Sunday, June 25, 2006
In a post fraught with irony, Martin Shough tosses off on Dick Hall's recent "anti-techie" post, offering a point by point refutation that makes me quite proud. Mirroring the very points I made in response to Alfred Lehmberg (in my previous post), he lucidly draws the very same disturbing conclusions that I did.
I noted in my comments that I had originally written 12 paragraphs in rebuttal to Dick's post, but then thought better of it on the advice of my "better half". Well, luckily my feelings have all been quite soundly expressed in this excellent facsimile by Martin.
I couldn't have written a more cogent or appropriate response myself.
Of course, Dick also mentions thatt he'll retreat to his bomb shelter, as if to deflect any reaction as the mad bombings of crazed "techies". Clever.
Odd that Martin again makes an unsupported...and untrue...association between me and the anonymous poster that asked me to help him make a point, but no matter. In his/my posts it becomes very obvious that both Martin and myself and other "techies" are interested in the TRUTH, while Dick is quite obviously interested in something "else".
Martin, Dave, Victor, et al and I do not agree on everything, or perhaps not even most things, but I feel quite confident that we agree on searching for the truth wherever the search may lead.
In the end, I have 3 words for Martin Shough...
What. You. Said.
Oh, and two more...THANK. YOU!
[via UFO Updates]
My uninformed questions, as you know, would be...
1. What makes anyone, regardless of their certification, degree, experience, reputation, etc. unassailable? Why would that even be thrown out there? If the scientific community can still question and test Einstein's theories, who is Dick Hall (or anyone else) to be "off limits"? If the person being questioned has done their job, it will just validate their research.. won't it?
2. Why so much hulabaloo over an anonymous poster? There are innumerable "anonymous" sources that have been the key to breaking cases, etc. Why all the objections?
3. If people think that re-analyzing photos is pointless, then why do they give you and others a hard time for wanting to do so... who cares? If it's legitimate, nothing will be found to the contrary... if not.. well, then everyone's a bit wiser, no?
Obviously, I'm not involved in any of this one iota, except for reading your blog, and occasionally Paul's... and listening to you read me posts that make me think, laugh or fall asleep. But if I, the village idiot, can see this... what's the problem with everyone else? Too little objectivity?
I'll go back to my dancing now. Sorry again for clipping your wings... rant away, Rant Man.
Three valid questions:
"1. What makes anyone, regardless of their certification, degree, experience, reputation, etc. unassailable? Why would that even be thrown out there? If the scientific community can still question and test Einstein's theories, who is Dick Hall (or anyone else) to be "off limits"? If the person being questioned has done their job, it will just validate their research.. won't it?"
Absolutely correct. Good researchers are not only willing to have their research vetted, and often challenged - they encourage it. Kevin Randle has been at the forefront of pushing for meaningful peer review in ufology for years. Alas, his entreaties have more or less fallen on deaf ears.
"2. Why so much hulabaloo over an anonymous poster? There are innumerable "anonymous" sources that have been the key to breaking cases, etc. Why all the objections?"
Because anonymous posters, or "witnesses", inherently carry less credibility than those who are willing to offer their names, and can therefore be vetted along with whatever evidence they offer (and to those who say credibility doesn't matter, I say you have no business investigating anything). That doesn't mean that the information that an "anonymous" poster has offered is completely worthless (and if I somewhere suggested that then I shouldn't have), but it does mean that it should be viewed with suspicion, and held to an even higher standard of proof than that offered by a known witness.
"3. If people think that re-analyzing photos is pointless, then why do they give you and others a hard time for wanting to do so... who cares? If it's legitimate, nothing will be found to the contrary... if not.. well, then everyone's a bit wiser, no?"
I agree that re-analyzing the original photos is not pointless - indeed, it should be done, obviously, given the improvements of technology. My problem is this - what's the rush? Let Druffel et al finish their work, and then others can have a go. Despite what some have contended, that's how science works all the time - people guard their evidence, or findings, until they can publish. Nothing wrong with that, especially as we're not talking about a cure for cancer here. The world will not fall apart just because folks can't get at the Heflin originals right this minute.
As for re-creating the photos, I don't see the merit, but Kyle and others do, so by all means go ahead. If something useful comes out of the process, I'll be the first to applaud. I just don't think anything useful will come of it. At the end of the day, only a re-examination of the original photos, and a look at Heflin's credibility (which IS relevant, no matter how much James might say it isn't), is what really matters. I think everyone agrees that they COULD have been faked - the question is whether they WERE faked, and I don't think a recreation will offer anything in that regard. But, as I said, I'm happy to be proven wrong. :-)
Yes, I thought the questions were quite valid, as well.
As for Ann Druffel and the Heflin photos, my only fear is that the new report will be published, and then the photos will mysteriously vanish or be destroyed.
