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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2002 > Nov > Nov 22

Re: Jimmy Carter The Nobel Prize & ETs

From: Catherine Reason <CathyM.nul>
Date: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 16:15:35 -0000
Archived: Fri, 22 Nov 2002 08:20:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Jimmy Carter The Nobel Prize & ETs

>From: Bob Young <YoungBob2.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2002 14:37:08 EST
>Subject: Re: Jimmy Carter The Nobel Prize & ETs

Hello Bob,

>I assume that you mean that they may not have actually "seen"
>what they said they did. Because in both cases we have their own
>words for the above statements.

No, I was referring to Robert Sheaffer's claim that, had a UFO
actually been present, a particular state of affairs would have
been described.

>Thanks for this interesting information about how the visual
>system effects eyewitness accounts and reliability.

I think we need to unpack this a little.

No instrument for measuring the physical world gives entirely
accurate results under every conceivable circumstances. If you
look through an out-of-focus telescope, for example, then what
you see won't be very reliable.

The human visual system is no different. Historically, people
have tended to expect the visual system to work something like a
camera, and when they find it doesn't, they have tended to
conclude there must be something "wrong" with it. This is very
odd - no scientist would dream of coming up with a theory of
gravitation, and concluding that there must be something "wrong"
with gravitation if the physical world didn't work the way the
theory required. But historically, people have tended to have
this idea about human perception and human performance

But the human visual system is only unreliable if you try to
treat it as something which it is not - such as a video camera.
But the human visual system is perfectly reliable if you treat
it as what it is, which is the human visual system - indeed it
must be so, or we'd never have made it out of the African

>Except that what the witnesses said that they say does match was
>was in the sky at the time of the sighting.

On a clear night there is bound to be some combination of
astronomical objects that matches a given set of three points
through chance alone - especially when the patterns are being
matched post-hoc, and when one allows arbitrary levels of error
in the measurements. You of all people should know, Bob, this
sort of post-hoc pattern-matching is just not reliable -
scientists use elaborate statistical procedures precisely to
prevent this sort of thing.

>The Hills case is one of the most interesting because of it's
>key role in the development of the folklore of the UFO
>abduction. I'm using folklore in the sense that even if some
>abductions are genuine the UFO phenomenon includes a folkloric
>element, which could account for IFOs, hoaxes, or whatever was
>not a "real" event.

I think "folklore" is a dangerously ambiguous term in this
context - not to mention that it's loaded with political
subtexts. "Folkore" and "myth" mean one one thing to an
anthropologist, for example, and possibly quite another to a

If you're talking about the sociological issues associated with
ufology, then I agree that they're very important and I also
agree that they have nothing to do with what "real" stimulus may
be responsible for generating those reports. The sociological
issue I referred to just now, concerning why people should think
there's something "wrong" with the visual system because it
doesn't operate like a camera, is a case in point.

In fact I'll admit that it's the sociological issues surrounding
UFO research and the discussions which accompany them, which
actually interest me more than the UFOs themselves. UFO
discussions seem to involve much the same academic politics, and
power struggles over institutionalized authority, that one sees
in science generally - but much more raw and exposed.

It interests me, for example, that CSICOP is top-heavy with
psychologists and other social scientists - people whose own
scientific credibility is often in doubt and who consequently
have a vested interest in publicly distancing themselves from
fringe areas.

>The question being, if the initial sighting was prosaic, what
>accounted for Barney latter seeing "nazis" and little figures
>when he looked at the UFO in binocs, as Betty without binocs
 >still described it as a "star"?

Well, it seems to me that you've indulged in some rather
gratuitous and fanciful re-writing of the original case-report
here. If you're asking me, though, I don't know of any such
mechanism. If you're asserting that this is what happened, then
the responsibility to establish that such an exotic mechanism
exists surely lies with you.

If no such mechanism exists, then of course that would tend to
suggest that the initial sighting was possibly not prosaic.

>And then, of course, months later after reading UFO literature
>and being hypnotized, what might have created the abduction

>Are you familiar with Martin Kottmeyer's discovery of the
>possible source of key elements of Barney's story under hypnosis
>in a TV program broadcast a few days earlier?

>Please see "The Eyes That Spoke" at:


>and "The Eyes Still Speak" at:

>These questions continue to make the Hills' story a very unique
> one in the annals of ufology.

But once again, we have the problem of post-hoc pattern-
matching. Did anyone test this out (by, for example, examining a
random sample of TV programming and seeing how many pattern
matches of this sort turned up?)


[Catherine Reason]

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