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The God(Alien) of the Gaps

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posted on Aug, 18 2010 @ 10:53 PM
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The Worship of Gaps



This is something that I’ve been noticing quite often on these boards, and I think it’s something well worth discussing.

“The God of the Gaps” is the title to a type of argument usually given by theologians and believers in religion, as a means to present evidence for God’s existence. I’m going to give an excerpt from Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ to sum it up:




… It appeals to the same faulty logic as ‘the God of the Gaps’ strategy condemned by the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it.

(The God Delusion)

What this means is, religious people delve into science to find bits of knowledge that are yet unproven, unknown, or undiscovered, and assign God as the cause of those pieces of mystery. A great little comic example is this image (which is also the avatar of ATSer Xtraeme, thanks for reminding me about this subject!):



This relates to Aliens and UFOs in an eerily similar manner. A prior thread I posted about terminology and the abuse of common community terms (Here) mentioned the mixup between the terms ‘UFO’ and ‘Aliens’, and how the two are nowadays used almost interchangeably (to their, and the science of UFOlogy’s, detriment). This is an example of using the Worship of Gaps within the UFO community, however, as it biases the use of ‘UFO’ toward the definitive identification of ‘Alien’, rather than its’ intended use of ‘unidentified’.

So often, it seems as though the very die-hard believers in alien visitation wish to keep any mystery a mystery, so they can define it as they will. Many times a picture or video will be posted that is so likely to be something innocuous (such as the myriad “object on the moon/mars” Google Earth photos) that it’s pointed out within one or two replies. However, the defensive nature of those die-hard believers kicks in and they out-and-out reject the most likely explanations. There is no relenting in their claims that the object is alien/secret government/robot/etc, unless it is agreeable to everyone for the object to remain a mystery, which is then used as evidence toward their stated claims, rather than being just the unknown object that it is.

This behavior is extremely detrimental to the true research and science behind the phenomenon of Alien Visitation and UFOlogy in general, as it clouds the truth and makes it so much more difficult to achieve.

What are your thoughts on this, and how can we start minimizing the impact of these problems?

Mod Edit: External Source Tags – Please Review This Link.

[edit on 8/19/2010 by semperfortis]




posted on Aug, 18 2010 @ 11:29 PM
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A great illustration of the "God-In-the-Gaps" fallacy as it relates to UFO studies occurs in many skeptically-themed threads and threads where a sighting or claim is debunked. Such threads will venture way off topic as some members attempt to defend the belief aliens are visiting the Earth by discussing other, unrelated cases. It is the ufological equivalent of spaghetti against the wall, a game of stump-the-skeptic. If anything sticks, the skeptic unable to explain the case satisfactorily to an unsatisfiable audience, it therefore assumed as evidence UFOs are piloted by aliens, an unknown known by virtue of its mystery.

[edit on 18-8-2010 by DoomsdayRex]



posted on Aug, 18 2010 @ 11:40 PM
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This is an insightful line of discussion, thank you for bringing it up.

It seems that the central feature of the "believer" side of many debates about the paranormal is an argument of exclusion or elimination. A case is made that certain observations allow us to rule out conventional explanations. Crop circles are so complex that we can rule out human creators, UFOs move in such a way that we can rule out conventional aircraft, ghosts have a spooky quality that allows us to rule out moths flying close to the camera and being out of focus, the "odds" of protocellular structures arising spontaneously are so low that we can rule out natural processes, ect. . .

Exclusive and eliminative arguments have their place, but in the realm of paranormal debate they are often misused. The situation is not that there is an exhaustive list of possible explanations and that once we rule out the conventional ones we are left with no choice but to believe in ETs because they are the only thing left on the list. All eliminative arguments only strengthen the position that a phenomenon cannot be explained; that we have an observation which we know was caused by something, and that something is a black box. Eliminative arguments - the God of gaps argument - only tell us what we cannot fill that box with, not what we have to fill that box with because nothing else fits.

