Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is Wrong About UFOs

There is a marvelous video circulating on YouTube called “Cosmic Quandaries with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.”  The program was set at The Palladium in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Wednesday, March 26th, 2009. In complete control of the stage, Tyson masterly explicated some of the most complex discoveries in theoretical physics, astrobiology, and cosmic history. As always his humorous insights were magnificent. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAD25s53wmE)

A highlight in the presentation came when he was asked by an audience member to explain dark matter. Tyson said that dark matter is a hypothetical form of matter which is invisible to electromagnetic radiation. It does not absorb or emit light, and it does not collide with atomic particles but exerts gravitational force. Although it has never been detected, it (along with dark energy) makes up 90% of the mass of the universe. Tyson then used an analogy of a bear. The reality of the bear can be inferred from the plausible evidence that it leaves behind. For example, if someone is camping in the woods and finds a series of large paw tracks, that would indicate the presence of bears. Furthermore, if a camper saw large piles of poop next to the tracks, that too would indicate the presence of bears. As would the reports of eyewitnesses who saw bears in the same area. Tyson concludes that we may not know what exactly dark matter is, but we know enough about the evidence which it leaves behind to surmise that it does indeed exist. Great stuff!

Around 55 minutes in the program things get really interesting. Someone from the balcony shouted out a question about UFOs and whether Tyson believes in ET visitation. Receiving the question with a jesting “I’m not authorized to talk about that,” he went on to belittle all UFO observers, experiencers, and researchers by saying that the whole phenomenon is simply a fallacy known in philosophy circles as the Argument from Ignorance. According to Tyson, when people see something unidentifiable they are prone to assume that it is a craft operated by alien beings from outer space. Yet once someone admits that a UFO has no conventional explanation, that would necessarily rule out any explanation dealing with conventional subjects- including little green men from mars and strange Greys from Andromeda. The implication is clear enough: if someone believes in UFOs- especially if they base their belief on the testimony of eye witnesses- they are either hopelessly gullible or  pathetically ignorant. He even declares, “the lowest form of evidence is eyewitness testimony.”

As much as I respect Dr. Tyson and his vast contributions to the world of modern education, I wonder if he is not committing the same fallacy of argumentation that he accuses UFO observers and researchers of making.  For instance, what about crop circles, abductions, anomalous relics, debris from crash sights, and hundreds of credible testimonies from witnesses including U.S. Presidents, astronauts, commercial airline pilots, and whistleblowers from every branch of the covert and overt military? When Tyson ridicules people who classify UFOs as extraterrestrial, he is forgetting that most  people believe in their reality not because they see physical craft in the sky but because they have been exposed to a large collection of circumstantial and inferential evidence- including the phenomenon of crop circles, which involves knowledge of botany, agriculture, mathematics, and semiotics; reports of abductions; the discovery of relics, debris, and other found objects of unknown origin, which requires expertise in the fields of archeology and forensics; and hundreds of eye-witness accounts.

That Tyson is so eager to dismiss this physical and psychological data, is, to be plainspoken, beneath him as a scientist. With all due respect, he is the one who actually winds up arguing from ignorance. What is more, isn’t it interesting that his analogy about the bear perfectly describes the situation that most UFO and ET researchers find themselves in today? In other words the vast majority of these people have never even seen a UFO! Nonetheless, they believe in the existence of ETs because they leave behind so much evidence. Could it be that people are willing to accept the ET hypothesis not because they know with empirical certainty that these beings are really out there, but because they have seen photographs, videos, eyewitness testimonies, ancient relics, government memos, and clues from sacred texts. Perhaps, the same reason that Tyson believes in the reality of dark matter, is the same reason people believe in the reality of extraterrestrial beings: there is simply too much evidence to disregard their presence as being a mere hoax or psychological fallacy.

Regardless, this is definitely a subject that deserves far more respect from an intellect of deGrasse’s caliber.IMG_20150823_204512457

Photonics In Rochester, A Question of Values

Guest post by George Payne of Gandhi Earth Keepers International.  George follows local and global issues, and has a radio show on Rochester Free Radio called The Broken Spear Vision.

The $600 million photonics hub promises to create manufacturing jobs and spur innovation in the science of light, robotics and medical imagery. Senator Charles Schumer has stated:

By combining the academic and research resources of the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute together with the hundreds of New York photonics companies in Rochester and beyond, Rochester will be able to lead the way in this cutting-edge industry with some of the finest minds in the world.

I agree that photonics research in Rochester is important. But do we need more improvements in the areas of drone, cyber and terrestrial warfare? Do we need more money spent on missiles, lasers, radars, and countless other gadgets and systems which maintain the global business of war? Should we not be concerned about the merger between private industry, research universities and the military?

Last week the world observed the 70 year anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 66,000 people were horrifically killed at Hiroshima out of a population of 255,000. The bomb was a result of weapons research using public tax money, university scientists and laboratories, commercial manufacturing, and guidance from the Department of Defense. Without the genius of J. Robert Oppenheimer of the University of California Berkeley, the study of weapon detonation by professor John H. Manley, Robert Serber of the University of Illinois, who examined the problems of neutron diffusion, and several theoretical physicists from the University of Chicago, the bomb would not have been possible.

