33. Skeptic, Evan Bernstein

evanbernsteinShow notes: One of the co-hosts of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, Evan Berstein joins in for a conversation of what it means to be a skeptic, the UFO phenomenon, Roswell, answer listeners questions and more.

26 thoughts on “33. Skeptic, Evan Bernstein

  • January 19, 2013 at 12:04 am

    One thing I would like to point out after I listened to this post production.

    It may appear that I was stating that I disagreed with the extraterrestrial hypothesis concluded in the COMETA Report. I do not.

    What I was attempting to say, is that I disagree when people use the blanket notion that UFOs are certainly extraterrestrial.

    Thank you and I hope you liked the podcast.


    • January 21, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      That’s too bad, because I thought you understood that unidentified does not equal ET craft. How did they confirm that it’s extraterrestrial? Did they take samples of dust from it? Did they compare it with a database of known ET objects? Did they rule out all possible terrestrial explanations, like classified aircraft, hoaxes, malfunctioning instruments, optical illusions, and natural phenomena?

      • January 21, 2013 at 8:24 pm

        Hi Max,

        Thank you for listening and your opinion. The short answer is yes, these things you mention were ruled out.

        I personally do understand that UFOs are unknown and not specifically ETs and am not stating that for myself.

        A hypothesis is not in any way saying that they “confirm that it’s extraterrestrial”

        If you are interested in actually looking into this, here it is in English: http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/sociopol_cometareport01.htm

        This in a nutshell is the conclusion of the study:

        “COMETA claims that the physical reality of UFOs, under control of intelligent beings, is “quasi certain”. Only one hypothesis takes into account the available data: the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitors. This hypothesis is of course unproved, but has far-reaching consequences. The goals of these alleged visitors remain unknown but must be the subject of speculations and prospective scenarios.”

        • January 21, 2013 at 9:49 pm

          The links are broken, but I found it elsewhere. Sounds like ET of the gaps. You know, like God of the gaps.
          By the way, I mentioned optical illusions, but there are radar illusions too. For example, wind farms pose a problem for air traffic control because the spinning blades look like moving aircraft on radar.

          • January 22, 2013 at 11:57 pm

            So, we have this Max individual, seemingly at least, dismissing the entire COMETA report because, to him, it “Sounds like ET of the gaps.” This guy doesn’t sound like he is very serious, to me.

          • January 28, 2013 at 1:44 am

            It’s the same argument from ignorance, assuming that something you can’t explain must be a powerful intelligent being that wants something from us humans. God of the gaps.

          • January 28, 2013 at 3:12 am

            Max, you have misrepresented the stated findings of The COMETA Report. As it says, higher in this very thread, the people who wrote The COMETA Report are NOT claiming that these things that they “…can’t explain MUST be a powerful intelligent being…” The emphasis on “MUST” is mine. What the report actually says, once again, from higher in the thread is:

            “…Only one hypothesis takes into account the available data: the hypothesis of extraterrestrial visitors. THIS HYPOTHESIS IS OF COURSE UNPROVED…”

            (The emphasis on “THIS HYPOTHESIS IS OF COURSE UNPROVED” is mine). In other words, the extraterrestrial hypothesis is their best guess, for now. They are not saying that it MUST be the case. There is a big difference. Max, if you want to continue this discussion with me please acknowledge, just for the record, that you have misrepresented the stated findings of The COMETA Report. If you refuse to do this then, I think that it will cause more of those who read these threads to believe that I’m right and that you, Max, are not being serious.

          • January 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm

            Oh ok, so it’s not God of the gaps as long as Creationists say that “Only one hypothesis takes into account the available data: God.”

            Contrast this with SETI astronomer Jerry Ehman’s speculation about the “Wow!” signal.

            Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the Wow! source. Of course, being a scientist, I await the reception of additional signals like the Wow! source that are able to be received and analyzed by many observatories. Thus, I must state that the origin of the Wow! signal is still an open question for me. There is simply too little data to draw many conclusions. In other words, as I stated above, I choose not to “draw vast conclusions from ‘half-vast’ data”.

