UFOs, UFOology, and Science

  • #26
Ivan Seeking
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Ivan 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?
Russ said:
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.

What I am trying to distinguish are the apparently reliable reports that leave a lot of room for interpretation, and those that strongly suggest or even require the existence of a super-technology beyond anything a reasonable person might imagine possible. Granted, an eyewitness or ten is not scientific evidence for ET, but in many cases there is no justification to ignore the claims as trivial. You often seem to imply that all apparently credible claims are trivial and subject to interpretation as Venus or swamp gas.

Ivan said:
Next, do we have unequivocal scientific proof that ET is here?
Russ said:
Certainly, we don't.

Allegedly. You certainly don't know that.

Russ said:
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?

No, I object to your random assignment of the odds and acceptable risk. If you believe only one of thousands of reports, then we have nearly a 100% chance that ET is here. This is where I think you get things crossed. The odds depend on the evidence that you choose to accept. If you reject all but proof as sufficient to indicate a strong likelihood, which is what you do, then the odds don’t really apply do they. It seems to me that your logic is circular. Consider this, what evidence would you accept that is not proof or nearly proof? What evidence would yield a 10% chance of ET in your mind?

Ivan said:
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.

Russ said:
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.

You see this is where I find that two issues get blurred. First of all, do ETUFOs exist? Next, what else are people seeing? IMO there is nearly a 100% chance that people are seeing genuine but unexplained phenomena. So I think the entire subject must be considered as one with near certainty of new discoveries. Whether you are looking for raw data for ET, earthlights, ball lightning, plasma ellipsoids, or earthquake lights, you may well find yourself looking at UFO data. There are classes of sightings that cross many lines. Until we know the explanations, we really can’t be sure what to look for. So, near certainty in ET? No. Near certainty that a scientific mystery exists that has real solutions that can be found? IMO, nearly 100%. It doesn’t have to be ET in order to be worth pursing.

Ivan said:
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.

Russ said:
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).

First of all, you addressed the entire subject of Ufology; note the title of your thread. To artificially limit this to a discussion of ET is evasive and arbitrary. Next, having a name for a phenomenon doesn’t mean it’s explained. This is one of the greatest sins of the debunkers: “They were only earthlights” is not an explanation until we know what earthlights are and what they do. Still, beyond a doubt, when people look for evidence of ball lighting phenomenon, UFO reports probably offer some of the best raw information available.

What you are describing is scientists scouring UFO records for easily explainable events.

I never said anything like that. Having a name for something that we don’t understand does not make an event easily explainable. It means we have a name.

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."

Why are you randomly assigning definitions? This is a simple evasion of the facts IMO.

[quote[Russ]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?"[/quote]

This again depends on your artificial limits and random assessment of the facts.

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.

Who is asking anyone to bet a lifetime of work?

Russ said:
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.

Ivan said:
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?

First of all this is an engineering question. Commercialization! Give me a break. This again is a loaded question. What has string theory, LQG, or even GR produced? So what if the universe is accelerating.

Arrrrrg! Engineers! :rolleyes:

The French study proves that UFOs deserve to be studied and it strongly suggests that ET may really be here.

Ivan said:
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.

Russ said:
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.

Well it says right in the quote that this is in lieu of any other theory that can take into account all available evidence.
 
  • #27
Ivan Seeking
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Ivan said:
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?
Russ said:
First a caveat: I'm not sure what "good papers" means.

Worthy of publication based on scientific rigor and the introduction of new scientific information.

Russ said:
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)?

Obviously Sturrock thinks so and he’s in the rare position of having an informed opinion. I’m sure Hynek would also agree.

Russ said:
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.

Interesting that you define science according to the subject and not the scientific rigor applied. Do you think Sturrock might actually be scientific in his approach? You see the reasons for objection raised by devotees within your own words. In short, your bias sets a double standard. You assume without proof that this research can yield nothing of value in spite of the fact that it has. When I point out where this has happened, you demand that this is not UFO research. To insist on ET and then demand that we can never prove he is here, and that nothing of value is likely to result is to impose an artificial safe zone that ignores the facts. This doesn’t sound very objective to me. It sounds to me like a rationalization to avoid the credible scientific discussion that the evidence deserves.

