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Critical Thinking and the UFO Hypothesis I: Confusing the Issues

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posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:05 PM
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Critical Thinking and the UFO Hypothesis I: Confusing the Issues

After carefully scrutinizing the skeptical response to the UFO hypothesis for a number of years, both on this site and in the literature, I have come to the conclusion that such skeptical responses are not only woefully inadequate, but that their arguments exhibit an alarming number of logical fallacies, in addition to poor critical thinking skills in general.

In order to speak intelligently and have a meaningful discussion about any issue, you must first define your main concepts.

One problem is that newcomers to these fields are not clear on their definitions, and problems thus arise.

I will define the UFO Hypothesis as follows:

     The UFO Hypothesis: There exists a class of aerial objects exhibiting almost unbelievable            flight characteristics.

A similar but distinct issue exists regarding the presence of aliens on our planet. Let's refer to this as the Alien Hypothesis.

     The Alien Hypothesis: There exists on this planet an alien presence.

It should be clear the the UFO Hypothesis and the Alien Hypothesis are distinct. In other words, the existence of UFOs has nothing necessarily to do with the existence of aliens.

Skeptics will often deride any evidence put forth for the existence of UFOs by invoking the idea of aliens. The argument often goes something like:


(s1)

(1) If UFOs exist, then aliens exist.
(2) Aliens do not exist.
Therefore, UFOs do not exist.

(1) is a prime example of sloppy, uncritical thinking, where one combines two issues that are actually distinct. It is an attempt to capitalize on a cultural bias regarding the assumed fictitiousness of aliens.

Taken as a whole, (s1) is actually an example of an elementary logical fallacy known as a 'Straw Man Argument'. The error in such an argument arises from the fact that it actually (often grossly) mischaracterizes the position that they are arguing against. It twists the actual argument into a weaker argument in order to easily knock it down. (s1) characterizes the UFO Hypothesis as having to do with aliens, and uses the idea of aliens to argue against it, but of course the UFO Hypothesis has nothing to do with aliens.

This is not to say that it is impossible that aliens are piloting UFOs. What it means is that proving the existence of a certain class of aerial objects can be done without any recourse to the idea of aliens.

When people make arguments such as (s1), they will often speak derisively of "little green men" in conjuntion with UFOs. Now you know that whenever you hear that, that they are committing a fundamental logical fallacy (a Straw Man Argument)! In fact, they are in all likelihood committing this fallacy even if they mention aliens or ETs when talking about the existence of UFOs.

So, as you are reading through different threads, and people are debating the existence of UFOs, be on the look-out for people who try to deride the argument by mentioning aliens or ETs. You'd be surprised (or maybe not) how often people make this fundamental error.

You can also see this tactic as a kind of 'Guilt by Association' argument - they will group together a separate phenomenon with that of UFOs, and claim that because this other phenomenon is implausible, that the existence of UFOs is implausible too.

I'd like this thread to focus on examples of these kinds of logical fallacies - examples of the Straw Man Argument or Guilt by Association that you've encountered. I think it's a good exercise in getting people to think critically about this issue.

edit on 31-7-2012 by Brighter because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:24 PM
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reply to post by Brighter
 


UFO's and ET are connected by the very people who believe in UFO's. and run websites on the subject.Here are examples:-

www.ufoevidence.org...

www.alien-ufos.com...

I think you need to get your own shop in order.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:42 PM
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You need to provide the view from the other side of the fence. Right now you are focusing on only skeptics of UFOs.

There is a very good flip side to this and it is based on the exact same argument that you are using about skeptics, and it applies to believers equally as well.

If you have been reading these boards for a long time, you'll find that many believers do equate UFOs with Aliens in a automatic way:

1) The universe is so vast, alien life must exist.
2) Because alien life must exist, some of it must be vastly intelligent alien life.
3) Because there must exist vastly intelligent alien life, they must be visiting our planet.
4) Therefore: all UFOs must be alien life.

I've seen many a debate in these very forums where believers will insist something is a UFO but are are using the term as "Alien Piloted Craft". When a skeptic who thinks that a photo or video is not actually a UFO, the "strawman" argument will be pulled out by the believer.

