Monday, March 31, 2014

Phil Klass lecture to the National Youth Science Camp



A gem from 1998 - arch-skeptic Phil Klass talking to science camp kids about UFOs.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Miguel Romero on Transhumanism versus Transindividualism


Miguel Romero, aka Red Pill Junkie, is one of the most articulate and thought-provoking observers / thinkers active today talking about what might loosely be called the "paranormal." He reminds me quite a bit of the late Mac Tonnies (check out Miguel's recent appearances with Greg Bishop on Radio Misterioso - Part 1 and Part 2). In his latest, he addresses the idea of transhumanism and the idea of life after death. It's well worth a look... and not just because he references my own views. Here's an excerpt:
Canadian filmmaker & iconoclast thinker Paul Kimball has delved into this matter on several occasions, on both his book The Other Side of Truth and on frequent podcast interviews. On his latest appearance on the popular show Binnall of America (9.17.13), Paul made fun of how to many modern Christians, their idea of heaven would be something akin to an ethereal strip mall –with you & your family & friends all being there, enjoying themselves & living more or less the same way than here on Earth.

And even if you found Paul’s acidic humor offensive –in which case, I feel sorry for you!– it’s not outrageous to suggest that for many church-going folks, their expectations of an afterlife would involve the survival of their ego. And so, many Christians are awaiting the 2nd coming of Jesus & the resurrection of the dead, the same way Kurzweil hopes to one day bring back his late father to some manner of computerized existence.
What many Christians dread, Paul points out, is an afterlife in which their ego gets dissolved, but their consciousness becomes one with God, the way some mystics like Meister Eckhart or Henry Alline professed in their writings. And I personally feel the same could be said of most Transhumanists, even if they’d risk dropping their Google Glass at the revolting thought of being compared with those superstitious hicks, who still cling to the comforting belief in a deity.
You can read the rest of Miguel's column here.

Paul Kimball

Friday, March 28, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Tasteless Aesthetic of Ufology

We live in a world where, for better or worse, appearance matters. 

When a person shows up for a job interview, for example, they're better off wearing a business suit, or at the very least something neat and presentable, than a t-shirt with mustard stains on it and a pair of dirty sweat pants. 

Ufologists have never really understood this simple truth. Case in point - Frank Warren's website, The UFO Chronicles, which aggregates various news and opinion items about UFOs.

The design is the equivalent of the t-shirt and sweat pants I mentioned above. 


People in my business like to say that "content is king," and in the end they're right... but that only applies if your content is presented in a way that is aesthetically appealing. A website is like a job interview - if people are turned off by your appearance on first sight, nothing you say or do after that is really going to matter because most of them will have already turned the proverbial channel.

I find it most amusing that people who desperately want the mainstream to take them seriously have created an on-line presence that virtually guarantees that nobody outside their core fanbase will take them seriously. It's almost as if someone approached them and said, a la the infamous Robertson Panel, "hey, buddy, design a website that will make UFOs look as goofy as possible," and Warren and his fellow travelers said, "sounds good!" 

Memo to ufologists: style and substance aren't mutually exclusive.

If space aliens ever saw the way that ufology presents itself they would be appalled. Then again, I think it's safe to say that's true for most things having to do with ufology.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Roger Leir dies



Long-time "alien abduction" researcher Roger Leir has died, ironically in a hospital whilst awaiting surgery on his foot (Leir was a podiatrist). I always thought that Leir was one of the more dangerous of the UFO true believers, because he was conducting surgery on people and removing "alien implants." Anytime you cut into someone, you run the risk of complications, no matter how simple the procedure might seem. Accordingly, you don't do it unless you absolutely have to, an ethical and common sense precept that Leir routinely ignored with his "surgeries" on "alien absuction victims." While the hypnosis practiced by people like like David Jacobs and Derrel "The Alien Hunter" Sims is bad, Leir's implant "research" was far worse. The fact that Sims and Leir worked together for several years created a perfect storm of irresponsibility.

