Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dear Stan - Evidence, Fact, the Burden of Proof, and the ETH

Stan Friedman and I are friends as well as relatives. I like and respect the man. But that doesn't mean I always agree with him. Especially when he's wrong.

Case in point, the following exchange from UFO Updates (Stan's was published today - my response is working it's way through the system - I've edited this version only to correct spelling or grammatical errors I made the first time around).

Paul Kimball

Topic: The ETH, Evidence, Fact and the Burden of Proof

Stan wrote:
I do not use the word 'proof' nor do I insist upon other star systems. I say the evidence is overwhelming that Earth is being visited by intelligently controlled ET spacecraft. In other words SOME UFOs are of ET origin. Please look up 'Extraterrestrial'. It means from outside the Earth. It does _not_ mean only from other solar systems or other galaxies. It includes the moon and other planets in our solar system.

I replied:

Well, d'uh. Poor little plebes, unable to figure out what "extraterrestrial"means. Sheesh...

Perhaps you should look up the term "evidence" in a dictionary, and then the term "proof" - follow it up with "fact", as in "proven fact", which is what you have asserted the ETH is for decades now. While you're at it, you might also want to look up the term "overwhelming".

Aw, heck, I'll save you the trouble, as you were so kind as to provide me with a definition of "extraterrestrial".


From Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition (which is the proper source, as you use the legal standards of proof when you're trying to make a point about this):

"Any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses,records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury, as to their contention." So, that's what evidence is. You use it to prove your point, i.e. induce belief in whatever your target audience is). In this case, the point that you seek to prove is that some UFOs are alien spacecraft. In other words, that the "Extraterrestrial hypothesis" is really the "Extraterrestrial fact".

Here's a brush-up on "prove" (again, from Black's):

"The effect of evidence; the establishment of a fact by evidence".

In other words, while you might not use the word "proof", you should, because that's what the evidence you talk about is designed to do. Now, let's take a look at the term "fact", again, as understood in the context of using evidence to prove something, using, again, the legal standard to which you often refer (more on the exact standard in a second): "A circumstance, event or occurrence as it actually takes or took place; a physical object or appearance, as it usually exists or existed. An actual an absolute reality, as distinguished from mere supposition. A truth, as distinguished from fiction or error."

Now we're getting to it - you say the evidence proves that some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft. Don't duck from the word "prove" - its what you're really saying.

You assert this proposition as a proven fact. And therein lieth the problem. Because, by any measure of how one weighs evidence, and establishes whether it proves something, the ETH is not a proven fact. Neither is the CTH, or the EDH, or any of the "H's" that are out there, because they all rely on the same evidence, which can be interpreted in different ways (including the "null hypothesis"). One may seem more likely than another, as the ETH does to me when compared to the CTH or the EDH, but I would never assert it as a proven reality, an "absolute reality, as distinguished from supposition", which is what you and some of the ETH proponents do.

Ah, but you might say, we can safely make that claim on a civil standard of the burden of proof, i.e. it is more likely than not that the ETH is the ETF (again, something I've heard you use many times - I have it on tape, in fact).

Well, let's look at those standards which, as the party making the assertion, you are called upon to meet.

First, there's the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, i.e. the civil standard, as it is commonly known. From Black's:

"As standard of proof in civil cases, is evidence which is of greater weight or more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it; that is, evidence which as a whole shows that the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not."

This standard, I agree, has been satisfied if the proposition one wishes to prove is that UFOs are an objective reality, i.e. the phenomenon, whatever it may be, including the "null hypothesis", exists. No-one, not even the most ardent debunker, could logically argue this. However, this standard is wholly inadequate, in my opinion, to prove the much more contentious proposition that the ETH, or any theory, is a proven fact, i.e. that some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft.

That's not being less than brave, that's just common sense. Sagan was right - extraordinary claims, whatever they may be, require extraordinary evidence. In the terms of the burden of proof, that means something more than just a preponderance of the evidence when one asserts that a theory for the UFO phenomenon is instead a fact.

Further, people like Mac could, using this standard of proof, make the same claim as you do if they wanted to, using the exact same evidence (that Mac doesn't is a point in his favour, and to his credit).

