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Not for skeptics, indeed! The MUFON meeting

by Donald Prothero, Aug 03 2011

Last week I commented on conventions of pseudoscientists, from the creationists to Flat Earthers and neo-geocentrists, and, most recently, the contemporary “natural philosophers” who deny most of modern physics, from Einsteinian relativity to quantum mechanics to the rejection of ether. As that post was running, just an hour drive from my home there was a meeting of the “Mutual UFO Network” (MUFON), which held their annual convention at a the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Irvine, California. The theme of the meeting was “ET Contact: Implications for Science and Society”, and the program featured a keynote address by astronaut Story Musgrave. Ironically, Musgrave believes in intelligent aliens, but he is convinced that they have never visited the earth—a big disappointment for most of the crowd. There was a full Saturday program that included talks like, “Will ET Contact Put an End to our World’s Religions?” “Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion” and “Time Travel is a Fact”, along with the expected presentations on government cover-ups of UFO evidence, and how these people expect contact with aliens will change science and society. One or two presenters had Ph.D. or M.A. degrees (which they flaunted conspicuously, even though there is no information as to whether their Ph.D. has any relevance to the field), but the rest are pure amateurs. There was even a talk on “Mars, the Living Planet”, apparently ignoring all the recent evidence that Mars is now completely frozen, and that if it has (or had) life, it was only tiny microbes.

Under the title, “This event is not for skeptics”, Rick Rojas of the Los Angeles Times reported on the convention and its audience. As he describes it, many of the attendees reported having “alien abductions”, and some think they are alien-human hybrids. Many of them view aliens as godlike, benign omnipotent protectors who beckon to them in the night using bright lights. Typical of them is 61-year-old Cynthia Crawford, who

sold sculptures of aliens, said there was no reason to fear contact by extraterrestrials. She said she has a spiritual connection to her alien guides who have made medical ailments disappear and once manifested a crisp $20 bill. She told others they should experience the same. “Send the light and the unconditional love, and they will come to you,” she told one young man. “When you start seeing our star family—oh my God—you’ll love it”.Another topic discussed at the convention was human-extraterrestrial hybrids. Crawford, who lives near the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, said that she is one of them. The hybrids, she said, often have high foreheads and thin faces with long, skinny noses. Crawford, however, has a round face framed by thick blond hair. “I think I look human,” she said. She turned her head and widened her eyes. “Do you think I look human?”

As the article reports, the UFO fans were particularly intent on being taken seriously by scientists, aping scientific methods with their own “certified field investigator” program (including a genuine MUFON badge!) that required them to carry recording devices, Geiger counters, and a respirator. Thus, as the “certified investigator” David MacDonald is quoted as saying, “We all want to believe, we all want to believe bad [sic], but you’ve got to look at the evidence. You’ve got to come at this like a scientific researcher.” Just like the Bigfooters and other cryptozoologists that Daniel Loxton and I have been researching, they have a huge chip on their shoulder about scientists not taking them seriously—but have a distorted, superficial idea of how science is really done. According to psychotherapist Barbara Lamb who works with “experiencers” (people claiming alien contact), “We do have what we consider evidence, but the scientific community doesn’t want to consider that as evidence. There’s a kind of booga-booga about ETs and UFOs.” According to author and UFO “researcher” Richard Dolan, “Just below that level of snicker, snicker is fear.”

That may be a comforting thought to the UFO fanatics, blaming our skepticism on fear that they might be right. But the answer is much simpler: to be taken seriously by scientists, they can’t just imitate the scientific method, they must actually follow the scientific method. As Loxton and I point out in our upcoming book on cryptozoology, the prescription for being taken seriously as scientists includes:

1. Stick to testable evidence and scientific hypotheses. If the evidence is against what you want to believe, you must reject your hypothesis, not the evidence. As Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”

2. Toss out nearly all the evidence from personal experience and “eyewitnesses“. As Michael Shermer has pointed out in his books, most of the accounts of “alien encounters” are clearly example of tricks of the mind, from normal dreams to waking dreams to hallucinations. And as Elizabeth Loftus has pointed out many times, “eyewitness testimony” is virtually useless in science since human brains are so easily fooled into believing something they didn’t actually see, or enhancing their memories of an event after it is over.

