UFO Conjecture(s)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

UFOs: Skeptical Inquiry or Propaganda

Gilles Fernandez has provided some links to material that supports his report, here, meant to crack the Airship 1890s sightings in California.

Gilles has provided an hypothesis or suggestion that the sightings were the result of the cultural/social milieu exacerbated by area newspapers and the planet Venus.

It’s a suggestion or hypothesis that UFO skeptics find worthy of note. And Gilles’ report is acceptable as a possible – possible! – answer to the Airship wave, in California and elsewhere eventually.

But does Gilles’ provide a valid methodology or has he created a bit of skeptical propaganda?

Loading up links that support his view is grist for winning the debate between Airship disbelievers and those who think the Airship sightings consisted of something substantial, whatever that substantiality might be. (Bruce Duensing provided some alternatives to the sightings and Gilles’ explanation also, in his comments to the postings here.)

UFO research (or ufology as the pseudo-scientists have it) lacks a methodology or regimen that uses scientific protocols.

Forensic information is never adduced by those working on UFO sightings, pro or con,

Details that support or eliminate a proposal are skirted with internet links used as buttress one’s view.

That’s not a protocol; it’s a propaganda technique.

If Gilles and his cohorts wish to convince UFO buffs that the Airship wave was the result of a SocioPsychoCultural (whatever that is) milieu, he and they have to provide citations from Sociologists, Psychologists (and Psychiatry), and Anthropological sources that are relevant to California in the 1890s and elsewhere in The United States for Airship sightings ipso facto.

Giving up links from sources that have little or no credentials in any the disciplines I’ve indicated (Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology) is propagandistic not academic or scientific methodology.

That’s the problem with Ufology and/or UFO “research.” It doesn’t resort to procedures that inure it with those who use protocols and procedures that are acceptable to science, or even theology and philosophy (where logic reigns, or should, as Richard Hall always demanded).

My evaluation of Gilles’ “explanation,” while containing citations about Venus, the planet, from credible sources along with personal experience of an Airship witness, itself is woefully lacking in scientific methodology.

But I was countering propaganda, not scientific methodology, so a more disciplined account by me was unwarranted or unnecessary, I think.

If Gilles wishes to convince me and others that the Airship wave was a product of a “socio-psycho-cultural” milieu, he will have to do better.

And if those who think the Airship wave consisted of actual ships flying through the air, with a technology not yet determined or in situ, they, too, will have to do better,

Otherwise we are playing at research and investigation, as Bruce Duensing continues to remind us.



  • Rich,

    Some of us have concluded that "the Airship wave consisted of actual ships flying through the air." Now WHY do we believe that? Because the multiple witness reports at different times and places in the U.S. are of actual "ships flying through the air." You suggest that those who believe this will "have to do better" than that. Unfortunately, there is really no way to do better than that at this point. Indeed, that hypothesis will have to be tentatively accepted until and unless someone, anyone, can propose a more reasonable explanation for those sightings. Giles has tried, and his efforts are worthwhile, but most of us are not convinced that his explanation is more probable than eyewitness observations of actual ships flying through the sky. Now what those air-ships were is anyone's guess.

    By Blogger Dominick, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Propangandist yourselves lol

    1) My text was only presented in a blog format and not in my tong. In any way I considered it as "a scientific" article. I'm currently writting a draft for a peer-review and of course an "important" bibliography of academic papers is present. BTW, If you read the draft I presented and you correcting my English -Thank You again and sincerly- there was a parenthesis indicating it was a short article due because blog format and not my tong).

    2) I have already posted in French (blogs, forums, FB) many academic articles in relation to abductions, UFO and so on, as many the links I propose have a bibliography using "scientific articles", because, HSP is using what exists already in Human Sciences and UFOlogists or fans of ufology are probably ignoring.

    I have underligned in my comment that the two texts of 80's I presented are not the "must", and I shared it only because rare English version of the SPH of the French&Belgium "nouveaux ufologues" as there are calling here from 1980. And precised it.

    For example (and only for one), Toselli (which is often reffered in the links I share) have made a catalogue of Academic works supporting the SPH ( http://ufo-scepticisme.forumactif.com/t3330-le-catalogue-des-theses-et-travaux-universitaires-1950-2010-consacrees-aux-ovni-paolo-toselli?highlight=toselli )

    I'm currently "increasing" it and "elimating" not relevant papers in his list, but I salute his effort.

    3) You are thinking or making as if your blog is something where when a Skeptic posts, he must engage him in a format like if he was writting a for peer-review revue!

