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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2001 > Apr > Apr 25

Re: Debunkers' Guidebook - Clark

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 16:01:44 -0500
Fwd Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 11:28:21 -0400
Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook - Clark

 >Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 09:50:56 +0100
 >To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >From: John Rimmer <jrimmer@magonia.demon.co.uk>
 >Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook

 >>From: Greg Sandow <greg@gregsandow.com>
 >>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >>Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook
 >>Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 10:56:08 -0400

 >>>Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2001 06:56:00 +0100
 >>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@sympatico.ca>
 >>>From: John Rimmer <jrimmer@magonia.demon.co.uk>
 >>>Subject: Re: Debunkers' Guidebook

 >Jerry Clark said a while ago, trying to explain the difference
 >between 'good sceptics' and 'debunkers', something like "when a
 >ufologist explains a case it stays explained", with the
 >implication that 'debunkers' explanations soon crumble. But I
 >think a more realistic statement would be "If I agree with the
 >explanation of a case, it was done by a ufologist. If I don't
 >agree, then the explanation is the work of a debunker".

Oh, John, don't you wish it were so? But as all of us (except
debunkers and other true believers) come to understand
eventually, wishing won't make it so.

The historical context of my remark ought to have been clear:
any number of failed debunkings by everybody from Menzel to Blue
Book to Klass to Easton, and on and on. Debunkings, as Bruce
Maccabee and James McDonald, among others, have demonstrated,
are sometimes extraordinary claims in themselves, violating
principles of _known_ science and sometimes reaching to
phenomena that are themselves controversial or disputed (e.g.,
ball lightning). Moreover, as Brad Sparks likes to point out,
debunkers frequently propose multiple explanations, with no
acknowledgement that they or the colleagues they never deign to
criticize have proposed other, mutually exclusive "explanations"
before. They fall all over themselves, in short, but can be
counted on to take extreme umbrage when some impolite soul
remarks on the obvious.

Where debunkers get into trouble is in operating from the a
priori belief that nothing anomalous is going on, and thus any
old explanation, as long as it purports to be conventional, will
do, however much it does violence to whatever evidence is
available. When their critics show that it doesn't, debunkers
get mad and resort to the name-calling with which we are all
sadly familiar. Meantime, all the indignant huffing and puffing
aside, the cases remain unsolved, and the debate about their
significance continues.

In the framework in which ufologists operate, most sightings are
_expected_ to be amenable to prosaic identification, and thus
ufologists have no trouble finding or accepting a reasonable
explanation for any particular case if it is convincingly
demonstrated. That's why ufologists end up as more effective
debunkers than those for whom debunking is the first principle:
every ostensible UFO doesn't _have_ to be a UFO. For the
debunker, though, _every_ UFO has to be some species of IFO
(however imaginatively defined).

Jerry Clark

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