UFOs (UAPs): Explanations?

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

  1. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Great idea!

    But how did that work out in the last page or two?
    His latest "facts" were "supergeese flying at breakneck speeds"

    Have you considered taking this up with him?


    It requires cooperation from both sides. No lurkers want to read trolling.


    But I agree with you in principle. I have given up appealing to MR's rationality directly, he has become a two-dimensional caricature of a Believer. It also means I'm done making fun of him - that was all out of frustration and is beneath me. Though insults are hopefully a thing of my past, criticism is still a necessary part of the rebuttal process. MR can still serve as a foil to show readers how faulty logic is identified and addressed.


    Let's be perfectly clear about this, once and for all.

    No one can silence Magical Realist except Magical Realist.
    No one can timeout Magical Realist except Magical Realist.
    No one can ban Magical Realist except Magical Realist.

    To-wit:
    • No one is removing his posts. They are here for all eternity.
    • No one is pressing the timeout/ban button. Timeouts and bannings are automated, based on infraction frequency and level. MR knows how many infraction points he has at any given time - as well as when they expire - (it's all listed in one's Profile) and metes out his trolling appropriately to stay just shy of action. There is a deliberate pattern to it. (And he doesn't always get it right.)
    • The only way to have MR not get himself banned is to let him tell his bald-faced lies (see countless historical examples) and not issue any infractions at all. Unfortunately, this will - and has - emboldened him to simply escalate his trolling game, driving the intelligence quotient down and driving more people away.
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2023
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    My primary reason for being interested in this thread (and more generally for being interested in any Sciforums thread) is that I think that there are interesting and even important issues at stake here. My interests in the thread are largely philosophical.

    But yeah, I'll admit that there is indeed a "cheering for the underdog" aspect to it as well. I viscerally hate bullies and bullying. And in this thread MR has regularly (and myself on occasion) have been targets of insults and ridicule, largely unjustified. Simply for questioning this or that item of "skeptical" belief.

    So yeah, what motivates me posting or liking a post is occasionally anger at something somebody said. But generally speaking, it's because I agree with the content of the post or feel that it was expressed wittily or well.

    In my case, anger is starting to drown out enjoyment. I've started to wonder why I even participate on Sciforums any longer. It isn't my job, it isn't my obligation. Supposedly I do it for fun.

    Sciforums has gradually become more hard-edged and doctrinaire as it's shrunk. Perhaps its ultimate fate is to have one remaining participant who will be king-of-the-hill and whose ideas will rule the roost after silencing and driving away all contrary opinion.

    That shouldn't be how intellectual controversies are resolved.

    There is evidence. (MR is always posting his cases.) Our differences of opinion arise about how the evidence should be evaluated and interpreted. That's where a variety of possible hypotheses are concocted. The "skeptics" do that as readily as anyone else ("geese"). There's typically little evidence to "prove" (more accurately justify) any of those hypotheses. It all becomes a matter of perceived probabilities. And in the absence of definitive justification, one's sense of the intuitive likelihood of the contending hypotheses seems to typically be a function of the preexisting assumptions that one brings to the issue.

    And that's why these arguments get so heated. Everyone is trying to defend and protect their preexisting worldviews that are often very important to them emotionally. The "skeptics" are doing that just as passionately as MR is.

    Despite all the insults and invective, I don't perceive MR as being irrational or violating "reason" (whatever that word means). He just seems to some people to threaten a worldview that's emotionally very important to them. Certainly not all of MR's arguments are good ones, but the same thing can be said of any of our "skeptics".

    In better circumstances, that kind of collision can be interesting and perhaps even instructive.

    As for me, I question whether anyone can find violations of "reason" in any of my posts. I think that I occupy a very strong position here, in part because for the better unexplained cases I champion such a minimal hypothesis: Something extraordinary appeared to have been happening and as of today nobody knows what it was. Extraordinary because it was reported as such. Agnosticism about what it was seems almost self-evident. Obviously "skeptics" or anyone else can concoct hypotheses, but in the absence of conclusive justification, nobody really knows which of the contending hypotheses (if any) will turn out to be correct.