To clarify the above paragraph, if evidence is presented such as a photo or video where the object in question is not very clear, but may have possible mundane answers (blurred birds, lens flares, air craft, shooting star, etc), but is not definitive, a skeptic can agree that it is a "UFO" because it is NOT identified firmly, so is still "Unidentified". However, many believers will quickly say: "Because it is 'Unidentified' it MUST be aliens."

Even suggestions of other possible answers that are fringe such as, secret military craft, time travelers, dimensional travelers, in many cases will be quickly dismissed by believers with a single answer:

"No, because the simplest answer is that it MUST be aliens, because the universe is so vast, and must have advanced alien life out there. QED: UFOs are Aliens."

So while I respect your suggestions about how some skeptics can be this way, please keep in mind that there are plenty of believers that will use this argument too, and will equate the term UFO with Aliens every time.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:49 PM
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Originally posted by alldaylong
reply to post by Brighter
 


UFO's and ET are connected by the very people who believe in UFO's. and run websites on the subject.Here are examples:-

www.ufoevidence.org...

www.alien-ufos.com...

I think you need to get your own shop in order.




It sounds as though you haven't actually read my original post, or at least didn't fully grasp its implications.

One of the main points to get from the original post is that the UFO Hypothesis and the Alien Hypothesis are two distinct issues. The fact that someone (whether proponent or skeptic) combines the two has no bearing whatsoever on the fact that, in order to think clearly about the subject, one must treat them as separate.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:54 PM
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A fairly elementary point suitable for UFO 101. Hundreds of people have made the same point for years on this site, albeit with fewer words. Indeed, one could claim your entire post is a straw man argument in itself. You have to claim skeptics assume aliens before you can make your argument. That's an assumption and you provide no evidence, no examples to support your case.

In fact, I can't say I know of anyone who has used this convoluted logic to debunk UFOs. There are plenty of skeptics who will say, "That's not a UFO." and suggest alternatives. In that kind of assertion, aliens aren't even brought up. And plenty of people must point out that "UFOs don't imply aliens," rather the opposite of your assertion. In other words, there may be UFOs that have nothing to do with aliens. That's a perfectly reasonable assertion without discounting the possibility that UFOs MIGHT be associated with aliens.

Your argument doesn't have much merit at this stage. I think you need to examine what it is you are trying to claim here.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 03:54 PM
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I knew this thread would be yours


Gonna linksy this one because I loved your two well written posts:

www.abovetopsecret.com...

I actually think if the said object really is Unidentified, that classes as "alien* of some sort anayway.

It doednt actumatically mean little green men, I know this as all three daylight sighting I've had are clearly unmanned vechical/probes.

So as to what intelligence they were under still still open for debate.

I think you'll find because this thread subject requires thought, and lacks pretty picures, it may go largely unnoticed.

I've noticed on ATS serious alternative views on the alien matter go undiscussed, maybe people don't like to face the actual reality of the matter?



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:00 PM
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reply to post by Brighter
 


People take an interest in UFO's for one reason and one reason only. They think they are from "Outer Space" If they thought they where "Man Made" the interest would not be there in the subject. It would be in fact quite boring (Unless you where a Plane Spotter)
The reason i have no interest in the subject is because i believe that everything that flies in our skies is man made.((Unless it's a meteor)



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:11 PM
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Then there are the 'all UFO's are shape-shifting demons' brigade.

The 'evidence' provided is ...er


They are just as bad if you ask me.

I used to love the topic of UFO, it totally opened my mind to a million possibilities and that was fun and exciting. It doesn't mean I 'believe' they are this or that but just knowing that the phenomena exists is really cool, even when it turns out to be an unexplained natural occurrence!

Yes the implications are astounding if they are other beings of whatever description but for crying out loud they are not all flipping demons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I don't believe in anything but possibility, is it possible that there are some demons?....sure why not? One man's demon is another man's cat! Demon drink speed demon.... the dogma in this arena bugs me, honestly!

Sorry for the rant OP I S+F flagged as you make excellent points, hope that makes up for me rant

edit on 31-7-2012 by Threegirls because: To add point



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:12 PM
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OP - if UFOs and aliens are not related, how did the aliens get here?

Also I'm curious, do you believe that aliens visit the Earth? I think knowing the answer to this is important in determining your credibility in regards to the argument presented.

