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Podcast > Thursday, 21 April 2011 21:12:07 EST

Dumbass Podcast #5: The Ghost Cavalry Of World War I

Keywords: paranormal, historical, book, aliens, ancient alien theory

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In this episode, I yammer on a bit about myself, talk about the case of a ghost cavalry from WWI, and make a new recommendation in the Dumbass book club.

Links Mentioned In The Show:
My Unfinished Seasilver Website
Captain Hayward's Letter
R. Dewitt Miller's Account Of The Ghost Cavalry Story
The Battle Of Bethune
Operation Georgette
Portugal In World War I
The German Spring Offensive
The Angel Of Mons
The British-Israel-World-Federation
Invisibleskymonster.com
Skeptichosting.com
Audible Free Trial Special Deal
The Drunkard's Walk Audiobook
Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me Audiobook
The Invisible Gorilla Audiobook
Theme Music From Jonathancoulton.com
Other Music From Danosongs.com

The Exquisite Truth Ep 1
The Exquisite Truth Ep 2
The Exquisite Truth Ep 3
The Exquisite Truth Ep 4
The Exquisite Truth Ep 5
The Exquisite Truth Ep 6
The Exquisite Truth Ep 7

Images Referenced (Also Embedded In The Transcript Text)
Golden Flyer Compared To Jet Airplane Model
The Other Popular Jet Candidate
Logo Of The Ancient Astronaut Society
Some Of The Other Jet Candidates, Clearly Animals
The Jet Model Golden Flyer

Enjoy the show!  Here's the transcript:

BEGIN HYPERJUMP!! BEGIN HYPERJUMP!!... I don't care if the engines are over heating, this is an emergency!  Now begin the goddamn hyperjump!!!

...... Oh, hi!  When did you get here?  I was just... uh... taking care of some other business there.  Don't worry, I think I've got a handle on the situation... as long as the podcast's hyperjump engines can keep it together.

Anyway, welcome to the fifth episode of The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge, Brian Dunning's favourite podcast and blog!  I have very little evidence with which to make that claim, but I see no reason why it couldn't be true so I'm assuming that it is.  You are listening to the award defying podcast that's the companion to my Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge blog located on the interwebs at www.dumbassguide.info.  

For a transcript of this episode, simply get out a pen and paper and write down everything you hear... or go to the website, if you like to do things the easy way.  Wimp!

Anyway, before we get started, I have a small correction to make from the last podcast.  You may remember that I read out my enemies list, which includes Karl Mamer, James Randi, Santa Clause, and AstroStu.  Well, it has recently come to my attention that at least one of those figures is actually completely imaginary.

I feel so disillusioned, but I suppose that I should have been able to put two and two together.  I mean, at my age it really is kind of silly to believe in a magical guy with a flowing white beard named James Randi who flies around the world giving out million dollar cheques to all the good little psychics everywhere.

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's start things off!  In todays episode I will be talking a little bit about myself, taking a look at the claims of a ghost cavalry from the first world war, answering my comments and criticisms, and recommending a new book in the Dumbass Book Club.  So let's get started!

I've been thinking a lot about this relationship that I'm creating with you, my listeners... and I sincerely hope that both of you are thoroughly enjoying the podcast.  But I think that perhaps I should allow you to get to know a little bit more about me, your dumbass host.  Somebody mentioned to me that I was a little bit mysterious because I don't give out a lot of personal information.  

I do highly value my privacy, but I think that I should probably open up at least a little bit and tell you something about myself and how I became interested in critical thinking and the skeptic movement.  That's the question that people often ask in interviews, right?  So hopefully you will all be interested in hearing me indulge in a rare rambling spiel all about myself.  And if you're not interested... well, screw you buddy, this is my podcast!

I hear a lot of people say that they've always been a skeptic, and  I sometimes wonder if their memory's not faulty on that.  As for me, for most of my life I've actually been a believer in the paranormal other nonsense.  I wasn't a whole heartedly invested believer, and, of course, there were some claims that I was skeptical about.  But mostly I was very credulous, and I casually bought into a lot of the things that were told to me.

Part of the reason is that my family was into this kind of thing, and I remember my mother taking me to these kind of new age expos and holistic doctors and that kind of thing.  I didn't go unwillingly, it was all genuinely interesting stuff.  But now that I look back on it, I realize that I just hadn't been prepared with the mental tools to evaluate information critically.

I know that there were limits to my credulity.  I remember a story, I believe from the Weekly World News, claiming that China planned to knock the Earth off it's orbit by getting everybody in the country to jump all at once, but we were saved by a group of fat Americans who decided to perform a counter jump at the same time.  That was a cute story, and I generally didn't believe the articles in there, though they were fun to read.  But there was also a mail order ad in there selling special sand with spiritual properties and if I bought some and sprinkled it on my doorstep, it would bring me prosperity.  Score!  How could I NOT buy a bag?

That's right, according to my adolescent mind, Bat Boy and heroic fat jumpers were just crazy, made-up stories.... but magical sand?  Well, that was completely plausible!  I was so excited to get that little plastic baggy of sand and I started sprinkling it on my doorstep right away.  I didn't notice a lot of prosperity... but that probably means that I just wasn't properly opening myself up to those positive energies.  When will I learn?  I need to open up to the universe and let it bring those good vibrations my way!

But, I've always had at least an interest in science and investigation.  The first novel length book I ever read was a story about a group of children who solved mysteries.  It was one of a series of books by Enid Blyton, about a group of seven children who called themselves the "Secret Seven", and they got together to solve mysteries.  That first book I read when I was eight years old was called "The Seven And The UFOs", and if I remember correctly the UFOs had a completely earth-bound explanation.

