UFO Conjecture(s)

Monday, February 24, 2014

UFO Faith, UFO Atheism, and UFO Nescience

An article in the February 17/24 New Yorker by Adam Gopnik [Bigger Than Phil: When Did Faith Start to Fade?] deals with Atheism and Faith, about God, of course.

But some of writer Gopnik’s observations apply to the UFO topic, which is rife with believers and atheists (skeptics). It also allows the entry of ignorance to the matter.

Readers here know that UFO mavens consist of rabid believers and equally rabid skeptics. (I’ve dealt with this a number of times, as you know.)

What is disturbing is the raft of ignorant people and their ignorant contributions to the UFO topic, mine included, I’m sorry to write.

New Yorker writer Gopnik notes that “polemicists…[work] not to persuade but to stiffen the spines of their supporters and irritate the stomach linings of their enemies.” [Page 107]

This is obvious in the UFO contributions that clutter the internet.

But lately we’re stunned that our friends at The Anomalist, who generously acknowledge my meager efforts, have taken to lauding material that is magnificently obtuse, when Gopnik tells his readers this: “Argos, the hundred-eyed watchman might have had more sight than other giants, but he didn’t have sharper sight.” [Page 108]

That is, Anomalist seeks out the fringe, with little or no discernment for the quality, or lack thereof, of what they promote. Why? Nescience.

Gopnik offers that “The difficulty, as always with the popular chronicles of ideas, is not that ideas don’t matter; it’s that we too readily skip over the question of how they come to matter. What seeded the ground is the historian’s easy question; what made the ground receive the seed is the hard one.” [Page 108]

If atheists [UFO non-believers] underestimate the fudginess in [UFO] faith, [UFO] believers underestimate the soupiness of [UFO] doubt. [Page 110]

About Christianity  ,which mimics the vicissitudes of UFO faith, Gopnik writes, “Christian rites were mocked among the Romans for their vulgarity long before they were denounced for the absurdity.” [Page 110]

This applies to “ufology” also, the skeptics adopting the Roman stance.

Gopnok cites author John Updike who wrote that “The power of materialist science to explain everything … seems to be inarguable and the principle glory of the modern mind. On the other hand …illusions composes the basic substance of our existence, and religion [UFO belief], in its many forms, attempts to address, organize, and placate these.” [Page 111]

In the theological/religious universe, atheism seems to have a foothold. And in the UFO universe, skepticism hopes to gain a foothold and may have already.

And while newbies in academia misunderstand the belief/atheistic divide, such UFO advisory groups, as The Anomalist, often misunderstand the UFO landscape.

The Anomalist noted that I think UFOs are on a downhill run and about to go belly up. Anomalist pooh-poohed my view with an aside about how many old UFO sightings still need reclamation and study.

That’s true, and I’ve listed many of the classic cases here that seem to contain elements that could lead to an understanding of the UFO phenomenon.

But the Anomalist editors – not Patrick Huyghe! – are relative UFO newbies. They, unlike CDA or me, haven’t been around during the UFO heyday, when flying saucer sightings were vibrant and arresting.

Today’s UFO sightings and reports are poor examples of what was.

And today’s commentary about UFOs are so much poorer than the writing and excitement during the early modern years of UFOs or flying saucers, evidenced by a comparison of the early UFO books and magazine articles to today’s UFO effluvia.

UFO writer Nick Redfern knows this and writes as a bona fide historian of the UFO lore, new and old.

But others, that get recognized as relevant, are anything but.

And the UFO faithful get swamped by the UFO atheists because as Gopnik sees it (about religion and the belief in or not in God), “True rationalists are as rare in life as actual deconstructionists are in university English departments …” [Page 109]

No one deconstructs UFOs, not even those that The Anomalist lauds.

The field of UFO study is awash in nescience, even by those who think they are above and beyond the epithet.



  • Rich, nice post and thought provoking as always.

    To use a Christian metaphor, I view my self as that of Thomas, doubtful, but awaiting for Ufology to provide the "hole in the hands" to cement the seed of credence.

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • Thanks, Tim...

    I think we shall have a long wait.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • So does that leave you as a UFO "Deist"? [Which is to say, "They exist but...."]

