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Green Elephants

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Posted by Luciano Medina/">Luciano Medina on September 9, 1998 16:14:57 UTC

The paragraph of my text that you selected, I will rather put it in other words:

Some people believe in the existance of green elephants with six legs (here on Earth, I mean). Logic people says "look, we already know that all elephants are grey or brown, and with four legs". Believers reply "but we still don't know, they could be hiding in the deep of the jungles." Hunters and zoologists seek all over the jungles of the world but all they find are grey or brown elephants with four legs. Then believers say "but we still don't know how green elephants are, maybe they can fly and they live in the top of the Himalayas, or they can breath under the water and they live in the bottom of the ocean." After some time, explorers finally reach the bottom of every ocean and the top of every mountain. Still no green elephants. But believers have a last card: "Green elephants are a very strange species, so they probably are invisible too." And there's nothing to do against that theory.

Sounds silly? It's a silly example, indeed. But when I discuss with people who believes in UFO's, I feel like I am discussing with green elephant believers. Usually, they just believe but they have never thought of some contradictory and illogic points like those I listed in my previous message. And when I mention those points, they immediatly have an "emergency exit", an answer that explains the behaviour of aliens always against logic, reducing more and more the possibility of existance of UFO's.

So, back again with the example of the elephants. At the end of the story, if I am the logic type, I have two choices:

a) Believe in the existance on Earth of green invisible elephants with six legs, or b) Try to understand why so many people defends a theory in such a fanatic way, barely using any reason or logic.

With this example, is obvious that b) is the right choice. For me, with UFO theory the b) choice is as obvious the right one as with green elephants (though I know for most people is not as obvious). The last part of my previous message was my explanation for (b), but I never said that (a) is not possible, because I can't. I just understand that, as a consequence of (b), a strong believing without reasoning, (a) is not as much a theory as a desperate intent to keep it possible against any objection.

Finally, I forgot to say in my "declaration" something really important: when we deny the existance of UFO's (as alien spaceships), we are not denying the existance of extraterrestrial life, that's a different topic. But if we want to discuss that topic, is not valid to start saying "I believe in extraterrestrial life because it's not possible that we were alone in the Universe", or "it would be a great coincidence if we are the only one life form", or "if we are here, why shouldn't they be there", or something like that. That's instinct, not reason. A long time ago, it seemed obvious for everyone that the Earth was flat, and you have to use some science to understand that is rounded. Until the last two centuries, it was almost undeniable that there were some people or something living on the Moon. The method of reason was: we cross the oceans and find new islands and lands, and there is always people there, so why should't it be the same for the Moon? Even Kepler, the great astronomer and mathematician, wrote a book depicting the animals and men on the Moon. So if we want to get somewhere speculating about life in other planets, let's start on solid ground, or we will sink in the marsh of "it seems to me that...". I think a good method was the one Carl Sagan used: his solid ground were physics, biology, chemistry, astronomy and probability. Through them, he calculated how many diferent tecnology advanced civilizations could exist now in our galaxy. He obtained an stadistical number (I don't remember it, sorry, it must be in the Web somewhere).

If someone is interested in this way of reasoning about this particular subject, try to find the book "Extraterrestrial civilizations", by I. Asimov.

Thank you for answering!

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