Friday, October 9, 2015
UFO Hypothesis with rational use of Occam's Razor
When Occam's Razor isn't being misused it could be a rational method to review far fetched claims; unfortunately the most common use of it is to jump to absolute conclusions even though that was never what Occam's Razor intended.
The most common variation of Occam's Razor is: "The simplest explanation is usually the correct one." However this wasn't the original quote although it is close and has the same intention. The following is the original according to Wikipedia:
This clearly does not say that other possibilities shouldn't be considered; and it acknowledges the possibility that if the simplest theory is proven wrong then it might be rational to move to the second or third simplest theory. Nor does it say anything about pretending inconvenient evidence doesn't exist at all. If it did then it would be easy to recognize as pseudo-science. However this is exactly how many so-called skeptics treat it.
Religious people have a long history of ending debate by claiming that unexplained mysteries are "God's will" pseudo-skeptics have a long history of ending debate by saying that can't be true "because of Occam's Razor."
At the same time many believers often make many claims that are not only absurd but factually flawed where Occam's Razor or other rational skeptical claims really would be justified. From a reasonable skeptical point of view the temptation to ridicule such beliefs should be resisted when possible. Turning Occam's Razor into a pseudo-skeptic tactic wouldn't be helpful in this case and could even play into the hands of fringe believers and scam artists, if people recognize the flawed logic of the pseudo-skeptic and decide to trust the flawed logic of the fringe believer.
There has been an enormous amount of research over the decades into UFOs however the highest profile media coverage that has been presented to the public has been almost useless since it gives plenty of time for fringe believers to present seriously flawed theories that are often full of false facts, mixed in with legitimate unsolved mysteries, and skeptics that often make almost as many blunders as the fringe believers and instead of trying to sort out the legitimate unsolved mysteries so they can be solved they often stereotype them all and ridicule them together.
Most of the coverage of past UFO incidents in the mainstream media only covers one incident at a time and treats it with ridicule, although there are very few of those anymore, at least that is the way they treat it in the mainstream news. However there are plenty of UFO shows on the History Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel and more; these shows often cover more incidents at a time but the coverage is seriously flawed and it is hard to believe that they're even trying to do a good job.
The best coverage of past incidents are often in older books or reports from when there were more people that actually tried to do a good job covering the subject or web sites that list many of these reports, however some of them are also mixed in with claims that probably should be considered fringe or unreliable. I provided a long list of reports and related links including those to both UFO researchers ranging from the most rational to the fringe believers along with skeptics, including many that seem more like pseudo-skeptics in UFOs and related links.
A couple of the most comprehensive include The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, by Edward J. Ruppelt who was the head of Project Blue Book and other government investigation agencies and actually took the subject seriously and The Condon Report which was headed by Edward Condon who was chosen to head an investigation because he was supposedly unbiased. However critics have raised doubts about his lack of biased for several reasons including his claim that UFO were "nonsense," before beginning his investigation and added, "but I'm not supposed to reach that conclusion for another year." These critics claim that is the reason why his report came to conclusions that allegedly weren't supported by the information within the report. If you ask so-called experts whether the contents of this report actually support the conclusions the answer might depend on which side of the debate they're on; however after reading several reports from the government I have noticed that it isn't uncommon for them to do just that and the most important material is often buried where most people including the highest profile reporters won't notice.
I discussed additional evidence of major unsolved mysteries in Why so few arrests for Crop Circles makers? Is there microwave evidence? and 107 Wonders of the Ancient World. In the case of the crop circles the evidence linking them to UFOs is based on testimony from a relatively small number of witnesses, assuming there aren't many more that the media is ignoring, and in the case of the ancient wonders of the \world it is difficult if not impossible to find hard evidence linking them to UFOs since they happened so long ago and the circumstances weren't well recorded. However experiments discussed in previous posts clearly indicate that the official explanation for how they were moved hasn't been replicated and it is almost certainly false. this means that either they are related to the UFOs or that they're a totally different unsolved mystery; but many theorists have claimed that they also certainly are a result of an unknown advanced intelligence of some sort.
