Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Simple Life...

I'm not a big fan of labels. I think they over-simplify the complexity of human thought and endeavor, and tend to force people to take a position in a discussion with which they do not necessarily agree.

But, some people think that discussions are less likely to get "personal" or "nasty" if everyone takes a position that is easily "categorized". In other words, please tell me where your "limits" are so I can know in advance how best not to "exceed them", lest I offend you.

Dick Hall, UFOlogical luminary, makes a very similar statement to the one made in the first paragraph above in his essay "Conceptualizing UFOs". Therein he writes...

"...various labels and epithets often have been
substituted for rational discussion in characterizing our
philosophical opponents. No doubt this is due to the
frustrations of trying to deal with a complex and unorthodox
subject that has little recognition among scientists, the news
media, or other important opinion-makers in society. What does
it mean to be "pro-UFO" or a "believer"? How apt are the labels
"debunker", "scoffer", or "skeptic" as applied to those who
disbelieve in UFOs and/or profess strong criticism of the views
(not to mention the motives and intelligence) of "believers"?..."
Unless I misread, Dick is basically saying that labels are not conducive to reasoned debate. This is something with which I strongly agree. If however I misread, the content which follows the above thesis by Dick can be better understood.

The reason for the essay it basically to explain that the pejorative labels are a substitute for rational discussion, so what does he offer in contrast? Uhh...he deigns to create for us a new set of LABELS which will end the acrimony and allow reasonable people to debate reasonably...if they will only adhere to his labels and stay in their respective "categories"...debate-wise.

Gee, do I smell hypocrisy? Or did Dick fail to read his own words?

He mentions that these labels should not be used in a pejorative manner. My, there's a tautological comment in just a few words...

Labels are by definition pejorative except in the most rare of cases. For example, if you were to call Ann Coulter a "conservative" to her face, she would likely smile and offer to buy you a drink. Likewise, if you were to call Michael Moore a "liberal", the same might occur.

But those who are not represented by those two extremes of philosophy neither deserve nor require either of those particular labels...or ANY label.

Only someone of limited intelligence requires convenient labels to engage in civil debate. Similarly, those of limited intelligence are least likely to maintain civility in the absence of convenient labels.

Dick Hall's essay perpetuates what is most wrong with the UFO debate landscape today.

And his wrong-headed attempt to "pigeon-hole" everyone into neat categories reveals
a severe ignorance as to the nuance and gray area that define the human condition except at the very extremes thereof,
an intelligence so limited that it absolutely requires such "pigeon-holing", lest the complexity of the debate lead to misunderstandings and ill feelings.

I'm not sure which, but neither possibility speaks well for Mr. Hall.

Please take a few moments and read the essay, and see if you don't agree.

Labels ARE pejorative. Critical thinking people don't need them because it is the LABELS that create the conditions for derisive, dismissive and incorrect judgment. Labels dilute, labels misinform, labels obfuscate truth, labels LIE.

Labels are for simpletons. That's why only the most extreme among us deserve them...and are PROUD of them.

Surely anyone who claims to be a student of logic and science would heartily agree. In fact, as Dick Hall once said, "...Labels and epithets often have been substituted for rational discussion in characterizing our philosophical opponents."

Dick, I couldn't agree more. Too bad you didn't just stop right there.


I have the greatest respect for Dick (and actually linked to this article several months ago at UFO Planet, and my blog), but...

"Interestingly, the ad hominem arguments tend to emanate far more
from the "scoffers" than the "believers"."

Hahahaha... That's hilarious! Dick just hasn't been reading certain "believer" blogs much lately, or been to any "believer" filled conference, where bashing those nasty pelicanists / debunkers / sceptoids / new thugs / anti-ufoists / etc. has become the coin of the realm.

Pity... you left off klasskurtxian. No matter.

Even if oblique, it's amusing to see you so publicly confirm how reluctant you are to confirm the remotest truth. This one?

