Can You Trust Them?

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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby nablator » Fri Feb 11, 2011 1:57 pm

Buckwild wrote:We could play a game to see if critical thinking skills are sharpened or not. I'll just ask you (or anybody else for that matter) to point out what seems to be either irrelevant (no logic involved) or simply false/or unverifiable in this page : http://www.skepdic.com/ufos_ets.html

Another example, http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ufo used to be even more funny than it is now. It got sanitized recently. Call me biased but I liked it a lot more before, it was really funny, in a sarcastic way. :mrgreen:
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby astrophotographer » Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:50 pm

nablator wrote:In ufology issues often get discussed in terms of possibility and plausibility, and then refutations of such arguments, also based on the same level of (non-) proof. Believers will tend to exaggerate the value of an analysis that refutes a skeptic view that itself tries to refute an extraordinary claim (the latter is often weak as proving a negative is nearly impossible). For example B. S. Maccabee and Martin Shough think they have refuted all prosaic explanations to the Arnold's sighting of 1947. The resulting mess contains many seemingly correct conclusions based on insufficient data and a few mistakes.


I agree as far as prosaic possibilites are concerned. UFOlogists tend to desire perfect and exact matches for their cases. This is based on the premise that the witness can not be mistaken in any way about what they reported. I encountered this many times discussing the Arizona 1997 event. People state there is no way that a formation of aircraft could be mistaken as a huge flying dark triangle with lights. However, they ignore the fact that less than half of the reports filed from that time period only mentioned the triangle and the other half reported only a formation of lights and those lights were shifting in formation (not to mention the only video tape showing significant shifts in formation). One has to be careful when evaluating the testimony of one witness. The Arnold case is pretty much a single witness case (yeah, I know about the prospector but his story really is not the same as Arnold's). Who knows what kinds of mistakes Arnold made?
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby nablator » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:06 pm

astrophotographer wrote: However, they ignore the fact that less than half of the reports filed from that time period only mentioned the triangle and the other half reported only a formation of lights and those lights were shifting in formation (not to mention the only video tape showing significant shifts in formation). One has to be careful when evaluating the testimony of one witness.

Or even of many witnesses. I saw the National Geographic documentary in which they "prove" that it was a huge alien craft... it could not have been anything else... even when the witnesses said the "craft" was transparent... Then they show the paths plotted from multiple witnesses' testimony, and you would think Phoenix was invaded by an armada of alien spaceships. Many paths were the same, obviously, but trusting 100% direction and altitude assessment made from memory by eyewitnesses created a War of the Worlds scenario.
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby nablator » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:25 pm

astrophotographer wrote:UFOlogists tend to desire perfect and exact matches for their cases. This is based on the premise that the witness can not be mistaken in any way about what they reported.

Yes, and this leads to denial of any reasonable explanation: weird sightings can't be explained prosaically because they are weird, period. :roll:

It is hard to discuss a case with people who just "know" that a (very good) explanation does not solve anything, that it is preposterous, ridiculous, unproven, etc... (for example yesterday, a post on a french forum about the Mantell case).
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby James Carlson » Fri Feb 11, 2011 11:54 pm

nablator wrote:
astrophotographer wrote: However, they ignore the fact that less than half of the reports filed from that time period only mentioned the triangle and the other half reported only a formation of lights and those lights were shifting in formation (not to mention the only video tape showing significant shifts in formation). One has to be careful when evaluating the testimony of one witness.

Or even of many witnesses. I saw the National Geographic documentary in which they "prove" that it was a huge alien craft... it could not have been anything else... even when the witnesses said the "craft" was transparent... Then they show the paths plotted from multiple witnesses' testimony, and you would think Phoenix was invaded by an armada of alien spaceships. Many paths were the same, obviously, but trusting 100% direction and altitude assessment made from memory by eyewitnesses created a War of the Worlds scenario.

This is a bit of a side note, but it does tie in to trust, so I'm going for it. You mention a major fallacy as part of the conclusions discussed on a National Geographic documentary. National Geographic has been for many years something less of the scholarly source that it used to be, and this is particularly annoying to me. When I was a child, you could use National Geographic as a source of trustworthy information. As a result of their quest for ever-higher ratings and the advertising dollar, I don't think you can do so anymore -- at least not the television programs they underwrite. They very often discuss characterizations of an event or environment that is simply wrong, and they didn't used to (or if they did, their qualifying statements were pretty thorough).

