UFOs: The Sceptics, The Scientists, And The Double Standards

in Evidence

We'd nearly all be aware that when it comes to the subject of UFOs, most scientists shun away from them like they would a skunk who let fly. Scientists and UFOs tend to party together in much the same way as oil and water mix. Professional sceptics have a field day with the topic by usually picking and choosing to give their middle finger to the easy targets, not the hardcore issues. For example, it's easy to rubbish someone who says they took a trip in a flying saucer with the ‘space brothers' to Saturn; it's much harder to ridicule a military pilot who reports engaging in a dogfight with a UFO. So, is this behaviour rational or are there hidden agendas and double standards?

 

Many professional scientists, and other sceptics, when and if they think about UFOs at all, have been preconditioned to think of them in terms of the lunatic fringe, nutters who accept any and all pseudoscience associated with the paranormal and therefore not worthy of their attention, or if worthy, then worthy in a negative sense as only something to ridicule. They like to in a sense ‘pour water on a drowning man' and pat themselves on the back as how superior they are relative to the astrology-minded; the great unwashed set who believe dinosaurs and humans coexisted together.   

 

Firstly, let's dispose of the sceptics, professional and otherwise, since their double standard amounts to treating all pseudoscience or all paranormal topics equally. Actually therefore sceptics only have a single standard – no shades of grey. One size fits all. That is to say, no matter what the anomaly, it's rubbish. Sceptics just lump together all that's paranormal, and call it pseudoscience as any sceptics' website or monograph will more than adequately demonstrate – all pseudoscience is nonsense and all = all. However, I suggest that instead of all anomalies being equal; some anomalies are more equal than others. In short, some anomalies are really bovine fertiliser, but hardly all. To lump astrology and UFOs in the same basket is a double standard, since the theoretical and observational evidence for each isn't really equal. Likewise, there's more theoretical and actual evidence for the existence of the Sasquatch (Bigfoot) than there is for say telepathy. Since sceptics can't distinguish serious anomalies from trivial ones, well I can't treat sceptics seriously since when crunch comes to the crunch, they can't be bothered to do the proper research and make distinctions.

 

Scientists on the other hand should take everything on their individual merits, and clearly in any scientific field, not all topics have equal merits. Saying life exists on Mars is not in the same league as saying life exists on Venus. Despite that, some topics do have equal merits, but that doesn't stop scientists from pretending they don't. Take SETI for example.

 

SETI (that's the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) scientists tend to poo-poo ufology buffs for failing to come up with a UFO ETH (extraterrestrial hypothesis) smoking gun, or any compelling evidence, especially physical evidence for hardcore UFOs, in over six decades. That's one topic. Of course they conveniently forget that SETI is entirely based on theory and SETI hasn't produced a smoking gun conclusive of the existence of ETI either, over a near equal five decades of searching. But that's another topic. However, both topics are in fact equal in that neither has produced a smoking gun that's ‘killed' the alien and provided a corpse for study. In fact, the amount of SETI evidence, including physical evidence, is but a short story compared to the full length UFO novel.

 

There is one other up-close-and-personal reason SETI scientists dump on the UFO ETH and/or ‘ancient astronauts' is because they have a vested interest in SETI. They have spend careers, building equipment designed to look for alien intelligence out there, often been made fun of by other scientists (and the American Congress) in their hunt for ‘little green men'. It would be a serious blow to their egos, careers, reputations and an actual downright embarrassment if ET proven to be down here all along. So, it's almost a natural reaction to rubbish any alternative idea. We've seen that any number of times in the history of science – Darwinian evolution vs. Lamarckian evolution; the Big Bang cosmology vs. the Steady State cosmology; catastrophism vs. uniformitarianism in geology. Debates have often been controversial, personal and bitter. So it's interesting to note that when I communicate some of my unorthodox ideas to a well known SETI scientist, if I get under his skin, at worst I get no response; at best one that starts with "Dear Mr. Prytz". Now if I say something he considers sensible (by his standards) the reply is "Dear John". That's a bit of a double standard too in its own right.

 

Now when it comes to SETI vs. the UFO ETH, that's not to say SETI scientists shouldn't continue to do SETI – they should – nothing ventured, nothing gained. But it gains them nothing to reject out of hand the rival idea that ET is or was down here are well as being up there.

 

Quite apart from SETI, the majority of scientists, especially physical scientists, usually poo-poo the UFO ETH with a there's ‘no evidence' mantra. But such scientists leave themselves wide open to the double standard. Many a scientist will profess a firm belief in something that has absolutely ‘no evidence' of any kind, conveniently forgetting that they have rubbished other people's beliefs for having faith in six impossible things that appear on their dining room table prior to breakfast. And so we see here the beginnings of more general double standards.

 

A prime example of how some scientists have their lack of evidence and belief too is with respect to religion. Even as recently as 2009, a public opinion poll found that a significant (albeit minority) percentage of scientists had a belief in a God that was up close and personal in their lives. There's not the slightest bit of evidence, physical or otherwise, that God exists. There's absolutely no evidence for any deity (monotheistic or polytheistic), yet many scientists have no trouble accepting on faith and having a belief in a deity (or deities) sight unseen by anyone and everyone. No one verifiable has seen the monotheistic deity God and all the polytheistic deities are apparently, according to scholars, entirely mythological. Go figure. This essay could just as easily been constructed around a theme of double standards with respect to God: Show Me the Evidence!' There just isn't any.

