Graffiti of the Gods

   By Ted Clay   

At the Oregonians for Rationality fall meeting in Eugene, Ted Clay presented a talk titled "Crop Circles-Graffiti of the Gods." He had previously presented the program in Ashland to a crowd of over 100. By popular demand, this outstanding presentation will be presented again in Portland in April. Please watch for announcements indicating the exact time and location.

For the purposes of the skeptical Pro Facto reader, here is a bit on the "making of" my recent lecture on crop circles, which I gave in Eugene in November. I'm glad to see that my collection of crop circle videos, books, calendars, and extensive web-browsing results could be put to some good use.

It also provided me with a chance to learn to use video-capture and Power Point. The lecture is held together by using a single computer projector to display a full range of multimedia images and sounds.

"Crop Circles-Graffiti of the Gods" is designed to stimulate both sides of the brain. The pattern-recognizing right side of the brain is treated to a series of delights. First there is a set of awesome aerial photos of beautiful crop circle designs from the wheat fields of England. The challenge is to detect the evidence of hoaxing. Then the audience is asked to use their ears to detect a possible similarity between a mysterious recording, made at a midnight seance in the middle of a crop circle, to the song of a grasshopper warbler bird. You get to search for the crop-artists' signatures in a group of designs. Finally, you get to size up the various characters in this amazing human side-show, with computer-projected video clips that walk and talk..

The logical processing of the left brain is also given its work. Taking inspiration from the acknowledgments section at the back of Carl Sagan's Demon-Haunted World, I tried to clearly and respectfully present the arguments for the non-human origins of crop circles. In the second half of the lecture we go over these arguments point-by-point.

So what, you may ask, are the arguments for the non-human origin of crop circles? The points dealt with in the lecture are these:

  • They are too big to be made by people. Rebuttal: A team with garden rollers can flatten a lot of wheat in a hurry.
  • No damage to the crops. Rebuttal: This is a myth. Actual damage is extensive, and evidence of it is routinely ignored.
  • No footprints are found; the soil is not crushed. Rebuttal: Flattened wheat forms a cushion to walk on.
  • There are cellular changes in the plants. Rebuttal: We know plants respond to being flattened.
  • The "Virgin Birth" of the 1996 formation at Stonehenge. Rebuttal: Nobody saw it being formed, because nobody was looking.
  • The "5.2 kilohertz" sound picked up by radio." Rebuttal: It's a bird.
  • Eyewitness accounts of crop circle formation. Rebuttal: This is why we have science.
  • A video of UFOs making a crop circle. Rebuttal: It is easy to see through.

    The above is a somewhat terse rundown of the points dealt with at greater length in the lecture. The whole lecture is designed to defuse the potential ire of the crop circle believers who may be in the audience. By making it clear early on that arguments for the paranormal are going to be discussed, and by taking questions all the way through, I avoided keeping anyone in irritated suspense. By showing how crop circles are made (yes, with a board, tape and a garden roller), we begin by "seeing" rather than making logical arguments, bringing the whole subject down to earth (literally). The logical arguments are included but come after the audience has been "prepared" with visuals, Halloween hoaxing, and humorous anecdotes.

    Crop-circle believers often state that they think crop circles are designed to raise human consciousness. I prefer to contemplate the images that science of our time is providing us. Both the starting and ending images in the lecture are from space, images that elicit the sentiments we all share-a sense of the mystery of the universe, and the uniqueness of the fragile planet we live on. These are images that I hope reinforce the human bonds which link all members of the audience-both skeptics and believers alike.

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