You give one good example above; another involves the Nazca lines in Peru. It's commonly spouted off everywhere -- including on National Geographic documentaries -- that the Nazca lines can only be observed in their entirety from high in the air, implying that if they couldn't be seen, they couldn't be constructed. Not even touching on that supposition, which is also false, the entire statment is wrong. You can see the Nazca lines just fine from a neighboring outcrop on a mountainside that was also a major gathering point for the local population. They went there to watch the ceremonies intended to ask their gods to make life in the ever-encroaching desert more fruitful for them. It didn't work very well, so they eventually left. The point is most people don't go to Peru to see for themselves, so when this one incorrect piece of the puzzle was introduced many, many years ago, it was simply repeated over and over again without having been verified. This isn't evidence, it's just wrong -- and mistakes of this level are made all the time. Nobody verifies the Nazca lines, so it's assumed they had no purpose because they couldn't be seen; nobody verifies the witness statements that Robert Salas and Robert Hastings have used to support their claims, so everyone assumes they're being open and honest about their conclusions based on those statements. Lately, there has been a large number of "documentaries" regarding the events discussed in the Book of Exodus, and they're just maddening to watch, because NOTHING is verified. That's one reason I will sometimes equate the UFO phenomenon to religion: you don't need facts or confirmations or evidence if you have faith. That's one reason Joseph Smith stopped fortune telling and selling information regarding buried treasure that he divined by "glass-looking" and started translating buried religious documents like the "Book of Mormon" instead. Doing so turned him from a criminal into a prophet; and that's a difficult point of view to attack on credibility.
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby nablator » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:45 am

James Carlson wrote:National Geographic has been for many years something less of the scholarly source that it used to be, and this is particularly annoying to me.

Yes. Especially harmful is their insistence that they are doing a "scientific" investigation. Lots of people will think it's the real deal. :(
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby James Carlson » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:48 am

nablator wrote: Yes, and this leads to denial of any reasonable explanation: weird sightings can't be explained prosaically because they are weird, period. :roll:

I mentioned this in another thread, but it applies here as well. There's a part to the introduction of Colin Wilson's book "Alien Dawn" in which he asserts:

... as I went on writing Alien Dawn, the real problem soon became clear to me; i.e., that some accounts of eye-witness 'encounters' sound so silly that you suspect they were dreamed up by the cartoonist who created Tom and Jerry. The story of the siege of Sutton farm, in which a farmer and his family spent the whole night in 1955 holding at bay a little shining man, is so absurd that no one could be blamed for dismissing it with a shrug; yet all the evidence suggests that it is true. The same applies to the preposterous story of a smoke-puffing robot which kept a hunter named Donald Shrum besieged up a tree all night. There seems to be a 'deliberate unbelievableness' about many of these stories, as if they were designed to excite incredulity.

And why, exactly, is that a problem? When you take unimaginative and/or unintelligent people and ask them to create such an incident, their responses aren't going to be on the same level as Isaac Asimov or Robert Heinlein. They are far more likely to create an incident that resembles a cartoon, than an incident that resembles something out of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? And yet he uses that same silly incredulity to suggest that the stories are more credulous than they may actually warrant! In other words, "weird sightings can't be explained prosaically because they are weird". sigh ... And apparently it's that quality of high weirdness that makes them believable in the first place. After all, you'd have to be an idiot to create an idiotic story and expect people to believe you.

As for me, I'm perfectly comfortable with believing that idiots who make up idiotic stories may also expect people to believe them -- after all, they are idiots ... I just don't see "the real problem ", as Wilson calls it. As soon as you start to expect silly people to tell silly stories, "the real problem", as he calls it, disappears, poof! like smoke in the wind.
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby Buckwild » Sat Feb 12, 2011 1:12 am

Hi James,

I don't think that you need to clarify your POV.

If he mainained a specific point-of-view in full knowledge of your resolution because he sincerely believes your conclusions aren't valid, than deceit shouldn't be applied. If, however, he refused to accept your conclusions knowing that your explanation was indeed valid, conscious deceit would, of course apply.


I have no way to tell you for sure if he accepted my explanations or not. The problem with his statement starts upstream. When someone makes a technical statement, he should verify it beforehand, even if the answer to the question does not seem counter-intuitive.

Since this person did not show a real honest attempt to follow the scientific method, avoided outside verifications, then he clearly shows that he is only interested in "evidence" that supports his hypothesis. This confirmation bias means that any counter arguments or evidence that might contradict his hypothesis is simply ignored. It is a form of cognitive conservatism.

