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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 8

Re: 'She Blinded Me with Science'

From: RobIrving@aol.com
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 23:01:58 EDT
Fwd Date: Wed, 08 Jul 1998 08:29:43 -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: Tue, 07 Jul 98 09:23:03 PDT

Jerry,

>Rob, I confess that I don't understand much of the above.

Let me explain. Earlier you informed us that "Festinger's ideas
about cognitive dissonance have been pretty well challenged in
the sociology of religion literature". I assumed from this that
you were familiar with his ideas on cognitive dissonance. It's a
fair assumption, I feel, because you were responding to my
reference to Festinger's Theory of Cognitive Dissonance.

Evidently you are not familiar with it at all, and seem to
believe that his earlier co-authored study 'When Prophesy Fails'
is the theory. In fact it was merely a derivative of it,
relating to what happens when those investing in prophesy are
confronted by its disconfirmation, and whether proselytism can
be expected to increase as a direct result. This has precisely
nothing to do with my original point.

Before everyone accepted your claim that Festinger's theory -
which I believe in the main is quite relevant to this
discussion, and to ufology in general - had been successfully
challenged, and therefore easily dismissed, I thought that it
was important to establish that you were misinforming us.

As I told you, it would be strange were sociologists of religion
to challenge the theory as so little of it has to do with
religion - rather like an ETHer issuing forth on BVM sightings.

You with me? Do you understand why I needed to clarify that
before I answered your question?  You challenged me to look for
an error that you say undermines a theory you are clearly
unfamiliar with.

>I was simply pointing out that Festinger has been challenged
>and that key ideas expressed in 'When Prophecy Fails' have
>failed of replication.

And I reiterate that I would like to see the papers to that
effect. I've emailed you my 'snail' address for you to send them
to me.

Aside from all this I'm wary of your dismissal anyway. Popper
has been "pretty well challenged" by sociologists of science, as
have all other philosophers of science at some time... So? Your
dismissal suggests there is no value to be found in WPF.

Debunkers are often accused of 'throwing the baby out with the
bathwater' but aren't you doing just that? Just as parallels can
be found in ufology to Festinger's theory of CD, they can be
found to WPF. Jim Deardoff's reaction to Bruce Macabee's latest
comments on the Mexico City come to mind, no? Or the reaction of
die-hards to NASA's 'disconfirmation' of the 'Face on Mars'.
I've noticed increased proselytising on their part. If we are to
believe all we currently read, fresh structures are popping up
all over the place.

>I also noted, and you have failed to refute, a huge historical
>error, which unfortunately Festinger used to buttress a key
>argument.

Jeez, Jerry... I told you I needed to read the book again, and I
have been. And you didn't ask me to refute the error, but just
identify it. Obviously if I didn't agree it was an error I
wouldn't be able to identify it.

I've re-read the first section which discusses earlier examples,
and I'm assuming the error lies there - if it's further on, into
their observations on the Martin/Keech group, you're right, I
wouldn't know what to look for, not having studied them. So, if
this error lies beyond page 32 I'm screwed.

Nor am I an expert on any secret histories of the Sabbatai or
the Millerite movement. My best guess is that you're referring
to the authors' inclusion of immediate events post-Crucifixion.
I admit I can't quite see the point of this, as it doesn't have
much bearing on the five conditions "under which (the authors)
would expect to observe increased fervour following the
disconfirmation of a belief". From what I remember of Sunday
school Christ's troupe were pretty pissed off about it, and even
(doubting Thomas, my favourite) rather sceptical. I personally
have my doubts that the ancient prophesies precluded suffering
on their Messiah's part, but then I'm no Biblical scholar
either.

On the other hand, Festinger, et al., discuss all this openly, so I
have the feeling I'm about to be proved wrong. Funny, I had the
feeling all along whatever my answer. I'm excitedly anticipating
your enlightenment.

>You were using Festinger, I couldn't help noticing, as some
kind >of all-knowing authority figure who proved his virtue by
bashing >people interested in UFOs, and you figured you could
use him to >accomplish yet more bashing.

That's a pretty simplistic, overly-defensive view. As I said,
these ideas are peculiarly relevant to ufology. Other than an
erroneous, out-of-hand dismissal you haven't told us why you
disagree with my original point.

>I got the clear impression,
>moreover, that you or he or both of you were not bothering to
>draw any distinction between, say, Dorothy Martin and James
>McDonald, Dorothy Martin and Walter Webb, or whatever. If that
>is the case, I find it pointless to discuss the matter, since  the
>argument is flawed from the first and, may I add, dishonest.

It's a mistaken impression Jerry. No-one is suggesting that
sensible ufologists channel _all_ their information from the
planet Clarion.

Rob