Are Some Skeptics Debunkers in Sheep’s Clothing?
By Keith Rowell
It is always good to start with definitions and a standard dictionary helps us here. Debunker: One who exposes or ridicules the fallacy or fraudulence of. Skeptic: One who instinctively consistently doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
A debunker exposes or ridicules a false or mistaken belief. Evidently, a debunker knows that “craft piloted by alien beings” is a false belief. But how do debunkers know this? A rational debunker would ask, “What scientific or scholarly knowledge do we have about these craft, or UFOs?” It turns out that in the fifty-year history of UFOs there is only one (American) scientific study. This was the Air Force requested and funded Condon Study published in 1970. However, contrary to Edward U. Condon’s highly misleading summary of the scientists’ findings, nearly one-third of the 106 UFO cases that were examined were determined to be “unexplained.” This, despite the fact that sufficient information was present for most of the one-third. A rational person would conclude from this that the jury is still out. More scientific and scholarly investigation is in order. On the contrary, this has not been done in the thirty years since the Condon Study. Why? Partly because Condon’s own Summary and Conclusions put the kibosh on further academic study of UFOs, and the academic establishment dutifully followed the recommendations of Condon and the “rubber-stamped” approval of the National Academy of Sciences.
If you go to an academic library and look through the professional literature of psychology, biology, medical science, physics, folklore studies, history, et cetera, you find perhaps 30 to 40 studies in fifty years about UFOs. In other words, virtually nothing. The folks whose job it is to generate knowledge about the world have abdicated their responsibility when it comes to UFOs. Thus, you will find no coverage of UFOs in any academic textbooks, except occasionally in psychology texts, and these generally take a debunking stance. Their attitude is: You see, it’s all in our heads, so it’s okay to treat UFOs in psychology texts (but even then, only sometimes).
Many people who love to scoff and debunk have discovered the publications of CSICOP (The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal,) an American “skeptics” organization dedicated to stemming the rising tide of “irrational” belief in paranormal and New Age ideas.
[CSICOP now refers to themselves as a so-called “Committee” for skeptical inquiry while at the same time associating with a site called Debunker.com]
CSICOP is primarily a public relations outfit that seeks to dispute “claims” about things paranormal. Whenever you read a newspaper or magazine article about UFOs (or some aspect of paranormal phenomena), you will often find a spokesperson for the “skeptical” side. This person is usually a member of a local debunkers’ group modeled by the national example of CSICOP. In the past, Phillip Klass has been the chief UFO debunker. He is a founding member and “fellow” of CSICOP.
Many UFO-interested people know that Klass has written four or more “UFO” books. The books, when examined for methodology, show the typical stamp of the debunker and not the true skeptic. The debunker’s aim is entirely negative and never positive. The skeptic’s aim is positive by using negative means. A skeptic is truly looking for the truth of the matter, whereas the debunker already “knows” the truth. A debunker thinks to himself or herself, “Destruction of the opposition is my aim, so how can I use logic, reason, and any other means to accomplish my goal - destruction?”
A skeptic thinks to himself or herself, “The truth of the matter at hand is my goal, so how can I use the rules of logic and reason alone to gain new knowledge?” A true skeptic knows that logic and reason are the secure foundations upon which new knowledge is built. Only by using the rules of logic and reason (with some judicious intuition) can new knowledge be attained. The skeptic never uses guilt by association, innuendo, ad hominem attacks, red herrings, omission of relevant facts, and the many other fallacies and techniques of persuasion. On the other hand, debunkers use these frequently, especially when logic and reason seem to be failing the aim of destruction.
The next time someone puffs up and tells you he or she is a skeptic about UFOs and then proceeds to ridicule UFO witnesses or disputes the “false claims” of UFO abductees, you can perfectly rightly counter that he is an irrational debunker and not a skeptic.
In America, the Condon Study stands alone as the only major study, and a close reading supports the conclusion that a lot more academic work needs to be done on UFOs. The Condon Study also supports the skeptic and “believer,” and not the debunker.
Strictly speaking, because the academics have yet to do their work, we actually have no real knowledge about UFOs. Fortunately, because of the decades of diligent work by UFO researchers and investigators, we do have some very good provisional knowledge about UFOs. In my opinion, this provisional knowledge points squarely at the existence of a new, officially unacknowledged phenomenon, having an intelligence of some sort strongly associated with it. In other words, are flying saucers real? Of course they are!
The next time some proudly - it’s usually proudly, isn’t it, as if the label of skeptic were some sort of badge of honor - calls himself or herself a skeptic, BEWARE: he or she may actually be a debunker in skeptic’s clothing.
This article is published with the expressed permission of Keith Rowell for publication on The Alien Jigsaw: alienjigsaw.com