Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UFOols and Skeptics

A post over at NeuroLogica reminds me it's been a while since I've ever dealt with UFO/alien abduction believers. (A commenter there gave me the term in the title.) They aren't really any different than any other sort of woo, and they seem to believe everything Hollywood and their fellow woos say about skeptics. So that they can conveniently ignore what the real skeptics have to say.

So, I'm going to summarize how it really is.

1. We don't jump right to "hoax" as an explanation. There are plenty out there, but we generally don't kneejerk without good reason. About the only time I'll put "hoax" on top of the list is when there's an unusually high quality video, and I'll wait for more in-depth analysis if I can't spot problems myself.

2. We don't assume eyewitnesses are lying or crazy. It's absolutely normal to see stuff you don't understand, or to misinterpret what you see. That's a part of being just a normal person. Frankly, I'm sick of woos insisting that the perception and judgment of eyewitnesses are infallible.

3. No, we're not government drones. When a government official says some UFO was the result of, say, air force exercises, we don't believe them because they're from a "trustworthy" government, we believe them because air force exercises are fairly mundane, and can usually explain lights in the sky or whatever. It'd take a lot more than the fuzzy images believers provide to convince us that it's more likely aliens evolved on another planet, developed technology, and reach our world while we also happen to have sentience and technology.

4. An abundance of poor evidence does not amount to a shred of good evidence. Piles of fuzzy images won't prove the existence of alien spacecraft. It'd take some high quality images, physical parts with abnormalities like different isotopic ratios (IIRC), and such.

5. It's not our job to prove something's impossible. I wouldn't want to prove something I don't believe, anyway. In my experience, it's the woos who are fond of that word, and they're fond of using it in categorical manner. I don't think aliens are impossible. I don't think it's impossible to travel interstellar distances. I just think that the two together are just highly, highly improbable. Besides, I would think it'd be easier and fairer to find one authentic case, rather than have us go through the millions of fuzzy photos and anecdotes to somehow find negative evidence.

6. Don't bother mocking us with "weather balloon" and "swamp gas". First, weather balloons can actually be mistaken for other things if there's enough distance. Of course, weather balloons are uncommon, so we rarely have the opportunity to bring them up. Second, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who is apparently a big name among believers, was the one who proposed swamp gas. Of course, if I can hear a good explanation for swamp gases creating an illusion, I'll consider it. The way the world, human mind, and eyes/cameras work leads to plenty of alternative explanations for weird stuff.

1 comment:

Ronnie said...

Great piece! You took the words right out of my mind.