Starchild Skull Debate

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Starchild Skull Debate

Postby PavlovianModel146 » Thu Apr 14, 2011 11:25 pm

This is a Debate between Gaiaguerilla and Carleas with myself as the sole Judge. The rules will remain exactly as Gaiaguerilla proposed with two addendums (see below).

Proposition P: There is at least one extraordinary factor about the Starchild Skull (be it a technology more sophisticated than publically available, or a factor indicating that it could not have been a known species).

Advocating for P: Gaiaguerrilla
Advocating for ~P: Carleas.
Judge: PavlovianModel146

Round 1: Opening speeches.

Round 2 to 4: "Pitch - Bat" style rebuttal, starting with Gaiaguerrilla. (A post from each advocate for each round).

Round 5: Closing speeches.

Rules: 400 words per post, 72 hours between posts (rules relaxed)

ADDENDUM ONE: This is obvious, of course, but there is to be no Editing of posts for any reason.

ADDENDUM TWO: Given that the posts are so short, per the Rules of the Debate, there is to be no direct quoting for any reason.

Gentlemen, you may begin.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:47 am

Thanks for having me, it's a pleasure to debate with such a longstanding down-to-earth board member like Carleas, and another down-to-earth "we're all just dogs" kind of judge like Pav. Two bright and disciplined individuals. If they're willing to have me on, I must be doing something right. So on with it shall we?

I'll spare you the details. But about a century ago, a skull was erroneously found in a central american cave, and secretly passed on from one carrier to another, all basically curious laymen. Finally, it reached the care of a fairly open-minded (some would say crazy) anthropologist named Dr. Andrew Lloyd Pye (Henceforth Dr. Pye). Dear Dr. Pye doesn't think this is a funny looking ape from a bygone era or an oddly misshapen person. He is absolutely convinced it is at least partially an extraterrestrial remain, if not entirely non-human. His beliefs congregate with others like Zecharia Sitchin - an archaeologist who says aliens built the pyramids. Dr. Pye also mentioned more than once the possible "Yeti" theory. The strangeness goes on from there. So, crackpot you say? Well here's the problem. Even a crackpot could get something right.

Dr. Pye is no geneticist. So he shouldn't be arguing from authority out of his field. But what sparked his curiousity was the fact that his knowledge does cover the record of human lineages from their ape ancestors. And this skull fits *nothing ever in the history of man.* So he goes to test it in a Vancouver genetics lab and they say the result fits . . . *nothing ever in the history of man* and he takes a sample to research the particles of the bone, and they say the result fits . . . well you guessed it.

Two main arguments routinely come up. One is cradleboarding, the other is hydrocephaly. Carleas will likely bring up either of these. Although these arguments do hold some merit as to the similarity of the bone to these effects, Dr. Pye finely clarifies how all the details indicate a natural, uniform growth unlike what happens in any unselected mutations, or any deformation from foreign objects. It just doesn't make sense.

There is too much weirdness to overlook. The unordinary fibers everywhere inside the bone. The hole for the neck entirely unlike a human neck, the depth of the eyesockets - all of them unlike any human in history. Dr. Pye doesn't want you to believe there are aliens. What he does want is funding for enough research until we know for sure. For example: A full DNA analysis would let us put to rest all questions of DNA. A member of congress addressing the question wouldn't hurt either.

Whatever it is, it is damn weird. And that fact, at the least, we ought to accept.

Carleas, over to you.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Fri Apr 15, 2011 3:36 pm

Thank you, Mr. Guerilla, Mr. Model146, for your time and your efforts. I hope to have a rousing and informative debate on a subject that I know I'll learn a lot about in the course of our discussion.

I won't be arguing that this skull is a hoax. I won't be arguing that any of those who investigate it are acting in bad faith, nor that they are incompetent (beyond the universal human incompetence of being wed to our conclusions). I will accept that the skull is a skull of some organism, and that the evidence that has been provided in support of it being an extraordinary specimen should be taken seriously and at face value. However, accepting those things, I will argue that, interesting though the skull may be, it is not extraordinary. The skull is human. It represents an uncommon genetic mutation, but not one impossibly or extraordinarily uncommon.

In the millennia of humanity, there have been many cases unique to our knowledge of strange and fascinating genetic aberrations: conjoined twins of all shapes and sizes; people missing limbs, or with limbs grotesquely misproportioned, or indeed with nearly every feature of their body out of proportion with the rest. Mr. Guerilla mentions hydrocephaly, and dismisses it as not fully capturing the oddness of the Starchild Skull, but this dismissal is premature. We have on undisputed record skulls that exhibit many of the traits of the Starchild Skull. It is inconceivable that a condition that affects .2% of births [1] could, over the millions and millions of humans who have lived and died, have produced a human whose skull bore the unique characteristics of the Starchild Skull? Of course not.

This will be the form of my argument. The skull is interesting, it is unique, it may even be worthy of further study, but not because it is inhuman, not because it may be alien or yeti, not because it is extraordinary in the sense under scrutiny. It is, quite simply, one of a great many unique genetic anomalies that have occurred through human history.

[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrocephalus#Epidemiology
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Fri Apr 15, 2011 5:22 pm

Taking the typical argument and throwing it out the window . . . now where do I remember that strategy! :D

Allright then. Pitch 1: The fibers in the matrix of the skull. [1]

Henceforth, Abbreviated Starchild: SC

Image x350 magnification using a Scanning tunneling electron microscope reveals something that not any human being has ever exhibited microscopically. An attempt to remove this knot cut the dremel blade, making it difficult to study further. One argument suggested was the Morgellon's knot. Which as you can see, does not appear anything like this SC knot.
Image
Image

If anyone intentionally impregnated the skull with these knots, I'd sure like to learn how they did it and apply that to new fabrication techniques. Otherwise, I would like to see one human being in history (as part of the .2% of all human beings ever lived that Carleas speaks of - heck, any human at all in history) to exhibit this same kind of knot.