    My tentative conclusion (kind of a lemma in the logical sense) is that we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions when we don't really know, seemingly based on preexisting faith-commitments about what is and isn't real.

    I think that this section of SF is the most interesting on the board. That's because it addresses some of the fundamental philosophical and conceptual issues that underlie science, by examining problem edge-cases.
     
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  5. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    So you don't see this as irrational or unreasonable:

    Fact: The UAP was flying against an 18mph wind (i.e. not a balloon).
    Magical Realist's take:
    A simple yes or no will suffice.
     
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  7. foghorn Valued Senior Member

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    But, why does supporting the ‘underdog’ involve Yataza continuously using what JR is constantly calling Yataza’s ‘big lie’?
    Is JR allowing it because it demonstrates something about believers having to divert to lies?
    In that case, this will lose lurkers once they have been through the something like 15 to 20 post loop to where it is repeated.
    Echo chamber of lies?????
     
  8. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    I don’t think the perpetual absence of MR would entice more “lurkers” to join; actually just the opposite. No matter how disappointing this observation may be, I’ve noticed that on most forums, and social media platforms, people tend to be attracted to controversial subjects. Arguing. Pushing and pulling.

    If everyone just nodded their head in agreement, this site would have no one. It’s the challenging view points and the occasional “spirited” debate that drives internet traffic.

    MR has been on here for years. He has proven that he’s not a troll but I think what has happened, is there are less of him and more hardcore skeptics, the margin being very narrow. If there were 20 of him, and 50 more skeptics, it would flow differently. It wouldn’t feel like a weekly pile on and I’m not sure that’s the goal, either.

    But it’s not really meant to be a contest, is it?
     
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  9. foghorn Valued Senior Member

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    1,436
    A contest, is that how you see it?
    It could be the interest in trying to explain something and having someone saying that’s not right because of such and such. But that doesn’t seem to happen here like it does over at ‘Mick’s’.
    Check out Mick West’s site, I know you have it bookmarked already.
     
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    MR has not proven he's not a troll. As Dave says, he has become a master at sailing close to the wind, so that his rate of infractions is never quite enough to see him permabanned.

    You present this issue as if it is an even-handed debate with two genuinely held points of view. But it's not. The methods MR uses are dishonest. On a more rigorous forum, e.g. the science forums dot net site, he would have been banned long ago. If there were 20 like him here, then it would have become a crank website and people like me would be gone like a shot. So you would never get your 20:50 balance.
     
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  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    18,897
    Dunno. Yazata has acknowledged what I'd already concluded. That he's less about science and analysis and more about philosophizing and doubting what conclusions we can draw of reality. Look at this eyebrow-raising comment:
    Well, no. How could one rule this out? Even if we got a clear image and it looks like a goose, we can't prove it's not. It could always be a goose-shaped flying craft. Yazata can't prove his next door neighbor is not an alien either.

    I'm not being sarcastic or facetious here. Yazata appears to self-admittedly be in the "everything is an illusion" camp or the "we could all be a brain in a vat" camp. But he has failed to carry it through to its logical conclusion: that it doesn't matter if everything we see is a carefully-crafted illusion. Our "job" is not to determine what actually "is" reality, but to determine what about what we perceive is predictable and modelable - no matter how many layers away from some deeper "reality" it might be.

    So Yazata is paralyzed in terms of analysis and finding answers. And I posit that that's the way he likes it. For him, this is about keeping the mystery mysterious.

    That's why he supports MR's pro-enthusiast stance, and why he not only doesn't get involved in scientific analysis, he runs away from it - hard analysis would shine a bright light on that which he would prefer to keep veiled in shadow.
     
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  12. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    18,897
    Worth repeating.

    Everyone: "2+2=4"

    This one guy: "No, I think 2+2=5, and my opinion is just as valid as your opinion!"
     
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  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    And then, if challenged, he says "Can't you take a joke?" and changes the subject.
     
