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Objectivist stance on paranormal/ufos?

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I am replying to lodge my complaint against the thread title.

UFO's have nothing to do with philosophy, so of course there is no Objectivist stance.

Just be rational, with all that implies, in all that you do. Identifying new or unfamiliar phenomena calls for more attention to the process of reasoning.

Well, I think everything has at least a little to do with philosophy. After all, someone's general philosophy on life would shape their answer to that question just as much as any personal experiences or lack thereof could.

The reason I ask is, I feel these things are important aspects of my life and that Objectivist philosophy basically treats the idea of extra-terrestrial beings within our midst the same way it treats angels, gods, or santa claus. As rubbish.

Now, I don't consider myself an "expert" but I do believe very strongly that it is not irrational to believe that such things may be going on given the overwhelming evidence. Usually when you hear about someone seeing Jesus or talking to God it's always some whackjob with nothing to lose, but when it comes to close-encounters with UFO's/ET's there have been respectable police officers, politicians, etc who put their jobs, credibilities, and families on the line simply because they have witnessed something so incredible and disturbing that they could not go without telling anyone. Ronald Reagan claimed to have not only seen one but also ordered his plane to follow it, subsequently making himself look like a giant nut to like half the country and embarrassing his administration. Why would he do that, and be so eager to go public with it, if it was all a lie? Ever since I was a kid I have been researching these things, I've been obsessed with the idea since I got my first library card. Something about it, just envelopes me with awe and wonder. I used to want to be an investigator into these kinds of things, until I grew up a bit and realized that 90% of "paranormal" stuff was bullshit, it's easy as ever to fake photos and videos, and about 3 of my own 6 personal sightings have much more rational, realistic explanations than I had originally thought. But still there are a lot of seemingly-legitimate reports that keep me awake long into the night and I just find it really difficult to throw it all in the same category with religious crap and bogeymen.

All rambling aside, I guess what I meant to ask was: I know the Objectivist stance to anything previously unknown is to approach with reason and rationality, but how does one apply reason to something that is quite unreasonable, even when it appears right before your eyes? And the eyes of so many others? It's more frightening to me now than attractive since the beings, if they exist and are operating under the motives I believe they are, are any Objectivist's nightmare? I know there are probably more important things to worry about, and this thread is probably useless, but it really bothers me a lot since I love this philosophy and these episodes of my past really work against it.

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Ronald Reagan claimed to have not only seen one but also ordered his plane to follow it

Follow what?

I encounter things I can't explain all the time. I usually try to find out what it is, and sometimes I fail. Is that evidence that [insert anything you wish here] exists?

Just last week, my laptop froze up for no reason. (I wasn't doing anything unusual on it either) After restarting it, it worked fine, it's been working fine, and I have no clue what caused it. For the life of me I don't understand why someone would list that as evidence that there's a ghost in my apartment.

And yet, you're listing Reagan seeing something and being curious what it is (just like I am about the laptop anomaly) as evidence of something completely unrelated.

I used to want to be an investigator into these kinds of things, until I grew up a bit and realized that 90% of "paranormal" stuff was bullshit, it's easy as ever to fake photos and videos, and about 3 of my own 6 personal sightings have much more rational, realistic explanations than I had originally thought.

What difference does it make whether you have an explanation or not? Why does no explanation constitute evidence of an explanation never once observed?

Judging from the vagueness of your post, you haven't actually seen any aliens. The reason why you are leaving out the specific characteristics of what you saw is because they don't help your story (they're probably distant lights or something). If you saw little green men, you'd mention it.

But even if you're to claim you saw the aliens and talked to them, why would any objective observer entertain an explanation there is no sensory evidence of (that aliens are here among us), rather than something which happens all the time and is well documented: dreams, hallucinations, lying, insanity?

The reason I ask is, I feel these things are important aspects of my life and that Objectivist philosophy basically treats the idea of extra-terrestrial beings within our midst the same way it treats angels, gods, or santa claus. As rubbish.

Not rubbish. The product of people's imagination. And it's not Objectivist philosophy that treats it that way, but people who pass rational judgment on the subject in general. (scientists, skeptics, Objectivists, etc.)

Objectivism simply believes that one should judge everything rationally. You obviously aren't judging this rationally: you feel these things are important, you didn't determine they are important the same way you determined school is important, or that smoking is bad for you.

Emotions should have nothing to do with the way you are determining things about the world. You can have hunches, and you can follow your gut sometimes, but only in areas you are already an expert in (because of many years of experience and rational problem solving). And you have to be able to (re)produce a rational explanation for your gut-feeling (which is thinking done unconsciously, faster than conscious thinking -- and only possible if one's very familiar with the type of problem being solved).

You definitely shouldn't confuse the gut feeling of an experienced professional in some area with your feeling that some people are right about UFOs. Your feeling isn't based on quick thinking you've done unconsciously, but rather on outside influences and your imagination. You can't solve the problem of what exactly these people saw, so you're allowing yourself to select arbitrary explanations. Since you want to believe, you tend to select explanations which further the alien story.

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Jake Ellison, are you insinuating that respected individuals who have seen UFO's from army generals to presidents to the average everyday guy is delusional when he says that he saw a ship from another planet? Are you saying that they are lying? How do you expect anyone to produce evidence from an advanced ET culture when the aliens are the ones clearly holding all the cards? I think that you are too quick to dismiss anyone who has had the direct experience of seeing a UFO at close range to being either dishonest, dumb, or irrational.

Edited by Erik Christensen
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Jake Ellison, are you insinuating that respected individuals who have seen UFO's from army generals to presidents to the average everyday guy is delusional when he says that he saw a ship from another planet?

