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John Keel, RIP
July 6, 2009 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Fortean author John Keel passed away last Friday at the age of 79.

Best known for his book "The Mothman Prophecies", Keel was also widely read by those interested in the UFO phenomenon. Here is an informative post about Keel by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman.
posted by dbiedny (34 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
If he didn't die in a hail of frogs, this story is lacking its true climax.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:52 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


PRINT *,"."
posted by rokusan at 12:54 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


As the Mothman prophecised!

/makes note to pass over bridges veyr quickly today.
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on July 6, 2009


(What, you didn't say Fortran author?)
posted by rokusan at 12:57 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great post.

I liked this the best:

Thousands of people around the world now know all there is to know about the UFO phenomenon. Unfortunately, very few Americans are in this group because they have been misled for years by fanciful speculations, deliberately misleading manisfestations and chimeras, dark suspicions of mythical conspiracies and, most of all, fanatical emotionalism.

Essentially the phenomenon can be divided into two parts. The meandering nocturnal lights are the real mystery and still remain unexplained by astronomy. The objects and apparitions seen on the ground, or close to it, comprise the second part. These range from complex hallucinations to elaborate transmogrifications, often accompanied by incredible distortions of reality and manipulations of time and space. Such manifestations have been known, and recorded, thoroughout history, and their true nature was recognized and defined thousands of years ago.

Collectively, American ufologists are ill informed and poorly educated in history, philosophy, and the behavioral sciences. So they have failed to recognize what is actually happening (in contrast to what they think is happening).

Ufology is essentially a new system of belief, not a new system of scientific fact. As such, it is no more substantive than the study of angels and the medieval cataloging of chimeras. Indeed, the deeper one penetrates into the ufological problems, the more he finds himself rediscovering Heraclitus.

posted by KokuRyu at 1:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fortean author John Keel passed away last Friday at the age of 79.

That's what they want you to think.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2009


Now I know why the power failed Friday morning.

.
posted by localroger at 1:30 PM on July 6, 2009


It's okay, he was just someone else thrown back in time impersonating his memories of the real John Keel.
posted by Nomiconic at 1:32 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Artist's conception.
posted by grobstein at 1:51 PM on July 6, 2009


The Men in Black finally got him :(
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:52 PM on July 6, 2009


The contrast between UFO advocates and Forteans always struck me as interesting. UFOlogists in America have had so much invested in pumping the ET hypothesis in the face of increasing skepticism, while the Forteans have generally taken the position of, "no clue as to whether this is true, but it makes a great story!"
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:22 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I was in third grade, I discovered his books on the paperback rack. One was called 'Jadoo'. Years later, after a friend of mystical persuasions passed away, we were going through her library and found a copy under a different title. Looking back on it, I realized he was making an implicit case that Jesus had gone to India and learned fakir techniques, then brought them back and used them to give credence to his teachings. A worthy hypothesis.
posted by dragonsi55 at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2009


Keeled over?

.
posted by chillmost at 2:44 PM on July 6, 2009


Father of the "ultraterrestrials" theory eventually adopted by Vallee and plenty of Forteans. His book Disneyland of The Gods is a classic, and the aforementioned Jadoo was a huge influence on my young questing mind. RIP!
posted by bonefish at 2:58 PM on July 6, 2009


Skeptoid podcast that mentions him that I just listened to today.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:12 PM on July 6, 2009


"Indrid Cold" is still the best name for anything ever.

.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:49 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


he meandering nocturnal lights are the real mystery and still remain unexplained by astronomy.

Yeah, a streetlight is real confusing.

So long Keel, youve left the world a worse place with all your UFO/supernatural bullshit.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:20 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


So long Keel, youve left the world a worse place with all your UFO/supernatural bullshit.

Not all fundamentalists are religious.
posted by goethean at 8:27 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, execrating people who get others to believe in nonsense and spend their time "learning" about nonsense and waste their money on it- and in many cases, living in fear of it- is the same as being a hardcore misogynist who uses fear of the afterlife to control others. Bravo, goethean, for that not-at-all ridiculous or offensive comparison.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:18 AM on July 7, 2009


goethean - It occurs to me that Skeptics are basically pseudoscientists anyway, what with the heavy emphasis on starting from a premise and building evidence for it thing.
posted by Artw at 9:36 AM on July 7, 2009


Yes, Artw, that is how skeptics work. You're so smart!
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:57 AM on July 7, 2009


There's also a very Dawkins like doucheyness to the their shrill pronouncements, and their absolutism whenever someone doesn't 100% agree with them. "OMG you didn't share in my denouncement of all people who take an interest in unusual phenomena as credulous morons, you must be some kind of crazy-person homeopath! You beleive in sky fairies!"
posted by Artw at 10:15 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, you're trolling. Sorry, carry on.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 AM on July 7, 2009


I want to believe...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:33 AM on July 7, 2009


Sorry Pope Guilty, I'm not entirely thinking of you - I've just encountered a lot of Skeptic based assholery lately (usually on WIkipedia, which is my own damn fault for having anything to do with Wikipedia) and I'd find the whole Skepticism movement really rather weird. Outside of Dawkins it seems to be largely a US thing, and I suspect that the rising pro-woo sentiment here is possibly what has driven these people into such a tizz.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on July 7, 2009


Skeptic-based assholery on Wikipedia? Like people reverting edits that claim that there's an alien base under Detroit and the government is keeping it quiet?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:20 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


They probably see themselves that way, eternally vigilant guardians against the woo. In practice it’s more like endless edits to articles to make the tone sufficiently negative, mass deletions in whatever field they decided they don’t like and lots and lots of tedious wikilawyering. They have a noticeboard if you want to sign up, though nothing much of interest there is happening right now.
posted by Artw at 11:42 AM on July 7, 2009


Not all fundamentalists are religious.

