Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Ravagers of the Extraterrestrial Orthodoxy

I favour the ETH as the most likely of the paranormal theories - but, unlike Stan and many of his colleagues, I understand that it is just a theory, and I don't assert it as a fact. As a result, I keep an open mind about the other theories on offer - because no matter how much someone like Jerry Clark might try to dismiss Jacques Vallee, or J. Allen Hynek, I don't, because, unlike Clark, imprisoned as he is in his need to be accepted by "science", they understood that the UFO phenomenon was a mystery - perhaps even one that our science could not solve.

And that's what really bothers them - they are unable to face the prospect that there is something "out there" that is far beyond our comprehension, that might resemble "religion", at least in terms of our relationship to it, because they are avowed secularists, and any hint of something "divine", whatever the manifestation, is beyond their self-imposed intellectual walls. To them, it simply has to be nuts and bolts craft from another world that behave pretty much exactly like we do, because that's what they need it to be.

As a result, they are unable to say, without equivocation, that "we just don't know", which runs against everything my dad taught me about the nature of true wisdom.

In their failure to grasp this, to admit it, they forget that the science they claim to adhere to is a method, not an end in and of itself.

Of course, cryptos, or extradimensional beings, or whatever, hardly fit the traditional concept of God, although they might fit the ancient concept of "the gods" (you know, like Thor, Loki, Odin, Zeus, Appollo and Aphrodite). But that doesn't matter, and it isn't the point, because I'm not saying that UFOs are a manifestation of the divine (that's Barry Downing's beat, not mine). The point is that anything which calls into question the ETH as ETFact threatens a certain "ufological orthodoxy", in the same way that the protestant Reformation threatened the Catholic othodoxy hundreds of years ago, or Henry Alline threatened the Calvinist orthodoxy in Atlantic Canada in the late 18th century, to the point where his enemies referred to him as "the ravager of churches".

Today, where the UFO phenomenon is concerned, the "Church" is the dogmatic acceptance of the ETH - and the ravagers are guys like Mac Tonnies, and Nick Redfern, and Greg Bishop. Does that mean they're right? No - but then, unlike the die-hard ETHers, they don't claim to be right, or to have all the answers. They don't dismiss guys like Mack, or Vallee, or Hynek, as "New Agey" types, or "apologist ufologists", because they understand that we're still at the stage of asking the questions.

The journey of discovery isn't over - it hasn't even really begun.

Paul Kimball

13 comments:

Mac said...

There's a good line in the movie version of "Communion" where Strieber's psychiatrist accuses him of wanting all the answers when we still don't know what the questions are.

Greg Bishop said...

You know Pual, it's funny how we keep repeating ourselves ad infinitum on this orthodoxy bit, but dammit, it seems like we need to! There is a good summation of this attitude over at Mac's site from a comment on one of his posts (the one about my review of Martian Apocalypse.)

The commenter, "w.m. bear" says, "let's hypothesize a bit and see what we come up with WITHOUT HAVING A DOGMATIC ATTACHMENT TO OUR HYPOTHESIS." Geez--this was the one thing that I was trying to say throughout the entire review!

Paul Kimball said...

There's a good line in the movie version of "Communion" where Strieber's psychiatrist accuses him of wanting all the answers when we still don't know what the questions are.

That is a good line - which I'm pretty sure Strieber cribbed from someone else, in essence if not the actual words.

Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Greg:

You know Paul, it's funny how we keep repeating ourselves ad infinitum on this orthodoxy bit, but dammit, it seems like we need to!

It does boggle my mind how one can have an orthodoxy in one of the most unorthodox subjects there is.

Paul

The Odd Emperor said...

"As a result, they are unable to say, without equivocation, that "we just don't know", which runs against everything my dad taught me about the nature of true wisdom."

Looking at something and saying in essence “I just don’t know” is the first step into true understanding. It takes a kind of courage the ETH people simply do not seem to have.

Looking at something and saying, “we may never know,” is also courageous but of a different type. It’s an acknowledgement that we may not have the correct tools to understand something, however by studying that which is incomprehensible and keeping an opend mind, we may find clues to those parts which are comprehensible.

It’s a humbling act, very difficult only to people who cannot be humble

The Odd Emperor said...

"Of course, cryptos, or extradimensional beings, or whatever, hardly fit the traditional concept of God, although they might fit the ancient concept of "the gods" (you know, like Thor, Loki, Odin, Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite)."

Ohh, I must take issue with that! The Classical gods were not gods in the sense we think today. Classical gods were more like comic book super heroes, they were people endowed with powers beyond that of mortal men. But they behaved exactly like mortal men. Mostly they wanted to mess around with humanity, or have sex with them.

