UFO UpDates
A mailing list for the study of UFO-related phenomena
'Its All Here In Black & White'
Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Oct > Oct 15

Re: 'Trained Observers'?

From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 14:00:39 +0100
Archived: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:52:21 -0400
Subject: Re: 'Trained Observers'?

>From: Jan Aldrich <project1947.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:04:26 -0400
>Subject: Re: 'Trained Observers'?

>>From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 01:29:59 +0100
>>Subject: 'Trained Observers'?

>>>Source: The San Francisco Sentinel - California, USA


>>>11 October 2007

>>>Opening The X-files Inside Britain's UFO Project
>>>By Raf Sanchez


>>>there was enough information, usually in the
>>>form of radar signatures and visual sightings by trained
>>>observers like RAF pilots, yet still no one was able to identify
>>>the object.


>>There it is again, that ubiquitous yet rarely questioned phrase:
>>'trained observers'.

>>Can anybody enlighten me as to the training in observation, or
>>as observers, that RAF pilots receive? (I am particularly
>>curious about that part of their training that educates these
>>dedicated professionals as to how they should proceed when
>>observing an object that they cannot identify - and I mean
>>'while observing', not which forms to fill in afterwards)

>>Can anybody further enlighten me as to why, in a results
>>oriented military culture, none of these RAF pilots ever seem to
>>pass their exams in observation and become 'qualified

>>Can anybody even further enlighten me as to which other
>>organisations avail themselves of this RAF training (is it
>>commercially available as a means of offsetting the costs of
>>British air defence?) such that it makes sense to speak of
>>'trained observers_like_RAF pilots'?

>>Or could it just be that this is a glib, rhetorical turn of
>>phrase, coined in order to lend a particular class of witnesses
>>an enhanced status, and then mindlessly repeated until it
>>becomes embedded in our discourse as a meaningless sign?

>Geez, Gerald, lighten up! What is your real problem with RAF

I have no problem at all with RAF pilots - I admire their skill,
courage and great professional dedication. My problem is with
the phrase 'trained observer'.

>Let's see, they are taught to estimate angular position, speed,
>and displacement, aircraft indentification, navigation, weather,

So what you are saying is they are trained to be able to report
accurately on where something was in the sky, what the weather
was at the time, and what type of vehicle, if any, it might have
been (which of course begs the all important question as to the
status and value of a report when it might be of a vehicle or
object that they have not been trained to observe!).

>"Trained observer", is sufficiently vague to be somewhat

An important point, with which I agree.

>I don't take to mean that they are somehow infallible,
>but they can describe the location of an object in the sky,
>comment on angular size and displacement.

>That does lend a particular "an enhanced status" to the report.

But to what material extent? The report is likely to be more
detailed, and somewhat more accurately expressed, but there are
many people whose education or background enables them to report
in the same way, trained or otherwise. What we are talking about
here has more to do with the quality of the report than the
credibility of the witness. This is not an unimportant
distinction: we should be able to judge the quality of a report
from its data alone, without reference to the training or
otherwise of the reporter. When we take that training into
account in assessing the reporter's credibility, then we are
entering a rather different territory. At that stage a whole
host of other factors enter the game, some of them based on
prejudice, some of them a consequence of unexamined assumptions.

My aim here is delve into some of those prejudices and
assumptions a little, encourage people to examine their bases,
and thereby question whether a commonly used phrase has any real
meaning or value.

>I was for 16 years a meteorlogical observer, and as such I
>figure I was a trained observer as being able to also describe
>postions and size and displacement and possibly use
>meteorological cues such as cloud types to determine
>approximately height

>I was interested to read one UFO report in the 4602d files. It
>concerned a woman leaving her home with her children when she
>observed a strange object. Her report noted that the object
>appeared receded away from her at the same angular position...
>in other words it grew small along her original line of sight
>without any angular displacement in the vault.

>Some 4602d official had scribbled something about just a woman
>observer. Apparently the comment at the end of the message form
>about her being employed as physicist at the Naval Underwater
>Sound Laboratory had escaped the AF intel official.

Jan, I think your example demonstrates quite a few of the issues
that bother me in all this. Presumably your witness - and hence
her report - would have been taken more seriously if she had
been male, and perhaps even more seriously had she been an RAF
pilot, this without a word of the report being any different.
Straight away you have an unfounded negative assessment of the
witness's credibility taking precedence over the data in the
report. This is not good practice, and that is equally the case
were it to be question of an unfounded positive assessment.

Some might find my approach to these matters to be unduly
pedantic, but I genuinely feel that the kind of language and
terminology that is used in discussion and analysis of UFO
phenomena is important. Important enough to have long-term
ramifications. When certain terms and phrases become embedded,
we can become forgetful of the baggage they bring with them. I
suspect that some of that baggage has never been properly
unpacked and inspected.

 -- Gerald O'Connell

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



[ Next Message | Previous Message | This Day's Messages ]
This Month's Index |

UFO UpDates Main Index

UFO UpDates - Toronto - Operated by Errol Bruce-Knapp

Archive programming by Glenn Campbell at Glenn-Campbell.com