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The Top UFO Debunker? Really?

by Brian Dunning, Dec 18 2008

I’m not sure why Stanton Friedman selected me as the subject of his writings these past couple of weeks.

I’m certainly not the first, or even the most articulate, to challenge his mission of promoting belief in alien visitation. Writing about Roswell last year, I referred to him as an obsessed UFO wacko, but he’s been called worse by others. Anyway he called me petty, ignorant, cavalier, lazy, biased, and an anti-UFO fanatic, so I guess we’re…even?

In his piece titled “Brian Dunning Running for Top UFO Debunker” this week, he called me “a skilled liar…. He deserves “Debunker of the Year” award.” (Why are conspiracy and paranormal web sites ALWAYS white text on a black background? I guess they don’t want them to be easily read by people whose eyes are older than 40 years.) Like Friedman, I do have a mission, but UFOs are hardly an interest of mine. Debunking, as I often say, has little value when done for its own sake. Frankly I don’t much care if someone prefers to think that every light in the sky is an alien spaceship. Debunking is only important, and valuable, when a belief is harmful or stands in the way of real scientific, technological, or humanitarian progress.

Believing that UFOs are aliens is not a particularly harmful belief. Indeed, it may even stimulate interest in aerospace development. But it can be part of a pattern of inability to distinguish useful evidence from poor evidence, and when that spreads to other aspects of believers’ lives, harm can be widespread as they start making important decisions based on bad information.

Everyone lies somewhere along the spectrum of what quality of evidence they’ll accept. Friedman and I seem to be pretty far apart on that spectrum. If I think he is too quick to accept ambiguous or anecdotal evidence as indisputable proof of something as extraordinary as alien visitation, I’ll admit I’m probably extraordinarily hard to be moved from the null hypothesis.

Interestingly, both ends of the spectrum accuse each other of similar irrationality. True believers accuse skeptics of ignoring evidence. Skeptics accuse true believers of believing anything they hear. If I have to be in one crazy end of the spectrum or another, I’ll happily stay in the “null hypothesis” camp. I’m open to any evidence you want to present, but if it’s ambiguous, explainable by known or natural phenomena, anecdotal or otherwise of poor quality, don’t expect me to adopt your beliefs. Even if you have lots of such evidence, mountains of such evidence: As I often say, you can stack cowpies as high as you want, they won’t turn into a bar of gold. Good evidence is composed of good evidence, not lots of bad evidence.

If the evidence is good, I’m easy to convince. Over the decades, I’ve absolutely changed my mind and accepted phenomena that I was certain were baloney. I didn’t believe in diamagnetism until I saw water suspended in a magnetic field at the Lawrence Berkeley labs. I didn’t believe the Judica-Cordiglia brothers could have made some of the space recordings they claimed until I learned about the controls that were in place during their recordings, and learned of some plausible explanations for the recordings. I spent 10 years fighting time dilation, claiming that there was no such thing, simply because I didn’t understand it, until I was finally illuminated. I’m not even ashamed to admit that NORAD’s Santa Claus radar reports had me reconsidering into my early teens.

But so far, I haven’t heard anything from Stan Friedman or any other true believer to encourage me to reconsider the null hypothesis on the Betty and Barney Hill story, or any other alien visitation claim. When something is real, it has properties that can be measured and detected. Even today, we can prove that the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn took place, because we have the testable archeological proof; there is no reliance on anecdotal stories or hypnotic regression needed. I still await the first such testable shred of evidence of any alien visitation.

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39 Responses to “The Top UFO Debunker? Really?”

  1. Kristopher says:

    I read his blog entry and it seems to me that he is attacking the accuracy of your reporting in the “Betty and Barney Hill” podcast and he is not making the assertion that we are being visited by aliens (at least not in that entry). I think you should have spent some time rebutting the claims he makes in the post you linked to rather than just give the all-too-familiar stamp of disapproval for belief in alien visitations. You did not address anything he posted – not a, “You’re right, I did not do adequate background research on you,” or a, “You’re wrong, everything I said was true and you’re nit-picking at details and/or are lying.”

    I also think both of you could do without the name-calling.

  2. Max says:

    Congrats! When a skeptic moves to the top of the list of the highest waco, Kudos to you! Your clean, clear, on track, treatment of all your subjects, means he has to discredit you because your job was done so well he can’t discredit the information with out first tearing you down.

    So congratulations and a job well done!!!

  3. Wench says:

    The fans of skeptics are the most critical of all the fans in the world.

    I find that very true to the core values of skepticism and also very, very funny.

