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Why hoaxed crop circles attract paranormal phenomena
May 2002
Palden Jenkins

This was written for a crop circle discussion concerning an article about man-made crop formations. I wouldn't disagree fundamentally with the article by Synthia Ramsby Andrews, submitted by Dave Haith. Well done, Synthia, for making the points you've made. And I would add that I think a lot more discernment is necessary here.

To say that paranormal and irregular phenomena take place in connection with man-made circles doesn't mean they are the precisely same phenomena in type, meaning or magnitude as in genuine formations - there's a danger of fudging or coming to indiscriminate conclusions here. In my own researches, largely intuitively- and psychically-based, I have nevertheless detected substantial differences between the two kinds of circles and the feelings and subjective read-outs I get from them - and man-made circles are distinctly 'dead' in comparison to what I deem to be genuine ones. Trouble is, I haven't been doing systematic research in this area, and cannot therefore go into details - systematic psychic research is very difficult and exhausting to do (especially without psychic backup and a research grant!).

While I wouldn't dispute that paranormal phenomena can occur in both kinds of circles, I'd suggest that some careful work needs to go on to determine whether there are sufficiently significant similarities between these two kinds of occurrences - and between both of these in comparison with other similar phenomena which can occur in other places/circumstances, as a control. Otherwise there's a risk of coming to conclusions which are not sound, and which reflect undiscerning and theoretical approaches to subjective and paranormal phenomena. Researchwise, this area is fraught with difficulties, though this still doesn't mean that these factors are not important.

There's another problem too. Since the number and proportion of genuine to man-made formations is in dispute, and since most claimed man-made formations are still often not evidentially proven to be man-made in most cases, and submitted evidence is not subject to proper peer review, it is tricky to come to reliable conclusions about paranormal phenomena. This is where hoaxers have dug their own grave, since excessive claims to the making of man-made circles have thrown most of such claims into a shadowy, doubtful, disputable area. It's too easy to assert that a formation is man-made - it simply preys on people's beliefs more than their observations. As a result, observations of related paranormal phenomena also come into doubt.

So, to demonstrate the valid points that Synthia has made, a proper tabulation of genuine and man-made formations must be made (haha!), and then the associated phenomena must be examined in this light. Without this, there is a great danger of falling into false discussions and conclusions. After all, since, in the view of most croppies, hoax-claims have been excessive in number, this means that phenomena observed in formations which are claimed to be man-made when in fact they might be genuine formations, distorts those observations. And vice versa, though the data distortion arising from man-made formations accepted to be genuine will most probably be less. So the distortions will not necessarily balance out.

So, really, while Synthia's article is interesting and worthy of consideration, much more work and discernment is needed before her case can be taken to be reasonably demonstrated or at least acceptable within the evidential/research constraints we're working with in cereology. I'd warn in particular of the danger of lumping phenomena together, just because they're deemed to be paranormal phenomena, or just because they superficially carry similar characteristics. To Chinese, all Europeans look similar, but there's still a substantial difference between Hungarians and Irish.

In medical research, there is ample evidence that 'the placebo effect' has a genuine healing effect, especially in some cases such as surgical back operations. However, this research does not suggest that placebos can replace genuine medicines, or that they are entirely interchangeable. The placebo effect does not invalidate medical research. It simply suggests that there is a placebo effect which can be helpful in itself in resolving some medical problems. The need for medicines and for careful diagnosis, prescription and surgery continues. Interestingly, I once translated an academic paper which demonstrated that placebos can even have observable toxic and counterproductive effects, and there have even been cases where addiction symptoms have developed when a patient was given placebo morphine! However, genuine morphine is still used when the desired effects are sought.

When talking about man-made formations and their effects, we're talking in similar terms to placebo research in medicine, and I suggest we need to apply the same discernment and sense of proportion. Placebo research has its value. It exists only as a subsidiary qualifying factor to medical research. Things must be kept in perspective, and it is not relevant for everyone in cereology to get diverted *yet again* onto endless discussions about what is, in reality, actually a side-issue, and also to some extent an axe being ground and a dangerous tendency to drive by one's wing-mirrors. It is the legitimate preoccupation and interest of a number of researchers, but it's still not the main question.

What still confounds me about this 80-20% argument is that it still seems that Colin and those who agree with him are still focusing overridingly on the alleged 80% of man-made formations when in fact it is surely the 20% which should be attracting the most attention. [The 80-20 hypothesis claims that 80% of crop formations are man-made and 20% could be genuine.] If the 80-20 hypothesis were true, it would mean mainly that we eliminate 80% of the evidence from most of our discussions in order to focus primarily on the remaining 20%. But I don't hear that happening. To me, there's something slightly spurious and diversionary about focusing on the alleged 80%, and this 80% doesn't necessarily deserve 80% of the available attention. I would give the 80-20 hypothesis more time and respect if there were some seriously good stuff coming out about the 20% too. Or did I miss it?

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