    As a comedic relief one might consider that "modern UFOlogy" has followed a path some what similar to the mythopoeia of the "Peoples of the Book": The revelation, the promises, and the history of the "original" events, the wandering in the wilderness, the reception of the ETH [laser carved in stone mind you], The destruction of the Temple [Project Blue Book], The Jeremiad of Vallee, The soon Second Coming of the Messiah [brought by Roswell Dream Team?], and finally the One True Prophet of the Jihad of Nescience [David Icke anyone?].

    There are somethings which never change. The Skeptic believes in the Rationality of their own belief [regardless of whether the belief is reasoned or not]. The "Believer" believes in the "Truth" of their own belief [with mostly no credible basis for the belief].

    Me? I am happy to accept not everything can be or has been explained. Lights in the night where they can't be or rising up through the ground? No problem. I don't need to explain it and it does not make me insecure not to know that the observation does not comform to either "reasoned science" or "irrational belief".

    The upside of the Anomalist [at least for me] is two things:
    1) It provides free Belly Laughs.
    2) It's how I stumbled over this Blog.

    Like it or not it fills a tenuous "ecological niche" in its linkage to various sites -- ATS and Doubtful News with a smattering of the ridiculous and the incredible from other sources all on the same day! Who needs Comedy Central, FoxNews, or MSNBC?


    By Blogger Joel Crook, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • A UFO Deist? Me?

    I think you have it, Joel.

    As for The Anomalist, they're kids, having fun.

    I like them and appreciate their offerings of my nonsense.

    But their notifications are not engraved in stone, and I suspect they don't think so either.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • Who can identify all the faces at the top of your article?

    I can ID four plus one other 'possible.' My four are Einstein, Lincoln, Carl Sagan, Ben Franklin.
    The 'possible' is Darwin. I wonder what is the connection. Do you know?

    (Forgive my digression).

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • They are alleged atheists, CDA, and include Hemingway, Twain, Darwin (yes), and Thomas Jefferson.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • Interesting that Lincoln consistently evoked an appeal to a "divine" Providence. Yet, there are stories...

    Franklin, generally believed to have been a Deist and a lovable old age reprobate...whilst residing in Paris.

    Jefferson, a part-time Deist? Depending on his mood...

    CDAs is right, we do digress...

    By Blogger Tim Hebert, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • CDA is the master of digression...ya gotta love him.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, February 24, 2014  

  • "Nescience"?

    Hmmm... I was previously "ignorant" of that term.

    Must be one a them thar 2-bit words intellectuals sometimes must use, ain't it?

    Thanks for expanding my vocabulary!


    By Blogger Steve Sawyer, at Tuesday, February 25, 2014  

  • Oh, and hey: almost forgot --

    What about us UFO agnostics?

    You know, the objective, empirical, rationalist approach?

    Can't forget us, even though we be a mighty miniscule minority... heh!

    By Blogger Steve Sawyer, at Tuesday, February 25, 2014  

  • @Steve Sawyer

    In regards to Religion one can be Agnostic... in regards to unidentified / unknown phenomena you are not permitted the luxury of being "open minded". The lines of inquiry and rhetoric are already "set"

    By your own definition of "the objective, empirical, rationalist approach" you have placed yourself within the boundaries of "Atheist" beliefs...

    "Rationalism" by its "modern definition" denies the possibility of, as Mark Twain put it, "...believing what ain't so." Of course this also denies the actual observations of "credible witnesses" when they see things which according to "rational belief" are "impossible".

    As an example of this see the RationalWiki on the subject:
    Rationalism -- http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Rationalism

    By these definitions one is left with the impression that *any* belief outside of the rational is not rational, hence being an Agnostic gets you the tag "irrational"

    UFO --

    You will note here that simple observation of an a "unknown kind" is not considered "evidence". For example, a light appearing to dissolve into the ground, rise up out of the ground, objects with high melting points in places where such high heat is impossible, or seeing a known terrestrial object in a place where it is impossible for such an object to appear.

    All of these things my father, a "trained scientist / engineer", observed yet not one nor even the set of observations are "sufficient proof" in "rationalist belief" to even say that some actual "unknown process or thing" was responsible. So my father who spent over fifty years working in space science, electrical and electronic engineering, and mechanical engineering who was an "expert" in the measurement and use of electromagnetic fields, was suddenly and irrevocably "irrational" by his observations of "something that wasn't so."

    Rich has posted some of my father's papers.


    Joel Crook

    By Blogger Joel Crook, at Tuesday, February 25, 2014  

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