Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A response to a few comments on the blog

I've received a few comments from an individual named Phil Tanny.  I don't know Mr. Tanny, nor do I know if that is his real name, but his comments appear to be reasonable to entertain a reply.  Mr. Tanny provided the below comment on my post:  

Phil Tanny:  Well, the officers interviewed by Hastings are either liars, seriously disturbed individuals, or they are telling the truth.

If we reject the stories they are telling it seems the burden then falls upon us to provide evidence they are lying or disturbed.

Seeing no such evidence, and finding their reputations and demeanor to be credible, I've chosen to believe them. If new evidence arises which brings their character in to question, I'll of course review my conclusion at that point.

It seems to me Hastings has proven that there have been craft of unknown origin in the vicinity of our nuclear bases. In this interview he seems pretty careful to state that any theories he has beyond that are merely his opinion and not proven fact.

I think Hastings should be applauded for making a sincere serious effort to study this subject in a manner that is as professional as possible. He's provided us with information which, as he would say himself, we are free to do with as we please.

Science ignores the UFO subject entirely, and most UFO "research" is dreamy wildly speculative trash.

Hastings is attempting to do it right, and he deserves respect for the attempt, however one might regard his conclusions.

A final thought. UFO believers only have to be right one time to win the day, whereas UFO skeptics have to defeat each and every one of the thousands of reports.

First, the burden falls squarely on the shoulders of those who make a claim.  It is the inability to qualify the claim which causes me to reject the story.   That I had taken considerable personal time to research such claims was a means to satisfy my professional curiosity and shows a respectful deference to those officer's that had made the claims.  In other words, I gave numerous stories due consideration and in the end have rejected them for the various reasons mentioned in the many blog posts listed on this site.  I might add that all were free to make comment on this blog, but had chosen to be silent...that of course is their right.  

As far as Hastings' "sincere serious effort to study this subject..."  That depends on the cases which he chooses to propagate.  The few which I've looked in depth at leaves me unconvinced due to the distortion of memories over time, the changing nature of the individual narratives and his lack of understanding of the weapon systems involved.   Frankly, Mr. Hastings has the tendency to pound a round peg into a square hole.

Despite my misgivings about Hastings' research, I do agree that in the end one must look at his information and be free to do with as one please.  I merely provide alternative possibilities to the alleged UFO encounters involving our nuclear ICBM forces.  This information I provide and one is free to do with it as pleased. 

"A final thought. UFO believers only have to be right one time to win the day, whereas UFO skeptics have to defeat each and every one of the thousands of reports."  

The problem is that UFO believers state that they are right all of the time, yet provide, at best, poor evidence to support their claim.  BTW, you commented on a post involving Robert Salas.  Curious, you made no defense of his claim.  Salas is a prime example of offering a decades old story that has morphed so many times over the years.  There is no documentation that supports his story nor have anyone come forward that provided support for his story.  There would have been at a minimum 8 people above ground at Salas' alert facility.   The devil's in the details, Mr. Tanny, or in this case the lack of details.

I'll provide more of Mr. Tanny's comments in a later post.


  1. Hi Tim, a quick reply for now, more later.

    First, Phil Tanny is my real name, not that it matters. I officially changed my name to Phil Tanny from Xonitax4*baz after I migrated here from a distant galaxy on the Mother Ship. :-)

    Second, all claims and counter claims bear their own burden of proof which is independent of anything anybody else said. A claim that UFOs don't exist is no different than a claim that UFOs do exist. A claim is a claim is a claim.

    Skeptics, whether they be addressing religion, UFOs, or anything else, don't win by default simply because the other fellow can not prove their case to the skeptic's satisfaction.

    In your defense, this is a VERY common area of misunderstanding. As example, most of the world's leading atheists, often people of very high education and reputation, make the very same mistake.

    If one is going to make reason the foundation of one's perspective, it's advisable that one understand that methodology.

    1. Comments by one of the co-founders of CSICOP:

      Over the years, I have decried the misuse of the term "skeptic" when used to refer to all critics of anomaly claims. Alas, the label has been thus misapplied by both proponents and critics of the paranormal. Sometimes users of the term have distinguished between so-called "soft" versus "hard" skeptics, and I in part revived the term "zetetic" because of the term's misuse. But I now think the problems created go beyond mere terminology and matters need to be set right. Since "skepticism" properly refers to doubt rather than denial -- nonbelief rather than belief -- critics who take the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves "skeptics" are actually pseudo-skeptics and have, I believed, gained a false advantage by usurping that label.

      In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis -- saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact -- he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof. Sometimes, such negative claims by critics are also quite extraordinary -- for example, that a UFO was actually a giant plasma, or that someone in a psi experiment was cued via an abnormal ability to hear a high pitch others with normal ears would fail to notice. In such cases the negative claimant also may have to bear a heavier burden of proof than might normally be expected.

    2. Critics who assert negative claims, but who mistakenly call themselves "skeptics," often act as though they have no burden of proof placed on them at all, though such a stance would be appropriate only for the agnostic or true skeptic. A result of this is that many critics seem to feel it is only necessary to present a case for their counter-claims based upon plausibility rather than empirical evidence. Thus, if a subject in a psi experiment can be shown to have had an opportunity to cheat, many critics seem to assume not merely that he probably did cheat, but that he must have, regardless of what may be the complete absence of evidence that he did so cheat and sometimes even ignoring evidence of the subject's past reputation for honesty. Similarly, improper randomization procedures are sometimes assumed to be the cause of a subject's high psi scores even though all that has been established is the possibility of such an artifact having been the real cause. Of course, the evidential weight of the experiment is greatly reduced when we discover an opening in the design that would allow an artifact to confound the results. Discovering an opportunity for error should make such experiments less evidential and usually unconvincing. It usually disproves the claim that the experiment was "air tight" against error, but it does not disprove the anomaly claim.

