Re: Open Letter to Lee Crocker

Mark Phillips (
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 19:16:42 CDT

Dear Lee (and Eliezer):

Yeah, I, too, am skeptical about the "Face on Mars" stuff. But I'm *also* skeptical about (quasi-) dogmatic "skepticism" of the CSICOP variety. Now, having said *that*, let me hasten to add that I have the utmost respect for James Randi, and am personal acquaintances with Paul Kurtz (I did my J.D. at Buffalo, and I've visited with him several times). A proper, neo-Popperian stance is, admittedly, a kind of conservative skepticism about this sort of stuff, if only because, ultimately our best epistemological position is one of a mixture of contextualism and a weird (but workable!!) blend of Quine (coherence theory of truth) and Tarski (neo-"correspondence", semantic theory of truth).

I've perused Hoageland's book on the "Face", and found it interesting, but not ultimately convincing. And I've checked out a few other sources (both
"pro" and "con"). I'm certainly not a "true believer" in the
"Face"-as-intelligent-artifact thesis. But I certainly don't rule out the
possibility. However, the evidence, coupled with the *context* of science-today, bids us to be ultimately skeptical of this hypothesis. But science-today is a (admittedly robust) set of (ultimately fallible) concepts. New evidence and/or new, revised background hypotheses might tip the thing in favor of an artifactual hypothesis regarding the "Face." I'm **NOT**, however, holding my breath on this one! It can't be ruled-out, however, except in the (important, and relevant) sense that it is no more plausible (if as plausible) as less [literally] extra-ordinary hypotheses concerning the "Face".

My ultimate position is that I'd like to get the heck out there to the Martian "Cydonia" cite and check the damn area out first hand, or at least have Somebody do so. That's a decade or two off, though.

And, yes, I've probably been methodologico-psychologically corrupted by reading too much Feyerabend!! I really am sympathetic to Feyerabendian anarchism. Good thing my original intro to philosophy of science was Popper and Rom Harre's excellent *Principles of Scientific Thinking* (U. Chicago Press, 1970) (The latter book is HIGHLY recommended, BTW), otherwise, I'd be of the Feyerabendian "anything goes" persuasion (which I'm not, BTW).

Best regards to all!

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