UFOs, UFOology, and Science

  • #1
russ_watters
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Rather than completely hijack another thread, I'll post a new one. I have a bunch of points to make here (is UFOology scientific, what is its goal, how does it operate, how should (should) UFO investigation be done, the "I Want to Believe" crowd, etc.), but I'll go slow.

First, a lot of information has been collected over the years about UFOs, some scientific, some not so scientific. I'd like to start of by discussing what a scientific discussion of UFOs should look like (IMO, of course), how any conclusions should be phrased, and what recommendations should be made.

In this forum, we generally look at individual events (sightings). These events are chosen specifically because the defy easy/natural/mundane explanation. That's fine, but we can't lose sight of the fact that there are a large number of events that are easily explained. Project Blue Book examined 14,613 events over a 17 year period and found 701 that were unable to be explained by mundane causes. That's 5%. Generally, "reasonable doubt" in a courtroom is expressed as a 90% or 95% certainty and science has a similar standard of proof. Thus, when a new sighting occurs, it can be predicted with 95% certainty that there is a mundane explanation. But with that large of a sample, its not surprising that there are some anomolies, even if all are of non-ET origin.

Now granted, I did say that in this forum, that the events posted are chosen because they are not easily explained. Because of that, it would seem that a scientifically minded person should not dismiss them out of hand but be "open minded." What posture then should be taken about these? What possibilities should a scientifically minded person be open to? Again, we need to look at the statistics:

Of those 5% that defied mundane explanation, how many have been found to have a non-mundane explanation (and lets not mince words - we're talking about ETUFOs. Flying saucers. Alien spacecraft.), beyond a reasonable doubt? None.

This is the reason, IMO, that serious, scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon is not warranted. If an event occurs that is compelling - and by compelling, I mean beyond a reasonable doubt is ET - it will, on its own merrit, demand consideration. No chasing of blobs of light required.

I have seen statistics argued the other way - that 700 unexplained sightings adds up to evidence of aliens. Not so. Only positively explained sightings constitute evidence of anything. Unexplained sightings do not constitute evidence of another explanation. And this is where, IMO, science and those who pursue UFOs diverge. It seems people believe that a lack of an explanation at the very least implies that more research should be done. It does not. Since not all UFO sigtings can be explained, the fact that not all have been explained shouldn't come as a surprise and does not constitute a justification for further investigation.
 

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  • #2
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Great post. I hope you don't mind me dwelling on one of your points. You are absolutely right, these sightings have to not only be unexplainable by mundane terms, but they have to provide evidence for whatever non-mundane explanation is being presented - such as aliens.

I get constantly called "close minded" because I see no evidence for alien UFO's. However, the people I find really close minded are the alien-UFO enthusiasts. I mean, it's a blob of light. It could be anything. Aliens, angels, ghosts, a new form of life, a new type of already known life... the list is endless. As long as we have ruled out mundane explanations, who is to say which non-mundane one it is? Why be so close minded as to have already picked one, without having any evidence for it over the others?

This is the trap that non-scientific thinking leads to; a "belief" in everything. Funny enough, in this case I find it works against most UFOlogists. Scientific or unscientific, they can't win.
 
  • #4
russ_watters
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Russell E. Rierson said:
Can you invite Nuclear physicist "Stanton Friedman" - here - to debate the issue?


http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/sfhome.html
Sure - feel free to speak for him. What would he (probably) have to say about this issue?
 
  • #5
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Locrian said:
Great post. I hope you don't mind me dwelling on one of your points. You are absolutely right, these sightings have to not only be unexplainable by mundane terms, but they have to provide evidence for whatever non-mundane explanation is being presented - such as aliens.

I get constantly called "close minded" because I see no evidence for alien UFO's. However, the people I find really close minded are the alien-UFO enthusiasts. I mean, it's a blob of light. It could be anything. Aliens, angels, ghosts, a new form of life, a new type of already known life... the list is endless. As long as we have ruled out mundane explanations, who is to say which non-mundane one it is? Why be so close minded as to have already picked one, without having any evidence for it over the others?
While I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that the sightings need to be completely unexplainable in mundane terms, only that the unexplained fits the observations better than any mundane explanation.

Recently I saw a UFO show, in which one of the presented videos showed a film shot in Salt Lake city, with the object in question apparently over the Rockies in the distance. It was the typical slightly blurry lighted object seen in most UFO videos. Assuming the object over the Rockies would have meant the object was making movements impossible for any known or physically hypothesized entity. Something about it's motion tickled a memory. It took about five seconds to realise the stupid thing was a kite. It only appeared to be over the Rockies, but was much closer. Just think of all the people that it took to take, review, and put the video on a television show and nobody had considered it could be something as mundane as a kite with a metallic foil skin.

While there may be skeptical UFO researchers out there, I've seen precious little evidence for them.
 
  • #6
Ivan Seeking
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Great post Russ. I will get back when I have more time. Also, I have asked Mr Friedman to comment in the forum before so I don't know if he will join us or not, but I will ask again. I should add that he has been very responsive and helpful otherwise. Finally, there are some good papers posted on this in the UFO Napster. I will dig those up as well.

IMO, the flakey stuff only takes away from a genuine mystery. It is really a shame that this subject has been discredited due to its association with a cult following.
 
  • #7
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
IMO, the flakey stuff only takes away from a genuine mystery.
On that, we can certainly agree. I look forward to your response.
 
  • #8
russ_watters
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radagast said:
While I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that the sightings need to be completely unexplainable in mundane terms, only that the unexplained fits the observations better than any mundane explanation.
That doesn't make a whole lot of sense (maybe I'm reading it wrong). Are you saying that if 'its an alien spacecraft' fits better than any mundane explanation anyone has thought of, we should conclude its an alien spacecraft?
 
  • #9
russ_watters said:
Sure - feel free to speak for him. What would he (probably) have to say about this issue?
I am not speaking for Mr. Friedman but here are a couple of brief quotes about SETI scientists by him:


http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/sfufovsseti.html [Broken]



Major news media and many members of the scientific community have taken strongly to the radio-telescope-based SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program as espoused by its charismatic leaders, but not supported by any evidence whatsoever. In turn, perhaps understandably, they feel it necessary to attack the ideas of alien visitors (UFOs) as though they were based on tabloid nonsense instead of on far more evidence than has been provided for SETI.

[...]

SETI SPECIALISTS (SS):


The basic rules for the lack of attention to the relevant data by well educated, but ignorant-about-UFOs-professionals, especially SS, seem to be:

1. Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.

2. What the public doesn't know, I won't tell them.

3. If one can't attack the data, attack the people; it is much easier.

4. Do one's research by proclamation. Investigation is too much trouble and nobody will know the difference anyway.

How else can one explain such totally baseless, but seemingly profound, proclamations as "The reliable cases are uninteresting and the interesting cases are unreliable. Unfortunately there are no cases that are both reliable and interesting." (See Sagan12).

The fact is that 35% of the EXCELLENT cases in BBSR14 were UNKNOWNS and therefore Interesting. Only 18% of the POOR cases were Unknowns. Surely professional scientists are supposed to base their conclusions on study of the relevant data, rather than proclamations?



[...]

 
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  • #10
Ivan Seeking
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Crud, I don’t have time for this right now… :yuck:

russ_watters said:
This is the reason, IMO, that serious, scientific investigation of the UFO phenomenon is not warranted. If an event occurs that is compelling - and by compelling, I mean beyond a reasonable doubt is ET - it will, on its own merrit, demand consideration. No chasing of blobs of light required.

I have seen statistics argued the other way - that 700 unexplained sightings adds up to evidence of aliens. Not so. Only positively explained sightings constitute evidence of anything. Unexplained sightings do not constitute evidence of another explanation. And this is where, IMO, science and those who pursue UFOs diverge. It seems people believe that a lack of an explanation at the very least implies that more research should be done. It does not. Since not all UFO sigtings can be explained, the fact that not all have been explained shouldn't come as a surprise and does not constitute a justification for further investigation.
“.No chasing of blobs of light required”. Let’s look at this the other way around. When is scientific investigation justified? First, if we knew that ET was really here, then to say that investigation is “justified” would be a understatement of the greatest magnitude – to the be point of being great humor. This “proof” would demand an overnight revolution in science, philosophy, and religion, and it would spawn generations of scientific papers as the base for the new paradigm of cosmic pluralism. So, I don’t think we need proof of ET in order to investigate UFOs.

