Re: Re: Open Letter

Technotranscendence (
Thu, 22 Jul 1999 07:14:50 -0700

On Thursday, July 22, 1999 12:19 AM <> wrote:
>>>I didn't create SPSR (though I'm flattered by your accusation).
>>>SPSR is a group of trained scientists of various types who
>>>single-handedly convinced NASA to take a second look, and who
>>>have presented papers at the American Geophysical Union and elsewhere.
>>I had to smile when I read this, because I see the other side. Just
>>because someone presents something at a meeting doesn't mean that
>>it's good work.
>Of course it doesn't.

Then why bring it up? I'm NOT accusing you of arguing from authority, BUT it seems just like that. If we examine previous meetings of scientific societies, we can find all sorts of now definitely proven to be false hypotheses and theories, such as Contractionism (the main view in geology before Continental Drift became widely accepted). That a lot of really bright people, experts in their field who were NOT lying and were sincere, believed such things does not make them any less false.

>>Also, how do you know that those scientists are not
>>simply humoring the person/group, in order to not face a bigger
>In the case of SPSR, this may indeed have been the case, but if it was it
>for the wrong reasons. Also, if reputable groups are humoring SPSR (an
>organization with several members who _don't_ endorse any sort of ET
>explanation), then this "humoring" has gone all the way to NASA and JPL.
>was SPSR's thoughtful, nonpartisan approach that got NASA to take the new
>pictures (and now, suddenly, even more pictures that aren't being hyped).
>was SPSR who first discovered ice in Cydonia: a significant find, even if
>has nothing to do with ETI. NASA's certainly taking _that_ discovery
>seriously enough.
>SPSR isn't a bunch of nuts, just some qualifed and curious scientists of
>various disciplines. Don't take my word for it; do your own homework.

Perhaps, but the problem IS not who is doing the research or on the committee, but whether their methodology is good and their conclusions valid.

>>And even more importantly, those that have large decision-making
>>responsibilities are aware that their actions may look like
>>censuring, and that's something they wish to avoid. And so they
>>walk delicately.
>This is a serious issue with real implications re. the democratization of
>space science data. My stand is that science is anyone's game, and the
>"referees" should be as hands-off as possible. Unfortunately, we live in a
>culture with absolutely awful science literacy. This is a worthwhile
>I can see a whole new thread emerging from it.

Maybe. I tend to agree that science should not be left to the experts. What needs to be done, however, is not embrace any person who has the nerve to put together a chain of reasoning. Instead, we need to seek out a transparent method for arriving closer to the truth.

(Cf. my for an example of this in evolutionary theory.)

Too many people rely on experts and like to cite works done by someone with a PhD. It often comes down to "my experts vs. yours."

Now, another problem, which I do see at work here, is that many interesting phenomena are often touted as explainable by some exotic means -- whether that be God, ghosts, aliens, psychic powers, or Atlantis. You have to admit, when it's hard to get evidence, that's when the exotic explanations come in.

Also, just about as often, after the evidence starts pouring in that discounts the exotic explanations (and SOME exotic explanations can be immediately discounted -- i.e., there is no God period!), a lot of people stick with the exotic explanation and deny the new evidence. I'm not saying you or Hoagland or whomever is doing this here, BUT it IS a pattern I've noticed. (I'm probably not the first to notice this.)

Finally, and I don't recall who brought this up or how wedded anyone is to the notion, BUT consistency is not guarantee of truth. A friend of mine once put it this way. Dostoyevsky's _Crime and Punishment_ is consistent -- the events that take place and the characters in the novel fit together pretty well. Yet this does not mean those events really took place or that the characters really existed. Thus, many ideas many be consistent with one bit of evidence. E.g., that my car made a funny noise yesterday is consistent with the idea that aliens are trying to communicate with me through it. It's also consistent with the idea that my car is basically a victim of wear and tear. Which do you think is more likely? Which hypothesis fits better with all the evidence -- all the facts -- as opposed to just some small subset? (That's another bad methodology -- viz., to use a hypothesis which fits in with only a small portion of the data. A good hypothesis often has many independent lines of evidence that lead to it.)


Daniel Ust