Remembering Mac Tonnies

Paul Raven @ 22-03-2010

Almost exactly five months ago, I had to pass on the news that writer, UFOlogist and former Futurismic columnist Mac Tonnies had been found dead in his apartment of natural causes. While we weren’t astonishingly close, I always enjoyed Mac’s outlook on the universe he found himself inhabiting, and I miss our communications, brief as they often were. [image borrowed from UFOMystic]

For such a reclusive and quiet-seeming guy, Mac had a lot of friends on the internet – y’know, real friends, the type that really care about you beyond your next blog post – and I’m pleased to see that some of them are running a tribute site for material relating to Mac and his work, and archiving and collecting his internet outpourings.

Regardless of what you may think of his theories (and believe me, I thought some of them were nothing short of bat-shit weird), Mac Tonnies was one of the good guys, and the world is a poorer place without him.


Mac Tonnies, Rest In Peace

Paul Raven @ 23-10-2009

Mac TonniesIt falls to me to pass on some very sad and unexpected news. Mac Tonnies, a long-term web-friend of mine and former columnist on the paranormal here at Futurismic, was found dead (apparently of natural causes) in his apartment yesterday. [image borrowed from UFOMystic]

I’m at a bit of a loss to know what to say, really. A part of me wants to laugh, because I know the sort of fun Mac would have had ragging on conspiracy-theory types who’d try to suggest some nefarious governmental cover-up was involved. But the larger part of me is simply gutted; Mac was a thoroughly decent and sensitive guy, and an unflinching contrarian thinker, even when considered among the already contrarian fields of transhumanism and the extranormal. He’d just finished the manuscript for a new book, which he’d been working on for a long time.

So, rest easy, Mac – you’ll be missed.


UFO sightings coincide with UFO movies

Paul Raven @ 21-08-2009

flying saucersVia 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. 😉


Has the UFO myth been fostered deliberately?

Paul Raven @ 05-06-2009

alien or human?OK: as that headline should make clear, you’re going to struggle with this one if you’re an Agent Mulder type, but run with me for a moment. While there are ample stories suggesting that alien spacecraft have visited (or crashed into) our planet, solid evidence thereof is very much lacking in proportion. The usual response to that is “well, of course, the government/military/Illuminati/lizard-people have covered up the evidence!”

It’s a conspiracy theory classic. But consider for a moment the old aphorism that the most effective lies are the ones that include substantial elements of truth. Then apply the cui bono test – who benefits from people believing in UFO cover-ups?

Nick Redfern has been thinking along these lines, and has gathered a bunch of clues to support his own hypothesis – namely that the majority of the big UFO conspiracy stories have been quite deliberately encouraged by the more secretive echelons of the  world’s military and governmental organisations. After all, if you’ve got something worth hiding, flat-out denial is never going to be quite as effective as pretending to let something slip that is actually a smokescreen for the real story. Says Redfern:

… it seems to me that – for years – the crashed UFO community has been well and truly played, manipulated, and even controlled.

The trick to overcoming this is to throw out your belief systems and start fresh, with no preconceived ideas about crashed UFOs, and no emotion-driven need to believe in wrecked saucers, dead aliens, underground cryogenic chambers filled with ET body-parts, and all the rest.

Do that, be totally unbiased, and you may find some surprising facts about the origins of certain crashed UFO events.

If you’ve ever been into UFOlogy, I heartily recommend reading the whole piece for interest’s sake. What I will note here is that, much like the original conspiracy theories, Redfern’s re-readings of the classic UFO stories are based on interpretations of old classified documents, which means they’re based on the same suppositional logic as the stories they aim to replace; their appeal is that there’s less of a cognitive leap involved in assuming that the whole business is an elaborate smokescreen than in assuming that the aliums r comin OMGZ.

I used to be mad-fixated with conspiracy theories, but as time has passed they’ve been eroded by the same cynicism that initially nurtured them. And much as the military red-herring theory as presented above is more plausible than actual alien visitations being covered up, recent events suggest to me that the governments of the West aren’t anywhere near as capable of keeping secrets as that story demands I believe.

But then again, what if all the recent bungling and slip-ups in government secrecy are just another layer of the smokescreen, eh? Maybe best not to throw out all the tinfoil just yet… 😉 [via PosthumanBlues; image by Simczuk]


UFOs and Science Fiction

Mac Tonnies @ 19-11-2008

Mac Tonnies - Loving the AlienLoving the Alien returns after a brief hiatus, and Mac Tonnies takes the time to wonder why literary science fiction has never embraced the UFO as a conceptual alpha or omega point. Continue reading “UFOs and Science Fiction”


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