1: http://www.starchildproject.com/fibers.htm
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Sat Apr 16, 2011 4:50 pm

Bat 1:

Let's be clear about what needs explaining. No detail on these fibers has been given other than the following:
  1. They are located in the skull.
  2. A Dremel was ineffective at cutting them.
No other information is available, and no testing besides visual inspection has been performed. Note also that the facts do not include that the fibers "cut the dremel blade," only that the Dremel did not cut them. From the link Mr. Guerilla provides: "The cutting blade did not sever them, indicating extreme durability." The evidence is that they did not break, not that the tool being used to cut them did.

Taking this latter point into consideration, part 2 is not shocking, and is easy to explain. Dremels are not designed for cutting fiber, and they aren't effective at cutting most fibers. The Dremel uses a rapidly rotating disk to do its cutting. This method is effective for cutting brittle substances like bone, but ineffective at cutting flexible substances. In the case of fibers, their flexibility and their low mass mean they are most often moved by the Dremel blade, rather than cut. Contrary to Mr. Pye's assertion, this does not indicate high durability: any sweater would show the same resistance to a Dremel's blade.

Point two is perhaps somewhat more baffling, but there are many mundane ways of explaining it. The skull normally has many different fibers running through it. Sharpey's fibers consist of "bundles of strong collagenous fibres . . . entering into the outer circumferential and interstitial lamellae of bone tissue." Furthermore, veins, nerves, and other filaments are common in bone. It isn't at all the case that fibers are "never present in normal human bone." Even if these fibers are peculiar in some way, the existence of fibers in all bone leaves open several possibilities: that contamination over the years seeped into these fibers (Pye notes shellack was used); that they underwent mineral replacement; that channels left by other filaments were filled with some other foreign substance; or that the same genetic defect which produced the malformation of the skull also let to denser or otherwise more prominent fibers than are usually found. All these explanations are notably mundane, and equally well explain the fibers, without invoking alien hybridation.

Pitch 2:
Genetic testing revealed that the skull was of a male, finding both an x and y chromosome and thus genetic material from both parents. The reaction by Pye and others to this evidence was to seek out another geneticist. The second geneticist's findings were at best inconclusive, but have been treated as more reliable than the prior tests. This seems to cherry pick the data for confirming evidence, and lacks scientific rigor. Why favor one over the other? Why should we believe that further testing that showed the skull to be human would not be rejected as faulty in the same way that it has so far? And what, before additional testing, is the degree of proof required to demonstrate that this skull is human, and the child of human parents? (This question is not meant as a slight against anyone's credibility, but against their judgement; science needs to control for bias)
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Sun Apr 17, 2011 2:17 am

I will reply to your Bat 1 in closing.

Bat 2 - Cherry picking the geneticist's conclusions (Did I read that pitch right?)

I need more specificity as to what you believe is cherry picked, but I'll assume your intentions with this quote-

"2003 [A] vs 2011 [B] Mitochondrial DNA Testing"

Evidence A & B. At risk of oversimplification, I assume you're asking "Why B > A"

First off, neither of the results from the scan were hidden. Cherry picking would be to disacknowledge specific data, or to at least embellish one and minimize attention on the other. As you can see, the results are both seen comparatively, analytically. And that's the nature of progress. The form of your argument goes something like: "They already had a model for Earth's orbit with Aristotle. Why cherry pick a further model by seeking someone new like Copernicus?"

The testing was continued because they wanted to know more and wanted more funding. Such is the nature of capitalism, and the investigation of a curious thing. Even if a full DNA analysis were completed (thereby every base pair would have a digital representation), they will still want to know more.

The beauty of science (at least its purpose from its inceptions) is that further testing can only go to further prove or disprove a claim. If the analysis later concluded that for example: "the nuclear DNA actually reveals a Sanchez from spain who lived around the 20th century . . ." the testing would probably no longer get much popularity or funding. Or if a geneticist simply said "The nuclear DNA is simply not there" then what more can one do? Neither of the like scenarios have happened.

Luckily, the control skull has been used in every test, in order to defend Dr. Pye's theory. Everything that the SC undergoes, so does the control. The nuclear DNA of the control had crystal clear results. These skulls are carbon-dated to the same era, with reason to believe they were retrieved from the same location and underwent the same physical treatment. Unless they were fossils, it is not a common thing for a bone to reveal no nuclear DNA . . . not unless the machinery is built to seek out human nuclear DNA (human-specific primers), and therein is the case in point.

In order to vouch for pseudoscience (because cherry picking is pseudoscience) you need to name names and specify an event for a proper accusation. You cannot suggest that the science is wrong and at the same time not target the character of the publisher or scientists. If someone is meddling with the truth, I sincerely want to know who it is.

I don't want this treated as a red herring, but regarding the degree of proof needed for wheather the skull is human I would likewise ask what is the degree of proof that will satisfy people that it was inhuman? The common argument by skeptics to any ET hypothesis is that they say: "I need physical evidence." How physical do you need it to get?

But to answer your question directly, I would indeed lose interest in the SC given that a scientist could conclude fully "there is no nuDNA present and here's how it was probably lost" otherwise, a full DNA code published would offer enough information that the Skull could rest in a museum without further need for its molestation. And it would no longer be pivotal to fund DR. Pye's research.

Seeing as we're on the subject of DNA . . .

Pitch 3 - mtDNA nucleotides compared

Image[2]

Please tell me this isn't a serious breach of Addendum 2, but-

"Now return to the Starchild’s 167 mtDNA nucleotides compared to 157 nucleotides of the human [Control Reference Sequence] in a highly conserved region where only one single variation is found in 33 human haplogroups."