  4. Venom says:

    I read Friedman blog entry, but there’s nothing interesting in it. I guess he just wanted to insult Brian…

  5. Greg Taylor says:

    Brian,

    I think you’re correct in saying that there is currently no (concrete) evidence of alien visitation. The null hypothesis is the safe call. However, you’re shifting the argument a little here. Stanton Friedman responded to your Betty and Barney Hill article in detail a couple of days earlier than this post, and brought up what appear to be a number of glaring inaccuracies and assumptions (see the second half of this post) on your part:

    http://dailygrail.com/news/skeptologists-attack-ufologists

    I don’t agree with Stan on a few issues, but I do know that he’s very familiar with the material and can debate the points pretty well. Care to detail where he’s got it wrong?

    Kind regards,
    Greg

    p.s. The white text on the black background is simply my preference…no speculation required on hidden motives on my part. I do understand though that quite a few people have problems reading it, which is why there are other ‘themes’ to the site which can be used. Also, I’m not sure how the Daily Grail would be considered a ‘conspiracy site’…but if the rhetoric works for you, keep at it.
    ;)

  6. Stan’s “glaring issues” that he brought up had nothing to do with his conclusions. Whether Marjorie Fish’s model was 3 feet or of unspecified size is hardly relevant to the conclusions we draw from it. Stanton focuses on irrelevancies like that, and calls them “lies”. And I’m sorry, but when a woman writes a story and two years later her husband is able to rattle it off under hypnosis, it’s a pretty good bet that she shared her story with him during those two years. Why wouldn’t she? She believed this was an experience they both shared. Since I don’t have any “proof” that she shared it with him (it’s simply common sense), Stanton calls this another “lie”.

    I’ve been emailing with him all week, trying to help him see that we need not necessarily jump from “anomaly” directly to “alien spaceship” anytime we have an unknown. To him, any anecdotal story that might possibly be consistent with the characteristics he believes an alien spaceship might have, cannot be explained any other way. Where did he learn these properties of alien spaceships that he is comparing against these stories? I’ve found it’s no use to have such a conversation with him. He’s not open to non-alien explanations and reacts with hostility when it’s suggested. My time is better spent elsewhere.

  7. Friedman pretty much always responds. His responses tend to follow a pattern: they’re usually hyperbolic ad hominems that stray far outside the evidence (it’s a huge jump from arguing Brian is incorrect to claiming “it is clear Brian Dunning is a skilled liar,” but Friedman doesn’t hesitate to make it).

    They’re also canned to a large degree:

    Debunker Brian Dunning must be congratulated for adhering so closely to the basic rules for debunking: A. What the public doesn’t know, I won’t tell them. B. Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up. C. If one can’t attack the data, attack the people. D. Do one’s research by proclamation, investigation is too much trouble.

    This cutesy cut and paste jab is almost always featured, as it was in his complaints about my Roswell cover story with Duke Gildenberg. Carping about not being identified as a nuclear physicist is almost always right behind.

  8. BillDarryl says:

    Greg -

    Been checking out your blog. I give you full kudos for providing links to Brian’s posts and the Skeptologists site – it shows you’re interested in getting people involved in the whole discussion, and not just feeding them one isolated POV (yours).

    However, I take issue with your blog category “Cynics and Skeptics.” Those two are very different. And I think the confusion of the two terms is what often builds a wall between believers and nonbelievers.

    A cynic will reject just about anything out of hand. There’s no telling them. They don’t want to be fascinated or learn more – they just dismiss (sometimes based on personal bias alone).

    A skeptic desperately wants to learn more. We hear a fantastic claim, we say, wow, that’s fascinating, but before I get all amped up, what’s your evidence? Sadly, what usually happens next is that the evidence presented comes up short. So the skeptic dismisses the claim (at least until better evidence is presented), and can explain his/her reasons why.

    By lumping them together, one of your readers may think, “of course Dunning doesn’t buy (insert claim here). He hates everything.” Labelled a cynic. A skeptic should elicit something like “Dunning doesn’t buy it. He must have specific reasons. I’m curious to see what they are.” The reader may then disagree, but at least the door stayed open vs. getting slammed from the outset.

    You may think this is being petty, but it would be similar to a skeptical site categorizing your ilk’s postings as “Ufologists and Delusional Maniacs.” Not fair, and not true.

  9. SeanJJordan says:

    I don’t think anything sums up the argument of “UFO-ologists” better than that famous UFO poster featured in the X-Files that says, “I want to believe.”

