Friday, January 8, 2010

UFOlogy : What Is It?

This sounds like a simple straightforward question. It isn't. "UFOlogy", it seems obvious, must be the study of UFOs. Frankly, lately anyway, I haven't noticed. This is not just the irritation of a grumpy old man [I don't think, anyway] but a dilemma of serious "philosophical" proportions . UFOlogy would like to be taken seriously. To do that it needs to be a field of study. To accomplish that, it needs to define, or at least give some very serious thought to what it is that it is studying. My "reading" of the "recent" UFO literature [say in the last 20 years or so] indicates to me that there is no agreement on that even among people who have the aura of "UFO authority" about them. With no agreement on what's "in" and what's "out" of UFOlogy, there is no "field of study" and no possibility of ever being taken seriously by the larger intellectual community. That thing of being "taken seriously" matters to me, and it matters to many of my friends "in the business". Not that we want to cave into the restrictions of academia [far from it], but we would like to be able to have productive research discussions with other professionals without being considered an immediate laughing stock because of what some "authority" has been preaching lately and loudly, and smearing the whole field with foul odor. There could be some help for this if we could at least define what we're doing.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In case anyone does not yet see the dilemma, the array of pictures on the right displays a portion of the types of things which find themselves into UFOlogists' files, and are taken seriously as part of the field by some of them. Yeh, there's disks and triangles and diamonds. There's traces and occupants and even CE4s. But there's also Mothman and ghosts and goblins; ancient documents and crop circles and men-in-black; dreams of traveling to other planets and trance messages from those who live there; stars-of-Bethlehem and Ezechiel visions and tales of the coming apocalypse-in-a-UFO; black helicopters and fairies and ... well...any @#%* thing that's weird enough that someone's having a hard time understanding it. UFOlogy has become "Flypaper for the Bizarre" and it's not doing any of us any good. Are there ANY borders? Elvis? Jimmy Hoffa? Witches on broomsticks? One alleged CE4 case [Pelham, GA] actually had a voice calling "I am Jimmy Hoffa!". And recently, to its MAJOR shame, in my opinion, a well-known UFO organization spent nearly its entire journal trying to link UFOs to the end of life as we know it in 2012. This lack of any sense of definition and boundary not only reduces the alleged field to chaotic absurdity but is the source of endless destructive howlers. If we can't at least try to lick this, we're reduced to situation comedy entertainment forever. What's our history, was it always this way, and can we learn anything from it? Maybe. Let's see.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Back at the "beginning", when the USAF started to attempt to make sense of what was happening, they felt that they knew [generally] what they had to deal with. UFOs were flying disks. They operated like advanced aerial technology of very great performance characteristics. The diagram on the top of the picture to the left is to represent a field of possible experiences, each box of which is a case. Colonel Garrett, when he started to analyze his cases, felt that they were closely related [so "graphed" right beside one another by me] and this tight array represented a "field of study" which was definable. So he defined it: advanced unknown disk-like technology. Wright-Pat's SIGN did the same thing. Later, Blue Book added Radar cases and films and cigar-shaped craft, but it was still well-defined. [diagram two]. This is the USAF core phenomenon. Note that it took no genius to immediately see that they were dealing with a physical technology beyond their own capabilities, and the ETH was born. As the field "matured", the phenomenon came closer: CE1s, CE2s, rumors of crashes, and rumors of the partial pollution of the data by our own advanced "black projects". Still this concept of UFOlogy (what we might call NICAP UFOlogy) was still well-defined and consequently capable of defending itself, merely by definition, against the majority of elements of the "Theatre of the Absurd". There are many UFOlogists today who maintain a NICAPian definition of what they are doing, and cringe at what the not-a-field has become. To legitimately add phenomenology to the NICAP array, they argue, correctly, that we must have very good empirical reasons for doing so. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
UFOlogical "evolution" did not stop. The phenomenon, I believe deliberately, began to present more aspects to the field researchers. These things included, of course CE3s and CE4s. Certain previously unnoticed or at least unfeatured elements of "high strangeness" began to appear. Historians, rightly or wrongly glued Foo Fighters and Green Fireballs onto the field. Then came MIBs, Crop Circles, Cattle Mutes, et al. Part of this seemed clearly legitimate. What I have nicknamed "From Bill (Nash) to Gill to Hill" appears to be a clearly defensible linkage of old-style advanced aerial technology to occupants to on-board experiences. Foo Fighters also seem a legitimate expansion of the field. The rest seems poorly linked [to me]. Allen Hynek knew the importance of defining the field to achieve credibility. Grudgingly he bought into the CE3s and 4s and made the only intellectual attempt of any noteworthiness to define what we were doing. Hynek was a college prof and a textbook writer and he knew exactly what the field needed to get off the ground. The UFO Experience is our "textbook". If we could find it in ourselves to stand by what Hynek was trying to do there, we might have a chance to be called a "field of study", but we do not. Hynek would not include crop circles in UFOlogy unless there was very strong evidence for the link; likewise cattle mutilations; likewise Men-in-Black; likewise "trance controls"; etc. If someone wanted to research them and try to find such strong and credible links, well, more power to them. But don't expect it to be called "UFOlogy" or sanctioned by publication in any Hynek-organization document. As we have seen, other organizations seem to have no qualms whatever in publishing anything in their magazines. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