As for the mainstream, a lot has changed already. Acceptance of this subject as genuine has probably increased by an order of magnitude in my lifetime. I'm glad you approve. :tongue2:

Late edits
 
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  • #28
Ivan Seeking
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COMETA Report: [the best free internet source that I have so far]

In 1999 an important document was published in France entitled, UFOs and Defense: What must we be prepared for? ("Les Ovni Et La Defense: A quoi doit-on se préparer?"). This ninety-page report is the result of an in-depth study of UFOs, covering many aspects of the subject, especially questions of national defense. The study was carried out over several years by an independent group of former "auditors" at the Institute of Advanced Studies for National Defense, or IHEDN, and by qualified experts from various fields. Before its public release, it has been sent to French President Jacques Chirac and to Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. The report is prefaced by General Bernard Norlain of the Air Force, former Director of IHEDN, and it begins with a preamble by André Lebeau, former President of the National Center for Space Studies (Centre National D?études Spatiales), or CNES, the French equivalent of NASA. The group itself, collective author of the report, is an association of experts, many of whom are or have been auditors of IHEDN, and it is presided over by General Denis Letty of the Air Force, former auditor (FA) of IHEDN.

For the report see this page:
http://www.ufoevidence.org/topics/Cometa.htm
 
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  • #29
Ivan Seeking
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Almost forgot:
In spite of your selected quote from Condon about bluebook, this is what the Air Force has to say about it.

There are a number of universities and professional scientific organizations that have considered UFO phenomena during periodic meetings and seminars. ...Interest in and timely review of UFO reports by private groups ensures that sound evidence is not overlooked by the scientific community. Persons wishing to report UFO sightings whoud be advised to contact local law enforement agencies

http://www.nsa.gov/ufo/ufo00038.pdf

So is it your position that the USAF doesn't know what they're talking about?

Also, again, it is important to realize that contributing members of the Condon Committee did not agree with Condon's assessment. So we see legitimate scientific debate about UFOs even from your source. Or does science depend on the opinion of only one person?
 
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  • #30
russ_watters
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Ivan Seeking said:
What I am trying to distinguish are the apparently reliable reports that leave a lot of room for interpretation, and those that strongly suggest or even require the existence of a super-technology beyond anything a reasonable person might imagine possible. Granted, an eyewitness or ten is not scientific evidence for ET, but in many cases there is no justification to ignore the claims as trivial. You often seem to imply that all apparently credible claims are trivial and subject to interpretation as Venus or swamp gas.
Not having a reasonable natural explanation is not cause for a conclusion that there is an unnatural cause. This isn't Sherlock Holmes and eliminating the possibility that a sighting was a meteor or Venus (for example) does not constitute scientific evidence that it was ET. As a scientist, you know that evidence must be positive, not negative to be conclusive.

I'm not saying that all "apparently credible claims are trivial" but by the same token, you cannot say that apparently credible claims constitue scientific evidence for ET. You're implying that I'm saying unknown=mundane, but at the same time you seem to be implying that unknown=ET. All I'm saying is that unknown=unknown. Add to that the default scientific burden of proof on extrordinary claims and what you end up with is what I've said now a number of times (using your words this time): we do not have unequivocal proof that ET is here.
Allegedly. You certainly don't know that.
What?! Ivan, I gotta ask: do you want to be scientific here or not? "I don't know" is certainly not unequivocal, is it? Unequivocal means the proof has to be unequivocal. But even setting that aside - yes, I know that I personally have not reviewed a single case I consider unequivocal (I have looked at an awful lot of the best cases though). So please answer this: do you believe there are any individual cases that have evidence such that a panel of disinterested scientists would consider unequivocal proof that ET is here? If you can't answer that question with a yes (and if you can, by all means, start a thread and post the info on the case), then you also know that "we" (the general public/scientific community) don't have unequivocal proof.