    When I was in my early teens, I was obsessed with the idea of UFOs, and read a lot of books on the topic. I was convinced that I’d seen three alien spaceships in three different places, and I was secretly terrified that I’d one day be abducted for “knowing too much.” (Thank goodness this was before the Internet was widely used, or I might have latched on to an online UFO community and found fuel for the fire of my delusions!)

    Oddly enough, it was a book by Ruth Montgomery that brought me out of the UFO-daze. Ruth Montgomery is a psychic who believes that aliens have come to the Earth in the form of spirit “guides” who want to help us to evolve before some great calamity. And she says that when that calamity occurs, the aliens will beam all of the true believers up to their spaceships, which have been monitoring us for thousands of years, and help us to recreate civilization.

    Upon reading this, I saw an immediate connection to the Biblical rapture doctrine (of which, despite being a Christian at the time, I was already skeptical). It made me begin to question the entire idea of alien visitors, and why, if they were touching down on Earth so frequently, they only seemed to approach those who already believed in them. I also couldn’t find a reasonable argument for why aliens and their spacecraft seemed to change with the perceptions of technology, or why the aliens never saw the need to get involved in any of our wars or global tragedies if they were so concerned about humanity.

    Oh, and those three UFOs I was convinced I’d seen? One was in a particularly lucid dream I had on a family trip through the mountains. One was something I saw out of the corner of my eye moving quickly through the sky above (and which could have been anything!). And one… well, I saw another one just like it the other day as I was driving home at dusk. A cluster of blinking lights were streaking across the horizon very quickly, moving in a downward direction. That’s because they were the lights of a military cargo plane touching down at the local Air Force base. But since the plane was dark, and moving at an unfamiliar angle across the night sky, my brain perceived it as lights moving on their own.

    With that said… I’m much more appreciative of people like Brian Dunning, who can admit when they’re wrong and are constantly looking for evidence to disprove their own views, than people like Mr. Friedman, who wants to believe so badly that he’s not looking for serious alternative explanations.

  10. Friedman’s concern about his nuclear physics credentials prompted me to ask in a comment at the “Friedman on the Skeptologists” post at Dailygrail.com,

    Mr Friedman, in what year did you last perform any paid work that was unambiguously “nuclear physics”? I don’t mean any old work in which a physics background happens come in handy as a secondary qualification, but work that nuclear physicists would identify as professional work in their field.

    And, during what period(s) was such professional nuclear physics work your primary source of income?

  11. I’ve asked Friedman the same question Mr. Loxton posts, plus these additional questions: In what way do UFOs, or aliens, or their study involve nuclear physics? How does your Masters degree in nuclear physics make you better suited to research UFOs?

    The response I got is very accurately described as Loxton does above, ‘hyperbolic ad hominems that strayed far’ from the questions I asked.

  12. CrookedTimber says:

    Friedman…Oh, now I know where I’ve seen him. He was one of three true believers on Larry King a few months ago who ganged up on Bill Nye (token skeptic), and shouted down every smidgen of reason the science guy tried to interject.
    At one point just before commercial break Friedman began a rant about how all the government leaders were in on the cover up in order to retain power. I spent the next segment cleaning up the Knob Creek I spat out in laughter.
    Governments who can’t agree on anything, or keep anything a secret for long (stained dress, secret prisons) are somehow all involved in this massive cover up? Is he for real?

  13. Well said, and thanks for using a nofollow link when putting a link to Friedman’s website!

    Josh Nankivel
    http://everydayskeptics.com

  14. Greg Taylor says:

    Brian wrote:

    “Stan’s “glaring issues” that he brought up had nothing to do with his conclusions. Whether Marjorie Fish’s model was 3 feet or of unspecified size is hardly relevant to the conclusions we draw from it. Stanton focuses on irrelevancies like that”

    I’m sorry, but this is rubbish. Stan pointed out a glaring error which suggests either (a) you aren’t familiar with the material or (b) you’re exaggerating for effect (‘that crazy Fish woman’). It is not an “irrelevancy”, it reflects directly on the trustworthiness of your other points/evidence. Your words were: “She then took beads and strings and converted her living room into a three dimensional version of the galaxy.” What is your source for this?

    Further, this is not the only thing Stan pointed out. He listed quite a few (see the link in my earlier comment), a number of which are hardly “irrelevant”. In your transcript, you have these passages: “Near the resort of Indian Head, New Hampshire, they stopped their car in the middle of Route 3 to observe a strange light moving through in the sky. The next thing they knew, they were about 35 miles further along on their trip, and several hours had elapsed.” / “During those two years, Barney’s own recollection was somewhat less dramatic. When they first saw the light in the sky, Betty said she thought it was a spacecraft, but Barney always said he thought it was an airplane.”

