UFObama

By Phil Plait | November 30, 2008 5:06 pm

Much of what I have read about and from Obama leads me to think that he is part of the reality-based community (at least in part). That’s why I’m not too concerned that UFOs-are-visiting-us proponent (and, evidently, BABloggee) Stephen Bassett wrote an OpEd asking Obama to lift the "truth embargo" about aliens coming to Earth and posing for blurry photos while masquerading as Venus, balloons, the Moon, satellites, military aircraft, atmospheric distortions, and hoaxes.

Now, let me make this as absolutely clear as possible (which will be to no avail, because I have been very clear before, and UFO proponents still manage to completely mangle what I’m saying): if you want me to think that UFOs are not just misidentified mundane objects, then all you have to do — and it really is this simple — is provide me with evidence.

Here, let me make this even clearer:

PROVIDE ME WITH EVIDENCE.

What do I count as evidence? Hard, physical data. Not eyewitness reports (because even the most highly-credentialed person in the world can misidentify something, or not understand what they are seeing, or may suffer from an episode, or decide to lie, or just be simply wrong). Not fuzzy photos. Not fuzzy video.

I want hard, physical data. I want an alien on the White House lawn. I want a piece of metal with clearly non-terrestrial isotope ratios of components, or be composed of some currently non-discovered element. I want some piece of predictive evidence — a map of an alien world that can eventually be verified, or an alien-given advance in physics that can later be verified with the LHC or some other cutting-edge technology. And nothing vague like "a unified field theory exists"; it has to be definite and precise, so that there is no controversy.

Do you think this is too demanding? I have news for you: you’re asking me to believe in something that will revolutionize all of human existence. I think demanding some actual evidence for such a thing is not only not too much to ask, but is to be demanded.

Of course, by asking for actual evidence, I’ll be called a cynic, a liar, a government stooge, and (my favorite) a debunker (since you can’t debunk something that isn’t already bunk). I’ll also be called closed minded, which is incredibly ironic, since I can be persuaded by evidence of the existence of actual alien visitation, but people like Stephen Bassett cannot be persuaded out of their beliefs by the lack of the same evidence.

If you have this sort of evidence, then by all means let me know. I’ll report it here. But in the meantime, I suggest people read Mr. Bassett’s demands of President-elect Obama, and keep an open mind yourself on which of us is being more open minded.

Tip o’ the tin foil beanie to Fark.

Comments (151)

  1. You know what I find interesting? If it were actually shown that aliens do exist through verifiable evidence, it would probably be life-shattering for a few days, a week tops, then it would just become one of the many background facts of life.

  2. Okay, dumb question, but I’ve been wondering for a helluva long time:

    Just what the crazy is a BABlogee? Am I one (I run a skeptic blog with the occasional astronomical article, and I also write a bi-weekly astronomy column for a newspaper)? Is it a catch-all term equivalent to PZ’s “Pharynguloid”?

    Can someone please tell me? I feel very sheepish at times like this.

  3. Bad Albert

    Basset needs Obama to provide proof of an alien presence because he doesn’t have any himself.

  4. Dave Hall

    Well, the name of the source of Bassetts letter speaks volumes. OEN: Opinion Editrials and News–news of course is last.

    The site isn’t very discriminating as regards its content. There are tributes to W and calls for his criminal trial; attacks on “big pharma” and its war on alternative medicine; editorials praising Obama and editorials condemning his “status quo” administration(when did he take office?I thought it wasnt until January)

    OEN looks like a digital version of going to Hyde Park with a soap box. Just what the intertoobs needs–another nutters’ corner.

  5. Windyshrimp

    There is a 9/11 truther ad on the side. This site/person is too far from reality to bring back. It is sad that they want something to be real so bad, that they can’t have it any other way. It must be real because they want it to be. No matter how much evidence proves them otherwise, they will not think it any other way.

  6. Mus

    Some Canadian Skeptic, a BABlogee is anyone who regularly reads the Bad Astronomy Blog. Similarly, a Pharynguloid is anyone who regularly reads pharyngula.

  7. kuhnigget

    @ Arik Rice:

    If it were actually shown that aliens do exist through verifiable evidence, it would probably be life-shattering for a few days, a week tops, then it would just become one of the many background facts of life.

    No, actually the fun would just begin, because then you’d get to witness the circus of competing UFO nuts claiming it was their version of the space alien all along.

    The parallels to the squabbles of organized religions would be numerous.

  8. Yoeman

    Well, while I “want to believe”, I have to agree with you, Dr. Plait. I am certain that there are other intelligent life forms out there, but the skeptic in me can’t buy they are visiting us until I have concrete evidence of it, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they were, and have put some sort of interstellar version of caution tape around our solar system! I like Dr Michio Kaku’s views on this subject, my own views lie somewhere between yours and his.

  9. Mus, thanks. I have been telling people with only causual knowledge of this site that a BABlogee was someone with professional astronomical credientials, who is in regular contact with Phil…a sort of BAcabal is you will.

    My bad.

    Still, I’m proud to say that I’m more BABlogee than Pharynguloid…even though PZ took the time to have a meet-up when he came to Toronto…PHIL! (just teasing…I know that was the weekend you were switching to Discover Blogs)

  10. kebsis

    ”’and (my favorite) a debunker (since you can’t debunk something that isn’t already bunk).”’

    Doing so would make you a bunkifier

  11. @Arik Rice,

    I don’t know if it would only last a few weeks. I did this just yesterday waiting for the train:

    Hmm. Wait. Isn’t a black man going to be president? That’s frakkin’ amazing! I get the feeling I’ll be doing it a while.

    I love the PROVIDE ME WITH EVIDENCE demand. It clears things up. Look, if I wanted to prove that X series of steps with X series of chemicals would result in X products- I would have to PROVE with QUANTIFIABLE EVIDENCE that the chemical I synthesized is really and truly X. Otherwise I fail. Hard.

    If I have to do this for what is essentially basic undergrad work with earthly substances- why should I be content with less from people claiming something truly out of this world?

    Preaching to the choir here, I know. Still, this makes me mad. It’s easy: Here’s science, this is the price of admission, take it or leave it.

  12. Gail

    HA!
    Sock it to ‘em, Phil.

    I just *love* people who don’t understand the difference between falsifying a hypothesis and not having evidence to support a non falsifiable one :) Then you try to take the time to explain it to them and you just watch their eyes glaze over…

  13. Jokermage

    “If you have this sort of evidence, then by all means let me know. I’ll report it here.”

    Sure, Phil… and then when the men in black come for me, at least I’ll know it was you who reported me. I still feel betrayed from the time you sent me to those guys in the white coats. Never again, Phil!

  14. Cindy

    My favorite comeback when asked if I think there are alien life in the universe is from the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, “The surest proof of intelligent life in the universe is that it has not tried to visit us”.

  15. Joel

    I agree with everything you’ve stated about UFO’s Phil. However, Obama may not be as reality based on certain issues, like foreign policy. He thinks we ought to police the middle east and spend hundreds of billions continuing to occupy fanatical muslim countries.

    Also, i worry about his commitment to Nasa. I hope he’s part of the Phil Plait/Carl Sagan wing of progressives, rather than the “we shouldn’t be wasting money sending stuff into space” group.

  16. IVAN3MAN

    Dear Phil,

    You do deserve some credit for maintaining your obtuse ignorance of the UFO/ET subject right up until the very end of the truth embargo. Defender of the closed mind, servant to state propaganda, purveyor of science not as a vessel to be filled but as a paper bag to be worn over the head.

    Credit given, it is necessary once again to point out that every time you say or write anything on the subject of extraterrestrial phenomena, you make a complete fool of yourself. Debunkers such as Klass and Shermer act in their self interest – they are paid to be skeptics for a living. Being right is irrelevant. You and Shostak are scientists. You are paid to seek understanding. Both of you are profoundly overpaid.

    Regards,
    Stephen Bassett
    Executive Director
    Paradigm Research Group

    FACEPALM -- Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

    FACEPALM

    Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesn’t work.

    P.S. Phil Plait, if the HTML codes above does not work (it did on Pharyngula), then delete it.

  17. Canadian skeptic:
    “I have been telling people with only causual knowledge of this site that a BABlogee was someone with professional astronomical credientials, who is in regular contact with Phil…a sort of BAcabal is you will.”

    No, that would be a BAGroupie…

  18. IBY

    Yeah, you tell them, Phil! ^_^
    You know, it is going to be a neverending cycle. He demands Obama, but the government is not hiding anything, so Obama can’t do anything about it, so the person yells, “You are hiding teh TRUTH!!” Accuse the goverment of conspiracy, and then demand the government again. Rinse and repeat.

  19. JoeSmithCA

    Wow, Excellent statement Phil. You too Mr. Chemist.

    I’m still waiting for aliens to show up looking for casings for their “Out-Of-This-World Hot Dogs” (Registered Trademark of GrayMatter Foods Intergalactic, LLC. Not for distribution on Earth per Galactic Conspiracy Regulation 134.5b).

    Off topic, has anyone found Dark Matter yet? I’d like to come up with a better term. We’ve got Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Dark Chocolate and more recently Dark Flows. Aside from Dark Chocolate–which I find rather agreeable in taste–seems we’re getting a little crazy with the “dark” usage. How about “Unknown”, “Invisible” or “Fred-Jack Energy” (replace with a group or combinination of names plus a noun or pronoun). :)

  20. IVAN3MAN

    ERRATUM:

    Dear Phil,

    You do deserve some credit for maintaining your obtuse ignorance of the UFO/ET subject right up until the very end of the truth embargo. Defender of the closed mind, servant to state propaganda, purveyor of science not as a vessel to be filled but as a paper bag to be worn over the head.

    Credit given, it is necessary once again to point out that every time you say or write anything on the subject of extraterrestrial phenomena, you make a complete fool of yourself. Debunkers such as Klass and Shermer act in their self interest – they are paid to be skeptics for a living. Being right is irrelevant. You and Shostak are scientists. You are paid to seek understanding. Both of you are profoundly overpaid.

    Regards,
    Stephen Bassett
    Executive Director
    Paradigm Research Group

    FACEPALM -- Capt. Jean-Luc Picard

    FACEPALM
    Because expressing how dumb that was in words just doesn’t work.

  21. eddie

    Key phrase: After listing the requests for the president-elect, the writer writes, “all well and good, but it will not be enough.”

    It never will be for the UFO folks.

    They’ll continue to see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe, regardless of evidence.

  22. Jeffersonian

    I can’t wait for this revolution and the alien technology a true alien incident will bring. As one of today’s instant gratification gen xers, I want my time machine and I want it now!

  23. Daniel

    Phil…You hit the nail on the head. After all, Why would an aliens want to visit us in the first place. We are so eager to attack and shove nuclear bombs down the throats of other countries. I wouldn’t want to visit a race like us either (which explains why Aliens fly 50 billion light years and abruptly turn around and run like hell).

  24. IVAN3MAN

    Uh… Phil Plait, you can delete my previous post before last above, because it had not turned out right as expected. I would do it myself, if I could.

  25. kebsis

    So, is that actually something Steven Bassett wrote somewhere Ivan?

  26. tacitus

    And here I thought the conspiracy theorists were still fretting over Obama being a Kenyan-botn, Indonesian citizen, illegal immigrant…

  27. Alan Haggard

    There are several examples I can show you. Here are a few..

    The “1952 Washington D.C. UFO incident” as seen here in the original footage of the event:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D326UXwubKA
    More information/details can be found here, along with the USAF’s explanation of the event and a more rational criticism of their (the USAF’s) hastily made, dismissive, and unlikely accuracty (given the distinct nature of the footage) of their explanation:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1952_Washington_D.C._UFO_incident
    and finally a segment taken from a History Channel documentary regarding this event:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1H3N0f9S8w

    A compilation of NASA transmissions pertaining to UFO’s spanning various missions & decades, as seen from a documentary created by the History Channel:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aLGtsxW-mg
    Buzz Aldrin describing a UFO sighted during the Apollo 11 mission:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlkV1ybBnHI

    The “Phoenix Lights” incident, a mini-documentary covering the event (note the distinct triangular shape of the object with bright orange/amber lights, a type of craft that has been sighted before & since):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhAQrR8Jhkk
    More information regarding this event:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenix_Lights
    Another video of the event with commentary & a comparison of the original footage of the craft to the USAF’s explaination of it simply being a series of “signal flares” (which do not resemeble this object to say the least, nor would account for the numerous hours this craft hovered over the city):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NRA5iA_xrw

    Original footage of 11 UFO’s filmed from an infrared FLARE camera by the Mexican military:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRvWRrf__XA
    Sceptics have claimed these objects were oil rigs filmed from a distance, which does little to account for their ability to move, pulsate, and move through cloud coverage no less.

