High Strangeness: The Ballester-Guasp Evaluation

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Ballester-Guasp Evaluation

How did I miss this when I studied for the MUFON Field Investigator Examination?

When I am sent out on a case, I am to fill out a Ballester-Guasp Evaluation, or BGE for short. This evaluation scheme was thought up by a couple of MUFONers as a way for UFO sighting reports to "self-asses." In other words, as I fill in the details of the sighting report, numerical values are automatically given to various aspects of the report, and these numerical values are multiplied together to determine the "final certainty index" of the sighting. I don't have to think at all!

The BGE weighs three aspects of the UFO incident:
  1. The volume and quantity of the data recorded
  2. The inherent abnormality or "strangeness" of the event
  3. The credibility of the witness
Okay, all well and good, but assigning numerical values to "strangeness" and "credibility" as a means of assessing "certainty" seems to me like a fool's game. And believe you me, I know a thing or two about fool's games.

Is this UFO sighting credible? Not if it was reported by a farmer.
Let's look at these three criteria and try to understand what they really mean...

Number 1: When MUFON talks about "the volume and quantity of the data recorded," what they are really talking about is where I spoke with the witness and for how long. In MUFON world, if I interview the witness at the site of the incident it is more likely that the incident actually occurred than if I interview the witness over the phone. This is cool, because my actions actually affect the credibility of the story! If I'm too lazy to drive to the witness' house to do the interview face-to-face, the less credible the witness' story is! Also, if the interview takes longer than a half hour, it is more likely that the incident occurred than if the interview takes less than a half hour. Duh, MUFON, I'm just going to talk slower and ask the same questions over and over.

Number 2: Determining the "inherent abnormality or 'strangeness' of the event" is surprisingly simple. All I do is count how many of these seven factors were present and I have a value:
  1. Anomalous appearance
  2. Existence of anomalous movements
  3. Apparition of physical-spatial incongruities
  4. Technological detection
  5. Close encounter
  6. Presence of beings associated with UFOs
  7. Finding of traces or production of effects
The more I check off, the higher the value, and the less likely the phenomenon is to have a "natural explanation." This seems like a slippery slope to me. I have seen some "natural" occurrences that have seemed pretty blasted strange, and I have seen some "unnatural" occurrences that have seemed pretty damned not strange, so I'm not sure where to go with this.

Number 3: This is pretty cut-and-dried. If I interview a farmer or a housewife (both of whom are assumed to have no more than a high school education) who was alone when he or she saw a UFO, the story is not very credible. If I interview a Psychiatrist who was with many other people who are related to him or her when he or she saw a UFO, the story is very, very supremely credible. Never mind the possibility that the Psychiatrist was at the insane asylum at the time of the sighting, and the people he was with were patients (who just happened to be blood relatives); the sighting happened, and that's that.

Who are Ballester and Guasp anyway, and why does MUFON give their evaluation system so much weight in a sighting investigation? All it's going to take is one housewife with a Ph.D. reporting a UFO sighting to blow the whole racket sky-high.


Anonymous said...

I completely get that the Ballester-Guasp evaluation is inherently flawed. If not completely flawed. It's stupid to break down the UFO phenomena and the witnesses into a handful of arbitrary categories.

I think it is understandable, though, that there needs to be some attempt to quantify a report, even if it's entirely qualitative in nature. A BGE doesn't prove or disprove anything, but it allows you to glance at a case and try to estimate the uncertainty on the findings. Trying to estimate your uncertainty is hugely important to any scientific field.

Mark UFO'Connell said...

I suppose estimating uncertainty is much easier that estimating certainty, so in that sense the BGE is valuable, though maybe not in the way its inventors intended...

Unknown said...

It's a quick reference guide to seperate cases, from a close encounter to a distance dot in the sky. Dont complicate it.