Space City Skeptics

The Official Blog of the Houston Skeptic Society

Dan Aykroyd on UFOs…..

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While not having achieved nearly the same degree of irrational thinking as Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine brigade, SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd has in the past few years surfaced as a UFO conspiracy theorist. I stumbled on this video of Aykroyd taken from an April 9th promotion of his Crystal Head vodka in Morris County, New Jersey, home of a recent high profile UFO hoax. In it he commits a few errors in thinking.

“Well I’ve seen two of them. They were flying end to end, wing to wing, at about 100,ooo feet doing about 20,oo0 miles per hour, zig zagging through the sky and meteoric bolides don’t do that. I’ve had unsolicited in seven states that I’ve been through at least twenty people come up and privately tell me their experiences. And they didn’t seem crazy to me.”

Aykroyd considers his own personal anecdotal experience to be valid evidence. Sometimes personal observances of unusual phenomena are helpful, but rarely in cases of unusual occurences such as UFO sightings. They invariably prove to be innaccurate. Steve Novella sums this up well:

“Sometimes people do report details, like windows or fins. They also report objects moving at fantastic speeds or carrying out seemingly impossible maneuvers. However, when viewing an object against the sky, without a clear background for reference, it is impossible to estimate size, distance, and speed, and we are subject to optical illusions. Such details are therefore not reliable, and there are numerous cases when they are demonstrably wrong.”

Meteoric bolides don’t do that, as Aykroyd correctly points out, but because of the weaknesses inherent in human neurology, he can’t really say for certain that what claims to remember is what really happened. We would have to know more to the story but I think that if there were a series of pictures or a video of the sighting it would have made the rounds by now. At best, all Aykroyd can claim is that he saw something which he could not identify. In reality, this could have been any of a large number of objects, including an alien piloted spacecraft, but it is a rather closed-minded argument from ignorance to assume that it is a visitor from another galaxy.

Many people who would not be deemed crazy, to use Aykroyd’s word, by most folks have reported UFO sightings. But even if these reports numbered in the millions it would still not serve as proof that alien beings are making pitstops here on earth. The plural of anecdote, as they say, is anecdotes not evidence. Even the most skilled observers have been fooled by ordinary objects. And all of us have had even so-called flashbulb memories become warped over time.

I hope Aykroyd does well in the vodka business, at least better than in his movie career since the 80’s. Regardless, as one woman in the video exclaims, proving there are some decent skeptics in New Jersey, “I’d physically have to see the little guys running around in front of me before I’d believe it.” While not completely accurate, as I’d settle for less than that, such as a few unambiguous photo series or videos that don’t fall apart under scientific investigation, her statement exemplify the classic skeptical adage that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

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Written by skepticpedi

April 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm

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