The Pseudosciences

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Offline PmbPhy

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The Pseudosciences
« on: 28/02/2015 10:21:34 »
Sometimes I enjoy picking the pseudoscience's apart so I thought I'd see if anybody here would like to chat about them with me to pick some of them apart for fun.

The reason it came to mind today is that I'm watching the Smithsonian channel this morning and there's a show on about the Nazca lines in Peru. They mentioned that (you know who)'s explanation of them was as landing strips for alien spacecraft. That notion was picked apart because such beings who had traveled light years to get here wouldn't need a landing strip. In my opinion there's no reason that lines would need to be drawn for landing. That's just a dumb idea. He also asked the question "Who did the Nazca people draw the artwork on the ground for?" where (you know who) speculated that it must be to beings in spaceships in the sky since that's the only place where they can be seen. It seems more reasonable that, as like all ancient peoples, they wanted to appease their gods, who are also in the sky, and in doing so they drew the same pictures as one would draw for aliens in spacecraft. However the "for the gods" is much more likely due to our knowledge of the countless tribes all over the world who worshipped some sort of God at one point in their history.

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #1 on: 28/02/2015 11:37:12 »
But most pre-judaeochristian gods lived underground or in trees, which is far more logical. Where did they get the idea of a sky fairy from, unless they had indeed been visited by one?

So far, human technology has not eliminated the need for a decent landing ground on the Moon or Mars - gravity has a nasty habit of making things awkward if you land any sort of craft on a hill or a bog. And despite the introduction of GPS, airports still broadcast identity signals. It's very difficult to determine surface wind, particularly over a desert, so a few lines on the ground in the direction of the prevailing or strongest wind can be very helpful too.

Having met some of the guys who wove a balloon from native Peruvian reeds and flew it wth a smoky fire, I'm inclined to to their theory that the Nazca lines were for entertainment. Nothing has changed - I'm just about to drag the old Cessna out for today's "£100 bacon sandwich", including a look at the coastline at low tide, and a few drawings on the chalk downs.     
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #2 on: 28/02/2015 11:58:26 »
Quote from: alancalverd
But most pre-judaeochristian gods lived underground or in trees, which is far more logical.
Where did you get that from? In all my religious studies I don't recall that. And why is it more logical to you? To me a god of ancient people is a spiritual being responsible for the creation of the cosmos and controlling the elements. In any case the Nazca Lines were created between 400 and 650 AD and thus well within the Christian era.

Quote from: alancalverd
Where did they get the idea of a sky fairy from, unless they had indeed been visited by one?
Not really. I.e. that's not a logical conclusion. It's easier to argue that instead of placing their next round of gods in the earth that they placed them in the sky.

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #3 on: 28/02/2015 19:11:35 »
Quote from: alancalverd
But most pre-judaeochristian gods lived underground or in trees, which is far more logical.
Where did you get that from? In all my religious studies I don't recall that.

It fits in with the religions of tribes which had not had contact with civilisations imposing later gods on them. The old gods were spirits that lived in caves, trees, animals, the wind, water, etc.

I'm not sure it was any more logical, but it was more direct than the idea of a remote God in the sky controlling everything - that idea came later when people were looking for a top dog amongst the gods. The Sun god is clearly very powerful, so that's probably why the sky won out, though none of the big religions today appear to tie the top god to the sun, unless we count Inti.

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Offline Colin2B

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Re: Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #4 on: 28/02/2015 23:16:06 »
I notice this started with the Nazca lines.

Could be interesting to pick a few apart, but are the pseudoscience 'theories' growing into a very large number? Can only scratch the surface.
and the misguided shall lead the gullible,
the feebleminded have inherited the earth.

