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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 17

Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

From: John Rimmer <johnr@magonia.demon.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 15:08:06 +0100
Fwd Date: Wed, 17 Jun 1998 14:18:19 -0400
Subject: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

>From: Jean-Luc Rivera <PSaintc798@aol.com>
>Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 16:43:34 EDT
>To: updates@globalserve.net
>Subject: UFO UpDate: Re: Occam's Razor and UFOs

>>Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 00:44:55 +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

>Dear John,

>I had sent a second message indicating I was answering to you
>and not Greg Sandow but it seems it never made it through.


>>Even in Western Countries the presence of one active investigator
>>can skew reporting figures. Even after all these years it is
>>still unclear just how much of the Warminster phenomenon was
>>reporting of objectively real phenomena (possibly Army activity)
>>and how much was created by the atmosphere produced by Arthur
>>Shuttlewood and his cohorts.

>We agree on this point. Generally speaking it is next to
>impossible to find out and Warminster is certainly a good
>example. The only  beginning of an answer are some studies ( no
>exact references in mind right now ) that I seem to recall
>indicated that a UFO wave always begins long before it starts to
>be reported in the papers.

I recall that there was a study in Britain some time in the
seventies - I'll try to dig out a reference, I think it was in a
BUFORA Journal - which distinguished between "positively skewed"
and "negatively skewed" waves. I can't remember which way round
it was, but one kind started off slowly, built up in an
increasing curve, then dropped off rapidly. The other kind built
up to the maximun quickly they faded out over a long period of
time. Warminster was certainly of the latter type. The rapid
build up was certainly helped by Shuttlewood being a reporter on
the local paper, and getting the story into the nationals
quickly - he was a "stringer" for the mass-market tabloid Daily
Mirror, feeding them interesting local stories. The fade-out
took many years.

> ><big snip>

> >>>Do you really think that if there was a wave of " alien
>>>abductions " in Ahghanistan or in some middle eastern or african
>>>country torn by war and closed to foreigners we would hear about

>>Why Afghanistan or war-torn countries? Why not India (pretty
>>democratic, reasonably free press) or Tunisia (very open to
>>foreigners), or Taiwan or South Korea (good communications)?
>>As I indicated in my original posting, it is a no win situation:

>I have had this discussion with some of my PSH friends in France
>before. Countries like Tunisia or Taiwan or others similarly
>open to Western influence can be deemed "contaminated"
>culturally and therefore whatever reports come from them cannot
>be considered valid. If the reports come from countries less
>exposed to Western influences but through a western
>investigator, we get the same objection: the investigator
>imposed consciously or unconsciouly his/her own expectations
>during the reporting and translation process. Pinvidic faced it
>in Algeria with the djinns: did the Algerians see "real djinns"
>or was it UFOs interpreted in the only terms of reference
>available to them ?

On this occasion I must differ from your Psychosocial
colleagues. I don't think "contamination" is a major issue here.
It would be impossible to find any part of the world which is
*totally* isolated from Western (i.e. usually American) culture.
There was a TV documentary about Mackal's dinosaur hunting
expeditions in central Africa a few years ago. While he was
explaining how remote from Western civilization the village was,
there was a young lad playing around in the background wearing a
Michael Jackson T-shirt!

As far as I am concerned the issue is just how similar the
society as a whole is to those societies where UFOs are a major
ingedient in the entire social and cultural background. No
matter how many episodes of the Simpsons or copies of US comics
a child in a remote Cameroon village has seen, he is still
living in a society which is very different from anything in
which, I suspect, contributors to this list find themselves.

Yes, there is a problem with the biases and expectations that an
outside investigator might bring to research. I think that in
his studies in Algeria Thierry Pinvidic (is he still around in
the UFO scene, BTW?) was well aware of this. He was certainly
aware of the way in which people unfamilar with the phenomenon
reported a rare snowfall in the Atlas Mountains.

An unfamilar natural phenomenon such as snow, reported in terms
which make it seen strange and unnatural to those more familar
with it, brings us to the "Existing Objective" hypothesis. We
know snow exists, but some people may not see it in a lifetime,
so we can make allowances for perceptual and descriptive
problems when they report it. The "EOH" proponents do not have
this advantage. Although their analysis of reports suggests to
them that *something* physical was reported to create the
report, they have no idea what it might be. The only people who
are coming up with any suggestions are the ETHers. Ultimately
both are dependent on the quality of the original narrative. And
despite all the impassioned arguemt over that past few days,
that is all we have - narratives. Even the so-called "physical
evidence" is dependent on the narrative to put it into a
puzzling context: a few crushed lavender plants, scratches on a
gravel path, a dent in a railway sleeper ("tie" in US English?),
the occasional burn mark. They are all meaningless without the

Hey, analysing "narratives" - maybe English majors do have a
role to play after all!

>>John Rimmer
>>Magonia Online, a member of the P.L.A.Driftwood Organisation

>You have started a very important and fascinating discussion. I
>hope Greg and other list members will continue to bring their

Thank you. I hope so too.

John Rimmer
Magonia Online, a member of the P.L.A.Driftwood Organisation

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