Sunday, August 29, 2010

More lessons from pioneers – The World of Flying Saucers

This post is looking into another pioneer of UFO research, but this one was the “Dr. Evil” of ETH ufology: Donald H. Menzel. He published a major book on UFOs in 1963, looking back at 15 years of ufology, and most of what he wrote could be applied today, now looking back at (almost) 65 years of ufology. Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil.... The full notice is:

Menzel, Donald H. and Lyle G. Boyd. (1963). The World of Flying Saucers: A scientific examination of a major myth of the space age. New York: Doubleday.

Flying saucers are real! (but first you have to believe in ET)

Donald Menzel (1901-1976) was much vilified by the ETH ufological community (even today, nearly 35 years after his death), but it is to wonder how many ETH believers even bothered to open one of his books. Menzel’s main concern was the lack critical thinking in the world of UFOs, and not so much to prove that every single UFO sighting can be explained by a down-to-earth explanation. In other words, it was first and foremost a matter of education, not of ufological method. If one fails to understand his central argument, then one does not understand what Menzel was writing about.

This lack of critical thinking is described in his book as the “saucerdom”, a world where anything not readily identifiable as a known flying object is immediately considered as a spaceship visiting planet Earth. In the saucerdom, the full meaning of “unidentified” or “unknown” is ignored so that flying objects are immediately re-identified as spaceships. In a colourful way, he described this issue as follow: “When told there’s a horse in the bathtub, for example, the sensible man realizes that the visitation, while not impossible, is extremely improbable. Therefore he does not immediately begin speculating on the color of the horse, where it might have come from, what its purpose may be, and whether it will wreck the bathroom. Instead, he adopts the scientific method and first goes to find out whether the horse is really there” (p. 3).

A number of ETH ufologists have pointed out that they do investigate and they found “something” in the bathtub, hence considering Menzel’s argument as irrelevant. But these ETH ufologists missed the point, some of them purposefully. The point is that many people in the general public are willing to accept any story about “spaceships” on its face value. More importantly, without such credulity in the public many ufologists would not have been able to have a career simply because there would be no one to buy their books. In other words, for most ETH ufologists it is in their vested interest to keep the saucerdom alive, because they depend on it. Hence, for Menzel, one should not count on the ETH ufologists to show intellectual integrity; it is against their objective interest.

The saucerdom, 50 years later, is doing quite well with the hundreds of fake UFO pictures and videos posted on the Internet annually, which always find an audience to believe them as true. Menzel was dealing with a real issue, and that issue has not gone away. If there is a critique to formulate against Menzel, however, it is his naive faith in reasoned discussions. The saucerdom is a belief system, and like any belief system it is impervious to any amount rational facts, proofs, or analyses.

Absence of evidence is evidence of absence of evidence

The second key issue that Menzel was dealing with was the lack of evidence to prove the extra-terrestrial origin of UFOs. As he wrote, “in the study of UFO phenomena this question of ‘evidence’ is crucial. The careful investigator tries always to distinguish sharply between an observed fact, which is evidence, and an interpretation of that fact, which is not evidence no matter how reasonable it may seem” (p. 4). And indeed, 50 years later we are in the same situation: “no data in these [military] unsolved cases suggest that the UFOs had an interplanetary origin or that they constitute a threat to the security of the United States. When Air Force investigators have determined that a UFO report does not represent anything of interest to Intelligence, their primary duty ends. However, since many UFO puzzles are of interest for scientific or technical reasons, the investigators try to find the specific explanation of each case and, if it has attracted public attention, give the final solution to press” (p. 275).

What does this mean is that when you have a “stubborn unknown,” military investigators are short of facts too, and they provide what they think to be the best interpretation. In other words, this is not the “truth” but educated speculations. Menzel was often accused by ETH ufologists of using the notion of thermal inversion to “debunk” cases, but he was simply doing educated speculation. ETH ufologists (the serious ones, anyway) are doing the same: educated speculations. The very existence of “stubborn unknown” is created by a lack of evidence that might decide which speculation is the most likely. This simple issue was quickly lost in the fray.

