Dedicated to those who at one time or another successfully
debunked just about everything we take for granted in today’s world, and also to Nicolo Machiavelli, without whose inspiration this presentation might have been unnecessary.
1. Debunkery: General Principles
2. Science According to the Debunker
3. The Debunker’s Rules of Evidence
4. Debunking Just About Everything
5. Debunking the UFO
6. Debunking the Great Conspiracies
7. Optional and Extracurricular Debunkery
8. The Debunker’s Last Resort
1. Debunkery: General Principles:
of discovery but as a holy war against the infidels of pseudoscience. Since in war the ends justify the means, you may
fudge, stretch or violate scientific method, or even omit it
entirely, in the name of defending scientific method.
– Choose the turf. Remember that all else being equal,
whoever gets to choose the battleground usually wins the
battle. For the defender of the status quo the most sympathetic
arena in which to debunk just about anything is the popular
media, since they tend to offer little or no opportunity for
intelligent analysis or reasoned debate. As an added bonus, TV
studio audiences may generally be counted on to support the
conventional view of things, or to be easily swayed in that
direction. As presently constituted, the media assume that the
public has a short attention span, faulty memory, little
patience for details and blind faith in authority, and that it
can not be trusted with the truth. This is ideal soil for the
seeds of debunkery.
– Put on the right face. Cultivate a patronizing, Wm. F. Buckley-ish air that suggests that your personal opinions are
backed by the full faith and credit of God.
– Worm your way into the hearts and minds of the people.
Take emotional control of your audience by cracking a few jokes
about Elvis, little men from Mars and so forth. Once you have
accomplished this they will predictably respond with snickers,
giggles and knowing glances if you do no more than report the
– Avoid the evidence. The more abstract and theoretical
you keep your arguments, the less easily people will notice
that you haven’t examined the actual evidence. Not examining
the evidence allows you to say with impunity, “I have seen
absolutely no evidence to support such a claim.” If examining
the evidence becomes unavoidable, report back that “there is
nothing new here.” If confronted by a watertight body of
evidence that has survived the most rigorous tests’ simply
dismiss it as being “too pat!”
– Call the kettle black. While maintaining absolute faith
in the ability of the current scientific paradigm to explain
everything, accuse your opponents of being “true believers.”
State categorically that the unconventional arises exclusively
from the “will to believe” and may be dismissed as, at best, an
honest misinterpretation of the conventional. In this way you
can camouflage your evangelical hellfire and brimstone under a
facade of cool impartiality.
– Convince your audience of your sincerity by reassuring
them that you yourself would “love to believe” in these
fantastic phenomena. Carefully sidestep the fact that science
is not about believing, but about finding out.
– Imply that your opponents are zealots. Suggest that in
order to investigate the existence of something one must first
believe in it absolutely.
– Similarly, always act as if your opponents have intended
the extreme of any position they’ve taken. Repeated often
enough, this procedure may literally drive them bananas.
– Practice debunkery-by-association. Lump together all
phenomena popularly deemed paranormal and suggest that their
proponents and researchers speak with a single voice. In this
way you can indiscriminately drag material across disciplinary
lines or from one case to another to support your views as
– Deliberately confuse the process of science with the
content of science. Do this by implying that a scientist’s
procedural integrity somehow hinges on his or her choice of
subject matter. In other words, reinforce the popular notion
that certain subjects are inherently unscientific or
pseudoscientific. If someone points out that only the
investigative process can be scientific or unscientific and
that science is properly blind to subject matter, dismiss such
objections using a method employed successfully by generations
of politicians: simply reassure your audience that (‘there is no
– Employ vague, subjective, dismissive terms such as
“ridiculous” or “trivial” in a manner that suggests they
the full force of scientific authority.
– Ridicule, ridicule, ridicule. It is far and away the
single most effective weapon in the war against discovery and
innovation. Ridicule has the unique ability to make people of
virtually any persuasion go completely unconscious in a
twinkling. It fails to sway only those who are of sufficiently
independent mind not to need the kind of emotional consensus
that ridicule provides. Fortunately there are few enough such
people in this world that they may be safely disregarded.
– Do your best to convince your audience (although not in
as many words) that ridicule constitutes an essential feature
of scientific method and can raise the level of objectivity,
integrity and dispassionateness with which any investigation is
– Charm your audience and disarm your opponents with pithy
aphorisms and clever remarks. For example, “I’ve always been
strongly in favor of open-mindedness — as long as your mind
isn’t so open that your brains fall out!” But take care never
to specify just how much openmindedness is too much; this keeps
your views outside the realm of rational debate. As long as you
keep things vague nobody will notice the absurdity of your gems
of wit and wisdom.