    Early in the transcript you acknowledge that the original sighting was catalogued days after the incident (in Project Blue Book), so surely you are aware that Betty *and* Barney said the craft approached their vehicle to an apparent distance of “hundreds of feet” above them, and that at this point it was “about the size of a dinner plate held at arm’s length”. They were apparently so concerned about Barney’s ‘aircraft’ that “they decided to get out of that area, and fast.” The object made no noise at all, except for a buzzing like a tuning fork when it swooped down towards them.

    It would seem obvious from the above that either you aren’t familiar with the material, or you are engaging in rhetorical sleight-of-hand to tip the argument your way. You can choose either horn…

    If you are going to hold Stan Friedman to standards, you should hold yourself to some too. You may justify it in the safety of the null hypothesis, but does the end justify the means?

    Brian also wrote: “And I’m sorry, but when a woman writes a story and two years later her husband is able to rattle it off under hypnosis, it’s a pretty good bet that she shared her story with him during those two years.”

    Or it could be that Barney shared the experience, whatever that experience was? As long as we’re swishing Occam’s Razor about willy-nilly…

    BillDarryl wrote:

    “However, I take issue with your blog category “Cynics and Skeptics.” Those two are very different. And I think the confusion of the two terms is what often builds a wall between believers and nonbelievers.

    A cynic will reject just about anything out of hand. There’s no telling them. They don’t want to be fascinated or learn more – they just dismiss (sometimes based on personal bias alone).

    A skeptic desperately wants to learn more. ”

    Fair point on the poorly designed blog category. The original intent was to provide a home for both cynical *and* truly skeptical views on the content we cover at the Daily Grail. You are right, I would be upset if the shoe was on the other foot. Having said that, this is actually happening regularly here in the both the posts and comments, with the often-mentioned phrase “ufologists believe that…” Very few ufologists that I know actually subscribe to the ET theory (Stan being an exception) – most simply acknowledge that something odd is going on which is worthy of further study (eg. the “buzzing tuning fork” sound reported in the Hill abduction provides an area all on its own). In that sense, most ufologists I know are truly scientific in their approach to the topic, and it irks me to see the field written off based on the “true believers” out there who don’t really warrant the tag of “ufologist”.

    I have a great interest in seeing “good”, solid skepticism. It helps to balance any possible “wishful thinking” on the part of investigators (which can happen, no matter how objective we might like to think we are), not to mention it’s another investigator’s eyes looking at the evidence. However, this past week here on the SkepticBlog I’ve seen a lot more evidence of the “cynic” – Brian’s blog discussing “kicking the ass” of the Paranormal Podcast and throwing out ad homs in Stan’s direction; Phil Plait’s rather ill-advised attack on Chris Rutkowski; and even Mark Edward’s post on Natalya Demkina showed a lack of familiarity with the topic (while she failed the test as defined by Wiseman and Hyman, she did actually score quite impressively under less-than-ideal conditions, warranting further investigation – though obviously not acceptance of her claims).

    If this is the “Skeptical Dream Team” (Ryan Johnson’s words), skepticism is in big trouble. Unless the goal is just to sensationalise and generate controversy, which seems to be working out rather well at the moment. I doubt that will “win the hearts and minds” of the public though, which I think should be a major goal for skeptics if they wish to prevail on Dr Novella’s “skeptical battleground”. You said that “A skeptic desperately wants to learn more.” I haven’t seen much evidence of that so far on SkepticBlog.

    Kind regards,
    Greg

  15. Greg: “Unless the goal is just to sensationalise and generate controversy, which seems to be working out rather well at the moment.”

    You mean like trying desperately to foment controversy and continued discussions of a long-dead ufology franchise topic, the Hill abduction?

    It is the mark of a sterile, nonproductive field of ‘research’ to strive always to discuss irrelevant fine points, a tactic made necessary by the failure to evidence the claim in the first place.

  16. Julian says:

    Greg Taylor -

    I’m not much of ufologist but have heard my fair share of stories from my family and what always gets me is how the story is never the same story twice. I know you’ve heard us skeptics point out this trend among story tellers but you really need to be observant to actually get it.

    For example. My mother is found of telling a story about a boy in her old neighborhood who angered his parents back in the days when beatings were acceptable. The boy is chased onto the roof, which his much older mother cannot follow him onto. He supposedly remains up there for several hours before relenting and coming down to receive his beating. Now my mother has told this story with so much detail I always figured she’d been there. And I think my mother may have half-believed she was.