The lack of evidence of the ET origin of UFOs, and the fact that they do not represent a threat to national security is a conclusion that has been re-confirmed by many other governments since Menzel passed away, in particular Canada, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Russia, and Chile. Each of these countries, through their own agencies, research agendas, and set of cases came to a similar conclusion. If it is not good enough to say that we have evidence of absence of evidence, then nothing will be good enough. This brings us back to the saucerdom as belief system; let’s not waste our time engaging in reasoned discussions with people who do not care about reason (in spite of claiming to the contrary).

Open Minds, Closed Skies (and your taxes)

In his later years MEnzel became much flexible, probably unconsciously, as he was certainly frustrated by being unable to engage in serious discussions with people in the field of ufology. Surrounded and constantly attacked by quasi-religious believers he responded in kind: nothing in ufology is worth considering. His exasperation was understandable, but it undermined his cause. Yet, Menzel, originally, was much more open minded that he was portrayed by ETH ufologists. He wrote that “the creative scientist, eternally curious, keeps an open mind toward strange phenomena and novel ideas, knowing that we have only begun to understand the universe we live in. He remembers, too, that Biot’s discovery that meteorites were ‘stone from the sky’ was at first greeted with disbelief, and he hopes never to be guilty of similar obtuseness. But an open mind does not mean credulity or a suspension of the logical faculties that are man’s most valuable asset” (p. 289). He was seeking to have a level-headed debate, but he was not heard.

Menzel was also exasperated by the conspiracy theories that were already having lot of credence in the saucerdom in the early 1960s. As Menzel wrote, “the Air Force has found no evidence of any kind that anyone has ever seen, heard, smelled, photographed, touched, or in any way detected a trace of an interplanetary spacecraft. Extraterrestrial visitors have not yet arrived, and may never arrive. If and when they do, our Air Force wants to be the first to know. [...] The Air Force cannot afford to guess what is in our skies. They want to know” (p. 289). What Menzel is saying here is that the military are not the enemy, and that they investigated UFO sightings for pragmatic reasons. Yet, if you find nothing after investigating for quite some time, then it is time to do something else. The military and various government agencies are not “Scooby Doo and the Gang” on public treasury payroll. How hard is it to understand? Scrapping publically-funded UFO shops after years of absence of evidence is just common sense, as it is to make the data available to those interested in studying anomalies. The Project Blue Book cases have been available for 35 years. Other countries have done the same since.

Concluding remarks

Menzel tried to keep discussions about UFO with the realm of reason, and as much as possible based on serious factual investigations. He certainly showed that the Project Blue Book’s finding that about only 5% of UFO sightings are true “unknown” was essentially correct. His debates with others also showed that those “unknown” remain “unknown” and that multiple explanations can co-exist, and that when one explanation is prevailing it is not because of the strength of the explanation but because of various psychological and sociological factors. In this context, his education campaign predictable failed for the reasons discussed above.

In this last year of the first decade of the 21st century, the saucerdom is very much alive and kicking, but as the writers of the RRRGroup noted on their various websites, there is very few substantive replacement to the old guard of ufology (all approach confounded). As well, as Chris Rutkowski Canada’s “UFO central”) noted, the phenomenon is becoming quite shy with almost no more new cases of close encounters (from 1 to 3). The direct impact of all this is that nowadays there is very little research conducted on UFOs, from an ETH perspective or otherwise.

The key, in my opinion, is not to wait that the phenomenon becomes more ostentatious, as it may never do. As well, it is critical not to repeat old mistakes. Any new research agenda should not try to engage the saucerdom; Menzel showed how futile this is. As well, Vallée in an interview noted that ufology is now back to something akin to the days of the “Invisible College”, but this time researchers are not hiding from the scientific establishment; they are hiding from the saucerdom. In light of Menzel’s experience, this seems to be the only meaningful approach for the foreseeable future.

