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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jun > Jun 28

Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

From: "Jerome Clark" <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 98 15:14:48 PDT
Fwd Date: Sun, 28 Jun 1998 22:00:27 -0400
Subject: Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

> Date: Fri, 26 Jun 1998 22:53:23 -0400
> From: The Duke of Mendoza <101653.2205@compuserve.com> [Peter Brookesmith]
> Subject: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>

> Forwarded with the compliments of the Duke of Mendoza, who
> asks only that you do not shoot the messenger, because he
> will only shoot back, and would remind you that he has
> medals & spoons to prove he can do it better than you.

> ------------------------------------------------------------


> No. 4, June 1998


> ------------------------------------------------------------


> ------------------------------------------------------------


> Jerome Clark continues to plug the Trans en Provence UFO
> landing case (only one witness), despite the detailed and
> devastating study of the alleged landing traces conducted by
> Eric Maillot. Of course we all know about those awful French
> sceptics, who make Philip Klass look credulous in
> comparison!

Reason No. 1,947 I Am Not a Believer in the PSH (Psychosocial
Hypothesis to the sentimental, Purely Speculative Hypothesis to
the rest of us): These poor guys just can't get their facts
straight. I'd accuse them of feeding and watering a belief
system -- in their adored phrase -- if I could bring myself to
use that sappy and redundant expression.

In The UFO Book (p. 563) and The UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition
(p. 898), I note the debunkers' objections to the
Trans-en-Provence case and in fact end the entry with them,
under the subhead "Lingering Questions." Unless (and I know PSH
rhetoric is unusually fluid; words don't always mean what they
seem to mean) Harney equates "reporting" with "plugging," his
comment is simply out to lunch (American slang for crazy).
Dishonest is the uncharitable adjective that comes to mind.

I am glad, though not in the least surprised to learn, that the
PSHers believe Trans-en-Provence has been "devastatingly"
debunked. I, on the other hand, am the victim of sad experience,
which involved the unhappy circumstance, years ago, of believing
debunkers before I had heard the other side. I am reminded of my
friend Marcello Truzzi's observation that he believed Philip J.
Klass had demolished all the important UFO cases -- until he
read what the ufologists had to say about what Klass had to say.
(And then, of course, he actually got to KNOW Klass, always an
education in itself.)

In the real world, where things aren't simple, it is possible
now only to say that the French debunkers have raised serious
questions which need to be addressed. If they are not addressed,
ufologists will be justified in reducing the case's significance
to, at the least, the "unproved" category, and conceivably

On the other hand, since the PSHers love to lavish attention on
me as the focus of all that is evil in ufology, I must deliver
to them some profoundly disappointing news: a panel of American
scientists, with no previous involvement in UFO research or
controversy, is about to weigh in with a public statement which
will deliver the needle to the Purely Speculative rhetorical
balloon. Among the cases the panel has taken up for review is
Trans-en-Provence. From what I can gather from a sketchy
preliminary reference the scientists made to T-en-P, it didn't
exactly hold to the Harney/French debunker view. Meantime, I
await the panel's final judgment, presumably arrived at devoid
of the special ideological pleading Harney and his cohorts bring
to the discussion.

And this brings up an interesting question: Why does Harney
falsely characterize me as "pushing" Trans-en-Provence even in
the face of my airing of the questions the French critics raise?
I really don't know Harney (whom I know only as a name on the
Magonia editorial board), but I don't honestly think he's
dishonest. I do, however, suspect that he suffers from a common
PSH affliction: the absolute inability to change one's mind
about anything, or to imagine that anyone else could, either,
even when confronted with new information and evidence. When was
the last time a Purely Speculative Hypothesizer changed his mind
or admitted he was wrong about anything? Just curious.

