UFO Conjecture(s)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

In defense of the 1994 Ariel School (Ruwa, Zimbabwe) UFO event and the children who allegedly witnessed it

Robert Sheaffer provided a posting about Gilles Fernandez’ report on the 1994 Ruwa, Zimbabwe alleged UFO encounter by students at the Ariel school there:

I’ve covered this account several times, myself, and recently linked Gilles’ exemplary evaluation of the way Cynthia Hind, a UFO “researcher” and noted psychiatrist John Mack interviewed the children involved.

Here is an internet link to an article about how clumsy or errant interviewing goes astray. (The piece is about sexual abuse but the same exigencies apply to any kind of interview to get at the truth of a matter):

Interviewing sexually abused children

However, there are caveats with the contamination explanation offered, brilliantly, by Gilles.

A purview of the Two Volume Carmichael’s Manual of Child Psychology, 3rd Edition [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 1946, 1954, 1970, Paul H. Mussen, Editor] allows for acceptance of child accounts as linguistically and mentally accurate; that is, free of fabrication or deviousness, unless one is dealing with a child who is predisposed to schizophrenia or other serious behavioral disorder.

An elaborate exegesis of how children see, remember, and recall moments is covered in Volume One, Page 944 ff…

“According to Bruner (1964, 1966a), the child [ages 7 to 11] first masters “enactive” representation … he then becomes capable of “ikonic” representation which summarizes events by selective organization of percepts and of images, by the spatial, temporal and qualitative structures of the perceptual field and their transformed images.” [ibid. Page 948]

However, “A human being can witness a [event] without at the time perceiving it himself…When this deferred imitation (Piaget, 1945) leads to a learned strengthening of the response, observational learning is said to occur.” [ibid. Page 956]

In a portion devoted to creative problem solving, there is this:

“Some of the ‘discovery’ methods confront children with questions and require[s] them to find the answers to them through their own efforts.” [Mackworth (1965) and Guilford (1956, 1967), ibid. Page 972].

One can assume that John Mack is familiar with the studies and literature, and while I watched Dr. Mack in the proffered interview segments, it was obvious to me, from my observations at Eloise Hospital (Wayne County, Michigan) between psychiatrists and patients during my psychological training (Wayne State University) that Dr, Mack was aware of the proper procedures for acquiring accurate information from those children he interviewed.

Yet, Gilles’ – a cognitive psychologist – contamination scenario strikes me as valid to a large extent.

The children weren’t confabulating but surely could have been influenced by their peers’ responses and Ms. Hind’s UFO predilections.

But to continue to present their “stories” – two months after the alleged event when Dr, Mack interviewed them and later in life, when grown up – would vitiate the idea that actual contamination took place, despite the onerous hypothesis Gilles so astutely presents.

That is, the children saw something odd, and did their best to portray that observation as best as they could, under the bizarre circumstances.

Mr. Sheaffer provides, surprisingly, a glib, facile observation in his posting.

Gilles, at least, offers substantive material to augment his skeptical view.

Zoam Chomsky merely excoriates the tale (or actual event) in his usual dynamic but breezy way.

This is a “UFO event” that needs more study, and follow-up, since the witnesses are still with us and at an age and in a mental condition to provide better and/or more information.

Let’s not be so hasty to write the account off because skeptics hate the idea that people see strange things and report them.

In this instance, challenging the view of children is particularly abominable, unless one has distinct evidence that such children are sociopaths or even psychopaths, both rare in children at the ages of those who saw the odd craft and odd being supposedly from it.


Nick Redfern on various TV icons (that may have inspired MIB tales)