Saturday, September 7, 2019

UFOs: Getting The Science Right

Environmental & Science Education
STEM
Nature of Science
Edward Hessler

In her reporting on science for Bloomberg ViewFaye Flam covers a lot of territory, e.g., the archeology of Apollo landings, medicine, nature of the universe, big data. She is known for doing it very well.

In a recent report on the reporting of UFO's Flam used the column to talk about the nature of science.

First, what about the reports of Navy pilots moving faster than our physics allows.  She cites James Oberg who was a former NASA engineer and is now a space journalist. "'The bizarre events exported by Navy pilots are not 'observations'; they are interpretations of what the raw observations might mean." (emphasis added). There is a difference between an observation and an interpretation.

Second, is one very familiar to evolutionary biologists where any gap say in the fossil record or a biochemical process or...(you get the idea) that science has no current explanation or evidence for, means the cause is obvious: supernatural. Flam reminds us that "theologians sometimes use the term 'god of the gaps' to describe the erroneous of supernatural explanations for natural phenomena that aren't yet explained." 

The next step after a UFO observation is to equate it with extraterrestrial life, the filling in of a knowledge/evidence gap. If a ship is seen, the ships must have pilots. 
Flam points out that many UFO observations have been explained scientifically. Others remain open. Len Feingold, now retired (Drexel University), worked on some of these cases and Flam asked him "whether the lack of explanations for some cases worried him. There are plenty of unexplained phenomena left in physics, 'so we're used to that.'"

Flam closes with some advice about such mysteries and others in science. These "may or may not be solved, but in the meantime, let's get comfortable with the gaps."

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