Take your choice?
      Here is an iceberg  that we know was not shaped by any human intelligence -- photographed from a passing ship (Figure 1) by widely-published photographer Mike Beedell.
Note that it looks like a rising bird.
And it also looks like Mickey Mouse in Disney's filmwork to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice."
Compare this to an ancient figurine that is known to be made by a human (Figure 1a-- next below). The figurine has a well-shaped beak, a mouth, an eye, all properly placed and in proper proportions, an accurately shaped head, a body in an accurate "swoop" position, and what looks to be large feathers. There's not a chance of an iceberg in hell this figurine could have been made accidentally by nature (nor mistaken for Mickey).
On the other hand, note the iceberg features (as distinct from the figurine). In the iceberg you can see:
* There is no detail at all, just a vague shape interpretable as bird-like.
* There is no eye, no feathers, no consistent accuracy to physiological proportions, etc.
* There is no symmetry -- i.e., as there would be if the other side of the iceberg was identical to the side shown.
Therefore, it IS believable (even without already knowing it) that this iceberg could have been easily formed by natural forces -- and indeed, virtually ALL such icebergs, using one's imagination, look like SOMETHING familiar, as do cloud formations, or foliage and shadow, or wood grain formations, and so on.
Examples are legion, including the once famous "face" on Mars [photo in the essay below], which Mars explorations proved to be just an accident of shadows and hills.
Most people often lack the visual imagination to see these accidental "images" unless pointed out to them. When they do see one on their own, it is rare for them, and if they have a religious or superstitious bent, then they come unglued about it, and run to the nearest priest shouting "miracle." (Read the 1990 essay below for more about this.)
Unfortunately, many in the profession of archaeology also do not seem to understand -- nor have an eye for -- these distinctions, and too often mistake likely accident as artifact (e.g., the Neanderthal "mask" face -- with no detail) -- and some even mistake artifact as accident (the Neanderthal flute -- highly detailed, with 4 equal, rounded holes, axially in-line).
Until trained to recognize these distinctions, and to use simple statistical probability to check out these distinctions, such archaeologists -- no matter how great their current reputation in taphonomy -- sometimes appear as dumb as doorknobs, full of sound and fury, bafflegab and gobblygook:  "Alas poor Yatta- yadda- yatta...." -- and ultimately bring disrepute to all other findings in their field.
They've oversold their taphonomic worth. They cannot learn this simple rule:  If it (an object or apparent image) lacks *orderly* detail, that's evidence of a probable lack of intelligence (or life) in its making; it may even be evidence that it's naturally made. And vice versa: If it has lots of detail & order, then it cannot prima facie be dismissed as just being naturally made. (E.g., such as the Neanderthal flute). But they act ignorant of this basic biophysics concept of entropy & anti-entropy.
They look at a few dents and scratches and think that's all that's needed so they can read the story of the ages. To an extent they can. But they tend to ignore "outside" evidence & concepts. Taphonomy is "it." But much of "it" has become like the movie dog Lassie who scratches the ground: "Scratch, scratch!"
"What's she saying?" asks the sheriff.   Lassie's owner replies:
"She says that little Annie fell down the well out at Slayter's place. Uncle Bart is trying to climb down to get her out, but he doesn 't have enough rope. He needs cousin Jeb to get more rope and drive it up to Bart in his Chevy pickup, pronto! And bring the first-aid kit."
All that from: "Scratch, scratch...."
 More about the "mask" above-- I also see a dog -- with either a broken dagger point through his neck [or maybe one of those collars with the big spikes sticking out from it? :o)]
In order to see it clearly, I have enhanced the suggestive markings in a second picture below.
So is it a face? Or maybe it's a dog? How can you decide such a subjective matter?  If it really had  much "non-random form and pattern" then it would be clear  which it was. Without the shard in place, and without extreme lighting, or held at a rotated angle, it might only be a "dog" that would be seen.
Therefore, the lack of detail  or enhancement must be considered real, honest to goodness, genuine evidence that, by being so ambiguous, indicates it is likely a natural object.  Or you can do a "Francesco d'Error  and an April Notwell" on it:  IGNORE that evidence!!  And for good reason: It doesn't support the desired or initial conclusion. -- See this URL
Even if the finders are right that it was chipped, the chipping is also ambiguous (whether it was made by being knocked about by the elements, or actually chipped here or there by a person.
This ambiguity of it (my friend sees yet another third  "face" there at the top) is what -- to a serious taphonomist or analyst -- should indicate first that it was probably a natural object, possibly an artifact, but not necessarily, considering the near total lack of humanly added detail (which is not subjective but objectively measureable).
