Skeptics frequently talk about Occam's Razor. They use it to choose between alternative explanations for something, especially where no one alternative has been either proven or disproven. But what is it?
Many people will tell you it says, "Choose the simplest solution". But it doesn't say choose the simplest solution. Opponents of Occam complain that it will not necessarily help you choose the correct solution. But Occam's Razor does not pretend to choose the correct solution. So what is it and what is its point?
Occam's Razor actually says:
"Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate", which is translated as "plurality should not be posited without necessity."
The words are those of the medieval English philosopher and Franciscan monk William of Ockham (ca. 1285-1349).
The archaic English needs to be interpreted for modern times. What it means is this:
Do not invent unnecessary entities to explain something.
Suppose I have a cat. One night, I leave out a saucer of milk, and in the morning the milk has gone. No one saw who or what drank the milk. Lets say there are two possibilities:
The cat drank it or the milk fairy drank it
Occam tells us to reject option 2. This is because option 2 requires us to invent an unnecessary entity - the milk fairy. It is an invention because we have no proof that the milk fairy exists. And it is unnecessary because there is a plausible explanation that does not require the milk fairy - the cat. (We know he exists.)
Note: we haven't proven that the cat drank the milk. Or disproven the milk fairy option. Strictly speaking, we keep an open mind about both options. But Occam says that if you insist it could be the milk fairy, you have invented an unnecessary entity. And why would you do that?
Note also that strictly speaking, both solutions are equally simple. The cat hypothesis is only simpler in that you haven't had to invent a new, unproven entity. Also note that there are additional options that we could choose if we abandon Occam. For example, it could have been ghosts, or aliens, or the boogieman or Santa Claus. Why choose one of these over the others when there is an equal lack of proof for any of them?
Occam can be applied to a myriad of supposed paranormal events, including ghosts, psychics, UFOs, people who talk with the dead, reincarnation, the soul, spoon benders, near death and out of body experiences. Usually, the paranormal explanation for these phenomena cannot be disproven, and this is often given as the reason we should consider the paranormal explanation. But Occam says go with the natural explanation for now, until any new evidence challenges it. But if there is a natural explanation and you believe, without proof, that the paranormal one is possible, you are inventing the milk fairy.
The UFO phenomenon involves sightings of unidentified flying objects. This means that any unidentified flying object is a UFO, regardless of its alleged source. Because the object is unidentified, the object's source is also undetermined. Only a leap of faith can connect UFOs to an extraterrestrial course without first introducing proof. A radical hypothesis such as an extraterrestrial origin of UFOs requires overwhelming proof in order to be generally accepted. No such overwhelming extraterrestrial proof has ever been offered which has stood up to scrutiny. No crashed alien craft have ever been produced by anyone, inside or outside government. Likewise, no alien bodies have ever been found. No extraterrestrial culture, or alien technology has ever been uncovered by anyone. There is simply no actual evidence at all linking UFOs with an extraterrestrial source. Therefore, no such leap of faith should be made. We need to start all over again. All rational earthly explanations need to be exhausted before any extraterrestrial theories are even put forth.
Unfortunately, the simple truth is that, for the most part, UFO research has done a leap-frog to the extraterrestrial explanation without ever adequately exploring and exhausting a terrestrial origin. This statement is inclusive of everyone regardless of background or education. It applies to the charlatan UFO attention-getters as well as to former NASA scientists with Ph.D.s. This is the condition of our current state of affairs in the UFO world.
For over fifty years, the UFO research paradigm has been fundamentally wrong. A proper attempt to explain the UFO phenomenon would involve a gathering or the evidence and then explanation by proceeding from simple solutions involving known facts and conditions and totally exhausting theses possibilities before postulating explanations, conditions, or entities not represented by fact. Only after known facts fail us can we move on to postulate explanations beyond our realm of experience.
Even then, an idea which may fit the observed facts but which is not in evidence itself cannot be accepted as fact until it is tested. This is nothing new. This is simply the way logic and science test new explanations of reality. This method is the foundation of our modern western technological culture.