Paranormal explanations are positive explanations; they are statements about what is, not statements about what is not. Where the believer arguments often fall short is in providing a positive argument for their explanation. If you want to propose a positive explanation, you have to show why that specific explanation is the case. This is not the same thing as showing why other explanations can't be true. The practice of treating negative arguments - arguments about what explanations are not correct - as positive arguments seems to be founded on the notion that if we rule out conventional explanations then whatever we can think of as the remaining possibility must be true by default. This is a mistake. The fact that one cannot image any other explanation except ETs does not mean that you have a case for ETs. Appealing to a lack of alternatives is not a positive argument. When the evidence only detracts from other arguments, the remaining arguments are still totally unsupported by anything except intuition; the intuition that there are no other possibilities except for whatever paranormal thing you choose to believe in.

I like to think about the crop circle debate as good example of the weakness of the eliminative/god of gaps argument. Even if we accept all of the strongest pro-believer evidence as true, and even if that evidence is strong enough to totally rule out humans, all that we are left with is something unexplained; a black box. Because the evidence is not positive in the sense that it does not prefer any theories - it only eliminates certain ones - that black box can be filled with all sorts of things. Based on the strongest crop circle evidence, the theories that they are made by god, or by aliens, or by the earth itself, or by wizards, or people from the future, are all equally good theories. None are prefered by the evidence that is offered. Yet a believer will tell you that once you rule out humans, ETs are the only option left. But, why not wizards? What evidence exists to prefer any paranormal theory over any other in this case? It seems to me that the answer is none, which is why the ET explanation of crop circles is so weak; it is no stronger than the wizard or time traveller theory.

The ancients saw UFOs and explained them as gods. Modern believers see UFOs and explain them as ETs. There is no evidence to prefer the ET explanation over the god explanation; there is only evidence to eliminate the Chinese latern theory or the helicopter theory.

The way to minimize the god of gaps argument is to remind the proponents of such arguments that they are trying to convince you of what is, not of what isn't. You can be an expert on which explanations can't be true without having the faintest idea of what is true. The list of possibilities is infinite. Scratching items off one at a time until you're left with nothing but little green men is an impossible task.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 12:02 AM
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reply to post by OnceReturned
 


An amazing and illuminating response. Thank you, OnceReturned. I kind of wish I could just repost your response as the OP!

Everyone read that whole text. It's well worth it.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 12:14 AM
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reply to post by DoomsdayRex
 



I don't assume they're alien to this planet. They may simply be entities that share this planet with us but live deep in the oceans or something.

If you don't think the flying saucers are piloted by "unknown entities" (where ever they may be from), who do you think is piloting them???



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 12:21 AM
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Originally posted by JPhish

If you don't think the flying saucers are piloted by "unknown entities" (where ever they may be from), who do you think is piloting them???



This is a perfect example for the reason I posted this thread. Unknown is unknown, including the "craft".

We don't know who is piloting, or if the things people see in the sky are indeed manufactured craft. But since we don't know, it's taken as a carte blanche ticket to re-write it.

Worship of the Gap, performed right in front of you.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 12:48 AM
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reply to post by EsSeeEye
 


When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable is the truth. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 12:49 AM
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reply to post by OnceReturned
 


Are there sightings of wizards on camera? Abduction stories by wizards? We conclude it's E.T not just due to any one particular event.

Seems like you're just arguing semantics. Basically, you're saying that once we've ruled out that humans have not made something, for example, crop circles, the most accurate conclusion is that they're made by non-humans, as opposed to E.Ts.

[edit on 19-8-2010 by np6888]



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 03:30 AM
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I see gaps many places, there is this lack of people's ability to focus continuously without the presence of a gap. I'll show you an example here so you'll see:

An object is doing something, this object can be a person or a belief or a bird or a potato it doesn't exactly depend so much on that. The object wishes to be doing something else. The nature of the outcome is unknown entirely to the object, so the object invents a method to where he can deduce the most likely outcome based on his logic. Be he a layman his logic can greatly be skewed, and be he a theologian his perspectives would be accompanied by the perplexities of his theology. These places in which this logic fashions it's conclusions to me is the best location for where these gaps transpire. And if we look inside most instance of these gaps we can see there is not a lot of substance. Ultimately the outcomes are never realized in these situations, as to the matter of UFOs unidentified seems more apropos at the moment. Alien is a stretch, based on what we know factually and governed by facts as our best tools of manipulating the clues we're given, we can't be so naive as to assume so much on so little.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 06:10 AM
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Originally posted by signoregregorio

...we can't be so naive as to assume so much on so little.