  14. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    Maybe. Perhaps, I’m hopeful of having the best of both worlds. How can MR best express himself in terms of sharing UAP claims that allows for skeptics to feel that the site isn’t being taken advantage of?
     
  15. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Was Magical Realist ever on Doctor Phil?

    I have sympathy for MR, and he also perplexes me. How and why would he actually believe the stuff he posts?
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    By presenting cases one at a time and responding intelligently and seriously to questions and points made in discussion. Dave has just given us an example of how he does not do that.
     
  17. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    "Has anyone come up with anything that rules out the possibility that it was space-aliens? (Or any of the more exotic never-considered possibilities that the category "unknown" might conceivably include?)"

    You're agreeing with me Dave, apparently without realizing it.

    My words above were written in response to JamesR writing this little bit of trolling aimed at MR:

    "If you think a particular UFO can't be a goose, try to provide some water-tight reasons for your belief. If, on the other hand, you are unable to come up with anything that would rule out the possibility that the UFO could be a goose, it might be better not to try to nervously "LOL" your way onto some unrelated topic."

    JamesR's error might arguably be that he is phrasing his challenge to MR (after banning him so that he can't respond!) in terms of eliminating any possibility that some sighting can be a goose.

    And your reply to me insists (correctly, I think) that it can't be done. (Or in any rate would be difficult, perhaps deriving some logical contradiction from the possibility the sighting was a goose.)

    What we do instead is argue in terms of perceived likelihoods. We argue in terms of what seems more plausible to us. That doesn't eliminate the possibility that we are wrong, but it might justify our behaving on the assumption the we are right. The problem with doing it that way is that our judgments of perceived likelihood are dependent on the preexisting assumptions that we bring with us.

    JamesR seems to be telling MR that unless MR can perform the herculean task that James has assigned, the task of eliminating "the possibility" that the sighting was a goose, then MR's supposedly in some terribly vulnerable position that he supposedly will just try to "LOL" his way out of because he has no better response.

    I thought that was basically bullshit, so I reversed the argument and threw JamesR's situation back at James. Can James "rule out the possibility" that sightings are space aliens? (If so, how?) If not, then how is trying to sneer the possibility into submission ("woo!") any better than MR laughing the goose hypothesis to death? They are pretty much the same dismissive response, seems to me.


    I wish you wouldn't put your own words in my mouth. That's exceedingly dishonest. It does serve to illustrate the kind of assumptions that you are bringing to the table though.

    I challenge you to find any example of me arguing that "everything is an illusion". In reality, as I've written many times, I'm pretty much a common-sense realist. I consider facts to be existing states of affairs. I'm inclined (most of the time) to consider truth to be correspondence with the facts of the matter. I'm totally convinced that if human minds ceased to exist, the universe would go on existing, just as it presumably did before we evolved and will after we are extinct.

    And I try not to confuse our human understanding at any point in time with reality as it is in itself. Our understanding, with science as perhaps its foremost example, is just a model of reality. And given the finite nature of the human situation, (we aren't gods with a god's-eye perspective) it's almost inevitably going to be imperfect. Hopefully in the future, scholars will have improved our understanding and brought it into increased conformity with the reality it seeks to describe.

    I just think that reality is in no way dependent on us or on what we think. (Human constructed artifacts excepted.) So whatever relations of dependency there are, they flow one way. The truth/success of our models (our scientific understanding) are functions of how well they model those aspects of reality they seek to describe/explain. But the model exerts no force on reality. There's no force or causality operating in that reverse direction.

    So what I want to argue against is the "skeptics" tendency to loudly and insultingly deny the possibility of anything that's not already clearly marked on their map of reality. "Skeptics" are worshippers of the map and anything but skeptical about it's transcendent qualities. (Reminds me of fundies and the Bible.)

    So given the incompleteness of the models and the ever-present likelihood of error and misconceptualization, I think that it's a deep and fundamental error to confuse our understanding of reality with the reality that our understanding seeks to know.