Further screening revealed 2 errors. But at least 17 more mtDNA nucleotides have been found than any of the 33 other human haplogroups ever recorded. Can you get a single specimen that appears remotely human and carries even 10 more mtDNA nucleotides than those 33? Can you find any mammal at all with that many more nucleotides? Can you find any similarity at all that would place the DNA of SC in line with other Human Haplogroups? Is there anything you can say regarding the genetics that the SC is not a newly discovered Humanoid species?

2: http://www.starchildproject.com/dna2011march.htm
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:53 pm

Bat 3:

These statements about the mitochondrial DNA are the kind of cherry-picking I'm concerned about. Two rounds of DNA testing conducted by professional labs found that the mtDNA of the skull places it snugly in haplogroup C. One round, conducted by an anonymous researcher from an unnamed institution who is unready to publish the results for peer review, found differences. Even before presenting explanations for this finding, I question the emphasis that the SCP places on this round of testing. Rather than Copernicus-Galilleo, this is picking out skittles until you find a red one, and concluding that the whole bag is red.

This highlights that we need not explain why the skull's DNA is as this test found, but why one of three rounds of testing found what it did. Thus, there are two types of explanations possible:

1) The results are unreliable: this is still a viable explanation. The research has not been opened for peer review, a staple of the scientific process (to their credit, the SCP states that the findings "should not be considered thoroughly verified").

2) The results are reliable: assuming the results are confirmed, the extent of what needs explaining should not be exaggerated: multiple tests, including the one in question, were able to identify the DNA as human and in haplogroup C. The changes that were found could be accounted for by mtDNA mutations, which though rare, do occur, and do cause physical abnormalities.
It should also be noted that the control skull used in the other tests was not used to control this test. What the article calls the "Control Reference Sequence", is probably the "Cambridge Reference Sequence," the standard control sequence for mtDNA testing. This may overstate the differences by, e.g., failing to control for DNA damage over time.
But, perhaps a different tack: Up until now, the hypothesis has been that the SC was a hybrid between a human female and an alien male. Abnormalities in the mtDNA would call that into question, requiring that any hybridization took places over several generations. This finding would probably do more to confound ET hypotheses than to prove them, as Occam's Razor would more strongly suggest that the mundane explanations of simple genetic deformity should be preferred.

Pitch 4:

What I've proposed is that the skull represents the product of compound mundane deformities. Pye only specifically addresses three possible genetic deformities. He makes the blanket claim that "so far no condition or combination of conditions has been found that explains the skull." Can you elaborate on this claim? Of the conditions listed on the SCP page, there are 1023 possible combinations. How thoroughly could each have been considered?
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:02 am

Bat 4 - Possible Deformities

While it is true that you are subjecting the possible combinations to the compound fallacy (Just because A v B is false doesn't mean A & B is false), we can still realistically judge that generally any combination would do nothing to replicate the anomalies in question. For example, Hydrocephaly with Morgellon's Disease is not going to realistically alter the Morgellon's Knot into the more anomalous SC knot. But I see your point. What about that possible 1 or 2 possible combinations that we just didn't think about? Now all we need to do is take 1023 children and expose them all to combinations of the above conditions until they die at the approximate age of SC and analyze the results.

. . . in all seriousness, your point should certainly be considered using funding for further research. Obviously the vast majority of all the combinations would require no experimental data, because most of them we can be sure will not reproduce a given anomaly we're looking for. But a long chart ought to be made that shows ideal symptoms as a result from various combinations. Each line of the chart would look something like this . . . "Conditions A & B & C could not produce anomalies X v F v D" What we would be looking for is just one single line which removes "not" from the equation.

I believe you will agree that one of the most persistent questions in all of this is always how do we just once replicate at least one of these anomalies? Anyone whom can replicate the anomalies, nomatter what creative lengths they took to achieve it, should earn a reward. The same is true for all the hokey-sounding theories. In the case of SC, no one has yet reproduced any of the symptoms I am introducing. (Prove me wrong -- please). And people are welcome to try, and then publish their results. If anyone were to reproduce one of Dr. Pye's named anomalies, and Dr. Pye refrained from publishing it, then and only then would I conclusively be able to call it cherry picking.

Pitch 5 - Red residue

2004, "forensic geologist Dr. Ken Pye [no relation] discovered at his laboratory outside London that a red residue of some kind was scattered in the Starchild’s cancellous holes."[1] Not one human skull ever had this residue of any kind lodged inside through history. Deceased bones are normally picked clean by internal viruses from the body, leaving only an appearance like tooth enamel allover the bone. Unless the cancellous holes were ingeniously injected and the entry point removed (I know you're not arguing for hoax anyway), it is safe to assume the residue was present in death. Although the red material has not been identified, it was clearly discovered to be sitting there waiting for Dr. Ken Pye. Can you elaborate on how it got there and what it could be?

1: MUFON Journal 472, pg.6
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:53 pm

Bat 5:

First, let's look at this slide provided by the SCP:

Image

From this slide, we can see two things:
1) The residue is granular, rather than a liquid or oily film.
2) Th residue is predominant near the cutting plane. In the upper left, you can clearly see deeper into a cancellous hole, and no residue is to be found there, while the cross section of the hole one th cutting plane is virtually caked in it.

From these observations, we can offer two mundane hypotheses that cannot be ruled out from the evidence provided:
1) Pye notes a strong burning smell when cutting the SC skull. The residue could be burnt particles similar to the ones we've seen in other cross sections of both skulls. If the skull's composition is different from normal bone (something known to result from genetic defects), it may react differently to the heat of cutting, and the particles produced may be discolored a reddish brown.