So I feel kind of let down by my education, because I genuinely had an interest in understanding the process of gaining knowledge.  But none of my teachers ever showed an interest in teaching an understanding of critical thinking.  I even had one science teacher, in a class on biology no less, tell the class that there was this herbal remedy that actually cured cancer but the government had forbidden it to say so because of pharmaceutical industry pressure.  What do you do with information like that when you haven't been taught how to think critically and analyze evidence?In college, my interest in this kind of topic lead me to take a class called "Public Disinformation" which I had high hopes for, but looking back I realize that it was completely inadequate.

I was starting to have more doubts, though, about alternative health claims.  I used to be the kind of guy who would unthinkingly take supplements just on the company's word that they provide some kind of benefit.  But I was growing less certain about that kind of thing, and in 2003 I ran across some strange claims in an online message by somebody promoting a product called SeaSilver.  This was one of those daily health drink MLM products that touted itself as better than any other vitamins or supplements.

The guy was saying, among other things, that the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere has been decreasing, that cancer can't grow in oxygen rich environments, and that SeaSilver oxygenates your body so that cancer won't be able to gain a foothold.  So I did my research, and I found out that these claims are pretty much blatantly false.  I said as much, and showed my research, but of course, I wasn't able to convince him.  This was my first introduction, though, to sites such as Quackwatch, and I voraciously read many of the other articles listed there.

I found out everything I could, and looked at each claim made on SeaSilver websites, and in the end I'd done a lot of research.  I wanted to do something more with that research than just argue with some random guy, so I started putting it all down in website format for the benefit of anybody else who wanted the facts.  But before I could put everything in place, the FDA and FTC came down hard on SeaSilver and made them stop making their unsubstantiated claims.  So I abandoned my partially finished website.  

I hadn't even made up any kind of design for it, I'd just written one long article about SeaSilver's vitamin claims.  The page is still up there, I'll link to it on the show page.  Pretty much all of the links are now defunct, and my writing was a little less refined... listen to me, as though my writing is currently the height of refinement... but reading through it now, eight years later, I notice a lot of areas where I would word things differently or make other changes if I wrote it today.  Maybe I'll revise it and make a new blog post on the subject.

Anyway, this was my first experience in researching these kinds of claims, and I found that I enjoyed it.  I didn't yet know that there was a community out there of people who make it their business to think critically about things like this and analyze the evidence.  I'd seen a couple of documentaries involving James Randi, and I'd found them interesting, but I hadn't realized how popular a figure he was and I wasn't aware of just how much he was doing to advance critical thinking.  I was kind of oblivious, and I still sort of toyed around with weird new age spiritual concepts.

My religious upbringing isn't much to talk about.  Other people have compelling stories about dogmatic parents preaching fire and brimstone.  Me, I went to a very liberal church in Toronto, where Sunday School involved colouring pictures of Jesus that contained messages about how each one of us is special, then gathering in a circle, holding hands and singing songs like "Kumbaya" and "This Little Light Of Mine", after which we'd have cookies.  We kind of just fell out of going, I think in my tween years, after we moved and Toronto was too much of a commute.

So it wasn't a big part of my life, but I kind of had some strange new age-y spiritual beliefs, acquired hodge-podge from spiritual books and such.  Remember those books I read from in my last episode?  I didn't just find those quotes online, I actually own those books!  I remember playing Mille Bournes with my wife (then girlfriend) and she got all the safety cards three games in a row, and I was convinced that this couldn't be chance!  There must be some sort of negative spiritual vibe messing things up.  Maybe faries were jinxing the cards or something.  And this is how much of a dumbass I am: I was making mystical hand motions and trying to disperse the negative energy from the deck, and she, of course, kept on making her own gestures to counter what I was doing.

If you had any respect for me to begin with, I guess that's gone out the window now!  Anyway, I now adhere to the one true faith, Sagetarianism.  Oh Bog Saget is our lord and saviour, many blessings upon his name.  And don't any of you heathens try and tell me that he doesn't exist!

But I digress.  The problem, of course, is that like most people, I didn't understand that randomness doesn't mean pattern-free.  It's one of those valuable lessons that would be so easy to teach our students, but nobody bothers.  In high school taking OAC Computer Programming, I studied chaos theory and the different ways of representing it's concepts in computer code.  You'd think an understanding of uncertainty and randomness would have been a good precursor to that, but I never had that lesson.

In college I studied statistics, but it was just math problems without much effort placed on understanding context and thinking critically about this stuff.  Do you see why I feel let down by my education?  There've been several opportunities to teach me these lessons, and they were just wasted.  It wasn't until I really got interested in this subject and reading about it on my own that I understood the important context that I'd been missing.

My education in critical thinking didn't come directly through the skeptical movement.  In 2004 I began watching Penn and Teller's Showtime show, and that got me thinking more about the topic of skepticism and understanding the way things happen.  I have some of my old writings from the time where I talked about the show expressed my dismay at being unskilled in this kind of understanding and analysis.  In 2006, I found out about Penn Jillette's radio show, and I became a devoted fan.  When the show ended in 2007, I went looking for something to fill the void, and that's when I started getting into podcasts.  

I came across some skeptical podcasts then, and I think I even listened to a couple of episodes, but I was trying out a lot of different kinds of podcasts and I got more into the political and current events shows.  It was through this interest that I began to try and cultivate a greater understanding of statistics and knowledge.  When you pay attention to debates and online discussions, what you notice is that statistics and studies are mostly used like people are throwing rocks with their eyes closed.  There's no real attempt at understanding, just blindly grabbing for those tidy little nuggets until it becomes a war of duelling statistics hurled this way and that.  It's information without context, and anybody trying to make sense of it ends up more confused than when they'd started out.

