How I got duped by crop circle science. Nancy Talbott vs. Matt Williams

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Feb 3, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    How I got duped by crop circle science. Nancy Talbott vs. Matt Williams
    by Alex Tsakiris | Feb 3 | Skepticism

    Nancy Talbott claims to have unlocked crop circle science. Matt Williams is a crop circle maker encountering the paranormal in his circles. Why are they at odds?

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    photo by: Gary S
    On this episode of Skeptiko, I return to a topic that’s haunted me for awhile. I’m from Chicago. For a lot of people from Chicago one value that’s ingrained into you from a young age can be summed up by the phrase, “don’t be a chump.” For someone from Chicago, there’s nothing worse than being played for the fool. The chump. A couple of years ago when I interviewed Suzanne Taylor about her movie about crop circles and about her investigation into the crop circle phenomena, I got played for a chump. I bought into Suzanne’s story without fully investigating it. I bought into her claim that no imperfect crop circle or incomplete crop circle had ever been found. I bought into the idea that the phenomena was shrouded in a mystery that was being revealed by science. Thanks to you Skeptiko listeners, I was quickly reeducated. Many of you told me about the work that’s been done by people with a more skeptical perspective on crop circles and what’s been revealed by human crop circle makers. Of course, much of this is old news, both to the general public that has moved on from crop circles, and for me. That is until I heard from today’s guest, Nancy Talbott.

    Nancy is one of the best-known crop circle investigators. She claims to have adhered to very tight scientific protocols, and investigated crop circles from a scientific perspective. And, she claims to have peer reviewed papers to back-up her work. So, when Nancy popped up in my Facebook and started messaging me, I responded. I told her about my skepticism. I told her how I had gone down this path and felt like there really wasn’t much there to investigate, but she persisted and convinced me to take a second look. So we set up this interview:

    Alex Tsakiris: Blinding is just a control mechanism.

    Nancy Talbott: No, the double-blind study means very specifically something.

    Alex Tsakiris: A double blind study, for example in pharmacology, means something very specific, but blinding is just a basic scientific control that can be instituted in any experiment. And in this case, the simple fact is–one of the people that you get when you Google that is Colin Andrews who said, in 1995 I tried to send samples to Nancy, to BLT, collected independently, and say here are the samples, one is from a field that we presume to be alien. Another is from a field that is subjected to wind damage. [These are] independently collected samples–photographed and videotaped so we know that they’re independent–send them to you. You evaluate them. I’ve talked to a number of people including crop circle maker Matthew Williams who I know you don’t feel fondly of. But I’ve talked to a number of people and they all say the same thing: there’s this real resistance from BLT when it comes to just doing simple blinding and–

    Nancy Talbott: Okay, I get what you’re saying. But first of all, you don’t know a lot of stuff so let me tell you a few things. Levengood (crop circle research and Nancy’s former associate) who did all of the early plant work, probably couldn’t have been much blinder than he was…
     
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  2. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Alex's questions at the end of the podcast:

    Where do we go from here with regard to crop circle research? I may not like Nancy's science, but do we push forward with that kind of approach--looking for physical anomalies in crop circle formations?

    Do we explore the paranormal aspects of their formation that Matt Williams is doing?

    Do we take the default position, where we do no crop circle research and take evidence from crop circle makers, concluding it's all nonsense and disregarding all other evidence--UFO sightings, alien contact, government cover-up and disinformation? Hey, maybe we could use the crop circle thing to debunk the UFO phenomenon...
     
  3. Let the investigators do what they want and don't try to apply central planning to scientific research. As bad as things are, they would be worse with central planning. If you don't like the research, criticize it, as you are doing now, or do your own.

    Anyone who wants a blind study should find an independent lab to do the testing and then try to replicate Talbot's results. If they can't replicate Talbot's results, then Talbot can provide more information about her protocol or try to get another group to try to replicate her results.

    Those who want to do a blind study, should not expect Talbot to analyze their samples. She is right to refuse. That would be a publicity stunt not scientific research. Once she starts she might get an unending stream of samples from psuedo-skeptics demanding she test their samples or be labeled a fraud. There is also a danger of faked samples from people who want to discredit her. Certain people who would shrink from publishing a fraudulent research paper would have no qualms about sabotaging someone else's research with bogus samples or some other hoax. Talbot would be right to be suspicious in a field where her critics say they trespass on private property, break the law, work in secret, and who make unprovable claims etc. There are too many examples of skeptical misdirection in the history of paranormal research for an investigator to let outsiders interfere with her research.

