The Argument from Ignorance – Trapping UFO Enthusiasts for Decades

I recently saw a hashtag from a UFO enthusiast on Twitter that said #ProveTheyDontExist. It really got my gears going. You know why? This same logical fallacy has been used to justify all sorts of crazy nonsense for decades. Normally a staple of religious zealotry, the Argument from Ignorance has infected the fields of science, medicine, mental health, and just about every other academic thought pool. It’s also made its way into UFOlogy.

Galaxy Man Stars Sky Night Sky
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

The Argument from Ignorance

The center of the earth is made of cheeseburgers. I know this is true. I know because mankind has yet to prove that the center of the earth is not made of cheeseburgers.

The above statement should seem preposterous to you. Not only is it highly unlikely that cheeseburgers exist at the center of the earth, humans have yet to explore the center of the earth to find out exactly what it contains. Sure we can make educated guesses based on our understanding of science, but until we actually drill down, we’ll never know for sure.

Now look at this next example:

Aliens built the great pyramids. We don’t know definitively how humans might have done it, so it must have been aliens.

See anything familiar? While it might be a bit more subtle than claiming the center of the earth is comprised of cheeseburgers, it’s just as logically errant. One could replace the word aliens in that statement with just about anything else and it would be just as untrue. In fact, the Ancient Alien theory resembles a religion more than science or archaeology.

Now, read this:

I saw an object in the sky that wasn’t a bird or a plane, or anything else I know of. Therefore, it must be an alien-controlled spaceship.

This one really hits close to home because so many people I know have taken this position. And this statement is at the crux of many UFO claims. But here’s the thing – if you saw an unidentified flying object, it makes zero sense to follow that statement with an identification because it’s unidentified. This statement is, in fact, no less ludicrous than the center of the earth being made of cheeseburgers.

Absence of an Explanation is Never Equivalent to Proof

Does this make you uncomfortable? It should. And there is a good reason. The charge that alien life is visiting our planet is extraordinary and, as a result, must require extraordinary proof.

Pixabay

Credibility, Credibility, Credibility

One of the primary complaints of UFO researchers and enthusiasts is that they aren’t taken seriously by mainstream science. But when you look at some of the most popular thought-processes exhibited by them, it’s pretty easy to understand why.

In order to gain respect from the scientific community, UFOlogists must illustrate that they are credible. A researcher must be able to exercise solid and valid logic when making conclusions. Those conclusions must be drawn from the actual evidence, not a lack thereof. Similarly, they must also exercise the same logic when sharing dubious news stories and articles with questionable sources.

Researchers need to spend the energy searching for the truth of each sighting, not the validation of that which they wish to be true. Recognizing the Argument from Ignorance is the first step in this process. UFOlogists can make great changes by learning to filter out claims that use the proof of nonexistence as a requirement.


Additional Reading:

Scientific American: How Beliefs in Extraterrestrials and Intelligent Design Are Similar

Alien UFO Blog

Alien UFO Blog is dedicated to weeding out the tremendous amount of garbage on the Internet related to aliens & UFOs. Our goal is to provide open-ended opinions for truly mysterious phenomena while exposing the fakes and hoaxes.

9 thoughts on “The Argument from Ignorance – Trapping UFO Enthusiasts for Decades

  • April Howsing
    January 20, 2018 at 8:03 PM
    Permalink

    Isn’t this also why legends such as the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot will pretty much just never go away? Because no matter what, you really can’t prove they aren’t there?

    • Alien UFO Blog
      January 20, 2018 at 8:05 PM
      Permalink

      You are correct. It’s the same concept. For instance, you could drain the entire Loch Ness and someone could still say something like, “well maybe it can walk on land and it went somewhere else to hide until the water all came back.”

  • Andy Dandy
    April 30, 2018 at 6:10 PM
    Permalink

    Interesting but I disagree, to some extent, on semantic grounds. The claim that extraordinary propositions require extraordinary evidence seems circular at best. What makes a claim extraordinary? And what if I regard the assertion itself (ie: that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence) to be extraordinary? Can you then prove the proposition true with extraordinary evidence? Seems like we might want to stick with something like: any time we declare an assertion proven, it must be backed by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, we need evidence that compels most rational people to accept that the proposition has been proven. By contrast, the term “extraordinary” so prejudices the matter that people who see it this way (as something extraordinary) are very likely to never acknowledge any evidence at all supporting the proposition.

    • Alien UFO Blog
      May 2, 2018 at 10:53 AM
      Permalink

      Valid points, thanks for the well-thought response. I agree that the determination of to what extent ‘extraordinary’ means is much in the eye of the beholder, but that must apply to your thoughts on it as well as mine 😉 Also, I’m not sure labeling something as extraordinary necessarily makes it less likely for someone to accept proof (again, it depends on the person). I think the threshold for proof should be very high, but I wouldn’t have this page if I didn’t believe it were possible and I’m certainly willing to accept verifiable evidence as proof. “any time we declare an assertion proven, it must be backed by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt” ~ You are absolutely correct!

    • Andy Dandy
      May 2, 2018 at 10:59 AM
      Permalink

      Alien UFO Blog yes agreed. For personal opinion however one doesn’t need “proof.” If it were otherwise, we would all probably have to abandon most or nearly all of our personal beliefs. So I believe in the existence of “flying saucers” – even though we can’t yet “prove” they are real. Perhaps that will change sooner rather than later 😉

    • Alien UFO Blog
      May 2, 2018 at 11:09 AM
      Permalink

      Andy Dandy I think the most frustrating thing for me is that if they wanted to provide us with undeniable proof, it’d be pretty easy for them to do it – just land on the White House Lawn and everybody’d know immediately. So either they are hiding from us or they simply aren’t here… or maybe they don’t care one way or another but are too advanced for us to recognize them.

    • Andy Dandy
      May 2, 2018 at 11:30 AM
      Permalink

      Alien UFO Blog I have a feeling (one I can’t prove) that they have been here all along. You see who I chose for a profile pic. Whether they will disclose themselves may depend on what type of giant science 🔬 project they are engaged in. Perhaps we will develop the tech to expose them one day whether they like it or not.

Leave a Reply