    But when I actually visited my mother’s old neighborhood and the story was brought up my mother said something along the lines of (in Spanish) “I remember when blahblahblah” and she launched into the story. The crowd laughs and someone I believe was a distant aunt comes up and asks “What’s everyone laughing about?” (or something to that effect) and my mother launches into the story. My aunt interrupts her and says “Wait but you weren’t there.” My mother seems a bit taken a back and responds with “Are you sure? I could have I was.” (or something to that effect.)

    The moral of my anecdotal piece being you can’t put to much trust in the memories of people.

    “most simply acknowledge that something odd is going on which is worthy of further study (eg. the “buzzing tuning fork” sound reported in the Hill abduction provides an area all on its own). ”

    What’s mysterious about a buzzing sound? Or anything about that story at all? (I’m about to get anecdotal again…) Back in the Dominican Republic, where my folks are from, my father (like most people) would make us ride in the back of his pickup. The first thing I noticed was the strange sound that seemed to follow us as we drove past all the high grass (or they might have been weeds for all I know about plants) Hell, I was so scared I did that stupid thing kids do where they close their eyes and pray for the best. And once I made the made the mistake of opening them while their was car coming up on us. Damn headlights scared the hell out of me. But there was no danger (except for, you know, riding on the back of a pickup in the middle of the night) and no devils chasing me.

    “If this is the “Skeptical Dream Team” (Ryan Johnson’s words), skepticism is in big trouble. Unless the goal is just to sensationalise and generate controversy, which seems to be working out rather well at the moment”

    Please. (you can’t see me but I’m rolling my eyes)

  17. Greg Taylor says:

    Devil’s Advocate wrote:

    “It is the mark of a sterile, nonproductive field of ‘research’ to strive always to discuss irrelevant fine points, a tactic made necessary by the failure to evidence the claim in the first place.”

    See, the problem with both the subject matter under discussion, and Brian Dunning’s posts about it, is that I’m not sure which you’re referring to. But I haven’t seen too much of the “Devil’s” part of your appellation in previous posts, so I’m leaning towards the conclusion that you were referring to ufology.

    Julian wrote:

    “I’m not much of ufologist but have heard my fair share of stories from my family and what always gets me is how the story is never the same story twice. I know you’ve heard us skeptics point out this trend among story tellers but you really need to be observant to actually get it.”

    Please don’t try to separate your critical thinking and observational skills from mine, just because I’m not part of the self-defined group “us skeptics”. I’m quite aware of the above.

    To be clear: I’m not actually arguing in favour of either the Hill case, or the ET visitation theory. I’m pointing out that Brian Dunning’s Hill criticism, and subsequent blog posting about Stan Friedman, look to have numerous inaccuracies, leaps of logic, and omission of facts (whether deliberate or not) to help his argument. Any real ‘skeptic’ worth his salt would be as vigorous in telling him to lift his game, as in critiquing Friedman and the Hill case. Hence my point about the state of skepticism: if you (as a group) wish to be at the top of your game, you should engage in more self-criticism – as well as listening to ‘outside’ criticism. Doing so *does not* invalidate the many worthwhile arguments against UFOs etc., as most ‘skeptics’ seem to fear. It will however improve the quality of the modern skeptical movement, which can only be a good thing.

    Julian wrote: “What’s mysterious about a buzzing sound?”

    If you researched UFO sightings in detail (‘close encounters’ in particular) you’d know. Yet another reason not to dismiss the topic out of hand and generalise about those crazy ufologists.

    Julian also wrote: “Please. (you can’t see me but I’m rolling my eyes)”.

    A fine rejoinder.

    Kind regards,
    Greg

  18. Carl says:

    Greg, when you refer to leaps of logic and omission of facts, but then answer questions with “you’d know if you did the research” you’re leaving yourself open to your own criticisms.

  19. Is there anything more boring than being lectured on skepticism by a nonskeptic?

  20. Mathew says:

    How do you guys respond to the recent declassified UK files on UFO phenomenon.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2008/10/21/2008-10-21_declassified_uk_files_reveal_alleged_att.html

  21. Well, with blanket cynicism and knee-jerk denial, of course.

  22. From Matthew’s proferred link:

    “This was a flying object with very unusual flight patterns,” the pilot said, according to a typed manuscript of his account mailed to Britain’s Ministry of Defense by a UFO enthusiast in 1988.”

    Unnnamed pilot. Military failed to confirm. Mailed in account from UFO ‘enthusiast’. And so on.

    As for me, as soon as I see it’s the same old same old, I stop reading.

