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What We Get Wrong When We Talk About UFOs

Listen to “E22 7-7-19 What We Get Wrong When We Talk About UFOs” on Spreaker.
by Faye Flam                       June 25, 2019                         (bloomberg.com)

• Navy pilots have reported seeing alien UFOs is the skies, and Congressmen are being briefed on it. These UFO sightings should be investigated in a scientific way, but errors in thinking are undermining the effort. There are two reasons why we should not conclude that these are extraterrestrial craft.

• But the pro-extraterrestrial visitation arguments rest on two serious errors. One is the confusion of observations with interpretations, and the other is a slight twist on an error called ‘god of the gaps’.

• The first error is that Navy pilots cannot know a flying object’s speed or acceleration without knowing whether these were little things seen up close, or bigger things farther away. Former NASA engineer James Oberg says, “The bizarre events reported by Navy pilots are not ‘observations’; they are interpretations of what the raw observations might mean.”

• The second error is that when a scientist cannot explain something, they go to the supernatural explanation or an “act of God”. The same thing is happening with UFOs, with alien visitors being used to fill gaps in our understanding of the latest detection technology, the sky and human vision. Extraterrestrial visitors and gods fall into the same category of unscientific explanation because they haven’t shown themselves to humanity in a coherent enough way for claims about them to be tested.

• The arguments for extraterrestrial UFOs falsely equate the possibility that extraterrestrial life exists with the plausibility that it’s visiting us. Yes, there are other planets out there, and some might harbor life forms. But why should we assume they’d want to come here? Are we really that exciting?

• Many UFOs have been explained scientifically. The Air Force conducted studies starting in 1947, and continuing through the 1960’s, when the matter was turned over to a panel of civilian scientists headed by physicist Edward Condon at the University of Colorado. The committee explained most of the outstanding cases as reflections, equipment glitches, balloons, astronomical phenomena and human-built craft. So what about the unexplained cases?

• Len Finegold, a retired UC physics professor who consulted on a few Condon cases says there are plenty of unexplained phenomena left in physics, “so we’re used to that.” Mysteries of life may one day be solved, but in the meantime, let’s get comfortable with the gaps.

[Editor’s Note]    This is a hard core Deep State response to the UFO phenomenon, which the government has maintained since the 1940’s. They roll out their greatest hits of half-baked, irrational arguments to prove that UFOs and aliens do not exist. First, experienced Navy pilots have no idea what they are looking at. Second, the ignorant public tends to attribute outrageous religious or supernatural explanations to natural but as yet undiscovered phenomenon. Thirdly, the government has thoroughly and scientifically examined the UFO phenomenon and proclaimed that there is nothing to it. Lastly – and this is the best one – why would any extraterrestrial want to come here? It appears that the Deep State has shifted its ‘deny and cover-up’ strategy from all-out ridicule to a reasoned argument that we’re all just a bunch of idiots who should leave the heavy thinking to the ‘experts’.

 

If you’re reluctant to believe the latest round of media claims that alien spacecraft are lurking around our airspace and surprising Navy pilots, well, you are not alone.

The New York Times leaned toward aliens as the reason Navy pilots have seen unexplained flying objects, and the Washington Post made a similar case in its news coverage followed by a guest editorial: “UFOs exist and everyone needs to adjust to that fact.” Others followed suit. Congress is getting classified briefings.

But the pro-extraterrestrial visitation arguments rest on two serious errors. One is the confusion of observations with interpretations, and the other is a slight twist on an error called god of the gaps. The UFO sightings should be investigated in a scientific way, but the errors are undermining the effort.

The first error made in most of the news coverage was to claim that Navy pilots observed craft that accelerated, rose upwards or turned faster than was physically possible. But pilots can’t know any object’s speed or acceleration without knowing whether these were little things, seen close up, or bigger things, that were farther away. It’s just one clue that the vocabulary is being blurred.

James Oberg, a former NASA engineer turned space journalist, pointed out: “The bizarre events reported by Navy pilots are not ‘observations’; they are interpretations of what the raw observations might mean.” To start an investigation from a conclusion rather than from data is, he says, “a recipe for confusion and frustration and dead-ended detours.” 1

The other error cropped up many times when I wrote newspaper stories about evolution. Readers would sometimes write in to argue that if scientists couldn’t completely explain some phenomenon – say, the origin of DNA – then it must be an act of God. Theologians sometimes use the term “god of the gaps” to describe the erroneous use of supernatural explanations for natural phenomena that aren’t yet explained. The same thing is happening with UFOs, with alien visitors being used to fill gaps in our understanding of the latest detection technology, the sky and human vision.

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