Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Fundamentalist Debunkery and Died-in-the-Wool Believerism

The creative scientist, eternally curious, keeps an open mind toward strange phenomena and novel ideas, knowing that we have only begun to understand the universe we live in. He remembers, too, that Biot's discovery that meteorites were "stones from the sky" was at first greeted with disbelief, and he hopes never to be guilty of similar obtuseness. But an open mind does not mean credulity or a suspension of the logical faculties that are man's most valuable asset.
The above is a quote made in reference to science in general, but also the UFO phenomenon in particular, and it is one that I agree with, at least in principle... even though it was written by arch-debunkers Donald H. Menzel and Lyle G. Boyd, in The World of Flying Saucers: A Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age, who clearly had no understanding of irony (how can one purport to embark on an objective scientific examination of something when one has already concluded that it is a "myth").

In their book, Menzel and Boyd dismissed the idea that some UFOs might be alien spacecraft. They also scoffed at the notion that there might be a UFO-related conspiracy, despite the fact that in their introduction they wrote that if aliens were ever to visit Earth:

All governments would feel their responsibility to protect the human race if necessary, and to establish diplomatic relations with the alien race if possible. The scientists would want to study, analyze, and try to understand the nature of both the ship and its occupants.
As with the first passage quoted above, this makes perfect sense. But to Menzel and Boyd, this would obviously be done in public-view, after an acknowledgement of our alien visitors by government:

If a spaceship from another planet should ever visit the earth, no one would be more eager to acknowledge it than our government officials and our scientists.
So, as no such acknowledgement has been forthcoming, there are, ergo, no alien visitors. As to a cover-up, the government would never do that, eevn though, as Menzel and Boyd indicate, they would want to study and analyze whatever they might find.

This is either breathtakingly naive, or monumentally stupid, and demonstrates in full measure the intellectual bankruptcy of Menzel and Boyd's debunkery. The government has covered up a great many things, and continues to do so, of far less potential import than alien visitation (or, even more significant perhaps, a recovered alien spacecraft), particularly during the Cold War when Menzel and Boyd were writing, and when the West was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the Soviet empire during which they did many things, more than a few not according to the "rules", in order to protect their citizens.

If the United States, or any other country, had recovered a crashed alien spacecraft (and I am not convinced that they did), I have little doubt that they would have kept it secret, simply because they kept all sorts of other, lesser things secret... and because it's exactly what I would have done. As I've written elsewhere, I would probably still keep it secret, because I don't think humanity is ready for that knowledge - and here I'm talking about all of us, and not just the college-educated minority even within Western countries, who would be better equipped to handle such a revelation.

But fundamentalist debunkers, like died-in-the-wool believers, are never about the truth, which is usually coloured in shades of grey. They live instead in a world of black and whites - either "they" are here, or "they" are not; either the government is covering it up, or it is not. Neither position has anything to offer the free and rational thinker who is interested in facts and evidence, even when all that those facts and evidence leave us with a mystery... as has been the case with UFOs for over sixty years.

Paul Kimball


Cosd said...

Well said, Paul.

Roger Knights said...

One example of a well-kept secret was the recent revelation that the search for the Titanic was a cover story for a search for two sunken subs.

Another example of a massive secret that didn't leak, although 10,000 insiders (not to mention their relatives) knew about it, was the way the Ultra Secret was kept for 30 years after WW2. According to the thinking of Menzel, such a cover-up wouldn’t have occurred, because there was no need for it, and because it would have leaked out.

If aliens were suspected to exist, a government's first concern would be to prevent alien technology from falling into the hands of an enemy power. Any acknowledgment of even the possibility of an alien presence would encourage the Bad Guys to institute a parallel investigatory program, Just In Case. And that parallel program might bear fruit.

The prudent thing to do would be to sponsor a "Condon Report" and shut down in-the-open investigations via Blue Book, in hopes that this would head off such an effort by the Bad Guys, while instituting a Deep Black monitoring program. (Perhaps under the cover of UFO groups.)

The same considerations would apply to any government Remote Viewing program. If it had achieved some level of success, and if word of it was leaking out, the smart thing to do would be to shut it down and start up a new program off the books, somewhere. (Maybe abroad.)