– Use “smoke and mirrors.” Never forget that a slippery
mixture of fact, opinion, innuendo and out-of-context
information will fool most of the people most of the time. As
little as one part fact to ten parts B.S. will usually do the
trick. (Some veteran debunkers use homeopathic dilutions of
fact with remarkable success!) Cultivate the art of slipping
back and forth between fact and fiction so undetectably that
the grain of truth appears to underlie and support the entire
edifice of opinion.
– Keep a repertory of avoidance techniques at hand in case
you get cornered. Examples include changing the subject,
attacking your opponent’s personal habits, distraction with
humorous irrelevancies, lengthy storytelling and so forth.
Remember that the main point of such diversionary tactics is to
consume precious air time.
– Arrange to have your message delivered or echoed by
persons of authority. The degree to which you can stretch the
truth is directly proportional to the perceived level of
authority of your messenger.
– If you can’t attack the case, attack the people. Ad-
hominem arguments, or personality attacks, are one of the most
powerful ways of swaying thoughtless people and avoiding the
issue. Insist that if a witness has ever been accused of
stretching the truth in any way, to any degree, for any reason,
his or her testimony about anything is, always was, and always
will be, worthless. Employ similar tactics if the claimant is
known ever to have had a brush with the law (whatever its
outcome), has ever entered into any kind of psychological
counseling or can be shown to have unusual personal habits or
predilections. If you can determine that your opponents have
profited financially from activities connected with their
research, accuse them of “profiting financially from activities
connected with their research!” If their research, publishing,
speaking tours and so forth, constitute their normal line of
work or sole means of support, hold that fact as “conclusive
proof that income is being realized from such activities”‘ If
your opponents have labored to achieve public recognition for
their work, you may safely characterize them as “publicity
– Employ “TCP”: Technically Correct Pseudo-rebuttal. For
example, if your opponent remarks that all great truths began
as blasphemies, respond immediately that not all blasphemies
have become great truths. Because your response was technically
correct, no one will notice that it did not really refute or
even contradict the original remark.
– Trivialize the case by trivializing the entire field in
question. Characterize the study of orthodox phenomena as deep
and time-consuming, while deeming that of unorthodox phenomena
so insubstantial as to demand nothing more than a scan of the
tabloids. If pressed, simply say “but there’s nothing there to
study!” Characterize any investigator of the unorthodox as
“self-styled” — the media’s favorite code-word for “bogus.”
– Deny any subject by denying that rational discourse
about it is possible.
– Condemn the entire field by generalizing from carefully
selected data. For example, declare that all of ufology must be
nothing more than an evolving system of paranoia because some
of its founders and practitioners suffered from childhood
trauma. (If this seems at all far-fetched, please refer to the
piece by Martin Kottmeyer in UFO Magazine, Vol.7, No.3, May,
– Confine the game to your preferred end of the playing
field. One way to do this is to limit the permissible rules of
discovery to those of certain physical sciences. Deny that
court procedures, which admit human testimony in matters of
life and death, are objective enough to have any value
whatsoever in determining the truth of anything at all.
– Employ time reversal. Demand that your opponents know
all the answers to their most puzzling questions in full,
certain detail ahead of time. A variation on this approach is
to deny the existence of something on grounds that we cannot
yet explain how it might work.
– Accuse your opponents of believing in “invisible forces
and extrasensory realities.” If they should point out that the
physical sciences have always dealt primarily with invisible
forces and extrasensory realities, respond with a patronizing
chuckle that is “a naive interpretation.”
posted for educational purposes only
How To Debunk Just About Anything
1. Debunkery: General Principles:
Independent writer and media producer, Oakland, CA.
Selected section from pages 101-117 in
The Proceedings of the
UFO RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM 1992
Denver Colorado, USA
May 22-25, 1992
International Association for New Science
1304 S. College Ave.,
Fort Collins, Colorado 80524.
Last but not least-A UFO debunkers “Scientific Research Methods”
1) Start with a preconceived conclusion.
2) Develop experimental procedures and analysis to prove stated conclusion.
3) Control experimental conditions to arrive at pre-stated conclusion.
4) Prejudiced analysis of results.
5) Consultation with Corporations that will profit from the process.
6) Publication in accepted corporate journals that will profit from findings.
7) Ridicule ALL independent UFO researchers doing ANY research, especially those dealing with removal of alien implants, analysis of animal mutilations and crop formations.
8) Never, I mean NEVER address UFO research, do not get within 30 feet of any
UFO witnesses or researchers and pretend you’ve never heard of the NRO, NSA, CIA or NASA.
9) Attack the person-never address the evidence. Get into flame wars.
10) Come up with any kind of ridiculous excuses to explain it all away. The latest: time-compressed crash-test dummies; meteors from Venus and Mars, super-secret-ingredient swamp-gas (please debunkers, only where there are swamps!)