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August 13, 2005

RIP, Phil Klass

Klass

My friend Ted just emailed me to say that the world's preeminent UFO skeptic this week at the age of 85. Florida Today has an obituary for Phil Klass.

Phil was a founding member of the Committee For Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and a longtime editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. He was one of the most ferocious UFO-debunkers in the history of modern skepticism.

Phil was a colleague of my Dad's through CSICOP. I fondly remember the weekend that he stayed with us when he gave a talk in Vancouver. He was an incredibly warm and charming person. A real character, as they say.

He will be missed.

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Comments

Who is this schmuck? UFOs? Didn't that shit go out in the 1970s?

You fucking wankers need to get a grip on life. We have a world dominated by terrorists, especially here in the UK. We don't have time for asslickers who worry about aliens.

Worry about Muslim aliens blowing themselves up on the Tube.

Tiddy Mandello
London

All class, Tiddy. Don't you have some gay soldier's funeral to go picket?

Who is this schmuck?

Phil was my friend, Tiddy. Please don't come back. You are not welcome here.

Phil was also an American patriot. In addition to his work on UFOs, he was an expert on military aviation, an elite consultant whose expertise helped produce better air defense. Incidentally, his wife runs Voice of America--an organization dedicated to spreading democracy and winning "hearts and minds" abroad.

Was anyone else troubled by this:

"David Jacobs, a Temple University history professor and alien abduction expert, said Klass was dedicated to his cause. The two argued their points on CNN's 'Larry King Live' in 1993.

"'Regardless of evidence, regardless of logic, regardless of disconfirming information, he always set his path clearly on one course and that was that the UFO phenomenon was not extraterrestrial and had no basis in reality,' Jacobs said Thursday night."

I'm unhappy that one of Pennsylvania's premier public universities supports a guy who thinks that the anti-UFO side ignores "evidence" "logic" and "information" and that the obit found it necessary to provide "balance" by quoting an "abduction expert."

Shows how necessary the likes of PJK are. He was one we could ill-afford to lose.

Well, I'm a longtime subscriber to the Skeptical Inquirer, one of the best magazines on the planet, in my opinion. We need more organizations and people like this man to fight the creationist tide.

It's nice to see that CSICOP is in the process of expanding its facilities nationwide, with regional locations. It takes time to put into place the infrastructure that's really needed in this battle. CSICOP is part of that effort, and I urge people to donate to them, and subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer.

Hmm. My html is maybe a little off? Tag missing? Let's try to change that.

Sorry, Lindsay. Didn't mean to do that.

Why couldn't it of been Dr. Phil who died. Instead of Phil Klass. It's a cruel world indeed.

My hat is off. He was a true and honorable skeptic.

I first became exposed to Klass when I was researching a junior high school debate on UFOs. Klass very convincingly took apart the claims of various people. I must admit that I was a little disappointed, but rode the flood of insight.

I got even more insight when I did the debate. The other kids pushed and pushed to make me admit that UFOs might exist. In the weakness of being faced with a mob mentality, I gave it to them. Today I would not. I would demand that they give me solid proof rather than fantastic hopes.

In this age of gullibility, we need new voices to replace the Klasses. Lindsay, keep up the good work.

Yeah Tom K., Dr. Phil is a pseudo-scientist. I would like to know how many mentally ill people are beating themselves up and not getting treatment because of his "counsel".

The utterly classless grave-dancing by Jacobs doesn't really bother me, since I heard that Klass left the following curse on UFOlogists in his will:

To UFOlogists who publicly criticize me…or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath THE UFO CURSE: No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs that you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.

My hat is off.

Mine too. Cheers Mr. Klass.

gordo: Wow. That's one hell of a curse! Can I use it on the IDs?

Joel--

Use it all you want. I didn't think it up--it's in Klass' will. I don't think he'd mind anyone using it to counter any pseudoscience.

I'm still trying to get my head around finding the words 'University history professor ' and 'alien abduction expert' in the same sentence. The only words I want to see next to 'alien abduction expert' are ' currently undergoing counselling'.

Thanks for giving CSICOP some much needed attention. We need critical thinking now more than ever. Not to give Tiddy more attention than he deserves, but " a world dominated by terrorists" is just the kind of emotional, irrational belief that CSICOP debunks. In fact, Skeptical Inquirer has already done an article on it. Politicians exploit this inability to accurately assess risk, thus the debacle in Iraq, the Patriot Act, etc.

Note that Skeptical Enquirer ran an issue debunking the reasons for the Iraq War, too, Davis. So you are absolutely right: skepticism is our best defense against extremism.

I had the opportunity to interview Phil quite a few years ago, when I was "Science-Section Leader" for the MSN UFO Forum, with the mission of championing the "rule of right reason" among the hordes of the hopelessly deluded (a losing proposition from the get go). Phil had already sent me a printer's galley of his book debunking Roswell, which I found to be both rational and compelling in its arguments,and I expected it to be a successful interview. Unfortunately, it turned out to be something of a disaster, because we weren't but a few minutes into the interview when somebody popped up with a statement that he [Phil] should have a "stake driven through his fuckin' head." That pretty much set the tone in what was a "hard room," populated with individuals who were deeply angry that their goofy beliefs and hearsay evidence wasn't being taken more seriously by the scientific establishment (for some reason, "ufologists" feel that the evidential standards in science should be relaxed or revised for them).

Since Phil's lamentable passing, I spent a few weeks peeking in from time to time on the so-called "UFO Research" lists, and watched with disgust as they offered the standard platitudes towards the deceased, even as they lambasted him in the grave. A few were even vile enough to actually say something to the effect of "good riddance to bad rubbish."

Anyway, having just read about the curse that Phil left, I cannot think of a finer irony for him to leave behind as a pox on these fools who call themselves "ufologists."

Best,
Rod Brock

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