UFOLOGY: AFTER 40 YEARS, STILL NO RESPECT by Jim Speiser _ On June 24th of this year, we w
UFOLOGY: AFTER 40 YEARS, STILL NO RESPECT
by Jim Speiser
On June 24th of this year, we will mark the 40th anniversary of the
start of the present "flying saucer" era. No subject has captured the
imagination or sparked so much controversy as the UFO phenomenon. It's been
characterized as the "silly season that wouldn't go away."
And why hasn't it gone away? The debunkers tell us that such things run
in cycles, and UFO flaps, or waves, are merely the effects of the domino
theory at work. A particularly well-publicized story in one section of the
country, the theory goes, will cause starry-eyed true believers in other
areas to suddenly delude themselves into believing that, "yeah, I seen it
too!" That, they tell us, is what happened in 1973 when over 1200 cases were
reported in the country, after a few sightings in the southeast were bally-
Yet, here we are in the Year of the UFO, with three major books on the
market, Shirley MacLaine preaching the Gospel of Our Lady of the Pleiades,
and a Japanese airliner serving French wine to gigantic flying walnuts.
Where's the flap? In the first five months of 1987, the UFO Information Ser-
vice has recorded only 27 sightings.
Isn't it possible that the cyclical nature of UFOs is a characteristic
of the phenomenon itself, and not of our collective "attunement"? Such
questions as this need to be addressed more honestly by those who tell us
there's nothing new in our atmosphere.
And there are other questions. Why are we constantly fed bromides like,
"Astronomers do not see UFOs"? When you adjust for the explainable
sightings, they see them in approximately the same proportionate numbers as
the general populace.
Explaining UFO sightings is one thing. Excessive, obsessive debunking is
quite another. The rise of organized skepticism has raised negativism to a
new art form. I call it "The Discount Muffler Theory of Ufology," because I
am reminded of the TV commercial where two chimpanzees are banging on a muff-
ler to get it to fit a car it was obviously not designed for. The debunkers
constantly try to hammer the facts into place, in order to get them to fit a
The message of this New Negativism is clear: those of us interested in
UFO research are nothing but childish, uneducated, anti-intellectual twits,
who should probably go home and watch reruns of Star Trek. To be truly in-
tellectually chic, these days, one must NOT let one's mind entertain such
While a few skeptics grudgingly acknowledge the scientific competence of
some ufologists, the majority are characterized as unworthy of their
letters. And those of us below the doctorate level are made to feel sympathy
with the witches of Salem. I envision in the near future bumper stickers
that say, "Kill a Believer for CSICOP."
Given that Ufology and "Mainstream Science" share a common ancestor,
namely Curiosity, the question must be asked, Is all this abject negativism
truly in the best interest of science? Perhaps the debunkers are right, and
there really is nothing new under the sun. How has it harmed anyone to
wonder, to look further, to investigate? One gets the impression that the
skeptics would prefer us all to pack up our geiger counters, our VCRs, and
our autographed copies of "Communion" and go home, never again to whisper
the phrase, "UFOs are real". OK, what if we complied? And what if we were
right in the first place, BUT NEVER FOUND OUT? How great the loss to
As I said, questions remain. Questions like: If the Cash/Landrum case
is a hoax, as Mr. Klass has said, how were Betty Cash and Vicki and Colby
Landrum able to fake the symptoms of radiation poisoning? Can a bolide
really remain in the Earth's atmosphere for 45 seconds...and then skip off
into space? Can a group of ultralight pilots really perform a turn about a
point in absolutely flawless formation, at night, without navigation lights?
Are airline pilots with 20 years experience really capable of mistaking a
planet 800 million miles distant for a gigantic spaceship only 8 miles
I firmly believe that UFOs are worthy of responsible investigation; that
some responsible investigation has occurred already, and has turned up evi-
dence worth a closer look. I also firmly believe that as long as a substan-
tial number of questions such as these remain unanswered, and a substantial
number of ends remain loose, that the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis, no matter
how scientifically unlikely, remains too important to dismiss out of hand.
There, I've said it. Get the stake ready for another witch.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank