THWARTING THE EPISTEMOLOGY PLOY

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Gene Stewart's picture
The Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis, ETH, uses space aliens to explain UFOs, the abduction phenomenon, the origins of the human race, why homo sapiens sapiens suddenly leaped ahead in tool use and brain capacity, and many other things. 
 
 
It is often debunked by scale logic, stated thusly: No matter how far-fetched an explanation, it will be at least an order of magnitude less far-fetched than the ETH, due to the distances and times involved, the vastness of the universe, and our relative tiny size and negligible importance. 
 
It is, this logic insists, more likely that millions of people worldwide are having the exact same delusion than that space aliens have traversed the vastness of space, found Earth, and singled out various people for anal probes and other experiments. 
 
It seems impeccable, this logic. It is sensible, proportionate, and persuasive, if not convincing. It's used to ridicule those who object to lone gunmen, buildings that fall down with no airplane strikes, and electronic hanging chads in voting machines, among many other things. 
 
It can also be applied, however, to the defense of assertions generally considered whackdoodle. Example: We landed men on the Moon.
 
Let's use scale logic to refute that assertion. 
 
It is more reasonable to think cold warriors developed a plan to win the Cold War without firing a shot. They recruited young test pilots, the best they could find, and told them they were to be astronauts. They would be trained, tested, and honed to become America's genuine elite. In the process they would become heroes and reap the benefits of fame and glory. 
 
Of course they competed eagerly to be included, and the first tests weeded out all but the most patriotic, the most dedicated, and the most able. 
 
These few, the Mercury Seven for starters, were then told that they had actually been recruited to be the vanguard of a daring attempt to win the Cold War. They would become spies of sorts, the term "astronaut" being code for "in on the scam". 
 
The scam? Force the Soviets to spend themselves to bankruptcy by faking a hugely expensive space program that would ultimately "put us on the moon" to all appearances. 
 
The astronauts would be going along with a magnificent charade and, if any balked, talk of National Security and its draconian penalties would usually suffice to keep them in line. Otherwise, accidents happen. Grissom, Chaffee, and White learned that lesson in a flash. Sacrifices must be made to maintain National Security secrets, they'd be told.  It adds to the hero mystique. 
 
And by scale logic, yes, it makes far more sense to spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing an industrial infrastructure, and to compartmentalize and contain thousands of people over several decades, in order to have a tight few in on the faking of moon landings. Real astronauts doing real space work, and exposing themselves to real dangers in Low Earth Orbit, provides wonderful cover, too.  You can blend in the fake with the real.  Verisimilitude, dude.  It's the Right Stuff, no kidding. 
 
If interest in the space program flags midway, fake a near-disaster complete with suspense, human drama, and amazing luck. We'll call it Apollo 13. Ron Opie Cunningham Howard can film it later with Tom Hanks, it'll be great. 
 
Using this logic, Peter Hyams would write a film about a faked Mars landing, CAPRICORN ONE, featuring O. J. Simpson's finest acting, at least until he claimed innocence years later. 
 
Now we don't have to solve all the radical, difficult problems, only pretend to. Only a few insiders will know the dark truth, the public will be inspired, the world will admire the USA, and those pesky Russians will spend themselves to death trying to keep up with a fiction. 
 
Even better, new technology will result.  Transistors, velcro, and Tang; hooray.  JFK's Peace Machine will produce paradise instead of the Military-Industrial Comples's War Machine creating destruction and death.
 
It's perfect. 
 
I wrote a story once in which Truman was approached by shadowy gentlemen from an alphabet agency or three, taken on a trip out west, and introduced to a dark program at a secret base mostly underground, where amazing things were being investigated. There he was shown an EBE and told it had been recovered from a fallen flying saucer. He was fascinated, repelled, and boggled, all natural reactions. Being Truman, he was also decisive and more than a bit tart. 
 
He decided to fund the dark program secretly, to keep it operating perennially, then to expand it when necessary. After all, who knew what these UFO creatures were capable of, or what they had in store for us? 
 
In the story, the base is real but the EBE is an elaborate hoax perpetrated by cynical men to gain leverage over the Presidency and so ensure a flow of dark money unprecedented even in war time. ]
 
In the story, this hoax worked for decades; who would ever know, it was so compartmentalized even Presidents were not always brought into the loop about it. And there was always the EBE to show them, the Extraterrestrial Biological Entity.  It was so convincingly icky. 
 
Such a scenario could well be in place, who knows? 
 
Of course, this means demonizing anyone who questions it. 
 
We can link them to UFO cult nut jobs and ridicule them as conspiracists. We'll make it social and political suicide to question the orthodox view on things. 
 
The usual refutation of fringe theory is thus seen as also a handy defense of lies, deceptions, and disinformation programs. UFO flaps can be created as cover for X-craft fly-overs or experimental machines gone wrong.  We could create and refute fringe events at the same time.  Control and ridicule them to keep people wary and wrong-footed.
 