  23. Greg Taylor says:

    Devil’s Advocate wrote:

    “Is there anything more boring than being lectured on skepticism by a nonskeptic?”

    You’re telling me…

    And yet, the question remains: why no criticism of Brian Dunning’s inaccuracies and omissions?

  24. Greg Taylor says:

    Carl wrote:

    “Greg, when you refer to leaps of logic and omission of facts, but then answer questions with “you’d know if you did the research” you’re leaving yourself open to your own criticisms.”

    Fair point Carl, but my reason for not posting details is that it is a tangent (distraction) to the topic under discussion in the thread – where is the skepticism/critiquing of inept ‘skepticism’?

    If you want, I can post in detail about the buzzing aspect. I doubt many here are interested though, and it’s not really related to the thread.

  25. Julian says:

    ““Is there anything more boring than being lectured on skepticism by a nonskeptic?”
    You’re telling me…”

    Oh you!

    Perhaps it’s the forum but your retorts just aren’t coming across as sharp as I think you think they are.

    “If you want, I can post in detail about the buzzing aspect. I doubt many here are interested though, and it’s not really related to the thread.”

    I’m very interested. I love listening to what paranormal believers think justifies their beliefs.

  26. Greg Taylor says:

    Julian wrote:

    “I love listening to what paranormal believers think justifies their beliefs”

    Pray tell, what is my belief?

  27. Julian says:

    “Pray tell, what is my belief?”

    Oh, Greg. Nobody likes a tease.

  28. Please, please debate us on Betty Hill, on UFOs, on ANYTHING! Our franchise is dying and even manufactured ‘debate’ helps sell books, mags, website hits, etc. PLEASE!

  29. Mustafa says:

    Hahaha!,

    I have just read Friedman’s response to Brian’s transcript on the Betty Hill’s case, and it is obvious to me that Friedman pointed out a very good lot of _factual_ mistakes made by Dunning. Dunning said that they are irrelevant mistakes, but some of them are not irrelevant at all. Finally, it does not matter if they are irrelevant or not, what matters is the fact that there are too many mistakes, and unproved claims in Dunnings manuscript, and therefore, Friedman has the well gained right to call Brian a lazy and ignorant.

    Hahaha!

  30. Carl says:

    “Fair point Carl, but my reason for not posting details is that it is a tangent (distraction) to the topic under discussion in the thread – where is the skepticism/critiquing of inept ’skepticism’?”

    Greg, Brian’s point above seems to be precisely that his factual errors are not relevant to his argument. Again, you’re leaving yourself open to your own criticisms.

  31. Greg Taylor says:

    Carl wrote: “Greg, Brian’s point above seems to be precisely that his factual errors are not relevant to his argument. Again, you’re leaving yourself open to your own criticisms.”

    Carl, I pointed out that Brian is not correct in his statement, with some evidence (see Comment #14) – Friedman posted more in his response. I’m not sure how I am leaving myself open to my own criticisms by doing so?

    Advocate wrote:

    “Please, please debate us on Betty Hill, on UFOs, on ANYTHING! Our franchise is dying and even manufactured ‘debate’ helps sell books, mags, website hits, etc. PLEASE!”

    Let me see…there’s two points of response to that: (a) Brian Dunning was the one who brought the topic up in his original (controversial) blog posting, and (b) Brian Dunning was the one who brought it up in this blog posting. Here I was thinking the comments section was used for commenting on blog postings…my bad.

    Julian wrote:

    “Oh, Greg. Nobody likes a tease.”

    There’s no teasing involved. If you’re interested in the buzzing element, just ask. Your previous post ‘asking’ was, shall we say, a rather lame attempt at rhetoric, rather than genuine interest.

    ** And still no criticism of Dunning’s post?

  32. Julian says:

    “There’s no teasing involved. If you’re interested in the buzzing element, just ask. Your previous post ‘asking’ was, shall we say, a rather lame attempt at rhetoric, rather than genuine interest.”

    Wow, glad to know that a bitter 19 year old cynic is still not as big a dick as a UFOologist.

    So you gonna get off your own cock and actually tell me what’s so special about buzzing sounds?

  33. Greg Taylor says:

    Julian wrote:

    “Wow, glad to know that a bitter 19 year old cynic is still not as big a dick as a UFOologist.

    So you gonna get off your own cock and actually tell me what’s so special about buzzing sounds?”

    Classy.

