I think you're greatly underestimating how much of everything people believe to be true about what they have seen, heard or experienced is just a hallucination.

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What about

5. A genuine (but possibly amplified by misremembering) observation of a natural or man-made phenomenon which has nothing to do with any secret groups?

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This is textbook False Dilemma. The possible scope of reasonable explanations is far larger than four, but by claiming that it can only be these four you create a scenario where the logically valid choice will be whatever you want it to be.

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This question is part of the set of things it is wise to not be curious about. This set also includes a list of things included in the set.

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You should follow the work of Mick West. A huge proportion of all the "highly credible" cases he has examined have plausible boring explanations. Something like well over 90%.

For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7jcBGLIpus

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You should have a separate category for an unidentified human aircraft that's not part of a conspiracy. That probably is the majority of impressive UFOs, such as those recently declassified by the US military. Unidentified drones, balloons, commercial or military aircraft, with apparently strange behavior due to camera artifacts or misjudging distance.

What I want to know is how come all the UFO videos are so blurry? Usually they are seen as only a few blurry dots. It's like, why is Bigfoot always blurry? The obvious explanation is that if the object were imaged in more detail, it would be clear how to identify it.

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UFO sightings drastically falling in the age of smartphones and constant recording should put much more weight on #1 and #2. When SpaceX launches a rocket, we have 5,000 angles from hundreds of miles out.

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Do you have a reading list for people who want to learn more about the strong UFO events?

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What I struggle with the whole UFO thing is the impact of a definitive answer. So if we confirm yes extraterrestrial UFOs are “real”, so what?

1. There isn’t any technological value to it - if proven, we can’t suddenly increase our tech.

2. It won’t change our approach - since “they” haven’t contacted us in any serious fashion - a simple radio broadcast hitting the world would easily announce their presence.

3. It seems counter intuitive that a civilisation can be so advanced that they can build technology which can avoid all civilian official detection and government detection (some governments may agree to keep quiet but not all governments all the time) yet travel to other worlds only to randomly buzz/flyby and scare up the locals.

And then taking the theories themselves through a basic set of what-if assumptions, it seems even more unlikely.

If the assumption is there are other living worlds with much more advanced technology yet space travel is still difficult - then we should see any visit from another planet as a big/complex and obvious event (why incur such expense to be ultra secret about it?) Or conversely if travel is so expensive why invest in “stealth” technology.

If the assumption is there are other living worlds and travel is easy - then we should have seen many space tourists “buzzing” us.

If the assumption is there are other living worlds which can produce technology or live outside our perception of reality / the world, then the argument itself is mute. Since such an argument can be used to “prove” anything.

It feels like a logical fallacy by restricting the logical framing and choices to one’s which support your reasoning. There are many other potential options beyond the 4 described (including 5. mentioned by Oleg Eterevsky). We know mass imagination events are possible and the “credibility” of a given whiteness is subjective as we know humanity has a biological design to create memories.

Given the size of our universe, I think it is likely there are other living worlds. Yet I don’t think we have any definitive proof or likely evidence that any of those civilisations have bothered to send a spy space craft to freak out a few pilots on a late night flight. The logic just doesn’t add up once we consider associated complexities.

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Were there UFO events before 1940? It seems a bit of a coincidence to me that we only start reporting UFOs once flying becomes common on earth.

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> But in order to explain most strong dramatic events this way, I just don’t think it works to postulate scattered amateur liars and hoaxers. Instead I think one needs a big conspiracy, wherein a coalition of orgs has secretly and professionally coordinated to spend big budgets over many decades to have many lie, and to fool others via what are essentially magic tricks.

What do you think about the idea that people like to half-believe things that are exciting and dramatic, and that sometimes this happens in self-reinforcing groups?

You see plenty of examples of this with other miraculous or improbable events, and UFOs are an established idea out there for people to latch on to.

We can see weaker versions of this right now with things like QAnon or [redacted] that I think people only half-believe (some more, some less) but enjoy participating in.

I haven't looked at the evidence myself, so maybe the strong events you're talking about can't be explained by "eyewitnesses" getting caught up in a sort of game. But I don't think you need a long running conspiracy to explain people sometimes getting together and agreeing on a UFO story that is greatly exaggerated or entirely made up.

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I still don't get how #4 (alien spaceships) fits the data. You would expect alien spaceships to be either invisible or highly invisible, why have they arranged themselves so that they are just partially visible from time to time and never clearly and incontrovertibly visible? Seems very low propbability. And why aren't the number and quality of sitings increasing as billions of people have become equipped with smartphones with excellent cameras. The data seems to fit much better with hallucinations or optical illusions.

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> My awkward inference starts here: it seems clear to me that #1 can only plausibly explain a modest fraction of strong dramatic events. Most errors would have to be much closer to gross incompetence than to “oops”. (If you’ve also looked but can’t see this, I just don’t know what to say. Pay more attention?)

I find this to be a highly dubious claim backed up by an unfortunate level of self-confidence. The fact is that people are grossly incompetent observers as a matter of course. There are too many documented cases of things like highly skilled fighter pilots crashing into the water while trying to avoid being shot down by the planet Venus to ignore.

If it is true that elites have a bias against #3 or #4, which I'm really not sure is true, it clearly seems like this would be an overcorrection or backlash to the fairly obvious fact that dumb and poorly informed people are more likely to prefer #3 and #4 because they are simpler to understand and explain despite being overwhelmingly less plausible explanations in virtually every single case.