So I began reading online about understanding statistics, studies, and logic, and that same year I bought the book "Damned Lies And Statistics" by Joel Best.  I devoured it, and it's sequel "More Damned Lies And Statistics", and I began to read other books on understanding information.  "Media Mythmakers" by Benjamin Radford, "It Ain't Necessarily So" by Murray Schwartz, and Lichter, "The Drunkard's Walk" by Leonard Mlodinow, and many more.  My collection just kept on growing.

And the most astonishing thing you learn when you study these kinds of subjects is that making sense out of these things actually isn't difficult.  Understanding statistics enough to put them into context, enough to understand which ones are weak and when there might be more to the story, is actually really easy.  It's easier than most of the math that you learned in school, and far more useful.  I haven't used calculus since high school... I've been able to make use of my algebra and geometry on occasion, but this stuff?  I find use for it everywhere!

Why did I never learn anything about, for example, the difference between relative and absolute risks in school? This is some of the most important stuff you could ever learn, but only a minority of people actually know about it.  And it's this lack of knowledge that causes us to feel so overwhelmed by the information and arguments out there.  But the truth is that understanding a lot of this stuff is much easier than most people realize.  As laypeople, there are some areas where we have to rely on experts to put things into perspective for us... but those areas are much smaller than you might think.  An understanding of statistics and randomness will allow a layperson to competently analyze claims and studies, and it's absolutely not difficult to do.

So I began to become interested in doing something to promote critical thinking and an understanding of these kinds of issues, and it was this interest that eventually led me to create my dumbass blog in the format that you now see it at dumbassguide.info, and to put out this podcast.

Well, I think that's enough of me rambling about myself.  I hope it's given you the opportunity to know a little bit more about me and why I'm doing this.  And if you didn't really care, and really, there's no reason that you should, I promise that the rest of the show will be far less self intensive.


And now a quote from the book "Healing From The Heart" by Doctor Mehmet Oz.  Congratulations Doctor Oz on your recent Pigassus award, it was well deserved.  In this quote, Doctor Oz talks about the "Grandmother Cell Theory", which is a tentative hypothesis stating that everything you know and feel about a person, such as your grandmother, is contained within a single neuron in your brain.  Doctor Oz writes:

For me the grandmother-cell theory undermined the entire Western-based allopathic system of medicine because it didn’t answer the main question: How do you truly recognize Grandma? If you push the understanding of the physiological basis of medicine far enough, you'll usually come to a point that you can no longer defend it scientifically, that you must take it on faith. I couldn’t.

Wonderfully put, Mehmet!  The fact that there are things that medical science doesn't know absolutely undermines the entire Western-based allpathic system of medicine!  When you understand that you just can't accept what it tells you on faith, the only logical solution is, of course, to turn to a medical modality that requires you to accept all it's premises completely on faith!  It's just common sense! Those western allopaths, thinking that they know things with their focus on "evidence" and "science".  Who the hell do they think they are?  Always refusing to prescribe me the good stuff on the basis that I "don't have any medical need!" PFFFT!!


Today I want to go into a story that I covered in the Dumbass Guide blog back in March of 2010.  This is one of those "true life" ghost stories that I found in a book called "Nightmare Island", which provided me with some good material for a few articles.  This specific story is about the Ghost Cavalry of World War I.  The book gives the following summary:

On April 24, 1940, a strange story appeared in an English publication, the National Message.  The story was told firsthand by a highly trained observer, Captain Cecil Wightmick Haywood.  It is one of the most astounding tales to come out of World War I.

Sounds juicy!  And it's reported by a "highly trained observer" no less, so it must be credible, right??  Well, let's see...

I managed to find a copy of the original letter printed in The National Message, as reprinted in the magazine "This England" in their winter 1982 edition.  I have the full text of the letter, and I'll put a link to the file on the show page.  There are several discrepancies between the story reported in Nightmare Island and the original.  For example, the captain's name was apparently "Cecil Wightwick Hayward", rather than "Cecil Wightmick Haywood".

These discrepancies appear to originate in the book "Forgotten Mysteries 1947" by R. Dewitt Miller.  Miller didn't reprint the original letter, he just told the story in his own words.  I have to take the original letter as the authoritative version.  It seems that Mr. Miller wasn't very fastidious about making sure he got the story exactly right.  He seems to have even made up a few details that weren't in the original at all.

The incident, here called "The Ghost Cavalry", is apparently also referred to as "The White Cavalry", and seems to be used mostly by religious websites as support for the existence of miracles.  The original letter is fairly long, so I won't quote it in full.  You can see the full letter for yourself by looking on the show transcript at dumbassguide.info.

In brief, the story is that sometime between the months of April and August 1918, the allied lines near Bethune, France were in trouble.  The Germans were about to break through when they suddenly stopped and unexpectedly opened fire at a patch of bare ground.  After a few minutes of this they dropped their guns and fled in terror.  On questioning, German prisoners of the battle told the story of what happened.  The Germans had seen cavalry men dressed all in white, riding on white horses advancing towards them at a leisurely pace.  They weren't affected by German fire, and just kept on advancing.  That's when the severely spooked Germans called it quits and ran.

Interestingly, the context of this tale has some historic plausibility.  It seems, in fact, to be a recounting of the Battle Of Bethune, part of the German Operation Georgette which took place on April 18, 1918.  This particular version of events, though, isn't listed in any history books.

