Monday, July 03, 2006

Bosnian Pyramid Syndrome

Again, I'm posting an article from a different discipline that so closely parallels medicine.

A pyramid has been found in Bosnia, in Europe.

An amateur archaeologist realized that a particular hill, all covered with grass now, looked a lot like a pyramid and began investigating. Sure enough, he found a structure underneath and even passageways into the "hill."

This pyramid shares much in common with the Egyptian pyramids in its structure and approach, but is also quite different.

The "experts" in archaeology are calling this a "fake." Their responses are that this was just an "amateur archaeologist" and that "everyone was living in caves in Europe at that time in history."

Do you see how strong a mental model can be? There is the pyramid, sitting right there. IT'S RIGHT THERE! And the "expert" looks at it and basically CANNOT SEE IT. His mental model prevents him from believing that a) an amateur could find such an amazing thing and b) that his mental model about the history of Europe could be so wrong.

Again, I bring the topic back to Western medicine.

When a nurse, or any amateur medical practitioner comes up with a new idea to help with healthcare, the "experts" band together to discredit it, based ONLY on the that fact the person is not educated as a Western medical doctor.

But in Western medicine it's even worse, because even when a doctor makes a discovery that challenges the Western medical model, he is pushed down and out as quickly as possible.

Mental models about medicine seem to be the hardest to change. In my podcast last week, I interviewed a nutrition expert who stated that the studies clearly show that if a person is over 50 and has lung cancer, chemotherapy has a 1% chance of helping him. And yet, it will be prescribed over and over again. A damaging, deceptive mental model at work.

I don't know what the answer is. Our mental models come with us as human beings. The inflexibility of mental models is something we all share. For instance, I have a mental model that President George W. Bush is evil and stupid. And no matter what he does, I can't shake that model. President Bush signed the Health Savings Account into law in 2003, which I think is one of the best things to hit healthcare in the last fifty years. I even wrote a book on the topic of HSAs. But did that change my mental model of him? Nope.

Let me know your thoughts on mental models and the Bosnian Pyramid Syndrome.

11 comments:

Ron said...

But there is no pyramid, only a hill that looks like one from certain angles. The world is full of such hills.

Darn them experts! Ruining a prefectly good con.

Yep, the parallels to medicine are all to clear.

Holistic Economy said...

Fair point. What about the passageways underneath?

Each time something like this happens, it's hard to determine whether it's just another instance of the established experts trying to maintain the status quo in the face of evidence to the contrary, or if it's just some crackpot who we will have forgotten about 12 months from now.

It is very true that there are crackpots surfacing every day with "discoveries" that are not worth noting, in all fields including medicine and archaeology.

But it is also true that every single time someone advances a field substantially, they are faced with an overwhelmingly negative response from the status quo "experts" who say that it "just can't be."

My clue that this situation is the latter is when the experts are saying it can't be possible because it doesn't fit their theory of what was happening and when in European history.

But that one clue doesn't mean I'm right, or that this amateur archaeologist is right. It just makes me wonder.

If I were an expert in this field, wouldn't I be a bit embarassed to say that this discovery "must be wrong" because it doesn't fit the prevailing theory? Wouldn't that be a real bell-ringer that we could re-check our theory, especially after so many examples in history of the status quo being shattered?

I guess since I'm not in that position, I don't know what I'd do.

Ron said...

I'm assuming my attempt to respond was removed by you. I'll try to make this one less controversial...

Since when do passageways = pyramid? And why don't the "pyramid" discoverers know that the area has been mined for thousands of years, leaving behind passageways as evidence?

"But it is also true that every single time someone advances a field substantially".

Does this need comment?

"because it doesn't fit the prevailing theory?"

"Prevailing theory", in the case of the Bosnian hills, means the culmination of hundreds if not thousands of of man-years of carefully gathered and studied evidence and reports explaing that evidence in the context of previous evidence and reports, which has been reviewed and examined by other experts for accuracy, logic, ethics, etc. And it's all open for examination and debate to anyone who desires to do so.

On the other side you have a charlatan who has created a pr firm to promote his delusions that he's found evidence of the Atlantean deluge in Bosnia in order to bring tourists to the area.

