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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Oct > Oct 16

Re: 'Trained Observers'?

From: Brad Sparks <RB47x.nul>
Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2007 09:50:18 EDT
Archived: Tue, 16 Oct 2007 14:32:50 -0400
Subject: Re: 'Trained Observers'?

>From: Joe McGonagle <joe.mcgonagle.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:17:39 +0100
>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'?

These issues have been argued endlessly and to no avail. No
consensus emerges so the same arguments have to be repeated or
reinvented again and again. Or someone new joins the List and
ignores basics and is often answered the same way.

A fundamental issue is ignored and lurks as an unstated hidden
premise in these interminable arguments:

That issue is a basic confusion between use of UFO reports as
(1) scientific data for serious investigation and research, or
(2) use as proof, conclusive proof, "scientific proof," legal
proof, some kind of proof, as a rhetorical weapon to beat people
over the head in society at large, in the media, in disputes
with government agencies, i.e., it's for political propaganda
not scientific research purposes. Science does not operate on
100% certain "proof" but on degrees of evidential certainty and

This is why kneejerk terms like "trained observer" are used, and
why there is little or no concern as to defining the term or
using it properly with good judgment, and thus why arguments
arise over use of such terms. Those interested in scientific
study (category 1 above) can't understand why there is such
sloppy, careless use of such loaded terms. Well it is because
those doing so are using it as loaded rhetoric for purposes of
persuading or coercing people for category 2 purposes.

"Proof" is not defined either but it is understood as what is
being driven at - by UFO advocates and by debunkers. Its purpose
is to advance a political position or agenda to promote or
obstruct UFO study or to achieve political objectives such as
release of classified government files, block funding of UFO
study by government agencies, etc.

UFO advocates and skeptics/debunkers treat each UFO case as if
it is the one final crucial case determining a conclusive proof
as to UFO existence or nonexistence, or alien visitation or non-
visitation. It just can't (or won't) be treated as if it is
routine data to be given calm and balanced study and a fair
assessment for scientific purposes, it is treated as if
everything in UFO history hangs in the balance. Thus every
nuance of a witness' apparent credibility and training is
brought to bear in the argument as if shyster lawyers or
demagogue politicians are debating a case of life-or- death

Hence terms such as "trained observer" are imbued with
tremendous significance out of all proportion to any sensible
and balanced consideration because, as a political argument,
everything rides on the UFO case with the "trained observer." No
one in this political mode of discourse has any patience with
technical arguments about the actual credibility of an observer
based on the quality of the observer's UFO report, as that is a
scientific argument. Sometimes scientific arguments can be used
for political propaganda if they are especially simple to graps
but usually they are grossly distorted or misused.

Whether an observer is "trained" or not should be judged from
the evidence of their report and not from their supposed
credentials or career titles.

A common misconception in UFO circles, both pro and anti, is
failure to distinguish between objective details and subjective
interpretation. UFO researchers can't seem to tell the

When a debunker wants to discredit a case he seizes on a
witness' subjective opinion that the object was not a
helicopter, even though that is merely interpretation and not
quantified. When a proponent wants to prove the case to the
unbelieving world he cites the witness' alleged "trained
observer" status and whatnot expertise in this or that, better
if it has something to do with aircraft no matter how
ridiculously remote, as a shyster lawyer you might argue in a
hopeless desperate case ("he built model airplanes so he would
surely know a helicopter if he saw one!").

What a UFO witness says about possible identification of the
object he or she sighted is nearly worthless from a scientific
standpoint because it is subjective opinion and they are not PhD
investigators of their own cases, thus not qualified to give
such an opinion which would require thorough investigation.
Witnessing something is not the same thing as investigating it!
Is that so hard to grasp? A witness' opinion is not gospel

On the other hand, witness' objective observational details are
highly accurate. As I posted here several years ago, the
infamous Condon Report contains IFO cases that can be used as
control data on UFO witness reliability, and my analysis showed
witnesses were about 97% to 98% accurate. Control studies -
 that's science!

But the Colorado Project refused to carry out such an IFO
control study and deliberately suppressed results whenever they
tended to approximate a control study of IFO's as I was the
first to point out (why didn't any of the many scientists who
have critiqued the Condon Report over the years ever pick up on

The amount of quantitative and specific detail in a UFO report
determines the quality of the report, along with evidence of
care in the estimation or recordation of such details. I still
encounter UFO investigators who think that a report with 7:15
time must be 15 minutes after another report with a 7:00 time
and they cannot grasp the concept that these are round casual
numbers, that for many people these times are not really much
different and they could easily give either one, or they just
don't have clocks set with accurate times.

I have had incredible arguments with some who stoutly deny that
a case was a meteor seen almost simultaneously, because they
have one report at say 6:45, another at 7, and another at 7:15
and they insist it was a UFO cruising around for 30 minutes
instead of clock errors by casual observers!

Nor can many UFO investigators seem to tell the difference
between a witness report that gives a precise 7:08 time and
casual or sloppy reports giving 7 or 7:15 times. They just
cannot see the difference in precision, with its implied greater
accuracy. Meteorite trackers such as Lincoln LaPaz would simply
throw out 7 and 7:15 reports as completely worthless when they
had reports as precise as 7:08. Only an extremist with a
political goal would hang on to the poor sighting reports as if
everything hinges on it.

No doubt someone will jump on me for something I left out or for
maligning someone. I don't have time for flame wars. I had to
work on this in the middle of the night after getting over 3
weeks of the flu. If you insist that i get everything just
perfect then what you are really doing is trying to silence me
with a double standard - you get to mouth off without a shred of
documentation but I have to footnote every sentence.

Brad Sparks

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



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