Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Re-examining classic UFO cases slows UFOlogy?

[Click title to read full post]
Bill Weber posts his reaction to the recent episode of Strange Days...Indeed.

Pertinent quote here:

Classic UFO cases are reexamined at their detriment without
any new facts or evidence being introduced because
agnostics fear being branded believers. I suspect new cases
aren't properly researched or reported for the same reasons.
What seems like idle chatter from this vocal minority is
actually very harmful, and effectively slows down Ufology.
First, "agnostics fear being branded believers"? I don't see Bill including any corroborating evidence to back up this rather odd assertion. I suppose it could be just chalked up to "opinion". And the "high strangeness" continues in the next sentence..."I suspect new cases aren't properly researched or reported for the same reasons.".

Per Bill, we are to believe that agnostic UFO researchers do NOT properly research new cases for fear of being ridiculed as "believers"? This reads as some kind of joke. As if calling ones self an "agnostic UFO researcher" carries no stigma at the outset?

Bill, even when you are a UFO AGNOSTIC in todays world, when you include the term "UFO" in ANY proximity to your name, you have already given quarter for a potential "belief" in UFOs and accepted the resulting potential ridicule for allowing for the possibility at all. Do you not see this very simple truth? The agnostic simply seeks more evidence, and how does he do that except to question cases...old and new, with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective, and a hunger for the TRUTH?

I cannot speak for all UFO researchers, but I sincerely doubt that they routinely fail to properly research new cases out of fear of ANYTHING.

How about a lack of good new cases? How about dozens of photos of blurs and bugs and balloons and birds touted as the next Roswell? How about the dearth of real "sink your teeth into it" cases.

The problem is NOT with failure of research...it is a failure to present compelling cases that warrant such scrutiny. Where is today's Zamora, Heflin, Trent, Trindade? Nowhere, unless you buy into lens flares, mylar balloons and blurry birds. Note that even a "believer" like Dick Hall will poo-poo an obvious photographic fake or misidentification in the absence of additional evidence. An "agnostic" is even more quick to dismiss any case that has nothing more than a blurry photo behind it.

As it sits, there are just not very many really good UFO cases turning up every day for serious researchers to spend time on.

In fact, that is one BIG reason that old classic cases get rehashed ad infinitum...it gives UFOlogists something to freaking DO.

And finally there's this...

What seems like idle chatter from this vocal minority is
actually very harmful, and effectively slows down Ufology.

Bill claims that "idle chatter"...his euphemism for the re-investigation of old classic cases...is harmful, and "slows down" UFOlogy. Forgive me Bill, but slows it down from WHAT, exactly?

Where is UFOlogy heading in such a hurry that re-investigation of old cases is such an impediment? Legitimacy? Erm...no, legitimacy is ever elusive under the current paradigm, for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with "agnostic" critical thinking and a quest for truth. Is it slowing the general acceptance of UFOlogy? Of course not. If ANYTHING, it is quite the reverse.

By applying new techniques and new ideas to old cases, we learn how we can fool ourselves, or be misled, or how we can be right in some cases. Re-investigation does not imply that the initial investigatory conclusions ARE wrong, but that they MIGHT be, and it is worth the time to periodically make sure that the "canon" of UFOlogical history is not polluted with what turns out to be bogus cases. And in this process, the old cases are given new life and generate renewed interest...pro AND con.

Ask yourself this question...When you see a NEW UFO-related book come out, what are you more likely to see on the cover? "Balloon fleets", "lens flares", current UFO photos? Nope. You see a Heflin shot, or a McMinnville shot, or a Trindade shot, or any of several famous UFO photos which remain unexplained. Why is that, Bill? Are they slowing down UFOlogy by retreading those old tired UFO snaps? No. They are using the most COMPELLING images they can find to illustrate their subject...and those don't come from 2006, but rather from closer to 1965.

If anything, re-investigation of classic cases...BLUE BOOK level cases...HELPS UFOlogy retain some semblance of respectability and intrigue, and in fact shows others that UFOlogy ISN'T just a bunch of "believers", but also includes (and ATTRACTS) agnostics who have enough interest, curiosity and sense for the possible, that they are willing to "waste the time" doing all these calculations, re-creations, triangulations, and regurgitations, just to determine whether the case in question STILL stands up to current scrutiny. Amazingly, most of those old cases do.