    I'm inclined to believe that our understanding is a work-in-progress, just as it was in ancient or medieval times. We have no problem sneering at medievals for dismissing things we believe in today, just because those things contradicted their medieval expectations. We imagine that we are oh-so-superior to those benighted fools (whose intelligence was probably just as great as our own).

    So how can we be so sure that we aren't in exactly the same position? We certainly know a lot more details about how different aspects of perceived reality relate. But when it comes to the bigger questions, we are just as much in the dark as they were.

    That suggests that reality might contain a great deal that we currently know little or nothing about. It suggests that reality does (and probably always will) exceed our understanding, and will always have the ability to surprise us.

    That idea has nothing to do with thinking that reality is an illusion. It's implied by thinking the exact opposite of that, that reality exists in its own right and isn't dependent or constrained by what we happen to believe about it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023
  18. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    It was deliberate. Because your stance leads to paralysis: if we can't know anything for sure, why bother? Which I am seeing is the case: your contributions favor trying to keep the mystery over trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.

    I would accept that moving at 1000mph, or radiating at 1000F would be pretty convincing evidence that it can't be a goose - (assuming that's confirmed, not merely presumed).

    I believe that your philosophy is such that there is nothing that could prove to you that your next door neighbor is not an alien in disguise. Which means any reasonable form of analysis is useless to you.

    For example: do you accept that this cannot be a goose?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    Is there a sufficient preponderance of evidence that this is not a goose? (In this case, a very clear photo of a well-known existing object that allows little room for misinterpretation). I hope so. If not, we don't have a lot to talk about.



    Let me get back to the Puerto Rico UAP. Why is it posted here? What about that video is any more worthy of being called a mystery than any other
    clip of a thing flying? The sky is full of millions of birds. This sighting is completely within the parameters of an infrared video of a flying bird. If not, tell me what about it makes it interesting at all?

    What about this one?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!


    Should we keep open the possibility that there is an exotic explanation for this object? How much time should we spend discussing it?


    No, that's what you consider can't be done. I consider that there is a preponderance of evidence, beyond which we have a degree of confidence.



    Interesting. You certainly had no problem with Magical Realist calling the goose hypothesis "ludicrous".



    And that is what is dishonest about MR's posts. It is not a level playing field. We skeptics do not have the same burden as enthusiasts.

    Here is a very common ploy MR uses (paraphrased):

    MR: "What is this thing? It can't be a swan; swans are white. This thing looks black, therefore it is not a swan."
    Me: "It could be a swan. Not all swans are white."
    MR: "That's ludicrous. Here are fifty seven pictures of white swans. It doesn't look like those, so it can't be a swan."
    Me: "Here is one picture of a black swan. Black swans exist. It could be a black swan."

    Generally:

    MR makes a strong claim. X cannot be Y. To make his case, he is burdened with showing there are no exceptions.
    We make a weaker claim: X could be Y. To make our case, we only need to show any exception.

    (And incidentally, please note that nowhere in our claim is there room for the word "must".)



    Really.

    Really.

    That must be really frustrating when somebody assigns thoughts and actions to you that aren't yours.



    "... the "skeptics" assumption that whatever it was, it must have been something familiar (whales, birds, optical illusions)..."

    "Skeptics start from the assumption that particular kinds of reported phenomena are what they call "woo". That's their preexisting belief..."

    "...if you enter the discussion with the pre-existing belief that the thing being reported is impossible, then anyone reporting it would at best be mistaken..."

    "...the "skeptics" do have some unstated (and perhaps unconscious) psychological motive for dismissing even the possibility of anything that they don't currently believe in, everything that doesn't fit into their tight little world-view..."

    ".."skeptics" really are trying to covertly insist that everything that happens in the universe must necessarily fit with their expectations..."



    You have been putting words in our mouths for thousands of posts. You've been called out on it time and time again. You've done it so much it's even got its own name: "The Big Lie".

    To sincerely ask - without an ounce of shame - that you not get a taste of your own medicine is quite beyond the pale.