    Critics of Talbot and Taylor should have the same skeptical attitude toward those who claim to make crop circles as they have toward Talbot and Taylor. They should demand those who claim to make crop circles provide proof of their assertions.


    Hey, maybe we could use the crop circle thing to debunk NDE research?

    No, because the evidence for NDEs is independent from the evidence for crop circles.

    Likewise, the evidence for UFOs is not based on crop circles.

    http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/p/62014-contents-evidence-for-afterlife.html#articles_by_subject_ufo
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
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  4. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    This guy Williams is very difficult to listen to. I haven't listened to the whole podcast yet, but after 21 minutes, I still have only barely an idea what he is trying to say.
     
  5. Chefjames

    Chefjames New

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    It seems simple to me but maybe I'm a simpleton! Claims are that the nodes in "non-human" crop circles have been heated by short bursts of energy (possible microwave) and that the nodes then expand or even blow out. Should be very simple to compare a known man made circle plant to a supposed unknown plant by looking at the nodes under a microscope. Nancy claims to have done this. Why no others have tried to reproduce this work, I can only assume, as with most topics like this, no MS scientist would touch it with a ten foot pole.
     
  6. Andrew Paquette

    Andrew Paquette Administrator

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    I thought he might be trying to get around to saying something like that eventually, but he kept going off on tangents--like talking about his friend with Alzheimer's--making it very hard to follow him.

    AP
     
  7. Reece

    Reece Member

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    Reading "The Trickster and the Paranormal" is absolutely essential for this topic (and probably all paranormal topics, actually). There are many things discussed (that are very insightful and interesting), one of which is the extremely close association of trickery and outright deception with the paranormal. He fully accepts the paranormal. But he says there's much to be learned from the deceptions in their own right as well. One can simply look to mediumship and spot many examples of those who both clearly had psi ability and the capability to deceive. It also seems that psi springs from things that possibly start out as deception. In light of his thoughts and insight, it's not surprising at all to find paranormal activity around (man made) crop circles.

    This might not be an extremely satisfying answer for some, but it seems to be the nature of psi.
     
  8. The problem for critics who want to do experiments themselves is finding a paranormal circle. The critics don't believe any are paranormal so they would have to collect samples from every circle an then wait until someone claims one is paranormal. Then they can look at their sample and see if it is different from a control - plants knocked over by someone walking with boards on their feet. But they'd have to have controls for different crops since they won't know ahead of time the crop that will be involved with a putative paranormal circle. But they'd really want control samples from the same field, day, time, as the "paranormal" circle because the weather, time of day, or stage of growth, amount of time laying on the ground, could make a difference. They would need permission from every farmer. And they might not get the control samples at the same time (and maybe weather conditions) the circle was made. How could they?

    The critics want to prove the "paranormal" circles are indistinguishable from the man made ones. They have to have controls that are exactly identical to the experimental sample. They have to be very careful about any possible cause of a difference, like stage of growth, weather, etc between the control and experimental sample. This is could be another reason the critics don't do experiments themselves. It would be too easy to produce false positives and too hard to rule them out.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
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  9. Chefjames

    Chefjames New

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    Andrew,
    I agree. And I think the "he" is a "she" unless he is a he named "Nancy". It was strange that she seemed to dance around the thing a bit. She did finally mention the nodes but there was so much clutter in the rest of her dialogue it WAS hard to figure out.
     
  10. Chefjames

    Chefjames New

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    The so called "critics" will never do his research because in their world, the issue is settled. As with NDEs (product of dying brain), UFOs (man made of swamp gas), EVPs (CB radio or paradelia) Bigfoot (misidentification), Crop Circles are ALL man made.
    If you've listened to this show, looked into the paranormal to any degree, or any aspect of conspiracy or alt history for that matter, the status quo ALWAYS has a pat answer. Michael Shermer is the perfect rep for these positions, but the mainstream media and government officials are in on "the game", for that is exactly what it is. It is propoganda; period. This seemingly arrogant, haughty, self-righteousness can be traced in history back to the early 1900s and the earliest forms of our current intelligence services, the role of figures like Edward Bernays and the Sedition Act and later the Palmer Raids and the Internal Security Bill in 1950, the Paris Peace talks and most importantly the compulsory Western education system. A system that turns out obedient robots who cannot or will not practice critical thinking.

