❰EPUB❯ ✰ The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence Author Robert Sheaffer – Dailytradenews.co.uk

10 thoughts on “The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence

  1. says:

    A convincing debunking of UFO stories, but scattered and insufficiently thought through.

    Robert Sheaffer was involved with the early CSICOP (now CSI), a skeptical group that evolved out of the American Humanist Association. This book came from his research in the 1970s into various claims about flying saucers, and was put out by Prometheus Books, which was CSICOP's publishing wing. That it is not really dated, some thirty-five years on, says all you need to know about just how stagnant UFOlogy became at the end of the century and into the next.

    The main part of the book takes up about 66 pages and is presented in the first six chapters. These are brief and read like magazine articles. After a very short introduction, Sheaffer the report that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO sometime late in the 1960s. He details his tracking down of the particulars of this claim, and its possible solution--he likely saw Venus--which serves as a metonym for the messiness of flying saucer evidence: how insufficient it is, how it often yields to conventional explanations.

    For reasons I do not quite understand, he then steps away to briefly introduce the flying saucer community, limning four major organizations (and one that looked as though it might turn out to be major at the time of writing, but never amounted to much). He points out that while those engaged in UFOlogy see themselves as modern Galileo's most are amateurs involved in petty arguments. It was striking how similar the UFO subculture is to other groups of fringe enthusiasts during the 1970s, jealous of vanishingly small empires of not-quite-facts.

    He then returns to the main thrust of the book; the first chapter dealt with close encounters of the first kind--seeing a UFO--and chapters three and four deal with CEII and CEIII: tangible evidence and contact. These are not encyclopedic but strategic, focusing on the so-called best claims and showing there's nothing there: no real tangible evidence, and the claims of contact are self-contradictory, amounting to nothing more than confusing stories. The sixth chapter shows that the photographic evidence for UFOs is similarly weak to non-existent.

    (Though, to be fair, none of the images in this book are very helpful. Even photographs of documents done explicitly for the volume are mostly just blobs. The only clear images are the various charts.)

    The structure, shaky in the beginning, starts falling apart after this introduction; it feels as though Sheaffer said everything he really wanted to, and then reached to fill out an entire book. We get a chapter on the scientific study of witchcraft, the entire point of which seems to be that UFOlogists might be making themselves look foolish to future historians. There are extended riffs on other episodes; there's a review of early 20th century belief in fairies; he discusses Men in Black; and on and on.

    Some this is interesting and relevant, though how it connects to the rest of the book is unclear. In chapter 20, for example, he offers a summary of what he thinks UFOs are--this could be the conclusion. But then he follows with a chapter on New Zealand sightings and purported videos--which could have been handled earlier. Chapter 16 introduces his idea of "jealous phenomena": objects that are seen only by the privileged few. This seems like shooting sparrows with a cannon, but, ok, flying saucers are jealous phenomena: why is this insight buried so deep in the book, when it could have guided other sections?

    Other bits here do not work as well. He insists that metaphysical and inter-dimensional interpretations of flying saucers represent a "New Wave" that crested in the 1970s. Except his evidence doesn't really support this--he has to continually refer to Ray Palmer and Richard Shaver, and their ideas took shape in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Indeed, metaphysical interpretations of UFOs were quite common during this period, as were the inter-dimensional theories of N. Meade Layne. The "new wave" wasn't quite so new.

    The other problem with the book is the use of the term "science." Sheaffer shared the fears of many CSICOP founders that a new wave of irrationalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s was going to kill science and the enlightenment; it's an overblown concern, of course, and one that does not reckon with the on-going interest in occult and esoteric theories since the dawn of time--including the Enlightenment. There's never been a time of pure rationality. And the Enlightenment was a bit more complex than the heroic triumph of reason over the supernatural, as it is presented here.

    More to the point, there is nothing particularly scientific about this book. Sheaffer talks about the need to follow the scientific method in assessing UFO evidence, but never explains what he means by this. For one, there is no single scientific method; for another, even if we go along with the pop-cultural view of the scientific method as presenting a hypothesis, testing it, and then rejecting it or building it into a theory, none of that happens here. There's a reference to Popper; there's talk of Ockham's razor. But these aren't methods.

    All of this allows Sheaffer to slide too-easily from praising the scientific method to moralism. Scientists are true heroes because they face up to the harsh realities of the world. They refuse to buckle to fantasy. UFOlogists flee from reason. They are children, in love with their own ideas.

    If we step away from the posturing--scientific and moral--we can see that what Sheaffer does here is good, hard work. He has evaluated the evidence and shown it wanting. No hypotheses needed, no concerns about the fate of Western civilization. Get down in the weeds, look, apply intelligence and consistency and the whole of UFOlogy dissolves into a farrago of unsubstantiated stories.

    There are interesting questions that emerge from this: why these stories at this time? Why are these stories presented as truth rather than fiction? Sheaffer is not equipped to answer these questions--which is not a shame.

    What he did, without the gratuitous posing, was enough.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence download The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence, read online The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence, kindle ebook The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence, The Ufo Verdict: Examining the Evidence 5ea129695e48 If Youre Only Going To Have One Book On UFO's This Is The OneSky Amp; Telescope