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Skeptical Discussion & Resources


Kandinsky

Curious Cat
I'm a little less skeptical, but as bamfoozled and conflicted as I ever was. I can get involved in some of the Paracasts and forget my skeptic perspective.

The Hopkins&Jacobs interview's a good example. While the show aired, I was thinking 'Jesus! Sounds totally ominous. Earth could be doomed to sneaky, lying alien bastards!' When it was over, I thought it out and resumed normality again...high skepticism! The guy with the ectoplasm and trumpets...high skepticism. Ecker, Fox and Warren? Low skepticism. Knell, Greer, Basset? GTFO!

I know UFOs exist...I've seen three at different times with witnesses. My skepticism lies in the area of other people's accounts and conclusions. The Dr Haines paracast is the best interview on UFOs I've heard and he sort of reflects my level of skepticism. I look forward to the day he returns for another interview. Mind like a bear trap.
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
We all agree that there is nothing per se wrong with having a skeptical mind, in fact, I would say it is extremely healthy and far more preferable to believing everything you are told - without evidence to back it up.

I have just been watching an episode of 'Unsolved Mysteries UFOs - Vol 1' and a part of the programme is given over to the 1980 Rendlesham Forest UFO encounters.

I was made extremely angry by comments made by someone in the documentary (and why? why should this bother me so much?) - probably in the interest of journalistic balance, the programme makers had included comments from an astronomer, namely one James McGahey.
I was astounded at how this 'astronomer' was making definitive pronouncements about an event he was not even present at! I have no problem with people making sure that all possibilities are explored and exhausted before coming to the conclusion that something is 'unexplained'.

However, this idiot - and I choose my words advisedly, as this 'scientist' made public pronouncements of a definitive nature, without any evidence to prove his theory - said two separate things that left me aghast at his blatant ignorance of the scientific method.

I am not going to re-tell the Rendlesham story, if you don't know it already, it is included in the documentary mentioned below.

So, this James McGahey, purportedly an astronomer, although it is hard to believe he is a man of science, at one point says in relation to the sighting of strange lights in the forest next to the base, that - 'This is unquestionably what John Burroughs saw'. He was talking about a meteor that entered the Earth's atmosphere that morning. John Burroughs claims he saw 'strange lights' moving about in the forest, below the level of the trees. It was because of the proximity of the lights to the perimeter of the base the John decided to pass the info up the command chain, exactly as he should have.

Anyway, even though I find it hard to believe that someone could mistake a fireball meteor (a strange event, no doubt) in the sky for lights in the forest for more than 20 seconds, I do not discount the possibility altogether.
So, is it within the realm of possibility that John mistook a meteor for lights below treetop level in the forest next to him? Yes, it is possible. But I contend that as unlikely as alien spacecraft or whatever, are - that is no reason at all to stretch one actual occurrence to fit with a reported one when most people could quite easily tell the difference between lights in a nearby forest and a meteor up in the sky. I should also mention that the reported lights were seen to move down, across and up again. Not the behaviour of any meteor on record I believe. Meteors move fast. Even a meteor at a shallow angle will still move across a huge portion of sky unless it is coming right at you and no-one is saying that happened. It would be over very quickly. Very different than standing watching lights come from the inside of a forest close to you?
So my gripe is not with this alternative explanation, it is with the fact that he said 'this is unquestionably what he saw'. That is something he cannot say, having been no-where near the events. He cannot say that for definite, any more than Charles Halt could say 'yeah, they were alien spacecraft', which of course, he has never said.


Ok, gripe no.1 over.

Gripe no.2 is that James McGahey says that 'the burden of proof is upon those making the claims......where is the evidence?'
Yes, McGahey, that is fair enough. But there is evidence to back the claims! I would think that combined testimony of multiple people serving at a nuclear-armed USAF base counts for something. I would think 3 indentations in the ground in an equilateral triangle formation precisely where an object was reported to have been stationary counts as evidence. I think radiation readings taken while the events were happening and afterwards too, count as evidence. Broken tree branches were caused by something physical too. An audio recording made as the events unfolded exists, that is evidence to a degree. Unless of course we cannot trust the word of a man trusted with a superpower's nuclear weapons, and his subordinates. Then, we can discount every thing the men reported that night. Case closed, they are all liars, completely uncaring about their careers in the military, just hoping that 20 years later they can make some money from making all this up. Really?

This idiot McGahey then also says definitively that Col Charles Halt and the others saw 'lights in the sky' and that is all they saw. Another definitive statement by someone not present. Yes, they reported seeing just that. But they also reported a lighted object hovering just off the ground moving about over a protracted period of time, whilst Col Halt was making an audio recording! How can so many witnesses mistake lights in the sky for an object 100 yards away moving in the forest they themselves were in?

