04 February 2008

CNN UFOs and Garbage Topics

I'm not sure why Larry King is on board with this UFO business, or why he is content to have a gaggle of credulous, conspiratorial morons on his show but he seems to positively get off on this kind of silliness. Just youtube search Larry King UFOs for loads of stuff that look like the following clips.
In one of the clips you will see, the documentary film maker asks a skeptic, "Why can't we just shrug our hands and say we don't know what these things are? Why do we need to find a prosaic explanation for these things?"
Shermer has a nice response, lets exhaust what we know, before we start positing new novel explanations.
These guys have strange ideas what constitute evidence.

This is hardly a good, and certainly not effective, marshalling of evidence on the part of the UFO believers. It would be nice if a show like this would have physicists, and astronomers on this along with an evolutionary psychologist like Shermer, just to give the show a little fucking balance. Shermer is very nearly alone on the show as a voice of reason. He battles it out with these witless folks who talk over him. Its not until Buzz Aldren comes in and with a down homeyness helps dismantle these characters. By the time Buzz appears it is one unsupported anecdote after another. It was kind of nice when Aldren said, "It looks like we have alot of illusions here."

What is strange is that these people who want so much for their theses, that we are in fact being visited frequently, have this gem of an exchange to bolster their point.
Shermer says, "Where's ship?"
"They hid it."
"Where are the aliens?"
"They hid them."
"Why are all our astronomers and scientists unable to verify these phenomena?"
"They are very good at avoiding detection."
So their proof is that they have no proof?
Why is it that no astronomer bolstered by sharp, rather expensive optics never see these things? Shermer is right. This would be the most incredible discovery in the last one thousand years. There is no way you could engineer a conspiracy among such a contitious lot of people all eager for tenures, research funds.
Listen to Buzz about the magic analogy. "Larry could you explain everythign Chris Angel did?" Larry, of course, said "no."

I really wish Larry would have allowed Shermer to illustrated what terrible observers we really are. But since he wouldn't I'll let Michael do that now.
Here is his talk at TED. Watch him closely!

What the UFOologists and the rest of their ilk (ID theorists, Bigfoot shippers, Lock Ness monster shippers, 9/11 truthers ghost hunters) don't seem to understand is the scientific use of the word proof. They have no evidence (why won't the weird bearded author say what his trace evidence is I wonder). Why does the filmaker think its okay to call his sightins craft (repeating over and over its a fact doesn't make it so) and the occasional radar anomaly means nothing unless it is repeatable, and verifiable by independent sources.

S.E.T.I. is a diligent scientific study, utilizing radio telescopes searching the skies for signals from space that can't be explained by natural phenomena. Repeating signals of prime numbers say or other such pattern's that defy normal patterns, but that don't seem to be produced by established phenomena. Carl Sagan has described two instances in which the S.E.T.I. researchers have recieved unique signals that seemed real. They were evocative and had the researchers a flutter. However they were not able to repeat the results. Telescopes pointed in the same area of the night sky failed to pick up similar results. Sagan's conclusion? It wasn't repeated by independent researchers or even researchers in the same lab. Was it chill inducing? Spine tingling? Sure but it didn't constitute any kind of proof whatsoever. This was the response of person who really thinks it incredibly likely that we live a galaxy, indeed a universe that is likely teeming with life. But he followed the evidence. Science works because it carries just the right blend of conservative tendencies (it will take proof to offset established theories) and an openness to new evidence, and new ideas. The tendency of the UFOologist to explain away every hole in their data as a conspiracy.
My question is always the same what is their p-value? They never present any kind of sophisticated analysis.
Enjoy the debates.


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