Since some people have gone nuts over the article about pseudoskepticism, I thought I might demonstrate what I think along those lines. There is a claim that Clarence S. Chiles and John B. Whitted, two airline pilots saw a cigar-shaped craft that flashed by their aircraft buffeting it with the turbulence of its passage. A passenger on the aircraft didn’t actually see the object, but did see the light from it. The other passengers were on the wrong side of the aircraft or they were asleep given the late hour.
|Chiles/Whitted illustrations. Photo courtesy of USAF.|
Proponents of the alien visitation explanation suggest that you have two reliable observers who both saw virtually the same thing at the same time and within hours of the event provided military investigators and radio reporters with their eyewitness testimony. They believe this is a solid case and point to the evidence of alien visitation.
Skeptics say that they were fooled by a bolide, a very bright meteor, and although both had seen many meteors during their nighttime flights, this was something different. It was bigger and brighter and was only visible for a few seconds. The case is solved by this explanation.
Proponents ask, “How do you explain that both pilots saw a cigar-shaped craft with a double row of square windows?”
I say, “That question is fair enough. How do we explain it?’
And the answer was given to us on March 3,1968 when the Zond IV, a spacecraft that had been made on Earth reentered the atmosphere. While the majority of those seeing the craft as it broke up in a shower of glowing pieces, there were some who thought they saw a cigar-shaped craft with square windows. Clearly this description was in error and it calls the Chiles-Whitted case into question. It shows that witnesses, provided with a glimpse of a glowing object at night can image they have seen something that was not there. They were fooled by an optical illusion and the way the brain functions.
|Zond IV reentry illustrations.|
In fact, in today’s world, with the Internet hosting all sorts of video clips we can take this a step further. Meteor falls have been recorded many times and in them we can often see an object breaking up with glowing pieces stringing out behind it. The illusion, for those who happen to glimpse something like that is a glowing cockpit and a row of windows along the fuselage of the craft. Meteors can fool us when seen briefly and in those conditions.
Yes, you say, but what about the turbulence felt as the craft passed Chiles and Whitted. Surely a meteor wouldn’t create that turbulence.
And skeptics say, look at the statements they made right after the event. Written statements signed by both men within hours of the sighting. They don’t mention the turbulence at all. That fact was introduced later.
What about the passenger? He only glimpsed a bright light flash by which serves to prove something was in the sky, but he didn’t see a cigar shape or rows of windows. His role in this sighting does nothing to validate the object or the windows. He didn’t see them.
What do we see here? Proponents offered a case that seemed to suggest alien visitation. Two airline pilots reported a cigar-shaped craft with square windows. Clearly this was not something manufactured on Earth. Skeptics said, “No, it was a meteor.”
Who is right?
Well, the skeptics seem to have the weight of the evidence on their side. They acknowledge that Chiles and Whitted saw something extraterrestrial, but it was not an alien spacecraft. They believed that they saw square windows, but we now know that can be an artifact created in the mind when something is glimpsed that is unusual. We can say, based on evidence from other reported events, that this illusion of a cigar-shaped craft with square windows is a perception problem and not a glimpse of reality.
The added fact, which might have disconfirmed the explanation, that is the buffeting of the aircraft, is not something that was reported by either pilot at the time. This “fact” was added sometime later.
It seems to me, that proponents offered what they thought of as a solid case, but skeptics, as they researched the events, using the testimony of the witnesses and their written statements, plus the observations of the Zond IV reentry, have proved their case. They didn’t just dismiss it by claiming hoax without evidence, or by suggesting other wild ideas, but provided solid evidence that the object observed was a meteor. I believe this to be a good explanation.
The point here is that the proponents had some very good testimony gathered within hours of the event. They had the drawings of the object with its square windows. Skeptics didn’t have the best evidence until 1968, but then we all could see how people might mistake a bright meteor glimpsed as it broke up as a craft with windows. Video tape confirms that impression. The evidence gathered in the years following the sighting proved that explanation is the most likely of the solutions offered… and to me that is how skepticism should work… I was skeptical of the meteor explanation until the evidence was laid out.