No (US) Army general or president ever said that, but if they did, that would be a pretty irrational thing to say, yes.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Jake Ellison, are you insinuating that respected individuals who have seen UFO's from army generals to presidents to the average everyday guy is delusional when he says that he saw a ship from another planet? Are you saying that they are lying? How do you expect anyone to produce evidence from an advanced ET culture when the aliens are the ones clearly holding all the cards? I think that you are too quick to dismiss anyone who has had the direct experience of seeing a UFO at close range to being either dishonest, dumb, or irrational.

You forgot the :P again.

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Jake Ellison, are you insinuating that respected individuals who have seen UFO's from army generals to presidents to the average everyday guy is delusional when he says that he saw a ship from another planet?

I know this wasn't directed at me, but for a moment think about the same style argument given about a different topic.

~Are you insinuating that respected individuals who [believe in God] from army generals to presidents to the average everyday guy is delusional when he says that he [felt the holy spirit move within him]?

Answer: Yes.

I wouldn't use language that insinuated their intentions, (like, "they lie!") because in all likelihood it was a product of circumstance and ignorance.

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On the supernatural, it is easy: There is no such thing as a 'supernatural' phenomenon. All phenomena are natural- belonging to the natural world and order. Now, concerning ghosts, the 'soul' (as in immortal puff of wind that goes somewhere after you die), fairies, etcetera, the postulation of their existence is (first) ridiculous and (second) unproven. Telepathic powers, telekinesis, etcetera? Flights of fancy and fantasy-- unless you can produce solid evidence to the contrary. James Randi (once known as "The Amazing Randi") has set up a one million dollar prize for anyone that is able to demonstrate and reproduce paranormal abilities in a controlled environment under scientific observation in experiments organized by neutral observers. It has been decades now and the price has yet remained unclaimed, so I don't think you need to worry much in thinking about the 'paranormal', it does not exist.

On UFOs, there's a slight difference, but the question is not the flying things in themselves but the possibility of intelligent (advanced) life in another corner of the galaxy. There are many different flying things in our atmosphere: planes, balloons, weather balloons, aircraft, etcetera, many of them end up getting labeled ... well, UFOs (unidentified flying objects). It's one thing to say that you cannot identify a flying 'thing', and another entirely to jump to conclusions with the statement that we're being visited by Sarek all the way from Vulcan. after having made a detour at Albuquerque. There really is no reliable account ever of a 'close encounter of the third kind' that could produce evidence to back up a testimonial that is often quite hazy. Penn and Teller did an excellent show on Alien Abduction and the kind of therapists ('regression therapy') that feed the delusions of individuals who are clearly unhinged or suffering from terrible cognitive distortions.

On the whole, the UFO-Culture phenomenon is overblown, sensationalized and nothing more than a marketed move towards feeding the enthusiasm of people more willing to take illusion over reality.

I have seen things in the sky I could not explain, some of them very peculiar, but I have no evidence to prove anything except to state the fact that they seemed unusual and did not match to anything I had previously observed in my experience.

Do I consider the possibility of life elsewhere? Yes, as a remote possibility. I would be thrilled to know that another civilization, somewhere in the Milky Way, managed to grasp logic and reason so firmly that it could eventually reach the level of advancement required to cross interstellar distances. That's when the Asimov factor kicks in and you ask yourself what are they like, what is their fundamental nature, and how does it differ from ours, if at all, and what implications would those differences carry if the two civilizations were ever to meet. That, however, falls in the realm of science fiction (my favorite kind of science fiction is the one that deals with moral and ethical questions within the framework of new technologies and their applications, and our possible relationship to aliens, etc) and must remain there until someone, somewhere, comes up with irrefutable proof of extraterrestrial life.

Right now, though, I think that we as individuals are in a precarious enough position in this point in history that maybe our attention would be better spent inside the atmosphere's limits, not without, for the moment.

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Let's keep two very important thigns in mind:

1) The obligation for proving any kind of claim falls squarely on the person making the claim (unless the claim is self-evident). Therefore if you believe UFOs are alien spacecraft, you should be able to prove it

2) Who makes the claim is not necessarily relevant. Yes, a sensible person is more likely to take seriously a claim by a respected person, particularly a public figure. But unless that person is speaking of his particular area of expertise, his claim is no more valid than that of a lunatic unless he presents proof for it.

Also it bears repeating. there are lots of things up in the sky and the average person knows little about them. Some very mindless antural phenomena can be easily confused with an artificial construct controlled by a rational mind. Arthur C, Clarke wrote of one such occurrence. During a transatlantic flight suddenly a yellow disk appeared some undetermined distance below the airplane, and proceeded to follow the plane's course, as if pacing it. From time to time it would suddenly come closer (higher) or move farther away (lower), att all times exactly matching the airplane's speed. Then it turned somewhat fuzzy, and then it vanished without a trace.

What was it?

It was the sun! At high altitude, such as that of a transatlantic jet, ice layers sometimes form in the atmosphere. They don't last long, are hard to spot, but reflect some light. Since the sun was over the ariplane, it reflected off the ice layer. Now, the layer not being uniform, the reflection sometimes would appear lower or higher. And naturally it would match the airplane's speed and course precisely.

There are many other things, too. There's a spider species that migrates by spinning a parachute-like web, which gets carried by the wind. When thousands of spiders do this all at the same time (animals act by seasons), you can get to spot many gliterring oints moving erratically down-wind. If you don't know what they are, you may assume they're somethign artificial flying about.

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