          • January 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm

            Hmmm…I think that there’s some ambiguity and possible sarcasm in your last reply. Before we move on, I would like you, Max, to admit, clearly and without any sarcasm or any other indication that you are not serious, that you, Max, DID, indeed, misrepresent the findings of The COMETA Report. I’m not saying that it was necessarily intentional. It could have been carelessness. After you admit this then we can move on and talk about whether or not you agree with it, or what it has to do with SETI, if anything. Once again, before we move on, Max, please admit, clearly and without any sarcasm or any other indication that you are not serious, that you, Max, DID misrepresent the findings of The COMETA Report.

  • January 19, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    So many “skeptics” can make fools of themselves just as much as crazed UFO believers…James McGaha (TV UFO skeptic) comes to mind. On Larry King he sat right next to Jim Penniston and said the Bentwaters guys all saw a lighthouse and a satellite re-entry…after Penniston just told how he TOUCHED the landed craft. And he never addresses why no one has ever reported the lighthouse as a UFO before or since this case or attempted to re-create the sighting conditions.
    I saw Carl Sagan speak once and he was dismissing a UFO case which was brought up and an audience member asked him if he ever personally went out and spoke to the witnesses or visited the site and he said no. Armchair dismissal is so easy…especially if your mind is already made up.

  • January 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Great show as usual. The new jingle & music are great 🙂

    Yes, “skeptics” are indeed a strange alien breed. I believe that they are wired differently than the rest of us.

    It is revealing that Evan never read the COMETA report. Leslie Kean already underlined that point that “skeptics” just seem to have a 6th sense to avoid the best cases, the most interesting reports, like dangerous potholes on the road.

    The claim that there is no unexplained UFO phenomenon whatsoever, feels very 20th century. In the age of internet that position has become untenable some time ago. But there are many other strange cultish ideas flying around. I just do not think that skeptics represent the “other” camp. I should rather see them debate the unlikely return of the Greek Gods.

    Cheers – Marc

    • January 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Hi Marc,
      I think what Evan is saying is that there is definitely unexplained UFO phenomena, however, jumping from Unidentified Flying Object straight to an alien spacecraft is quite a leap and would require very good evidence pointing to alien visitors as opposed to natural phenomena or something generated by a human.

      As soon as good evidence is presented, any good Skeptic will embrace it as fact. There just needs to be good evidence.

      • January 23, 2013 at 12:00 am

        I strongly disagree with what you just said. Evan, himself, pretty much admitted that he did not know enough about the phenomenon to have a well-reasoned, well-informed opinion. He was just going by what other pseudoskeptics have told him. I mean, a certain amount of this arguing from authority is appropriate, but not when you start having very strongly negative opinions about something.

      • January 23, 2013 at 12:11 am

        To the “other” Martin,

        I am not talking about space craft, you are. A UFO phenomenon means just that: that it is not a natural phenomenon, and it is not generated by humans either.
        According to French space agency and military police 22% of sightings in the sky are considered after proper investigation to be genuine unexplained UFOs. To be a skeptic means to consider that those 22% are yet to be explained. Well after so many decades, many multiple witnesses, field inquiry and other overwhelming circumstantial evidence, they are still 22% of unaccounted cases. Non skeptics call all those cases the world wide UFO phenomena. And we all wish we knew what it was.

        But we are only going in circles since at least Project Blue Book. This is why you see a number of comments from readers somewhat short tempered when they see the word “skeptic.” Because your track record is abysmal on this issue.

        If there was nothing in the sky do you think that Churchill would have asked about it? Do you think the US Congress would have launched an official investigation? Do you think that several American heroes such as Apollo astronauts, or the ex-Governor of Phoenix would have taken side? Would the Chief of Staff of Clinton try everything to find out? Would we be seeing for 60 years around the world unexplained yet consistent events?

        Marc Sima

        • January 24, 2013 at 12:06 am

          Hi Marc,
          Sorry, I had assumed that when you were talking about COMETA report, where they came up with extra-terrestrial hypothesis as their best answer for the remaining unexplained events, you agreed with some interpretations of that and were jumping on the “it must be alien space craft” bandwagon.

          I personally believe being a skeptic means coming up with a hypothesis about the cause of any event and then following the evidence to see if it’s true. Unfortunately there are no repeatable or predictable UFO events (that I am aware of) and we’re left with investigating whatever footage / descriptions / memories and objects are left after the fact, which makes getting an actual answer incredibly difficult.

          I do think it’s a worthwhile pursuit investigating any UFO reports, however no convincing evidence has been presented yet after years of searching that the origin of any sighting was caused by an extra-terrestrial intelligence.

