There is a UFO Festival going on this week in Roswell and the media are loving it. Why? Because it is not a serious conference with serious people presenting serious evidence that cannot be ignored. Rather,
the Roswell Festival is a light-hearted affair catering to the Star Trek and Star Wars generations’ love of dressing up like their favourite characters, acting out scenes from their favourite episodes/films, and generally going OTT. I can understand why the town of Roswell sanctions this mayhem. The town and its surrounds have been the object of intense scrutiny, equally intense tourism, visiting documentarists, journalists, UFO researchers, scrutinised by the military and security agencies, and generally endured more than 60 years of spying, prying and trying to get the locals ‘on the record’ about the famous Roswell Incident in June/July 1947. Why shouldn’t the hotels, motels, B&Bs, restaurants, and car rental agencies ‘make a buck’ out of it all? Why not invite the “kooks” in and let them have their fun and leave their money behind to fund the upkeep of the town? But the media’s interest is different. Tongues firmly planted in cheeks, reporters have four straight days of “stories” to capitalise on and, who knows, maybe even find one that “goes national” or even global. In the era of “reality TV”, the ‘farther out’ the story, the better, and what could be ‘farther out’ than the whole of space and its alleged inhabitants?
Inevitably, the “pollsters” are also out in force and the most recent “surveys” reveal that 80 million Americans “believe in” UFOs, 80 million is a lot of people. Of course, in the age of mis-informed people walking around with GEDs we can safely eliminate at least 40% of the 80 million as incapable of evaluating information logically and systematically. Of the remaining 60%, we can probably weed out another 10 to 15% who are conspiracy theorists. They assume that if the government do not take UFOs seriously, then they must be real. The remaining 45% may have read some credible accounts from the various studies and archival reports that have been published in the past 50 years. A few many even follow UFO case studies seriously and will have read many books on the subject by scientists, retired military, pilots of both civilian and military planes who have reported encounters, and medical doctors who have removed unknown bits of technology from the bodies of people who have experienced close encounters with the inhabitants of UFOs. These are the people who are entitled to an opinion because they have done their homework. All opinions are not equal; informed opinion based on research is worth far more than a simple knee-jerk response on any subject. Which brings us to the counterparts of the gullible, that segment of the population who go by the sobriquet, Skeptic. For this segment of the population I have a news flash: being Skeptical does not mean dismissing all reports of UFOs as perceptual errors, Chinese Lanterns or hoaxes. It means reviewing the evidence case by case, including the backgrounds of the witnesses who now number in the tens of thousands around the world and amongst whom are military and commercial pilots and their crews, aerospace engineers, professional camera operators, judges, lawyers, medical doctors, dentists, police officers, teachers, members of the clergy – in other words a representative group of the general population. They can’t all be deluded or fantasy prone. They have reputations to protect, jobs they can’t afford to lose and their professional standing to consider. Most of these people report what they see only reluctantly and they are desperate to find a “rational” explanation for what they witnessed. Experimental craft being tested by the military is a favourite fall-back position but some of the phenomena observed have been traveling at such speed that the human eye cannot register it and it isn’t until an image is transferred from a camera to a computer or a video is viewed that the mysterious objects are seen.
UFOs Are Not All Alike
For many years the media has presented all UFOs as “Flying Saucers”, assuming that UFOs all look alike. If reporters had done their homework they would have discovered that UFOs come in great variety of shapes and use different patterns and colours of lights, show different types of maneuvres, and travel at varied speeds or merely hover. There are “pipe” shaped UFOs, boomerang shapes, triangle shapes, donut shapes, cube shapes, and some that change shape as they are observed! These craft have been photographed or videod by kids, adults, tourists, cops, recorded on flight cameras aboard aircraft, accidentally filmed by professional camera operators working on documentaries on un-related topics, in short, lots of ordinary people who happen to catch images of things that by all rights “should not be there”.
UFO Witnesses Are Very Private People
Even when there are multiple witness sightings, witnesses might not want to reveal their identities. Such reticence is not the behaviour of the hoaxer who wants to be at least a local “celebrity”. So, especially for the Skeptics out there I have compiled a list of basic sources you should read. Just as brain surgeons are not self-declared but must do the work to qualify, someone who wants to be identified as a Skeptic must examine the evidence without prejudice. Just as a brain surgeon would not expect to find case histories in the “National Enquirer”, the UFO Skeptic needs to review cases reported by trained investigators, not sensationalistic tabloid accounts.
The great grandaddy of serious UFO investigators was NASA’s Paul Hill who for 25 years recorded sightings by pilots, astronauts, NASA’s own cameras, and kept meticulous notes on the types of craft and the people who saw them. Unconventional Flying Objects is essential reading for any Skeptic. It is not an easy read; the content is detailed and dry.
The next authority I would recommend is Dr. Peter A. Sturrock, Professor Emeritus of Space Science and Astrophysics at Stanford Univeristy. Dr. Sturrock has done the most comprehensive research on the physical evidence left by UFO encounters. Yes, you read that right – physical evidence, the kind science demands and Skeptics always assume is absent. It is absent; it’s just usually ignored. The UFO Enigma presents it for all to see.
An early classic in the field of serious UFO investigation was written by the Chairman of the Department of Astronomy at Northwestern University, the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek who was brought in to debunk UFO cases for the Condon Report and Project Blue Book. Hynek did as he was bid, until he began to notice that military “researchers” were not investigating cases at all. They merely glanced at the witness reports and wrote them off as misperception if the witness happened to be a military pilot, weather balloons, swamp gas, and other absurd attributions if the witness happened to be a civilian. Hynek was appalled that his name was to attached to this farce and he began to question the dismissed cases and eventually came to the conclusion that about 30% of all UFO sightings were genuine unknowns and needed to be studied further, not dismissed. The UFO Experience is his account of role in Project Blue Book and why he insisted that the unknowns be included as such for the public record.
Then, if you are still not convinced that UFOs are genuine phenomenon, read the definitive account of official UFO reporting by military pilots and what happened to those reports: UFOs and The National Security State by Richard Dolan.
Oh, yes, and BTW when you finish those I have about 30 more to recommend before you earn your stripes as a Skeptic.
The books cited in this post are available HERE.
© Delia O’ Riordan 2012