Rational skepticism:

Precepts of the rational skeptic:

Because there have been some hoaxes and mis-identification over the years, all reported UFOs must be hoaxes or other explainable terrestrial phenomena. One guy made a crop circle with a rope and board and therefore all crop circles are guys with ropes and boards.

Because some ‘believers’ are open to a range of phenomena and explanations, all believers must be discredited for not taking a purely [hard] scientific view.

Our five primary senses are all we acknowledge, and all scientific inquiry must rely on ‘objective’ evidence confirmed by our five senses.

Because we don’t have indisputable evidence, and have not had widespread acceptance from bastions of power, the whole topic must be derided.

Because a creator or creative force is not readily apparent through current scientific means (other than perhaps our very existence), we must reject ideas that suggest we live in a created or architected universe (indeed, cosmos).

Anyone who is open to phenomena not scientifically validated through experimental conditions based on the five senses is automatically suspect.

Anyone who suggests spiritual explanations for any phenomena is suspect.

The terrestrial phenomena explanation must be privileged over any other.

Photos/videos are possibly Photoshopped or created using CG methods, therefore none should be considered.

Anecdotes and witness testimonies are subject to human flaws and biases and therefore must be discounted.

Any extraterrestrial hypotheses are flawed hyperbole.

These are a bunch of straw man arguments. Taken together, they represent irrational skepticism, not rational skepticism. Rational (scientific) skepticism requires that we remain agnostic to non-empirical claims, not dismiss them or accept them out of hand.

You wrote that entire piece without even a mention of Karl Popper or the idea that science is about analyzing falsifiable claims, nothing more and nothing less. Non-falsifiable claims are outside the realm of science (and, as such, are often uninteresting to scientists).

So again, my question is… what evidence would be compelling? Whose opinions matter? What authority needs to say, ‘yes, let’s consider this’?

Appealing to authority is a logical fallacy. An authority saying there are or are not UFOs is irrelevant. Evidence is all that matters. An actual UFO landing and an alien coming out and talking to us about stuff would be a great example of compelling evidence.

Despite the demise of most of its once-sacred cows, science remains alive and well, implying that the assumptions abandoned were never essential. Unwarranted assumptions — blinders, really — may have been necessary to the methodical progress of science, but ultimately they squelch open inquiry. Indeed, all of science may rest upon a single inviolate assumption: The same physical laws apply throughout the cosmos. Why not leave it there (at least for now)? Science’s Sacred Cows (Part 1)

Science has no sacred cows. Every theory is subject to review.

NASA has recently acknowledged that extraterrestrial life in the cosmos is highly probable and are finding new Earth-like planets all the time. First (or open) contact could be just around the corner. Doesn’t it make sense for us to prepare ourselves for the enormity of the changes that could be on our way?

Extraterrestrial life and extraterrestrial intelligence are two entirely different things. A bacteria on Earth is life, but it would appear to be incapable of building a spaceship and communicating with other lifeforms in other star systems. Bacteria were also around billions of years before humans were. It could easily be the case that a given exoplanet out there is teeming with life, yet devoid of intelligence life. It is important not to conflate these two things.

I agree that it makes sense to keep our minds open to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. If we ever encounter it, it could have huge implications, especially in the case of extraterrestrial intelligence. Practically speaking, it means we should continue to improve our ability to observe and analyze the universe we live in. As it happens, science is likely our best avenue to accomplish this. It was professional scientists who found all these exoplanets to begin with, and it was professional scientists at NASA who you just linked to talking about extraterrestrial life. For us to make progress in this department, we have to keep training new scientists and developing new technological instruments to allow our understanding of the universe to continue to expand.

If there are spiritual means of accomplishing that as well, great, but that is not within the purview of science until those means can make falsifiable claims and produce testable results. Then we can get down to the business of psychic antenna arrays and third eye telescopes.

Just the facts: Writer. Gamer. Feminist. Educated in Astrophysics. Professional Gambler. Student of Language. Satanist. Anarchist.

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