Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A question about Richard Dolan

        Richard Dolan is the egghead of Ufology. For a start, he has actual academic credentials (M.A. in history from the University of Rochester, 1995.) His books are praised by Amazon readers (unlike those of Mike Bara, for example.) He publishes other authors' books as well as his own. But most important to my way of thinking, he understands the idea that unfalsifiable propositions are not very interesting and form no part of scientific debate. Here he is on the subject of Andrew Basiago, Randy Kramer, and Corey Goode:
"These three individuals have each claimed to have gone to Mars for extended periods of time. That’s explosive enough, of course, but they have also stated that they have engaged in time travel. I met Andy back in 2012 at a conference in Santa Clara, California. I found him to be very personable and intelligent. Of course, that doesn’t mean I believe his story. I don’t believe that he went through a “jumproom” to Mars. I don’t believe that he did these things with a young Barack Obama in the 1980s. And I don’t believe that, as a child, he time travelled back to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, despite the fact that he claimed he was in a photograph depicting it. I realize there are strange things beyond the circumscribed fence of our officially sanctioned reality. But I am not obligated to believe every story that crosses my path, especially those that are obviously self-aggrandising, and particularly those that don’t provide evidence."
::
"My main issue when it comes to Corey Goode (or Andy or Randy Kramer for that matter) isn’t that I “disbelieve” them, per se. Yes, I find their stories to be unlikely. But the real problem has been that none of these people have provided the evidence that an independent investigator needs to make a determination one way or the other. There is a concept in science and philosophy called falsifiability. If something is falsifiable, it doesn’t mean it’s false.  It means you have the ability to test it, to investigate it, to determine whether it is true or false."
        That was from Dolan's blog, dated 16 July. Last Sunday night he was on Coast-to-Coast AM, interviewed by George Knapp, making the same points. The topic came to the front of his mind because he was an invited speaker at the recent MUFONnote 1 Symposium in George Knapp's stamping ground (and Mike Bara's, but restricted to the cocktail bars and strip joints), Las Vegas. He said he was somewhat taken aback to see that he was scheduled to be on a Secret Space Program panel along with Corey Goode, Andrew Basiago, William Tompkins, and Dr. Michael Salla. He said, in fact, that he considered bowing out but finally agreed to go ahead with it. Listening to the interview, my impression was that he regretted agreeing to that panel, and being connected to those posturers by association. He wrote later:
"I want to make this point as clear as I can. My opinions (and yours, for that matter) don’t mean very much. What matters is the evidence that can be brought forward for these stories. I hold it as possible that there is something in these accounts that is true. After all, I believe that radical technology is being withheld from us. I believe the ARV storynote 2 and more. But if a story gives me no chance to confirm or deny its basic claims, then it’s essentially useless to me as a researcher. This is especially so if I cannot even confirm the basics of the person’s alleged career. I’ve said this many times. You can’t be considered a whistleblower if you can’t confirm that you are who you say you are."

Spineless?
        ufowatchdog evidently noticed Dolan's discomfort with that conference gig, too; writing yesterday "Perhaps Dolan could take a lesson from [James] Clarkson and grow a spine along with some integrity." The author (unnamed, but probably Royce Myers) also expressed shock that Dolan was paid to appear.


        I think that's a little harsh, personally. For one thing, there's nothing unusual or venal about conference speakers being paid—How else could Hoagland make a living? And then, I think we should applaud Dolan's measured skepticism on the likes of Basiago and Goode. We may write them off as con-men, but Dolan's approach is more scientific.

Falling Apart
        The main topic of ufowatchdog's piece was the resignation of  former Director James Clarkson from MUFON, in protest of the acceptance of a woman called J.Z. Knight into MUFON's Inner Circle. Knight is quite a piece of work—her excesses make entertaining reading but I'm not sure I'd want to be associated with her either. Clarkson dismisses her as a channeler and cult leader.