2)Shellac:
Image
Pye notes elsewhere that the skulls were coated in shellac. You can see in the picture above that shellac can be of many hues, and that the red residue in the SC skull is within the spectrum of common pigments.
The question is why, if the residue was found in the SC skull, it wasn't also found in the normal partner skull. Note, however, that most of the SC skull has no red residue. Of the several cross sections shown, only part of one shows the residue in any quantity. It could be that the shellac was applied particularly thickly in one place on the SC skull, and that as a result it is only there that it accumulated noticeably along the cut.

Either way, these results are not found every time the skull has been cut. Most cuts to the skull have found no residue; it is much more likely that this isolated discovery is a contamination or an artifact of the cutting process itself.

Pitch 6:
The SCP rejects cradleboarding, but cradleboarding is not the only known form of Artificial cranial deformation. We know of many exotic examples of intentional deformation of the skull through various forms of binding, e.g. the elongated and stretched skulls of the Paracas culture:
Image
The evidence cited by the SCP is insufficient. In total, the SCP states as evidence that "Skulls that undergo any kind of shaping technique will always reveal such technique with a distortion of the bone surface." Other researchers have found it necessary to use sophisticated mathematical models to identify artificial skull shaping, calling the SCP's statement into question. What evidence is that that skull shaping other than cradleboarding should be obvious to anyone examining the skull?
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:57 pm

Bat 6 - Intentional deformation

The Paracas skulls, like the SC, are also not conclusively the result of ritual stretching or any other primitive skull shaping technique. These skulls make up part of an array of evidence leading to the Intervention Theory. Examples of external skull shaping techniques are indeed found amongst egyptians, and nobody is really disputing the egyptian techniques.
Image

The key problem that makes the SC and the Paracas skulls difficult to explain, in light of external binding, are the cranial capacity (cc) inside the skulls. The mathematical models for skull shaping due to binding will not increase the area inside the boundaries of the shaped skull (the volume in reality) - because external pressures on the skull cannot expand the interior, the same way that pressing on a balloon wouldn't expand that balloon. The Paracas Skulls together with SC have been dubbed one of the great world mysteries.

What can expand the skull, however, is hydrocephaly.
Image
The actual ballooning of the walls due to pressure from spinal fluid leaking into the cranium. This I would call a possible explanation superior to skull binding techniques. This makes it the most popular explanation amongst skeptics. But it doesn't explain the strange materials- the fact that the skull is harder, more durable, and yet half as thick as a human skull lining. Hydrocephalic heads also don't exhibit the same uniform type of growth.

Even the egyptian skulls, which the egyptians claimed themselves were done so that they could better emulate their "gods", wind up having a bit of mystery to them. But I digress.


Final Pitch 7 - The Paracas Skulls

Up until now we've been discussing the Starchild Skull exclusively. But it's established that the Paracas skulls are quite relevant. Although the SC is unique in the sense that the Paracas skulls do not exhibit the same materials, they are also big strange looking heads of deep inquiry. Could you elaborate on physical methods to how these skulls were transformed? Is there any culture seen in history that can produce similar effects of increased cranial capacity?
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby PavlovianModel146 » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:17 pm

It is now time for conclusions.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:24 pm

(Per a private discussion, I'll be batting and pitching once more, and Gaia will have another at bat.)

Bat #7:

The question itself is flawed in at least two ways, and the flaws are significant for several of the arguments made by the SCP.

1) In your most recent at bat, you stated that "pressing on a balloon wouldn't expand that balloon." The balloon is not the best metaphor for a skull. A balloon is sealed, its volume is constant, and its surface area is dynamic. Bone is not like the rubber in the balloon. It create a much more static surface area around a dynamic volume.
Considering this, we can see that pressing on it can "expand" (read: "increase the volume of") the skull: Because certain shapes have a greater volume-to-surface-are ratio, changing the shape of an object can increase its volume; in particular, any change that makes a skull more spherical will increase its volume. The gentleman pictured above has had his skull bound to make it taller and thinner. Other forms of binding push down the back of the skull, forcing the sides outward, thereby making them less ovoid and more spherical. These techniques could increase the volume of a skull.

2) The request for explanation is predicated on the idea that these skulls are of greater capacity than we would expect from a human skull under normal conditions. However, the source you provide states that the SC skull is only 1600cc, and conjectures that, "had it lived to become an adult, its brain capacity would have grown to 1800 cc or more, well beyond the human average." First, the conjecture that the skull would have grown by another 12.5% is probably incorrect; by 5 years of age a child's head is done growing. But even if it did continue to grow into late childhood, 1800cc is not outside the limits of known human cranial capacity, which can range from 1200cc to 1850cc. There is simply nothing that unusual about the capacity of the skull.
This flaw represents a troubling pattern displayed by the SCP's methods. No one is arguing that the skull is average, only that it is within the tail of the bell curve of possible human morphology. The only argument for the skull's capacity being "whopping" is that it is 200cc larger than average. But the distribution of human head sizes covers differences of 600cc+. A human skull can differ by quite a bit from the average without being all that weird.

Pitch #8:

Where does the extraterrestrial thesis come from, other than that the skull looks like popular conceptions of aliens? The only place where such an assumption could even be forced into the narrative is in the genetic results which stated that "no significant similarity could be found." However, this result is returned for many types of results, and often enough that there is a section of the software's FAQ page which offers common reasons why this might occur. Again, the genetic analysis is as yet unpublished, and this may be part of the reason why: this finding is not all that significant.
What else suggests something specifically extraterrestrial? Even granting that all the mundane hypotheses I've offered do nothing to explain the weirdness of the skull, why is "aliens" the next best guess? That requires so many enormous assumptions, it can't possibly be the best hypothesis, even take for granted that the skull is extraordinary.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Tue Apr 26, 2011 7:49 am

Bat 8 - Why aliens?

