Category Archives: UFO/Paranormal

“Nessie”: Not a Catfish!

Currently the news is full of Nessie “expert” Steve Feltham’s declaration that the Loch Ness creatures are a species of catfish (the Wels Catfish). He’s in like company with real expert Adrian Shine, who also claims that Nessie is no cryptoid long-necker, but rather a kind of sturgeon. He bases this on an early report that the beast’s back looked scaley-rough, like a crocodile or alligator, and since a sturgeon’s roughish dorsal portion bears a likeness to the named reptilians, then the report was probably of a large sturgeon. Of course, this puts the blame on the original reporter, who must have made a mistaken identification – a misidentification. And of course it arbitrarily eliminates all the other sightings of long necks, sheep-or-horselike heads, “horns”, long sinuous bodies,  legs, “paddles”, feet, and smooth hides, as well as the odd land sighting.

What is particularly galling about the press’s treatment of Feltham is its categorization of the contented recluse as an expert on Nessie. True experts on cryptoids are few and far between.  And Feltham’s only “expertise” is that he abandoned a relationship and city life for a cherished move to his year-long hermitage on the Loch’s shore. Feltham himself has had no sightings. He says he’s asked neighbors around the Loch about their experiences and theories. All this is a far cry from being an expert.

In short, Steve Feltham, although perhaps jealously admired by some Nessie fans who envy his chosen habitat, is no more an expert than the man/woman “on the street”. He doesn’t have Shine’s background as a naturalist, and his means of income is not science or scholarship, but the hand-crafting of miniature Nessie figures. Hardly the person the world, and particularly, the press, ought to classify as especially fit to pronounce on the existence and nature of the Loch Ness creatures.

Please see “Glasgow Boy’s” more detailed analysis at:

http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.com/

 

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Vale the Golden Age

Ufology’s Golden Age has passed.

With the advent of extremely, increasingly “magical”military and “secret ops” technology, a “real” UFO has virtually become indistinguishable from a piece of sophisticated military-industrial aerial hardware.

A last-ditch effort to “keep the distinction distinct” is the attempt at classifying the true UFO (a real “Unknown” as contrasted with our most developed known technologies) as against Trickster Hardware. This fairly recent work of classification considers the UAV to be an Unidentified Aerial Vehicle and considers the UAP to be the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon. The categories are self-explanatory. Although the “Phenomenon” is, like the God of the Gaps, ever-shrinking – a kind of ufological endangered species – a slim hope of new, non-ordinary data accumulation still does linger.

http://www.narcap.org/

In addition to hardware, of course, there is the new sophistication of digital imaging in which virtually any image may be created or manipulated in order to create a picture whose limits are only those of its creator’s imagination. Thus, a photograph that would have been considered evidential in, say, 1958, today would have to pass through a series of stringent digital critiques, with of course the usual “witness reliability” provisos in place, with no certainty of authenticity being firmly established.

Therefore, it seems that the Golden Age of the UFOs is long gone. It would seem that whatever intelligence may lurk behind the phenomenon and its related phenomena will probably be the only true source of future data and disclosure. If, that is, that presumed sentiency decides to make the first move.

Hence, genuine, serious Ufology will probably become mostly a refinement of historical studies. An informal time period for study might be provisionally marked from the Foo Fighters and Ghost Rockets of the Second World War era, on through (about) 1977 or so, with the advent of the “Triangles”, which (the reports suggest to the present writer) are all too humanly technological. A stretch of some 35 years, or thereabouts. Project Sign, Project Grudge, Project Bluebook, the five major Ufological studies listed by Stanton Friedman (best of luck to him with his recent health setback), the Sturrock Panel report, the work of Dr.s Hynek, Vallee and James E. McDonald, all the compendia of sightings gathered by any number of responsible UFO organizations, and Leslie Kean’s recent work documenting “reponsible, trained observer” reports … all of these and more consist of the only remaining “Ufological gold mine” of which I am aware.

The phenomenon is real, complex, profound, absurd, inspiring, terrifying, bashful, bold, enigmatic, maddening, occult, shocking and confusing all at once. The data reflects this, but the data does exist and is available to investigators and researchers, even if governmental barriers remain in their traditional placement. This is what the Ufologist is left with: the youthful ghost of a phenomenon that is probably continuing with all the robustness it always has, but is being occluded by human technological advances.

Vale, Golden Age.