NICAP and even the more liberal APRO had no trouble holding to a set of boundaries for the field, beyond which any new claim would have to be supported rather massively to achieve entry within the fence of the field. Journals like FSR and the MUFON Journal could not find it in themselves to do so. First FSR and later MUFON Journal [it was not originally so--Dick Hall, afterall, was once editor] could not or merely refused to maintain any boundaries whatsoever. Their behaviors have opened the gates to arrays alleging to be UFOlogy, such as that on the left. It is a Fortean world wherein anything goes. It has had several practical consequences. One, the UFO phenomenon has lost all possibility of definition and the field all possibility of being a field. Two, it has inspired endless theoretical syntheses with any thing that one chooses to present without any disciplined editorial oversight--any idea becomes as "good" as any other. Three, this attitude feeds a "neophilia" which replaces in-depth research and analysis, and even critique, and inevitably leads the subject into the realm of entertainment rather than scholarship. Four, it encourages vast "Theories-of-Everything" which ultimately submerge the UFO phenomenon as a minor element within a macro-speculation, often without the UFO phenomenon even being a focus point. Finally, and most grimly laughable, it seems to ensure that the organizations employing this neophiliac entertainment modus operandi go on surviving, while the APROs, NICAPs, CUFOS' do not. The world in the accompanying diagram is the world of Fort and John Keel, which, regardless of what merit it has, tends to destroy depth in favor of superficiality. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Is there any cure for this? Maybe not. All I can tell you is what I do to protect myself, and what I believe that my closest colleagues do---and what I believe Allen Hynek would approve of. I'll admit, with enthusiasm, that A). a proto-field like UFOlogy can not have "iron" boundaries. But I insist that it cannot mindlessly swallow whatever crap comes along. I believe that you begin by defining the field conservatively [based on the tonnage of USAF, NICAP, APRO, McDonald, CUFOS, Dick Hall, Keith Basterfield, Bill Chalker, GEPAN, etc. etc. etc. data "in the books"] and then as rigorously as possible analyze whether a new thing qualifies. B). Maintain an interest [in some depth] in things which MAY bear relation to the field, but are not yet up to speed in terms of strong linkage. Heck, I have files on hundreds of "little folk" encounters [which I'm not ashamed of] but only rarely find a UFO case which really looks like "they" are behind it, rather than a "real world" physical technology. If that changes, I'll change. When I surmise that I have two interesting "piles" of encounter types, I look at them "side-by-side" and try to see if genuine "bridge" cases exist. To convince me of a "bridge", I need several cases and they have to be well-documented. [I've seen speculators try to construct vast concepts bridging ideas based on a single incident--talk about speculative risk-taking!--entertaining, yes; scholarly, no].C). IF a "bridge" seems real, then I have to ask a tough set of questions: Is the bridge "apparent" [i.e. merely the product of a similitude or accident] or is it ontological [a true oneness in some important way]? If ontologically real, towards which "side" of the bridge does the connection point? [that is, does the strangeness involved seem to arise from a paranormal leprechaun or a technologically super-advanced ET , just as a crude example]? My Big Picture look at the Fortean universe array or map, leads me to very strongly believe that not everything on that map arises from the exact same source. That means some boundaries of some sort need to be drawn on the map. I cannot imagine how much data it would take to convince me that everything in my files is just a variation on a single theme. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But some people either do believe this or they don't care. People of the first sort are the Theorists-of Everything whose ideas, I feel, are so "vast" and vague when it comes to any criteria that would allow analysis, that they defeat the exact thing that they claim to want--a theory which defines a field and ultimately explains at least something. They live in a mono-colored world which, if they saw it that way, would repulse them, as they have destroyed the "color" that gave Wonder to their lives. Other folks who glue together everything in sight don't seem to care about any answers at all. They are total one-off fragmentists [the old word is dilettantes] who are in it only for the neophiliac kicks. Their map is no map. I believe that in the end they want no answers. Answers restrict the "fun". I could be either one of those people IF the data led me there. It does not. I believe that the data tells me that I am living in a [basically] Hynekian UFOlogy, which looks remarkably like high-technology aerial objects not of this Earth, as a primary, but not proven hypothesis. I will be happy to consort with a "college" of UFOlogists who are willing to define the field in Hynekian ways, and exercise tough analytical thought before allowing other alleged concepts and claims in the door. I also believe in, as you've seen in this blog, many other anomalous types of phenomena, many of which might originate in a hard-to-define "other" existence from which Jerry Clark's "experience anomalies" arise. My data so far do not indicate that these two classes of things are the same. My world is a multi-colored world of anomalies, which has boundaries. This does not mean that the agencies behind one sort of reality might not imitate another [that is the modus operandi of "tricksters" afterall] but, to me, the "piles" seem largely separate. The thing is to stay open-minded but not empty-headed. And, if any of us really cares about any of this, we have to be able to communicate what we're about, and have the fortitude to say "no" to some things. Dick Hall was far and away the best UFOlogist ever at saying, in public, "no", and that is perhaps where we miss him most.


