Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marfa Light Madness?

One commenter on a recent blog post responded briefly to my two long comments with, "Dude, you are a certified whack job. Pterodactyls? Fie and pshaw!" He then sarcastically referred to "glow-goblins" as the cause of Marfa Lights. (Houston Press blog post by Richard Connelly, Dec 7, 2010; comment by "Doc")

A timely note before proceeding: Sarcasm is not satire.

Leaning heavily on sarcasm does more than guarantee a writer's work will be forgotten. It puts the writer's opinion in doubt, for reasoning should come first. The person who wrote the above critism may have had something worthwhile in mind, before writing; but the comment itself throws the possibility of deep thinking into doubt.

One definition of "whack job" is this: "an extremely erratic or irrational person." In my two lengthy comments (over fifty lines of comment, much longer than the blog post by Richard Connelly) I said much about Marfa Lights and the work of the scientist James Bunnell. I said little about pterosaurs. But for those who have read much of my writings, it is obvious that I rely on eyewitnesses, for I have never seen anything like a living pterosaur (although I hope and pray to see one before leaving this world). If the writer of sarcasm really believes me to be insane because I believe in the words of persons who declare that they have seen living pterosaurs, what about Brian Hennessy?

Several years ago, this Australian reported to me his 1971 sighting of a "prehistoric" looking flying creature. It had no sign of feathers but a long tail. The long beak and long tail made it very unlike any bat; the lack of feathers made it very unlike any bird. If I am insane for believing him, what about Hennessy? Why believe he is mentally healthy? The problem with labeling this Australian with "whack job" is that Brian Hennessy is a professional psychologist.

See also "Those Mysterious Marfa Lights."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Can Satire Backfire?

According to Wikipedia, "satire is primarily a literary genre or form" in which "vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement." I suspect that some writers enjoy using satire to be humorous; also, some writers want to make a point without actually reasoning on the point, by using bulverism (whether or not they know the meaning of that word). Although satirical writing is common, satire about new scientific ideas is uncommon.

A recent use of satire in Texas, however, may have backfired, with potential consequences unforseen by the blog writer. Prompted by a press release about a new interpretation of the Marfa Lights of Texas, and the publication of a nonfiction cryptozoology book with a chapter devoted to those strange ghost lights, the blogger ridiculed the idea that the source of those lights are bioluminescent flying predators that may even be living pterosaurs. I wrote both the press release and the book it promotes.

On that blog post by Richard Connelly, I replied with two comments, neither of which referred to bulverism or satire. My comments mostly emphasized the error of assuming there are no strange lights around Marfa (Connelly had assumed car headlights account for all reports of strange lights there). I used that bloggers two links, demonstrating that careful reading of his references result in meanings different from what he had assumed: Those two scientific studies do not support Connelly's assumption.

I said little about pterosaurs in those two comments. After writing books on the subject of living pterosaurs, I have given up on the possibility that even the best-formulated comment or the most thoughtfully prepared article can, by itself, convince all readers that their culture has wrongfully indoctrinated them into the assumption of universal extinctions of dinosaurs and pterosaurs. My best hope is that a single comment or article will awaken most of the readers to the possibility of modern pterosaurs, and Connelly's blog post seems to have done something similar, contrary to his intention.

I am grateful that comments were allowed for that post. I believe that some readers notice the comments, and in this case I have an audience that I would not have had without Connelly's remarks.

For those interested, the blog post of Richard Connelly is not itself the best example of bulverism (it is, however, a clear example of satire); the third comment, by "Doc," is a better example: Referring to me, he said, "Dude, you are a certified whack job." Of course, that commenter's idea is hardly original: that I am a hopeless lunatic; it seems to be a common misconception. But for those who desire to reason on a subject, I suggest actual reasoning, not bulverism.