Here's a historically agreed upon description of the battle:

The main attack was made on the sector defended by the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps, which was tired after an entire year spent in the trenches, and just when they were scheduled to be replaced in the line by fresh British troops. Despite a desperate defense in which they lost more than 7,000 men, the Portuguese defenders and the British on their northern flank were rapidly overrun. However, the British defenders on the southern flank held firm on the line of the La Bassée Canal.

The line at the La Bassée Canal, near Bethune, is the one mentioned in the original letter printed in The National Message.  So it looks like this story was at least written by somebody who had some grasp of historical events.

But then, there are also some strange discrepancies with the historical record.  For example, Hayward's letter stated that:

It was at this juncture that Portugal came in on our side, and raised a conscripted Army which landed in France early in March, 1918.

Actually, although Portugal was neutral for the first couple years of the war, they  entered the war in March of 1916, a full 2 years before the events described here.  Remember from the historical account that Portuguese troops had been stationed in the sector for about a year at the time.

Hayward's letter continues:

Towards the end of that month I was instructed by Headquarters that a Portuguese force would be passing through Bethune shortly in order to take over a sector of the front line trenches just in front of  Bethune, so as to relieve the British who had been holding it for so long.

Well, somebody has his facts mixed up.  It was the Portuguese who had been holding the lines, and the British were coming in to relieve them.  Not the other way around!  Hmmm... wasn't the idea here that a "trained observer" would be an extremely reliable source.  How is it that he got some of these facts so wrong?  And what reason do we have to trust his other "observations" to be true to historical fact?

But moving on, the description of the fighting also seems a little suspicious:

though there had been a temporary lull in the roar of the gun fire, it broke out again shortly afterwards with intensified fury. So tremendous was the reverberating crash of concentrated shell and high explosive fire, that it literally shook the ground and dazed us, though we were nearly three miles behind the front line.

It fell with a dense hall of shrapnel and lead on the unfortunate Portuguese, practically blotting them out wholesale, and thus causing a gap in our front line, through which the enemy began to pour in mass formation. The few Portuguese left came staggering through Bethune, having thrown away their arms and equipment in their mad desire to get away from the hell behind them as quickly as possible.

Shortly afterwards they were followed by British troops, whose flank had been turned, and who were retiring in good order, keeping up a stiff rearguard action as they went.

Exciting, right?  Anyway aside from being an obvious appeal to British national pride, this description doesn't mesh well with a description of the German tactics at the time.  This period in the war marks the time when the Germans had begun their Spring Offensive.

This offensive saw the implementation of new tactics.  Whereas before, attacks had been characterized by heavy and constant artillery bombardments and massed assaults, the German tactics in the Spring Offensive were characterized by very brief bombardments a focus on taking out weak points of resistance, isolating the more heavily defended positions for later.

This description of a massive rain of concentrated shelling, which takes only a brief break before resuming again it's exhaustive assault, seems to be a description that would fit better with earlier German offensives, but probably doesn't characterize what happened near Bethune on April 18, 1918.

But let's continue this story to see what happens next:

In Britain everyone was asking: "Would the Germans get through to Paris?" "Would the Americans arrive in time to check their advance?" "Will the English ports be shelled shortly by German big guns from the coast of France?"

But then we remembered the "Angels of Mons" and once again the whole British nation was called to prayer. The President of the United States summoned the American people to do likewise; and united prayer went up from all the English speaking peoples.

In the meantime, the enemy shell fire, which had been largely directed against the shattered town of Bethune, suddenly lifted and began to burst on a slight rise beyond its outskirts. This open ground was absolutely bare of tree, houses or human beings, yet the enemy gun fire broke on it with increasing fury, and was augmented by heavy bursts of massed machine guns which raked it backward and forward with a hail of lead. We stood looking in astonishment.

Well, it's certainly true that the British population was concerned about how the war was going.  As for the Angels of Mons, that's an interesting story in and of itself.  This was a popular wartime urban legend which said that angels had fought on the side of Britain in the Battle of Mons in 1914.  It's origins are well known, as is the fact that it's a complete fiction.  I'll post a link to further reading on the subject.

But moving on from that, this description of a massive prayer here seems very strange.  Does our alleged Captain Hayward really mean to say that all of the "English speaking peoples" were asked to pray at that very moment for God to intervene on behalf of the allied lines at Bethune?

That's a pretty remarkable claim.  If it's true, there must certainly be some record of it happening during a radio address.  While I'm certain that there were calls to pray for the troops during the war, I can find no evidence that this mass unified prayer attempt ever took place.  You'd think that would be a notable part of the historic record.

Perhaps somebody more knowledgeable would be able to find more historical discrepancies in this account, and if anyone spots any, I'd love to hear about them.  You can read the full account for yourself.  But just from what I've been able to dig up here, this is looking suspiciously like a document written by somebody who wanted to make a point.  Somebody who perhaps was a history buff and knew a few details of World War One, but misremembered certain points and didn't make an effort to check all his facts.

And there's one glaring question about this story that some of you may have noticed. If this account is actually true, then why does it first appear in print a full 22 years after the fact?  Shouldn't there have been some mention of this in soldiers' diaries?  Or in their letters home?  (Certainly this is the kind of event to write home about!).  The war took such a toll on life that supernatural tales from beyond the grave were practically a national pastime in Britain during and after the war. It's how they coped.  So why would this juicy little tale remain untold for two long decades?

And what's the role of this publication, "The National Message" in this story?

