UFO Conjectures

Monday, May 16, 2011

Must reading for Kimball, Moody, CDA, Fernandez et al.

No not the magazine pictured here, but a paper by Peter Lamont about scepticism [sic] and the paranormal -- who believes what and why, and the consternation of both camps, the believers and the sceptics.

Click here for the PDF


  • Thanks for the article, Rich.

    It is essentially an axiom that whenever I hear a sentence that begins, "I have always been a skeptic...," I know that what follows will be a demonstration of full suspension of critical thinking.

    One issue, I suggest, is that skeptics have a somewhat specific idea about what "being skeptical" is. And I don't think the basics of this idea are usually innate. I think you learn them.

    I suspect that many folks, who say that they have always been skeptical, really mean that they thought certain ideas were silly or implausible even while they never gave these ideas much thought and were not familiar with the evidence.

    That is not skepticism.

    I don't agree with Paul Kimball that some middle-ground between skepticism and belief is preferable and I can't support the suggestion that a new way of looking these things is needed (at least not from the skeptical side).

    Modern skepticism was born as a response to unreason and was founded upon the framework of science. No worthy substitute has been proffered.


    By Blogger Lance, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Lance:

    I get a faint impression that Paul doesn't quite understand what skepticism is, and I know he's a bright guy.

    That's why I've provided the Lamont piece here.

    I happen to be skeptical about everything, yet I don't just disbelieve, out of hand.

    I just need something substantial to back up some of the UFO conclusions that are rife in the UFO community.

    Steve Sawyer thinks I am an advocate for the idea that Zamora saw a test-vehicle/lander and not an alien craft, for instance.

    I have no idea what Zamora saw.

    I'm open to lots of suggestions.

    And I always hope that someone comes up with a bona fide hypothesis that can be verified pretty much.

    No one has done that yet. But a truly new approach to that old case would not offend, even though some would like us to drop the sighting from our potential UFO hypotheses and move on.

    If fringe phenomena are important to the meaning of life, then make that case I suggest to the paranormalists.

    Meanwhile, I'll wallow in my skepticism about what UFOs are or what they mean in the great scheme of things.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • The article was quite erudite but it made its point. If we applied it to UFOs, then an avowal of skepticism might be made by a 'skeptical' witness before a sighting. But the high strangeness (to him) of the sighting forced him to concede that he was wrong and that UFOs (whatever they are) do exist.

    On the other hand a true skeptic would very likely NOT be swayed by any sighting, he would only search for an explanation to the sighting and perhaps concede finally that it was, to him, unexplained. But he would then decide the sighting probably was explainable if he (the witness) had more complete information about it, and might consider that he did not trust his senses anyway.

    It would be interesting to know how many truly skeptical people (i.e. what percentage) have been converted to believers by a UFO sighting of their own.

    It MIGHT convert me to believer. Reconvert me I should say, since I have already had one, slow and gradual, conversion during my lifetime, and that was in the other direction!

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Funny... I get the impression that you guys don't understand what scepticism is. Oh well. To each their own...

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Well, Christopher, I've had three what I consider bona fide UFO sightings over the years, so, for me, UFOs are a reality, but only as Frank Warren would have it: I saw unidentified things in the sky.

    No flying saucers, just things that were strange, and unexplained to me.

    Thus UFOs exist as a phenomenon in my mind.

    What they are or consist of, in essence, remains obtuse, and UFO researchers haven't been helpful in providing an explanation as to what they are or may be.

    But even then I have to step back and take a philosophical tack: did my sense of sight/seeing actually provide a true represetation of reality?

    Even though others with me, in two instances, saw the same thing, and thousands had the same sighting (in Detroit) for one of the sightings, what can be said that defines what I saw or experienced?

    So, for me, UFOs are a real phenomenon (or more than that) but that's as far as I can go.

    My skepticism about witness testimony goes to the failure of observation and memory (even my own) when it comes time to relate what was seen or experienced.

    In my reply to Lance above, I seem to skewer Kimball for not knowing what skeptism is. That's not what I was trying to say.