Thanks!


And no offense, Sinny, but I love when people have a blurred image of something and use phrases like "it's CLEARLY _______." There's nothing CLEAR about it. It's a blurry image of who knows what.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:13 PM
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reply to post by Brighter
 
I agree with your distinction, but not many can grasp it.

In simple terms...UFO sightings and reports exist and some people will add their own layers of meaning to them - or to the people reporting them.

The existence of the sightings and reports can be used to speculate about human nature, science and/or alien life-forms/technology. For example, we've got Hessdalen-style UFOs, ball-lightning and unusual radar paints. This means that UFO can represent examples of multiple phenomena. As you point out, folk will try and limit the possible outcomes according to their perspectives.

Still, at the heart of some UFO sightings and reports are stimuli that don't conform to patterns recognisable by witnesses or radar technology. At least some of the UFO reports could become a signal to inspire scientific endeavour if they aren't drowned out by the turf-wars of self-professed skeptics and self-professed believers.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:13 PM
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reply to post by TinkerHaus
 


And again someone who is not objective... like me. If you want to be objective you should say - yes based on the information aliens existing and some cases being related to them is not excludable but saying 'How did aliens get here?' that's like you know for a fact that aliens got here, which is wrong.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:23 PM
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reply to post by Brighter
 


Glad to see you've made it to your first thread! Please keep them coming, regardless of the response. I think you will find that the majority of respondants here will fail to grasp the point you're making in your OP (as some of the posts already indicate), but as I've mentioned to you before, there are a handful of literate people on this site who will welcome your clear thinking with open arms.
edit on 31-7-2012 by Orkojoker because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 04:32 PM
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reply to post by schuyler
 
I don't disagree with your points, but in my experience I've seen a few arguments that refuse to accept a UFO sighting report as 'unidentified' because they perceive the extension of the unexplained as 'aliens.'

At the same time, what you call 'ufology 101' is somewhere we all have to start. I know you've been around the subject for a long time and many of your posts here and elsewhere have been erudite and thought-provoking. Once upon a time you couldn't tell your Keyhoe from your elbow. Maybe you even got into the subject because of your own imaginings of aliens rather than nocturnal lights?

This isn't a personal criticism...I was hook-line-sinker for Berlitz' Bermuda Triangle in my teens, Believed it all for a short while. In that way, don't we all need a little 'ufology 101' before we get to grips with a subject that we'll never actually get to grips with?



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 05:18 PM
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Originally posted by eriktheawful
You need to provide the view from the other side of the fence. Right now you are focusing on only skeptics of UFOs.

There is a very good flip side to this and it is based on the exact same argument that you are using about skeptics, and it applies to believers equally as well.

If you have been reading these boards for a long time, you'll find that many believers do equate UFOs with Aliens in a automatic way:

1) The universe is so vast, alien life must exist.
2) Because alien life must exist, some of it must be vastly intelligent alien life.
3) Because there must exist vastly intelligent alien life, they must be visiting our planet.
4) Therefore: all UFOs must be alien life.

I've seen many a debate in these very forums where believers will insist something is a UFO but are are using the term as "Alien Piloted Craft". When a skeptic who thinks that a photo or video is not actually a UFO, the "strawman" argument will be pulled out by the believer.

To clarify the above paragraph, if evidence is presented such as a photo or video where the object in question is not very clear, but may have possible mundane answers (blurred birds, lens flares, air craft, shooting star, etc), but is not definitive, a skeptic can agree that it is a "UFO" because it is NOT identified firmly, so is still "Unidentified". However, many believers will quickly say: "Because it is 'Unidentified' it MUST be aliens."

Even suggestions of other possible answers that are fringe such as, secret military craft, time travelers, dimensional travelers, in many cases will be quickly dismissed by believers with a single answer:

"No, because the simplest answer is that it MUST be aliens, because the universe is so vast, and must have advanced alien life out there. QED: UFOs are Aliens."

So while I respect your suggestions about how some skeptics can be this way, please keep in mind that there are plenty of believers that will use this argument too, and will equate the term UFO with Aliens every time.


Thanks for your thoughtful response.

One of the main reasons that I focused on the confusion of the UFO and Alien Hypotheses often made in off-hand remarks from the skeptic, is that this is often sufficient to turn people off to any further exploration of the subject.