  1. Dear Professor,

    It strikes me that the boundaries of 'UFOlogy' have blurred for multiple reasons:

    1)Folks like Keel, Steiger, etc, publicized high strangeness cases and made tenous (spurious?) links between them and UFOs.

    2)People purchased and read the books.

    3)There are high strangeness cases that seem to fall into a gray zone.

    It's been my experience that the average UFO enthusiast is not necessaarily thinking about the problem in a scientific sense. There's very little objectivity and it's very easy to impress them with the latest revelations or fad of the moment (think Cooper and Lear). In this environment Budd Hopkins will always outsell Hynek, even though Hopkins' data stinks.

    I mean, think about it, what's more exciting and flashy: statistical analysis of UFO shapes and colors, or reading about Mothman and MJ-12?

    This leads to the people best suited to investigate UFOs having the idea that it's a bunch of ghost stories and hooey, and if one of these qualified investigator types goes to the bookstore to try and read up on the subject, what does he find?

    And as I see it, that's the problem in a nutshell. Vallee once referred to UFOs as a self-reinforcing phenomena (meaning that by their nature they make standard investigation tough) but that also applies to the current state of UFOlogy: the more crap that gets shoveled into the public eye the less likely it becomes that any serious investigation will take place, which leads to more crap, ad infinitum.

    It's a mess.

    As for NICAP Ufology:

    We're clearly dealing with a physical technology but it's not clear that it's necessarily extraterrestrial. The work has never really been done to define the physical characteristics of UFOs (and by that I mean measuring any heat/EM output, solid data on their speed and average size, altitude, etc), or if it's been done the data hasn't been made available to civilians. Until that work is done ETH proponents are trying to fit the data to the hypothesis, in my opinion.

    Just my opinions, and they're worth exactly what you just paid for them...if not less.

  2. Generally agreed. Some data has been hard-won, even by the open civilian researchers, but, although that is plenty strong enough to indicate that we are not dealing with some mundane set of misconceptions and screw-ups, people are unaware of the hard work and are relatively uninterested in a subject which requires a suspension of judgement. The data that HAS been "won" seems to point to a physically present technology as primary working hypothesis. But as that measured approach doesn't "sell", one gets the impression that UFOlogy is largely entertainment--which in terms of the media is correct. There is no operating "Invisible College" like Hynek would have liked to establish, and even if there were, they would have to come out of their closet "with authority" to ever change the aura surrounding the subject. My own disorganized "Invisible College" knows so much more, and so much more integratedly, than is expressible to any media source, [attention span three minutes maximum] that the real picture of where UFO research is cannot be told. When the book on the governmental response to the UFO phenomenon is finally published [next summer?], written by a twelve person writing and editing team of UFO historians from primary government documentation specifically, anyone who wants to make the effort will be able to see exactly how and why the government manipulated the public face of the phenomenon as they did. This is no "internet conspiracy" book, based on wild speculation; it is merely the clear retelling of what the intel community did and [to a degree understandably] why, in their own words. In my opinion, anyone reading this book with the smidgin of an open mind, will get a leap of concrete understanding about how we've ended up where we are. And, the phenomenology [cases of significance] is heavily sprinkled throughout the text to show what the government was battling to contend with [in terms of diffusing public interest, even given the impossible-to-explain incidents that kept recurring]. This publication is long overdue, but had to wait for FOIA to become robust enough, and for the field to realize that the historical story was as important as chasing the individual case.

  3. High strangeness is the heart of the UFO phenomenon, like it or not. If you should capture one, and take down the VIN number, then we can talk about science, nuts-and-bolts, repeatable phenomena and whatnot. Until then, UFOs are paranormal phenomena that share shelf space with Bigfoot, Mothman, ghosts, goblins and other areas of research. Thank you.

  4. This is an exceptionally fine and provocative posting, but I am trying to restrain myself. If I call it "brilliant," I'll only be reinforcing the narcissist's definition: you can always tell a brilliant thinker because he thinks like you.

    But all seriousness aside, folks:

    I have come to conclude that those first-generation ufologists of the NICAP/APRO stripe may have been right all along. Most had read Fort, and a fair number were Fate subscribers, so they were aware that UFOs aren't the only form of weirdness out there. They wisely decided, however, that they were going to concentrate on finding the distinctive profile of one particular form of weirdness, and thus ufology.

    They were cranky about what UFO phenomena comprise and what they do not. Basically, to them the UFO phenomenon consists of discs, cigars, radar/visuals, physical traces, E-M effects, and at least some occupant encounters (the relatively modest ones). Hynek outlined all this in The UFO Experience in 1972, and nobody's improved on it since. After all these years, that still looks, in my opinion, like the UFO phenomenon and the real stuff of ufology.

    The early researchers rightly favored the ETH as the most logical theoretical framework. Since then, every one of the ETH's testable hypotheses (such as that extrasolar planets exist and, moreover, exist in abundance; thus may also life) has passed muster. That alone doesn't prove the ETH, but it does help it a lot more than it hurts it, notwithstanding certain irrational ETphobic prejudices sometimes in evidence in latter-day ufological polemics.

    We've also learned that cases of the highest strangeness are just as often those of the lowest evidential weight. High-strangeness cases are impressive on one level -- the impact they have on witnesses -- but beyond that, they are preserved only in memory and testimony. That's virtually a definition of the experience anomaly. We also know that EAs parody culture's prevailing ideas of the otherworldly, paranormal, supernatural, or even merely unusual (e.g., ball lightning). Thus, experience anomalies don UFO garb.

