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timer Asked: Nov 14th, 2016

Question description

At the end of chapter 4, both the United States Air Force and Royston Paynter write about the UFO phenomenon and both author’s perspectives relate to how we should think about the concept of "evidence" in this controversial field. This gives us a good opportunity to take a closer look at this crucial topic in critical thinking.


In this assignment, make sure to read both articles and then CHOOSE one of them, and read it again closely and actively. Then, explain how you feel the author's ideas relate to the concept of evidence as it has presented in this week's materials. Do you think they make valid claims about evidence? Why or why not?  In addition, be sure to identify and analyze any reasoning errors in the author's argument. 

PLEASE NOTE: This assignment is not asking neither for a summary of the articles NOR your perspective on the issue. Instead, in this assignment and many others, you will be doing an analysis of a particular article using the ideas and criteria specified by the assignment.

Criteria for Success

1, Knowledgeably employ the terms and ideas in the class materials and apply them to your given topic.
2. Skillfully and specifically analyze your given object of investigation.
3. Connect to your own experience and the world around you.

Assignment Expectations

For this assignment, you should not need to consult or utilize any outside sources. If you feel compelled to make reference to outside sources or other people's words or ideas, you need to cite them using APA citation, or you may be committing plagiarism. (Please see APA information provided by your library, or contact either me or the librarian if you need clarification on APA citation).

Your assignment should be a minimum of 500 words (not including headers, references or other items not part of the main assignment text) and should be formatted according to APA specifications.

