THE FAILURE OF THE +quot;SCIENCE+quot; OF UFO-DEBUNKING by I. Scott Reprinted from the Int

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THE FAILURE OF THE "SCIENCE" OF UFO-DEBUNKING by I. Scott Reprinted from the International UFO Reporter_ by permission of The J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies ---------------------------------- An article in the Fall 1986 issue of _The Skeptical Inquirer_ asserts that some CSICOP members "have argued persuasively that the study of Unidentified Flying Objects is not a science." Is this correct? How does one establish whether or not something is a science? Science is defined as a branch of study concerned with the observation and classification of facts. It is divided into major and minor branches More: top, onstop, < ENTER > to continue?  depending on the amount of information contained in the subject. For example, the study of physical phenomena is physics. The study of the respiratory system of a parasite species would not be a major branch of science. Nonetheless data about it could be published in scientific journals under various subjects such as parasitology. Thus, since its study is accepted in the scientific literature, it can be considered a minor scientific branch and is a science. A criterion that determines whether a subject is scientifically accepted is whether original, reviewed research papers on it exist in scientific journals (the scientific literature). In the case of UFO study, the paper would also need to indicate the possibility that not all UFOs are IFOs. A general guide to what constitutes the scientific literature could be those publications listed in the _Science Citation Source Index_. To test the hypothesis that study of the UFO phenomenon is not a science, I submitted one original research article and two abstracts on aspects of the UFO phenomenon to scientific societies. All were readily accepted. Thus, study of the UFO phenomenon has been accepted in the scientific literature and is a science. Further confirmation of this is Peter Sturrock's 1976 poll of the American Astronomical Society showing that 80 percent of the members agreed that the UFO phenomenon deserves scientific attention. A different view is taken by UFO debunkers. An example of their argument is expressed in a 1979 _New Scientist_ essay, "The Failure of the `Science' of Ufology," by James Oberg. Oberg writes that "criticism has been leveled at the very philosophical foundations of Ufology. The inability of ufological theorists to come to grips with these objections represents the most serious roadblock to the acceptance of Ufology as a legitimate branch of modern science...Ufology refuses to play by the rules of scientific thought, demanding instead special exemptions from time-tested procedures of data verification, theory testing and the burden of proof." Oberg refers to the "residue fallacy." He says, "the basic difficulty inherent in any investigation of phenomena such as those of...UFOs is that it is impossible for science ever to prove a universal negative. There will always be cases which remain unexplained because of lack of data, lack of repeatability, false reporting, wishful thinking, deluded observers, rumors, lies and fraud. A residue of unexplained cases is not a justification for continuing an investigation after overwhelming evidence has disposed of the hypothesis of supernormality..." Oberg's reasoning is wrong on several counts. Although some residues may not have much usefulness, from other residues have arisen such concepts as a spherical earth, heliocentric solar system, Einstein's theories, the quantum theory, evolution theory, sanitation and immunology. "Out of sight, out of mind" is not an appropriate scientific response to unexplained data. A recent view of scientific advancement is expressed: "...anomalies accumulate; these can be ignored, but only for a while. At this point, someone may find a different method of attack..." (_Encyclopaedia Britannica_). Also, empirical observation is accepted scientifically. For example, meteors were described before scientists believed that rocks could fall from the sky. Even if all UFOs are IFOs, it is critical, in view of the recently acquired human ability for self-destruction, to examine why such widespread phenomena occur. Oberg's article contends that the evidence that UFOs can be explained prosaically is "overwhelming." But the index of the government-financed Condon study showed that 23 of the 59 cases the committee examined were unexplained. This is underwhelming support for Oberg's supposition, especially when it appears that some explanations were vague and some cases easily solved. In addition, in _Project Blue Book Special Report #14_, commissioned by the Air Force to the Batelle Memorial Institute, it appears that over 20 percent of the reports the Air Force investigated from mid-1947 to 1952 were classified as unknowns. Another Oberg allegation is that "in the most devastating departure from scientific methodology Ufologists reject the concept of `falsifiability' of scientific theories." Yet the idea of hypothesis falsifiability itself is questionable, for example: "Falsification was a rational but, in its crudest form, an untenable alternative...of the concept of a crucial experiment..." (For a discussion see the Encyclopaedia Britannica). In addition, although people have been exposed to the UFO concept for only about 40 years and it has taken tens of thousands of years for humanity to accept such concepts as the heliocentric solar system, and although we may have less understanding of the possible UFO phenomenon than an amoeba has of the Big Bang, and although there may be more than one kind of unexplainable UFO, it is, nevertheless, possible to test hypotheses. For example, one might hypothesize that those who believe in UFOs would be more likely to see them than nonbelievers would be, because the believers think UFOs exist (termed wishful thinking in the Oberg article). From this hypothesis one would predict that UFO observers would statistically come from the population of believers. But a representative sample (1575 people in the 1966 Gallup poll discussed in the Condon report) showed that sighters did not differ from nonsighters with respect to education, region of the country, age, or