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Monday, September 7, 2020

Who asked Science?



Lately, #UFOTwitter has been abuzz with talk about proving the existence of UFOs.  Not that this is a new topic but I have been thinking about the standard that is applied to this proof.  That is not new either, as it were.  It seems like the Academic Standard of using Scientific Method has failed to categorically demonstrate we are being visited by people from other planets.  With all the thousands of eye witness accounts it makes me wonder why we continue to adhere to a failed standard.

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, is the definition of insanity.  There has to be another way!  Eye witness accounts are used all the time in a court of law.  Perhaps we need to apply legal standards to UFOlogy rather than academic standards.

I am no more an expert on law than I am on physics.  But I know people who practice one or the other on a professional basis.  For this article I employed the assistance of a good friend my long-time readers know as "Captain Awesome".  I will not use his real name because I do not want to jeopardize his career by being linked to a UFO blog - not that that should matter, but reality is what it is.  

In case you missed my previous references to C.A. he lives here in my town, we have a lot of mutual friends and interests, and we ski together a lot with other friends and with the rest of our families.  What I have not mentioned is that by day, Captain Awesome is a mild-mannered corporate attorney.  He started his career as a lawyer for the ATF and is currently an in-house legal counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.  The guy has major credibility when it comes to the law.  He also is comfortable openly discussing UFOlogy with me.  How awesome is that!


Why doesn't Science care about UFOs?


If you have been following this blog for a while you will recognize this topic, somewhat.  I have discussed it directly and tangentially several times.  But it has come up again recently on social media so I thought I should address it from a different angle.  Science does not care about aliens - generally speaking, those in Academia who study, "Little Green Men" are derided the same as those who report UFOs in the military.

To be clear, there are many credible scientist who are looking for life on other planets.  There is the NASA Astrobiology team, hard at work, looking for microbial life or any signs of prior life, on Mars and elsewhere.  They are doing important work and I am behind them 100%.  Then there are the folks at the University of Nottingham who wrote a paper on alien civilizations, recently.  They believe there may be as many as 36 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.  Really?  Only 36?  I am leaning more towards 3600 but that is just a logical conclusion, with no basis in empirical evidence.  Which is it, 36 or 3600?  Why not 36,000?  Who knows!  It just seems like, with the quantity of UFO visits, both verifiable and anecdotal, there must be a lot of people out there in the Cosmos coming to check us out.  

Here is an analogy.  When the Quarantine began, suddenly there were bear sightings all over my town.  I am guessing this was due to a combination of people and cars staying put which gave the bears more freedom and less fear to venture out in public - this plus maybe some of the bears were there all along but everyone was too busy staring at their phones to notice or they were out at work/school and were not around as much.  The bears did not just suddenly appear out of nowhere.  Am I to believe it is the same bear that is being seen all over town?  If a bear is sighted on one end of town on Monday and ten miles away on Tuesday are there just two bears?  Is my town the only town with bears in Connecticut?  No, no, and no.  

There must be dozens, if not hundreds of bears in the area.  It just makes sense.  Same thing with UFOs.  It is not the same guys visiting us over and over, all over the world, year after year, in different shaped aircraft.  And those are just the ones visiting us.  Should I believe that every UFO in existence comes to Earth?  What about all the alien spaceships that do not visit us, they stay in their solar system or visit other planets?  Earth cannot be the only planet they visit.  That would be as arrogant a belief as believing humans are alone in the Universe.  Still, back to my initial point, bravo to Nottingham U and their courage to explore the subject.  Also, long live Robin Hood!  (Sorry, I could not resist.)

Back on track - empirical evidence is an issue for me.  It is personal.  I am an eye-witness to proof of alien life.  I saw a spaceship, up close.  No further proof is needed as far as I am concerned.  But this is not enough for Science.  Science relies on the Scientific Method.  The Scientific Method relies on empirical evidence.  Empirical evidence is information acquired by observation and experimentation.  Experimentation implies multiple experiments which means the results must be repeatable.  In order for the results of my observation to be repeatable it would need observed data that is measured.  In other words, the ship I saw would have to have returned multiple times and been observed by multiple authorities who could then perform their own analysis and have their findings peer reviewed.

