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Real Aliens - crop CIRCLES symbols part 5


The lack of context is significant in another way. It is a truism that symbols mean something only in a social context. If these shapes have a concrete and socially-based meaning to their creators, how are they changed by being engraved on fields on another planet? Suppose that the magnificent Fawley Down pictogram (a "theta" formation) refers to a Rigellian action which human physiologies cannot duplicate? If we know nothing of Rigellian physiology, we'll never figure that out, will we? And, more importantly, how does the meaning of the symbol change when it is stamped, without context or explanation, in a field of wheat near Winches- ter, England? What does the symbol mean at that particular place and time, if anything? Not, I feel sure, just to tell us what Rigellians do.


What would a glowing Coca-Cola advertisement mean in a Brazilian rainfor- est where Coke is not available? Anything but "Buy Coke." Perhaps it would be (meant as, read as) an ironic statement on the extravagance of modern advertising. But if a picture of that advertisement in the rainfor- est was reproduced as an advertisement by Coke, the sign would again mean "Buy Coke"--but also something more, like "Coke is, or should be, available literally everywhere." Meaning is an event with multiple layers, most if not all of which are radically and subtly dependent on context.


It is attractive to suppose that the formations are a sort of logical puzzle, like an IQ test. This would seem to make their context internal rather than external; the shapes would define their own context. But this argument is misleading. If one was presented with an IQ test without knowing what it was, or being shown how to work with the shapes pre- sented, it would be meaningless. The very idea of the logical puzzle is socially constructed.


The Soviet psychologist A. R. Luria has shown that it is almost impossible to convey the idea of the syllogism to normally intelligent but nonliterate people. When Russian peasants were given the syllogistic puzzle In the Far North, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zembla is in the Far North and there is always snow there. What color are the bears?, a typical response was, "I don't know. I've seen a black bear. I've never seen any others. Each locality has its own animals."


From their point of view, it was absurd to try to figure out the color of bears with logic, since bear coats are something you see, not deduce.16 The ideas of the logical puzzle and the transitive relationship are evidently learned, not inherent to human intelligence. If there is a logical pattern, it would be nothing simple to figure out, for the first thing we would have to do is figure out what has to be figured out. And that would almost certainly require the discovery of some external context, like a real alien culture's way of thinking and reasoning. Unless, of course, the circlemakers have tried to use some human mode of reasoning.


There are an enormous number of possibilities. A reading of the circles will not come easily. A lot will depend on the ability to make inspired guesses, and convince other people that they are right. The rest will depend on good data, good analytical tools, and vast amounts of hard work. But the potential payoff ought to make any linguist salivate. The field has ample room for the next Chompollon.

Michael Chorost

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