The UFO Iconoclast(s)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A must-read Book for UFO mavens and especially the few who visit Kevin Randle’s blog


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Here’s the blurb from the cover of Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s book, “Inevitable Illusions; How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds” [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 1994]:

Everyone knows that optical illusions trick us because of the way we see. Now scientists have discovered hat cognitive illusions, a set of biases deeply embedded in the human mind, distort the way we think.

In Inevitable Illusions cognitive researcher Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini…opens the doors onto the newly charted realm of the cognitive unconscious to reveal the full range of illusions, showing how they inhibit our ability to reason, no matter what our educational background or IQ.

The problem(s) with “ufological thought” -- an oxymoron surely – is blatantly on display in many internet places where UFOs are the topic: UFO UpDates is one such place.

But a capsule site for erroneous thinking is Kevin Randle’s blog, A Different Perspective.

Mr. Randle isn’t the problem; he opens his blog to all comers (mostly) giving free reign to an admittedly few UFO hobbyists: ET advocates, exemplified by David Rudiak (who is a member of Mr. Randle’s Roswellian Dream Team), skeptics, represented by Lance Moody, Christopher Allen, and Gilles Fernandez, along with assorted nobodies.

Mr. Randle’s visitors continue to get immersed in the minutiae of the 1947 Roswell incident, hacking away at the tale, ad infinitum, ad eternum, and ad nauseum.

A scrutiny of the back-and forths, beclouded by Mr. Rudiak’s extensive displays of Roswell detritus, shows that the thinking behind the commentary is flawed, in ways that Piattelli-Palmarini examples in his book (pictured above).

The over-riding premise of “cognitive illusions” is footnoted by quasi-magical thought, the psychology of typicality, and heuristic “mental tunnels” which create bias. [Page 19 ff.]

Chapter Six of the book, The Fallacy of Near Certainty, provides references to capital and systematic mistakes with its naive forms of extrapolation. [Page 111 ff.]

The patina of Mr. Rudiak’s droning presentations highlight what Piattelli-Palmarini is driving at:

In the world of probability one cannot, even where the reliability is very close to 100 percent (or absolute certainty) – such as 95 percent – extrapolate. [ibid]

The specifics of “overconfidence” outlined, beginning on Page 116, derive from a 1977 paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology [Fischoff, Slovic, Lichtenstein] where persons “certain of their subjects” thought they were 100 percent correct, and rated their probability of being wrong as one in a thousand, in ten thousand, or even in a million. [Page 117].

Mr. Rudiak presents his views with that kind of overconfidence.

That Mr. Rudiak knows his subject matter, Roswell, better than most, is obvious.

That skeptics (Moody, CDA, Fernandez) goad him into lavishing his knowledge on Randle’s readers creates an argumentative scenario which diminishes the basics of the Roswell incident and UFOs in general.

Roswell, no matter how one perceives it, tells us nothing about UFOs as they exist today. Or what their import is from past observations.

The details that Mr. Rudiak generously provides and Mr. Randle encourages are not debunked by the skeptical group. They engage, also, in many of the cognitive flaws that Piattelli-Palmarini outlines, such as not knowing or using Bayes’ Law when attempting to refute Mr. Rudiak or employ a “tunnel of pessimism” [Page 139 ff.]

Piattelli-Palmarini gives several examples that, for me, show how the skeptics ruin their argumentation: Externally modulable and Subjectively incorrigible (where telling [Mr. Rudiak] that he is…inclined to commit certain errors does not immediately lead him to cease doing so. [Page 140]

UFO aficionados are inclined to be belligerent and illogical.

That’s the endemic nature of the UFO topic.

UFO UpDates provides the caustic examples of belligerency and illogic.

Mr. Randle’s blog isn’t as compassing, but it gives an outline of how far and how low the UFO phenomenon has driven academic civility.

Perhaps some of Mr. Randle’s habitués will seek out the book mentioned here and mend their ways.

(I doubt any will do that. They are victims of their own cognitive illusions.)

RR 

19 Comments:

  • Thanks for the above, Rich!

