UFOs (UAPs): Explanations?

Discussion in 'UFOs, Ghosts and Monsters' started by Magical Realist, Oct 10, 2017.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Were you trying to bait me? If so, congratulations are in order, I suppose? You know I'm a skeptic.

    I think some of your criticisms of skeptics are flawed, especially the ones based on your Big Lie that holds that skeptics have already made up their minds about claims before they examine them.
    paranormal (n.): (1.) Seemingly outside normal sensory channels. (2) Not in accordance with scientific laws.

    Like it or not, I have little choice but to tolerate believers in the paranormal. For starters, there's just so damn many of them! I'm outnumbered.

    I have already explained at some length as to why believing in the paranormal, in the absence of any good evidence for it, is an error in thinking. I am rather resigned to the reality that a really huge number of people believe in all kinds of things for all kinds of really bad reasons, though. The paranormal is just one example of that kind of thing, and not even the most important sort of example, although it does tend to produce a whole bunch of negative flow-on effects. What we believe tends to affect how we act. When we believe for bad reasons, we also often go on to act for bad reasons.
    Do you care about what is true? I think you do. If you do, it follows that, at least in some cases, you might want to argue for the truth in the face of falsehood. In some cases, I would argue it is a moral imperative to do so, even when it involves "attacking other people's beliefs". Don't you agree?
    They (we) aren't misusing the word. As far as applying critical scrutiny "in house" goes, that is something you might not be aware of, looking from the "outside", but it certainly goes on, I assure you.

    Personally, I'm open to having discussions which critically scrutinise my own beliefs. It's a fantastic way to expose flaws in my own thinking and to learn new things. It's one reason I'm here on sciforums.
    You might not use the word, but you often talk about how there may be things "beyond science" or things that we can't know about through our senses. I'd say you've advocated for it pretty thoroughly, even on the current topic of UFOs.
    That's not actually saying anything that is controversial. No skeptic here has ever claimed that we know everything that there is to know, or that science is complete, or anything like that. We have claimed that there's no good evidence for things "beyond the senses" and similar - i.e. paranormal things.
    I agree.
    Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. Nobody needs to have "faith" in mathematics. In mathematics, assertions are either proven or not proven. It's black and white. There are axioms in every formal system, of course, which are necessarily unprovable using that particular system. There's the unexpected messiness uncovered by Godel. But axioms in mathematics are recognised as such. They are working assumptions. We acknowledge, consciously, that they might not be true.

    Similarly, "reason" does not require faith. Experience shows that reason works as advertised. There are some assumptions there, too, of course, but although unprovable they, and the deductions drawn using them, are consistent with experience.

    Few people other than philosophers ever seriously question that there is an objective reality. The philosophers can't provide any evidence or convincing argument that there isn't one, so like much else it turns out to be a most useful working assumption. As a philosopher, you might argue that there's no evidence that there is an objective reality, but then your friend, the philosopher across the room, will politely inform you that you're wrong about that and, in fact, everything we perceive is evidence of an objective reality. You can go back and forth on that with him if you like.
    The difference is that you're unwilling to recognise that I am quite able and willing to look at them with a critical eye. Indeed, I have already spent some time doing just that.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It doesn't take adherence to a dogma to recognise "woo". We're talking about critical thinking here, remember, Yazata.

    Here you are, crowing about your superior thinking powers, which transcend those of mere skeptics such as myself. Yet you want me to believe that you can't see the obvious holes in the thinking (if you can call it that) of somebody like Magical Realist, on the topic of UFOs or ghosts?

    There's no need to have faith that believers in woo are shoddy thinkers. You only need to look at the evidence. Listen to them. Talk to them. Observe what they do. Observe what they accept to be true, and the basis on which they accept those things.