Epistemology is all about sources of information. What source do you trust.  What keeps justified, defensible belief from subjective opinion?  Evidence, right?  But, as Philip K. Dick wrote, "Anything, or evidence for it, can be faked."  If it cuts both ways, maybe it doesn't prove anything but our own convictions. 
 
If that's true, then we're still in free fall. See why we cling to such logic so tightly? Reality, or our sense of it, depends on confirmable fact.  Evidence goes only so far, depending how strong or weak it might be.  Anecdotal evidence is just people talking.  Even if they're not lying or confabulating, they may be sincerely mistaken.  ]
 
In law, a prosecutor presents Best Evidence.  This sounds like it means the cream of the crop but it really means the cherry-picked facts he or she can use best to lead the judge or jury to a targeted conclusion.  It's the best evidence supporting a given theory.  They reason from their theory to the evidence that supports it rather than using evidence to piece together a testable theory.  It's deductive, not inductive.
 
Law is not science.
 
In law, a preponderance of evidence is often cited as proof.  This means if most of the evidence points toward a conclusion, that conclusion is likely true.  Reliance upon available evidence without developing further investigations can skew results, as any defense attorney knows well.  
 
This sounds like Occam's Razor.  Simplest theory wins.  Or is usually correct.  Yes, this leans on preponderance of evidence, as logic dictates.  Outliers do not define the Bell curve of anything.
 
Science knows that further evidence often changes theory. This is why lawyers do not want more information once they have their case.  They don't want to have to change their theory of the crime.
 
With science, one is always supposed to be trying hard to use fact found in further investigation to refute any and all theory.  It's called testing, and it works for physics superbly.
 
Unless you delve into quantum mechanics, you'll be quite safe conforming your thesis to Newtonian Laws.
 
Fortean, or fringe, topics, being almost never repeatable or testable, do not play by the scientific method's rules.  Metaphysics, those scrolls and books shelved beyond the physics category, is literally out of science's reach.
 
This leads to us trying to develop new approaches to inquiring into reality, or what seems like it to us.  Again, epistemology rises like Nessie to startle damp tourists. Scientists won't even look at evidence gathered by ghost hunters or UFO investigators.  They sneer, dismiss, and explain away without knowing what prompts the claims the call wild.
 
They cite Carl Sagan's erroneous word jumble that says, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."  Funny thing to say when they don't look at the fringe evidence at all.  Examine that statement of Sagan's though.  What constitutes extraordinary evidence?  Is there such a thing?  Is there not either evidence for or against something?
 
Demanding the impossible from the Fortean crowd keeps scientists safe from having to bother.  It's like telling a toddler you'll hand over the candy once they've learned to levitate.  
 
Scientists then get meaner still. They question the source of this or that bit of evidence, or the veracity of testimony when it's physical traces being discussed.  They impugn with hint, wink, and nudge, ridiculing those who dare ask them to explain things their vaunted scientific consensus ignores.  Why does the Sphinx show signs of water erosion?  That question alone will get you howled at, dismissed, and hounded from symposia or conferences.
 
Buzz Aldrin punched someone who asked questions about the Moon landing.  Admittedly, those questions tend to be rooted in willful ignorance of basic science any high school science teacher can explain, but is violence a sensible response?  It is if the goal is to quash the questioning.
 
We need to stop accepting the epistemology ploy. We need to insist on the validity of questioning things.  If many questions show ignorance of basics, teach the basics.  If many questions seem non sequitur and random, show compassion and try to understand why they're being asked and who is asking them.
 
Thanks to Giorgio Tsoukalos, ANCIENT ALIENS, and other TV shows proliferating on cable, the ETH is receiving wider attention than ever before.  Much of it is little more than fun speculation but some of it, as the late Philip Coppens pointed out, some of it is important, and being ignored.  Many established theories simply make no sense, especially in light of the evidence found by diligent, sincere investigators.
 
Keep asking the questions.  Keep the evidence valid, confirmed, and factual.  We're at a threshold past which the public will begin to find the preponderance of evidence, and the provable diversity of sources for it, persuasive.  This in turn will create a surge of curiosity.
 
Do not underestimate public curiosity.  NASA had to do several passes over Cydonia and the Face on Mars precisely due to public curiosity.
 
Remember epistemology, the philosophical theory of knowledge concerned with how one gains it, how demonstrable or provable it is, and how wide it reaches into changing our theories of the world.  If someone says a UFO landed, go to the spot, find trace evidence, take measurements and photographs, get a Geiger counter if possible, do grid searches of the soil, do expanding radius searches looking for changes in plant life and so on.  Do as much as you can to confirm or refute the claim, rather than simply relying on whether you believe the story or not.
 
Do all this and soon the epistemology ploy used to dismiss evidence that doesn't fit established theory will fail, and once that happens, evidence can be looked at more objectively, and new theories induced from it.
 

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