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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Oct > Oct 27

Re: Questions for Abductees

From: Peregrine Mendoza <101653.2205@compuserve.com> [Peter Brookesmith]
Date: Sun, 26 Oct 1997 22:21:56 -0500
Fwd Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 01:36:53 -0500
Subject: Re: Questions for Abductees

>From: Greg Sandow <gsandow@prodigy.net>
>To: "'UFO UpDates - Toronto'" <updates@globalserve.net>
>Subject: RE: UFO UpDate: Re: Questions for Abductees
>Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 19:58:17 -0400

>Peter finally replies!

Let me apologize again for the protracted neglect.

Greg quotes me with amazing electronically-induced accuracy:

>> I find myself in a slight difficulty here, made slightly more
>> embarrassing because it is all my own fault. I've just been asked
>> (commissioned) to write at length on this very subject for a
>> respected but nonetheless commercial international magazine (oh,
>> hype hype). If I spill my best beans here, both the client and I
>> are somewhat compromised.

And responds:

>Oh, balderdash, I say, being as much of a professional writer
>as you are. You'd only sharpen your ideas in our debate, and write
>a better piece. (Interesting, by the way, your assumptions that
>you have your best ideas already.)

To which I say:

Actually you're probably more of a professional writer than I am,
but to avoid an enormous schmooze of mutual congratulation I
would point out that each of us has his own way of working. There
are already plenty of pro-ETH arguments to tangle with and, much
as I enjoy tossing wheezes to & fro with you, I'm not at much
loss for material.

Taking those two things together, my way of working would be to
hack out the whole article. In the nature of things (I've had an
inter- esting response but this very day from A Friend to
"Martian Cats", for example, after all this time) this would spin
off into never-never-Internetland as some kind of engraving.
Another version eventually appears in print. No thanks. There is
enough confusion in cyberspace already without adding more, is my
first point, and second as a sometime commissioning editor myself
I'd be deeply pissed off if someone I'd asked to write a piece
were to test his drafts in public and perhaps then not change a
word for the final version. I'd be paying money for something
that millions can read for free. Why pay? And why commission this
character again if he's giving away his best beans for nothing
every time to hoi polloi?

Put it this way: if you'd bandied your best ideas about Ornette
Coleman around on the net for weeks (let's assume you had the
weeks), how'd you think the Wall St Journal would feel?

Best beans, best ideas. Mine being in question. Whatever anyone
else thought about them, they would surely emerge in the course
of our (the List's) debate. They would be *given away*, whether
they are the beans I now stew or the ideas that I may arrive at
as a result of this public debate. I think I owe my publishers
the privilege of getting this first, because they have bought
access to those ideas (flawed as they may be) and to that extent
now have first claim on them. Is that so hard to understand?

Notwithstanding the plenitude of existing material with which
there is to deal (some of it from your pen!), I'm not denying
that whatever I publish *may* have been improved by prior debate.
But, in light of the above, I don't see an honorable position
from which I can begin that debate - the piece not being easily
chopped for separate seminars on singular issues, thanks to my
peculiar style of argument. And what goes around, comes around. I
have this strange intuition that the debate over the ETH is not
going to go away, and if in the post- publication debate someone
makes an unanswerable point or even (it can happen, you know)
improves on one of mine, or whatever along those lines, it'll
find its way into print sooner or later. And so the process will
continue. What's the urgency?

I confess my previous analogy of the freaked-out toaster is now
so ancient that tiz but a dim memory in my pickled brain, and you
may well be correct in saying twas a circular argument. Leaving
aside the rather naughty thought that you may be suggesting that
I don't learn from experience - on the rare occasions I recall it
- I'll pass on to:

>Elsewhere you've invoked Occam's Razor. According to that
>principle, as you understand it, alien visits should be the last
>conclusion we ought to come to about any UFO event, because it's
>good science to support the more likely explanation over anything
>wildly improbable. But again -- how do you know alien visits are
>improbable? Frankly, I'm surprised at the vulgarity of your
>thinking. Occam's Razor is appropriate when we know the
>parameters of what we're dealing with. It's useless when we're
>dealing with a complete unknown.

