Saturday 7 August 2010

The Secularization of Nessie

You may have noticed a trend in recent years towards an increasingly skeptical frame of mind in treating the more unusually held beliefs about life, the universe and everything. With that comes a definite opposition and even belligerency towards those who hold such fringe views beyond what is accepted by those who champion logic and science.

Now that tends to be focussed in the works of such people as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens when they turn against religiously held views of the world. But their contempt is not just reserved for them but for those who tend to hold views unsupported by science such as UFOs, ghosts and of course our own Loch Ness Monster.

Now I am not saying that one needs to be religious or believe in flying saucers to be believe in a large, unidentified creature in Loch Ness but you can be certain of being treated much the same way by the modern skeptic.

Sad to say, some of the leading spokesmen on the Loch Ness Monster could be classed as "skeptic" in that they do not believe that the Loch Ness phenomemon is anything other than something that can be explained by natural and human phenomenon. Oh for the days when a Dinsdale, Mackal or Gould would hold forth on the reality of large beasts in Loch Ness! Now there is at best silence.

The questions will be asked:

What is easier to believe in: the back of a large unknown animal or just some unusual wave conditions unfamiliar to the observer?

What is easier to believe in: The head and neck of a large unknown animal or just a long necked bird resting in the water?

The principle applied is Occam's Razor - that "entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity" or as some say the theory with the fewest assumptions is usually the best - as long as it also explains the phenomenon in question.

It is more a guiding principle than an axiom but in our case it rests on the statement that a hump-like appearance being explained as a wave formation requires less assumptions than that of the back of a large creature.

Well, not quite. It requires the assumption that the observer of our example hump cannot distinguish between water waves and the back of a large creature. In fact, I would go further - the skeptic theory requires more assumptions that the traditional "large creature" theory for it requires hundreds of assumptions that each observer of each reported sighting over the years is delusional or lying.

The traditional theory requires one assumption - Loch Ness harbours one or more large creatures.

A thousand or more assumptions versus one assumption. Which one would Occam's Razor favour?

Of course, one may say that that one assumption is a pretty big assumption. What is the probability of Loch Ness containing a creature possibly unknown to biological classification?

But perhaps it is not Occam's Razor that is required here but Sherlock's Axiom:

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Part of the motivation of this blog is to take the Sherlock route and not Occam's. Prove enough so called logical explanations of sightings untenable and whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.

1 comment:

  1. Somtimes the work "Skeptic" is used like an insult, as in "You're a skeptic" as if the accused then has to defend themselves. But If you look at the definition of a skeptic I reckon most people would find it a positive point of view to take.

    >>the skeptic theory requires more assumptions that the traditional "large creature" theory<<

    I don't think this is try. To acept there are large creatures take a whole lot of assumtions, like they can survive, breed, and remain hidden in the Loch.