Well, the National Message was a magazine produced by the British-Israel-World-Federation from 1922 until 1981.  This is a very strongly religious group, with strong views on the Bible and how it relates to world affairs.  It's also very strongly pro British.

In 1940, they received this letter which purported to show evidence of miracles, the value of prayer, and the fortitude of the British people during times of crisis.  Do you think they demanded hard evidence of these claims before printing them?  Do you think they even looked up this Captain Hayward to have a little chat with him about his story before accepting it wholesale?

Somehow, I doubt that they did.

So what are we left with here?  Basically, this is just an account that is unconfirmed by any other evidence.  Was Captain Hayward a real World War I veteran?  Perhaps.  It could be the case that there was a Captain Hayward who thought he saw something strange, and the tale twisted in his mind over the years until he now remembers this elaborate story.  It could also be the case that this is just an elaborate fiction written by a history enthusiast who managed to get it printed in a magazine.  There are just too many strikes against this story, though, to conclude that it's in any way a reliable account of a paranormal event from the first world war.

And that's in spite of the fact that the story was told by a "highly trained observer".  But then, Mr. Hayward never called himself a "highly trained trained observer" in his account.  That was just something that was added as a way of convincing people that this story is credible.  This man is a highly trained observer, what makes you think you're qualified to question his story? I wonder if people think that he took some kind of special "observing" class.  I'm imagining a bunch of guys sitting around practicing staring at stuff while their teacher looks on and gives them pointers if they're not staring properly.

"Focus Hayward, let your mind absorb every detail of the scene in front of you.  See without seeing, know without knowing....  yes, that's it!  Good job Cecil!  You'll become a highly trained observer before you know it!"

But to be serious, I think the reason they make that claim is that Mr. Hayward said that he was responsible for the intelligence in the sector.  People probably think that means that he was some sort of covert operations expert whose business was understanding subterfuge and keeping an eye on everything so as to uncover devious enemy plots.  Well, the people who think so have been watching too many movies.  Mr. Hayward, if he was indeed a real life veteran of World War One, would have been just a regular officer with no extra special training for this position.

But even that's kind of beside the point here.  What I'd really like to hammer home is that you can't just take people's word for this kind of thing.  It doesn't matter how credible you think they are, people are dumbasses.  And I say that as somebody who proclaims his dumbass status openly, so I don't harbour any illusion that I'm any better.  People chronically misunderstand, misperceive, and misremember things, and it doesn't matter how smart or well respected they are. It's just human nature, and it's the reason why anecdotes are not evidence.  

It's usually best to just focus on the claims.  Look at what evidence backs them up, and ignore entirely the question of how "credible" is the person making the claims.  Nobody's word is beyond question, and that includes mine.


And now a quote from the book Plan Z by Robert Pagliarini.  Here, Mr. Pagliarini is suggesting that we need to avoid people who give off "negative energy", and try to ally ourselves with people who give off "positive energy".  He writes:

If you're around others who complain, take immediate preventative action.  Here are two tips.  First, the more someone complains, the more positive you need to become.  It will either get them to become more positive (not very likely), or it will annoy them and they'll stop talking to you (more likely).  Second, if the first tip doesn't work or you don't have the patience for it, put on a positivity condom.  Insulate yourself by not being around negative people.

I love this analogy!  Put on your positivity condom!  Engage in the withdrawal method of social interactions!  Seek out like minded people for a positive energy reciprocal 69 session!  Be a missionary position for positive thinking!  Focus on your own self pleasure, and engage others only in positive energy mutual masturbation sessions.  Um.... have.. uh.... sex with positive energy....  okay, I'm out of ideas....


Comments and email time! First off, I think I should read this comment that I received regarding the analysis I just read about the Ghost Cavalry.  A commenter named Green Eagle writes:

In case you are not familiar with the movement, British Israelite ideology denies that Jews are really Jews, and claims that northern Europeans are the real Jews. This doctrine is generally known in this country as Identity Christianity, and is associated with Neo-Nazis, and the great majority of the truly violent right wing Christian groups in America. In its more extreme form, "dual seedline" identity, it is claimed that Jews are the product of a mating of Eve and Satan, which took place after she ate the forbidden fruit.

This is a repugnant variety of white racism, and is hardly a source of the truth about anything.

Thank you for the extra information Green.  That's certainly a disturbing point of view.  I knew that the British-Israel-World-Federation was a group that held British people to be superior, and that they had strong religious opinions, but I didn't look into it further than that.  Like I pointed out, you can definitely see a superiority complex in this letter, with the Portuguese fleeing in disorganized terror while the British retreated stoically, continuing the fight even as they were being massacred.  

I didn't know about this connection to the Neo-Nazis.  At the time this letter was written, though, World War II had just begun, and the Nazis at the time were of the original, rather than neo variety.  And it's a little bit beside the point, because the letter itself never mentions Jews, and I think it's best to base my conclusions on what the evidence says, ignoring my distaste for the people that put the claim forward.  But this is definitely an interesting bit of extra historical context to keep in mind, and I'm grateful that you wrote in.  

I also got a couple of nice iTunes reviews, these ones coincidentally from Israel.  I think I may have sucked up to the wrong country in the last episode, because the stats seem to be telling me that most of my downloads are coming from Israel.  The funny thing is that Israel doesn't even show up in the stats for the number of times my feed was viewed.  I'm not sure exactly where the discrepancy lies there, but in any case, I'm pretty sure this means that I'm now officially inducted into the great Zionist conspiracy.  I'm still waiting on my welcome package.... I assume that I'll be receiving a manual that tells me how to perform the secret handshake?  Somebody let me know about all that, I've never been part of one of these conspiracies that rule the world before.

