Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A must-read Book for UFO mavens and especially the few who visit Kevin Randle’s blog

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Here’s the blurb from the cover of Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini’s book, “Inevitable Illusions; How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds” [John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY, 1994]:

Everyone knows that optical illusions trick us because of the way we see. Now scientists have discovered hat cognitive illusions, a set of biases deeply embedded in the human mind, distort the way we think.

In Inevitable Illusions cognitive researcher Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini…opens the doors onto the newly charted realm of the cognitive unconscious to reveal the full range of illusions, showing how they inhibit our ability to reason, no matter what our educational background or IQ.

The problem(s) with “ufological thought” -- an oxymoron surely – is blatantly on display in many internet places where UFOs are the topic: UFO UpDates is one such place.

But a capsule site for erroneous thinking is Kevin Randle’s blog, A Different Perspective.

Mr. Randle isn’t the problem; he opens his blog to all comers (mostly) giving free reign to an admittedly few UFO hobbyists: ET advocates, exemplified by David Rudiak (who is a member of Mr. Randle’s Roswellian Dream Team), skeptics, represented by Lance Moody, Christopher Allen, and Gilles Fernandez, along with assorted nobodies.

Mr. Randle’s visitors continue to get immersed in the minutiae of the 1947 Roswell incident, hacking away at the tale, ad infinitum, ad eternum, and ad nauseum,

A scrutiny of the back-and forths, beclouded by Mr. Rudiak’s extensive displays of Roswell detritus, shows that the thinking behind the commentary is flawed, in ways that Piattelli-Palmarini examples in his book (pictured above).

The over-riding premise of “cognitive illusions” is footnoted by quasi-magical thought, the psychology of typicality, and heuristic “mental tunnels” which create bias. [Page 19 ff.]

Chapter Six of the book, The Fallacy of Near Certainty, provides references to capital and systematic mistakes with its naive forms of extrapolation. [Page 111 ff.]

The patina of Mr. Rudiak’s droning presentations highlight what Piattelli-Palmarini is driving at:

In the world of probability one cannot, even where the reliability is very close to 100 percent (or absolute certainty) – such as 95 percent – extrapolate. [ibid]

The specifics of “overconfidence” outlined, beginning on Page 116, derive from a 1977 paper in the Journal of Experimental Psychology [Fischoff, Slovic, Lichtenstein] where persons “certain of their subjects” thought they were 100 percent correct, and rated their probability of being wrong as one in a thousand, in ten thousand, or even in a million. [Page 117].

Mr. Rudiak presents his views with that kind of overconfidence.

That Mr. Rudiak knows his subject matter, Roswell, better than most, is obvious.

That skeptics (Moody, CDA, Fernandez) goad him into lavishing his knowledge on Randle’s readers creates an argumentative scenario which diminishes the basics of the Roswell incident and UFOs in general.

Roswell, no matter how one perceives it, tells us nothing about UFOs as they exist today. Or what their import is from past observations.

The details that Mr. Rudiak generously provides and Mr. Randle encourages are not debunked by the skeptical group. They engage, also, in many of the cognitive flaws that Piattelli-Palmarini outlines, such as not knowing or using Bayes’ Law when attempting to refute Mr. Rudiak or employ a “tunnel of pessimism” [Page 139 ff.]

Piattelli-Palmarini gives several examples that, for me, show how the skeptics ruin their argumentation: Externally modulable and Subjectively incorrigible (where telling [Mr. Rudiak] that he is…inclined to commit certain errors does not immediately lead him to cease doing so. [Page 140]

UFO aficionados are inclined to be belligerent and illogical.

That’s the endemic nature of the UFO topic.

UFO UpDates provides the caustic examples of belligerency and illogic.

Mr. Randle’s blog isn’t as compassing, but it gives an outline of how far and how low the UFO phenomenon has driven academic civility.

Perhaps some of Mr. Randle’s habitués will seek out the book mentioned here and mend their ways.

(I doubt any will do that. They are victims of their own cognitive illusions.)


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