Given that we don’t need proof of a phenomenon in order to investigate its potential existence, when is scientific investigation justified? Well, the first answer is when someone is willing to pay for it. This gets into practical choices which may or may not have anything to do with the justification in a purely academic sense. We have seen philanthropists such as the Rockefellers who have funded UFO research, however should a graduate student go off chasing UFOs instead of getting a real job? Of course not. Should we sacrifice money spent for cancer research so that we can install a massive UFO detection network? Again, the answer is self evident; of course not. Does enough anecdotal evidence, videos, RADAR data, and sworn human testimony exist to justify further interest?

Before we get into that point I want to take exception to one statement that you made:
and lets not mince words - we're talking about ETUFOs. Flying saucers. Alien spacecraft
Due to human testimony and other evidence this is one expectation, but there are many other possible explanations that still merit consideration. To demand that any “real” UFO is ET is to ignore the more likely explanation – unrecognized natural phenomenon. It is no more logical for a skeptic to demand that ET is behind every blob of light than it is for the true believer to do so.

Whether this is a question for meteorology, plasma physics, quantum physics, thermodynamics, EM, or astrophysicists, if a genuine but unexplained phenomenon does exist that is often observed, that effects electronic equipment, that sometimes appear on RADAR, that follow aircraft, and that can even cause burns and hallucinations at close range, then any reasonable interpretation of “justified” is clearly in the affirmative; at the least in a purely academic sense. None of the events described qualify as mundane, nor do they demand that ET is here. So the question is not really one of if, but rather how should science proceed in the case of UFOs.

Then we come to the issue of expectations. I believe this lies at the core of our discussion here. Do we have sufficient expectations that a genuine mystery exists that is worthy of serious investigation? In most cases I would say no. I think a mystery is often found in UFO reports, and we can log the reports and file the data, and in really interesting and lucky cases some analysis can be done, but as long as we are talking about transient, non-reproducible events, beyond what some people are already doing what’s to investigate? We can’t build an accelerator to test the story. We can’t send a probe into space to chase the UFOS away. We can’t disable ET’s cloaking device. All that we can really do is to log the data. This is already being done. The serious investigation that is done is through time and equipment donated, or though private funding by interested parties.

So the real question becomes this: Should the subject be taken seriously by scientists? [Actually, it already is taken seriously my many scientists]. Put another way, can all UFO reports be explained away as mundane? We certainly can’t prove that this assertion is true. Russ, you argue that we can infer that this is true. Is this a reasonable inference? IMO this is only reasonable if we consider the question in a vacuum. We are not talking about data points on a graph or contaminated samples, we are talking about direct observations. No legal interpretation excludes direct observations due to statistics. Your example is completely inappropriate as applied to UFOs. In fact, as the [real] judge commented after considering the case for UFOs in a somewhat famous mock trial, “If this were a murder trial instead UFO’s, there would have been a hanging long ago”.

Nowhere does science exclude direct observations as a useful tool for gathering information. In fact, much of science depends on observations; including many measurements. Does my observation of my voltmeter still count if the reading makes no sense? Should I assume that the circuit has a problem, or should I assume that my observation is flawed?
 
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  • #11
russ_watters
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Russell E. Rierson said:
I am not speaking for Mr. Friedman but here are a couple of brief quotes about SETI scientists by him:
Fair enough. I read quite a bit of his site and I can see why he'd hope SETI scientists to be on his side - presumably they think there is a reasonable chance aliens exist and a reasonable chance we'll find them. But I share their assessment that its a big jump from that to saying they can get here.

Though he wants to link himself to SETI because though fringe, they are not considered crackpots. But there is a key difference between his reasoning and theirs: they are looking for something they know they may never find (but hope they will) - and he's claiming he's already found it and has the evidence to prove it. He also claims that there is a real mountain of evidence and that people need to put in a serious effort to come to the conclusion he has - therefore serious effort needs to be put into it by mainstream science. But he's got it exactly backwards: if the evidence were that compelling, it would be so simple and straightforward that a child could understand it and no effort would be required - a flying saucer landing on the White-House, lawn for example. That he claims you need to look hard to see it tells me that the evidence is not as compelling as he says.

Also, in his 4 points there, I see a mirror pointed in his direction.
Ivan Seeking said:
“.No chasing of blobs of light required”. Let’s look at this the other way around. When is scientific investigation justified? First, if we knew that ET was really here, then to say that investigation is “justified” would be a understatement of the greatest magnitude – to the be point of being great humor. This “proof” would demand an overnight revolution in science, philosophy, and religion, and it would spawn generations of scientific papers as the base for the new paradigm of cosmic pluralism. So, I don’t think we need proof of ET in order to investigate UFOs.
Ivan, I agree with pretty much everything there exept the conclusion - with the caveat that if aliens were proven, the investigation of the "are there aliens here?" question would end and different investigation would take over. Yes, there are people into that, but I think they are jumpng the gun. Anyway, that "if" leads me to a different conclusion than it leads you to. Here's why:

Scientific investigation itself is predicated on two beliefs" or postulates (according to Hawking):
1. The universe obeys laws and...
2. If we're smart enough, we'll discover them.

Seti is fringe precisely becaue many scientists don't think it fits #2: they don't think, for a number of reasons, that SETI will find ET. I think its a tantalizing possibility and I run SETI@home on my computer, but if I were the guy funding the research, I wouldn't be funding SETI unless they could convince me there was a reasonable chance of success (though it does have the advantage of being a largely volunteer study).

Your point (to me), Ivan, looks like the justification for betting on the lottery: bet a small amount of money on a small, but real, possibility of a massive windfall. The difference, of course, is that in the lottery the odds are fixed. In this game, we don't even know if the prize exists (and that's #1 from above), much less what the odds are that we'll get it (other than that the odds are extremely small).

Some people funded cold fusion for the same reason: those people were wrong. People can do whatever they want with their own money, but public funding for research is limited and must be handed out carefuly, giving precidence to those areas that are likely to produce results.

Neutrion detectors were built on a relatively small prediction of success - but even that was somwhere on the order of 50% per year (anyone know exactly?). Would they have been built on a 10% per year chance? 1%? 0.1? 0.0...[unknown]..01%?

So my point is twofold: 1. If the last 15,000 "sightings" produced no evidence that a typical scientist would find compelling, we can predict that the next 15,000 likely won't either. 2. Even if it were likely, a real sighting would stand on its own anyway - no investigation necessary. And maybe a 3rd (from that website RR posted) 3. Calls for investigation are often a smokescreen or, at best, a moot point, since many of those calling for investigation already think the question has been answered. If its been answered (it hasn't), there are other, different questions to investigate.
Due to human testimony and other evidence this is one expectation, but there are many other possible explanations that still merit consideration. To demand that any “real” UFO is ET is to ignore the more likely explanation – unrecognized natural phenomenon. It is no more logical for a skeptic to demand that ET is behind every blob of light than it is for the true believer to do so.
First, I may misunderstand you here: by "unrecogized natural phenomenon" do you mean already known or new? Either way, I think you may misunderstand me and maybe give those who would investigate UFOs too much credit. Those who want to investigate UFOs, like those in SETI, are doing it for one reason: to find ET. Indeed, I'll wager that most, if not all in the second group believe we have already found ET.

I'm not saying every blob of light needs to be ET - indeed, I said only one needs to be ET (unequivocably) for the question to be answered.

Ivan, are you seriously suggesting that any significant fraction of those who want to investigate UFOs think it is likey that most are natural phenomena? And if you are, why would that merrit investigation?
Whether this is a question for meteorology, plasma physics, quantum physics, thermodynamics, EM, or astrophysicists, if a genuine but unexplained phenomenon does exist that is often observed, that effects electronic equipment, that sometimes appear on RADAR, that follow aircraft, and that can even cause burns and hallucinations at close range, then any reasonable interpretation of “justified” is clearly in the affirmative; at the least in a purely academic sense. None of the events described qualify as mundane, nor do they demand that ET is here. So the question is not really one of if, but rather how should science proceed in the case of UFOs.
Ok, it looks like you are saying there is a possibility of a previously unknown natural phenomenon (single or multiple) being behind this. I'll grant you that if that's what someone is looking for, then its a reasonable thing to investigate. But again, unfocused, open-ended incident investigation doesn't cut it. It doesn't hold any reasonable chance of success. It needs to follow the scientific method.