I met Leir a couple of times at conferences, and while on the surface he always seemed sincere in his true belief and could be very friendly and charming, I was convinced that he was in it all for whatever money he could scam out of people, and perhaps the attention that came with being a relatively big fish in a very small pond - witness his part in one of the craziest ideas I have ever seen in the UFO subculture, the attempt to raise money for a feature film so that the sale of the feature film could raise money for a serious UFO research center. 


As I wrote at the time in 2006:
"I have an FYI for Dr. Leir - the LAST way you go about raising money for a research center, if that is your true goal, is to raise the money, and then make a lousy, low budget film, which will almost certainly never turn a profit, and will in all probability LOSE money, as most films do these days. If you're really serious about raising money for this so-called research center, why don't you just raise the money for the research center?"
I then identified what I believed was the real reason that Leir was looking to make a film. "Here's another question," I wrote. "When the budget is finished (and who goes around looking for investors when they don't even have a budget yet??), how much is Dr. Leir going to take in producer fees? Other fees? Corporate overhead?" 

Of course, no movie was ever made, and no research center was ever established. How could it have been? As I said, no-one makes a feature film in order to raise money for a research center. But Leir no doubt pocketed some coin from the suckers willing to suspend disbelief and donate, and he basked in the glow of their support (I know, because I was there when he announced it at the International UFO Conference), so it was mission accomplished.




Leir will continue to have his defenders, and he will no doubt continue to be seen by some as a paragon of serious research, but that shouldn't come as a surprise in a subculture where convicted criminal Wendelle Stevens remained a leading figure until his death (Stevens still has ardent supporters). 




I know that we're never supposed to speak ill of the dead, but that's a social convention that shouldn't apply when dealing with someone you are convinced was engaged in unethical and dangerous practices, as I'm convinced was the case with Leir. I certainly wouldn't have wished Leir dead, but I won't mourn him either, nor will I pretend that he was something other than what he was. In the end my take-away from the news of his passing is this: while his friends and family will undoubtedly grieve, the people whom Leir was cutting into in an effort to convince them and others that they had been abducted by aliens will be better off without him. 

Paul Kimball

Thursday, March 13, 2014

UFOs over Halifax on the night of the Shag Harbour Incident

My old friend Ron Foley MacDonald on set during production of my
most recent feature film, Roundabout, on which he was a co-producer.

Ron Foley MacDonald is many things – one of the best and most knowledgeable film, music and theater critics in Canada;  the senior programmer at the Atlantic Film Festival here in Halifax, Nova Scotia; an educator; a former musician during the heydays of the 1990s Halifax Pop Explosion who still writes songs for other artists. He’s also been a close friend for over two decades.
Ron shares my interest in the world of the paranormal (although perhaps not to the same extent). As Maritimers we were brought up with all  tales of all sorts of things that go bump in the night, from ghost ships to will o’ the wisps. But Ron has something I don’t – a genuine UFO experience of his own, which happened near his home in Halifax on the same night in October, 1967, as the famous Shag Harbour UFO incident (Shag Harbour is about a three hour drive along the shore southwest from Halifax).


Over the years Ron has recounted his story to me on a few occasions, and I think he’s mentioned it a couple of times on radio (he appeared for years on CBC radio with arts and entertainment reports), but it’s not something that has circulated publicly beyond this region, so I asked him if he would care to write up a short report of what he and his young friends experienced back in 1967 as I think it adds some interesting perspective to the Shag story. He was kind enough to oblige.
On the early evening of October 4th, 1967, I was seven years old. It was a warm early fall evening, with the light just fading, 8;00 pm or so. I was with my friends from the street at number 10 Sherbrooke Drive, Halifax, (next to Mount St. Vincent University) near what we called ‘The Pipeline’. We noticed something strange happening, particularly sounds first. All sorts of alarms went off, police, fire, air raid sirens, and this was the first time I had heard the short-wave siren as opposed to the older long-wave alarms.
We noticed strange lights in the sky, streaking over Halifax, coming from Dartmouth going towards Chester and the South Shore. From where we were we had a good view of the Bedford Basin and the Narrows, overlooking the City Dump and where Africville was or had been. 
The situation was something none of us – there were at least three or four kids all the same age – had ever seen or heard before. After a few minutes, it became too intense and we all scattered. I was so scared I remember, very vividly, crawling underneath a car parked in the driveway. After a while, I scuttled home, not telling anyone in my family what had happened. 
The next morning I distinctly remember the local paper, The Chronicle Herald, being full of reportage on the incident, including at least one story of animals having organs removed. The day after that, the paper withdrew its coverage and printed a story that it was ‘nothing’'. 
The incident was the talk of the schoolyard for some days. This was only five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, so Air-Raid drills still happened a couple times of year, and the threat of a nuclear exchange lingered, although not as pervasively as in the early 1960s. 
This is my remembrance of the Shag Harbour UFO Incident, something that is imprinted on my mind quite sharply to this day. 
- Ron Foley MacDonald


