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History:- What is the truth?

We have to be careful not to make something out of nothing. We can be misled, misinformed and come to completely the wrong conclusions, so let's explore why this occurs, whether it is a benefit and how it is often misused.

When we explore stone circles, or other ancient sites what do we see, know and what if any information can we absolutely rely upon.  To discover this perhaps we need to re-examine the whole area of what we can believe, what is and is not reliable and in some ways how this also impacts on other areas of life.

You can look at the clouds or into a fire and see creatures or faces, some do it using a crystal ball or with other scrying means.  You also see a large number of people who get themselves locked up for years because someone saw 2 and 2 and made 5.

When we have a theory, and set about proving it, we are all subject to the risk of seeing what we want to see. If we start with something we have read or been told and take this Ďideaí as fact, then we have to see very little before we can jump to the conclusion that runs along side the idea.

Once, you or I write about something and others read it, and some of them echo the contents, it can become an established fact, when we ourselves thought of it as a possibility, others were playing devils advocate and attempting to cause discussion. In many cases over the years when looking at a topic I am about to write about or teach, I have found the information generally circulating to be wrong.  This now means that when assembling information for a course or a book, I have to check out fully every aspect, and also to analyse, the best I can, information that I write could also add confusion for others. With articles, for a magazine or website, we donít have the ability to tell the whole story, we have to give a cropped version,  so although not giving wrong information as such, there is often going to be omissions, knowledge that we could clarify in a one to one tutorial, or cover in a book but not an article.

If we look at how a child learns we find that itís a building block approach, they learn one thing, and compare future information against what they already have accepted. This means that assumptions and simplifications as well as political and religious prejudice can greatly affect the way a person is able to assemble information and what they come to believe is true. Of course as children develop they learn that those they have come to believe may tell them untruths, the tooth fairy, Santa, and the 'bogie' man waiting to harm them concepts come to mind immediately. Due to this and perhaps the over simplification we still try to provide to teenagers and the need they have to belong to the group, they then start to disbelieve parents and put more faith in the general consensus of the herd they run with. We often would say someone got into the wrong crowd or was led astray, but perhaps its just a symptom of this civilisation.

The way we see, means that we are able to recognise shapes that no computer can identify, we can see a part of an outline or just a few dots and join them up to see a shape. We are so good at this that we take this ability for granted. Much of the time we donít bother to see and record detail at all. We also donít register detail that is of little interest or value to us, just think back a day or two when you were in a supermarket line or waiting to pay at a garage, can you describe accurately the person who was stood in front of you, or behind you. 

We are also prone to adopt the ideas of others, a useful skill as it reduces conflict. Those who are skilled at his can rather than selling ideas, persuade people to adopt them and then agree with their position to reinforce it.  Police officers often pick up this skill, they can suggest something, maybe show a photo, and say that others have said something, and then take what they call a Ďcan say statementí, this is the officers notes that are then initialled unread by the person being interviewed. The officer then comes back some months later with a statement already written for the interviewee to sign, based upon these notes. Very few people will spot that its not their information but the story that they were offered the opportunity to adopt that has been documented. Of course barristers and others know this happens and can often draw a time line and show huge holes in the statements, perhaps things happening after buildings mentioned had been demolished or before they were built, mentioning items that did not exist while the interviewee would have visited and a whole load more. They are able to point out these to the judge by a pause at each point, but juries are not told at all. In addition witnesses are selected, those who donít present the story required are simply overlooked. Usually only those who may be called have their statements disclosed to the defence and 'can say' statements are never disclosed.

Statistics of course can also be used and misused as well as lead us to the wrong conclusions as much as the right ones, and if you as I did, studied statistics at school or college, then if you can remember that far back you will recall the correlation coefficient, this compares patterns of occurrences and gives it a value. With this you could for example prove absolutely that cinema attendances fell directly proportionally to the take up of washing machines. Of course these were not related, but if we had looked further its likely that the take up of washing machines and TVís were taking place at the same time, which would make more sense.