I'm not convinced such people exist, Ivan, but in any case that's not a topic for this discussion (perhaps a new thread?). The purpose of this discussion is ET vs natural (new or otherwise) explanations. Its quite possible that all of those 5% are previously unknown natural phenomena. I'm not interested in that possibility here because it takes away from the larger question of ET.

edit: at the beginning, I mentioned "UFOologists" and now I'm thinking thats a topic for another thread: who are they and what are they looking for?
Then we come to the issue of expectations....
I agree with everything in this paragraph.
So the real question becomes this: Should the subject be taken seriously by scientists? [Actually, it already is taken seriously my many scientists].
I don't know that "taken seriously" is the right phrase it implies that I consider the topic a joke (I consider many who are interested in it a joke, but thats not the same thing) - the question is: should serious (by "serious" I mean substantial) investigation be undertaken - and by that, I mean mainstream scientific community attention.
Put another way, can all UFO reports be explained away as mundane? We certainly can’t prove that this assertion is true. Russ, you argue that we can infer that this is true. Is this a reasonable inference?
No, that's not what I'm implying. You and I are looking at the problem from opposite directions: I'm arguing that we can infer none can be positively identified as aliens. That is not the same as arguing that all can be explained as mundane. In fact, I think those who argue that so long as we have 5% unknown we should continue to investigate are really missing the point: since we will always have some unknowns, no amount of investigation will be able to explain all of them away. Therefore to investigate with the hope of explaining them all is a lost cause and not worth doing.
IMO this is only reasonable if we consider the question in a vacuum. We are not talking about data points on a graph or contaminated samples, we are talking about direct observations. No legal interpretation excludes direct observations due to statistics. Your example is completely inappropriate as applied to UFOs.
I think you're mixing separate parts of my argument. The question "should we investigate UFOs (or SETI, or neutrinos)" and the question "are any UFOs aliens" are different questions and have different answers. The question "are any UFOs aliens" is answered with one individual, unequivocable, positive result. The question "should we investigate UFOs (to find that positive result)" is based on the likelihood of finding that positive result. And, I might add, guys like Mr. Friedman do argue it the opposite way: that statistics should be used to form a positive conclusion. That, to me, is an intentional obfuscation of the fact that there are no individual, unequivocable, positive results.
 
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  • #12
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russ_watters said:
That doesn't make a whole lot of sense (maybe I'm reading it wrong). Are you saying that if 'its an alien spacecraft' fits better than any mundane explanation anyone has thought of, we should conclude its an alien spacecraft?

Perhaps that was poor wording on my part. Stating something is unexplained is preferable to trying to fit it into a mundane explanation that is not better warranted by the facts. Unexplained, i.e. a UFO, doesn't imply a craft of extraterrestrial origin.

If, on the other hand, a few thousand people in Times Square see a craft thats fairly non-terrestrial looking with a non-obvious propulsion system lands, strikingly non-human entities emerge, take a few tourist pictures and leaves, if it's got radar and visual evidence made by sources there and by FAA/Military sources, then perhaps an explanation aliens would be warranted.
 
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  • #13
Ivan Seeking
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Part I of II

Ivan, I agree with pretty much everything there exept the conclusion - with the caveat that if aliens were proven, the investigation of the "are there aliens here?" question would end and different investigation would take over. Yes, there are people into that, but I think they are jumping the gun.
Wow! This statement does surprise me – “jumping the gun”. I would have expected you to think they are the real nuts. I have explored these groups, but without proof of ET I really can't stomach the discussions for long.

Anyway, that "if" leads me to a different conclusion than it leads you to. Here's why:… Your point (to me), Ivan, looks like the justification for betting on the lottery: bet a small amount of money on a small, but real, possibility of a massive windfall. The difference, of course, is that in the lottery the odds are fixed. In this game, we don't even know if the prize exists (and that's #1 from above), much less what the odds are that we'll get it (other than that the odds are extremely small).
Actually, that is an interesting way to put it – like betting on the lottery. Even though the logic may apply fairly well, IMO this is not the motive for investigation.

So my point is twofold: 1. If the last 15,000 "sightings" produced no evidence that a typical scientist would find compelling, we can predict that the next 15,000 likely won't either.
I don’t believe this statement is accurate. Consider one comment on this issue.

"When Prof. Peter Sturrock, a prominent Stanford University plasma physicist, conducted a survey of the membership of the American Astronomical Society he found that astronomers who spent time reading up on the UFO phenomenon developed more interest in it. If there were nothing to it, you would expect the opposite."
Bernard Haisch, Ph.D.,
Director of the California Institute For Physics and Astrophysics

Also, as I quoted in your other thread,

In their public statements (but not necessarily in their private statements), scientists express a generally negative attitude towards the UFO problem, and it is interesting to try to understand this attitude. Most scientists have never had the occasion to confront evidence concerning the UFO phenomenon. To a scientist, the main source of hard information (other than his own experiments' observations) is provided by the scientific journals. With rare exceptions, scientific journals do not publish reports of UFO observations. The decision not to publish is made by the editor acting on the advice of reviewers. This process is self-reinforcing: the apparent lack of data confirms the view that there is nothing to the UFO phenomenon, and this view works against the presentation of relevant data."
(Sturrock, Peter A., "An Analysis of the Condon Report on the Colorado UFO Project," Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1987.)"


So, to me your comments reflect this self-reinforcing process of avoidance. I can tell you first hand that the best evidence is often tremendously difficult to find; even when you know exactly what you’re looking for! The internet is improving this situation very quickly, but with this comes the onslaught of bogus information and a filtering process that is just as difficult as was the sleuthing of information before the internet evolved. Without some formal mechanism to interpret this information, the field will remain unbounded and ill defined. As it stands, as nearly as I can tell, Art Bell et al set the pace for public attitudes. I would much rather see people like Sturrock leading the charge.

2. Even if it were likely, a real sighting would stand on its own anyway - no investigation necessary.
According to what standard? You tell me; what would constitute a “real” sighting, in your opinion?

And maybe a 3rd (from that website RR posted) 3. Calls for investigation are often a smokescreen or, at best, a moot point, since many of those calling for investigation already think the question has been answered. If its been answered (it hasn't), there are other, different questions to investigate.
When considering the words of true believers or conspiracy theorists like Stan Friedman, I feel it is important to allow for the “fanaticism of conviction”. Beyond a doubt some people are convinced that ET is here. I think people like Mr. Friedman [and also the optical physicist, Dr. Bruce Maccabee] are examples those having a qualified conviction; or they are complete frauds but I don’t believe this is the case.

As I understand their opinions on all of this, given decades of research, they believe that they know that ET is here. Because of this their statements and motives are always suspect according to any good skeptics or debunkers. If ET is not here then this is good. If ET is here then I find it ironic. It may that they sound a little nuts because they’re right. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that if they genuinely “know” that they are right, and ET is here, by definition they are going to sound a little nuts; fanatical at least. Also, maybe “knowing” that ET is here but not having the means to prove it can make a person fanatical. This fact does not preclude qualified investigation.

Then we find the unqualified true believers who either want to believe so badly that they abandon all critical thinking [which I have never understood considering the true implications of an alien presence], and those who [seemingly] genuinely believe they have seen a craft from another world, or who believe without doubt someone else who claims and undeniable ET encounter. Russ, consider your reaction were you to have a direct encounter with an alien. What would you sound like? It’s not reasonable to expect detached skepticism when genuine belief is already present; be it justified or not. Likewise, fanaticism does not disqualify the claims of true believers. In fact this is a reasonably expected byproduct of their claimed experiences; so one might argue this as evidence that their experiences were real. Especially when one considers the ridicule often endured as a function of making public claims.

Then we find people like me who are compelled by not only the abundance of anecdotal evidence that seems to span thousands of years, but who also tend to believe certain witnesses who, when couple to the supporting data - RADAR returns and such - appear to be entirely credible and who tell of an incredible encounter with something that seems to defy all rational explanations. These sorts of reported events certainly imply that ET is here. This position should not be confused with belief, certainty, or fanaticism, or an unwillingness to find more earthly explanations. Nor does this mean that earthly explanations motivate our interests. It does become interesting to imagine that some natural phenomenon could produce the effects described by alleged witnesses, and I would be thrilled to learn how such a phenomenon could exist. Of course I would be much more thrilled to see an alien spacecraft. Who wouldn't be? Even to know that ET is here would be a life changing event for me. It would be quite an amazing thing. Of coure another possibility is that both explanations are true. Maybe ball lightning comes from ET's tailpipe! :biggrin:

So the question of what motivates our interest becomes irrelevant. Also, to be fair, some meteorologists may be the real Ufologists without knowing it. If the true UFO explanation is known by another name, but the full extent of the phenomenon is simply not recognized, we might be surprised at who the Ufologists turn out to be. That aiside, given the evidence for specific events, and allowing for the potential truth of the associated claims made by some observers, according to everything I have seen, any legitimate explanation of UfOs will be interesting, and worthy of further discussion and research.



