May 2008

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« Your Lying Shadow | Main | Almost Worth Doing »


Free William

I have been on leave therefore I have had better things to do than read your blog, sorry about that. Now I am back at work I can catch up 'sorry boss'... not.

On the imagination thing I would suggest that we all have fantastic imaginations, we use schooling to beat them into submission and by the time we are adults they are gone...

Luckily we have a few freaks (artists, musicians, syndicated cartoonists) who somehow manage to hang on to theirs (at least in part) despite our education systems.


I can imagine just about anything. But what is our imagination? Is it just imprints of the things that we see and don't forget? If so, then yeah ... you can probably teach it. Exposed to enough happy, sad, horrifying things, and you can imagine similarly happy, sad, or horrifying new things comprised of bits and pieces of what you saw.

But ... let's imagine for a second that the way we think our brains work is entirely wrong. What if the brain isn't just a decaying mass of neurons. What if our brains are an antenna? Would it be so hard to imagine that much like a radio or high-def TV, our brains are simply an antenna to receive a "signal" from our soul/spirit/life force/creation of the great spaghetti monster in the sky? What is imagination then? Is it the neurons in our decaying brain or is it something far greater ... far more powerful ... far scarier.

Any new technology is entirely indistinguishable from magic. What if the "magic" that makes us "alive" is not just neurons firing, but a signal from a far away place? Or a place nearby ... in another dimension?


Your belief that terrorists are looking for a better after-life is very wrong. It's very true that in Islam, god promises a lot to those who die fighting to protect the religion and fellow men of the religion. But it is also true that suicide is one of the biggest sins a muslim can commit. Why then are most of the terrorists muslims? The reasons are plentiful. I don't have the time to list them all but I'll put it simple. Imagine yourself, your family and friends living in a place like Palestine or Iraq. Just think about it for a minute. Would you not do anything you could to save your people or anything you could that would demonstrate your opposition or retaliation? The thing is the western mind cannot grasp the circumstances under which these people are forced to do such things. I'm not in anyway praising the actions of terrorists. Just telling you how it is, the truth. It's far from what you think it is or what you try to depict it as.

By the way,I enjoy reading your blog posts sometimes because of the witty humor and intelligent content but try getting your facts correct. ;) And excuse my my not so good English.


My best job ever....

Was at a company who required a full week's employee orientation once joining the company. There was an entire day on Innovation, called Innovation Workshop 101. Can you imagine (no pun intended) joining a company who REQUIRED you to be able to innovate? The class was incredible. There were a lot more than just "think outside the box" examples or exercises. I've been through my share of teamwork classes, facilitator, brain teasers and all sorts of things and it was still new and exciting to me.


Question on your note of increased imagination:

Are those people (travelers and interior designers) showing increased imagination or just increased ability to be unimaginative with other peoples ideas. They aren't thinking anything new, they just have a larger base of old ideas.


My response as a scientist is that if we can describe the shadow of the duck accurately, and we cannot 'see' the extra dimensions, then that is all that matters. Whether it is some higher-dimensional meta-duck casting the shadow or not is an issue for philosophers. If on the other hand we could somehow find a way to 'see' the extra dimensions, then it becomes a matter for science to refine the theory of the ducks shadow in terms of the newly-perceived meta-duck.


Let's assume for a moment that the evolution theory is correct if our perception of a three-dimensional world and the passage of time is correct.

Now let's assume that our perception of three dimensions and time is incorrect, as in the example you quoted.

I still don't really see the sense in saying "evolution is incorrect because time doesn't pass, but is just another dimension". That's like saying "the sun doesn't set at night, because in fact the sun doesn't revolve around the earth." Well duh - the sun still goes down at night, in the sense that the event traditionally and mistakenly called sundown or sunset really does happen. In the same way, "there is no movement in time or space, just infinite positions along the way" doesn't exclude our concept of evolution, since that concept is dependent on our perception of time - if you were to (let's say wrongly) assume that we move in time and space, evolution could still be "true" in the same way as "the sun set at night" is true.

Or so it seems to me right now.

Dave Oblad

Back again.. I noted a variety of issues in the comments here ranging from Evolution to Plato's cave. The basic theme being imagination and perception. So this is just a quick observation to mix into this stew.

