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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 7

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: "Greg Sandow" <gsandow@prodigy.net>
Date: Sat, 6 Jun 1998 18:45:41 -0400
Fwd Date: Sun, 07 Jun 1998 21:57:08 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

> From: RobIrving@aol.com
> Date: Sat, 6 Jun 1998 13:48:43 EDT
> To: updates@globalserve.net
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs


I'd better de-escalate, since I've also written quite a long
screed on the --  to me -- baffling misunderstanding here.

Rob, I know you agreed with me on my main point, and I should
have acknowledged that.

But when you brought Michael Hesemann into the discussion, you
lost me. And when you say:

> I essentially agreed with you. As you went on to say,
> conventional explanations may only be of limited use as more
> information arrives.

> My point was that this is dependant upon the quality of
> information; I don't think that in populist ufology we get much
> quality information.

> If we did, I think that more people - including the so-called
> scientific establishment - would take it more seriously. That's
> the challenge... all the time ufology yearns for scientific
> credibility, that is, which, by the way, I don't see that it
> necessarily has to (but evidently leading ufologists think so or
> they wouldn't keep harping on in those terms).

I think in all this you're responding to my thought that ufology
exemplifies the proper use of Occam. But what strikes me is that
you talk here about "populist" ufology. I remember saying in my
original post that I was talking about "responsible" ufology. I
didn't specify exactly what I meant, but if I were going to, I'd
start with Hynek, McDonald, Vallee's first books, Richard Hall,
Jerry Clark, and (on this list) Mark Cashman and Jerry Cohen. I'm
not including Kevin Randle, much as I respect his work and his
honest attitude, because he's best known for Roswell, and the
very subject seems to get people angry. So to keep things
"responsible" -- even "classical" -- I'm restricting my list to
people who talk about old-fashioned sightings. (I'm sure I've
forgotten a few obvious names.)

Where does "populist" ufology fit in what I was talking about? In
any case, I'm not very concerned with it. (Elsewhere I've
explained my belief that popular culture, despite its excesses,
will probably do more to bring scientists to UFOs than all the
responsible investigation we've ever done. It spreads new
paradigms, and a more open attitude toward things unknown,
particularly if they seem to touch on space and aliens. A
scientist who grew up on Star Trek and watches the X-Files will
be, on the average, more open to UFOs than an older generation
that grew up in the '50s, when science fiction was widely thought
to be childish. In any case, if Hynek and McDonald couldn't pull
the scientific community into the debate, what luck are
scientific ufologists now likely to have?)

As for the poor old ETH.....

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

> As you've drawn attention to it I should point out that
> 'hypothesis' usually implies some effort on the part of its
> proponents to show that it can make testable predictions. Mere
> belief, of course, does not carry that requirement. It's a small
> point, but as we're working through the scientistic terms used
> and abused in ufology it may be worth mentioning.

It's a small point, but a good one. So let me offer my three
cents or so. If UFOs are extraterrestrial craft, I'd expect them
to behave like physical objects. They should show up on radar,
leave traces when they reportedly land, and affect the physical
world in consistent ways (a line of thinking James McCampbell has
pursued). I wouldn't, though, expect them to behave "logically,"
or in other words as we imagine we would if we were scouting an
inhabited world. They'd be alien, after all, and we'd be foolish
to make that kind of assumption.

I guess I'd also think it likely that they'd be detectable in
space, though that's not a necessary deduction from the ETH.

Now, even if these criteria I'm tossing off here (somewhat off
the top of my head) are met, we wouldn't prove that UFOs are
extraterrestrial.
To completely prove that, I suppose we'd need lots of known UFO
hardware or debris, or (hey, it's time for the alien autopsy!)
biological samples of some of their occupants. And then we could
argue about what, even if we had stuff we could take to a lab,
would constitute proof.

Anyhow, this IS an interesting line of thought. Rather than toss
out combative bon mots (John Rimmer, this means you), why don't
we roll up our sleeves and -- following Rob's very helpful lead
-- specify what testable predictions each UFO hypothesis might
suggest?

Greg Sandow



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