Sunday, September 9, 2007

A Scofftoid Looks at Rendlesham: The Persistence of Skepticism vs. The Persistence of High Strangeness

Aaron Sakulich, resident collegiate scofftoid of the Iron Triangle college paper at Drexel University, writes on/against UFOs and related topics. A favorite phrase of his is “UFO enthusiast.” (Use of such a term attempts to ensure that any study of UFOs and related phenomena remain trivialized.) He mocks, he pontificates, he rants. Free country, we’re all entitled.

But in his recent piece: Story of 'British Roswell' lacks verifiable evidence” he misses the point. Well, he’s missed the point about a lot of things, but that’s to be expected with chronic skeptics.

It’s a given there isn’t any “verifiable evidence” with any of all this stuff; so let’s move on. Of course, it does beg the question of just what is “verifiable evidence?” Students of the esoteric know that chronic skepticism does not allow for anecdotal evidence to be considered evidence. Not even data. Well, sheesh, dahlings, if you’re going to go that far, whatever is there to talk about?

Anyway. Rendlesham.

Sakulich shares with all persistent, irrational rationalists the premise that there’s no "there" in UFO Land, and so, open mockery and silliness is not only acceptable, but expected. He opens with:
England is an exotic land of mystery. The English eat parts of animals I'd never consider putting in my mouth. Some of their groceries are named specifically after genitalia and their secret agents are continually impregnating the women of the world. Americans prefer broken beer bottles at the bar; they prefer top hats and pistols at dawn. Yet, our two countries have something in common: UFO enthusiasts seize on the flimsiest evidence and hold it up as proof that space monsters from beyond the moon are visiting the earth.

I have nothing against the English (so much) and I hope to visit there someday, but I don’t think of England as being “exotic.” And I for one, being a “UFO enthusiast” don’t think aliens come from “beyond the moon” but actually from the moon.

Of Rendlesham, or the so-called “British Roswell,” Sakulich says there are “enormous holes” in the story. That’s a fascinating statement, given that we don’t know what happened. If we don’t know what happened, how can we say there are ‘holes?” We're dealing with the anomalous, the weird, the highly unusual; "holes" are to be expected, if by "holes" one means Things That Don't Fit.

He goes on to describe what happened; the flashing lights, the weird sounds, the triangle shape observed by one of the soldiers, the burn marks and impressions in the ground from something heavy, and so on.

Sakulich's first error -- either from an honest glitch in thinking, or disingenuousness - is in assuming what “UFO enthusiasts” think. He does this all the time, sharing with all persistent skeptics the need to make sweeping assumptions on what "UFO enthusiasts" think:
The next day, returning to the site of the supposed landing, men found triangular impressions in the earth and "burn marks" on the trees. Therefore, the UFO community came to one conclusion: a mechanical spaceship had been out and about in the forest that night wreaking all sorts of havoc.

I for one never thought the UFO that landed that night was from outer space, piloted by aliens. No, this “UFO enthusiast,” dahlings, thinks it was a military (or industrial/technological-- or combination of ) object, intentionally sent, staged, to gauge the reactions of the humans on duty that night. Possibly it was a mistake; the thing wasn’t meant to be seen, but seen it was. Either way, whatever the thing was, I don’t think it was from outer space, and there are a lot of UFO researchers who agree.

Besides which, the “UFO community” is far from being a cohesive group that comes to consensus. Der.

Of the lights seen, Sakulich writes that witness Penniston was “petulant” in his disagreement that the light (s) he saw weren’t beacons:
When asked if this could be the source of the lights, Penniston petulantly replied that no, he could tell the difference between this beacon and the mystery lights.

I’d be “petulant” too, if someone insisted I saw something different from what I saw, especially if they weren’t there, and I was. What, suddenly we’re to believe Penniston can’t distinguish types of lights?

It’s old news; this lighthouse beacon stuff, and enough already. But here Sakulich almost surpasses the infamous “mating hedgehogs” explanation for crop circles, in explaining away the marks left in the ground from an object:
The third problem is the supposed physical evidence found at the scene: the triangular landing gear marks and the burn marks on the trees in the areas. For this one, investigators didn't have to go much further than the locals. The marks made by alien landing gears were actually rabbit holes, perfectly normal and plentiful in the forest.

(And I just can’t let go the cheap easy “laugh” when Sakulich stoops to classism and culturalism when he comments:
I like to imagine that these locals laugh a little to themselves at the city-slicker UFO enthusiasts mistaking rabbit holes for landing pad impressions as they wait in line for their monthly allowance of eel pies and plaid wool trousers.)

He drones on, but the point is this: something weird enough happened at Rendlesham to mess with witnesses heads, which seemed to be the point of the whole thing. The incident isn’t any different from countless others in UFOlogy; and this glaring fact utterly escapes people like Sakulich.

It’s easy to be glib, and easy to be lazy. Call everyone who doesn’t openly mock and ridicule UFOlogy a “UFO enthusiast,” make wild assumptions, such as they/we all believe the same thing, and that same thing is a warm and fuzzy ET space brother. Call the people who’ve experienced the weird and shared their stories nuts and lunatics, and there it is: a name for yourself, a reputation as a “critical thinker” when no such thing has taken place. Meanwhile, the anomalous continues to manifest, despite what we say about such things.


J said...

Thank you for writing a response to Sakulich's article. I will write one in a few days too.

The incident occurred for three days, numerous UASF personnel were witness to the UFOs, as were a couple of civilian witnesses. Must we assume that all these people were fooled by a lighthouse 5 miles away and a rabbit, into thinking they were seeing UFOs?

As for rabbit holes, that claim originated from Vince Thurkettle who visited the UFO's alleged landing site 6 weeks after the incident. What can you expect?
Plus, plaster casts were taken from the landing marks - we've got them too - and they certainly don't resemble rabbit holes.

R. Lee said...

Thanks very much J. And please let me know when your article is posted; when, and where!