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Re: VMs: Viola tricolor
Nick Pelling wrote:
> IMO, there are two pragmatic ways to "prove" that the VMs is a hoax: (1)
> unearth provenance information that implicates it directly as part of a
> hoaxing scheme, and (2) reconstruct the method by which it was generated.
Method (2) has often been used to produce a reduction
to absurdity, e.g. Friedman's demonstration by the
"Shakespearean cipher" methods that he himself wrote
Shakespeare's plays, and the Bible Code debunkers'
finding prophecies of world leaders' assassinations in
Moby Dick, which one assumes is not divinely inspired.
(An Internet search shows that some people never learn,
Hoaxes are sometimes shown to be anachronisms, as with
the Shroud of Turin or the Donation of Constantine. If
we could show by some test that the VMs was produced in
the 19th or 20th century, we would have that. We've
already discussed why carbon-13 dating wouldn't do it,
though. Are there other tests that would?
> Though some people assert that the suggested connection with a known
> counterfeiter (Edward Kelley) is sufficient for (1), the actual evidence
> seems to fall well short. As for (2), some list-members belittle Gordon
> Rugg's efforts, but AFAIK his work is the first relatively systematic
> attempt to see if the VMs was hoaxed using a specific method.
> In the end, though, I think the idea of VMs-as-hoax sits uncomfortably with
> the observed multiple levels of structure in the text - letter-adjacency,
> word-structure, line-structure, paragraph structure, page structure, Neal
> keys, etc. Unless they are all artefacts of the way by which the document
> was constructed, why would they be present in a hoax? Randomness is very
> hard to sustain: unless you can show *how* the VMs was hoaxed (by
> reproducing the kinds of textual behaviour we observe), the balance of
> probabilities is that it is indeed structured to contain meaningful
> information. All credit to Gordon for trying to do exactly this: though I
> personally suspect he is trying to re-hoax too small a subset of
> Voynichese. :-(
I agree with what you say. Rugg's hoax attempt would
be much more credible if he had reproduced a much
larger actual sample of the VMs.
> Just so you don't think I'm kicking hoaxes alone, these same issues cause
> problems for the idea of VMs-as-language: why would (for example) a natural
> language contain Neal keys, no obvious numbering system, and have
> paragraphs (nearly) always starting with gallows characters (never mind
> split ol pairs, etc)?
I don't see a problem with these. Why not a paragraph
start convention? After all, why do we use a whole
extra set of characters to indicate proper names and
the start of sentences in our language?
> By way of contrast, the key problem with the idea of VMs-as-crypto is that,
> for it to be true, we have to accept that one person 500 years ago was a
> crypto genius - all the statistical artefacts we observe are consistent
> with a signal's being hidden inside the text, using tricky ciphering
> mechanism(s) we're not ~quite~ sneaky enough to break. We can accept a
> Brunelleschi through his works: so why can we not accept the VMs' cipher
> designer too?
Indeed. And perhaps the method is really very simple
- we just haven't seen it yet because it's not what we
expect. Bruce expressed to me a suspicion that we are
like people looking in the dark for our keys under the
light - just because it's the easiest place to look.
> >I take it that no-one knows of a comprehensive mutilingual attempt to
> >examine labels in the context of plausible interpretations of labelled
> >images? It really would seem the best basis for independent stabs at
> >meanings to be attached to labels.
> I did once try this, but every plant I looked at had both a large number of
> translated (language) names, and a huge number of local
> (dialect/regional/district/town/individual) names. Unless you have a very
> good idea of both language AND locality in the VMs, collating all this
> could well be a life-time's work. So: while it's "possible", the practical
> difficulties involved are surprisingly high. :-(
This doesn't surprise me. Brumbaugh has already shown
the problems with doing this. But in conjunction with
some other ideas, it could be useful.
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