Science: Explanation versus obfuscation

Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by DaveC426913, Mar 3, 2023.

  1. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Since this is a forum that "welcomes contributions that reflect the diverse range of perspectives and experiences of our members" * and at the same time "abides by reasonable standards of intellectual integrity and honesty" *, it is not one to muzzle or silence opinions by James R or others.

    But the increasingly widening gap between "integrity and honesty" and ... whatever this is is causing quite a bit of strife, notably for those who are actually interested in the topic of the thread, which is, by definition, UFOs(UAPs): explanations.

    I propose that this monster thread of 8500+ posts, be reserved for posts that further the attempts at explanation of UAPs by - at the very least - laying all the cards on the table.

    Sure, there's room on SciFo for posts that further the myssssstery of UAPs - say, by hiding some of the more boring explanations away - but I think it's important to delineate these two motives.

    I propose then, that posts whose contribution is geared more toward furthering the mystery of UAPs be moved to their own thread. Perhaps it might be named "UFOs(UAPs): Obfuscations" but that's just a suggestion.

    I propose that all posts from 8472 onward by moved there. Actually, I propose that we could cull a whole bunch of thereby useless discussion with this change - all my complaints about honesty and integrity can be deleted since they won't apply in a thread where such thing are counter-productive to keeping the air of myyystery.

    This would certainly go a long way toward relieving the friction. You won't hear complaints from me (which means I can uphold the site ethos of treating "participants with courtesy and basic good manners" *) and ideally you won't hear complaints from the mystery enthusiasts. Those who participate in one or the other thread would know clearly what the goal of the thread is and would not have to waste page after page arguing about "boring, pedantic, anal retentive " details such as forthrightness, honesty and integrity.

    foghorn likes this.
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  3. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    General Note

    "Increasingly widening gap"? It's been this way for years. If I suggest thinking back to recall over five years ago↗, well, yeah, like you said.

    I've lost more staff arguments about integrity and honesty than I can recall.

    So, sure, there might be a problem, but it's been there a long time. And as a comparative policy question, expectations of integrity and honesty are, at Sciforums, considered dangerous aggression against free speech. For instance, compared to the wide berth I'm supposed to give certain issues, consistency demands those are not the only ones. Compared to the injustice of expecting other people to support their arguments, ufology isn't really a high priority. And don't get me started on some of the Covid bullshit that rolled through here along the way.

    The problem is that we don't really have any standards; actually having standards is considered dangerous aggression against free speech. When it comes time to deal with something in the community, we're mostly winging it more often than not. As long as it's routine, you'd be more likely to notice what we're not doing.

    Beyond that, it actually starts to get complicated, beacuse everything is ad hoc and malleable.

    And while I understand at least some of your frustration, and, yes, the circumstance can look like the dumbest thing in the world, the increasingly widening gap might actually be your narrowing, winnowing patience. Really, it's been this way for a long time.

    And, just ... because it needs to be said: You know those occasions when moderator disputes spill into public view, and people might remark lightly about the parents fighting in front of the kids, or some such? It happens, sometimes, and yes, some of those episodes have to do with things like the role of integrity and honesty in posting, and, yes, I've been losing those policy arguments for years.

    That, however, is a very general sketch.

    Part of the question will come back to what people, here, actually want. The particulars, even in the circumstance you refer to, are complicated, sticky, and often seem kind of silly.
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  5. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    That is by far an intriguing question.

    I want to know.
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Considered by whom? To-wit:

    Will it? That's news.

    I was to understand that the decisions about forum policy were passed down from on-high by way of blood runes scratched on the back of a newly hatched platypus set free upstream of SciFo HQ by the shadowy elders Who Shall Not Be Named from their riverside lair. The upshot being that conversation flows one way and one way only - i.e: downstream.
  8. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Regarding the UAP thread, is it obfuscation or it is mere speculation (on the part of UFO enthusiasts) of which some here take offense?

    If there's anything that the UAP thread underscores, is that unfortunately, there is still a stigma when it comes to UFO research, and discussion. I see your point though, in that science is about logic, rational thinking and finding the truth. But, isn't science also about exploration, and tapping into curiosity and mystery? There is a lot of mockery in the UAP thread, but (to be fair) that seems to be around speculating about space aliens.