    Taken from a the History Channel documentary entitled “Black Box UFO Secrets”, a conversation between an airline pilot and NORAD radar operator reporting a massive cylindrical UFO, sighted clearly by experienced airline pilots, trailed immediately by a USAF F117 Nighthawk whose pilot also confirmed attaining a visual of the object, however subsequently laughed off as “x-files Roswell crap” and officially denied in writing by NORAD.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C94aMTeu_Qw

    For those of you wondering why the United States (among others) military would deny or try to “cover up” the existence of advanced non-terrestrial craft, the answer is simple: They do not want the public at large to know these craft exist, are here, and are capable of invading our “protected” airspace at will, potentially undermining our “national security” and undermining their ability to protect us if need be. It’s easier for them to rely on the concept of plausible deniability and let the skeptics do the rest of the work for them rather than explaining exactly what is causing these (legitimate) UFO sightings and how they plan to address the issue.

  28. John

    It’s fair to say that we shouldn’t make assumptions during asking Obama to release data on ufos, and therefore referring to the ET hypothesis as true is making one of those assumptions. Although we should ask him to release ufo documents in a similar way to what the UK and French governments have done, and are continuing to do.

  29. IVAN3MAN

    @ kebsis

    Yes, if you check out the first paragraph of Dr. Phil Plait’s post above, you will see a link (which I have highlighted here in red) where he wrote: “That’s why I’m not too concerned that UFOs-are-visiting-us proponent (and, evidently, BABloggee) Stephen Bassett wrote an OpEd asking Obama to …”

    Click on that link and it will direct you to the original comment/letter by the nutter gentleman referred to in Phil’s post.

  30. Alan Haggard

    A documentary on the Rendalshan Forest US Air Force Base Sighting/Incident:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENMQQ_Aob70
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI945WAXRho
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksAu1Hg8We4

    Also note the tendency of ‘ivan3′ and others to label those who do not accept their views as ‘nutters’, ‘crackpots’, etc. Let’s try to keep the name calling to a minimum and have a serious discussion here, that is if you are capable of having a serious discussion regarding UFO’s and aren’t completely biased to the extent of blatant and unyielding mockery.

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    What, you take a few days off, and the cranks are out in force. (The other thread looks like then the anti-vaxxer cranks gets roused by a post.)

    [Reposted comment from that thread, prompted by kuhnigget’s skewering a reality denier:]

    Check out YOUR OWN POST, November 30th, 2008 at 9:22 am, in which your “evidence” includes Keyhoe’s FICTIONAL NOVEL as a source of “information” about the reality of flying saucers.

    That is so funny!

    Also, it is ironic that the crank in his incapability to present factual evidence instead presents more evidence that tests Hoofnagle’s Unified theory of the crank. I can recommend the post, as it presents a verifiable mechanism explaining the behavior of cranks and denialists; the incompetents are incompetent (well, duh!) in recognizing competence:

    An interesting resource to understand the phenomenon is this article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Justin Kruger and David Dunning about how people who are incompetent not only have an inflated sense of their own competence, but are also incapable of even recognizing competence. Take for example this figure from the paper (it’s not Wiley so hopefully I won’t be sued). It’s pretty self-explanatory

    krugeranddunningfig2.jpg

    What’s even more amazing is that when they then shared the performance of other participants with the people who performed poorly (hoping that they would then adjust their self-perception downward) people who scored poorly failed to adjust their self-perception of their performance. In other words, they are completely unaware of their own competence, and can’t detect competence in others. [My bold.]

    So it’s funny commentary, and nicely supports the current empirical explanation for (speculation in) “UFO sightings”. But it’s also tragic.

  32. Mark Hansen

    If Stephen Bassett gets his wish I can see this going two ways but with the same outcome:

    Conspiracy version: Obama asks military what the deal is with alien spacecraft. Military hide spacecraft and show Obama empty warehouse proving they don’t have aliens in Area 51. Obama announces that the military don’t have aliens. Stephen Bassett assumes Obama has been lied to or is part of the conspiracy.

    Reality version: Obama asks military what the deal is with alien spacecraft. Military have no alien spacecraft to hide so show Obama empty warehouse and proceed as above.

  33. slang

    Obama has been through a gruesome time, with all the campaigning ‘n stuff. I’m sure he will appreciate the laugh.

  34. I was reading something a few months ago by, I believe, Carl Sagan, which suggested an interesting idea regarding proof of alien intelligence. There were some mathematical proofs which would be relatively easy to verify if they were presented to us, but are very difficult to work out in the first place. That’s not even physical evidence, but would be fairly compelling.

  35. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I like Dr Michio Kaku’s views

    Yes, well, there are no doctorates in “futurology” that I’m aware of, and it isn’t a subject that is usually fit for science and/or skeptic blogs.

    (In fact, as I hear it the speculations of Kaku is probably best kept away from them outside his expertise in strings and the occasional social commentary. AFAIU he isn’t well liked by his peers for making them. [Note: This is an impression formed by some less well remembered blog commentary over at science sites such as Cosmic Variance; perhaps I’m involuntarily trying to instantiate a blog rumor. Be skeptic. :-) ] )

    Except if it’s about possible “Death From The Skies!”, of course… ;-)

    Aside from Dark Chocolate–which I find rather agreeable in taste–seems we’re getting a little crazy with the “dark” usage. How about “Unknown”, “Invisible” or “Fred-Jack Energy” (replace with a group or combinination of names plus a noun or pronoun).

    Hmm. In what ways are those terms better than “dark” matter, which is exactly descriptive of its properties?

    “Invisible” would be wrong BTW, see the gravity lens observations that IIRC shows explicitly that it is visible in the gravity sector as predicted. (The same goes for dark energy, which AFAIU recently have been directly observed as well.)

  36. Alan Haggard

    Yet another possible (also entirely speculative & irrelvant) chain of events to come:

    President Elect Obama is briefed on the full-scale of our military capabilities (black projects, x-41 spaceplane, CAV’s, stealth et al), our most eminent threats (the latest military intelligence on Iran, North Korea, Russia’s Topol-M ICBM, their intents, capabilities, and most recent deployments), as well as a comprehensive crash-course in the history of UFO/UAP investigations conducted by the US military (both public and classified), our current stance regarding the implications this intelligence has on our military capacity not just as a nation but as the now dwindling forerunner’s of democracy on Earth and what our best course of action (from a strategic perspective) is at this point in history. After which, Obama avoids the topic of UFO’s whenever possible and denies any knowledge of their existence out of a sense of duty to his country and to his country’s frontline of defense, it’s military, not to mention for the sake his own credibility and political career. Behind the scenes it’s business as usual.

  37. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    AFAIU he isn’t well liked by his peers for making them.

    Maybe I’m just adding hurt to harm, but I should amend that with that I think a large part of the (putative) distaste is the commercial side of Kaku’s activities. Personal reasons to be a scientist varies, the monetary side may be less well regarded by (some of) the in group, and that is of course something an outsider can have a differing view on.

  38. José

    AFAIU he isn’t well liked by his peers for making them.

    I just find Kaku annoying, partly because of things he says, and partly because he gives off a Bob Ross vibe. Of course I’m not one of his peers.
    I’m just a guy who watches too much TV.

  39. Leander

    “Not eyewitness reports (because even the most highly-credentialed person in the world can misidentify something, or not understand what they are seeing, or may suffer from an episode, or decide to lie, or just be simply wrong).”

    Like some commenter on some other post pointed out, there’s many eyewitness reports by people you trust – often with your life – in everyday life. Police, military personnel, pilots, air traffic controllers etc. Many have reported things that to them were definitely not explained by anything mundane. Of course they could have been mistaken. But to disregard their reports as evidence, you have to believe that in each single one of them a person of that status was actually deceived in spite of their training. Or lying. Or having an episode. That’s a strong belief (and where’s the evidence in many cases that really they were deceived ?), and if it is true, it suggests…you shouldn’t get out of your house any more. Because all these people trained to be observers and have their stuff together and all…really don’t seem to be too qualified for their jobs.

    “but people like Stephen Bassett cannot be persuaded out of their beliefs by the lack of the same evidence.”

    There’s clearly the cases where even government investigation couldn’t find an explanation…meaning there wasn’t evidence for ANY hypothesis. How would that persuade someone out of their beliefs ? Situations like that are exactly what makes them possible. You’re not being logical here.

  40. José

    Some Canadian Skeptic, a BABlogee is anyone who regularly reads the Bad Astronomy Blog.

    For the longest time I’ve been telling myself that I’m simply BABcurious, but I now realize I have to stop lying to myself and face the truth. I think mom will be OK with it, but I’m not sure about my dad.

  41. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    Like some commenter on some other post pointed out, there’s many eyewitness reports by people you trust – often with your life – in everyday life. Police, military personnel, pilots, air traffic controllers etc.

    I don’t trust these people with my life. I trust them to do their jobs as they have been trained to do.

    Where does this involve identifying unusual phenomena in the skies?

    Many have reported things that to them were definitely not explained by anything mundane.

    Or, at least, not within the run of their personal experience. Does this prove anything?

    Of course they could have been mistaken.

    Or simply unfamiliar with the phenomenon that they observed.

    But to disregard their reports as evidence, you have to believe that in each single one of them a person of that status was actually deceived in spite of their training. Or lying. Or having an episode.

    What training?

    What training are police officers (for example) given that qualifies them to identify rare atmospheric phenomena, or experimental aircraft, or the planet Venus, or bright lights reflecting off very distant flocks of geese?

    All you need to believe is that these people are human (i.e. not perfect at recording and recalling all that they see) and that they are not familiar with the visual appearance of the many many different objects and phenomena that can be observed in our skies. Why is this a stretch?

    That’s a strong belief (and where’s the evidence in many cases that really they were deceived ?), and if it is true, it suggests…you shouldn’t get out of your house any more.

    No, it ain’t.

    Because all these people trained to be observers

    What? Trained observers? Trained to observe specific things, perhaps. But where and when are police officers trained to observe and interpret the different refractive effects that our atmosphere can generate? Where and when are pilots trained to observe and interpret the ways in which planets, or flocks of geese can appear? And so on.

    and have their stuff together and all…really don’t seem to be too qualified for their jobs.

    No. they are qualified and trained to do their jobs. And this does not include understanding and interpreting what they observe in the sky, except insofar as it actually impinges on their job.

    Plus, also, you missed the main point.

    It doesn’t matter how many eyewitness “reports” you get, they are never reproducible, they are always made by fallible humans and they never constitute hard evidence. Their unreliability has been demonstrated.

  42. Elmar_M

    So the UFO believers say: There are ETs that traveled possibly 100s of lightyears to earth in very (!) advanced space ships. For this technology their understanding of physics has to be far beyond ours. They must also have some evolved culture to have evolved to this technological level without having killed each other and/or their environment. Then they finally found a planet with other intelligent (well to them at least semi intelligent) life. Then what do they do? They visit some loner-looser- weirdo? You know, one should think that with all that tech they would be able to figure out the smart ones. I mean visit a nuclear physicist, or at least an astronomer… or maybe the president of the United Nations. No it is someone completely random…
    Of course when you say that, then people say: But they dont want us to know that they are here… Yeah sure but then again why do they showthemselves to that loner-looser- weirdo that tells everyone who does not want to hear it about the aliens in his backyard anyway?!
    It just is not logical to begin with. Besides why the secrecy? Please dont come to me with some ethics that are based on human morale and Star Trek. The chance that they share even in a very twisted way a simillar idea of morale with us is diminishingly low.
    Then the images of the so called aliens:
    2 eyes, one head, two arms, two legs, fingers…
    Does not seem to alien to me… Just look at some of the more alien looking life forms here on earth! They look more alien than the ones in those pictures!
    Then there is the idea that for some reason the US government knows everything and the other governments in the world know nothing. A multinational conspiracy of that scale would be totally unrealistic anyway.
    Finally there is the lack of physicaly evidence that Phil mentioned. To me this is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the basics of the claims that are already logically impossible.

  43. John Phillips, FCD

    Leander, you mean such good observers that even in situations where they themselves are not under fire they still manage to carry out blue on blue incidents in near perfect observing conditions.

    People see what they want to see or what they think they see, think paredolia as a classic example. Without evidence it is simply false pattern matching.

  44. fred edison

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
    “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    I’m not convinced that all of these UFO sightings can be solved with conventional explanations. There are some very compelling UFO reports from very credible people. There’s stacks of documentation of military denial about and ongoing involvement in regard to UFOs. If something infiltrates your restricted airspace and nuclear weapon installations, it had better pique your interest if you know what’s good for you.

