Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Applying Critical Thinking to Ufology

I am pleased to inform readers I was recently welcomed by Examiner to contribute quality articles on ufology and the paranormal. I look forward to continuing my commitment to publishing credible information on often incredible subjects.

Such topics as reasoning skills, commonly held perspectives and accurately differentiating between fact and supposition were explored in my Examiner post, Applying critical thinking to ufology. An excerpt:

Maybe you consider yourself what has come to be known as an alien abductee, or maybe one night you awoke to find some kind of entity in the room. Maybe you just stepped out for a smoke one time and if you had not happened to glance right where you did at precisely the moment you looked, you would be reading something entirely different right now. One way or the other, there are plenty of people who say something paranormal is going on, and they have been saying so for a long time now.

A relevant question becomes whether or not competent reasoning can ever be applied to the often incredible dogma of the UFO community. Is ufology ready to apply critical thinking?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Examining the Tainted Well of UFO Land

Emily Glazer of The Wall Street Journal recently published an article, The Eyes Have It: Marketers Now Track Shoppers' Retinas. Ms. Glazer explained companies are using computers outfitted with retina-tracking cameras and equipped with images of product displays to more thoroughly understand consumer physical responses to marketing strategies. The data obtained is being used to develop product packaging and presentation more conducive to increasing sales.

Why don't consultants just ask shoppers what they look at and like? Because people often don't know and won't say. By and large we are poor and unreliable sources for accurate information.

It has been repeatedly and conclusively demonstrated people will misrepresent their actual thoughts and preferences – if they even remember them - in attempts to fulfill the perceived hopes and expectations of those asking the questions. Suffice it to say that unlike ufology, certain industries such as sales are focused on producing measurable results. In other words, they want to know the truth, not just what people tend to say.

Industries determined to increase their productivity therefore recognize the reality that many reasons account for why people say things other than the statements are accurate. Effective researcher/consultants subsequently adjust their data mining procedures accordingly and as explained by Ms. Glazer.

The UFO community would be well served to take notice, but don't count on any quick improvements. It's not as if we've never been warned witnesses are prone to being influenced by what they perceive researchers want to hear.

The Sky Is Falling

Meanwhile, the apparent popularity of the hit series Falling Skies follows in the footsteps of such productions as Close Encounters and V in further tainting the well of researchers and witnesses for years to come. I understand millions of viewers are regularly tuning in to 'Skies to enthusiastically enjoy a devastating alien invasion and its accompanying carnage and oppression.

Should we seriously think surveys would suggest anything other than people say they believe extraterrestrials are cruising our skies? What would we expect surveys to indicate?

It would actually be truly profound if the population was bombarded by decades of pro-ETH propaganda and did not succumb to the conditioning. That would be something newsworthy to ponder.

The Sky Is Still Falling

Speaking of being waist deep in propaganda... I've heard of Christmas in July, but all these spooks sounding off lately makes it feel like Halloween came early this year. One more time: I don't care what they say, if they don't present conclusive evidence along with their claims, I am not willing to accept them.

On a related note, there are several reasons why the professional research community does not identify witness testimony as particularly relevant or of equal value to other forms of evidence. One of those reasons is as explained above: people conclusively misrepresent what took place a lot of the time. This happens as a result of any number of very common occurrences.

Another reason is because there is often conflicting testimony, and an objective researcher cannot selectively accept certain testimony while disregarding other testimony ('objective' being the key word!). More specifically, conflicting testimonies somewhat cancel out one another, kind of like offsetting penalties in a football game, which puts the researcher back to relying on that which can be independently verified.

Tim Printy did a good job of bringing just such conflicting testimony to our attention surrounding the Roswell saga in his latest edition of SUNlite. You of course don't hear it from biased parties, but Mr. Printy conclusively demonstrated, among other points of interest, that some significant witnesses in the Roswell saga provided statements indicating they completely disagreed with those touting fantastic tales.

To try to make the point as clear as possible: Those who tend to cite witness testimony as reason to suggest aliens and their spacecraft were retrieved at Roswell have an obligation to accuracy to equally factor the conflicting testimony into the equation. I invite taking note of those who fail to do so.

The Publication Review Board

The Central Intelligence Agency has a Publication Review Board, or PRB, charged with reviewing material proposed for publication by current and former personnel, as well as certain other individuals. Material subject to approval includes books and oral presentations as documented in a handbook for reviewers that was approved for public release in 2008. Yes, that means 'tell all' books, lectures at UFO conventions, the ever popular whistle blower interviews and various other means of expression conducted by current and (allegedly) retired spooks actually consist entirely of info approved for your perusal.