Did Ron see space aliens over Halifax in 1967? Probably not… although who knows? But he definitely had a strange experience that left a deep impression on him, so much so that it remains vividly etched in his mind over forty years later. Others in Halifax and along the coast reported the strange lights as well, until they finally reached Shag Harbour late in the evening. Ron’s account is an important part of that broader narrative surrounding the events in the night sky over Nova Scotia on October 4, 1967 – a story that remains unsolved to this day.
Paul Kimball

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Space Aliens


From the on-line comic site Poorly Drawn Lines.

I chose grad school... but I always thought enslaving a lesser species would have been a good choice too.

Paul Kimball

Richard Hall - The University of Colorado Project, aka The Condon Committee


In this outtake from Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings, the late Richard Hall discusses the University of Colorado Project on UFOs, aka the Condon Committee. Hall was a good friend of mine, and a diligent and thoughtful researcher with a wide range of interests, although he was best known for his work on UFOs, particularly with NICAP.

Paul Kimball

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Paranormality of UFOs



Jason Gammon, a very vocal pro-ETH proponent, has left a few comments on a previous post wherein he decries the people who consider UFOs as part of what can loosely be called "the paranormal." As one of those people, I thought I should offer a few comments as to why Gammon is off-base.

Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary defines "paranormal" as follows:

"Very strange and not able to be explained by what scientists know about nature and the world; not scientifically explainable."

I can see where Gammon (and others like him) are coming from. They want to be taken seriously with their die-hard belief that space aliens are visiting Earth, and they believe that wrapping themselves in the cloak of "science" will lend a veneer of credibility. But they're wrong.

Why?

Because UFOs are no more or less amenable to scientific inquiry than ghosts, or near death experiences, or bigfoot, or any of the other things usually lumped into the realm of the paranormal; indeed, in many ways I would argue that UFOs are actually less amenable to scientific study and analysis than something like bigfoot or NDEs. 

Gammon is correct when he writes in one of his comments that the ETH could possibly be proved, but he's wrong when he suggests that the proof can somehow be discovered by us. The only way that we are ever going to have proof of extraterrestrial visitation here, should it be happening, is if the visitors choose to reveal themselves to us. The idea floated by Gammon that perhaps they might crash and we could recover the debris and use that as proof is patently ridiculous (as I've noted before), and betrays a form of wish fulfillment that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with what the late Karl Pflock correctly called "the will to believe."

Until aliens reveal themselves to be the cause of the UFO phenomenon we are left with are a lot of interesting stories that may or may not be true, and that are by their very nature "paranormal" - very strange, and not explainable by what scientists currently know about nature and our world. If these aliens really are well in advance of us, then it will be a very long time before our science manages to catch up to them... by which time they may well have moved even further away from us. Gammon and others like him might be convinced that we know that someday we will turn ourselves into cyborgs / AI and travel out to the stars, and therefore others before us must have done it and therefore must be here, but they can't possibly know that... anymore than Joe Ghost Hunter can know that a "ghost" is the spirit of dead Aunt Mabel.

Gammon wants to pretend that UFOs are not mysterious (echoing all of the pro-ETH believers before him), which in a weird and very ironic way makes him no different than the very ETH-disbeliever that he so often rails against. Like them, he has his answer, mystery be damned.

Too bad for Gammon, because his confirmation bias has blinded him to the reality that the mystery is where the real wonder may someday be found.

Paul Kimball