Personnaly, I would call that "deceit as a means to an end" but you might want to call it unintentional or passive deceit, but in the end, it still is a form of intellectual deceit blended with pseudoscience.

Not my kind of (scotch) whisky :wink:

Cheers,
Buck
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby James Carlson » Sat Feb 12, 2011 4:26 am

Buckwild wrote:Since this person did not show a real honest attempt to follow the scientific method, avoided outside verifications, then he clearly shows that he is only interested in "evidence" that supports his hypothesis. This confirmation bias means that any counter arguments or evidence that might contradict his hypothesis is simply ignored. It is a form of cognitive conservatism.

Personnaly, I would call that "deceit as a means to an end" but you might want to call it unintentional or passive deceit, but in the end, it still is a form of intellectual deceit blended with pseudoscience.

Not my kind of (scotch) whisky :wink:

I agree, completely. At the same time, reaching conclusions that may seem to be contrary to your own training or your upbringing or your already structured beliefs can be tremendously difficult, at least I've found it to be; to step past it and discover thereby a new position that you may not be entirely comfortable with but nonetheless feel forced to recognize is not an easy thing to do. It's very easy for me to look at those people who have accomplished this and have a great deal of respect for them, even if I can't accept for whatever reason the conclusions that they ended up, to some extent, justifying as a result. It's far more common for people to just discount your thoughts and opinions without even, at the very least, providing a very well communicated reason for doing so. Self-justified stupidity is an absolute plague in the world today, and it's something I catch myself relying on as well, at times, because it's so simple to do -- it doesnt take any real thought. And I agree with you that it really is a form of "intellectual deceit", maybe "conceit". Unfortunately, it probably does take some training and education in order to recognize that sort of structured understanding of evidence well enough for someone to get past it. Recognizing the fault in yourself is extremely helpful, while recognizing it in other people is much, much less so. And I'll be honest, from my own experiences, recognizing it in other people may cause you to feel more confident in your own abilities and the value of your own conclusions, but it probably isn't that helpful to anybody else, since a great majority of them will discount your thoughts and opinions anyway. Unless you're in a courtroom and your testimony has already been accepted as the testimony of a concerned and widely acknowledged expert, in which case anybody considering your argument and it's validity is required to take that expertise into account, I just don't see a lot of evidence that other people would even care, if they've already formed their own strong opinions; that doesn't mean, of course, that you should stay silent if you're convinced that your position is correct, but you should at least recognize that convincing others may not be an easy course. My own life would be substantially less complicated if it were otherwise. I'm not exactly thrilled to say that -- I find it very sad. Sad, and common.
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby Buckwild » Sun Feb 13, 2011 4:56 pm

Hi James,

In one word, wow !

I specially liked this line :

And I'll be honest, from my own experiences, recognizing it in other people may cause you to feel more confident in your own abilities and the value of your own conclusions, but it probably isn't that helpful to anybody else, since a great majority of them will discount your thoughts and opinions anyway.


A lot could be said about this sentence but I do not have time right now :arrow: (my kids need me)

Don"t get me wrong you guys, Eric Maillot* was and still is one of my favorites ufologist. I saw in him a role model when I started hanging out with French ufo-skeptics/ufologists. So I was really disappointed when I started pointing out fallacious reasonings/claims and so on.

* : I'll present some of his work and initiatives in the futur

This is one of the reasons why I told you that a good rule of thumb is to trust no one, not even yourself like Nablator said.

Great thread anyway, I'll get back to you soon.

Cheers,
Buck
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby James Carlson » Mon Feb 14, 2011 6:47 am

Buckwild wrote:A lot could be said about this sentence but I do not have time right now :arrow: (my kids need me)

I love reading your responses -- it's hard to tell sometimes whether tongue is in cheek or what. In all seriousness, though, I wasn't kidding. I know for a fact that the conclusions I've reach are solid, but you'd be surprised how many people I hear from on a regular basis who not only don't care what I think, but are convinced that I've already been through Hell at least once, and not only can't be trusted, but shouldn't be trusted. While that doesn't really affect my confidence a whole lot, it does tend to make me wonder at times whether I should even bother trying to straighten out all the crooked conclusions I come across. The fact that my family thinks it's my own fault for signing my real name to everything I write is kind of annoying, too, but I guess I'm a egotist. I'm sure as Hell not going to stop! After all, part of being an egotist is the enjoyment you get from being a target as well.
Cheers,
James
Last edited by Access Denied on Tue Feb 15, 2011 5:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: trimmed excessive quote
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby nablator » Mon Feb 14, 2011 11:55 am

James Carlson wrote:I know for a fact that the conclusions I've reach are solid, but you'd be surprised how many people I hear from on a regular basis who not only don't care what I think, but are convinced that I've already been through Hell at least once, and not only can't be trusted, but shouldn't be trusted.