    A great reaource that outlines this "conspiracy" on free thinking and indeed it is a conspiracy and intentional dumbing down, is the work of Edward D. Griffin or the School Sucks Podcast which delves way beyond the failed education system and reviews step by step the history of how the "truth" has been hijacked in our current reality. Here's a link to first of several podcasts where Brett discusses the current role of scientific thinking and the role of "dissent" in the community. VERY compelling for those willing to look a little deeper into "fringe" and controversial topics like global warming.
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/school-sucks/id326517856?mt=2&i=335047413

    Also, a very good documentary I recently watched in YT called the Conspiracy Theory Conspiracy shows exactly how the mainstream media effectively curtails the examination of any evidence contrary to the mainstream paradigm (usually the government's talking points) through derision, ridicule and outright ignorance.

    So what are "we", people who DO practice critical thinking to do? All we can do is examine what evidence there is presented by the few brave souls who DO do research into contrarian topics and conspiracies and try and determine for ourselves, the truth. And then we can try and influence those around us with persuasive argument devoid of fallacy. That's really all we CAN do. Or start a Podcast like Alex's.
     
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  11. Chefjames, this is why I think the crop circle makers are to be condemned - because the "circle makers" are creating confusion when there is already a lot of disagreement about other things. Whether they are making all the circles, or only some of them, or none at all, if they would just stay home and shut up, or else do what they do, if anything, out in the open, it would easily remove one source of confusion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
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  12. Philemon

    Philemon Member

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    Hi everyone. Just checking in. Been lurking in the threads for awhile but still listening to the show. Back in my grad school days, I could participate on here a lot more, but now that I'm living the employed lifestyle, time has become an extremely precious commodity. If only I had known what I had while I had it!

    Anyway, I listened to this yesterday on the commute home. I have to say, it was hard to keep listening to with Nancy trying to school Alex on what a double blind procedure consists of and what it means, etc. and then hearing her call that guy "doctor" and then scold herself about him not actually being a doctor and then ask that it be retracted from the recording. She struck me as someone who wanted to come across as big and important, like a child playacting a doctor. I had to take a step back and go into "witness mode" on my thoughts, as I wanted to immediately discount everything she had to say based mostly on what came across as poor speaking skills. I additionally found it painful hearing Matt try to explain how TruthSeeker666 is not a bad name and that if it throws people off, it's only because they're not open minded enough to stick around to understand what he means by it. Felt like being in high school again and people complaining about not being understood when they're being intentionally provocative. If he's provocative about things like that, why not take it a step further and be disingenuous about other things? It made it hard to believe he was being sincere about there still being a paranormal streak to these phenomena... reminded me of being a kid and the adults taking us snipe hunting at night. This episode was like a big clown show in many ways, which really pushes home the difficulty in properly studying many aspects of the paranormal.

    I had this exact thought while listening to the show. I think George Hansen really appreciates how slippery this stuff is and how skillful we must be in seeking to understand it. It doesn't lend itself to the usual, pedestrian mode of consciousness.
     
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  13. morvern_c

    morvern_c New

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    Ditto. This is the first interview on skeptiko that I have found too irritating to listen to.
     
  14. I'd love for the full transcripts to come back.
     
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  15. Alex

    Alex New

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    welcome back, Phil.

    I get your point... well, points... all good.

    then again, I also connect with the idea "solve one mystery and you solve them all." i.e. crop circles are a mess... every sting we pull leads to 3 other tangled messes, but maybe that's how all these topics are. and maybe that's why we're so comfortable with ones with what appear to have cleaner boundaries/edges (e.g. psi). I would suggest that when we really push they all look a lot more like the crop circle mess than we'd live to admit.
     
  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    I'd be happy to add to the show notes any transcription listeners would like to contribute. just post them here and I will add them to the post.
     
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  17. Alex

    Alex New

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    sounds like I missed the mark with too much inside baseball :)
     
  18. Hurmanetar

    Hurmanetar New

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    That book has given me more insights and paradigm shifts than almost any other book I've ever read. :)

    Edit: and I now understand Sciborg's tag line!
     
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  19. Have you been doing the transcriptions yourself? If so, do you have a foot pedal switch? I think that makes it a lot easier.

    You can find internet services to do audio transcription for $1/min of audio by searching on google. Or try amazon mechancal turk and offer to pay less.

    Examples here offering about $15/hr of audio:
    https://www.mturk.com/mturk/searchb...ds=audio+transcription&minReward=0.00&x=0&y=0

    Also, youtube provides automated transcripts which have a lot of errors, but it might be easier to correct that than start from scratch. I haven't tried it though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
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  20. Hurmanetar

    Hurmanetar New

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    Could do a FOIA request to receive the NSA's transcript. That might take longer though.
     

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