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and Their Arguments
"A UFO is an unidentified flying object which has been identified as a possible or actual alien spacecraft. Such objects include meteors, disintegrating satellites, flocks of birds, aircraft, lights, weather balloons, and just about anything within the visible band of electromagnetism. So far, however, nothing has been positively identified as an alien spacecraft in a way required by common sense and science. That is, there has been no recurring identical UFO experience and there is no physical evidence in support of either a UFO flyby or landing.
There are as many photographs of UFOs as there are of the Loch Ness Monster, and they are of equal quality: blurs and forgeries. Other physical evidence, such as alleged debris from alien crashes, or burn marks on the ground from alien landings, or implants in noses or brains of alien abductees, have turned out to be quite terrestrial, including forgeries. The main reasons for believing in UFOs are the testimony of many people, the inability to distinguish science fiction from science, the ability to trust incompetent men telling fantastic stories, the ability to distrust all contrary sources as being part of an evil conspiracy to withhold the truth, and a desire for contact with the world above. In short, belief in UFOs is akin to belief in God."
From: UFO's - The Skeptics Dictionary, by Robert Todd Carroll
Philip Klass, an electrical engineer by education and once the editor of the popular "Aviation Week", is today's most famous skeptic having authored five books on UFOs and appeared on television countless times. In his first book, "UFOs - Identified" published in 1968, Klass suggested that, although terrestrial of origin, many reported UFOs were strong evidence of a new natural phenomenon which was similar in some ways to ball lightning. His subsequent books then revealed a complete reversal in his thinking. Klass had now adopted the position (curiously, this "change of heart" occured after his hypothesis on plasma balls had been thoroughly discredited and rejected by scientists) that the entire UFO phenomenon (including those cases Klass first thought to be accurate and evidence for new phenomena) was the result of, among others, hoaxes, and observational mistakes.
> An Interview with Philip J. Klass, the World's Leading UFO Skeptic by Gary P. Posner
AGAINST PHIL KLASS
> Phil Klass vs. the "UFO Promoters" by Jerome Clark
Dr. Donald Menzel
Dr. Donald Menzel (1901-1976) was a prominent Harvard astronomer, serving as a professor of both astronomy and of astrophysics. He was also the chairman of Harvard College Observatory from 1954 to 1966. Menzel was a globally renowned astronomer, participating in numerous international committees, leading solar eclipse expeditions, and establishing solar observatories. Menzel also debunked UFOs, authoring three books on the subject: Flying Saucers (1953); The World of Flying Saucers (1964); and The UFO Enigma: A Definitive Explanation of the UFO Phenomenon (1977). Menzel's disdain for the UFO subject and his published works have been used by skeptics Phil Klass and Robert Sheaffer as evidence that there is nothing to UFOs, yet neither of them has ever responded to the large number of detailed and destructive published criticisms on Menzel's UFO writings, they simply seem to ignore them.
AGAINST DR. DONALD MENZEL
A member of CSICOP's UFO subcommittee and author of several UFO debunking books. As with Klass, Sheaffer remains vociferously active in this department. Jerome Clark suggests one assess Sheaffer's arguments "in the context of his ferocious hostility to UFOs in general." And adds that Sheaffer feels that "sympathetic consideration of UFO sightings" is not only "irrational" but threatens a "new dark age." UFOlogy of any sort, even a cautious methodological variety is, in Sheaffer's estimation and his italics, "fundamentally a reaction against science and reason."
AGAINST ROBERT SHEAFFER
Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the director of the Skeptics Society, the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at Caltech, and an adjunct professor at Occidental College. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things (W. H. Freeman) that was widely and positively reviewed and was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list as well as nominated as one of the top 100 notable books of 1997.
Bruce Maccabee's paper, "UFOs: FANTASY OR PRESENT REALITY?" -
The Fourteenth International Conference on the Unity of the Sciences
Houston, Texas November 28 - December 1, 1985
discussions about UFOs and in browsing the web, IUFOS encounters, again
and again, the same fallacious lines of reasoning being used to justify
a belief that aliens are visiting the Earth. In this column I will
discuss the errors in these arguments.
individual UFO event may be investigated scientifically. If it can be
proven a balloon, the hypothesis "The reported object was an alien
spaceship" is falsified. But if the object is not identified, then
it is unidentified. That's all. Not a lot of incentive in that to
get a scientist involved. When a piece of alleged physical evidence is
presented, it can be investigated scientifically. It has been pointed
out that if the material came from another solar system, the elements in
the material should contain different isotope ratios than those found on
earth. But physical evidence is rarely produced, and none of it has ever
been demonstrated to be extraterrestrial. The reason scientists
rarely devote themselves to UFO research is not merely the lack of
evidence. It is the lack of scope for scientific research.
are sometimes criticized for demanding physical evidence of alien
visitations. It is an unreasonable demand, believers say, because aliens
are intelligent and cunning, and one cannot expect them to leave
physical evidence of their presence on Earth. Well,
such an argument may make sense to somebody who is prepared to believe
in alien visitations as an act of faith, in the same way that some
people believe in angels. But the undeniable fact of the matter is that
there is no probative physical evidence that compels us to conclude that
aliens are visiting the Earth.
A UFO is an
unidentified flying object
which has been identified as a possible or actual alien spacecraft. Such
objects include meteors, disintegrating satellites, flocks of birds,
aircraft, lights, weather balloons, and just about anything within the
visible band of electromagnetism. So far, however, nothing has been
positively identified as an alien spacecraft in a way required by common
sense and science. That is, there has been no recurring identical UFO
experience and there is no physical evidence in support of either a UFO
flyby or landing.
people are surprised to learn that virtually 90% of all UFO reports can
be and have been explained. The major argument seems to be over
whether the remaining 10% is "noise" or "signal".
Herewith, a list of things which have been the primary cause of UFO
reports in the past. It's a list that any investigator should be
aware of when studying a particular report. It was compiled by
Donald Menzel, a noted debunker of the 50s and 60s, who characterized
this list as "minimal and highly abbreviated". (From
"UFOs: A Scientific Debate", Sagan and Page, eds. consisting
of papers presented at a symposium sponsored by the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, held in Boston on Dec. 26-27, 1969, ISBN
speaking, there are two flavours of UFOlogy - a serious kind, practiced
by means of the scientific method, and what I shall call "popular
UFOlogy", the kind one finds on the bookshelves in the "New
Age" section. There can be no doubt that UFOs really do exist - but
"UFO" means "unidentified flying object", and as far
as I am aware, there is no tangible proof that any UFO was an alien
space ship. But it is undeniable that some people really do see (or
think they see) things in the sky that they do not recognize. To call
these things "UFO"s is perhaps prejudicial - because the words
"flying object" imply a nuts-and-bolts apparatus such as an
alien space ship. A better term would be "unidentified aerial
apparition", the scientific study of which has led to the discovery
of a number of unusual natural phenomena, such as "Earth
lights", a kind of atmospheric discharge caused by geomagnetic