    Instead of splitting the original thread, is the problem that UFO's are being conflated with space alien aircrafts?
    Magical Realist likes this.
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No, the problem is the hypocrisy of UFO enthusiasts coming to the table with their conclusions already drawn, using atrocously bad logic and critical thinking - while complaining about skeptics coming to the table with their conclusions already drawn.
  10. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    What with the runaway colonial guilt trip that the West is on, there should definitely be "inclusive" alternatives like that. Whether pertaining to such a UAP topic, "native mathematics", or the supposed traditional sciences of the Earth's multitude of older cultures (i.e., those not outputted by European institutions of recent centuries).

    The bias toward the WEIRD population is more than just a problem for psychology, it is pervasive and smothering to the many diverse thought orientations of the world.

    With respect to zeroing in on the UAP issue alone... Granted, a shift toward indigenous interpretations of UAPs could not even be in a fledgling state yet. But I can see an incremental development and promise looming on the horizon. Someday the wisdom of local mythos may shed illumination on these anomalous sightings, taking them beyond the limited Western conceptions of them as weather balloons, Venus, space aliens, time travelers, etc.

    A Strange Native American Tale of a Crashed UFO

    Govt. Documents Released Showing Brazilian Indigenous People Had UFO and Alien Encounters 2013-2016
  11. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Here's some irony: If we look back five years↗, not only does much of the subsequent discussion↗ still apply, but the UAP thread at the heart of the present discussion was carved out↗ of that latter, which in turn affects how we assess it in the present.

    But, sure, that old discussion is a fine example for review.

    • • •​

    Even five years ago, I thought it was pretty clear. Here's a fun one, and it reaches back a few years: Last year↗ I had occasion to recall the time I actually came right out and said, "since rational discourse itself is anathema as a result of … policy prerogatives", and who knows, maybe he was just glossing some other part of what he quoted, but way back when I said it, James does appear to have agreed↗. The whole mess just runs—stumbles, slouches—around in circles.

    Anathema is my word in all that; James expresses it more as a fear of corruption and political vendetta, that the prospect of standards of rational discourse sounds like an excuse to suppress disdained politics. Basically, the Administration doesn't trust the staff¹; James worried that it's all just an excuse to suppress certain points of view, and that certain moderators were showing tendencies to abuse their position. That part reaches back even before the 2017 examples, and refuses to distinguish between speech and behavior. Here is an interesting question: Is certain behavior the best that argument can achieve? Try it another way: If one cannot behave that way, do they really have no other means of communicating their argument? To simplify further: So, that person, there, is lying; we ought not stop him from lying because we do not wish to suppress that political position.

    Or, as I've said before, some arguments are difficult to support rationally. This ought to be a silly question: If one is not allowed to misrepresent sources or present fallacy as legitimate argument, what point of view or political position is silenced or suppressed?

    Archetypal application: Do we presume that advocacy of a particular issue requires fallacy and misrepresentation? Do we presume the advocates incapable of behaving otherwise? That is to say, we do not wish to suppress political views, and as there is no other way to advocate for this political position, we must necessarily allow this person to ... well, right, allow them to what?

    Flip-side: What is the line between protecting bigotry and facilitating open discussion? It's even tougher to answer if we exclude good faith and rational discourse.²

    And there is a part of this that says, wait, I'm supposed to give which benefit of what doubt in order to go easy on ... huh? Comparatively, maybe fortean crackpottery just seems a strange priority. Ufology is the bigger concern? We're in whipping idol territory.

    That can be complicated in another way. I should probably give some thought to the breadth of the answer. But think of it like, the threads we start, what we contribute to other threads, and even what we complain about.

    And that last is bigger than this thread; I was actually thinking about someting else, entirely, and looking over the notes from sixteen months ago, it turns out there's irony there, too. But part of what happens is that, compared to what James and I might dispute, it's hard to figure out what people want us to do. Or not, but, rather, we could probably reduce this place to about seven people along the way.


