”

    “All right,” the man said. “What do I owe you?” The vet replied “$350.” The client exploded. “$350 to tell me my dog is dead?!”

    The vet replied, “my fee is $50, and it’s $300 for the cat scan.”

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

    lmao πŸ˜€

  9. avatar
    G July 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

    Excellent and well thought out post. Thanks for sharing.

    Daniel: “Some people are better at finding patterns than others – we revere them for their discoveries and their inventions and we reward with prizes. Some find patterns everywhere and cannot tell what is real and what is not – we tend to call such people crazy and medicate them.”I wish it were that simple, but I fear it is not.I think we are all skeptics about some things and believers about others. For instance, Doc, take the two of us.We are both men of faith. You are a Christian, and ancient and honourable religion that, as practised by most Christians, exhorts people to love and truth. I am a Witch, and I serve the Gods of my ancestors, and I am pledged to them to speak the truth and harm none. I am not honestly a skeptic, in the real sense of the word, where my faith comes in, and I suspect you would agree that neither are you for yours. Whether you’re talking virgin birth, or healing spells, our faith it the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.To an outside objective observer who might be an atheist, both of our religions are full of ridiculous unproveable theological claptrap. I accept that what I believe is unproveable, which is one reason I don’t try to get anyone else to believe it, nor will I debate on the logical merits of my beliefs. We see the same thing in many birthers, some of whom are quite accomplished and intelligent in other areas. Take Lakin, for instance. Obviously the man is not a moron, One doesn’t get to tbe a flight surgeon unless one has a high degree of intellect. So how does an intelligent person succumb to the stupidity of birtherism, to the point where you willingly bear incarceration and destruction of your career?Belief in this sense of the word, is chosen and willing acceptance of an idea without, and even despite evidence. Birthers believe Obama is a usurper, not because OF the evidence, but rather IN SPITE OF the evidence. Birthers are birthers, not because they are compelled to be, but because they have chosen to be.As such they are also capable of choosing whether or not to believe other things that fall into the non-evidential category. Many Birthers are Christian, but some are not. I have met at least one birther atheist. I have met birthers who were muslim, and others who were staunchly non-creationist. Some birthers are also multi-conspiracists, while other use the same sort of language for “9/11 truthers” that we commonly use for birthers.Even within the birthers there is choice of which fallacy to believe. There are those birthers who tell us that the “place of birth” is not an issue, as it’s obvious Obama was born in Hawaii, but that it’s his parentage that is the problem. Others say that his parentage is not relevant because he wasn’t born on US soil. Both accuse the other birthers of being either crazy, or else hired thugs.So no, I don’t think it’s as simple as just whether a person is inherently skeptical or not. I think that’s a part of it, to be sure, but I think it’s much, much more complex than that.

  10. avatar
    G July 23, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

    Thanks Doc for both your article, which I found very enjoyable (in concept, content and also writing style) and interesting as well as your further response here, which I also found very well written and worthy of much reflection. I love coming here to be exposed to such well thought out concepts and discussions like these.

    Dr. Conspiracy: I have always made a distinction between faith and belief. As you point out, there are probably those would say the distinction is false and that both are irrational. My recent articles here have been about belief. Whether the genes for altruism and selfishness are the imprint of God and the Devil or just something that evolved, they are nevertheless there and we express them within a mental construct. Mine happens to be the practice of a religion.However, if I heard a voice from the sky saying “Obama is a usurper” I probably would be looking for a non-religious interpretation of the event.I agree that the birther phenomenon is complex and no one simplistic explanation suffices. That’s why I have been writing this series of articles, and others before it, to explore different facets of the problem.

  11. avatar
    G July 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Misha, you always do a great job making us smile and laugh! Kudos. That one is one of my favorites of yours. πŸ™‚

    misha: The vet replied, “my fee is $50, and it’s $300 for the cat scan.”
    Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

  12. avatar
    Paul July 23, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    misha: I know – I saw something similar:

    The vet replied, “my fee is $50, and it’s $300 for the cat scan.”

