How Should People Interpret 'UFO'?

Discussion in 'UFOs, Ghosts and Monsters' started by Yazata, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    In the spirit of posting numbered sets of principles in this forum, here's some more. Actually, they aren't exactly proposed rules, they are different ways that people seem to interpret the term 'UFO', along with my comments, criticism and suggestions.

    1. A 'UFO' is indeed unidentified, but only because of a lack of information about it. If sufficient information was available, then it would resolve into a meteorological, astronomical or optical phenomenon of a known sort. This is the belief, often left unstated, that seemingly defines the "skeptic". This belief does have a grain of truth to it, since it kind of describes the research-program to which sightings are subjected in hopes of identifying them. But when applied as a general principle to all UFO sightings, the a-priori assumption that all of them could be shown to have mundane explanations if enough were known about them looks to me like an insupportable article of faith that goes well beyond the (lack of) evidence.

    2. A 'UFO' is exactly that, an 'unidentified flying object'. As long as it's unidentified, it's unidentified, so by definition we don't know what it is. That doesn't necessarily mean 'unidentifiable' or imply that we couldn't discover what it is if more information was available, but with the information that we have, we can't reach a conclusion. Hence drawing premature conclusions about what it is, is probably a mistake. That obviously applies to "They are aliens!" But it applies equally well to "UFOs are bullshit!" This is the position that I lean towards: If it hasn't been identified, then don't get out in front of the (lack of) data by prejudging what it is or what it has to be. Seek more information if it's available. It's fine to form hypotheses, but they should serve as guides as to what kind of additional information we would like to acquire. Speculative hypotheses shouldn't slide over the line into being unsubstantiated conclusions.

    3. A 'UFO' is an 'unidentifiable flying object' (as opposed to 'unidentified'). If interpreted literally, this idea would indicate a sort of UFO-mysterianism, the idea that whatever UFO's are, they transcend human cognition. (We sometimes see similar ideas proposed regarding religious experience, which UFO experience so resembles.) I'm not sure what would justify a belief like this regarding UFO's. (There are theological justifications for the religious version, such as maintaining divine transcendence.)

    4. A 'UFO' is an unidentifiable flying object, but not unidentifiable in principle as in #3 above, but only unidentifiable in terms of current assumptions. It's basically the belief that UFO's, or at least the most difficult residual cases that can't easily and plausibly be reduced to mundane phenomena, must have extra-mundane explanations. Like #1 it seems to me to get too far out in front of the data.

    5. 'UFO' means 'alien spaceship'. Lots of "believers" seem locked into this interpretation. This one seems to obviously fall prey to the 'premature conclusion' and 'unjustified assumption' objections.

    6. 'UFO's' (or at least the more difficult residual cases) might be all manner of things: space-aliens, time-travelers, interdimensional- visitors, space animals sounding in Earth's atmosphere, as-yet unknown physical phenomena or an unknown (and unknowable) number of unsuspected possibilities. The science-fiction nut in me finds a grain of truth in this one since it suggests keeping an open mind. (If some 'UFO' reports do have an extra-mundane explanation, it might turn out to be something we don't even currently imagine.) But once again, confusing speculations for conclusions is unjustifiable and way out in front of the evidence.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
    Magical Realist likes this.
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  3. sculptor Valued Senior Member

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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That's the one I favor as well.
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I hold to a combination of 4 and 6. I think the evidence in the most compelling cases shows the existence of an extra mundane phenomena that could be any of those listed in 6. Detailed study of hundreds of these cases show ufos to be objects or phenomena with their own peculiar characteristics and nature that do not fit in any mundane category of conventional aircraft or natural occurrence. That's what ufologists mean when they say ufo. And that's the interpretation I find most useful in studying this phenomenon.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  8. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    Then you and the UFOologists you claim to speak for back yourselves into a logical corner necessitating that you be wrong a whole lot. Otherwise, you need a separate label to put on reports prior to their investigation, since most reported UFOs turn out to be mundane things.

    The real truth is that most UFOologists do not hold the definition you claim.
  9. origin Trump is the best argument against a democracy. Valued Senior Member

    In keeping with the OP, I submit the following interpretation of a ufologist:
    1. Pin Head
    2. Bone Head
    3. Knuckle Head
  10. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Here's a detailed report on all the characteristics of reported ufos. This gives a good overview as to why they are seen as extramundane objects by ufologists:
  11. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    If sufficient information were available, all instances would resolve to this class, even if that means we attain enough information to form new mundane explanations. If it has no possibility to become a new mundane explanation of class #1, then it would be class #3, unidentifiable even in principle. If #2 (agnostic) allows for the possibility of #3 (mysterious), then #2 might as well be #4 (identifiable in principle).

