Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 'Goalpost' Paradigm

 “Which way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to...” ~ Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Skeptics, debunkers, and believers alike accuse each other of "moving the goalposts." In the context of how the term is used -- pieces in a game -- it's true. (Skeptibunkies do "move the goal posts" all the time when it comes to anomalous subjects. They assume much: why and how Bigfoot, psychics, UFOs, and so on should behave, without doing any of the research. And if they've done the research, they'd realize one can't assume a thing.)

But let's forget that. Why use a sports or game analogy at all? By using a verbal marker like "goalpost" we're keeping alive the idea that there are rules. Rules that must be followed - goalposts -- and, along with that the idea that, since a game is being played, there are winners and losers. It's a battle, a contest. A competition. It's a preconceived framework, with rules, boundaries, winners, losers. Anything outside of the game is rejected because, of course, it doesn't fit in with this particular game. You don't insert the rules of chess into Monopoly.

As long as we accept this idea of a game, with posts to be moved, or not, we stay stuck. It's not a game! Or, maybe, like Alice, it is a game in the very loosest of meanings.

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday-but never jam today

It must come sometime to jam today, Alice objected

No it can't said the Queen It's jam every other day. Today isn't any other day, you know” 
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Why do we continue to force the unexplained into an established framework (the "game") when clearly, "it" meaning, the paranormal/Fortean/supernatural,  is playing by its own rules? If "it" is playing a game, it's one we don't know how to play. Insisting "it" play by our rules obviously isn't working.

Forget the "goalposts." Forget the game. At least, our game. I think if we stand back and watch for awhile as well as experiment, that would be both refreshing and revealing.

Just in Case, Rule Forty-Two

“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm. ~ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I'll end with this little synchronicity. Earlier this afternoon I finished Minette Walter's The Scold's Bridle. One of the characters, a policeman, references Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Specifically, the idea of the question, the answer and of course, how 42 plays into that. While working on this post, I looked up quotes from Alice in Wonderland, and came across this:

“Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.” ~ Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll


alanborky said...

Perfectly summed up.

To say anything else'd be a waste of words.

Terry the Censor said...

Fringe science debates often look like games: it's all about scoring points against the opposition, never about testing the validity of one's own theory.

Recently Robert Hastings accused Robert Sheaffer and CSICOP of being government agents. He offered no direct evidence, just innuendo. By email, I asked if he would consider finding direct evidence, such as putting in an FOIA request. He accused me of being uninformed, pointing to Terry Hansen's "Missing Times" (which never accuses CSICOP of colluding with the government) and the Church committee. Essentially, Hastings accused me of not doing what he himself refuses to do -- look for facts.

In ufology, sometimes ridicule is earned.