University of Bristol Backtracks Furiously on Voynich Manuscript Deciphering Claims
I received the copyedited chapter files for my mound builder book, which means that I now have to review and approve the changes. Because this takes a lot of time, I’m taking this weekend off to work on the review process. Therefore, I’ll leave you with a brief notice that the claim made this week that a researcher using “ingenuity” and “lateral thinking” had deciphered the mysterious Voynich Manuscript in less than two weeks has already descended into recriminations and claims that academics just don’t understand radical new ideas—you know, the standard. It is another case where a sexy claim got overblown through over-ambitious PR and sensational media coverage, aided by a claimant who seems to lack humility about the limits of his own claim.
Gerard Cheshire claimed in a peer-reviewed article in Romance Studies to have proven that the Voynich Manuscript’s indecipherable writing was actually the only example anywhere on Earth of “proto-Romance,” an assumed intermediate stage between Vulgar Latin and modern Romance languages. The University of Bristol issued a triumphant press release celebrating the alleged discovery, but shortly after they deleted their own coverage and now claim to have no relationship with Cheshire after medieval experts through cold water on his claims. “Following media coverage, concerns have been raised about the validity of this research from academics in the fields of linguistics and medieval studies. … The research was entirely the author’s own work and is not affiliated with the University of Bristol, the school of arts nor the Centre for Medieval Studies,” the school now says.
As Lisa Fagin David, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, tweeted, “proto-Romance” is “not a thing.” “Proto-Romance” is a term sometimes used to describe late Vulgar Latin, and it is sometimes used for a reconstructed hypothetical stage between Vulgar Latin and the separation of Vulgar Latin into the Romance tongues. Either way, the “Proto-Romance” is not known from real life examples but is a reconstruction, much like Proto-Indo-European.
Cheshire told the Guardian that he is sure that future scholars will vindicate him. He dismissed his critics as a recalcitrant minority entrenched in dogma:
“It was inevitable and expected, given the passion that the manuscript arouses, that a marginal group would find it difficult to accept new evidence,” he said.
5/18/2019 09:31:19 am
Peer reviewed - Meaningless because academics believe in wishful thinking just as much as the Fringe. Academics hold dogmatic views just as much as the fringe. Historical vacuums should be avoided.
An Anonymous Nerd
5/18/2019 09:46:44 am
Misused? Surely, on occasion. I've seen it happen. Meaningless? No. And to equate real academia with the Fringe is just bizarre. Real academia, even at its worst, starts from a better place in terms of expertise, reason, and connection to actual facts.
5/18/2019 09:54:57 am
>>[fringe] ignore the contextual, the natural and archaeological, and the ordinary.<<
5/18/2019 11:40:23 am
Two types of wishful thinking:
5/18/2019 12:30:55 pm
academics are as equally culpable as fringe
5/18/2019 12:41:53 pm
All are equally culpable but some are more equally culpable than others. (With apologies to Orwell).
An Anonymous Nerd
5/18/2019 06:07:16 pm
Doc Rock's summary of the difference between real academia and the Fringe is really good, and appropriate. Continuing to assert equivalence between them does not make it so. But it does fit how the Fringe usually does business.
5/19/2019 01:34:08 am
5/19/2019 01:39:03 am
Countries like America and France that have embraced secularism do not place emphasis on religion (Christianity is officially called a Cult in France).
An Anonymous Nerd
5/19/2019 10:48:09 am
RE: Existence of Jesus. My understanding is that this is the subject of scholarly debate, with well-researched books on both sides, but that the consensus is that such a person existed. It really has nothing to do with the context you're attempting to put it in, anyway.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
5/19/2019 12:58:40 pm
This guy is just a persistent troll. He's one of those people who think they're smart because they reject Christian dogma but prove profoundly stupid in just about every other opinion they have. Jesus mythicism, Freemasonry as a major force in world history — all his hobbyhorses are moronic.
See no evidence Jesus is a cult in France
5/19/2019 01:58:25 pm
It all began with the French Revolution when the Republic attempted to eliminate Christianity (but guess what, that failed).
Comte is lacking
5/19/2019 02:01:57 pm
Freemasonry introduced democracy, freedom of belief and rights of man in France and America and got rid of belief being monopolised by the Church and the Bible. Elementary knowledge. Nothing controversial at all about that.
France & Religion
5/19/2019 02:05:37 pm
According to Pew Research Center in 2017, France has a high level of government restrictions on religion. Among the world's 25 most populous nations, France is among the 12 countries with a high level of religious restrictions, according to 2015 data. In Europe, France has the second highest level of religious restrictions, behind only Russia.