First, I may misunderstand you here: by "unrecogized natural phenomenon" do you mean already known or new? Either way, I think you may misunderstand me and maybe give those who would investigate UFOs too much credit. Those who want to investigate UFOs, like those in SETI, are doing it for one reason: to find ET. Indeed, I'll wager that most, if not all in the second group believe we have already found ET.
If you chose to consider the average person at a UFO convention, you may be right. In fact, I couldn’t tell you since I’ve never been to one. However, it is unreasonable to hold this over the heads of all Ufologists. We’ve discussed this before but I’ll say it again. When the father of modern Ufology, Dr Allen J. Hynek died, even he was uncertain of the proper explanation. Is this typical? Probably not, but I think there is a good reason for this. Unless something really motivates a person, who would bother to chase UFOs given the risk of having an interest? For the most part, only a highly motivated person would pursue such a career. This sort of motivation must have a source; like a direct observation. In fact this is how this usually works. Most of the leaders in the field of Ufology will include in most any introduction the words [or similar] “in 19xx I saw a UFO. My life would never be the same”. This is why most investigators are also believers. Nonetheless, there are serious people such as Sturrock [I think] who have never seen a “genuine” UFO, and who are not considered true believers. To the extent that I fiddle around with this stuff, to the best of my knowledge I have never seen anything “unworldly”. I suppose this is why I still hold out for the EM explanation in spit of my enthusiasm for the subject. ET is what motivates me. EM is what I expect to find; as a skeptic.
 
  • #14
Ivan Seeking
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Part II of II

Always worthy of mention, here is a comment from Hynek from many years ago. Note also that he was the expert consultant to Project Bluebook.

"During the years that I have been its consultant, the Air Force has consistently argued that UFO's were either hoaxes, hallucinations or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. For the most part I would agree with the Air Force. As a professional astronomer--I am chairman of the department of astronomy at Northwestern University--I have had no trouble explaining the vast majority of the reported sightings. But I cannot explain them all. Of the 15,000 cases that have come to my attention, several hundred are puzzling, and some of the puzzling incidents, perhaps one in 25, are bewildering. I have wanted to learn much more about these cases than I have been able to get from either the reports or the witnesses....Getting at the truth of "flying saucers" has been extraordinarily difficult because the subject automatically engenders such instantaneous reactions and passionate beliefs. Nearly all of my scientific colleagues, I regret to say, have scoffed at the reports of UFO's as so much balderdash, although this was a most unscientific reaction since virtually none of them had ever studied the evidence. Until recently my friends in the physical sciences wouldn't even discuss UFO's with me. The subject, in fact, rarely came up. My friends were obviously mystified as to how I, a scientist, could have gotten mixed up with "flying saucers" ---Saturday Evening Post: 1966
-- Dr. J. Allen Hynek: Professor emeritus and chairman of the astronomy department at Northwestern University. Earlier, he was director of the Lundheimer Astronomical Research Center at Northwestern. He has written astronomy books and articles that have appeared in numerous science journals, as well as an astronomy column for Science Digest magazine. He was chief scientist for NASA's satellite tracking program, and for twenty years was the scientific consultant to the United States Air Force in the investigation of the UFO phenomenon. He is credited with coining the phrase "close encounters of the third kind" and was Steven Spielberg's technical consultant on the film of that name. Dr. Hynek died in April 1986.

I'm not saying every blob of light needs to be ET - indeed, I said only one needs to be ET (unequivocably) for the question to be answered.

Ivan, are you seriously suggesting that any significant fraction of those who want to investigate UFOs think it is likey that most are natural phenomena? And if you are, why would that merrit investigation?
I am saying that the mystery is significant enough to justify a legitimate scientific interest. What we expect as the outcome is irrelevant. Physicists hope for strings, quantum loops, and a TOE. Does this disqualify their efforts? Also, anyone who is objective and has not seen a alien craft must allow that the core of the most compelling encounters could be some rare form of electromagnetic energy. In fact, over the years I have migrated to the following opinion – it had better be EM. Otherwise, the implications are staggering; even unimaginable!

Ok, it looks like you are saying there is a possibility of a previously unknown natural phenomenon (single or multiple) being behind this. I'll grant you that if that's what someone is looking for, then its a reasonable thing to investigate. But again, unfocused, open-ended incident investigation doesn't cut it. It doesn't hold any reasonable chance of success. It needs to follow the scientific method.
There are people who explore specific theories. For example, Persinger et al try to explain UFOs as hallucinations induced by large release of geo-electromagnetic energy. I think this may explain some experiences. In fact, I think Wolram may have encountered something like this. However, collecting data e.g. affected soil samples, photographs taken, damaged vegetation samples, radiations readings, and other physical evidence for specific observations is the required process of investigation.

In effect, your position would rule out the discovery of any transient and elusive phenomenon that is not predicted by known physical models. This is not in the spirit of science. Funding is one thing, but a purely academic justification for fundamental research is not required. If this were engineeringforums.com and we were talking budgets, then I might agree with your position.

If someone asks if he should go into UFO research, I would certainly say no. If you have to ask, don’t bother. There are those who will be compelled to do the job. They will work for free, fight for pennies, and risk career and friends in order to get at the truth. Usually this is because something convinces them the UFOs = ET, IMO. The desire need not be sold or induced. It would be nice if open interest in UFOs wasn’t like the mark of the beast. It should be that scientists can explore this issue without fear of ridicule.

I'm not convinced such people exist, Ivan, but in any case that's not a topic for this discussion (perhaps a new thread?). The purpose of this discussion is ET vs natural (new or otherwise) explanations. Its quite possible that all of those 5% are previously unknown natural phenomena. I'm not interested in that possibility here because it takes away from the larger question of ET.
Well, I think this loads the discussion a bit since this is the only non-ET explanation that I can imagine. Good science demands that all possibilities be considered until satisfactory answers are found.

I think I understand where you are going here. You are really citing the long held objection based on the Bluebook synopsis. “We can expect no useful scientific information resulting from the investigation of UFOs.” At times you also seem to be allowing that ET is behind some UFOs but we gain nothing by investigating. But then you seem to demand that this is not possible. Could you clarify this for me? I am getting mixed signals from various comments made in various threads.

Funny enough, Peter Davenport, the 25+ years director of the National UFO Reporting Center has even tired of collecting data. How many thousands and thousands of flying saucer reports can a person log, read, or even investigate at one’s own expense? In fact, he is promoting a passive RADAR thing that is supposed to allow for a SETI@Home style, real-time data collection system for aerial objects in the American skies. I don’t know if this is a credible effort or not, but even he concedes to the frustration of chasing UFOs for years, and years, and years.

How long do we chase 5%? I think the key is that this 5% is not just unexplained; a part of this is known to be fundamentally baffling but apparently credible. IMO, as long as highly compelling stories are found along with data, or other supporting evidence that suggest a reality greater than most would dare to imagine, the research should continue; even if it turns out that it’s all just a paradox of plasma.