    Acknowledge this gaff, as a gentleman discussing in good faith. Here, now. Or stand accused as a hypocrite.

    I'll address the rest of your comments once this is resolved.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023
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  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    Wow! Without the usual background noise from Magical Realist, there's some really interesting conversation going on here. About half of it is metacommentary on why Magical Realist is still here and how the forum admin should or shouldn't approach him, while the other half is about how we ought to approach the whole UFO thing (continuing threads from ongoing discussions).

    There's so much I want to respond to. Please excuse me for making a bunch of posts. Rather than trying to summarise or encapsulate comments from different people, I think it's easier (both for me and the original posters) if I respond directly to individuals.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time right now, so I'll do this in bit by bit rather than all at once. Let me start with...

    exchemist:
    Due to synchronicity, I have just watched a fairly long youbtube video of an evolutionary paleontologist taking apart a particular creationist's erroneous claims about the fossil record - particularly about the evolution of modern hominids including astralopithecus and the various Homo species, and comparing anatomical features with modern apes.

    The particular creationist in question has a PhD, but not in biology - in astrophysics. He is apparently a regular on various Christian apologetic webcasts that promote young earth creationism.

    As the paleontologist pointed out, this guy is commenting on a complicated topic that is completely out of his specific field of expertise. However, as a scientist with a PhD, he is deferred to by the non-science creationists. He is telling them that their beliefs about creationism are correct and evolution is wrong, and they are receptive to that message, so he's their guy.

    So, the paleontologist joined an "ask the creationist" live show to ask this guy some very specific questions about claims he had made about the fossils and human evolution. The resulting conversation was very polite. The paleonotologist told the astrophysicist where he had made a few mistakes, referring to peer-reviewed papers to support her points.

    What was his response? Essentially it boiled to this: oh, these claims I made aren't my claims. I got them from a book this other guy wrote. You (the paleontologist) should go talk to that guy.

    All very cordial. But consider what happened here. This guy has been publishing his false views across the internet (at least). But when confronted with an actual expert telling him he is wrong, and why, he tries to shift responsibility onto other people. The paleontologist commented (after the event) that she was disappointed to learn that this guy - so vocal and public in his opinions - apparently hadn't done any work of his own to try to check the veracity of the claims he is promoting. He is apparently happy to present as some kind of authority on these matters, while apparently himself being entirely reliant on second-hand "knowledge" from other sources that he must surely know have a particular bias.

    Of course, he was unwilling to admit that he could be in error. Nor did he undertake to investigate for himself whether the information he has been relying on is valid.

    The paleontologist, who says she has watched a lot of this guy's stuff, says that she has reluctantly come to the conclusion that the guy is in the grip of apparently irreparable cognitive dissonance. It's not just that he relied on other creationists for his incorrect understanding of the fossil record. It turns out that he has also made claims about cosmology and astrophysics that, being an expert in a relevant field, he must, at some level, be aware are untenable, in the light of the available evidence.

    His background is that he was brought up in very religious setting - brought up to believe in biblical Creationism.

    I found it interesting that the paleontologist commented that as far as she is aware, having spent a lot of time examining young earth creationists and their claims, all of the prominent young earth creationists have similar backgrounds. They were brought up highly religious, and indoctrinated into the faith at a young age. What appears to be almost completely absent is examples of people who lack that kind of religious background from their youth and who later come to believe in young-earth creationism "because of the evidence". In other words, it seems that the only people who are convinced by young-earth creationist arguments are people who are first convinced that Jesus is the One True Lord and the bible is literally God's Word, etc. etc.

