Debunking the debunkers


by wolram
Tags: debunkers, debunking
wolram
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Dec4-08, 05:48 PM
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If there is a thread on this i could not find it, the idea would be to debunk ideas put forward by debunkers as to what a ufo sighting was due to, hot air balloons, stealth aircraft etc.
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Ivan Seeking
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Dec5-08, 12:46 AM
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That is much of what happens in so called ufology: Can the alleged event be explained in conventional terms? Debunkers posit their explanations, and if appropriate, ufologists counter with scientific arguments that appear to contradict those explanations. Sometimes it is a simple matter of the explanation failing to answer the reported facts, and no science is required; only a simple reading of the report.

Probably the single biggest factor that motivated my own interest in the subject was that some of the explanations offered for the most striking reports were obviously nonsense. Maybe the event never happened, or maybe the witnesses are exaggerating, delusional, or even lying, but in no way did some of these explanation account for the reported facts.

I can still remember my first exposure in I think Sky and Telescope magazine, that really got my attention. It was the JAL 1628 event. This goes back, but IIRC, it was Phil Klass who suggested that what was reported by a commercial pilot - a craft the size of an aircraft carrier - was in fact, Venus, which was unusually bright that night. I knew almost nothing about the subject, but anyone could see that this explanation for the report made no sense.
http://www.ufoevidence.org/topics/JALalaska.htm

Dr. Peter A. Sturrock, Professor of Space Science and Astrophysics, from Stanford, has addressed the summary report of the Condon committee, which is argued to ignore the findings of its own investigation and investigators. This is all linked in the Napster. You be the judge.

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a Professor of Astronomy from Northwestern, who was the first official government debunker - the chief scientist for project Bluebook - and the originator of the swamp gas explanation for some UFO reports, later debunked himself and became the father of modern ufology.

Dr. Bruce Maccabee, who works as an optical physicist for the Navy Dept [who has posted here a few times], is known for his role as a debunker, and as a debunker debunker.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec5-08, 01:21 AM
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The curse of the late Phil Klass

The UFO curse
Klass left this statement, originally published in Saucer Smear, October 10, 1983 (Moesley & Pflock 2002:323-24).

THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF PHILIP J. KLASS
To ufologists who publicly criticize me, ... or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath:
THE UFO CURSE:
No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs than you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.
If you ask me, his mind was made up. And of course the curse is untrue. Many UFO reports are explained. And, since then, a great deal of previously classified information about UFOs has been released by not only the US government, but also by a half-dozen other governments around the world - France, England, Belgium, Australia, Brazil [I think], and perhaps a few others. Soviet UFO files are available, but they are often suspect since control was lost when the government collapsed. There is often no way to verify the authenticity of the documents, photos, and films.

Implicity, at least, and perhaps explicity, his position was that there was nothing new to be learned. I don't believe that - the idea is not supported by the government documents released thus far.

Ivan Seeking
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Dec6-08, 03:01 AM
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Debunking the debunkers


The Failure Of UFO Skepticism
http://brumac.8k.com/prosaic1.html
Andre
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Dec6-08, 06:39 AM
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Reading one of the links

http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1322.htm

...investigation stemmed from a report by a Japan Airlines 747, as it flew about 50 miles from Anchorage.

An inexplicable image appeared on air traffic control and military computers, and the three pilots flying the plane claimed they saw a UFO. "The pilot has it on his radar, and then the pilot and the other two guys in the cockpit look out the window, and they see him over here, and they see him over there, and they see him over here, and for 31 mintes," Callahan says.

The FAA said the incident was due to a radar malfunction.
Sensing a hint of a badly hidden cover up. Now I am looking on a daily basis at a synthetic air picture, based on correlations of multiple (several dozens) radars. Hardly an hour goes by without one or more ghost 'tracks' showing up and staying on for a few seconds to several minutes before the system recognises that it makes a mistake while trying to corrolate all tracks. Radar work is much more complicated than: either it's there or it is not.