    This isn't hard. You don't have to be Socrates to spot the errors in thinking when it comes to this stuff.
    No skeptic in the "movement", as far as I am aware, has ever advocated for any form of physical violence against believers in any kind of "woo". In fact, those in the "skeptical movement" tend, far more often than not, to be vocal advocates for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

    Nice try at smearing skeptics with the worst excesses of religious bigotry, though, Yazata. Classy.
    Helpfully, Magical Realist has already provided some instructive examples for you. Magical Realist thinks UFOs represent beings from other dimensions, or something like that. That would be an example of a "paranormal" hypothesis to explain UFOs. Ghosts driving magical chariots across the skies. It doesn't get much more paranormal than that!
    I agree, of course, that it would be an intellectual failure in the cases you mention.

    My worry, though, is that you're already getting your excuses ready in case the committee reports back with the very likely "nothing to see here, folks!"

    You will explain that away by claiming that they were never open minded in the first place, that the investigation is a sham, etc.

    On the other hand, if the committee comes back and says "Hey, guys, we think it might be the woo after all!" I doubt you'll be complaining about the processes and procedures and attitudes then.

    We've seen this before, so we know what to expect. Tales of government conspiracies and shady organisations and disinformation black ops. The government has aliens at Area 51, you know, but they ain't tell nobody! It's a white wash.

    While the investigation is going on, it's all good, because it attracts more attention for the Cause. New recruits for the Believer Brigade! The problems only come when the investigators finish their work. Then, as usual, the Believers will find excuses to keep right on believing.
    You think I'm bullying Magical Realist. That's disappointing. It also infantilises him, in my opinion.

    He is a willing - eager! - participant in this thread, and more generally on this forum. I have always assumed he is an adult, too. Please correct me if I'm wrong on either count.
    How do you know what "most people" think about that? And what makes you think reality is "more mysterious" than I, for example, seem to think? Do you actually have the foggiest idea about how mysterious I might consider reality to be? Based on what?

    It seems to me that you're making quite a lot of assumptions about other people's thoughts and opinions. Maybe you should ask them what they think? You might be surprised. It might even turn out that some of them are familiar with the ideas of Socrates and Descartes.
    Yes, I'm aware of all of that.

    I agree with you about the reasons for certain things being classified: both the national security reasons and the anal tendencies reasons.

    As to expertise, I don't think that the US military has a monopoly on technical expertise or big analysis brains. When it comes to the investigation of UFO reports, in fact, I think it is very likely that there are plenty of civilian experts who have far more relevant experience and expertise than the military delegates who will be giving the military's cases the once-over.

    I would hope that the relevant committee is wise enough to draw on the pool of specific expertise that is already out there, rather than trying to keep everything in a pool of in-house people whose specialities lie outside the realm of UFO investigation. Let's face it, the military doesn't pay people to dedicate their careers to investigating the paranormal, whereas there are some civilian organisations that do exactly that. Drawing on the available pool of talent and experience would also boost the credibility of any final report.
    I think you're hedging your bets. If the report supports your existing opinions, you'll proclaim it to be Good; if it doesn't, you'll find excuses to discredit it.

    As for me, I don't expect this report, when it comes out, will do anything significant to change the landscape of UFO believers and skeptics. In all likelihood, I expect the report to conclude that there's still no good evidence for little green men, but there are some UFO reports that lack sufficient data to reach a firm conclusion, which will leave us approximately where we started. The UFO believers will cry "conspiracy!" and claim a cover-up, like they did last time. The believers will go on believing. The skeptics will go on pointing out all the reasons the believers don't have good reason for believing. Life will go on.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
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  5. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    You haven't provided anything to show that anything "defies anything known", so far.

    I don't suppose you're going to produce anything new on this.

    This is just hot air from you, isn't it?
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    You pack a lot into that "know the account is genuine" phrase. Good try, MR!

    We know that a guy called Fravor gave an account in which he reported some stuff and ventured some opinions. All that is genuine. What we want to know is the extent to which Fravor's opinions, among others, comport with objective reality. We certainly don't know whether Fravor's opinions are a "genuine" description of something that actually happened in reality.

