Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The UFO Supporters

For a long time I have been bothered by the term, "UFO Believer." It implies that we accept that some UFOs are alien spacecraft on faith rather than evidence. It suggests that our understanding of the UFO phenomenon is less than scientific.

At the far end of the spectrum are the UFO Debunkers*, who seem to be anti-believers, meaning they accept that there are no UFOs on faith rather than evidence. They know that if there is some evidence that UFOs represent alien visitation it must be faked. They know there are no alien spacecraft and that is the end of it.

Closer to the center point are the Skeptics. These are people who don’t know if there is alien visitation or not. They suspect there is none, but only because the case has yet to be proven, one way or the other, in their opinion. They will look at evidence, evaluate it based on their own understanding, training, education, and belief structures. They have open minds but require those of us who support the idea of alien visitation to prove it... and right they are.

There is, however, no word on the other side of the center, between that point and Believer. We are all lumped into a single category without consideration or thought. We are all Believers.

I purpose that we add a gradation to this that would rival Skeptic... (which, by the way, is a marvelous little word). I suggest that we become known as UFO Supporters because we accept that some UFOs are of alien creation but we simply don’t buy into everything from Exopolitics to cattle mutilations to the tales of the contactees, or this latest idea of a great air war between the US Air Force and the aliens in the 1950s.

Like the Skeptics, we will look at evidence, and if that evidence is weak, or nonexistent, then we are free to reject it, just as the Skeptics are. We aren’t True Believers just as the Skeptics aren’t Debunkers. We understand the gradations and we can look at the evidence.

If you spend much time studying the UFO situation, you’ll find that the Supporters are just as likely to provide a solid solution for a case as are the Skeptics. The Debunkers are just as likely to provide some far out solution as are the Believers to give us some outlandish claim.

So, I see it as Believers, Supporters, Skeptics and Debunkers. Now we can begin to find subcategories and really make this fun.

*In the real world, debunking is a good thing but in the world of the UFO, a Debunker is actually a Denier. Maybe that would be a better word for them, but I doubt that it will catch on.

16 comments:

Lance said...

Hi Kevin,

I certainly can agree that the terminology gets misused.

I disagree with your description of the position of skeptics. I think it is more correct to say that true skeptics assign probabilities to these various topics we discuss and for the most part UFO's (as paranormal things) are seen to have a probability that is near zero.

The reason for this is the death of compelling evidence.

In other words skeptics (rightly, I think) find UFO's FAR more dubious than you suggest.

UFO enthusiasts LOVE to throw around the word, "debunker" as though it is something negative.

I would love to debunk any one of these topics if I had the evidence to do so. Debunking should be embraced by any thinking person.

In the UFO world it simply means someone who doesn't agree that the UFO case has been already proven. So, just like the term, "believer", "debunker" is almost always misused, particularly by one long-winded regular here for whom reality is whatever he decides to make up.

One of the claims is that Skeptics (or using the precious term in vogue among the buffs, Skeptibunkers) will never look at the evidence and will dogmatically deny any pro story and embrace any con story (like when I embraced the unsupported stuff spewed out by Bragalia on Soccorro...hey wait a minute!)

Maybe I'll agree to stop using "believer" (which I really use as a shorthand way to describe the pro-UFO side but jeeze, have you seen some of the comments here? Like when someone immediately implied mysterious implications to the death of Mac Tonnies? There is a quasi religious tone to many of em! ) when the pro side stops misusing "debunker".



Lance

Jerry Clark said...

The late sociologist of science Marcello Truzzi, also a close friend with whom I had many conversations on the subject, held that skeptics are doubters, debunkers deniers.

By that definition, there are few, very few, actual skeptics (their rhetorical positioning aside) within the UFO debate. That includes the frequent contributors to this space. Debunking as such ought to be simply a necessary part of separating fact from fiction, the plausible from the non-credible. As sober UFO researchers, you, I, and the colleagues whom we respect have done a great deal of it in our time.

In practice, the obsessive negative pursuit of UFO reports evolves into an overarching, militant ideological position (called by the folklorist/behavioral scientist David Hufford the "tradition of disbelief") whose excesses are well known to those versed in the history of the controversy. Though he himself did not "believe" in UFOs, Truzzi thought that prominent debunkers had accomplished no more than to demonstrate that they were, at minimum, untrustworhty and, at worst, cracked. Probably, the only real UFO skeptics are those who say they're unconvinced, then go on with their lives. Those who stay around to argue further tend, as we've seen, to lose their bearings.