We have a moral obligation to challenge the military industrial complex. War will never come to an end as long as communities like Rochester succumb to the insane policy of killing lives in order to save lives. As much as I want to support this venture, as a community of conscience we should not tread cavalierly into this alliance. In the words of Gandhi, “The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree; and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree.”

Why should we design lasers that heal disease on the same campuses where similar technologies are being developed to terrorize populations in other countries? Moreover, why should we recruit brilliant minds to design faster computers with the same grant money used to feed a world wide addiction to war that has the power to make communication between people impossible? These are important questions that all of us should be asking before hopping on the photonics bandwagon.

This blog was reposted in The Deconstructed Globe by editor and activist Judy Bello.


Deadly Seas: Why Migrants are Risking Their Lives on the Mediterranean Sea

On a daily basis migrants from Libya and Syria attempt to traverse the Mediterranean Sea in boats which are only 20 metres long and made of flimsy wood. The day before I originally posted this blog, 40 people died getting trapped in the water-logged hold of their boat. Apparently the victims inhaled fumes from fuel after the boat took on water in the hold. Commander Massimo Tozzi, speaking from his Italian navy ship, said that when his men boarded the migrant boat they found the dead in the hold “immersed in water, fuel and human excrement.” (Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, August 25, 2015)

Why would anyone leave their home and neighborhood to make one of the world’s most dangerous crossings? The reason is war. These people are fleeing a catastrophe. They have no choice. They can not remain in their home without facing imminent threats of roadside car bombs, sniper bullets, drone missile attacks, hand to hand combat, sexual assault and rape, and arrest and torture. This is why people scramble to board overcrowded fishing boats and cross shark infested waters: it is not because they are looking to take advantage of European job markets, schools, and hospitals.

The AP has reported that the number of migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year is approaching a quarter of a million. Speaking as a concerned citizen of the United States,  I find it shameful that the world’s most powerful navy is not doing more to aid these refugees. The size and magnitude of the U.S. navy carriers alone could provide shelter to tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war. If we truly are a humanitarian force -as the commercials champion- we have a moral obligation to not only rescue these people when things go drastically wrong but to provide them with a first class escort to freedom.

In World War II millions of refugees in Western and Eastern Europe were forced to abandon their homes and flee the Nazis. Once they reached the border, where could they go next? Who would take them in? It is nauseating to consider how often the United States of America turned its back on these refugees in their time of crisis.

For nearly a decade these people have been under the thumb of sadistic warmongers, bloodthirsty mercenaries, and religious fanatics. The children of Libya and Syria deserve far better than this. After-all, history remembers the rejection of Jewish refugees. Today we have an opportunity to make amends. In conjunction with our European partners, we can vow to rescue and liberate every single migrant who attempts to cross the Mediterranean.1420408759

Radical Compassion is the Answer


The biggest problem in our world today is not global warming, hunger, racism, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, or even nuclear proliferation. The biggest problem in our world is lack of compassion. If we cultivate compassion towards ourselves, each other, and all other animals then these other problems will be solvable.

Viewing ALL life as valuable challenges each of us in upsetting and unpredictable ways. To realize that black lives matter because white lives matter (and vice versa) is only the beginning. Police officers matter because the lives of criminals matter. Politicians matter because the constituents they serve matter. American soldiers matter because the lives of ISIS matter. If any human being is seen as disposable, all lives become disposable. This is the great indigestible truth of our species.

As a proponent of Martin Luther King’s philosophy of deep abiding love through active nonviolence, I have been perplexed and saddened by how some of his contemporary followers have recently suggested that he would tolerate acts of violence (on both sides) currently playing out in American cities. They are quick to employ King’s famous line “a riot is the language of the unheard” in order to make it appear as if he would “understand” the use of violent tactics in certain situations- namely situations where systemic oppression is so entrenched that it can not be uprooted in any other way.

But “understanding” can become a euphemism for sanctioning or justifying violence. Nowhere was racism and oppression more entrenched than it was in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950’s. However, King never embraced violence as a relevant strategy. Until the end he was an uncompromising apostle of nonviolence trained in the holy disciplines of Christian sacrifice, Jewish determination and Gandhian disobedience. The fact that he was able to express sympathy towards rioters and militant rebels in cities like Rochester, Detroit, Newark, and Watts was just another example of his remarkable capacity for historical insight and spiritual compassion. This compassion should not be confused for acceptance. In King’s wise estimation violence always signified a major failure of religious and political creativity rather than an inevitable and sometimes therapeutic eruption of psychological duress.

The moral question that King posed to American society is as urgent today as it was in the 50’s and 60’s. Are we willing to despise violence more than we love our causes and duties? And if we are ready to relinquish violence as a viable option in the theater of conflict, how are we developing the tools and skills of radical compassion that we will need to transform hatred into love? This message speaks to the hearts of police and protestors alike. In one of his most powerful sermons entitled “Beyond Vietnam,” MLK proclaimed:

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I’m not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another (Yes), for love is God. (Yes) And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love… . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day.”