3. Focus on tangible physical evidence that might stand the test of scientific scrutiny. Of course, no such evidence exists, so they fall back on ad hoc rationalizations about why various conspiracies of governments or powerful individuals or scientists have suppressed and destroyed the evidence.

4. If you want to be taken seriously by scientists, subject your best evidence to peer review for publication in reputable journals. However, since they have no solid evidence, they fall back on the usual strategy of creationists, cryptozoologists, and other pseudoscientists: hide from the scientific community and preach to the converted, then blame their situation on scientific persecution—even though they never bother to submit their ideas in the first place.

Of course, I don’t expect them to follow any of this advice, since these belief systems are deeply ingrained and give them a quasi-religious sense of comfort and meaning in their lives. In such circumstances, no amount of evidence or rational explanations for their beliefs will make a difference.

But while we may laugh at the people who would spend big money to attend an entire weekend at a hotel in Irvine listening to other true believers, there is some disconcerting news about the population in general. As Bader et al. (2010) pointed out in their book Paranormal America, the Baylor Religion Survey found that 47% of Americans in the survey said that extraterrestrials absolutely exist (12%) or probably exist (35%). Similar statistics have been obtained by other surveys, showing that belief in UFOs is held by roughly half of the American population. Bader et al. (2010) showed that the paranormal is the norm, since more than half  of the American population holds some sort of paranormal beliefs, whether they be ghosts, psychics, UFOs, Bigfoot, astrology, or whatever. This population has been fed a non-stop diet of UFO support from Spielberg movies to dozens of pseudo-documentaries on formerly scientific TV channels like Discovery Channel and TLC. Meanwhile, how much do they hear or read about the evidence against UFOs? Aside from a handful of books, there is almost no UFO debunking in the movies, TV or other pop culture. Criticizing UFOs is not sexy and doesn’t sell tickets or entice viewers but promoting UFOs has a guaranteed audience. Nor is there much effort to teach critical thinking, or to expose people to the fallacies of arguments, or to the ways in which human “experience” can be false or misleading. In light of the non-stop diet of “woo” fed to the American public and the lack of any counter-programming, it’s surprising that the number isn’t even more balanced toward the “woo” than it already is!

In light of this depressing state of affairs, I think I’ll go to a movie this afternoon as a distraction. Perhaps Cowboys and Aliens….

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48 Responses to “Not for skeptics, indeed! The MUFON meeting”

  1. Deen says:

    the Baylor Religion Survey found that 47% of Americans in the survey said that extraterrestrials absolutely exist (12%) or probably exist (35%).

    How was that question worded, exactly? Believing that extraterrestrials may exist somewhere in the universe is something quite different from believing they exist on earth.

    • Bill says:

      I had the same thought reading this, Deen. I don’t believe that ET’s are cruising our planet and freakin’ the locals. I do, however, suspect that there’s SOME form of life SOMEwhere out there – might be microbial, might be intelligent. Depending on how the survey question was worded, I might be counted among the believers in the response, even though I view “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” as a thoroughly enjoyable science fiction film rather than a documentary.

      I believe in UFO’s…but only in the most strict definition of the term. People frequently see things in the sky that they can’t immediately identify – hence, by definition, an “Unidentified Flying Object”. Those who immediately make the jump from there to “alien spaceship”, though, violate every step of the rational thinking process, and they seem to take pride in that.

      • You can Google the Baylor Religion Survey and get the exact wording of the question. As I recall (I have limited wifi here), it is talking about intelligent aliens, not just microbes

      • Alan says:

        I’m not sure even that definition would change my vote — if you asked me if other intelligent, sentient species are out there SOMEWHERE in the universe I’d probably say yes. Admittedly, that’s just a matter of probability — with such a big universe the odds of another intelligent species out there are effectively 100% (since we have no reason to think our world is somehow so special as to preclude other sentient people arising elsewhere).

        That is, again, a lot different from asking whether intelligent alien species have visited Earth.

  2. Sharon Hill says:

    I was struck by this LA Times article too! It IS depressing that UFO researchers think what they do is scientific. But what’s worse is that the public actually believes ghost hunters, monster chasers and UFO investigators are doing science.

