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How reliable is an Expert Witness?

  1. Jul 16, 2010 #1
    We often use experts to back up evidence and to lend weight to legal points made in courts. We listen and give weight to the opinions of lawyers, doctors, teachers, scientists and others who we consider to be 'authorities' on a subject.

    So, when a number of these authorititive people make statements about something in which we do not believe (such as UFO's or aliens for example) we still dismiss their testimonies as if they were making it all up or as if they are not really experts in their field.

    In particular, I refer to the hundreds of governmental employees, scientists and other experts who have put their name to the Disclosure Project organised by Dr Steven Greer. Although nothing much seems to have come out from this project in the last few years, over 450 military personnel, some with very high security clearances have testified that aliens are in fact here and UFO technology has been traded and used by the military. Bear in mind that some of these witnesses were in charge of our nuclear arsenal and held positions of great responsibility and in every other way are/were respected members of their organisations.

    It seems that it is not yet acceptable for respectable scientists, such as many of you here on this forum, to subscribe to the belief that aliens are already interacting with our government - even though there is plenty of people who are respectable and accepted as authorities in their professions, who have told us otherwise.

    What 'evidence' is enough? What 'scientific proof' will EVER be available, before the belief is widely accepted by the scientific community? How many papers need to be written for you to accept this as 'fact' ? Which scientist would put his/her reputation on the line to write such a paper?

    Basically, what I am saying is that there is no evidence that can be presented which will provide proof for this. Even if we saw an alien on the evening news, talking and interacting with humans it could still be generated by some whizz-kid in a video effects lab somewhere. Technology is so good that this is not impossible and could easily be generated if the resources were available and motives were present.
     
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  3. Jul 16, 2010 #2

    Evo

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    Obviously there are no experts in UFOs. You ended your post with the fact that
    So I am wondering what your point is.
     
  4. Jul 16, 2010 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    The standards for scientific evidence are much higher than those for legal evidence. And you are right; for anything that cannot be reproduced on demand, it is very difficult to obtain good evidence for that phenomenon, even if it's genuine. Not to say that ET is here, but all such claims [not producible on demand] are almost impossible to verify or even investigate.

    For one the best examples of how ridiculous this gets, consider the sliding rock phenomenon. For about a century, we have known that rocks on a dry lake bed move, but nobody is sure why they move, and no one has ever caught them moving. So even if we know precisely where a phenomenon might be observed, not knowning when to look can be sufficient to make verification very difficult.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=60676
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  5. Jul 16, 2010 #4
    That is an interesting viewpoint and I am wondering how we would feel if we were due for the electric chair.

    The point is that there are all these people who are experts in different fields and we do not believe what they say -just because we do not want to.

    The things that cannot be repeated and verified can only be theories/hypotheses but these unfortunately become accepted as fact after a while. There are probably not many people who would not agree that these rocks in the desert do move, but if no-one has ever been able to document it happening it should be in the realms of aliens and UFOs as unreproducable.

    I appreciate that scientists are first human and second scientists and their beliefs are as strong as any other human's. However, when discussing things that are not generally accepted, it takes a brave person to come out and go against the grain of current thinking.

    There are also motivations which keep information away from a wider audience. These could be that a particular discovery has not yet been published, or that it may be a "hot potato" or it could be some other reason.
     
  6. Jul 16, 2010 #5
    Expert witnesses are not all that reliable because they usually have a hidden or even obvious agenda that is independent of the truth. That's not to say that they all lie, and many (perhaps even most) try to give true statements as best they can. Still, experts are human and hence subject to human error; thus, their word is not Gospel. Also, some are willing to lie to serve another goal, and some may convince themselves that their untrue statements are true because they don't want to lie, but also don't want to give up their ulterior benefits (money, fame, attention, personal hope) from sticking to their perception of truths.

    Here we have 450 people with a story, but no hard evidence at all. Why should we believe that all of these 450 people have personally witnessed proof of their claims, but couldn't capture that proof for our view? That is, why can't one of these 450 people provide such a basic thing as hard evidence like an alien device, a space ship, a living entity or dead body part? Even an expert witness on the stand is required to provide evidence, whether it be examples of published studies, or personally generated experimental results that have been reproduced and accepted by other scientists. If an expert witness can't provide convincing answers under cross examination, the jury will not put much weight in their opinions.

    So, a skeptical person is likely to ask which is more reasonable: believing the alien story based on 450 expert witnesses and no hard evidence other than their words, or that, out of 6 billion people on the planet, one can find 450 people that are either lying, mentally ill, confused, misled or just plain wrong. Until I can analyze an alien's version of a transistor, antigravity field, or light saber etc., in my lab, I'll continue to lean toward the latter.
     
