Monday, September 18, 2006

Doggerel #39: "I Can See It, Why Can't You?"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This particular bit of doggerel has many different contexts, since it's so general. Often, like "obvious," it's a sign that a person hasn't thought things through. This one is also closely related to "I know what I saw!"


Intelligent Design: Many people claim that it's impossible not to see design everywhere. This strikes me as strange, since it seems "obvious" to me that the world wasn't designed, especially now that I know a thing or two about evolution. Some things work, and some things don't. The things that don't work die (natural selection) or get destroyed. (For instance, in the case of planets: If they aren't in an appropriate orbit, they fall into the sun or get flung out into the Kuiper Belt or wherever.) The world we see today is the result of a lot of self-pruning.

Psychic powers, Astrology, Tarot, etcetera: The perception of accuracy in these things stems mostly from the observer's mind, usually in the form of confirmation bias and the Forer effect: They're blinding themselves to mistakes and failures. For any of the believers reading this: This is one really good reason to make a recording of a reading. Your mind plays enough tricks with you, the psychic often doesn't need to.

Quackery: The appearance of improvement is not reliable when it comes to anecdotes. Human beings do not possess an infallible sense of status, or an infallible ability to determine the well-being of others. That's one reason the placebo effect exists: Anyone's perception can fail, especially in the direction of hope. You can see or feel what you hope or expect to. That's why things like double-blind placebo-controlled studies exist: Compare doing something to the illusion of doing something. If there's a big enough difference, it means you're really doing something. It's that simple.

Pareidolia "miracles": Try cloud-watching (or nebula-watching, see below) with a friend. You'll probably see a few things he can't, and vice-versa.
Data and Guinan are sitting at the row of windows, observing the spectacular view of the nebula.

GUINAN: I see... a Samarian coral fish... with its fins unfolded...

DATA: I believe what you are seeing is the effect of the fluid dynamic processes inherent to large scale motion of highly rarified gas.

GUINAN: No... first it was a fish... now I see a Mintonian sailing ship...

DATA: Where?

GUINAN: (points) Right there -- see how the two swirls come up to form a mast...

DATA: I do not see it... It is interesting that people try to find meaningful patterns in things that are essentially random. I have noticed that the images they perceive can sometimes suggest what they are thinking about at that particular moment... Besides, it is clear that this cloud formation most closely resembles a "bunny rabbit."

Doggerel Index


beepbeepitsme said...


Satan Destroys Pet Shop

Nes said...

Is that supposed to be Jesus, with his arms held out off to the sides (between the yellow lines)? I didn't notice anything in the shell the first few times I looked at it, so finally I said "Ok, he's got that picture there for a reason, what's in it?" and looked again... and that's what I finally came up with.

Bronze Dog said...

Got it pretty much the opposite: It was allegedly Satan. You can click the pic for Beep Beep's entry on it.

I see a bunny rabbit with gigantism in its inscisors. Or an angry cartoon bull.