    ¹ see, "On 'Cancel Culture'" #139↗ and 149↗ for a version of this: "The problem, in the public arena, I think lies in deciding who we can trust to be the gatekeepers", James R suggested, to which, Tiassa responded:

    "At the point that, say, you're an Administrator, and Bells and I are moderators, there is a context by which that would have been our job. This is one of the reasons why I sometimes remind that some arguments are hard to justify rationally. It's not that a range of discourse is inherently and fundamentally off-limits, but that an obligation to rationality might disrupt its most common iterations."

    ² Downstream in the same exchange as the prior note—James R↗: "You were serious about wanting 'proper scientific arguments' for white supremacism, then? I assumed that was you being sarcastic." It's a fourth-wall performance; the pretense of confusion is kind of unbelievable.​
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I think that speculation is something that both sides in this little war are doing. Both sides are hypothesizing about various sighting reports. (Hypothesizing isn't necessarily bad, it's a basic part of the stereotypical 'scientific method'.)

    The problem seems to revolve around the nature of the speculations.

    I guess that explaining consists of reducing the unknown to the known. So explanations will only seem to work when they redescribe some event in terms of concepts that are already accepted by the one doing the explaining or by those expected to accept the explanation.

    But the history of ideas, from ancient times to now, illustrates that our existing stock of concepts, the ways we habitually think about things, is often insufficient to explain what we want to explain. Sometimes we need to add and subtract from our bag of concepts before some phenomenon starts to make sense. (Think of the nature of life before the 19th-20th centuries or chemistry before the 18th century.)

    Space aliens seems to be a concept that some people are unwilling to accept, hence it can't play any role in explanations that they are willing to accept.

    We don't know what the UAPs are. (True.) The stock of concepts that we currently accept as valid explanatory principles may or may not be sufficient to explain the more problematic reports. (True.) In some of the cases we lack sufficient information to make that leap either way based on anything more than what we already believe. (Certainly arguable and I think it's true.)

    I have no objection to hypothesizing about space aliens as long as the hypothesis is acknowledged to be entirely speculative at this point: If space aliens (or their artifacts like robots) are visiting the solar system, then they might be responsible for some of the some of the sightings. (Seems entirely plausible to me.)

    But I'm more doubtful about arguing in the other direction: The argument that the observed sightings should be accepted as evidence that space aliens are visiting the solar system. In retrospect from the vantage point of a hypothetical future in which we discover the space aliens, it might prove from that perspective to have been true now. But I don't think that we should make that kind of leap today, given our current state of knowledge and knowing what we currently know. (Scientific discovery is a boostrap process.)

    So my belief is that the most rational position to take today is agnostic. The observed reports seem to be consistent with an unknown number of possible explanations, ranging from the mundane and uninteresting to many possible explanations that we haven't even thought of yet. Space aliens is just one hypothetical possibility, and probably not the most likely one. (Though judgments of prior likelihood are themselves speculations, since they once again depend on what we already believe.)

    The only thing we can truthfully say with real justification is "I don't know".
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2023
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  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    All right. So be it.

    That means, every time I have said "this is a science site", it is me who has been in the wrong. MR should not have been banned; it should have been me, attempting - per SciFo philosophy - to silence opinions - because all opinions, no matter how ignorant - are entitled to be heard.

    So why then, is it not me who has been getting warnings and bannings?

    This makes no sense. James R literally calls MR a fool, an idiot and a troll, yet it is me who is contrary to SciFo's ethos. Moving forward, I expect you and/or James R to uphold your duty, and warn me every time I try to push back on irrational, ignorant and destructive opinions, and - when I have accumulated enough - perma-ban me.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I responded to Yazata's post, above, in the UFO thread.

    Posting the same message to multiple threads is a bad idea, and we generally discourage it. I'm not sure why we needed a repeat here.

    But if we're doing that, well, here's my response again:

    No. We're beyond that.

    The problem is that your side of this little war keeps telling lies about what my side of this war claims (and/or believes).

    As you rightly say, there is nothing wrong with tossing hypotheses around. Some hypotheses will not be supported by evidence; others might have more or less supporting evidence. This sort of thing is completely standard in scientific investigations - indeed, in careful investigations of any kind.

