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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 9

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Mon, 08 Jun 98 22:11:16 PDT
Fwd Date: Tue, 09 Jun 1998 00:40:02 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

> Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 11:47:57 +0100
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>
> From: John Rimmer <johnr@magonia.demon.co.uk>
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

> >From: "Greg Sandow" <gsandow@prodigy.net>
> >To: "'UFO UpDates - Toronto'" <updates@globalserve.net>
> >Subject: RE: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs
> >Date: Sat, 6 Jun 1998 18:45:41 -0400

> >Anyhow, this IS an interesting line of thought. Rather than toss
> >out combative bon mots (John Rimmer, this means you),

> Wow, bon mots, that must be the result of being an English
> major! Sorry to disappoint Jerry Clark, who always uses this
> against me, but I'm *not* an English major, I'm not any sort of
> major (or colonel, for that matter). In the North of England
> tradition of gritty realism I was educated at the School of
> Hard-Knocks and the University of Life!

John, you sure could have fooled me.  Let's call you an honorary
English major. I was an actual English major, and I assure you, I
won't lord it over 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?

The only serious testable psychosocial hypothesis, and I admire
him for having the guts to propose it, was offered by Peter
Rogerson in the July 1986 issue of Magonia, wherein he predicted,
"ALL contactees and abductees will be [found to be] fantasy-
prone personalities. The vast majority of CE3 percipients will
be CE3s."  As we know now -- actually, have known for a while
now -- this has not proven to be the case.  Nice try, though,
Peter, and I don't mean that sarcastically.  Would that your
colleagues, including John (who proposes an amazingly
fuzzy claim to a testable hypothesis in his current posting),
had your courage and precision.

In any event, Mark Cashman and Greg Sandow have shown ways in
which the ETH can be used to make predictions. Apparently John
has not read their contributions.

> Saying of the UFO phenomenon "it's aliens", is no more
> scientific than saying "it's demons" or "it's magic" or "it's
> the tooth-fairy". As we have no idea what extraterrestrials are,
> or what they can or cannot do, they can be used to "explain"
> absolutely anything:

Actually, that's a whole lot of nonsense.  I guess I am going to
have repeat myself: Mike Swords has shown, in a series of
splendid papers, the scientific foundations of the ETH. Mark
Cashman has also written lucidly on the subject. When I see
arguments like the above, I get the depressing suspicion that the
arguers believe that if they repeat them enough, somehow they'll
begin to make sense.  Alas, no such luck.  Has, incidentally, any
PSHer ever admitted to being wrong about anything?

> * Aliens behave irrationally - well they would do wouldn't they,
>   they're aliens.

> * Aliens behave rationally - just proves they're scientific
>   space explorers, boldly going...

Reminds me of PSH advocate Hilary Evans (who is a good
guy -- as is John Rimmer, by the way; nothing in any of this
is intended to be a personal slam).  I can't think of a better
example of the unfalsifiability of the Purely Speculative
Hypothesis than the following, and pardon me if I quote
from my recently published UFO Encyclopedia (p. 757):

"Evans's one claim to experimental confirmation of the
psychosocial hypothesis [Alvin Lawson's amateurish `imaginary
abductions' experiments] is almost certainly unfounded. Yet while
Lawson's hypothesis appears to have been falsified, at least it
IS falsifiable -- unlike Evans's own hypotheses. For example, he
proposes that entity- generating psychological states include
relaxation and excitation, boredom and ecstasy, isolation and
participation in a group, concentration and distraction,
questioned faith and unquestioning faith, concentration and
distraction, anxiety and peace of mind. When none of these
conditions obtains -- if that is conceivable -- the weather, the
phase of  the moon, or the individual's diet may trigger the
imaginary encounter.  Evans may as well have argued that the
psychological state in which one is most likely to have an entity
encounter is being alive [also the state, of course, in which one
could conceivably have an experience with actual

"If nothing else, Evans can be counted on to cover all his bases.
 In another instance of base-stretching -- one of a number that
could be cited -- he informs us that CE3s could not involve true
extraterrestrials because the alleged ETs' behavior is
`illogical, no matter how much allowance we make for the
possibility ET logic may be different from ours.' Scarcely 50
pages of [his book Gods, Spirits, Cosmic Guardians) later, Evans
remarks that such reports cannot be interpreted as alien
encounters because the supposed ETs' patterns of behavior are
`humanlike in so many ... ways.'"

> * Aliens abduct people through solid walls - they're thousands
>   of years ahead of us technologically and have absolute control
>   over space, time and matter.

I wasn't aware that those of us on this list who have been
advocating an open-minded approach to the ETH have been bringing
abductions prominently into the discussion.  I have stated
repeatedly, and I think my colleagues will not disagree with me
here, that -- with very rare exception -- abduction claims are
minimally evidential at best, and so beset with problems,
ambiguities, and the like that no thoughtful person would declare
them proof of anything at this very early stage of the

We need to know a whole lot more about this phenomenon before we
start making extraordinary claims for it.  (I urge John to read
the discussion of this issue on pp. 388-90 of the new
Encyclopedia.  It concludes, "Until more is known with much
greater certainty, efforts to incorporate abduction material into
a revised ETH are necessarily speculative under the best of
circumstances.")  As I have stated over and over again, in all
kinds of forums, it is the hard evidence -- radar/visuals, CE2s,
multiply witnessed daylight discs, and so on -- that comprises
the core of the case for UFOs as well as the beginning of any
rational discussion about the possible origins of the UFO
phenomenon.  This phenomenon, international in scope and to all
appearances not culture bound, continues to resist conventional

> * Alien space craft keep crashing - well nobody's perfect!

I wasn't aware that anybody involved in this discussion was
contending that "space craft keep crashing."  I know such folk
are out there, but they are not participating in this
conversation. It's this sort of caricature of opponents' views
that persuade me that in their heart of hearts the Purely
Speculative Hypothesizers know they are treading shaky ground


Jerry Clark

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