Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

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Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #1  Postby bngbuck » Sat Sep 01, 2007 10:14 am

I have asked this question of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Marilyn Vos Savant and many other brights, and I would like to address it to anyone on this forum that would care to respond. I am currently writing a monograph on this and other similar events of mass or large group perception of apparently anomalous phenomena - religious visions, conjurors illusions, mass hallucinations or "mass hysteria", and the like - obviously my focus is not on individual narratives of unusual perceived events regardless of apparent credibility! I welcome your comments. Here is the question.

What is your view (or better, opinion) of The UFO Phenomenon?  I do NOT mean anything regarding little grey men, alien abductions, or "encounters" of any kind.

I refer only to the small but significant number of highly documented sightings of UFO aerial or space phenomena as reported by large groups of ordinary people, groups of professional military or police, sightings verified by multiple radar trackings, groups of military pilots or astronauts - sightings that have been thoroughly investigated and remain unexplained.  Also those cases thoroughly examined by Condon et al, Project Blue Book, and other serious investigations -  and NOT rejected as hoax, hallucinatory, or balloons, aircraft, planets, etc.

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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #2  Postby Pyrrho » Sat Sep 01, 2007 3:00 pm

One book that might be useful is UFO's—A Scientific Debate, by Carl Sagan and Thornton Page.

My copy is dated 1972. I'm not sure it's still available in stores.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #3  Postby JO 753 » Sat Sep 01, 2007 6:13 pm

I think the incidents you specify are sightings of vehicles not created by our present civilization.

It seems likely they are from aliens, but since we know practically nothing about them, other explanations are possible and not exclusive.

Also, I am convinced the U.S. government knows much more than they are admitting. Your inclusion of Project Blue Book as a "serious investigation" indicates that you  haven't progressed very far with your research.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #4  Postby bngbuck » Sat Sep 01, 2007 6:43 pm

Jim Dominic.....

Thank you for the book reference. It is available on Amazon and I have ordered it. I appreciate your help. If you have personal views on the subject, I would be pleased to hear them.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #5  Postby Pyrrho » Sat Sep 01, 2007 7:52 pm

Sure. The nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, is 4.35 lightyears away. Proxima Centaur is 4.22 lightyears away. Even supposing a civilization with advanced technology exists on planets in the Alpha Centauri system, it is extremely unlikely that they could get here from there. If they do exist, and they do have high technology, or at least some form of electronics technology, we should be able to detect signals. Nothing yet.

As far as UFOs are concerned, what is unexplained is just that: unexplained. There's no reason to suppose that unexplained sightings are alien spacecraft, time machines, manifestations of other dimensions, angels, devils, bigfoot, or whatever other fancy is popular these days.

A lot of sightings might have been of secret military aircraft, such as the U-2. Who knows? I don't.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #6  Postby bngbuck » Sat Sep 01, 2007 10:50 pm

Jim Dominic.....

Although my primary interest in this subject is not concerned with alien civilizations or extraterrestrial visitation, I must respond to your statement regarding interstellar distances and ask several questions which betray my limited knowledge of astrophysics.

  1. I am aware of the limitation placed by Einstienian physics upon the speed possible for matter (a space ship) to travel from one star system to another.
However, does our current understanding of physics prevent a spaceship from travelling at one half or three quarters the speed of light? If this is theoretically possible, could not a vehicle travel from the Alpha Centauri system to our solar system in about eight years or a little less? Or are spaceships uneqivocally limited to speeds that are a tiny fraction of the speed of light?

  2. With regards to our ability to detect the communication signals of a technology far more advanced than our own, it occurs to me that the technology of Marconi would have been hard pressed to recognize or even detect modern electronic transmission. Perhaps we simply don't have the necessary degree of technology to intercept "alien" communications.