Statistics can be useful, but often what we would find most interesting is not said, as its does not suit the purpose of others, an example of this is insurance. Lets look at house insurance, the concept is simple the risk of misfortune, fire, flood, storm etc, is prepared for by clubbing together and sharing the risk. A concept that makes sense, when someone has misfortune we all help out, and ifs its us who have the misfortune our problems are overcome. To make this work we need an organiser so thatís where the insurance companies come in, and they can also even out years allowing for good years, when there are few mishaps with other years when more happens. So what percentage would we expect them to take for their trouble, many suggest 20% plus or minus a bit. Statistics however enlightens us, as when it was a bad year with the floods of 2007, and the insurance companies were bleating about losses and having to increase premiums and exclude those who might claim in future, we might have thought they had paid out several times that year what had come in, but no the percentage paid out in this terrible year was 40%, in a normal year they expected it turn out to pay out 8%, so their charges are not 20% but 92% of the premiums taken. Of course it might have turned out to be more than 40% going out if all those who thought they were covered turned out to get what they expected, but alas a year on and many have not seen any money, while others have settled for a smaller sum so as to be able to move on with their lives. Of course insurance companies are sponsors of various things like sports events so buy respectability and  have other ways to impress on the politicians that they are not just another form of organised crime.

Currently we hear a lot about genetic fingerprints or DNA, and may be led to believe its near absolute when its not. Even if we accepted initially the suggestions put forward by those marketing this technology, that the probability of a similar match is 1 on 1,000,000 then, rather than accepting it as certainty that the person is involved, we could say that as there is about 65 million people in Britain it means they are one of potentially 65 people who could have been responsible, but we know its not exactly 1 in 1million for every pattern, so we have to allow a spread (normal distribution), so perhaps half to twice this figure, so 32 to 130 potential people. As the population is unevenly spread, probably over half of this number would live within an hours travelling in most cases, so are logical suspects. Then of course we have overseas people passing through. So add in a few more factors and we can convert the absolute certainly of it being a person to them being potentially 1 of a hundred or so individuals with this pattern and who had been somewhere near at the time. In some situations for example people from the Caribbean it is well known that there can be far higher rates of identical DNA. There is also quite a lot of identical DNA matches found in some communities where there has been historically a lot of intermarrying, such as the welsh valley's and English farming communities, as well as in some upper social sets, who after producing the heir tended to play musical beds at house parties. Of course this is again well known by some, when it was suggested that all police officers should have the DNA added to the database to help eliminate their samples from crime scenes they had been at, there is no way they would do this,  as they realised they could become the next scapegoat that was to be used to solve a long overdue case.  For a genetic database to work as a fair tool, everyone has to be on it, and all those entering the country to have their DNA taken and the possible suspects then all fully identified and looked into. It still would not cope with planted items.

Which brings us onto the way we justify actions, either before or after they have occurred. So the police officer that suppresses evidence or plants it, or utilises 'can say' statements, does not consider himself corrupt or his colleagues, who he knows does the same, instead they justify their action as a war on crime and in any war, there has to be some casualties. They also tell themselves its their job to collect and present evidence, what is made of it is for someone else to worry about.  Only rarely when we have done something would we think we should not have done that, normally we can justify any action we take.  Having justified actions, to themselves, punishing these people for what they do not think was wrong is counter productive, it just makes them feel picked on and fosters anti social attitudes. After a divorce both parties feel hurt by the other, let down, their trust broken and conflict often continues relating to any children, and surrounding issues. Each has a different set of Ďfactsí or justifications for their actions, egged on and magnified by solicitors who are the only ones to benefit from such actions.