    I am sure that we all have room for improvement. I know I certainly do!

    Sometimes I feel like all the discussion is a waste of time. Sometimes I feel like some baby steps of progress have been made.

    Recently I have been encouraged by finally being able (at least in my own mind) to understand the whole Roswell narrative suggested by skeptics. I had a few nagging questions and was happy to see several bits of evidence come together that opened my eyes.

    I was also encouraged by an awesome experiment Tim Printy did. I prevailed upon Tim to only release part of the results from the experiment and save the rest for his next issue. I was sure that Rudiak would make up a whole bunch of "facts" and numbers to show why Tim's published results weren't valid.

    Rudiak never disappoints on that front. Sure enough he wrote reams of his conspiracy science prattle. It all sounded very reasonable and self-important.

    The next month Tim published the rest of data that clearly shows that everything Rudiak spouted was demonstrably false.

    That was very satisfying (even if a bit childish, I admit).

    For me, the kind of thinking that Rudiak promotes deserves to fought against. That sort of thinking makes people dumb: they make up shadowy reasons for things instead of facing reality.

    As for my own participation, if the whole endeavor ends up being totally worthless, I would not be surprised. I had a bit of fun with it.

    Lance



    By Blogger Lance, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Lance:

    I hate the Roswell prattle about Roswell at Randle's blog...but I hate almost everything, so my plaint is worthless.

    The problem for me, with Roswell, is that -- and you'll hate this -- Tony Bragalia keeps coming across some intriguing information and responses to questions he asks of people who seem to be in on Roswell
    research that says the incident was more than a balloon incident or prosaic "accident."

    Tony's research is ongoing, as is that of other "Dream Team" members.

    Rudiak is too busy cementing his extensive accumulations to the walls of the internet and Randle's blog to be doing anything worthwhile with or for the so-called Roswell dream team.

    So I'm on hold as far as Roswell is concerned.

    I don't think, as I keep writing and saying, that any Roswell denouement answers the UFO question.

    The enigma goes beyond Roswell, but seems to be a minor subset to our existence nowadays.

    It used to resonate as something significant.

    Today it tweaks our curious noses but doesn't even cause a sneeze.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • I wonder what Mr Piattelli-Palmarini would say if were to join in the debates on Kevin's blog.

    There are illogicalities on both sides. But I suggest there are far fewer on the skeptics' side. There are questions, on either side, that are simply unanswerable and never will be answerable. Here is one: Why was that darned Roswell press release ever issued?

    We are all guilty at times of overstating things. Politicians do it repeatedly. So do others. Words are used wrongly, irrelevancies are introduced. Misleading arguments are given. And so on.

    Example: you get constant debates in the UK about 'scroungers'. These are, allegedly, the ones living on state benefits who never do any work and are just parasites. But how many of them are there?

    Estimates vary widely. The response given by those of a strong socialist leaning is "There are millions unemployed, below the poverty line and facing starvation, etc. We must help them". The other side will say "There are millions of these lazy 'scroungers' and they must be taken off benefits and made to work".

    See the trouble? In each case it is "millions" (or some other number). But how many millions? Or is it really "hundreds of thousands" or maybe only "tens of thousands", or maybe none of these? More important: Are these two groups of benefit recipients one and the same but are being described in different terms according to political viewpoint? Nobody knows for sure. They may be gross exaggerations, or they may be figures snatched out of the air. The only certainty is that nobody can tell which figure is right and who will 'win' the debate.

    The same kind of argument applies to the endless and tiresome debates on immigration (in the UK).

    Both sides are right, yet both sides are wrong. The debate gets nowhere, yet it goes on and on.

    With UFOs we get the same. Endless figures are bandied about. Some logical, and some illogical, arguments are put forward on either side.

    With Roswell: "How can 30 to 50 witnesses all be wrong?" the ETHers tell us. (The numbers vary, of course!) Skeptics reply: "But how can the hard evidence of which there must be tons of paperwork, wreckage and bodies, be non-existent?". ETHers reply: "Because it is all hushed up and officially top secret". Skeptics then say "Impossible for such an important scientific discovery after 65 years". ETHers then cite other long kept secrets. And so on, and on.

