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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 1

Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

From: RobIrving@aol.com
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 22:45:22 EDT
Fwd Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 10:41:45 -0400
Subject: Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

> To: "UFO UpDates - Toronto" <updates@globalserve.net>
> From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'
> Date: Sun, 28 Jun 98 13:36:18 PDT

Jerry,

Despite your attempts to suggest otherwise, many of the points
I've made to Sean do not oppose the idea that "myopic
conventionalism" <my words> slows down progress. I don't see why
science would be different from any other human activity.

So we agree. But I simply don't see sufficient evidence that the
ETH is being obstructed in this way, as its proponents like to
claim.  You haven't offered any convincing examples, just
abstract association with earlier examples, none of which are
particularly relevant, imo.

Incidentally, the recent news regarding the scientific panel
study of UFOs bears out the point I've been making.  But even
this has been falsely portrayed in 'either/or' terms - viz, if
you are sceptical of the ETH, then you must be embarrassed by
it. This is sheer nonsense, premature bleatings.

>"Belief" is not the problem with the ETH's more rational
>proponents, of course.

Belief is a problem for everybody in this regard. That is the
whole point of this thread -- that it often doesn't matter how
'rational', or detached we like to think we are.  Your certainty
would concern me if I cared at all - there's little difference
between having an X- shaped gap and believing in X.

I'd be more convinced by your protestations of 'rationale' if
you at least acknowledged that ufology has a personality problem
rather than simply portraying ET believers as being beyond the
fringe of what is otherwise a serious study, thereby effectively
sweeping the issue under the carpet as if it doesn't exist. From
the p-o-v of someone who admittedly looks at ufology from the
outside, this is too subtle and intriguing a 'problem' to deal
with so dismissively.

<snip>

>The abuse hurled at SETI advocates, for
>example, parallels that at ETH advocates.

As far as I am concerned the main difference is that SETI is
asking questions - looking for evidence - rather than giving
answers with little evidence. But then, I rarely, if ever, hurl
abuse at anyone.

(Before you say it Dennis, "shabby and unbecoming" in not abuse)

<snort> Anyway Jerry...

Much as you enjoy portraying things in this way, not everyone
who differs in opinion to your own are ignorant and abusive
'debunkers'. Their arguments are *not necessarily* abusive. You
appear more at home reducing discussion to a personal level...
read on. It's easy to allow hypersensitive emotions cloud your
judgement. You appear to take criticism of what you believe
personally - so much so that you resort to Wingfieldesque ad
hominem attacks in its defence.  Apart from not really seeing
the point of it, I'm utterly unimpressed. Unless, that is, i
look at it in the context of thespianism.

>>I stated: Festinger liked nothing better than to use
>>'flying saucer' enthusiasts as an example of this.

>Festinger's ideas about cognitive dissonance have been
>pretty well challenged in the sociology of religion literature.

Really? Where? Can you provide specific references, and state on
which grounds his theory was challenged?  Even more pertinently,
why do you seem so ready to accept this. I'm genuinely intrigued.

> Wrong on all counts.

It sounds so authoritative when you say that, doesn't it? Even when
in fact it is you that is er, erring...

> To the best of my knowledge, Festinger wrote
>about only one flying-saucer group...

In this instance the best of your knowledge is paper to my
scissors.  You assume I was talking about 'When Prophesy Fails'
when I was not. As you say, most of this book concerned one
particular group. However, in Festinger's 'A Theory of Cognitive
Dissonance' which I strongly recommend you read, he states more
generally:

~ Similarly, if one person believes that flying saucers are
space ships from other planets and some other person voices the
opinion that flying saucers, as such, do not even exist, the
resulting dissonance in the cognition of the former may be
reduced if he can believe that the latter is a stupid, ignorant,
unfriendly, and bigoted individual. ~

Boy Jerry, as I copy this material I realise how terribly
relevant to the discussion it is. But I should put the statement
in its proper context. It comes from Chapter 8, entitled 'The
Role of Social Support' (p. 182).

In the preceding paragraph but one Festinger writes:

~ 3. Another way of reducing dissonance between one's own
opinion and the knowledge that someone else holds a different
opinion is to make the other person, in some manner, not
comparable to oneself. Such an allegation can take a number of
forms. One can attribute characteristics, experiences, or
motives to the other person or one can even reject him or
derogate him. ~

Reading your approach to 'discussion', Jerry, I have to admit
difficulty in understanding how these ideas have been
successfully challenged. Whether you agree with me on this or
not, I believe that it's valuable for opposing positions to
co-exist, along with anything in-between. What Festinger calls
tolerance for ambiguity.

To an extent what we are doing here is role-playing, and often
having to play characters that we are not, simply because they
are thrust upon us by others. Ufology as performance art... the
newly thunk-up UPAH. This is now my position, and I will attack,
discredit, and generally avoid those arguments by anyone who
says otherwise. So there.

In realty, you have no idea of my position on this matter - it
is enough for you to 'know' that I'm an evil debunker, because
that's how these things are to the person whose role you are
playing. Equally, in truth I suspect that you are not the
self-important prat your role apparently demands.

>I would love to be around, 25, 50, or 100 years from now, to
>witness the cottage industry in history, sociology, and philosophy
>of science literature on the subject of how scientists of this
>century managed to miss the most important phenomenon of
>their time. Sadly for the debunkers, truth always outs.

Sure, hopefully the latter is true, but it is rather
presumptuous to state that things will inevitably swing your way
-  I mean, by then you might have changed your mind again, and
so we would have to adjust ours accordingly, no?

> ...ex cathedra pronouncements Irving traffics in.

Yes, times are hard nowadays, as you know. Such is the abundance
of ex cathedra pronouncements we should turn our activities to
other, perhaps more lucrative employment.  How about dealing in
the issues raised?

>Is it any wonder that persons more open-minded about UFO cases
>and better read in UFO history than Irving remain intrigued?

No, even in my closed-minded illiteracy I too remain intrigued
by UFOs.

>I cite numerous examples in my UFO Encyclopedia.

As you keep telling us. If you send me a copy I promise to read
it. I have not seen your book on any UK bookshelves...  is it
mail-order only?

>Rob thinks he talks a good game, but all he can do is mutter...
>...whatever terrible thing Rob needs to believe we are at the
>given rhetorical moment... ...like Rob, would have us believe
>UFOs are a question for the social sciences... It is not as if,
>as Rob childishly argued... ...Reading arguments like Irving's,
>coming from somebody who knows little about our subject...

Don't forget to pass on that refutation of Festinger's theory,
Jerry. For it appears that you are a living, breathing
refutation of that refutation.

Or are you just playing to the audience. If so, "Bravo!".

>All I learn from the quote is that David Deutsch is phobic about UFOs,
>and not especially rational on the subject. Pardon me while I yawn.

Clearly you have not read Deutsch, and I'm left wondering if you
have even heard of him, yet you feel qualified to ridicule him
along with any who are remotely critical of UFO enthusiasts
(or... negatively swayed by the loudest dogmatists?).

If I'm wrong, which is of course possible, though highly
unlikely, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about
Deutsch's ideas. They could have interesting implications for
ufology, in my opinion.

One is reminded of Orwell, who said of sentences and sentiments
like Deutsch's, they give "an appearance of solidity to pure
wind."

Animal Farm? If so, how very appropriate. If we ever get to do
Animal Farm I have a feeling who will want to play Napoleon.

Add my belated but genuine congrats to the others, btw...I was
highly impressed by your award, and pleased for you.

Rob