Posts Tagged ‘science’
That’s probably the best way to characterize what’s been going on with Jack Brewer and microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn. Both have posted recently about the questionable methodology (that’s being kind) of Budd Hopkins, one of the more famous names associated alien abduction phenomenon. Here’s a brief overview.
This past Feb. 5 Jack Brewer posted an interesting piece over at Examiner.com that includes video of Budd Hopkins de-briefing the late Col. Philip Corso in 1998. Colonel Corso wrote the book The Day After Roswell, in which he claimed to have been charged by the U.S. Army with seeding alien technology from the Roswell crash to private industry for reverse engineering.
The article and the video brought the questionable methods of Hopkins with respect to alien abductions back into discussion. In regard to Hopkins, Brewer notes:
“Hopkins rose to ufology prominence due to his controversial work in the alien abduction genre. His work has been greatly criticized for such reasons as the use of hypnotic regression as a memory retrieval tool and clearly demonstrated circumstances of researcher bias. Passionate followers have nonetheless adamantly defended Hopkins’ conclusions and actions, refusing to be swayed in their opinions by virtually any evidence of his sometimes poor research practices.”
The video was filmed by Carol Rainey, a film-maker and Hopkins’ ex-wife. Rainey has been critical of her former husband’s hypnotic regression technique for eliciting information from alleged abductees. Her article entitled, Priests of High Strangeness in a 2011 issue of the Paratopia webzine noteworthy in that regard. Dr. Kokjohn also wrote an article in that same Paratopia issue entitled, Tainted, Toxic and Taboo: A Scientist’s assessment of Alien Abduction Research. Both articles are available in PDF on Rainey’s website.
It’s of course impossible to discuss flawed alien abduction methodology without tripping over David Jacobs and the Emma Woods (a pseudonym) travesty. For anyone interested in the alien abduction phenomenon this tale is must reading. Woods has of course been attacked by supporters of Dr. Jacobs.
Three days after his Examiner.com piece, Jack Brewer posted “The Woods/Jacobs Tapes and the ‘Oral History’ Falsehood.” The essay contained Jack’s thoughts on the topic as discussed on Jeff Ritzmann’s Paranormal Waypoint radio show. Specifically, the episode just prior to Jack’s post
. . . was a special three-hour finale to Ritzmann’s multi-episode exploration of research of alleged alien abduction. Focus was upon the case of Emma Woods and its mishandling by the now retired Temple University historian Dr. David Jacobs. Fellow guests were microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn and author Jeremy Vaeni.
Reitzmann has interviewed Emma Woods, Dr. Kokjohn, and Carol Rainey. Files of interviews and hypnotic regression sessions are available here. Jack Brewer posted his thoughts on the Paranormal Waypoint interview series here.
The methodology of David Jacobs was the subject of an earlier series at Jack Brewer’s UFO Trail. For those who are interested (and you ought to be), here are the links to the series, “The Bizarre World of David Jacobs”: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Lastly for this round-up, Dr. Kokjohn uploaded a YouTube video entitled Alien Abduction Research – The Time Factor. The video discusses how new scientific advancements have made certain alien abduction claims testable, resulting in the exposure of both poor methods and unsustainable claims.
Mostly in popular science, but not exclusively.
I thought I’d post here on this because I tend to go after this issue most of the time over at PaleoBabble. But it’s an issue here. The most exotic context for this is, of course, the “That technology is beyond what we [read: I, the speaker] know about, so I must have seen an alien craft.” Pure non sequitur. A hypothesis is not proof; it’s an idea or suggestion. Correlation is not causation. The differences are really important.
Hat tip to Tim Farley, whose skeptical “What’s the Harm?” Twitter account is one I follow. He directed followers to this Knight Science Journalism at MIT essay: “Patterns and Trends of 2013: The Year of Conclusions that Don’t Follow from the Data.” It’s a good read.
These are two fundamental questions that arise as one reads the recent two-part series by Jack Brewer of The UFO Trail entitled, “MUFON, Science, and Deception.” Jack describes the goal of these pieces as “a two-part post exploring recent MUFON history and circumstances, including comments provided by scientists, UFO investigators and MUFON members, both past and present.”
The impression one reads allow the reader to answer the two questions with “yes – in recent years” and “no” respectively. The third paragraph of Part Two summarizes why the series is relevant to this blog:
Retired scientist Frank Purcell, whose comments were featured in Part One of this post, was involved with MUFON for a short time. He explained, “I left that organization partly because known charlatans are given credence by what should be a scientific organization. These cranks and shysters are welcomed to the MUFON symposiums. The theme MUFON has, as do most UFO organizations, is that earth is being visited by ET. That bias is considered a given without a shred of scientific evidence to support it. The bias makes what should be a scientific approach to something mysterious into something more resembling a religion.”
Unfortunate, but the series pretty well establishes that’s the case for MUFON, at least in recent memory. Hopefully exposure to the recent problems at MUFON well help re-orient it to something more objective and science-driven.
In another excellent piece on the UFO Trail blog, Jack Brewer takes the issue of the use of hypnosis in alien abduction research head-on. The post is another example of why, if you care about thinking clearly about matters ufological, you should be reading his blog. A couple of Jack’s summary points should be enough to get my own readers interested:
- An inherent challenge to ufology, and particularly alleged alien abduction, is that its followers do not seek information that provides a balanced and objective point of view. Actually, they are often quite unaware of the current mental health paradigm, symptoms of emotional traumata, relevant physiological circumstances and similar subject matter, the absence of which substantially obstructs their abilities to form objective and more complete understandings of what became known as the abduction phenomenon.
- If researchers want to be accepted by academia, they must adhere to rules and practices, i.e., peer review, proper recognition of standards of evidence, accept hypnosis is not a reliable memory retrieval tool, etc., that are established by academia, else stop claiming their work to have scientific merit. Equally important would be members of the UFO community learning to more accurately identify misrepresentations of scientific merit.
Not mainstream scientists, as this article documents.
Contrary to what the “paranormal community” loves to insist (especially the ancient astronaut theorists, whose thinking is anything but clear), there is actually a good deal of peer-reviewed material devoted to testing both paranormal claims and the sorts of subjects with which the paranormal deals. Humanities scholars and nuts and bolts scientists have devoted a good bit of time to studying claims about parapsychology, Bigfoot, UFOs, PSI, NDEs, etc. They don’t fear it. Anyone with access to a good journal database could show that paranormal claims do get addressed in just a few minutes.
The problem, though, as I see it, is that very little of that peer-reviewed material ever filters down to the lay person or non-specialist — the person the most likely to be imbibing the wackier claims in all these areas. Scholars and scientists (and I’ll grant there is some merit to the statement, though it becomes an excuse) consider such an exercise as a waste of their time (they could be publishing real research for their peers — and in some case, tenure requirements). And given my own experience with things like the Fantasy Channel (er, History Channel), the media types who pimp the paranormal for DVD purchases and advertising dollars aren’t interested in true rebuttal or confrontational engagement. The Ancient Aliens series is Exhibit A here. They want to produce *a show* (it’s entertainment, people!) and so the producers of these programs *want* to titillate the audience with that sort of nonsense. It sells.