    Perhaps the most vivid intrusion of EAs into ufology's data pool is the abduction phenomenon, or at least the phenomenon as it seemed to evolve after some early eventlike reports (Walton's, for one). I agree with David Hufford that abductions probably have deep historical resonance. Something like them was around and being experienced long before daylight discs showed up to generate event anomalies.

    I suspect that EAs will prove to be a greater challenge to human understanding than space-traveling UFOs, which may be banal in comparison.

  5. What a different pair of comments. Unsurprisingly, I think that Jerry has his hands around the nub of the issue, and has earned his opinion due to more study of the subject across its history than practically anyone. He is also one of the "bigger men" in UFOlogy in that he will admit when he has had it wrong. so his comments come through a rather intense filter of analysis. As for "anonymous", I pick no fights. You might be right. Keel could be right along side you. But I don't think so. The only thing that I would suggest is a bit "softer" wording of your position. I can tell you that a deep view of what the researchers HAVE found makes the ETH/technology type hypotheses rather more than a know-nothing toss-up with the relatively unsupported "paranormal" speculations. But since we don't have "proof" let us all go forward amiably and pursue this stuff without getting in each other's way, or hair.

  6. A very good posting indeed. I think, in an ideal world that we should get back to basics, e.g. focus only on physical trace cases. However, the field has drifted over the years and is downright loony at both ends. For better or worse it does contain a variety of elements with varying degrees of association with the "central" or "core" phenomenon, i.e. the old style classic disks/cigars.

    As you said, there are researchers who have tried to document the central "core" of the phenomenon and stayed clear of such topics as crop circles, bigfoot etc. They are to be congratulated.

    Deciding just what is "fringe" and therefore what to concentrate your time on is difficult.
    I have, for example of late, been reading on the latest medical research on the "sense of presence" as related to out-of-body experiences and was delighted to see some very strong connections to aspects of abduction research.

    Please take a look at my blog at:
    for some more of my recent thinking.

  7. To Pauline Wilson, I generally agree. My "conservative" approach should risk leaving nothing out, however, if operated properly. By establishing a conservative definition/boundary for the field [containing well-established categories of phenomenology] but at the same time keeping an open mind to new additions, and then holding them to rigorous standards before including them as part of the "discipline", one should be able to evolve the field rationally while keeping the unsupported wildness to a minimum. What I have just described is, in fact, what any scholarly field of study does, including the sciences. As an aside, you may know already that Allen Hynek originally set CUFOS up to study only one or two physical evidence cases per year in great depth, in order to establish "stones" upon which to rest all the other research which could then go on in future. "They" seemed to not like this idea, and good physical trace cases mysteriously stopped. [or maybe it was just a coincidence].

  8. I can't help but feel that "They", those responsible for the 'nuts and bolts' of the thing - whomever they may be, like things just the way they are when it comes to the current status of "Ufology". If so, a formidable obstacle to overcome.

    I blame the Trickster.

  9. Jerry Clark hits it on the head; whatever is responsible for experience anomalies tends to disguise itself as other phenomena and this is generating spurious data containing high strangeness/

    When the high strangeness reports are filtered out what remains is a database of similar-appearing objects scooting around the sky. That's the 'core' data behind UFOs.

    From a scientific basis that filtering is problematic in that (as far as I know) it tends to be subjective. One researcher may rule out most nocturnal light reports, another may rule out any and all occupant reports and a third may decide that only reports featuring saucers are legitimate. There needs to be an agreed upon stnadard.

    Perhaps one of the 'Invisible Colleges' has developed such a standard.

  10. Great blog article, great discussion. I look forward to the book, and hope we don't have to wait any longer than this summer. And when is Clark's EA book coming out? Professor? Jerry? Anyone? Bueller?
    I'd love to hear Clark's current take on the ever-fascinating 1897 airship flap. I believe his recent take has been more on an EA (experience anomaly, which until I read his new work, is challenging to wrap my mind around, though I think I get the gist) explanation.
    It makes me think - along with the discussion of dragons and winged whatnots the other day - about a letter sent in to Mark Chorvinsky's (sp?) Strange Magazine a number of years ago. A woman in Bremerton, Washington, or nearby, was doing laundry in the basement of her apartment building and looks up to see a 4 foot tall shrimp like creature staring at her. I'd be glad to chase down the issue and letter in my "stacks" if anyone is interested.

  11. Electronic leprechauns are at work. A lengthy reply was just hurled into a black hole. Hopefully when it got there it landed softly cushioned by all the lost socks. Well, try again. Jonah:I am in a very similar position as regards manipulation of the phenomenon, and not by us. Whoever's behind it wants it to be concrete on the small scale [but just variable enough] so that it can remain vague on the societal scale. We can all stretch our imaginations as to what that agenda is about. Steve:Agreed. The subjectivity, however, can be deflected in most part by having a "cooperating group" of knowledgeable AND civilized researchers who agree on a core and then assess new ideas and information as it arrives [just as stated in the post and the reply to Pauline]. Because such colleagues are so few and far between, this hasn't happened. Perhaps some web association can make it so. Willy: Jerry says his book will arrive early in the summer. Regarding 4-foot shrimp entities, if legit then, in my opinion these things must arise not from the biological nor technological universe but from the paranormal "Magonian" realm whatever that consists of.