Eric Ouellet © 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lessons from the pioneers – The Straight-Line Mystery

This post continues with having a second look at older thoughts and approaches that might be useful to the development of parasociology. Today, I am looking into Aimé Michel’s book on the French UFO wave of 1954. Michel was a “non-fiction” mystery writer, and was among the firsts in Europe to have a serious look at the UFO phenomenon. His first book, The Truth about Flying Saucers (published in English translation in 1954), was meant to be a wake-up call about the reality of UFOs. His second book about the Straight-Line Mystery was written in 1957 and published in English translation in 1958. Michel passed away in 1992. Michel is often mentioned in the works of another Frenchman, Jacques Vallée, and the two were good friends and were members of the so-called Invisible College. According to Vallée, Michel was one of the few in the early days of ufology to keep a cool but open-minded approach towards the phenomenon; an attitude that Vallée wanted to emulate. The full notice is:

Michel, Aimé. (1958). Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mystery. New York: Criterion Books.

It is all about the attitude

If one goes back in the 1950s, without the Internet, personal computers, or even without cheap long-distance plans, Michel did outstanding work, and Vallée’s admiration towards Michel is easily comprehensible. But, it is really for the attitude he brought to the study of UFOs that Michel should be remembered. His book is prefaced by a French Air Force General, (General L. M. Chassin) who was occupying a senior position in NATO HQ at the time (before France withdrew from the NATO unified command, and now has reintegrated). Clearly, people in government and the military are not the enemy; they were as baffled by the phenomenon as civilian researchers.

The most interesting part of his book is in the introduction, as he explains his approach and method. It is fascinating to read, more than 50 years later comments he made about what is going on in ufology that could apply very well today. No wonder there has been much progress since. Michel wrote: “Hitherto the only ‘study’ of saucers that has been possible has been the analysis of the reports of witnesses after sightings. But this is not the scientific method. The analysis of testimony properly belongs to the law courts and to history, which attempt to weigh human uncertainties; for the present at least, science cannot apply its methods there. This is not a deliberate refusal to do so, but merely an acknowledgement of the fact that science has its limitations” (p. 13).

In other words, it was clear for him, and it is for me, that the actual content of UFO sighting reports is not what will give us the answer to the phenomenon. This idea, as obvious as it may be, is still not fully understood in present-day UFO buff circles. I read, not that long ago on the web, a comment from an experienced UFO researcher where he is dreaming of digitizing all UFO reports from various key ufological organizations and do an extensive content analysis to figure out if we can deduce the propulsion system of UFOs. Not only this would be a gigantic waste of money, but this would not provide any answers, because it is based on what it is: reports by people of strange events very often collected by people who have a very narrow view as to what is relevant and what is not when it comes to UFOs.

Along the same train of thought, Michel continues by stating “if we study these five observations [that he mentions a few lines before] as isolated events, we are driven to the same inevitable conclusion that for ten years [i.e. 1947-1957] has blocked scientific study of the saucer phenomenon: if witnesses really saw what they described, it was a prodigious event, perhaps the most stupendous event in human history; but unfortunately, there is nothing to prove the truth of their accounts.” (p. 14).

Once again, I can only agree with Michel (50 years later), UFO events studied as isolated events will never yield anything. Yet, 50 years later it is still the norm in ufology. It is fundamental that one look into the phenomenon from a wider perspective, propose some hypothesis and try to validate such hypothesis. Michel proposed the notion of “orthoteny”, trying to show that UFOs travel in straight-lines when all the reports are studied as a collective event. There is no point here to dwell into the critiques against Michel’s approach. Indeed one has to fudge a bit the locations to find straight lines, and what he found does not occur in other UFO events. But the key here is the attitude of trying to go beyond the surface of individual sightings, and put the phenomenon into a larger context. This is actually the real scientific approach. The David Hume-style bottom-up empiricism (i.e. thinking that the “truth” can be extracted by dwelling into isolated cases) that exists in ufology has been rightfully described as pseudo-scientific. I really do not comprehend why it is so hard to understand.

