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Earlier this evening I watched a TED talk video presented by David Christian about BIG HISTORY. There were a dozen people with me, and everyone but me was enthusiastic about the time depth and intellectual profundity of the presentation. I was annoyed, and created a fuss, because it was obviously some pompous know-it-all pontificating about something he took for fact because he had read it in a big book. Granted I would agree with the scientific conclusions being presented, but they were stated in an absolutist propaganda style. It was truth from the pulpit bathing the true believers in holy water. Because of the breadth of what he was bloviating about, it was highly unlikely that he knew the material from personal research, and yet he acted as if he had personal certainty about this material.

I watched for evidence about how he knew what he was presenting differed from TST~0 on the Trustworthiness of Information scale, but there was nothing. It was particularly annoying because what he was talking about was testable science, and when it is presented properly it can be scored as TST~14; but the sermon was presented to a group of people hungering for an eternal validity, couched in fine rhetoric and promising fabulous rewards, and they got it.

Trustworthiness of Information

Trustworthiness of Information – Click image for bigger view.

When our group was discussing the video, those who challenged my observations  insisted that he didn’t have enough time to give illustrations. I countered that when he was talking about the Chicxulub impact killing the dinosaurs he could have mentioned how it kicked up ocean clam shells that flooded into central Texas and can still be found in creek embankments. He talked a bit about how the death of the dinosaurs left ecological niches for mammals to fill, but neglected to mention why the mammals survived and the dinosaurs didn’t. Probably it was because the surviving mammals were those living underground, and they could live on roots for quite a while. They entered a world that for a while was without competitors. My complaint with the lecture is that it offered nothing but unfounded conclusions, even though abundant evidence is readily available.

Science is based on testable ideas that are tested and challenged.

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