    I’m not ready to call all of these witnesses mistaken, hoaxers, or liars. It’s easy to dismiss it simply because of the lack of hard evidence. I understand the scientific requirement for hard evidence. It’s necessary or it wouldn’t be called science. But I disagree that a lack of physical evidence cancels out further study of, or interest about these unidentified objects. There’s something tangible there. Something of substance and worth pursuing an answer to. I’d hope we’re advanced enough to appreciate and realize there must be more to it than just our fertile and overactive imagination.

  45. UmTutSut

    What do you make of people such as Jesse Marcel, Phil Corso and Ed Michell? Either they were/are totally nuts in their later years, they were/are blatant liars…or they were/are telling the truth, at least a version thereof. What would be the motivation for ex-military officers who served honorably to outright lie? I maintain there is a genuine phenomenon (or phenomena)that deserves hard scientific study.

    Perhaps transition team leader John Podesta, who headed the Disclosure Project, can convince President Obama to lift the curtain just a bit.

  46. “people like Stephen Bassett cannot be persuaded out of their beliefs by the lack of the same evidence.”

    The problem is that conspiracy theories are unfalsifiable. They will counter that the lack of evidence isn’t evidence of lack, and they will hold you to the high standard of showing tangible evidence to which we hold them – even though it is entirely inappropriate to do so.

    Another way to look at it might be comparing belief in UFOs to belief in your mother’s love. I believe she loves me, but all the evidence I have is my interpretations of her actions, which are eyewitness testimony, and therefore inherently flawed. Yet I still believe my mother loves me, and I will still believe you when you say your mother or your wife or your child love you. These people believe in UFOs the same way we believe in people’s love for us.

  47. Robert

    I’m not a supporter of Stephen Basset’s letter to president elect Obama because the letter makes a lot of assumptions. But I do support the letter’s belief that we have a right to know whatever information exists.

    Is there hard evidence out there that says UFOs are alien spaceships? That is not really the issue because, unless someone is hiding it, the evidence does not exist. It is more of an issue of, let us we willing and open minded enough to obtain the evidence. At the present, no government or scientific body is willing to look for the evidence. Except for SETI, which is willing to look for evidence or accept the possibility of advanced alien civilizations ONLY if it is light years away. Just the act of looking for evidence, is met with heretical naysayers. This is my concern with this entire issue. We are not even willing to look for evidence. It is as if we do not want to entertain the possibility. As Phil Plait stated, “I want an alien on the White House lawn.” If that is the type of evidence that we are awaiting, then we have not done our job as scientists. Scientists are willing to seek out the truth. Scientists are willing to examine theories with data and look for additional data to support or disclaim a hypothesis. But when we no longer are willing to entertain possibilities, we have returned to the time of Galileo when just the act of examining possible evidence brought derision.

  48. Peter B

    Robert said: “We are not even willing to look for evidence. It is as if we do not want to entertain the possibility. As Phil Plait stated, “I want an alien on the White House lawn.” If that is the type of evidence that we are awaiting, then we have not done our job as scientists. Scientists are willing to seek out the truth. Scientists are willing to examine theories with data and look for additional data to support or disclaim a hypothesis. But when we no longer are willing to entertain possibilities, we have returned to the time of Galileo when just the act of examining possible evidence brought derision.”

    With respect, Robert, I think you’re missing the point. I don’t think you’ll find there are many scientists who are “…no longer willing to entertain possibilities…” In fact, there’s a big difference between not entertaining possibilities and asking for evidence.

    Scientists are under no obligation to go and search for aliens, any more than biologists are under any obligation to go to Tibet to look for yetis.

    This isn’t to say yetis and aliens don’t exist. Instead, it places the burden of proof with the people who make the claim that either exists.

    The point is that people are making the claims, but they’re not providing the evidence to back up the claims.

  49. Peter B

    UmTutSut said: “What do you make of people such as Jesse Marcel, Phil Corso and Ed Michell? Either they were/are totally nuts in their later years, they were/are blatant liars…or they were/are telling the truth, at least a version thereof. What would be the motivation for ex-military officers who served honorably to outright lie?”

    You’re missing one other possibility: that they were/are mistaken.

    In any case, I read a review of Corso’s book on the CSICOP site (which I now can’t access). It pointed out many errors of fact which the reviewer was quite easily able to check. What was the cause of those errors? Outright lying? Memory fading over time? Embellishment of tales over time?

  50. Ron

    Luckily Nicolaus Copernicus was able to take his crazy ideas based on pseudo science and get some people to listen and actually investigate. Once investigated people realized there was something to his craziness. Maybe we should actually spend a little time investigating instead of looking for ways to turn our heads and mock.

  51. Nigel Depledge

    Fred Edison said:

    There are some very compelling UFO reports from very credible people.

    As has been pointed out before, there is no such thing as a credible eyewitness, especially with something that is so free from useful referents as a distant thing in the sky.

  52. Nigel Depledge

    Fred Edison said:

    I’m not ready to call all of these witnesses mistaken, hoaxers, or liars. It’s easy to dismiss it simply because of the lack of hard evidence. I understand the scientific requirement for hard evidence. It’s necessary or it wouldn’t be called science. But I disagree that a lack of physical evidence cancels out further study of, or interest about these unidentified objects. There’s something tangible there. Something of substance and worth pursuing an answer to. I’d hope we’re advanced enough to appreciate and realize there must be more to it than just our fertile and overactive imagination.

    OK, but don’t let anyone tell you there are alien spaceships. Assuming that there really are some UFO sightings that cannot be explained as known phenomena, all this means is that we don’t know what was observed. It’s one hell of a big leap to start from “we don’t know” and end up at “alien spaceship” without some incontrovertible evidence.

    Further investigation is precluded by the absence of any evidence to examine.

  53. Joker

    I want an alien on the White House lawn.

    What? We’ve had that already – two words : George and Bush. ;-)

    Ok three Dubya. ;-)

    If he ain’t an alien … well I’d check Sarah Palin.

    What .. she’s human .. really? Oh no! Our species is gunna die from the shame! :-( ;-)

    Texans = aliens folks

  54. Nigel Depledge

    UmTutSut said:

    I maintain there is a genuine phenomenon (or phenomena)that deserves hard scientific study.

    OK, what form should this “hard” scientific study take?

    LC-MS chemical analysis? Radioisotope dating? Mechanical testing? X-ray crystallographic analysis? Microbial culture and DNA sequencing? Or how about all of the above?

    I am sure that, if samples were ever forthcoming, these analyses would be carried out. Until then, there is nothing to investigate.

  55. Nigel Depledge

    Robert said:

    It is more of an issue of, let us we willing and open minded enough to obtain the evidence. At the present, no government or scientific body is willing to look for the evidence.

    But where the hell should they look? Last time I checked, humanity had missed the last bus to Formalhaut. Unless the supposed aliens were actually to land and let us take samples (or to land and leave bits behind as the Apollo LEMs did), there is no evidence to examine. There is no way to get up there and obtain physical evidence.

    So, while your exhortations to “obtain evidence” sound reasonable, unless you are prepared to propose how we should go about it, it is no more helpful than whining that the government has covered everything up.

  56. Franklin

    You said “Not eyewitness reports (because even the most highly-credentialed person in the world can misidentify something, or not understand what they are seeing, or may suffer from an episode, or decide to lie, or just be simply wrong).”

    Those same eyewitnesses can walk into any court in the land and say they saw someone commit murder and you would be willing to believe them and send the defendant to the electric chair. Correct??

  57. Leander

    @Nigel Depledge

    “I don’t trust these people with my life. I trust them to do their jobs as they have been trained to do.”

    Which, in case of military personnel, or police, is to keep you safe. Oh, and the air traffic controllers who keep the plane you’re on from crashing into other planes. What’s your point at all ? Playing semantics ? You trust them with your life.

    “Where does this involve identifying unusual phenomena in the skies?”

    Air traffic controllers for example ? Hello ? Checking radar, trained to distinguish between flying objects and meteorological phenomena, flocks of birds, etc…

    “Or simply unfamiliar with the phenomenon that they observed.”

    Which kind of is…”being mistaken”…what’s with the hair-splitting here ?

    “What training are police officers (for example) given that qualifies them to identify rare atmospheric phenomena, or experimental aircraft, or the planet Venus, or bright lights reflecting off very distant flocks of geese?”

    Ah, that attempt again. You know, if they saw something fuzzy and small, your examples might suffice, but really…there’s people describing actually technological objects, sometimes of large scale. Venus, right. Of course they might be lying, or hallucinating – but are you as a skeptic willing to jump to these conclusions without an actual investigation of their trustworthiness ?

    “and that they are not familiar with the visual appearance of the many many different objects and phenomena that can be observed in our skies.”

    You’re probably talking about astronomers, air force pilots, air traffic controllers etc. Right.

    “No, it ain’t.”

    It IS a strong belief, no matter how you spin it. Take the Disclosure Project…over 200 witnesses. Sure, that doesn’t constitute any proof – but again, are you as a skeptic and supposedly rational person willing to make the bold claim that each and everyone of them either misinterpreted a natural phenomenon, is lying, or hallucinated ? And are you willing to make that claim without any assessment of each and everyone of these people’s trustworthiness as a witness ? Just because it doesn’t fit your idea of the world ? That’s quite a strong belief you’re trying to uphold with such a claim. And silly for every rational person claiming to be interested in the truth, and not just what proves their truth.

    “It doesn’t matter how many eyewitness “reports” you get, they are never reproducible, they are always made by fallible humans and they never constitute hard evidence.”

    You can’t just dismiss them either. What if you saw an alien craft, without a camera handy, no other witnesses…would you want someone to at least be open to what you saw and try and investigate it, or would you wanna be dismissed by guys like Phil ?

    “Their unreliability has been demonstrated.”

    It’s fallacious to say that just because this is the case, you can just dismiss anybody who witnessed things you don’t like. If you were interested in the truth, you’d still investigate the reliability of that particular witness. Assuming you’re from the US, do you want me to just assume you’re overweight, because it has been demonstrated that a great percentage of Americans is ? Do you want your doctor to take out your appendix when you come to him with abdominal pain, just because it has been demonstrated that people with appendicitis suffer from abdominal pain ? So because inreliability of witnesses has been demonstrated…anybody who witnesses something you deem unlikely falls into that category ? What arrogance.

  58. Cheyenne

    Bassett- Please don’t let the naysayers get you down. You don’t need things like “evidence” and “facts” about aliens get in your way. You have a website and a dream (dreams of which consist of little green men probing cattle- but honestly, who am I to judge? Whatever floats your boat really).

    I also admire your courage in writing OpEd’s that don’t follow that whole “educated” English routine. Run on sentences, mangled bullet points, wrongly capitalizing letters- it’s really bold of you.

    “Million Fax on Washington”?! That is so awesome it just rules. You should also launch a “Million 8 Tracks” campaign too. Since you are going retro dorkwad you might as well kick it up a notch.

    Just to keep this on the down low though, please don’t let this get out (!), Barack is seriously considering your OpEd, it really moved him, at first he thought the “PRG” consisted of a delusional pimple faced loser with a PC in his basement, but now that he’s heard of the most extraordinary fax campaign that has ever assailed the nation in it’s total awesomeness- well, he’s been moved.

    Can I join the “PRG”? I have Dungeons and Dragons (so I bring the fun!). Please!?

  59. tacitus


    It is more of an issue of, let us we willing and open minded enough to obtain the evidence. At the present, no government or scientific body is willing to look for the evidence. Except for SETI, which is willing to look for evidence or accept the possibility of advanced alien civilizations ONLY if it is light years away. Just the act of looking for evidence, is met with heretical naysayers. This is my concern with this entire issue. We are not even willing to look for evidence. It is as if we do not want to entertain the possibility. As Phil Plait stated, “I want an alien on the White House lawn.” If that is the type of evidence that we are awaiting, then we have not done our job as scientists. Scientists are willing to seek out the truth. Scientists are willing to examine theories with data and look for additional data to support or disclaim a hypothesis. But when we no longer are willing to entertain possibilities, we have returned to the time of Galileo when just the act of examining possible evidence brought derision.

    A remarkably consistent trait of pseudoscientists is their insistence of a false equivalence between the terms “possible” and “extremely unlikely”. They’re always insisting that just because something is “possible” it is worthy of investigation. Thus if even a semi-legitimate scientists agrees that it’s possible we could find evidence of an alien civilization on Mars, they believe that NASA should spend untold billions of dollars sending a probe designed to investigate that possibility, no matter how extremely unlikely it is.

    Thus I suspect that many scientists would agree that it’s possible that aliens are buzzing around our planet almost-but-not-quite getting (definitively) caught in the act on dozens of occasions every year, but they simply believe that it’s highly unlikely given the paucity and poor quality of the so-called evidence collected by the public.

