Wednesday, July 11, 2007
A Sign Of The Apocalypse: I Defend Michael Shermer
I just left a comment over at Mac Tonnies blog, www.posthumanblues.com, in regards to some quotes that skeptic Michael Shermer made in an ABC News article about the reality behind UFOs. After reading it over, I decided that it was a piece I wanted to share here.
I’ve made the mistake in the past of jumping the gun, reading through an article too quickly and missing some key points. It happens to all of us. In this case I think Mac and most of the commenters at his blog have done this. To put this issue in perspective, click on the links above to Mac’s post and the ABC News article. Then read my following comment.
Sure, I sometimes engage in wild speculation and humor, but I strive to be fair (it's not always easy). Mac and the anti-Shermer commenters also try to be fair, but this time I think they overreacted.
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I’m not a “fan” of Michael Shermer. One time he was pushing for a euphemism to replace the word “atheist” as if another term would disarm all the strict fundie believers out here. Also, he can be just as “fallible” as any human UFO witness when he doesn’t check out a source (Link) .
At the same time, he doesn’t come across as a complete skepwoo in the ABC news article. He does state: “So unfortunately we can't just, we can't always count [on] eyewitness accounts being reliable." (My emphasis.)
I do agree with that statement: you can’t always count on eyewitness accounts. (But you can never discount such accounts all the time. Accounts have to be judged on a case-by-case basis.)
And here are the last three paragraphs from that article that indicate that Shermer isn’t as close-minded as one would think.
* * *
Shermer says the problem comes in a kind of leap of faith — with UFOs it's a leap of explanation.
"In science it's OK to just say, 'Let's just withhold judgment for now and do more research. We don't have to commit to some big, grand theory of aliens visiting us. Let's just say we don't know what it is.' … But we have to follow the standards of evidence in science that we apply everywhere else. In no other science would anybody accept just a few random anecdotal stories and grainy videos and blurry photographs."
"The question itself I think is legitimate," he said. "It's interesting, it's fascinating. It's mythic in scale … one of the grand questions. It's like the God question or, you know, the meaning-of-life question. It's one of those, on that scale. So you'd have to be made of wood not to be interested and, you know, have they come here? Are they up there?"
* * *
So he does think the question is “legitimate.” What he states that more research should be done before any leaps of faith are made. I don’t argue with that. Until unquestionable evidence is found, we can speculate about the UFO mystery, but no one can truly say what ultimate answer lies behind the phenomena.
Apparently Shermer’s not a wooden dummy when considering the issue. Also, he’s right when he says that science is limited in trying to find answers in certain areas such as the reality behind God or UFOs. And that is indeed a limitation of traditional science when it comes to “mythic” subjects.
Posted by Ray Palm (Ray X) at 2:56 AM