I certainly agree that there is another side to the story - that many of the proponents of the UFO Hypothesis use some very silly arguments. It is my hope that, in being able to recognize certain logical fallacies, that people will be able to weed out both the poor skeptical and poor proponent arguments, in order to eventually arrive at the best arguments from both sides. This is where the real progress is made.

Unfortunately, when looking only at what I have found to be the best arguments of the proponents and the best counter-arguments of the skeptics, there is a great divide in the number of logical fallacies committed. The skeptics, even at that level, consistently commit some truly egregious errors in logic, especially having to do with evidence. This is the perspective I am writing from, after having assessed the arguments from both sides for many years, and is another reason that I focused solely on the errors of the skeptic in my post, as my conclusion is that UFOs are real.

But the (updated) main point is: The UFO Hypothesis does not have anything necessarily to do with the Alien Hypothesis. As a result, be careful of introducing the idea of aliens when arguing for or against the UFO Hypothesis.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 05:27 PM
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Originally posted by Kandinsky
This isn't a personal criticism...I was hook-line-sinker for Berlitz' Bermuda Triangle in my teens, Believed it all for a short while. In that way, don't we all need a little 'ufology 101' before we get to grips with a subject that we'll never actually get to grips with?


Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. But if I were just starting out I wouldn't go to a graduate school and start lecturing the PhD candidates on elementary logic. His argument is that people say this:

If someone says "A" exists, then it must be associated with "B" but since "B" doesn't exist, neither does "A".

OP then says this is illogical. I completely agree. And I agree completely with OP that "A" and "B" are completely separate issues. I'm 100% behind that idea as well. To your point you don't have to have any experience at all with the UFO field to see this. It's simply a matter of logic.

My problem here is that I don't see people making the argument he says they make. I've never heard someone be so convoluted. I've certainly heard people say,

"I saw a UFO, therefore there must be aliens." which I see as illogical. And I often hear people say,
"It's a big universe, therefore aliens must exist!" which is pedantic to the point of facepalm.

But I've never heard anyone say,

"Aliens don't exist therefore there are no UFOs." Never heard it. And that's the thrust of the OP's argument, the very definition of a straw man argument: Make up something with no evidence that is easy to slap down.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 06:13 PM
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Originally posted by schuyler
A fairly elementary point suitable for UFO 101. Hundreds of people have made the same point for years on this site, albeit with fewer words. Indeed, one could claim your entire post is a straw man argument in itself. You have to claim skeptics assume aliens before you can make your argument. That's an assumption and you provide no evidence, no examples to support your case.

In fact, I can't say I know of anyone who has used this convoluted logic to debunk UFOs. There are plenty of skeptics who will say, "That's not a UFO." and suggest alternatives. In that kind of assertion, aliens aren't even brought up. And plenty of people must point out that "UFOs don't imply aliens," rather the opposite of your assertion. In other words, there may be UFOs that have nothing to do with aliens. That's a perfectly reasonable assertion without discounting the possibility that UFOs MIGHT be associated with aliens.

Your argument doesn't have much merit at this stage. I think you need to examine what it is you are trying to claim here.


"A fairly elementary point suitable for UFO 101. Hundreds of people have made the same point for years on this site, albeit with fewer words."

A fairly cursory glance at the discussions on this board would indicate that the point absolutely needs to be made again, and made again in the form of an actual thread.

"Indeed, one could claim your entire post is a straw man argument in itself. You have to claim skeptics assume aliens before you can make your argument."

Are you seriously claiming that skeptics don't on occasion belittle the UFO Hypothesis by referencing aliens? If you haven't seen that, then I have to assume that our relative exposures to this topic are worlds apart indeed.

"In fact, I can't say I know of anyone who has used this convoluted logic to debunk UFOs."

See my comment above. But it sounds like you are misunderstanding (s1). I assumed it would be clear, but I did not intend to say that skeptics actually spell out, premise by premise, an argument such as (s1). It was intended to be the subconscious reasoning that is going on 'behind the scenes' when someone derides the UFO Hypothesis because it has to do with aliens.

"There are plenty of skeptics who will say, "That's not a UFO." and suggest alternatives. In that kind of assertion, aliens aren't even brought up."

