I am going to show a classical example of pseudoskepticism at its worse. This transcript came from a talk Phil Plait was giving at a conference and was asked if he believed in UFOs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c75N4reUpHs“Who’s looking at the sky all the time? Some random guy on the street looks up and sees something he doesn’t understand, that’s not surprising, right, because he doesn’t spend a lot of time looking up.
Amateur astronomers spend more time looking up than anybody. They’re all the time looking up at this stuff, and yet they never report UFOs. Why? Because they know what they’re looking at. They know when they’re seeing Venus, the Moon, swap gas, the Araura, satellites, the reflections off things. And so the fact of the matter is, if UFOs were real, if these were really aliens visiting us, overwhelming the most number of reports would be from amateur astronomers, and yet they never seem to report ‘em. And I think that indicates that, you know - - it doesn’t indicate there are no aliens visiting us, but it certainly indicates that the overwhelming number of cases reported
are just simple things being misunderstood.”
I’m going to debunk Phil’s debunking by starting out with some assumptions about amateur astronomers. I may be wrong on some of these so feel free to correct me, please.
1. I believe that amateur astronomers only look at night, which is on average an 8 hr. segment of the day (1/3 of 24 hrs. in the day)
2. I’m assuming that during that 8 hr. period that the amateurs have to take time to pee, maybe eat a quick meal, rest their eye, stretch their back and neck and possibly spending time charting. I’m going to say that at best, they spend maybe 6 hrs. per night actually looking.
3. I’m also going to assume that astronomers don’t look at stars and planets 365 days of the year. This cuts down on ‘hours looking at the stars’.
4. Astronomers “look at the skies” which means in that context stars, planets, etc., not the immediate airspace occupied by planes that fly at or near many UFO sightings.
5. I’m going to assume that through a telescope that it is more of a narrow tunnel of vision than an airplane or someone looking up.
6. I will also assume that they have poor depth perception compared to pilots.
7. If you look at this link that shows how many airplanes there are in the air at any given time, I seriously doubt that the same map with lights representing the amount of amateur astronomers would be anywhere near the amount of planes. http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sust ... images/at/
Now let’s compare that with airplanes:
1. Almost complete coverage of the airspace 24/7 by many more people simultaneously.
2. Pilots are at or near the heights of reported UFOs.
3. Pilots have a much better depth perception.
4. Pilots have a much broader field of vision just staring straight ahead, let alone banking right or left, ascending, descending and even turning back around. So in a matter of a few seconds a pilot can in effect have 360 omnivision.
5. Many credible reports have come from highly experienced and trained pilots, primarily in the military and commercial applications. Military and many commercial have gone through airplane silhouette training, especially the military.
In summation, as you can see, Phil’s logic is flawed and skewed. He puts too much weight and emphasis on amateurs and virtually none on pilots. The amount of time, blanket coverage, numbers of pilots vs. amateur astronomers, field of vision, depth perception, area of focus is far greater than amateur astronomers. It’s little wonder that you don’t get any sightings from them. That, and of course, they are also susceptible to pattern recognition and confirmation bias like everybody else.
To me, this has some unpleasant ramifications in that debunkers are would like nothing better than to eliminate woo from the airwaves and schools, etc. but at the same time, in the areas of woo, they put out info that is misleading, and at times, deceptive.
That is James Randi’s legacy.