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    Re: Still on LOPs
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2002 Apr 21, 06:19 +1000

    George Huxtable wrote:
    
    'To Peter Fogg, the conclusion (that the probability of the real position
    being inside the cocked hat is only 25%) may be intellectually abhorrent,
    but he will have to present better arguments if he wants to shoot it down.'
    
    Not 'intellectually', but intuitively abhorrent, and that's the point.
    
    and
    
    'Peter has to apply argument and reason
    to defend his position.'
    
    Rational man sees himself, quite rightly, as having sloughed off the past
    where only superstition reigned by using logic and reason as his only Gods.
    And this approach has taken us far, our modern life with its freedom and
    amazing gadgets is largely the result of this attitude.
    
    But navigation has been defined as the 'haven finding art', and the word is
    well chosen, the people often thought of as the best navigators ever, the
    Polynesians, had no instruments, and their explanations of their skill often
    sound uncomfortably like superstition.
    
    What they were good at to a degree it is difficult to comprehend was observe
    and take note of the myriad tiny natural signs which added up to a intuitive,
    and useful, whole. Other people did the same, for example: Australian
    aborigines could track some animal across a stony desert where a white
    companion could see no track at all. Along the way he would learn not only
    which animal it was, but also how long ago it passed, its gender, even whether
    it had recently had a drink. When they caught up with the animal all this
    would prove to be correct, and by then following the track backwards they
    could have a drink themselves. That the signs were minuscule was clear, and
    like navigators the tracker would have to fill in the gaps with DR and
    intuition. Similarly the Polynesians were great readers of the ocean surface,
    and constantly absorbed a myriad of signs from their sky and sea, not always
    consciously, and intuitively knew that land was over the horizon in that
    direction, so many days away.
    
    I know that in quantum mechanics common sense is not much use and intuition is
    of no help at all. But navigation is not quantum mechanics. We use a quaint
    belief that the Sun circles the Earth and another that all the heavenly bodies
    are located on a celestial sphere which surrounds us. Whether they is true or
    not is largely irrelevant, the point is it works.
    
    I see dangers in the approach of rational man, relevant to navigation. One is
    that he is too reliant on his instruments, without them he's lost! And by
    giving them so much of his concentration he is neglecting to constantly study
    and learn from his environment. For example: old sayings like 'red sky at
    night, sailor's delight ...' have a sound meteorological basis, and are often
    proved correct. Changing weather patterns announce themselves days in advance,
    in many subtle ways apart from barometric pressure. This I know to my own
    chagrin, as my wife is great at forecasting the weather. If I ask her how she
    knows she'll say 'Didn't you see the halo around the moon two nights ago?' or
    talk about what the local ants are up to (I kid you not) but a lot of it seems
    intuitive, she can't explain it. I can only conclude that she is better than
    me at observing and, sometimes unconsciously, noting the indications.
    
    The second danger is that rational man, by following a series of seemingly
    logical steps, can find himself boxed into a position of absurdity. This is
    fine if all we are studying and thinking about is lines on paper while we are
    comfortably at home, but could see us sailing into real danger out at sea,
    particularly if we suppress common sense and ignore intuition. I guess we've
    all had instances where we've had an intuition of danger. Experience has
    taught me that its wise to heed this sort of intuition, and very foolish to
    ignore it.
    
    I feel so grateful to all the people who contribute to this list, I'm
    constantly learning so much. But the nav. list approach is almost exclusively
    scientific, largely based on Maths.That is why I'm playing Cassandra, giving
    you this lecture. Now I'm going to be away for a while, we're off to Bourke,
    heading into the interior of Australia. I'll look forward to seeing what
    you've all been up to on the nav. list when I'm back.
    
    And yes, thank you for checking, I have packed the maps.
    
    
    

       
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