I think that the alleged aliens behave far more like the more contemporary Christian pantheon, they move in mysterious ways, behave in a manner that is incomprehensible and dare we say.. alien. They select people for no reason that we can fathom, submit them to all kinds of crazy torment and dump them back into society. They give the chosen people rules and regulations; they frequently imply that they come from the sky.

Christianity is so much like modern UFOlogy has been pointed out by many people, there are even several feature films that use this idea as a plot line, “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “Starman” and so on. Of course, the same can be said about the modern incarnations of Greek gods which can be found in your local comic book store.
;-)

Don Maor said...

Paul:

I got confused when you name the ETH as being a paranormal theory. Defintively it is NOT a paranormal.

Furthermore, I am contrary to the Sagan's "Extraordinary claims demands Extraordinary evidences"...

As Stan Friedman said in UFO Updates, aliens visiting earth is NOT and extraordinary thing (provided with the fact that our galaxy is far older than our planet or even than our sun, the fact that interstellar travel is not impossible, etc).

Alien visits to earth is NOT an extraordinary thing (and of course neither it is a paranormal thing, that is blasphemy!), and even if it was extraordinary, a scientist shouldn’t be asking "extraordinary evidences" for something. Real science asks for evidences , and not extraordinary evidences. I have read many scientific papers in my life and I do not remember to read the words "extraordinary evidence", or even the word "extraordinary". When some experimental results confirms a theory with good numbers, one can say that the correlation was good, ¿but “extraordinary”? What is that? Should I then add “fantastic evidence”, “gorgeous evidence”… what more?

I insist, ETH is not a paranormal theory, and yes, I have to admit that I also believe that Hynek, Vallee and Mack were somewhat "new agey". Mack was completely "spiritual", from my point of view.

Paul Kimball said...

Don:

As Stan Friedman said in UFO Updates, aliens visiting earth is NOT and extraordinary thing (provided with the fact that our galaxy is far older than our planet or even than our sun, the fact that interstellar travel is not impossible, etc).

Alien visits to earth is NOT an extraordinary thing (and of course neither it is a paranormal thing, that is blasphemy!),


Huh? Of course it would be an extraordinary thing! Stan calls it the biggest story of the millenium, which indicates to me that he considers it pretty extraordinary. Further, it represents something that is far beyond our capabilities - that makes it extraordinary, at least to us.

and even if it was extraordinary, a scientist shouldn’t be asking "extraordinary evidences" for something.

Of course they should - we should demand nothign less than absolute, irrefutable proof of a proposition like that, for reasons that should be obvious to everyone.

Best regards,
Paul

Paul Kimball said...

Odd:

Looking at something and saying, “we may never know,” is also courageous but of a different type. It’s an acknowledgement that we may not have the correct tools to understand something, however by studying that which is incomprehensible and keeping an opend mind, we may find clues to those parts which are comprehensible.

Or, to phrase it another way, sometimes it's the journey that matters most, not the destination.

Paul

Jerome Clark said...

First, an observation:

I am at a loss to make sense of some ufologists' unhealthy obsession with the ETH. Nobody is so obsessed with it, of course, as those who are phobic about it. You can spot them easily because 9.5 times out of 10, it is they who bring up the subject, usually at the drop of a hat, and an imagined one at that. Yes, yes, I note your insistence that you personally are not phobic about space-visitation theories. I guess you reserve your ire for somebody else: those ETH advocates who are not you.

In the Updates exchange that has set you off, I mention the ETH only in passing. Thus, it's doubly strange that I end up in Kimballian sights. (On the other hand, maybe you just had to fill space today.) My passing remark, neither pro nor con, was in response to somebody else's drawing the hypothesis irrelevantly into a discussion of something else, in what looked very much like a transparent attempt to divert attention from his own inability to defend a favored, but dubious, speculation.

Unlike the inquisitors who guard ufology's orthodoxies (in this instance, as in so many others, those traceable to Keel and Vallee, the good bishops as opposed, say, to Keyhoe and Friedman, the bad ones), I endeavor to keep an open mind. The pursuit of anomalies would be a hopeless enterprise without it. I have never mistaken anomalistics for a church, and anybody who does is a fool. There are, alas, many fools.

Perhaps next time you get the itch to pontificate about me, you might first find out what I think, which happens not to fit into any lazy category. In recent years, after a lifetime's involvement and reflection, I have published several pieces which discuss, lucidly I hope, the conclusions to which I've arrived. They are not much like the ones you've invented for me here. They have generated intelligent, productive discussion elsewhere, by those who bothered to read and consider what I have to offer, even when they disagree.

One such essay I wrote for a 2000 issue of The Anomalist. There are also introductions to some of my books (e.g., Unexplained! and Unnatural Phenomena), an extended autobiographical piece in JSE, and a short article in the last issue of IUR.

