In my last Blog entry, I wrote about the Great Debate coming up between myself and "flying saucer physicist" Stanton T. Friedman. An audience of 100,000 people were reported to have listened to it live on August 8 (although some suggest, based on past audience claims, that that number is inflated). A thread was created about it on AboveTopSecret, a conspiracy-oriented website (which often has useful content, nonetheless.) The debate is now available on the YouTube channel of Third Phase of the Moon, embedded below.
Somehow the debate was titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?", a position that I have never maintained. I explained that, given the vastness of the known universe, I consider it a virtual certainty that there are other intelligent beings 'out there' somewhere. But there is not, I maintained, any credible evidence that extraterrestrials have ever visited earth.
What was the result, from my perspective? First, that they allowed Friedman to talk far too much. My time to speak was much shorter. Also, Friedman kept interrupting me while I was talking, and seldom let me finish making a point. Here are a few of my observations:
- I brought up the Yukon "close encounter" UFO sighting in 1996. Friedman has spoken about this case as one of the all-time best. Ted Molczan and other satellite experts have unambiguously identified this as the fiery re-entry of a Russian rocket booster launched less than 24 hours earlier. Friedman refused to accept this: "No way, Jose!" I asked him if he believed that the fiery rocket booster, and an alien spacecraft, were both in the same place at the same time. Perhaps the spacecraft was obscuring the rocket reentry? I used this to illustrate the argument that "reliable witnesses aren't."
|Was this the result of the debate?|
- I said that when people see something in the sky that they can't identify, they should not jump to the least-likely hypothesis - that it is an alien space craft. Friedman insisted that this was the most likely hypothesis!!
- He argued that the Bluebook Special Report 14 shows that the "unknown" cases are of a higher quality than those that could be explained. I read some of Alan Hendry's critique of BBSR14 from his book The UFO Handbook, accusing them of invalid statistical procedures.
- Concerning the so-called "Truman Forrestal memo" of MJ-12, I noted that it is fake because the supposed presidential signature is a photocopy of one on a genuine document. Stanton claimed President Truman signed so many documents that it's inevitable that two signatures could be found that are identical!
Or was it this? (cartoons by "torsion" on AboveTopSecret)
- When I brought up the lack of an Archive Registration Number on the supposed "Cutler-Twining memo" of MJ-12, allegedly discovered in the U.S. National Archives, Stanton tried to bait-and-switch, insisting that it had a proper document number on it. But the two are not the same: the copy number of a controlled document is not the same as the number that would be assigned to it when it was registered into the archives. I could not get him back on the subject. And no archive registration number implies that it was planeted in the archives for somebody to supposedly "find." Freidman claimed that all of the arguments against the original MJ-12 "documents" are answered in his book MAJIC.
- I brought up the famous "Fish Map," the supposed 'extraterrestrial star map' of Betty Hill that has been a major part of Friedman's UFO lectures for about forty years. Recent astronomical data shows that the star catalog on which the map was originally based contained some major errors concerning the stars involved, and that the special sun-like properties that all its stars supposedly had is not correct. Friedman was of course not willing to say "Sorry folks, I've been steering you wrong for the past forty years. I'm afraid that the Fish map is not valid." So he again danced around the obvious, claiming that the map's Zeta1 and Zeta2 Reticuli are "very special," without explaining what that is supposed to mean. I countered that it doesn't mean a thing. Of course, now that the map's foundation has been knocked out from under it, the two Zetas are irrelevant to any ETI argument. I asked Stanton if he was still promoting the Fish map; he replied that he is still "promoting her work," for which he expressed great admiration. "She built more than twenty models," which, of course, has nothing to do with whether the map is correct. Should we give her an award, I asked? Freidman kept bringing up irrelevant points and dancing around the fundamental fact that the Fish Map is now, as I said, "dead."
- He praised the "skill" and experience of the Hills hypnotist, Dr. Benjamin Simon. But Dr. Simon did not believe the "abduction" story, and considered it a fantasy.
- Because Friedman has frequently promoted nuclear fusion as a technique for interstellar travel, I pointed out physics Nobel Laureate Edward Purcell's calculation that, to accelerate one unit of matter to 99% of the speed of light ( Friedman proposes to travel even faster than this in his essay on UFO Propulsion Systems) would require 1.6 * 10**9 units of fusionable hydrogen (1.6 billion), even if it could be done with perfect efficiency, which of course is never possible. Friedman insisted that this was in error, that Purcell made certain assumptions about technological limitations that were not correct. I replied that he is wrong: Purcell calculated nothing more than the amount of hydrogen fusion required to release enough energy for the acceleration, without worrying about how it could possibly be performed or controlled. Friedman insisted that we could use gravitational assist to fling ourselves to the stars. But this works only in our solar system, I replied; the orbital velocity of the fastest planet, Mercury, is only about 30 miles/second, utterly negligible when you're trying to speed up to almost 186,282 miles/second.
- The last 8 minutes were supposed to be "closing statements" from both of us. However, Friedman talked on and on for six minutes, leaving me very little. I was not timing him, I assumed that the host would. I wanted to close with Philip J. Klass' UFO Curse, but I was cut off before I could. Here is Klass' UFO Curse:
"No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government knows about UFOs than you know today. As you lie on your death-bed, you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse."
When the time was up, the host asked Friedman and I if we might want to do this again sometime. I said that I'd be willing, after some time had passed. But not Stanton - he proclaimed himself too occupied to ever debate again. I think he realized that his evasions did not go over well, and the stuff he has been defending is too flimsy to be defended in a debate. And I was told that Third Phase had considerable difficulty finding any pro-UFOlogist who was willing to debate me; several turned them down before Friedman agreed. If I ever do debate Friedman again, I will insist on strictly-monitored time segments: he talks for five minutes and I stay silent, then it's my turn. Otherwise Friedman just jumps in and tries to steer the discussion his way, using irrelevant arguments and "red herrings."
On Above Top Secret, "carddown" said "Friedman brought very little new to the debate, mostly just a performance in part of his Cosmic Watergate lecture. Sheaffer brought up many good points, and I thought he really scored with the Canadian UFO/booster reentry and the Fish map flop. (Did you notice how Friedman had to retreat on the map by saying eyewitnesses are unreliable?) "
If you have any comments on the debate, please share them with us below. Please keep them polite and civil, however tempting it might be to do otherwise. Thanks.