Rebuttal to Skeptical Inquirer Article

In the March/April 2003 issue of the debunkery magazine Skeptical Inquirer (which calls itself the magazine of "science and reason"), Dave Thomas of the New Mexico skeptics personally attacked me as "incompetent," among other things, in a piece of propaganda designed to defend Charles Moore's Mogul balloon trajectory calculation hoax.  My follow-up rebuttal sent to the magazine's editor is reproduced below.  The editor, Kendrick Frazier, never bothered to respond to it much less publish it.

(The history of the Skeptical Inquirer and its parent organization CSICOP deliberating misrepresenting data they are uncomfortable with, personally attacking those who present it, then trying to cover up their misdeeds and censor any rebuttal goes back to their very beginning 30 years ago.  Please read this very revealing article by Dennis Rawlins, one of the founders of CSICOP, which goes into great detail of how he was censored and ultimately blackballed by the CSICOP board for daring to contradict their skeptical dogma and also point out the incompetence and dishonesty of their "investigations."  Editor and board member Kendrick Frazier was deeply involved in this as well.)

Thomas' article clearly violated the Skeptical Inquirer's own stated guidelines for authors.The guidelines, among other things, say:

1.  "State others' positions in a fair, objective, and nonemotional manner."
2.  "Direct critiques towards ideas and issues, not individuals"
3.  "Maintain a factual, professional, and restrained tone."
4.  "Let the facts speak for themselves."
5.  "Be precise and careful with language"
6.  "Avoid loaded words and sensationalism"
7.  Articles should "help readers distinguish between scientific and pseudoscientific approaches."

Their stated editorial policy also claims that they seek "well-balanced articles that report on and evaluate controversial scientific claims" and "The Skeptical Inquirer must be a source of authoritative, responsible scientific information and perspective." 

But the article was not "well-balanced" nor was it "authoritative," "responsible," or "scientific."  What Thomas actually did was deliberately duck every single one of my math arguments that proved Moore committed a hoax, even though he claimed he read my website detailing everything.   The website was snidely referred to as "mindnumbing" in length. The math facts therein detailing Moore's hoax were referred to only as "quibbles" and "shrill accusations."   He also accused me of character assassination and labeled me "incompetent." So much for being  "fair," "objective," "scientific," "professional," "factual,"  "restrained," non-sensational, etc., etc.

That Thomas was obviously trying to evade the issues and also using derogatory language should have been red flags to the editor.  Had he been following their own guidelines, he should never have allowed the article to be published in its existing form.  It was a clear violation of their own editorial policies.  Opponents' views were not fairly and accurately presented--they were never presented at all.  Thomas' personal attacks were likewise in violation of their alleged policy.  It is hardly "incompetence" or "character assassination" to point out Moore had many math computations like 100/12 = 350 and committed numerous other serious mathematical sins.

Perhaps they don't believe the rules of fair play and scientific integrity should apply to one of their own (Thomas is on their listed panel of "scientific" advisers and also a personal friend of the editor). The Skeptical Inquirer can hardly claim to be the magazine of "science and reason" if they publish such slanted and inaccurate trash. Instead they are acting as a forum to aid and abet a hoax while hypocritically claiming to be defenders of fair play and sound science.


Math vs. Moore on Roswell

To the editor:

In "Bait and Switch on 'Roswell: The Smoking Gun' " (Mar/Apr 2003 Skep. Inq.) Dave Thomas tries to defend Charles Moore's flawed Mogul balloon trajectory calculation by pretending Moore's math is correct and that my arguments pointing out numerous math flaws are nothing more than a personal "attack on the character of Charles Moore."  But it's really about his bad math and science.  That Prof. Moore "didn't want to get into the math" is really a stunning admission that his math is indefensible.  The fact remains that Moore miscalculated his own Mogul Flight #4 table to ensure that the balloon would land on the Foster Ranch near Roswell and supposedly trigger the "Roswell Incident." His calculation is riddled with literally dozens of serious errors:

1) Moore's rise and fall rates are calculated wrong in 39 out of 40 cases. A quarter are off by 40% or more. In the most extreme example, Moore had the balloon rising only 100 feet in 12 minutes, or 8.3 ft/min. But his table lists a rise rate of 350 ft/min, an error factor of over 40! 