We can't see, consider and store everything, every sound, sight, smell, word and thought. If we did we would experience cognitive overload, be unable to process and deal with the world at all. Therefore we tend to notice differences rather than what we expected to be happening or present.  Many of us who write a lot will often come across documents within our computers, or on our websites that we know we must have written but have no recollection of. What we do is to selectively remember things, often items we are interested in, but in some cases we may develop a particular skill in a specific area. Photography and cameras have interested me most of my life, I have a large camera collection of historic cameras, studied different methods throughout time, tried out most and every technique and skill I have come across, and am still actively involved in further research, pushing things forward and learning more. Psychology and how our minds work interests me, as does some other crafts or skills. On the other hand there are some areas that many others find interesting like music and sport that I have absolutely no interest in and little knowledge of, beyond the scientific side required to record sound. So some may follow a sport, support a team, or become a fan of a group and know all about these topics, while I donít, but when it comes to photography, I can answer any question posed and show people how to achieve any result they require.

In some other cases of course its just the accepted and promoted  facts we are taught that are just wrong. Do you remember being taught that it was the Romans who came to Britain, a country of 'warring' disorganised tribes, and built a road system with straight roads, many of which survive to this day.  But did they build them as such, or was it just while they were here, over several hundred years, some routes were improved and new bridges built, and other changes occurred that would have taken place without their involvement.  Did they carve new roads across the countryside like a modern day motorway going through or did these roadways already exist. You may think you have read how the surveyors laid them out, but it is not fact but thought of how it might have happened.  Having accepted blindly that they created them it followed on that they had to have a way to lay them out.  We imagine they worked out the route, felled trees, cut through rock and carved out the routes, destroying anything that was in their way.

You may say it cannot be proven one way or another, however we do have other evidence, long distance tracks used in pre roman days like the Ridgeway and some others across Salisbury Plain still exists.  They do follow the high ground but are generally as straight at the ground would allow.  With steep hills it makes sense to stay at the same level rather than keep going up and down. Stone circles also enlighten us, quite a lot have two entrances, analysis of these show that its not related to a set pattern or to the sunrise or set. One feature they do line up with quite accurate is the direction nearby Roman roads are running. They are aligned in many cases parallel to the road. From surviving track ways we know that there are often parallel sections of track ways.  So can we conclude from this that the roadways that the Romans were thought to have built were improvements of existing trackways. Perhaps they straighten some out, perhaps they cut through in places putting in bridge crossings instead of using the fords that existed, perhaps they selected to improve only the roads that were of most use to them.  Perhaps they didnít do very much at all, but introduced the technology and placed their settlements to line up with existing roads. Once you accept that track ways most likely existed before, and ran in these routes, then is it not logical to have gone along them and decided where to develop your settlement.

People have been living, moving about, trading and more for at least 10,000 years in Britain. As we look back into this past, we have a lot of information for the recent past, and it thins out as we go back. Go back just over 100 years and we have only the records of  those who could write, so a slanted view at best. Go back further and mostly we have fiction and court records plus the occasional diary. Go before 1066, less than a thousand years ago, or less than 10% of the time people have been here and we know virtually nothing except what we can detect from remains, a few grave instructions and legends. Go back 2,000 years just 20%, and we know hardly anything, and we are guessing most of the time. Today our technology is outdated and superseded, do you remember floppy disks, or how about the Kodak Disc camera, we, like each generation before us believe we have it cracked, but of course new developments will occur and some forgotten ones be rediscovered. Very little of what we have today is likely to exist in the future, the petrol engine could be replaced now with a non polluting hydrogen one, for years we have known how to get hydrogen at no net cost from the ocean, in the future the oil will eventually run out so it will have to be. Our current TVís, will in a few years now, be replaced with 3D versions the Olympics this year is the first time a full TV channel is being transmitted in 3D. As a futurist the future interests me as much as the past. However when we look back as Avebury or Stonehenge we look on a period as great and often twice as long as the total history we know.  We bunch together all that development, all that occurred and its like comparing the knights of the round table, those who created the British empires, promoted slavery, those who considered human life an expendable commodity in the first world war, and the current mixed age as a single time with single activities, beliefs and structures.

The general argument or justification for this is that technology has sped up over time, and after all werenít they cave men. The general view of the bronze age man is of a man with a club, dressed in animal skins, and living in small circular huts. This is not necessarily anywhere near right, they understood alignments, traded with other nations around the world, had long wide trackways and hill forts that with our understanding of their technology could not have been built with the populations that they had available. They moved huge blocks of stone many miles.