 

 

An Interesting “Shroud” Overview (Video)

If you have been following this blog, first:  Congratulations and Thank You – as I know I am not good at updating, and the blog has no eye-pleasing pictorial graphics.

Second: If you’ve been reading, you know that I believe that, to date, it is fair to say that the Shroud of Turin has not been proved “inauthentic” – i.e., it has not been proven to be an artistic artifact, nor has the 1988 dating established a recent date for the cloth’s manufacture.

For interested parties, I ran across this You Tube video. It seems mostly fair and accurate, with nice production values and a competent musical score and narration:

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Science Evangelism’s Naivete

I nearly always experience a strong negative reaction to the over-optmistic “comos enthusiasm”  typically expressed by science educators such as the late Carl Sagan and Neil de Grasse Tyson: a rhapsodic view of a world which, at base, is really nothing but an amalgam of mindless cycles of force – which injure, sicken, age, and eventually kill us. I suppose that it’s “natural” enough to be mind-boggled or awed over the immensity, age, and complexity of the universe. But for me, that effect wears off fast. The universe brings us to birth, batters us, ages us, sickens us, kills us. There seem to be only two significant responses to this fact:

1) Even acknowledging the cosmos’s human-harming elements, it is still all wonderful; and how lucky we are to be part of it, we are star-stuff that has become aware of itself and “taken its destiny into its own hands” (Sagan at his most optimistic); it doesn’t matter that “It” is not aware of us and does not care about us, and will snuff us out without reprieve, and without ever knowing or caring that it spawned us.

2) Precisely because the universe is completely unlike us (except in its material processes of which are bodies are part) – i.e., precisely because there is nothing like mind in nature – there is really nothing to be awed or boggled about. Humans are sentient and sensate, the universe is not.

The core burden of modern “existential Man” is exactly this complete lack of anything in the cosmos even faintly resembling psyche, mind, spirit. Camus said, “If man found that – like himself – the universe could love, then he would be reconciled”. No reconciliation, however, is possible. The world is “irreducibly Other”. I share Camus’ pessimism (although not his atheism).

But – surely I cant’ really be saying that just because humans seem to be alone in a cosmos that is unaware of their existence; and becuase the cosmos evinces nothing like personhood; and because the cosmos is utterly unlike the psyche … then the cosmos is “just as common as dirt”? Yeah, I’m saying something pretty close to that – and more.

After all, what do galaxies, quantum weirdnesses, cosmic rays, exploding suns, have to do with me/us? Granted, they’re big, they’re ancient, they’re powerful. But so what?

The claim to longevity, vastness and power is exactly the degraded and worthless  defense that the Bronze Age, raging sky father, Yahweh, makes for himself in the book of Job. Trade Yahweh for the material universe, and you have the identical more-than-bleak situation:  in the one case, an almighty deity makes excuses for his coldness and harmful acts; in the other case, science-evangelists make a similar case for the universe. Yahweh is spirit; the cosmos is matter, but they’re both bad news for not only the human person, but also for all sentient beings who are inextricably caught in the wheels of the grinding cycles.  I don’t accept excuses on Yahweh’s behalf, or excuses on the universe’s behalf.

A wise and compassionate deity may or may not exist. But it is certain that the cosmos can never be put in the place of said deity. The idea is sheer folly, and the fact that science-evangelists cannot or will not see it,  is a harsh indictment of their perceptive capacities’ objectivity.

Two final, specific words about Tyson.

So egregious is his overconfidence and false superiority that I have saved an article in which he holds the phenomenon of alien abuction, and by implication its victims, up to an all-too-familiar ridicule. The link provided shows Tyson in the raw, thinking he’s clever and even “funny”, while offering no attempt at real explanation for reports of these strange encounters:

http://gizmodo.com/5905045/how-to-prove-youve-been-abducted-by-aliens

Especially obnoxious is Tyson’s arrogance about astronomical UFO sightings:

Many people, including all the amateur astronomers in the world, spend a lot of time looking up. We walk out of a building, we look up. Doesn’t matter what’s happening, we’re looking up. Yet UFO sightings are not higher among amateur astronomers than they are among the general public. In fact, they’re lower. Why is that so? Because we know sky phenomena. It’s what we study.