In any event, it is quite clear why Vallée used Michel as a role model when he got seriously interested in UFOs in the 1960s. Vallée, although I do not agree with his control system explanation (as a sociologist I can say that what describes is very much something explainable through normal sociological analysis), has maintained an approach that is truly scientific in that he went much beyond the appearances of individual cases.

The early paranormal hypothesis

Michel is probably one of the firsts to propose a paranormal approach to the phenomenon, and he certainly had a fair bit of influence on Vallée in this respect. He was very much aware that even in his own research there are no substantive evidence beyond witnesses accounts to determine what these flying saucers are. As he wrote, “Is contact real, but invisible? This is our last, and most fascinating hypothesis. For it must be admitted that such a thing is not impossible. If contact between “them” and us were to occur on their level, rather than on ours, then, no matter what we do, it will forever remain imperceptible to us, just as most of our relationships with animals are altogether undiscoverable by them. Therefore, the answer to the question, “Why have we not had visitors from space?“ is perhaps this strangely simple one: “There seem to have been none because only our eyes see them, and not our consciousness, which is blind to them” (p. 230).

This text written in 1957 shows that the ETH had competition from day one and this competition came from someone who was displaying serious research efforts. As well, Michel’s last hypothesis summarizes, in my opinion, what Jacques Vallée will try to demonstrate in his ufological career from 1960 to the mid-1990s. The influence is quite clear. However, as stated in my last post, the PNH remains beyond verification because “they” would call all the shots. Michel understood this from the unset when he wrote: “no matter what we do, it will forever remain imperceptible to us”. This is the true challenge of the paranormal hypothesis.

Once again, what is important here is not such much whether this type of paranormal hypothesis is correct or not, even if it would be verifiable. It is rather this attitude of trying to look beyond the surface of a phenomenon; to seek deep patterns and dynamics and how they relate to other realities. If we are to understand the UFO phenomenon, it is imperative to maintain the scientific attitude to look beyond the surface displayed by people like Michel and Vallée.

Eric Ouellet © 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The key hypotheses in ufology

This post proposes a discussion on the various hypotheses in ufology, to clarify where parasociology stands on the issue. It is motivated by the writings of some people on the web who wrote some time ago that parasociology is a bizarre approach to UFOs. Well, I think these statements are made from a position of ignorance. Such ignorance, in turn, is probably enabled by the fact that most comprehensive overviews of what is going on in the field of UFO research are so misleading than one is likely to remain ignorant. For me, a key contributor to such a lack of clarity is the very unsatisfactory nature of typologies about ufological hypotheses. Most of the existing typologies do not go to the bottom of those ufological hypotheses, and they exclude a number of them. Ultimately, they depict a very warped and incomplete portrait of what is going on in ufology. The typology proposed under the label “Ufology” in Wikipedia is a prominent example of this.

The notions of hypothesis and typology

A hypothesis is essentially a temporary answer to a research question, which one tries to prove or disprove through reasoned investigation. In the case of UFOs, the main research question exists in various forms, but all versions of it are about the nature and origin of the phenomenon, which remain uncertain to this day. Hence, any hypothesis about UFOs is about ontology; to provide a temporary answer about what these things are to guide research and investigation. A typology, on the other hand, is a classification system that is based on the fundamental underpinnings of what is being classified. It is not a serendipity listing of what exists on a particular topic, which would be incomplete by definition as there are always new items to add to the list. Hence, a typology of ufological hypotheses requires looking into the fundamental underpinnings of these hypotheses.

The fundamental underpinnings

All hypotheses about UFOs, (i.e., statements by those who consider that phenomenon remains unexplained) are based on two sets of fundamental underpinnings. The first one is about the objective versus subjective nature of the phenomenon. Are UFOs real objects or are they real only in the mind of people? The second set, which is closely related to first one, is whether the phenomenon is the product of non-human entities or human sources. In this light, the key hypotheses in ufology can be regrouped in 4 generic hypotheses, although they should be seen as being part of spectrum rather than air-tight categories.