I confess I don't much care for
"UFO supporter," which sounds as if ufology were a club or a political party. "UFO proponent," which has been around for a long while, surely does the job. The proponent holds to the eminently defensible view that, from all available evidence plus the longtime failure of counterarguments, the best UFO sightings remain unsolved and are sufficiently anomalous to suggest extraordinary causes.

I've changed my mind about many things in my life as new developments and new evidence pushed me in that direction. Where UFOs are concerned, no reason to change my position as a proponent has emerged. Nor is there any reason at this late date to expect that one will. After all, debunkers haven't been able to conjure up a single substantive new argument since June 25, 1947. If they harbor the illusion that constant repetition of the same talking points will ultimately lead them to triumph, I'm afraid that history offers them no encouragement. I fear, too, that future history will be even less kind.

Lance said...

Jerry's comments about history are certainly well founded. Of course they apply in spades to the proponent position.

It's wondrous that Jerry can consider skeptical "talking points" like:

1. Real and startling lack of evidence.
2. A theory that allows no possibility of falsification.
3. Hoax after hoax.
4. Zero scientific interest.
5. Nothing new since 1947 (on the pro side either, so there!).

and then think that HE is on the winning side of the argument!

But. in a way. perhaps he is. I would guess that the average Wal-Mart shopper (for instance) would be right in line with the Pro-UFO side. And the Pro-Bigfoot side, too!

But a more scientific or intellectual consensus might be a little harder to locate.

While I can admit:

That there are a few cases that deserve further consideration

That I could be wrong

And that most exposures and debunking in the field came from Pro-UFO researchers, I STILL suggest that history really seems to be on the negative side of the argument here.

But perhaps there have been some fantastic developments of late that would change a reasonable person's mind? Can you name one that is not the same old hat of the past 50 years?

Lance

Interstellar Housewife said...

For what it's worth I consider the skeptical center of that arc to have a lot of bleed over. I consider myself a healthy skeptic, but I am positioned toward the belief side. In fact, I do believe that some UFOs are not of human origin - but I don't think anyone on earth can prove that they are in fact 'Extra-Terrestrial'. I think thats just the general assumption - and it is an assumption based on our limited knowledge of the universe around us (though personally, I think at least some of the 'UFOs' are from off-planet.

My skepticism comes into play as it probably should with most people, and that is not just taking something based on 'faith' or at face-value. I am also skeptical of individual claims made by people I know nothing about - and that makes a lot of sense to me.

The term "skeptic" really has got a bum rap - and I am guilty of adding to that because even I have used the term to represent the debunking squad - but I do try to clarify it when I can.

I enjoyed your article - particularly: "we will look at evidence, and if that evidence is weak, or nonexistent, then we are free to reject it"

cda said...

To widen the discussion: On the Magonia blog recently a writer said that the USA had more ETH proponents among its 'serious ufologists' than did the UK among its 'serious ufologists'. Is he right? Could a poll be conducted to establish this, and would it produce a meaningful result?
What is a 'serious ufologist' anyway? I think the whole question of 'serious' ufology and the 'not-so-serious' ufology has to be discussed first. The mind boggles at that.

The problem with this sort of discussion/debate is that it is likely to go on and on.....

But at least it makes a change from Roswell, Socorro, Rendlesham et al.

Lance said...

By the way, I think Jerry misrepresents David Hufford's term, "tradition of disbelief" which really seems to be used to describe how we as humans approach anyone else's claims.

It's not specifically about how claims are approached by his mythical militant skeptics (he extrapolates a population of these from his experience with a few folks--classic bad science).
It's more about how everybody does it:

If I believe something then I KNOW it.
If you believe something then you CLAIM it.

It's just the way we are wired.

Lance

Frank Stalter said...

"But perhaps there have been some fantastic developments of late that would change a reasonable person's mind? Can you name one that is not the same old hat of the past 50 years?"

White House meeting . . . the president was present . . . it was about UFOs . . . hiding in plain sight for years in the Truman archives . . . the meeting was not about temperature inversions.

http://ufopartisan.blogspot.com/2009/10/trumans-white-house-meeting-on-1952-dc.html

In my book, it's a smoking gun. The government has known we are being visited for decades. Their actions speak louder than their denials.

steve sawyer said...

