Marfa Lights and Skepticism

Reasonable skepticism seems to have flown out the window in regard to reactions to suggestions that some of the Marfa Lights may be the glow of a group of unknown bioluminescent flying creatures. Some blog posts are positive, others negative, and one or two are purely sarcastic.

How could the ghost lights around Marfa, Texas, be related to dinosaurs or pterosaurs alive? Some of the flying lights suggest a relationship to the ropen lights of Papua New Guinea, and those lights have been tied to sightings of giant long-tailed featherless flying creatures that are said to be pterosaurs.

The problem with some of the comments from skeptics relates to simple reasoning, or rather the avoidance of reasoning. Sarcasm is the least scientific way to address a subject, however controversial, yet some critics use this exclusively. Others just assume that care headlights explain away any unusual lights around Marfa. Those critics have missed the point: Scientific analysis of data compiled by the scientist James Bunnell shows clearly that some lights are nothing like car headlights, even when night-mirage phenomena are considered.

Scientific Skepticism and Marfa Lights

This post is not actually about scientific skepticism; it’s more about the unscientific skepticism of a writer named Brian Dunning. There seem to be a number of problems with his logic.

What a far cry from scientific skepticism! How convenient, when “hundreds” of witnesses experience something contradicting ones idea, to say it came from drinking whiskey!

To be fair to Mr. Dunning, we need to remember that some of these sighting reports are quite strange: flying lights that seem to fly in ways related to each other. These flights are too complex–I believe “complex” is the word used by James Bunnell–to be easily explained as an ordinary phenomenon. But the strange reactions some person might have to consuming alcohol does not mean that all strange experiences should be dismissed with “whiskey.” We can admit that not-yet-explained things may exist.

Marfa Lights Still in the News

. . . both the original Marfa Lights press release and the Houston Chronicle article need to be read by the reader who would be well informed in this matter. I recomment chronological order: first read the press release and then the Houston Chronicle article. But neither the blog post nor the press release nor the newspaper article mentions an important name: Peter Beach, a biologist who has taught biology at the college level. We need to pay attention to his experience with flying lights and a strange flying creature seen over the Yakima River in Washington state . . .

Marfa Lights “Flying Predator” Press Release

. . . the mystery lights of Marfa, Texas, have entertained residents with their strange dancing. On some warmer nights, a ball of light seems to split into two, which will separate and fly away from each other before turning around and flying back together. They have recently been linked to flying lights in the southwest Pacific, lights that natives of Papua New Guinea testify are from large flying creatures.

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  1. In regard to “Sarcasm is the least scientific way to address a subject, however controversial,” it may be more useful to say, “Sarcasm is an unscientific way to address a subject, even when it seems there is no controversay, even when it seems obvious that ones opponent has a strange or far out idea.

  2. Pingback: Misidentification - Pterosaur Eyewitness

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