Oh yes we can. It's our forte! Silly mortals...

All I can say is you guys are really smart, and I'm really glad to have been able to see read this thread. It is refreshing and it is a testament to the real quality of ATS as a means of communication and sharing knowledge.

Good Job! Bullseye!!!

[edit on 19-8-2010 by DeltaChaos]



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 06:41 AM
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similar to




[edit on 19-8-2010 by pryingopen3rdeye]



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 07:03 AM
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reply to post by EsSeeEye
 


I am a UFO eyewitness ("believer"), and yet I don't "believe" in the ETH. The hypothesis I favor is the PPH.

The UFO phenomenon is real, and yet it is not due to the sort of 'nuts n' bolts' alien idea that Hollywood cashes in on.

So tell me where you see a gap here, so I can fill it in for you.

I have experienced veridical psi many times, therefore I am a "woo-woo" according to Randi and Dawkins fanboi pseudo-skeptics. There is solid evidence for psi, despite what Randi and Dawkins would have you "believe", and so if there is a gap in the PPH please point it out.

[edit on 19-8-2010 by Student X]



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 09:40 AM
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Originally posted by Student X
reply to post by EsSeeEye
 


So tell me where you see a gap here, so I can fill it in for you.



The "Gaps" are anywhere science hasn't officially explained, so concerning the ETH (and, let's be honest, the PPH as well), it's almost entirely a Gap. What I was mainly referring to was the problem of people inserting aliens into the Gap to explain them away, rather than using their logic and deduction skills, or considering that something is just unknown altogether.

As an example, pretend myself and an ETH believer are standing in a field, and we see an unknown object in the distance. It's too far to discern, but it's doing something unusual. They ask me my opinion on what it is, and I say truthfully that I don't know. Ah-hah! It must be aliens, then!

That's a very ragged example, but I think it actually is very close to a lot of what we see on these very boards.

I'm not citing specific examples of Gaps, because there are too many. What I'm pointing out is the fallacy of using them to define any evidence at all.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 09:55 AM
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Brilliant post, OnceReturned. I hope a mod gave you the applause this post deserves.


Originally posted by OnceReturned
All eliminative arguments only strengthen the position that a phenomenon cannot be explained; that we have an observation which we know was caused by something, and that something is a black box. Eliminative arguments - the God of gaps argument - only tell us what we cannot fill that box with, not what we have to fill that box with because nothing else fits.


All arguments, eliminative or not, depends on our knowledge of what defines the universe around us. Unsubstantiated claims aside, we have no definitive examples of an alien or alien craft, we do not know what defines them. Until we do, one cannot state with any certainty that any unexplained phenomenon is due to aliens.


Originally posted by OnceReturned
The fact that one cannot image any other explanation except ETs does not mean that you have a case for ETs. Appealing to a lack of alternatives is not a positive argument.


Carl Sagan wrote about this in his "Dragon in the Garage" parable in his Demon-Haunted World. The inability to disprove a hypothesis is not the same as proving it. However, this is often forgotten in UFO discussions. We see demands for skeptics to debunk a claim, without any attempt to explain it as alien, the virtue of it being unexplained mistaken as being enough. Or we will see games of stump the skeptic, as I described in my earlier post.


Originally posted by OnceReturned But, why not wizards?


Because of personal incredulity. Wizards and faeries are dismissed as impossible, though the evidence is just as strong for them as it is for aliens.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 09:57 AM
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Originally posted by np6888
Are there sightings of wizards on camera? Abduction stories by wizards? We conclude it's E.T not just due to any one particular event.


What defines an ET as opposed to a wizard?



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 11:08 AM
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Originally posted by EsSeeEye
This behavior is extremely detrimental to the true research and science behind the phenomenon of Alien Visitation and UFOlogy in general, as it clouds the truth and makes it so much more difficult to achieve.

What are your thoughts on this, and how can we start minimizing the impact of these problems?
I used to think that a fair and rational debate would have one side arguing for ET explanations and the other side arguing for more earthly explanations for UFOs, and whichever side had the strongest evidence and most persuasive arguments would be able to convince the other.

