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"It's faked!" Something that burns my tail - a discussion about skepticism.



Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
Over the last few years I've gotten a lot more skeptical about claims of paranormal and UFO activity, however something that really makes me see red is this presumption that if something can be faked, it must have been faked. What I'm referring to, here, are posts about people seeing airplanes which turn on their sides and appear saucer shaped for a moment. Or if I can take a pie pan and fling it across the sky and snap a picture of it, the picture looks similar to an image from someone who took a picture of a UFO. The presumption by a lot of debunkers is that, in these cases, since a fake was produced then the original MUST have been faked, too. It's a sort of, "Oh, I can do that, too!" fallacy involving people wanting to dismiss potentially legitimate claims of paranormal or UFO events.

The way I start to counter it is this way; in the early 1990's I saw a movie in which dinosaurs were supposedly cloned from mosquitoes trapped in amber. On-screen I saw very realistic dinosaurs chasing people around, eating people, and destroying buildings. Afterwards I found out that the dinosaurs I had seen on-screen were actually animatronic and computer generated images, as convincingly as they were. Well.....does that mean REAL dinosaurs never existed then? Since they were re-produced using technology and coy camera angles, then the real thing must NOT have actually come into being, yes?

That philosophical attack against claims of UFOs and paranormal encounters is as hollow as gourd and every time I hear it implied my vision swims. Now this isn't to say that 99.9% of paranormal and UFO pieces of evidence aren't faked, or cannot be faked. I'm completely onboard with people testing to see if evidence 'could' be faked, but my point here is that we have to be careful in dismissing evidence just because it CAN be faked.

Faking evidence in the name of research and testing hypotheses and such is very valid (can we say Billy Meier?) but I think we really need to keep in mind that being able to fake something is only one step in the investigation process.

My 2 cents.

Peace.

J.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Over the last few years I've gotten a lot more skeptical about claims of paranormal and UFO activity, however something that really makes me see red is this presumption that if something can be faked, it must have been faked ...
I couldn't agree more. It's a typical tactic of the skeptics. At one time we even had a thread dedicated to exposing such tactics ( here ), but the moderator closed the thread down citing the potential for too many moderating problems. Personally I never thought that it was fair to shut down that discussion because the tactics used by skeptics remain a problem to this day, not because the various logical fallacies and scientific principles are unfair, but because of the way they are sometimes used to bamboozle and win an argument rather than as tools to explore the truth. Therefore UFO and Paranormal researches who encounter skeptical arguments should familiarize themselves with these tactics and learn how to provide valid counterpoint against them.

Introduction To Skeptical Tactics: Top 20 Logical Fallacies - The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
My fav skeptical tactic is when if a mundane explanation could fit, they say that it must be the answer. As in, if venus was visible that night, then no UFO sighting can escape that explanation, and of course it doesn't even matter if the sighting was at the other end of the sky, cos that must just be the observer's mistake eh!
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
To turn it around, just because something is unknown does not mean it is alien or non-human either.
Ufology, the Skeptics Guide to the Universe is one of the best science podcasts out there. Highly recommended!
 

Ron Collins

Curiously Confused
Speaking about logical fallacies: I'm reading Leslie Kean's book, and it's liberally peppered with the "appeal to authority" fallacy.
How so? Should there be a separate thread on that topic? I have read the book at least 3 times and apart from the Belgian photo stuff have found it to be fantastic. What parts are a fallacy?
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
How so? Should there be a separate thread on that topic? I have read the book at least 3 times and apart from the Belgian photo stuff have found it to be fantastic. What parts are a fallacy?


It's the appeal to authority - these people are generals, so they must be right. Don't get me wrong Ron, it's not a bad book, but the leaps in logic taken by some of the people sharing their stories is a little frustrating. Pretty much all of them have their mind made up with the idea "I don't know, therefore aliens."
 

