UFO report quality, Robertson Panel, Pentacle memo

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UFO report quality, Robertson Panel, Pentacle memo

Postby Hidden Hand » Tue Jul 18, 2006 9:25 pm

A few things in reply to Ry's lengthy post http://www.realityuncovered.com/forum/v ... =3144#3144

The Chadwell memo appears to be available in full here: http://www.cufon.org/cufon/cia-52-1.htm

It is interesting because it is circa Robertson Panel. It is very interesting that both Chadwell's memo, the Robertson Panel report, and the Pentacle memo all mention psychological warfare. (And the Pentacle memo also specifically details a plan to fake UFO sightings.)

One bit you emphasised cannot be underemphasised enough IMO:
there is a fair proportion of our population is mentally conditioned to the acceptance of the incredible. In this fact lies the potential for the touching-off of mass hysteria and panic.

The Robertson Panel report is available here: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/shadowl ... up036.html - some relevant quotes (my emphasis):

The result is the mass receipt of low-grade reports which tend to overload channels of communication with material quite irrelevant to hostile objects that might some day appear. The Panel agreed generally that this mass of poor-quality reports containing little, if any, scientific data was of no value.
Terrestrial explanations of the sightings were suggested in some cases and in others the time of sighting was so short as to cause suspicion of visual impressions.

And from the Pentacle memorandum here: http://www.cufon.org/cufon/pentacle.htm (my emphasis)

Experience to date on our study of unidentified flying objects shows that there is a distinct lack of reliable data with which to work. Even the best-documented reports are frequently lacking in critical information that makes it impossible to arrive at a possible identification, i.e. even in a well-documented report there is always an element of doubt about the data, either because the observer had no means of getting the required data, or was not prepared to utilize the means at his disposal.

The Robertson report is oft cited as proof of a cover-up, but IMO that takes one bit of the report out of context.

Since its oft accused by believers of skeptics that we should just believe things and try to prove them true, let's start with the Robertson Report!

Assuming it was true that UFO reports were lacking detail (as the Robertson Report & Pentacle Memo state), the proposed "education program" (or "debunking program" depending on your bias) makes sense. And then factor in these comments about report quality when considering the Blue Book "unknowns"..

From the Robertson Report's conclusions (my emph):
We cite as examples the clogging of channels of communication by irrelevant reports, the danger of being led by continued false alarms to ignore real indications of hostile action, and the cultivation of a morbid national psychology in which skillful hostile propaganda could induce hysterical behavior and harmful distrust of duly constituted authority.
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Postby Hidden Hand » Wed Jul 19, 2006 1:26 am

Unlike a television or video camera, people are not accurate at what they report.

During World War II, experienced pilots on both sides often misidentified many things. {snip} What this shows is that even highly trained and very experienced individuals can make mistakes. In Dr. Hynek's book, The Hynek UFO Report, we discover that pilots make more misidentifications than any other occupation in the Bluebook files. Hynek stated, "What we have here is a good example of a well-known psychological fact: "transference" of skill and experience does not usually take place. That is, an expert in one field does not necessarily "transfer" his competence to another one" (Hynek 261). Does that mean that pilots are lousy observers? No, but it does mean that when a pilot is presented as an "expert witness", one should not accept their testimony as fact.

Allan Hendry discovered that 94% of the UFOs reported by law enforcement individuals were misperceptions. This was the highest group in his study (interestingly Hendry found pilots to be at the 75% level).

People, of all occupations, are susceptible to misperception of an event. They are just being confronted by something they are not familiar with and allow their pre-conceptions to take hold.

It is eyewitness unreliability that makes UFO reports so extraordinary. Once one understands astronomical and aerial phenomena, it becomes obvious what many witnesses are seeing. It is extremely likely the reason an event can be listed as unexplained is that the facts have been very distorted by the witness/witnesses and, in some cases, the investigators themselves. Astronomer Gerard Kuiper understood this well and stated "More than 90% of these reports are found to be hoaxes or poor accounts of well-known or trivial events. Under those circumstances an unexplained residue of perhaps 10% is no basis to believe in miracles. It is more reasonable to assume that this residue is so distorted or incomplete as to defy all analysis." (Condon et al. 842)


From Embellishments of memory: the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony
Allen Hendry was an early investigator for Hynek's CUFOS and apparently a regular contributor to International UFO Reporter. Hendry argues in two articles in IUR (July 1977; June 1978) that it is valuable to identify those reports that can be considered "IFOs" from the UFOs. He points out those witnesses nearly always describe the same type of UFO -a "domed disk"- even when investigation reveals an identified source of the "ufo," such as an advertising plane or celestial body.
{snip.. then, quoting Hendry in IUR:}
The key issue here is not that the sighting was "only an ad plane," because such a "solution" cannot in itself account for the independent witnesses' behavior and inaccuracies. I do not see this IFO as the "garbage" to be weeded out while the "real" UFOs are retained as "data," when there is a wealth of data present here about UFOlogy's old bugaboo: the reliability of human testimony.

Eyewitness Testimony and the Paranormal
Much of the evidence relating to paranormal phenomena consists of eyewitness testimony. However, a large body of experimental research has shown that such testimony can be extremely unreliable.
For example, in 1887 Richard Hodgson and S. John Davey held seances in Britain (in which phenomena were faked by trickery) for unsuspecting sitters and requested each sitter to write a description of the seance after it had ended. Hodgson and Davey reported that sitters omitted many important events and recalled others in incorrect order. Indeed, some of the accounts were so unreliable that Hodgson later remarked: The account of a trick by a person ignorant of the method used in its production will involve a misdescription of its fundamental conditions . . . so marked that no clue is afforded the student for the actual explanation (Hodgson and Davey 1887, p. 9).

Google search on "eyewitness testimony" & reliability
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%2 ... eliability
and tell me when you find something that suggests that eyewitness testimony is unimpeachable evidence.

At the same time, numerous psychological studies have shown that human beings are not very good at identifying people they saw only once for a relatively short period of time. The studies reveal error rates of as high as fifty percent - a frightening statistic given that many convictions may be based largely or solely on such testimony.

These studies show further that the ability to identify a stranger is diminished by stress (and what crime situation is not intensely stressful?), that cross-racial identifications are especially unreliable, and that contrary to what one might think, those witnesses who claim to be "certain" of their identifications are no better at it than everyone else, just more confident.

http://atheism.about.com/od/parapsychol ... itness.htm
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that, even though there is a popular perception of eyewitness testimony being among the most reliable forms of evidence available, the criminal justice system treats such testimony as being among the most fragile and even unreliable available. Consider the following quote from Levin and Cramer's Problems and Materials on Trial Advocacy:

"Eyewitness testimony is, at best, evidence of what the witness believes to have occurred. It may or may not tell what actually happened. The familiar problems of perception, of gauging time, speed, height, weight, of accurate identification of persons accused of crime all contribute to making honest testimony something less than completely credible."

Prosecutors recognize that eyewitness testimony, even when given in all honesty and sincerity, isn't necessarily credible. Merely because a person claims to have seen something does not mean that what they remember seeing really happened

Dave Clarke on the subject on UFO Updates
The days when we accept eyewitness testimony as unimpeachable without independent evidence, and without natural caution, is the day that we return to the witch-trials and witch- burnings which characterised the Middle Ages.
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Postby I.P.Freely » Wed Jul 19, 2006 3:23 am

That was funny
"You can either trust people or not. I choose to trust what people say and sometimes I get lied to. If I were to trust no one I would never hear the truth." - James (IPF) Martell
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