Tonight (23rd March 2014), Coast to Coast AM talk host George Noory will be discussing the Voynich Manuscript with “spiritual artist and musician Stuart Davis” and PR-hungry Voynich theorist Stephen Bax.
Well… at least the musician guy sounds credible. 😐
I have to admit that, not so many years ago, I would experience a frisson of excitement whenever I heard about the Voynich Manuscript’s being picked up by the media. Back then it would get no more than one or two genuinely substantial mentions per year, whether in Cryptologia, Nature, New Scientist, or wherever: and I was fascinated to see how the Voynich cultural meme developed over time.
But over the last few months it has been mentioned in so many goshdarned articles that the same phenomenon instead induces a wave of nausea – my stomach sinks and I wonder “how are they going to misrepresent Voynich research this time?”
For instance, Stephen Bax seems doggedly determined not only to recapitulate every single error made in Voynich research up to 1970 (e.g. …
* reading Voynichese as an obscure-but-lost-or-maybe-polyglot language;
* parsing Voynichese as if it were a simple letter-for-letter language;
* looking for obscure language matches for possible herbal cribs;
* assuming that any published research must have some Rastafarian-truth-in-all-truths viability; etc, etc),
…but also to represent his own nine wonky words as if they somehow define cutting edge Voynich research.
In fact, the mistakes Bax has made (and indeed continues to make) are about as stolidly retro as rockabilly quiffs.
But, of course, the chances of anybody outside the Voynich world having the history and cryptology chops to call him on this are terribly slim. Would George Noory ask him why he is so certain that Voynichese is actually a language, when…
* the dictionary statistics are all wrong, with words often differing by a single letter;
* different letters have different preferences for positions on the page;
* indeed, “p” gallows tend to occur in pairs halfway along the top line of paragraphs;
* frequently occurring groups like “aiiv” and “aiir” are apparently the same as medieval page references;
* and so on?
Incidentally, Bax’s most recent ‘find’ is that the plant depicted on f6v is Ricinus communis, the castor oil plant. Father Petersen, Ethel Voynich, Ellie Velinksa, and even Mazars and Wiartz (2006) all think this is a good match, so he’s kind of kicking at a long-opened door here. However, when Bax suggests that EVA “qoar” (which recurs 11 times throughout the manuscript) might be the name of the plant, I think he’s just being equal parts overoptimistic and foolish, and showing his ignorance about how Voynichese works.
Perhaps at any moment in history we get no more and no less than the Voynich ‘experts’ we deserve. What a horrible thought. 🙁