Below, you can see the suggestion of the dog's mouth and teeth (perhaps worn away by erosion) as well as a pupil for the eye, and  an iris, too, and floppy ears (also somewhat worn away -- but whaddaya expect after scores of thousands of years)?
Maybe the dagger was added later with no "purpose" whatever -- like doodling? "Heres a hole... Here's a shard... Hmmm. Guess I'll stick the shard in the hole, Ho Ho Ho! ....It won't stay. Now where's my hafting glue? Oh well, I'll use a couple of pebbles. Hmm... so what is it? ...I KNOW!! [Pre-erosion look]  It's a dead dog! I just stabbed it."
The reason I found the "doggie" image is because -- in ambiguous form (or lack of form and detail) -- it was there! And in that higher area of the mask object, there's not claimed enough chip or tool marks to make the image. Therefore, we know "doggie" mostly is a naturally-made image -- or should know that. And it has more detail than the mask's "face" does!! Although it is certainly more subtle, less obvious.
Therefore, it cannot be said the multiple imagery interpretations have no meaning, nor said that we don't know what the interpretations should mean.  If there CAN be multiple images, that is a strong hint that the object is vague, ambiguous, and not like "made" objects.
I've been checking out this issue by using the tools of recognition that evolution gives animals so we and they can tell  the same thing: "How do I know if I'm seeing something alive -- or made by -- living things?"
Humans also have this programming, albeit the genetic mechanisms are largely unknown. As animals, we seem always to be looking, or scanning, for danger to ourselves -- or predators (or prey). Visually, and otherwise (by sound, smell, etc.)
This programming is testified to be existing when natural animal camouflage systems sometimes try to thwart it, e.g., displaying random fur and skin markings.
Therefore, animal species could never have survived if we couldn't recognize the "look" of living things without first going to college biology classes.
Now please note: The same  list of things that we, from lowly cat to top-of-the-chain humans, innately recognize as visual signs of life, are the same  list of things that are usually present in things made  by life, especially made by intelligent life. Namely: high degrees of symmetry; eyes; "perfect" geometry (like the circle of an eye); details like: pupils, irises, eyebrows; hair; mouths; noses [with nostrils]; proper numbers of fingers, toes, limbs, claws; movement.
Some animals have evolved to sometimes look at you from the side, to avoid presenting the symmetry  of two eyes.
Generally, all these things come under the heading of symmetry, but also can be called "organized or highly geometric patterns"  which the mind uses to distinguish, for example, a bush from a prey or predator (or a Neanderthal flute from "just" a randomly-chewed bone* ). This is basic visual evolution -- not a "trap" of thinking. It is intuitive, although one can make lists for it. It also includes colours, especially red, the colour of blood.
* See also:
The only ones apparently lacking this intuitive ability are certain French taphonomists; and d'Errico, Nowell, et al; and others with "agendas"; and the lowest life-forms, like one-celled amoebas.
When we see a disorderly look, a lack of pattern, -- i.e., "entropy" -- we can count that as evidence (if not absolute proof) that we are likely not  looking at life or any product thereof. This evidence overweighs any few ambiguous and vaguely-defined "chipping" or pebble-stuffing evidence. Or it should.
Yes it looks like a "face." No doubt.
Yes it has some symmetry (not what a human or even feline face has -- which by the way, is always far from perfect symmetry for all of us).
Maybe without the shard in it, the mask STILL would look like a skull with hollow eyes, at least. Provided you hold it that side up....
Maybe somebody played with it too -- but the modest degree of that interference just isn't enough for me. I really, really expect more of any Neanderthal who would find such an object -- in the way of him or her modifying it far more successfully.
Think about these three points:
1. We *are* creatures with some hard-wiring. The axis of our face-on symmetry is vertical, parallel and identical with the pull of gravity. Same with all land animals. (Sea creatures, lacking as much gravity, often have a horizontal axis of symmetry as well as vertical.)
2. Therefore, without being told, when we see a picture hanging "crookedly" (i.e., its axis of symmetry NOT matched up with the vertical pull of gravity) we invariably -- in all cultures -- will "straighten" the picture so both axii overlap and are vertical.
3. "Closure": The mind and eye (and ear as well) physiologically tend to connect separate, but similar things, together (light, colours, patterns), even if they are separated by a (small) space or by interfering objects -- such as identifying the sky despite it being obscured by foliage, for example. Thus we can often see the *whole* of something -- a sky, a field, horizon or open prairie, or predator or food -- even when otherwise obscured by our being immersed, or even lost, inside the clutter of woods, a cavern, or or by rippled water surfaces.