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Offline Ophiolite

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Re: Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #5 on: 01/03/2015 07:35:13 »
And while the pseudoscience surrounding the Nazca lines dominates popular discussion of them, serious work is conducted:

http://www.davidpublishing.com/davidpublishing/Upfile/7/14/2013/2013071470633881.PDF

 A joint project of Peruvian and German scientists was launched in 2005 to perform geoscientific studies including geophysical, petrophysical, geochemical and petrographic investigations in the desert of Nazca and Palpa. The project aimed at a better understanding of the structures and processes on the geoglyph sites compared with areas of undisturbed desert soil to deliver suggestions for conservation options.

There is some interesting background to early research on the lines in this book review:
http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/1988JHAS...19R..88S/0000091.000.html
Observe; collate; conjecture; analyse; hypothesise; test; validate; theorise. Repeat until complete.

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Offline evan_au

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #6 on: 01/03/2015 11:05:53 »
Discussion of modern physics as pseudoscience is off-topic for this thread, and has been appended to:
Why don't an atom's electrons fall into the nucleus?

....Evan (Moderator)

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #7 on: 01/03/2015 17:56:22 »
Quote from: David Cooper
It fits in with the religions of tribes which had not had contact with civilisations imposing later gods on them. The old gods were spirits that lived in caves, trees, animals, the wind, water, etc.
I was referring to the "most" part of his statement since I'm well aware of the rest of it (I went to a religious college where you had to take courses in religion).

Quote from: David Cooper
I'm not sure it was any more logical, ...
and that part too.

Quote from: David Cooper
...but it was more direct than ...
While that may be interesting its not relevant to this thread since the Nazca lines were created well after the creation of Judeo-Christian religions.

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #8 on: 01/03/2015 20:43:00 »
While that may be interesting its not relevant to this thread since the Nazca lines were created well after the creation of Judeo-Christian religions.

They were created before they had any contact with Judeo-Christian religions, so your objection is not relevant.

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #9 on: 02/03/2015 01:56:27 »
Quote from: David Cooper
They were created before they had any contact with Judeo-Christian religions, so your objection is not relevant.
I guess you're right. Damn! I hate it when I'm wrong. Lol!!

Yes. That argument is invalid. However my argument being wrong does not mean that alancalverd's objection is correct either. In fact when it comes to the Nazca culture he turns out to be quite wrong in fact. See: http://www.ancient.eu/Nazca_Civilization/
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The principal Nazca god seems to have been the Oculate Being who is represented in art as a flying deity figure wearing strings of trophy-heads.
« Last Edit: 02/03/2015 01:58:29 by PmbPhy »

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #10 on: 03/03/2015 08:44:30 »
"Seems to have been" is a good historian's phrase, indicating that what follows is prejudice and guesswork. The OB's big eyes are characteristic of Little Green Men throughout the world, and the illustration shows no sign of flight. The drawing of the OB is ridiculously crude compared with the graphic precision of the Lines: it's difficult to believe that they are connected by a single culture or purpose.

Now which seems more logical: drawing something that can be seen and used or enjoyed by real people who you have seen flying above you, or making a drawing in the vain hope that an invisible sky fairy for whose existence, appearance and characteristics you have no evidence or experience, might be pleased by it?

I think the assumption of religion does a disservice to the considerable intellect and ingenuity of our forbears.

As for the weight of numbers, I think the number of Hindu, Roman, Inuit and Aboriginal gods and spirits that live on or under the ground, is vastly greater than even the Greek sky god collection - never mind the leprechauns and piskies. 
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #11 on: 03/03/2015 13:51:28 »
Quote from: alancalverd
"Seems to have been" is a good historian's phrase, indicating that what follows is prejudice and guesswork.
Never in my entire life have I ever interpreted it to mean that. To me it's always been used as a substitute for having very good reasons to believe so but not yet being absolutely certain.

In any case we're dwelling on the Nazca lines far too much. The point is to explain pseudoscientific reasoning such as the alien astronaut theory which is based only on the supposition that the only possible explanation is that only aliens can see the Nazca lines. It's not about proving the alternates to be true, only that there exist alternate explanations. Dwelling on that point will only serve to take away from considering other examples of pseudoscientific reasoning and their faults.

