'D' Is For Denialist
By Alfred Lehmberg
From "The Space Review." where Dr. Shostak responds, too quickly and ineffectively, to Gregory Anderson's all to cogent criticism of SETI:
Dr. Shostak: While I am gratified that Gregory Anderson has addressed the matter of "SETI politics" in his recent article (see "SETI politics," The Space Review, September 6, 2005), I believe that some of his facts are wrong and his arguments skewed.
Lehmberg: Dr. Shostak can believe anything floating his shallow draft and flat-bottomed marsh boat. It remains that there are seas beyond his marshlands he won't acknowledge, oceans he won't concede, and other wide saline expanses far outside his very limited and dull imagination, benumbed sensibilities, and anesthetized thinking. This lackluster imagination, sensibility, and thought become problematic when it presumes a reduced value regarding the thinking of one Mr. Gregory Anderson, thinking decidedly closer to the mark than that for which our Dr. Shostak would most hollowly shill.
Dr. Shostak: His take on the respectability of SETI in the scientific community is unduly pessimistic.
Lehmberg: A "respectability" that is not enough, apparently, to provoke official investment from the scientific mainstream and must depend instead on the shallow purses of the many "believers" in lay society... "believers," I suspect, with a little more expansive open-mindedness, imagination, and intelligence than a smirkingly conflicted and pecuniary Dr. Shostak, it would seem.
Dr. Shostak: While there are certainly individual scientists who are doubtful about the chances of a SETI detection, SETI has been specifically called out as a legitimate and worthy endeavor by the astronomical community in decadal reviews. This is an endorsement of considerable weight. Anderson also writes-erroneously-that "NASA started a modest SETI program in 1992," but in fact the NASA SETI program dates from the mid-1970s. It was a long-term, but modest program that developed both observing strategies and the requisite technology.
Lehmberg: Dr. Shostak can call a ridiculous initiative anything he wants. It will remain a Silly Effort To Investigate because it is a hubristic and homocentric assumption presuming to look for "smoke" from "campfires" around stars too far away to avoid significant signal loss... forgetting the erosion of any chronological relevance... what might have been heard now could already be millions of years dead! Also, these "decadal reviews" may only legitimize a culture of constipated scientistics (sic) valuing gravy-train fundage over courage and vapid corporatism over conscience. No points here.
Dr. Shostak: I'm not quite sure what the point is...
Lehmberg: This might identify, right here, the problem extant. It shows Dr. Shostak's conjectured inability to carry on in a debate without the intimation that his opponent may not have the cognitive ability to make his point clear. Ironic, when it remains that Dr. Shostak should never have put pen to paper if he wasn't "quite" sure what the point was, n'est-ce pas?
Perhaps some small amount of time could be given to educating himself on "the point"... a task he has, time and time again, shown himself incapable of following through on... or how can he still be pretending for all these years like he can break-even in debate... when Stanton Friedman has, and so often, handed him his head in same?
Dr. Shostak: ...but Anderson writes "Perhaps logically, the time of SETI has coincided with the UFO era." This may be true if one speaks of geological time, but Roswell (the only UFO incident named by Anderson) was 1947, and the first SETI observations were a dozen years later.
Lehmberg: Anderson was making a memorable point in a small article, as Dr. Shostak knows, further showing how quickly Dr. Shostak is willing to use logical fallacy to score points in an argument he knows he must ultimately lose ... indeed has already lost. The reader is reminded that Dr. Shostak felt compelled to respond to Mr. Anderson, at all, and rather quickly for such an important person otherwise consumed by parsing ephemeral smoke from distant stars. But if he really wants other examples (as fleshed out very satisfyingly at the Jerry Cohen Site... ) there are:
1. Kirtland AFB (11\4\57)
2. Hynek Blue Book Case (5\5\65)
3. Malmstrom AFB (3/20/67)
4. Incident at Redlands, Ca. (Hynek, BB, 2\4\68)
5. Exeter, New Hampshire (9\3\65)
6. Malmstrom AFB (11\7\75)
7. Iran F-4 Incident (9\76)
8. Belgium (1989\90)
9. Illinois, USA (1\5\2000)
10. Near Ad infinitum... forgetting the ones seen over my own freaking house (I love a good hyperbole!)!
Dr. Shostak: These are all technical nits.
Lehmberg: No, Sir. These are house sized boulders broken too high from thawing glaciers and rolling hurly-burly down the incline you exacerbate to smash your timid ramparts and topple your squatting towers. Clean your glasses, Sir.
Dr. Shostak: Of greater consequence is Mr. Anderson's mis-characterization of my opinion on interstellar travel, on which he writes "Shostak argues that interstellar travel will always be so expensive that societies will always elect to explore deep space through some version of SETI."
Lehmberg: Nonsense, I believe I remember Dr. Shostak intimating similar sentiments, frequently over the years, in one way or another, justifying his spurious approach to "explore the universe in the most cost effective manner possible." And he'd be right, except that he also expends considerable energy in sneering at other approaches to the extraterrestrial, approaches with more data and evidence in a nail paring than he would have in his whole corporate body. Consider, reader, that there is exactly zero evidence with regard to being able to pick up radio or TV (thin smoke) from the stars... but six levels of evidence with regard to the physicality of UFOs... ...seven, but the seventh is in the math.
Six levels, Verily: A ponderous abundance of quality anecdotal evidence is leavened by corresponding radar. It is compounded with the vetted photographic evidence. Add to this the documented historical evidence. Frame all this with the serious artistic evidence, qualified by the available physical evidence, and then compellingly buttress it, conclusively, by any personal evidence... One can only be annoyingly astonished by the continued reluctance of some to face the highly strange music that just cannot be forever marginalized... Does the aforementioned information available justify the attention by the mainstream (forgetting Dr. Shostak) to perform a more *in depth* investigation of UFOs? Absolutely!