  7. Jul 16, 2010 #6

    Evo

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    They are not experts in UFOs, and if by UFO you actually mean extra-terrestrial, then they *really* aren't experts.
     
  8. Jul 16, 2010 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well, in a sense some military personnel are UFO experts in that they were trained pilots, RADAR operators, or intelligence officials, who were experts within the context of their alleged exposure to UFOs. Their testimony is not only taken from a professional context [and in many cases, properly documented], but they know what to expect in their domain.

    In some situations, UFOs are the highest priorety for the USAF. Consider what happens if an unidentified aircraft buzzes the White House. It is their job to identify unidentified and potential threats, which by defintion are UFOs, until identified.

    I would also argue that there are experts in the subject of UFOs. Hynek is the easiest example of that to cite. For I think about twenty years, he was the lead scientist for the government's Project Bluebook.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  9. Jul 16, 2010 #8

    Evo

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    But their expertise is saying what it's not, therefore, it's unidentified. I have no problem agreeing that there are many objects that have not been identified. I feel the OP is taking the lack of identification to mean something more.
     
  10. Jul 16, 2010 #9
    It really does not matter what my motivation or the point I am trying to make is. The discussion is still a valid one until it is deemed otherwise.

    Many of the experts in the Disclosure Project are saying that they are not unidentified but they have been identified as craft from previously recovered crashes.

    It is very important that scientists remain as objective as possible and it could be argued that this kind of thread brings out the cherished beliefs that are difficult to let go.

    If 450 experts are not good enough, then exactly how many would be needed to support an un-provable theory - such as the moving desert stones mentioned above?

    There are many accepted things which cannot be directly reproducable in a lab, but which are nonetheless, accepted by the scientific community. Of course, these may have other remote measurements or photographic details to support them but still they are unproven as far as some scientists are concerned.

    I guess this is a grey area of science then.
     
  11. Jul 16, 2010 #10
    There is no number that is sufficient (not even all people on the planet) that can give scientific credence to a hypothesis based on their word. Evidence is needed. Real evidence, even if it comes from one person, outweighs unproven statements from a mob, at least in science.

    And, you guess correctly, there is a gray area in science. It is a human invention that is not perfect. However, sooner or later the truth emerges when using the tools of science. Governments would not be able to contain or conceal a "truth" of the magnitude you are talking about. This is another reason to doubt the claims. These 450 people give too much credit to governments to be that good at anything.
     
  12. Jul 16, 2010 #11

    Ivan Seeking

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    I have long joked that if the justice system was run by scientists, no one would ever be convicted of a crime. :biggrin:

    Belief is not the point. Whether a scientist believes in ET or not, the requirement for evidence remains the same.

    Look, I will be the first to say that there is a clear bias against this subject in the academic community. Yes, in my experience, many people have their minds made up without really knowing much about the subject. Yes, there is more than a slight giggle factor here. And I have spent seven years making the point that not all of this is nonsense. At the least, we seem to have quite a mystery on our hands. But scientists are not really the problem. It doesn't matter what they believe personally. The real problem is that the subject of UFOs is not one easily examined by science.

    Unfortunately, it is true at times that even the implications for an ET visitation [not a claim] invokes the demand for "extraordinary evidence", when in fact no one ever mentioned ET until the debunker did. As if to say, "were that true, it would have to be ET, so I don't believe it".

    I call that a "lack of imagination" peppered with circular logic.

    However, even if all "genuine UFOs" could be explained as a fantastically interesting and unrecognized EM phenomenon, it would be no less difficult to study than are ET claims. So, again, the real problem is the transient and random nature of any genuine phenomenon; be it ET, ball lightning, or whatever else we might imagine UFOs to be.

    If ET really were visiting, it could be one of the most profound truths in all of human history. So there is every reason for demanding more than testimony and anecdotes, as acceptable "proof". No matter how good the evidence from some reports may be [including photos and RADAR], it is still only evidence for something strange. It is a long leap from that to saying we have good evidence for ET.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  13. Jul 16, 2010 #12

    Evo

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    You might as well stop bringing the stones up, there is nothing that even remotely connects the two. Again these are not experts in extra-terrestrial objects or beings.
     
  14. Jul 16, 2010 #13
    I was not the one to bring them up in the first place, but they provided a good example. we were pointing out that these stones are a good example of something which cannot be proven because they had not yet been observed or measured moving. That is the connection. Maybe it is you who does not like to connect the two?

