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Written by Last modified: Sunday 12-Aug-2012 03:52:48 EEST        

Skeptics, pelicanists and Prozac explanations

Are UFO skeptics the modern day equivalent of Flat Earth proponents?

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

"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

Debunkers and pelicanists adopt a Procrustean approach, cutting down or stretching out evidence to make a forced fit deliberately, to "explain away" UFO reports at all cost. Refer to UFO Debunker's Guidebook, Prosaic Explainations: The Failure Of UFO Skepticism, Denial, Belief and Semantics, and UFOs, The Logical Trickery of the UFO Skeptic, Old UFO skeptics, Suppression, Censorship and Dogmatism in Science, Cognitive Processes and the Suppression of Sound Scientific Ideas, Suppression of dissent in science.

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:

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

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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Written by Last modified: Sunday 12-Aug-2012 03:52:48 EEST

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