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Re: Re: VMs: Testing Dr. Rugg's hoax theory

elvogt@xxxxxxxxxxx schrieb am 07.09.2004, 09:43:09:
> In any case, let me rephrase my question:
> *) What would you consider proof of the hypothesis that the VM does contain no 
> meaningful content?
> *) How could one prove the validity of Rugg's approach?

Perhaps I might suggest another tack here. As someone coming from a
different research philosophy to that of Rugg (who, I note, appears to
be taking an extremely positivist approach despite his exhortations of
his 'new methodology'), I would argue this rather differently. To start
off with, what exactly is Rugg saying? How is he saying it? Why might
he be saying it? 

We could summarise Rugg's approach in 2 main points:

(1). A means by which the text of the Voynich manuscript could have been
generated out of random syllables existed at the time it was believed
to be written. Rugg demonstrates this method and produces a series of
Voynich-like sentences. The essence of Rugg's argument is that because
it was possible at the time to generate meaningless textual content,
the textual content of the manuscript is probably meaningless. 

(2). Rugg further links this discovery to his own research interests.
The central thesis which appears to motivate Rugg is the question of
'what fields of knowledge' are being applied to a given situation and
how these are frequently too limited or inappropriate. His argument
concerning the ongoing quest to understand the Voynich manuscript is
that it has been dominated by (modern, computer-based) cryptologers
and, in constituting a community unaware of alternative, perhaps more
appropriate (i.e. Rugg-like) approaches, has therefore proved
fruitless: people were trying to decode the meaning in a manuscript of
random text. 

Exploring this second issue, that of Rugg's research, a little further,
we might come to see it as the central theme here. After all, the sheer
quantity of articles on Rugg having 'solved' the Voynich suggests
deliberate publicity: that the manuscript was selected as a vehicle by
which to promote - to 'prove' - that Rugg's line of research is valid.
It is therefore the claim to have solved the Voynich, rather than its
actuality, that motivates its evocation.  

After all, Rugg's demonstration of a means to create Voynich-like text
does not conclusively prove that the manuscript itself is meaningless.
The time and effort spent in creating the manuscript can be used to
argue that it indeed holds 'meaning', even if there is considerable
debate over what that meaning might be and what form it takes (q.v.
regardless of whether the text is a cipher, forgotten language, or
random jumble of letters, the study of the illustrations, handwriting,
ink, paper, binding, colouring, known history, possible purpose, and
relationship to other contemporary ciphers, herbaries, etc., suggests
more than one search for more than one kind of 'meaning'). 

But to moreover suggest that Voynich scholars have ignored such
approaches by limiting themselves to the field of modern cryptology is
just as questionable. I would argue that the Voynich mystery has
attracted the attention of a very diverse community (as we could
demonstrate from this mailing list!) and indeed involves a plurality of
approaches and interests, as suggested above. 

With best regards, 

Russ Sadd
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