I haven't stated that the SC is extraterrestrial. I'm not assuming that's the best explanation. However it is true that we differ in that I would put it on the list as not far from the best candidate explanation, and you'll find it "way out there."
Image
An extraterrestrial hypothesis comes from a very broad list of different facts and claims that only research will gather. This includes conspiracy theory, or theory toward at least some kind of resistance against the hypothesis, that overwhelms science, as to explain "why don't we hear it on the news." We do hear such theories, just not as prevalant as one would think, were it being more seriously looked at. It is indeed sensationalized, which gains it popularity but also discredits the theory further. It would not be my place to drag out why I think this is a reasonable candidate, as I would introduce many items far unrelated to data about the Starchild Skull. So it suffices to say that I'm arguing for its uniqueness beyond mere mutation or mechanical deformity. That uniqueness has plenty of potential candidates- genetic engineering, genocide from a bygone era, a hoaxer whom has pushed millions of dollars into fooling the world . . .

It's not that we should immediately believe strange assertions- But progress hinges on considering the very strange as a possible explanation. How much would it have been believed in 1850 that a laboratory managed to teleport an amoeba several inches away? Then of course cell phones, TV, etc. Exploring the ET hypothesis, if even well proven to be incorrect, will still at least eliminate it from the list of candidates. If it is possible for skeptics to talk sense into the "ET wackos" and give them peace of mind, then I would like to spur them to do so. That includes humoring the child and checking the closet just to make sure the monsters aren't there (or concluding the not-so-mean but strange kind aren't there . . . )

In short: I would prefer to call the interest toward thoroughly eliminating the ET hypothesis rather than attempting to prove it. (Both, if the two really are synonymous in the attempt.) It's possible that even if the hypothesis were true, it does not explain the skull. But it could still be explored.

(And now, as Pav said, I believe it is time for conclusions)
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Carleas » Wed Apr 27, 2011 6:05 am

Conclusion:

This skull isn't normal. It's weird, it's unique, and it's interesting. That's really all that the SCP bases its claims upon. They have taken one of many unique artifacts, and concluded that, because it is unique, it must defy our understanding of the world. That conclusion is hasty on two counts: the skull is not that unique, and the ways in which it is unique do not require a new science to explain.

The skull is morphologically unique, but the SCP treats its morphology as completely impossible to explain. And yet we can see skulls that bear many of the features of the SC skull. Bound skulls are oddly shaped; hydrocephalic skulls are bulbous; progeric skulls are pinched in the face and have bulging eyes. A severely deformed human being could certainly have had all the morphological traits of the SC skull, and the death of that individual at a young age is what we should expect. The bone is thinner than typical bone, but genetic deformities that so drastically affect shape are certainly associated with other developmental differences, such as the thickness and composition of the bone. None of these differences is outside the expected range of human morphology.

Other examples of uniqueness are at best premature, at worst emptily sensational: the 'fibers' have not been examined. They could be veins or Sharpey's fibers, they could be contamination, we don't know. Their existence has not been independently verified, those found have not been tested beyond being looked at, only 3 have even been imaged. The 'red residue' has not been examined. It is found in very few of the cross sections made public by the SCP, and there is no reason to believe it is abundant nor endemic to the bone, rather than local and unintentionally introduced. It is not been tested beyond being looked at. To say that these features make the skull somehow special is a very weak case, and the appeal to such an incomplete analysis should make us wary of the level of impartiality that the SCP is bringing to its research.

Through a skeptical analysis of the information available, we cannot conclude that there is anything about the SC Skull that is that far out of the ordinary. Many of my arguments have taken the form of offering "mundane hypotheses," explanations of what we're seeing that require no large independent assumptions. The reason for this is that there is just not that much information out there about the skull, and the scope of possible explanations for the information we do have is great. If we're already convinced that there are aliens who have visited earth, or moreover that aliens have been instrumental in human evolution, we might see this skull as fitting into our world-view. But if we have not already been convinced, the Starchild Skull cannot be considered nearly enough evidence to convince us.


I'd like to thank Gaiaguerilla for an interesting debate on a fascinating topic; I look forward to his conclusion and the discussion to follow the debate. I'd also like to thank Pav for setting up and overseeing the debate, I'm interested to hear his thoughts as well. Cheers to both of you.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby Gaiaguerrilla » Wed Apr 27, 2011 9:08 am

(As per private discussion, we are not limiting closing speach to 400 words)

Lloyd Pye says it best that “alien” can mean anything from “foreign to normal human genetics within the framework of that subject as it is currently understood,” to “definitely not from planet Earth.” In this context, the boy seems to be alien. But space alien - without patents for interstellar coils pinned on his forehead, I doubt that will be proveable.

Carleas has served as an exempliary skeptic- using very useful, sophisticated, and convincing models to dispense with an extraordinary claim. I do not see any clear fallacy. It is insightful, researched, and organized. But I think still, using a stretch to find an answer that is just not that easy- and ultimately flawed when those possible explanations are given their own skeptical pursuit.

Before I offer anything a little weirder as an explanation, I would like to entertain an idea that I do think has merit and does fall more in line with the skeptical argument. This is a theory significant enough to still argue that much needs to be discovered about this skull, for the sake of a people whom should be remembered. In the discovery of the americas, many civilizations were conquered with its guardians wiped out, its denizens either killed or scattered. Aboriginal cultures with enormous cultural gaps in their history, the Mayans are left to legend and said to have "disappeared overnight." Would it be preposterous that an entire Human haplogroup of native americans were simply wiped out without much of any mention in our history? Were they to have survived, would they have contributed a rich amount of unique qualities that humanity would have benefitted from genetically? The carbon dating of the skull does not put it before this millennium. Therefore, it could not have been wiped out as the result of an ancient tribal war. And even such tribal wars do not end in complete genocide. In such an argument, the skull should somehow genetically fit at least some native americans moreso than other haplogroups. It does not, so that remains speculative.