To once again try to make a point as clear as possible: If we are hearing it from current or former Agency personnel, it is extremely likely it is approved for our ears. This seems like a good time to once again emphasize that I will not accept anything they say until they present conclusive evidence along with their claims.

Haven't any of those intel guys ever just busted out and said some things they weren't supposed to say, you ask? Yeah, they sure have, or at least it would appear so.

Former covert CIA operative
Valerie Plame Wilson and husband Joe Wilson.
One of the more notable circumstances occurred when I. Lewis Libby, Jr., former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, blew the cover of Valerie Plame Wilson, wife of an ambassador. Ms. Plame Wilson was an undercover CIA operative prior to being outed by Libby. He was convicted in 2007 of various charges stemming from the incident and President Bush subsequently commuted the prison sentence.

More recently, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was indicted in April on charges related to providing classified information to journalists. He is also accused of lying and misrepresenting his activities to the PRB, circumstances that at least appear to be taken seriously. 

The CIA since jumped out here and decided it was time to review the reviewers. In May an internal probe was launched focusing upon the activities of the PRB. The Board is suspected of censoring opinions that frame the Agency in negative contexts rather than limiting its influence to objectively editing classified information from proposed statements.

It seems they have their challenges sorting it all out. One way or another, I'd confidently say that with all this reviewing going on around Langley, it's pretty unlikely any personnel are sashaying up to podiums at UFO conventions or settling into C2C interviews to spill genuine company secrets.

Have I mentioned lately that I will not accept anything they say until they present conclusive evidence along with their claims?

My Views

I suppose every now and then bloggers should offer a bit of clarification concerning their specific perspectives about ufology. I choose to do so at this time in order to assist you in understanding where I am headed with this post.

I have been actively involved with the UFO community for some 20+ years to more and less extents. I am in my late 40's and my interest in Fortean phenomena goes back to childhood.

Like many of us, it seems apparent twists of fate resulted in my extents of interest and involvement. A few choices and incidents here and there forever altered the course of my life.

My subsequent involvement with the UFO community evolved through many capacities and points of view. My current overall perspective is the result of several aspects of my life, as is the case among all of us. My particular choices and resulting path included intentional efforts to learn more about self-improvement, the professional mental health community stances on related issues and practical scientific principles.

I also made intentional efforts to reasonably educate myself in additional areas that I strongly felt most people were failing to adequately take into account while developing their often non-negotiable beliefs. Such areas included the extreme yet rarely discussed relevance of emotional trauma and the significance of the global intelligence community. I attempted to balance such subject matter with my understandings of the many reported sightings, claims of self-described abductees and the vast range of controversial research methods increasingly permeating the field over the decades.

My resulting opinion is that there may indeed be some kind of yet to be more fully understood paranormal phenomena at the core of what became known as ufology. I could not conclusively say one way or the other.

That stated, I am nearly convinced there is virtually no reason whatsoever to even suppose, much less conclude, the phenomena commonly reported has anything at all to do with extraterrestrial visitors. I would go as far as to propose that public opinion of what became known as the UFO phenomenon would have evolved entirely differently – and we would hold much more accurate perspectives about it – had we not been subjected to the debilitating amount of conditioning that has been the case.

I suggest that if we had not been so deeply conditioned to believe in visiting aliens, we would have developed entirely different ideas about that which is being reported. Moreover, I suggest witnesses would commonly develop entirely different interpretations of what they suppose they observed.

Do you agree with those statements? If not, why not?

All of which might give rise to questions related to who is conducting the conditioning and why. Such questions, my fellow fateful UFO Land residents, are why I ever began researching the case of Leah Haley and eventually first contacted her in 2009.

Leah Haley

Early on in my series of posts on the Leah Haley Case I attempted to emphasize the relevance of her questionable treatment as a witness. I felt this was an important aspect of her story and I am of the opinion it should be relevant to virtually all interested parties, regardless of preferred perspectives about alleged alien abduction. I continue to feel that way.

Understandably, the general and prevailing lessons to be learned from Ms. Haley's saga are sometimes overlooked while considering various interesting details of her case. I therefore choose to bring this post to a close by combining the above food for thought with a summary of my interpretation of part of the relevance of Ms. Haley's hike along the UFO trail:

Leah Haley had memories of a childhood sighting involving multiple saucer-shaped objects in the sky, multiple witnesses and apparent short term amnesia. At the recommendation of Budd Hopkins, she contacted the Mutual UFO Network, a public nonprofit corporation dedicated to the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity, for assistance in further understanding her fragmented memories.

This resulted in developing a relationship with John Carpenter, then a social worker, mental health counselor and member of the MUFON board of directors. Mr. Carpenter conducted some 14 regressive hypnosis sessions with Ms. Haley, resulting in her developing beliefs she was regularly kidnapped by both alien and human beings.