E.g. another example of pseudoscientific reasoning is the claim that aliens appear in medieval art. That has been debunked. See http://ancientaliensdebunked.com/references-and-transcripts/ufos-in-ancient-art/

I was watching a show on this and one of the things pointed out was that in the books published on this subject the photos were reprinted with poor quality and thus not allowing the reader to see the flaws in their arguments.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2015 13:58:15 by PmbPhy »

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #12 on: 03/03/2015 15:47:04 »
Another area of pseudoscience is the bogus claim that aerodynamics can be used to prove that bumblebees can't fly. People who make this claim never look into who made such a claim nor do they challenge the validity of the resulting prediction, which they should since they know that their claim is false.

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #13 on: 03/03/2015 18:59:08 »
Invalid predictions include such nonsense as jccc's insistence that atoms are held together by magic because electrostatics would make them collapse.

I wouldn't class all invalid predictions as pseudoscience since they tend to arise from rational but incomplete observation. It is indeed puzzling how some insects fly if you only use laminar flow aerodynamics: fact is that they exploit nonlinear behaviour that the large-scale aerodynamicist considers "within the bounds of experimental error". Likewise jccc's collapsing atoms. But like atomic orbitals, it's much more difficult to analyse insect flight from the facts (you need a damn good wind tunnel, and a lot of experimental skill) than it is to (wrongly) predict it by extrapolation from gliders and aeroplanes.

I categorise pseudoscience as the imposition of wholly unsupported hypotheses on perfectly good observations, badly sampled observations, or even on no observations at all.   

 
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #14 on: 03/03/2015 19:56:51 »
Quote from: alancalverd
Invalid predictions include such nonsense as jccc's insistence that atoms are held together by magic because electrostatics would make them collapse.
I'm not talking about invalid predictions because that's part of normal science and happens all the time. I'm talking about predictions made in an illogical fashion. In the case of Von D**iken's case he illogically concluded that since the Nazca lines can only be seen from the air and since aliens are in their spaceships are in the air then it must have been aliens.

Actually he used a sleazy ploy to rake in all the people who are fascinated by the notion of aliens visiting the Earth. He never said "We must therefore conclude that..." but used the phrase "Is it possible that ...?" and therefore never exposed himself to true ridicule. So while he never actually made the argument its one that he pushes. Also, the fact that he leaves out other more logical conclusions by never presenting his readers with other possibilities without aliens is also sleazy. That's because it wouldn't sell books.

Quote from: alancalverd
I wouldn't class all invalid predictions as pseudoscience ...
I also never would and if the readers will notice, I never did.  [:)]

Quote from: alancalverd
Likewise jccc's collapsing atoms.
jccc isn't really making that argument. He's only trying to rile people up and irritate everyone. He's a little weasel for doing that in my opinion. What makes it worse is that he denies it as if we're all to stupid not to see if and take it as a likely possibility. Would you agree?


I categorise pseudoscience as the imposition of wholly unsupported hypotheses on perfectly good observations, badly sampled observations, or even on no observations at all.   
[/quote]

I go with the actual definition rather than making up my own. I' strongly opposed against creating my own definitions or using that of others. This is Wikipedia's definition.
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Pseudoscience is a claim, belief or practice which is falsely presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.

This is the one from Practical Logic: An Antidote for Uncritical Thinking by Douglas J. Soccio and Vincent E. Barry, page 384
 
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Pseudoscience, a term coined by Martin Gardner, refers to a certain category of theories, systems, and explanations, which though claiming to be "scientific," in fact use only the trappings of genuine science and avoids all the rigors of the checks and balances of the scientific method or the scrutiny of disinterested experts.
This is the definition given in the glossary too. The texts lists all of the characteristics of pseudoscience. Would anybody like me to list them out for them? I ask because the list is a bit long (8 items) so it would take a bit of effort to type them all in and I'd rather not if nobody is going to read them or could care less about them.