Anyway, on iTunes, Ettieh writes a review entitled "Interesting!" and he added an exclamation mark.  Just the one Ettieh?  Well, I guess I won't be picky.  He writes:

Cool,interesting, fresh point of view

Thank you Ettieh, it's great to hear from people who enjoy what I have to say!  I should point out, though, that you accidentally clicked on the button to give me 4 stars rather than 5.  Now don't beat yourself up about it, it could have happened to anybody.  Just be more careful next time, okay?

The next review comes from ItayG, who entitles his review "Very Interesting".  I like the addition of the word "Very", but there's no exclamation point... what gives?  In any case, ItayG at least managed to correctly give me 5 stars, and he writes:

Really interesting, objective point of view: as it should be, not as we want it to be, but also not necessarily as it really was. I would really want to hear his oppinion on egyptian architechture and engineering.

Hey Itay, I actually have written about how the Egyptians moved heavy stone blocks.  I covered that in my fourth article on Ancient Aliens, entitles "The Evidence For Advanced Ancient Construction".  I, of course, plan to make a podcast on that analysis.  But if you don't want to wait for it, feel free to read the article for yourself.  And thank you very much for the review.

And on the subject of ancient aliens, I want to spend a little time here looking at some criticisms I've received, not from any single person, but common objections especially to my first article analyzing the show.  I covered this material in my second podcast, where I looked at the Saqqara Bird and the Tolima artifacts from Colombia.  I hope I don't sound too much like a broken record.  I know that I'm spending a lot of time going over the criticisms I get for my Ancient Aliens stuff.  But the thing is that this topic is by far the one I get the most attention on.  

I really liked the story I just told of the Ghost Cavalry, for example, but I only got one comment on it.  On the other hand, Ancient Aliens supporters are very eager to tell me why they think I'm wrong.  And I think I know why they tend to focus on my first article.  For one thing, that's often as far as they go before getting upset with me.  But I think the more important reason is that my first analysis is the one that's most vulnerable to attack.

The reason is that there was very little research for me to do in order to write that analysis.  The Ancient Alien arguments were based entirely on speculation and faulty logic.  There wasn't anything to look up, my main task was just to point out that their conclusions didn't naturally follow from their evidence.

If you think back to my last podcast, in which I went over my second analysis of the Ancient Aliens show, you'll notice that it's a lot harder to argue with my facts.  When they talk about ancient Sanskrit documents from 6,000 BC, for example.... well, I found out that Sanskrit didn't exist in 6,000 BC.  That's pretty much a linguistic certainty.  It's very hard to argue that I'm wrong on that one.  

But my first analysis is different, and I think that I need to go into some of it further in order to explain myself.  I hope none of you are getting tired of hearing about this topic, I personally find it fascinating, and I'm fully committed to answering any criticisms that come my way.  So let me go over these common criticisms.

The first takes a form where it accuses me of being too dismissive.  I have no proof that the Saqqara Bird wasn't a model of a full scale glider, so how do I sit here on my high horse and proclaim that it wasn't?  According to this criticism, my claims are just as unjustified by the evidence as the ones made by the Ancient Aliens show.

Well, first of all, I never once said that the Saqqara Bird definitely wasn't a model for a full scale glider.  Criticizing me for something that I never said doesn't make much sense.  Now certainly, I don't *believe* that the Saqqara Bird was the model for a full scale glider, and certainly you could read between the lines and know my thoughts on this.  But the thing is, what I believe or don't believe is absolutely irrelevant to my argument.  I don't argue that the Saqqara Bird wasn't a model of a full scale glider, I only argue that there's no evidence that it was.  I'm just pointing out that without any evidence, all they have is pure speculation.  I'm not making any claims beyond that, and complaining about my unstated personal opinions and beliefs does absolutely nothing to address my main argument.

In another common criticism, I've been accused of being too hasty in dismissing the idea that a glider could be launched by the use of a catapult.  I have no proof that it couldn't be done, and to some people the idea apparently seems extremely plausible.  Well, listen.... if this was something you could do, then this is the way that people would be launching their gliders.  It would be much easier than using a tow plane.  But the fact is that an airplane or a glider needs a takeoff that is tightly controlled.  Think about a paper airplane, and how you need to hold it just right at it's base, the closer to it's center of gravity the better.  With a smooth motion you glide your hand forward and release your grip at just the right moment.  And it flies.

Now imagine just holding it in your fist and throwing it like you would a baseball.  Go ahead and try it if you like.  Put me on pause, I'll wait.  You back?  Great!  The thing fluttered straight down, didn't it? A throwing method meant to launch a rock or a ball is not suitable for launching an aircraft.  That's just the way it is.

Then there are the criticisms of my arguments about the artifacts from Colombia.  I briefly mentioned that I don't believe that the artifacts look all that much like jet fighters.  The response I get to this is basically "Yes they do!".  Well... fine, we could argue back and forth about that all day, it's entirely subjective.  I've already admitted that on a very basic level, it's design is kind of plane-like.  I've contrasted the so-called "Golden Flyer" to an actual image of a jet fighter figurine, and it seems to me that the comparison really breaks down when you actually see them next to each other.  I'll post that comparison again in the transcript for this show, and you're entirely free to disagree with me.  It's not a part of my main argument.


