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

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: "Jerome Clark" <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Mon, 08 Jun 98 08:16:23 PDT
Fwd Date: Mon, 08 Jun 1998 22:16:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

> From: RobIrving@aol.com
> Date: Sun, 7 Jun 1998 22:16:26 EDT
> To: updates@globalserve.net
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

> >To: "UFO UpDates - Toronto" <updates@globalserve.net>
> >From: "Jerome Clark" <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
> >Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs
> >Date: Sat, 06 Jun 98 13:33:02 PDT

> Jerry,

> >>Of course, I'm not trying to tell anyone that there aren't ETs
> >>(or UTs and ITs, come to that), just that, as things stand, ol'
> >>William's blade is more likely to lead us away from that
> >>explanation than towards it.

> >Ah, I don't think so, unless one holds that 50+ years of failed
> >explanations for puzzling UFO cases demands another 50+.

> I don't exactly follow what you're saying...

> Are you suggesting that we accept one hypothesis over others by
> way of attrition? I guess that's how things work sometimes, but
> some sort of sensible explanation would be useful. I for one am
> happy to spend the rest of my time not knowing. You're free to
> jump to conclusions as much as you wish. The issue remains about
> compelling evidence, and what we accept as compelling.

You've lost me, my friend.  As one who has a long printed track
record of warning people not to jump to conclusions (your friend
Peter Brookesmith recently accused me of being a "pathological
fencesitter" or somesuch), you are addressing the wrong man.
My point was that if UFO history demonstrates one thing, it is
the failure of conventional explanations to account for the most
puzzling UFO cases.  To anyone who knows the UFO literature and
evidence, or who doesn't regard Phil Klass as guru, this can
hardly be a startling or revolutionary observation.
See, for example, the forthcoming statement by a panel of
American scientists who have examined UFO data.

> I referred to the relationship between general public and
> ufological 'expert', rather than that purely between the latter.
> However, even between 'experts' you'd be hard-pressed to
> convince me that any reasonable standard of scientific argument
> is generally applied.

> Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see it. Perhaps you can point me
> in the right direction?

For a start, I urge you to subscribe to IUR and the Journal of
UFO Studies, neither of which you read, as far as I know.
(Inquire at J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, 2457 West
Peterson Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60659.) My UFO Encyclopedia
chronicles many of the debates within ufology about theories,
cases, and so on and, moreover, provides an extensive

> Twisting Occam's razor in favour of the ET Hypothesis is a
> brilliant ploy, though. To my mind at the present time (open to
> arguments) it leads to no hard and fast conclusion either way.

My position -- let me repeat, yet again -- is simply that the ETH
is, "right or wrong, a reasonable reading of the most evidential
UFO reports" (The UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, p. xiii).
Unlike psychosociologists and other believers, I make no larger
claims about the ultimate origin of the UFO phenomenon.  I do
object to the trivialization of the subject in so much ufological
discourse, including demands for, a la Letterman, the top 10
cases on which we are asked to believe the case rises or falls.
Michael Swords, whom I suspect you have not read either, lays out
a compelling  ersion of the ETH in a number of papers which show
why,  right or wrong, it is a perfectly respectable scientific

I am at a loss to understand the reference to "twisting Occam's
razor in favor of the ET Hypothesis."  Maybe you have me confused
with somebody else.

> To save you the pain of banging your knee on the desk again, I
> agree that the most extreme cases of s_k_epticism amount to
> irrational belief.

Intellectually I'm influenced most in my thinking in these areas
by Charles Fort, David J. Hufford, and Marcello Truzzi. Truzzi
defines the skeptic as one who doubts, the debunker as one who
denies.  And I appreciate your concern about my knee.  Actually,
I have always been more worried about the condition of yours.  I
guess that makes us a couple of considerate guys.


Jerry Clark

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