    It doesn't matter how intelligent you are. A guy with a PhD is astrophysics is out there on the interwebs preaching apologetics for young-earth creationism. In his day job, he must know, at least, that the astrophysical evidence is incompatible with literal biblical creationism. As a highly trained scientist, he must be aware that one should read both sides of a scientific debate before making a judgment about which is right and which is wrong. His actual behaviour, in practice, is irreconcilable with his training and his knowledge. So, what does he do? Apparently, he just continues on with his life as usual, but he compartmentalises. During the day, he believes in a universe that is billions of years old. At night, on the interwebs, or on a creationist chat show, he believes the universe is less than 6000 years old. Two contradictory ideas held simultaneously: cognitive dissonance. And along with that come the inevitable self-protection mechanisms: don't really listen to anything that could challenge the incompatibility of your beliefs with one another, or with actual evidence. Look away. Deflect the blame to somebody else. Don't take responsibility for what you believe. Feign stupidity or ignorance, if necessary.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023
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  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

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    DaveC:

    That might be part of it, but I think that MR's supporters here also support him because, at some level, they think there is a reasonable chance that the aliens are here. Or, to put it more neutrally, they think there's a reasonable chance that a supernatural or similar "extraordinary" explanation is required to explain at least some of the UFOs.

    My signature line has a quote from David Hume: "A wise [person] proportions [their] belief to the evidence."

    I would suggest that an "extraordinary" explanation only becomes a reasonable expectation when there is sufficient evidence for it. Or, to put it another way, extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

    The problem for these people who are on the fence, but leaning into the aliens and the woo, is that every time we actually dig into the available evidence for the woo, it inevitably turns out to be underwhelming.

    In that circumstance, it seems to me that the sensible thing would be to put the extraordinary and the woo back on the high shelf where it belongs, for now. Don't toss it in the garbage bin, but don't go reaching for it until the preponderance of evidence demands that you do that.

    It is appears to me that there can be a great resistance to letting go of magical thinking. Unexplained doesn't imply magical. It's just an unsolved problem that can be attacked with the best methods we have developed for finding reliable solutions to unsolved problems: critical thinking, the scientific method, all that good stuff. Magical thinking has never really made any useful contribution towards solving any problem.
    It would be very easy to ban MR, on account of his continual trolling. It seems to me that it's easy to mount a solid argument for his permanent banning from this place, based on years of posting history. I am confident that he would have been - perhaps has been, for all I know - permanently banned from many other science forums in relatively short order.

    But, at least for now, I choose not to ban him. Leaving aside my personal opinions of him, that can only be because I think he brings something valuable to this forum.

    Where is the value? In my opinion, it is this: as the only remaining regular "hard-core" UFO believer here, MR repesents his believer community, to a greater or lesser degree. I think it's good to be aware that out there in the world there is a relatively large group of people who are probably a lot like MR, in terms of how they think about this stuff. MR gives us some useful insight into what these people believe, how they think (or, more often, fail to think), and how they comport themselves in discussions about their beliefs. Instead of a bunch of skeptics sitting in a (virtual) room, trying to imagine what a hypothetical believer might say about something, we get to interact directly with a live specimen. It's both fascinating and informative, if you look at it the right way.

    Do I think that MR is a good representative of the UFO believer community? It seems to me, from observing other believers in that community, that he is not atypical in his beliefs or attitudes. Is he good at persuading people who are on the fence that they ought to join him in his beliefs? I guess those of you who consider yourself on the fence are in the best position to tell us that, not me. What I can say with certainty is that MR's arguments aren't reasonable. Since my personal worldview aims for rationality and consistency, I think that MR does an appalling poor job of saying anything that would be likely to shift my view in the direction of believing in his aquatic aliens, or anything similar. The arguments he makes for his position are first and foremost entirely internal ones, appealing to his own perceptions and biases, as if those should convince anybody else of anything. When he considers external evidence, his main focus is almost always on anecdotes and "testimony". He barely glances at objective data and actively turns away from any detailed examination of such data. Moreover, he is intellectually dishonest and is caught in a similar state of cognitive dissonance to the one I talked about in my previous post.

    MR might not think of himself as a representative of his tribe. He might not want to be that. But that is de facto what he is, here. I wonder whether his fellow believers would be proud of his work as their representative? If their aim is simply to evangelise, then I think they would not complain; MR keeps the topic live on this forum and promotes all the believer-produced content from youtube. If, on the other hand, if their aim is to persuade those who do not yet believe, perhaps they would be disappointed in just how poorly MR is performing in that regard.

