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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 15

Re: Skeptic Wanted

From: James Molesworth <jtmol1.nul>
Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 19:58:28 +1000
Archived: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 09:05:07 -0400
Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>From: Steven Kaeser <steve.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2007 14:08:00 -0400
>Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>>From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2007 10:23:33 -0700
>>Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>>>From: Steve Sawyer <stevesaw.nul>
>>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>>Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2007 02:04:28 -0700
>>>Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>>>>From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
>>>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>>>Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 09:10:16 -0700
>>>>Subject: Skeptic Wanted


Allow me to preface my comments regarding the use of skeptics
with a note on science in general.

The vast majority of statements we so often hear and read about
science, by ufologists, skeptics, members of the general public,
and particularly by scientists themselves, are informed by a
view of science that has been, for well over 50 years, entirely
rejected by the authorities of such matters: the Philosophers of
Science. Leading experts such as Kuhn, Laudan, Lakatos and
Latour have been unable to reach any consensus regarding what
exactly terms such as 'scientific' and 'scientific method' mean,
save that it is impossible to give them any categorical,
uncontroversial definition. There is near universal agreement
however, that the comments most regularly made about science,
and the 'traditional' conception of science that informs them,
have little or no relation to science as it actually exists and
is performed in practice.

In this context it should be noted that while we often heard it
said that scientists are 'objective' researchers, and that
'biased' research is 'un-scientific', this is in fact
emphatically _not_ the case. The vast majority of scientific
experiments are undertaken with a given range of results in
mind, indeed many are designed to produce only a _single
specific result_. Further, failure to gain such a result only
extremely rarely precipitates any questioning of the theories on
which the experiments and predicted results were predicated, but
rather almost always the results themselves are rejected. On
those occasions where these 'anomalous' results are repeatedly
attained, they are usually simply set aside and ignored.

If the above is not the result of bias, nothing is. Such bias
however is not simple, but rather what may be regarded is
'informed', 'orthodox' or 'acceptable' bias, and it is often
indeed a bias dictated by the theories under which scientists
work. Further, scientists are generally unconcerned by the
biases of their colleagues as they feel their scientific
training and utilisation of the 'scientific method' will ensure
this bias has no deleterious impact on their work. That is, they
are assumed to put their bias aside while undertaking research
and presenting results.

We must ask then, why is it that ufologists are regarded as
being so biased that they require the input of a skeptic? I
believe there are two principal reasons. Firstly, I feel it is
due to a perception of ufologists not as true 'investigators' in
their field, but rather as proponents of a given point of view,
and indeed proponents who are either incapable or unwilling to
treat their data rationally and overcome their biases whilst
undertaking investigations. This perception is not, I fear,
undeserved, as this indeed seems to be true of many
personalities involved in this field.

Secondly I think the problem is in part caused by ufologists'
perpetual call to be 'taken seriously by science'. What is meant
by this? Surely it is not a request for individual scientists to
undertake research, as this is already the case, i.e. Nuclear
Physicist Stanton Friedman and Chemist Bill Chalker, among
numerous others. Nor, surely, can it be a call for any specific
scientific field or specialty to take responsibility for
ufological research: each scientific field is concerned
primarily, if not exclusively, with the problems unique to it,
and has little regard for external issues that can hardly be
solved within that field alone.

Rather, it seems that it must be a demand for ufologists and the
work they undertake to be taken seriously. This then strikes
against the problem mentioned above, but also suffers from a
distinct difficulty resulting from the habit within the field to
compare ufology with 'science' specifically. Regardless of the
objectivity of investigators and the scientific methodologies
they employ, ufology is not, and cannot be, a 'science' per se.
This becomes quite plain if we compare ufology with other
intellectual disciplines in order to determine which is the
closest fit. I believe it is immediately evident that ufology is
entirely dissimilar to hard sciences such as chemistry and
physics, and extremely similar to fields which are regarded
rather as humanities -- particularly Ancient History. Consider;
the study of Ancient History employs cutting edge technology and
both scientific methodologies and expertise in archaeological
excavations to produce one stream of data, analogous to our data
gleaned from trace-cases etc. This data is of little explanatory
value, however, until it is combined with the information
gleaned from a careful analysis of historical texts and records,
analogous to our sighting reports. How the two data-streams are
to be combined and interpreted, and how we should analyse and
draw conclusions particularly from the (significantly, humanly
produced) historical records are issues that do not permit the
drawing of necessary conclusions from solid, incontrovertible
premises as the sciences, ideally speaking, aim to do.

Scientists, however, are as little informed regarding such
issues and distinctions as anyone else, and unable to clearly
delineate their unease regarding ufological evidence (which
essentially amounts to the fact that it is in the vast majority
of cases distinctly ambiguous) they have fallen back on the
related issue of bias and the need for skeptical input.

What then should be our position regarding the use of skeptics
in investigations? I agree with the position that many so called
'researchers' and 'investigators' in this field do require the
oversight of a responsible researcher, skeptical or otherwise,
to counteract their numerous shortcomings. In the case of a
serious, capable researcher however, I wonder if utilisation of
a skeptic is not in fact merely perpetuating the perception of
ufologists as so incapable as to require them. I feel it may be
better to employ, as has been suggested, trusted and respected
ufologists in this task, and indeed for all of us to cease to
overlook the shortcomings in the research of others, but rather
to act universally and individually as our own skeptics, just as
the practitioners in all other fields do, and through the
criticism of those who prove either incapable or unwilling to do
this for themselves, to prove our right to be taken seriously.

Please excuse the the massive incompleteness of the arguments
contained therein.

James T. Molesworth                                                         =
Investigator: V.U.F.O.R.S

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