  12. As a 40 year student of the UFO subject, how refreshing to read an intelligent article and equally intelligent comments about the UFO
    phenomena. There is truly an invisible college concerning this subject. It is just we do not communicate with each other because we don't who the members are.
    Thank you all.
    Wayne Eason

  13. I wish that there was a way to get beyond the [still valuable] limits of merely firing e-mail-type thoughts around the globe, though, and establish some kind of organized "community" [having the guts to restrict itself to disciplined and collegial exchange among its members] with the regular ability to "e-publish" [at least mildly] "refereed" papers with the understood intent that these papers would be commented upon non-personality-wise with an aim to make them as accurate and thoughtful as possible. Something like that is a necessary function of a true "college" if it is ever going to do anything but produce ephemeral things, no matter how cogent, which then dissipate into dissociated electrons or other forgotten black holes in relatively short times. A real UFO studies field must find a way to ESTABLISH something once in a while. If we can't find the means for doing that, organizationally, then we're like footprints on the tidal sands forever.

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. I spent most of my 44 years poking fun of the subject because that's what the media has been feeding me since I was a boy, until with my own eyes in 2001 I saw a triangle so big, so silent, so close, turned everything I thought I believed on it's ear.
    The media does a pretty thorough job of branding those of us interested in the subject as crazy so it has swayed scientists that would love to go into the field to be tight lipped and dismissive about ufos in general, or face the wrath of the "normal" scientific community and get cast out as a lunatic.
    It's the same reason they blacklist archeologists that find these so called anomalies, such as modern tools encased in coal 1000ft under the ground. well, that can't be, man hasn't been around that long... whatever.
    There is a hidden history, a hidden physics that's privy only to an elite group of people that THEY feel can handle it. I say throw it at me... I can handle it. Unless of coarse the truth is just so horrible, so unbelievable, that they feel we would rip each other to pieces. My thought is that greed is evolved, zero point energy won't make them the kind of money they are making now. I hope to one day be let in on the little secret.

  16. To the general readership: I just deleted the first comment that I've done so. It contained no understandable content at all, and I don't believe that we should clog up these postings with stuff that adds nothing to our discussions. I will try to restrain myself from doing this too much, but I suspect, that since UFOlogy seems to attract more than its usual number of angry people, this won't be the last. What I'm really hoping for is zero abusive language, even rather strictly defined. Hopefully, it won't get to the point where I have to get my Godson to set this up so that I have to approve everything ahead of publishing it, and thankfully we are nowhere near that yet. Almost all you folks are very neighborly thank you.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------As to "anonymous": your sighting is interesting and thank you for sharing the experience. As far as the other ideas are concerned, I am either not qualified to comment upon them, or feel that it would take at least a whole blog entry to do some of it justice. I will say just one thing: I have two friends, Hal Puthoff and Bernie Haisch, who almost invented the interest in zero-point energy research with their work. I can tell you that neither of them are multi-millionaires, so it's my opinion that it's not a zero-point breakthrough that's holding any of the truth up, but rather entirely different issues.

  17. What impressed me the most about these postings is the fact that everybody knows how to spell!!!! Very engaging posts...thanks to all.

  18. I want to believe, but there is simply no physical evidence. You know, with all the alleged "visits" by E.T.s, you'd think one of them would drop a pen or forget their cellphone!(I can't go anywhere without losing something...)
    Also, no bigfoot bones ever found, no Nessie carcasses, no Mothman droppings...The minute someone produces an "alien communicator" with unknown technology, or a "three toed space boot made of an unknown super-space leather," then I'll take this seriously. Till then, it's all just Star Trek to me. Sorry guys...

  19. One thing which concerns me is that you made no mention of Jacques Vallee. I'll admit that John Keel was highly superficial at times, and would often make rather tenous leaps of logic, but Vallee is not like this. He tries to keep things as scientific as possible. I have to admit that his ideas on why we are not dealing with simple, classical ET's are very convincing.

    Aside from that, assuming that there is a single source to all the high strangeness, what if the phenomenon is deliberately designed (has designed itself) in such a way so that it endlessly confuses and muddies the waters. On the one hand it manifests a myriad of seemingly plausible ET and UFO encounters, and then on several different fronts spills forth occurances which seem utterly off the wall, and does so in such a way that there is indeed a strange sort of connection between them, albeit a really hard to prove one.

    If we are dealing with a conciously directed series of events, then a lot of the parameters by which we can judge plausibility sbould be changed. A concious entity could throw anything forward, no matter how bizarre, and it could be no less or more real then a standard flying saucer.

    However, I agree that all of this has to be approached in the most probing and scientific way possible; it is true that many people delve into the topic just for the sheer mysterious pleasure of it, and are not interested in concretely searching for answers.

  20. Wow. I can't believe it. An intelligent discussion of the UFO phenomenon. Haven't seen anything like this for a very long time.

    I've been following the UFO phenomenon since sometime back in the late 50s. I really got into it in the early 90s with the expansion of the internet and easy access to so much information at my fingertips. But as of the past couple of years my interest has waned mostly because there seemed to be no advancement in the research. It seemed as if everything that could be said, conjectured or actually "known" about the phenomenon had already been said, conjectured or known for years.

