Exercise for IDers

LightsExercise: Identifying improper argumentation common to UFO theorists and Intelligent Design proponents.

Hardcore UFO theorists have co-opted and distorted science and reason to bolster their own position and agenda in the following ways.

1. The term UFO itself no longer generically means unidentified flying object, but rather has taken on the connotation of extraterrestrial beings who have stopped by for a visit. This allows mere mysterious “sightings” to be categorized through equivocation as positive evidence for extraterrestrial activity. They suggest that, anyone using the term UFO admits to “Unsolicited beings from another star with big eyes and brains who have come in plate-shaped spacecrafts to conduct biological research on humans.”

Logical Form {The term “x” means “X”.}

2. Presumably, there exist real physical evidence of a mysterious aircraft tucked away in some government warehouse in Roswell. To the hypothetical unveiling of this aircraft, UFO theorist are prepared to uncritically attach their comprehensive plug-and-play matrix of facts and explanations of extraterrestrial existence conjured up from raw imagination. Though there are contradictory explanatory theories within the set of all UFO theorists, all seek just that one piece of physical evidence that scientists cannot explain as a complete validation of their own theories. Were that piece to be revealed and to remain unexplained, they would assume that the entire construct of their respective predicated theories could then simply be snapped contingently onto that piece.

Logical Form {If “P” is exists, then “P” is “X”, and “Y” through “Z” are also true.}

3. Any humble admission by any scientist in any field that extraterrestrial beings could exist is heralded as a concession, and inappropriately taken from logical possibility to probability or at least to equal status with extraterrestrial non-existence.

Logical Form {“X” has been shown to be possible, so “X” is close to probable.}

4. When scientists submit theories to their peers, they are expected to self-critique and identify the greatest weaknesses of their hypothesis/theory. The UFO theorists avoid any similar self-critique. This leads to dogmatism and a distorted weighting of evidence.

Logical Form {Because “A” admits a potential weakness in his theory “Y”, it lends support for my theory “X”.}

5. Any anger or scorn or other emotional reaction by government officials or scientist over the wasted time, energy and cognition spent on extraterrestrial speculation is deemed by UFO theorists to be near-sufficient evidence for a conspiracy to cover up the truth. Any irrational rejection of extraterrestrials is considered to be reason enough to default to belief in extraterrestrials.

Logical Form {“A” illogically rejects “X”, so “X” is true.}

6. A subculture of UFO “scientists” has been set up to examine evidence for UFOs. (This is to some degree analogous to setting up a committee of fortune tellers to determine who the “real” fortune tellers are among them.) Because of the methodological assumption that UFOs do exist, it a small step to go from blurry lights in a photo to determining the size, shape and speed of the UFO. Accounts from UFO abductees are also “critically” examined to ascertain the nature and intentions of the extraterrestrials. This is similar to Big Foot theorists who plot sightings to determine the social and cultural dynamics of a Big Foot community. These scientists are then deemed as the only reliable authority since they are untainted by any government conspiracy or over-developed skepticism.

Logical Form {“A” believes in “X”, and is therefore a more reliable authority on the existence of “X”.}

7. Once the “evidence” has been presented, there is then an appeal made to “common sense”, “gut feelings” or the inherent beauty or adventure of their theory as a necessary final step in the epistemological process.
{Introspection validates “X”, therefore “X” is true.}

Logical Form {I would not want to live in a world where “X” is not true, therefore “X” is true.} or {I feel “X” is true, therefore “X” is true.}

8.The large number of subjective “sightings” is cited as validation of their veracity in spite of a clear inverse relationship between the degree of adventurousness within a claim, and that claim’s proximity to the scrutiny of science.

Logical Form {Zero confirmed “S”es, plus many unconfirmed “S”es, demonstrates the existence of “S”.}

9. Whenever any particular sighting is offered as evidence and subsequently shown as either fraudulent or insubstantial, the Rolodex of sightings is simply turn to the next card without removing the faulty card. This faulty card is then reused in subsequent arguments.

Logical Form {Ok, so “S” may not be true, but what about “T”? → ad infinitum}

10. In conjunction with the previous fallacy, UFO theorists disregard precedent. The accumulative failures of their theory is ignored when examining any new “sighting”. They sweep the scales clean, and start with the unwarranted assumption that neither side of the question has earned any precedential weight.

Logical Form {“X” has been incorrect in 100 cases, yet this history of failure should have no consideration when applied to this new case “C”.}

11. In communities and cultures where there are regular sightings, subsequent generations also experience sightings. Prior to the widespread publishing of space alien images during the 1940s, accounts of alien sightings did not often include the big eyes and heads. (It is also interesting to note that “ghosts” in the US are semi-transparent, while “ghosts” in Japan are opaque.)

Logical Form {“U” is an integral part of my heritage and social identity, but does not taint my ability to assess “U”.}

12. Communities where UFO sightings are common have a disproportionate number of persons uneducated in scientific methodology, critical thinking, logic and in the inherent weaknesses of human cognition. Accompanying this is often an outright attempt to invert the notion that truth is better approximated by those who have spent more time learning and applying critical thinking. An enormous amount of weight is placed on the concept of “knowing” that correlates to a psychological state of confidence with no necessary correspondence to evidence.

Logical Form {Since I KNOW that “X” is true, those who deny “X” are blind or rebelling against the evidence that I KNOW must be there.}

13. Believers in extraterrestrial beings are quick to invoke extraterrestrials as explanations for the mysteries that remain in science. Extraterrestrial technology in the construction of the pyramids is one example. As the web of scientific knowledge moves past these mysteries, UFO theorists quickly migrate to the more distant mysteries that naturally emerge. There is little patience for an appropriate buffer of skepticism between the introduction of the question and the point of of sufficient evidence.

Logical Form {Science has not yet answered “Q”, therefore the cause of “Q” is “X”.}

14. Believers in extraterrestrials require a higher bar of evidence and explanatory power for opposing theories than for their own theory. Were the composite of metals at a “UFO crash site” be confirmed to be consistent with terrestrial human-made alloys, they would demand for science to identify the precise source, and then demand a default to the more remote possibility of their own theory which more comprehensively suggests that a spacecraft had mechanical troubles and crashed.

Logical Form {Your theory “T” is incomplete and unsatisfying, therefore it is trumped by my less substantiated yet more comprehensive theory “X”.}

15. UFO theorists also often suppose that scientists are working against them. They assume that there is a conspiracy among scientists in which some agenda makes them lose their objectivity, and out of some nefarious agenda, they suppress the truth to themselves and others. The reality is that a very high percentage of scientists would be delighted to uncover evidence of extraterrestrial beings.

Logical Form {Science is tainted by its (unconfirmed) agenda “Y” that makes “X” impossible or undesirable, and therefore cannot be trusted to objectively assess theory “X”.}

This list, while ostensibly directed toward UFO theorists, is actually intended to be an exercise for those who subscribe to religion-based Intelligent Design in opposition to evolution. I propose that you instantiate Intelligent Design or the notion of god into the fallacious argument forms above to identify any emerging commonalities. While not all of these fallacies are always visible within all the various Intelligent Design camps, these fallacies are those that I’ve found to exist to some degree among the average active ID participants. These fallacies are also found among evolutionists at times. The point is not to invalidate any position by showcasing its poor and fallacious arguments, but rather to encourage all positions to abandon such arguments. If the position has any validity, it will be found in valid argumentation. No cheating.


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