    Since #1 relies on sufficient info, it simply denies the permanently mysterious.
  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I submit that, like virtually anything, there are multiple levels of meaning.
    There are lay-meanings and there are technical meanings. Both are valid in their own contexts.

    In a well-defined debate, it is ambiguous which is being used until and unless a party states their definition, and others acknowledge it.

    (And this is why so many debates end up as semantic debates ... "which definition of 'UFO' are you using?" )
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't have any trouble with 4 and 6, so long as they aren't being advanced as true propositions, but rather as open possibilities, as propositions that might have some possibility of being true. How strong that likelihood is, I have no way of knowing. (I don't really think that it's quantifiable, so any estimate would have to be informal.)
  14. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

    ...which is why clarity/consistency of definitions is critical for discussion of anything. Otherwise, people won't even necessarily understand what each other is saying, making discussion useless.
  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    The mindset of #1 should be subsumed under #2 along with the rest. But given top status or initial priority investigation and hypothesis -wise, especially since its non-extraordinary expectations would still be the ones most often realized.

    If that stance fails to pan-out, authorities can tentatively explore the other options on the grounds of not ignoring all possible / imagined threats to security. If those in turn lead to nothing conclusive, then return to the base category of #2 and remain agnostically suspended there. In reality, of course, the best idea(s) proposed in the context of #1 would usually go on the books [regardless of the difficulty of being a good fit] and be dispensed to the public eye.

    Along with #4, #3 seems to open a backdoor to completely non-natural explanations (even if it advocates futility in terms of answers). An organization committed to science would have to avoid entertaining those slots because of either its methodological preconditions or ontological preconceptions. #5 and #6 still sound bound to fringe sci-fi and naturalistic containers.

    An "-ism" that genuinely sports perpetual mutability is no lasting, genuine distinction from the landscape of other schools of thought. If everytime it gets backed into a corner its strategy is to adapt or change itself to survive the criticism or problem or new information... Then over time it could thereby morph or revise its way into being any of the rest.

    Thus naturalism (in order to be a meaningful distinction from the rest) has to entail something permanent, something more than its mere superficial name or label that it would hang onto through a potential future of transformations. If broadly summing up what that might be, naturalism seems to entail that the universe globally hangs together coherently. Thus why human reason and experimental interrogation of it can yield reliable generalizations and conclusions about it.

    Should that not be the case, and there are incongruous events / circumstances which would not be consistent with the norms of any overarching scheme, then that anomalous / illegal character becomes a fracture for just about anything to enter imagination-wise (the "non-natural"). Valiant attempts to resist deviating from asserting that "the cosmos is partly irrational but that is a brute fact which requires no further reasons" would eventually collapse against the inherent human tendency to impose order and causes (even if they concern speculative, hidden realms or principles of over-elaborate complexity).

    Margaret Mead: "The negative cautions of science are never popular. If the experimentalist would not commit himself, the social philosopher, the preacher, and the pedagogue tried the harder to give a short-cut answer."
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    "There are unidentified flying objects. That is, there are a hard core of cases - perhaps 20 to 30 percent in different studies - for which there is no explanation... We can only imagine what purpose lies behind the activities of these quiet, harmlessly cruising objects that time and again approach the earth. The most likely explanation, it seems to me, is that they are simply watching what we are up to."

    (Mead, Margaret, "UFOs - Visitors from Outer Space?," Redbook, vol. 143, September 1974.
  17. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    ELAINE CHARNOV: Because Mead was interested in such a wide range of subjects, it is possible, under the umbrella of the Mead Film Festival, to include every kind of topic under the sun and beyond. In closing, I would like to provide one anecdote that is symbolic of this expansive worldview. It turns out that in a 1974 article she wrote for Redbook, the subject of that month was, "UFOs: Visitors from Outer Space?" Mead's opinion was sought on nearly every subject. Many even inquired if she "believes" in UFOs? Here's her response:

    I think this is a silly question, born of confusion. Belief has nothing to do with matters of faith; it has nothing to do with the kind of knowledge that is based on scientific inquiry. We should not bracket UFOs with angels, archangels, devils and demons. But this is just what we're doing when we ask whether people believe in UFOs; as if their existence were an article of faith. Do people believe in the sun or the moon, or the changing seasons, or the chairs they're sitting on? When we want to understand something strange, something previously unknown to anyone, we have to begin with an entirely different set of questions. What is it? How does it work? Are their recurrent regularities? Beginning in this way, with an open mind, people can take a hard look at all the evidence.

