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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Sep > Sep 18

Re: Skeptic Wanted

From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 14:22:27 +0100
Archived: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 10:25:45 -0400
Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted


>From: James Molesworth <jtmol1.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 14:33:26 +1000
>Subject: Re: Skeptic Wanted

>>From: Frank Warren <frank-warren.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2007 12:43:52 -0700
>>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

<Snip>

>As to the tendency of scientists to ignore anomalous results
>from research, this is indeed the norm, not a rarity, and for
>various reasons. If you are interested, see - Laudan, Larry.
>'Progress and Its Problems', University of California Press,
>London, 26ff - where he discusses this precise issue at length,
>and it should be noted, his views are largely representative of
>Philosophers of Science at large.

>Indeed, I would urge any researcher involved in fields which
>are, as ufology, on the 'edge' of science in some sense, to
>familiarise themselves with the philosophy of science.

An excellent piece of advice, but one that should be extended to
all scientists. A cursory reading, over time, of some of the
literature in the field ought to be helpful to the thought
processes of all.

>Judging
>by the comments I have read I believe many would find it
>enlightening, although a few may also find it to be rather
>frightening, as it may challenge their world-view entirely. The
>names I listed in the original posting are some of the leading,
>most respected personages in the field. However, an introductory
>type guide would be more than adequate, for example - Riggs,
>Peter J. 'Whys and Ways of Science: Introducing Philosophical
>and Sociological Theories of Science' - Melbourne University
>Press, 1992.

>Finally, as to ufology being a science, I should first like to
>point out that while the mentioned experts seem unable to reach
>a consensus regarding _precisely_ what the difference is between
>'science' and 'non-science', they are nonetheless unanimous is
>regarding certain fields as definitely 'non-science', including
>history, psychology, sociology and economics. I have argued that
>ufology has very much in common with the field of Ancient
>History/Archaeology, indeed the match seems to me all but
>perfect. I would therefore question how ufology could be listed
>as a science - what is there about ufology that is more
>'scientific' than these disciplines? Furthermore, why are people
>so anxious to have ufology regarded as a 'science'. The data,
>'facts' and knowledge derived from historical and archaeological
>inquiries are perfectly respectable, and in reality no less
>trustworthy than those emanating from the 'sciences'.

>Ufology relies primarily on subjective, human accounts of direct
>(i.e non-instrumental) observations; observations which cannot
>then be tested or reproduced. This sort of data is simply not
>adequate to produce the solid, unambiguous premises that
>'sciences' require in order to approximate a 'necessary'
>conclusion. Not that science always, or even often, achieves
>this ideal, but in all sciences such is at least theoretically
>possible.

>On a more useful note for the purpose to which this thread was
>originally posted, I do have a fairly large collection of papers
>written by scholars in fields such as sociology and psychology
>on the topic of UFOs and abduction etc. in which a considerable
>amount of research appears to have been undertaken despite the
>'skeptical' views of the authors. if it would be of any
>assistance, I would be happy to reproduce the titles and authors
>- perhaps one of them would be willing to act as a skeptic in an
>investigation?

James, there two books that I believe should be added to those
you have mentioned in this thread:

1. 'Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method' -
 University of Illinois Press -1992

2. 'Science or Pseudoscience' - University of Illinois Press -
 2001 - both by Henry H. Bauer

Bauer is a chemist whose academic career extended into
administration, giving him a valuable first-hand overview of the
practicalities of how much of science actually gets done. His
work offers a remarkably sane and well-balanced analysis of the
nature of 'frontier science' and the various ways in which the
reality of scientific activity can depart from its own self-
image and the superficial public projection of what it is that
scientists really do. His work might be of special interest to
ufologists, since he was led into an examination of these issues
by a personal interest in anomalistics - in Bauer's case the
Loch Ness Monster.

My own empathy with Bauer's work is, perhaps, occasioned by my
view that all scientists ought to be sceptics, and this is
especially so in relation to borderline science in anomalistics.
Without scepticism, it is difficult to see how rationality can
prevail. If rational scepticism were built into scientific
thought as part of the process, then there would be no such
thing as a 'sceptic' per se, and no need for anybody to set
themselves up as such. Bauer understands this, but also
understands that all scientists are human, and are inevitably
prone to stray from any formal ideal of balanced, sceptical
judgment.

For those who do set themselves up as sceptics, then Bauer's
work should be compulsory reading - the importance of being
sceptical about one's own scepticism is a vital element of
sophistication that escapes many, and, consequently, makes them
mere debunkers - adherents to a creed as futile as any other
unscientific belief system.

>Again, please do forgive my interminable long-windedness.

If it's worth saying, then it's worth taking as many words as it
takes to say it. Stop apologising and carry on writing!

--

Gerald O'Connell




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