Extra-Terrestrial Hypothesis (ETH)

The first one, the best known and most popular, and yet the one with least amount of evidence to support itself is the Extra-terrestrial Hypothesis (ETH). Put on a spectrum, it is the hypothesis that implies the highest degree of objectivity in the phenomenon (the “nuts and bolt” approach being its most extreme version). Older ETH ufology tends to be at the extreme, where there is little room for anything else but the “nuts and bolt”. Newer ETH authors admit (grudgingly) that there might be something a bit more subjective as the phenomenon might have also a paranormal aspect. Paranormal events being always unclear, fuzzy and on the borderline of normal perception are by definition more subjective than a physical “flying saucer”. Stanton Friedman is a good example of this position. A little bit further away from the extreme is the “ETH at the 2nd degree”, a concept developed by European ufologists who consider that UFOs are still physical spaceship, but the aliens can only connect to us through paranormal means given that there is so much psychological and cultural differences between us and them.

Paranormal Hypothesis (PNH)

Then, moving further away from the objective extreme is the Paranormal Hypothesis (PNH). The PNH implies that UFOs and aliens are paranormal manifestations produced by non-human entities (but not aliens from outer space). Given that UFOs are considered paranormal manifestation by the PNH, and that paranormal perceptions are always mixed up with the psychological and cultural frames of reference of the witnesses, the PNH accepts that the phenomenon requires to be understood also as something subjective. Authors like Jacques Vallée, John Keel, and Mac Tonnies are representative of this approach. The nature of the non-human entities can vary considerably from intra-terrestrial, inter-dimensional, to time-traveller and mythical intelligence.

Parapsychological Hypothesis (PPH)

Then, getting closer to the subjective end of the spectrum by explaining the phenomenon mostly through interactions between psi effects and psycho-social factors is what I call the Parapsychological Hypothesis (PPH). The PPH does not reject the notion that there is a material reality to UFOs, but it hypothesized that it is the product of the human mind, unconsciously using its psi capabilities. In this case, we cross the threshold human/non-human, as the PPH is defined by excluding the notion of non-human entities to explain the phenomenon. This is my approach, and the one of people like Bertrand Méheust, John Spencer and Hilary Evans.

Psycho-social Hypothesis (PSH)

Finally, there is the psycho-social hypothesis (PSH), which implies that there is no objective reality behind the phenomenon, but only subjective psychological and sociological constructions based on misperceptions and make-beliefs. This is the approach used by the more sophisticated debunkers.

Graphically, the typology can be represented as follow:

Typology as a useful tool

Typologies in science are not only created to provide comprehensive descriptions; they are also useful tools to assess research and establish priorities. The selection of the PPH as my approach to the UFO phenomenon is not only a matter of preference; it is actually a reasoned choice, because out of the four primary hypotheses, the PPH is the most promising one.

The ETH is, in theory, a verifiable hypothesis in that if a piece of material or organic tissue is found to be not from this world, then it can be validated. The problem, of course, is that the ETH ufologists have been banging their respective head against a wall of failure for over 60 years. They are literally waiting that the proof “fall from the sky” (or from a brown envelop...). Such attitude is not a scientific one. When a hypothesis fails to deliver after ongoing testing it means that it is not a valid approach and something else needs to be tried. To continue in such circumstances becomes a matter of faith and belief and no more of reasoned investigation.

The PNH is an interesting one, and it has the merit of highlighting the well-documented and central role of the paranormal dimension of the UFO experience, which is mostly ignored by representatives of the ETH, and by the PSH. The fatal flaw of the PNH is that it cannot be tested as it implies the existence of non-human entities that would call all the shots on how, where and when they can be seen. This is not testable from the point of view of the natural sciences, as the object requires a degree control and repeatability, and it cannot be tested from the point of view of the social sciences because we cannot use what we know about humans to understand the intents and motivations of the alleged non-human entities, given that they are not human. A non-testable hypothesis is not a hypothesis, it is speculation.