I have an IQ about 160. That's just a simple fact. And no one would argue that they have a lesser perception of reality than their dog or cat. My IQ puts about the same distance between me and the average person as the average person is to their pet. Again, this is simple fact and not a boast. I'm not an egotist (believe it or not).

Here is what I find amusing: I envy a person with high level skills with a musical instrument. I don't dislike them for their skill. The higher IQ doesn't really give me much of a competitive advantage except in problem solving. So I market myself in that field and do quite well. But, back to perceptions.. I do have one advantage in being able to see a wider selection of possibilities and probabilities over the average person. As much higher than the average person has over their pet. So one would think my opinions might carry greater weight. They don't!

Many times I feel frustrated that I can't make someone understand that the shadows they see are not the real objects. I'm faced with arguments from folks that can't grasp what's potentially outside the cave. (or box) I wouldn't argue with an expert in Music or Art or Chemistry... but when it comes to Intellect.. why is everyone suddenly so equal?

Have you ever won an argument by saying.. "Because I'm smarter than you!"? I never tried it but I'm fairly sure it wouldn't cut the mustard.

I can tell you that variation and fine tuning of Evolution Theory will ultimately prove to be the truth. I can also tell you the Bible will ultimately be proven mostly false.

I do feel for those that believe the Bible to be literal truth because someday they will have to accept that Santa Claus is just a story for kids and the Bible works the same way for adults. But Santa Claus helps to keep a kids mind and imagination open to possibilities. Same as with the Bible. So here is the conundrum: Most would agree that good imagination is critical to growing and evolving as a society. So wouldn't suppression of faith have the same negative effects as suppression of imagination?

Perhaps a bit of something to dwell on.. Best wishes Scott.. from Dave :^)

(Ps. I do believe in a supreme being, just not the one from the Bible)

Dave Oblad

I would love to see classes on imagination. Alas.. Schools don't reward imagination. In fact, they mostly punish for thinking outside the box. Case in point: Me!

I went to college for a degree in electronics. After basic electronics math and algebra, the math got harder. To the point that no one could use it to solve problems. I got creative and used my own math techniques to solve the problems. To the extent that I was the only person in class that could deliver accurate solutions.

My professor failed me! He didn't care if my answers were correct, but rather I showed an attempt at using his means of solving complex problems. I asked if he would rather fly a rocket I designed, using my methods for finding actual correct answers; or fly a rocket designed by one of his other students, that used his methods but never got an answer correct.

He was furious and I dropped out. I went into electronics anyway, at the bottom, and quickly, over three years, became the senior R&D electronics engineer at a major company. About that time, my fellow students where just graduating and seeking jobs. Guess who interviewed those fresh applicants. Yep.. me!

So I asked the same (but easier) questions that was presented in his class.. none of those degreed engineers ever passed my entry exam. This simple math was too hard for them and they had never been taught how to seek solutions by truly understanding the problem. The real world seldom conforms to what you are taught in class.

One cattle-call resulted in 70 applicants. Ranging from Associate's to Masters. Out of that number, only 4 passed my basic electronics exam. Three of which were non-degreed. What does that say about our colleges?

Since that college had a job placement program, and no graduates qualified, I got to send a letter to them stating how poorly equipped their students were for the real world. (Perhaps I was a bit bitter?) Since then, I found that the best engineers I've hired, or ever met, are non-degreed.

I'm sure this is true for many other fields. You are rewarded for marching in place and punished for original thinking. I call it the "Good ol boy syndrome". Schools don't teach you how to think creatively, they teach you to conform.

I think a big part of the problem is that many schools offer what they can't deliver. For example: I'm not a great artist... and all the art schools in the world can't fix that. I'm just not wired for that activity. And schools can't make you what your not. This, I would imagine, applies to virtually all fields.

Perhaps, if the creative side of us were exercised during all our developing years, we would have far more brilliant and adaptable folks, doing some good for society.

Anyway, sorry this got longer than I wanted.. super blog Scott.. Best wishes from Dave :^)


"Imagination" you describe could be "faked" with empathy and straightforward unimaginative experience.


Here, you say, "If time doesn’t really move forward, or objects only appear to move through space but don’t, I have no problem imagining that evolution is a faulty perception."

That, I have no problem imagining. But this isn't what you were saying in your previous post, which was about an extra dimension of time.

The proposed extra dimension might help explain several observed phenomena, such as when sub-atomic particles seem to affect things in the past. The theorized extra dimensions of space are sub-sub-sub-atomic, so small as to have no affect on things bigger than an atom (see the article you linked).

