Last modified: Sunday 12-Aug-2012 03:52:48 EEST
Skeptics, pelicanists and Prozac explanations
Are those "UFO skeptics" who oppose or scoff at the scientific study of UFOs (such as the Sturrock-Rockefeller UFO Report), the modern day geo-centricism and Flat Earth proponents?
"Their critiques virtually all consist of scoffing, ridicule, ad hominem attacks, and the amazing claim that their dogmatic beliefs that certain things are impossible necessarily constitute laws of nature. It is a modern replay of the cardinals refusing to look through Galileo's telescope because truth has already been revealed to them. Interestingly many of the vocal skeptics are not themselves practicing scientists." -- astrophysicist Bernard Haisch, Ph.D. src
Particularly irritating are the "liberal arts" / "social scientists" (philosophy, history, psychology, forteanists and ... English PhDs etc whose specialties have nothing to do with physical sciences) who form the noisiest "UFO skeptics" group today. They are often quick to label anything outside the scope of Newtonian physics they were taught in school decades ago, as "supernatural".
There are many reasons why your average professional scientist shuns away from studying UFO evidence or publicly admitting having an interest in the UFO subject. The primary reason is the implied threat to one's carreer, either directly via officialdom retributions or indirectly through the carefully cultivated public perception that the UFO subject is scientifically unrespectable. The latter was achieved by the psy-ops of the US Intelligence Establishment i.e. the officially sanctioned "debunking" and deception programme, euphemistically called "re-education of the public".
The anti-UFO propaganda has been waged upon the general populous since the 1950s, as outlined e.g. in declassified report of the Robertson Panel (commissioned by the CIA in Jan-1953). The panel was chaired by HP Robertson, physicist from California Institute of Technology. The other four members were Luis Alvarez, Nobel prize in physics; Lloyd Berkner, space scientist; Sam Goudsmit, nuclear physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and Thornton Page, astronomer. It suggested launching a "public relations campaign", using psychologists, astronomers and assorted celebrities to significantly reduce public interest in UFOs. It was also recommended that the mass media be used for the "debunking", including influential media giants like Walt Disney Corporation. Obviously the panel was simply to lend respectability to the proposals; these top scientists complied with what CIA had asked of them for:
"H.P. Robertson told us in the first private (no outsiders) session that our job was to reduce public concern, and show that UFO reports could be explained by conventional reasoning." -- Dr. Thornton Page describing what the Robertson Panel was tasked with src
Perhaps the most unambiguous evidence for the Robertson Panel's covert impact on news media reporting about UFOs is a personal letter by Dr. Thornton Page, discovered in the Smithsonian archives by biochemist Dr. Michael D. Swords. The 1966 letter, addressed to former Robertson Panel Secretary Frederick C. Durant, confides that Page "helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel conclusions." Page was no doubt referring to the CBS Reports TV broadcast of the same year, "UFOs: Friend, Foe, or Fantasy?" narrated by Walter Cronkite. (Incidentally, this program was criticized for inaccurate and misleading presentations. This sorry tale is recounted in Terry Hansen's "The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up." CBS' story, writes Hansen, left "the unmistakable implication ... that those who report UFOs are either unreliable or mentally unbalanced.") Page's letter indicates that the Robertson Panel was still putting a negative spin on UFO news at least 13 years after the panel met.
Project Blue Book chief Capt. Edward J. Ruppelt made a most intriguing statement in 1953 when he revealed that a gun camera's UFO photo taken while a jet pursued a UFO over Ellsworth Air Force Base showed the "best unknown." Also in 1953, in conjunction with the Robertson Panel (CIA) report on UFOs, Air Force Regulation 200-2 was put into effect, detailing how Air Force personnel should report UFOs and, especially important, that USAF personnel would be severely restricted in revealing UFO information to the public.
Perhaps the official deception program was justified at the time, in order to preserve social order (if one subscribes to the "you can't handle the truth" dogma). Consider the findings of the Brookings institute Report:
"Washington. Dec 14 (UPI) -- Discovery of life on other worlds could cause the earth's civilization to collapse, a Federal report said today. This warning was contained in a research report given to NASA with the recommendation that the world prepare itself mentally for the eventuality." -- NY Times 15-Dec-1960 Brookings Report 1960 @ nicap
Another factor discouraging scientific UFO research is that there is no funding for public (academic) UFO-research (for many professional scientists "science is not the pursue of truth, but rather the pursue of funding").