  3. Having said that, I want to emphasize that, like you, I am in no way assuming that UFOs are anything fantastical, alien, or extra-dimensional. I am assuming (correct me if I am wrong) that you are not particularly curious as to what these phenomena are, and to the degree that any explanation has seemed reasonable to you, it is the miltary aircraft hypothesis.  Of course you don't know, and you don't much care. Again, please correct me if that is an unfair or unwarranted statement of your opinion. I want to understand your mindset.

  4. Do you believe that there is any reasonable probability that anyone, any group, any governmental agency, military agency, foreign government, in short any human being or group of human beings possesses comprehensive information on UFOs and is actively suppressing it from public dissemination? Is there any possibility of a "government cover-up" ? I am NOT suggesting that this is the case, I am asking your opinion as a skeptic.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #7  Postby Pyrrho » Sun Sep 02, 2007 3:42 am

bngbuck wrote:Jim Dominic.....

Although my primary interest in this subject is not concerned with alien civilizations or extraterrestrial visitation, I must respond to your statement regarding interstellar distances and ask several questions which betray my limited knowledge of astrophysics.

  1. I am aware of the limitation placed by Einstienian physics upon the speed possible for matter (a space ship) to travel from one star system to another.
However, does our current understanding of physics prevent a spaceship from travelling at one half or three quarters the speed of light? If this is theoretically possible, could not a vehicle travel from the Alpha Centauri system to our solar system in about eight years or a little less? Or are spaceships uneqivocally limited to speeds that are a tiny fraction of the speed of light?

I don't know. That's for much smarter people than I to figure out.
  2. With regards to our ability to detect the communication signals of a technology far more advanced than our own, it occurs to me that the technology of Marconi would have been hard pressed to recognize or even detect modern electronic transmission. Perhaps we simply don't have the necessary degree of technology to intercept "alien" communications.

That's also out of the realm of my expertise. Perhaps there's something at http://www.seti.org/ to answer that question.
  3. Having said that, I want to emphasize that, like you, I am in no way assuming that UFOs are anything fantastical, alien, or extra-dimensional. I am assuming (correct me if I am wrong) that you are not particularly curious as to what these phenomena are, and to the degree that any explanation has seemed reasonable to you, it is the miltary aircraft hypothesis.  Of course you don't know, and you don't much care. Again, please correct me if that is an unfair or unwarranted statement of your opinion. I want to understand your mindset.

When I was a teenager, I found the subject fascinating. These days, I think it's a bit silly, and no, I'm not all that curious about it.
  4. Do you believe that there is any reasonable probability that anyone, any group, any governmental agency, military agency, foreign government, in short any human being or group of human beings possesses comprehensive information on UFOs and is actively suppressing it from public dissemination? Is there any possibility of a "government cover-up" ? I am NOT suggesting that this is the case, I am asking your opinion as a skeptic.

What kind of "comprehensive information"? Governments are always covering up something or other. Maybe they have information that could explain some sightings, and maybe that information is classified secret for whatever reason--such as military test aircraft or secret missions...who knows? I doubt that anyone has information or evidence that UFO sightings are or were alien spacecraft.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #8  Postby bngbuck » Sun Sep 02, 2007 8:31 am

JO.....

Thank you for your reply. My investigation into skeptics' and other brights' views on the subject is indeed just beginning. Project Blue Book, which was preceded by Project Sign and Project Grudge was a serious enough "project" for the Air Force. However, I am doubtful that its purpose was to investigate and disclose facts to the general public. The same is probably true of the University of Colorado's Condon report. Condon made several comments prior to undertaking the task that was asked of him by the Air Force to the effect that he thought it was all nonsense and a waste of time and money.

If you know of any truly "serious" investigations (not individual sightings) of the general phenomeon of UFO sightings, I would appreciate the reference.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #9  Postby JO 753 » Sun Sep 02, 2007 9:03 am

ABC News did a serious investigation last year. It was one of the last reports Peter Jennings did. The fact that he knew his time was limited and he chose to spend it on this lends alot of credibilty to it, considering his level of integrity.

