Thursday, November 24, 2016

Who's Who in the UFO Zoo- Addendum

After receiving a few messages about this series of posts about the various schools of thought found in the UFO study world, I decided to add a short clarification post about all this. This clarification, however, is based on using more technical language about how we think, and how we do research in general.

The fundamental topic behind this three-part post series is ontology, which can be defined as looking more rigorously into how various collection of assumptions about the nature of reality we use are affecting how we look at reality. For many people this may sound as a silly question, but it is indeed an important question when dealing with topics like UFOs, and the paranormal in general. UFO events cannot be studied at will in a laboratory; such events are spontaneous and unexpected. As well, they do not often leave any physical traces, and when they do such traces are ambiguous at best and can be interpreted in many ways. Hence, we have a phenomenon that exists essentially as reports from witnesses, and as evidence open to interpretation. In such circumstances, where there is no real clarity about what we are dealing with, it is even more important to clarify our own assumptions about how we approach an ambiguous topic like UFOs.

All the UFO schools of thought that were briefly presented are in one way or another dualist in their ontological assumptions. This means that, implicitly, either we are dealing with something which would be objective or subjective, but it cannot be both. It is either a "real thing" out there, or it is "all in the head". Hence, the notion of dualism. Anyone familiar with the Kantian epistemology, and phenomenology  in general, can only be skeptical about dualism. We can safely state that the world exists independently from us (the objective side), but yet we can only relate to the world through our subjective mental make-up.

For instance, when someone sees something " weird" in the sky and declare having seen a UFO, it is only a UFO because it considered " weird."  Conversely, if what is seen in the sky is considered as something natural, even if odd and exotic, then it is not construed as "weird," and therefore it is not a UFO. In both cases, however, given that what was seen in the sky is transient and not amenable to further direct study, then we are left only with we have made of this observation: for some it is a UFO, for others it is a an odd and exotic natural event. If fact, in this case, the only thing we know for sure is that we do not know what happened, and that people have put forward different interpretations of what happen. Worse, because it is transient, we will actually never know for sure. Something objective happened in the sky, and yet we only noticed subjectively the phenomenon because it was perceived as "weird". If everybody agreed that it was a plane, then it would have been construed as a non-event. To draw a sharp distinction between the objective and the subjective is quite silly in such circumstance because it depends of what we are making of it.

When I say I propose "new relationships" between the main macroscopic variables found in the UFO world (witnesses, society, and the phenomenon), I mean here new ontological  relationships; how our assumptions about reality are in relationship with reality. My first key point is that the study of UFO, if it is to be successful in moving forward, cannot be entrenched in naïve dualist ontological assumptions. One has to accept that all the variables are interdependent, the subjective and the objective are mutually influencing each other.

In the example given above, we can make all kinds of inference about what  happen, like checking with the airport and finding that there was no plane or helicopter in the sky at the time; or looking for weather patterns that were similar to other occasions when a weird natural phenomena was observed. In all these situations, whatever conclusions we are coming with, these are only reinforced through inferences, but they are no proof. Yet, other explanations that are not dualist are possible. A mundane object like a plane was in the sky, but somehow created a telepathically shared vision of something else. Or, a PK-like apparition occurred, but because of the materialist mental predispositions of the observer, it was constructed as a natural phenomenon. As one can see, a dualist world is very limiting when one tries to research a challenging phenomenon like UFOs.

This bring me to my second key point, which is that if we add psi and social psi to the ontological perspective, then we need to be ready for new assumptions that further undermine naïve dualism. Psi implies that the mind (the subjective) can alter the physical realm (the objective) through PK, and other people's mind (the enlarged subjective world) through ESP, without using physical or direct means. If one accepts this assumption about psi, then insisting on separating the objective and the subjective is not only silly, it is a serious impediment for understanding of the phenomenon.

UFO events, especially the ones that are construed as " high strangeness", involve usually witnesses in altered state of consciousness. The witnesses' perception of reality is oftentimes mix-up with powerful images and impressions coming from their unconscious mind, and yet it is also in such circumstances that psi events are more likely to occur, whether they are of a PK or ESP nature. What is objective and what is subjective in such circumstances are all mixed-up. The common recurrence of paranormal phenomena found in UFO reports makes psi-related ontological assumptions that more important. Having an open-minded attitude towards an ontology that is not only about avoiding a strong distinction between the objective and subjective, but it is also about accepting a " two-way street" where the subjective can also alter the objective. 



Unknown said...

Dr Ouellet, have you ever looked into tulpas, the supposed physical creations manifested by intention in (I think) Tibetan Buddhism? If so, do you find any veracity?

tanshihus said...

Eric: Thank you for this addendum. Are you saying that UFO observations are the macroscopic version of the thought experiment to describe quantum mechanics as proposed by Erwin Schrodinger regarding the cat which is both alive and dead at the same time? This was his example of quantum superimposition. He came up with his proposal when trying to teach his students about what he thought of the absurdity of quantum mechanics; essentially that the interactions of sub-atomic particles do not conform to any common sense notions leading to ideas like things which can be in two different states at the same time.

UFO's thought of as being objective/ subjective phenomena which exist at the same time. It's the duality of the information which provokes (produces?) the anxiety response of the observer; the portion of the experience which makes it special and therefore something to be shared in the community. When the superimposed wave form collapses and the object becomes something ordinary like a plane, the moon, a planet or a star the observer barely even notices it. But if it's not any of those things then it must be aliens, willow the wisps and such. Yeah...I can see this.

Eric Ouellet said...

Hello Dave,

I did write a post on the notion of tulpa a while ago. It is here:

It is an interesting notion, but if one reads attentively the base source from Alexandra David-Néel, it is a rather ambiguous phenomenon. Her proof that someone else saw the ghostly monk she created could also be interpreted as a shared telepathic event. This telepathic interpretation is actually quite applicable to some UFO events, as well as to many ghostly manifestations. This is the only mainstream original source on the topic. I am sure that are in scholarly texts about Tibetan folklore more on the topic, but I did not research it.



Eric Ouellet said...

Hello tanshihus,

Indeed, it is another way to express the same notion that the distinction between what is subjective, what is objective, and how the two realms related to one another is far more complicated that we normally think. One of the most interesting concepts of psi, as I wrote in number of posts, is the one called MPI (model of pragmatic information), which is essentially based on a macro level and more loosely interpreted analysis of quantum entanglement. Non-local correlations of information occur between different systems like a person's anxiety and wishes, a mundane object, and collective representations of alien life getting entangled for a short time.