Followup: Ed Mitchell and UFO believers

Followup: Ed Mitchell and UFO believers

Followup: Ed Mitchell and UFO believers

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 30 2008 10:45 PM

Followup: Ed Mitchell and UFO believers

The post I wrote about Ed Mitchell the other day has really touched a nerve. In fact, in my mind it's a perfect example of something that's been happening on this very blog lately: people posting comments that precisely exemplify the type of antiscience thinking I am attacking. That includes global warming, antivaxxers, and to a lesser extent other topics.

To wit: in the Mitchell post, and in previous UFO posts (some of which are pretty recent), I make the simple demand of actual evidence of alien spaceships coming to Earth, abducting unwary victims, leaving bent cereal stalks, coring out cow anuses, and so on. I think this is a reasonable request. In fact, I think this is an an incredibly reasonable request, really just about the most basic thing anyone -- scientist or not -- can want, especially given what people are claiming about UFOs.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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All I want is actual, y'know, evidence. I don't want eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable. I don't want shaky footage. I don't want fuzzy pictures. I don't want claims of redacted documents, or government seizures of evidence, or anything I can't hold in my hand and examine.

You know. Evidence.

So I make this civil, intelligent, and reasonable request. What do I get?

1) Ad hominem attacks. While accusing me of being a debunker folks, you should understand that you can't be a debunker without bunk to debunk. And after the insults, I ask, where's that evidence I asked for?

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2) Appeal to authority, which slays me. I am specific in my statement that just because someone walked on the Moon doesn't mean they have any better claims about UFOs. So I ask again, where is Mitchell's evidence?

3) Weird analogies. One commenter asked how we know tornadoes exist, making some really stretchy metaphor for UFOs. Um, really? Evidence for tornadoes? You mean like the tens of thousands of clear pictures, thousands of hours of detailed footage, documented examination of the aftermath, the scientific antecedent, and the close study by hundreds or thousands of scientifically experienced researchers?

That's evidence. Now, please, show me the equivalent for UFOs.

<crickets>

4) Claims that the military has this evidence. OK then, show it to me. This is up to you to show me this, to verify it, and to show me why you have eliminated every single possible terrestrial mundane explanation, including hardware glitches, mistaken conclusions by the people involved, and advanced military craft -- things we know exist and are common. Then and only then can you begin to postulate something more exotic.

I don't think I can be more clear than this. I want good, solid, examinable evidence. What I get are insults, bad logic, and vaporware. That's not helping your case, folks.

I certainly don't have the time to sift through every single case, of course, and I'm pretty busy in general. But I'm always interested in what some might consider to be more solidly based cases. So given all this I've said, please feel free to leave your evidence for the best cases in the comments section below. Let's take a look.