Pilots of the 747 having it on the radar? Really? Radars on board of airliners are weather radars, designed to find heavy storms, which should be avoided. Would be the first time if it could return hardware. So there are good reasons to take the story with a few grains of salt.
russ_watters
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Dec6-08, 07:09 AM
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A properly worded "UFO" debunking is not a firm conclusion, only a possible conclusion. A theory. Due to the quality of the information available (generally poor and often incorrect), a tentative conclusion may have holes in it. Sometimes, the best can be said is that a "UFO" is more likely to be X than Y.

"Debunking the debunkers" is an irrelvant attemt to shift burden of proof. If no "debunker" ever looks at or comments on a "UFO" sighting, it remains just a UFO, with a heavy burden of proof on anyone attempting to argue that it is more than just a run of the mill UFO. The mere act of having a "debunker" look at and comment on a case does not remove that burden of proof: it increases it.

Note: The word "debunker" here is kept in quotes because in order for there to be something to debunk, an extrordinary claim that feels at face value to be crackpotish must first be made. And to "debunk a debunker", the "debunker" must be making unscientific claims (note that "debunk" is not a word used in normal/day to day science). When we get threads in Astronomy asking 'WTF did I just see to the west at sunset?!', we look for an explanation. We explain that it was Venus. If the poster didn't claim they saw ET, there is nothing to debunk. We had one of these just a few weeks ago:

The poster saw an object to the west after sunset. He said it appeared to be moving, and moving a lot slower than a satellite (apparently, he knew what a satellite looked like). He asked if it could have been the ISS. I suggested the possibility that the motion was an illusion (there are several common types) and suggested that he look again the next day to see if he sees the same thing. I also explained that it could not have been the ISS because the ISS moves across the sky at a similar speed to other satellites.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec6-08, 02:56 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
A properly worded "UFO" debunking is not a firm conclusion, only a possible conclusion. A theory. Due to the quality of the information available (generally poor and often incorrect), a tentative conclusion may have holes in it. Sometimes, the best can be said is that a "UFO" is more likely to be X than Y.

"Debunking the debunkers" is an irrelvant attemt to shift burden of proof.
False. This has nothing to do with the burden of proof. It is a simple matter of responding to alleged explanations for an alleged event that are not consisitent with, or do not explain the reported facts.

If no "debunker" ever looks at or comments on a "UFO" sighting, it remains just a UFO, with a heavy burden of proof on anyone attempting to argue that it is more than just a run of the mill UFO.
It is generally not the goal to explain an event as being ET [whatever that means]. It is a matter of answering to alleged explanations that are not consistent with the reported facts. It is a matter of ruling out false explanations, not offereing positive ones.

The mere act of having a "debunker" look at and comment on a case does not remove that burden of proof: it increases it.

Note: The word "debunker" here is kept in quotes because in order for there to be something to debunk, an extrordinary claim that feels at face value to be crackpotish must first be made.
Witnesses are not responsible for the explanation of observed events; only any possible interpretations of that event. By the same logic, a witness to a bank robbery is not responsible for explaining how the robbery took place or who did it; only to accurately report what was observed.

And to "debunk a debunker", the "debunker" must be making unscientific claims
...or making claims that are not consistent with the reported facts, which is generally the case.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec6-08, 03:14 PM
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Quote Quote by Andre View Post
Reading one of the links

http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc1322.htm



Sensing a hint of a badly hidden cover up. Now I am looking on a daily basis at a synthetic air picture, based on correlations of multiple (several dozens) radars. Hardly an hour goes by without one or more ghost 'tracks' showing up and staying on for a few seconds to several minutes before the system recognises that it makes a mistake while trying to corrolate all tracks. Radar work is much more complicated than: either it's there or it is not.

Pilots of the 747 having it on the radar? Really? Radars on board of airliners are weather radars, designed to find heavy storms, which should be avoided. Would be the first time if it could return hardware. So there are good reasons to take the story with a few grains of salt.
It is a RADAR/visual case. The most interesting cases do not depend on only one source of information. They are confirmed by multiple witnesses in addition to RADAR. IIRC, this event involved RADAR tracks from at least two different RADAR systems - the one on the aircraft, and a ground station. And we all know that RADAR systems can present false tracks. That is where we begin.