        MUFON, and Ufology in general, seem to be fragmenting—riven by the same jealousies and doctrinal differences that notoriously plague extreme left-wing political movements (that's you, Workers Revolutionary Party and Sendera Luminosa.) Good riddance, I say. It does no good for plodders like Peter Davenport of the National UFO Reporting Center to record 100 sightings a month (and breathlessly report a selection of them on Coast-to-Coast AM monthly) without any semblance of analysis. Yes, we all know unexplained things are seen in the skies—it's been true for so fucking long that it's reached the point of boredom. As much as Richard Dolan tries to force this topic into the box labeled SCIENCE, I'm afraid that applies to his work, too.

=================/ \=================

[1] Mutual UFO Network, a  US National "investigative body."

[2] Alien Reproduction Vehicle: See this.

Friday, July 21, 2017

An irrational perfectionist

        Mike Bara, on working with Richard Hoagland as joint author of Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA:
37:55 "[chuckle] "It was exhausting. Exhausting. Richard is a... Richard is a... um, an amazing content editor, but he's also a perfectionist. To the... to the extent that I think it's not... it's not necessary. [..?..] I said he's a... he's an irrational perfectionist. He's a crazy perfectionist. And it just took a long time and it was very stressful. And I ended up with... with blood sugar in the mid- to high 300s. And I.. you know, I had to... I had to take a long break after we finished that one. But again, you know, I'm proud of the book and I'm... I'm so grateful that he gave me a... a platform upon which to build my own thing, that I'm doing here. Whatever it is I'm doing. So."
        That was a little gem from 70 minutes of chat with Chris George Zuger (whoever he is), poured onto Youchoob as a show called Den of Lore (whatever that means) last night.

        The split screen  showed both Mike and his interlocutor, giving Mike ample opportunity to hold exhibits such as his book covers up to the Skype camera, and Chris Zuger, a recent renouncer of ciggies, to show us himself taking  puffs from his vape tube. The discussion started with the Nazca mummy, and Bara reiterating the only correct opinion he's had in ten years. Then it wandered through his conversion to conspiracy theory by TWA800, to the usual artifacts on Mars and the Moon, to UFOlogy. He had a hilarious take on this thing:

photo credit: NASA

        He said it's a picture of an Arctic lemming, taken on Devon Island, which NASA is "passing off" as a picture of Mars. It does look a bit like a lemming, indeed.


        ...but by what twisted logic would the Curiosity team at JPL resort to such deception? The image dates from September 2012, nowhere close to April Fool's Day. This is just more of Mike Bara confusing "looks like" with "actually is." (see Mars rat taking Internet by storm -- space.com 31 May 2013.)

Update 27 July:
        During a brief appearance on Coast-to-Coast AM, Bara let drop that he's completed a work of fiction. He didn't say whether this was a novel or a screenplay, but either way, God help us all.My bet is that, like his brother Dave's fiction, it will feature a hero who is utterly irresistible to women.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Robert Morningstar bashes James Burke

James Concannon reports...

        Robert Morningstar, the Fordham scholar and frisbee expert, gave us his opinion of James Burke on FooBoo today.
"James Burke, the original "Mad Scientist"? Who cares what he thinks? He rants in mindless twit & twaddle, more of a poet than a scientist and not a very good one (scientist) at that. Opening scene for next show... walking on the shores of the Atlantic near N. Ireland: "Ah, how profound! Here I have a Starfish? There we have a horseshoe crab, direct descendant of the trilobite that lived in the Atdabanian stage of the Early Cambrian era. And here in my hand (cupping hands) is a Nematode, one of the simplest life forms ever known. And there we see an ocean? ... The soup of life... :) Is there a 'connection'??? Ahaa ... Maybe! Stay tuned to find out tonight on "Coniptions"." I really liked his lily & posey-loving poesy, but science ... just a little bit. James Bure [sic] is the original inventor of that bane of modern media -> "InfoTainment," which gave birth to Fox news and CNN "Canned Science"... Hahaha ... Like Global Warming "science."  -> M*"
        Burke, as many people know, is not a scientist and has no pretension to be taken as one. His MA (Oxon) is in Middle English, and his reputation is as a historian of science. I don't think he's any good at frisbee at all, but I happen to know he plays a mean game of bridge, if that counts for anything in AM*'s mind. I don't know how Burke himself would react to being called Infotainment, but my personal reaction, as one very familiar with Burke's work, is that it's inappropriate. The portmanteau word was coined to denigrate television news shows that provide way too much soft news and feel-good magazine-style stories. Since Burke was never in the news business in the first place, his contributions to television can hardly be said to trivialize news.

