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
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
(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)