It’s Time to Take UFO Research Seriously
It’s hard to maintain credibility in a field where evidence is rarely concrete. Generally, those who believe in aliens are typically equated with conspiracy theorists because of the cover up conspiracy that infiltrates many encounter stories. Quite a few pragmatic thinkers link conspiracy theories to paranoia. As a result, they see UFO researchers as misguided at best and mentally ill at worst. Unfortunately, true scientific discourse on the unexplained does not make for a very sensational movie, so all too often, intelligent discourse is not what we get. We get movies and documentaries — like The Roswell Incident and Alien Autopsy — that do damage to the discipline’s reputation.
Conflicting witness accounts tend to strike numerous critical blows to a story’s credibility, and they are found in literally every single alien encounter story. Thus, the conspiracy theories. On the one hand, why would an eyewitness lie about something he saw when he has nothing to gain? On the other, why would military and government organizations lie about what really happened unless they were hiding something larger? This is the problem with the field. When there is no material evidence, certainly nothing that would be admissible in a court of law, how do you state your case factually and passionately? Despite scholarly setbacks to the field of ufology, treating it as anything other than a legitimate science is not only arrogant, but intellectually irresponsible.
What began as a “hobby science” or pastime for a few groups in the 1940s has grown to a legitimate field of study, complete with myriad sub-fields such as paranormal psychology and cryptozoology, and droves of experts compiling and publishing literally hundreds of works per year on the subject. This is not, however, the sort of field where an “expert’s” education or qualifications necessarily lend to his or her credibility. It generally helps to have a background in physics before one starts speculation on propulsion of alien craft, but aside from that the field remains mostly a free-for-all. There are only three colleges in the country that offer studies in ufology – the College of Management Science offers the UFO investigator a deep and broad expertise, the American Metaphysics Institute has courses for all those who recognize the global conciousness reawakening, and the International Metaphysical University provides leading edge educational opportunities in spirituality, shamanism, the metaphysical, and UFOs — so typically a “ufo expert” is someone who began the study through something else, like a hobby or part of their work. Such is the case for popular ufologist and historian Richard Dolan. During his graduate work in history at the University of Rochester, he found a series of compelling notes and memos about UFOs from the years of the Eisenhower presidency. His research spiraled out from there and only got him more questions than answers.
Like many ufologists, Mr. Dolan focuses mostly on a specific subject, namely the documented military encounters of UFOs and the thorough government cover-up and debunking. His book UFOs and the National Security State: Chronology of a Cover-Up and its sequel are among the best known pieces in the field and are introduced by noted PhD scientist and fellow ufologist Jacques Vallee. Another section of ufology involves the study of the very catalyst of the field: the 1947 Roswell Incident. Stanton Friedman, a fourteen year veteran of the nuclear physics field whose professional affiliations have included numerous scientific and nuclear fraternal organizations, specializes in the Roswell Incident and has studied it for over forty years.
To most everyone’s disappointment, some “researchers” don’t lend credit to the title. Like any other scientific field, ufology is subject to peer review. Zecharia Sitchin, one of the most published authors in the field, purported that during time spent in Israel and his private studies, he taught himself several ancient cuneiform languages including Sumerian, Babylonian, and Akkadian. He applied this knowledge by translating and “re”translating old texts and carvings from those times. He claim he found the ancient knowledge of the creation of Homo sapiens and our civilization. Many people have heard of Planet X, or Nibiru, another alleged planet in our solar system with a huge, elliptical, 3,600 year orbit. Sitchin’s “ancient astronaut” theory says that this planet is the home of our creators, the Annunaki, who first came here to strip mine our planet around half a million years ago and, instead of working their own populace to death, decided to create humans out of their DNA and the native species. Along with a glimmering hint of sentience in these creatures, they also added an inborn need for gold, which is what the Annunaki were after. After a classic dichotomous battle, the “good brother” ruler of the Annunaki won out over the bad, and Homo sapiens got to live in peace after they had fulfilled their purpose.
Unfortunately for Mr. Sitchin, he has been disputed by all of mainstream history, anthropology, and linguistics, as well as many in the fields of occult and paranormal science. Entire fields of science telling you that your translations are wrong and your perspective is flawed is something that deserves serious attention. Another disputed yet very well-spoken researcher was the late Lloyd Pye. He gave speeches and presentations on Sitchin’s Nibiru theory and used, in the line of proof, what he called the “Starchild skull.” Unfortunately, his timeline and theories are as suspect as Mr. Sitchin’s. Moreover, scientific testing of his Starchild skull found it to be a three thousand year old human child skull, and the child most likely suffered from encephalitis. Needless to say, this doesn’t help the field’s credibility.
