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

Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Wed, 01 Jul 98 11:39:34 PDT
Fwd Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 17:48:42 -0400
Subject: Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

> From: RobIrving@aol.com
> Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 22:45:22 EDT
> To: updates@globalserve.net
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: 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.

Interestingly enough, this morning Minnesota Public Radio --
which NEVER deals with UFOs -- devoted an hour to a discussion
among scientists on, prominently among the issues talked about,
it is "professional suicide" (not my phrase but that of a
skeptical University of MInnesota astronomer) for a scientist to
take up UFO study. News reports following the release of the
science panel's recommendations re continued UFO research quote
some members on how they plan to deal with the criticism and
ridicule they expect from colleagues. And of course the panel
members could hardly have been more conservative in what they
had to say.

> >"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.

Unfortunately, "belief" has been reduced in discourse and debate
about anomalies into mere rhetoric. You used it in the context
of the scoffer, who uses it in this sense (to borrow from David
Hufford, who writes amusingly on the subject): "What I know, I
KNOW; what you know, you only BELIEVE."

> 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

See above.

> >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.

A charitable view of the SETI literature, I must say. I have
found much of it wildly speculative, and so have its many

> Much as you enjoy portraying things in this way, not everyone
> who differs in opinion to your own are ignorant and abusive

Good to hear something refuted I never said or thought. I have
repeatedly stated that honorable persons can disagree. My
quarrel is with people who think that those who disagree with
them are necessarily stupid, gullible, or mere "believers." That
is my quarrel with you.

> >>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.

Be glad to. First, however, a challenge for you:

> > 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. ~

Is this statement based on anything other than his work with
Dorothy Martin's group, with which I gather you are largely

> 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. ~

A pretty good description of the debunker mentality. See my
editorial in the March/April 1992 issue of IUR (you ARE familiar
with that publication, aren't you, Rob?) for some striking

> 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.

"Tolerance for ambiguity" -- in those very words -- is something
I have long urged. What it's gotten me on this list is the
accusation, hurled by somebody we both know and love, that I am
a "pathological fencesitter." For an essay-length commentary on
the need to tolerate ambiguity, see my "On Anomalous Experience"
which introduces my book Unexplained! (1993).

> Equally, in truth I suspect that you are not the
> self-important prat your role apparently demands.

And I would like to think the same of you.

> 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?

Yes, alas. The trade-paperback version, the one available in
book stores for a price the normal human can afford, contains
about 30% of the material on the expensive, two-volume reference

> 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.

Ah, would that it were that important. Before I go any further
with this, Rob, I want to point out that you are trying to avoid
the big issue. You even deleted my reference to it, apparently
thinking I wouldn't notice. No such luck. Let me ask you: which
whopping historical error do Festinger, et al., make, a mistake
bearing directly on their theory?

When you've done so, you can send me your regular mail address,
and I'll send you Gordon Melton's paper "What Really Hapens When
Prophecy Fails" (which, annoyingly, I now discover I've
misfiled, after just looking at it a couple of days ago; well,
I'll find the damn thing somewhere, and if not, I can ask Melton
for another copy).

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

No more than you are, my friend.

> >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?).

I am left wondering why, if Deutsch is such a brilliant guy, you
chose such a knuckleheaded quote to cite.

Criticizing anybody "remotely critical of UFO enthusiasts"? Was
Deutch's your idea of "remote criticism"? Since I have been
often critical of UFO enthusiasts, and have written fairly
voluminously on that subject, I simply don't understand what
you're talking about. Since "balanced" is the adjective used
most often in reviews of my UFO Encyclopedia, I think I can
state safely that I have a good track record of sticking it to
both sides. I'd be happy to compare my record in that regard
with yours. You up for it?

> 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.

You? Actually, the quote was from "Politics and the English

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

Thanks. All this aside, I look forward to meeting you one of

these days. I hope you are as partial to your nation's blessed
brewing industry as I am, and we can do our best to support it
in each other's company.


Jerry Clark