The intelligent, equal mentalities of Neanderthals would respond the same way, regarding the symmetry of the mask -- to correct it !!!  Create better symmetry. It would be a somewhat obsessive feeling to DO  that. Improve those eyes. (Not the cheek only.) NOT for "art's sake," but to satisfy their hard-wired impulses regarding symmetry & eyes.
This is why the French evidence doesn't move me. It doesn't ring true and has other possible explanations for it. There are cases of art of the distant past that gets abstract, "primitive" or symbolic, e.g., without "realistic" detail -- but apparently as pre-curser to written language, like Chinese script or things like the Aeschulean goddess figurine. I include here the art of repetitive patterns and geometric/mathematical designs.
So here, I checked it out -- using other disciplines [when taphonomy was ambiguous or in dispute]. How else would that be done, if not by using the known, established knowledge of visual programming?
And "holes" naturally made in a rock (like any cavern -- large, or as tiny as an ear canal) as well as other objects that have floated into them or become embedded in them, are not uncommon in my opinion. So that is not a strong argument.
Of course, one can argue life itself is "naturally made" but also very orderly and detailed despite that natural origin. That's true. But that making of life is also not "likely" -- as it took 5 billion years of matter-in-turmoil to evolve even the lowest, simplest one-celled forms of life, which parlayed themselves into higher forms only over many millions of years.
--Bob Fink
* Origin of Music
* Readings on the Origin of Music
* Harmony in Ancient Music
* Natural Basis to Scale
* 4o,ooo Year-Old Neanderthal Flute Matches Notes in Do, Re, Mi Scale --by Bob Fink
* Reply to d'Errico, Nowell & chase, et al: Re: Neanderthal Flute
* Odds calculated against Neanderthal Flute being made by chance bites
* Oldest Song in the World
* The Nature of Ethnomusicology
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Crosscurrents No. 162         *         September, 1990           *             ISSN 0704 6588

by Bob Fink 
There's an ongoing issue regarding so-called "subliminal messages" imbedded in movies, music cassettes, records, pictures and images. This has led to a number of bizarre conclusions and waste of energy by various people with causes, ranging from religious ones, parenting, to consumer advocacy.
In some instances, the rumour is believed that the CIA is planting subliminal messages on the air, over telephone wires, beaming them from laser like speakers, et al, to make us (pick one) violent, patriotic, anti-labour, etc.
Others feel the morality of our youth is being corrupted by hidden messages in music lyrics and videos.
Still others suspect commercial manipulation is afoot in ads to "make" us buy anything from candy or popcorn at movies, to charging up credit cards on consumer goods anywhere and everywhere.
And some sales pitches claim to use such messages hidden under the sound of cassette recordings of ocean waves or foghorns to make you (pick one): Lose weight, gain confidence, improve your self image (or turn you into an hypnotic robot, ready to commit assassinations on behalf of some secret para-governmental society, triggered at the sound of a Lawrence Welk show), or to help you quit smoking.
Just buy the tapes, and play them while you sleep (if you dare).
Finally, religious people claim that images appear spontaneously, while we're not looking, of course (e.g., in peeling paint, wood grain, photos, clouds, snow formations, shrouds, etc.) signifying some new holy object, place, sacred meaning or special miracle has occurred.
The fundamental flaw underpinning all this is lack of awareness of the simple mathematics (probability) of coincidence; or how nature and the mind work regarding natural images and sounds.
Let's first look at some things we (probably) all know about:
Have you ever looked at clouds in the sky and seen formations that looked like familiar objects (like Donald Duck)? Of course.
One photo, famous just after WWII, shows a cloud of smoke from burning buildings in Europe, in which one can clearly see a vague likeness of Hitler's face. (I wish I could again find the book that has that photo.) No one ever "made" anything more of that than coincidence to my knowledge. So many thousands of photos of bombings, fires and explosions were made that one (even more than one), by chance, was bound to produce such imagery.
Almost everyone has heard of the psychological "inkblot test":  After folding a paper in half over a still wet inkblot, when the paper is re-opened, a symmetrical design is created, and the person tested is asked what the image suggests. The test works well, because virtually every image produced will look like several things relatively familiar. (The nature of what the person "sees" test after test is supposed to reveal a pattern or state of mind.)
Have you ever read or heard a word spoken, and at the same time, heard the same word come over the radio, TV, or from someone else almost simultaneously?
