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To give some background, I have been an active professional astronomer since earning my doctorate in 1975. I have published a respectable number of scientific papers in most of the right journals (including our favorites, Science and Nature), have been Principal Investigator on several NASA studies, have served as referee and proposal reviewer for NASA and NSF, belong to half a dozen professional societies, have chaired international conferences, i.e. I've engaged by and large successfully in all the usual activities of a busy professional scientist.
I have learned quite a bit about the UFO phenomenon over the years (certainly more than I had bargained for) and have met many of the leading figures, some credible, some deluded. When Prof. Peter Sturrock, a prominent Stanford University plasma physicist, conducted a survey of the membership of the American Astronomical Society in the 1970s, he made an interesting finding: astronomers who spent time reading up on the UFO phenomenon developed more interest in it. If there were nothing to it, you would expect the opposite: lack of credible evidence would cause interest to wane. But the fact of the matter is, there does exist a vast amount of high quality, albeit enigmatic, data. UFO sightings are not limited to farmers in backward rural areas. There are astronomers and pilots and NASA engineers -- and others who have been around the block a few times when it comes to observing natural phenomena -- who have witnessed events for which there is no plausible conventional explanation.
I propose that true skepticism is called for today: neither the gullible acceptance of true belief nor the closed-minded rejection of the scoffer masquerading as the skeptic. One should be skeptical of both the believers and the scoffers. The negative claims of pseudo-skeptics who offer facile explanations must themselves be subject to criticism. If a competent witness reports having seen something tens of degrees of arc in size (as happens) and the scoffer -- who of course was not there -- offers Venus or a high altitude weather balloon as an explanation, the requirement of extraordinary proof for an extraordinary claim falls on the proffered negative claim as well. That kind of approach is also pseudo-science. Moreover just being a scientist confers neither necessary expertise nor sufficient knowledge. (I wish it did, sigh.) Any scientist who has not read a few serious books and articles presenting actual UFO evidence should out of intellectual honesty refrain from making scientific pronouncements. To look at the evidence and go away unconvinced is one thing. To not look at the evidence and be convinced against it nonetheless is another. That is not science. Do your homework!
"You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions."
- Naguib Mahfouz
Pseudoscience is defined as a body of knowledge, methodology, belief, or practice that is claimed to be scientific or made to appear scientific, but does not adhere to the scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, or otherwise lacks scientific status. The term comes from the Greek root pseudo- (false or pretending) and "science" (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge"). An early recorded use was in 1843 by French physiologist François Magendie, who is considered a pioneer in experimental physiology.
Beyond the initial introductory analyses offered in science classes, there is some epistemological disagreement about the extent to which it is possible to distinguish "science" from "pseudoscience" in a reliable and objective way. The term itself has negative connotations, because it is used to indicate that subjects so labeled are inaccurately or deceptively portrayed as science. Accordingly, those labeled as practicing or advocating a "pseudoscience" normally reject this classification.
Pseudosciences have been characterised by the use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims, over-reliance on confirmation rather than refutation, lack of openness to testing by other experts, and a lack of progress in theory development.
In astronomy, the geocentric model of the universe is the theory that the Earth is at the center of the universe and the Sun and other objects go around it. Belief in this system was common in ancient Greece. It was embraced by both Aristotle and Ptolemy, and most Greek philosophers assumed that the Sun, Moon, stars, and naked eye planets circle the Earth. Similar ideas were held in ancient China.
Although many early cosmologists such as Aristarchus speculated about the motion of the Earth around a stationary Sun, it was not until the 16th century that Copernicus presented a fully predictive mathematical model of a heliocentric system, which was later elaborated by Kepler and defended by Galileo, becoming the center of a major religious dispute.
Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and I Chronicles 16:30 state that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." Psalm 104:5 says, "[the Lord] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises."
Galileo defended heliocentrism, and claimed it was not contrary to those Scripture passages. He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history. The writers of the Scripture wrote from the perspective of the terrestrial world, and from that vantage point the sun does rise and set. In fact, it is the earth's rotation which gives the impression of the sun in motion across the sky.
Martin Luther once said:
"There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must . . . invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth."
I propose that true skepticism is called for today: neither the gullible acceptance of true belief nor the closed-minded rejection of the scoffer masquerading as the skeptic. One should be skeptical of both the believers and the scoffers.
If the claims of a given field can be experimentally tested and methodological standards are upheld, it is not "pseudoscience", however odd, astonishing, or counter-intuitive. If claims made are inconsistent with existing experimental results or established theory, but the methodology is sound, caution should be used; science consists of testing hypotheses which may turn out to be false. In such a case, the work may be better described as ideas that are not yet generally accepted.
Originally posted by InfaRedMan
You can place me firmly in the skeptical believer basket. I see it as a badge of honor. I would like to see a few changes to ATS T&C's to reflect this for the general health of the movements that dominate the forums.
When someone spouts, Aliens have a secret underground base underneath my house and I fight their UFO's with thought weapons, what is a rationally minded ATS member to say? C'mon! Honestly!
[edit on 25/3/08 by InfaRedMan]
Time travel? Teleportation? No problem, says renowned physicist Michio Kaku.
Kaku, a professor at the City University of New York, is creating quite a stir in Britain with the release of his new book, "The Physics of the Impossible."
On this side of the pond, outlandish claims in books are recognized as, well, a good way to sell books.
But in Blighty, Kaku's being treated as if he's Doctor Who informing dim-witted humans about the wonders of the Universe, with front-page treatment Wednesday in both the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. Even the normally staid Economist is chiming in.
Originally posted by brickhouse32
Zero point energy has already been thought of, didn't you see the movie, "The Incredibles". There is one thing to think up something and yet another to implement that theory into a practicle working model.
I propose that true skepticism is called for today: neither the gullible acceptance of true belief nor the closed-minded rejection of the scoffer masquerading as the skeptic.