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Monday, 14 September 2015

Show, don't tell.........



One of the great guiding principles of science is "Show, don't tell........"  That was something drummed into me when I started on my doctorate research, all those years ago, and the principle won't have changed in the years that have passed.

Everybody who has been required to submit a doctorate thesis will have been instructed by his / her supervisor to conduct research in a meticulous fashion, with good recording, and to them write a thesis more or less as follows:  Background to the problem >> statement of the problem itself >> working hypothesis to be tested >> presentation of evidence from the lab or from the field >> synthesis and summary of major results >> relevance to the problem being tested >> conclusions re confirmation or rejection of the working hypothesis.  At the end of it all, you only get your PhD or D Phil if you have moved forward the sum total of human knowledge in a meaningful way and have demonstrated a capacity for clear and independent thought.

Peer-reviewed scientific papers should of course follow the same route.  That is not to say that all peer-reviewed papers are honest and truthful -- you just have to look at "Retraction Watch" to see how much scientific fraud and corruption there is out there, especially in those areas where huge commercial interests are involved -- such as pharmaceuticals or agrichemicals.  But powerful media interests can also lead to results being skewed, and to research being slanted towards the establishment of the spectacular or the newsworthy rather than towards the truth.  So we need to be concerned about the recent news that the National Geographic Magazine is being taken over by James Murdoch and Fox.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/national-geographic-magazine-shifts-to-for-profit-status-with-fox-partnership/2015/09/09/7c9f034e-56f0-11e5-8bb1-b488d231bba2_story.html

That's seriously scary, given what the new owners have done in the past to pretend that climate change is a myth, and given Fox's role in that infamous trial a few years ago which established the principle in American law that media organizations are not obliged to tell the truth.  The truth, according to the judge in that case, is whatever you deem it to be...........  just think for a moment what the implications of that statement actually are.........

What got me thinking about all of this was a poem read out by "the canal boat laureate" Jo Bell, at a very pleasant PENfro Festival literary lunch yesterday.  Not everybody knows that Jo used to be an archaeologist (before she received enlightenment) and that she has actually written poems that are to do with her past.  I was very much struck by these lines:

"Record what you can see
And not what you expect......"

She suggested that that piece of sound advice should apply to poetry as well as to archaeology and other disciplines.  Well, on this blog I have always tried to show rather than tell, by putting evidence in front of anybody who may be interested, for critical comment and respectful debate.  What I have always had a big problem with, on the matter of the Rhosyfelin "Neolithic Bluestone Quarry" and on other matters, is that certain archaeologists have done a lot of telling and not a lot of showing.  And I have grave concerns that for much of the time they have been recording "what they expected" rather than "what they could see."  Come hell or high water, this is a Neolithic Quarry, and if it takes us ten years, this is what we will show........  We are now in the fifth year of the digging programme at Rhosyfelin, and we have not seen a single piece of "showing" and evidence presentation in print in a seasonal dig progress report or anything else.  Just not good enough, guys......  simply from the point of view of your own self-interest and academic reputations, to get this far into a project without any of your ideas being scrutinized and tested, except by those who are within the "bubble", is downright foolhardy.

By the same token I have to admire the geologists -- particularly Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins.  On some matters I find their evidence less than convincing, but that's the way of the world.  At least they have published, and their papers are out there, freely available for the rest of us to scrutinize.  And we have had some good knockabout fun with them, on this blog, thanks to our mysterious friend Myris.

How long will it be, I wonder, before hard evidence gets in the way of a rather good story?

26 comments:

TonyH said...

"Record what you can see
And not what you expect"
Jo Bell (above)

By contrast, there's my oft - quoted words from song 'The Boxer' by Paul Simon:

"I have squandered my resistance
For a pocketful of mumbles
Such are promises
Still,a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest"
Lie - le - lie
Lie le lie - lie - lie -le - lie"

Poets are sometimes seen as prophets. Was it a pure accident, then, or was it presient, that Paul Simon appended his lyric - lines with "lie- le - lie", right through to a rumbling crescendo and sounds like gun - fire towards the song's end (which probably reflected the U.S involvement in Vietnam at the time he composed the song and wrote his lyrics)?