Some may think I am being a little harsh to James McGahey, a noted UFO skeptic (surprise surprise). But, in actual fact, I have zero problems with looking for prosaic explanations for strange events. Most 'strange events' that are reported do indeed turn out to have mundane explanations after thorough investigation. All well and good.
But is is unforgiveable for a man of science to say things like 'unquestionably what John Burroughs saw that night'.
How can anyone make such a definitive statement about events they were not party too? He could have said 'it is very likely that this is what John Burroughs saw that night'. That would have been fine. But, 'unquestionably' is not a word you use if you are a scientist unless you have checked you facts, checked them again, and absolutely ruled out any other explanation. No, 'unquestionably' is absolutely not a word a scientist uses in regards of something he was not even a party to.

Any human being is fallible. Any of us could mistake one thing for another, especially at night under duress. Sure. No-one would argue with that. But I would really hope that a deputy base commander of a strategic nuclear base would not make statements that he saw an object hovering in the woods for a long time, close to him, unless he was very sure that was what he saw. Remember, Col Halt says that he went out that night with the express purpose of debunking the UFO claims made the previous night. This was not a man expecting to go out and see a UFO.

There were several other people there too. I would hope such a deputy base commander would not use words even similar to the ones he did unless he was absolutely sure. I find it easier to believe he saw a secret russian plane than him mistake lights in the sky for a lit object hovering close by in the woods in which he himself was in.

Anyone who wishes to watch this doc (quite a good one really) the link is below. The comments that annoyed me so much made by James McGahey start around 20mins 40secs in.


Now, in the interest of fairness, if anyone thinks I have been too harsh regarding the comments of this skeptical astronomer, I would genuinely welcome anyone pointing out where my reasoning may have gone astray. I would remind everyone that the comments made by McGahey were not some offhand comments made on a doorstep before he could compose himself. No, the comments were filmed, obviously in cooperation for the purposes of the documentary about UFOs, so I contend he would have been very sure of what he was saying?

It just looks to me that this McGahey character is yet another 'skeptic' who is in actual fact, a debunker. He does not have an open mind. His mind is made up and even if he has to make things up, to bend the truth to explain this away, he will. For a man like that, having such an event remain unexplained is unacceptable. I have never heard Col Halt state that he thought he saw alien spacecraft. To my knowledge, none of the witnesses claim to actually know for a fact what they witnessed, so, the actual participants of this event are willing to have it labelled 'unexplained' which is what it is.
Debunkers hate the word 'unexplained' because in their universe, no such thing as non-human intelligently controlled flying vehichles exist, therefore the explanation must be something that is already known.

How utterly arrogant.

(Note: I have never to my knowledge seen a UFO. I have no sure idea what they may be or where they may come from. From the wealth of evidence and reports from credible people, I am willing to remain open to the possibility that there are structured, advanced craft in our skies, not under human control - beyond that, I really don't know.)








 

Sentry

Paranormal Adept
At least the guy acknowledged they saw something.

I recently came across the UFO Handbook from 1979 by Allan Hendry. There's some great stuff in there about how witnesses can misperceive things and unintentionally invent details. At the time it was written there were lighted advertising planes which produced a lot of false UFO reports. Some of the witnesses gave detailed accounts of flying saucers performing fantastic maneuvers, and some also had strong emotional responses based on what they thought they saw. The thing is- human witnesses are going to make the same flawed observations when they see real UFOs!
 

Posey Gilbert

Paranormal Maven
We all agree that there is nothing per se wrong with having a skeptical mind, in fact, I would say it is extremely healthy and far more preferable to believing everything you are told - without evidence to back it up.

I have just been watching an episode of 'Unsolved Mysteries UFOs - Vol 1' and a part of the programme is given over to the 1980 Rendlesham Forest UFO encounters.

I was made extremely angry by comments made by someone in the documentary (and why? why should this bother me so much?) - probably in the interest of journalistic balance, the programme makers had included comments from an astronomer, namely one James McGahey.
I was astounded at how this 'astronomer' was making definitive pronouncements about an event he was not even present at! I have no problem with people making sure that all possibilities are explored and exhausted before coming to the conclusion that something is 'unexplained'.

However, this idiot - and I choose my words advisedly, as this 'scientist' made public pronouncements of a definitive nature, without any evidence to prove his theory - said two separate things that left me aghast at his blatant ignorance of the scientific method.

I am not going to re-tell the Rendlesham story, if you don't know it already, it is included in the documentary mentioned below.