An extra dimension of time of time would be similar, in that it has zero relevance to super-atomic masses (like humans, and everything else that undergoes biological evolution).

If you were really, "wondering how many people could IMAGINE being wrong about a major perception," then your experimental methodology is severely flawed, since evolution is not a perception, nor is it accepted by everyone.

It would've been far better to simply use the issue in the article, since "there is one dimension of time and it goes one way," is a univeral and fundamental human perception. Instead you picked on evolution (again) in a facile attempt to be incendiary (again).


Adding dimensions does not necessarily invalidate the theories which explain lower-dimension observations.
Example: Imagine a world which is two-dimensional in space. Also imagine an intelligent life form in it which has limited senses, and beleives its world is one dimensional.
Now add a one-dimensional Newton, who observes the one dimensional shadow of rotation. He could put down all the kinematics of harmonic resonances, he would only be wrong about the dynamics (he would have to assume the existence of an invisible force pointing towards the axle, whose magnitude is proportional to the distance from the axle.)
I don't think the invention of two dimensions would disprove his theory at all, it would prove it to be a suitable model.

On the other hand, I'm completely incapable of imagining how the theory of evolution could be wrong. Which part? Mutation or natural selection? Or that this alone could have resulted in todays biodiversity?


MacMillan, your post about scientists' opinion on climate change is staggering in its wrongness. What, pray tell, are you basing your broad generalizations on? A brief google search on "scientific consensus climate change" would have brought you to this well-sourced wikipedia article (among other, similar pages):

Moreover, you state that climate change has no impact on operational science, citing "the way we grow crops, measure and predict weather, organize shipping routes, etc." Uh, what about the way we obtain and use energy, the way we design our living environments, the way develop land or use it as a carbon sink, the way we adapt to changes in temperature and sea level, and the way our economy adjusts to all of the above changes?

Are those areas not scientific enough for you?

Adam Williams

All this shadow stuff reminds me of Plato's cave analogy.

Personally, I hate it when people cant even imagine themselves being wrong. I like to do it all the time. One of my favorites is imagining what my explanation to god would be if it turned out he really did exist. You think I could get into heaven after a lifetime of atheism if I had sufficient weaseling skills?


A better way to phrase your question may have been to ask if our seeing one fundamental assertion of science revised would convince people that nothing in this world should be above questioning.

I think a big barrier to your "imagination class" is the standards-based movement in education. There's no room for nuance any more. I consider myself privileged to have had the sort of education that encouraged nuance and some critical thinking. Unfortunately, poorer students tend to be in schools that have to meet minimum test score standards, and so this imagination and critical thinking is scrapped in favor of filling them with "absolute" knowledge to regurgitate later.

My greatest teachers always taught me to be skeptical. My high school physics teacher was a master of this, once spending the better part of a class period giving a factually incorrect lecture on inertia, after students failed to properly apply the concept. When we finally caught errors being replicated in his approach, he explained he had been practicing the “majority view of physics”. He taught us not to just copy down what he said and take it as given, and that when we were doing experiments we shouldn't just trust numbers that come out of black boxes without understanding them.

Adrian D.

Wes Wilson:

You have just identified the scientific community as a priesthood. Simply put, a priesthood is a structure in which ideas must come from those who have been indoctrinated.


Rita Mae, u're a funny lass! :-)

Couple o things:

1. "Is Indo a male or female pseudonym?" Tis male. Not that it mattered tho, ja?

2. "We're not meeting. I don't even drink beer, much less have three ways." That's quite a pity... U really don't know what you're missing.

3. And you should give beer a chance too. ;-)

4. I'm not Irish, nor do I wish it. And no, I'm not in denial!


Finding out I am wrong about something is fun. It's like a door in your house you have walked by for years, and one day it's open and you see a new room.

Steven McDaniel

'Blah, blah, blah, gaps in the fossil records.' Hey, Scott, good burn, you sure got me! However, the fossil record has no 'gaps' in it - it is pretty complete as it stands. The 'fossil record' just indicates any evidence for the-religion-of-evolution-that-makes-its-adherents-feel-scientifically-superior-for-no-earthly-reason as effectively as it demonstrates that the elephant got its trunk through pulling its nose away from a predator in the water supply it was drinking from. And Paris Hilton is a way more useful 'model' than evolution. One day you all will just have to get real if you really do want to be able to call yourself scientific.


