The Pelican Pecks at Faulty Logic

The Pelican
Magonia 79, October 2002
The Pelican thinks it is time to solve the problem of UFOs and ufology once and for all by explaining how the various controversies within it are caused mainly by faulty logic rather then by the difficulties in establishing the true facts of each case. For example, there was a case in which there were three witnesses, two of them together in a car. One of these witnesses described a domed craft, with two entities visible inside the dome.
This object disappeared behind trees as if it was landing, and was followed by other, similar craft appearing in the distance. She was very frightened by this sighting, according to the local police chief.

Many ufologists would accept such a report at face value, because there was more than one witness, and the witnesses appeared to be honest. However, this particular case soon unravelled when it was investigated by Kevin Randle. (1) When he interviewed the other main witness, he said that he saw no shape behind the lights and he thought that the pictures of domed craft and alien shapes drawn by the other witness were "ridiculous". Thus there was obviously a conflict of testimony between the two main witnesses. Randle dealt with this problem by going back to the original statements and descriptions and found that, on the night of the incident, both witnesses had merely described lights seen in the distance. Then one of the witnesses kept changing her story. Two days later she was talking about a domed disc, and a few days after that she was describing the alien shapes she claimed to have seen inside the dome.

Randle drove out to the area where the sighting had occurred and saw lights similar to those initially described by the witnesses. They were aircraft coming in to land at the local airport.

The point about this is that if it had not been competently investigated, it would have been recorded as a multi-witness sighting of a structured craft, with alien occupants. Randle does not accuse the woman who kept changing her story of lying; it was a case of confabulation. If the woman did not have available to her the idea of aliens flying around in domed saucers then she would not have had any basis for adding spurious details to her original sighting, and would probably have correctly interpreted the lights in the sky as aircraft.
If someone sees something in the sky which seems to them to be unusual, then there exists a whole range of ufological myths which can be used to interpret such sightings and experiences

This is where the psychosocial hypothesis is relevant to UFO reports. If someone sees something in the sky which seems to them to be unusual, or has some strange experience, then there exists a whole range of ufological myths which can be used to interpret such sightings and experiences. The details of UFO stories tend to vary depending on differences of language and culture. This is especially true of stories of alleged UFO entities. For example, many ufologists associate the chupacabras0 with UFO activity, but only a few of them seem to realise that almost all of the people bothered by these unpleasant creatures happen to speak Spanish. The occupants of UFOs in Britain are more likely to be Nordics in Britain and Greys in North America. And so on.

Faulty logic is also applied in arguments as to whether UFO occupants have any objective existence. A noted exponent of twisted logic about them is Budd Hopkins. Hopkins insists that UFO abductions are physically real events, yet when Philip Klass asked him if he had informed the FBI about the abductions, he dismissed the question as "the most absurd thing I've ever heard in my life". (2)

Hopkins apparently believes that one can prove the physical reality of UFO abductions by argument rather than evidence. In an article in which he attempts this he uses sexual abuse of children as an analogy. He argues that those who recall their own abduction experiences will accept their reality, whereas those who have not had such experiences will reject the idea that abductions are even possible.(3) So what answer does Hopkins propose? Attempts to provide physical proof? No. He argues that Sigmund Freud was wrong to retract his belief that his patients' problems were to a great extent the result of being sexually abused as children. He mentions a number of mental health professionals who have come to the conclusion that "childhood sexual molestation, seduction and abuse are rampant in the real world . . ." He makes no mention of how controversial this opinion is, or that it has led to innocent as well as guilty persons being accused and convicted of child abuse.

He attempts to link alleged child abuse with alleged UFO abductions like this: "Masson in particular claims that Freud's theory that his patients were merely fantasising such childhood traumas in effect blames the victim and often deepens a sufferer's problems. (In a parallel way, if UFO abductions are actually taking place as event-level occurrences, labelling them as fantasies is immensely destructive to those who suffer their after-effects.)"

So, you see, you must not deny the physical reality of abduction stories, because you might upset the abductees.

And what further powerful argument do we have from Hopkins, to convince, if possible, even The Pelican that abductions must be real? He gives us some examples of abduction reports containing details which had not appeared in the UFO literature when the incidents took place. As they read on, though, attentive armchair ufologists indulging in literary criticism will become aware of his little trick. For instance, one witness reported an incident which occurred in April 1961, involving 'missing time'. However, he didn't tell Hopkins about it until 20 years later! Is it possible, the cynical old Pelican asks, that his story could have changed somewhat over the years? Does Hopkins consider this possibility? Of course not.

The Pelican hopes in future columns to continue to show how logic and the exposure of the tricks of the believers can clear away the atmosphere of spurious mystery and lead us to a sane and balanced approach to the evaluation of UFO reports.

  1. Randle, Kevin, 'UFOs on memory lane', International UFO Reporter , Spring 2001, Volume 26, Number 1
  2. Klass, Philip J., UFO - Abductions: A Dangerous Game , Prometheus Books, Buffalo, New York, 1988, chapter 16
  3. Hopkins, Budd, 'Abductions as physical events', UFO Brigantia , No. 50, November 1991