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Skeptics and Their Arguments

"Cut through the ridicule and search for factual information in most of the skeptical commentary and one is usually left with nothing. This is not surprising. After all, how can one rationally object to a call for scientific examination of evidence?" Bernhard Haisch, Ph.D., "Be Skeptical of the Skeptics" "Skeptics, who flatly deny the existence of any unexplained phenomenon in the name of 'rationalism,' are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public. People are not stupid and they know very well when they have seen something out of the ordinary. When a so-called expert tells them the object must have been the moon or a mirage, he is really teaching the public that science is impotent or unwilling to pursue the study of the unknown." (Vallee, J., Confrontations, New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.) Dr. Jacques Vallee, astrophysicist, computer scientist and world renowned researcher and author on UFOs and paranormal phenomena. He worked closely with Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Commenting on the need for science "to search beyond the superficial appearances of reality"

articles & documents

Against Excessive Skepticism: Collected Quotes

Large and extensive collection of quotes.

Anomalistics - On Some Unfair Practices towards Claims of the Paranormal

Marcello Truzzi, 1998

The reception of unconventional or extraordinary claims in science has come under increasing attention by sociologists and historians. Scientific anomalies have sparked scientific revolutions, but such claims have had to fight prejudices within science. This essay offers scattered reflections on the adjudication process confronted by protoscientists (science "wannabes") wishing admission into the scientific mainstream. My comments here are not intended in support of proponents of the paranormal (for I remain a skeptic, as defined below) but to help produce a more level playing field and a greater fairness that might help all scientists.

Be Skeptical of the "Skeptics"

Bernhard Haisch, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Scientific Exploration

Cut through the ridicule and search for factual information in most of the skeptical commentary and one is usually left with nothing. This is not surprising. After all, how can one rationally object to a call for scientific examination of evidence?  R

Calling the Debunkers Hand

Dennis Balthaser, 08/01/03

Another Roswell Incident anniversary has recently passed and after 56 years we still have not been told what really happened on the high plains of New Mexico in 1947. The debunkers and skeptics continue to bring up the same excuses they have been using for 25 years, but when their theories are challenged they refuse to admit they are wrong.

Comments On The Fairy-Lore Hypothesis

Mark Cashman

A UFO phenomenon which was no more than a version of myths about elves and fairies should have very distinct characteristics (discriminators), which do not seem to be present in the UFO phenomenon. R

CSICOP: The Paradigm Police

Richard Milton, Alternative Science

In an imperfect world, we all suffer from a gap between how we see ourselves and how others see us: between what we'd like to be and what we are. But in 30 years of journalism I haven't found a more striking gulf between self-image and performance than CSICOP -- the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

Debunkers vs. the UFO Menace; or, Is Ufology Tantamount to Communism?

Jerome Clark, 1992

To this day not a single significant CSICOP figure has disavowed Klass' charges or chastised him for making them. Instead CSICOP has reserved all its criticism for those who, like me, have raised the issue. Publicly CSICOP pretends to believe that my portrayal of these events is false.

Extraordinary Claim? Move the Goal Posts!

Patrick Huyghe, The Anomalist 3

If you've heard it once, no doubt you've heard it a million times. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." But as the arguments fly over what exactly constitutes the necessary proof, there's often some hasty rewriting of the rules of the game.

Marcello Truzzi on Zeteticism

Marcello Truzzi

Despite serious philosophical and sociological questions about how well the system works, I believe in the process of science and scientific progress. Science is a self-correcting system. Encouragement of fair play and due process in the scientific arena will allow that self-correction to work best. A diversity of opinions and dialogue is extremely important. We cannot close the door on maverick claims. R

Myths of Skepticism

Michael D. Sofka

What is a skeptic? If you ask a skeptic you're likely to get an answer that involves science, rising tides of nonsense and debunking the paranormal. If you ask a UFOlogist, or a parapsychologist, you are likely to hear something about negative naysayers and closed minded critics. In this article, I'm interested in how skeptics define themselves, and the accuracy of those definitions. Skeptics form a sub-culture in western society, and like all cultures they have their own core set of beliefs and mythology. It is those myths that interest me, as a skeptic.  R

On Pseudo-Skepticism

Marcello Truzzi

Over the years, I have decried the misuse of the term "skeptic" when used to refer to all critics of anomaly claims. Alas, the label has been thus misapplied by both proponents and critics of the paranormal. Sometimes users of the term have distinguished between so-called "soft" versus "hard" skeptics, and I in part revived the term "zetetic" because of the term's misuse. But I now think the problems created go beyond mere terminology and matters need to be set right. Since "skepticism" properly refers to doubt rather than denial--nonbelief rather than belief--critics who take the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves "skeptics" are actually pseudo-skeptics and have, I believed, gained a false advantage by usurping that label.

Phil Klass vs. The "UFO Promoters"

Jerome Clark

He is a man with a mission - to debunk UFOs and discredit those who investigate them.  R

Prosaic Explanations: The Failure Of UFO Skepticism

Dr. Bruce Maccabee

Could some UFO sightings actually be manifestations of Other Intelligences (OIs) or Non-Human Intelligences (NHIs) such as extraterrestrials (ETs), visiting the earth and interacting with human beings? Or are all reports of such sightings simply mistakes, hoaxes, or dreams of the hopeful believers? It all comes down to explanation.

Refuting Fermi: No Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life?