    One of the problems (as I see it) is that we have no ET craft in our possession that we can get our hands on and study. Yes, I know. Bob Lazar, yada, yada, yada. His story may be true but since we can't go down to Area-51 on a field trip to examine the alleged craft for ourselves we pretty much have to assume there is no such craft. That leaves us with what? Nothing more than a bunch of eye-witness anecdotes (mine included), some questionable photos and some YouTube video clips of blurry lights in the night sky. All of these things have been analyzed to death by professionals and amateurs alike and we still don't really "know" very much from these analyses.

    Admittedly the reaseach over the decades has, for the most part, been rather spurious and undisciplined. Even so, I can't help but think that this tremendous bulk of accumulated information (undisciplined though the process may have been) has likely produced just about all we're ever going to find out about the phenomenon.

    I don't like saying that, especially since (like one of the other people in this thread) I've seen one of those gigantic "Black Triangle" ufos and it was at a relatively close range for a total duration of around 5 to 10 minutes. I REALLY want to know what the hell that thing was. But here I am, just another eye-witness with another anecdote to share. Proves nothing. Even though I can describe the event and the object in detail (see report and illustration of the craft: – and even though my affidavit was entered into a legal suit filed by Peter Gersten against the Dept. of Defense in an attempt to gain some sort of information about these crafts – the whole thing amounts to zilch when it comes to advancing our understanding of the phenomenon.

    I guess what I'm saying is that as much as I would like to see ufology become a structured discipline with something resembling a "scientific" approach to the research, I'm not convinced that it would make much of a difference. Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be convinced! In fact I was a huge proponent of this sort of approach back in the 90s. I went so far as to lean on my academic background in the social sciences and presented a proposal for an introductory course on ufology to a local community college. I don't have to tell you how that was received. :-)

    Well, now that I've come off as a complete curmudgeon on the subject (LOL) I do want to say I am impressed with the discussion here and I think it may even have rekindled some of the old passion I used to have for the phenomenon.

    So when does the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the International College of Ufology take place? And can I get a T-shirt?

  21. To the first of the new "anonymous's": This not a chat room nor is it talk radio. If you believe in nothing, we don't need to hear about it unless you are adding something of specific interest relevant to the problem. The comment as presented indicates no familiarity with the scope of the UFO literature, nor any philosophical grounds for defining "evidence" as narrowly as it seems to. People looking for complete physical proof [a la lab bench science] before "believing", in fact by definition believe nothing, as with that sort of "proof" you don't have to believe. Proto-fields of study have to, by definition, begin to study without full proof. If we flushed all inquiry because we had no absolute proof, there would be no inquiry. --------------------------------------------------------To the second "anonymous": Vallee is not mentioned alongside Keel, because, as you say, they are not the same person. Vallee is a colleague and a complicated one. Some of what Jacques says I agree with wholeheartedly, and some of that I don't. To make an honest expression of my complicated views about Jacques' evolving ideas would take a great deal of time in order not to cause more trouble than clarity. Also, I wish not to personalize this stuff any more than is demanded, and don't want to dedicate a lengthy entire blog to the subject of one colleague's ideas. MAYBE some day I'll direct myself to some concise statement about one phase in the evolution of his thinking [but I don't know]. Jacques and I are getting along pretty well now, despite being generally on different sides of the ETH debate. I respect his take on things [including, obviously, his recent view that an advanced ETH is not as inadequate as the original ETH that he grew up with in his Hynek era.] If Jacques is 100% correct, that's fine by me--just know that if you're reading his writings from the 1970's period, Jacques is to creative a mind to have remained in exactly the same place as then. And if Jacques is 10% right, then he and I are the same. --------To GVT: OK, but I'd rather try to do something than give up and try nothing. You may not be recommending pessimism for everyone else, I realize, but we really need encouragement to keep at it, not cold water.

  22. Second anonymous here, I didnt intentionally go for anonymous, but for some reason your comment box wouldnt allow me to post with my google sign in, strange glitch. Anyhow, I was referring to a whole long streak of writings by Vallee, from earlier on up to much more recent opinions. Granted it would only make sense that he would change some of his view points as more information comes in. This itself is indicative of a man who genuinly wants to know whats actually going on instead of validating a preconceived belief, also more then can be said of numerous other UFO researchers.

    I do suppose that an advanced ETH hypothesis could work, but if this were to be the case then the only way the whole phenomenon would be consistent with it is if the ET's are some sort of near god like beings, and the various phenomena, as bizarre as they are, represent some sort of purpose whose details are way out of current human grasp. But if one is still talking about "nuts and bolts" alien ships from a relatively nearby star system, then im sorry but I can't buy into the ETH hypothesis. Vallee himself explained how even our own current technology is capable of far more efficient means of collecting dna and conducting surveys of the earths characteristics, considering the sheer number of UFO sightings, it just don't make sense.

    On a side not, I would not at all dismiss Keel completely, for he certainly made a good deal of valid points. Much of the associated paranormal phenomena out there do indeed show strong evidence of being connected to UFO's.

    I agree that its a practical and valid idea to focus on UFO's specifically and only connect them to other things where there is clear evidence of valid correlation, but its also wise to be careful that one doesnt dismiss just for the sake of keeping things "neat". Reality is rarely neat, and it would be unscientific to force it into being so.