Of the 15,000 cases that have come to my attention, several hundred are puzzling, and some of the puzzling incidents, perhaps one in 25, are bewildering.
-- Dr. J. Allen Hynek
 
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  • #15
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
Wow! This statement does surprise me – “jumping the gun”. I would have expected you to think they are the real nuts. I have explored these groups, but without proof of ET I really can't stomach the discussions for long.
You mean you would have expected me to yell CRACKPOT!!? Naa, its not that simple. Certainly all crackpots would already think that there are aliens on earth, but not all people who think there are aliens on earth are necessarily crackpots.
So, to me your comments reflect this self-reinforcing process of avoidance. (re:"When Prof. Peter Sturrock, a prominent Stanford University plasma physicist, conducted a survey of the membership of the American Astronomical Society he found that astronomers who spent time reading up on the UFO phenomenon developed more interest in it. If there were nothing to it, you would expect the opposite." )
Ahh, but to me, "interest" is a useless measure. People are interested in mysteries. But just being interested in the mystery doesn't imply that they can solve the mystery. And thats the whole point of investigating, right? Otherwise, its just an exercise in futility. Chance of success, not interest in the topic, is what determines whether or not to investigate (to spend money to investigate) something.
According to what standard? You tell me; what would constitute a “real” sighting, in your opinion?
Well, the example I gave would qualify as a postitive or "real" sighting of an alien spacecraft. More generally though, a "real" sighting would be one that a random sample of reputable scientists would unanamously agree beyond a reasonable doubt about the precise explanation. That is the standard of proof of any scientific theory.
As I understand their opinions on all of this, given decades of research, they believe that they know that ET is here. Because of this their statements and motives are always suspect according to any good skeptics or debunkers. If ET is not here then this is good. If ET is here then I find it ironic. It may that they sound a little nuts because they’re right. Or, maybe a better way to say it is that if they genuinely “know” that they are right, and ET is here, by definition they are going to sound a little nuts; fanatical at least. Also, maybe “knowing” that ET is here but not having the means to prove it can make a person fanatical. This fact does not preclude qualified investigation.
I know exactly what you mean and I agree: a fanatic hurts whatever cause s/he is pursuing, regardless of the merrit of the cause.
Russ, consider your reaction were you to have a direct encounter with an alien. What would you sound like? It’s not reasonable to expect detached skepticism when genuine belief is already present; be it justified or not.
No way, Ivan. Having been in the military, I can assure you that a serviceman can remain calm in the most extreme of circumstances - even staring death in the face. Consider the reaction of pilots who encounter UFOs (or cockpit tapes of plane crashes) - they are generally quite lucid, even when staring certain, immient death right in the face. Further, for a witness to be given any consideration at all, they must be lucid. As unfair as it may seem, a witness who quite understandably is hysterical cannot be considered reliable. That's the way it works in science and thats the way it works in law.
Likewise, fanaticism does not disqualify the claims of true believers. In fact this is a reasonably expected byproduct of their claimed experiences; so one might argue this as evidence that their experiences were real. Especially when one considers the ridicule often endured as a function of making public claims.
Ivan, it sounds like you're saying that since a traumatic experience can make a person insane, we should consider the experiences of anyone who is insane - further, we should consider them more due to the added credibility due to insanity. That's nuts!
Then we find people like me who are compelled by not only the abundance of anecdotal evidence that seems to span thousands of years, but who also tend to believe certain witnesses who, when couple to the supporting data - RADAR returns and such - appear to be entirely credible and who tell of an incredible encounter with something that seems to defy all rational explanations. These sorts of reported events certainly imply that ET is here.
Youre last sentence contradicts your second-last: if the data defys rational explanation, then it does not imply that ET is here. The data needs to lead to the rational conclusion that ET is here in order to imply that ET is here.
This position should not be confused with belief, certainty, or fanaticism, or an unwillingness to find more earthly explanations. Nor does this mean that earthly explanations motivate our interests.
To me it just sounds like a fallacy of mass quantities of evidence: mass quantities of evidence only lead to a conclusion if there is good evidence in there. Mass quantities of bad or unexplainable evidence does not lead to any postitive conclusion at all. This is the smoke-screen I've talked about. Its a propaganda technique. "UFOologists" like to bombard people with evidence that doesn't say anything individually, but then claim that it says something collectively. Science doesn't work that way. Evidence must stand up on an individual basis.
So the question of what motivates our interest becomes irrelevant.
I agree - as I said before, interest is irrelevant. UFOs should be investigated (or not) based on the expectation of finding something. Since it is likely that further investigation will find nothing, further investigation (by the scientific community) is not warranted. Remember, not only do you have to convince people to fund this, you have to convince scientists its worth their time to research it.
That aiside, given the evidence for specific events, and allowing for the potential truth of the associated claims made by some observers, according to everything I have seen, any legitimate explanation of UfOs will be interesting, and worthy of further discussion and research. [emhpasis added]
I agree if a legitimate explanation can acually be found - but, if there is little chance that a legitimate explanation will be found, then there is little reason to waste time researching it.
However, it is unreasonable to hold this over the heads of all Ufologists.
I'll certainly treat them as individuals when warranted, but is there a "community" with a community goal? Other scientific fields have communities with community goals. In any case, I'll need to look into that Allen Hynek.
This sort of motivation must have a source; like a direct observation. In fact this is how this usually works. Most of the leaders in the field of Ufology will include in most any introduction the words [or similar] “in 19xx I saw a UFO. My life would never be the same”. This is why most investigators are also believers. Nonetheless, there are serious people such as Sturrock [I think] who have never seen a “genuine” UFO, and who are not considered true believers.
Agreed, but as above, we differ on the implication: these people are the very definition of biased: their experience motivates their work and clouds their judgement. A person who never had the experience but is interested in the subject would make a far better researcher.
I suppose this is why I still hold out for the EM explanation in spit of my enthusiasm for the subject. ET is what motivates me. EM is what I expect to find; as a skeptic.
Fair enough, but I'm going to hold you to that: ET, not the possibility of new natural phenomena motivates you. In my estimation, virtually all who investigate the subject are similarly motivated.

Part 2 later...
 
  • #16
Over the years, there have been countless books and articles regarding the subject of UFO's, and just as many theories and ideas regarding their source and nature. Each has its advocates and detractors, each denouncing the other in fierce personal attacks, leaving good scientific debate and observation behind.

Here are a some of my own perceptions, that I have yet to see fully addressed in any of the many books I have read.

These are the "facts" regarding UFO's

UFO's have been observed for a very long time, on the order of thousands of years. It is a critical error, in my opinion, to simply dismiss any reports and sightings prior to the famous Kenneth Arnold sightings in 1947. While of course there are many cases of misobservation of natural phenomena, there is something very telling in the fact that mankind has been subjected to this mystery for millennia without a clear understanding of just what is going on.

UFO's are, or at least appear to be, intelligently designed, constructed and operated mechanical objects. They are "real" in the sense that they occupy 3 dimensional space and time, have mass (weight), reflect light, and are capable of being documented by independent (non-hallucinatory) machines.

Despite the incredible number of reports, films, photos, etc., the origin, nature
and purpose of UFO's remains unknown. Is there any other "mystery" that has been so chronicled over such a length of time, by so many good observers, that has not in some way been made clearer? How can anything this well documented still not give the slightest clue as to what it is?

What is at least as astounding, are the large numbers of persons who are willing to spend a lot of time, effort, and money, to create hoaxes and falsehoods that wouldn't fool a 6 year old. Fame, notoriety, or whatever, seems woefully inadequate to explain some of the stuff I've seen. It might be insanity or foolishness. This situation only complicates serious studies, and insures that the sceptics have a great deal of information to trot out during debunking sessions. If I see that Adamski flying chicken coop breeder light once more, I'll scream. But the sceptics stay far away from such good evidence, such as the McMinneville Object, and for good reason.

So what does all this mean?

1. The behavior of UFO's is designed to mask their true purpose.

The actions and behaviors of UFO does not seem to follow any logic that
we can discern. They do not openly communicate with the great mass of
mankind, preferring to find the isolated contactee. Even in those cases,
the occupants mislead, obfuscate, and often downright lie, about themselves
and their nature. This after thousands of years and what must be millions
of contacts. What I find most telling, is the fact that with the exception
of a very few cases, whatever is directing this phenomena is building a
different prototype for each visit. I can think of only one reason for this
mystery: It is to plant a seed of doubt, however small, among the witnesses
so that no two sets of observers see the same thing, and are hence unable
at some level to adequately compare their experience. Why it would be
necessary to do this, after millennia of being observed, is perhaps the key to
this entire mystery.

2. The intelligence behind the UFO's does not wish itself to be known.

As the result of long period of observation of, and interaction with,
human beings, It has an excellent understanding of human psychology,
sociology, and biology. It has skillfully used this knowledge to mask
itself. It is immensly powerful and shows great imagination in its
applications of that power. It is able to adapt itself specifically
to a situation by apparently manipulating matter and energy at some levels.
It has shown aggression or malevolence only rarely, mostly preferring what
can only be described as casual indifference to human suffering. This may
be part of the masking behavior, or it may not.

Given #1, it logically follows (if indeed logic can be applied to this illogical situation) that the reason for obscuring their purpose is that whatever is guiding the phenomenon is hiding because it must hide. The intelligence gains a significant advantage by remaining hidden.