And last but not least, inertia and herd behaviour
"Staying with the herd to many people also has an advantage that they would not run the risk of exposing their ignorance. If one departs from the herd, then one will be asked, one will be charged to explain why one has departed from the herd. One has to be able to offer the detailed justifications, and one's understanding of the subject will be criticized." -- New Ideas in Science by Thomas Gold, PhD (astronomy).
Below: American UFO investigator Kevin Randle talks about UFO debunkers:
Summary and Disclaimer: I have read carefully enough the "skeptical" opinions about UFOs, to be angry with the mis-representations, fact-twisting, half-truths and even outright lies told with a straight face, in the name of "rationality" and "science", when in fact they are unscientific and anti-scientific.
I discovered that "UFO skeptics" often offer and publicize explanations that contradict the available evidence or descriptions of what happened. When I discovered that "UFO skeptics" accept explanations that are found through analysis to be invalid, I became skeptical of the "UFO skeptics". A certain ilk of skeptics (the "debunkers") will attack whenever they feel their paradigms and the status quo are questioned.
Debunkers' efforts to reinvent witness testimony, to reinforce their own unexamined adherence to orthodox doctrine, have undermined understanding of a wide range of extraordinary human experiences.
In several countries, after decades of anti-UFO propaganda, the "giggle factor" has become generational.
Of concern is the obvious credibility gap of Science -as an institution- in the minds of people who have witnessed a UFO, assuming they chose to believe their lying eyes, instead of proclamations of so-called "experts".
This destroys trust. Polls in the US and Canada show an overwhelming majority of people think their government is covering up information about UFOs. When the public loses trust in government experts, there is a ripple effect outwards of diminished trust in all expert scientific opinion.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it" -- Upton Sinclair
Professor Marcello Truzzi, sociologist from Eastern Michigan University, was editor of the CSICOP journal when it was called The Zetetic. He had a difference of opinion with the Executive Council about whether dissenting views should be published. He says CSICOP isn't sceptical at all in the true meaning of the word but is "an advocacy group upholding orthodox establishment views". Their alleged scepticism has become just another dogmatic blind faith.
Debunkers spread misinformation
"Over the years, I've read my share of debunking and extremely skeptical books about UFOs. In the early years, when I was trying to make sense of the field, I considered very seriously the "facts" and arguments of these irrational critics. They did succeed in leading me astray for a while, but perseverance in reading the literature luckily saved the day, and I eventually understood what I was reading to be the highly prejudiced material that it is." -- Keith Rowell, Oregon MUFON Assistant State Director
A Guide to Debunking and Extreme Skepticism
The "crusader" anti-UFO zealots are engaged in a debate, not in seeking the truth. In debate, you don't give the other side information favorable to its argument. You let them find it on their own.
I have also found that there is more than enough critical assessment of various UFO incidents by the researcher themselves. They are certainly more critical of their own field than the so-called skeptics are of theirs.
"We must consider real a fact of which we possess eight thousand certain sightings. I cannot say if they are or are not interplanetary vehicles, but nobody can doubt any more their existence". -- Prof. Hermann Oberth (German rocket scientist, the teacher of space scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun one of the fathers of modern rocketry) in a radio interview during the First Astronautical Week in Barcelona, Spain, May 3-9, 1965
In most cases, people who deny the reality of UFOs (i.e. not just refute some specific case) have either
never bothered to check the UFO evidence (When asked to provide evidence for UFOs, the astronomer Dr. J Allen Hynek, who had been the scientific consultant to USAF's UFO Study Project BlueBook for 20 years, would respond sarcastically "Where do you want the truck to stop?" But as they say, "You can lead a horse to water...")
have succumbed to the classic dilemma: "your soul or your job" or
are in denial.
