MUFON VERSUS THE NEW AGE:
Is your local group part of a scientific investigation - or potential
pickings for a "cult" membership?
by W.L. Garner, Jr.
In the last couple of years, MUFON meetings, publications, and
conversations at all levels have seen an escalating tempo of controversy
between the "pseudo scientists" on one hand and the "new age psychics"
on the other. Like a festering wound, the controversy is beginning to
affect MUFON's effectiveness and reputation. Unfortunately, many of the
noisy antagonists on both sides are venting their emotional wants and
have little or no conCern for MUFON's stated purpose or the scientific
MUFON purports to be an international scientific organization
that believes a concentrated scientific study by dedicated investigators
and researchers will provide the ultimate answer to the UFO enigma. A
scientific organization dedicated to scientific study must establish and
must demand adherence to protocols for its investigators and researchers
or its reports and conclusions simply]y become more meaningless babble.
Personal beliefs are threatened only to the extent each individual
chooses to expose his beliefs to the available scientific evidence.
The scientific protocols for the MUFON Field Investigator (FI)
are well established in the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual, the
essence of which is laid out in Chapter II, "The Field Investigator's
Code of Ethics." Properly documenting the evidence is an essential
scientific first step. Simply stated, the FI's primary responsibility
is to identify and document the evidence as objectively as possible
without causing any harm to the percipient or others. It is not to
publicize the incident or to pass final judgement on the evidence or the
percipient. Thus, every effort should be made to record a percipient's
experience exactly as that person experienced it. In practice, the FI
first must make a decision as to whether there is the potential for
acquiring enough factual evidence to justify the time and expense he/she
will spend acquiring and documenting it. If he/she decides to proceed,
there are provisions in the protocol that provide the investigator an
opportunity to question or express doubt about any part or all of the
evidence reported, but he/she must not ignore or change any part of that
Protocols for scientific researchers in the various disciplines
are much more complex and demanding, and usually require extensive
training in each particular discipline. Protocols for the scientific
method began in mathematics with rules for logic, stemming from the
protocol that all propositions which are not themselves self-evident
must be derived from others that are self-evident. From this simple
beginning with clear-cut answers, protocols have become far more
complex, encompassing, and difficult as the scientific method has been
applied to more and more areas of nature and life.
UFOs, extraterrestrial aliens, abductions, telepathy,
out-of--body experiences, etc., are all valid areas for scientific
investigation but scientific investigation demands the protocols of
specific research objectives, techniques, and proofs. One or more
individuals espousing grandiose revelations may sound authentic and
compelling, but without scientific validation it is useless gossip. One
major hurdle in investigating these types of claims is the necessity for
independent confirmation (feedback); without it nothing is
scientifically established. Another is the patience and self-discipline
to avoid jumping to conclusions until enough scientific evidence is in
to be able to draw valid conclusions.
The human mind is still the greatest mystery, capable of
creating or wiping out memories, biomedical conditions and even whole
personalities. These changes can result from a wide variety of traumas,
and sometimes from just wishes, desires or needs. Interactions with
entities or extraterrestrial aliens may or may not be one of the causes.
Those of you who have suffered through the terminal illness of a loved
one, or who have worked with the results of childhood trauma, may have
witnessed some of these psychological manifestations. Science is just
beginning to scratch the surface in trying to understand the reality
behind all of this.
For MUFON to be a viable scientific organization there must be
continuous, aggressive efforts at all levels to keep all activities
directed toward scientific objectives. At the level where activities
are directed primarily towards the investigation of alleged UFO
incidents, that mandate is comparatively simple to pursue. The
protocols for that are laid out in the MUFON Field Investigator's
Manual. At any level where activities are more involved with public
relations, meetings, and publications, that mandate is infinitely more
difficult. Keeping discussions, meetings, and publications aimed toward
improving scientific skills and understanding is much harder,
particularly if you also want to keep it attractive for a wide variety
The conflict between MUFON's stated objectives and the New Age
proponents' practices are most obvious at meetings. Personal, even if
sincere, tales of otherworldly experiences presented as unquestionable,
factual events may improve attendance, but they add little or nothing to
anyone's scientific understanding of whatever may be going on, or to the
skills needed to investigate such claims. It is not even an acceptable
method of documenting these incidents. At its best, it risks
psychological damage to fragile personalities, both speakers and
attendees, for the sake of attendance. At its worst, by definition it
turns your organization into a cult.
The director who plans your meetings and issues your
publications has a narrow and difficult path to follow. The difference
between presenting a controversial experience as part of a training
program to improve investigators' skills versus presenting it as
entertainment or recruitment may be difficult for some to fathom; but,
when scientific objectives and standards are sacrificed for
entertainment by unverified propaganda, your group has already begun
the transformation from a scientific organization into a cult.
Mr. Garner is MUFON's State Director for Louisiana.
--- FMail 0.96g
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