    Sadly, when real scientists gave the idea of UFOs (and ghosts and monsters) a fair examination decades aga, and saw there was nothing there, they left. A few deviant scientists but mostly obsessed amateurs remained. They serve a useful social function – to keep the paranormal meme going and to provide a space for the public to share their unusual experiences explained in a popular paranormal context. So, these groups still exist. I wrote about this aspect here: http://idoubtit.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/906/

    I appreciate that you take this seriously. I think it’s harmful to the public to get a false sense of “research” and “investigation”. I’m disturbed that our current education system fails to teach students how to spot sham inquiry and flawed excuses for “science”.

  3. Other Paul says:

    … that required them to carry recording devices, Geiger counters, and a respirator …
    Why does this remind me of cargo-cults?

    • Trimegistus says:

      Long ago Richard Feynman gave an address in which he deplored the rise of “cargo cult science” — activities which made an effort to appear scientific, but which in his opinion weren’t at all.

      He was talking about psychology and sociology.

      • Max says:

        He also talked about physics and gave an example of a good psychology experiment.

        He criticized scientists for repeating old experiments with new conditions without first repeating them with old conditions as a control.
        I agree that you need controls, but I’d add that the easiest way to make your product look good is to make the old product look bad. Infomercials do this all the time. “A regular towel doesn’t work wet. ShamWow works wet or dry.”

  4. Anita Burns says:

    Perhaps ET scoffers should examine any of their equally unprovable and unscientific religious beliefs. Is is any more ridiculous to believe that you were abducted or had an encounter with ETs than to believe in a virgin birth initiated by an unprovable god, the parting of the Red Sea, a boat that carried two of every living thing, and a man who walked on water and turned water into wine, raised the dead, etc., and who totally unprovable? Many ET scoffers go to church.

    Just a thought. Thanks for reading

    • WScott says:

      I completely agree that belief in UFO abductions is just as ridiculous as the Biblical nonsense you quote, and has just as much evidence backing it up (ie – none). But that’s not exactly a compliment to UFO-ology.
      There is however one distinction: it’s harder to disprove events that allegedly took place thousands of years ago, compared to claims of events happening all the time.

    • itzac says:

      Well said, WScott.

      Anita, if ever there was an argument that was bound to fail in this crowd…

  5. jre says:

    Many ET scoffers go to church.

    Yes, but just to scoff.

  6. BillG says:

    Beliefs in most pseudoscientific slop is perhaps indolent or slothful thinking, however:

    “Another topic discussed at the convention was human-extraterrestrial hybrids. Crawford, who lives near the Superstition Mountain in Arizona, said that she is one of them.”

    Wouldn’t this warrant the aid of professional care in mental health?

    • Phil P. says:

      Since it’s a known fact that the US has cloned over 600 species of animals as of 2001, what is the next logical step? Ten years has been a long time to experiment in.

  7. Jack Brewer says:

    Nice post, Donald Prothero. While arguments can be made ad infinitum, your point is well taken that MUFON asserts – quite fraudulently – to be dedicated to scientific study. Shame on them.

  8. MadScientist says:

    “… even though they never bother to submit their ideas in the first place.”

    As Gilbert and Sullivan put it: “Well, hardly ever!” The papers on parapsychology are hilarious. Now was it Nature whose editor decided years ago to print a parapsychology article along with reviews of the article? There are also more and more kook ‘journals’ as the years go by (gee, there seem to be quite a few parapsychology ‘journals’ still around too). How is an outsider to tell what publications are genuinely scientific and which are woo-woo?

  9. Ed Graham says:

    I have a few friends who don’t actually look human, but I haven’t noticed any God-like traits.

  10. Ashley Harron says:

    There are also many people who have religious faith without believing in literal miracles or translations of religious texts. You would probably find that if you questioned many of them they would hesitate on those questions. Granted there are no shortages of people who believe the literal word of God as told to them by Pastor Bob.

  11. FlatEric says:

    What Deen said. On the basis that it seems rather implausible that something that happened once, on this planet, has not happened anywhere else in the universe, my answer to the question of whether “extraterrestrials exist” would also be “probably”. But that doesn’t mean little grey humanoids are flitting around Nevada doing strange things to cows.

    I use surveys in my job. Always quote the precise wording of the question that was asked.

    • Phil P. says:

      Unfortunately for you, the cow thing has all been courtesy of your black ops. Funny that the US cannot experiment on other nations, but can sure as hell experiment on it’s own citizens.

  12. MFranklin says:

    I have never understood why skeps feel so urgently obliged to create trouble for the UFO community. No one is making them believe anything they don’t want to. Anyone can simply ignore any subject. In most cases, it won’t sneak up in the middle of the night to kidnap the family pet or steal the spark plug out of your lawnmower.