Geo Cur said...



Pure accident , ,lie lie lying instead of la la laing .
Roy Halee recorded Hal Blaine , of the wrecking Crew , in a lift shaft to get the explosive snare sound .I doubt Vietnam or Stonehenge was on their minds at the time .

TonyH said...

Vietnam was certainly on plenty of leftfield - inclined semi - hippy U.S. singers' minds in the late '60s, including Paul Simon's e.g. Silent Night, with its news reports of machine gun fire and bombing eventually drowning out the sound of the Christmas carol; and the Byrds' Draft Morning, a wonderful evocative song with similar sound effects.

The sound effect on the song under discussion could be construed to represent the sound of the eponymous boxer, but there was a highly contentious War going on that was resulting in mass casualties.

And la - la - la would have just sounded inappropriate.

I agree Stonehenge was probably not at the forefront of any U.S. singer - songwriter's mind, and never said it was.

Geo Cur said...



Over interpretation ,I think .
If Roy's idea for the sound was anything to do with Vietanam , or the sounds of gunshots , he or PS would have mentioned it ,both have discussed the song and the recording since .
Lie lie lie has the same function as la la la ,it's a placeholder ,and like the snare sound pure effect with no deeper meaning .
The lyrical content similarly has nothing to do with Vietnam , wafare or even guns .

Pop's best effort at creating the sounds of war is Hendrix's live "machine gun " ,he didn't have the luxury of found sounds or studio trickery and unlike the others mentioned he had personal experience of the sound of warfare .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Leaving aside all this esoteric musical stuff, I was talking the other day with a colleague with whom I have written two short papers on Rhosyfelin, and we discussed the rather extraordinary manner in which all the archaeology work (and maybe some of the geology work as well?) is predicated on the assumption that glacier transport of erratics from the Rhosyfelin area to Salisbury Plain was IMPOSSIBLE, just because two geomorphologists (Scourse and Green) said as much rather a long time ago. That is rather strange, since neither of them is a glacial geomorphologist, let alone a glaciologist. (Yes, they were experts, but perhaps a wee bit less expert than others who have addressed this issue.....)

So it follows that if a provenance is found for some Stonehenge debris in the Rhosyfelin area, there must be a quarry there, since the stone cannot have been picked up any other way. So everything since 2011 has been devoted to the "recording" of this expected quarry, even if it isn't there.........

It might have been simpler for all concerned if they had just ignored the bluestone transport hypothesis completely, and simply concentrated on what they could see, as suggested by Jo Bell in her poem.

That is what we have tried to do in our two papers -- we simply describe what is there, suggest processes and origins, and ignore the transport debate completely. For better or worse, we have made an attempt to ensure some sort of objectivity and to give an analysis that is capable of scrutiny without any in-built bias.

Myris of Alexandria said...

But how can that be when Dr Ixer who co-discovered the CRyF link with the debitage was a co-author of the very famous 1990 open university paper extolling the glacial theory.
I wonder if the finding of the proto orthostat awaiting it transport away from the quarry made an impression.
No Brian, glaciers, hairy men, three legged green spiders were not in the minds of the geologists who did the nice petrography/geochemistry and it is slanderous to say so and impute their motives and intellectual honesty.
You will apologise, you have made this accusation for too long and too often.
The pet rock boys do not bloody care to any great degree how the rocks were moved.
On balance Dr Ixer thinks man is a better bet than glaciers but may change his mind again. He has no Stonehenge book to sell and his thoughts are all in the peered literature.
Shame on you Brian. The pet rock boys have only followed the evidence without any external funding other than the Constantine XI Palaeologos Research Fund and hence have remained totally incorruptible. Their only vice is self-righteousness and they are entitled to that.
M

TonyH said...