    Paul seems to be twisted by the likes of a Phil Klass, who was just a curmudgeon, not a skeptic in the true philosophical sense.

    We all get sidetracked by the goofballs who take the premise that UFOs do not exist, when the evidence for UFOs is as palpable as anything else in this world.

    Once we admit that something of a strange nature has been evidenced by many, in many ways, over the years, we might get on with trying to discover what UFOs are "in existentia."

    As for the actual value of discovering what UFOs may be, that for me is a skeptical issue.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Paul:

    Skepticism is a full-blown philosophical discipline, as you know certainly.

    Taking it down a notch or two to rattle the cages of a Lance Moody (or me, even) does a dis-service to the Kantian or Cartesian views.

    If one wants to get into a heady discussion about skepticism, one has to take it out of the UFO arena, where silliness is the lingua franca.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Thank you very much to have shared this article. Very interesting (and they are sceintific articles sourced I have not in my biblio!).

    For the anecdoct only, in some French ETH proponents forums, it exists a recurring fallacy (AKA pub psychology) : the prior belief on UFO as E.T. (in youngness, ie.) is the common denominator of UFO-skeptics (Hello the amalgam). And then UFO-skeptics (to follow such "psychologists of the village") are then only drived by a sort of "frustration" and by a "revenge" against their prior belief and prior gullibility. And then, UFO-skeptics are pseudo-skeptics, debunkers, not open mind at all costs! Well, it was an anecdoct among how ETH proponents think about UFO-skeptics in our country and in pro-ETH UFO forums microcosm of course (your too?). But part of my difficulty to take some french ufologists as serious.

    Concerning a new paradigm ufology could reach, I'm, in my humble opinion/position & own knowledge/experience... skeptic too (sic).

    As Christopher remarked, well, such an attempt is not new. It sounds "utopic".
    But more personaly and frankly, I dunno WHAT IS "UFOLOGY". It is not in order to provok.
    What is the object of study the self-proclamed "ufology" is supposed to study?????
    Ufology is unable imho to define that and the object of its "own" study. AND // I dont see ONE reason why it must be a new object of study (which please?)not already studied, already investigated by other disciplines.

    Frankly, I mean that to "ask" or to "propose" a change of paradigm, we should have... at least a discipline already existing among the sciences...
    There is not a scientific and/or so called "ufology".
    Ufology have not reached this "simple and first" epistemologic level imho : to be a scientific discipline with an own and defined object to study.

    Ufology and such UFOs can be ONLY the object of study of others academic disciplines (astronomy, psychology, sociology, videography, ethnology, climatology, etc...) and this for GOOD reasons (I'm a PSH or PCH proponent but at least, the ones I'm part are not speculating only, like the ETH proponents.
    PS or PC model/theory have prooven/demonstrated by tangible evidences - more than 90% the ufo cases ? -.
    Many cases with high strangeness , but before part of the best unexplained UFO cases, have becomed IFO's. Anyway, pro- ETH ufologists will be always attracted by the residual cases, even if their contracdictors have explained many "their" past best unexplained cases...

    Pro ETH concerning UFO are not really interrested by IFO's :(.

    When a top 10 IFO's case film, regarding ufology ? Erf, not sexy or £££ or $$$$^^

    Seriously friends, how, the knowledge of "Unknown Flying Object(s)" (UFOlogy) could become an academic discipline??? It have no sens imho!

    Without provokation too, pro-ETH proponents concerning UFO's, calling to "ufology", are just a "social network" between people sharing the same "hypothesis" at the best, "believing" at the worst (ETH explanation for UFOs).

    In any case, imho, the day before (to propose such an hypothesis) or the day after (it is prooven that we are visited)... there was, i,s or will be a "need" of UFOLOGY or the so-called ufologists.

