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March 08, 2005

Seeing is Dismaying

I finally had time to watch Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing is Believing the other day. As I had mentioned earlier, the publicity I had seen before the program was broadcast led me to suspect that it was going to be quite pro-UFO.

I should have known better. It was instead yet another entry in a long line of "balanced" presentations -- equal amounts of skepticism on the one side and credulity on the other. At the end, of course, after having carefully dished out equal amounts of evidence for and against the existance of flying saucers, the program leaves it up to the viewer to decide. Having been given equal amounts of evidence, however, they have ensured that nobody's mind is changed one way or the other.

The program began with an hour of evidence for UFOs (complete with computer animation reenacting the sightings), followed by an hour of evidence against them. (Actually, less than an hour of the latter, since part of that time was spent discussing SETI, which really is unrelated.)

Unfortunately, when presented in this format (here's the claim, here's the evidence against it), the debate essentially becomes "he said, she said".

Just once, I would like to see a program that spends the first half giving the viewer, in effect, a "baloney detection kit". The viewer could then apply these explanations themselves to the claims that come in the second half of the program. For example, discuss sleep paralysis and the limitations of hypnosis first, then present a claim of an alien abduction experience. Discuss the optical illusions that can result when viewing something just at the limit of visibility or when viewing points of light against a night sky, then present some UFO sightings.

Unfortunately, "UFOs are flying saucers" sells better than "UFOs are natural phenomena that are misinterpreted as flying saucers". A "balanced" presentation is the best we can hope for.

Link: Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing is Believing
Link: Out of Balance (CSICOP - Doubt and About).

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March 8, 2005 in UFOs and Aliens | Permalink


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Isn't it amazing how "balance" has come to be so twisted in the last few years? On political programs, this often means one raving right-wing extremist vs. one mildy left-of-center Democratic partisan. In science, it is presented as: "We have with us today three men who claim to have developed perpetual motion machines. To balance the discussion, we have invited a physics professor who claims that perpetual motion machines are not possible."

Posted by: marc | Mar 9, 2005 12:01:36 PM

I have had one of these "Sleep Paralysis" episodes where there were aliens in my apartment and other weird stuff was going on. At the time it seemed completely real; but upon reflection I do not believe that the aliens were there or that they are stalking me even now.

I can understand why some people believe that these episodes actually happened because at the time it seemed very much real.

Unfortunantly, what I witnessed with my own eyes does not hold up against ALL of the evidence when evaluated and balanced.

God, but it was so freaking weird, let me tell you and completely scared the crap out of me.

Posted by: Steven Brumley | Mar 25, 2005 10:33:01 PM

Sounds like a podcast idea to me!!!

Maybe you can get Peter Jennings to narrate it.

Posted by: Bill | Feb 28, 2008 9:36:06 AM

I would like to be taken by aliens as long as they all looked like "the girls of the playboy mansion"

but alas, night after night my dreams are never fulfilled

and can someone tell me why they only take cletus from backwater biblebelt USA-lucky bastard. It just not fair i tell you, just not fair at all

Posted by: frank sheehan | Mar 1, 2008 5:07:01 AM

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