I am exhausted just writing that previous paragraph.  Imagine going through the process of trying to actually perform these experiments and write up the resulting conclusions!  It is too much for most people to endeavor and perhaps even impossible due to the unpredictability of the next UFO sighting.  There has to be another way.

Why doesn't science care about UFOs?

As much as IFL science, perhaps in this case, Science has it all wrong.  Indeed, the Scientific Method is the perfect process for, let us say, creating a vaccine for the Coronavirus.  I would not want to inject myself with household cleaners or ingest something like hydroxychloroquine, for example, based on one knucklehead's recommendation or even one scientist's test results.  This could cause long-term health consequences including death, or at the very least, make one extremely sick.  It could have no effect on the virus and then cause the recipient of the treatment to prematurely stop wearing a mask and expose themselves and others to the virus.  I am 100% on board with the Scientific Method in this case but not for proving life on other planets.


A Preponderance of Evidence for UFOs


A better way may be to follow the path of the legal system.  How about using a "preponderance of evidence?"  This is a standard by which one only needs to prove more than a 51% likelihood that the claim is true.  I like those odds.  I would bet those odds in Vegas.  I have bet on the Buffalo Bills to win the Superbowl, for 30 years!  I would definitely take 51% odds when it comes to aliens.

In court, people have been sentenced to death or life in prison by a preponderance of evidence.  Captain Awesome agrees with the point of both linked articles that this is not the way it is supposed to work.  Any loss of liberty including death and incarceration needs to be Beyond Reasonable Doubt, 99% likely.  The Preponderance of Evidence standard is typically used in civil matters, like when someone sues McDonald's for making their coffee hot.  Still, the Scientific Method is more rigorous than even Beyond Reasonable Doubt.  By what arcane logic is the standard for proving life greater than the standard for imposing death?

Using a preponderance of evidence, one might say few aircraft can fly without wings.  NASA had a test craft in 1963 dubbed "The Flying Bathtub" but that never made it into production.  The B2 Bomber has wings but looks like it does not.  It was around in 1992 when my sighting occurred.  But I was in Canada.  Why would the B2 be flying over a Canadian Army base?  At 11:20pm?  Less than 100 feet off the ground?  At 1 mile per hour?  Since the ship I saw had no wings, odds are it was not an airplane.  There is a preponderance of evidence against it having being an airplane.

Eye Witness Accounts of UFOs
The Flying Bathtub

Using a preponderance of evidence, one might say helicopters can hover in one place and travel one mile per hour.  All helicopters make a lot of noise and cause a down draft.  The ship I saw was silent and did not make the trees move.  Helicopters also have a giant, spinning rotor on top.  The ship I saw had no rotor or any other visible means of suspension or propulsion.  Odds are, it was not a helicopter.  There is more than a preponderance of evidence against it having been a helicopter - maybe not Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, for some people, but certainly a Preponderance of Evidence.

Hang-gliders are silent.  An ultralight with the engine off is also silent.  Both can fly low.  Both fall to the ground without lift.  Both are less than 10 feet long.  The ship I saw was well over 100 feet long.  Also, it was an alien spaceship - I was a "trained observer" and simply have no doubt.

You see where I am going with this.  Add up all the features that The Marceau Ship, as I call it  * word *  had or was missing and odds are the ship was nothing that was produced on Earth.  If it is extremely unlikely that it was produced on Earth, a preponderance of evidence leads to one primary conclusion: it was an alien spaceship.

But wait, you say.  You cannot always rely on statistics.  In the article When Does Evidence Suffice for Conviction, author Martin Smith uses the example that a guy named "Joe" is seen outside a store with a TV in his hands.  He did not have a receipt.  The store had 100 TVs.  One was purchased and the other 99 stolen by rioters.  Statistically, there is a 99% chance Joe stole the TV.  In theory, this satisfies the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt requirement for criminal cases.  But that stat, in itself, is not enough to convict him.  However, Joe was seen leaving the store with the TV.