    The vast majority of scientists in America have reputations and budgets to maintain. And if they went chasing after everything they deemed to be merely possible, no matter how unlikely, they would almost never get anything useful done with their careers. It’s possible we may one day find a means to travel faster than light, but you don’t see dozens of teams of scientists working full time on making the FTL drive a reality because, in reality, all the evidence points to such a device being extremely unlikely.

    As for searching for ETs amongst the UFOs, where would you even suggest the scientists start? Hundreds of amateur sleuths with access to increasingly sophisticated audio/video equipment are already pouring over every new sighting, every new report. Yet none of them — not one single incident — has turned up hard evidence that can’t be explained by natural phenomena, mistaken identity, or deliberate hoax. What would real scientists be able to bring to the table? Where would they look? What scientific processes would they use?

    The most important question though, is how many times do you expect rational scientists to bash their heads against a brick wall when they all have much better, more profitable (for us all) ways to spending their time and resources?

  60. Quiet Desperation

    I basically agree with Phil, but I really question this:

    there is no such thing as a credible eyewitness

    That seems a ridiculously extreme position. How far do we take this? Do we stop allowing eyewitness testimony in trials?

    How about the 9/11 conspiracy loons who say a missile hit the Pentagon? You just discredited all the many eyewitnesses who saw the plane.

  61. Eyewitness testimony — especially in stressful or surprising situations — is notoriously unreliable. In fact, I would not accept eyewitness testimony in court, and certainly would never send someone to the chair because of it.

  62. TheBlackCat

    I think tacitus hit on a key point: we have extremely limited resources, we need to allocate those resources in a manner that is most likely to be fruitful. Given how much time, money, and effort has beens pent on research into UFOs with little to nothing to show for it, I think it is not that strange that people consider it wasteful when there are uses for those resources that are much more likely to be fruitful.

  63. TheBlackCat

    “How about the 9/11 conspiracy loons who say a missile hit the Pentagon? You just discredited all the many eyewitnesses who saw the plane.”

    Those witnesses are backed up by video footage and, most importantly, a huge amount of physical evidence. If they claimed that they saw a plane but there was no physical evidence of it then people would be correct to be skeptical. But there is a huge amount of physical evidence, and the eyewitness reports match the location and nature of physical damage to the area and wreckage of the plane (according to a computer reconstruction I saw). So people are not depending on eyewitness accounts alone, they fit perfectly into an coherent picture painted by several different lines of evidence.

  64. Cheyenne

    Phil – You wouldn’t accept eyewitness testimony in court? That is a very large blanket to throw, and if adopted (although obviously it never would be) would have massive repercussions on our legal system.

    I would abolish the death penalty outright by the way. And I agree that eyewitness testimony is more unreliable than most people realize. But to say you wouldn’t allow it in court doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Do you really know what that would mean?

  65. Lazze

    “If it were actually shown that aliens do exist through verifiable evidence, it would probably be life-shattering for a few days, a week tops, then it would just become one of the many background facts of life.
    No, actually the fun would just begin, because then you’d get to witness the circus of competing UFO nuts claiming it was their version of the space alien all along.”

    The day after this lifeshattering event, all the hoax-believers will come crawling out from under their rocks and tell us it’s all a conspiracy and that we are alone in the universe…

  66. Greg in Austin

    Any lawyers, judges, legal people, or anyone with jury experience reading this? How many murder cases have there been where there was absolutely no physical evidence of any kind, and the jury convicted the defendant solely on eyewitness testimony?

    8)

  67. Lazze

    Eyewitness reports were very popular during the inquisition – but not necessarily very reliable.

  68. Todd W.

    A quick note to those people who bring up air traffic controllers, pilots, police and military officers, etc. as credible witnesses for UFOs = aliens, and claiming that somehow their particular training makes them better observers and less likely to be fooled by “natural” phenomena.

    Keep in mind one simple thing: they are all human. They are not infallible. Yes, they have some specialized training that, in many situations, makes them better qualified to evaluate some manner of visual data. However, their training also gives them a certain frame of reference that can cloud truly objective interpretations of what they see. They see what they expect to see, and if something does not fit those expectations, their minds, like anyone’s mind, tries to fill in the gaps in a way that makes sense to the person. The picture that emerges depends a great deal on their training, as well as what things they personally believe, movies they’ve recently seen or books they’ve read.

    There are a great number of factors influencing how any single individual interprets sensory input. Most of the time, we interpret correctly, but, particularly where something doesn’t quite fit with what we think we know, we can be mistaken, sometimes by just a smidge, sometimes completely off.

    At any rate, even if a person is a “trained observer” by whatever definition, they can still make mistakes in their observations. And that’s only after we’ve gotten past ruling out other explanations, such as they were lying, hallucinating, etc. In the end, eyewitness testimony is good for suggesting areas of further inquiry, but they most definitely do not qualify as proof or even solid evidence.

  69. Mauricio

    Eeeh Phil, if you plainly believe that UFOs are not real, then what would be the big difference beetween a scenario in which Obama is not a reality based guy, compared to other scenario where Obama is a reality based guy?

    Hell, if UFOs are pure garbage, then no matter how Obama is, nothing will happen.

  70. Mauricio

    By the way, UFOs are not garbage. They are too real, unfortunately.

  71. Cheyenne

    Yep, UFO’s are real. People see things they don’t understand.

    Aliens though? The space faring cattle prodding crop circle making phaser blasting big headed with somehow even bigger eyeballs freak machines? Not so much.

    But I’m wrong you say (and others)! Then just prove it. Making your own dorky website isn’t proof (if you are somebody that is lame enough to have taken the time to do that). Put up or shut up is the rather impolite way to phrase it (but oh it does encapsulate the thought bubble).

  72. tacitus

    They are too real, unfortunately.

    And you know that…. how? You may believe they are real, but just like the rest of us you have no way of knowing that they are.

    And speaking as someone who doesn’t believe that the UFO sightings are really alien spacecraft, there would be nothing unfortunate at all about them being “real”. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    If the day came when it was revealed to all that aliens do exist and they are here, now, on Earth, it would remembered as one of the great (if not the greatest) pivotal moments in human history. In fact, it’s very hard to think of another historical event that would be as equally profound.

    There is a common assumption that any ETIs which these so-called UFOs contain would be hostile to us in some way — not everything that makes a compelling science fiction action series is likely to be true! We are likely to have very little of value that an advanced civilization capable superluminal travel is likely to want to seize from us, so they are much more likely to gain from studying us from a cultural and scientific perspective and an exchange of ideas and viewpoints.

    As for mass panic in the streets. Nah. Some nutjobs will go off the deep end, and there would be an awful lot of introspection by powerful people around the world as they pondered their part in a new future, but we are a very adaptable species and the vast majority of us will quickly absorb (and welcome) the new reality thrust upon us.

  73. kuhnigget

    @ Tacitus:

    We are likely to have very little of value that an advanced civilization capable of superluminal travel is likely to want to seize from us

    See earlier posts, vis. cow recta.

  74. Todd W.

    @kuhnigget and tacitus

    Don’t forget some key ingredients for soylent green.

  75. Mauricio

    Tacitus said:
    “There is a common assumption that any ETIs which these so-called UFOs contain would be hostile to us in some way — not everything that makes a compelling science fiction action series is likely to be true! We are likely to have very little of value that an advanced civilization capable superluminal travel is likely to want to seize from us, so they are much more likely to gain from studying us from a cultural and scientific perspective and an exchange of ideas and viewpoints.”
    Response:
    Consider this scenario: Aliens are superior to us, are visiting us. They are kidnapping some humans occasionally to analyze them. But they refuse to disturb humanity massively and publicly, probably due to their ecological care of inferior species, like us. They are limited to observe and study us in a scientific perspective (as you well said). But, there is always a but. What happens if we suddenly (or slowly) became dangerous to them? We are developing weapons rapidly, and probably there will be a moment when we humans will be INsignificant no more. Probably in that moment, they will try to dominate us, conquer us, colonize us, or whatever. They will most probably triumph.
    That, is unfortunate… If UFOs are real, then we are not owners of our destiny.

  76. Todd W.

    @Mauricio

    If UFOs aren’t real, we also are not necessarily owners of our destiny. But, that’s getting into a whole other philosophical discussion that’s a bit off-topic for the thread. :)

  77. Greg in Austin

    Consider this scenario: Triton, God of the Sea, is real, but sleeping in a big giant clam shell in the middle of the Atlantic. As soon as his 3,000 year slumber is over, he’s going to wake up and see how we are dumping chemicals and pollution in his watery kingdom. At that moment, he will flood the world to wipe out all humans. That is unfortunate.

    It is just as likely a scenario as yours, based on the evidence you provided.

    8)

  78. tacitus


    We are developing weapons rapidly, and probably there will be a moment when we humans will be INsignificant no more. Probably in that moment, they will try to dominate us, conquer us, colonize us, or whatever. They will most probably triumph.

    That’s an awful lot of projection to get you to the worst case scenario. Even if what you say happened, there is nothing we could do about it anyway, so why fret?

    In reality though, such an ETI would at least be hundreds of years ahead of us in terms of technology, so they would have little to fear from any WMDs we could dream up in our near future. But even if they began to see us as a potential threat (probably years or decades before we were an actual threat) then why would it be necessary to dominate, conquer, or colonize us? They would simply remove the threat — forcibly if necessary — without all that messy business of conquest. Even then, unless it because impossible to keep humanity from escaping the Solar System in superluminal space craft, then we would be effectively under an unbreakable quarantine from the rest of the galaxy.

    So while it is possible we could be under surveillance from a potentially hostile ETI, it is extremely unlikely that we are, and even if we are there is nothing we can do about it anyway.

  79. Leander

    “Eyewitness testimony — especially in stressful or surprising situations — is notoriously unreliable. In fact, I would not accept eyewitness testimony in court, and certainly would never send someone to the chair because of it.”

    Well neither would I. But I sure would investigate their claims, and not dismiss them – with the reasoning that eyewitnesses are unreliable anyway – because they don’t fit my view of the case. And in the small percentage where I can’t figure out an explanation for what they saw, I’d have to accept that, just maybe, they saw what they say – and not dismiss it because it seems unlikely to my human conceptions of the world. That’s bias, not open-mindedness.

  80. Greg in Austin

    Leander said,

    “But I sure would investigate their claims, and not dismiss them – with the reasoning that eyewitnesses are unreliable anyway – because they don’t fit my view of the case.”

    Would you investigate every single claim? What about the events that occur where 20 people say they saw something extra-ordinary, but one fellow comes along and says it was completely mundane? Who do you believe? Do we then dismiss the person who says the object was a balloon because 20 others said it wasn’t? Is that how science should work?

    I don’t think so. I think science should be biased in favor of the evidence, not in speculation.

    8)

  81. Leander

    “Would you investigate every single claim?”

    If I was trying to figure out what really is going on, yes. You wouldn’t ? What do you think police does when they investigate a crime scene ? Just ask a bunch of witnesses, send the rest home and call it a day ? I don’t think so.

    “I don’t think so. I think science should be biased in favor of the evidence, not in speculation.”

    So let’s say the event didn’t leave any hard evidence, and the eyewitness testimony is all you have. Call it “soft evidence”. First of all I wouldn’t just BELIEVE either the one guy or the 20 others. That’s clearly not how science should work. I’d investigate all 21 stories, compare their details, assert the trustworthiness of the individual witnesses as far as possible, take into account viewing conditions and whatever else might be off issue – and then form a hypothesis. And if indeed 20 people agree on seeing something, the descriptions being similar, and something resembling an alien craft, to stay on topic – and I’d have no reason to believe they were all nutjobs or liars – I’d not take that as proof of an alien craft, but as an unbiased person I’d come to the conclusion more than a balloon was going on.

    Did I get you right and you’d suggest just talking to some of them, not really checking their reliability, and then dismissing their stories because of general absence of evidence of alien craft so far, and just stick with the one guys story because it fits what you can imagine and what seems likely in your concept of reality ? No offense, but I’d call that a sloppy and biased investigation – if that’s indeed what you’d suggest.

  82. kuhnigget

    @ Greg:

    Consider this scenario: Triton, God of the Sea, is real, but sleeping in a big giant clam shell in the middle of the Atlantic.