    My friend, I only presented "my" views, in a blog format and with the goal to be "succint" and brief, going to the essential! Never pretending to write a extensive and exhaustive academic text or article in your blog.

    4) I suppose each time an ufo-proponent will present HIS view, you will ask him to present a scientific bibliography supporting his view...

    Just an example: each time Tony will interview someone, and present his "findings", ask him to provide us the methodology of interview he used and if his behavior/methodology to interview witnesses is supported by how academics (criminology/psychology) explain HOW to interview a witness. It will be funny ;)

    In essence, I believe you are "criticazing only to criticaze", and the standarts you are asking "me" to follow are curiously not the same you demand (or demanded) for UFO-proponents where they are posting here or proposing an article.

    But after all, even if I thank you again to have accepted what were only blog articles, there are other places too. As I'm asking me if it would be better for me and some friends to forget bloging (for example, I think I will not post "intensaly" as before in dear Kevin's blog), and/or write in our own medias when using the net, or writting articles for peer-review only, because there are now (at least in France) Universitares like me or others who can do it. You are maybe not in fact, so to speack, a public to receive alternative and probably more academic views to the UFO-Phénomenom? Dunno, seriously questionning me about.

    I think to insinuate I'm a propagandist of some sort, is ridiculous and limit insulting, mainly coming from a blog owner, and me only devoted to share with friends (but opponents regarding the UFO-phénomenom).

    Well if you prefere your blog becomes a sort of monologues between UFO-proponents, I take it easy.



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Gilles...

    I don't let pro-UFO advocates post anything on our many blogs.

    You get special attention because I admire and respect your skeptical views.

    I used your present effort to example how propaganda is used to make points.

    (I'd never let Rudiak, for instance, to post here -- and he'd never wish to do so. He's a propagandist of the highest order.)

    Anthony Bragalia gets carte blanche because I'm familiar with his technique.

    He gathers information and builds his postings around that information.

    I sometimes do not agree with his conclusions but allow them as if this were an open forum, just as I offer your views, with which I am sometimes in disagreement.

    Bruce Duensing's comments get carte blance even when he and I disagree, as I respect his mental powers.

    Dominick and Larry get comment leniency as they present moderate and rational pro-UFO views.

    I understand the limitations of blogging, but even so, I think, in your present offering you could have provided the sociological or psychological underpinnings for your thesis.

    At your French forum in your country you have cachet. That isn't the case here -- yet.

    You want, by posting your theses at this blog, to gain that cachet and credibility you have there.

    If that is so, then you have to provide some academically substantive support for the views you present -- nothing elaborate, just a non-internet footnote perhaps.

    For instance, if those who reported they saw an Airship, flying overhead in California in the 1890s, one has to question their proclivity for such a sighting, which you did: the newspaper accounts and drawings that sparked the observations.

    But what mental or psychological configuration would cause those "witnesses" to think they saw an Airship when, in fact, they were actually viewing Venus.

    What was the sociological milieu that allowed such an abnormal observation?

    A footnote or passing aside from your psychology discipline could have been offered....no big deal, just a note that readers could check out if they were inclined to.

    That would have bolstered your viewpoint or conclusion.

    That's all I'm saying.

    As the piece resides now, it's merely a bit of skeptical propaganda that has convinced no one of its integrity as an explanation for the Airship wave.

    Jose Caravaca's exchange with us about the Airship wave was supplemented with visual examples and texts that showed how Airships may have come to human perception.

    And that from a fellow, like me, who thinks persons actually saw what they say they saw.

    You're in the rough and tumble now of this blog which, despite your errant criticisms (ad hominems, et cetera), and where I give you space to unload your views, you had better be prepared to defend those views, with something more than that I'm carping because your presentation was a bit cavalier.

    You are a professional. Act like one.

    Kevin Randle may allow tripe at his blog, but I choose not to -- unless it's my own.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • I appreciated your more "moderated" words ;)and recognize "my" Rich Reynolds.

    But what mental or psychological configuration would cause those "witnesses" to think they saw an Airship when, in fact, they were actually viewing Venus

    You have seen the pdf James Oberg shared (and me sharing what was shared) about the space re-entry of october 1963, no?

    You have seen how some of the subjects are drawing "spaceships", even if, in this case,they have not faced "Venus" but a space re-entry. No?

    Same it is from some drawings about Zond-IV or our (French) 5 november 1990 space re-entry, or Yukon (1996) case now explained by a space re-entry. No? and Edgar Wunder protocole. No ?