I've experienced that many times, in the past 20 years. If you have the TV on all day, or as I do, listen to the news daily, full of words, and often type letters, write, talk, etc., at the same time, then such a "match-up" -- from millions of words pouring out of the speakers, month by month, year by year, with the words you write or speak, is again, bound to occur once in a million or two million words (or times) -- or -- every few months or so.
And then there's the lottery:  For the winners, seeing or hearing their numbers read off, one by one, matching their pick, the emotional sensation of "purpose" or even divine intervention and "intentional" providence must be intense. But, as we know, it's just a game of chance (it better be), not "deliberate," because someone is bound to be a big winner.
It would take you millions of weeks of trying before you will finally win [on average]. Therefore, to be a winner before dying of old age, millions of people this week must lose so that the averages can work out in one week and you or some one ticket can win -- that is, without you actually having to experience personally those millions of weeks (that the rest of us represent by losing this week). Hence the thrilling feeling that "intentional fate" is unfolding, for the winner.
Reproduced with this article, are some images regarding all this. They are interesting because in our individual limited experience in life, all coincidences stand out as striking, like a lottery win.
Figure 1 (at top) is an iceberg (to which no one has attached any psychic significance), which looks like a sculptured creature. Cloud formations produce the same thing far more often.
Figure 2 shows what is needlessly called "The Mystery of Elysium," -- the so-called face on planet Mars, photographed by Viking Orbiter in 1977. Compare the quality of this photo-face with the iceberg (figure 1), which we know is a work of nature. The photo seems unremarkable in that comparison, despite the number of over-excitable writers who dub the Mars photo as a "work of nature or evidence of intelligence?" This photo is no more impressive than those canals that Astronomer Lowell in 1907 "proved" existed on Mars, which he claimed were unable to exist without intelligent life forms! [NOTE: The "face" on Mars has since been proven by space exploration to be no more than a transient natural phenomenon of light, random shadows and hills.]
      Another is a snow photograph. This photo was xeroxed by a priest, because he saw the image of Jesus' face in the snow formation (Fig. 3). The effect was so startling to him (considering his profession), he took it as a sign of some mystic meaning. If you have trouble seeing the face, look at figure 4 in which I emphasized it by a drawing that more clearly completes the face he saw. I put the drawing lower down -- you'll need to scroll to see it.  It's not all that impressive to me as anything "miraculous" or even remarkable.
Let's now use this example. Note those words I just wrote, "this example." Now, if I capitalize some letters, then Lo! We have "thiS EXample." Do you see that forbidden word "SEX" (shudder) formed there? Do you think it subliminally affected you before I pointed it out?
How often do you think the words "this example" appears in human texts -- especially educational texts?
If one just sat and thought about it, would one conclude that such appearances of the word "S EX" above is by subliminal design, out to corrupt our youth, a sordid example of subliminal slime and sinful suggestion? Or, considering how often the phrase is typeset and published (millions of times) without evil intent, would one conclude that it is, after all, just a coincidence and NOT deliberate?
And then there's the word "live." Spelled backwards it's "evil." Or the word "dog." Spelled backwards, that one is "god." Is there some mystic symbolism in that?
Oops - we did it again!! Look back at the phrase that we used two paragraphs above: "sat and thought." WOW!! Let's capitalize:
See it?
"SAT ANd thought." Even worse than 666, there is "SATAN" himself! Were YOU subliminally moved, during the last few paragraphs after reading that, to feeling fondly toward evil Satan?
Look at leaves (tea leaves included), shrubs, branches, clouds, patterns on worn-out walls, floors, wood grain, etc. You'll see hundreds of "images" -- even some amazingly like people you may recognize, but many more like a cat, dog, swan, bird, or anonymous faces or figures. If articles can be subliminal, look between all the words in this one and see if there's any more words formed to work yourself up about....
So, when you hear religious claims, people swooning from a spell [or a spelling], or complaints about toys, records (played backwards) which we're told "spell out" sexual innuendo words, or the like -- then forget it. There are enough real problems to worry about without adding to our woes.
[But then -- you never know. I could be the devil in disguise trying to throw you off guard by writing all this....]

Updated Mar 2003-- Two New Books on Music Origins & Music Archaeology

* Origin of Music
* Harmony in Ancient Music
* Natural Basis to Scale
* 4o,ooo Year-Old Neanderthal Flute Matches Notes in Do, Re, Mi Scale --by Bob Fink
* Oldest Song in the World
* The Nature of Ethnomusicology
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