The options I see for the Skeptic are 3-fold. (1) Messy phorensics. Find contamination or loss of evidence in phorensic procedure. (2) Cherry picking. Find where the "scientists" are not being scientific and picking their favorite explanation instead of the clearest. (3) Bell curve. That there are similarities between the common and abnormal, and that this is only the tail of a bell curve rather than something entirely unknown. I have said all that there is to say regarding how some possible contaminations exist and yet cannot explain many physical anomalies. Also that cherry picking requires embellishment and denial of evidence. I don't know if some is embellished, but I have yet to think that some arguments have been swept under the rug completely out of sight from the SCP website.

The Bell Curve argument is rational. But in order to prove this, we need intermediary examples from the tail of the curve to the common form. If, for example, we were able to say that the skull is *more* like haplogroup C than haplogroup B . . . then we could offer some kind of graduality. But so far this is not the case. It shows no similarity to any heritage. It just falls far from all of them, with less similarity than a chimpanzee. This kind of argument worked well against creationists. Creationists claimed that some supernatural force was the only way to explain gaps in evolution, and yet further discoveries made clear that there are intermediaries within those supposed gaps. How birds learned to fly is possible through the feathers of Velociraptor, that used wings as a sort of dexterity aid when running and turning. That's a much more plausible explanation than a supernatural force that we cannot even hypothetically describe. In the case of Interventionists, there is no intermediary . . . unless you use examples like the skull as the intermediary itself - as the hybrid to those that did intervene, and the idea that evolution is not magically zapped out of thin air, but some is still shaped and molded not entirely by nature. Intervention Theory would seem absurd as it brings up so many other questions - (why bother hide, why bother with us, why hide some evidence and not others) - but if evidence for such a theory were more prevalant or better presented, then the skull and its weird possible implications would seem less absurd in comparison.

Let's go over some key minutia that we do know.

Red residue of the cross section - It is not normal for cut bone to have this red residue. Although I haven't seen the evidence to rule out contamination from the blade, it is still not something I see in any other example of a sawcut bone. Perhaps one could coat another skull in shellac and run a saw looking for this same red residue?

Inhuman nuclear DNA - The problem with genetic recovery is not simply that the nuDNA was unrecoverable (and still could be recovered with different techniques). The problem is that the nuDNA was unrecoverable, using human primers. In all other cases where the mitochondrial DNA has been recoverable in bone, the nuclear DNA was also recoverable. It would be a strange phenomenon in science already if a bone's miDNA was perfectly intact and yet the nuDNA degraded to be untraceable. What in nature could just selectively destroy that specific of a DNA? Therefore it is more likely that the use of human primers are what interfere with the recovery of DNA, meaning that it could not categorically be called human. Of course, mtDNA registers as Haplogroup C. That indicates a zygote or a human mother (possibly the skull found next to it) - but not an entirely human organism as we know humans today.

Increased Cranial Capacity - Although hydrocephaly is an interesting theory for this minutia: aside from a bigger cranium, the skull does not reflect the rest of hydrocephaly symptoms. Hydrocephaly will protrude the forehead beyond the eyebrows. It will puff the back of the head. Much like air in a balloon, the fluid expands evenly around all the surface area and will not selectively choose specific portions. Bones may not be rubber, but the pressure of fluid on them remains an even pressure, causing the same morphology. This skull is selective about its expansion the same way genes would be selective.

"Knot" within the matrix - Nomatter what fibers are common in human bone, they are not like this SAF1 (Starchild Anomalous Fiber 1). Nothing like this is found within that region of the skull. If it were a disease, it would be a beneficial one. This knot is likely a major contributor to the durability of the bone, allowing it to be half as thick as a normal human skull and yet able to withstand more pressure.

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Now to get weirder, consider something about the overall skull. He doesn't have a flatter head, deeper eye sockets, or stronger neck muscles compared to human anatomy - all of those traits would be characteristic of human predecessors. What he does have is the exact opposite - moreso where our own evolution seems to be graduating. More spheroid, approaching conal cranial capacity - one ideal for a brain which tailors more exclusively for cognition than sensory. Shallow eye sockets - indicating a reduced necessity to view rotationally (such as around a landscape), and instead focus on singular complex functions. Smaller neck - indicating less need for the robust load-bearing required in high gravity environments. This boy would not have survived easily in the amazon. But he might have done well in a laboratory, or as an astronaut.

The skull's genetic factors link a story of human history we have yet to discover. But there are things that interfere with treating it like a real piece of science. A cheezy sixties name like "Starchild" gives a hokey appearance from the start. It immediately implies space alien intervention and also that its caretakers assume affection rather than hard science. If it had been named something more generic like S167 (based on the limited number of human-traceable nucleotides), I don't believe it would receive so much the same scoff. If it was backed with terms like "unknown human lineage" rather than "alien-human hybrid" we would probably have more insightful people taking a serious look at it. It has received good and bad representation, good and bad skeptical inquiry. The skull deserves more hard examination, government acknowledgment, and a curious public. What it doesn't deserve is mass publicity from the stereotypical drug addict who saw it talking to him during his out-of-body travel. Nor a brief webpage summarily likening: "It's hydrocephaly kids, go home." It must be thoroughly investigated whilst kept well away from both pseudoscience and pseudoskepticism.

I don't believe that either of us have been able to delve deeply enough in order to be truly conclusive about the nature of this skull. I do think that our argument presented the form of how the "spooky" matters should be argued. When we can pit a not-so-fanatic maybe-believer against a fairly open-minded skeptic. Suffice it to say, the single skull shouldn't destroy one's entire grip on reality, leaving you in sleepless nights. But at the same time just remember: The world may not be flat afterall.