You will be surprised and disappointed to hear that in my judgment, we may be dealing in good part with phenomena that defy not only current knowledge but possibly any meaningful available vocabulary. I attempt to show where current science may be helpful and where it may not be able to render assistance, and also where discussion of the ETH might be usefully brought into the conversation and where it surely can't.

I also argue for the utility of reason as opposed to superstition-based speculation (aka magical thinking) even in the face of what may be, at least for a while (probably a long while), unknowable. If you knew any of this, you would understand why my interests have moved on to inquiry into the most extreme experiential claims -- for example reported encounters with merbeings, fairies, monsters, divine apparitions, and other unlikely manifestations -- which fit into no imaginable version of the ETH but which may shed light on crucial aspects of the UFO phenomenon.

In these essays I propose a reading that seeks to discourage the ever-deeper-hole-digging that keeps you and other orthodoxy guardians (whether believers or debunkers) in a chronic sweat. I outline an approach which -- I hope -- has the potential to break through the rigid either/or categorizations that have driven us to untenable choices and fruitless conflicts.

In other words, right or wrong, my own thinking seeks not to recycle tired, obsolete debates but to open our eyes to fresh possibilities. I take it that we differ there.

Until you are prepared to represent my opinions accurately, I'd be grateful if you kept my name out of your blog. Otherwise, you'll be reduced to doing what Keel did to me a few years ago: insist, creepily, that you know more about me than I know about myself. Well, in point of fact, you've done that just now.

Paul Kimball said...

Jerry:

If you don't want to be called on your close-minded bullying, then I suggest you not come across as a close-minded bully, which is exactly what you did with your original, blithe dismissal of Mac Tonnies.

Or perhaps it's not your problem - maybe it's all of us who get it so wrong about you? Could be, I suppose.

I have a great deal of respect for the work you've done (who else would have undertaken a UFO encyclopedia), but lately you come across as everything you claim to hate. And I'm far from the only one who feels that way (although I'm one of the few who will say so publicly).

As for discussing you here, or anywhere else, you chose to be a public figure. I guess you'll have to live with it, just as I do when someone talks about me. If you think I'm misrepresenting your views, you're always welcome to respond here, or anywhere else... or to ignore me.

In other words, right or wrong, my own thinking seeks not to recycle tired, obsolete debates but to open our eyes to fresh possibilities. I take it that we differ there.

No, we would be in agreement if it were true. Judging by your recent writings, however, I'm just not convinced that this is the case, no matter how loudly you protest.

In short, I don't insist that I know more about you than you do yourself (nice try, though - you and Stan have a penchant for these debater tactics of flipping it around to make it about the other guy). I read what you write, and base my views on that, because I don't know you from a hole in the wall - nor, judging by your attitude in recent days, do I really care to.

Best regards,
Paul

Paul Kimball said...

And, in case anyone missed it, here is Jerry's initial response at UFO Updtaes to the short video clip of Mac talking about the CTH:

"This is about as pointless and fruitless a line of speculation as I have seen in a while. What next? The hollow earth?"

See: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2006/dec/m18-003.shtml

This was followed by the following:

"...it is not fair to talk about the "cryptoterrestrial hypothesis" (sic) in the same sentence as "intellect."

See: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2006/dec/m19-011.shtml

And then:

"What we have here with the pretentiously titled "cryptoterrestrial hypothesis" is just yet another dreary iteration of a wearily familiar pseudoscientific theme traceable to Atlantis/Lemuria humbug, hollow-earth fancies, 19th-Century occultism, and Richard S. Shaver's disordered imagination. Not, of course, to mention a whole library of science-fiction stories which did all of us the favor of not pretending to be true. I would have liked to think that long-discredited "theories" which shrug off hosts of overwhelming problems, beg questions by the bagful, and ignore history's lessons and science's most minimal requirements would long have faded from discourse of persons who believe they can reason their ways out of paper bags."

Which, in the same post, was followed up with these concluding remarks:

"Look, either we make a conscientious effort to understand phenomena that, as far as we can tell, defy current understanding and that may lead us to some surprising and even paradigm-shaking discoveries, or we fall back into fantasy worlds of our own creation in which we spin "explanations" that come out of nothing and lead us nowhere.

The latter approach is easier, surely more entertaining, but in the end far less rewarding, at least for me. One path is for grown-ups, the other for perpetual adolescents."

See: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2006/dec/m20-004.shtml

And Jerry wonders why some people see him as a close-minded bully.

Paul

The Odd Emperor said...

"Or, to phrase it another way, sometimes it's the journey that matters most, not the destination."

Very true. But any worthwhile journey must have a destination, and the beginning of the next is at the end of the last.

http://oddempire.org