Everyone is used to hearing stories about a country called France, and although no serious person gives them credence, I confess I have often found myself wondering about them. To be clear, I’m an open minded person, with advanced degrees in geography and modern languages, and if there truly were convincing evidence of such a country I would be the first to acknowledge it.
So it was with interest that I came across a new book by someone named John Isthisgy Forreal that discusses the existence of France, and supports his thesis with all kinds of testimony. At a superficial glance it looks serious and one might very easily be taken in. The author gives descriptions by people who claim to have visited France, and by people who claim to live there and actually speak a language called French. Alas, all fail the test. The tired tropes and tricks that go into creating the illusion of this fabled place have been exposed over and over again.
Indeed, it is a great pity that the author, who is not without intelligence, wasted so much time on such an obviously futile endeavor. Sadly, Forreal seems unable to distinguish truth from fiction. He has signally failed to provide any idea of the scientific protocols that would be needed for such a claim as the existence of France to stand. Nor does he grasp that the burden of proof for such an extraordinary claim rests on the person making it.
In fact I should have put the book down then and there, but curiosity persuaded me to persevere. I then came across a totally ridiculous discussion of alleged chateaux in somewhere called the Loire Valley, which I have to say dismayed me by its obtuse naivety. Is the author not aware that the existence of chateaux has been repeatedly unmasked as a sham, as one can confirm for oneself at any time by consulting Wikipedia?
If just one person could provide convincing proof of being French, for instance by speaking a language that made sense instead of being a lot of gutteral nonsense, then of course the existence of France would be validated as real. But no one has. Not a single one. Instead we are treated to stories of obvious imposters with names like Napoleon and Voltaire and a laughably fake panoply of kings called Louis. What the author seems unable to grasp is that these were never more than unvalidated anecdotes, and the plural of anecdotes is not data. Also, we should never forget that fraud is rife. As we know, many gullible people were taken in by the recent visit to our shores of a man claiming to be the president of France, particularly in the media, which is notorious for its lack of discernment in such matters.
There is a much better book on the subject, one which I can heartily recommend, Nonsensical Tales of Imaginary Countries and the Charlatans Who Promote Them, by James Bunkerdash, a world authority who has gained remarkable insight into such matters while never stirring more than five miles from his home in Albuquerque.
I could go on, but you get the point. This is me venting at the discovery of a new one-star review of Randi’s Prize on the US Amazon site, so splendid in its stately stupidity as to deserve singling out in a competitive field. In fact I’m not entirely sure it’s not a spoof (in which case, well done, you got me!) Please no one leave any comments – it deserves to be left complete and untarnished.
I often catch myself thinking that I understand the sceptic mentality, and could engage with it if only I had the right tools and arguments. But then something like this comes along that reminds me how I utterly out of my depth I am. It’s completely baffling, as though some demon had cast a spell on certain people that, on this matter, stops them recognising a logical chain of reasoning. I know that’s exactly what they think about people like me, because they keep telling me so, but that just compounds the mystery. They're convinced they have some special access to this thing called Critical Thinking denied to us lesser mortals. As I may have said before, I wish the critics would address my actual arguments, instead of trampling over them in their rush their preferred destination.
Anyway, this diverted me from more serious matters. Specifically the post I was actually planning to write today, and which will now have to wait until later in the week. Grrr. My fault for checking up on my Amazon page – I really should just leave it to look after itself.