    There is nothing to explain about any "flight manoeuvres" until we have some reliable data that shows the alleged flight manoeuvres actually occurred.

    You have no data, of course. So, where to from here?
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It doesn't look like the discussion has ended.

    But I'm interested. Look at Mick West's analysis of the Starlink satellite example, above. Can you see "no effort really", there? Or will you acknowledge that West did, in fact, put in some effort towards explaining that case?

    Having got that far, watch West's explanation of the "gimbal" video, for instance. It was posted earlier in the thread, but I can find the link again for you if you need it. What is your assessment of "effort" that went into that video? West explains what he did, in the video, as is typical for him.

    Leaving West aside, again, what puzzles me is why you're putting the onus on skeptics to disprove the crazy claims of the tin foil brigade, rather than putting the onus on the believers to provide convincing evidence. Why the double standard? It seems to me that it is belief in little green men that requires "no effort really". All you have to do is believe and not ask (or answer) too many inconvenient questions.

    Take our friend Magical Realist, for example. Yet again, he has claimed that the tic tac performed flight manoeuvres that defy the laws of physics (or, at least, the performance characteristics of any known human aircraft or animal). But he can't and won't provide any evidence that any such manoeuvres actually ever happened, other than some opinions by "eyewitnesses" that assume or conclude they must have happened, based on sporadic visual sightings made under conditions where perceptual errors have been shown to be common.

    Digging up real evidence and analysing it properly is often hard work.

    Don't you find it strange that the UFO Believers, who seemingly have the most to gain if their beliefs turn out to be true, are unwilling to put in the effort necessary to prove their claims to the satisfaction of anyone who isn't already a dedicated believer?

    Why are UFO believers so lazy? It's almost as if they don't care whether it's real.
    That's an interesting comparison.

    There's a good reason the prosecutors in a criminal case have to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. We don't want to convict innocent people of crimes they didn't commit. To make the analogy, this would be like concluding that a UFO is an alien spaceship, when actually it is just a mistaken sighting of the planet Venus.

    This also means that we risk the occasional guilty criminal walking away from court as a free person. By analogy, it could be that the aliens are actually real, but our sensible, high standards of proof mean that we (the skeptics) don't believe in them, regardless.

    In the best case scenario, though, we hope that the criminal who got away with it the first time will later be convicted for a subsequent offence. There might even be a new trial if significant new evidence comes to light. The same applies to the UFOs. If there's ever some really convincing evidence, I assure you that the skeptics will, for the most part, become alien believers over night.

    Why aren't the UFO believers looking for the smoking gun?
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I'll be pleased to hear your thoughts on the Starlink example I provided about. Do you find West's analysis there convincing, or not? Is this the exception to your general rule?
    Do you have an example of a case where there was radar and visual "confirmation" (of what?) which Mick West ignored in his analysis? I am most interested to see some evidence that supports your accusations.

    Maybe you and wegs can work together to come up with a suitable example showing West's wilful ignoring of some relevant evidence.

    As for Fravor, his expertise at spotting and tracking enemy aircraft would not necessarily help him to assess and correctly identify something seen under unusual circumstances. For instance, I'm not sure how familiar he would be with identifying, by eye alone, objects or animals flying low over water, far beneath his own aircraft.

    It is interesting that, like Magical Realist, you think you need to decide who to trust to get to the bottom of this. You need to take somebody's word for it. That's probably why you're having so much trouble.

    It's strange. You admit that Fravor could have made "perceptual errors", but you're still willing to "take his word" for whatever he says he though the tic tac was. Why is that? Because you don't like Mick West and you're drawn to Fravor's sunnier disposition?

    Sure, Fravor has "aviation experience" that West might lack. But West has UFO analysis experience that Fravor probably lacks. So, if you're all about taking somebody's word for it, it seems to me you have a conundrum that you really ought to give a little more thought to.

