Skeptic » eSkeptic » July 18, 2007

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screenshot from Larry King Live website

Michael Shermer
on Larry King Live on UFOs

I thought eSkeptic readers might appreciate some of the more amusing (and nasty) letters I have received (appended below), plus one very revealing letter about Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s “UFO sighting” on the way to the moon, recounted by him on the show (revealing UFOlogist Stanton Friedman to be an incompetent researcher). Unfortunately it took Buzz a long time to get to the point of the story — which was that the UFO turned out to be one of the panels from the Apollo rocket booster — so I fear that it might have been missed by viewers that he was, in fact, a UFO skeptic.

Please note as well that former Arizona governor Fife Symington described what he saw during the “Phoenix Lights” event as “otherworldly.” I spoke at length with Fife before and after the show and found him to be a most thoughtful, intelligent, and warm individual with no special propensity toward gullibility (any more than the rest of us normally express), so after the show I asked him, “How do you know what you saw was ‘otherworldly,’ when none of us has any experience whatsoever with other worlds? Yet we have vast experience with strange and unusual secret military aircraft from this world that we find out about years later.” His response to me in private was similar to what he said on the show: it is possible that it was some secret military experimental aircraft, but he was so awed by what he saw that the military aircraft explanation just seemed too unlikely. I noted both on the show and in private that in science it’s okay to just say “I don’t know” and leave it at that.

Overall I find such shows to be a frustrating experience, which is why I brought along the little toy aliens to break up the gravitas of the conversation, plus to make the point that whatever actual aliens from another planet will look like, it most definitely will not be that they are bilaterally symmetrical bipedal primates, which only happened once on this planet in two billion years of biological evolution and hundreds of billions of different species.

—Michael Shermer

The Letters (spelling left as is)

Hello saw you make an ass out of yourself on Larry last night. I guess with all your genius you could despute actual witnesses to the Rosewell crash. I guess you were there so it must not be true. I came to the conclusion that you talk to much. You sound more like a mina bird than someone with a PHD.

—rich sottilaro

After seeing you work on Larry King I just felt I needed to congratulate you on being such a supreme ass. No, really. Because not that many people can pull it off. You did make one valid point though when you asked where was the evidence. Granted, the evidence so far is circumstantial. Videos (some with crystal clear clarity), eyewitness reports, and so on and so forth. And Freidman wasn’t really helping his own argument when he tried to sell his book. But from a odds standpoint, do you REALLY think that out of hundreds of thousands of reports that everyone is either lying or tricked by an optical illusion? Wouldn’t that be akin to flipping a coin and always coming up heads? Not everyone can be mistaken or lying. And if we think its more than possible for us to go out there then why do skeptics think its impossible for them to come here? Is it ego? Insecurity? Look, I am not going to sit here and knock you down or call you names because I don’t agree with your opinions. But, that being said lets be realistic. You were being an ass on King’s show. In any other situation, if you treated different people the same way you would still be an ass. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be rude or ill mannered. But you were being a total jerk.

—Anonymous

i saw your segment on larry king live. i must say you guys are all asking and talking about the wrong thing. you need to ask yourself, why is there an area 51 for space resaerch on ufo’s. if there was no alien then why is there a cover up. the govt knows and puts it off on us as a joke. also we are living in space there are 9 planets in our solar system; and how can you possibly believe that we are the only one alive in the solar system. much less the galaxy, if scientist say that there are millions of galazies out there. how do they know? have they been to them already? then why say that? thank you, and feel free to respond.

—kenny

Michael, you did an excellent job on Larry King Live last night confusing the issues. I’m sure you were damn proud of yourself. You do realize that UFO’s are not a scientific issue yes? We don’t need science to prove truth. Science is incapable of proving truth. In light of ET truth, science is obsolete and impotent as is religion. Science and religion are false gods, leading our planet to disaster. UFO’s are a political issue. I don’t know how you can sleep with yourself at night, knowing that you exist only to confuse and not to clarify. You are no better than George Bush who invented WMD’s so that he could direct attention away from the real problems of his inadequacy as a leader. I feel sorry for skeptics. You are not leaders. You are not part of the solution.