    Why does one devote themselves to taking a crap on someone else’s interest or hobby, anyway? Those who are devout believers may indeed be tin foil hatters but… what can you say about the people who dedicate their lives to making them miserable?

    Try gardening or photography… something positive. You don’t have to take a negative dump on those you disagree with.

    Thanks :)

  13. Noel James says:

    The mainstream scientific world wouldn’t touch these topics with a ten foot pole because mostly they’re afraid of the ridicule factor which would affect their funding and their reputation. The scientific world is a political world with the big names dependant on funding which makes them shy away from “controversial” subjects more often than not. However any true scientist would have to be curious about the phenomenon of UFOs/abductions/cattle mutilations whether real or imagined (if it’s all bunk then it’s certainly interesting on a psychological level and worthy of study). If it’s actually happening then it’s not a stretch to think that governments would want to cover up that they are possibly the ones responsible by testing secret military technology or that they are having their airspace repeatedly invaded by an outside force. Government and military interest also makes studying the phenomena more difficult.

    If scientists ever gave UFOs a fair shake decades ago then I’d like to know when that actually was (please don’t say the Condon report). Mostly they avoid the subject or scoff from their armchairs without actually getting out in the field to collect whatever evidence there may be which is more than disingenuous. That attitude certainly didn’t get us where we are today in terms of science. Modern science was built on the backs of “amateurs” who went out in the field because they were curious and wanted to know more, not on the backs of people who stay home and make opinions.

    • Frying Dutchmen says:

      So how many years have people been researching UFOs and still have nothing? We’re still at the same spot we were when people started to take an interest in UFOs, oh sure we have wild ideas but we have no physical evidence that is of an alien origin. I may also point from my armchair that Alien Abductions have psychological causes and there is a lot of research that backs up my position.

      • Joel says:

        You might be interested in this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzI3s7V5DKU

        Forget the crop circles, abductions, theories etc. and just look at the incidence of UFOs. It can be tested, it has been tested, they’ve been tracked on radar many many times going 10’s of thousands of MPH and yet no-one is offering up funding towards finding out what it is.
        Why? Even if it turns out to be something terrestrial, there is still something going on, and no-one in the scientific community is interested??? That seems weird to me.

        You should also check out “The Disclosure Project”

      • Max says:

        You might be interested in this.
        http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4270

        Radar isn’t magic. It shows a blip, then another blip far away. It could be the same object, it could be a different object.

  14. UFO Nutte says:

    Skeptics- please, make yourselves more visible. The Rebecca Watson/ Richard Dawkins episode raised the visibility of your movement and showed the world what a bunch of socially retarded weirdos and annoying scolds you all are. Showing the world your true face does much more damage to the movement than any irate UFOlogist could ever manage. Much, much more of that please.

  15. Frank John Reid says:

    Which is more fun: feeling contempt for the irrational peasants, or having the coachman beat them up? I guess the question is moot, because only the former is available.

    But seriously: you Epicureans might try reading Bergan Evans’s book, “The Natural History of Nonsense,” published in 1945. It is a somewhat difficult book for this era to read, as it was (at least in educated circles) a high noon for “skepticism,” and the author often finds it sufficient to recount “irrationalities” with a sustained, d tone of delicate irony (and irony simply rushes past our present-day minds). But then comes the small thunderclap of “scientific authority” that demolishes–and alerts US to–the nonsense.

    At least 25% of the book, in dedicated chapters and digressions, is about various fallacies on animal behavior. According to Dr. Evans and his authorities (e.g. Solly Zuckerman, nowhere near a fool), essentially lower animals DON’T behave–the only social order in animal groups is “pecking order,” animals don’t reason nor plan nor calculate nor estimate, they don’t have defensive roles and formations (e.g. baboons), and so on. Apparently, Anglo-Saxon Science was cut off (by war, or ideology, or predetermined ideas) from continental scientists like Tinbergen and Lorenz.

    “The Natural History of Nonsense”, greatly praised by “skeptics” of its time, is a doctoral thesis in ethology waiting to be written–almost every one of its alleged fallacies is not the total emptiness Dr. Evans claims. Of course, there are many fallacies and mistakes and misdescriptions (e.g., “military” organization of baboon troops). But in most cases, one can tell that some real behavior of a species lies behind or near to the “nonsense” Dr. Evans ironicised. And indeed, except for James Randi, most “skeptics” have stuffed Dr. Evans and his books down the memory hole.

