Huffington Post sees UFO’s–logical fallacies everywhere

This quality of photo would be convincing evidence of a UFO visit.

I know all of my liberal friends love the Huffington Post (HuffPo), but I think that the online newspaper is no better than anything published by Rupert Murdoch.  And it’s not just me.  Brian Dunning, over at Skeptoid, considers it one of the 10 worst anti-science websites, although I think it deserves a higher seeding in the Pseudoscience Bracket.  Here’s how I look at it:  if they can’t get the science right, if they continue to support non-evidence based stories, how are we to trust anything else they write?  If they aggressively promote homeopathy, anti-vaccine lunacy, and colon detoxification, all thoroughly debunked with real science published in real peer-reviewed journals, then what are they promoting in their political news?  I rarely read anything from HuffPo, and I consider them an insult to the science journalism.

But just when I thought HuffPo couldn’t go any further in pushing an anti-science point-of-view, they decide that there is no floor on pseudoscience, you can publish just about anything as science, as long as the author spells the word “science” correctly.  Last week, Leslie Kean wrote an article, UFO Caught On Tape Over Santiago Air Base, that should have been published in the humor section of the website.  Instead, it’s placed in the science section, because HuffPo apparently considers pseudoscience just a branch of real science.  

Kean sets up the “UFO” sighting with:

As agreed by authorities around the world, these truly unexplainable unidentified flying objects appear solid, metallic and luminous, able to operate with speeds and maneuvers that defy the laws of physics. And, most chilling of all, they often behave as if under intelligent control.

She starts with the Appeal to Authority fallacy, by actually saying “authority.”  Except she fails to mention which authorities, so it’s worse than just claiming it was someone specific, she jumps to some general and mysterious group who agrees with her analysis.  Then she describes the objects, except she makes assumptions that just are not there.  The speed and maneuvers could be explained simply by an insect jumping across the lens.  And even an insect has some intelligence, but the movements are completely random, not defying the “laws of physics”, whatever that might be.  Parsimony tells us to seek out the simplest explanation, which usually is the correct one.  Instead, Kean uses logical fallacies, without any evidence whatsoever.

Pardon, Kean proposes some evidence:

It was a glorious, sunny morning on Nov. 5, 2010, when crowds gathered to celebrate the changing of the Air Force Command at El Bosque Air Base in Santiago. From different locations, spectators aimed video cameras and cell phones at groups of acrobatic and fighter jets performing an air show overhead. Nobody saw anything amiss.

But afterward, an engineer from the adjacent Pillán aircraft factory noticed something bizarre while viewing his footage in slow motion. He turned it over to the government’s well known Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena, or CEFAA, for analysis.

Hold on.  Spectators were aiming all of their video cameras from all different angles and no one saw anything but one engineer? Did he have the worlds best video camera?

Why is it that all of these videos of mysterious things, like sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster or UFO’s, are always fuzzy?  The way it jumps around, it appears to be an insect.  It’s also not in the same plane as the Chilean jets, and there is no way to scale it properly.  And the close-ups are all highly pixelated, which provides no information whatsoever.

This extraordinary machine was flying at velocities too high to be man-made. Scientists have estimated the speed, depending on the size of the object, to be at least 4000 – 6000 mph. Humans inside this object could not survive. And, somehow, it made no sonic boom, a noise similar to thunder which occurs whenever something exceeds the speed of sound (750 mph at sea level).

The shock waves generated from an object at such high velocities would normally be enormous. But no known aircraft or drone could possibly fly this fast at such low altitudes anyway. Our fastest air-breathing jet, the SR-71, has a maximum speed of just over 2,000 mph, but that’s at high altitudes.

What scientists?  Another argument from authority?  And since it made no sonic boom, we assume that it is an extraterrestrial craft rather than something easier to explain?  

Kean concludes by telling about all of the various UFO sightings, many of them fully explained by natural or man-made phenomena.  Yes, there are a few who are not explained, but not because they may be UFO’s, but because there’s no evidence that they are.  I’m open-minded to new ideas and new paradigms, but there is not one supposed UFO that does not require suspension of logic in accepting the evidence.  

Again, why is there not some uncontrived piece of evidence available.  One alien cell phone.  A piece of their spaceship which shows advanced technology.  But the most important thing is how an alien might cross thousands of light years to get here, if they even could find “here.”  The UFO lunatics always claim that we may not know alien technology that might allow the aliens to suspend the law of physics, but if they did, then  which one and how?  There are limits to how much physics we should ignore.  Moreover, and this is critical, what makes anyone think that aliens would find earth?  Remember, there are billions and billions of stars with planets.

Steve Novella puts it succinctly:

Proof? That’s a word UFO believers throw around a lot, but I don’t think they know what it means. What Kean has given us evidence for is the astoundingly gullible and uncritical reasoning of the UFO believer, and how they can turn a bug flying around a camera (or something similar) into an unexplainable encounter with an impossible flying craft. This one will now get added to the stack of “evidence” that believers trot out to support their claims. 


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!