But the point was not the validity of any particular explanation. It was that the pilot reported a craft the size of an aircraft carrier, and the explanation offered was that pilot saw Venus. The explanation was not consistent with the reported facts.

You are claiming the weather RADAR cannot detect hardware? Weather RADAR systems are famous for detecting flocks of birds. We once had a weather RADAR anolomy reported here. I contacted a meteorologist, and that was the explanation offered. What was seen was a flock taking flight at sunrise.
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=105051

Please offer evidence for your assertion or make a retraction. The claim is that no weather RADAR has ever detected hardware. We need a definitive paper from a qualified source [not a blog] explaining why this would be true.
Andre
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Dec7-08, 01:43 AM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking View Post
You are claiming the weather RADAR cannot detect hardware? Weather RADAR systems are famous for detecting flocks of birds. We once had a weather RADAR anolomy reported here. I contacted a meteorologist, and that was the explanation offered. What was seen was a flock taking flight at sunrise.
http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=105051

Please offer evidence for your assertion or make a retraction. The claim is that no weather RADAR has ever detected hardware. We need a definitive paper from a qualified source [not a blog] explaining why this would be true.
My "claim" was based on a discussion with transport pilots a few decades ago when they first got to work with airborne weather radar. So after the various explanations I suggested that it could also be a great tool for collision avoidance, detecting other aircraft. The answer was no, it does not detect other aircraft. This is actually not true. It does detect other aircraft but it is not designed to identify it as aircraft. Acquisition (aircraft detection) radars work with different frequency bands, power levels, resolution cells and have built in algoritms to reject noise, static targets, weather, and what not, in order to make the aircraft stand out against the back ground clutter; whereas weather radars are designed to show exactly that, which includes flocks of birds.

The radar in my own little F-16 has several modes, in the air mode it doesn't generally miss any aircraft and it should show nothing else but aircraft (and speeding Porsches on the highways). In the ground mode it still detects aircraft, but also overwhelmingly, ground clutter, which makes it virtually impossible to identify aircraft, but that was not the objective.

http://www.radartutorial.eu/15.weather/wx04.en.html

http://www.davegwinn.com/Radar%20Training.html



See the problem? So if Air Traffic Control asks me for instance, if I see three targets in a triangel somewhere on my weather radar, I can confirm that, several triangels, but what is it? But meanwhile I have confirmed it and so the pilot had seen them on the radar too (affirming-the-consequent fallacy?). It would be quite different if I had this "radar" picture:



(obviously real radar pictures of airborne surveillance radars are classified and should not be on the net, but this gives a good idea.)

It's therefore that I would take the claim of seeing (identifying) things on otherwise designed radars with a pinch of salt. But I realize that "claiming" that weather targets don't see hardware is badly worded. I should have said it differently. They do see hardware but they are not designed to identify it as hardware and make it stand out against the background. In that previous post I thought it would have been over the top explaining all that.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec7-08, 03:25 AM
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Correct. They are not designed to detect hardware, and they are not reliable as an avoidance detection system, or for aircraft tracking, but they can easily detect hard objects. Given the claim of a craft the size of an aircraft carrier, and considering that our own example had a weather radar detecting small groups of birds at a distance [note that we can even see the flock disperse], we might easily expect that the alleged RADAR hit was genuine. But again, I'm not interested in arguing the case for its own sake. And there are other explanations offered for the RADAR hits on the aircraft and ground systems that may or may not account for the reported events.
Phrak
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Dec7-08, 03:51 AM
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Quote Quote by wolram View Post
If there is a thread on this i could not find it, the idea would be to debunk ideas put forward by debunkers as to what a ufo sighting was due to, hot air balloons, stealth aircraft etc.
Debunkers are easily pegged. I suggest advancing something like general relativity couched in unfamiliar language. I'm sure that you could amass great riches in ridicule (it worked for me on another forum--come to think of it, it worked here as well...).
wolram
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Dec7-08, 04:23 AM
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One claim made quite a lot it seems by de bunkers is, it was a secret military aircraft, i wonder if by plotting the sightings claimed thus we could estimate how many secret military
aircraft there are around the world, and get some idea how advanced they are from reported maneuvers made by the craft.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec7-08, 05:12 AM
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We can address some of these claims in retrospect. In other words, we can sometimes say that we know now that there was no such aircraft "back then".