For all the hand-wringing about the Zamora case, it remains unsolved. Same for Trent, Trindade and Heflin (for now), etc. Do you honestly believe that these re-investigations have been anything but GOOD for UFOlogy?

Opinions like Bill's are what is hurting UFOlogy. Treating old classic cases as if they are long since "PROVEN" is hurting UFOlogy. Excoriating researchers for deigning to use MODERN techniques to "second-glance" old cases is what "slows down UFOlogy". No, actually it brings UFOlogy to a screeching freaking HALT.

If UFOlogy fades into the sunset of popular culture without having ever answered the big questions, it will be in large part due to the harm caused by "believers" who insult "agnostics" for acting AGNOSTIC.

Is that a shame? HELL YES, it is a shame
Is it the fault of open-minded researchers who re-investigate "classic" cases? I daresay...HELL NO!!

[via UFO Updates]

Comments:
Kyle:

Hear, hear - couldn't have said it better myself. History is important, something that Bill obviously doesn't grasp. There are still untold numbers of Blue Book cases that have never seen the light of day, because people haven't gone through them yet. As Brad Sparks said to me when I interviewed him in May, the "best" UFO case might be in those files soemwhere, waiting to be found. As for re-investigation, while I may disagree with the efficacy of particular methods now and then, it's imperative that when new information or new technology pops up, for one to take another look at a case which remains unsolved, or ambiguous (which would be all of them).

As for your contention that there aren't as many good cases now as there were 30 or 40 years ago, I think you're probably right. Perhaps, as Karl Pflock used to say, "they" were here, checked the joint out, and "left". Who knows?

On the other hand, there are fewer field investigators now (no NICAP, for all their flaws, or APRO), which is also part of the problem. But that kind of investigation, to be done properly, needs trained personnel with an institutional base, not some guy learning on the job. That just doesn't exist these days.

Paul
 
Hey Paul -

Thanks for writing. I unexpectedly found a subsequent post by Nick Balaskas on Updates to be tacit agreement with my premise here and...by your comments...with you as well. To quote his post...

"...If this latest example of UFOs/BLURFOs or "domed flying disks"
[speaking of the "multiple UFO photo from Greece]is typical of the visual evidence we are currently being deluged with, where have all the real flying saucers from the 1940s, 50s and 60s gone? Is the flying saucer era over, possibly replaced
by bug/bird-like micro-UFOs?..."

Amen and amen. So we look at the compelling cases...which means the old "classic" ones. Your Pflock quote sings the same song, as well.

But even if another really strong UFO [photo/video/multi-witness/radar] case never comes along, we still have plenty of interesting cases on which to shed new light through new skills, techniques, and technology, and from which to hopefully gain new insights. Those cases will obviously come from the past.

At the very least we will remain practiced, perceptive and prepared for the day when a new case comes along that demands such scrutiny.

And at most...as you infer...we may find a true "needle" in the UFOlogical "haystack".

Thanks again for stopping by!
 
Its hard to say if there are really fewer sightings today if you look at the NUFORC database. Sure the quality is poor and there seem to be alot of bogus reports these days, but some people are at least reporting that they are seeing these things.

If they are truly being reduced, there are contributing factors to their reduction.

1) There were fewer satellites (reentering debris)/aircraft back then than today. This results in people purposely ignoring the sky because it'll just be another jet or satellite. They have become desensitized.

2) People have alot more things to be interested in than looking in the sky than the old days. Internet, DVDs, IPODs, porn, 120 station cable TV monopolize people's attention today.

3) Jaded mentality of people due to entertainment media/information overload. This drives people to simply not care about looking for UFOs, rather they want to just watch a show about them.

As to investigating historical UFO cases, I do not hold much hope they will save the day. Even though its fun and challenging to reassess/reexamine such cases, they will never resolve the UFO question.
We know that we will not get access to any raw data files of these past cases which include multiple radar tapes (at the very least) and preferably other kinds of hard data streams other than snapshots or maybe a video.
 