Of course, since you are challenging their views that they got from Hastings, whom they trust 100%, you must be a disinfo agent. :roll: Charismatic figures in ufology build credibility just like politicians; a notoriously "serious" UFO researcher can't be wrong... This gets to the point where cognitive dissonance helps build far fetched conspiracy theories where believers can isolate themselves further from reality. To this kernel of irreducible ufo-maniacs you have actually strengthened their certainty: when opposition protests too much it must be because the UFO involvement is very real, and must be covered-up!

Ufology should not be about "who do you want to believe?" (religious thinking), but about "where's the evidence?" (critical thinking).
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby James Carlson » Tue Feb 15, 2011 12:12 am

nablator wrote:Ufology should not be about "who do you want to believe?" (religious thinking), but about "where's the evidence?" (critical thinking).

Bravo!!!!
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby Access Denied » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:14 am

A profound quote on par methinks with one of my favorite quotes...

nablator wrote:Ufology should not be about "who do you want to believe?" (religious thinking), but about "where's the evidence?" (critical thinking).

“Truth is incontrovertible, ignorance can deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is.”
~ Winston Churchill
Men go and come but Earth abides.
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Re: Can You Trust Them?

Postby Arbitrageur » Tue Feb 15, 2011 7:55 am

James Carlson wrote:However, your discussion of skeptics knowingly falsifying photographs and/or videos in order to focus attention on the poor judgment and imperfect capabilities of UFO analysts is, I believe, very troubling. ...There's an element of personal profiteering in the latter that isn't true of the skeptic's claims, but it doesn't alter the fact that, fundamentally, lies are being told on both sides -- and regardless of the purpose, I think it's deplorable conduct.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I don't find something like this video all that deplorable:

Morphing UFO is Balloons!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_no4KQ7xDMM

The uploader had this to say (in the comments there):

"MUFON claims they just wanted to learn about how Arturo and Jaime go about investigating UFO sightings - to see if they jump to conclusions or go about it objectively.

I think MUFON was WRONG to deliberately set up a hoax for the purposes of fooling Arturo or maybe even entertainment (it WAS a Discovery Channel show).

Hoaxes only discredit MUFON as a legitimate scientific organization, and they may serve to offend legitimate sky watchers to the point that they hesitate to report sightings."

It's not like they made a model of a flying saucer and launched that which I might also have some problems with. But they just launched some balloons and observed the reaction to them. It seems like a perfectly fair and reasonable thing to do to me.

Same with crop circles. Some cerealogists claim they can tell the difference between man-made and "not man-made" crop circles, so it seems perfectly fair to me to test that claim by having a circle maker videotape their effort, and see if the cerealogist correctly identifies it as a "man-made" circle. If they don't, it debunks their claim they can tell which ones aren't man-made. (and of course, this has happened)

In fact, the well accepted practice of giving people a placebo to test the effectiveness of a new drug could be seen as an act of scientifically condoned deception or hoaxing, couldn't it? Is that an evil practice to give half the people in the drug test a "fake" drug, or placebo? I don't think so. Yet from one point of view the placebo is a scientifically accepted "hoax" to see if people can really observe an improvement from the real drug versus a fake drug. Personally I wouldn't believe claims about the effectiveness of a drug that WASN'T tested this way.

I do have problems with some criminal entrapment, but it depends on the circumstances as described in this link: http://www.associatedcontent.com/articl ... tml?cat=17 They describe two examples which clarify to some extent when "entrapment" crosses the line when the "victim of police entrapment commits the crime even though he probably wouldn't have without the police officer's coercion". Obviously that type of entrapment is unacceptable.

But in the field of UFOlogy, I think people do need to understand how easily we can mistake mundane objects for something else so I really had no problem with MUFON launching some balloons just to see what the reaction was. Anyone is welcome to disagree with me as I understand there can be two points of view on this, but I see it as a learning experience and unlike the criminal entrapment, nobody goes to jail.
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