Thursday, July 31, 2008

Utter nonsense in the pages of the NYT

There is an utterly ridiculous op-ed in yesterday's NYT about the security threat UFOs supposedly pose. The author is one Nick Pope, unsurprisingly, a "ufologist" and seeming utter crackpot. (His other interests include ghosts, crop circles, remote viewing and similar bollocks). Pope's argument is decidedly odd, he lists some silly anecdotes (no extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims for this guy) and concludes:
The United States is no less vulnerable than Britain and France to threats to security and air safety. The United States Air Force or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration should reopen investigations of U.F.O. phenomena. It would not imply that the country has suddenly started believing in little green men. It would simply recognize the possibility that radar alone cannot always tell us what’s out there.
Now, clearly, Pope is being coy - he doesn't want to look too silly, so he doesn't come out and say he believes some UFO sightings are due to alien visitation, but he clearly thinks so. (He seems to suggest the sightings might be due to super-advanced terrestial aircraft operated by some unidentified enemy nation, but his heart really isn't in that hypothesis). I don't want to bore you with yet more reasons to think UFOs are most probably not visiting alien spacecraft, but I have a couple of comments. Firstly, despite what Pope thinks, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and it therefore fully deserves to be ignored when it concerns highly implausible phenomena. Also, there has been several thorough, neutral scientific investigations - not least the Condon Committee - so it's blatantly false to suggest that the UFO phenomenon has been ignored (or restricted to radar data). In sum, there is no evidence whatsoever that reports of Unidentified Flying Objects are due to anything other than misidentification, credulity, hoaxing, ignorance and other human frailties. And if there is no evidence of a real signal among all the noise in the UFO reports, there is also no evidence of a national security threat. Why, I ask you, did the NYT publish this nonsense?

(Via Pharyngula)

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