    Result is deadlock. But there is some common sense, and some nonsense, running through the arguments, on either side.

    Is the general UFO debate a logical one or not? Is the Roswell debate logical or not? What would this latest author say, I wonder?

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Christopher:

    The UK examples you cite are like the kinds that Piattelli-Palmarini uses in his book.

    As for Roswell, that damnable press release is the bugaboo.

    No one seems to know why the thing was issued and at whose behest.

    But, again, I note the idea that "flying disk" was a metaphor for anything flying about that was out of the ordinary.

    My bitch is that the go-rounds at Kevin's blog are repetitive, redundant, and with no possibility of a resolution.

    Rudiak is too entrenched in his position(s) to cede anything to you and the other skeptics.

    Randle doesn't keep the debate in check.

    He let's the discussion go off on tangents that diminish the cachet of anyone who's in on the discussion.

    Randle's blog has become a gigantic graffito with Roswell being the main obscenity.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Rich: "My bitch is that the go-rounds at Kevin's blog are repetitive, redundant, and with no possibility of a resolution"

    Circular thinking...I've found this to be the case in quiet a few UFO discussions...I'm equally guilty. Linear thoughts appear to be a difficult concept when discussing UFOs, and in particular, Roswell.

    Oh, might as well throw in circumstantial thought process.

    Thanks for the book review!

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Hum Rich.
    Imho,

    What it is appearing for you as circularity in discussion between UFO-proponents and Skeptics, is the following :

    The firsts (UFO proponents) made Extraordinary Claims which require extraordinary evidence (as you know from Sagan).

    The second (Skeptics) recall this... and propose or claim prosaic possibilities. Skeptics have not the Burden of proof in it.

    In any sort, in any way, this circularity makes UFO proponents claims scientificaly valid.

    An extraordinary claim require extraordinary evidence.

    The Roswell's DreamTeam is an Epic Fail on it, from 1978 to today.
    It is the only "circular thing" here and imho.

    Regards,

    Gilles Fernandez

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • I agree, pretty much, with your view, Gilles.

    But does the circular discussion (or debate) need to go on and on, over and over again?

    Also, I wouldn't count the Dream Team out quite yet.

    Rudiak is a poor example of what others are doing or trying to do.

    Rudiak is fixated on the material he's worked with, for years, while others are looking under new rocks for something untouched, something new.

    That Randle is letting Rudiak control the agenda -- or, rather, seeming to -- has created the impression that the Dream Team is as nutty as Rudiak.

    They aren't.

    Some are seriously trying to resolve the Roswell myth, Randle among them.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Talking of the 'dream team', is it conceivable that they can come up with a non-ET answer in their conclusions? There are only 3 possibilities:

    1. The team confirm previous conclusions. Roswell was ET. This would be acceptable to most of the UFO fraternity but certainly not to science.

    2. They express doubts and suggest other possible solutions. This would then repudiate everything their members have been saying for the last 20+ years. They would have egg on their faces.

    3. They fudge the issue, with some saying one thing and some another. This would have the same effect as 2 to the UFO fraternity.

    Take your pick.

    To me it sounds a pointless exercise.

    I hope you are not suggesting Tony Bragalia is going to steer them in useful other directions. Everything he has said so far about the case is heavily ET biased. His over-enthusiasm of ET matches that of Rudiak, although his methodology is quite different. Wisely, he has been quiet of late.

    I'd like to see someone like this author you quote among the team, if only to advise them on their methodology. He might be very useful in any future UFO research team. But I suspect he has no interest in the subject and probably no knowledge of it.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Rich wrote: "Some are seriously trying to resolve the Roswell myth, Randle among them."

    To be frank, the "some" are well known ;) They wil offer again again ET crashed in Roswell in 1947.

    But, they will NEVER produce what is required here when claiming an ET craft crashed in Roswell in 1947 and the USA(A)F and the US gouvernement is hidden it for decades (to Science, to the Public, etc).