So, this James McGahey, purportedly an astronomer, although it is hard to believe he is a man of science, at one point says in relation to the sighting of strange lights in the forest next to the base, that - 'This is unquestionably what John Burroughs saw'. He was talking about a meteor that entered the Earth's atmosphere that morning. John Burroughs claims he saw 'strange lights' moving about in the forest, below the level of the trees. It was because of the proximity of the lights to the perimeter of the base the John decided to pass the info up the command chain, exactly as he should have.

Anyway, even though I find it hard to believe that someone could mistake a fireball meteor (a strange event, no doubt) in the sky for lights in the forest for more than 20 seconds, I do not discount the possibility altogether.
So, is it within the realm of possibility that John mistook a meteor for lights below treetop level in the forest next to him? Yes, it is possible. But I contend that as unlikely as alien spacecraft or whatever, are - that is no reason at all to stretch one actual occurrence to fit with a reported one when most people could quite easily tell the difference between lights in a nearby forest and a meteor up in the sky. I should also mention that the reported lights were seen to move down, across and up again. Not the behaviour of any meteor on record I believe. Meteors move fast. Even a meteor at a shallow angle will still move across a huge portion of sky unless it is coming right at you and no-one is saying that happened. It would be over very quickly. Very different than standing watching lights come from the inside of a forest close to you?
So my gripe is not with this alternative explanation, it is with the fact that he said 'this is unquestionably what he saw'. That is something he cannot say, having been no-where near the events. He cannot say that for definite, any more than Charles Halt could say 'yeah, they were alien spacecraft', which of course, he has never said.


Ok, gripe no.1 over.

Gripe no.2 is that James McGahey says that 'the burden of proof is upon those making the claims......where is the evidence?'
Yes, McGahey, that is fair enough. But there is evidence to back the claims! I would think that combined testimony of multiple people serving at a nuclear-armed USAF base counts for something. I would think 3 indentations in the ground in an equilateral triangle formation precisely where an object was reported to have been stationary counts as evidence. I think radiation readings taken while the events were happening and afterwards too, count as evidence. Broken tree branches were caused by something physical too. An audio recording made as the events unfolded exists, that is evidence to a degree. Unless of course we cannot trust the word of a man trusted with a superpower's nuclear weapons, and his subordinates. Then, we can discount every thing the men reported that night. Case closed, they are all liars, completely uncaring about their careers in the military, just hoping that 20 years later they can make some money from making all this up. Really?

This idiot McGahey then also says definitively that Col Charles Halt and the others saw 'lights in the sky' and that is all they saw. Another definitive statement by someone not present. Yes, they reported seeing just that. But they also reported a lighted object hovering just off the ground moving about over a protracted period of time, whilst Col Halt was making an audio recording! How can so many witnesses mistake lights in the sky for an object 100 yards away moving in the forest they themselves were in?

Some may think I am being a little harsh to James McGahey, a noted UFO skeptic (surprise surprise). But, in actual fact, I have zero problems with looking for prosaic explanations for strange events. Most 'strange events' that are reported do indeed turn out to have mundane explanations after thorough investigation. All well and good.
But is is unforgiveable for a man of science to say things like 'unquestionably what John Burroughs saw that night'.
How can anyone make such a definitive statement about events they were not party too? He could have said 'it is very likely that this is what John Burroughs saw that night'. That would have been fine. But, 'unquestionably' is not a word you use if you are a scientist unless you have checked you facts, checked them again, and absolutely ruled out any other explanation. No, 'unquestionably' is absolutely not a word a scientist uses in regards of something he was not even a party to.

Any human being is fallible. Any of us could mistake one thing for another, especially at night under duress. Sure. No-one would argue with that. But I would really hope that a deputy base commander of a strategic nuclear base would not make statements that he saw an object hovering in the woods for a long time, close to him, unless he was very sure that was what he saw. Remember, Col Halt says that he went out that night with the express purpose of debunking the UFO claims made the previous night. This was not a man expecting to go out and see a UFO.

There were several other people there too. I would hope such a deputy base commander would not use words even similar to the ones he did unless he was absolutely sure. I find it easier to believe he saw a secret russian plane than him mistake lights in the sky for a lit object hovering close by in the woods in which he himself was in.

Anyone who wishes to watch this doc (quite a good one really) the link is below. The comments that annoyed me so much made by James McGahey start around 20mins 40secs in.


Now, in the interest of fairness, if anyone thinks I have been too harsh regarding the comments of this skeptical astronomer, I would genuinely welcome anyone pointing out where my reasoning may have gone astray. I would remind everyone that the comments made by McGahey were not some offhand comments made on a doorstep before he could compose himself. No, the comments were filmed, obviously in cooperation for the purposes of the documentary about UFOs, so I contend he would have been very sure of what he was saying?