Apparently, when people are confronted with a phenomenon that challenges their basic assumptions about reality, they will react to the cognitive dissonance by abandoning their critical faculties for any "explanation", no matter how implausible and contrived. Many of the "prosaic explanations" seem to be Prozac induced.
"The fundamental mistake people make when thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence, is to assume that they are just like us, except a few hundred years more advanced. I say, open your mind, open your conciousness to the possibility that they are a million years ahead of us". [...]
"You simply cannot dismiss the possibility that some of these UFO sightings, are sightings of some object created by an advanced civilization; a civilization far out in space, a civilization perhaps millions of years ahead of us in technology. You simply cannot discount that possibility"
-- Dr. Michio Kaku, Theoretical Physicist, NYU Professor (one of String Field Theory originators) in ABC Peter Jennings 2005 Special "UFO Seeing is believing" (01hr18-01hr22). Also read his The Physics of Interstellar Travel
"A skeptic is one who adheres to the conviction that true knowledge may be uncertain, who suspends judgement, and who is willing to examine new evidence." -- Astrophysicist Bernard Haisch, PhD
"Most 'UFO skeptics' are not skeptical enough - they tend to accept the given wisdom without questioning it." -- Physicist Hal Puthoff, PhD
Jerome Clark coined the neologism "pelicanist" (initially jokingly awarded to British writer James Easton, who insisted that Kenneth Arnold's 1947 UFO sighting was ... pelicans) to define "the practice of ascribing any explanation, however scientifically unsustainable, illogical, or fantastic, to a UFO event or experience, in a desperate effort to deny that anything seriously anomalous may be going on".
I coined the neologism "pelicanist" in the awareness that "skeptic" and "debunker" finally don't mean all that much. Every thoughtful ufologist, including one inclined to suspicion or conviction that puzzling sighting reports may be attributable to an unknown, presumably nonearthly intelligence (ET or otherwise), is skeptical of many things claimed about UFOs; if active in research and investigation, he or she has surely done a fair amount of debunking him- or herself. There is, after all, much to be skeptical about, and much that is eminently debunkable.
Pelicanists are advancing extraordinary claims masquerading as prosaic explanations. And so "pelicans" became an instant classic, right up there with "swamp gas" and "crash dummies" for silly debunking "explanations" (there are many more, e.g. "female flying dolphins").
Be skeptical of the skeptics
"Cut through the ridicule and search for factual information in most of the skeptical commentary and one is usually left with nothing. This is not surprising. After all, how can one rationally object to a call for scientific examination of (UFO) evidence?" -- astrophysicist Bernard Haisch, Ph.D., www.ufoskeptic.org
Who are you gonna believe, us, or your lying eyes?
"Skeptics, who flatly deny the existence of any unexplained phenomenon in the name of 'rationalism,' are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public. People are not stupid and they know very well when they have seen something out of the ordinary. When a so-called expert tells them the object must have been the moon or a mirage, he is really teaching the public that science is impotent or unwilling to pursue the study of the unknown." (Vallee, J., Confrontations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.) -- Jacques Vallee, Ph.D astrophysicist, computer scientist, prominent UFO researcher
Anyway, there are a handful of dedicated skeptical researchers who are knowledgeable and occasionally provide a contribution to the field. In the U.S., skeptics have their own publishing house called Prometheus Press (as a Greek, I find their use of Prometheus' name in such context ironic) that publishes anti-UFO books, controlled by the same people who put out the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine.
Broadly defined "UFO skeptics" fall into three camps:
"Misperception/Hoax/Hallucination (MHH) hypothesis", i.e. all reports of UFOs are actually misidendifications of known or unknown natural phenomena or witnesses are lying, in those cases where observation conditions rule out misidentification. Afterall, if we got visited by aliens, they would have held a press conference and ask to speak to THEM, wouldn't they?
roswellfiles.com an extensive skeptical site about the Roswell 1947 incident. Basically endorses the findings of Roswell investigator Robert Todd (I thought there might be something to Todd's work, until I read his mindless drivel in e.g. Dec-96 Report), who thought that "the whole Roswell Saga was built on the misidentification of NYU Flight #4's radar reflectors (Mogul Project), aging memories, over-active imaginations, and the "storytellers" (meaning researchers such as Friedman etc) eagerness to tell a sensational tale".