John B. Alexander, NIDS (National Institute for Discovery Science)

To state there is no evidence suggestive of intelligent extraterrestrial life simply belies the facts. Decades in duration and global in nature, there are too many hard sensor data-points and millions of eyewitnesses to ignore. It is only through ignorance or pomposity that one can say no evidence exists.  R

Response to skeptic Philip Klass suggesting Illinois UFO sighting was planet Venus

Eric W. Davis, Ph.D., National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS)

The following is the NIDS reply to a recent article in the Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN) #62 by Philip Klass suggesting that the recent multiple police officer eyewitness case on January 5, 2000 was based on the police officers mistakenly seeing the planet Venus.  R

Scepticism

Wilbert Smith

Healthy scepticism is good, but this kind of scepticism is ridiculous. Non-awareness is NOT synonymous with non-existence, and disbelief in something does not in any way detract from its reality. No one can create a fact by making a statement, and no one can get rid of a fact by denying it.

Symptoms of Pathological Skepticism

William J. Beaty

Many members of the mainstream scientific community react with extreme hostility when presented with certain claims. This can be seen in their emotional responses to current controversies such as UFO abductions, Cold Fusion, cryptozoology, and numerous others. The scientists react not with pragmatism and a wish to get to the bottom of things, but instead with the same tactics religious groups use to suppress heretics: hostile emotional attacks, circular reasoning, dehumanizing of the 'enemy', extreme close-mindedness, underhanded debating tactics, justifications, and all manner of name-calling and character assassination.  R

The Logical Trickery of the UFO Skeptic

Brian Zeiler

Skeptics in the scientific community resist the evidence for extraterrestrial visitation because of the implications it raises and because of the questions it begs. But should the integrity of the determination rely on the implications of a positive classification? Or should the classification of true or false be assessed in isolation of the implications? Which is worse -- a false positive, meaning ruling in favor of the UFO as a unique phenomenon when in fact it does not exist, or a false negative, meaning ruling against it and missing out on its true existence?  R

The Objectivity of Science: Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Skepticism

Rochus Boerner, 2003

The progress of science depends on a finely tuned balance between open-mindedness and skepticism. Be too open minded, and you'll accept wrong claims. Be too skeptical, and you'll reject genuine new discoveries. Proper skepticism must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Unfortunately, much of what comes out of the "skeptical" community these days is not proper skepticism, but all-out, fundamentalist disbelief. Such skepticism can be called pseudo-skepticism, pathological skepticism or bogus skepticism.

The Pseudoscience Test

Stanton Friedman, Mutual UFO Network Journal, December 2001

The November 2001, issue of Scientific American (p.36) has a column by Dr. Michael Shermer entitled "Baloney Detection." Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, and is much younger than the old line skepticbunkers to which ufologists have become accustomed, such as Philip Klass. He provides the following rules for testing to see whether claims about unusual phenomena are pseudoscience, or science, and unintentionally provides a means for evaluating debunker views as well. Here are some claims about UFOs (from skeptics) that we can put through Shermer's tests. R

The Trouble with Skeptics

Glenn Campbell

Let us examine the world of the skeptic. This is a person who has dedicated himself to exposing the flawed belief systems of others. I myself am a recovering skeptic, so I understand the philosophy.  R

The UFO Challenge

Stanton Friedman

"Debunkers seem to employ four major rules: A. What the public doesn't know, we certainly won't tell them. The largest official USAF UFO study isn't even mentioned in 12 anti-UFO books, though all the book authors were aware of it. B. Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up C. If one can't attack the data, attack the people. It is easier. D. Do one's research by proclamation rather than investigation.It is much easier, and nobody will know the difference anyway."

UFO Debunkers Have To Get It Right Every Time

Ives Lewis

Consider: for the believers, they only have to get it right once. Every other incident in history can be a fraud or mistake. For the debunkers, well. . . . they only have to get it right every time. R

UFOs: Challenge to SETI Specialists

Stanton T. Friedman

Major news media and many members of the scientific community have taken strongly to the radio-telescope based SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program as espoused by its charismatic leaders, but not supported by any evidence whatsoever. In turn, perhaps understandably, they feel it necessary to attack the ideas of alien visitors (UFOs) as though they were based on tabloid nonsense instead of on far more evidence than has been provided for SETI.

UFOs: Proving the Phenomenon is Real - The Case against Debunkers

By Will Hart

In a recent exchange with a UFO lawyer I was assured that he could prove the existence of UFOs in a court of law. This brings up a very important point regarding the history of UFO investigations that raises questions about the rules of evidence used to judge whether UFOs are a real phenomenon or not. The lawyer could justifiably make that claim, however, scientists routinely say there is not enough evidence to prove the existence of the phenomenon. What gives? R

Zen... and the Art of Debunkery

Daniel Drasin

What is "debunkery?" As intended here, it is the attempt to "debunk" (invalidate) new information and insight by substituting scient"istic" propaganda for scient"ific" method. To throw this kind of pseudoscientific behavior into bold--if somewhat comic--relief, I have assembled below a useful "how-to" guide for aspiring debunkers, with a special section devoted to debunking the UFO--perhaps the most aggressively debunked subject in the whole of modern history. As will be obvious to the reader, I have carried a few of these debunking strategies over the threshold of absurdity for the sake of making a point.  R

websites & organizations

Closeminded Science

Examining the negative aspects of the social dynamics of science. Skepticism is a primary tool of science. We'd be hypocrites if we never directed a skeptical eye towards Scientific Skepticism itself.