    I would suggest that the better approach is to stop just "taking people's word" for stuff, and start looking for corroborating evidence, particularly when it comes to establishing extraordinary claims.
    What made it increasingly clear to you? Did you gather more and more evidence? Or did you just take more and more people's word for it?
    Has somebody done that with Fravor? Who?
    You ought to be able to do better than raise that kind of false equivalency straw man, Yazata. Shame on you.
    Nobody wants to do that, your Big Lie notwithstanding.
    Another straw man. Nobody has criticised you for taking the possibility of aliens seriously. All the skeptics here have done exactly the same thing.
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It's really hard to estimate the a priori probability of aliens.

    They might indeed be improbable, or they might not. It depends on what assumptions you put into the probability calculation.

    Please google "Drake equation" and read the relevant wikipedia article. It will give you an introduction to what is involved in making the estimate. Note that the probability that aliens are visiting Earth is (obviously) less probable than the probability that aliens exist in the first place.

    For the purposes of the current discussion, a priori estimates of probability aren't really relevant, though. If you believe the aliens are here, you must have reasons for believing that, right? So you don't need a probability calculation. You just need to tell us all why you believe aliens are here. Some evidence would be really useful, too, though Yazata would probably be happy to just take your word for it over Mick West's.

    If you've got evidence, please feel free to offer it up any time.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    No. They will see them as a reasonable approximation to a more advanced theory, in some appropriate limit.

    We know we haven't got physics "wrong". We just don't know it all yet.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It is no surprise that you're unfamiliar with skeptical writings about the mysterious nature of the universe. You ought to read more widely. You might learn something.

    Also, perhaps best not to comment on things you know nothing about. Just a little advice. Asking questions is good.
    How religious of you.
    Never fear, MR. Your woo is not being ignored.
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Question everything!

    Who wrote the article? Was the CIA agent identified, or anonymous? Who heard the confession? Who recorded it? The key question is: how do we know this actually happened? Can we check the facts?

    This sounds like an urban myth to me.
    Good question! Do you think it would?
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Yesterday I saw a UFO. It was during the day, buzzing a commercial jet flying overhead. I took note of the time of day, the sky viz, viewing direction, estimated altitude and shape of the object, which was pretty visible. It looked a whole bunch like a flying car (i.e. a car without wheels - like the submersible Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me).

    I was looking forward to posting my findings and all the details here, so you can imagine how disappointed I was to wake up and discover I'd dreamt the whole thing - including the part about writing up the account and posting it here.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  15. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    lol! I was going to say, why didn’t you take a pic and post it here??

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  16. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Thanks, MR. You and CC are kind of my online virtual family and I appreciate both of you very much.

    All we have to do is ask 'why' about anything, ask 'why' again when we get an answer... and we will find that we are at the frontiers of human knowledge after only a few iterations. Pretty much all of our beliefs just kind float in the air like that.

    I guess that I'm expressing my personal skepticism about foundationalism.


    I expect that some of them do. Carl Sagan is famous for chanting his reverent "billions and billions" (as beautiful astronomical photos appeared on the screen and the music swelled) which expressed his own awe at the scale of the universe. But no matter how large the universe is, I doubt if Carl the astrophysicist ever felt much doubt about his principles of astrophysics. Which would suggest that he probably thought that while he didn't know precisely what is happening on all those 'billions and billions' of exoplanets, he did expect that he knew the rules of the game that constrain all events that can possibly happen anywhere and anywhen.

    Yes. I agree and so did Albert Einstein in his later years. It was Einstein that noted that out of all the animal species on Earth, only human beings can comprehend the laws of physics. So is it not hubris to assume that human beings are the apex of all possible cognition anywhere in the universe and that there can't be aspects of reality that are as far beyond our intellectual powers as Maxwell's equations are beyond the understanding of a cockroach? (I have that from a professor who knew Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. My guess is that might have been Einstein's response to struggling with the ontology of quantum mechanics which he might have suspected the human mind is unsuited to understand.)

