Re: Re: Mars: "Rogue" memes and the laughter curtain
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 09:12:05 -0700

Mac Tonnies, <>, writes:
> When I look at the angles in the so-called "City" complex, the proximity of
> the "Face," the redundancy of the "Cliff" feature, which mirrors similar
> features on the "Face" when viewed from the surface, the surreal cork-screw
> effect of the "Tholus" to the direct bottom of the "Cliff," the identical
> faceted compositions of the "Main Pyramid" and the "D&M Pyramid," apparent
> buttressing, lack of impact damage (suggesting an origin more recent than the
> craters in question), the fine detail evident in the "Face," the linear
> arrays of knobs atop Hecates Tholus, the Cydonia Quadrangle, signs of
> possible excacation, unidentified dark material emerging from a seeming
> "crack" in the "D&M's" northern facet, etc., etc., I'm satisfied that there
> is something most definitely worth looking into.

There is much we don't understand about Mars. But the last thing to assume is that mysteries are explained by the activity of intelligence. This is the same point I made earlier with regard to attempts to explain missing mass or missing neutrinos by invoking intelligence. Experience has shown that we do best to exhaust all possibilities based on natural explanations before we conclude that intelligence was involved.

In the case of the examples you listed, many of these points were made by Hoagland on the basis of the Viking orbiter photos, and some of them have been basically refuted by the new pictures. We have good images of the main pyramid and the upper part of the D&M pyramid. There is no buttressing, and the facets are not precise and never were (they don't meet at a point, for example). We have good images of most of the "City" and it all looks natural. We have the western portion of the "Fort" and it looks natural as well. We don't really know what the Face looks like when viewed from the surface, but the early reconstructions based on Viking cannot be trusted now.

I don't see anything here which can't be plausibly explained by natural processes of erosion. We have pyramidal rocks on earth, and even mountains and hills that resemble faces. Obviously the details of erosion will be different on Mars, and there are still many unknowns. But we should explore natural explanations and not jump to the conclusion that unexplained phenomena are due to intelligence, just as in other forms of scientific investigation.

> It's interesting that you don't think it's prudent to "waste money" (a
> myth--we've already got a craft there ready to take pictures without costing
> anything)

It's not a myth that there are huge costs to image and re-image this area. The cost of anything is the foregone opportunity. There is only a limited amount of bandwidth available for returning pictures, time on the deep space networks necessary to pick up the transmissions, time to plan the pictures and to process them when they come back. When we take another picture of the Cydonia region, we're missing out on the opportunity to photograph some other part of Mars.

There are scientists all over the world clamoring to have their favorite part of Mars photographed. Volcanoes, valleys, polar caps, plains, each type of terrain has scientific interest. If the scientific community demands more pictures of Cydonia, fine. To my layman's eye it does look like an interesting region. But I am not an areologist. We should leave it to the experts to decide what should be photographed. These people are the best judges of how to use the exteremely scarce resources we have available for photographs.

Another thing to consider is this. Suppose we did take more photos of Cydonia, and we saw what we have seen so far. The rest of the D&M pyramid looks like an eroded outcropping. Same with the Fortress. Same with the other structures. The Face looks vaguely facelike, but no more so than any number of natural landforms on the earth. What then?

Would that satisfy you? Would you then say, okay, no more pictures? If so, what about the others, who aren't satisfied? Some people will continue to see hints of structure in the photographs. Look at Hoagland's web page at He saw all kinds of stuff, castles and streets, in the photos from last year. Others will agree with him. Do we have to keep taking pictures until every last person on Earth is satisfied, at the cost of scientifically useful photographs from other parts of the planet? Or do we simply stop when you personally are convinced there's nothing there?

In other words, how can we allocate scarce photographic resources in a world where the vast majority of the scientists do not think the artificiality hypothesis is at all convincing given the data available, but there is a small but vocal minority who insist that it be investigated? How would you propose to resolve these disagreements?