The PSH highlights important psycho-social dynamics that are clearly part of the overall phenomenon, but its representatives blatantly ignore the well-documented material evidence about UFOs. This fact alone fully undermines the validity of the overall hypothesis. The PSH, very much like the ETH, is closer to a belief system than reasoned investigations.

The PPH, on the other hand, is respectful of both the material and paranormal dimensions of the phenomenon by integrating them into the analysis. Furthermore, the parasociological version of the PPH is also able to integrate the psycho-social dynamics identified by the PSH, yet without ignoring the material reality of the phenomenon. Finally, contrary to the ETH and PNH, the PPH offers the possibility of being testable by using our knowledge of human beings from a variety of disciplines like (parapsychology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, etc.). All in all, the PPH is from rational standpoint the best bet for improving our understanding of UFOs.

In light of a clearer understanding of what is going in UFO research I return the question: who is bizarre here?

Eric Ouellet © 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading Notes – Holographic Paradigm

This post is renewing with presenting my reading notes about books or articles that might be useful to the advancement of the parasociological hypothesis. These reading notes are, once again, about an older book but still part of many contemporary debates: the holographic “revolution”. The book is an edited collection that re-groups the key texts (mostly from the philosophy journal ReVision) from the early discussions about the holographic universe.

In the 1970s, two scientists developed separately the idea that the universe might be a hologram. The first one is the neurologist Karl Pribram, who discovered that the brain is organized in a non-linear way when it comes to storing information. His research, in many ways, fuelled the idea of virtual database that is now a current way of storing information in computer programming. What it means is that brain cells are not only carrying information, but also contain information about how information storing is actually structured. To take a simple example, if one finds a datum he/she may also find elements or traces of its “address”, and thus it gives him/her an idea about the size and how many dimension the entire information has. For instance, “x4x, xxx, 9x9” does not tell us where the datum fits exactly, but it can tell us that it is a three-dimension construct and each dimension has up to one thousand possible spots. Holograms that we can see in movie theatres are constructed that way. Not only there are elements of images, but each element has a “tag” so that the full image can be re-constructed to become meaningful. Hence, the “tag” itself carries also precious information about information structuring.

The second scientist is David Bohm, a theoretical physicist, who explained the paradoxes of non-locality in quantum physics by showing mathematically the possibility of a 5th dimension. This additional dimension is more than just one more layer to the matrix of reality. Like in the case of the brain, objects and other realities of our ordinary 4 dimensional world also carry information about how information is structured in the higher degree matrix with 5 dimensions. In both cases, by sampling enough brain cells or objects, one can gather some useful information about how these fit in the greater scheme of thing. This is the holographic paradigm: any reality is contingent to a higher degree of information organization. This notion, without surprise, has also attracted the attention of those mystically minded, as it implies that there is a higher realm of reality “managing” reality at a lower level. The full notice is:

Wilber, Ken (Ed.). (1985). The Holographic Paradigm: Exploring the leading edge of science. Boston: Shambala.

The Holographic Paradigm and social sciences

The book provides input from various people (including one social scientist) but without making any references to the knowledge produced by the social sciences. Once more we have a “leading edge science” book where psychology, physics and philosophy are used to support the argument for a new look at the world, but without using sociology and its sister sciences. It is very regrettable because the holographic paradigm has been part of the social sciences since day one, although described under a different vocabulary. People are not just people. They belong to higher orders of information structuring by their gender, ethnic origin, language, social class, level of education, etc. This is so obvious to any social scientist that one is wondering where the big fuss is.

For instance, qualitative social scientists, and for that matter any good management consultant, know that you do not need to interview everyone in a community or an organization to get a good understanding of what is going on. Only a few well selected people usually will do. Why? Because people also carry information about how life is structured in a community or organization (who is the boss, who holds the power, the key histories or narratives one needs to know to be part of the group, what’s in and what’s out, etc, etc , etc). Human communities are holographic. Sociologists know quite well that the social realm is a higher degree of structuring information that can be accessed by sampling enough individual about it. The Holographic Paradigm is actually old news for the social scientists. Maybe that’s why they were ignored, as they would remove the “edge” to the news. To be fair, however, there was a “fad” in the 1980s and 1990s in the social sciences about studying the social realm through the vocabulary of the holographic paradigm. For what I can assess, this has not gain much traction, probably because, in the end, it is old wine in a new bottle.