Talking of over - interpretation and prescience, my wife and I have just belatedly watched the BBC Drama of the Week, J.B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls", with David Thewlis playing the Inspector/ Angel of Conscience figure. It was magnificent, and perhaps should be Required Viewing by all points of view in the Bluestone Enigma Debate?

Geo, whoever you are, my Mysterious Friend, for all I know you may be an Inspector of sorts too, a sort of harbinger of Truth! Perhaps I have over - interpreted Mr Simon's The Boxer, but I think we may all agree that his music does lend itself to the humble aim of psychedelically expanding the mind with or without sucking too many sherbets. They say, do they not, that if you can remember the 60s, you weren't really there? By the way, Hal Blaine appeared on many of my favourite records.



TonyH said...

On a lighter note, Myris [and you could also mention this to Dr Ixer when you next summon him up], never mind the CRyF link, raise your glasses to Johan CRUYFF, three times European Footballer of the Year. A dolerite statue of CRUYFF should be erected atop CRyF, marvellous player without a whiff of hubris or self righteusness about his person. Please sign my petition.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Dear me -- following my rather mild question about certain geologists possibly being influenced by the thought that glacial transport was impossible, you thunder "it is slanderous to say so and impute their motives and intellectual honesty. You will apologise, you have made this accusation for too long and too often....."

Calm down, Myris. Apologies cost nothing, so here is mine, since you clearly feel that your honour has been insulted. That was not my intention, and as you know I have frequently sung your praises, including on one post this very day.

Of course I know of your involvement in the Thorpe et al work, which did indeed propose a glacial transport mechanism. Subsequently, most of your comments have been rather sceptical about glacial transport and rather trending towards support for the human transport / Neolithic quarry hypothesis, which has surprised me, given that you are an earth scientist! No matter. Let others form their own views from your comments and your papers.......

Comments like "the proto orthostat awaiting its transport away from the quarry" are not exactly neutral or impartial, are they? I shall resist the temptation to thunder.

TonyH said...

On that rather conciliatory note from Brian, I shall depart Up the Stairs to my bath, a required prerequisite to a good night's sleep, lest all our Stonehenge cogitations unhinge me a trifle more, and that would never do, what say you, Mr Prophet, aka Paul (you can call me Al) Simon?

Sweet dreams all, and tomorrow is another day for jousting and joshing, eh, Mr Pollard? I expect you take a peek on this highly popular Blogsite occasionally, eh?

Geo Cur said...


Tony , I bet that among many of your favourites ,you would have been unaware of the presence of the spledid Hal .He didn't play on the Byrdy Draft song but he did play on some of tracks from the album it was on, and much of their earlier stuff , he wouldn't have forgotten . Roy was also engineer on the draft doodah as well the boxer .A much smaller world than appeared on the record sleeves credits .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Morning all! Since Myris has brought us back to the presumption that at Rhosyfelin there is "a proto orthostat awaiting its transport away from the quarry", I've been racking my brains as to why anybody might refer to such things in this way. The best I can come up with is that the rock face LOOKS LIKE a quarry face, and that the big elongated stone LOOKS LIKE a stone that's on its way to Stonehenge. That's actually about as unscientific as it gets -- unless there is some other amazing evidence about which we are all ignorant. Would somebody care to enlighten us as to why we, who trust in science, should believe statements like that? Hard info please, on the record. (As I have said more than once, if such statements about quarries and proto-orthostats are repeated often enough, I suppose the hope in some quarters is that they will be accepted as the truth.....)

Myris of Alexandria said...