    On the other hand, as a rationalist, I'm probably not the best person to judge MR's persuasiveness. Maybe his presentation has some sort of emotional appeal for fence-sitters. Maybe they'll believe him because they feel sorry for him and will side with him merely because he seems to a persecuted minority here. That would be a mistake, of course, because even if he is persecuted that doesn't make him right, but we're talking emotion here, not reason.

    Let's assume that MR adds value in some kind of weird way to this forum. The complementary question to that is whether the responses from skeptics to MR on this forum add value, to the forum and/or to the wider discourse between skeptics and believers. On that, I am firmly of the opinion that they do, at least for anybody willing to sort through the dross to get to the meaty stuff about critical thinking, the scientific method and epistemology. On a less high-falutin level, I also think that the skeptics here have made useful contributions to the wider debate about the specifics of a number of UFO sightings. So often, the specifics are glossed over or faulty assumptions are made without thought by people in the UFO believer community. Here, some of those things get picked through with the fine tooth comb - often to the annoyance of those who just want to believe.

    I do not expect MR will change. He will, in all likelihood, continue to skate the fine line between being banned for this trolling and dishonesty (along with the occasional angry outburst in which he takes out his frustrations with ad hominem attacks) and managing his warning-point count so that he can keep the youtube cutting-and-pasting up to the level he desires. He will continue to proselytise. He will continue to make the same faulty, poor arguments. But he'll also probably conveniently keep bringing bad ideas from his community here, where they can be dismantled and shown for what they are. That is good news for the promotion of critical thinking and science.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    18,897
    Well said, all of it. You spake what I've been thinking.
     
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    There's a fellow called James Tour that does this too. He, I'm ashamed to say, is a synthetic organic chemist and in fact a fairly eminent one in his field. But he's an American Messianic Jew (whatever that is) and likes to ridicule research on abiogenesis in front of creationist audiences. Like your example, he relies on a combination of appeal to authority (he's a scientist, you see, so he must be right, especially since he says things we agree with) and ignorance on the part of the audience, who lap it up. (His objection to natural abiogenesis, by the way, is that it is not possible - in a synthetic organic chemistry lab like his, on a human timescale - to make a living biochemical system from scratch. And that's it!)

    I've also encountered an astronomer who is a Young Earth Creationist. He relies heavily the Earth being treated - by God, implicitly - as exceptional and from time to time operating contrary to the principles of physics, i.e. miraculously, in order for the bible to be literally true. I had some fun with him over the order of creation in Genesis, days and night before the sun and moon were created and so forth, but it seemed to be the same thing you mention: compartmentalisation to manage the cognitive dissonance.

    I suppose in fairness we probably all have some element of cognitive dissonance, somewhere in our experience of the world and the theories we have about it. There are always a few loose ends that don't match up tidily. But an honest person, when confronted with them, will acknowledge that something doesn't stack up, or that some of their previous assumptions need to be examined.

    Which beings us back to MR. I suppose, having analysed what may be going on in his mind, a lot of the behaviour we see may not actually be trolling as such. He may resort to facetiousness, ignoring points made, introducing new examples to confuse the discussion, etc., in order to avoid conceding defeat, rather than to annoy posters deliberately. But the effect is the same and it's debatable how much time moderation should have to spend second-guessing the psychology and motives of posters.
     
  23. wegs Matter and Pixie Dust Valued Senior Member

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    9,253
    That’s fair, but also to be fair, this isn’t a classroom. We’re not being “graded.” I understand that we need to be mindful of not blurring the lines between staying open minded and compromising the site’s integrity. But, we also need to be careful that when we censor input, that it’s always for the right reasons. In other words, I feel at this point, MR has been branded a “science traitor” by some of the skeptics here, and he’ll never live it down. Not to mention, I don’t believe that he is a science traitor.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2023

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