Ron Collins

Curiously Confused
My fav skeptical tactic is when if a mundane explanation could fit, they say that it must be the answer. As in, if venus was visible that night, then no UFO sighting can escape that explanation, and of course it doesn't even matter if the sighting was at the other end of the sky, cos that must just be the observer's mistake eh!
I think I both agree and disagree with taking the most mundane explanation possible. I think you have to assess the plausibility/probability ratio of a given explanation before hitching your wagon to it. Something like "Swamp Gas" is absurd. I am sure that we can all agree that it carries a really low plausibility/probability ratio. Explanations just for the sake of having one is a bad idea. A true skeptic should be OK with saying, "I dont know".
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
I think both agree and disagree with the taking the most mundane explanation possible. I think you have to assess the plausibility/probability ratio of a given explanation before hitching your wagon to it. Something like "Swamp Gas" is absurd. I am sure that we can all agree that it carries a really low plausibility/probability ratio. Explanations just for the sake of having one is a bad idea. A true skeptic should be OK with saying, "I dont know".


Exactly - that's the answer I prefer.
 

Ron Collins

Curiously Confused
It's the appeal to authority - these people are generals, so they must be right. Don't get me wrong Ron, it's not a bad book, but the leaps in logic taken by some of the people sharing their stories is a little frustrating. Pretty much all of them have their mind made up with the idea "I don't know, therefore aliens."
Yes, I see that but I think there is a lot to be said for the impressions an experiencer has that can not be expressed by speech or writing. For instance, I could write for two hours about the Sistine Chapel and never manage to capture or convey the experience or the viscerally inspired connection to Michelangelo. Yet there is definitely a difference in being there than just reading about it.

I absolutely agree that we should not ascribe the "space alien" moniker to the unknown. But, I personally give more weight to the impressions offered by experiencers with higher degrees of authority or responsibility.
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
Ron, I agree with your view on how we think skeptics should be happy with 'I don't know' but I suppose I have to separate skeptics from debunkers. True skeptics should be ok with 'I don't know' but debunkers, in my mind, just cannot take that stance as to them, there shouldn't be anything unknown, just a lack of data and they don't let a little trifle like insufficient data to get in the way of their 'explaining' all paranormal/ufo reports.

Although I do think Venus can indeed be responsible for some UFO sightings, it really annoys me when the supposed sighting involves all sorts of shapes/speeds/acrobatics and positions. To me, there can be bright, distant (or small) objects in the sky and Venus can fit that bill for sure. But I've heard Venus trotted out for some reports and you just have to think 'what? did X even read the report?'
Wasn't Venus cited as the reason for Mantell chasing up and up to his eventual doom? I know there are other accepted (?) explanations of a large weather balloon which is fine, but considering that over the course of a few minutes, Venus is gonna stay in the same spot in the sky, only the most tame, boring 'light in the sky' reports could be Venus. There is no way a pilot worth anything is gonna go chasing a light the size of Venus that doesn't move anywhere in the sky.

One other tactic often trotted out by both skeptic and demented-skeptic (debunker;)) is that when someone reports seeing some kind of craft, not a pinpoint of light but a moving, solid craft, the debunker will jump in with 'well it's a big leap to go to alien spacecraft' and I think, 'yes totally, it is a huge leap and the person reporting the sighting didn't mention aliens or spacecraft!'
I see it time after time - it's the debunker who even brings up the subject of aliens or spacecraft, not the person reporting a sighting. It's a tactic used again and again unashamedly and it probably works in that an undecided person (on UFOs) would rightly agree - that there wasn't near enough evidence to even think alien etc. It would be a great argument for people like Steven Greer who routinely claims ET. He deserves it, but many people simply making observations and reporting them, do not deserve to be spoken about as if they've jumped off the deep end and are making claims that they did not make. I'm ranting.:)
 

Ron Collins

Curiously Confused
Ron, I agree with your view on how we think skeptics should be happy with 'I don't know' but I suppose I have to separate skeptics from debunkers. True skeptics should be ok with 'I don't know' but debunkers, in my mind, just cannot take that stance as to them, there shouldn't be anything unknown, just a lack of data and they don't let a little trifle like insufficient data to get in the way of their 'explaining' all paranormal/ufo reports.

Although I do think Venus can indeed be responsible for some UFO sightings, it really annoys me when the supposed sighting involves all sorts of shapes/speeds/acrobatics and positions. To me, there can be bright, distant (or small) objects in the sky and Venus can fit that bill for sure. But I've heard Venus trotted out for some reports and you just have to think 'what? did X even read the report?'
Wasn't Venus cited as the reason for Mantell chasing up and up to his eventual doom? I know there are other accepted (?) explanations of a large weather balloon which is fine, but considering that over the course of a few minutes, Venus is gonna stay in the same spot in the sky, only the most tame, boring 'light in the sky' reports could be Venus. There is no way a pilot worth anything is gonna go chasing a light the size of Venus that doesn't move anywhere in the sky.