My main argument is that they just don't have any evidence. The fact that they got one of these things to fly by making drastic modifications to it doesn't support their case.  What you don't get to see is the time they spent looking over each of those figurines to try and pick the one that would be the best candidate for a flying model.  Two are generally highlighted as their best examples, the "Golden Flyer" that we've already seen, and a second one, which actually does look more mechanical.  This model is actually used as the basis for the logo of the Ancient Astronaut Society.  I'll put a couple of images in the show transcript.





In the documentary, doctor Uwe Apel compares the wings of this model to those of the space shuttle... in that they're both triangular.  But there's one huge problem with it, the center of gravity is way off.  It could never fly.  And when you see some of the other contenders you realize why they chose the ones that they did.  I found a picture of five of the other contenders, and to me they're clearly animal-like, and I don't believe they'd be air worthy.  We could argue over that, but I'll post that picture in the show transcript, and if you don't agree with me then we're clearly experiencing very different subjective versions of reality.  I don't know how to resolve that, but in the end it doesn't really matter because it doesn't affect my main point, that there's just no evidence that these objects represent actual jet airplanes.


Moving on, there are a couple of criticisms I found online that were directed not against me, but against people who were using my arguments.  I think it's wonderful that I've managed to convince other people enough with my arguments that they're using them themselves.  And sometimes the responses are really interesting, and I'd like to cover two of those here.

The first is in response to where I point out that the "Golden Flyer" actually has a face, which indicates to me that it's meant to be some kind of personified animal.  Well, if you point towards something like the children's character "Jay Jay The Jet Plane", which is, in fact, an airplane with a face on it, that kind of looks like it weakens my case on this.

The thing is, though, that it's not really valid in this case to compare ancient Colombian iconography with modern iconography.  And I hope I didn't get to fancy for you there, "iconography" is just a handy word to use, it generally just means the type of common images used in a culture.  In our culture, Jay Jay The Jet Plane is consistent with all sorts of other iconography, such as Thomas The Tank Engine, and dishes that run away with spoons.

But in order to know what these artifacts from ancient Colombia represent, you have to compare them to similar iconography from the same culture.  If we could find other images from the same culture representing something like, for example, a moccasin with a face on it, then you'd at least have something that shows that they engaged in this kind of iconography.  But take a look at that image of the other figurines I recently mentioned.  I think most people will agree that these are intended to represent animals.  When you look at the "Golden Flyer" in the context of similar iconography from the same culture, it's pretty clear what this is supposed to represent.

The other aspect I want to look at deals with my example of the figurine of a fish with 6 fins and a fluke.  I used this example to highlight how these ancient pre-colombians really were using fanciful iconography that didn't correspond to anything in nature.  Some people have tried to find matches, such as fish with four pectoral fins (those are the ones on it's side), and with tails that look a little bit horizontal.  But then, those fish don't have two dorsal fins (the ones on the top), and their fins and tails certainly don't look dolphin or whale like, as is the case in the figurine.

It's clearly a work of the imagination, and not a representation of any real animal.

Okay, so I think that I've answered these criticisms well enough.  If you disagree, or would like to criticize anything else that I've said or written, I really do want to hear it.  So comment on the blog or email me at *EMAIL*.  Let me know if I've made a factual error, because I *will* correct myself.  I actually found a mistake in the Ancient Aliens article that I've just been talking about, and I'm going to correct it right here.  It really should have been somebody from the Ancient Aliens supporters who corrected, but they have yet to point out a single fact that I got wrong.  Why do I have to do their work for them?

Anyway, remember when they took out their propeller plane and showed that it could actually fly?  Well, apparently there were two models, one which was a propeller plane and the other with actually incorporated a small jet engine.  The show seemed to play it off as though there were only one flying model, and the shots of the two were cut together as though they were showing the same plane.  But the fact is that they actually did make a small jet plane.

Golden Flyer Jet Model
Look Ma! No Propeller!


In my original analysis, I thought that they had only decided to make the propeller plane, and that they decided against the jet engine because it was pointing directly at the tail fin.  But when you look at the footage, you can clearly see that they actually did make a flying model of the "Golden Flyer" with a small jet engine.  I imagine that this must have screwed with the flying somewhat, but it apparently did fly.  I'm including an image.

So when I chided them for changing their story from "jet fighters" to "propeller planes", I was wrong.  And when I find out that I'm wrong on something, I will refrain from using that argument in all future conversations.  I often wish that more people were willing to change their arguments when they're pointed out to be factually incorrect.

I will say, though, that what works in the small scale will not necessarily work in the large scale.  Large size jet engines release an incredible amount of heat, and to have one pointing directly at an airplane's tail fin puts a lot of extra stress on the aircraft's structure, and I don't believe that any engineer would ever design a jet airplane like that.

Anyway, I certainly hope that nobody's just uncritically taking my word for anything.  I've said before that I'm just as subject to being wrong as anybody else, and if anybody has caught me making a factual error, I want to be told about it.

Or you can just tell me your thoughts or ask me my opinion on something.  The reason that I got involved with doing this kind of thing is because I wanted to connect more with the community.  I'm having a lot of fun doing this, and I really love getting interesting emails and comments.  Even when people completely disagree with me, it's all wonderful.  

And by the way, thank you for continuing to listen to me and read my blog.  I'm getting this stuff out there as quickly as I can.  Unfortunately it's not as quickly as I'd like to these days, the economy is really tossing me about and leaving me less time than I'd like to have.  But I'm still making sure to at least set aside some time to do this stuff, and I really appreciate the emails telling me how much my efforts are appreciated.


