July 22, 2013

“Precisely because of human fallibility, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Now, I know that (alien-abduction theorist) Budd Hopkins responds that extraordinary claims require extraordinary investigations. And I have two kinds of responses to that.

“There is a claim that a brontosaurus is tramping through the jungles today in the Republic of Congo. Should a massive expedition be mounted with government funds to find it, or it is so implausible as not to be worth serious sustained systematic attention?

“My second point is that to the extent that extraordinary claims require extraordinary investigations, those investigations must be true to the spirit of science. And that means highly skeptical, demanding, rigorous standards of evidence. There’s not a hint of that from alien abduction enthusiasts.”

– From “Carl Sagan on Alien Abduction” on NOVA (Feb. 27, 1996)

I’m just trying to imagine the Little Rascals prosecutors and therapists conferring after a long day of bullying 3-year-olds and asking themselves whether their investigations had been “true to the spirit of science.”