    I guess you just have to forget him. UFOs, too, seem to “behave”, behind or near to the mythopoeic extravagances of “believers.” Wouldn’t want to have to sieve the muck, would you?

    • jre says:

      Accelerating technology has at least one consoling virtue: anything out of copyright is likely to be available on the web. From a quick look-over it does appear to be, as you say, an excellent read. Thanks for the tip! (Googlers note: it’s “Bergen Evans”)

  16. Here’s an excellent first-person account of another MUFON meeting:
    http://shethought.com/2010/10/14/beam-me-down-the-rabbit-hole/

  17. Bernie Mooney says:

    I have a problem with excluding “personal experience.” On the surface it seems logical, but if you extrapolate the concept, you can say that nothing we experience is what it seems. It would make everything in our daily lives suspect. Therefore, while some experiences may be the result of “tricks of the mind,” etc, you can’t really toss every experience, weird or not, into that bag. But essentially, that’s what you do when you dismiss personal experience(s).

    Eyewitness testimony may very well be unreliable and studies have shown it can be. But is it unreliable in every single instance?

    It’s this kind of all or nothing that makes me have problems with so-called skeptics. They can always point to something that debunks whatever it is that is being claimed, whether they can prove it or not.

    If you start with “A” and that doesn’t fit, you go to be “B” and so on. When you eliminate all known possibilities, so-called skeptics will fall back on delusions, hallucinations etc without any evidence that is indeed the case. They can never admit, “Well, we don’t know what it is/was.”

    They are the other side of the true believer. So, you have true believers and true non-believers.

    You write about how the public is not shown “evidence against UFOs.” There is evidence they don’t exist? That I would like to see. I would tend to say there is more evidence they do exist. That doesn’t make them ET, it makes them “unidentified.”

    Both sides claim to have the “answers” when in reality, there aren’t answers in most cases, only more questions. I visit “skeptic” sites and and the more I do, the more I believe what I said above. They are the other side of the true believer coin.

    And no, I haven’t come here to troll. As someone who subscribes to the old adage, “If your mother says she loves you, get independent confirmation,” I find so-called skeptics sorely lacking in objectivity. I have come to believe that they are worse than the true believers. They should know better.

    P.S. There is a meme among skeptics that true believers quite often rely on the “appeal to authority” which they find fallacious. If there is any group that relies on that it is the so-called skeptics. They are all about authority. They are skeptical of everything except authority. To me, that makes me skeptical of the intellectual honesty of skeptics.

    • Alan says:

      I agree with this — we should put “first hand experience” to a lot of skeptical tests and proceed from the assumption that it is not compelling until shown to be otherwise, BUT we should not just exclude it out-of-hand.

    • Trimegistus says:

      Okay, let’s go with first-hand experience. Show us some proof that UFOs are some kind of non-human artifact. In the absence of such proof, the logical position is that they’re imaginary and/or imposture. Whaddya got?

      • Bernie Mooney says:

        Personal experience may not be “proof,” but neither is it something that should be dismissed out of hand. To say something doesn’t exist because there is no empirical evidence, *at the present time* is not healthy skepticism, it’s a preconceived non-belief system. History is littered with things that didn’t exist until they did.

        So, absent empirical proof, everything is imaginary or a hoax? That’s not logical no matter how much you want it to be. It is possible to entertain an idea without accepting it.

        Skeptics are baby/bathwater folks. Because “M” is found to be false, that means that the entire alphabet is false. Because MUFON members are doofuses, that shows how ridiculous the idea of UFOs is.

        Look at the phenomenon known as ball lightning. For years scientists refused to accept that it exists. Now, it is generally regarded as existing but they don’t know what causes it. But many skeptics still hunker down and refuse to accept it. I’ve read skeptic columns that repeat wrong information about it.

        I’ve read columns as recent as last year that still claim the effect has not been re-created it in the lab. Well, it has been in 2006/07. And when it comes to visual proof, the refrain is nothing exists that is “reliable.” Reliable to whom? There’s vid on youtube taken

        Which brings up another problem. It seems that when debating the existence of weird phenomena, skeptics parrot other skeptics. One guy with no scientific credentials will quote another guy with no scientific credentials to argue his point.