  23. To Stephan and the rest of the folks: I can not do justice to a complicated comment like Stephan's, or many of the other notes which come in, without writing an academic paper [I'm serious; I'm not being glib]. The ETH hypothesis is not one hypothesis but has many variations; please read the earlier posts on this to begin seeing where I'm coming from. Keel can be seen as having a total view of the UFO phenomenon or merely a partial one. None of this is simply one idea to be ranged against another one. This blog is all part of an approach to these subjects that I hope has some coherence--it does so at least in my mind. Would it be possible for "new" commentators to read the rest of the blog first before oversimplifying my own alleged positions? If done one would see, I hope, that the blog author has very few absolutes in his head, and understands fairly well that it's a bad idea to dismiss things---almost the greatest violation of all this blog has been talking about that I can imagine. I think "gray" not black and white on everything. I reach for many sources and many dimensions of thought by colleagues alive and mentors dead before tossing out ideas to anyone---to me it is a sacred trust--no bull. The bottom line of this is: I am finding that I cannot answer all these questions [often not even questions but assertions] and you may have to forgive me if I occasionally have to ignore some. Please continue to ask and comment. Try to make it as simple as possible. Try to state things that have actually been said in the blog rather than assumptions based on reading one entry. I might be able to be of some use then and continue to survive all of this pressure [which as a caring teacher, I feel.

  24. Hello, just a brief and I hope helpful suggestion. To help sort out some of the subjects not pertaining to a more NICAP style ufo investigation, the writings that are reproduced should be edited by the host or editor of the journal/blog. Thus the editor has some control.

    I came in a bit late on this site via the ufoupdates list and missed who 'the professor', our host is. May I ask? I always use my full name and give contact info on myself, for instance. Thanks, and very good work and elucidation here; my compliments. Randel Smith, Friendswood, Texas.

  25. Mr. Smith: when i began this blog i did it with a rather transparent anonymity because i felt that i am not important but ideas and facts are, and sometimes people get lazy and dismiss or rapidly believe things just because they've labeled them with someone's name. The whole idea of this blog is that personality is not important in the pursuit of truth and often gets in the way. Also, i wanted to tell some personal and family member encounters, and didn't want to make it any easier for some nosy person to hassle them. However, since many people know exactly who I am and address me as such in the comments, it is a poorly kept secret indeed. I am former Western Michigan University science and environmental professor Michael Swords and a member of CUFOS, UFO Research Coalition, SSE, and the UFO History Group. Many other egocentric things could be said none of which are significant to our time together walking the un-beaten paths of adventure in the anomalies. I ask two things: please do not hassle my family with curiosity--ask me and I'll answer. And, do not use your knowledge of who I am to dissuade you from giving these ideas the personal research work that they need to become your own. As to the blog's future, I may have to drop down to twice a week to stay sane and healthy. I don't want to editorially edit comment if I don't have to. We'll see.

  26. Hi Mike,

    I have not been keeping up with your posts for the last couple of weeks, but am back at it. As usual, I really enjoy them. I never knew your exact thoughts on Hynek's, The UFO Experience, but I'm happy to report that it has always been my favorite of all UFOlogy books (purchased brand new for $1.50). My now yellow'd copy rests squarely in the middle of my bookcase and the book also contains my favorite newspaper clippings from the 70s.

    I am sad to say that I must agree with you on the lack of standards in the UFOlogy (I use the word loosely) magazines that are currently published. But in a way, it is to be expected. If the study of the recently unearthed "hobbits" were left to loosely organized public institutions, one can only stand aghast and imagine the "science" that would be accomplished. If only the scientific community could be convinced that the UFO Phenomenon is worthy of scientific investigation.

  27. Bless you, Robert, my friend, if all of us were as open and honest and hard-working as you, we could let the whole world come to UFOlogy, "Hobbits" and all, and still get the truth out of it.

  28. Greetings Professor,

    Just found the link to your blog post. Believe it or not, you are linked at Coast to Coast AM. You may rememer me (Tim M.) from when I attended WMU grad school in anthro. back in the late 90's. It is indeed good to hear your balanced and most insightful voice again - specifically with regard to the current state of UFOlogy. (You see, I initially recognized you from your handwriting and diagrams before you outed yourself in the comments) ;)

    As for me, I have kept up my post-graduate study of the subject and have, I suppose, continued as a student at the "invisible college of UFOlogy." Would that such an institution existed in the real world, eh? So, on to my question.

    With regard to MUFON,there seems to be a shift of sorts towards a more scientific "feeling" towards these phenomena with the introduction of their new director. Have you noticed this as well? I have been feeling out the local group, mainly because they hold their meetings close to where I currently reside. I am still undecided about how to proceed with them, specifically, and where I might be able to help UFOlogy, generally. Perhaps an organized community of like-minded individuals can materialize, but could it ever go beyond the state of matter that other ufo "research groups" occupy? That is, who is to say who gets to "apply" for membership? Would there be a vetting process to determine legitimate scientific pedigrees? etc.

