One of the commonest complaints made by ufologists is that their work is not taken seriously by scientists even though they claim to use scientific methods in their investigations. This problem could be discussed at great length but I will illustrate the point I am trying to make by making a critical examination of a fairly typical issue of MUFON UFO Journal, a monthly magazine published by the Mutual UFO Network.
The reason for picking on this journal is the statement which appears in each issue: "MUFON's mission is the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity". I have chosen the September 2012 issue and I have read through it to see if its editor and contributing writers are adopting an appropriately scientific approach.
The first indication that all is not well comes with the Director's Message by David MacDonald. It is mainly concerned with the announcement that MUFON has acquired many of the files compiled by Leonard Stringfield (1920-1994). He looked through a very small amount of this material and found accounts of beatings by Federal Marshals, FBI documents showing death threats and intimidation, "safe houses" set up by MUFON to protect Len from attack, and descriptions of how he was moved from hotel room to hotel room (to avoid the CIA, FBI, Federal Marshals, etc.) at more than one MUFON symposium.
The files also contain "direct dictation of person-to-person telephone conversations between Len Stringfield and some of the most well known names in the world". Just imagine all those famous scientists, eminent religious leaders, presidents and prime ministers eagerly awaiting their calls from Stringfield to hear the latest crashed saucer stories. This material is to be made available to "serious researchers", but whether it will also be available to writers of farcical comedy is not stated.
Although the editor, Roger Marsh, complains that there are not enough pages to cover all of the interesting cases the policy seems to be to include brief details of many cases, most of which hardly seem worth mentioning.
It is particularly amusing to note that the Journal contains a page giving details of when and where to look out for the bright stars and planets for each month, but MUFON's intrepid investigators don't seem to make any use of it. After all, they are ufologists, not astronomers.
A report by Margie Kay, on the allegedly mysterious lights seen in
Missouri, states: "These objects were witnessed by KCTV reporter Dave Jordan and two of the TV cameramen, myself, and approximately 15 people from a neighborhood in north on several nights in May, 2012. The events were covered heavily by KCTV 5, then picked up by CNN and aired nationally". There is no mention of astronomers, amateur or professional, being consulted. There is also no mention of whether there was good visibility, or whether the sky was clear or partly cloudy. If readers consult other sources about these strange lights, they will find that amateur astronomers and meteorologists have somehow failed to notice them. Blue Springs
In another investigation, by Norman Gagnon, details are given of a small group of people who noticed a string of 10 orange lights silently ascending over a lake and disappearing into the clouds. This sighting is considered important enough to feature on the front page of the Journal, even though the obvious explanation is simply that they were fire balloons, and I would guess that they were possibly released during the celebration of a child's tenth birthday.
Most of the other reports don't contain enough detail to be of interest, or they have only single witnesses, or no independent witnesses.
Stanton Friedman's monthly article is better than usual, providing some interesting background information about some ufological characters. He is sceptical about the fellow who calls himself Chase Brandon, who claims to be an ex-CIA man who states that the
crash really involved an alien craft, but is suspected of making up the story to plug his new science fiction novel. Friedman notes the odd fact that the producer of his 1979 DVD 'UFOs Are Real' was named Brandon Chase! Roswell
Friedman is indeed a modest, self-effacing person. When he heard in 1973 that Robert Emenegger was making a TV documentary on UFOs he phoned him and asked him how he could make a UFO documentary without involving him.
Robert Hastings has two pages to expound on his obsession with UFOs and nukes. He would probably be taken more seriously if he acknowledged that some of these reports are untrue or have been misinterpreted, and some have been satisfactorily explained. There are a few reliable but unexplained cases, but these usually involve such highly technical problems as interpreting radar images, and it requires a great deal of expertise to evaluate them.
The basic difficulty with ufology is that it is a non-subject. By this I mean that a sighting of an unusual atmospheric optical or electrical phenomenon and a report of an alleged abduction by aliens are two quite different problems, as there is no causal connection between them. Most solved UFO cases have many different and unrelated causes. Some are sightings of real objects or phenomena and others are subjective experiences, such as dreams or hallucinations. Solving interesting UFO cases involves separating facts from lies and misperceptions, and ending up with a coherent account of what did or did not happen. MUFON, along with most other UFO organisations does not seem to be capable of this task. |JH|