This perhaps gives us some clues:

Despite the power it must possess, it must have some innate weakness that
can be exploited by human beings. Human beings therefore, have some
capacity, to uncover and defeat this intelligence. It must be a natural
part of us, something we are born with. Our defense is not technological,
since this intelligence has been avoiding revelation since the days of the
bow and arrow, something the intelligence would seem clearly beyond. So
whatever it's purpose, guiding principal and motive, the intelligence that
directs UFO's must not become known or understood by humanity, because it will
then be powerless or greatly hindered in its purpose.

Once powerless, it naturally follows it will be vulnerable to offensive
measures taken by humanity against it.

Since, as has been stated, it understands human nature, it knows that human beings will not long tolerate being tricked, fooled and frightened, which will prompt some means of either controlling or destroying the intelligence. And the key is:

3. IT WILL BE DEFENSELESS IF IT'S NATURE AND ORIGIN ARE REVEALED!

Hence, the reason it goes to such extremes to protect itself, in the only way
that is effective: Confusion.

4. All UFO's are hoaxes, but only SOME are created by human beings.

As an example, the famous (or infamous) Roswell Incident. It is beyond dispute that something crashed there in 1947. The Project Mogul explanation is laughable, especially when one looks over any and all records of the time, and the fact that there were very few, if any, persons in the scientific and intelligence community who believed that the "godless communists" were capable of constructing an atomic bomb in 1947. Popular Mechanics says it was a captured Nazi aircraft, of Horten design (Ho229 series), being flown by Japanese technicians working under Operation Paper Clip. The bodies were splashed with hydrazine on impact and were therefore so grossly disfigured, they appeared to be "alien". Possible, but not probable. It would seem unlikely that after 50 some years, the need to keep secret Nazi aircraft experiments and Japanese collaborators would be of any value.

But the facts remain: Something crashed in the desert. It appeared to be "alien". Bodies were found and recovered, again appearing to be "alien". All the rest is speculation.

If we follow the reports something emerges that seems out of the ordinary. If the material of the ship was so tough that it could not be damaged or manipulated, how was it then strewn all over the desert?

Additionally, I believe that the initial medical examination of the occupants indicated that there were no observable genitalia nor was there a discernable digestive system. One has to wonder: What kind of living creature does not eat or reproduce. Given the basic rule of biology the answer can only be NO LIVING CREATURE. No matter how alien it may be, no matter what its evolutionary origins, it must consume something to possess enough energy to reproduce. Given this, what exactly was the nature of these UFO occupants? Is it possible that they were constructs, "dolls", sent to further
add to the confusion and lack of relevant information?

I feel as though the entire phenomena is a hoax of some sort. It's some sort of parapsychological "sleight of hand". Like pickpockets at the airport, working in teams, one distracts, while one lifts your wallet. This seems to me to be what's really going on. It's a fake, a fraud, a sham, a con; it's being carried out by what seems to be a nonhuman source, but it is getting help, perhaps intentionally, perhaps not, by human agents. When one reviews the best 100 cases, they are so radically different that it defies any human logic. Either we are being visited by hundreds of different types of beings (which I doubt), or it is one intelligence giving the impression of many, for the reasons stated above.

There exist good case evidence and witness reports that indicate that mechanical objects are changing shape, size and configuration. The how is not nearly as important as the WHY. There is certainly nothing to suggest that the origins of UFO's are alien or otherworldly. On the contrary, all the behavior suggests a terrestrial source of unknown nature. For example, the abduction scenario with it's "medical examination" is ridiculous on the face of it. Any "alien" genetics would obviously be inconsistent with human evolution. The physical scars and effects seem very real, only what is found embedded is worthless junk that could have come from anywhere. Now if we take some (certainly not all) abductee reports as genuine, then it seems as if the intelligence directing the scenario wants the abductee to believe that some sort of medical exam is taking place, while in fact there is something else going on, that cannot be revealed to the subject. What that is, I haven't the foggiest notion. I just can't get that pickpocket setup out of my head.

Perhaps it defies human logic because simply it is not human. So the mystery only deepens.
 
  • #17
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
I am saying that the mystery is significant enough to justify a legitimate scientific interest. What we expect as the outcome is irrelevant. Physicists hope for strings, quantum loops, and a TOE. Does this disqualify their efforts?
I guess this is probably where we differ most, Ivan. I'm an engineer, not a scientist and thus maybe more practical, but I could not imagine investigating something that I though I'd never figure out. Would a scientist really investigate strings based only on hope? From reading Hawking, it appears a lot of scientists are pretty confident that they will sooner or later, find what they were looking for. But if a scientist knew the information he was getting would never improve (for cosmology, obviously, it does - for UFOs, apparently, it does not) and the last 15,000 samples he examined yeilded nothing, would he really keep looking or would he change his approach - or his field?

I really do want to find ET too, Ivan. But I think "UFOology" at its best (when approached systematically and scientifically, which isn't being done) is pointless. Our efforts to find ET should be focused elsewhere. The Origins Program, for example.
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking
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Funny enough, the best reasons that I see to continue research are the potential "prosaic" [earthly] explanations. If some UFOs really = ET, then research probably doesn't matter so much. If its not ET, then perhaps science can eventually put this issue to rest. Also, the value of this research would become meteorological, I think, so the SETI motives may not apply here. If we insist that all solutions to the UFO enigma will be earthly ones, then I think something terribly fascinating needs to be explained. Who knows? It might lead to better understanding of plasma, or better welding torches, or photon torpedoes, or something... :biggrin:

I guess if it is ET then we should take our lead from Art Bell, or your favorite, the Disclosure Project? Whose job is it to educate the public?

If we had proof of ET on earth now, would you want this information made public as fact? Assume that we are blind to Et's motives here, and we are powerless to change anything? I'm just curious.

This is the most important point, I think. You and many people insist on claims of "finding nothing". This is simply not true. We have a lot of information and data; we don't have a tailpipe from a UFO or a new model for plasma ellipsoids. I think the understanding of the phenomenon among serious people is more sophisicated than it was thirty years ago, so I think progress has been made. Hynek started out by often and erroniously citing the swamp gas explanations [which he made famous], and later he led the charge for serious research. This was quite a lot of progress in itself I think.

One last extreme thought. If it is ET, then it is hard to believe that we couldn't learn something from them.
 
  • #19
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
Funny enough, the best reasons that I see to continue research are the potential "prosaic" [earthly] explanations. If some UFOs really = ET, then research probably doesn't matter so much. If its not ET, then perhaps science can eventually put this issue to rest. Also, the value of this research would become meteorological, I think, so the SETI motives may not apply here.
Personally, I consider ball lightning and St. Elmo's fire incredibly mundane compared to the alternative. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to spend a lot of money to find a similar phenomena. Is there anything useful about knowing how such things work (besides comforting scared sailors)?
I guess if it is ET then we should take our lead from Art Bell, or your favorite, the Disclosure Project? Whose job is it to educate the public?
Yeah, I'm content to leave it to them. The personalities are much more interesting than potential new forms of ball-lightning.
If we had proof of ET on earth now, would you want this information made public as fact? Assume that we are blind to Et's motives here, and we are powerless to change anything? I'm just curious.
Absolutely, unequivocably yes. I'm a big fan of the Truth.
This is the most important point, I think. You and many people insist on claims of "finding nothing". This is simply not true. We have a lot of information and data; we don't have a tailpipe from a UFO or a new model for plasma ellipsoids.
No, Ivan, what I'm saying is (and I've said this quite clearly and repeatedly) we (they) haven't found anything. That isn't the same as "finding nothing." And I know you know that scientifically, "finding nothing" is far more useful than "not finding anything" anyway. I support SETI in large part because it is "finding nothing" and I do not support "UFOology" because it is "not finding anything."
One last extreme thought. If it is ET, then it is hard to believe that we couldn't learn something from them.
Certainly - but again, cart before horse.
 
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  • #20
Ivan Seeking
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russ_watters said:
Personally, I consider ball lightning and St. Elmo's fire incredibly mundane compared to the alternative. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to spend a lot of money to find a similar phenomena. Is there anything useful about knowing how such things work (besides comforting scared sailors)?
No doubt a ET-UFO would be about as interesting as it gets. If its not ET, then whatever people seem to be seeing must qualify as worthy of investigation. Again, I don't feel compelled to defend the value of fundamental research. Frankly, I know few engineers who appreciate its value and I've argued the point too many times already. I assume this difference in our points of view here relates to why you chose to be an engineer instead of a scientist, and why I chose Physics over EE. I can only say that from my point of view, your opinion is counter to the spirit of science and discovery. For all we know, the real story of UFOs might lead to significant discoveries that contribute greatly to science. What is often, allegedly observed, is absolutely baffling.