UFOs: A Skeptical View by Tim Printy. Up-to-date, probably the premier UFO-skeptibunker site today. Lots of content and links to 3rd party skeptical sites. But quite a bit of fact-twisting and procrustean logic IMHO. At least he goes into case-specifics, like the skeptical look at Big Sur incident of reported interception by a disk-shaped UFO of a dummy ICBM warhead fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base in 1964 - Kingston George presented compelling skeptical arguments, which are challenged in paper on Big Sur by Robert Hastings.
CSICOP - Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a hardline debunking group. Their UFO critique was headed by Phil Klass, who had a habit of unnecessarily insulting or ridiculing witnesses. My impression was their "investigators" operate on the close-minded premise "it can't be, therefore it isn't", not to mention that they typically have no knowledge of the subject. Their self-appointed role of defending "science" against "dangerous" and "anti-scientific" views is IMHO unscientific and anti-scientific. But, judge for yourself...
Astronomer Dr. Phil Plait who runs the popular "Bad Astronomy" site, keeps spreading false information about UFOs in his blog/forum/youtube and is rightfully challenged in very bad Astronomy indeed ...
"But then he gives his most damning evidence. The people who
spend most of their time watching the sky (a lot more than the
average person) are amateur astronomers. And, since no amateur
astronomer has told Plait about their UFO sightings, no amateur
astronomers have ever seen UFOs, and therefore only people
unfamiliar with the sky see UFOs. And since witnesses are
unfamiliar with the sky, their UFO sightings are all
Nice argument, except that it's completely wrong. Even in the
small sample of UFOs reported in Canada last year, there were
two separate reports by amateur astronomers. Furthermore, Plait
has obviously never read the Gert Herb Report, published a few
decades ago, which gave the results of a survey of amateur
astronomers, noting that a significant percentage of them do, in
fact, see and report UFOs. Amateurs not good enough for you?
Peter Sturrock polled professional astronomers and found many of
them have seen UFOs, too." -- Chris Rutkowski
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) people: radio-astronomers Dr. Seth Shostak, Dr. Jill Tarter (who naively described in Peter Jenning's show that she mistook the Moon for a UFO!). IMHO, we really don't know what physics an advanced civilization might use... quantum entanglement or who knows what...
(e.g. ESA takes steps toward quantum communications A team of European scientists has proved within an ESA study that the weird quantum effect called 'entanglement' remains intact over a distance of 144 kilometres)
Anyway, even if radio SETI is not looking at the right place, still radio telescopes are a window to the universe.
Carl Sagan (the well-known astronomer and science popularizer)
Richard Feynman, PhD physicist
"Psycho-Social Hypothesis (PSH)" (a/k/a PsychoCultural Hypothesis PCH): According to the PSH, "belief in UFOs as a real phenomenon developed out of a pre-existent fascination with the concept of space-flight and aliens; a mythology emerging on the heels of the dawn of human space flight, amid a cultural background awash in science-fiction stories of space aliens and flying spacecraft".
PSH theorists can be quite enjoyable, typically social scientists engaging in extensive excercises in literal criticism, trying to put UFOs with mermaids, monsters and fairies. But read Jerome Clark's take on Psychosocialbabble and more on PSH, before taking PSH too seriously:
"I was fascinated by your account of the 1952 UFO flap around DC. I'm 68 now, but at age 13, I was there, living with my family - temporarily - in the sedate, colonial Alexandria home of my mother's sister and her husband. (My father was an Army officer. En route to Bogota, Colombia, Dad was going through Pentagon briefing.) What I recall as most striking about this flap was the ubiquitous excitement on local television, newspapers, and so forth. You didn't mention this in your piece, but individual sightings seemed to be all but continuous. Cars were piled up along the shoulders of the Mt. Vernon Parkway. Crowds gazing out across the Potomac toward DC and National Airport came and went. I remember my grown cousin - Jim (a broker in the family real estate business) - arriving at the house one day all but breathless with excitement over a sighting. As a sociologist I've long been fascinated by how civil authorities are able to virtually erase the direct experience (in this case) of literally hundreds of witnesses. Years would pass before my own inquiries would lead me to understand that UFOs represent a vital dimension of the human picture - hidden though it is behind smoke, mirrors, disinformation and sheer ignorance." -- source
Have you ever read a newspaper article or seen a television segment in which people from different walks of life describe their alien encounters, only to be followed by experts who claim such encounters are impossible?
