31 March 2015


Robert Davis. The UFO Phenomenon: Should I Believe? Schiffer, 2014.

Compared with the two other UFO books I have recently reviewed, this one looks like an oasis of common sense, in that the author does not try and bludgeon you into believing in the spaceships. He provides an overview of various types of UFO reports and the various theories that have been evoked to explain them.
His central position is that while the anecdotal reports are intriguing, there is nowhere near the kind of clear scientific evidence that would be needed to persuade the scientific community of any exotic explanation.

Though Davis has a somewhat sceptical head, his heart is clearly on the side of the aliens or some such, though he might be persuadable that novel natural phenomena might generate some reports. He also shows the usual American lack of detailed background knowledge of European Ufology. Thus we get cases like Trancs-en-Provence and Bentwaters quoted as examples of high quality evidence for anomalous phenomena, without any notion that local ufologists have found multiple problems with them. Davis also refers to a variety of ufological data-bases, without realising that these are nothing more, as they stand, than collections of folk stories.

Davis has quite an ambitious research plan for Ufology, not only does he propose that the US Congress or the UN should set up such a body but that it should, among other things:
  • Assemble a multi-disciplined team of renowned scientists to test various hypotheses.
  • Arrange international collaboration.
  • Ensure representation on leading international scientific committees and agencies.
  • Centralise a newly developed UFO data base to compile and analyse existing and future evidence on a global basis.
  • Train UFO investigators.
  • Publish research findings in established scientific journals and at international conferences
Hmmm. The sense of déjà vu is quite overwhelming, see for example:

Of course none of this is going to happen, it might just have done forty or fifty years ago, but won’t now. Even if such a study was undertaken, financed by some Silicon Valley billionaire, it would either be biased from the start by the agenda of the funder, or would come to conclusions that ufologists don’t like and be accused of being part of the cover up.

Furthermore some UFO theories such as the ETH fall into the category of “not even wrong” in that they are too vague and flexible to test. The ETH, as I have pointed out many times, could only become a scientific hypothesis if we had independent knowledge of the nature and powers of the ETs to test against UFO reports.

This is really what ufology is now; at worst the promotion of pseudoscience or wild conspiracy theories, or like this, at the better end, rehashing the naïve hopes of the students of the 60s and 70s. -- Peter Rogerson.

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