Marcello Truzzi defined a term he created, "pseudo-skeptic," in a commentary from his short-lived magazine, Zetetic Scholar, in 1987, that is quite pertinent to this discussion: http://bit.ly/12Sdwv

While Kevin here says, "I [propose] that we add a gradation to this that would rival Skeptic... (which, by the way, is a marvelous little word). I suggest that we become known as UFO Supporters because we accept that some UFOs are of alien creation but we simply don’t buy into everything..." I have a problem even with this term or definition, as it suggests "we accept that some UFOs are of alien creation..." when, without definitive proof or objective, testable evidence, this too is a form of presumption or, actually, belief. It cannot be accepted on faith or without proof (particularly if some form of misdirection or intentional plausible deniability may be involved).

I could get into Vallee's "Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis," or the variant PSH, IDH, CTH, or time traveler hypotheses, among many other possibilities, just to illustrate that an observed phenomenon may have far richer, stranger, and unknown origins and sources than the standard ETH, but my point is that what we are really talking about is that appearances can be deceiving, and that there is a vital difference between what may be observed and subsequent interpretations of same.

Assuming that any UFO is from a non-terrestrial, alien source is presumptuous. Seeing may be believing, but not truly understanding. Extraordinary claims do require extraordinary proof.

We could be dealing with an aspect of the underlying reality of the uni/multiverse or, really, simply something as yet unknown to us, that creates UFO phenomena of various kinds. I do not deny the reality of UFO phenomena, but I cannot take the leap of faith that any are necessarily alien in origin or nature. That is why it's called the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis.

Ontologically speaking, to say "we accept that some UFOs are of alien creation" rather than "may be of alien creation" is to go beyond hypothesis or theory, and the scientific method and deductive logic, part of which entails attempting to disprove one's hypotheses by testing, which cannot be done if validity ["are"] is presumed.

The fact is that we just do not know for sure, and to say we do is a form of belief, regardless of how suggestive the evidence may be. We have to avoid preconceptions based on first-level interpretations or cultural conditioning, if possible. Again, what we need are some forms of objective, hardcore proof and evidence that can be tested and agreed to via multi-phasic, multi-disciplinary and empirical scientific consensus. Nothing less will do, in terms of establishing validity, regardless of origin or nature.

I prefer the term, "UFO agnostic," defined as one who is an open-minded skeptic (and in terms of how that "marvelous little word" is truly defined), who accepts that there is a genuine UFO phenomenon, based on the preponderance of evidence, but that we do not know as yet whether the ETH or any other interpretation or theory is as yet a correct one. One theory, or several, or none could account for the overlapping multiplicity of phenomena we call "UFO."


I am more interested in knowing, if possible, what the valid origin or nature of what is observed might be rather than making any assumptions in lieu of proof.

I do not rule out the ETH by any means--it is one of the more likely possibilities, all things considered. But, it could also be wrong.

I suspect we will never make further real progress in our research and investigations of such phenomena until we drop any restrictive assumptions and the need to interpret along selective lines of thought. We do not know what cannot be proven. An agnostic is one who neither believes nor disbelieves--this subject should not be the based on either, but what can be objectively proven as valid. Thus, I am a UFO agnostic.

Interstellar Housewife said...

Excellent post.

It has always bothered me that people make statements like "some of the UFOs are extra-terrestrial, but not all" because, I quite agree that we simply do not know *who* or *what* is behind the phenomenon.

And anyway, if you have identified a craft as extra-terrestrial, it's not much of a UFO anymore, but now I'm being nit-picky.

I don't care if people say they think "this" or "that", but when individual theories are stated as factual, that's a problem.

Sure, personally I think that at least some are of ET origins (but not necessarily all), but I don't *know* that they are.

It's that kind of thought process that keeps me skeptical. My personal opinions are what tilt me left or right.

Anyhoo - back to my Merlot.

Frank Warren said...

Good Day Kevin,

Happy Holidays!

The phrase "UFO Believer" in my view is evidence that the individual employing its use is ignorant to the definition of the acronym, "UFO."

Associating the verb, "believe" or the noun, "believer" with a factual thing is nonsensical; it's akin to saying, "the Mt Rushmore believers," or "he believes in the Empire State Building"--all are irrational!

UFOs are U.nidentified F.lying O.bjects; if an object can be identified, then by definition--it can't be a UFO!

