From: John Donaldson <John.Donaldson.nul> Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2012 10:46:07 +0000 Archived: Tue, 18 Dec 2012 08:32:24 -0500 Subject: Re: UFO Photographs And Film >From: John Donaldson <John.Donaldson.nul> >To: <post.nul> >Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2012 15:48:09 +0100 >Subject: UFO Photographs And Film >I am a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Glasgow <snip> >I look forward to any and all responses, which I am happy to >receive off or on-list Dear List-Members, In August I posted with some queries about the strength of photographic evidence for the ETH. I received a number of very helpful responses, with which I engaged in some correspondence, before promising to post a general response to the list. Various other commitments postponed that response until now: I present some initial thoughts on some of the key evidence taken by many to support the ET hypothesis (and perhaps other non-prosaic theses). I assess such evidence from the perspective of the neutral who does not have any inside knowledge of the UFO phenomenon, has had no UFO experiences, and merely wishes to decide, based on the evidence presented by ufologists, whether or not the ETH is true. It seems to me that the non-prosaic theses remain unproven, but not to such an extent that belief in them is completely un-warranted. I focus on the two strongest types of witness case, (1) visual- photographic, and (2) visual-radar cases. On the former I think the jury will remain out, at best, but on the latter I think there is some prospect for settling the case one way or the other. Let s take each case type in turn: (1) I think the Photographic Argument is problematic (I use photographic to mean stills and film). Here s the standard argument given, in general form, without mention of anything alien (in the argument, Q stands for any-old proposition): The Photographic Argument P1: The witnesses claim that Q. P2: The witnesses seem sincere. P3: The witnesses have numerous testimonies to their honesty. P4: The witnesses have been questioned numerous times and have been consistent in their account of Q. P5: There are photographs which might appear to show that Q. P6: Analysis of the photographs show that the photograph is consistent with Q being true, but also consistent with Q being false. P7: There is independent reason to believe that Q is physically possible. P8: If premise 1 through premise 7 are true, then Q. C: Therefore Q. This is a deductively valid argument it s impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false. So, in order to deny the conclusion, one of the premises must be denied. Many ufologists have been persuaded by the Photographic Argument when: Q means a craft of extra-terrestrial origin flew within sight Fair enough. But should they be so persuaded? No-one denies premise 7, and there seem to be various photographic cases which apparently satisfy premises 1 through 6. So what about premise 8? There are grounds on which to reject it. For example, what if: Q means the Piltdown Man was the fossilised remains of an unknown early human . Or Q means JFK was shot from the front Or Q means JFK was not shot from the front (whatever your stance on that issue both claims can t be true) Or: Q means the Loch Ness Monster swam into view And so on. In that case, premise 8 would be false. Therefore, premise 8 is not always true. But that isn t the end of matters. Perhaps premise 8 is true more often than not. The problem, though, is that it is far from obvious how the conditional statement in premise 8 might be properly assessed in terms of this more often than not measure. Think of all the epistemic circumstances in which there are witnesses combined with photographic evidence which falls short of conclusiveness: crimes, accidents, a variety of paranormal and supernatural phenomena, etc. A survey of such cases would need to be undertaken, and that would be a mammoth task, to say the least. Thus, at best, the jury should remain out on the Photographic Argument. That s as charitable as I can be. Those less sympathetic to the ETH than myself would be more dubious here, and perhaps point to what is often taken to be the difference in how far-reaching claims are, and thus the burden of argument proponents of those claims must meet: the further the claim reaches, the greater the burden of argument. To the neutral observer, the claim an airborne vehicle of non-terrestrial origin flew within sight Is obviously pretty far-reaching. Thus, the burden of argument is significant. How significant is an issue for another day. What about Radar-Visual cases? (2) The Radar-Visual Argument P1: The witnesses claim that Q. P2: The witnesses seem sincere. P3: The witnesses have numerous testimonies to their honesty. P4: The witnesses have been questioned numerous times and have been consistent in their account of Q. P5: There are radar returns which appear to confirm that an object consistent with Q was present. P6: There is independent reason to believe that Q is physically possible. P7: If premise 1 through premise 6 are true, then Q. C: Therefore Q. There seems to be an important difference between the Radar- Visual and the Photographic Argument counterexamples to premise 7 of the former argument seem much easier to come by than counterexamples to premise 8 of the latter. I know precious little about radar, and it would take a person of much greater expertise than I to adjudicate properly, but here are some thoughts: As is well known, ghost returns can occur, and it seems conceivable that those returns might correlate with visual errors. Indeed, investigations of such cases typically proceed by trying to rule out such occurrences. Therefore P7 is not certain. But is it probable? I think this is difficult to assess, but much easier to assess than in the Photographic case. Radar presents a narrower range of possibilities and cases to consider. And the radar cases often come with more data so that such ranges of possibility can be assessed weather, radar-system idiosyncrasies, etc. Thus, a conclusion seems genuinely within reach here. Crunch enough numbers, consider enough cases, work out the possibilities for error, and the likelihood for the frequency with which P7 is false may be known. A big problem, though, and one which distinguishes ufology from many other areas of enquiry (if not all), is the possibility of deliberate and highly resourceful attempts to perpetrate hoaxes. I talk not of mischievous individuals, although they no doubt muddy the waters too, but of the possibility that intelligence agencies would perpetrate hoaxes, even against compatriots. Consider the famous RB47 case, for example. Even granting the account of it compiled by MacDonald, which is compelling, it is not clear that a hoax perpetrated on the flight crew (and perhaps the ground controller) can be ruled out. It would be a highly impressive hoax to say the least, but nevertheless doubt remains... In sum, what I hoped to do with this post was to begin to asses, at a general level, the overall form of the strongest kind of arguments in support of the ETH: where each premise was made explicit and the arguments laid out in deductively valid form. In short, so that the key steps in reasoning were on the table, but not obscured by too much technical detail, or rhetoric. Upon doing so, it seemed to me that there was a crucial inferential step in each argument, premise 7 and premise 8, which lacked certainty in both cases. Also, premise 8 of the Photographic Argument seemed at best too difficult to assess for a clear degree of probability; however, an assessment of premise 7 of the Radar-Visual Argument looked more tractable. I hope that the members of this list find these thoughts worthwhile. Best wishes, John Donaldson Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast At: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/sdi/program/ These contents above are copyright of the author and UFO UpDates - Toronto. They may not be reproduced without the express permission of both parties and are intended for educational use only.
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