—Mike Bird, director, Exopoliticstoronto

I saw you on Larry King, last night. Please, if you would, e-mail me PROOF that you REALLY ARE the Publisher, and PROOF that your name REALLY IS “Michael Shermer.” If you can’t PROVE both of the above things to MY COMPLETE SATISFACTION, then you are a LIAR. (Naturally, your “proof,” if any, will be subject to MY verification process.) I look forward to your response, with the necessary PROOF.

—”Scorp”

The letter about Buzz Aldrin’s UFO experience
& Stanton Friedman’s “research” skills

I am a publisher and author. I am also a friend of Buzz Aldrin. I watched Mr Shermer on Larry King yesterday and wanted to provide you with this little nugget of information for future use.

In 1999 I edited and published a book called Apollo 11 — The NASA Mission Reports. During the course of editing the various documents it occurred to me that the crew of Apollo 11 must have been debriefed after their flight, but I had never seen such a debriefing. I was about to publish my book when I approached NASA about the subject of the debriefing. I was told that it made sense that such a thing existed, but not one person I spoke to at the Johnson Space Centre had ever seen the debrief. A quest to exhume the tape or transcript ensued and about eight weeks later, to my complete surprise I was called and told that the debriefing had been found.

Here is where it gets interesting. On the airplane home from Houston I read the entire transcript, which came in a four-inch ring binder. To my utter astonishment, about half way through, I found the crew talking about an “anomolous” sighting of an unexplained object during the outbound flight to the moon. All three crew members described the object differently. Now I was aware that this was a contentious issue, and I also knew that I could have capitalized on the latent publicity in this. However, that was not what my series of books was about, so I simply published the report, without any fuss.

I OCR’d and published the transcript as my book “Apollo 11 The NASA Mission Reports Volume 2” in the summer of 1999. It was on sale in practically every Barnes and Noble, Borders, and every other major bookseller in America, as well as at WH Smith in England and Chapters/Indigo in Canada. This pretty much covers the bulk of English speaking book stores. Over the course of the next 18 months I received one phone call for an interview, with a local radio station in Toronto. That was it.

Then, at least two years after I had sold well over 20,000 copies of the book, I received a phone call at my office from Stanton Friedman. I recognized the name, but couldn’t understand what he was calling about. My book was “old news” at this point. Friedman began the conversation by asking me if it was true that I had published a book with the “famous” Apollo 11 UFO sighting. I replied that I had. Friedman then said, “How did you do that? Do you realize how many years my colleagues and I have been trying to get our hands on that document? How did you get NASA to release it to you?” I replied, “I asked them for it.”

Friedman then asked me if he could get his hands on a copy of my book and I promptly told him that he could buy a copy at any bookstore. He thanked me and hung up.

I guess my question is this. If Stanton Friedman has “done the research,” (as he boasted he had on Larry King, and upbraiding Michael Shermer for not doing the research), why is it that he couldn’t get this report “for years” when it took me only one phone call to acquire this “classified” document from NASA. And after two years in practically every bookstore in the English speaking world, why was Friedman still unaware of its “release” if he is such a tireless researcher?

I should also point out that I have interviewed Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell for my book Apollo 14 — The NASA Mission Reports. Ed Mitchell is one of the most charming, open-minded and intelligent individuals I have had the pleasure to meet. I have never met anyone whose willingness to believe in “things possible” has been so frequently and regularly misquoted. If you were to believe half the things attributed to Ed Mitchell you would think he has an alien spaceship parked on his front lawn.

I congratulate Mr Shermer for his efforts on CNN, despite being surrounded by people who clearly have little regard for the scientific process and who apparently are not that good at “doing the research,” despite claims to the contrary.

—Robert Godwin, Editor — Apogee Space Books

Video & Transcript

David Sloan Wilson Responds to Dawkins

In eSkeptic for July 4th 2007, we published an article by David Sloan Wilson entitled “Why Richard Dawkins is Wrong About Religion” to which Dawkins replied in last week’s eSkeptic. This week, David Wilson Sloan responds to Dawkins:

David Sloan Wilson (portrait)

David Sloan Wilson

It is good to know that what Dawkins writes in The God Delusion does not depend upon the nature of religion or its consequences for human affairs, as documented by the scientific process. With respect to group selection, I invite interested readers to consult the following articles from the primary scientific literature. Note that the article by West et al. is as “anti” as anti-group selection gets among those actively debating the subject.