I tried to find an online version, but it looks as if you will have to order a DVD to see it. Breifly, they interview a good variety of believers, skeptics, scientists, military personell and cover sightings, witnesses, scientific theory, abductions, etc.

They have this about Project Blue Book:
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Primetime/story?id=528712&page=1

Here's the 1st of 3 pages:
Today, if you ask the Air Force about UFOs, it will cite its own 22-year study called Project Blue Book, which said there is no evidence that they are extraterrestrial vehicles and there is no evidence that they represent technology beyond our own.

Blue Book, based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, investigated hundreds of UFO reports yearly throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Top Technology & Science stories
NBC Bails on iTunes, Pulling ShowsNew Tech May Make Batteries ObsoleteA Real 'Night at the Museum'Related Topics
Peter Jennings  Mike O'Connor  Air Force
But the truth is Blue Book never became a serious, full-scale, scientific inquiry. The main purpose of the Air Force's UFO office was public relations, says Robert Goldberg, author of "Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America."

"That mission was denounce the UFOs, dismiss the UFOs, debunk the UFOs and anybody who believes in them -- just come up with answers and get this UFO thing out of the newspapers," he told ABC News.

Blue Book was far from a massive institute with a staff of white-coated lab technicians, said UFO researcher Mark Rodeghier. "There was a guy at a desk and a secretary and a private or someone there typing stuff. It was a very, very small project," he said.


Explaining It Away
Blue Book may have done some investigating, but it was overwhelmed by the volume of reports that were coming in.

Col. Robert Friend, the project's director from 1958 to 1963, told ABC News: "We wanted to explain as many sightings as possible, but we recognized that the amount of resources that would have been necessary in order to do this would have been far beyond those that we were ready to commit at the time."

He also recognized Project Blue Book's real purpose: "What they wanted to try to do was, I think, to re-educate the public regarding UFOs, to take away the aura of mystery."

And the best way to keep UFOs out of the newspapers -- and therefore, out of the public mind -- was to say repeatedly that they were nothing more than weather balloons or rare atmospheric conditions, like a star on the horizon.


Insistent Scientist
The man most often responsible for making these explanations was Blue Book's one civilian scientist, Ohio State University astronomer J. Allen Hynek. Between 1948 and 1969, he was the lead investigator on thousands of cases.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #10  Postby ifort » Sun Sep 02, 2007 12:47 pm

JO 753 wrote:ABC News did a serious investigation last year. It was one of the last reports Peter Jennings did. The fact that he knew his time was limited and he chose to spend it on this lends alot of credibilty to it, considering his level of integrity.

I tried to find an online version, but it looks as if you will have to order a DVD to see it. Breifly, they interview a good variety of believers, skeptics, scientists, military personell and cover sightings, witnesses, scientific theory, abductions, etc.

You got the new Firefox, or what? ;) :mrgreen:
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #11  Postby ifort » Sun Sep 02, 2007 1:14 pm

bngbuck wrote:   1. I am aware of the limitation placed by Einstienian physics upon the speed possible for matter (a space ship) to travel from one star system to another.
However, does our current understanding of physics prevent a spaceship from travelling at one half or three quarters the speed of light? If this is theoretically possible, could not a vehicle travel from the Alpha Centauri system to our solar system in about eight years or a little less? Or are spaceships uneqivocally limited to speeds that are a tiny fraction of the speed of light?

Yes, speed of light is indeed the unreachable speed boundary for matter. Our understanding of physics does not prevent us from reaching any fraction of c, just c itself.

Our current technology level practically allows 10% of c as the max. feasible cruise velocity, however, unfortunately, the drive in question is baned by international treaties.

bngbuck wrote:   2. With regards to our ability to detect the communication signals of a technology far more advanced than our own, it occurs to me that the technology of Marconi would have been hard pressed to recognize or even detect modern electronic transmission. Perhaps we simply don't have the necessary degree of technology to intercept "alien" communications.

