High Strangeness: Reliable Witnesses

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reliable Witnesses

It's hard for me to discount something written by a Ph.D. My wife is a Ph.D. and I pretty much believe anything she tells me, because she always says it with such authority. So it's difficult for me to come to grips with the latest section on the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual, entitled "Reliability Assessment of Eyewitness Testimony," which is fact written by a Ph.D. and yet is innately goofy.

This section of the Manual has two purposes. The first is to teach us aspiring UFO Field Investigators how to distinguish accurate testimony from inaccurate testimony. The second is to teach us how to identify the ways witness' testimony can be distorted, so that we can estimate what has actually taken place. I like that, because it sounds like we get to make stuff up.

In some sense, though, this section is an utter waste of my time. I am a father of four, and hence am a pretty good judge of when testimony is accurate or inaccurate. For the same reason I am also a fair hand at spotting how and why testimony can be distorted, so that I can accurately estimate what has actually happened. If you don't believe me, read yesterday's post.

Still, this section was written by a Ph.D., so I figured maybe I could learn some new tricks. Right out of the gate, I learned that routine occurrences are very easy for most people to perceive, while rare occurrences are difficult for most people to perceive. Because of this, if someone sees a UFO and says straight out, "Hey, there's a UFO!" they are probably lying, because it should not be so easy for them to perceive that what they are seeing is a UFO. If the witness was honest and trustworthy, he or she would say something like, "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No... it's; it's a UFO!" 

The Ph.D. underscores his point by saying, "If one encounters a witness who immediately recognized the object as a UFO, one should be very suspicious." In other words, if a witness identifies an object as an object, he or she can't be trusted. Mr. Ph.D. goes on to say, "How could a person 'recognize' a UFO, unless he had seen one before (important point!), or had seen pictures or read descriptions of one?" 

Got that? If a UFO witness has seen actual UFOs before, or has seen pictures of UFOs or read descriptions of UFOs, he or she can't possibly have seen a UFO and must be lying.

I think the Ph.D. is forgetting what the letters "UFO" stand for: "Unidentified Flying Object." A UFO in and of itself has no defining characteristics (aside from the fact that it's flying), and so a UFO witness is actually on pretty solid footing when he or she immediately assumes that he or she is looking at something with no defining characteristics without first guessing that it's a pterodactyl or a zeppelin.

Indeed, the Ph.D. is the one who seems to be full of beans. He seems to be making the completely unwarranted assumption that UFOs are spaceships, while dismissing UFO witnesses who, in his warped way of thinking, make the very same assumption.

So, yeah, the Ph.D. has already lost me. But I have to give him another chance, because I am really looking forward to the part where we get to make stuff up.

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