UFOLOGY: AFTER 40 YEARS, STILL NO RESPECT by Jim Speiser _ On June 24th of this year, we w

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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- hooed. 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 given situation. 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 silly notions. 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 science? 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 distant? 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.


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