That hard-knob scientists, SETI Kultists, dim-bulb conventionalists, noisome negativists, and other white-walled pundits for the discredited conventional... HOWL... when they're served up what they've been dishing out for so many years.

Poor, poor mainstreamers... Pity the disquieted status quo... tsk tsk tsk.

Burn, baby... burn. No pity, no prisoners.
AVG Blog --
Why are the "motives and intelligence" of the believers questioned, but not the skeptics? I am really sick of this belief that many believers are "in it for the money." I don't know if that is what Dick was eluding to so far as motive, but it is a common belief. As though skeptics stand to make no money off their beliefs, only those rich ufologists.:-)
Hey Paul -

That phrase you quoted was one of the ones with which I most took issue. His entire article is a thinly veiled diatribe against skeptics, but then he claims to be in the center.

Just another example of why labels are not helpful, but in fact give people the ability to artificially "rate" others.

I have read that article several times over the past 2-3 years. It is featured at the NICAP web site. I was content not to comment on it, as DIck clearly seems to be a "believer" based on recent postings.

But since it was tossed into the List as some sort of rebuttal to those who took exception with his "techie" post, it seemed more than fair game.

My disappointment has very little to do with the validity or lack thereof vis a vis UFOs, but with watching the credibility of someone I respect be so deeply tarnished by his own words.

Alfred -

I saw your comments on the article in response to Bruce's comment that they had perhaps unwittingly "opened the door" to accepting anecdotal testimony of unexplained phenomena. I found that exchange sweet indeed, and I agree that they did in fact let that door slip ajar.

But this issue is one of humanity, and human endeavor, and human error. I expect the writings of a "klasskurtxian" to be flawed from the outset, as they defend a position which is for intent and purpose indefensible (attempting to prove a negative by showing a lack of evidence for it).

With the "top guns" of UFOlogy however, I allowed myself to be blinded (by my agreement with their premise and admiration of their time on post), and in so doing missed the little hypocrisies, errors, and tautologies...the HUMANITY...of which they can be and are often quite guilty as well.

Lesley -

I can't really say with certainty what Dick was implying there, but suffice it to say that there is an industry devoted to UFO/paranormal movies, books, documentaries. And the industry has 3 sides...the "pro" side, the "con" side, and the "agnostic" or "you decide" side. Each of these sides are in existence to make money, and this should be readily admitted by ALL sides.

History teaches that to ignore this motive in ANY product of such an industry is naive, regardless of the
potential "purity of thought" of the participants. :)

"Caveat Emptor", I think it goes.

Thank you all or writing.
So you say Kyle, and on the face of it... well... it sounds abundantly reasonable... then I remember that the only one making money in ~this~ little murmuring klatch is the lovely Paul Kimball... and the cut of Richard Hall's jib of humanity is preferable, by far, to his antithesis, so, burn baby burn. The whining klasskurtxians can just suck it up, and I'm here to engage them in just such activity.

No pity... no prisoners.
AVG Blog --
Alfred -

You have made it quite clear that you intend to give no quarter and take no prisoners.

I have no quarrel there. Those who place themselves...or even just find your crosshairs are fair game, as are we all.

But on the basis of humanity, the "goose" and the "gander" are equally flawed, and that is without question except by the intellectually dishonest...or the questionably motivated.

The measurable difference is in how each copes with...mitigates...the inherent flaw.

In my case I am guilty of having thought some "above" flawed humanity...just as some are thought to be (and perhaps equally incorrectly) "beneath" same.

I am simply reminded once again that there are no "givens".

And that last goes for me, and you, and everyone else.

Give 'em hell, Alfred. If we create our own firmament, yours is far firmer than my "mix" is far from "set". LOL

But it's getting there...
Good words dude! We're coming at this thing from completely oblique directions yet we remain civil and compliment one another, I think, in an angular sense. There's a lesson to be learned there, somewhere, I suspect.

...Rock on, yourself.
AVG Blog --
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