Aside from being a time-worn cliche and an appeal to authority, Tyson’s statement ignores the simple fact that professional astronomers have always reported UFOs. The evidence for this is abundant:

http://www.ufo.se/ufofiles/issue_4/astro_uk.html

http://www.ufoevidence.org/Cases/CaseView.asp?section=Astronomer

http://kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2008/12/bad-astronomy-part-iii.html

http://www.cohenufo.org/ocr.3b.html#anchor904745

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100827184503AA1tEZJ

http://theozfiles.blogspot.com/2012/06/pay-attention-science-skeptics-and.html

http://www.openminds.tv/astronomers-see-ufos-081310/

Tyson moves on from this seemingly deliberate omission to a sarcastic directive that abductees should perform the functional equivalent of stealing an ashtray from an alien spacecraft as proof of their experience – a suggestion as silly as it is unfunny.  But Tyson thinks it’s funny, and that’s all that matters: that is, Tyson’s indulgence in the anti-scientific practice of making mockery a principle of science is allowable, apparently, because Tyson is seemingly just so bright, affable and knowledgable that he can get away with it.

Finally, I recently I saw Tyson being extremist when vociferously supporting a high school student who had called out his teacher for endorsing Creationism/ID in the classroom. For the record: I’m with the kid. The teacher was out of bounds. But Tyson wanted the teacher fired, not because he mentioned Noah’s Ark, but because he was, in Tyson’s phraseology, “scientifically ignorant”.

This kind of reaction typifies the “Sagan-Tyson personality”. Instead of rightly nailing a fundamentalist teacher for the real crime of violating church-state separation, science-ists go all Thought Police in demanding that the teacher be removed for “scientific ignorance”, a somewhat different, and much more vague, consideration. Note that Tyson’s agenda apparently doesn’t include firing (for example) other benighted educators, e.g., religiously ignorant teachers, politically ignorant teachers, musically ignorant teachers, liberal art-ignorant teachers, etc. But  – of all these other partially-ignorant educators – only scientifically ignorant teachers must go. This incident serves to illustrate the radical parochialism and bias of Tyson’s thinking.

In summary:  Too many science popularizers – many of them believers in a scientifically unsustainable scientism – practice evangelism on behalf of insensate cosmic forces (while condemning most religious claims that reference a compassionate Spirit); dub their missionary zeal as “Reason”; and indulge in the staggering naivete of ignoring the fact that the teaching population is bound to include, has always included, and will continue to include a certain percentage of persons who are ignorant of science … and religion, history, and/or any other subject under the sun. Science evangelists’ turning a blind eye to all of these other classes of supposedly “unfit” teachers – while simultaneously demanding punishment only of the (“criminally”) “scientifically ignorant” educator – manifests a prejudice more appropriate to fundamentalists than to thoughtful, democratically-leaning, socially-informed scientists.

It could be argued that Tyson, as director of a leading planetarium, should be censored or even fired for using his position as a public platform for mixing science with mockery, misleading claims (e.g., UFOs and professional astronomers’ reporting of UFOs), half-baked philosophy, biased missionary zeal, and a host of other failings. But Tyson’s professional and social status seems so well-established that he ‘ll probably never need to worry that the same treatment he dishes out to others will ever effectively … karmically … return to him.

Doubting the Debunkers

Skepticism should be applied to claims made about physical facts and events, as well as the truth-claims of individuals and belief sytstems. There is, however, a difference between skepticism and debunkery. Skepticism proceeds from doubt; debunkery begins and concludes with a kind of solidified, inevitable doubt necessitated by ideology rather than detailed survey and rational interpretation of fact(s). In this post I would like to address two examples of what I consider to be debunkery, and how they represent faith-statements rather than factually-based conclusions.  I will be including links so that the reader can judge the “pro” side  for him or herself. The two examples are the Shroud of Turin and the Roswell, New Mexico UFO “crash” case (aka “the crash at Corona”).

Denial of Shroud authenticity is mostly based on the C-14 testing of 1988. The testing occurred; a date was procured, with parameters limited to a period of approximately the 13th-14th century.  Case closed. Or, perhaps, not. Critical review of the testing has found it, to say the least, somewhat lacking in normative features.

