Friday, December 14, 2018 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Katherine Dunn

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There are those whose own vulgar normality is so apparent and stultifying that they strive to escape it. They affect flamboyant behavior and claim originality according to the fashionable eccentricities of their time. They claim brains or talent or indifference to mores in desperate attempts to deny their own mediocrity. These are frequently artists and performers, adventurers and wide-life devotees.
Then there are those who feel their own strangeness and are terrified by it. They struggle toward normalcy. They suffer to exactly that degree that they are unable to appear normal to others, or to convince themselves that their aberration does not exist. These are true freaks, who appear, almost always, conventional and dull.

 
Katherine Dunn

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Much speculation and analysis has been devoted to an effort to discover the source of Muhammad's revelation and thus explain away his claim to Prophethood. The results have not been conclusive. Some say Muhammad had a Jewish tutor, which may be true; some think he was acquainted with, and impressed by, Syrian Christian monks, which may be true; others think the trading society in which he lived offered in itself a kaleidoscopic picture of different religions which may also be true. What is fundamental of course is that Muhammad did not lay claim to originality for his religion. Time and time again he announced that his revelation was only a confirmation of all previous revelations.

 
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Clarke's Third Law doesn't work in reverse. Given that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," it does not follow that "any magical claim that anybody may make at any time is indistinguishable from a technological advance that will come some time in the future." ... There have admittedly been occasions when authoritative, pontificating skeptics have come away with egg on their faces, even within their own lifetimes. But there have been a far greater number of occasions when magical claims have never been vindicated. An apparent magical claim might eventually turn out to be true. In any age there are so many magical claims that are, or could be, made. They can't all be true; many are mutually contradictory; and we have no reason to suppose that, simply by the act of sitting down and dreaming up a magical claim, we shall make it come true in some future technology. Some things that would surprise us today will come true in the future. But lots and lots of things that would surprise us today will not come true ever.

 
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It may be expecting too much to expect most intellectuals to have common sense, when their whole life is based on their being uncommon -- that is, saying things that are different from what everyone else is saying. There is only so much genuine originality in anyone. After that, being uncommon means indulging in pointless eccentricities or clever attempts to mock or shock.

 
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… it's time for the opening lecture in Test Design 101: Consider: a woman claims to be a musician. You seat her at a piano and demand that she prove her claim. She cannot play the piano, and you conclude that her claim has been invalidated. Hardly. You see, the lady is a cellist….
You cannot challenge a claimant to do something they've never claimed they can do. That's why, at the JREF, we design a protocol only after the applicant has clearly stated (a) what they can do, (b) under what conditions, and (c) with what expected degree of success. And, the applicant must find the protocol appropriate, fair, agreeable, and adequate to prove their claim.

 
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Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great questions of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all. I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true. I do not pretend to tell all the truth.
I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber. That is all.

 
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