I cannot see ANY valid reason for keeping them from the community. Dr. Kelson HAS his scans...those are his property and he is right to keep them to himself. Ms. Druffel on the other hand promised to make them available...not when she felt it appropriate...unless there is more to the "promise" than she admitted.
Now, I CAN see a LESS valid reason to hold them back, but I am reluctant to apply the required motive without more information.
Research into events, phenomena, etc VERY OFTEN runs in parallel courses, with multiple teams working on different "angles" simultaneously. It provides "realtime" collaboration and can lead to quicker and more definitive elimination of possibilities, which can hasten the formation of conclusions...which is what I thought this was all about.
Of course, this may NOT be what it is all about...ergo my previous comment about motives.
Thanks for writing!
Thank you for not telling me to shut up and mind my uninformed business. LOL
Paul - my only comment (not disagreement, just additional thought) would be that credibility is often in the eye of the beholder. I have no reference really in the UFOlogical community, but one sees attorneys destroying credibility all the time with a well-turned phrase... I would think that the same is true elsewhere (sans attorney).
I don't say that to suggest that anyone's credibility is lacking in this situation, since I have no clue about the character or history of any of these people... only that it can be subjective.
One can always know definitively that Person X has published specific works, has investigated specific cases, has achieved specific goals, etc. But the difficult part is determining Person X's integrity and ethical stand when doing those things. Being human, we all make mistakes, intentionally or un. :) When those mistakes are discovered, it opens the door for doubt and questions related to everything Person X has done.
When applied to an anonymous source... I think that the anonymous informant is more one who suggests a possible alternative... at that point, the investigator's credibility is more on the line than the source... if the investigator doesn't research that information thoroughly, and it is found to be legitimate... the investigator has not done the job, and looks the fool if it becomes public - thereby losing HIS credibility.
If he does investigate and comes up empty, he has at least eliminated one possible explanation, thus narrowing the field... again, I would think that was the investigator's responsibility. He might be called a fool, but at least he'd be a THOROUGH fool. LOL Ok, that didn't come out quite right.. but there's credibility in due diligence, even if the outcome doesn't give the desired or expected result.
In either case - known or anonymous source, wouldn't the process be the same? Isn't the investigator's job to look at ALL reasonable options, regardless of the source, and make a determination based on his research and validation?
Credible people can err, and unsubstantiated sources can be credible. In the end, isn't the investigator's intelligence, ethical practice and ability to distinguish fact from BS what's on the line?
Maybe I have it all wrong, which is why I leave this stuff to Kyle!! I suppose, from an outsider's perspective, I'm just trying to clarify how this is all handled in the UFOlogical community, where the challenges are greater, and leaps of faith often appear to be the result.
*Kyle, if I've put my foot in anything here, I apologize up front, and you can chastise me when I get home!! Hopefully I've not just told everyone that reads this that you have an idiot for a sig other* ;-)
"At the end of the day, only a re-examination of the original photos, and a look at Heflin's credibility (which IS relevant, no matter how much James might say it isn't), is what really matters."
Credibility is hard to measure. It requires consideration of intangibles, gut instincts and intuition. If you have a number of people check the credibility of the same person, you may get different answers. Sure with more experience you get better at judging creditible people, but then how can one be sure? Perhaps the person had a real experience but just can't behave in a a creditible manner. Of perhaps he did not have a real experience but can behave in a creditible manner. It is pretty arbitrary.
Take a look at criminal law. You have a bunch of psychologists/ psychiatrists examining a murdered and come up with rationale from THEIR point of view to explain the murderer's behavior and, thus, help reduce his sentence. But maybe the murderer was just telling these guys what they wanted to hear. They do not look into the person's mind! The mainly talk and perform various tests hoping to weed out the "truth". But motivations and psychology are hard to determine absolutely, given the nature of both the conscious and subconscious minds.
So although observations relating to the credibility of any witness may provide some useful information and help guide whether a case is more or less valid, only hard tangible witness data are useful (e.g. lie detector... or other methods... to verify if they truly believe their story and perhaps biological specimens from them showing they were exposed to radiation) if we ever hope to resolve this UFO question.
Actually, that's not what you have with criminal law - any examination by pschiatrists goes to the mental state of the accused, and his ability to stand trial, not his / her credibility.
Credibility is determined by far more than just "gut instinct" (although in the end it comes down to a judgment call, based on evidence). As just one, of many examples, past brhaviour can go to credibility - i.e. does the accused have a record, and is that record related to the crime with which he is now charged (the ability to raise these matters is constrained in many cases). Similarly, with Heflin, one should ask the question - had he conducted a hoax before. If he hadn't, then that is one piece of a very large credibility pie.