Quite frankly, Ivan, it appears to me that your "I want to believe" attiude is getting in the way of your ability to look at the critereon scientifically. To use the Iranian Air Force example again, certainly it has defied mundane explanation, certainly it appears that there could be intelligence behind it, and it doesn't appear that we posess the technology to do what happened there, so it could be ET. But that's an awful lot of qualifiers, isn't it? Hence, not an unequivocal sighting of ET.
No, I object to your random assignment of the odds and acceptable risk.
That's fine. I said pretty explicitly that different people would have different perceptions of the actual and acceptable odds, because until/unless we find ET, we don't know what the odds were! And I'm not really interested in what you would consider the actual and acceptable odds, I'm asking you to honestly attempt gage what a panel of randomly selected APS members (for example) would consider the actual vs acceptable odds.
If you believe only one of thousands of reports, then we have nearly a 100% chance that ET is here. This is where I think you get things crossed.
Ha! That's where I think you have things crossed! C'mon, Ivan, you're the one who has hammered on me that "UFO" doesn't necessarily imply "ET." Is that just a smokescreen? Accepting the Iranian Air Force thing at face value (for example, again), which I AM inclined to do, btw still does not come anywhere close to meeting any scientific standard of proof that ET is here.
The odds depend on the evidence that you choose to accept.
Well of course the odds depend on your standard of proof and critereon for evaluating the evidence. They always do! I think my standard of proof is a scientific one, and I think its reasonable to hold this subject to a scientific standard of proof. If my standard isn't scientific, please help me correct that (that was the whole point of this thread), and certainly if you think this subject shouldn't be held up to scientific standards, tell me that too.
If you reject all but proof as sufficient to indicate a strong likelihood, which is what you do, then the odds don’t really apply do they.
Does equivocal evidence really help us any? I'm not a scientist, I'm an engineer, so its certainly possible I misunderstand level of proof. Are you telling me that scientists do/should accept evidence that is somewhat (or very much) less than unequivocal? Can you give me an (non-ET) example? It seems like you are you're saying that given enough events that can't be ruled out as mundane (the "maybe ET" or even "still unknown" category), you can add them all together and conclude that all those "maybes" add up to a conclusive "yes." Is that what you are saying? Is that scientific?
It seems to me that your logic is circular. Consider this, what evidence would you accept that is not proof or nearly proof? What evidence would yield a 10% chance of ET in your mind?
The Iranian Air Force thing is an example that I consider a small, but real, chance it was ET. What did I say before, 1%? 2%? So what of it? 2% isn't 90%, so it isn't unequivocal proof of ET, is it?

How do you go from 1% or 2% to 90% or 95%? By combining a large number of sightings? This is something I've discussed a number of times now - if you disagree with my opinion that you must consider sightings individually, (if you think adding a bunch of 2%'s together can equal 95%). Or are you just saying that it is unreasonable to hold this up to a scientific standard of proof?

If a scientist published a paper that concluded "There is a 2% chance I found a new elementary particle" (utterly absent of any prior prediction of the existence of this particle) do you think the community would conclude that he did?
You see this is where I find that two issues get blurred. First of all, do ETUFOs exist? Next, what else are people seeing? IMO there is nearly a 100% chance that people are seeing genuine but unexplained phenomena. So I think the entire subject must be considered as one with near certainty of new discoveries. Whether you are looking for raw data for ET, earthlights, ball lightning, plasma ellipsoids, or earthquake lights, you may well find yourself looking at UFO data. There are classes of sightings that cross many lines. Until we know the explanations, we really can’t be sure what to look for. So, near certainty in ET? No. Near certainty that a scientific mystery exists that has real solutions that can be found? IMO, nearly 100%. It doesn’t have to be ET in order to be worth pursing.
I'm fine with all of that (which is why I didn't want to discuss the non-ET part). I don't share your opinion that we'll actually find anything useful, but if you're not looking for much more than a database scientists can access if they choose to, I'm fine with that.

However: "So, near certainty in ET? No." Didn't you just lambast me above for saying exactly the same thing? I used the word "unequivocal" and its a synonym for "near certainty."
First of all, you addressed the entire subject of Ufology; note the title of your thread. To artificially limit this to a discussion of ET is evasive and arbitrary.
I thought we had already established that "UFOology" means whatever a self-proclaimed "UFOologist" says it means and the vast majority of self-proclaimed "UFOologists" are talking about ET. Furter, why is it at all fair for a self-proclaimed UFOologist to be able to define his particular area of study but not ok for me to define the scope of this discussion? And I was quite clear in the opening post that I wanted to limit this to a discussion of ET - I think it clouds the issue (sometimes purposely) to broaden the scope of the conversation. People, even scientists, abuse names and labels to try to trick people into thinking they are doing something they are not. This field, in particular, is succeptible to that.
Next, having a name for a phenomenon doesn’t mean it’s explained. This is one of the greatest sins of the debunkers: “They were only earthlights” is not an explanation until we know what earthlights are and what they do. Still, beyond a doubt, when people look for evidence of ball lighting phenomenon, UFO reports probably offer some of the best raw information available.
If the question is "was this sighting ET?" and the answer is, "no, the sighting was of 'earthlights'", then the question is answered and the event gets filed in the "definitely not ET" section of the database.
 