Unfortunately, research in the field of flying saucer phenomena has never been undertaken with this principle in mind. More and more frequently, UFOs are attributed to an extraterrestrial source by the media, or the "witnesses", as a sort of knee-jerk reaction. It seems if one sees something for which he has no prior reference, then it must be extraterrestrial as a matter of course. Over the years sightings have become "encounters," then "abductions." Such reports are increasing even as the use of regression hypnosis replaces the scientific method for finding the truth. The same individuals often have repeated "experiences" each of which becomes stranger than the last.
If no real research has ever been done on the UFO phenomena, then how has thesis extraterrestrial theory crept into popular culture? One simple answer is the media. The media loves extraterrestrials. Why? It is because the extraterrestrial hypothesis is marketable. It sells copy. Just look at the number of books, magazines, movies and television programs devoted to this explanation. Look at your check-out counter in the supermarket.
The government itself is another answer. The word "government" from here on will basically mean the government of the United States of America but will sometimes include other governments, as specified. The government has used "flying saucers" to cover it sown testing of secret aircraft. It uses the UFO-extraterrestrial ploy superbly. When a UFO is seen by civilians, a controlled procedure is enacted. This procedure plants or encourages witnesses who expound an extraterrestrial origin in a given sighting. The government may even go so far as to fund television programming and magazines devoted to this explanation. After all, a huge part of the C.I.A.'s budget goes into such covert conditioning of the American people. However, Americans are not the first to be fooled.
In most cases, any extraterrestrial hypothesis is acceptable to government manipulators, especially if it is so ridiculous that the witnesses end up discrediting themselves. The government is so successful at this that the entire topic of UFOs has become somewhat of a joke. This is done deliberately. Thus, serious people with "something to lose" are afraid to stake their reputations on a public announcement of their UFO experience, no matter how real it may have been. At this point the government has achieved its purpose which is to discredit and suppress all serious inquiry into the UFO question.
Supposedly, UFO research has been left to large, well-financed UFO 'research organizations". The largest of these is MUFON (Mutual UFO Network). This organization "trains" people to report sightings, then collects the data and organizes it using some sort of multi-variant analysis into something meaningful. Over the years MUFON has had the opportunity to collect and "organize"thousands of sightings into something meaningful.
In reality, the information is organized into gibberish. After a body of knowledge has been studied and organized, usually, certain facts or at least generalizations can be gleaned form this kind of work. In its fifty years of existence can anyone name one new fundamental fact that MUFON has provided us? They have provided us with nothing. Someone once said that MUFON is really a black hole into which information is attracted and does not have the power to escape on its own.
If we are to seek any real explanation of the UFO phenomenon, we must make a clean break with the past. We must go back to the basics of simplicity and logic. One basic question is this: could we humans be capable of making the unidentified flying machines which have been seen in abundance in the sky since the Second World War? Until we answer that question in the negative, there is no reason to postulate an alien origin for UFOs.
In a study of German flying discs one must listen to what is claimed about German saucers by Germans of those times or from other individuals who are in a position to know something about this topic, then attempt to verify it using an independent historical source. Corroboration from other independent sources, especially from witnesses, is also acceptable and important. Photographs are important but nowadays pictures can be manufactured on a computer. Well-documented pictures which appeared before the modern computer age are perhaps best. Also, pictures accompanied with negatives may be considered better documents than those without negatives.
Government documents can be great sources of confirmation. Unfortunately, governments cannot be trusted and have historically attempted to manipulate UFO research. Therefore, these sources are best not used to formulate ideas but to confirm ideas first developed through independent sources.
Politically, time is on our side. Since the Berlin Wall fell, more and more German researchers are going public with their findings. There is more freedom to research this subject now than at any time in the past sixty years. As each piece fits into the puzzle, a consensus of public acceptance acknowledging the reality of German flying discs grows. All we really have to do is find the pieces, confirm them and keep putting them together. The truth will emerge by itself and in the end nobody, no special interest of any sort, will be able to deny this basic truth.
New assertions about German saucers must be accompanied with documentation and references. The facts, ideas, writers and researchers in this field will enable the reader to confirm the veracity of the position put forth independently.