We have many field systems, without houses and in some places remains of post holes, so is it not likely as wood was so prevalent that they built homes of wood, as well as other structures,  some so huge that it would amaze people today.

If we go along this route then we can explore further looking at other belief systems and activities in other civilisations that are similar, and from a similar age, and start to consider what we see now not as complete items but the remains of something greater, not amazed that they could build Stonehenge but rather to ask what is this the remains of.

So let me tell you a story, how I see it Ö.    but first lets take a look at how conclusions can be less than reliableÖ..

A practical example of the risk of conclusions

30 years ago The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was broadcast on BBC radio, as a part of this story the supercomputer Deep Thought took 7.5 million years to compute an answer to the question, what is the meaning of life. The answer it came up with was 42. The author Douglas Adams did not explain the meaning of this. But many others have come up with a conclusion, lets look at ten of these:-

  1. The "Infinite Improbability Drive" was prototyped in a nice, hot cup of tea. Arthur Dent, the last surviving fragment of the Earth project to calculate the answer to life, the universe, and everything, also exhibited a taste for tea. Coincidence? I haven't got the faintest idea if this is the rationale that Douglas Adams had for computing the number 42. But the ideal way to enjoy a cuppa is when you have someone else for company. That's tea for two, and two for tea. Or as Deep Thought may have put it: "For tea, two.
  2. That Douglas Adams came up with the answer 42 because a pint of beer in his local pub cost 42p at the time.
  3. We are at sixes and sevens about trying to understand life, the universe and everything, meaning we are in a state of total confusion or disarray. The product of six multiplied by seven is 42. So 42 is a summary statement that we will always be confused about the big question.
  4. In Hebrew letters also represent numbers. The number 42 is written by the Hebrew letters for L and B, which spell "LEB" in Hebrew, which is also pronounced "LEV". This means heart and joy. Age 42 is when folks are considered mature enough to study Kabbalah.
  5. Lewis Carroll used the number in two other works, in "The Hunting of the Snark", where 42 boxes get left behind on the shore, and in a poem where he exclaims at such a thing being done to him - "a man of 42".
  6. In the binary system of numbers, the first six digits alternating between one and zero make up 42, thus: 101010 = 32 + 8 + 2 = 42.
  7. Douglas Adams was a massive geek and huge Apple Mac fan. The number 42 in machine code for the Apple Mac that he used means "multiply". So the computer in the story came up with that.
  8. The number 42 is six multiplied by seven. The sign of the devil is 666 and 777 was the sign of God. The meaning of life the universe and everything is the two first numbers multiplied together.
  9. By using the number 42 Adams was making a beautifully simple statement of interconnectivity. The numbers four and two have both a relationship with each other and with the larger 42. Similarly, life, the universe and everything all share interconnectivity. Everything in the Universe is essentially made up of stuff - matter or anti-matter. One cannot exist without the other. Therefore the answer to life is balance and interconnectivity. Denying this interconnectivity makes no difference because the balance exists whether we acknowledge it or not. This premise is both beautifully and infuriatingly simple. The number 42 is merely an equally simple but beautiful illustration. And Adams conveyed this in a classic, entertaining tale filled with comedy.
  10. If you take A as one, B as two, C as three, and so on, then add up D Adams it comes to 42.

I liked the last one best, it sounded really likely then I heard that in an interview he had eventually explained it, he said the answer to the "ultimate question" would be something with no meaning. He, with several friends, sat down and said all the numbers from one to 100 and decided that 42 sounded the funniest.

The relevance you will see is that many people may take the same basic facts and deduce different answers, perhaps some are right, perhaps some are coincidental and perhaps some are just repeating what others have said.

When we look at the remains of ancient civilisations there is little we can take as hard facts, and therefore your ideas may be nearer the mark than others.  Keeping our eyes and our minds open however we just may see things that others have passed by, discounting  because they know what they have been told, have accepted and what is there just fails to equate to the facts as they expect them.


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