    Oh, dear me. Now you’ve gone and exposed the cover-up. I’m afraid it’s the clam shell for you…

  83. Mauricio

    Greg of Austin said:

    “Consider this scenario: Triton, God of the Sea, is real, but sleeping in a big giant clam shell in the middle of the Atlantic. As soon as his 3,000 year slumber is over, he’s going to wake up and see how we are dumping chemicals and pollution in his watery kingdom. At that moment, he will flood the world to wipe out all humans. That is unfortunate. It is just as likely a scenario as yours, based on the evidence you provided.”
    Not even remotely likely. First: No theoretical/plausible basis for the existence of Triton, not even actual testimonies for his existence. Second, a lot of theoretical basis for suspecting there is life in other planets, and an awful lot of testimonies of possible visitors, here. Some testimonies of UFOs confirmed undoubtly by radar, multiple witness cases confirmed by radar, cases of close distance UFO causing physical damage to witnesses, or causing physical traces on soil or trees, etc. No evidence? Ha. It is extremely easy to say there is no evidence when one is not searching it.
    Just like you, I would rather say that the action of dumping chemicals and pollution indeed opens the real possibility of flooding out our world. That, even if not provoked by Triton, would be unfortunate, too, again.

  84. Greg in Austin

    @Leander,

    “What do you think police does when they investigate a crime scene ? Just ask a bunch of witnesses, send the rest home and call it a day ? I don’t think so.”

    I’m not a police officer, so I cannot say what they are trained to do. I would imagine that if there is no physical evidence of a crime scene, and its one guy’s word against another, the police officer makes no decision one way or another, but lets the people take it to court, to let a judge or jury decide. But I could be wrong.

    “Did I get you right and you’d suggest just talking to some of them, not really checking their reliability, and then dismissing their stories because of general absence of evidence of alien craft so far, and just stick with the one guys story because it fits what you can imagine and what seems likely in your concept of reality ?”

    That is not what I said. It has nothing to do with what I can imagine or any preconceived notion. What I, and many other people here have said is that eyewitness testimony has been proven, in scientific studies, to be unreliable. Regardless of the “trustworthiness of the witness,” people can and do make mistakes. Therefore, without physical evidence, you cannot confirm the existence of aliens visiting earth based on witnesses.

    The difference in mindset here is, when faced with something you have never seen before, do you believe it is something fantastic and extraordinary like aliens from another planet, or do you believe that it is simply something from Earth that you have never seen?

    Remember, we’re talking about the same human beings who believe Jesus’ face appearing in trees and on toast is divine intervention!

    8)

  85. Greg in Austin

    @Mauricio,

    “First: No theoretical/plausible basis for the existence of Triton, not even actual testimonies for his existence.”

    On the contrary, the ancient Greeks believed in Triton and his father Poseidon, along with all the other gods and heroes. They wrote books, built statues, and for a while, based their whole society on worshiping the gods. There’s more evidence to prove Zeus existed than UFO=Aliens.

    “Some testimonies of UFOs confirmed undoubtly by radar, multiple witness cases confirmed by radar, cases of close distance UFO causing physical damage to witnesses, or causing physical traces on soil or trees, etc.”

    Please provide the source of your claim that damage to witnesses and trees was actually caused by aliens, and could not have possibly been made by humans or natural phenomenon. Be thorough, as many people here will question the authenticity of your claims.

    Again, please re-read Phil Plait’s article, and the one from last week. He clearly states that life on other planets is certainly possible. But we have not proven that yet, much less proven that any alien life form is advanced enough to travel thru space, much less proven that they have visited Earth. If you have real evidence, please present it.

    8)

  86. Davidlpf

    I had access to the above top secret folder in it there was one slip of paper and it read “this folder here just to drive conspiracy theorists nuts.”

  87. Alan French

    IVAN3MAN Says, in part:
    November 30th, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    >> Dear Phil,

    You do deserve some credit for maintaining your obtuse ignorance of the UFO/ET subject right up until the very end of the truth embargo. <<

    Phil,

    Wow! Stephen Bassett has a form letter he sends out anytime you write about UFOs. You got the same one in the "UFO and Amateur Astronomers" comments.

    I wonder what he'll be saying in two decades when we're still waiting for the big revelations?

    Clear skies, Alan

  88. Will

    Again it comes down to the gaps argument.

    ET visitor proponents will say: “We don’t know what caused this flash of light, so MY SPECIFIC EXPLANATION is the correct one.”
    Creationists will say: “We don’t know what caused Hydrogen to exist, so MY SPECIFIC EXPLANATION is the correct one.”

    Skeptics will continue to say: “Wha-?”

  89. amphiox

    Phil is absolutely right about eyewitness testimony. It is horrendously unreliable, and is the number one cause of wrongful convictions in criminal cases. Innocent men have been sentenced to death because of reliance on eyewitness testimony.

    Only when you already have the physical evidence corroborating the eyewitness account is that account useful, in that, now that its reliability is confirmed, it can be used to flesh out details one could not easily obtain from physical evidence alone.

    Thus, if we one day find actual physical evidence for alien spacecraft visiting our planet, and this evidence is confirmed, then and only then would it be reasonable to start looking at the catalogue of UFO sightings to see which sightings might be in any way related to the physical evidence which we now have in hand.

  90. Andrew

    I would strongly suggest checking out http://www.disclosureproject.org. A very well-respected country doctor by the name of Stephen Greer gave up a very-well paid medical career for full UFO/alien disclosure by the US government. He also runs a project which is trying to develop alternative and non-fossil fuels as energy sources. Y

    It’s even possible to go as a group and supposedly attempt to contact ETs at some location in the US. I’ve actually spoken to someone who went on one of these things, and he said that it was an unbelievable experience.

    Whether its true or not, I do not know. However, as an “open-minded” sceptic, I would strongly suggest that you check these kinds of avenues out. I mean it may be a load of baloney, and he may indeed be a complete charlatan, but you’ll never find out unless you try. Then you can decide for yourself whether there is or is not solid physical evidence.

  91. tacitus

    Andrew, there’s just not enough time in the day to go chasing after every UFO report, or even those that have been filtered for trivial explanations. The fact that so many “sightings” occur every year and there is *still* no hard evidence would lead any truly open-minded skeptic to conclude that the existence of alien spacecraft is highly unlikely.

    I *am* open to the possibility that there is some kind of alien presence in our system, but I still consider it to be (a) very unlikely given the complete lack of hard (biological or technological) evidence found so far and (b) not worth spending any of my time investigating at this time.

    I am not at all against people tracking, recording and investigating UFO sightings — after all their success rate is no worse than the active SETI organizations thus far :). I actually have reasonable confidence that there are enough amateur UFO sleuths out there that should we actually catch an ETI/UFO unawares, the news and the evidence (real, solid, hard evidence) will get out into the public domain.

    What I think is overwrought and silly are claims that (a) there is a massive government or even international governmental conspiracy to cover up hard evidence of ETIs that has fallen into the hands of the authorities and (b) that scientists should take the claims of UFOlogists more seriously at this point. The fact is that there have already been a number of systematic analyses of UFO sightings–it’s just that the UFO enthusiasts reject the studies because they don’t like the findings.

    When the evidence merits it, people will take UFOs seriously, of that I have no doubt. Until then, go investigate, have fun, I don’t care — just don’t expect me to be all that interested until there is something really interesting to be interested in!

  92. Rodney

    Well,

    I’m gonna jump in on the side of the UFO guys here.

    Phil does deserve a lot of credit. So does Dr. Shermer, and all the other skeptics and skeptical societies.

    I couldn’t blog around and talk common sense day after day and put up with getting called a lier, moron, or government tool, or worse, without going to a few UFO conventions and passing out stitches (from a list, prepared in advance).

    The job you do is damn important. Especially so for people new to skepticism. Especially for people who can’t do it (without getting arrested).

    I’d like to repeat that you deserve a lot of credit.

    Thanks,

    rod

  93. Rodney

    Andrew,

    They’re called “Flying Saucer Safaris” and the desert, near Indio CA, is a popular place.

    It involves more otherwise bored people flipping out over nothing than it does actual UFO’s, though.

    Yup, done it many times. Never got abducted.

    rod

    PS: or DID I??? AAAAaaaaahhhh!

  94. Andrew

    That’s completely beside the point. My question to you all is why would an otherwise “normal”, respectable E.R. doctor completely pack in his career, hold a press conference at the National Press Club, Washington, in 2001, with over 20 so-callled credible witnesses, and thus devote the rest of his life attempting to disclose the alleged government cover-up? That’s all I want to know. To be honest with you, I couldn’t care less whether these things exist or not. The universe is an amazingly interesting and complicated place as it is. All that I want to know is the truth. So if someone like Phil can debunk this guy, then that’s all fair and well, but if he can’t…………..?

  95. Andrew

    That’s entirely beside the point. To be honest, I couldn’t care less whether these things exist. All I want to know is the truth.

    Why would an otherwise so-called, respectable, “normal” E.R. doctor completely pack in his career, hold a press conference at the National Press Club, Washington in 2001, with over 20 credible government and military witnesses, whilst devoting the rest of his life attempting to disclose the so-called government cover-up of E.Ts?

    Using a straw-man arguement and sarcasm certainly is not true scepticism, whatever that is anyway…..

  96. Andrew, there’s got to be a logical fallacy in what you just said. Personal incredulity perhaps?

    There are many reasons why apparently sane people do some interesting things. They will devote their lives, in some cases, to some quite bizarre causes. I watched a doctor last night, a very famous Australian brain surgeon, claim that the jury was still out out on mobile phones causing brain tumours because brain tumours can take decades to appear and, to paraphrase, because radiation can cause tumours mobile phone radiation may do so too. A very cluey doctor, surprisingly, not having a clue about mobile phone radiation.

  97. tacitus


    Why would an otherwise so-called, respectable, “normal” E.R. doctor completely pack in his career, hold a press conference at the National Press Club, Washington in 2001, with over 20 credible government and military witnesses, whilst devoting the rest of his life attempting to disclose the so-called government cover-up of E.Ts?

    People do this type of thing all the time on flimsier evidence that UFO sightings. Just think of all the people throughout history who gave up comfortable lives to follow their religious calling and become a monk (or the equivalent) spending the rest of their lives doing nothing but praying, eating, and sleeping. Only one major religion can be correct (or none, of course) so a large number of those people are leading a life based on nothing but stories.

    One man’s obsession is not good evidence for anything.

  98. Greg in Austin

    Andrew said,

    “My question to you all is why would an otherwise “normal”, respectable E.R. doctor completely pack in his career, hold a press conference at the National Press Club, Washington, in 2001, with over 20 so-callled credible witnesses, and thus devote the rest of his life attempting to disclose the alleged government cover-up?”

    DUH! To sell books and DVDs on the internet! If this guy was really doing this for the benefit of humanity, he’d publish all his findings for free. That website is setup to make money. Pure and simple.

    8)

  99. Nigel Depledge

    Franklin said:

    You said “Not eyewitness reports (because even the most highly-credentialed person in the world can misidentify something, or not understand what they are seeing, or may suffer from an episode, or decide to lie, or just be simply wrong).”

    Those same eyewitnesses can walk into any court in the land and say they saw someone commit murder and you would be willing to believe them and send the defendant to the electric chair. Correct??

    Wrongo.

    For a murder conviction, there must always be other, physical evidence.

    Such as, for example, a body (from which a coroner can determine that murder has been committed).

    And any decent lawyer should be able to cast doubt on an eyewitness identification unless the witness saw the perp very close up.

  100. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    Which, in case of military personnel, or police, is to keep you safe. Oh, and the air traffic controllers who keep the plane you’re on from crashing into other planes. What’s your point at all ? Playing semantics ? You trust them with your life.

    You obviously do not know much about our modern society.

    I don’t trust these individuals with my life. I trust the systems of which they are but a part.

  101. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    “Where does this involve identifying unusual phenomena in the skies?”

    Air traffic controllers for example ? Hello ? Checking radar, trained to distinguish between flying objects and meteorological phenomena, flocks of birds, etc…

    Radar transponders do all the work of identifying civilian aircraft for ATC.

    Plus, also, the controllers talk to the blips on the screen and the blips talk back. Civilian ATC does not involve analysing radar responses and trying to identify the objects. As for military ATC, I know very little about it, but it would need to be fundamentally similar.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    Ah, that attempt again. You know, if they saw something fuzzy and small, your examples might suffice, but really…there’s people describing actually technological objects, sometimes of large scale. Venus, right. Of course they might be lying, or hallucinating – but are you as a skeptic willing to jump to these conclusions without an actual investigation of their trustworthiness ?

    Actually, I am not jumping to any conclusions.

    The observer is the one that jumps to conclusions. As, apparently, do you.

    Anyone observing something that they cannot positively and convincingly identify could easily be mistaken into thinking it is something that it isn’t. The human visual cortex has evolved to notice patterns whether they are real or not, because this is a better survival trait than failing to spot a potential predator.

    All I’m saying is that observers can very easily be mistaken. You seem to be saying that certain people are infallible. But you do not attempt to explain what makes them so.