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

    HA!! Try the veal! Don’t forget to tip your waiter!

  13. avatar
    Reality Check July 23, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Doc

    What kind of receiver did you have? I still have an old Hallicrafters SX-38 that I need to recap when I get around to it. I grew up listening to BBC, VOA and AFRN. (I tuned in to Radio Moscow but don’t tell the Birfers.) We could get baseball games on Armed Forces Radio every afternoon. I can still remember my father listening to the Cassius Clay – Harry Cooper fight on short wave from London that was not on US AM radio. You could listen to the world on a long wire antenna.

  14. avatar
    Northland10 July 24, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Daniel: Belief in this sense of the word, is chosen and willing acceptance of an idea without, and even despite evidence.

    With your statement and the Doc’s recent discussions on belief, I have been trying to remember a sermon my Bishop gave a few years ago on the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (disclosure, it was at an Episcopal Church… though one on the very Anglo-Catholic liturgical flavor). I recall it being quite a moving sermon and dealt with the belief, i.e. assent to.

    It may be time to read more John Henry Newman (Grammar of Assent) and others.

  15. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 24, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    I had a consumer portable made by a Japanese company called Nanaola and after that I built a Lafayette KT-340 brand tube-type model from a kit. I couldn’t find the Nanaola on the Internet, but here’s the Lafayette model. It was all the more special because I built it. This picture brings back memories!

    http://www.k5mq.com/pictures/images/lafayette%20KT340.jpg

    As an adult, I got a Radio Shack DX-300, which I still have, but seldom turn on because there is so much electrical interference everywhere.

    Reality Check: What kind of receiver did you have?

  16. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 24, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    In the version I heard, it was the dog’s failure to react to the cat which indicated death.

    misha: The vet agreed, left the room, and came back carrying a cat. The vet placed the cat on the exam table, and the cat sniffed the dog from the nose to tail, and back again. The cat sat and meowed.

  17. avatar
    Sef July 24, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Dr. Conspiracy: Whether the genes for altruism and selfishness are the imprint of God and the Devil or just something that evolved, they are nevertheless there and we express them within a mental construct. Mine happens to be the practice of a religion.

    Let me know when you find a perfect circle inscribed in the digits of pi.

  18. avatar
    US Citizen July 24, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    I guess I’m amongst good company to point out that Orly has many parallels to amateur radio.

    1. She sounds like an undecoded SSB transmission.
    2. She’s a ham.
    3. She often says “Yay sue!”
    4. When filling out legal papers, she’s prone to skip.
    5. Most of her attempts are longshots.

  19. avatar
    Sef July 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    US Citizen:
    I guess I’m amongst good company to point out that Orly has many parallels to amateur radio.

    1. She sounds like an undecoded SSB transmission.
    2. She’s a ham.
    3. She often says “Yay sue!”
    4. When filling out legal papers, she’s prone to skip.
    5. Most of her attempts are longshots.

    As evidenced by the pics of Corsi & Hale there seems to be Heaviside influence.

  20. avatar
    Rickey July 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    misha:

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

    That should get you an extra week, at least!

    On a serious note, if a person has multiple pets and one dies, many vets now recommend that the surviving pets be given an opportunity to see and smell the body of the deceased pet. The concept is that cats and dogs understand death, and it is better for them to see that a companion has died than for it to just disappear.

  21. avatar
    Bovril July 24, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Orly and her “filings” remind me so much of the classic Ham Radio “Whacker”, kitting out their vehicle with so much paraphenelia, Cheeto droppings and general cack that if they ever power it all up, it would combust in about 3 seconds….

    http://www.hamsexy.com/cms/?p=1067

  22. avatar
    Reality Check July 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    Nanaola is a new one for me. I bought some Lafayette Radio stuff including a reel to reel tape recorder that still works after almost 40 years.

    Dr. Conspiracy: I had a consumer portable made by a Japanese company called Nanaola and after that I built a Lafayette KT-340 brand tube-type model from a kit.