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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Missing the Forest for the Mystery Lights

At a PhACT meeting recently, George Hansen complained to me that, in a couple of earlier posts ("Review: The Trickster and the Paranormal" and "This Movie Is for the Birds"), I had misrepresented him by saying he portrayed Linda Moulton Howe as a credible source of information (and I had added that I thought this reflected negatively on his own powers of critical judgment). He said that, on the contrary, he had written about how "even her friends sometimes become exasperated at her for uncritically accepting information from government personnel." I said I'd reread that part of his book and issue a correction if necessary.

I've now reread the section in question. It's true that he makes the statement about her uncritical reporting of claims by government personnel. But that's a very limited criticism compared to what I observed when she spoke at the Central Library in 2002, which didn't even involve quoting government sources. As I wrote in my review of Hansen's book, Howe failed to see evidence of the artifactual nature of "mystery lights" that was literally staring her in the face, instead seeming to see only further "mystery" in it. Likewise, she irrationally dismissed the revelation by the two Englishmen about having made crop circles — with a demonstration of how they did it — on the grounds that these two men couldn't be responsible for circles on multiple continents. This totally missed the real point of their revelation, which was that if they could do it, anyone could do it. And evidently many have.

Compared to this, what is Hansen's observation that Howe is unduly credulous about claims coming from government sources? Why, it's hardly anything. He ascribes to her such broad positive traits as "incredible energy, tenacity, and dedication" as well as "integrity ... above reproach," yet he doesn't see fit to criticize her incredible obtuseness when it comes to recognizing information that disconfirms her beliefs? Such an imbalance might be called "praising with faint damnation," and borders on dishonesty in my book. Unless, of course, he doesn't mention her obtuseness because he shares it with her.

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