2) Moore violated his own rules in setting up his balloon trajectory table. Moore stated he was assuming "Flight #4 used our best equipment," was configured like and "performed as well as or better than" the successful Flight #5 the next day. But his table values show that Moore instead treated #4 like a balloon with faulty altitude control equipment, rising and falling much faster than #5 (falling almost twice as fast in fact).  Indeed it fell far faster than any of the other early neoprene balloon Moguls, including the faulty #6 with damaged equipment.  Where did Moore get these excessively high rise/fall rates so at odds with his stated assumptions and actual balloon data? Moore's hidden assumptions drastically shorten the time periods when his hypothetical balloon was rising and falling and are crucial in keeping it from badly overshooting the Foster Ranch.

3) Moore's method of carrying wind velocities backwards violated his own stated method of calculation in his #4 table footnotes.  It is also mathematically wrong and corrupts his own data.  The first data point is thrown out (where did it go?), his table symmetry for rise and fall winds is destroyed, his own wind data derived from Flight #5 is misused, and another 30 minutes is improperly cut from the ascent, forcing an early direction change,  a second way Moore drastically shortened the ascent path to prevent overshoot.

In his article, Thomas carefully avoids discussing a single one of these critical math facts, disingenuously dismissing them as "quibbles" and "shrill accusations," as a propagandist would.  Unable to refute the scientific quantitative arguments, the math, Thomas instead resorts to pseudoscientific ones, lamely asserting that Moore was "qualitatively" correct (really an admission his math was wrong).  He also recreates Moore's faulty table calculation to get his incorrect trajectory, in the bizarre notion that if an error can be repeated it must be right. But results like 2 + 2 = 3 remain nonsense no matter how many times repeated.  Still he claims this vindicates Moore, then personally attacks me as "incompetent." Math-competent readers can figure out who is right by getting Moore's book or reviewing my website ( flight4_trajectory.html) and checking his math for themselves.  Check, e.g., his many bogus rise/fall rates, such as his first one:  852/2.8 = 100.

As this response was being drafted, Thomas posted to the group UFO Updates, said he reread my website but again dodged the important math facts, now spinning them as mere "disagreements" over how to model, and again accused me of "character assassination." His logic seems to be that if a math student got Moore-type answers like 100/12 = 350 on a test, he should argue that these weren't really mistakes but "disagreements" over how to do the problems. Further, the teacher was a "character assassin" (if not "incompetent") for marking them wrong. How many teachers would permit that sort of nonsense?

Moore has also spoken of being more than just "qualitatively" correct, suggesting his balloon landing site "exactly" matched the Roswell UFO crash site.  In a 1997 Sci Fi Channel special on Roswell, Moore stated "I have calculated a trajectory that would have exactly landed the balloon on the Foster Ranch."

But this is not what his model actually predicts. Even ignoring Moore violating his own rules in setting up his table, but correctly calculating it as-is per his own  table instructions, the balloon would still overshoot the ranch by about 20 miles. Holding Moore to his stated assumption of  perfect flight (i.e., normal rise and fall rates like Flight #5), it now misses by more like 70 miles.  If one also holds him to his 1995 assumption of a normal post-dawn launch and flight time instead of his 1997 assumption of a night launch and grossly extended flight time (based on Moore flip-flopping on his interpretation of cloud-cover records), the miss is about 100 miles.  "Quibbles" indeed!  Thus Moore's own model, properly done, actually shows that the winds were blowing much too hard to have carried Flight #4 to the Foster Ranch in any plausible scenario.

The results will be the same with any objective scientific analysis of Moore's book:  his many math mistakes will still be there and his balloon trajectory calculation will remain completely bogus.  Shooting the messenger because Thomas doesn't like the news won't change this.  Since these mistakes are so numerous and large, it is difficult to believe that a competent scientist like Moore would make them inadvertently.  More likely he realized his model using the historical wind data could not get Flight #4 to the Foster Ranch in any reasonable way.  Instead, to discredit Roswell with his Mogul balloon, Moore force-fit a trajectory using made-up numbers and miscalculation until it finally "exactly landed" at the desired crash site.

The only relevant question here and one which remains unanswered except by stony silence is: When is Prof. Moore going to issue a formal retraction and correct the record?

David Rudiak