Holistic Economy said...

Ron,

Controversy wasn't the problem with your previous post. The post was largely name-calling and whining, which was why I removed it.

Thank you for reposting.

Allow me to respond to your current posts. First, I'm happy to link to your blog and I'm very interested in reading future posts. Please let me know when you've got new posts and I'll link again.


Since when do passageways = pyramid? And why don't the "pyramid" discoverers know that the area has been mined for thousands of years, leaving behind passageways as evidence?


Good point. I could counter by saying "Since when is the existence of mines in the area proof that this is not a pyramid?" Of course, you can't prove a negative, but saying that it's probably a mine doesn't totally rule out the theory that it is a pyramid.


"But it is also true that every single time someone advances a field substantially".

Does this need comment?



Yes, please!


"because it doesn't fit the prevailing theory?"

"Prevailing theory", in the case of the Bosnian hills, means the culmination of hundreds if not thousands of of man-years of carefully gathered and studied evidence and reports explaing that evidence in the context of previous evidence and reports, which has been reviewed and examined by other experts for accuracy, logic, ethics, etc. And it's all open for examination and debate to anyone who desires to do so.

On the other side you have a charlatan who has created a pr firm to promote his delusions that he's found evidence of the Atlantean deluge in Bosnia in order to bring tourists to the area.



These exact words "thousands of man-year, carefully gathered, logic, ethics, accuracy, and charlatan" could have been and were used to discredit every new idea that came along in physics, biology, healthcare, and, I'm sure, archaeology. Weren't Einstein, Boehm, Bohr, Heisenberg and Darwin all given this type of scrutiny? To say that something is wrong simply because it goes against the common wisdom isn't a sufficient defense.

To me, the central problem is that all the current experts are operating under one particular mental model. Everything that comes up needs to fit into that mental model. A good mental model is one that can accommodate most new evidence. Then something comes along that shatters the model (relativity, evolution, quantum mechanics, etc.). Inevitably, the experts' reaction to this is to ignore or discredit the new evidence, rather than to examine their mental model.

To give an example in healthcare, the first doctor to notice that washing one's hands, especially after touching a corpse, could dramatically reduce the spread of disease in hospitals. The doctor was Ignaz Semmelweis. He was at first ignored by the establishment in Vienna and soon totally discredited.

His new "theory" was at odds with the current mental model of medicine, which was called "the four humours." The doctors complained that washing their hands between patients was "too much work." They also accused Semmelweis of being a religious nut, because his view that physicians should not touch a corpse and then touch a living patient without hand-washing meant that he was giving some "supernatural powers" to the dead body, which categorized him as a religious nut in the post-Enlightenment era dominated by intellectualism.

For us to look back at Semmelweis' situation, the "experts'" position is laughable, totally ridiculous. How could they be so short-sighted??

It seems to be that at every point in history, we've thought that we "know it all." We've finally got our mental models right, they don't need any changes.

That was true in 1847, and it's true today. We think we have it all figured out.

I wonder if we'll look back at 2006 twenty years from now and laugh at how ridiculous our mental models were? But which mental models are wrong? Probably all of them, to some degree.

And the point you make that we can't believe every crank who comes along to challenge our mental models is absolutely correct. My guess is that the reasons the experts ignore these revolutionaries is that the "real thought leaders" are mixed in with so many crackpots that the experts get tired of dealing with them and subsequently label every dissenter as a crackpot.

I also feel we cannot clign to our mental models as "proof in and of themselves." What bothers me about this situation with Bosnia is that the experts are holding up their mental models as proof that this guy is wrong. And yes, he does seem nuts with his theories and religions, etc., but Semmelweis seemed nuts and religious in 1847 too. I, personally, can't just take those things as evidence that he's wrong. They also say that because this guy is an amateur is a reason to discredit the whole thing too. Einstein was an amateur physicist. A patent clerk, of all things, who dropped out of college! Why should we pay attention to a friggin' patent clerk??

It also bothers me that so many experts are judging this site in Bosnia without even visiting it. Wouldn't they need to go there to figure out whether Osmanagić's claims are real or not? Maybe I don't understand archaeology enough to understand the reasoning there.

