Sunday, August 14, 2005
Dr. Bruce Maccabee has a paper, "Prosaic Explanations: The Failure Of UFO Skepticism," at his website, which is definitely worth a read-through.
A couple of excerpts:
"The problem faced by the skeptics is that there are sightings for which the generally accepted (by skeptics!) prosaic explanations are wrong or at least unconvincing. The failure of UFO skepticism, from the scientific point of view, has been to allow such explanations to be accepted by the scientific community. If UFOs were 'ordinary science,' the proposed explanations would have been rigorously analyzed, and probably rejected, rather than simply accepted. Scientific ufology needs skeptics, but skeptics who are capable of recognizing when a sighting simply cannot be explained by any prosaic explanation"
"The procedure of proposing explanations is part of the scientific approach to explaining UFO sightings. However, simply proposing explanations is not sufficient. It is the "first half" of the method. The other "half" of the method is to test each proposed explanation against the information from the sighting and to decide whether or not it is, at least, convincing (you may not be able to determine whether or not an explanation is correct, but it is possible to determine whether or not it is convincing). Unfortunately Menzel, Klass and other skeptics generally have not carried out this second half of the scientific method. Menzel simply proposed explanations, one after another, as if it were logical to believe that the more prosaic explanations one could offer for a sighting, the more likely it is that the sighting could be (or has been) explained by one of the explanations. This, of course, makes little sense. Each sighting has one and only one explanation. Thus the analyst should pick the best or most convincing explanation out of a collection of potential explanations (by using the complete scientific method on each sighting and rejecting the unconvincing ones) and then publish that explanation and only that explanation. As a "rule of thumb" to help the reader decide whether or not a sighting has been explained, I would suggest that the larger the number of proposed, unconvincing explanations, the less likely it is that the sighting has been explained."
This last line seems to be a particularly good rule of thumb!