 

That reminds me of God's double standard of ‘do as I say, not as I do'. It's just like God (of the Old Testament) to command "Thou shall not kill" while He goes off and nearly exterminates the entire terrestrial human and animal population vis-à-vis the universal deluge. Anyway, back to the scientist.

 

There are valid cases within science itself of scientists not only ‘having a lack of evidence for X's reality but never-the-less a belief in X's reality too'. Now without meaning to accuse scientists of pure hypocrisy, there are lots of current concepts in science that have absolutely no evidence of any sort apart from the purely theoretical to support them, yet are taken quite seriously by physical scientists. A partial list would include concepts like the Multiverse (there is more than one universe – ours - within the overriding cosmos); the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics; particle physic's string theory; the Higgs Boson; the possible existence of ten or eleven dimensions; the Ekpyrotic (two string theory [mem]branes colliding and accounting for the origin of our) Universe theory; and, shock-horror for those interested in SETI , the total lack of any under-the-microscope, hardcore evidence whatsoever for any intelligent life forms anywhere out there other than intelligent terrestrial life forms (humans). Yet it is acceptable for scientists to research these areas without being subjected to having their sanity questioned. I fail to see why the UFO ETH is an exception to this. Even forget the UFO ETH – just the UFO phenomena full-stop is off limits. Be that as it may, it is.

 

Understandably for scientists, there is one very big and fundamental problem with UFOs. They tend to be unpredictable in time and space, and when they do show up; they don't stand still and grant you an interview and allow you the leisure of taking out your yardstick or whatever other scientific instrument you care to name and measuring them.

 

But there are other case histories from the annals of science regarding ‘the nature of the evidence' that have parallels with UFOs – physical phenomena that are unpredictable in time and space, that don't stand still; that you can't poke and prod, and that you can not put under the microscope and , examine at your leisure. These various phenomena; well ball lightning comes to mind; ditto Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLP); and you can't rewind the clock and prepare for (instruments at the ready) and witness the one-off Tunguska event are akin to UFOs in that scientists lack the means to lock them down, isolate them, and study the unfolding event at their leisure. Yet, it is one rule for one (ball lightning, TLP,Tunguska); one rule for another (UFOs).

 

So there seems to be a double standard for acceptable evidence here. UFOs have apparently no verifiable evidence and a ‘giggle factor'; ball lightning and TLP have unverifiable evidence but no ‘giggle factor', yet all of these have theoretical underpinnings that make their existence plausible. In the case of the UFO ETH, it's the Fermi Paradox – that's the ‘where are they, if they exist they should be here' observation.

 

Ultimately the question here boils down to finding an answer (a smoking gun) to the question that humans have asked and speculated on for thousands of years – are we alone in the universe? There shouldn't be any double standards employed when it comes down to addressing this issue. There are ultimately four choices: 1) We can choose not to answer the question because the world has bigger priorities than proving the existence of ‘little green men'; 2) we can, as SETI does, search out there, which obviously is a very logical thing to do even though it's a proverbial ‘needle in the haystack' search; 3) we can search down here – ancient astronauts and UFOs – which is a positive in that it restricts the haystack's geography required to be examined, but on probability is less likely statistically that the needle will be there (another parallel being someone looking for a lost key underneath the lamppost just because the light's better there); 4) or we can do both – search out there AND search down here and not put our quest for the ‘little green men' into an either/or basket. Unfortunately, that's way too idealistic a position to have accepted given the historical double standard already taken.

 

In conclusion, when it comes to the scientific community and evidence, there is often a double standard employed.  There's not one shred of physical evidence for string theory, yet it's an accepted area of funded academic research and has been for decades. On the UFO issue, many scientists while happy to accept the accuracy of eyewitness testimony when it provides data that turns a UFO event into an IFO, for some strange reason reject eyewitness testimony when it reinforces the unidentified or unknown status of the UFO event. That's another double standard. Go figure!

 

Of course the ultimate conclusion to be drawn is that scientists are human too and have their own agendas, backgrounds and personalities which can and do colour their belief systems. Apart from the ever logical Mr. Spock, is there any human, past or present (and probably future) who hasn't at one time or other employed a double standard? Not that that makes the double standard acceptable of course, but theoretical idealism and practical reality is two very separate things.

 

So, IMHO, the double standard fails because though sceptics and scientists rally against the UFO ETH, and perhaps they are right in their conclusions, skeptics and scientists aren't all-knowing and often base their conclusions on faith or belief. They too are human with all the accompanying baggage that implies and they can, and do, make mistakes, and such is the case I believe when it comes to labeling the pro UFO ETH a pseudoscience. Once upon a time Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus would have been considered pseudo-astronomers; Heinrich Schliemann (of Troy fame) someone who dabbled in pseudo-archaeology; Charles Darwin was a pseudo-naturalist; and Alfred Wegener, obviously put forth a theory (continental drift) that could only be described as pseudo-geology at the time. Even originally Albert Einstein was so far out in left field that his scientific seniors and superiors could easily have described his physics as pseudo-physics. Only time and history will be the judge whether or not the UFO ETH is or was pseudoscience or real science. The jury IMHO is still out on that issue. 

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John Prytz has 1 articles online

Science librarian; retired.

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UFOs: The Sceptics, The Scientists, And The Double Standards

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This article was published on 2011/08/18
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