Do you see what I'm saying about mental models?

A month from now, there might be overwhelming evidence that this was, in fact, a giant hoax. If so, I will publicly state on this blog that fact and move on. And I'll highlight your blog and your comments here. Or it could be a year from now, or a decade from now.

But defending the criticims of Osmanagić using only today's mental models isn't fact to me.

I hope this post is somewhat coherent. I'm enjoying this discussion very much, Ron.

Ron said...

"Since when is the existence of mines in the area proof that this is not a pyramid?"

Proof? Are we talking mathematics or science? There are no proofs in science...

"doesn't totally rule out the theory that it is a pyramid."

Science doesn't try to "totally rule out" anything...

"To say that something is wrong simply because it goes against the common wisdom isn't a sufficient defense."

I'm not talking about "common wisdom", I'm talking about science...

"That was true in 1847, and it's true today. We think we have it all figured out."

Who thinks they have it "all figured out"? Not scientists. Science by it's nature always has unknowns, new questions, etc.

"Maybe I don't understand archaeology enough to understand the reasoning there."

That seems like a reasonable assumption.

"A month from now, there might be overwhelming evidence"

What evidence would you require to be convinced that there is no pyramid?

Holistic Economy said...

Ron,

It seems like we're starting to go in circles with this dialogue.

I was talking to a guy named "Ron," but now I'm talking to "science" with you as its representative? This is what worries me. When people have to resort to saying "How can you argue against science?" that is when we can see evidence of a weak argument.

Given that, Semmelweis was also arguing against "science" (see my previous post). So was Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Aristotle. They were all talking about something that the elite of the day said was "impossible." But these so-called nutcases were right.

Your question about what evidence I'd need to prove that this is a fake is a great question.

Okay, I'd say if there was evidence of a mining operation that would prove it to me. (We're just talking about what would prove it to me.)

If they find organic matter and can date it to be from a much later time period, that would be proof. (And yes, proof exists outside math.) Of course, they would still need to investigate to see if the tunnels were created earlier and then just utilized by the Romans later on.

And, certainly, if Osmanagic himself says that he's convinced that it isn't real, that would convince me.

Ron said...

"It seems like we're starting to go in circles with this dialogue."

How so?

"This is what worries me. When people have to resort to saying "How can you argue against science?" that is when we can see evidence of a weak argument."

Is that what you're doing, arguing against science?

"Semmelweis was also arguing against "science" (see my previous post). So was Einstein, Newton, Galileo, Aristotle."

Science in the modern sense, didn't exist for any of those you name except Einstein, and he certainly never faced an "overwhelmingly negative response from the status quo".

So, who are these "know-it-alls" that you're talking about, since they obviously aren't modern scientists, like those that have refuted Osmanagic? Do they exist today at all?

Holistic Economy said...

Okay, you win. I give up.

If you're saying that the scientific is more open-minded today than it was in Semmelweis' day, or Galileo's day, then we have a major disconnect.

Science is getting more and more closed-minded all the time. And it's always been called "modern science." And we've always tried to pretend that "modern science" is so much different than all previous models. But it's not.

So, you win. I feel like we're both just posting stuff for our ego's sake, rather than advancing a topic here. I have to cut this off at this point. We're not creating a thread here that will be interesting for people to read, unfortunately.

Thanks for the discussion.

Ron said...

"Science is getting more and more closed-minded all the time."

Wait! I thought you were talking about "know-it-alls", the "establishment", and the "status quo experts".


"I feel like we're both just posting stuff for our ego's sake"

Please don't insult me by projecting. I came into this discussion looking to better understand your perspective.

Holistic Economy said...

Ron,

It's good to hear that you're interested in learning my perspective. What have you learned from me so far?

Online said...

hi holistic,

really enjoyed your position about life, science and mental and social evolution.
keep up with the thoughts and mental activitie, its always good, its more humane when people use the mind that why in my opinion.
i came here because i ama looking for news about bosnian pyramids and just posted about it on www.onlinu.blogspot.com. hope you can read portuguese...:) and post something there for me to know you still update your mindblog...