    Remember Rich:

    "The more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded". (Marcello Truzzi)
    Roswell Dreamteam will never reach it.

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (Carl Sagan).
    Roswell Dreamteam will never reach it.

    Do you want to bet?

    Amitiés,

    Gilles

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • As Piattelli-Palmarini tells readers of his book, to bet on [Roswell being an ET crash] would be an overconfident cognitive error.

    But the possibility exists, even as infinitely small as that possibility seems to skeptics.

    So I defer to the Dream Team's (conclusive?) report, for now.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • I finally learned at some point that the rote repetition of facts, regardless of their veracity, does not equate to a modicum of self awareness. Facts are always referential, based on comparisons, the acknowledgement that uncertainty is always present, not all the facts can be known,the target moves as more is learned,as well as the the circularity of language itself.
    Roswell has been a case study of what Rober Anton Wilson termed a "reality tunnel." preserved in amber, a timeless place, haunted by positivists in search of a rationale for obsessions, their overt compulsions and left to dwell there as historical signposts leading through a dry canal, planted there as sort of lifeless statues frozen in place by tying themselves, arms, legs, and feet into knots in a sort of a macrame pattern, a carpet to trod upon, as we make on our way elsewhere.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Rich wrotes: "As Piattelli-Palmarini tells readers of his book, to bet on [Roswell being an ET crash] would be an overconfident cognitive error.

    AGREE !

    But you add:

    "But the possibility exists, even as infinitely small as that possibility seems to skeptics."

    Then, Ezechiel's Chariot crashing in Roswell in 1947 possibility exists too, even as infinitely small as that possibility seems to be.

    Then, maybe to solve Roswell case, it is Felix Baumgartner's balloon and his capsule, which have passed inter-temporal dimension that have been recovered in 1947, even as infinitely small as that possibility seems to be ...

    Etc ;

    You maybe see how it is easy to play with "what if fortean?".
    That's cool and that's ufology, but one more time :

    "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" (Carl Sagan).

    Gilles

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • Gilles,

    You should look for the French equivalents to "possible" and "probable."

    Then we can debate.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, October 17, 2012  

  • The answer, from my perspective is that there is no evidence that military retirees have ever lost retirement benefits based on perceived UFO cover-ups and speaking publicly of such.

    Notable individuals who have done quite well as either ex-military or retired military:

    Robert Salas
    Col Walter Figel
    Col Frederick Meiwald

    ...the list can go on, as I'm sure that others have their on favorite examples. Noted on my above examples, two of the individuals achieved the rank of full colonel some twenty years after their stories.

    The exception would be those who have divulged classified information, but that would have resulted in general court martial, leaving the pension question irrelevant.

    Red herring argument proposed by many Ufologists.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

  • Thanks, Tim...

    However, per the premise and intent of the book referred to here, we need something definitive, otherwise we become Randle's blog-lite.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

  • Loss of pension, had it ever occurred, is still preferable (I think) to being buried in the desert or being turned into dogfood, as allegedly was threatened to mortician Glenn Dennis.

    But we are digressing!

    By Blogger cda, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

  • Christopher,

    You do have a penchant for diverting the discussion.

    It's the imp in you.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

  • If a veterans pension benefits were terminated, a reason would have to be given for doing so, and if the reason for terminating them was discussing flying saucers, that would be as unlikely as the moon was made of green cheese. Even so, the fear of a non existent threat may be unlikely, but rather a way to discourage being made a fool of. Even the claim of a alleged veteran's fear of a threat is hearsay..akin to unsubstantiated gossip. Name a veteran who feels threatened. Another loop to loopholes. My name is so and so and I am afraid to exercise my constitutional right of freedom of speech to talk about flying saucers. I am not buying this brand of unnamed source as potential whistleblowers just by innuendo. No one in their right mind would buy free floating paranoiac inferences from unnamed sources unless you are a Ufologist.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

  • Precisely right, Bruce...precisely.

    RR

    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, October 18, 2012  

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