Not all those who wander are lost
posted by grobstein at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2009


Keel was someone who approached the realm of esoterica with a deep knowledge of history, a respect for the limitations of human perception and a keen intellect. To be a centrist in the field of Fortean research, a totally original thinker, and to have the integrity to take on the extremes of fundamentalist debunkery and doe-eyed, space-brother troglodytes, is a thankless task. I have a deep respect for people who are humble enough to acknowledge that we're not done evolving our minds, that we're not the all-knowing sages of the Universe. Those who dismiss the unknown as horseshit, are every bit as guilty of intellectual dishonesty as the religious extremists who demand that intelligent design and creationism be treated as factual science. I personally feel a deep sense of kinship with Keel, and have acknowledged his passing in a place I feel a sense of connection to - Metafilter is one of the very few sites I read on a daily basis. If someone wants to come on this thread and take a dump on Keel as if he were some sort of criminal, you've told us more about yourself and your own ego than perhaps we cared to know about, and your crass disrespect doesn't go very far in supporting any particular stance you happen to embrace. But hey, freedom of speech and all.

Many of us will miss Keel, he was one of the few Fortean writers who didn't claim to have all the answers about anything, unlike those who would gratuitously denigrate and besmirch him.

Be in peace, Mr. Keel.
posted by dbiedny at 6:53 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those who dismiss the unknown as horseshit, are every bit as guilty of intellectual dishonesty as the religious extremists who demand that intelligent design and creationism be treated as factual science.

The thing is, skeptics don't "dismiss the unknown as horseshit", as much as the purveyors and profiteers of nonsense want to insist that. Science is all about the unknown, and finding out just how much we don't know is every bit as important as turning the unknown into the known.

It's the false equivalence that gets me. Homeopaths, acupuncturists, mediums, feng shui "experts", psychics, and the like bilk people out of billions of dollars every year not because they trade in the unknown but because they trade in the falsely known. They've nothing to do with the unknown. They insist they have knowledge or skills that they are unable to demonstrate as real or provide a solid explanation for, but which they are only too happy to take massive amounts of money for. And it's not like how they operate is particularly unknown, either- a big part of why stage magicians tend to be prominent in the skeptical community is that they're people who engage in deception for living and tend to be hip to the tricks and lies involved. Hell, there's even a TV show on Showtime where a fat obnoxious guy will tell you how all that "unknown" stuff works. The only "unknown" about the woo entrepreneurs is where they get the giant-sized testicles necessary to profiteer on human gullibility and fear.

What it comes down to is that you've got people on one side insisting that they know exactly how the world works, and fucking people over left and right with that "knowledge", and people on the other side saying "Oh yeah? Prove it" and telling everyone about it when the proof isn't forthcoming. Drawing an equivalence between them- claiming that the second group is somehow morally equal or even inferior to the other- is disgusting and dishonest, and make one complicit in the first group's crimes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:53 AM on July 8, 2009


You've proved my point: there's a significant difference between rational, skeptical thinking and mindless debunkery. Wisdom - and ultimately, understanding - lies somewhere between the polar opposites you posit. As someone who is attacked on a daily basis for my own logical, skeptical reasoning and application of scientific method to the insanely difficult task of separating the signal from the noise in the field of esoterica, I have ample battlefield scars from both sides of the fight, and have learned that humility in the face of the body of knowledge that humans have left to acquire, is the only reasonable stance.

Meanwhile, I posted this as an acknowledgment to the passing of a historic figure in a field of human curiosity. Feel free to return to mainstream media circus of mediocrity, I hear a dancer with a pet monkey died last week.
posted by dbiedny at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2009


You've proved my point: there's a significant difference between rational, skeptical thinking and mindless debunkery. Wisdom - and ultimately, understanding - lies somewhere between the polar opposites you posit.

The fact that you use "debunkery" in a negative sense pretty much says it all. You can't even pretend to be reasonable.

Centrism is not automatically reasonable, and the correct path is almost never somewhere in the middle.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:28 PM on July 8, 2009


And if nothing else, be less vague. I'm talking about real, specific ideas and beliefs which have repeatedly been shown to be nonsensical and damaging to those who take them for reality. You're just making broad platititudes about being reasonable and listening to both sides. At some point you have to ask yourself when your commitment to being "reasonable" actually turns into really examining, well, the woo. Skeptics do not reject this stuff becase we're dour, bitter haters who just can't stand the idea of the supernatural or science working differently; shit, the idea of moving things around with your mind and communicating with the dead and treating deadly diseases with shaken-up water rather than having to actually research drugs and treatments- all of that sounds pretty cool. It's not close-mindedness that leads to skepticism but open-mindedness; it wasn't until I actually started looking into these things (about... three or four years ago, actually) that I became skeptical.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:34 PM on July 8, 2009


So long Keel, youve left the world a worse place with all your UFO/supernatural bullshit.

Nothing like someone showing up in a thread about a specific personage demonstrating that they have zero knowledge of the the thread's subject.

.
posted by Snyder at 9:18 PM on July 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


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