Scientist Goes on Epic Rant About 60 Minutes' Gullible Story on UFOs

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On Sunday, May 16, the long-running television news magazine 60 Minutes aired an entirely credulous report on U.S. Navy sightings of supposed Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAPs), the new name for UFOs. Absent from the segment was any skeptical viewpoint on the otherworldly claims presented. Viewers were left thinking that something strange must be out there.

Last week, RCS linked to Mick West's excellent piece deconstructing much of the 60 Minutes report. Bottomline: almost all of the videos, which are characteristically blurry and out-of-focus, can be explained away without invoking extraterrestrials or physics-defying technologies.

Unfortunately, West's science-based analysis does not command the attention that CBS' 60 Minutes does. The net effect is that millions of Americans are now misinformed about the nature of UAPs.

This sad situation did not sit well with Yale neurologist Steven Novella, host of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. On a recent episode, he understandably ranted about the enduring allure of ascribing strange sightings to alien spacecraft.

"At the end of the day, it's a dot, it's a blob, it's a blur. It's not information," he said. "You're making an argument from ignorance. They completely underestimate the potential for misidentification in terms of everything – size, speed, angle..."

Novella wasn't finished.

"A lot of these times when [UFO videos] are figured out it's a bird. So you were all excited about the amazing, aerodynamic characteristics of what turned out to be a bird... That means everything else you say is complete and utter horse**** – it's worthless. It's nothing. You don't have any reliable information. We're exactly where we were in 1960. It's sixty years later and we have the same level of evidence. There's a reason why we have only blurry photos – because in focus photos are not spacecraft. They're nothing interesting! When it's in focus, it's a plane or a bird or a bug. But when it's out of focus, you can imagine anything you want. With all the new technology, with ubiquitous phones, we have nothing! Nothing. The simplest explanation is that there isn't anything."

With that off his chest, he reached a calmer conclusion.

"Keep in mind, nobody would love more than [us] if we did have compelling evidence for actual alien spacecraft. It would be fascinating. We would be all over that. The reason that we're not convinced by it is that the evidence is not convincing."

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