I have to agree, Scott. To save the quality of your blog, you must close the comment section to your blog. [But what about the joy and wisdom I get daily reading your comments?-Scott]. O wipe those tears away big boy. I can still email a comment or two to you. [Oh yeah. Like I am to believe you? Remember how you said you’d come to Christmas last year? All I got was an empty place setting at my dining table, an unopened present with your name on it, and a pillow wet with my tears—Scott.] Now Scott, we’ve had this talk before. While I understand that my position as your Number One Fan—Non-Blood Relation, Middle-Aged White Male Category, East Coast Division, imposes certain obligations on me, you understand that I have obligations to other cartoonist blogs. Where would be the other cartoon blogs—the Rex Morgan Blog, the Dick Tracy Blog, the Girls in Apartment 3-G Blog, etc –without my snarky wit, cross-eyed wisdom, stick-to-your-ribs baseless libel, and my hearty cold-bloodied character assassination? Yes Scott, its time to close your comment section. [Can’t I keep it open just for your comments?Peasepleasepleaseplease—Scott] Sigh. Well, okay Sure. [A bright smile through tears—Scott]. But no more of this talk about evolution being potentially not true. [I promise—Scott]

Wes Wilson

The problem isn't that people don't have imagination, it's that the scientifically-minded are constantly berated with negativity from back-seat scientists. Every dimwit with a blog has some pet pseudoscience they are trying to push as real, and after a while it becomes exhausting. As a result, pet theories that are pushed by laymen are almost universally discounted.

Had I read about the paper through channels laden with peer review, I might have found less to dismiss. I know it's a logical fallacy, but the identity of the person delivering the message matters sometimes. Peer reviewed scientists will get taken seriously... and feed the imagination you are claiming we are missing.


"I don't think it's the lack of imagination that is the problem, but rather the lack of humility. Pride makes it difficult to imagine that you might be wrong about something.

Posted by: Quaid"

A worse reaction of excessive pride is being unable to imagine someone else being RIGHT. That's where nit-picking came from.


Zach, the problem with "aliens did it" or "god did it" is that it then closes down any attempt to discover what happened.

When lightning was thrown by the gods to smite the ungodly, why would someone try to see what caused lightning? They'd need a synopsis of the inter-familial problems then pertaining in the Heavenly Dimensions.

When it is decided that Gods don't throw lightning, we then have questions like: how to we stop lighning from burning our house down? NOTE: churches until relatively recently DID NOT have lightning rods (because if God is throwing them, he wouldn't throw them at the House Of God, would he?). Then, because we "knew" lightning isn't God Justice, we started looking at what could make it.

So the idea of a ligntning rod to protect your house is a result of NOT believing God Did It. When He did, we had no reason to ask "how do we stop it" apart from "do what God (His priests) say", which wasn't all that successful.

If evolution is God Made, then that closes off what is happening. God's tinkering and if we can understand his tinkering then we are Gods ourselves (or God is less than us), which isn't much fun for priests either.

And if Aliens did it, where did they arise from?


"This is the primary issue between the pure "darwinists" and those friendly to intelligent design. The former believe that random mutation and natural selection are a plausible explanation. The latter believe it is not, or at least it has not been demonstrated.
Posted by: KBT"

However, you then have to take intelligence and thought out of the physical manifestation (uh oh, soul) so that you can have intelligence that then caused evolution in the crude elements available, or you have pushed back where evolution came from to "where did the aliens evolve from?"

As to the "it is not proven", please show me proof that granite is worn down by the action of the sea. Please prove to me that stalactites are formed by limestone deposition. Please prove to me the orbit of pluto.

We humans don't live long enough to see enough of these things to see the absolute and incontrovertible proof (where the actions taken are so extreme as to prove the only method that will explain those actions are the ones supposed).

Odd though how people don't think that maybe there's an eight-dimensional granite coastline that is not being eroded, it's just being moved out of the three dimensions we can see.


[Off topic (thankfully), people always laugh in Germany when I tell them there's no single word in English for 'the day before yesterday'. Perhaps we should invent one..

Posted by: marmiter]

In my family, we had Christmass, Christmass Eve and before that, Christmass Adam.

Not that this helps, but it shows that others have been thinking this way too.

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