An Anonymous Nerd
5/19/2019 10:24:19 pm
[Christianity is designated as a cult by The French Republic. Lots of evidence.]
To An Anonymous Nerd
5/20/2019 01:14:52 am
Check out The French Revolution
5/20/2019 01:30:00 am
An Anonymous Nerd
5/21/2019 07:54:19 pm
[It's obvious that French History, The French Republic and anti-clericalism in France is a GREAT MYSTERY to An Anonymous Nerd.]
6/12/2019 02:58:07 pm
"First a specific claim is made -- in France (the implication is contemporary France), Christianity is considered a cult. This is an interesting claim to me and I cannot find any reference."
5/27/2019 01:55:15 am
"Peer reviewed" simply means that the paper was gone over to see if it conforms with accepted scientific standards. It says NOTHING about the actual content of any given paper. If you start with garbage, it stays garbage no matter how perfectly you cook it. Saying it's meaningless is like saying a jury trial is meaningless because someone who was guilty escaped punishment. The process is still relevant and pertinent; the prosecutor didn't put in enough evidence to get the desired outcome. Anyone who claims anything else proves their ignorance, that's all.
5/27/2019 08:37:54 am
V - sorry but you are wrong. Peer review does take into account content. It does not mean that the reviewers agree with the author but they must at least agree that it is a worthy contribution to the field. So if it is garbage than the reviewers are supposed to realize it and toss it as such.
An Anonymous Nerd
5/18/2019 09:40:32 am
"Meh" on all sides. I took a look at the article. It bears obvious signs of being, shall we say, exaggerated. And the press release about it even moreso. The research would've been a nice place to start but instead he rushed to publication when, to meet the academic standard, he should've kept digging. He treated a good start as a conclusion.
Voynich article link
5/18/2019 10:03:24 am
Here's the link to the said article
5/18/2019 10:13:46 am
" ... I'm surprised a legitimate academic, in any field, would rush forward like that with so comparatively little."<P>
5/18/2019 10:26:24 am
There's nothing more dogmatic than politics and nothing more pathetic or docile than supporters of politics
5/18/2019 02:11:48 pm
medieval experts through cold water
5/18/2019 07:18:54 pm
Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.
5/18/2019 06:07:10 pm
As much as I think peer review is a good thing, google "sociology fake peer review" (without the quotation marks) for some hilarious fails in the process.
5/18/2019 10:37:39 pm
I would not dare to make a judgement on the matter. Maybe he is right? Maybe he is wrong?
5/27/2019 02:06:23 am
Actually, T. Franke, part of the problem is that we DON'T KNOW if there was actually a "Proto-Indo-European" language ever actually spoken by anyone. It's sort of like how "genetic Eve" and "genetic Adam" are both WAY younger than the species H. sap. Proto-Indo-European traces all the words in the language group to a root word, but we have no evidence that those root words were ever all part of one single, unified language. It is possible that these roots have come about from several different languages that have intermingled over time to form the family group. The same is true of Proto-Romance--there's no actual evidence that a single dialect/language existed with all the features that are "reconstructed" under that label; it's possible for it to have happened in bits and pieces across all of the former Roman Empire without ever having been part of a single, unified whole. They are useful constructs, but that's not the same as saying "they're a real thing." Especially when you're talking about something being WRITTEN in that supposed "real thing" at a specific time and place.
5/19/2019 02:01:15 pm
Thanks Mr. Colavito.
5/19/2019 07:35:11 pm
Peer review just means that two reviewers and the editor thought it was worthy of publication. It is not a very high standard but it usually weeds out the real garbage.
5/20/2019 04:36:03 pm
I am not certain I have the correct website. Is this the Society for the preservation of Antelope farts?
5/20/2019 06:32:23 pm
Antelope fart systematics is restricted to the third Tuesday of every month. The discussions burn up so much of Mr. Colavito’s space that the frequency must be limited.
5/20/2019 06:25:22 pm
England getting an Alien themed Branson, Missouri...Should make a good Griswold Vacation movie.
5/20/2019 06:27:24 pm
DAMN!!! Posted to wrong article.
5/21/2019 05:28:55 pm
I'll be sad if the Voynich is finally translated, deciphered, or explained. It is so much more fun as a puzzle.
5/27/2019 08:50:41 pm
Three of the "Phaistos Script" symbols are constellations. The circle with 7 "dots" is the Pleiades.(See: Nebra Sky Disk) This is what the Constellation once looked like before, the stars drifted. This drift has been called, "discord in the House of the Goddess". 6 "Pillars" around a central "Pillar".
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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