I had almost as much fun arguing against a down-to-earth moderator that the skull is a possible alien or some other bizarrity, as much as I had fun arguing against a nihilist anarchoprimitivist that robots might take over the world and we should be happy about it :D . . . whatever the review is, it should be interesting. The heat is on you, Pav!
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby PavlovianModel146 » Wed May 04, 2011 5:00 am

I apologize.

My judgment is forthcoming, probably on Friday. I'm coming off a few unexpected completely sold-out nights.

Carleas, if you wish to start a Discussion thread prior to my judgment, you are welcome to do so.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby PavlovianModel146 » Sat May 07, 2011 5:29 am

PavlovianModel146 wrote:I apologize.

My judgment is forthcoming, probably on Friday. I'm coming off a few unexpected completely sold-out nights.

Carleas, if you wish to start a Discussion thread prior to my judgment, you are welcome to do so.


So much for Friday.

Tomorrow, definitely, even if I have to stay up until 5:00a.m.
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Re: Starchild Skull Debate

Postby PavlovianModel146 » Mon May 09, 2011 5:31 am

First and foremost, let me apologize, once again, for my tardiness in rendering a decision on this Debate. I'll spare everyone unnecessary detail (but may post on it in Rant later) and just say that it has been a crazy little over a week.

This is an interesting Debate insofar as I think Carleas set himself up with an inherent disadvantage. Pursuant to the Rules, Gaiaguerilla basically wins the Debate if he can show that:

There is at least one extraordinary factor about the Starchild Skull (be it a technology more sophisticated than publically available, or a factor indicating that it could not have been a known species) (Emphasis Added)

ONE

1

Any real number divided by itself.

Hit song by the band Creed.

You get the point.

Obviously, Gaiaguerrila does not actually have to prove (Empirically speaking) that there is at least one extraordinary quality about the Starchild Skull, all he need do is convince me, as the sole Judge, that it is more likely than not.

Gaiaguerrila opened up by briefly explaining the history of the Starchild Skull, including the test results that it fits, "Nothing ever in the history of man," and then he states that the details of the skull are indicative of a natural, uniform growth. He then used the word, "Weirdness," which is definitely a good touch. He then stated that Dr. Pye is seeking funding for more research into the skull and does not necessarily want us to believe that there are aliens.

***In sum, Gaiaguerrila's post mainly hinted at in-depth arguments to come, rather than making any detailed arguments. That's perfectly fine for an introduction, of course.

Carleas opens his introduction by stating that he will accept that the researchers are acting in good faith and that the skull is not some kind of hoax, but rather, is an actual skull of some organism. Carleas then states that there are any number of aberrations that have occurred throughout human history, and gives examples. Carleas also hints that he will be potentially advancing a detailed argument that hydrocephaly could be the cause of the skull.

***In sum, Carleas' post, as well as Gaiaguerrila's opens with a very neutral and reasonable tone, and hints at arguments that will be made in a more in-depth way later.

In his second post, Gaiaguerrila provides some images of the fibers of the skull and asserts that no human being has ever exhibited such a thing microscopically. Gaiaguerrila also states, in more professional terms, that shit that should cut the fibers doesn't. Gaiaguerrila's picture states that scientists suggested a MALDI-TOF test to rule out fungal or bacterial contamination, but to this point we do not know whether or not such test was had. Gaiaguerrila then challenges Carleas to demonstrate evidence that any other human being in history has exhibited this same kind of knot.

***Good post, could stand to have more original material, but the Gauntlet thrown down in the end was an excellent touch.


In his reply, Carleas brings us back down to Earth (no pun intended) by pointing out that the only things that have been extablished are that the fibers are in the skull, and a Dremel is ineffective at cutting them. Carleas, wisely checking Gaiaguerrila's link, points out that the link stated that the cutting blade did not sever the fibers, but not that the fibers actually cut the blade. Gaiaguerrila may have misphrased himself in the first post, though, and since this Debate amounts to what is, essentially, a yes/no proposition, there is no penalty to assess or sanction to be had for this (probably unintentional) misinformation.

Carleas points out that a dremel blade doesn't really cut fibers. I definitely would have liked some kind of citation, here, but I will do without for the time being.

There is no reason to re-list all of the possbilities Carleas threw out there to explain the presence of the fibers, but there were four of them. Carleas has indicated that genetic testing has found that the skull belonged to a male as it contained both an x and y chromosome, but a second inconclusive test was had, and Carleas accuses Dr. Pye of cherry-picking which test he wants. Carleas then poses a good question which is, "And what, before additional testing, is the degree of proof required to demonstrate that this skull is human, and the child of human parents?" That's a reasonable question, best two out of three, four out of seven?

***Carleas' counter-arguments are both well-founded and surprisingly aggressive, particularly his pitch. I assumed that Carleas would not necessarily be attacking the subject, but mainly sticking to a strictly defensive gameplan, so this was a pleasant surprise. To this point, though, it should be mentioned that Carleas did not conclusively establish that any other human being in history has exhibited the same kind of knot.

Gaiaguerrila points out that the scientists did not, strictly speaking, cherry-pick the results of the genetic testing. No effort was made to conceal or minimize the undesirable results. Gaiaguerrila points out that the goal of further testing is to make an effort to further prove or disprove a claim.

Gaiaguerrila stated, "These skulls are carbon-dated to the same era, with reason to believe they were retrieved from the same location and underwent the same physical treatment." I would like to know what the reason is for believing they were retrieved from the same location and underwent the same physical treatment, with respect to being a Debate Judge, it is not my job to research anything other than that which is specifically cited. Gaiaguerrila then threw down another gauntlet with respect to Carleas' perceived inability to demonstrate another human being (or animal) with even ten more mtDNA nucleotides than the 17 more demonstrated by the Starchild Skull than any of the other human haplogroups ever recorded.