If the skeptic's claims are true then they need to explain a lot of unsolved mysteries to maintain their claims; otherwise it seems justifiable to at least consider other theories, although using Occam's Razor it would be inappropriate to jump to the most bizarre conclusions. This includes time travel theories which often come up, but they always face one paradox or another that almost certainly indicates they're impossible. It may also include many theories about wormholes or alternative universes, which to the best of my knowledge is based purely on speculation, often coming from unreliable sources.
This means that either we need to find another explanation for all these unsolved mysteries that doesn't involve an unknown advanced intelligence or one that does. If it involves an unknown advanced intelligence that is from this planet how could they remain hidden. If it involves an unknown advanced intelligence that isn't from this planet we need to figure out where it came from and how it might have gotten here and what they're trying to accomplish. It will still be necessary to explain how they remained hidden, but their development would have taken place elsewhere so they would have a much easier time remaining hidden, although the fact that they haven't opened up a line of communication probably indicates their motives one way or another, assuming they exist.
Either way explanations to some of these unsolved mysteries will almost certainly have to get more complicated than some advocates for one theory or another might want to admit. It might be worth remembering that the theory of evolution isn't simple at all although the basic principle might seem that way.
Ironically the vast majority of speculation about interstellar travel involves technology that will be necessary to send people into space and keep them alive. However, even though the NASA missions that do involve sending people into space get the most coverage they're only a small fraction of what NASA does and if you track what they say enough it is clear that it is much more efficient to send automated crafts into space and that relying on computers to conduct many activities is much more common.
If it is possible to travel the enormous distances between solar distances it will be extremely difficult and will almost certainly require best technology from a variety of fields, including propulsion, computer technology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and much more, perhaps even including genetic engineering and many other fields that are currently being developed at surprising rates, although they're usually only reported as one advancement at a time and most people don't realize how fast scientific knowledge has been advancing over the past several decades.
A theory that relies on known technology with reasonable speculation about how they might advanced in the relatively near future will almost certainly be more credible than one that makes w2ild assumptions based mostly on speculation, often contradicting known science. If it is possible for the scientific community to develop this technology then presumably it would be possible for another advanced intelligence that has been developing longer to have done it much sooner, and theoretically they could have used it to get here.
Both Project Orion and Project Daedalus involve relatively known technology that could send automated space craft to other solar systems assuming people were willing to invest enough in it and wait long enough for them to travel for decades if not hundreds or even thousands of years before reaching their arrival. Both these projects, if they work according to plan could reach 10-20% of the speed of light. Some people theorize that more advanced research could theoretically develop technology that could reach 50-80% of the speed of light. Anyone familiar with the Inertia Principal would realize that once they get up to speed they will be able to maintain speed in a vacuum indefinitely assuming there is no resistance; however once they get to their destination they would have to reverse their momentum so they would the same amount of energy to slow down with known technology.
Additional technology has also been developed to create a Gravity assist while passing large planets; presumably if this was developed more it could provide additional assistance in propulsion either speeding up or slowing down.
This technology hasn't been put to the test and proven to work but an enormous amount of preliminary research has been done; and it is reasonable to assume that some form of automated interstellar travel might be possible; however this wouldn't enable transport of advanced life which would require much more technology to keep that life alive and would be difficult if not impossible.
The most advanced computer technology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other technologies could also be helpful in sending a long-range space craft to another solar system but unless science develops much further it is unlikely that much if any large commutes or invasions would be possible; it may not even be possible to develop technology like the science fiction stories at all even with the most advanced science after millions of years of research.
James Hansen, one of NASA's most respected researchers on Climate Change created a similar science fiction scenario at the end of his book, "Storms of my Grandchildren." He starts by saying Even though science fiction isn’t my area of expertise, I use the following scenario as a clarion call, and goes on to describe a scenario where an advanced civilization manages to travel to Earth with similar technology that I described. He does assume additional technology will be developed beyond what has already been developed but he seems to keep it within reason that might not include any theories that will never be possible, unlike many fringe theorists or science fiction writers more interested in a dramatic story than realistic science.