    Let's be clear: you are completely free to speculate that the bluish light somebody reported seeing in the sky was an Angelic Being from God's Heaven, or a super-advanced aquatic alien spaceship from the planet Zog, or a luminous ghost remnant from the wreck of the Mary Celeste, or the planet Venus.

    If you have evidence that points convincingly towards the conclusion that the light was, in fact, a luminous ghost remnant from the Mary Celeste, that's fantastic. (When I say "convincingly", I'm referring, of course, not just to what happens to convince you, but what will convince the average disinterested scientist, say.)

    If you lack good evidence for the existence of Celestine ghosts in general, or, more specifically, you lack good evidence that connects the particular blue light in question to ghosts from the Mary Celeste, then your hypothesis will remain a weak possibility at best. On the other hand, there is a lot of good evidence for the existence of the planet Venus, along with a lot of good evidence that the planet Venus often appears as a bright bluish light in the sky. So, long before we even start to examine the particular circumstances of this particular sighting of a bluish light in the sky, the probability that the light will turn out to be the planet Venus is already much more likely than that it will turn out to be ghosts from the Mary Celeste. Nothing in this guarantees that it will turn out to be Venus, or that it won't turn out to be ghosts from the Mary Celeste, of course. The only thing that will guarantee is if we are able to definitively rule out one or both of those possibilities. Maybe Venus was not in the right position in the sky when the blue light was seen; in that case we would know it can't be Venus.

    It's interesting to think about what might prove that the bluish light was not a ghost from the Mary Celeste, too. Can we falsify that hypothesis, in a similar way to how we could potentially falsify the possibility that it was the planet Venus?

    If we can't ever prove that the thing was not a ghost from the Mary Celeste, that probably means that the Celestine ghost hypothesis is not scientific. The scientist says "Hey, I checked the star chart, and the planet Venus was in exactly the right place in the sky to correspond to the sighting of that bluish light! Sure looks like Venus to me." But then the ghost hunter says "It could just as well have been a ghost from the Mary Celeste hiding the planet Venus and appearing in the place normally occupied by the planet in the sky. Ghosts are tricksy that way!" Who's to say the ghost hunter is wrong, then? I mean, after all, we can't ever know anything for sure. Right? (Descartes be damned.)
    In science it often amounts to coming up with a useful predictive model to describe the observed and repeatable phenomenon at hand.

    UFO enthusiasts typically demand that UFOs be unpredictable and unrepeatable. It's almost as if they are designed to confound standard investigative methods. Funny, that.
    As you admit just after this sentence, that's not true. There are many counter-examples from the history of science in which new concepts were required before a phenomenon was considered to be understood.
    Maybe so. But you know that none of those people are talking to you here, in this thread, on sciforums. Because we have told you that we're all willing to accept the existence of space aliens. All we require is some convincing evidence for them.
    By definition. The "U" still stands for "unidentified". The ones that have been identified are no longer unidentified, obviously. We know what they are, because we identified them.
    There has not yet been a single case in which the stock of concepts we currently accept as valid has been proven insufficient for explaining problematic reports. (True.)
    Hence "U" is for "unidentified".
    None of the skeptics here have ever objected to this claim. As you know.

    That "If" in bold type is doing a LOT of heavy lifting, there, though. Don't you agree? Especially because, so far, there are precisely zero items of independent evidence that show that even a single "space alien" exists. If your aim is to prove that a UFO is a space alien, you can't just assume that the UFO is a space alien and rely on that assumption as evidence for the existence of space aliens. That's completely circular. What's needed is some independent evidence for space aliens.
    Is this you returning to the fold of sensible skepticism, then? I hope so.
    The rational position to take on every question whose answer is currently unknown is agnostic. Welcome to the skeptics' society!
    Ghost fragments from the wreck of the Mary Celeste remain an open possibility, you mean.

    Seems unlikely, though, doesn't it?
    What's the most likely one, in your opinion?
    Saying "I don't know" has never been the problematic feature of your posts on this topic.