You are not the first to recognize this. That would also imply that they would be radically different than us. And when I say radically, I mean it. I find it unlikely that true aliens would be anything like the UFO fanatics describe. What they describe is simply put not convincing, and sounds a lot like the old legends of demons.

The really unexplained stuff, well, I don't know.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #12  Postby bngbuck » Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:30 pm

Ifort.....

I appreciate your input.

What are your views on possible or even probable explanations, other than alien visitation, for thoroughly vetted sightings that remain unexplained? Do you think the problem lies in the adequacy or quality of the investigations, or does one have to conclude that, for the present, such phenomena simply must remain unexplained?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #13  Postby JO 753 » Mon Sep 03, 2007 9:14 pm

ifort wrote:You got the new Firefox, or what? ;) :mrgreen:


You mean the browser?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #14  Postby ifort » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:18 am

JO 753 wrote:You mean the browser?

Yes.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #15  Postby JO 753 » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:28 am

No. I had it for a while but wasnt using it. Getting low on HD space, so I dumped it.

Will it find videos better than IE?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #16  Postby ifort » Tue Sep 04, 2007 9:45 am

JO 753 wrote:No. I had it for a while but wasnt using it. Getting low on HD space, so I dumped it.

Will it find videos better than IE?

WTF? Last that I remember Firefox is around 10 megabytes.

However, it will find spyware worse than IE.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #17  Postby T. A. Gardner » Tue Sep 04, 2007 7:48 pm

Generalizing:

There have been a great many "UFO" sightings by a wide range of people; some credible, some not.  In some cases there were mulitple people involved, photographs and, other physical evidence available.  On the whole, one could probably safely discount as much as 90% or more of these sightings to mistaken identification of something mundane, man-made or, occuring in nature.
But, there are a few cases where there was clearly a UFO of some sort present and the sightings and persons involved were credible.  Now, this simply means that there have been almost certainly UFO sightings that are credible.  Whether these sightings involve extra-terresterials is another matter.
Is this possible too?  Possibly but unlikely.  However, I don't think one should rule out the possibility completely, and particularly on the basis of the current state of science and physics knowledge available.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #18  Postby jj » Wed Sep 05, 2007 12:15 am

Well, I work in human perception, and I must say that given the fallable nature of human perception, the failure to produce anything even remotely like a real photo of such a thing (garbage can lids in the air, etc, do not qualify) suggests to me that the existance of UFO's owes more to human perception than anything else.
Why does an infallable book have to be constantly revised?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #19  Postby bngbuck » Wed Sep 05, 2007 8:35 am

T. A. Gardner.....

I appreciate your comprehensive and  accurate post. You obviously have completely understood what I was asking for -  a reasoned, balanced and completely on-point skeptic's answer to my question. Thank you for a valuable contribution to the opinion information base of my monograph.

Although it is not germane to my writing, I am complete agreement with what you wrote.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #20  Postby bngbuck » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:15 am

jj.....

There are many high definition photos purported to be of UFOs on the internet. Unfortunately, current digital image manipulation technology makes it difficult, and in a few cases, nearly impossible to tell if a photo is real or doctored.

My current interest lies in actual visual sighting and radar detection of objects in the skies or space, but UFO photos are are tangential to my investigation, so I am responding to your obsevation.

If you have the time, google UFO Photos , and you will find hundreds if not thousands of images to consider. Many are obviously fakes, but more than a few will at least give you pause and a select few will make you wonder if they are real or phony.

However, no photo, real or faked, can prove that aliens or extraterrestrials are visiting the earth. Only tangible alien bodies, dead or alive, and possession of all or most of an alien spaceship or vehicle, carefully examined by scientists, can offer real evidence.

Thank you for this:

"the existance (sic) of UFO's owes more to human perception than anything else."

That statement is very useful to my writing. I would like permission to quote it.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #21  Postby Major Malfunction » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:04 am

It's a crock of {!#%@}. It's a trendy scam of various motivations that point like a compass to the same thing - *cha-ching!* Just like every other scam thought up by humans across the ages.

