Site Archive: Commentaries
Betting on the Mars "Face"
A Commentary by Tom Van Flandern
Reprinted from The Anomalist 2
When funds and budgets became tight in the past decade, research on alternative theories was the first to be cut. Today, if a proposal is not presented in terms of the mainstream paradigm, it receives negative reviews that give it no chance for funding in a climate where less than 20 percent of all proposals are approved for funding. Reviews are anonymous and non-appealable, so proposers are quickly conditioned not to bother trying to get support for research on alternative models.
So the journals become filled with papers interpreting data in terms of mainstream models, and the impression that these models are scientifically certain and unassailable becomes widespread. Once that happens, scientists who continue to question lose credibility and come labeled as "on the fringe." Their proposals are no longer given any serious review, and it becomes very difficult for them to get published.
The problem can be illustrated with various paradigms, one of which is that there has been no extraterrestrial intervention in the origin and development of life within the solar system, all of which is on Earth. Yet there are several lines of evidence that suggest otherwise. One is the so-called "face" on Mars. There are two NASA images of this feature and an enhancement of the second, which has a higher Sun angle than the original view, indicating that the "face" is apparently bilaterally symmetric. All nearby ground features, which include pyramidal structures, a plateau, a large mound, and a complex of smaller objects, are also peculiar and arranged in regular--linear, triangular, rectangular, or other simple figure--patterns, as if planned.
The Moon exhibits similar evidence. The Ukert crater in the center of the lunar disc reveals an interior equilateral triangle at full Moon, and the surrounding areas contain other anomalous objects with a possibly artificial appearance. While the case for extraterrestrial intervention is not yet conclusive, with so much at stake, it behooves every scientist seeking truth to test this paradigm at every opportunity, and without prejudice about the outcome of such tests.
In discussions with colleagues, it is often asserted that the probability of extraterrestrial intelligence visiting the solar system is extremely small. But that is not a known scientific fact. In truth, that probability is unknown, which is quite a different matter from being small. For all we know, it may be the case that nearly every terrestrial-type planet in our galaxy has already been visited by extraterrestrial intelligences, making the probability high, not small.
This erroneous probability argument has led people on both sides of the issue to make questionable judgments. My assessment of the Mars anomalies at Cydonia is that the artificiality question is neither proved nor ruled out. In my opinion, the answer could still go either way. But one of my colleagues once expressed such certainly in the artificial intervention at Cydonia hypothesis that he offered to bet at 100-to-1 odds that it would be proved correct. In the meantime, a somewhat more skeptical colleagues has offered to bet anyone at 100-to-1 odds that all the Cydonia anomalies are of natural origin.
I have accepted both bets. In my opinion, both parties were exaggerating the odds in their favor, although both thought they were in fact underestimating those odds. But it was clear to me that, although one of the two would eventually win his bet (by go od luck, in my opinion), the other must lose, and I must end up $99 richer for every dollar bet both ways. This is what can happen when individuals allow their personal beliefs and emotions to bias their judgments.
In science, it is not appropriate to believe in either outcome. The objective scientist takes no position, and has no vested interest in the outcome of any observation or experiment beyond the advancement of knowledge. The alternative is to act on a personal belief system, which people tend to do quite commonly. This is why the world is filled with conflicting, yet strongly held, beliefs. And this is why self-deception is the chief way that people shield themselves from the truth.
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