By the way; this is a wonderful book for those interested in the subject.

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #15 on: 03/03/2015 20:18:56 »
He's got a good point, I think. These images were only visible from the air, so it's obvious that aliens were the intended audience. These ancient peoples who looked to gods in the heavens, and who likely regarded the condor as a god too (the Incas did), would clearly have had no interest in trying to talk to these, so their minds would naturally have turned to the idea of other planets (even though they probably weren't aware that they were standing on a planet themselves) and of alien beings living there who might make spaceships (even though they probably knew nothing about space) to fly here and look down at their art. It all stands to reason, in a barking kind of way. But there is a huge audience of fools out there who are desperate to be separated from their money, so it is very tempting to exploit that and feed them what they want.

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #16 on: 03/03/2015 20:31:30 »
Quote from: David Cooper
He's got a good point, I think. These images were only visible from the air, so it's obvious that aliens were the intended audience.
Are you serious? First of all we can't know what the Nazca Indians thought of any beings in the sky. I can't see them actually believing that such beings lived on planets revolving around stars so many light years away. We can't even speculate what the thought of the origin of such individuals in "sky machines" were so we can't legitimately claim that they thought they were aliens because that's a very modern idea. The notion of stars being objects like our Sun was not known to them. All they could conceive of them being were spirits in the sky and not aliens.

However there are plenty of reasons to assume that they were directed to the beings that they worshipped and there's no reason to worship beings which have such a complex existence since they'd be unable to know it and I doubt that they'd just make up something that complex and tell everyone to start worshiping the beings they created an idea of.

In any case even if it was true, his rational for it isn't logical. The best that could be said was that it was one of the possibilities and not that it had to be aliens. See my point?

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Offline David Cooper

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #17 on: 03/03/2015 21:21:35 »
Quote from: David Cooper
He's got a good point, I think. These images were only visible from the air, so it's obvious that aliens were the intended audience.
Are you serious?

I hope you don't think I was being serious!

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #18 on: 03/03/2015 21:33:04 »
Quote from: David Cooper
I hope you don't think I was being serious!
Yeah! You scared me there for a moment. Whew! Lol!

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #19 on: 03/03/2015 23:30:29 »
First of all we can't know what the Nazca Indians thought of any beings in the sky.
The most important point of the argument!
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we can't legitimately claim that they thought they were aliens because that's a very modern idea.
On the contrary, it's one of the oldest ideas that human tribes possess. The word itself derives from Latin - "other"  - and is at  least 3000 years old.
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All they could conceive of them being were spirits in the sky and not aliens.
That involves two sophisticated and rather modern concepts: of a disembodied spirit, and that the sky can contain and support anything. Too big an assumption.

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However there are plenty of reasons to assume that they were directed to the beings that they worshipped
What makes you think they worshipped anything? And what reasons do you have for the assumption? Why do you think they were as gullible as christians and muslims?   
Quote
I doubt that they'd just make up something that complex and tell everyone to start worshiping the beings they created an idea of.
Why not? There are at last a dozen different crucified saviour sons of an invisible god, born of virgins, in written mythology, and you can still be killed for not pretending to believe in the right sort of mystical crap. Why do you think the Nazcas were any more or less stupid than us?

So let's stick to the facts. There are enormous drawings, of considerable graphic precision, that are only visible from the air. Why?
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #20 on: 03/03/2015 23:36:49 »
alancalverd - My last post to David was to see if he was serious but it was a distraction since I don't want to be stuck on one example of pseudoscience. As I said. At least for me, this part of the thread is over. So if you're communicating with me then you're wasting your time. The reason being because when people want to discuss pseudoscience itself they use various examples from it (or at least I did). That doesn't mean staying with one and only one example. That only happens when someone has to win an argument and can't let it go. So I'm just dropping it. Of course you're quite free to discuss it with whomever you choose.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2015 23:43:23 by PmbPhy »

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #21 on: 03/03/2015 23:59:50 »
I'm still with you on debunking pseudoscience! My favourite targets are devices that protect you from the harmful electromagnetic radiation of your mobile phone.
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #22 on: 04/03/2015 00:44:59 »
I'm still with you on debunking pseudoscience! My favourite targets are devices that protect you from the harmful electromagnetic radiation of your mobile phone.
I think I have a paper on that somewhere. The fact is that the field strength just isn't strong enough inside the brain from the phone and it doesn't emit ionizing radiation so there's zero justification for it.

