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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 6

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: "Greg Sandow" <gsandow@prodigy.net>
Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 14:31:11 -0400
Fwd Date: Sat, 06 Jun 1998 09:21:02 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs


>From: RobIrving@aol.com
>Date: Fri, 5 Jun 1998 13:09:03 EDT
>To: updates@globalserve.net
>Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Occam's Razor and UFOs

>>This gives me an occasion to talk about something I've been
>>thinking of for a while, Occam's Razor. This is a well-known
>>scientific adage, not exactly a theory or a principle, but a good
>>rule of thumb for research. It says, basically, that we shouldn't
>>make up theories without any reason, and that the simplest
>>explanation of something -- the one that does NOT require forming
>>new and alarming hypotheses -- is the one we should prefer.

><snip>

>Serious consideration of this forces one to agree with you...
>Occam's Razor is a tool, or leveller - of course the level can be
>read in different ways, depending on one's slant on things - but
>not an ultimate justification.

>>What does this have to do with UFOs?

>It has a lot to do with the predominant strand of UFO research,
>i.e., the belief that a proportion of UFOs are Extraterrestrial
>craft...

>Of which there is no substantial evidence that we know of.

Which is why belief in it is called The Extraterrestrial [note
the word that follows] Hypothesis.

>>Responsible UFO research is one of the best examples of
>>Occam's Razor used properly. What does a UFO investigator
>>do when someone reports a sighting? He or she tries to eliminate
>>all conventional explanations.

>You seem to be saying that once these conventional explanations
>have been eliminated Occam's Razor would require that we look to
>unconventional explanations: Take, say, Michael Hesemann's claim
>that the increased radiation he says he detected in crop circles,
>as he has eliminated in his mind all conventional explanations,
>must be proof that aliens made the crop circle.>

>This is sad, but so typical of much UFO and associated research.

>Just because something doesn't appear to fit conventional reasons
>doesn't mean we suddenly have scientific licence to insert
>fantasy in their place.  If we want to turn that fantasy into
>convention we'd still need to apply at least the minimum of
>convention to it.  It's easy to fit our shoddy explanations to
>what might appear to be accurate testimony, but that doesn't make
>either true.

I'll let you and Michael Hesemann fight this one out. I didn't
say that the exhaustion of conventional explanations opened the
door for belief in anything at all.

In fact, I don't recall saying anything to endorse any
explanation of UFOs, or of any UFO sighting. I was talking only
about skeptics who use Occam's Razor -- or, rather, misuse it --
as an argument for conventional explanations. If you want to use
what I said as a springboard for an attack on ufology you don't
like, go right ahead.

But that's not the discussion I was trying to start.

Greg Sandow



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