He also speculates about the possibility that technology could develop well enough so that a robot with artificial intelligence could operate the spaceship until it gets close to Earth then he could develop life out of DNA samples that would be developed either shortly before arrival or after arrival at the destination and the robot could serve as a surrogate parent. His intention wasn't to develop a science fiction story to advanced an alien transport theory; it was to try to warn people about the damage that Climate Change is doing and convince them to act before it was too late. However intentionally or not he provided what I consider a relatively realistic explanation about how life could travel to different solar system with credible technology that might turn out to be accurate.
The entire book including the relatively short science fiction story at the end is available at James Hansen "Storms of my Grandchildren" [PDF] - Free
Colonel Philip Corso went a step further and claimed that he received access to technology that was retrieved at Roswell and helped distribute it to corporations that developed a lot of the new technology that has been coming out over the past five decades in his book "The Day After Roswell." Like most if not all high profile reports on UFOs this book has some problems, including his cold war beliefs, which are almost certainly distorted, although he might have actually believed them even if they didn't prove to be accurate. And of course he was accused of fabricating his story by many high profile people including UFO researchers Kevin Randle and Stanton Friedman. A close look at just about all high profile research almost always turns up problems including both Corso's books and the efforts to debunk him.
However this should raise other questions about why neither side seems to correct often incredibly simple mistakes. In Why so few arrests for Crop Circles makers? I speculated about the possibility that there might be an effort to "Recruit a group of crackpots" to disclose accurate information through sources that might not seem reliable and release inaccurate information through sources that are considered credible. This hypothesis was based partly on a semi-fictional version of the Roswell incident where Martin Sheen plays a spy that follows Jesse Marcel around. As bizarre as this sounds if it is true it would explain why virtually none of the high profile coverage of UFOs on either side has much credibility. It would also mean that only those that spend an enormous amount of time sorting through the details have a chance of coming close to the truth about what is going on.
Also if the skeptics are right then why don't they express much concerns about the amount of coverage that the media is giving to some of these fringe conspiracy theorists? Many of the best researchers can't get much if any coverage on this subject or any other subject in the traditional media yet the fringe conspiracy theorists and flawed skeptics get plenty of time on the History Channel. This isn't limited to UFO coverage; the political activity in campaigns is now almost as absurd if not more absurd as UFO coverage; and this began before Donald Trump ran for president, and even before the 2010 Tea Party fringe candidates got an enormous amount of coverage while the media ignored rational grassroots candidates.
Absurd things are now standard operating procedure.
Skeptics have been promoting stereotypes about conspiracy theories for so long that they act as if none of them have any credibility; yet if there are no far fetched explanations to UFOs as they seem to believe then doesn't it seem as if there must be an enormous conspiracy to make it seem as if there is?
Some additional information about Corso's claims are available at Colonel Philip Corso and his Critics and Roswell - Colonel Philip Corso Interview. Philip Corso isn't the only one that claims that there has been reverse engineering going on, there are plenty of other people making similar claims in low profile news outlets that report about UFOs; the most prominent other one that I know of is Bob Lazar; however he also has his own credibility problems and Stanton Friedman has also argued that he is a fraud. From what I've seen of Bob Lazar he does seem to have more credibility problems that Philip Corso; but it does seem odd that Stanton Friedman is so concerned about debunking the concept of reverse engineering and occasionally using the same tactics that he has criticized when UFO skeptics use them against him.
It seems reasonable for a good researcher to be concerned about bad researchers that might give UFO research a bad name; however it is also reasonable to assume that if the government did retrieve alien technology that they would try to study it and replicate it. Stanton Friedman has claimed that he does believe that there was a crash at Roswell and that the government retrieved bodies and technology and has been one of the leading investigators claiming this. If Corso's and Lazar's claims are flawed why wouldn't he consider a more rational scenario where the government made at least some effort to reverse engineer as much as they could? This would make sense but instead he is almost completely refuting all reverse engineering claims.