Finally, is there any evidence beyond wishful thinking that Dr. Shostak is on a substantive track? Nada!
Dr. Shostak: This is not my view at all.
Lehmberg: Dr. Shostak must agree to be disagreed with. It's a fair cameo in the opinion of this writer, and in the more educated opinion of an army of more perspicacious shoulders on which this writer confidently stands. To a strong degree? It is his view, exactly.
Dr. Shostak: I have no idea whether interstellar travel for exploration will happen sooner or later, but I'm rather optimistic that it will eventually happen.
Lehmberg: I suspect that the immediately preceding is simply a communicational loss-leader so Dr. Shostak can appear more open-minded on the subject later on...
Dr. Shostak: I think that interstellar travel for biological beings is a long shot frankly, but if you're either willing to send telesensing apparatus, or just spend a long time getting there, then going to the stars is possible, and at some level of technology, feasible.
Lehmberg: Which, arguably, is a thin reversal of Dr. Shostak's complaint regarding his being "mis-characterized" by Mr. Anderson. With the immediately preceding, Shostak sparingly dictates what is possible in the latter and what is impossible in the former. Dr. Shostak does, however thinly, then, profess that interstellar travel will always be so expensive that societies will elect to explore deep space through some version of SETI. Does the reader appreciate how Dr. Shostak feebly tries to have it both ways in the same rebuttal?
Dr. Shostak: I think, however, it is worth noting that our ability to build good tele-sensing equipment is far outpacing our efforts at making enormously faster rockets.
Lehmberg: That's a laugh... no, a hoot... no... a braying guffaw! Stanton Friedman points out that faster rockets were invented near the middle of last century, proven technology mind you, while we blithely let die, with the Hubble in the near future, the best tele-sensing equipment we have ever had!
Dr. Shostak: Ergo, I suspect that we will send equipment, rather than ourselves, for any direct interstellar exploration.
Lehmberg: This is a digressive and meaningless remark. It's cheaper, quicker, and more efficient to send "Spirit" and "Opportunity" to Mars than "Dick and Jane". So? This in no way ameliorates the disservice done to ufologists by Dr. Shostak and company when he won't recognize the evidence for UFOs as evidence for UFOs, marginalizes his intellectually more brave superiors to the fruit and nuts fringe, and discounts ufological substance for SETI-logical style.
Dr. Shostak: That's my view of things. Mr. Anderson thinks otherwise, noting for example that "Long-term economics and trade may be another driver [for interstellar travel]; establishing English colonies in North America led to extraordinary economic advances."
Lehmberg: Any thinking is thinking. Dr. Shostak will only demonstrate, here, a reluctance to facilitate same. Mr. Anderson, on the other hand, and in one article, seems prepared to go outside Dr. Shostak's little box when required. Bravo Mr. Anderson!
Dr. Shostak: I respectfully point out that such examples all involved members of the same species, and even then, "trade" was not the driver. The Europeans did not wish to trade with the Aztecs (what did the Aztecs import?) but merely put them to work in silver mines.
Lehmberg: Merely? Seems our Dr. Shostak may have other problems. To their extreme chagrin and detriment it could be said that Aztecs imported gold and silver (and slaves) after all, bloated Spain, and so rather handily destroyed her. Spain wasn't a significant power all that long after their contact with the Aztecs, were they?
Dr. Shostak: And the Mesoamerican cultures are estimated to have been only 500 years behind their European counterparts in terms of technical development. The difference between interstellar societies will be far greater.
Lehmberg: Evidence for same?
Dr. Shostak: Mr. Anderson's true agenda is to plead that SETI researchers should be accepting of "Little Green Men zipping through spacetime in flying saucers."
Lehmberg: A fatuous estimation or appellation at best. It remains that there is decidedly more evidence for even the distortions ascribed to Mr. Anderson... than there is for Dr. Shostak's smoke signals from beyond the stars. Dr. Shostak's not getting over the net in any shape, way, manner, or form.
Dr. Shostak: I would be happy to accept this idea if there were only convincing proof.
Lehmberg: Great suffering and most baragrugous ZOT, reader. He says this when "SETI-logical" and "scatological" are words becoming roughly more synonymous. Moreover... I suspect that Dr. Shostak would be ~anything~ but pleased if "convincing proof" crawled up his nose and died.
Dr. Shostak: When discussing alien UFOs, it is a common canard to argue that the SETI community's skepticism is simply due to their failure to be open to the idea. That's wrong. Their skepticism is rooted in the lack of good evidence.
Lehmberg: Amazing! Intellectual obstinacy, round, firm, and fully packed... to the last! Dr. Shostak is to be commended for staying true to form, continuing to provide examples of scientistic (sic) insentience, and strengthening the ufological case for his more worthy opposition.
Game. Set. Match. Mr. Anderson gallantly leaps the net to console a soundly defeated and gasping Dr. Shostak.
Closing, I'd not begrudge, in the least, a SETI at the minimum making a proactive effort even given its lack of real efficaciousness, but that they—most especially in the person of Dr. Shostak—demean other scientific efforts to do so. What ideas? One insults themselves! Ask Dr. Haines. Mr Friedman. Dr. Maccabee. Mr Dolan. There are others who have been shouting ideas into ones ears for decades. One knows what ideas, eh?
Dr Drake provides they "are." Dr Fermi says they "will." Remains an audit trail that they "have," and likely still.
Restore John Ford!