    (and "I' have many and so many examples about Venus, Moon, Mars, Jupiter and so on).

    You cant dismiss as you do and did, that when some people are facing in reality conventional stimuli, they dont recognize for what they are in reality (and legitimaly, none my goal or any skeptics to ridiculize UFO witnesses) some of them "saucerize" it.

    AKA they use their cultural imagery (and the one of the time) to give a "meaning" for what they dont identify for what it is.


    For "me", it is exactly the same happening for such two princeps sightings of the 1896/97 airships wave, excepted the cultural imagery was not the same, but Airships (and not Saucers or ET^^).

    (Your straw man among others, is that we stated that Venus explains all of this wave, but this is the vilain and stupid Rich Reynolds writting it, I suppose ^^))

    Robert Bartholomew (because you seem to need a sociologist and academic when I present "my" view) have or is in the same view of mine (Mass delusion), noticely in his book : UFOs & alien contact: two centuries of mystery...


    Silly and idiotic Gilles Fernandez.

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Another "idiotic" and "silly" text concerning the 1896/97 airships wave. Pfff, such sociologists, what idiotic and silly texts/articles they present.

    The Oregon UFO Wave That Wasn't
    The importance of press skepticism in the 1896-97 Sightings
    by Robert Bartholomew


    Best Regards,


    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Here's a link from one of our blogs.

    It's an objective, no UFO connection by the author (Rudolph Umland) that appeared in The Prairie Schooner [Winter 1966/1967, Page 302 ff.]



    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Mouarf Rich....
    "As Batholemew and Howard observed in their analysis of the subsequent British airship panic of 1913 "the phantom Zeppelin sightings reflected the prevailing socio-political climate in Britain just prior to World War I. The skies reflected the collective psyche, and a variety of ambiguous, prosaic, almost exclusively nocturnal aerial stimuli, circumstances, and events were widely redefined."

    Enjoy this more academic text than yours by the excellent David Clarke in extenso :

    Scareships over Britain
    The Airship Wave of 1909
    by Dr David Clarke

    My very best regards,


    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Merci Gilles...

    There are few analysts as skilled as David Clarke.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Wednesday, November 06, 2013  

  • Hello,

    Yep, I share it 100% concerning David Clarke ! Excellent.

    Now, and because you denounced "my" view was not articulated with Scientific references, enjoy the follwoing quote !
    It is an except of Ufos & Alien Contact: Two Centuries of Mystery by Robert E. Bartholomew & George S. Howard. Merci à my Friend "Nablator" for this capture.

    Since an observer’s mental outlook at the time of the sighting is of key importance, the context of the episode is very significant. The 1896–97 airship sightings occurred amid widespread rumors that a flying machine was on the verge of being perfected. Many Americans believed that such a dramatic achievement was at hand, and their emotions were stoked by speculative and often fabricated newspaper stories. As people began searching the skies for confirmation of the airship-invention stories, they expected to see airships, and did see them. Whereas modern sightings consist almost exclusively of “flying saucers” from outer space, citizens in 1896–97 were predisposed by popular literature of the era to see airships. The overwhelming majority of reports occurred at night and described ambiguous lights viewed at a distance. It is not surprising that given these circumstances, residents interpreted information in ways that were consistent with their view of the world.

    Studies on the fallible nature of human perception and the tendency for people in group settings to conform are especially applicable.266 The human mind does not gather information like a videotape recorder. Humans interpret events as they perceive the world and often come to opposite interpretations of the same event witnessed under nearly identical circumstances, as anyone who has watched a hotly contested sporting event can attest. Perception is sometimes based more on inference than on reality, allowing for interpretations that often differ substantially from what actually exists. Research on autokinetic movement is applicable to such situations, as it concerns problem-solving dynamics.267 The variance of interpretations from what actually exists is especially noticeable with the perception of ambiguous stimuli or conflicting patterns of information within a group setting, which will result in members developing an increased need to define the situation, depending less on their own judgment for reality validation and more on the judgment of others for reality testing.

