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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 17

Re: Skeptic Wanted

From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2007 12:43:52 -0700
Archived: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 09:37:13 -0400
Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>From: James Molesworth <jtmol1.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2007 19:58:28 +1000
>Subject: Re: 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.

Greeting James, et al,

Wow! We've gone from little or no response to one encyclopedic
in nature! Certainly very thought provoking. Thank you.

As to your initial comments I would inject that the afore
mentioned scientists are certainly authorities on the topics of
their respective scientific endeavors"; however, they are not
the definitive authorities.

The opposing views IMHO is evidence that science, and it's
methodologies are forever evolving.

>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.

I have no problems with specific experimentation in support of a
theorem; however, I would hope that ignoring the results that
don't coincide with the favored ideology of said experiment is
the rarity instead of vice versa.

>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.

When a phenomenon is observed opinions, theories etc., will be
presented based on the current mind-set, and/or scientific
standards - cognitive bias; however, all scientists should be
ready to revise what has been realized in the past.

>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.

I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree here James; most
people who consider themselves Ufologists (and the definition
varies) if bias was/is present it's from the "tribal," and or
"societal cognitive bias" that we are all brought up on, not the
other way around; the notion of ET flying around in a "nuts &
bolt" craft isn't palatable to us, as a society, and we're taught
that it simply isn't possible (for the most part).

That programming if you will, has been altered by various
Ufologists' respective research. The points of view have arisen
by said research investigation etc.

Additionally, I would argue that the best researchers are the
best skeptics... something my query has brought to light; the
only names provided by the few who've responded were those of
seasoned Ufologists. This is not to say that there are no
extremists (to be polite) as there are in any field.

Re the necessity for an opposing view in part, stems from the
media IMHO.

>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.

If a cure for 'all cancer' - biomedical science - were found in
a derivative of a plant in the Amazon wouldn't those apprised of
the matter desire to inform all of the scientific community, if
not the world, and perhaps feel a responsibility to do so?

>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.

By your own volition you state, "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"; under that dogma, I think it safe to
deem Ufology a science; however, let us not forget that there
are many components to Ufology i.e., aerial phenomenon, which
also fall under "other sciences" e.g., meteorology, atmospheric
physics, earth science etc.

>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.

As stated above some of the best skeptics are Ufologists;
additionally, when any phenomenon goes outside the accepted
"scientific norms" then skepticism is an appropriate prerequisite.

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

Your comments are welcomed and most thought provoking...



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