This is directed primarily at the people who get into these kinds of discussions, from any angle, but the perspective might be useful to others as well. And by, “these kinds of discussions,” I mean all of the fringe, esoteric, paranormal, supernatural and suchlike topics like alien visitation, crypto-critters like Bigfoot and Nessie, religious miracles… you know the range. Because there’s a simple guideline that can greatly reduce the amount of time and effort spent on such things – except that explaining the guideline takes more time to get through. Overall, though, it’s simple:
If the ‘evidence’ can easily be a hoax, then it should be considered a hoax and disregarded.
Sounds enormously dismissive, doesn’t it? And as you can imagine, wildly contentious, especially to those whose reliance on anecdotes and questionable photos and such forms the backbone of their beliefs. Really, though, it’s just a matter of perspective.
If the UFO photo might be a model, then what can it possibly tell us? Size and distance are out of the question, thus so is velocity, means of propulsion and lift, and of course, nothing at all about what a species is like and where it’s from and, really, anything at all that would advance our knowledge. And if it is a hoax, it not only isn’t a data point for anything except how easy such a thing is to perpetrate, it’s also misleading at best, possibly urging us down the wrong avenues and certainly failing to support any potential
One might argue that we should be able to prove it’s a hoax before dismissing it, but a) that’s virtually impossible, and b) it has no bearing on the usefulness of any potential information – we’re only going to advance our knowledge with something that demonstrably isn’t wrong/misinterpreted/bullshit.
An added bonus is that we’re never played for a sucker; a hoax can only be successful if we let it. If our standards aren’t high enough to weed out easy hoaxes, obviously we’re going to become the target of hoaxes immediately, because that’s what people are like.
The guideline can certainly be expanded to include ‘evidence’ that could be mistakes, misinterpretations, dreams, delusions, exaggerations, and so on – including anything that is wrong obviously won’t help us in any way, and again, knowledge comes only from solid information. In most cases, however, just weeding out potential hoaxes is enough, and a good habit.
Does this wipe out a tremendous number of the reports, stories, photos, and recordings? You bet! But if they’re that easy to dismiss, they’re not strong in the first place.
Does this take the chance of dismissing real evidence that might lead someplace? Perhaps – probably a lot less than imagined. First off, like our justice system here in the US, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ concept likely lets off a certain number of real criminals – but it helps ensure that we’re not sentencing non-criminals on flimsy criteria, and really, it’s the only way such a system can operate usefully. So if the evidence that we have is so easy to consider fake, what could we have determined from it in the first place? I’ve maintained that true miracles should be able to pass such standards easily, and when it comes to Bigfoot or whatever, the value will only come from having something unambiguous in the first place. This is far better than using ambiguous accounts and photos and such to try and come to any conclusions, for all the wrong directions that these could lead.
Finally, is this entire concept upsetting or frustrating? This only indicates that we’re emotionally involved in the outcome, rather than objective – that’s bad news, because it makes us biased, weighing the factors improperly and trying to reach a favored conclusion rather than what’s real. It shouldn’t have to be pointed out how many ways that can go wrong, while if something exists, it will certainly stand up to even close examination.