Via Futurismic‘s long-term good buddy Mac Tonnies come the results of an analysis of the UK MoD’s “x-files” documents, recently released to public scrutiny; apparently UFO sightings were more common around the times at which popular films or television shows featuring alien races or spacecraft were screened. [image by eek the cat]
The obvious conclusion here is “well, skiffy movies cause alien sightings; case closed”. But as Mac points out, that’s not logically sound:
There’s doubtlessly a correlation between science fiction and UFO reports. But while pop culture’s influence on potential UFO observers is a fascinating subject with important sociological ramifications, to flaunt Clarke’s findings as a refutation of the phenomenon in general is to willfully ignore the evidence in its entirety.
UFO researchers aren’t interested in “noise” cases — the inevitable false alarms that plague efforts to study the phenomenon (whatever its origin). Indeed, scientists who have addressed the UFO problem have always been painfully aware of the disproportionately high volume of false returns.
Now, you may more skeptical than Mac regarding the causes of UFO sightings, but his point still stands – divorce the logic from the specific subject matter, and the same applies to any sort of genuine scientific enquiry. I’m pretty sure this is what they call confirmation bias at work, and it makes me wonder how often it affects us…
… although it obviously happens often enough for it to be politically useful. 😉