    Best Regards,
    Gilles Fernandez

    By Blogger Gilles. F., at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Hi Rich,

    I'm not taking a shot at you, or even Lance. I'm just pointing out, again, in response to comments made here, that I don't consider Lance to be a true sceptic, but rather a Klass-like disbeliever. That's fine, but it isn't scepticism, of any sort. Lance disagrees, which is his right, of course. At the end of the day, it's hardly a point worth arguing about. We each have to be guided by our own compass, and he's comfortable with his definition of scepticism, as I am with mine. C'est la vie, and vive le difference.

    The far more important thing is to conduct oneself in a civil and reasonable manner. Again, everyone has to set their own goalposts here - I've just found that the vitriol between "sceptics" and those they criticize amongst "believers" to be vitriolic, petty and to a great degree pathological. It offends me.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Paul:

    I've always gotten the impression that Lance Moody, CDA, and Gilles Fernandez are skeptics of a reasonable kind, only blowing their tops when they have to deal with a rabid believer such as David Rudiak.

    For me, skepticism is a full course philosophical discipline, and we (you, I, Moody, CDA) seem to be treating it cavalierly, somewhat.

    I like Lance's and CDA's rational argumentation about UFO sightings that they are eminently familiar with.

    Their views strike me as skeptical in the best sense of the word.

    You put them (especially Moody) in a category that doesn't quite work for me but does provide a patina for discussion.

    I'm hoping to refine our argumentative processes here, to keep out the riff-raff and the old-guard bromides that have beclouded the UFO field for years.

    That may be a dicey task, as CDA intimates, but it's worth a try.

    So we are throwing in papers by academics and those qualified to address issues that impact, even indirectly, the UFO matter.

    We here, the RRRGroup, are hoping to drill down into topics so that persons of an intellectual bent will join in, eventually.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Using anecdotes is taught in high school as a persuasive device; it's also a familiar technique for political speech-writers. Toss in a 'rule of three' like 'education, education, education' and you've caught your audience's attention.

    The linked document is covering similar territory whilst overlooking how ingrained such statements are throughout non-paranormal subjects. It isn't native to the paranormal and/or UFO subject. The inverse is used by skeptics when they allude to previously being believers; I've done it myself and CDA does it in his post. Despite it being a device we can exploit to persuade people towards our perspective, it can also be true. No doubt CDA is being honest and sincere in using the technique.

    There are so many studies investigating the motivations behind the, often wacky, perspectives of 'believers' and their Stooge-like cousins the 'true believers.' I'm sure that no readers of this blog would include themselves in this category, but I wonder where the studies are of the self-proclaimed skeptic? You know which ones I mean? The guys who purport to honor some ideal scepticism that is detached from prejudice and yet somehow comes across as being predictably judgemental. Surely the psychology behind such characters is as interesting as their binary opposites?

    Menzel springs to mind as a non-present example of this behaviour. His philosophical standards of skepticism have been, at times, found wanting. I wonder; what makes an informed and educated skeptic ignore evidence that conflicts with their conclusions? What causes this personality type to be unable to suspend judgement?

    I realise that referring to Menzel is like picking low-hanging fruit, but the linked article refers to Uri Geller and justifies a similar extreme example to make a point.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • @Paul,

    I don't just disagree. I also ask you for any evidence that I am what you are calling a disbeliever.

    Are you saying that I have seen incontrovertible evidence and then willfully turned away from it?

    Where? When? Can we go beyond just your pronouncement of the thing?

    One thing that is true is that after seeing tired hoaxes, unsupported conclusions, and other shenanigans (Paul is aware of one recent example I uncovered regarding a "well-respected" UFO author) over and over again, I am, I admit, jaded.

    That means that I look at new case with much baggage, but I still consider the evidence.

    I contend that it doesn't mean that I would ignore evidence and just disbelieve.

    Gilles does bring up a point that I find interesting (and most of this meta stuff is pretty uninteresting to me) about former believers becoming skeptics and then having a chip on their shoulder about anything paranormal.

    Maybe there is some truth to that.

    But if I have a chip on my shoulder, it's only because I have seen the con before.

    What I think Paul (and countless others) suggest about some skeptics being deceitful and hiding or ignoring compelling evidence is not proven (and I have now asked for evidence of this several times).