It just looks to me that this McGahey character is yet another 'skeptic' who is in actual fact, a debunker. He does not have an open mind. His mind is made up and even if he has to make things up, to bend the truth to explain this away, he will. For a man like that, having such an event remain unexplained is unacceptable. I have never heard Col Halt state that he thought he saw alien spacecraft. To my knowledge, none of the witnesses claim to actually know for a fact what they witnessed, so, the actual participants of this event are willing to have it labelled 'unexplained' which is what it is.
Debunkers hate the word 'unexplained' because in their universe, no such thing as non-human intelligently controlled flying vehichles exist, therefore the explanation must be something that is already known.

How utterly arrogant.

(Note: I have never to my knowledge seen a UFO. I have no sure idea what they may be or where they may come from. From the wealth of evidence and reports from credible people, I am willing to remain open to the possibility that there are structured, advanced craft in our skies, not under human control - beyond that, I really don't know.)

Excellent article Goggsmackay, right on point.
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
I have never seen a UFO but this McGahey guy is so obviously just against the possibility! Picking fault with their use of a starlight scope etc - does not address the main points in any way!

Thanks for posting.
 

bbridges

Paranormal Maven
I have never seen a UFO but this McGahey guy is so obviously just against the possibility! Picking fault with their use of a starlight scope etc - does not address the main points in any way!

Thanks for posting.

This guy is typical of the old adage, "Science advances one funeral at a time." Rather than tolerate that which cannot fit into their paradigm, they quickly depart from true inquiry into 'safe harbors'. A syllogism can be true and valid, untrue and valid, but it loses all usefulness when it tries to be true but invalid. Deductive results are only as useful to the degree that the premises are accurate and true. Anything less is not science. The bias of McGahey is so obvious whether one has a vested interest in the topic or not. It's over his head to challenge the reckless assumptions that he makes about the witnesses-they are mistaken, because...well, that's got to be the ground truth, and we can proceed to deduce other explanations, since we have 'reasonably' established that they have to be wrong. To accept the witnesses reliability would make the whole thing 'difficult to explain away.' He disrespects science, the way a corrupt lawyer disrespects justice.
 

tyder001

Paranormal Adept
I have heard so much silly skeptical stuff about witness testimony. One numbnutt posted a whole blog about how we couldn't even trust an eye witness in a court case. Now, don't get me wrong I understand memory is a funny thing. But, more than likely the memory of something that really impresses you is somewhere in the ole ballpark. For instance the other day I saw an old episode of Andy Griffith. Now, it's been quite a long time since I had seen this particular episode. So, I tried a little unscientific experiment. I decided that I would pause the show and then "remember" the coming scene word for word. I wanted to see how close I was. I was "Spot" on! :p So, sometime eye witness memory is true to the letter. Not always and we can always find times when it isn't. So, if a pilot tells you he saw a craft of some kind and a skeptic tells you it was the planet Venus. Take the pilots word until you can know one way or the other. imo. :cool:
 

tyder001

Paranormal Adept
Buh, the bye before somebody tells me to win the Randi prize I don't want to mislead. I didn't "know" what was going to happen in that scene by ESP. I remembered it from my youth since I (like many southerners of my generation) was raised on Andy Griffith. Don't get me started on the idiocy of the Bevery Hillbillies. :p
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
I have heard so much silly skeptical stuff about witness testimony. One numbnutt posted a whole blog about how we couldn't even trust an eye witness in a court case. Now, don't get me wrong I understand memory is a funny thing. But, more than likely the memory of something that really impresses you is somewhere in the ole ballpark. For instance the other day I saw an old episode of Andy Griffith. Now, it's been quite a long time since I had seen this particular episode. So, I tried a little unscientific experiment. I decided that I would pause the show and then "remember" the coming scene word for word. I wanted to see how close I was. I was "Spot" on! :p So, sometime eye witness memory is true to the letter. Not always and we can always find times when it isn't. So, if a pilot tells you he saw a craft of some kind and a skeptic tells you it was the planet Venus. Take the pilots word until you can know one way or the other. imo. :cool:


Yeah tyder001 - do you happen to know when the best time of year/night is to go out and watch the planet Venus whilst it makes those impossible flight maneuvers? - You know, right-angle turns on a dime, instant acceleration negating inertia, winking on and off, having coloured lights in sequence, looking shiny and metallic, when it lands on the Earth etc. When is the best time to catch Venus doing all of these things? Every time I see Venus it just looks like a large bright, non-twinkly star that is pretty much stationary in the sky for the time you look at it. I must be so unlucky never to see it's UFO impression. I mean, if this stationary star-like object can sometimes pull off moves over a protracted period of time, changing position with respect to the observer, from front to back (other side of the sky!) and it can do all these things, then I can understand how these idiot pilots and military personnel could mistake this bright planet that stays put in the sky and never looks metallic or make fancy movements!!