Hi, Kyle,

I’ll concede a few points. I don’t think yours is a necessarily unfair post. I’m a ‘reader’ not a researcher, have no vested interest, and when I’m wrong, I’m wrong. Of course I have no problem with the reopening of “classic” cases based on fresh evidence or fresh perspectives thereby providing researchers with “something to do.” (Although, if it’s that bad, I’d suggest taking up a hobby…cement finishing, for instance – very time consuming). If a case deserves to be strengthened or damaged because of some new bit of evidence, so be it. But that’s my point. I do have a problem with classic cases being reopened with no new evidence, no fresh perspective - or evidence which conflicts with all known data - and all of it rolled into a ball to be delivered with a bit of snark and ‘truthiness’ that remains with the case long after facts are forgotten. That, at least to me, is actually a smarmy and manipulative form of debunking. I prefer an upfront Phillip Klass style. This happens in politics on an ongoing basis, and if you don’t perceive this happening fairly regularly with the field of UFOs, I think you’re wrong, and we have a difference of opinion.
 
Hey James -

Of course there are still UFOs being reported. On a worldwide basis, perhaps far more than ever before. My point was focused more on the cases that seem to attract great interest. Current cases would include the Phoemix lights, and historic cases might include the Heflin case. Cases like either of those are few and VERY far between these days. But you are certainly correct that the truly odd things that have been up there are less "odd" today because we are all more generally aware of them.

Bill -

Thanks for writing. We do not disagree on your final point. What prompted my post was its proximity to the recent joint effort to re-examine the Heflin case.

Your post seemed to be in response to that effort, which I find (as an involved participant) quite invigorating, and by a group of very talented, interested, and open-minded fellows.

If any of us were to declare Heflin a liar and hoaxer based on the little "new" information in evidence today, I would completely agree with you. Fortunately, I think most critical thinkers would (and DO) easily dismiss such declarations. Even amongst the "readers" out there. LOL

But this re-examination is a very good example of how new techniques and skills can shed new light or insight into these old cases...in the interest of the TRUTH...pro or con.

The timing of your post may have been what prompted me to feel that it was aimed at the Heflin issue. If not, I still agree with your final point, but...with the Heflin case in mind...stand firmly behind every word of my post.

I think we agree on the whole, which is why I intended no hostility or invective. A matter of perspective. I generally agree with your posts overall and find you a worthy and respectable "reader", which is why I felt compelled to respond.

Thanks again for stopping by and offering your comments! I really appreciate it.
 
Hi, Kyle,

I appreciate the kind comments. I received a couple of critical emails offlist – and I don’t necessarily disagree with them either. I may be guilty of some hyperbole in my original post. To be honest with you, I haven’t kept up with the Heflin thread and wasn’t referring to it directly. It wasn’t an attack on your research per se. As you said, I think we agree, on the whole, assuming that motivations for reopening or reviewing a case are sincere. However, it is easy to throw mud at the character of a witness, lob a pelican or two, and then move on to a new classic case without accepting any responsibility for the comments. Given enough mud, it tends to stick to the case, while original facts tend to fade from memory. Ufologists then spend a ton of time reestablishing the known facts. There’s healthy reexamination…and then there’s bullshit. And I do think this has a cumulative effect. And who knows how damaging this is? That was the point of my post, anyway.

As for my comment about it “slowing down Ufology”…eh, well, what can I say? I tend to think of Ufology as moving at the speed of mountain formation (using a very slow mountain). Unmerited reopening of classic cases makes the going even slower, if that’s possible. Take care,

Bill
 
Hey Bill -

As I suspected, we agree far more than we do not. :)

I will be the first to decry an "out of hand" declaration offered up by someone with little more than an opinion and that barely hidden fear that even 1 UFO...past, present or future...might actually be a real thing from somewhere else.

My hope...and if I may say it, belief...is that those critical thinkers out there can tell the difference between arm-waving (wing-flapping?) debunkery and honest debate and (re)investigation.

But drat it all, I could be wrong.

Thanks again, and I sincerely appreciate your comments.
 
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