      Showing evidence is unconvincing is not grounds for completely dismissing it. If a critic asserts that the result was due to artifact X, that critic then has the burden of proof to demonstrate that artifact X can and probably did produce such results under such circumstances. Admittedly, in some cases the appeal to mere plausibility that an artifact produced the result may be so great that nearly all would accept the argument; for example, when we learn that someone known to have cheated in the past had an opportunity to cheat in this instance, we might reasonably conclude he probably cheated this time, too. But in far too many instances, the critic who makes a merely plausible argument for an artifact closes the door on future research when proper science demands that his hypothesis of an artifact should also be tested. Alas, most critics seem happy to sit in their armchairs producing post hoc counter-explanations. Whichever side ends up with the true story, science best progresses through laboratory investigations.

      On the other hand, proponents of an anomaly claim who recognize the above fallacy may go too far in the other direction. Some argue, like Lombroso when he defended the mediumship of Palladino, that the presence of wigs does not deny the existence of real hair. All of us must remember science can tell us what is empirically unlikely but not what is empirically impossible. Evidence in science is always a matter of degree and is seldom if ever absolutely conclusive. Some proponents of anomaly claims, like some critics, seen unwilling to consider evidence in probabilistic terms, clinging to any slim loose end as though the critic must disprove all evidence ever put forward for a particular claim. Both critics and proponents need to learn to think of adjudication in science as more like that found in the law courts, imperfect and with varying degrees of proof and evidence. Absolute truth, like absolute justice, is seldom obtainable. We can only do our best to approximate them.

      Marcello Truzzi (1935-2003) was a professor of sociology at Eastern Michigan University.

  2. Hi again Tim,

    You asked about a defense of the Salas report. Personally, I'm not that interested in challenging or defending particular UFO reports because I wasn't there at the event and don't know the people involved.

    I'm attempting to look at the big picture, and am persuaded by the sheer number of credible witnesses over a period of decades. If everything Hastings and his sources has said is completely wrong that doesn't change the overall picture, given the number of other credible sources.

    It appears the Pentagon is now one of those credible sources. Here's a link to the CNN interview again in case someone missed it.

    This seems a key development, not because of a particular incident, but because it may signal that the government is edging towards being more forthcoming about whatever it knows.

    As example, the incident being discussed in the above interview happened in 2004. So, by their own admission, the Navy has been sitting on this information for 13 years.

    What else have they been sitting on? I don't claim to know, but we may be about to find out, at least to some degree.

  3. Using Salas as an example....

    I agree that Salas bears the burden of proving his claims, and that he has not really done so. His report seems interesting, but not conclusive.

    Likewise, those attempting to debunk Salas bear the same burden. If someone wishes to propose that the Salas report provides inaccurate information, they need to provide some credible theory as to why Salas is making his report.

    Is Salas a liar? If that is the theory, let's see the evidence of a pattern of lies.

    Is Salas nuts? If that is the theory, let's see the evidence of a pattern of unstable behavior.

    Without such evidence of lying or mental problems, we are left only with a theory that a well vetted professional nuclear launch officer with a high security clearance made up an incredible fantasy story and has stuck to it for decades, for no reason at all.

    And of course if we're going to reject Hasting's work, then we have to expand this theory to include about 100 hundred nuclear professionals making essentially the same claim.

    If such an incredible theory is true regarding those with their fingers on the button, we have far more to worry about than UFOs.

  4. Phil,

    I've written numerous analysis on different cases. Gave my opinion. One can either accept my views or reject them. I've no problem either way.

    You'll note, if you take the time to look at my work, that I call no one liars. I look for plausible explanations that could identify the events in question.

    You mention 100 professionals that Hastings had interviewed, what of the 10,000 plus that offer no such being one of them?

  5. Tim, everybody doesn't need to see a UFO for UFOs to be real. I haven't seen a UFO either, and that proves nothing about their possible existence.

    Again, for the UFO believers to be essentially correct, only one case needs to point to a real UFO.

    I would readily agree that the majority of cases are probably mis-identification.

    I would also agree that UFO culture in general has a circus atmosphere, and can surely understand why anyone might find that unappealing, as I do myself.

  6. So we know UFOs are real, because so many are reported? So you're basically relying on statistics to prove your point. Using that kind of logic, we can comfortably assure the skeptics of this nation of true believers that in our world there exist sea serpents up to 600 feet in length, Bigfoot, witches, black magic, leprechauns, fairies, elves, kobolds, vampires, werewolves, undead zombies, the flat earth, unicorns, haunted caves that are linked to Hell, Xibalba, winged angels, sprites, demons and associated demonic entities, griffins, thunderbirds, the Holy Grail, a hidden race of giants fifty to a hundred feet tall, Medusas who can turn a man to stone with just a glance, men who can fly like comic book characters, the lost continent of Atlantis, fire-breathing dragons, a race of headless humans who wear their faces on their chests, a moon made of cheese, a talking mongoose, ancient curses, repositories of all knowledge, mermaids and mermen, golems brought to life by secretive Jews using the hand written words of King Solomon, harbingers of doom in the form of black birds, or wolves, or snakes, the Garden of Eden, and even the Cyclopes race encountered by old Ulysses -- all of which must also exist, because there have been so many reported over the centuries. I guess facts are unimportant these days. That's a shame. Here's a fact you haven't yet considered: not one UFO has ever been proven to exist -- not even a tiny, little one. When you can manage that, please enlighten us. Until then, I hope it doesn't bother you much if I go watch some cartoons. They have more characteristics in common with proven reality than UFOs do, and they are much more amusing than your flights of fantasy.