Eye Witness Accounts of UFOs


I watched My Cousin Vinny with my kids the other day.  Mrs. M. and I thought it was one of those classics that they should see.  Maybe that is what is on my mind as I write this.  It is great the way Vinny handles the witnesses during the trial.

In the example above, someone saw "Joe" leaving the store with a TV.  This is called "circumstantial evidence" and may not be enough to convict Joe.  But it is a factor.  If that eye-witness also saw Joe stepping through a shattered window, with the TV, instead of exiting through the door, this eye-witness testimony would suffice to convict Joe, according to Smith.  Captain Awesome counter-argues this is just more compelling circumstantial evidence and not enough to convict Joe.  It depends on the jury, though, and on the effectiveness of each lawyer.  

Smith argues this logic gets messy when you factor in the possibilities that the witness could have lied.  Maybe he has a grudge with Joe.  Or maybe Joe did not step through the window but he looks very similar to someone who did.  Maybe, like in My Cousin Vinny, the witness was not wearing their glasses.  Maybe the witness is not very technical and thought Joe had a TV but it was really a computer monitor - similar but not the same.  Maybe the witness is a pathological liar or just wants to see what would happen if he testified against Joe - this is the least likely fallacy.  It happens but is quite rare.  All this goes to the idea of credibility of the eye witness, according to C.A.  He says, the more credible they are the better piece of circumstantial evidence.

Smith concludes that despite the fallibility of the eye-witness testimony and the certainty of the statistics, eye-witness testimony holds more weight in court than the 99% standard, at least in this case.  Given the data above, Joe is more likely to be convicted on the eye-witness account than on the statistical evidence.

Let us now apply this measurement to UFO sightings.  Given the example of Joe and the TV, it is easy to see why eye-witness testimony is so important in court.  Should we not elevate UFO sightings to the same position?  What could possibly go wrong?

Just like in court, a witness may have a grudge.  OK.  What grudge would any UFO witness have to settle in reporting a UFO?  I am doing a tremendous amount of self-reflection as I write this, stretching to imagine who would be hurt by reporting this but cannot come up with a good answer.  Maybe someone wants to waste tax-payer dollars?  Probably not - that money comes out of our own pockets.  Maybe they resent having joined the military and want to get back at Uncle Sam, somehow?  I am sure, like me, everyone has had a moment during Basic Training / Boot Camp where they asked themselves, "Why did I do this?"  But once initial entry training has been completed, the vast majority of us serve with pride - fewer than 3% of veterans receive an "Other than Honorable" discharge from the military.  The same could be said of other non-military witnesses.  Who are they trying to hurt by reporting what they saw?  The Grudge Test fails.

Like in court, a witness may have difficulty seeing the subject of the testimony.  This one can be true for a lot of UFO sightings.  Often times, the ship is far away and appears tiny.  Or it is dark out and all that can be seen is a light, or series of lights, that move in an unusual way.  But not all sightings are of this nature.  Certainly, mine was up close (less that 100 yards/meters) and the moon was so bright it was like daytime.  I was myopic, at the time, but wore contact lenses which improved my sight to about 20/20.  C.A. says these details speak to credibility.

Maybe the witness to Joe's supposed crime had an issue with distinguishing him from one of the rioters.  Similarly, not every UFO witness is trained to identify different types of aircraft, "All those airplanes look the same to me," they may say.  This is why many (if not all) of the witnesses on Unidentified were chosen for the show.  We are what is called, "Trained Observers."

The first time I heard the term "Trained Observer" was when Lue Elizondo used it to describe me, in our first phone conversation.  I immediately figured out what it meant and agreed with him.  The reason why is because Army soldiers (at least in the early 1990's) were trained to identify friend or foe aircraft, so we would know which ones to shoot down or hide from and which ones we could flag down for help.