Apology accepted and please rise from your knees at our age it is undignified and painful. The rain is gentle today and the glass is only just half empty. I believe that 're the quarry and proto-quasi-orthostat these are fine words for a blog but are they used in the peered literature by the pet rock boys.
We in Alexandria believe in signs and portends and like you, know life would be far easier without that 2 tonne slab. But it is there,the rock face as with the Carns has juicy joint block waiting to be plucked, the orientation appears too useful.
However I fear that even were a slab enchiselled with 'this way up' in best Phoenician you would remain a doubter.
Tony I am afraid I have only ever seen one football match in my life Newcastle vs Aston Villa, very noisy, lots of rude words and a bit dull. Last petition I signed was to demand a special Oscar for Rutti. Hollywood has so far passed him by, mind you he has made some true stinkers, a very stiff gin is needed before most of his android films.His autobiography although not a stinker and he is a genuinely decent even good man was very very dull. But for two minutes in his dying moments he has given true meaning to living ......then he was truly touched by Sublime Apollo.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

RThanks Myris. Moving on -- I thought we were all agreed that the big lump or rock weighs 8 tonnes, not 2? I dare say the archaeologists would like it to be just 2 tonnes, for ease of transport, but it sure is a great deal heavier than that, as anybody with a tape measure and access to Google can find out for themselves.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Sorry you are correct I was thinking of the new estimate for the Stonehenge orthostats.
A well the Altar Stone must weigh a lot and that is not local. But 8 tonnes is fine.
I wonder what the size of the joint blocks at say Carn Goedog would be, an average if that has any meaning.
A nice little MSc project doing the stats on Stonehenge orthostats and their equivalent or potential quadrupling blocks. The Altar Stone is unlikely to be provenanced but finding finding outcrops with joint/bedding of the correct dimensions seems the best slight hope.
M

Myris of Alexandria said...

Bloody auto-correct 'quarry joints' was typed.
It only wants to speak American hiphop (Jayleene Bieber is a favourite correction). If only I could convert it from Austin (Tx)to Austen or better still Ms Elliot.
M

Geo Cur said...



Is that Missy Elliot or Ms Evans ? , both have a way with words .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Would that be Lowri you are referring to, Geo? Lives 400 yards away from us, on the Cilgwyn Road. Clever young lady.........

Geo Cur said...



The Missy with two ells I was referring to Brian , hails from the US (Virginia )the other ms Evans only had one ell , then there is the other american cousin Tommy wit hone ell , now it looks looks like we have another ,welcome to ell Lowri .

Myris of Alexandria said...

No not the Texan lady with the drastic plastic surgery that was reversed so successfully a few series later. But George. That is a novel and it even has trains in it.
Now perhaps we should have, on this site, the annual Casaubon award. For the sake of even-handedness a contributor can only win it once, not ever time.

I have always wanted to eat at Mrs Wilkes House- (Ashleeee....Ashleeee). Oh that might not be Virginia but NC or SC. Sherman visited and gave the city a warm reception. Never had collared green or biscuits.

Anyway 'twas George I meant. Tish to all other Ellies, Fiddlededee!
M

Myris said...

Woooooooops
He burned Atlanta but gave Savannah as a Christmass present to the Union president. So Mrs Wilkes was saved.
A mint jules too many.
M

BRIAN JOHN said...

Too much straying, boys. Is there not a special blog devoted to the admiration of Texan ladies with plastic faces?

Geo Cur said...


Virgina , not Texas for the real Missy Elliot . Although I too prefer Ms Evans ,Tommy 's too clever for his own good .
I was reacquainted with Isaac last winter, after a gap of four decades , he hadn't improved .The train route survey and possible attack by bumpkins led to intriguing use of of Your'n (i.e. yours )which I had always believed was 20th C cockney .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Discipline, please!! Enough of Missy Elliot, about whom I mercifully know nothing at all....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Discipline, please!! Enough of Missy Elliot, about whom I mercifully know nothing at all....

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks to Tony for sending a press cutting relating to the Murdoch / Fox takeover of the National Geographic, the big funders for the seemingly never-ending dig at Craig Rhosyfelin. It remains to be seen what changes this might involve to editorial control / confidentiality agreements etc. The Nat Geog influence on the dig and the diggers is baleful enough as it is, forcing all concerned into a scenario in which they tell (through public lectures etc) but do not show their evidence, thereby making effective peer review completely impossible. Good for science? I think not.......