There is no elephant in this room
There is no elephant in this room
May 4, 2010
by Billy Cox
o wonder Hillary Clinton was photographed in 1995 with a copy of Paul Daviesâ€™ â€œAre We Alone?â€ book during an alleged briefing on UFOs. Davies, the British-born physicist and cosmologist at Arizona State, is a gifted communicator whose writing skills elude many left-brain types. Accordingly, critics from New York to London have been enfatuated with his latest offering, â€œThe Eerie Silence: Are We Alone?â€
Paul Davies' "The Eerie Silence" is the latest contortion on avoidance and denial/CREDIT: failuremag.com
The early buzz on â€œEerie Silenceâ€ was that it might actually break new ground, given Daviesâ€™ concession that radiowaves might not be the sharpest way to get a handle on ET. Half a century of futility prompted him to advocate re-evaluating the entire effort: â€œWe need to establish a much broader programme of research . . . that requires the resources of all the sciences, not just radio astronomy.â€
But any hopes that he was serious enough to entertain UFO radar data, among other things, were dashed in the first chapter. As Chair of the SETI Post-Detection Taskgroup, Davies canâ€™t bring himself to leave the reservation of UFO-allergic radio astronomers. Davies actually used SETI cheerleader Seth Shostak as his go-to guy on UFOs, which is like asking a Rolling Stone rock critic about the absorption rates of basalt and shale into granites.
Shostak reassured Davies that neither Uncle Sam nor anyone else can keep secrets for very long, and which was a relief. â€œItâ€™s not enough for the US government to conceal the truth over many decades,â€ Davies went on. â€œWhat about the governments of, say, Belgium or Botswana? You might expect at least one of them to let something slip from time to time.â€
Actually, Belgium â€œlet something slipâ€ 20 years ago when its military released radar videos of F-16s in hot pursuit of a UFO during the 1989-90 wave over western Europe. Retired Maj. Gen. Wilfried De Brouwer, then chief of operations for Belgiumâ€™s air staff, traveled to Washington to discuss it in a 2007 press conference. Microwave signals from that event have yet to arrive in Shostakâ€™s dish.
And of course, like all proper members of the SETI fraternity who break out in hives over UFOs, Davies felt compelled to trot out the famous old shibboleth. He writes, â€œCarl Sagan once declared, â€˜extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.â€™â€
Actually, the guy who said that first was sociologist Marcello Truzzi, a skeptic who was a founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. But Truzzi left CSICOP shortly after its inception because they werenâ€™t skeptical enough.
â€œThey tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion,â€ he wrote. â€œMost of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts. Then, if the experiment is reputable, they say itâ€™s a mere anomaly.â€
George Hansen of East Windsor, N.J., maintains a Web site dedicated to Truzzi, who died in 2003. Author of The Trickster and the Paranormal, Hansen isnâ€™t surprised that Truzzi gets short shrift by the likes of Paul Davies. No reason for original sourcing when the original source contends with the method.
â€œThe numbers fluctuate over the years, but polls show that anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the public has a high level of belief in some form of the paranormal, of which UFOs are a part,â€ says Hansen. â€œBut those numbers are far, far lower among the intellectual elite. Not necessarily those with a higher education, but among these in academe.
â€œIt says something about the group mind of that society â€” theyâ€™re more pressured to conform in the academic world than theyâ€™re willing to let on. And academia is one of the most class-conscious, most status-conscious communities in the world.â€
In other words, look for Davies, Shostak, et. al., to pretend things like Belgium never happened. Itâ€™s safer that way. And youâ€™ll have fans in The New York Times and The Washington Post.