sex; however, age, sex and education all appeared related to whether UFOs were considered to be real or imaginary. Thus, the hypothesis that people see UFOs because they are believers has been statistically falsified. (The percent of sighters believing that UFOs were real was greater than that of non-sighters; however, as the Condon reported mentioned, "...causal relations are unexplored, we do not know whether seeing is believing, or believing is seeing." These data would need to have been collected before the sightings to be of use and even then factors such as discussed in Budd Hopkins' works might cause inaccuracies). One can mathematically test the "residual fallacy" hypothesis. IF unexplained UFO sightings are caused by lack of information or inaccurate perceptions, then with more information and better observers the number of unexplained sightings should decrease. But the results of _Project Blue Book Special Report #14_ (3201 reports selected from around 7200) showed that the highest report category (excellent, E) had a higher percentage (33.3 percent) of unknowns than the poor category (16.6). In addition 38 percent of the E unknown sightings were by military compared to around 1/4 in the poor category. Thus, this hypothesis has been falsified by the results of a large study. Another common hypothesis is that UFOs are really known but misidentified objects. Thus, one would expect that, in general, the characteristics of UFOs would match conventional objects. For example a certain percent of conventional flying objects are aircraft having a conventional lighting arrangement and a certain percent are meteors. So, using combined information, one would expect the frequencies of such characteristics to be the same in the two groups. This hypothesis was tested in _Project Blue Book Special Report #14_. Here the frequencies of several UFO/IFO characteristics were examined using the chi square. In five of six categories there were significant levels of p<.01, which mathematically falsifies this hypothesis. Perhaps because the investigators didn't like this conclusion, they next tried a controversial procedure of excluding the astronomical sightings from only the knowns class. Still, significant differences existed in five of these six categories. Although the study had experimental-design deficiencies, this kind of examination with good reported data could be used for hypothesis-testing (Maccabee, _Historical Introduction to Project Blue Book Special Report #14_). Also, research such as the IFO work done by Jenny Randles provides testable hypotheses. Another of many factors that provide data for hypothesis testing is sonic booms. One would hypothesize that if "believers" make up UFOs, they should also make up sonic booms to accompany them. But the Condon Report states that "the reported total absence of sonic booms from UFOs in supersonic flight and undergoing rapid accelerations or intricate maneuvers, particularly near the earth's surface, cannot be explained on the basis of current knowledge. On the contrary, intense sonic booms are expected under such conditions." Thus, this hypothesis has been falsified. Such hypothesis-testing can indicate areas for further exploration. For example, in instances of possible truly unexplained phenomena, these data might be used to examine such characteristics as passage through the air to investigate whether some UFOs may be holographic projections, or information that can be transferred into the minds of more than one witness simultaneously. Another aspect reported in UFO observations is the absence of an understandable propulsive system. The hypothesis of an unknown possible propulsive system could be tested by a statistical comparison with IFOs, such as of reported sounds. If there are significant differences, additional hypotheses might be tested with appropriate experimental designs. Theories might include the possibilities that humans are not sensitive to everything in their environment; thus, evidence such as the phenomenon's possible ability to disappear, reappear, and not show a propulsive system might result from its having the ability to enter and withdraw from human sensory fields. In addition, since the physical properties that result in life (atomic combinations, atoms, sub-atomic particles, waves, energy) are not known and with quantum theory limitations may not be currently explainable, one should consider the possibility that forms of life might exist that are extremely different from earth life and not bound by such factors as gravitation and air friction. New theories, logic, methodology, and social changes may be important in UFO studies. For example, quantum mechanics introduces people to such concepts as observer-dependent phenomena, an observer-created universe, the idea that what an observer does in the future defines what happens in the past, the Bell inequality, faster-than-light signaling, and the questioning of the idea of cause and effect. All of these ideas may be important to the UFO phenomenon. For example, the idea of multiple universes provides the theoretical possibilities for other life forms. One characteristic of the human form of life is negative entropy; with an external energy force it can homogenize rather than disperse. This characteristic might be examined in quantum experiments. The thesis of an observer-created reality could be used to hypothesize that UFOs may be created by humans. If the speed of light is not limiting, it might be possible to transfer information across the universe instantaneously. Thus the UFO phenomenon might represent a form of information transfer. Oberg's _New Scientist_ essay concludes, "...if any of the claims of Ufology prove valid it would indeed rate as a major scientific breakthrough, perhaps one of the most important..." True. When the Condon Committee says of one of the cases it investigated that "all factors...geometric, psychological, and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disc-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses," it is clear that further scientific study of the UFO phenomenon is warranted. 旼컴컴컴컴컴컴컴컴컴컴 郞袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴孤 SPITFIRE FILE MENU 팠袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴袴拷

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