The Roswell Incident mentioned above is so controversial because of its conflicting accounts, which both came from members of the U.S. Air Force. Military personnel are trained to be professional witnesses because the field might require them to recount something factually and impartially that happened very quickly or unexpectedly. The story of Roswell isn’t so much about the conflicting military accounts, but more about how quickly and easily credibility in these sort of encounters can be stripped away and the whole experience made into a joke.
The story began in 1947 when the Roswell Daily Record of New Mexico printed a story about how a local rancher, Mack Brazel, found wreckage of some sort of craft on the edge of his ranch. The first soldier on the scene was Major Jesse Marcel, an intelligence officer for the local Air Force base. He handled some of the wreckage and corroborated the rancher’s story that the material “was light as aluminum foil” and could be crumpled or twisted into any shape “before springing right back to its original shape.” He also agreed with the rancher’s conclusion that while the material was super light weight and flexible, it could not be “cut, broken, or burned” at all. Within hours of the printed story, General Roger Ramey issued a press release identifying the wreckage as a weather balloon array launched from Texas earlier that week. He ordered Major Marcel to participate in a press conference where they would show the world their “wreckage” and made the Major pose with broken pieces of a weather balloon and radar array. This was a fantastic play in which the Air Force simultaneously covered up any actual goings-on and discredited entirely the only Air Force officer to have had unsupervised contact with the material or the site.
In later years, the Air Force would release reports that subsequently “debunk” the Roswell Incident by “declassifying” the Mogul weather balloon array — something that was only top secret because we detected Soviet atmospheric nuclear detonations with it — and by offering the testimony of the intelligence officer who retrieved the wreckage. Contrary to Brazel’s original claim that the wreckage spanned an area “hundreds of feet wide and a quarter mile long” and Major Marcel’s visual confirmation of such, a Colonel Sheridan Cavitt alleged the “area of this debris was very small about 20 feet square and the material was spread on the ground, but there was no gouge or crater or other obvious sign of impact. I remember recognizing this material as being consistent with a weather balloon. We gathered up some of this material which would easily fit into one vehicle.” I, like many others, believe that Mack Brazel, the other townspeople he showed the wreckage to, and Major Jesse Marcel were telling the truth about what they saw. Television had barely come into household use at that point, and what hope of sensationalism and fame could have been had by a cattle rancher and an Air Force intelligence officer in New Mexico? Mr. Brazel and the rest of the town had no reason to lie about what they saw. The military, however, apparently saw a reason to hide it.
More than thirty years later, our Armed Forces were again plagued by conflicting reports and accusations of a cover up. This time, however, it was overseas in Air Force bases on loan to us from the British Government on the outskirts of Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England. It occurred during a span of three days in 1980. The story is corroborated by dozens of U.S. Air Force personnel. The credibility for this case is already in pretty bad shape; few of the eyewitness dates match, and even fewer of the actual locations match. Nonetheless, the commanding officer and other officers and enlisted personnel at this base (and their wives) reported seeing strange lights out in the forest at night, along with “weird sounds.” Colonel Charles Halt, the commanding officer, and a security detachment went into the forest to try and find the source. The only report this first night was of lights moving through the forest. Unable to find the source, they returned to their base. Halt then picked another security team, loaded them with observational gear, and sent them to look the next night, when the strange noises were worse. Some reported the noise as “women screaming” that could be attributed to a sort of deer that lives there. This is consistent with the additional report of wildlife and farm animals “going crazy.” That night, the servicemen mostly came back with different stories, some of which changed later on. Some of them said that the lights were from the nearby lighthouse, but this didn’t match the description of the lights movement through the forest. Others described a craft, warm to the touch and glowing. One witness, Sgt. James Penniston, later said that he made detailed notes about the craft and drawings of the symbols on it.
The next day, plaster casts were taken of the triangular indentations left in the ground by the “Rendlesham object.” Photographs were taken of the damage to trees and surrounding landscape. All the evidence was put in a file held by Britain’s Ministry of Defense, but they have different policies on retaining information in the UK; they generally destroy any file that has no bearing on national security and has no historical significance. Some files were admittedly destroyed through this policy, and there is no way of knowing what those documents held. The only things remaining in the file when it was released by British MoD were the official statement of witness about the lights from Col. Halt and every one of the public requests for information about the incident.