  34. BB Wolfe says:

    Yup, Greg – I think I know what you’re driving at. I’ve been scanning the pages of this “skeptic” site, and I’ve discovered rivers of ignorant snot from these young bucks and others. They frankly just don’t get it. They seem to think that snide insults and a glib tongue along with a blanket refusal to actually THINK about anything they pontificate on is actually a legitimate form of analysis. Are they all teenagers or college students? Ex-Christian fundies, probably — they generally make the most fanatical “skeptics”. It seems most apt to define these “skeptics” as true believers, swopping one form of arrogant mindlessness for another. I can see them flicking their empty cans of Dr Pepper at their glowing screens and writing r-a-t-i-o-n-a-l-i-s-t-s r-u-l-e d-u-d-e-! in the dust. I get an uneasy feeling that the series/pilot/whatever that is the inspiration for this message board is poisoned at the source, if much the stuff I’ve read on here is at all representative. It makes a mockery of honest doubt and critical thinking. No doubt they’ll furnish us with another of those blazing comebacks that will send us scurrying under the bed like frightened cats.

  35. Courtney Franklin says:

    Devils Advocate “Please, please debate us on Betty Hill, on UFOs, on ANYTHING! Our franchise is dying and even manufactured ‘debate’ helps sell books, mags, website hits, etc. PLEASE!”

    I listen to a ufo podcast and it sounds like it.

    I read the rebuttles about the skeptiod podcast about the Hills and the research that Stan Friedman puts involves the witness reports and their neigbours ,friends and family members accounts. To me that’s not evidence. They claim the fantastic but want us to believe without the tangible.

  36. Greg Taylor says:

    BB Wolfe:

    Sorry, I’m not interested in a slanging match between various
    ‘sides’. I’d like to keep some focus to the real questions in this thread.

    Julian:

    On the buzzing sounds – James McCampbell identified (through a survey) five distinct types of sounds which were ‘heard’ during close encounters experiences, including the buzzing sound, as well as ‘rush of air’ noises (whooshing, swishing).

    Some examples (beyond that of Betty and Barney Hill):

    “a disk about the size of a boxcar, with a domed top and square red and green windows…and it made a humming sound, something like the vibration of a television antenna in the wind.”

    “Charles Early was raking leaves at his home in Greenfield Massachusetts, under a clear sky, when he heard a “swishing noise” as if a wind storm was coming. He looked up and saw two rings parallel to each other, one on top of the other separated by a distance of about 4 feet. He estimated the diameter to be about 30 feet and described them as “bright, like polished chrome” and tubular…Early said that when the double ring was directly over him it made a “humming” sound similar to the hum heard when standing under electrical wires.”

    This aspect is found also in the ‘super’-close encounters with aliens/’entities’:

    “Near Croton Falls, New York, it was reported that “dwarf-like hooded beings” emerged from a shimmering circle of blue that appeared in an outcrop of rock “following a buzzing sound.”"

    “Angelica Barrigon Varela and co-worker Remedios Diez were on their way to work at a local factory along the wall that divided the railroad tracks and the street when they heard a loud buzzing sound coming from the area of the tracks. Looking in that direction they beheld a bizarre creature floating and balancing itself above the railroad tracks. It appeared to be wearing a monk-like smock or coat, dark green in color that emitted intermediate flashes of light under the light rain.”

    “Marina Fry of Cornwall, who wrote to me giving details of her own fairy sighting when she was nearly four years old, around 1940. One night she and her older sisters, all sleeping in one bedroom, awoke to hear a buzzing noise (one sister said ‘music and bells’). Looking out of the window they saw a little man in a tiny red car driving around in circles’.”

    It’s not just restricted to ufology though. Both the ‘Virgin Mary’ apparitions (and I use the term loosely) of Lourdes and Fatima were preceded by swishing sounds and buzzing sounds respectively.

    There’s a possible hint of the origin in the fact that ‘Old Hag Syndrome’, and ancient meditation practices including Hatha Yoga, Sufism and Kundalini all feature this buzzing sound. That is, perhaps it’s something to do with activation/stimulation of certain parts of the temporal lobe, which is inducing hallucinations in people. There are some issues with that speculative conclusion (e.g. the report of the little man in the red car, in which multiple people saw the same thing, and in the railroad sighting listed as well), but this repeating observation definitely worth further investigation.

    There are further interesting side-notes and possible leads to this line of research, including Michael Persinger’s work on both EMF stimulation of the temporal lobe, and his earthquake lights theories. Another topic well worth checking out is electrophonic meteors (Google it if you’re not familiar with them).

