Friday, August 8, 2008

Ed, please stop - you are making a fool of yourself

Ed Mitchell - astronaut, woo-merchant and grey alien lover. I guess by now everyone and their dog has heard of Ed and his amazing stories of the aliens at Roswell, New Mexico. But this is not new - he's been saying this for some time, and it was only thanks to his interview on Birmingham-based Kerrang radio where he said "that we have been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomenon is real - though it's been covered up by governments for the last 60 years or so". This has lead to some typical hysteria in the news from journo's willing to sensationalise anything to move a paper or get more visits. But I was extremely surprised when I saw John Campbell dip into this murky well of bullshit reporting last week, and interviewed Ed on his show.

Ok, I'll give it that John Campbell is not the fount of excellent journalism, and he does stray into the News of the World territory on occasion, but he's from Palmerston North (Represent! P. Nth 4 Life!) so I'll cut him a break for now. My main problem is that he is giving airtime to someone who has a hypothesis about what actually happened at Roswell, when he wasn't involved at all. He plainly says in the interview that he was a teenager at the time living in Roswell, and he doesn't really remember a whole lot about it, except some stuff in the local papers. That's not surprising in the slightest - my nephew is in the teen years and its impossible to get him interested in anything going on in the world outside his circle of friends, his job or the Playstation. Everything else is comprehensively labelled as "lame", "dumb" or the derisive "that's so gay".

But even though he was not involved, he is using his Argument from Authority and Anecdotal Evidence to try and convince the world that aliens crashed at Roswell. He says "the old timers" from Roswell who apparently were involved have passed on the vital information about 10 years ago about what they saw and heard, and this is what he bases his opinion on alien visitation. He has no evidence to prove the veracity of these claims except the word of other people that they are telling the truth which, I'm sorry Ed, doesn't count for squat. Now to give Ed his dues, he has been fooled in the past.

It was Mitchell who “discovered” spoon-bender Uri Geller when Geller was only a cabaret performer doing his run-of-the-mill “psychic” tricks for teeny-boppers in Israel, assisted by Hannah Shtrang – who later became his wife – and Shipi Shtrang, her brother, who still works as his assistant. Mitchell actually travelled to Israel and arranged for Geller to come to the USA and be studied at the Stanford Research Institute – later to be re-named SRI International. Two physicists there, apparently awed by meeting a genuine Lunar Astronaut, chose to believe that such a hero couldn’t be wrong, that Geller was therefore the real thing, and Geller’s career took off. It’s safe to say that without Edgar Mitchell’s naivety, we’d have been spared the advent of the Geller Delusion.
James Randi - Swift 31/07/2008

After retiring from the Navy in 1972, Dr. Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences to sponsor research into the nature of consciousness as it relates to cosmology and causality. In 1984, he was a co-founder of the Association of Space Explorers, an international organization of those who have experienced space travel.

He is the author of "Psychic Exploration," 1974, "The Way of the Explorer," 1996, (Third edition, 2006) as well as dozens of articles in both professional and popular periodicals. He has devoted the last 35 years to studying human consciousness and psychic and paranormal phenomena in the search for a common ground between science and spirit.

Ed Mitchell Bio

Ok, that does run close to an Ad Hominem attack, but I think its relevant. He has shown a propensity in the past to be fooled by charlatans like Uri Geller, so who is to say that some group of people who believe what they say happened in Roswell so many years ago couldn't do the same? Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on me again.

As for the Psychic Investigations, Phil Plait over at Bad Astronomy says that he is fully in support of people doing science based investigations of this sort of stuff, but I'm not too sure that's what he would be doing. If you back someone like Uri Geller without any evidence apart from watching a few parlour tricks, how credible will any scientific conclusions on similar topics be?

I guess we can only hope that the news agencies publish less of this and focus more on what Ed actually achieved - its a lot to hope for I know, but hey - a Palmy boy can dream cant he?

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