        Morningstar's jealous outburst was in response to the posting on his FB timeline of two of Burke's documentaries from the 70s—"The Men Who Walked on the Moon" and "The Other Side of the Moon." The posting—initially from Jerrye Barre—was kind of an aside, since the main topic was The Brookings Report and Morningstar's misinterpretation of it (see Footnote #2). This blog was highly critical of Morningstar's use of the report in argument, back in January 2015. Quite why the frisbee expert should have such disdain for someone who generally attracts accolades is anyone's guess. Possibly AM* would prefer a commentator on spaceflight who was more open to the Hoagland-style claim that the Moon is littered with ancient technology. Burke-style documentary television doesn't cover that for the simple reason that it isn't true.

credit: BBC

        My personal opinion is that that pair of documentaries, aired on the tenth anniversary of the first Moon landing, were an important contribution to the history of spaceflight, and I can't fault Burke's final conclusion that Project Apollo did actually have something to offer the world apart from non-stick frying pans. These films (yes, films not videotape—this was 1979) are undoubtedly good information, and undoubtedly entertaining, but to categorize them as Infotainment is missing the point, I think.

JC

Disclosure: At one time James and I were colleagues in the BBC Science Department.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Mike Bara is probably right for once

        Welll....  I didn't really want to get into the Nazca mummy controversy at all, but it's the pseudoscience topic du jour and everybody else in the business has commented. So here's my aggregation of what's emerged so far.

        On 20 June, Gaia TV released to Youtube what they called "SPECIAL REPORT: UNEARTHING NAZCA." The video documented an expedition to Nazca, Peru, to investigate what was claimed to be the mummified corpse of an alien. The expedition was led by Jay Weidner and Melissa Tittl of Gaia.com. Weidner is the man who insists on very flimsy evidence that all the Apollo 11 video and film was faked up by Stanley Kubrick in Area 51, so his involvement makes the whole thing problematic as far as I'm concerned. Gaia's point man in Peru was Jaime Maussan, a Mexican investigative journalist who has been responsible for fakery including a previous alien mummy that wasn't (the Roswell slides.)


         Metabunk was very quick to produce, only a day later, an admirably rigorous assessment of Gaia's claims, rating "alien mummy" as the least likely of seven possible explanations for this artifact. The most likely, per this analysis, is "A modern fake mummy, created from a combination of human and animal bones, created for the show."

        Mike Bara blogged the mummy just a day later, opining that this was "just another attempt to generate clicks and drive subscriptions." He characterized Jay Weidner thus:
"I like Jay Weidner. But if jumping to conclusions was an Olympic sport, Jay Weidner would have more gold medals than Michael Phelps."
        Weidner retaliated by cancelling an appointment Bara had to appear (again) on George Noory's Gaia-sponsored TV show. Bitchery!!!!

        Jason Colavito blogged skeptically the same day. On 3rd July ufowatchdog weighed in, pouring further doubt on Jaime Maussan and also bad-mouthing Paola Harris, Don Schmitt, Clifford Stone, and Dr. Jose de Juesus Zalce Benitez—all of whom are peripherally involved. The article, headlined "Mummy, Mummy, Money," focused on the commercial aspects of the story:
"Gaia.com is clearly not hurting from any of these personalities, and they know it.  According to their own website, Gaia.com (a publicly traded company) saw a 61% increase in digital subscribers this year and this doesn't count the last few months.  It appears there is no such thing as bad publicity anymore. "
        Well, yesterday Mike Bara stood himself up in front of the flag of the Manchester City Football Club and recorded a 10-minute video giving his opinions. He said, among other zingers, that he knew the Gaia TV producer and "she is not an honest person" (was he talking about Melissa Tittl? It's not clear.)

        We should know more next week, when further medical and genetic analysis is due to be released. But for now, this blog acknowledges that Mike Bara is probably right. And Jay Weidner is a child.

Update:
        The first DNA test is in, from the  Paleo DNA Laboratory of Lakehead University, Canada.


Update 25 July:
        Bara has released a short update video today, giving two reasons why he believes the "mummy" is almost certainly a fake.