A Preponderance of Evidence for UFOs
Captain Awesome

So, in a case like mine (and so many others) if we are going to go with a Legal Standard over an Academic Standard, which one should we use, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, or Preponderance of Evidence?

C.A. concludes, "You could just use the Legal Standard and say, 'Hey, this isn't a crime.'  So you should use a standard for when something isn't a crime like... $400 million class action cases that are using a Preponderance of Evidence and that's not to be taken lightly.  That's got a huge business and financial impact so obviously it's a reasonable standard to use."


How much Circumstantial Evidence is needed to Prove UFOs are Real?


Captain Awesome and I discussed this question at length, over the phone yesterday morning.  He said certainly there are cases based on circumstantial evidence where say, "Someone wins a civil suit for $90 million... there has to be something there, if that's what the courts are using."

C.A. went out and sat down on his patio to continue the conversation.  It was a "patio coffee" kind of conversation.  "An intellectual exercise," for him.  Me too.  It is nice to have those friends with whom you can kick your brains into high gear.  I do not get to use that gear as often as I would like, despite pontificating on aliens and UFOs at my desk nearly every morning.

I emailed a rough draft of this article to C.A. and told him the point I was trying to build up to is, "How many of these eye witness accounts do we need before someone says, 'Hey, there's something to this?'"

His simple answer was, "The more the better," bearing in mind we are not trying to convince a jury Beyond a Reasonable Doubt or to the 99% standard.  We are only shooting for 51%.  It is more likely than not that someone saw an alien spaceship - a Preponderance of Evidence.

"Eye witness account," C.A. says, "by it's very nature is circumstantial evidence because it's basically what someone is saying.  So then, in terms of the strength of the testimony that really gets to their credibility.  So... someone's a professional, they haven't been in trouble, there's nothing for them to gain financially... people could argue, 'Oh they're doing it for notoriety,' and you could argue, 'Hey, this really stigmatizes people, like, who in their right mind would want to come out, unless they really thought it was true?' because it really could affect people... professionally because people would just think, 'Oh, this person is out of their mind.'"

Circling back to my own encounter, as an example, I asked my friend, "How much does it help that, there's a second eye witness who didn't see everything I saw but can corroborate some of what I saw?  This other guy, Mike, didn't see the full spaceship, he just saw one of the lights because he was a little further away and behind it but he can testify that he saw that for a long time at the same time that I saw the spaceship and that he later on saw [it] zip off into space in a streak of light.  How much does that help the argument?"

"It definitely helps," C.A. replied.  "Both pieces are separately circumstantial evidence, and even taken together they're circumstantial evidence but it's like the combination is really more powerful than the whole because... these are two people whose stories basically jibe.  They corroborate one another so it makes it more compelling.  It doesn't turn it into something where it's non-circumstantial evidence, right?  It's still circumstantial evidence but you would say it's stronger."

OK, good to know.  But this is not about me, per se.  I know what I saw and have long stopped caring if anyone believes it or not.  I had my chance to tell Lue Elizondo and air my story on TV.  I would assume people in the US Government have seen it - Lue told me they would.  My job is done, as far as getting my story into the hands of someone who is in a position to do something with the information.

There is so much more evidence out there, some of it circumstantial, some of it captured on video.  When you have the Tic-Tac, Gimbal, and GoFast videos, how much more evidence do you need?

"Now, let's zoom the camera out a little wider," I said on my phone call.  "There were only two witnesses to what I saw but there are thousands of witnesses to similar types of events all over the world.  So now, how does that bolster, from a legal perspective, using Preponderance of Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Eye Witness Accounts... the fact that there are thousands of these worldwide, how does that bolster the claim that we're being visited?"

"Right, right..." C.A. began.  "It makes it stronger, right?  You can just argue that more and more pieces of the circumstantial evidence are, you know, corroborating with respect to one another.  They corroborate one anther.  But, it doesn't prove anything.  Being a lawyer I can usually just come up with arguments on either side and I can argue, 'OK, let's take it as a fact that there are thousands of people alleging something...'"  He went into a few scenarios for and against using the number of sightings versus the total population of the world.

