Examining nonsense 3 - Noise.
How does one deal with a message that is both factual and nonsensical? An introduction to noise.
This essay is the third in a series called "Examining nonsense". It analyses a speech given by David Icke. You may find the other essays here.
Having opened the speech by preparing the listener, and followed that up by building the speaker’s authority, the speech then continues as follows:
So, the senses are taking waveform information, vibrational information, they’re turning into electrical information. They are communicating it into the brain, which then decodes that into a sense of reality we call the world we live in. So, the world that we think we’re living in exists there.
Towards the end of this part of the speech the speaker Icke does have an interesting point. However, let us examine the first part first.
Upon hearing or reading “waveform information”, I imagine that the audience is supposed to visualise an image of a diagram sketching out a frequency. That image is well and good, it is an example of the listener doing work as an interpreter. However, let us put such images aside and focus on just that concept of waveform information by asking one simple question: What is it?
I am no physicist, but I know that in physics one talks of lightwaves and soundwaves. Nor am I a physician, but it is also true that lightwaves and soundwaves are picked up by the senses and then communicated to the brain. It is also true that the brain “decodes”, or rather, interprets this information. The resulting product is perception, which is a part of qualia. So, is there even a problem here?
Yes and no. If interpreted heavily, as done above, Icke’s words can make sense. However, the chosen wording for this rather simple point is unnecessarily complex. Here is an example of how it could be more easily worded:
We see lightwaves and hear soundwaves, which the brain interprets and forms a perception.
There is no need for “vibrational information” to communicate the scientific point. However, as we shall see in a later essay, there is a need for it to communicate Icke’s point. This is a great example of someone not heeding Ockham’s razor: The principle that one should commit one’s theory to as few things as possible. In other words: Keep it simple, stupid. Here, “vibrational information” is sneakily piggybacking on a proper scientific point.
Having interpreted Icke benevolently, it is not at all clear why he adds this vague physics lesson in his speech. Which purpose do those lines serve for the speech’s message?
The proper lesson in physics seems only to serve as a means for the speaker to sneak in his own claims about the world along with something that has a certain scientific merit. The speaker deliberately adds what one in logic would call noise, namely words that do not contribute to the proper point at hand. This is problematic. Imagine attending a lesson in which the lecturer opens by saying:
For your information: Half of what I will be saying in today’s lecture will be my own dubious claims. However, I will not warn you of when I will add these claims, you will simply have to figure that out for yourselves. Enjoy!
In this scenario the attendees are left to try and remove the noise from the lecture in an effort to uncover something meaningful. The process of removing noise is very slow, but the process of interpreting noise into something meaningful is rather quick. Therefore, in a spoken format such as a speech, it is tactical to piggyback one’s own claims onto something that is generally accepted as true if one wants the audience not to criticise those claims.
Thus, the first part of this part of the speech sneakily introduces noise with the purpose of having the listener accept certain dubious claims as facts.
Towards the end this part of the speech talks of “a sense of reality we call the world we live in”. And here there is an interesting philosophical point to be made.
It is true that perception is detached from whatever it perceives. Strictly speaking, consciousness is not “out there” in the real world, but rather “in here”, inside our brains. There is a case to be made for perception to be understood as separate from “reality”. There is an interesting thought experiment that may shed some light on this.
Do I perceive the colour red in the same way as you do? Imagine that we are watching a red bicycle. Now imagine that you and I switch perceptions. By magical means I am suddenly perceiving the world through your mind and body, and you through mine. What if I was to discover that I now perceived the bicycle in what I would call green? We could not know this before, because you have always been taught to refer to that perception as “red”, and so have I. Though our perceptions are different in this thought experiment.
It might be that our perceptions are different, but since our individual perceptions are isolated from one another we may never verify this. Not only are our perceptions isolated from each other, but they are also isolated from that which they perceive. In the thought experiment, that was the bicycle.
However, going from an understanding of perception as separate from what it perceives to then saying that perception is reality is an unjustified leap. The external world may still very well exist “out there”, and not “in here”. It does not follow from this understanding of perception that an external reality does not exist.
Having heavily interpreted two honest points from this part of Icke’s speech, namely the short physics lesson and the philosophical question of perception and reality, it remains unclear why these two are put together in the same speech. They are interesting topics, but how do they complement each other and the point that the speech tries to make?
It seems that the proper points do not complement each other, nor the speech. It is once again just sneaking in some dubious claims by borrowing authority from respected topics. The claims here are not intended to enlighten, but to confuse. This part of the speech is essentially noise.
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