          As to the questions about the people trying to find out about what’s going on, it makes sense that over 60 years some people with strong beliefs will make their way into positions of power where they can dig into the causes of the phenomena. Isn’t it also true that even at the top levels of Government their investigations came up with no conclusive answer?

          Anyway, I hope to be alive when an extra-terrestrial life is confirmed, my belief is that it will be confirmed via receiving radio-wave transmissions or the like prior to an actual visit.

          • January 24, 2013 at 4:31 am

            To be skeptic about extra-terrestrial life is fine with me. Some prefer visitors from other dimensions, the future and so on…I, myself have no idea what they are. For the fun of it I try to give an answer in my spy novel – TEXAS LIGHTS. For the fun of it.
            What I think has no merit is to be skeptic about the UFO phenomenon itself. It is worldwide, it is found across cultures, languages, continents and what is observed is indeed extremely consistent. The digital age makes it possible to instantly piece together all such events. The picture has emerged sometimes ago for anyone no scared to look. If you look for example at the Belgium wave of triangular objects, you find that the Head of the Air Force of that country has gone on the record several times including the Washington DC 2007 press conference, describing flying crafts which are not man made. Although seen by the population, by radars, F16 never could catch up with them. This went on for months, not days. This is pretty consistent phenomenon, not the fleeting perception of lone individuals. Military radars do not have emotions.
            They are so many such events who have the full backing of the military, and police authority of those specific countries. The US government is in fact an exception in the way it is treating the issue.
            The specious question is: do they exist? Yes, No
            The serious question is: what are they?

          • January 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm

            “Military radars do not have emotions.”

            No, they have noise, glitches, and false detections. Radar trackers generate false tracks, and the people interpreting them have emotions.
            It’s like the standard example of assuming that a rustle in the grass is a tiger instead of the wind. For the military, a missed detection is usually worse than a false alarm.

  • January 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Enough of this.. I have looked online and Evan Bernstein is as cruel to UFO believers as he says a skeptic should never be.

    Check out his postings on their forum at their website. He is offensive with no regard at all for people looking into this phenomenon.

    I believe he is as two-faced as they get.


    • January 23, 2013 at 1:05 am

      I second that, Lynn. From the transcript:

      “As Carl Sagan used to say, again, I don’t mean to quote him so often, but he is, sort of, our – one of our go–to guys in this: extraordinary claims do require more extraordinary evidence, and that’s what we’re hoping that, one day, will come to the forefront.”

      Take a look at this, one of Bernstein’s posts on his blog:


      I have a hard time believing that Bernstein doesn’t see a problem with saying that he hopes that extraordinary evidence will come to the forefront and, at the same time, trying to harm those who are looking for such evidence by posting posts like the one linked to above.

      • January 23, 2013 at 1:39 am

        We call this the religious police in Saudi Arabia.
        Evan and others are just hateful and a public nuisance.

  • January 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Hi Lynn,

    I have read some of his postings and see more or less what you are talking about.

    To be fair to him, he did agree to come on the show, and he was not offensive on the show or to me. He also described what it means to be a skeptic well.

    Thank you for your opinion.


  • January 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    I found Berstein to be a rather shallow fellow. He has his party line and sticks to it. He may have been a polite, affable interview, but his inappropriate laughter raised a red flag. I do not for one minute agree that he is a skeptic, he is a debunker, and if you don’t agree with him, you are a wishful thinker, and probably not too bright. He is more afraid to been seen as a non intellect among his peers, than to have an open mind concerning things he has has not even researched. His take on Roswell was laughable.

  • January 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence if you never bothered to look for the evidence. But if you checked your pockets and didn’t find your keys, then that IS evidence of absence, at least in the place where you looked.

  • January 23, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Evidence of bad faith is evidence of absence Max

  • January 23, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Here’s another example of Bernstein’s supposed commitment to critical thinking. First, here is the clip of what Michio Kaku actually said:


    Now, listen to what the pseudoskeptics, including Bernstein, of the supposed “Skeptics'” Guide To The Universe podcast had to say about Dr. Kaku:


    In addition to being a lot more disrespectful and mean than they need to be, which Bernstein said that they should not do, it seems pretty clear, to me, at least, that Bernstein misrepresented what Dr. Kaku actually said. I would encourage everybody to listen to both clips and see what you think.

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