When it comes to officially documented events, "back then" we were usually worried that the UFOs were the Soviets.

We can also recognize with reasonable confidence when an alleged technology would far exceed the limits of modern [earthly] science and engineering.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec7-08, 05:20 AM
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Funny aside: On a complete fluke, my wife and I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind today. While I knew that Hynek consulted on the film [he invented the "close encounter" meter], I never noticed before that he was in the movie. I am virtually certain that we see a close shot of Hynek for about a second, during the final sequence. And now that I think about it, I believe that I read this was true, but I hadn't thought about in ages, so it came as a bit of a surprise.
jreelawg
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Dec7-08, 05:09 PM
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I watched a documentary the other day that explained how the CIA during the cold war promoted the belief that UFOs were aliens to keep soviet attention away from U.S. operations.
Ivan Seeking
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Dec7-08, 10:37 PM
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One thing I should add: I don't mean to imply that all so called ufologists are credible. Most probably aren't. No doubt, there are hoards of true believers and crackpots, and one can spend years wading through nonsense [I try prevent the need for that here]. Also, some of the most serious folks will admit, either publically or privately, that they too are now believers. Often, they have personally witnessed something that created the interest in the first place. But there are people who know that [at least for now] the extreme claims can't be proven, and who try to approach the subject with objectivity; whether they personally believe in ET, or not. There are sympathetic skeptics as well, which is how I would classify my position.

jrweelawg, was that the video with Nick Cook? If not, he does a somewhat crackpottish, but mostly respectable job of reviewing this aspect of the UFO story. [He goes way over the top with the Nazi bit]
http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...49249469&q=UFO
jreelawg
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Dec8-08, 02:09 PM
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Quote Quote by Ivan Seeking View Post
One thing I should add: I don't mean to imply that all so called ufologists are credible. Most probably aren't. No doubt, there are hoards of true believers and crackpots, and one can spend years wading through nonsense [I try prevent the need for that here]. Also, some of the most serious folks will admit, either publically or privately, that they too are now believers. Often, they have personally witnessed something that created the interest in the first place. But there are people who know that [at least for now] the extreme claims can't be proven, and who try to approach the subject with objectivity; whether they personally believe in ET, or not. There are sympathetic skeptics as well, which is how I would classify my position.

jrweelawg, was that the video with Nick Cook? If not, he does a somewhat crackpottish, but mostly respectable job of reviewing this aspect of the UFO story. [He goes way over the top with the Nazi bit]
http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...49249469&q=UFO
Yeah that was Nick Cook.

But what if UFOs are nothing more than black projects? Wouldn't that make UFO investigators spies?
Ivan Seeking
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Dec8-08, 02:32 PM
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Some UFOs are certainly reports of black project technologies. We know that the SR71 was sometimes mistaken for a UFO, as was the B2 and the F117.

Spies? I think that is a bit extreme. In principle, they only have access to the same information that everyone else does. Then again, the UFO folks knew about Area 51 long before anyone would admit to it [it used to be considered a crackpot claim]. But what brought Area 51 into public view was a lawsuit filed by the familes of people who worked there. Allegedly, these workers were poisoned by the chemicals used, and died as a result.

It is also noteworthy that some of the most interested parties were once high-ranking military personnel. For example, it seems unlikely that the head of the CIA was lead down the garden path by secret US technology. And project Bluebook was an Air Force investigation.

Most noteworthy is that we know now that in many cases, there was no such technology "back then". So it is all but impossible to defend the black project explanation for all of the most interesting cases. Also, UFO reports go back for centuries. Contrary to the claims of some debunking crackpots, this didn't all begin in 1947.

As Stan Friedman likes to say: The question is not whether UFOs are alien technology. The question is, are any?


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