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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 13

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: Mark Cashman <mcashman@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 1998 14:31:56 -0400
Fwd Date: Sat, 13 Jun 1998 18:40:04 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

>From: RobIrving@aol.com
>Date: Fri, 12 Jun 1998 01:54:24 EDT
>To: updates@globalserve.net
>Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

>>This seems clearly to show Rob, that you are focused on popular
>>culture while knowing little about UFOs. Of the ten cases I
>>cited, at least 5 are classics, cited in multiple references.

>Let's get this straight. Is your complaint that I don't memorize
>cases, as perhaps you do, or that I can't be bothered to get off
>my comfy chair and look them up? Either way, Mark, I can take
>the heat, but it's a non-issue in my book, or would be if I
>could only be arsed to reach for the book and check.


How much credence would you give a software developer who didn't
know who Yourdon was, or an astronomer who didn't know what made
M82 special? (Off the top of their heads, of course)

In a science one cannot begin with broad abstractions and
proceed to develop them without reference to the fundamental
facts of the field. That may work amidst the floating
abstractions of what some are pleased to call modern philosophy,
but it can't be allowed in science. The fundamental facts of the
UFO field are the UFO reports - especially those which are both
well-known and solidly attributed.

To be able to speak with authority on a subject requires one to
form ideas and hypothesis _from_ the data. Your lack of
knowledge of the fundamental material of the field makes it
difficult for me to credit your disputes of OEH or ETH, because
you need to know the cases to deal with the reasons those
hypotheses are given credence.

For instance, let's imagine that you have a hypothesis that UFO
cases are simply misperceptions of common or uncommon events by
untutored witnesses. In order to support such a hypothesis, you
must account for the complex detail and large angular size
provided by certain observations, and the presence of occluded
reference points. But if you do not know the cases, you cannot
know that the object was observed to have a large angular size
or that there was complex detail. Further, in order to support
such a hypothesis, you must be able to demonstrate that the
reported description and behavior are consistent with perceptual
and cognitive psychology, but again, you cannot determine what
must be explained in that context without familiarity with the
content of the case.

There is no question that none of us have all of the facts of
any case in our minds at any time. That's why we write things
down and we have libraries. But by the same token, without a
mind well-populated with fundamental data, it would be
impossible for us to start putting together a schema of how the
data fits together, and from that to proceed to a reasonable

Let me give an example.

I am very interested in the luminosity of UFOs. To come to any
conclusions on that, I am constantly thinking about the exemplar
cases of UFO luminosity, as I select them based on credibility
and level of detail. I know that there are things which any
theory of UFO luminosity will have to explain, and these are
illustrated in various cases:

1) Moreland shows that the UFO luminosity at the rim has the
appearance of flames, that it can rotate around the rim at high
speed, that it can counter-rotate, that its color can be orange
with a green core. It suggests that the temperature is not high,
because despite closeness and brightness, the witness felt
little heat, and that only on departure.

2) Beaver Falls shows that some UFO luminosity can be invisible
to the naked eye and yet emit strongly enough in to affect film
to the same level as visible luminosity as bright as the full
moon. The invisible portion of the luminosity must be able to be
at least partly focused by a camera lens, which leaves out
direct stimulation of the film by radiation higher than UV or
lower than IR.

3) Tulsa, OK, 1965 indicates that UFO luminosity can exist in
discrete patches on the surface of the UFO, and that it exhibits
what may be limb darkening, that its colors are red, yellow and
green, and that it may be layered, with a lower red layer and an
upper green layer with yellow between.

4) Levelland indicates a connection between UFO luminosity and
EM effects, since one witness noted their headlight brightness
varying inversely with the variable brightness of the nearby

If I don't know the cases, then I can't know what needs to be

>>ETH isn't part of popular culture. Ideas about ETs are. ETH is a
>>hypothesis and is part of the scientific investigation of
>>possible causes for UFO reports.

>Okay, I accept that point. Do you think, however, that it's fair
>to say that many of the leading ET Hypothesists believe it? In
>which case, what bearing do you think that might have on the
>science aspect? (not rhetorical - well, maybe partly, but please
>answer it anyway)

I'm sure that scientific researchers know the difference between
popular culture and solid data.