This is not quite the way I understand Occam, ad besides that we
are not dealing with "a complete unknown". We are dealing with
the possibility that the conditions for life may actually be
unique properties of this solar system alone (read Mike Davis as
cited). Further, we are dealing with a vast mass of knowledge
about human perception of UFOs (read Allan Hendry, and Hartmann
on the Zond IV re-entry in Condon) and a vast literature on
perception in general, altered states of consciousness, sleep
disorders, hallucinogens, lucid dreaming, cultural dispositions,
God knows what-all else. Occam's razor applies with swift bright
strokes. To get to aliens being here you need to set up a row of
about (guess) 12 hypotheses. To get to any of the others requires
no more than (guess) four. Whatever the real numbers, a
terrestrial explanation for UFO experiences of any kind calls for
fewer "entities", in Occam's terms. Move outside this world and
more hypotheses arise. It's as simple as that. The fractal, ie
chaotic, development of a life- supportive planetary system from
a solar disk is where probability comes in. Occam is a separate
principle. So much for vulgarity.

The next answerable part of Greg's post begins:

>Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter...I've read Hyperspace, haven't
>read the others, but have read tons on this subject, particularly
>from the SETI scientists. What they offer are theories, which at

[etc, and snip]

>The argument you're going to
>make will not only be circular -- it will be, shall we say,
>somewhat selective in its use of science. Good luck!

I wonder with some concern if Greg is not here joining the
growing band of psychics (Linda Cortibalone, Jerome Clark, Henny
van der Pluijm, and Lawrie Williams being the latest recruits to
this amazing congregation) who claim to be able to read my mind,
my magazines, my emotional temperature, and for all I know my gas
meter. So far I have not mentioned SETI among my mumblings and,
if you really want to know, have some sympathy with Stan
Friedman's characterization of it as a "Silly Effort To
Investigate". (Time to fall off the chair twice in 48 hours Stan.
Sorry mate, should have warned you.) Meanwhile, Greg, do please
read the others, because therein you may see where the circle in
the reasoning stops and where the selectivity does not even begin
in principle.

And finally:

>Science, too, is a belief system. When you apply Occam's Razor to
>alien visits, you're applying the belief system of science,
>rather than the scientific method or scientific data. And here I
>thought you weren't a religious man!

I have no problem with being regarded as religious, but what that
means is somewhat off-thread, involves no less skepticism than I
bring to ufology, is extremely difficult (being tentative) to
articulate, and doesn't have anything to do with what I think of
the virtues of science.

Meanwhile, I find the idea that science is "a belief system"
bizarre in the extreme. The horrible fact is that science WORKS,
and if it did not I could not sit here welded to my armchair
communicating with you, Greg, 3000 miles away (more by way of
Toronto) in this spectacular fashion that we all take so much for
granted. And one of the joys of science is that it is incomplete
- which is another clue to it not being a "belief system". Its
greatest endeavor is to wreck itself in the service of greater &
more profound knowledge. When experiments in nuclear physics are
getting results where p is no greater than one in one million
billion and better (bearable results being in the region of
p=3D1:20), I begin to suspect that "science" (which I speculate you
are confusing with Scientism) has actually latched onto genuine
laws of nature. Real things. Not matters of belief like the
gender of angels or whether Tony Blair is the anti-Christ or
Princess Diana was murdered.

Science leaves open the possibility that it is wrong - Popper's
principle of falsifiability - and admits it is provisional. At
the same time, it *works* on the basis of what we know so far. To
argue from current scientific knowledge is not to argue in a
circle, because it argues from what is known. It may not be
complete know-- ledge but it's the best we have, and it's based on
principles of unimpeachable intellectual honesty. And it's about
what is *out there*, stuff you and I can't change whether we like
it or not - just like folklore. If you want a circular system of
thought, read Freud or Marx (which I'm sure you have) and ponder
how much the underlying structure of those systems of belief have
in common with ufology... and then read Popper and Polanyi (and
for good measure the history of research into the HIV), and see
not only how real science really works, but how little it has in
common with real belief systems (name your choice).

Mark Cashman gets to the heart of these things much more
economically than I, so apologies to him at least for being (not
unusually) so prolix.

And, sorry, Greg, but I am not going to go further than this
before that piece is published. Tear it to shreds after, by all
means. I'm not that damn' proud.

best wishes
Prelibation D. Mystagogue
Area Weapon

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