For example, take the Malmstrom case, or the Rendlesham case. What, exactly, about those cases (or any other case, for that matter -Tehran, RB47, Shag Harbour, on and on and on) makes them extraterrestrial, as opposed to interdimensional, or cryptoterrestrial, or explainable as a mundane event misinterpreted? Nothing. Mac could use Rendlesham or Malmstrom to bolster his CTH by saying, as he did in one of the clips I posted, that these beings may be using advanced holographic technology to project these images to us. He could also say that it would be relatively easy for this advanced group, working covertly, to create a device, like the one that was allegedly touched by one of the airmen at Rendlesham (and how hard would that be - after all, you claim the US government has managed to keep things secret all these years, by keeping the information compartmentalized, and limited - what could be more limited than a small group of cryptos?).

Do I buy that as a proven fact? Of course not. But I don't buy the ETH explanation as a proven fact either. No-one should based on the available evidence.

So, which standard does that leave? The one that should be used, indeed, that must be used, if one wants to assert one of these theories as a fact, proven by the available evidence.

Beyond a reasonable doubt.

Indeed, you indicate that this standard is the one to use when you use the word "overwhelmingly".

Again, from Black's: "In evidence means fully satisfied, entirely convinced, satisfied to a moral certainty; and phrase is the equivalent of the words clear, precise and indubitable. In criminal case, the accused's guilt must be established 'beyond reasonable doubt,' which means that the facts proven must, by virtue of their probative force, establish guilt."

Now I know you, and some others, think that you've met that standard Stan, but you haven't. No jury in the world, no group of objective citizens, honest and true, when presented with the best available evidence and then asked, "does this prove that some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft" will answer in the affirmative. They won't, because they can't (and don't quote me the results of some Oxford debate, or some C2C "debate" with Seth Shostak - those are hardly full, frank discussions of all positions, and the evidence, which if done properly would take days, or weeks, and would involve many different players). You're a man of science, and you've spent enough time with lawyers (thereby covering both bases) - you above all people should know that.

Does this mean that the ETH is not a good theory?

No, and Mac never said it wasn't. He's just saying, as others before him have, that it isn't proven, and there are other theories as well. In a subject where the best that one can say is "something is happening, and we don't know for sure what it is," one cannot assert that any one theory is a proven fact.

Of course, you disagree, but then we're back to the original question - where is the evidence that proves your assertion? Don't just cite me the 5 scientific studies, etc., etc., - unlike most of your audiences, I am familiar with them. Cite me the actual evidence. Name the one case that proves the ETH is the ETF beyond a reasonable doubt, and not something else.

Best regards,

Paul Kimball


Rip Parker said...


Nicely put. I have practiced law and now legal dispute mediation since 1963. The "overwhelming evidence" spoken of by Stan is not admissible in a court of law. It is all opinion based on personal observations and review of hearsay testimony.

For opinion testimony to be admissible, it must come from an expert acceptable to the court as such by presentation of a CV demonstrating knowledge and experience beyond the average citizen in a chosen field of specialization [unidentified aerial
phenomena in this instance]. I have yet to see anyone who would meet these qualifications, even our friend, Stan.

I have seen two highly anomalous phenomena that seemed to be physical objects controlled by intelligent operators performing maneuvers well outside any currently known aerodynamic capabilities [more bootstrapping: I also have a degree in science, work experience in geophysics and study science as a hobby], but with all that, I claim no expertise in the field. I have ideas, opinions, but NO PROOF of what the nature of, much less origin of these events really may be. I have no logically acceptable argument to "prove" anything.

Projections of the Jungian Collective Unconscious, visitors from this or another galaxy, or interdimensional travelers, who knows, perhaps some of each and/or something not yet dreamed of.

We at this time cannot say any one of these sources is "proven", even to the civil "preponderance of the evidence" standard. Open minds, ruling nothing in or out, are required for objective consideration of these most interesting events.


Rip Parker

Paul Kimball said...


I concur. The most intellectually honest, and credible, position to take is to say, "we don't know, so let's keep looking and thinking."

Thanks for the input. Always nice to see a fellow law school grad here!