However I since ran across some research which casts doubt on this optimistic hope for a fair debate, and that is that confirmation bias affects believers in paranormal phenomena differently than it affects "skeptics":

Confirmation bias


One study showed how selective memory can maintain belief in extrasensory perception (ESP).[29] Believers and disbelievers were each shown descriptions of ESP experiments. Half of each group were told that the experimental results supported the existence of ESP, while the others were told they did not. In a subsequent test, subjects recalled the material accurately, apart from believers who had read the non-supportive evidence. This group remembered significantly less information and some of them incorrectly remembered the results as supporting ESP.

-from Russell, Dan; Warren H. Jones (1980), "When superstition fails: Reactions to disconfirmation of paranormal beliefs", Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Society for Personality and Social Psychology)

Given that lopsided effect of confirmation bias, the debates between skeptics and believers in paranormal phenomena are not really fair, two sided debates, as the paranormal believers have more of a tendency to discount evidence which contradicts their biased view, as that scientific research shows.

This is a problem, but I don't know what the solution is, other than to be aware of it and realize that it may be a lopsided debate.

But the most obvious answer is that if it's a UFO, the U stands for unidentified, so if we really can't identify it, then we can stop saying what it is (such as ET). Just because we have video of a craft that accelerates so fast it would kill a human pilot, doesn't mean the craft is piloted by a non-human pilot. Like this example:


(click to open player in new window)


Until it's identified, it's unidentified, it's that simple.



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 02:47 PM
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Originally posted by Arbitrageur

Until it's identified, it's unidentified, it's that simple.



In so many words. I can't express this sentiment in a more parallel way.

It's of unimportance to assume the nature of anything unless you yourself are actually aware of it's true nature, this of course is rarely ever the case. It is of more importance to deduce and figure out what is being objectified. Be it one, or the other this should not even be applied. Do these gaps create unnecessary turmoil in our social climate? Unsubstantial biases that dictate a course of angst or rebellion against a certain opposing personality?



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 05:23 PM
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Originally posted by EsSeeEye

Originally posted by Student X
reply to post by EsSeeEye
 


So tell me where you see a gap here, so I can fill it in for you.



The "Gaps" are anywhere science hasn't officially explained, so concerning the ETH (and, let's be honest, the PPH as well), it's almost entirely a Gap.


Holding out for "official" explanations reeks of an appeal to authority to me. If you were to dig deeper, you would see an overwhelming amount of evidence for parapsychology. "Official" recognition is retarded by taboo, not by a lack of solid evidence.

But, to those who need an authority like science or organized religion to hold their hand through life, I don't suppose my argument matters.

[edit on 19-8-2010 by Student X]



posted on Aug, 19 2010 @ 08:41 PM
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Originally posted by Student X
But, to those who need an authority like science or organized religion to hold their hand through life, I don't suppose my argument matters.

You are attacking a strawman. Although there are indeed people like that, I doubt any of the people who have disagreed with you in this thread are in that category.

Many people look at the UFO mystery through the lenses and standards of science not because they need ‘science to hold their hand,’ but for the exact opposite — because they think for themselves and want to know. Because it's their opinion that it is through scientific inquiry and testing that advances will be made and knowledge will be gained.

Your characterization that people who don't adhere to a certain theory are somehow less capable, haven't done the research or are dependent on some authority, is quite frankly arrogant. Particularly regarding a topic such as this one, where we have more questions than answers.



posted on Aug, 20 2010 @ 12:41 AM
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reply to post by EsSeeEye
 





What this means is, religious people delve into science to find bits of knowledge that are yet unproven, unknown, or undiscovered, and assign God as the cause of those pieces of mystery.


Well OP, I believe that the people who do as you just stated, do so because they refuse to acknowledge that God and Science are actually one in the same. I do not claim to be of any particular religion, but I do believe in both science and god. I also believe that since god created the universe he/she/it also created science. Also, by discovering more about the universe through science it brings us closer to god and those gaps that we can not answer could possible be the gaps that truly prove or disprove the existence of god. So, by automatically assigning god as the cause it keeps the mystery going and the truth hidden.



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