Basically my view is that there are many different dimensions to
the community of people who investigate UFOs.

There are field investigators, the best of whom are highly
skeptical people who reject more cases than they accept, and the
worst of whom accept everything they hear, and then proceed to
distort and confabulate the data. Because FIs usually know UFO
data quite well, the confabulations they generate are quite
dangerous - thus a body of work by an FI is required to
determine their objectivity, though use of the term "ships" or
"beamships" or "spacecraft" is certainly an indicator.

There are analysts, who depend on the field investigators for
good data. The analysts, like the FIs, range from the carefully
skeptical and scientific, to the fringe.

Now we then have to ask, who are the leading ETH theorists? If
we are talking about people like Michael Swords, Richard Haines,
etc. then there is no question in my mind that yes, they know
the difference, and they are aware of the effect it can have on
their data. If we're talking about Greer - look, the guy is a
kook, and he doesn't need theories, because the ETs are telling
him what's going on, how many races there are, that they have
bases, yada yada.

Now, should UFO researchers pay attention to ideas about alien
cultures as formed in popular culture? Of course.
Science-fiction authors have spent decades exploring the
ramifications of alien cultures and the impact of such cultures
on human life. We would be fools to ignore that database. By the
same token, we can easily recognize that very little of what has
been explored in SF has been manifested in UFO phenomena, except
where the phenomenon demonstrated the effect first. This isn't
always true, but it seems to be at least largely true.

We need to recognize that UFO phenomena if objectively existent,
lose none of the quality which makes them so fascinating to man.
Many UFO phenomena are undeniably beautiful to the artist, or
tantalizing to the writer as a dramatic device. Many UFO
theories are undeniably attractive as plot lines or themes. But
these are the UFO phenomenon to popular culture interaction, and
it seems to me from what I've read, that PSH adherents won't
accept that direction of flow, unless they construe the initial
reports as acts of tale telling. Thompson's Angels and Aliens
touches admirably on the notion of the touchstone cases in the
literature, but construes them as a mythic ground, rather than
focusing on the idea that an objectively existent UFO stimulus
as reported, must, of necessity, be fundamental to and a return
point for any scientific research, just as the
Michaelson-Moreley experiment is for physics.

The task of the modern historical researcher is, it seems to me,
to broaden the base of touchstone cases. There are many
excellent cases which are denied attention because excellent
researchers are busy with Roswell, or Meier, or MIB data.

BTW, to consider reports as "stories" is, it seems to me, to
neglect a very salient strangeness: these are stories with no
point, no resolution. Once they are told, they lie there like
strange rocks with no explanation of how they formed, how they
got there, or what they are. Why are these stories so different
from ghost stories and fiction? Why are they so similar to
reports of accidents and crimes?

>>You can't shift the base from considering the actual cases that
>>lead to consideration of ETH (and which helped stimulate the
>>interest in ETI among the public) to merely considering popular
>>culture in a vacuum. Some of these cases were key in establishing
>>the possibility of ETI for the public, though, not being aware of
>>their fame, you would be unaware of their role.

>Hmm, I'm not sure I merely consider popular culture in a vacuum.
>What makes you say this?

Because your comments indicate that you do not consider UFO
events as real events affecting popular culture, but only
stories affecting other tale tellers, influenced by or
influencing popular culture. If I'm wrong, explain it to me.

>Perhaps, dare I suggest it, that willingness is placing the
cart >before the horse. Let me ask you: Do you believe that the
ETH is >really more than a hypothesis? If you do, then we should
perhaps >untie the cart and put it in its rightful place, just
so we know >where we're coming from.

I think OEH is pretty solid, and that ETH is currently hard to
prove or disprove.

>Btw... before you go racing off in your cart and horse, perhaps
>you wouldn't mind addressing some of the questions I asked you
>in your TBC thread?

As far as I know, we're up to date.

Mark Cashman, creator of The Temporal Doorway at
- Original digital art, writing, and UFO research -
Author of SF novels available at...

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