***Gaiaguerrila throws down another strong gauntlet. I've been kind of grading this as I go along and will re-visit, but his gauntlets do tend to attempt to shift the burden of proof to Carleas, who is already at a considerable disadvantage given the nature of the Debate. Barring any objections, though, these Gauntlets are expected to be met.

Carleas re-asserts that the scientists are patently cherry-picking their results because two rounds of DNA testing squarely put the Skull in (human) haplogroup C. He states that SCP places emphasis on unpublished studies by an anonymous researcher that have not been peer-reviewed.

Carleas then suggests that the results are unreliable, and in somewhat defending the SCP, actually bolsters his point by pointing out that the SCP stated the findings, "Should not be considered thoroughly verified."

Carleas then points out that, even if the results are reliable, the tests identified the DNA as human and in Haplogroup C. Carleas states that even though mtDNA Mutations are rare, they do occur and produce physical abnormalities. Carleas also stated that the control skull was not the same in the mtDNA testing. Carleas ends by pointing out that Pye has only addressed 3/1023 possbile conditions that could explain the skull.

***Carleas continues aggressively, successfully rebuts the majority of Gaiaguerrila's points, and throws down a gauntlet of his own.

Gaiaguerrila seems to agree that more genetic anomalies should ideally be tested for, but the funding has to be there for that to happen. Gaiaguerrila does state that nobody has successfully reproduced any of the symptoms he is introducing, as of yet.

Gaiaguerrila then points out that some sort of red residue was found in the cancellous holes that has not been present in any other recorded human skull in history. Gaiaguerrila defies Carleas to elaborate on how it got there and why it could be.

***Gaiaguerrila throws down another strong gauntlet, but once again, he seems to be forgetting that it is he (and not Carleas) that must present an affirmative proof.

Carleas points out that the residue is granular, and while admitting they are new to science, Carleas states that the skull may react differently than others to cutting, hence the burning smell. Carleas also points out that the residue is not found throughout the skull, but could be shellac applied thickly to one part of the skull. The fact that the residue does not run through the entire skull points to a contamination rather than a further aberration.

Carleas then throws out the prospect of artificial cranial deformation.

***Conjecture on the residue, but good conjecture.

Gaiaguerrila counters that artificial cranial deformation would not result in a greater interior volume than what is normally present in a skull. Hydrocephaly is cited by Gaiaguerrila as a more likely possibility, but he states that it doesn't explain the fact that the skull is harder, more durable and half as thick as a human skull. Gaiaguerrila also mentions the strange materials (which I assume is the residue, earlier discussed) but pursuant to Carleas' counter that the residue was only found in one specific area of the skull, the residue argument would seem to point more to contamination and is, therefore, uncompelling.

***The interior cranial volume argument is the most compelling.

Carleas counters that making a skull more spherical would increase the skull's volume. Carleas then mathematically demonstrates that there is nothing terribly unusual about the capacity of the skull in the first place. He also points out that the assertion that the skull would make it to 1800cc had the individual to whom the skull belonged survived into adulthood is rather shaky.

Carleas then states that even if the skull is extraordinary, the postulation that the skull is alien is likely bullshit.

***Carleas makes a great scientific counter with respect to the volume of the skull. Carleas also pitches that there is no reason to believe that, even if the skull is extraordinary, that it is alien. That may be true, but purusant to the Rules, the question is: Extraordinary Yes/No? Whether or not it is alien is irrelevant.

Gaiaguerrila correctly points out that he mentioned nothing of aliens.

The rest of the post is also devoted to whether or not the Skull is alien. As stated before, whether or not it is alien is entirely irrelevant to the question of whether or not it is extraordinary.

***Largely irrelevant, but Carleas started it. :lol: I guess the only thing I would add is that nothing could truly ever eliminate the ET hypothesis in the minds of some people. There are many who think that ET's walk the Earth amongst us...as humans...so even if the skull is shown to actually be a human skull it won't matter to those people.

The conclusions were both fantastic. I'm not going to summarize them because I would certainly encourage anyone reading this judgment to read the conclusions, so I want to avoid the spoiler as much as possible.

Ultimately, though, I think that this entire Debate can be summarized in one sentence found in Gaiaguerrila's conclusion:

I don't believe that either of us have been able to delve deeply enough in order to be truly conclusive about the nature of this skull.


I believe that Gaiaguerrila is correct. It could also be argued that nobody has been able to delve deeply enough to be truly conclusive about the nature of this skull, at this point.

However, Gaiaguerrila did have to be truly conclusive about one thing to emerge victorious, that there was, "...at least one extraordinary factor about the Starchild Skull."

Despite the fact that it initially would seem that Carleas pinned himself in an unwinnable situation due to the fact that he had to successfully counter ALL arguments that would indicate that there is at least one extraordinary factor about the Starchild Skull, it is Gaiaguerrila who set himself up in an inescapable corner in this Debate.

I want to make it very clear that my judgment is not merely that Gaiaguerrila did not conclusively demonstrate that there was at least one extraordinary factor about the Starchild Skull, but that Gaiaguerrila could not conclusively demonstrate said factor due to the lack of research.

As it turns out, Carleas effectively wins this Debate by default. However, to Carleas' credit, I will also say that he would have won just in terms of general persuasiveness of language, as well.

Both participants have convinced me that the research into the Starchild Skull definitely needs more funding...at least...depending on where the money is supposed to be coming from, but that's a different Debate for another time.

Great show, gentlemen. Cheers.
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