I suggest you brush up on criminal and civil evidence law, procedure and rules before you make such broad, sweeping generalizations.
In the case of UFO reports, how do you know if someone had perpetrated a prior hoax unless it was discovered?
I mean, we can be fairly certain that Heflin had never made a UFO report with photos before, or we'd have likely seen them...hoax or not. But if he was a con-man in general who was successful, he might be very convincing and completely untrustworthy.
In all that I have read on the Heflin case, what seems very clear is that he had a very dry sense of humor, and could keep a straight face while making even rather odd comments. Dick Hall even said as much...funny thing.
Rex was a model train enthusiast who had them around his house. And these were "G-guage" trains...the kind you have outside in the garden...not the kind in your basement. In other words BIG model trains.
We know that he was considered honest, dependable and pretty much a straight shooter...based on his employment as a safety officer with the railroad (as uptight a place to work as I've ever personally encountered except perhaps EDS...LOL).
So, if a guy with a dry wit and a model train hobby and a job that required keeping a camera around got bored and decided to shoot a photo of one of his train wheels, and after showing them around he decided to make them public, he would be just the type of person to pull off such a hoax...exactly BECAUSE his job and his prior reputation would make a hoax seem unlikely.
PLUS, he would also be very likely to be believable since his dry wit would allow him to be interviewed in full sight of his "model" while maintaining a "serious" persona.
PLUS, he would be being investigated by folks who very likely WANTED to believe him, especially after spending months getting to know him.
Remember, Heflin made no money off his story. It was just that...a story. An honest hoaxer...a practical joker...could easily sleep well at night...even with a nice chuckle at how he duped the great NICAP.
His conscience could be quite clear, since the evidence of his joke was in plain sight in his house for months while the "investigators" got to know him. Hilarious for someone with a dry wit!
He never stated that what he saw was a space ship from outer space. He actually never lied...he could be construed as having simply "exaggerated".
Also, he reported the odd "wedge of light" under the object. Well, if you check the links I provided, you'll find numerous O-guage wheels with spokes that in bright sunlight would produce exactly the kind of wedge pattern you see beneath the object, and even in the right location based on sun angle. And if the wheel were set spinning, why the wedge of light would seem to rotate around the underside of the object...What a coincidence!
I think that any investigator who depends on "credibility" when dealing with UFO reports is crazy (especially on one's OWN ability to discern credibility).
No one is a hoaxer until he hoaxes. If you try to haox a UFO report and you are found out, how likely are you to be successful trying it again? A known hoaxer is out of the hoaxing business quite simply...except for perhaps very gullible fools. Hmmmm. LOL
What kind of history does Billy Meier have as a hoaxer (prior to his photo releases)? What about Ed Walters? What about the Trents from McMinnville? What about the guy who summons UFOs at will? None of them are known prior hoaxers, and yet most of those stories are widely considered hoaxes today by serious researchers.
No...you depend on the evidence, and if there isn't sufficient evidence, you have an unexplained case.
The supposed "credibility" of the sightee has ZERO importance to the validity of the case...UNLESS of course you have clear evidence that he had hoaxed before, or was a known convicted con artist, or a movie special effects guy, or some other OBJECTIVE reason to doubt.
How can the absence of previous UFO hoaxes really mean ANYTHING to an investigation?
How would you even know unless a previous hoax had been discovered?
And if that were the case, why would a story like the Heflin case EVER be believed in the first place?
No...personal feelings as to ones credibility is too subjective to count as valid investigative "evidence". It is simply an opinion, and has no place in a serious investigation of a UFO report.
We're not talking about a crime here...there is no public interest being served, as when a cop follows up on a "hunch". This was a simple UFO story. NICAP turned it into a classic case...not Rex.
It id obvious that the ones doing the investigating were biased. And what I am beginning to realize by Dick Hall's own words recently is that he was hardly an impartial, objective investigator.
The lack of ANY mention of the model train hobby makes this very plain, even if you presume that no one involved noticed the similarity of the object in the photos to the train wheels. A modeling hobby should ALWAYS be reason for pause...and clear mention in any reports.
The only logical reason for not including this very "interesting" hobby is that you wouldn't want to mention it and cause any uncomfortable questions for this convincing guy you've gotten to know so well..any hope of scientific objectivity was compromised once the investigators got to know...and trust...Rex so well.
And the fact that when it came up recently, Dick was quick to cry "LIAR", and "AMUSING", and "TECHIES with their image analysis magic, yada yada", makes this quite clear as well.
Why would ANY objective investigator demand that the ONLY way he'd rethink a pet case would be if "PROOF of hoax" were presented?
There's your smoking gun right there. He requires more to convince him to change his view than he can provide to defend it.
That is where the cart leaves the road my friend, and that speaks volumes to how far Dick is from the "center" he claims to inhabit.