Is writing about UFOs a danger to society?
Yes, I write about UFOs sometimes.
I know some of you wish I wouldn’t, especially those of you who know me primarily from other areas. I’ve had somebody use it to disparage my opinion…and that’s not even counting that I’ve written about Bigfoot. 🙂
It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m not an advocate: I write about the topics from the point of critical thinking, when I’m not just having fun with a story. I don’t come from a point of view of a true believer…but I’m not what I call a “true disbeliever” either.
I’m interested in how people come to conclusions about things.
But I know there are people who think that writing about UFOs leads people to doubt science…that it is literally dangerous for people to have the information presented to them. The oddest approach is when critics say that it makes the public less effective critical thinkers if fringe stories are presented as fact.
Um…isn’t it the opposite?
You aren’t going to learn critical thinking skills by having only one viewpoint presented. Critical thinking is about comparison and analysis, not acceptance.
Honestly, you must think science is pretty weak if you think that it can’t stand up to contrary statements.
Oh, and I’m not saying all ufology is non-scientific. Not at all.
But let’s stick to somebody saying that a UFO is a craft from Zeta Reticuli. How do they know? They got telepathic communications.
It doesn’t hurt science or the culture’s scientific literacy at all to hear that, in my opinion. I would think scientists would embrace the opportunity to show how the scientific method does or does not apply to the claim.
That’s critical thinking…not just saying “science says it’s impossible”. That’s belief.
Fear is a great generator of contributions, and I do think some Skeptical organizations like to make people afraid of the potential societal impact of stories of UFOs (and the “paranormal”). “You can help us shed the light that will save our young people from the darkness of scientific ignorance! Membership is only $100 a year!”
Many Skeptics, of course, are perfectly sincere.
But it’s interesting to me that a statement that something is a hoax is subject to much less stringent examination that the statement that something is paranormal.
Science should subject all claims to the same tests…not work from presumptions.
So, I don’t think writing about UFOs is dangerous, and I don’t think reading about them is, either. You want to report that a veterinarian said the chickens allegedly killed by a chupacabra were killed by a dog? Great! Tell the public why you picked that veterinarian’s opinion over the one that said it wasn’t a dog. Explain the process…if your methodology makes more sense, it will win. Oh, not always…some people are more swayed by emotion than reason, of course.
If you are truly scientific, you can’t reject something without examining it. That’s a dangerous trap into which to fall. Science doesn’t say “this is”. It says that a hypothesis has been tested through observation and experimentation and is the best explanation we have at this time.
However, it is willing to reject a theory (the butterfly to the hypothesis’ cocoon) if better evidence and more experimentation suggest another answer.
If anybody ever tells you “there’s nothing to x”, know that is an opinion…not a fact. If someone explains to you why something is unlikely, that’s something for you to consider. You look at the arguments on both sides…contrast and compare.
Then, don’t decide…but choose one that seems more likely.
Whether there is a “new reality” to UFOs or not, I think it’s good for society to write about opposing viewpoints and challenges to conventional wisdom. If someone examines it and decides the conventional wisdom is more likely, that will be a stronger conviction than it was before.
And if they decide conventional wisdom is wrong…after careful examination and critical thinking? Even better…as long as they are open to a re-examination of that opinion.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle