]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]     UFOs!   UFOs!     [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                                                          (July 1983)
     The main reason for this story is a good book that has quite 
recently (July 1983) been published, P.J. Klass' "UFOs," which we will 
review in a moment, but UFOs in general give pause to a little deeper 
thought.
     My first thought is that we are all a little biased about UFOs, 
and biased, yes, in FAVOR of their existence. The reason is simply a 
little wishful thinking. Wouldn't it be nice if all that daily news on 
deceit, violence and political posturing were suddenly displaced by 
genuine green little hominoids wooshing in on a flying saucer? Deep 
down in our hearts you and I would hope it were true, wouldn't we? 
Fort Freedom would immediately put up a special tower with a hundred 
stories: Do they reproduce? (By sex? Involving two humanoids at a 
time?) How many senses have they got? Is one of them the equivalent of 
sight, and if so, what part of the spectrum is "visible" to them?  How 
would we try to explain the total absence of any meaning in a line of 
lyrics like "In the final analysis only Anacin hits and holds the 
highest level"?
     My next thought brings me down to earth. I am often asked "Do you 
believe in UFOs?" (to which I answer "No, not now; but I am willing to 
examine evidence"). The question is usually followed by another: "What 
right do you have to disbelieve their existence?" Both questions re-
veal a lack of scientific training, for one of the fundamental prin-
ciples of scientific investigation is that THE BURDEN OF PROOF LIES 
WITH THOSE WHO POSTULATE THE UNUSUAL or the breach of the status quo. 
     Suppose I claimed that there lies an orange on the far side of 
the moon. You should ask what made me think so, and if I replied 1) 
The far side of the moon is permanently turned away from the earth, 
2) that an orange was too small to be seen by the astronauts as they 
circled the moon, 3) that I hold several scientific degrees, you 
should not be browbeaten by the fact that all three statements are 
true; for truth, if it is irrelevant, is no better (and often far 
worse) than a lie.
     What you might reply is that by that logic the ancient Romans 
used wireless telegraphy, for archaeologists never discovered any 
wires; and you might politely advise me what to do with my degrees. In 
any case, you get the idea of UFO's? For all I know, they may exist, 
and I hope they do; but the burden of proof is on those who claim 
their existence. 
     The third point: The UFO buff is fairly harmless. True, as Klass 
points out, a misinformed society cannot make intelligent decisions; 
but surely those decisions would still be fairly intelligent if the 
misinformation were limited to UFO's. The UFO buff is kidding himself, 
and maybe a few others; but like believers in astrology and the moon-
orange cult (perhaps I have started one), he is not forcing the re-
sults of his beliefs on the unwilling. He does not steal from unwil-
ling victims, and he does not kill anybody.
     All of which stands in stark contrast to some other pseudo-
scientific beliefs.


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