    By Blogger Lance, at Monday, May 16, 2011  

  • Gilles:
    I am old enough to remember your countryman Aime Michel and his 'straight line' theory. It looked pretty convincing to me for a while. Here was a new (at the time) scientific discovery that seemed to be good evidence of an intelligence behind the UFO reports.

    Then years later, another Frenchman, Jaques Vallee, 'put the boot' into the straight line theory, and Michel himself discarded it soon after Vallee's denunciation. Thereafter it vanished from ufology, forever.

    This was part of the reason I converted to skepticism from 'believerism'. It was thus mainly due to two ufologists from your country!

    By Blogger cda, at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

  • Greetings CDA & friends,

    Hoo... I ignored it! What a confession Christopher ! ;)

    Just for the readers (please correct me if I'm wrong). Aimé Michel developped a "straight line" theory in 1958 called "orthoténie" : in short periods (+- 24h), UFO observations are aligned or in sort of circles around the Hearth. This theory have been refutated in 1976 by Vallée

    But in fact, I think it was D. Menzel who denonced it the first ("Do Flying Saucers Move in Straight Lines?", in Flying Saucer Review, 1964 ; and not Vallée (?)

    After it have been developped a similar theory in France: the "isocélie" theory (by Jean-Charles Fumoux, near 1978?) which was abandoned in 1981 cause invalided mathematicaly by our friend Dominique Caudron and by our GEPAN (CNES).
    This theory claimed that UFO "observations" followed a complex network of isosceles triangles (but that's due to the hasard in realité as mathematicaly demonstrated by both D. Caudron and GEPAN/CNES).



    By Blogger Gilles. F., at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

  • Hi Lance,

    Let's just take a step back and agree to disagree. I might view you differently if you were less confrontational (to the point of rudeness), and spend less time bothering with Internet chat forums and the like - a lesson I learned myself over the years. But we Canadians think all of you Americans act like that, so maybe it's a cultural thing.

    You say you keep an open mind, and I'll accept that you're sincere. My advice to you then is to leave the old cases behind (unless you find a new one, or have something new to offer - no-one would be happier than me to see you explain the Santa Barbara case), and look to the future - offer ideas about what might be, not what isn't.

    And remember - the journey is the destination! :-)


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

  • In fact, I writted 1976 concerning Vallée but it was in 1966, my bad. It exists a wiki french base concerning orthoténie^^

    So Vallee used Chicago University computer in 1966 to refute Michel's "orthotenie" and he demonstrated that when simulating an UFO wave, the straight lines are due to the hazard, even if few of the lines obtained are "escaping" the probability laws.
    But it is realy in 1976 that the theory was definitivaly invalidated, but by French Michel Jeantheau (again if we follow this wiki source). Searching in newspapers, Jeantheau found that Michel have not accurated dates concerning the 1954 french UFO wave observations Michel used to elaborate his theory. Shit happens :(

    The french wiki page indicates too Menzel was probably the first to criticazed Michel theory with calculations (the reference I noticed above).

    Sorry for this parenthesis, maybe a little of-topic !

    By Blogger Gilles. F., at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

  • Yes, Gilles, the Michel Orthoteny theory is off-topic here but it is a legitimate theory, even though some think it has been refuted.

    There is a method of predictive analytics that confirms some of what Michel's side-lined work indicated.

    We'll be dealing with this, upcoming, as it, for us, is a bona fide area of research for UFO sightings but also for other incidents.

    We, many years ago, did some work on a methodology that was able to determine when a series of disasters might occur -- earthquakes, mining disasters, storms, bus crashes, et cetera, and the study involved staight lines.

    More to come....and keep those off-topics coming. They usually end up being interesting.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

  • Hi Paul,

    I you had just said "rude" instead of "disbeliever", we would have been on the same page all this time!

    I have been rude before, no doubt. Often that rudeness was deserved but sometimes it was not.

    I have flaws (especially when pounding out golden words on the interweb).



    By Blogger Lance, at Tuesday, May 17, 2011  

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