Ms. Haley subsequently developed acquaintances with Lieutenant Colonel Donald Ware, USAF, Retired, and Colonel Robert Reid, USAF, Retired, both now former members of the MUFON board of directors. They escorted Ms. Haley on an expedition of Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola, allegedly in search of the location an alien craft was disabled and grounded by military forces and with her aboard – a tale that arose during the hypnosis sessions.

Yet another MUFON director, Lieutenant Commander Tom Deuley, US Navy, Retired, subsequently commented to The Tampa Tribune-Times on Leah Haley and her perspectives. Mr. Deuley proceeded to tell the 'Trib that he and MUFON were very embarrassed by such people and that he would advise applying some common sense to their testimonies, entirely failing to mention his fellow MUFON board members acted as consultants and guiding forces in her developing her beliefs in the first place.

Ms. Haley eventually decided e-damn-nough already, and started back at the beginning, piecing together her life and experiences while trying to accurately identify the differences between what she knew to be true and what she had been led to believe was true. All of this took place, you will please note (important phrase here), because she sought help with fragmented memories of a childhood event from a tax exempt organization purportedly conducting scientific research and, specifically, from one of the organization's directors who was a mental health counselor.

Here is another important phrase: Leah Haley's story is not particularly unique. It is not an entirely isolated incident by any means.

One more important phrase: The current ufology paradigm remains conducive to producing more Leah Haley-type scenarios.

Important question: What, specifically, are we doing about that?

Friday, July 6, 2012

God Particles for Dummies

Peter Higgs
Sure, I had heard of the Higgs boson - 'God particle' and all that. I had little idea what any of it actually meant, and I figured there were enough things to occupy my attention without taking up physics for fun.

I was under the assumption that if any real news ever broke, I would then give the situation a closer look. That might have been a pretty good strategy if it weren't for the case that when some news actually recently broke, I think most of the people writing about it don't know much more than I. Actually, I'm quite sure they don't.

I just happen to be willing to admit I have no idea what the holy hell a God particle might be unless I check with some reasonable sources and learn more. Those who join me in having no problem acknowledging they do not happen to be employed at a hadron collider but would like more of an understanding of the basics about the Higgs boson, read on.

The Terms

Let's demystify some of the terminology. Following are a few terms commonly tossed around with brief descriptions of their relevance:

Particle: A unit of matter below the size of an atom.

Hadron: A type of subatomic particle.

Large Hadron Collider: Commonly referred to as the LHC, it is the world's largest and strongest particle accelerator. That translates to meaning scientists expect to learn a whole lot about matter within the 17 miles of tunnel some 500+ feet beneath Switzerland where the LHC is located.

CERN: The European Organization for Nuclear Research, established in 1954, located in the suburbs of Geneva, Switzerland, near the French border and home to the Large Hadron Collider.

Peter Higgs: A British award winning theoretical physicist who was a key player in hypothesizing a model in 1964 that later became known as the Higgs field. Essentially, Higgs proposed a field exists that permeates space and gives all particles their mass that come in contact with it.

Boson: Any type of particle that obeys rules of Higgs-Einstein statistics. That is, for practical purposes of understanding, two particles in the same place at the same time.

The Story

CERN control centre
CERN scientists announced they discovered a new particle via the LHC. The characteristics of the particle, they explained, matched the Higgs boson.

Don't you feel more informed already, now that you better understand what those two previous sentences mean? I do!

Somewhat curiously, the announcement came on the Fourth of July and just two days after American scientists reported they were close to proving the existence of the celebrated and highly sought after particle. The Illinois scientists added they had achieved no definitive conclusions.

Peer review, further testing and verifications will of course be forthcoming from CERN and the scientific community. As a matter of fact, some experts suspect they may have landed an even more exotic version of the Higgs boson than was long suspected might exist. If anything is certain, it would be there is much, much more to the standard model than has yet been fully defined – but I guess everyone knew that already.

In lay terms, it would seem the 'God' analogy got worked into the mix due to the 'everywhere' nature of the hypothesized Higgs field combined with the potential influence of the Higgs boson. Some scientists even expressed disappointment such an analogy as the 'God particle' ever gained popularity, suggesting it was sensationalizing what should be the scientific process of further identifying subatomic particles and confirming their properties.

Basically and as I understand it, possibly identifying Higgs boson-like particles suggests there is indeed a Higgs field, in which all matter is afloat, for lack of a better term. It seems some physicists suggest certain particles may easily navigate the field, while other particles may be more restrained. Meanwhile, the Higgs boson comes along and intersects with the field, imparting mass to all the other particles. Let there be light.

So there ya have it. Now, as you go give all that deeper thought and further consider its implications, don't blow the doors off your hadron collider.