Look at it this way. Everybody knows that educated elites are more atheistic than the general populace, and everybody knows that this is at least partially just a cultural bias. But the fact is that in a modern context religion preferentially appeals to people who are less intelligent and more poorly informed. So do UFOs. This doesn't disprove either of the things but it does mean that "educated elites are biased against splashy explanations for the UFO phenomenon" is not a good reason to take the UFO phenomenon more seriously. It's just an elaborate and self-referential way of turning the fact that dumb people are biased towards UFOs, or God, into somehow being a positive argument in favor of them being real.

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95% number 1 and maybe 5% number 2. Wishful thinking can account for a huge number of reported sightings.

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As a reference point what do you consider to be the largest revealed conspiracy?

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8 hr ago·edited 8 hr ago

Consider this quote from a 2018 review of the evidence for psychic phenoma ('psi'), covering over 1000 experiments in 11 categories, that appeared in the flagship journal of the American Psychological Association (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29792448/):


The evidence provides cumulative support for the reality of psi, which cannot be readily explained away by the quality of the studies, fraud, selective reporting, experimental or analytical incompetence, or other frequent criticisms. The evidence for psi is comparable to that for established phenomena in psychology and other disciplines, although there is no consensual understanding of them.


Lest we posit that psychologists are just statistically incompetent, also consider this 2016 quote from the president of the American Statistical Association (source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01621459.2016.1250592)


I would like to question whether anyone actually lives under the guiding principle that Data beat Anecdotes. I certainly haven't seen much evidence of that. Even a cursory knowledge of what's happening in politics should convince us that anecdotes often beat data, and powerfully so.

I can provide a more concrete example based on the research I have done in parapsychology. Parapsychology is concerned with the scientific investigation of potential skills that are commonly known as psychic abilities, such as precognition, telepathy, and so on. For many years I have worked with researchers doing very careful work in this area, including a year I spent working on a classified project for the United States government, to see if we could use these abilities for intelligence gathering during the Cold War. This 20-year project is described in the recent book ESP Wars East and West by physicist Edwin May, the lead scientist on the project, with input from his Soviet counterparts.

At the end of that project I wrote a report for Congress, stating what I still think is true. The data in support of precognition and possibly other related phenomena are quite strong statistically, and would be widely accepted if they pertained to something more mundane. Yet, most scientists reject the possible reality of these abilities without ever looking at data! And on the other extreme, there are true believers who base their belief solely on anecdotes and personal experience. I have asked the debunkers if there is any amount of data that could convince them, and they generally have responded by saying, “probably not.” I ask them what original research they have read, and they mostly admit that they haven't read any! Now there is a definition of pseudo-science—basing conclusions on belief, rather than data!

When I have given talks on this topic to audiences of statisticians, I show lots of data. Then I ask the audience, which would be more convincing to you—lots more data, or one strong personal experience? Almost without fail, the response is one strong personal experience! Of course I'm giving you an extreme example, and I think people are justifiably skeptical, because most people think that these abilities contradict what we know about science. They don't, but that's the subject for a different talk!


Anticipate questions:

(1) "there is no plausible mechanism for psi because we know consciousness is created by brain activity"

Most people who argue that consciousness is created by brain activity do so because of the observation that when regions of the brain are inactivated, people report losing consciousness associated with those regions. However, if a radio is tuned to a radio station, and the radio station goes down, the radio will pick up silence - but this does not mean the radio was created by the radio station. In other words, the evidence is equally consistent with a model in which the brain may acts as a transmitter of sensory signals, and our conscious experience is *tuned into* (not created by) these signals.

This "signal receiver" model both provides a mechanism for the experimentally observed psychic phenomena and an explanation for why such phenomena are only experimentally measurable when subjects are placed in states of relative sensory deprivation (e.g. a Ganzfeld chamber): the signals behind these phenomena are typically drowned out by sensory signals from the brain (presumably for evolutionary reasons; evolution must have found that tuning into sensory signals rather than psychic signals provided a far more reliable source if information for survival of the meatbody).

It also offers solutions to two major open problems in neuroscience/consciousness research: the Binding Problem (which refers to how information like shape and color, processed by largely distinct brain circuits, are nevertheless integrated into a unified conscious experience; the signal receiver model posits that this occurs because the receiver is tuned into signals from both brain circuits) and the Boundary Problem (which asks what physics phenomenon delineates the boundary between what we are conscious of and what we are not conscious of; this model says the boundaries are defined by which signals a conscious entity is tuned into).

(2) "We should set an insurmountable prior against this evidence because it would break physics"

From what I can tell, the crux of this argument is that if there is a separate substrate that serves as the receiver of signals, and this substrate can influence the brain (which we know because we have the ability to discuss our conscious experiences), this would "break physics" because it would require a new particle or force in the Standard Model and there is no evidence that such a particle or force exists...however, there *is* evidence, in the form of the Antipodal Duality, that there is a symmetry in particle physics that likely involves causality and which we are very far from understanding (see https://www.wired.com/story/particle-physicists-puzzle-over-a-new-duality/ and https://4gravitons.com/2022/08/26/why-the-antipode-was-supposed-to-be-useless/). Also, physics is already broken because of the quantum mechanics/general relativity split. In other words, there is no coherent reason to believe the physics of this substrate won't fall into the same gaps as the Antipodal Duality and/or the QM/GR split, and given that these phenomena challenge conventional notions of causality (as with precognition), it is not clear why merely invoking a new particle or force in the Standad Model would be the appropriate way to account for them.

So to summarize, the "consciousness as a signal receiver tuned into the brain" model does a better job of explaining the data, can address open problems in neuroscience, and there is no coherent reason to set an insurmountably strong prior against it. Why isn't it more widely explored?

Ah yes, "elites".


A more detailed treatment for those curious: https://avshrikumar.medium.com/are-we-created-by-our-brains-or-do-we-tune-into-our-brains-until-we-die-5387bf35529c

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