I never claimed that all skeptics only construct arguments that involve aliens. If I did, could you please point out where in my post this was stated?

"And plenty of people must point out that "UFOs don't imply aliens," rather the opposite of your assertion. In other words, there may be UFOs that have nothing to do with aliens. That's a perfectly reasonable assertion without discounting the possibility that UFOs MIGHT be associated with aliens."

I'm not trying to sound rude, but did you actually read my post? Because that's exactly what I was saying.

"Your argument doesn't have much merit at this stage. I think you need to examine what it is you are trying to claim here."

Sadly, I think the problem is just the opposite. I think you need to take the time to grasp the main points of my post. Please do so before responding to this thread, so we don't have to hold up the discussion like this.

edit on 31-7-2012 by Brighter because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 06:47 PM
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Originally posted by schuyler
My problem here is that I don't see people making the argument he says they make. I've never heard someone be so convoluted. I've certainly heard people say,

"I saw a UFO, therefore there must be aliens." which I see as illogical. And I often hear people say,
"It's a big universe, therefore aliens must exist!" which is pedantic to the point of facepalm.

But I've never heard anyone say,

"Aliens don't exist therefore there are no UFOs." Never heard it. And that's the thrust of the OP's argument, the very definition of a straw man argument: Make up something with no evidence that is easy to slap down.


I addressed this in my last post. Again, I thought it would be clear that I am not saying that skeptics make an argument like (s1), premise by premise. It is meant to represent the underlying thought-process of someone who thinks something along the lines of: "That UFO stuff is ridiculous. Aliens obviously don't exist!"

But even if a skeptic did make that argument (s1), it's far from a Straw Man Argument, as you say. Actually, (s1) is a structurally valid argument (by modus tollens on 1 and 2), so it's not obvious that there is anything wrong with this argument. The problem is with its soundness. And the only way to see that it is unsound is to realize that the concepts of aliens and UFOs are not necessarily connected.

And even if (s1) was a Straw Man Argument, my point would still stand, as it's not dependent on its validity or soundness, as long as it's not both valid and sound. The point of course being that (s1) is in some way erroneous. And it is erroneous in an important way - it assumes a necessary connection between UFOs and aliens, where none exists.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 06:53 PM
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It really is frustrating how people seem to think the only choices are aliens or the mundane.

'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 07:05 PM
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Originally posted by Orkojoker
reply to post by Brighter
 


Glad to see you've made it to your first thread! Please keep them coming, regardless of the response. I think you will find that the majority of respondants here will fail to grasp the point you're making in your OP (as some of the posts already indicate), but as I've mentioned to you before, there are a handful of literate people on this site who will welcome your clear thinking with open arms.
edit on 31-7-2012 by Orkojoker because: (no reason given)


Hey Orkojoker, thanks for your message. I hope it will encourage more clear thinking from both the skeptics and the UFO proponents alike. The whole UFO topic is actually a great way to test out your critical thinking skills, as it seems like everyone has an opinion, and each of those opinions has an underlying argument. Whether or not that argument is valid and sound is another matter.

Actually, I would strongly encourage anyone reading this who hasn't already done so, to take a college-level course in critical thinking. Most colleges have two related undergraduate courses - critical thinking and symbolic logic. You should start with critical thinking and then move on to symbolic logic. If you wanted to save money, you could even simply buy the textbook and work through it on your own.



posted on Jul, 31 2012 @ 07:12 PM
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Very wise! I've skipped to the reply. Replies were mind-numbing. My question would be that what you say, seems to imply that even when you are happy in the knowledge of inexplicable movement of aerial phenomena, and when you are initially making judgements on its origin, and of course the first and most likely 'thought' would be aliens - yet that coming to terms and ideology behind the UFO still leads you to make "straw man" mistakes? It can take a while to learn new views, like organic origin, inter-dimensional, everything else... I agree with what you say, just need a bit more clarity on the acceptance side. It's clear what you're saying about those that show fundamental problems even in non-acceptance. Meh, does that make sense?

In all fairness, a forum is needed where there is no "doubt" of the existence of UFO's (not aliens). At least with that one notion abolished real critical thinking can begin.
edit on 31-7-2012 by markymint because: (no reason given)



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