On some occasions Stanton Friedman seems to use some of the same tactics he has previously attributed to skeptics when trying to debunk Philip Corso, including "If one can’t attack the data, attack the people. It is easier." On the "Day After Roswell" episode of the UFO files he spent more time trying to discredit Corso than he did trying to address some of the data, and at one point even claimed that his citation of the alleged MJ-12 documents was a copy of his own work, as if he should have copyrights to control how it is used. He was the highest profile researcher to look into them, but they were apparently given to at least one other researcher, Linda Moulton Howe, before Philip Corso claimed he had access to them at one point.
However, as I said Philip Corso does have some credibility problems and his coauthor is even worse. Bill Birnes went on to host UFO Hunters with an enormous amount of hype and flawed investigation, at one point he even claimed that he considered a hollow moon hypothesis viable, without making any attempt to acknowledge that it would contradict the most basic principles of physics and geology. Unfortunately this is typical of high profile UFO research, which is what makes the "Recruit a Group of Crackpots" hypothesis seem realistic.
Another catch 22 which is rarely considered is that if the claims about reverse engineering are partially true then it means that aliens must have been able to get here one way or another. If these claims aren't true then it means that an enormous amount of technology has developed in a surprisingly short time over the last fifty years. The human race evolved over hundreds of thousands, if not millions or even billions of years; but the industrial revolution only took a couple of hundred years and advances computers, cloning, DNA manipulation, even technology where handicapped people were able to use computers hooked up to their brain to move automated programs and geoengineering, exploring the solar system happened much faster. This is rapidly demonstrating an enormous amount of potential that could include our own ability to travel through space. And if these advances continue to happen then unlike James Hansen science fiction hypothesis where people from the planet Claron had to continue develop for another half a billion years before they could use this technology it seems like a reasonable possibility with this rapid development that we might be able to do it in a few more hundred or thousand years.
Unless of course we destroy the environment as James Hansen is warning us not to do; and the most powerful political people clearly seem to be trying to do just that thanks to what appears to be an insane political and fiscal ideology that is designed to consolidate all their political power and money so they can get it all while the rest of society falls apart.
With or without advanced technology from aliens we're developing science at a fast rate and using new advances for insane purposes, and even if you think this hypothesis is insane it seems reasonable to agree with James Hansen's warning and stop the destruction of the planet.If that doesn't happen then we won't come close to developing the technology James Hansen speculates about on the planet Claron before we destroy ourselves.
Is this theory starting to seem like the simplest one that should be chosen according to Occam's Razor?
Perhaps not; or at least it doesn't seem like it would be the most credible one. However in order for other theories to be viable from a scientific point of view they need to explain all the related unsolved mysteries. If the ancient megaliths or crop circles or many other unsolved mysteries aren't related to UFOs then an explanation for the UFOs doesn't need to address them but other explanations will still be needed to solve those mysteries; and if skeptics have to rely on ridicule or ignore inconvenient facts to explain them then other theories should at least be considered.
If skeptics don't do this then why shouldn't they simply accept the oldest and most common explanation for just about everything, "It's God's will." This sounds like the simplest explanation and I can't imagine why more religious people don't use Occam's Razor to argue in it's favor. But of course simply saying "It's God's will" when ever they can't explain an unsolved mystery doesn't explain anything and is unscientific. Why would it be acceptable to refute everything by simply saying "that must be false because of Occam's Razor," often accompanied by an enormous amount of ridicule and circular argument that doesn't address important unsolved mysteries?
In order to figure out which theory really is the simplest then it will be necessary to organize them all and ensure that they all explain related unsolved mysteries then the simplest one that actually does this should be chosen, at least until a better one comes along. There also needs to be more sincere efforts to review science, which there isn't. This includes the incompetent coverage of The Big Bang which is a Political Theory Disguised as Science as I explained in a previous post. If you applied Occam's Razor to the Big Bang verses the Steady State theory it seems like it would be more rational to consider the possibility that the doppler effect might be less reliable when it comes to checking galaxies more than 2 and a half million light years away, therefore as Fred Hoyle claimed, the Steady State is by far the simplest hypothesis and it has fewer flaws if any; however the big bang seems to have more political support.