    If you see a close-set pattern of lights in the sky, your mind could well interpret that as one object, even though there is no visible connection between the lights. This is just being human, and it can happen to anyone.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    It IS a strong belief, no matter how you spin it. Take the Disclosure Project…over 200 witnesses. Sure, that doesn’t constitute any proof – but again, are you as a skeptic and supposedly rational person willing to make the bold claim that each and everyone of them either misinterpreted a natural phenomenon, is lying, or hallucinated ? And are you willing to make that claim without any assessment of each and everyone of these people’s trustworthiness as a witness ? Just because it doesn’t fit your idea of the world ? That’s quite a strong belief you’re trying to uphold with such a claim. And silly for every rational person claiming to be interested in the truth, and not just what proves their truth.

    I’m not claiming anything.

    Whether the “witnesses” are mistaken, hallucinating, lying or whatever is entirely irrelevant.

    There is no evidence.

    As a scientist, I am quite prepared to believe in new things, when there is evidence to demonstrate that they are real. What I believe about the potential for alien spaceships to be visiting our solar system is also irrelevant. What matters is evidence, and of alien spaceships there is none.

  104. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    You can’t just dismiss them either. What if you saw an alien craft, without a camera handy, no other witnesses…would you want someone to at least be open to what you saw and try and investigate it, or would you wanna be dismissed by guys like Phil ?

    Actually, if I saw a UFO that looked like a spaceship, I would conclude that it was exactly that: something that looked like a spaceship.

    This does not mean it is a spaceship.

    Besides, how the hell would I know what an alien spaceship is supposed to look like?

    “Their unreliability has been demonstrated.”

    It’s fallacious to say that just because this is the case, you can just dismiss anybody who witnessed things you don’t like. If you were interested in the truth, you’d still investigate the reliability of that particular witness. Assuming you’re from the US, do you want me to just assume you’re overweight, because it has been demonstrated that a great percentage of Americans is ? Do you want your doctor to take out your appendix when you come to him with abdominal pain, just because it has been demonstrated that people with appendicitis suffer from abdominal pain ? So because inreliability of witnesses has been demonstrated…anybody who witnesses something you deem unlikely falls into that category ? What arrogance.

    You are reading far too much into a simple statement. Eyewitness testimony has been proven, beyond reasonable doubt, to be unreliable. No-one is as observant as they would like to be, or (in many cases) as observant as they think they are. This does not imply any criticism of the people who have reported seeing something. However, I would criticise those people for leaping to an unjustified conclusion.

    It is not arrogance to discount eyewitness reports as evidence of alien visitation. Instead, it is sensible. The existence of intelligent alien life would be the biggest deal since fire. So, before we get all excited about alien visitors, we must be absolutely certain that this is what is happening. And that demands hard, independently-verifiable evidence.

  105. Daniel

    Ok…now we are debunking eyewitness testimony for a court of law!? Apples and Oranges… You have truly lost it. If 9 different people came forward in a court of law and said they saw the defendant do something from all different perspectives…What, were they all hallucinating at the same time? Get real!

  106. Nigel Depledge

    Daniel said:

    Ok…now we are debunking eyewitness testimony for a court of law!? Apples and Oranges… You have truly lost it. If 9 different people came forward in a court of law and said they saw the defendant do something from all different perspectives…What, were they all hallucinating at the same time? Get real!

    A court would not convict on the basis of eyewitness testimony alone. There needs to be physical evidence – for example, in a murder case there is always a dead body.

    Now, once the physical evidence establishes what was done and how, then eyewitness testimony can help hone the “who?”. But it typically plays a supporting role to the physical evidence.

    As Phil has pointed out, eyewitness accounts do not constitute scientific evidence. What science demands is observations that are reproducible.

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Quiet Desperation said:

    How about the 9/11 conspiracy loons who say a missile hit the Pentagon? You just discredited all the many eyewitnesses who saw the plane.

    Not so, because that testimony was supported by physical evidence. There were bits of plane in the wreckage.

  108. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    “Would you investigate every single claim?”

    If I was trying to figure out what really is going on, yes. You wouldn’t ? What do you think police does when they investigate a crime scene ? Just ask a bunch of witnesses, send the rest home and call it a day ? I don’t think so.

    Crime scene? But how is it established that a crime has occurred?

    Oh, yeah – evidence.

    So, Leander, you totally dodged the question.

    If you were a police officer, would you blithely follow up every time some random member of the public came up to you and accused someone else of criminal activity of some kind? Or would you ask to see evidence that a crime has, indeed, occurred?

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Leander said:

    So let’s say the event didn’t leave any hard evidence, and the eyewitness testimony is all you have. Call it “soft evidence”. First of all I wouldn’t just BELIEVE either the one guy or the 20 others. That’s clearly not how science should work. I’d investigate all 21 stories, compare their details, assert the trustworthiness of the individual witnesses as far as possible, take into account viewing conditions and whatever else might be off issue – and then form a hypothesis. And if indeed 20 people agree on seeing something, the descriptions being similar, and something resembling an alien craft, to stay on topic – and I’d have no reason to believe they were all nutjobs or liars – I’d not take that as proof of an alien craft, but as an unbiased person I’d come to the conclusion more than a balloon was going on.

    So, this event that didn’t leave any hard evidence: how do you know that it occurred at all?

    And if 20 reliable people agree that they saw an alien spaceship, you would then accept that as true, would you?

    Or would you try to place it into the context of what we already know?

    Because we know that interstellar travel is really really hard, and that we have, as yet, detected no ET life at all, let alone intelligent ET life, we know that the existence of ET intelligence would be an extraordinary discovery indeed. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and the only evidence in your scenario is the testimony of the witnesses.

    I would go with the weather balloon idea, because we know that weather balloons are real, we know that they get released into the atmosphere quite frequently, we know that they can reach high altitudes, and we know that most people would not be able to identify one. Also, we could actually follow up the sighting to determine if a weather balloon was in the area at the time.

    By assuming that people cannot be mistaken in what they see (unless they are nutjobs or liars), you are crediting people with an infallability that they do not merit.

  110. Nigel Depledge

    Mauricio said:

    “Consider this scenario: Triton, God of the Sea, is real, but sleeping in a big giant clam shell in the middle of the Atlantic. As soon as his 3,000 year slumber is over, he’s going to wake up and see how we are dumping chemicals and pollution in his watery kingdom. At that moment, he will flood the world to wipe out all humans. That is unfortunate. It is just as likely a scenario as yours, based on the evidence you provided.”

    Not even remotely likely. First: No theoretical/plausible basis for the existence of Triton, not even actual testimonies for his existence.

    Wrong, there are accounts of his deeds in Homer’s Odyssey. Are you saying that one of the greatest historians of all time was a nutjob or a liar?

    Second, a lot of theoretical basis for suspecting there is life in other planets, and an awful lot of testimonies of possible visitors, here.

    There is a theoretical basis for life existing elsewhere, but there is no indication that any of it has to be intelligent. This argument is weak.

    Also, since you are trying to support the testimonial accounts of alien spaceships visiting Earth, you cannot cite them as evidence to support themselves.

    Some testimonies of UFOs confirmed undoubtly by radar, multiple witness cases confirmed by radar, cases of close distance UFO causing physical damage to witnesses, or causing physical traces on soil or trees, etc. No evidence? Ha.

    Radar ghosts or “angels” are common. Often they occur when no-one is claiming that ther are alien spaceships in the sky.

    Physical traces on soil or trees that have entirely terrestrial explanations. Because these things have known terrestrial causes, this does not constitute evidence of ET visitors.

    It is extremely easy to say there is no evidence when one is not searching it.

    No, it is easy to say that there is no evidence because nothing that the UFOlogists have presented actually withstands close scrutiny. None of it unambiguously indicates an ET origin.

  111. Another huge leap of logic that the UFO proponents make is that a truly anomalous object must be an alien spacecraft. If we had a reliable sighting whereby all conventional explanations were exhausted, it would merely point to the existence of something we don’t know. It could be an undocumented atmospheric phenomenon. It could be an undocumented astronomical phenomenon. It could be a thousand other things. In short, it is impossible to prove the existence of alien spacecraft just by taking a UFO sighting and then eliminating all the conventional explanations. In short, we need more evidence.

  112. Peter B

    Alan Haggard said: “Buzz Aldrin describing a UFO sighted during the Apollo 11 mission.”

    What he and his crewmates saw was almost certainly one of the Spacecraft Lunar Adapter panels which covered the Lunar Module during the launch of the Saturn V rocket. These four panels were discarded when the Lunar Module was retrieved from its position on top of the S-IVB. The action of discarding the panels made them tumble, but they moved only slowly away from the Apollo spacecraft. Given their curved shape, their tumbling motion and the fact that the inside of the panel was bare metal, they make an excellent candidate for what the crew saw.

    As for the Phoenix lights, I understood the earlier sighting had been clearly identified by a witness looking through a telescope as individual aircraft, and the later sighting as flares released by a US Air Force jet.

    Perhaps the other examples you’ve given are no more inexplicable than these examples?

  113. amphiox

    How could we possibly even do a scientifically systemic search for real evidence of UFOs? We have no idea what kind of technology it would take to make an interstellar journey, or what it or its pieces might look like, or what it might be made of, what effects it might or might not have on the surrounding environments it comes into contact with, etc. We have no inkling of where and what direction they might be coming from, since we have no idea at present where these aliens might be living.

    So what are we left with? Grid off the entire surface of the earth and have a billion volunteers comb each and every block for fragments of metallic looking stuff to take back to a million labs and do isotope analysis? Install skyward pointing cameras at fifty kilometer intervals over the entire surface of the planet to scan real time for flying objects? Our a fleet of spy satellites dedicated to spotting every moving object in the earth’s atmosphere below at all times? Or assemble a massive catalogue of every single possible phenomenon ever observed by any and all available means that does not yet have a satisfactory explanation? (How would we even go about doing that?)

    In short, without some sort of evidence from which we can develop a hypothesis and narrow our search parameters, you can’t do a scientific search for UFOs.

    The first such evidence could be the detection of an earthlike planet of the appropriate age, followed by determination of its habitability, posssibly by analyzing the atmosphere for oxygen. Then, at least, we could speculate as to the direction in which UFO’s might be coming from, and train telescopes that way to see if we can catch them in transit. (Assuming our telescopes would be up to the task of detecting something that small)

  114. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew said:

    I would strongly suggest checking out http://www.disclosureproject.org. A very well-respected country doctor by the name of Stephen Greer gave up a very-well paid medical career for full UFO/alien disclosure by the US government. He also runs a project which is trying to develop alternative and non-fossil fuels as energy sources. Y

    It’s even possible to go as a group and supposedly attempt to contact ETs at some location in the US. I’ve actually spoken to someone who went on one of these things, and he said that it was an unbelievable experience.

    Whether its true or not, I do not know. However, as an “open-minded” sceptic, I would strongly suggest that you check these kinds of avenues out. I mean it may be a load of baloney, and he may indeed be a complete charlatan, but you’ll never find out unless you try. Then you can decide for yourself whether there is or is not solid physical evidence.

    Actually, I think the process should go the other way around.

    When there is some hard evidence that there are alien spaceships visiting Earth, this will be the biggest thing since fire. Until then, the cranks should recognise that no amount of whining and no number of websites will convince the scientific community that UFOs are alien spaceships.

    However, once there is real evidence, it will be front page news all over the planet. It will cause an explosion in astrobiology, and will have scientific conferences buzzing for years.

  115. Nigel Depledge

    Andrew said:

    That’s entirely beside the point. To be honest, I couldn’t care less whether these things exist. All I want to know is the truth.

    Andrew, that’s easy. The truth is that we don’t know.

    We can make educated guesses, but we don’t know.

    Applying Ockham’s razor, we should assume that unidentified objects seen in the skies are perfectly normal phenomena (planes, geese, planets, or whatever) until there is evidence to indicate otherwise.

  116. Quiet Desperation

    Eyewitness reports were very popular during the inquisition – but not necessarily very reliable.

    Flaming chunks of my logical fallacy detector are now streaking through the stratosphere.

    I believe some of them may hit Canada.

  117. Quiet Desperation

    Eyewitness testimony — especially in stressful or surprising situations — is notoriously unreliable. In fact, I would not accept eyewitness testimony in court, and certainly would never send someone to the chair because of it.

    OK, I can pick cherries, too. Say someone frames me for murder by planting DNA evidence (easy enough to do). You are in the jury. My only alibi is that a couple acquaintances saw me in a restaurant at the time of the murder. You are going to convict me? They actually stopped to talk to me and I asked them the time, so they are sure of my identity and the time. Still? That door swings both ways, Phil. The prosecution is not the only side that can use eyewitnesses.