One other tactic often trotted out by both skeptic and demented-skeptic (debunker;)) is that when someone reports seeing some kind of craft, not a pinpoint of light but a moving, solid craft, the debunker will jump in with 'well it's a big leap to go to alien spacecraft' and I think, 'yes totally, it is a huge leap and the person reporting the sighting didn't mention aliens or spacecraft!'
I see it time after time - it's the debunker who even brings up the subject of aliens or spacecraft, not the person reporting a sighting. It's a tactic used again and again unashamedly and it probably works in that an undecided person (on UFOs) would rightly agree - that there wasn't near enough evidence to even think alien etc. It would be a great argument for people like Steven Greer who routinely claims ET. He deserves it, but many people simply making observations and reporting them, do not deserve to be spoken about as if they've jumped off the deep end and are making claims that they did not make. I'm ranting.:)
We are on the same page. Debunkers really like to pull the "Any sighting equals a declaration of aliens" slight of hand. But they do get help by some in the UFO community the also really push that particular agenda. I have never understood the push to assign a given origin hypothesis to the entire phenomenon. Its the cart before the horse. Origin declarations should come after we have a) all agreed that there is a phenomenon and b) careful scientific study of the phenomenon leads to an unambiguous and supportable conclusion. Like a meeting with confirmed non-human entities telling the entire world that they are from Glaxor or something.

Until then, on the origin front, all we can do is try and assess the probability ratio for some of the theories. Given what we know of physics, time travel is less likely than Alien civilization. Time Travel is more likely than say UFO's being thought projections from Giant diamond covered Ticks that live 50 miles beneath the Earths surface. Other than that, I am not sure any ground can really be gained on that front.
 

boomerang

Paranormal Adept
It's the appeal to authority - these people are generals, so they must be right. Don't get me wrong Ron, it's not a bad book, but the leaps in logic taken by some of the people sharing their stories is a little frustrating. Pretty much all of them have their mind made up with the idea "I don't know, therefore aliens."

Tyson starts with the same old erroneous premise so beloved by mainstream science, re-frames the question as one of spacecraft in light of traditional technology and pronounces the subject no more than amusing artifact. This is not just about mistaking nocturnal lights for spacecraft. I never was.

Start my factoring out the notion of "aliens" and ask the simple question--what is going on here?

Keep in mind the true nature of this mystery is based on a premise that has been established with a high degree of confidence. To wit: Large numbers of credible, sane and intelligent people (many in positions of authority and at risk of endangering their own reputations) report having experienced events that simply don't fit into conventional scientific or sociological frames of reference. The implications of this premise can be taken in numerous and diverse directions: cosmological, neurological, psychological, sociological, political and more. But I have yet to hear a mundane explanation that is not itself absurd.

Regard this mystery as purely sociological if you will. Even that would sharply challenge what we think we know about ourselves. But the premise itself remains well established and still in need of rational explanation.
 

mike

Paranormal Adept
To me the rational answer is ET's using technology we have yet to discover and understand.

For a species thats only had heavier than air flight technology for just over 100 years, to say ET cant do it is as arrogant as it is ignorant.

History is full of experts of the day denouncing an idea as impossible only to see it happen anyway
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Here's a great explanation from the present day Carl Sagan, and my favourite science proponent:
In DeGrasse's video clip we hear him start off with the common misinformation propagated by the skeptics who exploit the weaknesses of those who are less informed. Specifically we hear him start off with his erroneous explanation of the word UFO:
DeGrasse - What is a UFO?

UFO. First remember what the "U" stands for in UFO. Now there's a fascinating frailty in the human mind that psychologists know all about and it's called Argument From Ignorance, and this is how it goes: Ready? Somebody sees lights flashing in the sky. They've never seen it before. They don't understand what it is. They say, "A UFO!". The "U" stands for "Unidentified". So they say, "I don't know what it is. It must be aliens from space visiting us from another planet." Well, if you don't know what it is, that's where your conversation should stop.
So let's have a quick look at exactly why the above is misinformation that exploits the weaknesses of those who are less informed. First of all, everyone knows that UFO stands are Unidentified Flying Object. But most people don't realize that like a number of other acronyms, particularly technical and military acronyms, the acronym UFO is not self explanatory. However because it seems self explanatory people are easily misled. Specifically, DeGrasse focusses first on the word "Unidentified", as if we are supposed to take it literally. However that is his first mistake, and from there his entire argument falls apart. So if we're not supposed to take the word "Unidentified" literally, how are we supposed to take it? I think it's fair to say that we we're supposed to take it in the context in which it was meant to be used by those who created the word in the first place, which was the USAF for use in the investigation of what at the time were being called flying saucers. Consider the following quote:
USAF - What Does The Word Unidentified Mean?