      • Frying Dutchmen says:

        So what if we parrot other skeptics opinions about a subject? What if that opinion is correct? Should we forget about their opinion and all the research behind it and do as a lot of the paranormal believers say do our own research?

        Because that’s STUPID oh yeah caps for that. Because such faulty logic like that, you can say that just about anything really.

  18. dominic says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but if Cynthia Crawford is telling the truth, than apart from the amazing feat of travelling across the universe to visit, we have to accept that the aliens are criminals. Or at the very least, lawbreakers.

    “Manifested a crisp $20 bill,” that sounds like counterfeiting to me, and if they didn’t create it themselves but teleported it from somewhere on earth, that’s theft.

  19. MUFON sounds like a cheese. The cheesy kind.

  20. Donald,

    And I thought I was the only skeptic at the MUFON Symposium! I’ve been writing up a much longer account of it on my Blog, http://www.BadUFOs.com . It’s in 5 parts, 4 of them are already written. I won’t try to summarize my reactions here, it’s all on the Blog.

    I’ve been doing this sort of thing for many years. Phil Klass and I used to go to UFO Cons whenever we had the chance. Some of the people there I’ve met many years before. Lee Shapiro interviewed me for the Huffington Post, and worked me into his story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/03/ufo-symposium_n_914828.html
    He and I had met long ago.

    In a nutshell, I’d say that the biggest mistake the pro-UFOlogists make is that they forget all about the motto “Nullius in Verba,” which enabled the Royal Society to rise above confusion and superstition, to become a true scientific society. The least-delusional speaker there (not counting Musgrave) was probably John Alexander. I told him that, if he really thinks that there is something here for scientists to see, he needs to put together a “best” cases list, cases so strong that it will cause scientists to change their minds. (Hint: it’s been done before, and invariably the “best” cases are seen to be pretty wobbly). He said no, that won’t do any good. Scientists have to somehow change their minds about this, then they can ‘see the light.’ Of course, that’s not going to happen.

  21. We had one gentleman come onto Skeptalk with a crank theory; I don’t remember specifically, but he believed he’d overturned Einstein, or something fairly generic like that. He was polite and the purpose of his post was to ask our advice on how he might go about submitting his paper to a scientific journal or to present at a conference.

    I was dismayed at the response he got by a number of Skeptalkers. They basically made fun of him. One or two gave him some useful information, but I’m sure the experience left a sour taste in his mouth.

    I try to keep in mind that the majority of cranks, UFO guys or cryptozoologist guys or what have you, are ordinary, intelligent, constructive people like you & I, may be naive and wrong, but still have good science as their goal. Very few of them, I think, are the deliberately delusional type who move the goalposts and allege a conspiracy of suppression.

    • Phil P. says:

      We all know that Pi is wrong. Just ask Michael Horn.

    • Ed Graham says:

      I know a lot fo people who believe that aliens walk among us and that UFOs are alien space ships. My problem with UFOs, Bigfoot, crop circles isn’t the people who believe – – it’s the fact that so much “evidence” is faked/

  22. Sharon Hill says:

    Skeptics who criticize UFOs/ghost/monster hunters are by and large not criticizing the PEOPLE personally but their activities. If we didn’t express our arguments that this stuff is not valid knowledge about the world, it seems a good bet that even more time and money would be spent in support. Examples: government dollars on UFO “disclosure” and investigation, laws that protect Bigfoot, and payment to people who say they can talk to your dead relatives or rid your home of a demon infestation. None of those things have a valid foundation.

    If only paranormal was just a hobby…instead, it has become a dominant way for people to view the world. That’s not good for humanity’s progress.

  23. Helena Constantine says:

    1. A lot of these people who report being abducted, report that it happens repeatedly, some almost every night. Why not put a few such people under 24 hour video surveillance? (Oh…I guess the aliens would know and then not abduct them those nights).

    2. There was an episode of Nova (or possibly Frontline?) about the Phoenix lights a few years ago, which thoroughly debunked them, and did such a good job that I can’t imagine anyone except the most hardcore UFO religionists wouldn’t be persuaded. But searching for it just now, I could find no trace of it on-line, whereas I did find innumerable sites explaining them as alien spacecraft–evidently there have been several Hollywood movies to that effect. So the debunking material exits, but no effort is made to promote it.