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Davidson Loehr

Ed, Duane, Ursula et al,


It’s hard to pinpoint what seems so fundamentally wrong about arguing from non-empirical opinions that can’t be replicated by those who don’t share those opinions. But a few days ago, I got an unusual video through “ForbiddenKnowledgeTV.com” that seems helpful. Here’s the link:




It’s long — about 30 minutes — but interesting, especially in light of this discussion of what is and isn’t science, what should and shouldn’t be taken seriously as empirical data. The gist of it is simple, but I think the video makes it a lot more persuasive and interesting. This young woman Bridget Nielson — 26 — has given birth to about ten hybrid alien babies, in a ship “up above” the Earth. I am convinced she is completely sincere, and certain. I can’t imagine an argument that could shake her, because she keeps her frame of reference grounded in the community of those who think as she does. And those who think as she does think that yes, humans are having hybrid alien babies a lot. The babies are kept “up there” by the aliens, though she has visited and spent some time with some of her children. The aliens, she reports, don’t choose humans randomly, but work in family lines. So her whole family are among the True Believers. The only way to be convinced of this is to believe as she and they do. No empirical data will ever show it. And she doesn’t date men who don’t share this belief. Why would she? Also, she’s clear that the “up there” isn’t measured in miles; she refers to it as happening in “dream time,” but is clear that the events in this “dream time” are as — or more — real than the events on Earth, and in Sedona, where she apparently lives.


It’s easy for me, and probably for all of you, to think of a dozen things wrong with her argument, but it’s hard to doubt her certainty. This seems to be a parallel to the discussion we’re having about what counts as science and what counts only as certainty, linked to anomalies, the certainties of a few others, and so on. Duane, you have put a tremendous amount of weight on one experience you had 30-40 years ago in an experiment where your data were regarded as anomalous even then. But if you want to demonstrate to non-true-believers that these things are empirical, why not volunteer for a bunch of experiments under controlled conditions today? I’ve read of Randi the magician doing these experiments, showing that when cards or numbers are placed in a box up near the ceiling (i.e., out of sight), not a single person who claimed special powers in this area could tell what they said. I’m sure it would be fairly easy to find people who could set up such well-controlled experiments. That would provide empirical proof that could be replicated by people who don’t share your assumptions — the essence of the scientific method.


Without this, how can we tell the difference between Certainty and what should, for now, be regarded as true? Science depends on this: a way to have doubters test experimental results and theoretical predictions they believe are wrong. The experiment must be able to be replicated by those who don’t believe them, or they should/must be regarded as personal opinions or Certainties, but not facts, not data, not truth. This isn’t impolite at all. It’s saying that there’s a lot riding on what we regard as true rather than merely opinions, idiosyncrasies, or mere Certainties. (The capital is because, though they have no connection to truth, Certainties still trump solid data for many, many people: advertising, ideology and politics depend on it. We’ve all had the experience of being dead certain and dead wrong at the same time: ever fall in love with the wrong person, bet on the wrong horse, become persuaded of nonsense?) We don’t have to like truth, and it doesn’t have to make us feel good, or empowered, or Special: we die, we turn to dust, and are forgotten within just a few generations. As Borges put it, we die twice: once when our body gives out, and finally when there is no one left to tell our story. By this measure, all of my great-great-grandparents are entirely dead, and almost all my great-grandparents. For that matter, so are almost all my great-aunts and great-uncles. One great-uncle still “lives” in powerful and life-changing memories my brother and I have, but when we’re gone, he’s dead. Perhaps I and my cousins have traits that those long-dead people also had, and perhaps we got them from them, in our DNA. But if so, we don’t know it, so while the traits survive, the humans who were vehicles for them are, still, entirely dead. People usually hope there’s something “more” to them and that they’ll somehow continue to “exist” after death — though few hold out the same hope for dolphins, fish, birds or cockroaches — and our imaginations are very good at imagining all sorts of ways in which we’re really more Special than other animals, will somehow “live” forever, are somehow meaningfully “linked” to great things — “we’re stardust!! We’re the whole universe, conscious of itself!”


But this is where this discussion of science and non-science resides, as I’ve read the many comments: between what should be accepted — for now — as truth, and what must be regarded as merely opinions and the attitude of Certainty. I’m certain that young Bridget Nielson is certain she is the mother of ten  hybrid alien children. I think if you watch this video, you may be pretty sure of it too (she could just be a fairly good actress, of course. But if she is, there are others who genuinely believe the sorts of things she is saying). And she’s likeable, seems like a good person, and so on. But if we’re going to regard anomalies as true because a few — or thousands — of people are Certain, then we’re saying we don’t want Science at all. We all have a right to our opinions, but no one has to respect our opinions, only our right to hold them — heck, some of you probably wouldn’t even respect the undoubted truth of my political, sartorial or gustatory choices.


Perhaps some in this discussion secretly do agree with this woman in the video (it’s a pretty good interviewer, by the way. He doesn’t scoff, he can enter some of her assumptions for the interview, she feels comfortable with him, he draws her out, and she thanks him for the interview after it’s over — not like Richard Dawkins interviewing someone with whom he doesn’t agree). I doubt that many here would agree with her or her worldview. But how, exactly would you argue that she’s wrong, without referring to bodies of “truth” established by experiments that can be, or have been, replicated by others who don’t believe in them, yet still find similar results? And if you can’t say why you think this woman is wrong, how could you say anyone is wrong, or any opinion? My understanding of science is that it does have a way to make this distinction, and that it must be grounded in theories established by controlled experiments that have been replicated by others who don’t believe the theories could possibly be true.


See what you think I’m missing here?