Prior to the testing, the number of laboratories was halved, much to the protests of the inventor of the test himself. The sample, selected after only about an hour of deliberation, was cut from a particularly contaminated area, which had not only been exposed to smoke and probably to soot, but also to an unknown number of unprotected handlings by human hands through repeated exhibition. The sample was discovered to contain cotton fiber, which should not have been present, as the cloth itself is a herring-bone weave of linen; that is, a strand of cotton had been sewn into the testing sample. It is not implausible that some late-Medieval hand may have attempted to repair this part of the cloth, introducing a foreign element into the dating; worse, perhaps, the segment itself was a replacement patch, not part of the original cloth. This raises the question of the sample’s originality. In any case, the Shroud’s current inadequate state of “knowness” surely demands further testing.

Decidedly, this baffling linen cloth should be retested, with new samples being cut from another section or sections. Although I am not a scientist, pinning the question of the Shroud’s authenticity on the results of a single test seems to me dicey at best. Especially when the test results contradict the “momentum” of the research so far completed, which in no way suggests that the Shroud is a human artifcact, whether a pious rendering, or an outright hoax.

The cloth’s means of image production continues to remain a complete mystery, and no attempt at reproduction has been able to fully duplicate the image while at the same time duplicating all of its anomalies, (for an example of one more, recent, failed “duplication”,

http://www.acheiropoietos.info/proceedings/HeimburgerWeb.pdf

… and a shorter version:

http://theshroudofturin.blogspot.com/2012_07_01_archive.html

including all of its 3-D features, and its forensic accuracy, Historically speaking, no explanation has been found for its transgression of typical Medieval art conventions, its very probable pre-Turin history – see Ian Wilson’s many works for referencing the pre-Turin Shroud; as well as Noel Currer-Briggs’ The Shroud and the Holy Grail), or its perfect conformity with the Cloth of Oviedo:

http://www.shroud.com/guscin.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudarium_of_Oviedo

This being the case, I, the non-scientist, would think, intuit … guess, suspect … that a single test that countra-indicates all, or at least most, of the other evidence would itself strongly suggest re-testing. Sadly … the Shroud was not available for further testing, which is the fault of its owners, not of the testers.  Even with the consideration that the testing conditions could have been better, it is not a case of “failed science”. Rather, it was a case of science not having been given the fullest chance to succeed/proceed. Hence my stringent, if not strident, insistence that the Shroud be tested again, and that a successful campaign toward that end will be a future outcome.

Now for some links. Concerning the dating-test flaws and the reasons for skepticism regarding them, please consult:

“The Jackson Paper” at

http://shroud-enigma.com/challenge/jackson_paper/jackson-paper-on-image.html

http://shroudstory.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/carbon-14-dating-on-shroud-of-turin-were-botched-2008/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/04/0409_040409_TVJesusshroud.html

The Big Carbon Dated Mistake: Shroud of Turin and the Scientific Quest for God

http://www.shroud-enigma.com/resources/The-C14-dating-of-the-Shroud—web-version.pdf

Of provenance, chain of custody, proper care and suitability of samples

Some interested readers may find the above sites a somewhat penitential read, but I trust that their homework will be at least as serious as mine, and that their conclusions will follow from the data presented. I feel the same way about the links to be shortly provided against the ever-so-fictitious “explanation” for the Roswell event as an errant Mogul balloon.

The late science popularizer and UFO skeptic Carl Sagan said, “Something came down” in Roswell in July, 1947. Practically everyone agrees on this basic fact, with the obvious contention lying in the interpretation.

My basic “take” on this case is that the U.S. government lies whenever it wants, for any reason that it deems helpful to itself, and it lied about Roswell. Roswell at least proves this much. If the Roswell AFB’s intial announcement that it had found a “crashed disk” was a lie, then … why would they lie … and to the press? On the other hand, if the crashed disk was real, then why would they lie about it via an after-the-event-coverup (in our era of massive government, this question has several plausible answers)?

In any case, here we have either: 1) a primary lie (even though there is no understandable reason why trained, experienced personnel would attempt to magnify, all out of proportion, a still-recognizable weather device, into a big joke of a spacecraft, and then announce their fairy tale as fact to the papers); or a secondary lie which contradicted the original story (whether or not that was a lie).

For better or worse, Roswell has not, and will not. go away. I don’t pretend to know what happened on Max Brazel’s ranch on that stormy post-War night. I – we – all know that the government tells lies, and we know that the Roswell AFB did announce their discovery of a crashed disk. I – we – all know that Roswell AFB then announced that the discovery was a “mistaken” weather balloon.