I guess I shall just have to wait my turn for the Goddess Venus to smile upon me and show me her stuff?

(Feeling a bit disrespected by the planet Venus)
Gordon.
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
I agree with some of the points and not others. Again, a skeptic tries to dismiss something but without explaining it themselves. For instance, I don't think Aliens built the Giza pyramid but the accuracy of the true north alignment, the building tolerances etc - they have not been adequately explained and I tire of hearing that the construction methods are known. There is plenty of good speculation for sure but still a lot unanswered. Remember the whole worldwide navigation problems before proper ocean-going chronometers?


We do not know how people thousands of years ago were working out longitude. How were the trilathons at Baalbek cut and moved etc? I had an argument with a former forum member over this and he gave a classic skeptical answer - namely, that I should go and research the cranes the Romans had used for construction. So I did and there is just no way they could have moved and lifted those blocks. You couldn't just line up a pile of them either, there would not be enough space for the number of cranes you would need, and even if a 1000 ton block could be lifted an inch of the ground, that still leaves the transportation to worry about! In fact, forget the lifting and moving and placing, I've never read an explanation of how they were even quarried in the first place. It would be simple (but labourious) to hack away with chisels to a plumb line etc but how do you succesfully cut the lower face? How do you stop the weight cracking the whole thing when you are half way through etc?

Now I am not at all saying that it was aliens or any such thing, only that it is incorrect and untruthful to just brush off such questions as if the answer is known and is common knowledge. There are many truly wonderous mysteries on earth right now that don't need an ET explanation but they do need an explanation.
 

5tomidnite

Paranormal Maven
We do not know how people thousands of years ago were working out longitude. How were the trilathons at Baalbek cut and moved etc? I had an argument with a former forum member over this and he gave a classic skeptical answer - namely, that I should go and research the cranes the Romans had used for construction. So I did and there is just no way they could have moved and lifted those blocks. You couldn't just line up a pile of them either, there would not be enough space for the number of cranes you would need, and even if a 1000 ton block could be lifted an inch of the ground, that still leaves the transportation to worry about! In fact, forget the lifting and moving and placing, I've never read an explanation of how they were even quarried in the first place. It would be simple (but labourious) to hack away with chisels to a plumb line etc but how do you succesfully cut the lower face? How do you stop the weight cracking the whole thing when you are half way through etc?

I recently heard that the ancient Romans had their own version of concrete and used that to create large stone structures. Whether or not that's true I can't say. I'm not an archeologist nor was I involved in the research on it. It sounds like it would have made these things easier to accomplish.
 

Christopher O'Brien

Back in the Saddle Aginn
Staff member
Predictably, once again, Lance has overstepped the forum limits and has (yet again) been banned (temporarily?) from the Paracast Forum for potty-mouthing ad hominim attacks while over-stating the obvious re: the so-called "Bigfoot" DNA study. I know, I know, it's sad, but we'll keep the skeptical fires burning for him while he cools his heels and learns from the errors of his frowned-upon Paracast ways. In his absence, I elect us ALL to contribute to the Lance Moody "Skeptical File." My first post will be the following story from Chechnya...

Sorcery crackdown: Chechnya leader orders hard line on wizards - Telegraph

Talk amongst yourselves but please don't call each other names and make Gene bring out the paddle... :eek:
 

Goggs Mackay

Administrator
Staff member
I had said just the other day to Lance that basically if he believes he has his facts right, I don't see the need for the ridicule.

Lance has plenty to offer but like most die hard debunkers, he picks and chooses what he speaks about and gives other cases/topics a bodyswerve, while proclaiming anyone who believes such and such is an idiot and it's hilarious etc which I don't think there is much call for.
 

Jeff Crowell

Paranormal Annoyance
I agree. I never understood why Lance resorted to such tactics. He presents serious and valid arguments in completely intelligent ways, then smears his own credibility by employing personal attacks and name calling. Why oh why.

Considering this is what.....the fourth time he's been banned? (I've not been keeping track, really), I'm thinking he'll never learn. Perhaps he just gets so emotionally charged and he doesn't care about being banned, nor respecting other people as individuals, that he lets loose with the insults and vile attacks without regard for the repercussions. Maybe he doesn't know when to just let an argument go? Kinda sad, really, but who knows, maybe this time he'll learn how to argue and debate without acting out.
 

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