The Holographic Paradigm and parapsychology

In the book, there is, unfortunately, only one and very short text from Stanley Krippner dealing directly with the impact of the Holographic Paradigm on parapsychology. It would have been good to get a more extensive reaction from Krippner and the parapsychological community. In any event, the notion that the universe is holographic is certainly a useful one for parapsychologists. This notion is very much in tune with the Jungian concept of “Absolute Knowledge” and the Laszlo’s notion of Akashic field, speculating that knowledge exists in other forms, free of time and physical constraints, which can be access through ESP. Similarly, the introduction of a notion of higher order of information structuring can help to explain various time paradoxes found in parapsychological experiments, especially for retro-psychokinesis. But as parapsychology depends very much on positivist recognition from the institutional scientific community, the holographic paradigm remains very difficult to verify empirically. If it is possible to make a sound argument about the holographic nature of the brain, quantum physics, and the social realm that does not mean that the rest of the universe is holographic. That is where parapsychology stands on this issue for the time being; an interesting but hard to test idea.

The Holographic Paradigm and parasociology

Parasociology, as an attempt to fuse parapsychology and sociology together, is in mixed position with regards to the Holographic Paradigm. Societies can be easily described as hologram, as discussed above, but to really use the holographic approach to its fullest extent, one has to stipulate some sort of meta-social hologram. According to the theory, this meta-social hologram would be one degree (or dimension) higher in terms of abstraction, away from the empirically observable social realm, that describes another level of information structuring. To me, this sounds very much as a re-description of the notion of social unconscious. The main difference, however, would be that by borrowing from parapsychology the social unconscious would become information also freed (or at least partially freed) from time and geographical constraints. This is an interesting idea, but yet again this not that new. The parasociological notion of social unconscious is partly built on Jung’s concept of collective unconscious, which is explicitly described by Jung as timeless and unconcerned with geography. All in all, it is still old wine in a new bottle. Furthermore, the possibility of empirical verification is not improved by using the holographic approach. Ultimately, the holographic paradigm adds weight to the possibility that such an approach may explain many aspects of reality because it is found in different realms (biology, physics, social sciences), but it is still quite far from becoming a theory of everything.

Concluding remarks

Brain cells, and photons going through a splitter, are relatively simple carriers of information, and using a holographic approach to reconstruct how they fit in a larger scheme is certainly an effective approach. But what about complex datum, like a single human being, who has so many possible “tags” to so many possible larger psycho-social constructs? This is simply not very effective, and ultimately (strangely) it is a very reductionist approach – something the Holographic Paradigm claims to steer away from.

From a parasociological perspective, UFO events are like any other human events: they are composite events. The symbolic, psychical, emotional, social and physical forces at play to create such events are difficult to distinguish from each other. Furthermore, it may not be useful to distinguish them in a detailed way because we may loose from sight the “tag” that links qualitatively different realities together (e.g., the social unconscious and balls of light). Holographic thinking, in the end, is very much an expression of mathematical thinking where everything can be reduced to numbers (qualitative unification). Unfortunately, reality cannot be unified this way as qualitatively different realities cannot be subsumed into each other. All those who tried such qualitative unification have failed, and the Holographic Paradigm is very likely to face the same end if it does not steer away from mathematical thinking.

Eric Ouellet © 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

The 'C' Influence collective blog

This is a short post to announce that I am also participating to the new collective blog entitled "The 'C' influence". This blog has a more philosophical flavour, but it is fully about understanding various aspects and dimensions of the paranormal. The UFO theme will be specifically addressed at some point. There is a link to the site on the side bar, and here below. I hope readers will enjoy this new blog as well.

The 'C' influence