    So, that’s a fairly big detour from the point of this thread, but seeing as you requested I “get off my cock”, I could hardly refuse. Bringing it back to the theme of the comments thread: this is my problem with ‘bad skepticism’ of the sort displayed by Brian Dunning in this series of posts (and Phil in his ‘astronomers and UFOs posts) – dismissing a topic out of hand, without proper investigation, because you don’t like the topic, or someone involved etc. There are hints that something odd happened in the case of the Hills – it may not necessarily be extraterrestrial visitation (I don’t believe so), and could even be confabulation or hoax – but it’s worth looking at in more detail and with an open (though skeptical) mind, rather than dismissing it via misrepresentation and omissions of fact as in Brian’s post. *That* is anti-science.

    There are lots of strange and curious things in the ‘paranormal’ world that ‘skeptics’ dismiss out-of-hand, to the detriment of the cause of science. Yes, you do have to dig through plenty of muck (fraud, stupidity and the like), but for those that are willing to get their hands dirty, there are interesting things to discover.

    Similarly, when you personally post “I love listening to what paranormal believers think justifies their beliefs” as an apparent request to me for further information, do you really think that makes me want to engage you in further discourse? My main criticism of the modern ‘skeptical movement’ is that 90% of the time it is about the ‘skeptic’ stroking his/her intellectual ego (“hey, look how stupid this whacko believer is, glad I’m not like them”), and this is precisely what you were engaging in with that particular piece of rhetoric. When I called you on it, you descended into vulgarity. Perhaps that’s worth meditating on for a few minutes.

    Apart from all that discussion…Merry Xmas to all here, and best wishes for the coming year! I’m visiting family over the coming week, so you’ll be spared my whining for at least that time…
    ;)

  37. Julian says:

    Greg -

    “Marina Fry of Cornwall, who wrote to me giving details of her own fairy sighting when she was nearly four years old, around 1940. One night she and her older sisters, all sleeping in one bedroom, awoke to hear a buzzing noise (one sister said ‘music and bells’). Looking out of the window they saw a little man in a tiny red car driving around in circles’.”

    Wait a minute. Girls probably not old enough even for training bras heard bells (as one of them describes it)in the middle of the night looked outside and saw a man in a red car? Ya know, *low whisper* I heard bells one Christmas Eve..

    “Looking in that direction they beheld a bizarre creature floating and balancing itself above the railroad tracks. It appeared to be wearing a monk-like smock or coat, dark green in color that emitted intermediate flashes of light under the light rain.”

    See stories like these are why I can’t take you seriously. First off, I bet you hear a lot of sounds by railroad tracks. Second of all it was raining, this man was a distance away and they were looking at him through car windows that were no doubt covered in rain. And third I had a winter coat (all black) with a large hood and reached down to my shins.

    “Near Croton Falls, New York, it was reported that “dwarf-like hooded beings” emerged from a shimmering circle of blue that appeared in an outcrop of rock “following a buzzing sound.””

    This one is completely void of details except for the general location. I don’t know who did the reporting, when or any other information that could be used to verify the story. For all I know, you good be making it up but I will assume good faith and wait for more details.

    Oh and short hooded guys is not a sign of the supernatural.

    ““a disk about the size of a boxcar, with a domed top and square red and green windows…and it made a humming sound, something like the vibration of a television antenna in the wind.””

    Do I have to say it? Same complaints as with the last entry and, for the record, sounds like ‘the vibrations of a television antenna in the wind’ are common in places with television antennas and wind.

    “but this repeating observation definitely worth further investigation.”

    knock yourself senseless but don’t waste other people’s time. There only x amount of resources and x is definitely a finite number. If you can’t make a case don’t expect people to part with their share of x. You have failed to meet any burden of proof.

    Now I’ve got one more request for you. Spend sometime outside and jot down whenever you hear a buzzing sound, see someone doing something odd or in odd clothing and report back to me. Maybe then you’ll get why I dismiss all these ‘encounters.’

    btw, I didn’t miss your second case. I just don’t know very much about New England so I’m leaving it for someone who does.

  38. Oh, I’ll take it, Julian…

    There’s a connection between adrenaline and tinnitis, and tinnitis can certainly be confused for external ‘humming’ noises. What dumps adrenalie into the bloodstream? Fear and anxiety, you know, like when you believe there’s an alien craft directly overhead?

    http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:gUHC1GJ3H9UJ:www.cst.eu.com/downloads/what_is_tinnitus.doc+tinnitus+adrenaline&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

  39. Oonga Boonga says:

    Hypothesis: Stanton Friedman is actually an alien set to lull us into complacency by inducing mirthful dismissiveness among the intelligentsia of Earth.

    Experiment (primate physiology test): offer him bananas. But not mine. Oooo oooo oooo.