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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 2

Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

From: "Jerome Clark" <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Thu, 02 Jul 98 10:26:38 PDT
Fwd Date: Thu, 02 Jul 1998 23:58:56 -0400
Subject: Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

> From: RobIrving@aol.com
> Date: Wed, 1 Jul 1998 21:53:42 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: Wed, 01 Jul 98 11:39:34 PDT

> >  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."

> That's not a fair reflection of what I think. It's just more
> rhetoric... more projection. I doubt that you could sensibly back
> it up with unvarnished examples.

Perhaps you would care to elucidate.  If you go back to
reread what specifically I was responding to, perhaps you
will better understand why I said what I said.

Let me put it this way:  Answer yes or no:  A reasonable
person, without recourse to mere belief (i.e., faith), can
look at the UFO evidence and see -- rightly or wrongly --
ossible evidence of extraterrestrial visitation.  A
yes answer will get you an apology from me.

> To more interesting issues...

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

> He doesn't specifically say. Although he does summarise the
> Martin study. In fact I am familiar with Festinger's work on her
> group (only in terms of having read the book a couple of times).
> My guess is that he had a 'thing' about flying saucer enthusiasts
> generally... for whatever reason, I don't know. All I said was
> that he enjoyed using them as an example in support of his
> theories.

There are several major papers refuting Festinger, whose
theories have failed replication.  (You might say, I guess, that
Festinger's prophecies have failed.)  As one critic writes, in
the course of showing why ideas like Festinger's are simplistic
and reductionistic, "As scholars we should approach religious
groups as phenomena to be observed and understood in
their own complexity, with at least as much respect for the
complexity and integrity of our subject matter as a biologist
or a physicist has for the phenomena of nature."

> >  > ~ 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.

> I guess this works both ways. But usually when one is debunking
> all one has to do is focus on the bunk, rather than falsely
> characterize.

In theory, yes.  Having done my share of debunking and also
having viewed the debunking movement from pretty close range (I
have long been a good friend of the co-founder of CSICOP, and I
have known CSICOP's chief investigator, on a friendly basis, for
years), I think you are right in principle but naive about the

The problem is with those for whom debunking is a first
principle. It soon follows that those who don't share that first-
principle approach to controversial phenomena become bad people
who are not like us good rational people. Thus the rhetorical
excesses in which the debunking movement so colorfully indulges.
Thus the bizarre characterizations of dissenters I discuss in the
IUR editorial I mentioned in my previous posting (March/April
1992 if anybody's interested).

Another good paper on this subject, if you can find it, is the
Rockwells' "Irrational Rationalists," Journal of the American
Society for Psychical Research 72 (January 1978).  I write on the
history and mindset of the movement in "Skeptics and the New Age"
(in Melton, Clark, and Kelly's New Age Encyclopedia [Gale,

> >  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?

> No deliberate avoidance Jerry. I like a challenge. So, just to
> clarify the task, I have to read 'When Prophesy Fails' again and
> determine errors relating to which theory, the one concerning
> disconfirmation or that of cognitive dissonance?  You read the
> book two weeks ago, for me it's around four years. I'll look
> through it again and get back to you with an answer (or admit

> that I don't have an answer). Do I get a prize, btw?

> >  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).

Found the paper in question and am now seeking to obtain some
others in the same vein (one of them, interestingly enough, by
Rob Balch, who did all the good scholarly work on The Two before
One [Applewhite] morphed into Heaven's Gate).

> That would be interesting, but no prize. A worthwhile prize would
> be the two-volumes of your encyclopedia, delivered to my door.
> That's if I pass the challenge. What's the forfeit if I'm wrong?

I'll ask my publisher to send you a review set if you get
the answer right.  What can you offer in return, if you
get it wrong?

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

> Kindly explain what is so knuckleheaded about it. You
> concentrated on the least important part, his reference to UFO
> enthusiasts, without dealing with its essential part; 'shoddy
> explanations that yield correct predictions are two a-penny...'.

I think I've already answered the question, Rob.  I have
explained what is knuckleheaded about it.  Please give me
a break.  There are all kinds of things I know little to nothing
about; ufology and ufologists are not among them.  Deutsch,
pardon the vernacular, doesn't know shit about either, if I may
judge from -- yes -- the knuckleheaded quote you cite.  As
for the sentiment about "shoddy explanations": well, of course.
It was Deutsch's ignorance and prejudice that I was
addressing, not his firm grasp of the obvious.  Look what
happened to John Rimmer recently when he tried to construct
a falsifiable version of the PSH.

> Don't like Deutsch?  Historian Felipe Fenandez-Armesto says much
> the same thing: '... trustworthy conclusions cannot be based on
> unverified premisses'.

Quite.  I hope he spelled "premises" right, though.


Jerry Clark