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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Nov > Nov 22

Re: Answering Public Questions On UFOs & Aliens

From: Martin Shough <parcellular.nul>
Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2007 18:23:02 -0000
Archived: Thu, 22 Nov 2007 06:35:44 -0500
Subject: Re: Answering Public Questions On UFOs & Aliens

>Source: The Skeptics Society - Altadena, California, USA


>Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

>Dr. David Morrison is Senior Scientist of the NASA Astrobiology
>Institute. He is a recent recipient of the American Astronomical
>Society's Carl Sagan Medal honoring his efforts to explain
>science to the public.


>It is easy to see how weak the
>evidence is when we compare with other phenomena that are
>increasingly well documented. For example:

Much of what Morrison says up to here is on the button, but I
have to take exception to this.

>1. The proliferation of home video cameras has resulted in
>excellent images of tornados that we now see often on
>television, something unheard of 25 years ago. Even with a scary
>tornado, someone manages to get a good video. There are also
>amateur videos of bright meteors (fireballs), good enough in
>the case of the Peekskill meteor of 1992 to allow a calculation of
>the orbit of the object before it reached Earth. But there has
>been no comparable flood of good videos of UFOs or aliens.

I wonder if Morrison has rigorously checked these videos of
bright meteors and tornados to prove they are "good" and not
hoaxed? How many of them have probative value? He claims a
"flood". Can he certify this? He appears to assume it easily,
but we know how simple digital manipulation is, and how easily
we can be fooled. There are innumerable home videos of purported
UFOs, as he himself complains by implication. Some are obvious
hoaxes or conventioal objects. Most of them are simply no more
probative than a video of a "meteor" might be. Some of them look
"good". But really, who knows? Morrison?

>2. In the last few years, in the US and UK and many other
>countries, hundreds of thousands of automated video cameras have
>been installed for security systems. Many of these cameras are
>outdoors, and at night they sometimes record bright meteors -
>but never UFOs.

I would like Dr. Morrison to justify and quantify these
statements. What is the population of security videos that he
has examined, and what exactly did he find on them? What time
period was covered by this ambitious study? Can he please
provide a listing and a breakdown of the meteor events captured
versus other categories of objects (aircraft, balloons, birds,
fireflies, ball lightning etc etc), detailing the protocols for
allocating these evaluations? Or if he is reporting someone
else's international search of "hundreds of thousands" of
security videos - an admirable project, I'm sure - please could
he provide a reference?

>3. There are several hundred thousand amateur astronomers who
>look at the night sky, and they have a tremendous record of
>discovering comets and novas and anything that changes. One of
>the most remarkable recent examples is Comet Holmes, a normally
>inconspicuous Jupiter-family comet that is fainter than Pluto.
>On October 23-24, 2007, Comet Holmes went from magnitude 17 to
>magnitude 2.8 in just a few hours, brightening by almost a
>million-fold. This is equivalent to the planet Saturn suddenly
>becoming as bright as the full moon. This unexpected outburst
>was widely observed and photographed by amateur astronomers
>around the globe.

I wonder why so many amateur astrophotographers all over the
world happened to be aiming at this almost infinitesimal faint
spot in the night sky? I suspect it may have had something to do
with the fact that they knew there was a cometary photo-op there
and they could key the co-ordinates into their little Celestron
drives as fast as changing TV channels. I wonder if Dr Morrison
would care to calculate the probability per observer-year of
sighting, by chance, a ball lightning, a rare bird, a military
spy-plane or a fireball meteor (say) in a telescopic field of
view that might be only seconds or minutes of arc across? Can he
cite even one example of any of those events? I won't even
insist on authentication. An observer report will do

>Yet these same astronomers never report UFOs.

Well, once again, I think Morrison is honour-bound to provide a
reference for this controversial claim, because it contradicts a
great deal of well-documented and easily-accessible historical

>One can never prove a negative. But to me, these examples
>provide compelling evidence against the reality of UFOs, unless
>you are so enamored of the idea of alien visits that you think
>these aliens are carefully avoiding amateur astronomers, people
>with video cameras, and security video systems.

This is a depressingly stupid and ill-informed piece of
argumentation, full of category mistakes, non-sequiturs and
begged questions, which does the cause of conscientious
scepticism nothing but harm.

Martin Shough

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