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Re: Essential Read From Current Encounters List

From: William Treurniet <wtreurniet.nul>
Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2011 17:44:08 -0500
Archived: Fri, 09 Dec 2011 08:11:50 -0500
Subject: Re: Essential Read From Current Encounters List

>From: Jerome Clark<jkclark.nul>
>Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2011 10:13:06 -0600
>Subject: Re: Essential Read From Current Encounters List

>>From: Steven Kaeser<steve.nul>
>>Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2011 10:14:14 -0500
>>Subject: Re: Essential Read From Current Encounters List

>>>From: Gerald O'Connell<goc.nul>
>>>Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2011 11:35:55 -0000
>>>Subject: Re: Essential Read From Current Encounters List

>>I think the problem is that one person's "quackery" is another
>>person's "truth" and I think you'll find little agreement among
>>many researchers on how they are defined.

>Expressed this way - and I'm sure it's not your meaning, Steve -
>this comes across as intellectual relativism. In fact, there
>_are_ quacks in this field, and I think a great many are
>recognizable as soon as they open mouths or attack keyboards.

Usually it's the proponents of the norm in any field who decide
how facts should be interpreted. But the same set of facts can
often be interpreted in different ways, depending on the
implicit or explicit assumptions that are held. So when someone
is labeled a quack, it may be because of a mismatch in the
underlying assumptions rather than a fault in that person's

For example, if I were to adopt the assumption that
consciousness can have a direct effect on the material world, I
might interpret a successful telekinesis experiment in a way
that reflects this assumption. A strict materialist with a
different set of assumptions might call me a quack and attribute
the results to chance.

The point is that labeling someone a quack as soon as they open
mouths or attack keyboards may be a little premature - maybe
even lazy. It would be more honest to take some time first to
understand the context of what that person is trying to
communicate. Then one could disagree either with the assumptions
or with the logic or both. That is why, in some fields such as
psychology, different "schools of thought" have arisen in
recognition of different sets of underlying assumptions.

The field of ufology, such as it is, does not yet seem organized
or mature enough to be able to formalize such differences.

>One difference between the quack and the sensible is that the
>latter has an awareness of established knowledge in a broad
>range of disciplines and a consequent sense of how the UFO
>question fits within that knowledge. He or she does not attempt
>to overthrow much or all of history and science in order to
>accommodate the UFO phenomenon. He or she knows what evidential
>requirements are and how to advance arguments that are not
>instantly dismissible by an intellectually sophisticated
>audience (which in my experience tends to be approachable and
>curious if its collective intelligence and learning are not
>insulted at the outset). The sensible person is a modest one
>comfortable with ambiguity, nuance, and limitations.

I recently had such an audience of one, a reviewer for the JSE
who was presumably representative of an intellectually
sophisticated membership. The paper I submitted reported a
pattern in earthquake data predicted by Calleman's Mayan
calendar model.

The reviewer could not get past the origin of the model, saying
it was "a highly fanciful flight into obscure mythology".
Further, he refused to accept that the reported pattern was
predicted, preferring to believe that the pattern in the data
came first, and was then used to support the mythical concept of
the calendar. This, despite the fact that the model was needed
to predict the granularity and form of the pattern and where in
time it would be found.

Clearly, he was insulted by the paper because my assumption,
that the model was scientifically legitimate and made testable
predictions, was unacceptable to him. He may well have
considered me a quack. It goes without saying that the paper was

In this example, it was apparently difficult to examine
assumptions and understand the reason for the disagreement. The
reviewer would have been more honest with himself (and me) if he
had recognized that the nature of the model was sufficient
reason for him to reject the paper.

If the members of the intellectually sophisticated audience all
adhere to the ruling paradigm, they can be just as dismissive of
a different approach as anyone else. They may even be insulted
merely because an argument is based on assumptions they find
unacceptable, or rejects assumptions they believe to be true.
That does not mean they would be right, or even sensible.


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