    I'm inclined to agree with that, though obviously I can't prove it. (How would one go about proving it?)

    They might be, or maybe not. Perhaps they do all have more "mundane" (familiar, uninteresting, humdrum) explanations. But it does seem to be inexcusable hubris to assume that reality can't behave in unexpected ways or that the mission of rational people must be to defeat any suggestion that it can.
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  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Not so religious as mystical. Mystical in the sense of being in awe and wonder at the incredible reality I am surrounded by and at my conscious grasp of its presence and meticulous orderliness. I am not driven by a faith in some invisible divinity. I am rather inspired by the self-evident fact of an immediately accessible yet infinitely transcendent Being and of being aware of this fact in the depths of my very soul.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2022
  18. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Ditto, you and MR. Especially in terms of the years, and still surviving even after the leap from that original firewalled community subservient to a web device with only 2MB to 16MB of memory.

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  19. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    So that is just your opinion isn't it? An opinion biased by an agenda to debunk all uap sightings as mundane objects. So we have the direct firsthand account of an experienced pilot of the uap based on empirical observation and confirmed by another pilot and radar, and we have your opinion, based on nothing but armchair speculation and confirmation bias. Which is more reliable? Hmmm...

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    Last edited: Dec 7, 2022
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    This is an ad hom. You are attacking the arguer, not the argument. That is not a valid rebuttal. (It is also merely your opinion** that the arguer has a biased agenda to debunk all uap sightings as mundane objects.)

    What is notable about such an ad hom is the implication that - since you think your best foot forward is to attack the arguer - you implicitly acknowledge that you can find no fault with his argument. That's tantamount to a concession and James R's argument stands unrebutted.

    2. **Your opinion is wrong.

    James R says "We certainly don't know whether Fravor's opinions are a "genuine" description of something that actually happened in reality."

    That is not an opinion of James R's, that is a statement of objective logic. When someone claims they experienced something, we do not know if it actually happened, Generally we choose to believe it when people tell us things, but that's not good enough in such instances.

    eg. What would you do if your friend Bob claimed he spoke to God? Would you concede that, because he said it, it must correspond to reality?

    Or would you acknowledge that it may not have been a genuine description of reality? That you can't know it was. Logically, objectively, you must.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2022
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  21. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    I’m on my phone and not going to respond to every quote but in a nutshell, my view on West is that he is exactly like the conspiracy theorist or the radical UFO believer who says “it’s aliens,” just on the complete other end of the spectrum. I believe he has some insightful, thoughtful opinions and he seems passionate about debunking UFO sightings. There’s nothing wrong with that and experienced pilots aren’t immune to making mistakes. But, West will only ever debunk and that’s not exactly someone looking for the truth.

    I’m a skeptic, James, but I’m in the middle of the spectrum, so that means that I don’t conclude that aliens exist or even advanced technology of this world exists, based on say the tic tac video. But, saying “the odds of it being a weather balloon is pretty small,” is still too woo-ish I guess for West.

    That would be the truth, though.

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    I can appreciate debunkers though, as long as they can admit when something unusual is a mystery. Truthfully, we should all be skeptics and not debunkers because skeptics hold out judgement until they have sufficient proof of whatever the claim may be. And that’s not West.
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  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    I think such labels are dangerous. The difference between a skeptic and a debunker is in the eye of the beholder. It would be better to examine the actual arguments and decide on a case-by-case basis, if they objectively hold water.

    The point is, there is no need to "trust" or "distrust" anyone. It doesn't matter whether its West of someone else - just review the arguments and decide for yourself if they hold water.
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  23. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    That's right. Agree. But, if we're honest, we tend to gravitate towards people who think like us. West has a fan club of sorts.

    I think that West doesn't look at all of the information given to him. He tends to look at the information that will confirm his bias as a debunker. If he were a garden variety skeptic, he'd have an easier time saying ''we don't know, it's honestly a mystery for now.''
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