Having acknowledged the basic truth-problems, they continued on into subsequent decades, through which the government has trotted out several explanations (justifications?) for its “take” on Roswell. The remarkable fact is that these governmental reports are mostly fanciful rationalizations for a “line” that began with the initial  …”the Roswell ‘disk’ is really a crashed weather balloon” … announcement. Particularly pernicious is the repeated suggestion that the “disk” was a crashed Mogul “audio spy” balloon (it probably wasn’t), and that all reports of tiny alien bodies were garbled descriptions of AF crash test dummies (probably not, because such dummies only came into use approximately a half-decade post-Roswell). Both explanations are probably and plausibly false, as suggested in essays at the following links to the Roswell/UFO researcher Kevin Randle fully demonstrate, as follow:

http://kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2007/02/national-geographics-and-ufos.html

http://kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2008/10/more-bad-news-for-mogul.html

http://kevinrandle.blogspot.com/2008/07/how-secret-was-mogul.html

Of course I realize the issues that are endemic to citing only a single source/author, but Randle’s articles work adequately as an introduction to alternatives to the government’s official story about Roswell-Mogul and the supposed general involvement of “weather balloons” in the case. For a brief overview of the case from a different site, please see:

http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case1134.htm

I am not making any huge claims here. I am simply saying that:

The Shroud continues to be an anomaly, that its testing could have been better, and ought to be redone, if granted permission;

… and that …

“Project Mogul” as a full explanation of the Roswell incident is woefully inadequate and plaubibly indicative of potential governmental misdirection.

Thanks for reading.

The Shroud: Fresh Light on the 2000-Year-Old-Mystery, Ian Wilson,  Bantam Books UK: 2011.

The Shroud and the Grail: a Modern Quest for the True Grail, Noel Currer-Briggs, St. Martin’s Press: NY, 1987.

Two Ufological Categories

There are two categories involving UFOs which deserve some comment.  The popular press mixes both categories while ignoring their respective differences.  These are the UFO report and the abduction narrative.

The UFO report is usually generated by puzzled witnesses from all professions and all life-perspectives.   Sometimes the reports are accompanied by multiple-witness testimony, ground/radar confirmation, luminescence, radiological, burn, soil, and other traces that, depending on the particular case, can be susceptable to analysis.  Thus, most UFO reports consist of sightings, and, occasionally, measurable “remains.”  Whether of “daylight discs” or of “nocturnal lights,” (to use J. A. Hynek’s terms), the UFO report is mainly distinguished by its embedding in a milieu of sighting/physical observation and occasional measurement.  Not so (usually) the abduction narrative.

The typical abduction narrative is not reported either as a sighting of anomalous objects or of non-human beings.   Rather, it is extracted (sometimes many years after the purported event) by hypnosis (sometimes amateur).  Often the hypnosis is inserted into the case by investigators;  sometimes “abductees” approach investigators or health professionals.  Many so-called abduction cases evolve out of dreams, nightmares, sleep paralysis, dream-like experiences, fantasies, hypnogogic states and other purely subjective situations.  Rarely are UFOs directly linked to the “alien” abduction, and abductees rarely seem able to point to a UFO as an essential part of their experience.  In short, they give out an abduction narrative, but rarely a UFO report.   Even if the UFO was an integral element of some  early reports, in later cases the UFO as event-instigator is no longer present or, perhaps, even necessary.   The UFO abduction narrative has thus over time become a (mere) abduction narrative.  (The present writer is unaware of any documented correlation between UFO abductions and UFO reports, Waves, or “flaps.”  One notable exception accrues to the classic Hill Abuction, where it has been revealed by researchers such as Jacques Vallee and Anne Druffel that a UFO was tracked by a nearby air base at the time and location of the Hill’s experience).

So it would seem that of the two alternatives, it is the UFO report that has the most likely potential for generating ufological data.  The abduction narrative, on the other hand, swims in psychological murk, and seems little-equipped to provide meaningful evidence.  One exception to this is, of course, the claims of stigmata on,  and implants in, claimants’ bodies.  If authenticated, such things could be a potential source of scientific data.   Conceivably they could be much better indicators than the UFO report.

However, authentication is exactly the crux of the problem.  We would expect a scientific revolution and a world-altering crisis if such claims were verified.  Of course, they have not been verified, or even – as far as this writer knows – subjected to peer review.  Or if they have, the conclusions have been sufficiently inconclusive to decide the matter.

So investigators are well-cautioned to attend to sighting reports and to relegate non-evidential abduction narratives to ufology’s back burner.