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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2001 > Nov > Nov 20

Re: More Baloney Detection - Maccabee

From: Bruce Maccabee <brumac@compuserve.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 16:59:12 -0500
Fwd Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 23:29:12 -0500
Subject: Re: More Baloney Detection - Maccabee

 >Source: Scientific American


 >More Baloney Detection

 >How to draw boundaries between science and pseudoscience,
 >Part II

 >By Michael Shermer

 >[Michael Shermer is founding publisher of Skeptic magazine
 > (www.skeptic.com) and author of The Borderlands of Science.]

 >When exploring the borderlands of science, we often face a
 >"boundary problem" of where to draw the line between science and
 >pseudoscience. The boundary is the line of demarcation between
 >geographies of knowledge, the border defining countries of
 >claims. Knowledge sets are fuzzier entities than countries,
 >however, and their edges are blurry. It is not always clear
 >where to draw the line. Last month I suggested five questions to
 >ask about a claim to determine whether it is legitimate or
 >baloney. Continuing with the baloney-detection questions, we see
t>hat in the process we are also helping to solve the boundary
 >problem of where to place a claim.

(SKIP # 6)

SemiPseudoScientist Shermer writes:

 >7. Is the claimant employing the accepted rules of reason and
t>ools of research, or have these been abandoned in favor of
 >others that lead to the desired conclusion? A clear distinction
 >can be made between SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial
I>ntelligence) scientists and UFOlogists. SETI scientists begin
 >with the null hypothesis that ETIs do not exist and that they
 >must provide concrete evidence before making the extraordinary
 >claim that we are not alone in the universe. UFOlogists begin
 >with the positive hypothesis that ETIs exist and have visited
 >us, then employ questionable research techniques to support that
 >belief, such as hypnotic regression (revelations of abduction
 >experiences), anecdotal reasoning (countless stories of UFO
 >sightings), conspiratorial thinking (governmental cover-ups of
 >alien encounters), low-quality visual evidence (blurry
 >photographs and grainy videos), and anomalistic thinking
 >(atmospheric anomalies and visual misperceptions by

This is crummy reasoning. Ufology began with unexplained
sightings (acknowledged by the Air Force). "Ufologists"
developed in response to th failure of the Air Force and
scientific community fully address the unexplainable sightings.
Ufologists did not "begin" with the assumption that ETIs exist,
but rather _arrived_ at that as a _tentative_ conclusion after
analyzing unexplained cases.

To argue that SETI folks proceed from the assumption that there
are NO ETIs is silly. Why look for them if there are none? SETI
began with the suggestion that there might be ETIs (hence the
Drake equation as an attempt to justify the assumption) and that
we would never know the answer unless we searched (using radio
as being the longest range means of communication.... nowadays
expanded to optical/laser communication).

Not surprising that he SETI folks agree that they must provide
convincing proof. They have already "overlooked" some transient
signals which MIGHT be ETI evidence (transient because of
"scintillation" in the interstellar medium, we are now told)
because the "proof" will only come with a steady signal of
clearly non-solar system and non-natural origin.

But, by the same token the ufologists have claimed that there is
evidence for Other Intelligence (OI) flying around, but that
that evidence has not been fairly treated. The evidence became
available in 1947 (and I don't necessarily refer to Roswell),
long before anyone was saying "There must be ET's so we should
look for spaceships flying around).

I wonder what the SETI people will be saying ten years from now
after there have been hundreds of transient signals that are
unexplained, yet not long enough duration to "prove" they are
signs of ET communications. Will some SETI'ists say, "Well, we
have a lot of evidence that ET's exist, but the evidence has
been ignored as not convincing. Therefore we should keep looking
in spite of the poor quality evidence we have."

If there were no truly unexplainable sightings that also provide
considerable details of the phenomenon being observed, and many
of these sightings going back to the early days 1940's, early
50's, before "ufologists", I probably wouldn't be here. Shermer
should read 'Prosaic Explanations: the Failure of UFO Skepticism'


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