I said, "Forget about a percentage of the world population, just the fact that there are so many thousands of people who have seen things and a lot of these people are, 'Trained Observers' like I was and a lot of these cases, after they're examined, there's no explanation for it other than maybe this is something from out of this world.  How do you structure that argument, to use all of this circumstantial evidence?"

C.A. answered, "Really, you should just be looking at the numbers themselves.  A thousand pieces of evidence or ten thousand pieces of evidence and eye witness accounts is still powerful in and of itself.  Like, your average case wouldn't have thousands of pieces of circumstantial evidence.  You would just kind of go by the absolute numbers and not use a comparison of other numbers that are arguably, you know, not important or not relevant."

We then discussed how nice it would be to have a similar case, a legal precedent to cite but actually doing so was far beyond the scope of our friendly discussion.

What does all this prove?  I am not a legal scholar and do not believe I have fully proven my point with two days of analysis and writing.  But I do hope I at least opened a door which others may walk through.

"What I'm really trying to do here," I told Captain Awesome, "is not necessarily to say without equivocation that my theory is the only one that's applicable and that I've just proven a point and this is the 'light bulb' moment for everyone, that's going to change the world.  What I'm trying to do is just 'seed' the conversation so that people can start talking about it and other people that might know more about how this kind of standard can be used are the ones who then pick up the discussion and say, 'Well, yeah, here's my thoughts on that and here's an actual case I know where that kind of standard was used...'  Just get other people talking about it."

I could hear C.A. smiling over the phone.  "I like what you're saying 'cause I think people almost make an assumption that you need non-circumstantial evidence... to determine the answer to this kind of question, 'Does alien life exist and have they visited?'  People want to use a Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Standard.  You're arguing that that's not really appropriate.  You're really arguing by analogy, like OK if Preponderance of the Evidence works for these type of cases, why exactly does this one require Beyond a Reasonable Doubt standard?  That itself is not reasonable, it's not appropriate."

"Not only that," I added, "The standard being used goes beyond even Beyond a Reasonable Doubt because the Academic Standard is The Scientific Method; you need multiple 100% tests and then even the write-up on those multiple 100% tests..."

C.A. finished my sentence, "... test the hypothesis and then peer-reviewed."

"Yeah," I said.

"Yeah, exactly," he said.

"It's just an unreasonable standard," I concluded.


How much circumstantial evidence is needed to prove UFOs are real?
Where Captain Awesome drinks his coffee

There was a pause.  I think we both took a sip of coffee.

C.A. went on.  "So basically you're arguing, just the whole purpose of the call is you're trying to determine, what's the appropriate standard, here, and I think people, for whatever reason, they're saying, 'OK, this is technology, this is,' I don't know, 'Atmospheric phenomena, so we should use the Scientific Academic Standard,' and you're putting forth a good argument for using, you know, other standards."

"Yeah," I agreed.

"Like, the Scientific Standard is not the only one.  This is really a question of 'finding of fact'... It's not a scientific theory."

"Right."

"Like, you're basically saying, 'OK, this isn't a hypothesis.  It's not appropriate to use the Scientific Standard because,' you're saying, 'It's not a hypothesis, that alien life exists.' Your position is, it does 'cause you've seen it, so you should use a Civil Court, like a non-criminal trial standard.  Like, you're not advocating a thesis.  From your stand point you're not posing a question that you're proving so it's not the appropriate yard stick."

"Yeah."

Looking back over all this it suddenly occurred to me, maybe we are all asking the wrong question.  Maybe the question should not be, "How much circumstantial evidence is needed to prove UFOs are real," it should rather be, "Who asked Science?"  If Joe steals a TV, do we ask a Harvard professor to replicate the evidence and get it peer reviewed?  No, we apply a legal standard as the parameters for a fact-finder to either convict the dude or acquit him.

I love you, Science, but I need some space.  (Who asked you, anyway?)


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