  • Borrello M E. 2005. The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of Group Selection. Endeavour 29:43–47.
  • West S A, Griffin A S, Gardner A. 2007. “Social Semantics: Altruism, Cooperation, Mutualism, Strong Reciprocity, and Group Selection.” Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20:415–432
  • Wilson D S. 2007. “Social Semantics: Toward a Genuine Pluralism in the Study of Social Behavior.” Journal of Evolutionary Biology, in press.
    (manuscript available at http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/)
  • Wilson, D.S., Wilson, E.O. 2008. “Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology.” Quarterly Review of Biology, in press.
    (available at http://evolution.binghamton.edu/dswilson/).

book covers

The Science of Good and Evil

$10 special on signed
1st-edition hardback copies!

Because we received so many orders for the $10 special on signed editions of Michael Shermer’s How We Believe, we were able to work the same deal with the publisher for first-edition hardback copies of Shermer’s sequel, The Science of Good and Evil. To receive your signed copy of The Science of Good and Evil at only $10 per copy (multiple copies allowed, as many as you like), click on the order link below. If you would like the book personalized please indicate to whom it should be inscribed (use Comments box during checkout).


Remote Viewing on YouTube

In this week’s YouTube video posting, Michael Shermer takes a seminar on remote viewing, a form of ESP in which one attempts to psychically view a remote object, person, or place through intuition or a sixth sense. Shermer reveals the normal explanation for this apparently paranormal phenomenon, as he puts to the test a professional remote viewer and a class of students of remote viewing. The episode is in two parts.

2 Comments »

2 Comments

  1. Trevor says:

    I’ve watched the ‘debates’ between Friedman and Schermer on Larry King. Honestly, it’s like watching a train wreck. This is not the forum for debating any topic in my opinion, especially UFOs.

    There is an element to the UFO phenomenon that is real and elusive. Astrophysicist Jacques Vallee actually used REAL science to study the subject for many years, as did his partner Dr. J. Allen Hynek. Neither man fit the “UFO Believer” profile.

    Have any of you “skeptics” actually read any of Vallee’s papers? Probably not. You should. In order to truly add value to any debate on this subject both sides need to keep an open mind and read the RELEVANT material. Don’t go out and buy every book on UFOs or join MUFON. Read Dr. James McDonald’s testimony before the House Committee. Read Dr. Hynek’s book “The UFO Experience.” Definitely read Vallee’s papers. Do the research and then debate.

    When you do look at the relevant data on the subject you realize that it does not matter if E.T. is here. What matters is how humans perceive it. Our concepts about space and time have been influenced by the UFO lore, whether fact or fiction – maybe a mix of both.

    Happy debating!

  2. Howard says:

    I have a few questions for intelligent people only. On the Larry King Live show,you had James Fox,S.Friedman,and Michael Shermer debating whether Alien/UFO’s are real.When it came to “The Phoenix Light” Incident ,they showed a video of what was definetly chaffing flares from A-10 Warthogs and that is when M. Shermer said that they where proved to be Flares,and Friedman agreed and also said that this was not the video footage of the the UFO they are talking about.My question is,Fox and Friedman knew this was going to be shown on Larry King,so why didn’t they bring a copy of the footage they were talking about ? I have been on Utube trying to find this “so-called” real footage and all I can find is the video of the flares,which means either there is no such video,or you have to purchase the DVD “The Phoenix lights” for $29.95 to see it.And there is where the answer lies. It’s ALL about people like Fox making a fortune off of ET’s/UFO’s. My second question is this.Why do these “Ufologist” get mean,rude,and childish when a skeptic questions them ? They almost take a temper tantrum like a little child if you don’t believe them.If I believed in Et/UFO’s,no one is going to make me mad with their different point of view.Can a intelligent (skeptic) person get back to me on this one ? Thank you,Howard H.- Fairless Hills,Pa. Sorry for the poor grammar.

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