UFO Skeptics Caught, Admit to Hoax
Two self-admitted skeptics who rigged highway flares to weather balloons to create a UFO hoax are now facing misdemeanor charges in Morristown, New Jersey for endangering public and air traffic safety. Along with many other sites and news outlets, UFOMystic tagged this incident on January 7th.
Joe Rudy, a high-school science teacher, and salesman Chris Russo documented their entire operation on video and waited for UFO spotters’ and the local and national news media reaction before admitting what they had done and how they used their activities to make a point. As they write at eskeptic:
We set out on a mission to help people think rationally and question the credibility of so-called UFO â€œprofessionals…We delivered what every perfect UFO case has: great video and pictures, â€œcredibleâ€ eyewitnesses (doctors and pilots), and professional investigators convinced that something amazing was witnessed. Does this bring into question the validity of every other UFO case? We believe it does.
Hoaxer video of balloon/ flare release. Credit: eskeptic.com
By this reasoning it even casts serious doubt on such things as radar/ visual cases and close encounter (nearer than 500 feet) incidents. Strange lights darting around the firmament and apparently structured objects landing in front of witnesses are all apparently hoaxes or misidentifications of natural phenomena or man-made aircraft, according to the narrow definition of the NJ UFO hoax team.
The main point to consider in all of this is where UFO believers and fundamentalist skeptics differ in their acceptance of evidence. The believers want to think that there are creatures from other planets visiting us; the fundies insist that there is no credible evidence that this is so.
The data would suggest that the skeptics are correct, but the debate has been framed in the wrong context. Fundie skeptics nearly always lump all UFO cases together, as if anything unknown in the sky is representative of all cases throughout history, especially from the 20th century to the present. To this mindset, the lack of hard evidence for one is enough to throw the rest of the UFO reports out with the bathwater. This is a classic CSICOP ploy: Find the easiest case to debunk, and frame it as representative of all issues associated with it. at least by their definition. Believers, for the most part, ignore normal explanations because it detracts from their case for unidentifieds, and the “only answer,” which has to be extraterrestrials.
Of course, witness testimony does not a closed case make, but it’s almost all we have have when dealing with the UFO issue. However, when we consider literally thousands of reports, some of which may not have mundane explanations, the goal should be to concentrate on the real unknowns, with the idea of solving those with existing knowledge, or advancing our methods and theories to learn more about what causes UFO reports. Just because something is not proven doesn’t mean that it is a non-issue.
One valuable subject that Rudy and Russo have illuminated is that UFO watchers/ researchers and the media outlets that support them should consider mundane explanations rather than ignoring them entirely in pursuit of “evidence” for ET visitation.Â The point is that the “unidentified” in “UFO” remains so as science presently defines “proof,” but might not be in the future. In a few cases, there may truly be a mystery that can be better understood and maybe explained.
A list of news articles on the incident can be found at Google.
Update: My internet/ facebook buddy Michael MacDonald chimes in on the case.
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