You have read the reports of unidentified objects soaring across the sky. You have heard the witness testimonies about aliens, hybrids and implants. You have heard tell of everything from crashed saucers on the American desert floor to overwhelmingly advanced aircraft touching down in the lush forest of England.
Is there anything to these stories? Many say no, citing the fantastic nature of the accounts and the overwhelming lack of supporting evidence as reasons for disbelief. However, there is a pretty good chance that if you are reading this, you may have experienced something yourself that caused you to ever learn about all those wild stories in the first place.
Maybe you consider yourself what has come to be known as an alien abductee, or maybe one night you awoke to find some kind of entity in the room. Maybe you just stepped out for a smoke one time and if you had not happened to glance right where you did at precisely the moment you looked, you would be reading something entirely different right now. One way or the other, there are plenty of people who say something paranormal is going on, and they have been saying so for a long time now.
A relevant question becomes whether or not competent reasoning can ever be applied to the often incredible dogma of the UFO community. Is ufology ready to apply critical thinking?
Answers to that question come, in part, from fully understanding it. ‘Critical thinking’ is defined as disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded and informed by evidence. It is not necessarily literally critical, and neither does it stifle creative speculation.
Critical thinking calls for accurately differentiating between an established fact and what a fact may indicate. The insightful critical thinker competently identifies the facts, speculates what they may suggest, and suspends judgment on conclusions when applicable and pending more information. He is also consciously aware of the process.
Facts versus speculation
It is a fact that sightings of unidentified flying objects are reported. Supposing what they may actually be in certain circumstances requires speculation and is open for debate. There are no doubt multiple explanations that apply, depending on the specific report and whatever those explanations may ultimately prove to be.
Similar could be said for testimonies of alleged alien abduction. It is an established fact people make the claims, but potential explanations range from the relatively mundane to the ‘through the looking glass’ extraordinary. Further competent investigation is required in order to arrive at a fantastic conclusion.
A ‘premise’ is a proposition on which an argument is based. Premises are used to form conclusions:
Premise: Bill owns a car.
Premise: Car owners are required by law to purchase insurance.
Conclusion: Bill must purchase insurance or be prepared to face consequences.
Sometimes, however, less skillful methods of reasoning result in inaccurately assessing the premises, or failing to properly differentiate between facts and what facts may indicate:
Premise: Linda purchased a losing lottery ticket.
Premise: Linda purchased the ticket in New York.
Unsupported conclusion: All New York lottery tickets are losers.
While the above lack of critical thinking may seem extreme and as if the error is easy to identify, in principle it is the same mistake represented in the following line of flawed reasoning yet commonly found within ufology:
Premise: Some people think the Roswell case did not involve aliens and may have been part of a deception operation.
Premise: There are many reported UFO sightings.
Unsupported conclusion: Deception operations could not account for all of the many reported sightings, so Roswell could not have been part of a deception operation.
A conscious awareness of the thought process enables us to note where we go off track and begin incorrectly supposing events that have certain mutual characteristics must necessarily all share the same explanation. Critical thinking and its accurate integration of information demonstrates it would be impossible for Linda’s lottery ticket to share the same value as all tickets, as the Roswell case and all UFO sightings simply cannot possibly share a single explanation.
Each time an additional premise is taken into consideration, it must be objectively examined to determine the likelihood it may or may not actually be related to the primary circumstance. Moreover, in depth investigation of the UFO phenomenon (or any topic) cannot include all cases at once, but only certain genuinely related circumstances at a time. An example of selective and therefore flawed application of premises can once again be observed in the typical debates concerning the Roswell case.
The Maury Island case took place just days prior to the Roswell event and conclusively involved members of the intelligence community, to whatever extent. This case is commonly omitted from discussion of Roswell, at least in part because it does not support an alien-related explanation.
Contrastingly, certain intriguing cases that occurred decades – or even hundreds or thousands of years – apart, as well as spanned multiple continents, are often cited and suggested to be relevant to Roswell. This is simply flawed reasoning, working backward from a predetermined conclusion and therefore fundamentally biased from the outset.
If researchers dismiss a case occurring days earlier in the same country and essentially involving the same agencies as unrelated to Roswell, then how can those same researchers suggest a case, for instance, occurring decades earlier in Fatima, Portugal, should be supposed to have anything to do with Roswell? The answer, of course, is they cannot, at least not logically.
Fact might indeed be stranger than fiction, or at least more interesting
Improving our critical thinking skills and incorporating them into our assessments of ufology can only improve our understandings of actuality. Accurately identifying facts assists us in gaining deeper insights into the absolutely fascinating world in which we live. Noticing when others assert unsupported conclusions assists us in avoiding subscribing to their yet to be substantiated belief systems, or what in some circumstances are their outright deceptions.
The greater our interest in the paranormal and the more extraordinary our experiences, then the more it stands to reason we should value and be committed to correctly identifying and processing truth. We might one day learn the world, its inhabitants and even what may ultimately be found within the intelligence community to ironically turn out to be much more interesting than was ever the case among the unfounded assumptions. It is certainly bitterly ironic that adopting premature conclusions decreases the ability to realize what might be the much more fascinating truth. One way or another, critical thinking is the right tool for the job of identifying actuality, whatever it may prove to be.