Ever wondered who these experts are?
The Skeptical Investigations website offers an online directory: A Who is Who of Media Skeptics
"Who are you gonna believe, us, or your lying eyes?"
There is a real difference between being a "skeptic" (in which you approach UFOs with an objective "open-mind" and regard ALL beliefs about UFOs skeptically, including your own) and a "debunker" (in which you approach UFOs with a completely closed mind that examines every case with a prearranged agenda designed to "prove" that every UFO case is explainable, and you simply ignore or twist the actual evidence to prove your point).
I find particularly amusing the lunatic fringe among them (skepticultists, skeptopaths) whose claims are, evidently, on a par with geocentricism and the flat Earth ideas. They are easy to spot in that they use terms like "believer" or "true believer". Yet some of these people are quoted in the Media which want to appear "balanced". More about the tactics of "debunkers" in Zen . . . And the Art of Debunkery. Below are a few examples which combine ignorance with strong bias:
The Skeptic's Dictionary on UFOs/ETs by Robert Todd Carroll, PhD (in Philosophy whose doctoral dissertation was titled "The Common-sense Philosophy of Religion of Bishop Edward Stillingfleet, 1635-1699")
Michael Shermer, PhD (in History of Science) was once a born-again Christian and, during his days as a long-distance bicyclist, a patron of a bevy of quackish diets and therapies. Now he sees himself as a knight of reason squaring off against the tireless forces of superstition and unsupported belief. He is the publisher of SKEPTIC Magazine and Media pundit.
Obviously he knows that skepticism is his meal ticket, so he clings to it for the money and notoriety it somehow continues to bring him.
Witty and amusing e.g. in his video, but he evidently knows nothing about UFOs.
The Klass Files by Phil Klass, really funny stuff. Read Klass vs UFOs. IMHO, Klass not only offered weak arguments, but also didn't have much class, as he systematically practiced character assassination (see new Klass letter found), launched smear campaigns and twisted and bended facts to suit his purpose. Jerome Clark states "he was an obsessed crank who contributed little to the UFO debate except noise, strange rhetoric, pseudoscientific speculation, and character assassination." Even the FBI disliked Klass. Assuming he was not a paid disinformation agent, he was either 1/ an old man looking for the attention in controversy or 2/ thinking he was performing what he perceived to be his "patriotic duty" by trying to "debunk" something, which according to officially sanctioned "reality" isn't supposed to exist.
James McGaha offering his absurd "explanations" for incidents like Rendlesham forest and his statement "clearly UFOlogy is a mythology, that's based on supersticion, wrapped inside a fairy-tale, telling a story that simply isn't true" in Jenning's ABC UFO Special
"Penn and Teller: Bullshit! Alien Abductions" (unavailable, removed?) video (30min, 120MB AVI), in many ways quite funny (I've watched it over 10 times). Totally biased with zero informational value, but funny nonetheless. They went to the 4th annual Bay Area UFO Convention, taking "interviews" of poor nutcases and the fringe element in Ufology. This video is so blatantly misleading, that it might well be part of a paid disinformation campaign; it tries to ridicule and discredit the whole UFO and alien abduction phenomena in the minds of the general audience who doesn't know better. But at least the two comedians don't pretend to be knowledgeable on the subject of UFOs or alien abductions, or un-biased or "scientific".
Contrary to some, I don't believe that most "debunkers" are paid disinformation agents (although some evidently are). IMHO they're mostly "useful idiots". "Debunking" in this translation means the purposeful exhortation of fallacious textures, ideals and beliefs to subvert the general populous.
To finish on a lighter note, here is a funny "home video" featuring a fellow who presents his case about Are we alone?. Probably many people have such a wise guy in their office, lecturing about things he knows nothing about:
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