    Really think about what you are saying here. A crazy neighbor can walk up as you and your family are getting out of your car at home, shoot you all and flee. The only evidence is that you survive and pick the guy out of a lineup. You know it was him because he’s that weird neighbor guy, and you recognized him. By your rules, that guy can’t be convicted. Have fun finding forensic evidence on the front lawn. Oh, and it was a windy, rainy day.

    Aren’t a lot of people murdered by someone they know, that they might hang out with at least on occasion? So that person’s genetic debris would be there anyway? Fingerprints and DNA strands aren’t miracle workers. I think some folks have been watching too many CSI type shows. Nothing in the real world is ever wrapped up neatly and cleanly by the plucky forensics hero.

    My argument was against a general, zero tolerance opinion against ANY eyewitness testimony, not just on woo stuff. I actually consider that anti-skeptical. I think you need to talk to a good prosecutor or other expert on this matter.

  118. Mauricio

    On december 2nd, 2008, hyperdeath said:

    “Another huge leap of logic that the UFO proponents make is that a truly anomalous object must be an alien spacecraft. If we had a reliable sighting whereby all conventional explanations were exhausted, it would merely point to the existence of something we don’t know.”

    NOT a very “huge leap of logic” indeed!!!

    Remember that there are also many of cases in which the UFO has been sighted landed, and that small beings have been observed getting out or in the UFO. Please forgive me for not believing that a little big headed guy is an astronomical/natural phenomenon (as you pointed). Oh! well, you are right indeed…i forgot that development of life in other planets may also qualify as a natural process.

    When one consider all the evidence as a whole, i.e visual-radar cases, UFO making difficult maneuvers/speeds/acceleration, and even some close encounters with beings (for example, see the 1964 Socorro Case), the case of the UFO/alien presence is a reasonable one.

    Sorry, but no big logic heap here.

  119. Mauricio
  120. Mauricio

    Nigel said:

    “Wrong, there are accounts of his deeds in Homer’s Odyssey. Are you saying that one of the greatest historians of all time was a nutjob or a liar?”

    Oh excellent! Please give the phone number of Homer to check the Triton story with him. I also the other day heard of a Homer who lived in sprinfield. Is it the same guy?

  121. Greg in Austin

    Mauricio said,

    “Remember that there are also many of cases in which the UFO has been sighted landed, and that small beings have been observed getting out or in the UFO.”

    Name them.

    If indeed they landed and walked around, there would be evidence. Footprints, DNA, bodily fluids, space candy-bar wrappers and empty space-coke cans. I mean, why else would aliens land in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night except to take a leak and ask the nearest owl for directions to Venus?

    8)

  122. Mauricio

    By the way Nigel. Where did get the info stating that Homer was one of the greatest historians of all time?

  123. Mauricio Says: … i.e visual-radar cases, UFO making difficult maneuvers/speeds/acceleration, and even some close encounters with beings…

    Something being visible both to the naked eye and to radar is not exceptional in the slightest. For example, ionized air (which can be produced by a variety of natural phenomena) will both emit light and reflect radio waves.

    The accounts of spectacular maneuvering mean little either. They all seem to be based on unfounded assumptions of distance. Human perception in notoriously unreliable at gauging large distances (i.e. those beyond the range of stereoscopic vision) without a familiar reference point. For example, we can tell the difference between a 6ft man 100ft away and a 12ft man 200ft away primarily because our brains regard the former to be more likely. On the other hand, there are no visual cues to tell apart a 10ft cigar-shaped object 100ft above, and a 1000ft cigar-shaped object 10,000ft above. If someone perceives something to be vastly more distant than it actually is, then it will appear to move and accelerate vastly more rapidly than it actually is.

    A reliable account of alien beings disembarking from a spaceship would obviously be meaningful evidence. The emphasis, however, is on the word “reliable”.

  124. kuhnigget

    @ Mauricio:

    Where did (you) get the info stating that Homer was one of the greatest historians of all time?

    In the ancient Mediterranean world, Homer’s tales were considered true histories of a heroic age. It wasn’t until Herodotus and Thucidydes came around that “history” became separated from myth.

    Interesting that it has somewhat come full circle.

  125. Quiet Desperation

    A reliable account of alien beings disembarking from a spaceship would obviously be meaningful evidence.

    I once say a guy in a silvery suit walk out of a spaceship, and there was this big robot he called Gort. It’s all on film, too!

  126. Mauricio

    Greg of Austin said,

    “Name them.

    If indeed they landed and walked around, there would be evidence. Footprints, DNA, bodily fluids, space candy-bar wrappers and empty space-coke cans. I mean, why else would aliens land in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night except to take a leak and ask the nearest owl for directions to Venus?”

    I don’t know why, i am not a wizard.

    You asked me for cases. There was a good one in 1964, it was in Socorro, USA. The officer Lonnie Zamora saw a white oval shaped craft landing in middle of dunes, he went with his car, got out of his car, and sighted two small people, not kids, outside the oval craft. When the small guys saw him, they quickly got into de craft and the craft departed making strong noise and emitting strange fire at the bottom. There were indeed footprints, and according to Zamora, the craft had metalic legs, wich also made prints on the soil, and some vegetation resulted burned. After investigation, the USAF officer Major Quintanilla reached the conclussion that Zamora was not a hoaxer and that the case was enigmatic (note that Quintanilla was a true skeptic who considered almost every UFO case to be mundane or hoax).

    Here is the kick, there were eleven other witnesses, some of them independent of Zamora. One saw the oval shaped craft form far away, some listened the strong noise, and one of them almost lost the roof of his car when the oval craft passed over his car!!!!

    Natural phenomena? OK, good.

  127. Todd W.

    @Mauricio

    After doing a little poking around on google, I came across some sites that suggest an earthly explanation for what Zamora saw: a test run of the lunar landing module. I still need to look around a bit more to see if that fits the descriptions of Zamora’s encounter, but it seems like a more likely explanation than aliens.

  128. doug

    Concerning the possibility of any serious advances occurring with regard to the debates surrounding the UFO phenomenon, what is most needed is a shift in the specific demands placed by skeptics upon proponents as well as in the points most strongly emphasized by proponents in efforts to persuade skeptics.

    Skeptics ask, perfectly reasonably, why they should be forced to take seriously a matter in which there is “nothing to investigate.” The age-old (and somewhat tired, by now) image of “a UFO landing on the White House lawn” is frequently invoked by skeptics who stand most strongly by the lack of physical evidence available for investigation to support the claim that UFOs are not worth our time, or that there is nothing (interesting) to them. This also offers the extremely effective (ultimately, because of the rhetorical work it does) characterization of the skeptic as remaining eternally open to the consideration of evidence, should such evidence ever appear.

    At this point, it is crucial that skeptics recognize the validity of the proponent’s counter-argument: you are asking us to do something which we are already telling you is impossible. In other words, the UFO proponent’s argument includes an account of why no physical evidence is available to the scientific community–at least “hard” evidence, as it is characterized by skeptics, who discount the physicality of imagery and radar data and ask for the object itself to be presented for analysis. Proponents need to emphasize the documentation of Air Force programs designed to recover downed craft and other objects of possible extraterrestrial origin, as well as the documentation of efforts by the Air Force to deny that such programs ever existed, even while being presented with evidence that directly contradicts such assertions. (http://www.nicap.org/moondust.htm, for one example)

    If this information was repeatedly insisted upon by proponents, skeptics might finally be forced to deal with its consequences. Scientists, in particular, may also be inclined to begin to wonder why there are government/military programs in existence whose focus is to restrict the potential scope of “public” science by removing certain forms of physical evidence or data from the sphere of non-restricted space, thus rendering certain phenomena unavailable for scientific study (save for study in a context of classification, the results of which would also be classified).

    Proponents, if they are to have any hope of adding to their ranks or effectively combating debunkers (who are NOT skeptics), need to focus more on elucidating the mechanisms of secrecy surrounding the very real, well-documented study of UFOs that HAS occurred, and less on presenting the evidence which seems (to them) so obviously to already establish the reality of ETI/visitation.

    Phil Plait, I am not saying that you need to go out and look for hard evidence of UFOs so that you may study them; I am saying that you won’t find such evidence because it’s someone else’s job to get to it before you do. In light of that, you look like a bit of a fool asking why nobody has yet been able to place a UFO into your oh-so-scientific, authoritative hands.

    Proponents are asking that we be able to see what our government has collected over the years and know about the results of its study. We would love it if more of you respectable scientist-types would join us.

  129. TheBlackCat

    @ Todd: It is not that implausible, Soccorro is very close to the White Sands testing range. They were testing the Apollo launch escape system there at the time, and a general testing ground for rocket propulsion and air safety systems was established there in 1963. Having it so close to an aircraft research facility makes it immediately suspicious. It is kind of odd to have aliens picking up soil samples so near to a well-guarded missile range, but not at all implausible for test pilot to be testing near there. It is also kind of weird that aliens that have the technology to travel such a great distance and evade the radar and defenses at a heavily-guarded missile range were nevertheless surprised by a car.

  130. Greg in Austin

    @Mauricio,

    Nice story. It could have been aliens… Except for the fact that there’s no physical evidence it was aliens.

    You have 1 eyewitness who claimed at the time to see something nobody else did, and then others who came forward a few days later to say, “Oh yea, we saw it too!” All of New Mexico to choose from, where there are thousands of square miles of uninhabited desert, and they land 200 yards from a highway?

    Burnt plants? Not proof of aliens. Melted sand? Terrestrial rocket engines would melt sand. Speed of the craft? Ahh, here we go. This is one possible point that makes the story seem incredible, but it can’t be confirmed. A man, who was in a state of panic, who loses his glasses, who is trying to drive a car on a dirt road while watching something he just hid from, thinks the thing flew 6 miles in 20 seconds? There’s no way he could be mistaken of the time or the distance? And there’s no reports of anyone driving 6 miles away to see if the thing landed again?

    Please give us more of your “many cases” so we can pick at them. This is fun!

    8)

  131. ndt

    Alan, you know Buzz Aldrin completely disputes that version of events, right?

  132. Mark Hansen

    Doug, are you saying that all the governments on Earth can get to each and every landing, completely clean up the area, and leave not one piece of evidence either of the spacecraft or their post-landing clean-up?

  133. Bernie Mooney

    I have some problems with the unreliable eyewitness testimony used an explanation. For one, when they talk about unreliable eyewitness testimony in relation to court testimony, they are usually speaking of very sudden short, chaotic spans. When people see objects in the sky, quite often it is for a longer period of time.

    Second, to say that aviation professionals are no more reliable than the average Joe is laughable. They are taught to be able to differentiate between objects in order to do their jobs and they all have years of experience. If you really don’t think air traffic controllers and pilots can’t discern the difference, then you must be very afraid to fly.

    As to the human fallibility aspect, that’s a very convenient excuse. While it is true that people make mistakes, it seems to be the fallback position if all else fails. You guys will grasp at any explanation that will maintain your non-belief.

    The pseudo skeptic, or more accurately, the debunker, continually moves the goal posts. If explanation “A” doesn’t work, you work your way down the line until you get to the human fallibility option.

    One poster here claimed that there hasn’t been one case that hasn’t been able to be explained by natural phenomenon etc. That is blatantly false. Even the USAF’s Project Blue Book stated that 6% of sightings were classified as “unidentified.”

    Now, none of this is proof that what people are seeing the the skies are alien crafts, they could very well could be secret military aircraft, but it should show that there are weird things going on up there. To simply dismiss sightings, especially since tens of thousands of people all over the world witness these things, is less than “scientific.” But the life of the pseudo skeptic is the mirror image of the true believer. No amount of evidence will convince either.

    Another thing I’ve noticed is that pseudo skeptics quite often talk through their a**es. In too many instances, they haven’t seen any of the “evidence” yet they feel free to make a pronouncement on the validity of the event.

    Finally, maybe UFOs etc can’t be explained or investigated by “science as we know it.” Maybe we don’t yet have the tools to be able to figure it out. We don’t know everything about how our universe works. Science hasn’t explained everything. and most likely never will.

  134. Patricio Bosch

    Very interesting

  135. Todd W.

    @Bernie Mooney

    As I mentioned earlier, while some professions may have more training on how to make certain observations, that training, itself, may lead to mistakes in observation. For example, in 1989, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian Airbus, mistaking it for a fighter. All 290 crew and passengers onboard were killed. (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6DB1F31F93AA15756C0A96F948260)

    Also, despite any training in identifying things, mistakes still occur, as evidenced by the police officer in California who killed a young man, mistaking him for one of four burglary suspects he was chasing (http://www.fox11az.com/news/topstories/stories/california-20081029-newlywed-killed-mistaken-id.15f45381a.html)

    Then there are all the cases of friendly fire in the military or occasionally in police actions.