  • #31
russ_watters
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I never said anything like that. Having a name for something that we don’t understand does not make an event easily explainable. It means we have a name.
Just to make sure I'm clear on something: "earthlights" are an assumed to be natural, but still largely unexplained phenomena, right? If a database had a section titled "Likely Earthlights" you'd put such sightings there instead of in the "Unknown" or "Possibly ET sections, right?
Why are you randomly assigning definitions? This is a simple evasion of the facts IMO.
Its ok for a UFOologist to arbitrarily define his field, but not me? Wait, forget that - let me ask you this: would the scientists you described identify themselves as "UFOologists"? In fact, you choose not to use that label, but used "meteorologists" and "seismologists" instead. WHY? Why is it ok for you to say someone is a "seismologist" and then not ok for me to say that person is not a "UFOologist"? You just said he was a seismologist!
This again depends on your artificial limits and random assessment of the facts.
Ivan, I've been trying to set up a scientific way of addressing the question of ETUFOs. If you think I have failed, please tell me what critereon YOU would use. I hate it when people argue against the ideas of others without saying how they would do it differently.
Who is asking anyone to bet a lifetime of work?
?? Physicists don't typically spend 5 years studying physics only to decide its a waste of time and take up psycholgy, do they? If "UFOology" is a real field of science (and maybe we could continue that question in the other thread on defining it), people will someday go to school and study it for 8 years, then spend the next 40 years pursuing it. That's how every other field in science works.
First of all this is an engineering question. Commercialization! Give me a break. This again is a loaded question. What has string theory, LQG, or even GR produced? So what if the universe is accelerating.

Arrrrrg! Engineers! :rolleyes:
Certainly Blue Book was a study designed to be practical. But thats not unreasonable, since ET, if he's here, does have immediate practical implications. Because of that, the question of whether research should be practical, though interesting, is irrelevant here.
The French study proves that UFOs deserve to be studied and it strongly suggests that ET may really be here.
Without knowing anything at all about the organization that produced that study (I'll read up on it), I can say that the only thing their conclusion "strongly suggests" to me is that they have an adjenda and didn't approach the question scientifically. I guess its possible that its a translation issue, but are you saying the wording of the conclusion and the contradiction in it didn't make you giggle even a little bit?
Well it says right in the quote that this is in lieu of any other theory that can take into account all available evidence.
Right, Sherlock Holmes again. Please tell me if you consider the process of elimination to be enough (or in this case, even, all we have to go on) to form a 95% certain scientific conclusion.
Obviously Sturrock thinks so and he’s in the rare position of having an informed opinion. I’m sure Hynek would also agree.
Wait, you misunderstood my question: I meant do any such papers exist? Those guys think study is needed, but clearly some people are studying it right now - have any of them produced anything that a scientific journal has considered compelling enough to publish?
Interesting that you define science according to the subject and not the scientific rigor applied.
You misunderstand: the subject is psuedoscience because it is not being approached scientifically. We've had this discussion before re: cold fusion. It became crackpottery when P&F made it crackpottery. And like cold fusion, the participants in "UFOology" are free, at any time, to start pursuing it scientifically - and if they do, maybe the community will give them a second glance.
Do you think Sturrock might actually be scientific in his approach?
Approach to what? Is he doing research or calling for research?
In short, your bias sets a double standard. You assume without proof that this research can yield nothing of value in spite of the fact that it has. When I point out where this has happened, you demand that this is not UFO research. To insist on ET and then demand that we can never prove he is here, and that nothing of value is likely to result is to impose an artificial safe zone that ignores the facts. This doesn’t sound very objective to me.
I consider my bias to be a bias toward the scientific method and I see your bias as a bias toward a desire to see the ET question answered in the affirmative. P&F let their "I want to believe" bias control the path of their research and they turned legitimate science into crackpottery.
It sounds to me like a rationalization to avoid the credible scientific discussion that the evidence deserves.
As I have said now, several times, the "UFOology" community is more than welcome to become a coherent body that holds credible scientific discussion at any time. I suspect the few who would approach it scientifically know that they wouldn't be able to control the vast majority who wouldn't - the insane would run the asylum. But that's their problem, not mine.
In spite of your selected quote from Condon about bluebook, this is what the Air Force has to say about it.
Sorry, it was a quick google, and I figured you'd feel a UFO site would be a reasonable source :biggrin:
So is it your position that the USAF doesn't know what they're talking about?
Huh? They still cancelled the project, didn't they? The quote you just provided says, in essence, 'let other people deal with it if they care - we don't.' I agree wholeheartedly.
Also, again, it is important to realize that contributing members of the Condon Committee did not agree with Condon's assessment. So we see legitimate scientific debate about UFOs even from your source. Or does science depend on the opinion of only one person?
Please stop trying to pigeonhole me like that. I have said a number of times that I base my criterea on what I think the scientific community would consider correct. And despite asking you a number of times, you have yet to comment on if you think my assessment of the scientific community's position is correct. Little pot-shots like that don't help your position though: if the general scientific community agreed with you, "UFOology" would play a larger part in the mainstream scientific community. That it doesn't implies to me that their position is closer to mine than yours.
 