Yeah, I'm content to leave it to them. The personalities are much more interesting than potential new forms of ball-lightning.
I don't think you really mean this. Or can I quote you: "Russ thinks we should look to Art Bell and crowd, rather than science, for real answers"?

Absolutely, unequivocably yes. I'm a big fan of the Truth.
I think I agree but I'm not sure. I can imagine reasons to keep this a secret to the greatest extent possible. I can imagine "truths" that would create mass panic.

No, Ivan, what I'm saying is (and I've said this quite clearly and repeatedly) we (they) haven't found anything. That isn't the same as "finding nothing." And I know you know that scientifically, "finding nothing" is far more useful than "not finding anything" anyway. I support SETI in large part because it is "finding nothing" and I do not support "UFOology" because it is "not finding anything." Certainly - but again, cart before horse.
To me this makes no sense. We are talking about two completely different modes of investigation. Also, let me say it this way: We find things. You seem to require defintive proof [an unavoidable explanation] as the only form evidence. If we had defintive proof, we wouldn't need to collect evidence. Your logic completely eludes me here.
 
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  • #21
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
Again, I don't feel compelled to defend the value of fundamental research. Frankly, I know few engineers who appreciate its value and I've argued the point too many times already. I assume this difference in our points of view here relates to why you chose to be an engineer instead of a scientist, and why I chose Physics over EE. I can only say that from my point of view, your opinion is counter to the spirit of science and discovery.
Fair enough, and I guess as long as someone is willing to research it, good luck to them - but by the same token I won't accept that its unreasonable for those funding the research to demand that it be useful (or at least have potential to be useful). This may be a topic for another thread though.
I don't think you really mean this. Or can I quote you: "Russ thinks we should look to Art Bell and crowd, rather than science, for real answers"?
I meant what I said and I said nothing about the crackpots finding "real answers." Since I don't think there are any "real answers" (about ET) to be found, and what may be there (ball lightning and the like) isn't interesting or useful enough to put any effort into, there is no reason why we shouldn't let the crackpots have at it.
To me this makes no sense. We are talking about two completely different modes of investigation. Also, let me say it this way: We find things. You seem to require defintive proof [an unavoidable explanation] as the only form evidence. If we had defintive proof, we wouldn't need to collect evidence. Your logic completely eludes me here.
Well, lets start with that last part: "If we had definitive proof, we wouldn't need to collect evidence." A while back, someone predicted that the remnants of the Big Bang would leave background radiation, they started looking for it, and found it. Now people don't need to prove its there but only study its properties. Similarly, if tomorrow a flying saucer landed on the White House lawn and ET stepped out, the question of whether ET exists and has visited us would be difinitively answered and people would no longer ask it.

When SETI scans the sky, it collects gigabytes of data and finds nothing. But you can catalog all the places its looked, frequencies its scanned, sensitivities of instruments, etc. and generate useful knowledge/conclusions from it - even if the conclusion is just "there are no aliens broadcasting on this frequency that we can hear".

All these 15,000+ UFO sightings have produced 14,000+ positive negatives (that's not a contradiction, thats 14,000+ positively identified non-ET events). There have been no sightings that have unequivocably been ET. None of the still unknowns have increased our knowledge any - individually, they have not led us any closer to an answer. Neither can you add them all together and conclude that together they point to the possibility of ET. Yes, there is data, but its all static. Its all usesless. Investigations so far have accomplished nothing. From that, I conclude that investigations in the future will also accomplish nothing and thus its my opinion that futher investigation is a waste of time and money.
 
  • #22
Ivan Seeking
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I think your characterization of the facts is incorrect.

"All these 15,000+ UFO sightings have produced 14,000+ positive negatives (that's not a contradiction, thats 14,000+ positively identified non-ET events)."

Not really. It is more accurate to say that 14,000 most likely have prosaic [known] explanations. If you read the BlueBook files you find that many sightings were dismissed simply because no specific evidence was forthcoming. For example, "there was only one witness", or "it might have been Venus", are typical justifications for dismissal.

"There have been no sightings that have unequivocably been ET"

This depends on who you ask. Many thousands of witnesses say otherwise.

"None of the still unknowns have increased our knowledge any - individually, they have not led us any closer to an answer."

According to whom - the people who don't study UFO's, Ball lightning, earth lights, and other potential plasma and meteorological phenomenon?

"Neither can you add them all together and conclude that together they point to the possibility of ET"

This depends in large part on which evidence you choose to accept, or not. Many skeptics try to argue that since some element of doubt may be argued for any given event, no matter how unlikely the objection may be, the claim is false hence no evidence exists. This is fallacious. It is correct to say that good but not indisputable evidence is found that objects were seen as reported in many cases. If people actually saw what they report, in many cases, then ET may really be here. This realization is unavoidable.

"Investigations so far have accomplished nothing. From that, I conclude that investigations in the future will also accomplish nothing and thus its my opinion that further investigation is a waste of time and money."

This all relies on your own presumtion of the facts, data, and state of the subject. This is also a bad application of inductive reasoning. :biggrin:
 
  • #23
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
"There have been no sightings that have unequivocably been ET"

This depends on who you ask. Many thousands of witnesses say otherwise.
No. If we're going to discuss this scientifically, then these sightings must be treated scientifically. That means that the evidence has to be good enough to convince a disinterested scientist (or rather, a panel of scientists) to a high certainty. Pons and Fleischman tried it the other way. Scientific evidence is never allowed to be any less unequivocal. Just because random redneck #43 says he's certain it was ET (or a single actual pHd says it was fusion) does not make it a sound scientific conclusion.
"None of the still unknowns have increased our knowledge any - individually, they have not led us any closer to an answer."

According to whom - the people who don't study UFO's, Ball lightning, earth lights, and other potential plasma and meteorological phenomenon?
According to unbiased scientific critereon (see above). If you have any incidents that you feel would hold up to a real scientific evalutation, by all means start a thread about them.
"Neither can you add them all together and conclude that together they point to the possibility of ET"

This depends in large part on which evidence you choose to accept, or not. Many skeptics try to argue that since some element of doubt may be argued for any given event, no matter how unlikely the objection may be, the claim is false hence no evidence exists. This is fallacious. It is correct to say that good but not indisputable evidence is found that objects were seen as reported in many cases. If people actually saw what they report, in many cases, then ET may really be here. This realization is unavoidable.
You vastly overstate the quality of the evidence. We're not talking 75% or even 50% certainty that the best sightings were ET. The Iranian Air Force thing: very interesting, perhaps the best I've ever seen. I'd give it maybe a 2% chance that it was ET and I suspect a panel put together by the APS would come to a similar conclusion. 2% (even 75%) is light years from 95% certainty - and I'd argue that the enormity of the claim requires even more: ET landing on the White House lawn would be very difficult to fake so you could be 99.99% sure it was real. I don't know that I (or a panel of APS scientists) would accept much less.

A secondary reason for the seemingly high burden of proof is that anecdotal evidence is always the worst type of evidence because there is always a high but unknown level of uncertainty about its accuracy. There is little quantatative evidence involved here.
"Investigations so far have accomplished nothing. From that, I conclude that investigations in the future will also accomplish nothing and thus its my opinion that further investigation is a waste of time and money."

This all relies on your own presumtion of the facts, data, and state of the subject. This is also a bad application of inductive reasoning. :biggrin:
I'd agree with you if I were alone in my assessment. Am I? The fact that the scientific community seems less than enthusiastic about UFO research [/understatement] implies to me that they share my opinion. Btw, what was the reason Project Blue Book was cancelled...?
 
  • #24
Ivan Seeking
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No. If we're going to discuss this scientifically, then these sightings must be treated scientifically.
There are two separate issues here. If true and accurate, do any sightings indicate unequivocally that ET is here? In other words, if the report is true, is ET a reasonable conclusion? Next, do we have unequivocal scientific proof that ET is here? If you require proof ET in order to justify a legitimate scientific interest in UFOs, then I say your interest is not scientific. To say that a 90% chance that ET is here is not sufficient to motivate an interest is absurd, IMO. So how low do we go; 50%, 10%, 1%? This then becomes a matter of interpretation of significance and certainty. The lines are not clear.