    This is not to say that every time someone says they saw something that they are mistaken. Rather, it is just to point out that when someone recounts an incident, it is quite possible for them to make mistakes, regardless of their training or background. Quite apart from any other circumstances (weather, lighting, how anxious/tired the person was, other visual or auditory input, etc.), humans can never capture every last detail of a complex visual stimulus. There’s just too much information coming in, that the eye and brain miss some things which are later filled in based on a best guess. These gaps can and do lead to misinterpretations now and then.

    So, before you go off condemning skeptics for bringing up the possibility that pilots, police officers, ATCs, and so on could possibly be mistaken, consider that no matter how well trained someone is, there is always the very real (and likely) possibility that they will make some mistake in their observations. It might be small and insignificant, huge and grossly distorting, or anywhere in between.

    If you still think that their powers of observation are siginifcantly better than the average person, why not conduct a little test? Gather together a collection of people, some “trained” observers and some average Joes, and have them watch a brief recorded scene with a variety of visual and auditory stimuli (e.g., outdoors, possibly trees around, wind, animals, cars, other people moving about/talking and so on). The scene should last no more than a few minutes. Then, ask them to write down, in as much detail as possible, what all happened. Compare their written accounts to the actual scene. How many details did they get right? How many details did they miss? How many details did they get wrong?

    My guess will be that everyone will get approximately the same number of hits, misses and omissions. The difference will be in what particular details they pay attention to, based on their past training and preconceptions.

  136. Bernie Mooney

    “The USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian Airbus, mistaking it for a fighter. ”

    “…police officer in California who killed a young man, mistaking him for one of four burglary suspects he was chasing.”

    As I mentioned in my post, sudden, short chaotic moments. Not standing there watching an object for 15 minutes or more. In the case of the Vincennes, they were engaging an Iranian gunboat and the whole incident lasted 7 minutes and it was amid chaos. The cop shooting, again, short and chaotic.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about.

    And look at your test. It should last no more than “a few minutes.” You are making my point for me. Most sightings aren’t short and quick with a “variety of visual and auditory stimuli.”

    Sure, trained professionals make mistakes, but it is a rare occurrence. If it was a common thing, planes would be shooting each other out of the sky and crashing into each other and cops would be shooting civilians on a regular basis. (although the last one is not so remote a chance) .

    I just think this pseudo skeptic argument is a totally lame one, like most of their arguments. It sounds all sciency, but it’s nothing more than a last resort tactic .

  137. TheBlackCat

    @Bernie Mooney: How about this for poor observations skills: in 1978 United Airlines Flight 173, on landing, had one of its landing gear lights fail to come on. The plane ended up crashing and many people died, but not because of the landing gear. It was because the crew was so focused on diagnosing the problem they forgot to pay attention to the fuel level This was not a particularly stressful situation, they just got set on a certain train of thought that caused them to ignore all input that was not pertinent to that train of thought. The same thing has happened on several other occasions, in one case they crashed because they accidentally turned off the autopilot.

    This happens with people all the time even in the most ordinary situations. If you are looking in your fridge for the ketchup bottle, you go over and over and can’t find it. You look got 10, 20, 30 minutes. You just can’t find it. You ask someone else and they spot it immediately. That was because you expected it to be standing upright, while it was laying on its side. This is just an example, but this sort of thing is a common issue even with highly-trained people and under a wide variety of situations, their brain focuses on looking for certain patterns or looking at input in a certain way and they ignore all irrelevant information. It goes by various names, “attention blindness”, “inattention blindness”, “perceptual blindness”, or in the case of accidents “human error”, but it is a well-known and well-studied phenomenon. For instance in one study people were shown cards from a deck and told to say what the number on the card was. However, some of the decks had red spades, red clubs, black diamonds, and black hearts. Almost everyone missed them entirely, although a few sensed there was something weird about the mixed-up decks but couldn’t figure out what it was. These experiments were done under stress or anything at all unusual, they were just reading off numbers (I think, it may have been some other menial task). Yet they completely missed an important feature because it was not perceived as being relevant to what they were looking at. It is easy, you think you are looking at something so you miss any cues that might inform you that you are actually looking at something different. Magicians depend on this as a form of misdirection, they trick you into focusing on a certain aspect of what they are doing so you will not notice other things going on.

    Next, how exactly is 7 minutes a long time while 15 minutes is not? And where did you get this 15 minutes number, or the idea that most UFO reports last a long time and are not stressful?

    And skeptics are not “moving the goalposts”, we have been clear from the very beginning. Anecdotes are not evidence. End of story. Only physical evidence, or something predictable and reproducible, is acceptable. This is not just with UFOs, it is a basic rule for all science. Humans are horribly unreliable witnesses even over prolonged times and under ordinary conditions. Science can be seen largely as a way to counter the flaws present in humans as observers, as a way to limit the problems inherent in human perception.

  138. TheBlackCat

    Sorry, I had that backward:

    “how exactly is 15 minutes a long time while 7 minutes is not?

  139. Todd W.

    @Bernie Mooney

    As I mentioned in my post, sudden, short chaotic moments. Not standing there watching an object for 15 minutes or more. In the case of the Vincennes, they were engaging an Iranian gunboat and the whole incident lasted 7 minutes and it was amid chaos. The cop shooting, again, short and chaotic.

    As BlackCat already mentioned, first, where are you getting that most UFO sightings last 15 minutes or more? Second, in a lot of the accounts that I have read, the eyewitnesses tend to mention that they were frightened, excited or experiencing some other non-calm emotion. Hardly a non-“chaotic” event.

    Most sightings aren’t short and quick with a “variety of visual and auditory stimuli.”

    Again, where are you getting that most sightings aren’t “short and quick”? And exactly where is the threshold between “short and quick” and “long and slow”? 8 minutes? 10 minutes? 10 minutes, 27 seconds? And there is not a variety of visual and auditory stimuli? Really? Just a plain white or black background with no wind, no smells, no trees or background scenery, no cars/radios/other people, no talking? The sightings have only the UFO, the UFO’s noise and nothing else? Let’s see, that would make judging size, speed and direction pretty tough.

    In the test I proposed, the observers would be in a pretty calm state (sitting, watching a video). The scene need not be chaotic or high emotion. My limitation on the length of the video is more for ease of administration and recall – shorter video means less to recall and less delay between seeing and recalling the first part of the video. Go ahead and make it 15 minutes. The results will probably be similar to a shorter example.

    Sure, trained professionals make mistakes, but it is a rare occurrence. If it was a common thing, planes would be shooting each other out of the sky and crashing into each other and cops would be shooting civilians on a regular basis.

    You’re making a false comparison, an “either it’s rare or it happens all the time” statement. There is a middle ground. It certainly does not need to be happening on a “regular basis”, whatever that means (daily? hourly?), to not be rare. Take near misses at airports. Those are pretty frequent. The USS Vicennes incident is of interest because, while the incident itself was a rare one, so, too, were the circumstances surrounding it (armed cruiser near an active passenger flight lane).

    So, if you maintain a stance that average people are only so-so observers and that people such as pilots, military/police officers, etc., are, for the most part, phenomenal observers who only very rarely and only under extreme stress conditions make mistakes, set up a test like I described. See how they do. See how many different descriptions you get of the same video, how many details are right, wrong, or missed completely.

    Of course, you could also do a literature search on psych studies that specifically look at how well people do at recalling events. There are a fair number out there.

  140. waynecramp

    Man, I used to love reading the BA Blog, before every other post was Phil ramming his skepticism down my throat.

    Hey, I don’t believe in all the kooky things out there, but to dismiss all witness testimony out of hand is absurd.

    Kelly Johnson. California coast. I’d say Mr. Johnson was certainly qualified to know what’s in the sky. What’s more, a flight if his engineers saw the same object, from a different position (they were in a plane unbeknownst to him).

    This and the RB47 case (with multiple ground and air based radar returns, plus actual signals received from the craft tailing the plane) are enough for me to say “Hey, there’s something to this”

    Consider me unsubscribed.

  141. Greg in Austin

    Um… Mr. wanecramp,

    Do you have any recent reports not linked to known UFO Crackpot… er I mean Casebook… websites?

    Oh, I see, you already left. Nevermind.

    8)

  142. waynecramp

    Ah, so if the info is found someplace you feel to be suspect then it is not pertinent to the discussion?

    It’s that attitude that really makes me wonder who has the closed mind, the folks who scream that UFO’s are real, or those that scream there’s nothing to it.

    As I said, the reports are enough for me to WANT TO STUDY THE SITUATION FURTHER (caps intended) rather than to close my mind to the possibility because I just can’t conceive how it could possibly be true.

    My beef is that people close themselves to any evidence that doesn’t confirm their (smarmy) worldview.

  143. Alan French

    OTOH, people who believe UFOs are alien spacecraft, rarely seem to “let go” of any case, not if a reasonable and sensible earthy cause has been found (Roswell), nor if it is simply weak and not credible (Barney and Betty Hill).

    If there is some real data hidden in the noise, the uncritical UFO proponents are not doing much to help ferret it out.

    Clear skies, Alan

  144. Greg in Austin

    waynecramp said,

    “As I said, the reports are enough for me to WANT TO STUDY THE SITUATION FURTHER (caps intended) rather than to close my mind to the possibility because I just can’t conceive how it could possibly be true.”

    Please, feel free to study these reports. Check the sources, and check the background of those who are claiming these reports are really aliens. Perform your scientific analysis of these stories, then come back here with your conclusions.

    Why do you assume that scientists have not already debunked those stories? Don’t you think that the story of Kelly Johnson would have been researched in the past 55 years? Don’t you think that if this story had any real physical evidence to support the claims, that someone in the past 55 years, would have said something?

    And I would be HIGHLY SKEPTICAL of a copy of a copy of a copy of a story that is posted on a website like ufocasebook.com. That website is clearly willing to post photos that are clearly fake under the heading “Breaking UFO News Reports.”

    Keep an open mind, but close it a little when you feel your brains falling out.

    8)

  145. Alan French

    Regarding the Lonnie Zamora/Socorro sighting…

    Here is one possible earthly explanation…
    http://www.nmsr.org/socorro.htm

    It was interesting to contrast Lonnie Zamora’s “Blue Book” report with descriptions elsewhere. He first said he “Saw two people in white coveralls very close to the object.” and later offered “These persons appeared normal in shape–but possibly they were small adults or large kids.” He also noted he saw them for perhaps two seconds. (Given the distance – 150 to 200 yards – and brief look, he could certainly have mistaken their size.)

    Reports on “UFO sites” include “[Zamora] then noticed two beings that he thought at first to be children,” “[Zamora] reported seeing two, small aliens,” or said he saw “humanoid figures.”

    There are also embellishments on his description of the two people, of the craft, and of his description of its flight.

    I suggest reading Zamora’s report as written in Project Bluebook and then visiting some of the UFO sites and reading their versions. Nothing like changing the facts a little to support your view. And then they wonder why many people tend to be skeptical of such things.

    Clear skies, Alan

  146. Alan French

    Greg in Austin Says, in part:
    December 5th, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    And I would be HIGHLY SKEPTICAL of a copy of a copy of a copy of a story that is posted on a website like ufocasebook.com. That website is clearly willing to post photos that are clearly fake under the heading “Breaking UFO News Reports.”

    @Greg,

    And it is never just about UFOs. Not only are such sites terribly uncritical, but they almost always include links, books, or DVDs for all manner of pseudo-scientific beliefs – psychic abilities, the lost city of Atlantis, and so on. It gives them a very credulous tone, and greatly detracts from their believability regarding UFOs.

    Clear skies, Alan

  147. Danny

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Carl Sagan

    The more extraordinary the claim, the more extraordinary the proof has to be. It is really that simple. So far the proof isn’t even ordinary… it’s nonexistent!

    Danny

  148. Lance

    It has got to be depressing for UFO believers and “researchers” to know that, after 60 years, we don’t know even one additional fact about UFO’s. I was a believer as a teen, but began to see that Ufology as a science makes for a pretty good casserole recipe.

    Stephen Bassett, the organizer of the conference, is on the record saying that he does not care about the credibility of his “witnesses”. And he presents witnesses who are discredited, disheveled and disappointing. Some are known frauds.

    Hilariously, at yesterday’s press conference, Bassett threatened the government with the release of embarrassing documents if they don’t precipitate the “disclosure event” by the end of May.

    Somehow, I don’t think the government (or anyone) even noticed. And Bassett will go back to his borrowed couches and basement rooms until next year, when his credibility is sure to be somewhat less (and hey, it wasn’t very high anyway).

  149. Todd

    More warp drive videos have been posted on

    http://interstellarjourney.blip.tv/

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