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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #23 on: 04/03/2015 02:43:53 »
So let's stick to the facts. There are enormous drawings, of considerable graphic precision, that are only visible from the air. Why?

I don't necessarily think viewing them was the purpose. This site discusses different theories which mainly don't require an aerial view.

http://www.unmuseum.org/nazca.htm
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #24 on: 04/03/2015 04:01:54 »
Quote from: jeffreyH
I don't necessarily think viewing them was the purpose.
Exactly!

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #25 on: 04/03/2015 13:27:04 »
 
Quote
Originally these were considered to be war trophies collected from distant tribes, but recent DNA analysis shows that the heads came from the Nazca population itself, suggesting that the motive was religious in nature.

I cannot think of a more eloquent condemnation of religion.
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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #26 on: 06/03/2015 23:17:32 »
Dear alancalverd - In this thread you asked me "Why?" on many occasions when it came to the beliefs of ancient peoples and I assumed that you were asking me what evidence I have for such assertions. I don't want to get into a discussion about this but I didn't want to leave you with the impression that I go around making unfounded claims. It's just that with some things we know, we don't always recall where we learned it. I went to an Augustinian college and was required to take courses on religion. In those courses we learned about a large variety of religions and of the religious beliefs of ancient peoples and it was those studies that I based my assertions on. But I can't name the texts I learned of from. Even the professor is long dead since that was 30 years ago.

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #27 on: 07/03/2015 00:05:12 »
I'm quite sure all of your claims and assertions have some external foundation, but a lot of what we are told about prehistoric beliefs, is itself pseudoscience.

Where we have good reason to believe that a current society is similar to its ancestors, as in the case of some South American and New Guinea tribes, there is little or no evidence of sky fairies, and a great deal of recorded Roman and North European and Native American mythology deals with terrestrial spirits. I am always suspicious of teachers who profess a religion: there is a strong temptation to validate one's own superstitions by historic reference, and what better than to claim that a society which conveniently left no written records and was completely destroyed before contact with christianity, worshipped sky fairies "just like we do". 

Quote
Likely related to the arid and extreme nature of the environment, Nazca religious beliefs were based upon agriculture and fertility. Much of Nazca art depicts powerful nature gods, such as the mythical killer whale, the harvesters, the mythical spotted cat, the serpentine creature, and the most prevalent of worshiped figures, the anthropomorphic mythical being.

Good old Wikipedia, hardly the gold standard of evidence, but not a mention of any heavenly beings (the flying killer whale defies the imagination). 

Anyway, the "why's" weren't directed at you specifically, but are rather pellets from a shotgun I like to fire at archaeologists and anthropologists: why do they assume that our ancestors, who managed to build great and enduring  structures like the Pyramids, the Puquios, Stonehenge, Macchu Picchu, the Nazca lines....by means we still don't understand, were as gullible (or as much subjected to brutal indoctrination) as christians and muslims?