A sighting is considered unidentified when a report apparently contains all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis concerning the cause or explanation of the report but the description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena.
The USAF quote above is actually what the "U" in UFO means, and it's clearly much more sophisticated than the simplistic interpretation DeGrasse offers. Of particular relevance is the part that says, "... all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis ..." This is consistent with other definitions and descriptions that indicate that before the object can be classed as a UFO it must be seen or detected well enough to rule out natural or manmade objects or phenomena, many of which were specifically named ( but not limited to ) within the official definition(s) and descriptions, of particular note, AFR 200-2 Feb. 05, 1958. Most people are unaware of these definitions and regulations, leaving speeches like DeGrasse's to go unchallenged.

The next thing DeGrasse does is go on to marginalize witnesses as being "frail" by invoking the principle of argumentum ad ignorantiam, saying that it's "something psychologists know all about", which may or may not be true, but either way is misleading because it's not a principle that stems from psychology. It was introduced by philosopher John Locke to describe a logical fallacy in which one attempts to validate an opinion based on absence of evidence to the contrary. In DeGrasse's example, the witnesses aren't doing that. They are merely jumping to a conclusion based on the evidence before them. In order to qualify as an argument from ignorance a witness would have to claim that because nobody has proven the strange lights weren't alien spacecraft, that they must be alien spacecraft.

But DeGrasse doesn't stop there, he goes on to imply that witnesses tend to immediately jump to the conclusion of aliens from another planet. This is yet another skeptical stereotype. I've been interested in ufology for about 50 years and have neither met nor found in my reading, a single person who has honestly done that. The typical response is one of curiosity. Only when the objects are seen much better do people begin to wonder if what they are seeing is alien, and even then, many people hesitate to draw that conclusion right away. Furthermore, the position of many ufologists is that we don't know where UFOs are from and therefore we shouldn't make the presumption that they are from space, and even those ufologists who support the ETH have not simply jumped to that conclusion without first having done a significant amount of background reading. Ironically, it's speeches like DeGrasse's rather than real life that reinforces the stereotype of incompetent frail minded ETH believers .

Lastly, DeGrasse says, "Well, if you don't know what it is, that's where your conversation should stop." I ask Why? Would it not be pertinent to investigate further and discuss the possibilities in order to build a hypothesis? Is that not where the scientific method begins? So why would DeGrasse say such a thing? Considering the laughter that his comment evokes in the video, his delivery suggests is that the reason the conversation should stop at the word "Unidentified" is because as soon as people realize you're talking about UFOs they'll laugh at you. DeGrasse has a point, but ironically it's also he who is perpetuating this sad and irresponsible attitude.

DeGrasse is mildly entertaining as a celebrity skeptic, but the question from the audience deserved a better answer than one based on misinformation and mockery that panders to the lesser sensibilities of his obviously biased audience.

Now all that being said, let's take what useful tips we can from this clip.
 

Angel of Ioren

Friendly Skeptic
Ufology, so basically, it comes down to the fact that if a scientist doesn't say that it's probably aliens, they're trying to mislead people? I find it hilarious that according to ufologists, any scientist that doesn't think it's probably aliens, is misinforming people. All he is doing is being cautious and showing how silly it is to jump to a conclusion. And that's all the ETH is - people arguing from ignorance: I don't know, I THINK I have removed ALL possible explanations, therefore aliens. He said it several times - it might be aliens, but we can't can't conclude that. Science doesn't work that way. You can be certain that as soon as we have actual strong evidence, the people you call debunkers and skeptics will change their mind because that's how science works! We thought the world was flat: proved wrong, so minds were changed. The Sun revolves around the Earth! Wrong! Minds changed. That's how science works. James Randi though Global Warming was not true, then they showed him the science, and he admitted he was wrong. The people you call debunkers can actually be swayed, but all they are doing is trying to show you that there are mundane possibilities that, although you may think are absurd, are no more absurd that saying it's aliens. I don't like to ascribe silly explainations like swamp gas, but I don't like aliens either - I prefer I DON'T KNOW.