Most researchers understand that military and police officers tend to be credible witnesses. Bearing this in mind, what is the credibility of a group of people? Less than a year after the Roswell Incident, dozens of citizens from Madisonville, Kentucky called the police to report “a glowing, circular object hovering over the town.” The local Air Force base was alerted because of the proximity to Fort Knox and within fifteen minutes had established and recorded visual confirmation of the UFO. A squadron of P-51 fighters were already flying so they went to investigate. The leader of the squadron, decorated World War II pilot Captain Thomas Mantell Jr., confirmed sight of the object and followed it. His last transmission came at 3:15 p.m. when he said, “The thing looks metallic, and is tremendous in size.” Capt. Mantell crashed and died three minutes later. The official conclusion is that the veteran pilot ran out of oxygen. He was later decorated for bravery.
These stories, and many like them, resound all through our history, from the time Greek historian Livy recorded “phantom ships gleaming in the sky” to the mass sighting in Naha, Okinawa, Japan that happened in January of 2014. Witnesses have recorded, in general, six different UFO shapes. The saucer or disk, perfectly round or oblong, is still the most popular; cave paintings from all over the world older than our civilization depict these. Also reported are cylindrical, cigar shaped crafts and fireballs. We find the first recorded sighting of these shapes around 2200 B.C.E; these are the shapes that led Moses and the Children of Israel through the desert in the Book of Exodus in the Holy Bible. Finally, there are balls of light, reported most during battles (“ghost lights” of the American Civil War and “foo fighters” of World War II, for example), and triangular shaped craft. The triangular shape is probably second to the disk shape and is the most common feature of mass UFO sightings, or sightings corroborated by large groups of people.
Every single one of the thousands of reported sightings worldwide per year cannot be explained away. People have described the same shapes moving in the same ways for thousands of years. It cannot be coincidence. Thousands of witnesses have described the same impossible movement from UFOs. Taking them seriously, we know that movement like that is scientifically possible, but what else? Where are they from? Unless they are from Mars or Venus, they might have to be able to travel faster than light unless their lifespan is many many hundreds or even thousands of years. Zeta Reticuli, one of the supposed systems from which visitors come, is 39 light-years away. That is the distance that light travels in 39 years, and at 186,000 miles per second for the speed of light, this makes the system 229,261,492,590,000 miles away. Other reported locations of visitors are even more distant, like the Pleiades system at 424 light-years away. If they could make it here from somewhere so far away, one must wonder what their maps look like. Of course, there’s always the possibility of travel through multiple dimensions, too. Just seeing that these things are possible should be enough to give serious credence to the field, but this paired with continual sightings and reports from worldwide military forces is still not enough.
Of course, the “official explanation” for these events often tends to be mundane and over-technical. This helps skeptics to shrug off and laugh at alternate explanations for phenomena and history and to label this study a “pseudoscience.” This sort of behavior is exceptionally arrogant given the fact that deriving fact from hearsay is impossible and debating explanations is what makes a topic a science. Science, in its most general sense, is thinking about how something works and then experimenting to find out if one is right or can find patterns in seemingly random events. Whether it be testing the physical attributes, such as hardness and weight, of a substance or testing the physical forces of our world, such as light and gravity, there generally has to be at least something to observe, record, and quantify. This presents a problem for ufology as its theories are largely speculative and its results cannot be tested or reproduced. To that, ufologist Diana Hoyt says that the problem is more analogous to “meteorology than [to] physics.” UFOs and related phenomena are “observed, occur episodically, are not reproducible, and in large part, are identified by statistical gathering of data for possible organization into patterns.” But still, not since the days when Galileo was declared a heretic for his astronomical observations have scientists so fervently disagreed.
We live in the 21st century, though. Our knowledge and understanding of science are constantly being challenged and expanded. This is the Technology Age, our time to break these overbearing shackles of tradition and dogma. A new era will begin when one doesn’t have to be scared of being laughed at or pigeonholed for what one believes, or for what one decides to pursue with his or her life. Several ufologists have written a great deal about how, even in the age of science and knowledge, mainstream science laughs them off as though they had suggested that maybe, just maybe, the Earth isn’t a square that just ends but actually goes all the way around to meet itself on all sides like some sort of spherical object. But isn’t discourse how science evolves? Wasn’t meteorology “the will of God” for thousands of years? Doesn’t the field of physics, as we get more technical and refined in our approach, just open up wider with more questions than answers. Remember that quantum theory is based largely on assumptions, as quantum particles only do something until they are observed. The only way we will move into the future is to break away from our cultural stasis, look up to the stars, and really ask ourselves what’s possible. It’s time to wake up, stop laughing like it’s a joke, and start working together.