So back to the facts: huge drawings only visible from above. Why? Two possible reasons: (a) to appease gods you have never actually seen or even heard of, or (b) to be seen by animals (including people) that you know to exist. Given the obvious existence of birds and bats, and the possibility that Nazcas might have built an aerostat (a damn sight easier than an underground aqueduct!) I think (b) wins on the weight of probability.
« Last Edit: 07/03/2015 08:45:35 by alancalverd »
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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #28 on: 08/03/2015 18:55:34 »
I think we often assume that ancient peoples didn't have the intellect to develop those things that only we are clever enough to devise. Our building techniques come from ancient civilizations. We haven't made those much more sophisticated. We can simply engineer in a more sophisticated way. I think it entirely possible that some sort of hot air device could have been made then. Just because it was discovered doesn't exclude the possibility that the skill was subsequently lost. Concrete evidence would be impossible to find and the only way to confirm this would be through written history. Also possibly through oral tradition.
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #29 on: 09/03/2015 00:19:31 »
. Just because it was discovered doesn't exclude the possibility that the skill was subsequently lost. Concrete evidence

Good choice of words! The Romans used concrete but there's little if any evidence of its use for hundreds of years after the fall of the empire. Attempts by the Ministry of Works in the 1950s to re-erect a fallen stone at Stonehenge just resulted in breaking it, until archaeologists suggested that it hadn't fallen anyway and was intended to be flat: we still don't know how or why the stones were transported there. And I don't think anyone has managed to build a pyramid using ropes and sweat in the last 3000 years or so.
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Offline jeffreyH

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #30 on: 09/03/2015 01:18:43 »
There is debate about pyramid construction. Did they manufacture the stone on site? It is less labour intensive.
Fixation on the Einstein papers is a good definition of OCD.

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Offline syhprum

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #31 on: 09/03/2015 03:08:37 »
Why is Stonehenge considered a wonder of prehistoric Archistructure it was pretty crude compared to what was being built in Egypt at about the same time.
No one has built a pyramid using the labour intensive techniques that were used in Pharonic times for the same reasons that manned trips to Mars have not taken place, the money cannot be allocated!
« Last Edit: 09/03/2015 09:05:03 by syhprum »
syhprum

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Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #32 on: 09/03/2015 09:39:24 »
Why is Stonehenge considered a wonder of prehistoric Archistructure it was pretty crude compared to what was being built in Egypt at about the same time.
No one has built a pyramid using the labour intensive techniques that were used in Pharonic times for the same reasons that manned trips to Mars have not taken place, the money cannot be allocated!
It was the way that the transported the stones from so far away. The stones are incredibly massive and they were hauled over very long distances. Some of them were hauled over 200 miles.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge
Quote
Another idea has to do with a quality of the stones themselves: Researchers from the Royal College of Art in London have discovered that some of the monument’s stones possess “unusual acoustic properties” —when they are struck they respond with a “loud clanging noise”. According to Paul Devereux, editor of the journal Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, this idea could explain why certain bluestones were hauled nearly 200 miles — a major technical accomplishment at the time.
« Last Edit: 09/03/2015 09:42:17 by PmbPhy »

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Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Pseudosciences
« Reply #33 on: 09/03/2015 16:03:53 »
I'm intrigued by the precision with which the cap stones are fitted to pegs on top of the uprights at Stonehenge. It suggests that our ancestors used a standardised system of measurement and a drawing convention. Even if the stones were individually finished on site, there must have been some agreed unit by which the ones from Wales were ordered - you can't just ask for "a big stone" and expect to get anything useful, and agreed such a standard, it's possible to manufacture the finished article at the quarry of origin  and save a lot of transport problems.

This still leaves a significant question. Having decided for whatever reason to collect a couple of dozen megaliths, you then need to find them or cut them from a cliff.

Finding is easy for a small number but these stones are way up in the upper decile of the sort of stones you find lying in British fields, so you need to do a lot of scouting and communication to assemble the materials, all of which takes time and again requires some form of "written" record and symbolic communication - even today, trying to assemble materials to modify 20-year-old house "in character" can depend on a great deal of luck.

I have no idea how you can quarry even one 30-ton parallelepiped without steel or explosives. Moving it is yet another problem. But clearly the technology existed, and was probably contemporary with the pyramid projects.

OK, it's not pseudoscience, but a really interesting problem in reverse engineering.
helping to stem the tide of ignorance