The notion is that a small percentage of "UFO reports" after thorough investigation "defy conventional explanation." In my view it's imperative to distinguish the difference; even with the most hardcore debunkers, if they have a shred of common sense, "they can't deny the factual existence of UFOs"--this is the "common ground," and or the starting point to educate the ignorant.

In order for a debunker to dismiss the ETH, he has to explain "all UFO reports" by conventional theoria--this can't be done.

"The Best Skeptics are Ufologists"

Cheers,
Frank

Lance said...

Hello Frank,

And Happy Holidays!

Wow that seemed pretty pedantic!

Of course most of us know what the letters stand for. But almost 100% of the time, when someone is called a believer, he really does think that UFO's are flying saucers from other worlds (or something very closely approximating that). And he believes it with all his heart.

A believer has to use his heart since his mind (if functioning) will recognize the sad state of the actual evidence.

So you may say that calling someone a UFO believer shows ignorance but the fact is that the label is almost always spot on.

And your claim that the ETH can't be dismissed unless every single case is proven to not be ET is, frankly, beneath you.

It's the kind of argument that must play well for the believers but is completely empty of content.

After all, I can say that I think that UFO's are Santa Claus and you can't dismiss my SCH unless you prove every single case is not SC!

So where does that get us?

I think it gets us to same place UFO's have always been and always will be: Summer 1947.

Lance

Frank Warren said...

Greetings Lance, et al,

"Happy Holidays" to you as well!

You wrote:

Wow that seemed pretty pedantic!

I would argue that it is spot on and peremptory.

You wrote:

Of course most of us know what the letters stand for.

Agreed; however, when "most" use it, they alter the meaning and therein lies part of the problem--specifically for they lay person, as they assume it is analogous to an ET craft--it is not!

You wrote:

But almost 100% of the time, when someone is called a believer, he really does think that UFO's are flying saucers from other worlds (or something very closely approximating that). And he believes it with all his heart.

I don't mean to split hairs Lance, but as stated previously, my issue is associating the verb, "believe," or the noun "believer" with the acronym U.F.O.--as it's cockamamie.

You wrote:

A believer has to use his heart since his mind (if functioning) will recognize the sad state of the actual evidence.

"Belief" or "faith" isn't part of the UFO equation, ignorance of this fact is part of the problem.

You wrote:

So you may say that calling someone a UFO believer shows ignorance but the fact is that the label is almost always spot on.

Whether I say it or not, is irrelevant--it's simply a fact. One can no more believe in a UFO then he can believe in a stop sign!

You wrote:

And your claim that the ETH can't be dismissed unless every single case is proven to not be ET is, frankly, beneath you.

Thank you for "normally" holding me in such high esteem; however, that's not what I said Lance; to be clear, I wrote above:

In order for a debunker to dismiss the ETH, he has to explain "all UFO reports" by conventional theoria--this can't be done.

Because all UFOs can't be explained by "conventional means," it does not automatically equal ET! In the broadest scientific sense, it means that all other possibilities are on the table, and ETH is one.

You wrote:

It's the kind of argument that must play well for the believers but is completely empty of content.

Again, Ufology has nothing to do with faith and or belief--which is the core of my argument; aligning it in that manner, exhibits naivete to the subject matter and continues to obfuscate it.

You wrote:

After all, I can say that I think that UFO's are Santa Claus and you can't dismiss my SCH unless you prove every single case is not SC!

Only a small fraction of UFO reports are Santa Claus Lance--everyone knows that! :>))

Cheers,
Frank

Sarge said...

On another site we discussed this issue and the feeling was that perhaps one could be an "interested observer" of the phenomenon.
Ufology has become much like the debate between religions or politics. The extremes on both sides have taken the position that the heretics are on the attack.
It has become less of an investigation and more and more a game of "Got'cha"" with everyone trying to catch the other side in a mis-statement or mistake.

smallawei said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
number six said...

I think that "ufo enthusiast" is an ok term. I mean, I'm bloody enthsiastic about the topic, but would be the first the list the shortcomings of our evidence so far. If you twist my arm, I would say imo ufo's are "real" - and some probably et's, but if someone else isn't convinced I don't especially blame them.

Mike said...

I, too, have always been bothered by the term "believer." In 1972, I saw three metallic objects shaped like truncated cones flying, silently, at about forty miles per hour at an altitude just above tree top level, and about fifty yards from my position. I do not "believe" in UFOs; I have seen them, and that sighting changed my view of the universe forever.