Ufology, you could be completely right, that we are being visited by aliens. All scientists such as Neil Degrasse Tyson concede that point, but for now, they can't say that it is fact. Get some better evidence and we'll talk. For now, I still think it's a fun topic to discuss because if the evidence ever does arrive to support the ETH, or whatever, it will be amazing.
 

Ron Collins

Curiously Confused
Tyson starts with the same old erroneous premise so beloved by mainstream science, re-frames the question as one of spacecraft in light of traditional technology and pronounces the subject no more than amusing artifact. This is not just about mistaking nocturnal lights for spacecraft. I never was.

Start my factoring out the notion of "aliens" and ask the simple question--what is going on here?

Keep in mind the true nature of this mystery is based on a premise that has been established with a high degree of confidence. To wit: Large numbers of credible, sane and intelligent people (many in positions of authority and at risk of endangering their own reputations) report having experienced events that simply don't fit into conventional scientific or sociological frames of reference. The implications of this premise can be taken in numerous and diverse directions: cosmological, neurological, psychological, sociological, political and more. But I have yet to hear a mundane explanation that is not itself absurd.

Regard this mystery as purely sociological if you will. Even that would sharply challenge what we think we know about ourselves. But the premise itself remains well established and still in need of rational explanation.
Very well said.
 

Randall

J. Randall Murphy
Ufology, so basically, it comes down to the fact that if a scientist doesn't say that it's probably aliens, they're trying to mislead people? I find it hilarious that according to ufologists, any scientist that doesn't think it's probably aliens, is misinforming people. All he is doing is being cautious and showing how silly it is to jump to a conclusion.
I don't think the above is correct. What DeGrasse is doing in the section of the clip I quoted isn't science, it's promoting misinformation as a sit-down celebrity skeptic entertainer.
And that's all the ETH is - people arguing from ignorance: I don't know, I THINK I have removed ALL possible explanations, therefore aliens. He said it several times - it might be aliens, but we can't can't conclude that. Science doesn't work that way. You can be certain that as soon as we have actual strong evidence, the people you call debunkers and skeptics will change their mind because that's how science works! We thought the world was flat: proved wrong, so minds were changed. The Sun revolves around the Earth! Wrong! Minds changed. That's how science works.
According to the principle of argumentum ad ignorantiam, DeGrasse's example is not applicable. Neither is his characterization of argumentum ad ignorantiam as a psychological phenomenon. Your assertion that the ETH is an argument from ignorance is equally inaccurate.
James Randi though Global Warming was not true, then they showed him the science, and he admitted he was wrong. The people you call debunkers can actually be swayed, but all they are doing is trying to show you that there are mundane possibilities that, although you may think are absurd, are no more absurd that saying it's aliens. I don't like to ascribe silly explainations like swamp gas, but I don't like aliens either - I prefer I DON'T KNOW.
Perhaps what you're saying is true to some extent. However that's not what DeGrasse is saying in the portion of the video clip I quoted. However, if you would like to move the discussion away from DeGrasse's clip, I'm OK with that. I sense that you're well intentioned, but this DeGrasse clip is getting in the way of expressing your own thoughts clearly. I suspect you could do better on your own.
Ufology, you could be completely right, that we are being visited by aliens. All scientists such as Neil Degrasse Tyson concede that point, but for now, they can't say that it is fact. Get some better evidence and we'll talk. For now, I still think it's a fun topic to discuss because if the evidence ever does arrive to support the ETH, or whatever, it will be amazing.
There is plenty of evidence for alien visitation, just not the kind of evidence skeptics are willing to concede to, largely because it's the job of the skeptic to doubt everything, even themselves. You could probably take some skeptics on a mother ship tour and they'd still doubt it was an alien ship. And to be perfectly clear on my position: I don't claim that we have sufficient scientifically valid material evidence to prove alien visitation is a reality. I do however claim that based on the evidence we do have, it's not unreasonable to conclude that alien visitation is a reality ( alien meaning some intelligence from beyond the boundaries and constructs of our global civilization, not necessarily ET ).
 
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