    When the stimulus situation lacks objective structure, the effect of the other’s judgement is . . . pronounced. . . . In one . . . study of social factors in perception utilizing the autokinetic phenomenon, an individual judged distances of apparent movement first alone and then with two or three other subjects. This unstructured situation arouses considerable uncertainty. Even though they were not told to agree and were cautioned against being influenced, the individuals in togetherness situations shifted their judgement toward a common standard or norm of judgement. . . . The influence of various individuals differed, and the emerging common norm for judgement was in various instances above or below the average of individual judgements in the initial session alone.268

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Part2 :

    Research on the “autokinetic effect” is of more specific interest as it has been shown that individual judgments tend to agree in a group setting while observing the common stimulus of a pinpoint of light within a dark environment. This effect is well known among social psychologists and was first demonstrated in 1936.269 Individuals in situations lacking stable perceptual anchors begin to feel a sense of uneasiness, then anxiety as they have a heightened need to visually define or make sense of the light. In group settings, individuals will attempt to reduce the anxieties created by an uncertain situation.

    A viewer in a completely dark room seeing one pinpoint of light experiences a visual stimulus without its normal attendant visual context. Up, down, back, forward, far and near, exist in relation to other stimuli and when this frame of reference is missing, the light is free to roam in one’s perceptual field. It is for this reason that considerable random motion will be experienced by anyone viewing the light.270

    During highly ambiguous situations, such as people scanning the nighttime skies for an imaginary but plausible airship, “inference can perform the work of perception by filling in missing information in instances where perception is either inefficient or inadequate.”271

    266. S. E. Asch, “Studies of Independence and Conformity: A Minority of One Against a Unanimous Majority,” Psychological Monographs, 70 (1956); D. Krech, R. S. Crutchfield, and E. L. Ballschey, Individual and Society (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962).
    267. R. Turner, and L. Killian, Collective Behavior (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972), p. 35.
    268. M. Sherif and O. J. Harvey, “A Study in Ego Functioning: Elimination of Stable Anchorages in Individual and Group Situations,” Sociometry 15 (1952): 272–305.
    269. M. Sherif, The Psychology of Social Norms (New York: Harper and Row, 1936).
    270. R. Beeson, “The Improbable Primate and the Modern Myth,” in G. Krantz and R. Sprague, eds., The Scientist Looks at the Sasquatch II. (Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1979), p. 180.
    271. C. M. Massad, M. Hubbard, and D. Newston, “Selective Perception of Events,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 15 (1979): 513–32.

    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Some further considerations beyond the psychological..regarding the sightings of a powered airship.
    In 1785, he first powered airship appeared. It utilised a hand cranked propeller and managed to cross the English Channel in 1901.
    In 1852, the first steam powered airship successfully flew and in 1872, was capable of carrying eight passengers.
    It was just over two decades later, in 1896, when these airship sightings occurred.
    The point being, there is a danger of self delusion when not taking into consideration, more than one factor when attempting to triangulate a solution to this.
    My issues with a hard craft in terms of it's existence being kept under wraps remains.
    Another issue is the similarity of description in the context of 1896 media distribution which in terms of national news versus local news was an entirely different kettle of fish. No one has bothered to check the archives of the newspapers ( if available) to determine if somewhat detailed descriptions of this craft appeared in advance in the newspapers where subsequent sightings occurred as a potential source of setting up anticipatory identifications that are similar. in nature to those that had already occurred. I tend to doubt this but I don't know, do I?
    I don't think Gilles has solved much of anything regarding this mystery.This is a good example of the chimeric nature seeing an answer that corresponds to one's background.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Hello,
    It was within this context that a telegram appeared in the Sacramento Evening Bee of Tuesday, November 17, 1896, in which a New York entrepreneur claimed that he would pilot his newly invented airship to California, which he vowed to reach within two days. That very evening the first recorded sightings of the cigar-shaped airship occurred as hundreds of Sacramento residents reported seeing it.[10]
    10. “Voices in the Sky . . . People Declare They Heard Them and Saw a Light,” Sacramento Evening Bee, November 18, 1896, p. 1

    Another "silly" and "idiotic" remark by Sociologist Bartholomew .... Merci encore à Nab Lator.



    By Blogger Gilles Fernandez, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Maybe the New York entrepreneur actually made it to California.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Gilles
    Do you have several similar examples as one example does not represent a substantive pattern over several locations inasmuch in many circumstances it is not a matter of either a false or true sighting as both can coincide with one another as I am fairly certain you are familiar with these sort of parallel observations...

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Thursday, November 07, 2013  

  • Gilles
    Another issue for you to review is that the sighting in Sacramento occurred on the late afternoon of Nov 17,( not on the 18th ) around 6pm, and was witnessed by a multitude of witnesses reported in the Sacramento Bee on the 18th, the following day.The chronology you cited is incorrect.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, November 08, 2013  

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