    We have already established that these people ARE as good as we will get in the current circumstances to what we can call 'experts'. They may not have degrees in the science, but their day-to-day experience and work over many years makes them experts. I am sorry that you do not consider them as such. What do you do when you need an expert for a subject that does not have a degree or qualification associated with it? You pick the best expert you can.

    Anyway, thank you all for you input.
     
  15. Jul 16, 2010 #14
    Ocpaul20, this forum is not tolerant of a full open discussion of the physics behind the facts you bring up. It's because they don't have a way to separate crackpots like Tom Bearden from genuine progress being made in classified black programs.

    If I were to try to explain the basics of UFO propulsion in this post, it would be locked on the basis of it being a speculative or personal theory.

    At the risk of having my post yanked and getting a forum infraction I will simply state that on the basis of personal experience there are advanced propulsion physics and devices, perfectly consistent with quantum field theory, electromagnetic, and probably based on the standard model, that are presently the subjects of active research in places you will never hear about.
     
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2010
  16. Jul 16, 2010 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    Yes, I brought that up.

    Your statement is debatable, but it is irrelevant to the point. This is not a matter of personal opinions. This is a science forum and we are explaining how science works. In science, no matter the subject, testimony and anecdotes are the lowest form of evidence. They can never be used to prove anything.
     
  17. Jul 16, 2010 #16

    russ_watters

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    For emphasis: Scientific theories aren't accepted because we believe the people telling us about them, they are accepted because of evidence. The people on that list have no evidence, so there really isn't anything even worthy of consideration - much less acceptance - in what they say.
     
  18. Jul 17, 2010 #17

    alt

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    ... over 450 military personnel, some with very high security clearances have testified that aliens are in fact here and UFO technology has been traded and used by the military.

    But really, why would they want to do that ? And wouldn't they be in some serious trouble from their employer as a result ? Really, if you want to speculate cover up, conspiracy, etc, then you can also do so in another, more plausable direction. The above could merely be a diverson from (as posted by Antiphon) ..

    At the risk of having my post yanked and getting a forum infraction I will simply state that on the basis of personal experience there are advanced propulsion physics and devices, perfectly consistent with quantum field theory, electromagnetic, and probably based on the standard model, that are presently the subjects of active research in places you will never hear about.

    I would tend to believe much more in the human potential, be it in the form of ingenuity, discovery, or even greed, than in UFOs.

    Edit spelling
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2010
  19. Jul 17, 2010 #18
    I'm just going to answer the TITLE of the thread: An expert witness is a LEGAL term with a statutory definition, or one established in case-law. Their validity is determined by a court of law, and that is again, a legal bar one has to meet to present testimony in regards to certain matters. If you're thinking about the reliability of EYE Witnesses, then the answer is that study after study shows that we all make piss-poor eye witnesses to life in general, never mind stunning or traumatic events.
     
  20. Jul 19, 2010 #19
    To be fair, it's not like eyewitness testimony is the only piece of 'evidence' in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis (or at least the idea that there is something beyond psychology at work here). For instance, I seem to recall unusual radiation samples and odd tree growth patterns after the Rendlesham Forest incident. It's circumstantial, but I am personally in the 'agnostic' category to all this. I think we need to investigate further, and not rule out the notion of extraterrestrial visitation. It's a mystery to me why it has undergone such ridicule -- it's a perfectly valid hypothesis. It's just insanely difficult to test, rather like string theory.
     
  21. Jul 19, 2010 #20
    I was part of a "pre-jury" a few months ago and was asked if I would accept the testimony of an "expert witness" I said not necessarily.
    I was not chosen, but I stand by my statement to them.
     
  22. Jul 19, 2010 #21
    With a few key differences such as: String theory is is a theory, not a claim to reality, it has a mathematical basis, and no one is claiming to directly observe strings. The "hidden aliens" hypothesis, i.e. that aliens are here, but for reasons beyond our ken prefer to stay hidden from most people, is a very different animal.
     
  23. Aug 16, 2010 #22
    Given their dismal track record, I'm not a fan of "expert witnesses" in the least.
     
  24. Aug 16, 2010 #23
    Yeah, I'm OK with some "expert witnesses" but what ticked me off in court is when the judge asked us if we were willing to, after cross examination, accept the expert witness testimony as "true and valid"
    I said "not necessarily" and got kicked off the final jury.
    I stand behind my response to the judge.
     
  25. Aug 16, 2010 #24

    mgb_phys

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    Possibly the best you could do is agree that the particular witness was giving an honest and impartial opinion - which since the expert witnesses are hired by one side in the trial is almost by definition untrue.
     
  26. Aug 16, 2010 #25
    Yes, I think your right. I stand by my "not necessarily" comment to the judge for the reasons you stated. Thanks.
     
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