Perspectives on Evaluating Evidence for the Existence of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) Sightings of unexplained phenomena in the sky have been reported since ancient times. However, it was not until the late 1940s, following the famous “flying saucer crash” incident in Roswell, New Mexico, that UFO reports began to proliferate. There is little doubt that sensationalist media coverage stimulated reports of more UFO sightings, just as the 1909 story in the Boston Herald of the invention of an airship was followed by hundreds of sightings of the bogus ship. In 1948, the U.S. Air Force began to keep a file of UFO sightings as part of Project Blue Book. By 1969, the project had recorded 12,618 UFO sightings. Ninety percent of these UFO sightings have been identified with astronomical and weather phenomena, aircraft, balloons, searchlights, hot gases, and other natural events. Ten percent remain unexplained. In 1968, the U.S. Air Force commissioned a study under the direction of University of Colorado professor Edward Condon.44 The study concluded that there was no evidence for UFOs and that scientific study of the phenomenon should be discontinued. As a result of the study, Project Blue Book was suspended. Despite official consensus that UFOs do not exist, a 2012 National Geographic Society poll found that slightly more than one-third of Americans believe that UFOs exist.45 In addition, 10 percent claim to have actually seen a UFO. The survey also found that 79 percent of Americans think that the government is hiding information from them about the existence of UFOs and alien life forms. Page 131Following are readings from the U.S Air Force Blue Book Project and by Royston Paynter. Many if not most scientists believe that UFOs do not exist. These scientists argue that there are natural explanations for UFO phenomena, including meteorites, balloons, hallucinations, and perceptual and social error in our thinking. While Blue Book Project is more dismissive of UFOs, both readings leave open the possibility that UFOs may be real. Project Blue Book: Analysis of Reports of Unidentified Aerial Objects UNITED STATES AIR FORCE Project Blue Book summarizes a series of studies of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) conducted by the U.S. Air Force beginning in 1952. The following selection is from the summary and conclusion of the report. To read the entire report, go to It is not possible to derive a verified model of a “flying saucer” from the data that have been gathered to date. This point is important enough to emphasize. Out of about 4,000 people who said they saw a “flying saucer,” sufficiently detailed descriptions were given in only 12 cases. Having culled the cream of the crop, it is still impossible to develop a picture of what a “flying saucer” is. . . . On the basis of this evidence, therefore, there is a low probability that any of the UNKNOWNS represent observations of a class of “flying saucers.” It may be that some reports represent observations of not one but several classes of objects that might have been “flying saucers”; however, the lack of evidence to confirm even one class would seem to make this possibility remote. It is pointed out that some of the cases of KNOWNS, before identification, appeared fully as bizarre as any of the 12 cases of good UNKNOWNS, and, in fact, would have been placed in the class of good UNKNOWNS had it not been possible to establish their identity. This is, of course, contrary to the bulk of the publicity that has been given to this problem. . . . It is unfortunate that practically all of the articles, books, and news stories dealing with the phenomenon of the “flying saucer” were written by men . . . had read only a few selected reports. This is accentuated by the fact that, as a rule, only the more lurid-sounding reports are cited in these publications. Were it not for this common psychological tendency to be captivated by the mysterious, it is possible that no problem of this nature would exist. The reaction, mentioned above, that after reading a few reports, the reader is convinced that “flying saucers” are real and are some form of sinister contrivance, is very misleading. As more and more of the reports are read, the feeling that “saucers” are real fades, and is replaced by a feeling of skepticism regarding their existence. The reader eventually reaches a point of saturation, after which the reports contain no new information at all and are no longer of any interest. This feeling of surfeit was universal among the personnel who worked on this project, and continually necessitated a conscious effort on their part to remain objective. CONCLUSIONS It can never be absolutely proven that “flying saucers” do not exist. This would be true if the data obtained were to include complete scientific measurements of the attributes of each sighting, as well as complete and detailed descriptions of the objects sighted. It might be possible to demonstrate the existence of “flying saucers” with data of this type, IF they were to exist. Although the reports considered in this study usually did not contain scientific measurements of the attributes of each sighting, it was possible to establish certain valid conclusions by the application of statistical methods in the treatment of the data. Scientifically evaluated and arranged, the data as such did not show any marked patterns or trends. The inaccuracies inherent in this type of data, in addition to the incompleteness of a large proportion, of the reports, may have obscured any patterns or trends that otherwise would have been evident. This absence of indicative relationships necessitated an exhaustive study of selected facets of the data in order to draw any valid conclusions. A critical examination of the distributions of the important characteristics of sightings, plus an intensive study of the sightings evaluated as UNKNOWN, led to the conclusion that a combination of factors, principally the reported maneuvers of the objects and the unavailability of supplemental data such as aircraft flight plans or balloon-launching records, resulted in the failure to identify as KNOWNS most of the reports of objects classified as UNKNOWNS. An intensive study, aimed at finding a verified example of a “flying saucer” or at deriving a verified model or models of “flying saucers” (defined on Page 1 as “any aerial phenomenon or sighting that remains unexplained to the viewer”), led to the conclusion that neither goal could be attained using the present data. Page 132It is emphasized that there was a complete lack of any valid evidence consisting of physical matter in any case of a reported unidentified aerial object. Thus, the probability that any of the UNKNOWNS considered in this study are “flying saucers” is concluded to be extremely small, since the most complete and reliable reports from the present data, when isolated and studied, conclusively failed to reveal even a rough model, and since the data as a whole failed to reveal any marked patterns or trends. Therefore, on the basis of this evaluation of the information, it is considered to be highly improbable that any of the reports of unidentified aerial objects examined in this study represent observations of technological developments outside the range of present-day scientific knowledge. REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. How does Project Blue Book distinguish between KNOWNS and UNKNOWNS in assessing reports of UFO sightings? 2. How do the authors account for the fact that so many people believe in UFOs? 3. What conclusion do the authors of Project Blue Book draw regarding the existence of UFOs and why? Physical Evidence and Unidentified Flying Objects ROYSTON PAYNTER Royston Paynter has a Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and is currently a professor at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Quebec, Canada. In this article, Dr. Paynter writes that claims about the existence of UFOs and alien abductions should be conducted “according to the highest standards of scientific inquiry.”47 Without any physical evidence, he argues, we should remain skeptical about these claims. Skeptics are sometimes criticized for demanding physical evidence of alien visitations. It is an unreasonable demand, believers say, because aliens are intelligent and cunning, and one cannot expect them to leave physical evidence of their presence on Earth. Well, such an argument may make sense to somebody who is prepared to believe in alien visitations as an act of faith, in the same way that some people believe in angels. But the undeniable fact of the matter is that there is no probative physical evidence that compels us to conclude that aliens are visiting the Earth. There simply is no alien space ship on display in a museum somewhere, in fact, there is no object in existence on Earth of which we can say “this must have been made by aliens.” Of course it is possible to believe in alien visitations nonetheless, as an act of faith, but the great majority of scientists do not believe it, because it has not been proven in a rigorous scientific manner. Those believers that reject the more extreme claims of popular UFOlogy, such as cattle mutilations, crop circles and even perhaps alien abductions, tend to fall back upon government and military reports obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. A well-known example is the US Air Force’s own Project Sign “Estimate of the Situation,” issued in 1948, that concluded that flying saucers were real and that they came from outer space. To what extent is such a report authoritative? A scientifically trained individual looking at such a statement would ask “is this conclusion justified by the data presented?” That is to say, is such a conclusion forced upon us as the most economical way to explain that data, or is it the result of sloppy analysis and/or wishful thinking? In the case of the Project Sign “estimate,” General Hoyt S. Vandenberg did not believe that the report’s evidence was sufficient to support its conclusions, and he rejected it. For those among us that are not prepared to believe in alien visitations simply as an act of faith, physical evidence is the key to everything. We will believe, if some artifact can be found on Earth that is demonstrably alien. Let us note here that “unidentified” and “demonstrably alien” are not synonymous. Just because a given UFO sighting cannot be explained it does not follow that it has been proved to be an alien space ship. Short of a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn, where lie the best chances to obtain a demonstrably alien artifact? If we are to believe the stories told (or “remembered” under hypnosis) by those claiming to have been abducted by aliens, it seems that we should direct our attention first to those “alien implants” recovered from these people. The stakes here are extremely high. If these “implants” can be shown to have been manufactured by aliens, then people really are being abducted by aliens. If, on the other hand, it cannot be shown that the “implants” are alien, then we must ask serious questions of the “researchers” who have elicited the testimony from the “abductees.” With the stakes so high, it is essential, in our opinion, that these analyses be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of scientific inquiry. Most importantly, we must demand that the UFOlogists prove what they claim. They are claiming that the “implants” have an alien origin. It is therefore not enough to show that they are “100% pure” or that they have an “unusual composition” or that they contain chemical elements also found in radio transmitters. They have to show that aliens made them. Page 133One simple test would be enough to prove such a claim to the satisfaction of most scientists—an isotopic analysis of the material from which the implant is composed. We can reasonably expect that a device made by aliens from materials obtained in another solar system will exhibit isotope ratios different than those found on Earth. Such a test goes straight to the heart of the claim being made for the “implant” and would avoid all the obfuscation and hyperbole about “100% purity” and the like. We urge the UFOlogical community to adopt properly scientific standards of investigation and proof in their work. They have to support their conclusions with probative evidence and rigorous reasoning and to confront the skeptics with the evidence they so dearly seek—a demonstrably alien artifact.

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