I was Abducted by ALIENS! For Idiots.

Have YOU been abducted by aliens? Learn how to negotiate interview fees! Write a book about your "experience"! Improve the economy of your crappy hickville town through tourism and earn political brownie points! Start your own cult! Cults, Tithes, Taxation and You!
This being was produced using the same process as other beings, and therefore, may contain traces of nuts.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #22  Postby bigtim » Wed Sep 05, 2007 6:25 pm

A few points to add:
a good source to start about the realities and probabilities of space flight is here:
http://www.physorg.com/news8817.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstellar_travel
http://library.thinkquest.org/C003763/index.php?page=findlife03

As for human observation of objects in the sky.  Humans are notoriously poor observers.  If an object in the air shuts it's light off, people observing see it as "flying away at great speed".  Humans are also very poor at judging distance and size; especially withouit reference.

Purely human observations of a UFO without any other data could be interesting, but is by no means evidence.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #23  Postby bngbuck » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:39 pm

Bigtim.....

Thank you for your post.

As for human observation of objects in the sky. Humans are notoriously poor observers. If an object in the air shuts it's light off, people observing see it as "flying away at great speed". Humans are also very poor at judging distance and size; especially withouit reference.

Purely human observations of a UFO without any other data could be interesting, but is by no means evidence.



It is my hypothesis that the more observers who substantially agree concerning an observation, the more credibility the observation gains. Examples of hundreds of observers reporting approximately the same details, and which are vetted and borne out by credible investigation, and supported by radar data, become credible evidence. Not evidence for alien visitation necessarily, but evidence for unexplained and possibly inexplicable aerial phenomena. It is to this kind of observation that the thrust of my question is directed.
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #24  Postby bigtim » Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:49 pm

bngbuck wrote:It is my hypothesis that the more observers who substantially agree concerning an observation, the more credibility the observation gains. Examples of hundreds of observers reporting approximately the same details, and which are vetted and borne out by credible investigation, and supported by radar data, become credible evidence. Not evidence for alien visitation necessarily, but evidence for unexplained and possibly inexplicable aerial phenomena. It is to this kind of observation that the thrust of my question is directed.


Radar is not infallable, it gives glitches and blips all the time.  Most of the noise is weeded out and translated by modern computer systems.  Old radar systems just showed a "skriggle" in a frequency wave.  It wasn't until modern computer systems that this was translated into fialry useful and reliable data.  

The movies have done more to give folks a misinterpretation of what Radar looks like than anyone else.

As for ariel phenomena -- there has been, and continues to be, events that occur that folks aren't aware of.  Hisotrically many of these were given mystical explanations... well, heck, they still are.  But scientific study often bears out a reasonable explanation.  The question after that is why isn't the scientific explanation accepted?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #25  Postby jj » Wed Sep 05, 2007 10:22 pm

bngbuck wrote:
"the existance (sic) of UFO's owes more to human perception than anything else."

That statement is very useful to my writing. I would like permission to quote it.


You're welcome to quote it.  You can cite it as from me as home.comcast.net/~retired_old_jj

Which is to say that you are actually also citing someone who actually DOES have some chops in the 'legitimate authority' sense.

My point in using the word "existance", of course, is that UFO's exist, but only in the mind of the observer.

I could also send you a few "UFO lands on hill" type of photographs thanks to (obvious to me) lens flare :)
Why does an infallable book have to be constantly revised?
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Re: Skeptic's Opinions of UFO Phenomena

Post #26  Postby ifort » Thu Sep 06, 2007 11:55 am

bigtim wrote:Radar is not infallable, it gives glitches and blips all the time.  Most of the noise is weeded out and translated by modern computer systems.  Old radar systems just showed a "skriggle" in a frequency wave.  It wasn't until modern computer systems that this was translated into fialry useful and reliable data.

Yes, I remember using some of the first radars in a sim for a while. Extremely confusing.
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