  29. Hello Tim, maybe I remember you from sitting in on ENVS classes [I vaguely think the values course], but I've had a lot of "Tims". Regarding MUFON, as stated MUFON is large and varied. I'd say join and see what the local is all about. At the least you'll probably find someone to whom you can regularly talk about the subject, even if you don't stick with the whole group. Regarding the materialization of a larger out-of-the-closet Invisible College of researchers and scholars who would insist on seriousness and be willing to debunk stuff within the field when it deserves it, I think that this would take some of us ancients getting together, somehow finding a webmaster and also a person who would be willing to do a face-to-face workshop/symposium each year, and then begin by conservative "invitation only" to people who were producers of quality work [or that we had good reason to believe were capable of it] and were in agreement that we were going to evaluate any and all ideas no matter how much a sacred cow they had become. And do it with smiles and kindness. There are actually some people in this business that fit that description [despite the external impression that the field has left. I know about twenty that I'd like to sit down with right now. Whether this happens will depend upon whether any of us ancients want to organize a first rump get-together and then whether we can get the web/meeting pragmatics worked out, with who's going to do it. If this doesn't happen and we all die [about a 50/50 bet] then it's up to you youngsters to "find each other" and do something similar.

  30. In any case, treating other animal species on this planet as "products" is a bad plan. If one were to object to being bred in ignorant servitude, shouldn't they likewise reject raising other people in ignorant servitude? Cow people, chicken people, fish people, what are we trying to build here anyway? Freedom means also the freedom to choose not to do bad things.

  31. To whomever posted this last thing: please confine your comments, CLEARLY, to the limited topic of the blog posting. This is not a place for stream-of-consciousness utterances. I have said before, this blog is like my home, which I allow others to come into and see parts of the "museum" that is there [for free]. It is not a let-it-all-air-out site with soap boxes. It is for questions of the home owner who has given a modest description of one of the "museum exhibits" and who is not looking for someone to begin saying whatever they feel like as if this were talk radio. I assume that I am not the only person who has no idea as to what you were talking about, even if it was very important. Please treat the blog as a guest,

  32. It is interesting that you bring up talk radio, professor. I had meant to ask this earlier in our respective careers, but have you thought about reaching out to the Coast to Coast audience as a voice of reason in the UFOlogy business? Very occasionally there are good interviews with some serious researchers that make the show worth listening to.

  33. Tim: when Art Bell was just expanding into a truly national program, billionaire Bob Bigelow gave two kinds of support to that. One was a bit of funding [to my knowledge anyway] and the other was that he [BB] came to several of us [like Dick Hall, Mark Rodeghier, etc. and myself] and asked us if we would help get Bell's new initiative off to a good start by being on the show. Due to that I was on one of the first 10-to-20 programs---forget exactly which. It didn't do one bit of good. The reason is that this show was entertainment not scholarship. Some people might, originally, have been kidding themselves about that, but that is what it was. In the end, "reason" gets swamped with junk of all manner of types. It's just not the proper venue to get anything accomplished and not worth one's time.

  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

  35. It seems to me that science advances in a given field when a new tool comes along and makes it possible for those advances to happen.

    I think the invention of the telescope was astronomy's "killer application". Anybody could look through a telescope and see Jupiter's moons orbiting Jupiter (and not the sun) or see that Saturn was not a perfect crystalline sphere but instead had these big honking rings.

    The microscope is probably biology's killer app. People could finally see "animalcules" running around and pretty soon we had the "Germ theory of disease" and lots of other important breakthroughs.

    I'm sure the invention of radio led to lots of discoveries in cosmology by allowing people to hear the RF radiation from stars.

    Watson and Crick needed the data from X-ray crystallography to do their ground breaking work on DNA. No X-ray devices, no DNA related discoveries.

    PCR and particle accelerators seem like more of those foundational tools that a lot of scientific knowledge couldn't exist without.

    I think Ufology needs to find its own killer app to really progress anywhere. I'm not entirely sure what that would be though. Some people have suggested passive radar, some have suggested using a huge number of cameras pointed at sky and augmented with motion detection software.

    Anyhow, my feeling is that Ufology will keep stagnating and drifting around (with the "Theorists-of Everything" at the helm) until someone starts using the tool(s) that can finally find the crack in the enigma's armor. Maybe that tool hasn't been invented yet, or maybe it exists but just hasn't been properly applied to the problem up to this point (that we know of).

  36. Well, good luck [seriously] with all that. Speaking of super-high-tech systems to everyday Joes with small expendable incomes is not in the realm of our [the joes] reality. We can only do what we can, and that is keep the basic case data alive in hopes that some entity with those means will decide to take it seriously enough to apply them to the subject. And, it's my opinion that our currently operating surveillance systems can do all you describe already, and are doing so. On top of that, it is my opinion that the data gained from these systems are well known, yet get you no further towards "explanations" than where we poor amateurs are already. Someone "way over our head" [and I don't mean humans] is controlling this, and they have far more clever tech than we do to limit our surveillance to no more than they want to show. If that situation discourages anyone, then they will probably have to get out of the field from frustration. It does not, unduly, frustrate me, however, as I find that there is plenty of evidence that I am "allowed" to see to indicate the presence of non-human technology right here in our skies, and even to finding a small pattern once in a while. Preserving this data for the future seems to me to be a worthy cause, whether I find the final answer or not. i understand others who don't have that patience, and respect them. I'd also like them not to complain too much about what we laborers in the trenches ARE doing--we serve as we can, and it's not an easy hobby to have to spend so much time upon.



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