  • #32
russ_watters
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I think I need to reiterate the purpose of this thread. I am trying to frame scientific critereon for the investigation of UFOs. Clearly you disagree, Ivan, but do you disagree that my critereon are scientific or do you disagree with my assertion that scientific critereon should be applied? Either way, could you outline for me what your critereon are. Specifically, under what critereon can we say beyond a reasonable doubt that ET is here - and then, obviously, has that critereon been met? And as a follow-up, do you think your critereon match what the scientific community would consider reasonable (yes, I realize I am asking for speculation). And if not, what critereon do you think the scientific community would demand?

Calling for more study is an easy cop out: you must assess the probibility of success before you can reasonably decide if more study is warranted.
 
  • #33
Ivan Seeking
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Whewwww...I will be back. I have only had the time for hit and run PF lately.
 
  • #34
Ivan Seeking
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It will take me a little time get caught up but I will start here for now.

russ_watters said:
I think I need to reiterate the purpose of this thread. I am trying to frame scientific critereon for the investigation of UFOs. Clearly you disagree, Ivan, but do you disagree that my critereon are scientific or do you disagree with my assertion that scientific critereon should be applied? Either way, could you outline for me what your critereon are. Specifically, under what critereon can we say beyond a reasonable doubt that ET is here - and then, obviously, has that critereon been met? And as a follow-up, do you think your critereon match what the scientific community would consider reasonable (yes, I realize I am asking for speculation). And if not, what critereon do you think the scientific community would demand?

Calling for more study is an easy cop out: you must assess the probibility of success before you can reasonably decide if more study is warranted.

Its really not that hard to understand. Event X allegedly happened. Depending on the significance of the data available, and depending on the number of witnesses, and depending on what people report, some number of investigators, some being complete amateurs, and others having various degrees - such as Bruce Maccabee with his Ph.D in optical physics - go out and collect as much information and evidence as possible. From there the information is reviewed, analyzed, debunked or not, and potentially plausible explanations may be presented. Often, with photographic or video evidence, one of the biggest jobs is to answer the question: Was this faked?

If after some years of scrutiny by skeptics, debunkers and true believers, and other less biased investigators, the event may stand the test of time - no evidence of a hoax or other prosaic explanations are found. At this point the information needs to be interpreted. By now several years or even decades may have passed. In fact, if we consider the McMinnville sighting in the 50's, only now can we be reasonably certain that the photos weren't hoaxed. So it may be a very long time before we even know where within the framework of the subject this event may lie.

Often the problem is that if the evidence credible, no one can imagine any explanation other than ET. In other words, often the real objection of debunkers and skeptics is that they can't imagine a non-ET explanation; so the evidence can't be good. This is really were things get stuck – it can't be real so it ain't. Often this only represents a lack of imagination, or an unwillingness to take on genuine new intellectual challenges, or simple fear of the unknown. This is why so many people fear serious discussion of UFOs – if the witnesses are to be believed, it might be ET. I don’t know if it is ET but I’m not going to run away because it might be.

So the problem here is one of classification. We don’t know what earthlights may be - if they exist which it seems that they do. We don’t know what ball lightning is but it does exist. We don’t know if other forms of plasma phenomena may exist that could account for various families of UFO reports, but it might. Over time the picture does become a bit clearer but we certainly aren’t done. Thanks to the many UFO investigators, we now know that people are seeing some things that can’t be explained. To assign a specific explanation for unidentified phenomena just to make everyone feel better is hardly good science. Unexplained [unidentified] is the correct classification – UFO.

As time passes and more good information accumulates, and as more and more people are looking and thinking and debunking, and not, a consensus will eventually emerge. Maybe the study of earthlights will help this to happen and maybe it will only hurt. In other words, we may never find earthlights to account for some of the best evidence for UFOs. In that case also a consensus will emerge. Did Col. Halt in the Rendlesham case see earthlights or not? Once we have explained earthlights we should know if that’s possible; or if other explanations are needed..

As for this question
Just to make sure I'm clear on something: "earthlights" are an assumed to be natural, but still largely unexplained phenomena, right? If a database had a section titled "Likely Earthlights" you'd put such sightings there instead of in the "Unknown" or "Possibly ET sections, right?

When possible I already do. In fact I started and linked this thread to the Rendlesham Forest UFO event and the Iran UFO in order to draw attention to the possibility of an earthly explanation; in spite of the eyewitness testimony that seeming rules this out.

https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=7371

As for proof of ET – could this be possible to prove? Not for some people; after all, some people still think the earth is flat, but I think most will know if the weight of the evidence can no longer be ignored.
 

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