If I am proved wrong about Trans-en-Provence, I'll admit it.
Unlike PSHers, I don't pretend to be infallible, and I certainly
don't want to be wrong. All I am saying is that we can afford --
knowing the way rhetoric gets inflated in the heat of pitched
ufological battle (and the T-en-P debunking piece I read was not
exactly cool to the touch) -- to wait a little while longer,
till final (or effectively final) word is in. I have adjusted my
views to accommodate new developments. Has that ever been true
of PSHers, in any but the most self-serving

> The one great weakness of the ETH is the notion that it is
> supported simply by failing to find satisfactory
> explanations for puzzling UFO reports. This means in
> practice that ETH supporters are often reluctant to consider
> mundane explanations. Anyone who explains any of their
> cherished cases is simply labelled as a debunker. For
> example, serious ETHers tend to pick out radar-visual cases
> as strong evidence to support their cause, because these are
> obviously neither hoaxes nor hallucinations. Jerome Clark
> thinks that the RB-47 case of 17 July 1957 is a good
> example. Yes, but hasn't Philip Klass, after a great deal of
> research, provided a detailed explanation for the incident?
> Hasn't Clark noticed?

I had to pick myself off the ground after reading this and am
still having some difficulty managing to keep thoughts and
fingers focused on the keyboard. Why am I laughing? See The UFO
Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, pp. 761-90.

> Clark's principal, often repeated, objection to the
> psychosocial hypothesis (PSH) is that it is merely an
> exercise in literary criticism as opposed to the scientific
> study of multi-witness reports and hard evidence by ETH
> ufologists. Yet, when we ask for details of those reports
> allegedly ignored by the literary critics and armchair
> ufologists, what do we get? Nothing, apart from a few very
> old cases, nearly all of which were satisfactorily explained
> years ago.

"Satisfactorily explained" in your dreams, Harney. And you
expect us to take you seriously? Or maybe it's your view that 50
years of failed explanations deserves another 50. It's this sort
of empty polemic that causes me not to take Harney automatically
at his word when he harumphs that the Trans-en-Provence case has
been "devastatingly" debunked and "satisfactorily explained."

Those who want to know what my real objections to the Purely
Speculative Hypothesis are, not what Harney's self- serving
paraphrase of same is, are directed to The UFO Book, 492-504,
and The UFO Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, 749-59. (I also urge
curious readers to go to Thomas E. Bullard's hard-hitting
critique "Folkloric Dimensions of the UFO Phenomenon" [JUFOS 3,
1991] and the follow-up "Fresh Air, or Air Castles in Folklore
Theory?" [JUFOS 4, 1992].) The PSH is looking more and more like
one of ufology's most unkillable canards. It's a house of cards
I wouldn't want to be standing in during the mildest summer
breeze. Or maybe even while somebody was breathing
outside the door.

> In fact, Clark doesn't like dwelling on particular cases, as
> they always fall apart when subjected to careful, critical
> examination - literary or otherwise. He prefers to rely on
> the cumulative effect of hundreds of reports which, if taken
> at face value, tend to suggest that the ETH might be a
> rational explanation for them. He also praises the work of
> Michael D. Swords who argues that the existence of
> space-travelling ETs is possible. I entirely agree that it
> is possible, but is it actual? What we need is hard
> evidence, not scientific speculation.

Here Harney staggers into the downright wacky. "Clark doesn't
like dwelling on particular cases." What? Huh? Is this a joke? I
have just had published a two-volume, 1200-page work (1035 of
text) which "dwells on particular cases" in often greater detail
than anywhere else in the literature, weighing evidence and
judging which conventional explanations work and which don't,
bringing to bear in a number of instances information heretofore
unavailable, and pointing to a number of cases which stubbornly
resist solution, for reasons about which I could hardly be more
specific. Harney, you are full of ... erroneous assertions.

Which brings me to the second point: the consistent failure of
the Purely Speculative Hypothesizers to come to grips with the
case Michael Swords presents, in several papers, some of great
length, with extensive citation in the scientific literature,
for the compatibility of exobiological speculation about the
nature of ET life with ufology's ETH. Over and over again,
however, when forced (always, it seems, by me) even to mention
Swords' work -- surely among the most important theoretical
writing in the history of the UFO literature -- we get the sort
of vague, passing, grudging acknowledgement Harney gives us
above, before the PSHer quickly gets off the subject and
retreats to his beloved hand-waving (or -wringing).

Makes you wonder just how much the Purely Speculative
Hypothesizers believe their own ...um ... uh ... opinions.

The apostate,

Jerry Clark

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