    Wilfully and knowingly seeking to misrepresent your opponents' position is the main issue of contention, for me anyway.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    While no doubt MR might feel insulted when I refer to him as a troll and/or a fool, I point out that this is an evidence-based conclusion. There's an 8000+ post thread in which there is extensive evidence to support my evaluation, for instance.

    At some point, we must all be allowed to touch base with reality. Sometimes sparing somebody's feelings (and, really, who's to know what MR might or might not be feeling about this?) is not the kindest thing to do for them. Sometimes a harsh but fair reality check is in order.
    I don't really know what that's about.

    I assume your complaint is that you filed a whole bunch of reports complaining about MR and the moderators (myself included) did not take the ball you offered and run with it, on this particular occasion.

    In the specific circumstances of those reports about MR's comments on light-emitting plankton or whatever it was, my judgment was that his omission of a paragraph from the story he cut and pasted was not sufficiently egregious to amount to an obviously deliberate attempt to deceive. Your argument is that he lied by omission, in effect; he didn't tell the whole truth. You're probably right, but it's not an offence that a moderator should be pinning on somebody. It's too debatable and equivocal. It can look like a biased moderator response. Bear in mind that we already have a few people who don't think MR is doing anything wrong, and who apparently don't perceive anything problematic about his posting habits and style. What would those people say if I were to issue MR a warning for not saying something?

    Another consideration is that you're expecting him to cut-and-paste an entire article, which has the potential to attract copyright strikes against sciforums.
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    That's what I told him. That it was verboten to post an entire article here. He didn't believe me. Or at least pretended not to so he could get me banned again.
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2023
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No. The good faith thing to do is what the rest of us know instinctively: You paste a subset of the the things that are the most relevant, and leave out the things that don't substantially alter the article.

    This is not rocket science and it's not arcane knowledge. Anyone who passed high school was given the skills necessary to communicate effectively in writing.
  18. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I'm inclined to agree. But I also still think that moderator intervention was not required in this instance.
  19. O. W. Grant Registered Senior Member

    To doubt, or not to doubt, that is the question:
  20. O. W. Grant Registered Senior Member

    No-one likes to be equal.

    Eat or be eaten.

  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Nuthin'. I guess I'm just finally hearing what Tiassa has been trying to tell me all along.

    It's feeling more and more like trying to play chess with a pigeon. They just knock over all the pieces and strut around like they own the place. When I appeal to have the pigeons constrained, Tissa points out that "we are merely park rangers", and the pigeons are allowed to roost on the chess boards, and discouraging them would be against policy.

    I mean, sure, I can always just stay out of the Fringe fora. Thing is, I'm pretty sure the decline of overall forum activity and loss of more serious science buff types is a direct casualty.

    The thought hit me between the eyes the other night. Many years ago, I left this forum in disgust, when a moderator called a member a fuckwit. (I vaguely recall it might have been Bells, but that might be a confabulation.)

    In my world, that cannot happen; those Venn regions do not overlap. If a member's behavior rises to the level of being a fuckwit - per a moderator - then they have, by definition, violated the spirit of the forum and should have been expelled instead. That is the function of a moderator. Since that didn't happen, the only conclusion is that this is a forum that enables and encourages fuckwits.

    (I should be clear, I do not think or imply that anyone here today is a fuckwit; that's a juvenile term for a public forum, nor do I want anyone here banned. I just happen to have an opinion about where the bar for acceptable rational thinking should be set and enforced.)

    I finally, finally feel paddoboy's pain.

    It's all feeling rather Sisyphean. And I'm tired.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2023
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  22. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps you wouldn’t be upset (as often) if you viewed MR’s discussions as not trying to change skeptics’ minds. He’s posting to simply discuss, not necessarily debate, in my opinion. He argues his points sure, but I don’t think he’s concerned if you change your mind or not, but you want him to change his mind.
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  23. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    While logical, this isn't a two-way street. You can subjectively determine that MR is a troll or a fool and support your subjective determination with posts but MR could do the same with you based on some characteristic.

    MR would get a ban, you won't. So there's that flaw in your logic don't you think?
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