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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2001 > Apr > Apr 21

Re: Debunkers' Guidebook - Clark

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 18:52:26 -0500
Fwd Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2001 11:04:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook - Clark

 >From: Bob Young <YoungBob2@aol.com>
 >Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 10:10:49 EDT
 >Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook
 >To: updates@sympatico.ca

 >>Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 18:28:34 +0100
 >>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >>From: John Rimmer <jrimmer@magonia.demon.co.uk>
 >>Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook

 >>>From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
 >>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >>>Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook
 >>>Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 09:59:14 -0500

 >>>And lest we forget, however much the pelicanists want us to:

 >>>Donald H. Menzel on witness reliability: "I submit that [Dr.
 >>>James E.] McDonald's interviews of more than five hundred people
 >>>who have reported UFOs have no scientific validity whatever."
 >>>(In Sagan and Page, UFOs: A Scientific Debate)

 >In the above mentioned Menzel quotation, the final period was
 >actually a comma, followed by, "except to confirm his
 >[McDonald's] well-known bias in favor of ETH and against the Air
 >Force and myself and other nonbelievers. Similarly, Hynek's
 >indexes of 'credibility' and 'strangeness' are equally
 >subjective." (Sagan and Page, UFOs A Scientific Depate, p. 136).

With all due respect, this is crap. What Menzel called "bias"
was McDonald's richly merited criticism of Menzel and the Blue
Book clowns. Let's recall what McDonald had to say about
Menzel's debunking pseudoscience:

"... Dr. Menzel's background in physics and astronomy is
well-attested by his authorship of a number of texts and
references in those areas. Despite that background, when he
comes to analyzing UFO reports, he seems to calmly cast aside
well-known scientific principles almost with abandon, in an
all-out effort to be sure that no UFO report survives his
attack. Refraction processes are quite well understood in
optics, and the refracting properties of the atmosphere are
surely as familiar in astronomy as in meteorology, if not more
so. Yet in 'explanation' after 'explanation' in his books,
Menzel rides roughshod over elementary optical considerations
governing such things as mirages and light reflections."

The quote is from a larger, devastating assault on Menzelian
pseudoscience (you know, the kind of pseudoscience debunkers
favor, or at least retain a tactful silence concerning, when it
comes from one of their own) appears in his paper UFOs: The
Greatest Scientific Problem of Our Times? (1967).

I find it hilarious that Menzel, and his uncritical apologist
Bob Young, considers any criticism of a debunker "bias" by
definition, with no need whatever to document same.

 >On the preceding page, 135, Menzel had written, "McDonald's sole
 >contribution to the study of UFO's - as far as I can ascertain -
 >has been his reinterviewing of more than five hundred UFO
 >witnesses. These interviews, clearly biased in favor of the ETH,
 >have contributed nothing to our knowledge. They are hightly
 >subjective and have served only to crystallize the observer's
 >earlier interpretations of his observed sighting. This is not

To Menzel, who virtually never interviewed witnesses, any
conclusions different from his own could happen only because the
interviewer was "biased" - as opposed to the objective Menzel,
possesser of all truth. Menzel's argument is simply defensive
bluster, of no scientific value to anybody to any truth-seeker
of any persuasion. In point of fact, having had access to
McDonald's interview notes (as Menzel didn't; he's just making
up his accusation), I can tell you that his interviews were well
conducted, did not involve discussions of the ETH, and were
strictly there to gather facts from which to make a
determination about the case. If McDonald, whose inquiries were
a model of scientific thoroughness in a way Menzel and Blue Book
would have done well to emulate, had been investigating anything
but UFO reports, no one would have ever considered for a second
that "bias" drove him or that bias is apparent in his approach
to conservations with witnesses.

This is the sort of garbage Menzel routinely trafficked in. If
debunkers like you, Bob, ever engaged in the heresy of internal
criticism against those who share your ideological crusade, you
would call him on it. But I guess a camel will have to pass
through the eye of a needle before that happens.

 >the fragmentary quotation cited by Jerry was made in the
 >context of what Menzel's saw as the subjective, not objective,
 >nature of McDonald's witness interviews. It was _ not_ just a
 >statement about witness reliability, which was what this thread
 >was discussing.

Nope. My quote aptly underscored Menzel's contempt for
eyewitness testimony, implicit in debunking ideology. All you're
doing here is passing on a charge Menzel hurled maliciously and
did not attempt to document except via hand-waving polemic. He
had no specifics, and I'm sure you don't, either.

At least Menzel was consistent. Since he had no respect for
witness testimony, he didn't interview witnesses. Something else
you would criticize him for (after all, by your own testimony,
you _have_ interviewed witnesses) if internal criticism existed
on your side of the UFO debate.

Clearer skies,

Jerry Clark

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