According to unbiased scientific critereon (see above). If you have any incidents that you feel would hold up to a real scientific evalutation, by all means start a thread about them.
I’m saying that you created your own truth here. Consider that one UFO film was recognized as significant, or even a near extinction event; valuable to the study of meteors. This film was preserved as a UFO sighting. Many who postulate models for ball lighting and related phenomenon use UFO data to identify trends in certain types of sightings. Ball lightning people found that plasma phenomena are often found near power lines, water falls, and I think also RR tracks. Next we find that seismologists use UFO data to study potential cases of earthquake lights. Also, Persinger references UFO accounts in his study of EM effects on the brain. So without even thinking hard I can name five fields of study that have benefited from data in the UFO achieves.

You vastly overstate the quality of the evidence. We're not talking 75% or even 50% certainty that the best sightings were ET. The Iranian Air Force thing: very interesting, perhaps the best I've ever seen. I'd give it maybe a 2% chance that it was ET …
On this point I rest my case. I think most people would agree that a 2% chance is motivation enough. Also, this was only the best information available on the internet. There are many sources of information more difficult to find. Note that there should be even more convincing data available from the French military, soon. I'm just not sure where to find the original military reports yet.

On bluebook: Hynek was the chief scientific consultant to Bluebook and he knew the facts as well as anyone. He and many other scientists involved felt that summary was slanted and inaccurate. In fact a similar French study – the COMETA Report - came to exactly the opposite conclusion as did the Bluebook [one person] summary.

Other studies done here in the US, for example the Rockefeller conferenece, all involve panels of scientist who concluded at the least that further investigation is warranted. In the Cometa report the conclusion was more extreme. [I have the original report in English somewhere here]
In its conclusion, COMETA claims that the physical reality of UFOs, under control of intelligent beings, is "quasi-certain." Only one hypothesis takes into account the available data: the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitors. This hypothesis is of course unproven, but has far-reaching consequences. The goals of these alleged visitors remain unknown but must be the subject of speculations and prospective scenarios.
http://www.cufos.org/cometa.html [Broken]

Let’s focus this a bit. What exactly do you oppose? What should we not do wrt UFOs. Do you object to databases being kept, or good papers being published in reputable journals, or do you only object only to financing the subject, or do you fundamentally object to the subject even being discussed?
 
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  • #25
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
There are two separate issues here. If true and accurate, do any sightings indicate unequivocally that ET is here? In other words, if the report is true, is ET a reasonable conclusion?
I'm not sure what you mean here. If the report is "I saw ET," then if its true, its ET (obviously). If the report is "I saw something that looked like it might have been ET (description follows)," and the report is confirmed to be true, all that says is the person truthfully may have seen ET. Accurate just means he didn't say blue when he actually saw green. Saying he saw a blue light may be accurate, but it doesn't necessarily mean that blue light was ET.

So, for a sighting to actually indicate ET (to the satisfaction of a panel of scientists), it both needs to be accurate and unequivocally evidence of ET. And both of them are tall orders.
Next, do we have unequivocal scientific proof that ET is here?
Certainly, we don't.
If you require proof ET in order to justify a legitimate scientific interest in UFOs, then I say your interest is not scientific.
Again, that's not what I'm saying - what you are saying here is circular and that's not my opinion. I'm saying that in order for ETUFO research to be worth the effort, there has to both be a reasonable chance that ET exists and a reasonable chance that research will find it. You have seemed to object to this before, but please tell me: would anyone have funded a neutrino detector if the consensus of the scientific community was that neutrinos probably did not exist and even if they did, a neutrino detector probably would not find them?
To say that a 90% chance that ET is here is not sufficient to motivate an interest is absurd, IMO. So how low do we go; 50%, 10%, 1%? This then becomes a matter of interpretation of significance and certainty. The lines are not clear.
That's not what I said at all. I said to prove ET is here requires 90%+ certainty in the evidence, just like with any scientific theory. To be worth researching, I'd say you need a good 10% chance that ET exists, and if so, a 10% chance we could find him (for a total of a 1% chance that ETUFO research could succeed).

Certainly, this point is debateable, since first, not everyone will agree that 10% is the right probability and second, not everyone will agree on what the probability is (or even if the probability can be calculated). SETI is considered fringe for that very reason.
I’m saying that you created your own truth here. Consider that one UFO film was recognized as significant, or even a near extinction event; valuable to the study of meteors. This film was preserved as a UFO sighting. Many who postulate models for ball lighting and related phenomenon use UFO data to identify trends in certain types of sightings. Ball lightning people found that plasma phenomena are often found near power lines, water falls, and I think also RR tracks. Next we find that seismologists use UFO data to study potential cases of earthquake lights. Also, Persinger references UFO accounts in his study of EM effects on the brain. So without even thinking hard I can name five fields of study that have benefited from data in the UFO achieves.
First off, I did state several times that my main concern here was ET, so those other uses for the info are somewhat OT. Second, it sounds to me like these UFO sightings already have explanations - that makes them not UFOs (yes, there is a catch-22 there, but I'm comfortable with it). What you are describing is scientists scouring UFO records for easily explainable events. There is nothing wrong with or contrary to my opinion in that. The incidents this thread is concerned with are those that defy easy explanation. The ones you just cited are scientists looking for mis-categorized examples of the already-known phenomena they are studying - not looking for new phenomena (or, more to the point, ET). Those things you listed are not "UFOology."
On this point I rest my case. I think most people would agree that a 2% chance is motivation enough.
Combine a 2% chance that it was ET with a 10% chance that we could ever know for sure from that one incident and re-evaluate based on a .2% chance that that sighting could reveal anything useful.

And besides, I disagree with your assesment of scientists' willingness to investigate things on such long odds of success. What makes scientists become scientists is that they think it is possible to find answers. Science itself is predicated on the belief that we're not just mind-masturbating here. Maybe I need to start a poll in philosophy on this, but the question would be "if you believed there was only a 1% chance that the pursuit of science would yeild further advancement, would you still study it?" And the subtext, of course, would be: "Be honest with yourself." A great many people play the lottery even though intellectually they know the odds are very long. Emotion overcomes logic. But those who buy lottery tickets are, by and large, uneducated - ie, educated people don't buy lottery tickets. But that's just a dollar. With the pursuit of science, we're talking about a life's work. Scienctists are educated people and they don't bet a lifetime of work on long odds.

Ivan, I don't think I'm being at all crypic here, but you are vastly misinterpreting my points on all of the above. Please read them carefully.
On bluebook: Hynek was the chief scientific consultant to Bluebook and he knew the facts as well as anyone. He and many other scientists involved felt that summary was slanted and inaccurate. In fact a similar French study – the COMETA Report - came to exactly the opposite conclusion as did the Bluebook [one person] summary.
Bluebook was closed because it yeilded nothing (that is, it yeilded no alien technology or useful information about threats to the US). This French study that came to the opposite conclusion: what alien technology did it find and commercialize?
In its conclusion, COMETA claims that the physical reality of UFOs, under control of intelligent beings, is "quasi-certain." Only one hypothesis takes into account the available data: the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitors. This hypothesis is of course unproven[emphasis added], but has far-reaching consequences. The goals of these alleged visitors remain unknown but must be the subject of speculations and prospective scenarios.
Ivan, I see a clear contradiction in that. Which is it, "quasi-certain" (is that a scientific term?) or "unproven"? Either way, it immediately jumps tracks, as many true beleivers do and considers the question dead - time to move on to studying the aliens we alread know are here. But wait, didn't they just say "unproven"...? Whatever though, if they want to investigate the motives of ET, I'd certainly be interested in hearing an interview with him.
Let’s focus this a bit. What exactly do you oppose? What should we not do wrt UFOs. Do you object to databases being kept, or good papers being published in reputable journals, or do you only object only to financing the subject, or do you fundamentally object to the subject even being discussed?
First a caveat: I'm not sure what "good papers" means.

No, I don't object to databases being kept (by whom, though, is an important question). Its a good way to separate out the easily-explained sightings so real scientists can do real research on real phenomena as you listed above.

I certanly don't object to "good papers being published in reputable journals." That should be a pretty obvious generalization. But is there such a thing (re: ET)?

I do object to calls for the "mainstream" to deflect any significant funding or effort towards looking for ET on earth. My perception is that most of those calls are from so far outside the scientific community that they get flat-out ignored, so I'm quite comfortable with the status quo. To say it another way: I am comfortable with the status quo of the mainstream scientific community ignoring UFOology. Imo, UFOology is not science and is rightly ignored.
 
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