    Beginning with an open mind is what Mead was all about. --The Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival
  18. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    We have to have evidence to ask any of those questions, and when the quality of available evidence is itself questionable, conclusions can only be tentative belief.
  19. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

  20. paddoboy Valued Senior Member



    Many people are surprised to learn that virtually 90% of all UFO reports can be and have been explained. The major argument seems to be over whether the remaining 10% is "noise" or "signal". Herewith, a list of things which have been the primary cause of UFO reports in the past. It's a list that any investigator should be aware of when studying a particular report. It was compiled by Donald Menzel, a noted debunker of the 50s and 60s, who characterized this list as "minimal and highly abbreviated". (From "UFOs: A Scientific Debate", Sagan and Page, eds. consisting of papers presented at a symposium sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Boston on Dec. 26-27, 1969, ISBN 0-393-00739-1)


    1. Upper Atmosphere

    satellite reentry
    rocket firings
    ionosphere experiments
    sky-hook balloons (discontinued)

    2. Lower Atmosphere

    reflection of sun
    running lights
    landing lights
    weather balloons
    sewage disposal
    soap bubbles
    military test craft
    military experiments
    magnesium flares
    birds migrating

    3. Very Low Atmosphere

    paper and other debris
    spider webs
    (electrical discharge)
    milkweed, etc.

    4. On or Near Ground

    dust devils
    power lines
    elevated streetlights
    reflections from windows
    water tanks
    lightning rods
    TV antennas
    automobile headlights
    lakes and ponds
    beacon lights
    domed roofs
    radar antennas
    radio astronomy antennas
    insect swarms
    oil refineries
    cigarettes tossed away


    1. Upper Atmosphere

    auroral phenomena
    noctilucent clouds

    2. Lower Atmosphere

    reflections of searchlights
    plasma phenomena
    ball lightning
    St. Elmo's Fire
    reflections from fog and mist
    pilot's halo
    ghost of the Brocken


    artificial satellites


    after images
    reflections from bright sources
    electric lights
    street lights
    (smoker lighting pipe)
    stars unsteady
    stars changing places
    falling leaf effect
    eye defects
    failure to wear glasses
    reflection from glasses
    entoptic phenomena
    retinal defects
    vitreous humor





    development defects
    internal camera reflections


    anomalous refraction
    ghost images
    multiple reflections

  21. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member


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  22. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    UFO sightings news: Mysterious cloud mistaken for UFO over Mt Etna
    Jun 21, 2016 03:23 AM EDT

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    UFO hoaxer fuels worry about an attack on Turkey
    by idoubtit • November 30, 2016
    A fear about an invasion by UFOs sparked a small panic on social media on Sunday, November 27. The story played out AS IF many people were seeing and reporting the same cluster of lights in the sky across the country and even later in other places. But that wasn’t what was happening. Our UFO media expert, Scott Brando, (@UFOofInterest) spotted the trending story as it made waves.

    He saw it happening via his daily search for tweets and news on UFO sightings. “I noticed that the keywords “ufo turkey” were very frequent in the results of my research. Reading several tweets about this alleged mass ufo sighting, people shared them with the hashtag #ufoattacktoturkey.” Some people said the tag was trending but then disappeared. There was no evidence shown that this even happened. The story went viral when a well-known UFO hoax site on YouTube, SecureTeam10, run by Tyler Glockner, made a video compilation and stirred up manufactured concern. Their “Breaking News” report about the Turkey event has nearly a half million views. A second video with more fake reports, has nearly 400,000. In the second video, Glockner promoted ridiculously false statements about the media being run by government, and that these sightings and reports are being “censored” across all platforms (an impossibility) because there is something going on “they” don’t want us to know about. His videos of these non-events turn them into reality for his tens of thousands of subscribers and received media publicity ensuring he gets additional eyeballs.

    The Reddit thread also fanned the flames, with the participants exhibiting “hysterics”. The thread was shut down after it was clear it was a hoax. When Reddit calls for people to use some critical thinking, you KNOW you are off the chart.
  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Wow. Photos of clouds that look just like clouds. Amazing!

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