And now, a quote from the book "Numerology, Your Character And Future Revealed In Numbers" by Norman Shine:

By using the simple and easy-to-learn techniques presented in this book, you can start to interpret your relationship with your inner self.  Having acknowledged the way you are, you can go on to check the way you have believed yourself to be.  If there is a difference between this personal self-image and what the numbers tell you, then consider whether you have been guilty of wishful thinking.  Most likely, the numbers will reveal the more accurate description.

You know, that's really good advice!  If it doesn't look like the results fit with what you already know, don't question the results!  It's more likely that what you thought you knew was false, than that a methodology just made up out of thin air could possibly be wrong!  How dare you question something made up out of thin air?  Air is is important!  It's necessary for life!  What?  You got something against breathing?


There's a kind of a myth out there that everything you put out onto the Internet is set into some sort of digital stone.  That's not entirely true.  Certain things can stay around for a long time, especially the really interesting memes.  And it's certainly entirely plausible that something you put out there now will come back to haunt you years later.  A lot of things are archived on the Way Back Machine at archive.org, other things might be interesting enough to be kept in somebody's personal collection, and may resurface sometime in the future.  But I know that if my website disappeared tomorrow, there wouldn't be much of a record of the things I've had to say.  I'm a small fry in this game, and that's actually kind of the way I like it.

Right now I'm part of a community of podcasters participating in rank amateur radio hour, and it's wonderful stuff.  I'm just a dumbass with no talent and a really cheap microphone doing my own thing, but when I put out a podcast I can get a couple of thousand listeners in a month.  Certainly other podcasts get orders of magnitude more downloads than that, but still, if that many people were in front of me listening to me talk, that would be a good sized audience.  The Internet is a marvellous thing!

And I believe that this small time stuff is some of the best material on the Internet, and I want to get more involved with these tiny corners of the web.  I've been thinking about what I want to do with my new domain name, invisibleskymonster.com, and I'm working on the idea that maybe it could be a location that highlights exactly these kinds of small scale skeptical podcasts and blogs.

So I'm calling all my fellow no talent hacks!  I want to get to know you!  I'm looking to highlight podcasts and blogs that don't have many followers, and even ones that are no longer updated.  I'm calling it "The Best Of Skeptical Mediocrity".  There's a podcast that I remember from a few years back called "The Exquisite Truth" which you can no longer find anywhere on the Internet.  But I managed to get in contact with the guy who put out the podcast, Kevin Pierce, and he graciously sent me a copy of all the episodes.  I'm making those episodes available to all of you, and you can find a link on the show page at dumbassguide.info.  It's a panel discussion show that covers some very interesting territory and I think you'll enjoy it..

I'm looking for more like this.  So if you're a small time blogger or podcaster, send me an email at *EMAIL*, or leave a comment in the comment section for this show.  And if you know of any small time podcast or blog that you think I should check out, drop me a note.  I want to put together a list of my fellow skeptical losers.  I'd like to do something with that, and I'm not sure exactly what form that will take yet, but I'm very interested in looking at these small corners of the Internet and exploring things like what it means to be in this category, where the line lies between the small time and big time, and all sorts of related issues.

And hey, if you feel inspired to join in the fun and start up your own skeptical blog and/or podcast, why not take my advice from last episode and contact Steve at skeptichosting.com - you can get a free domain name and some webspace, and I understand he's made a few more domain names available, these ones more themed towards general skepticism.

Well, moving on, let's open up the Dumbass Book Club.  As always, I've teamed up with Audible.com to hawk their plans... because that's just what you're supposed to do as a podcaster these days.  But I really do love Audible, and right now until April 29, you can choose from a selection of over a thousand audiobooks that have been marked down to half price!  And, in addition to this deal, right now if you buy four books, you will get a ten dollar credit on your account which you can use to buy more audio books.

And, of course, if you're not already an Audible member, you can sign up by going to audibletrial.com/dumbassguide - you will get a free 14 day trial including one credit with which to buy a free book.  You can't get this deal from the audible.com homepage.  Audible has over 85,000 titles to choose from that can be played on the iPod and over 500 other MP3 players.  Let me suggest a really good title that I know you're going to love.

I've already recommended the wonderful books Mistakes Were Made, and The Invisible Gorilla, and I'll include links to those titles on the show page.  This time, I want to recommend a book that I mentioned earlier, "The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives" by Leonard Mlodinow.  It's an eye opening book, and if you're over-confident about your ability to determine causal patterns, this book will cure that for you.  It's just amazing to think about how so many decisions are made and explanations are given every day to events that may just be occurring randomly.  Reading this book is a great first step towards developing that intellectual uncertainty that I strongly advocate.

Join up with Audible today, use the free credit to buy yourself The Drunkard's Walk, or one of the other books that I've recommended, then browse the selection on sale right now for half price.  If you get yourself three more books, you will receive a ten dollar credit on your account! This is a really great time to get involved with Audible, just go to audibletrial.com/dumbassguide, and they'll treat you right.

And if you're already an Audible member, and you're interested in the books I've recommended, I'm placing links directly to these titles on my show page at dumbassguide.info - just click there and it will tell Audible that I sent you.

So, anyway... oh, my "check engine" light is flashing.... that's not good... let me just take a peek in the engine room here.... well, it seems to be okay for the...  Crap!  Fire brigades to the engine room!  The mercury vortex has been destabilized!  Listen guys, I've got to go take care of this, so thanks for listening.  Skeptical losers, get in touch with me! My email address is *EMAIL*, and you can also use it to send me PayPal donations.  My theme music is "My Monkey" by Jonathan Coulton, check him out at jonathancoulton.com.  I'll catch you next time on The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge!  Okay, now shut down the stabilizers and have the engineering team meet me in the situation room!  Let's get to it people!


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