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With the War on Terror and various other news issues taking up all of the limelight as of late, one of my old passions, UFO's Real and Imagined, has been at a low heartbeat. This blog is meant to be a small crash cart in an otherwise quiet area of investigation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Attitude Towards UFO's - What Is It and How Can We Improve It? 

Back in the latter days of 1968, Dr. Thornton Page wrote the following as part of a paper in a symposium called UFO's: A Scientific Debate:

"At Present it is fair to say that the attitude towards UFO's is highly polarized between the conservative views of a small group of senior physical scientists and the vastly more speculative views of a large part of the American public."

A few weeks ago, I asked the posters at the Unknown Country message board what they thought about the above statement. There were a good variety of opinions about the validity of his words, and how they apply today.

In terms of the size of public interest, I would wager that it has fluctuated. I clearly remember back in the 1996-time frame that the interest in the UFO and abduction phenomena was quite high in the public consciousness. Right now, however, it seems that other issues are weighing heavily on the public mind; so many people have shelved UFO's. As the original charter of this blog would indicate, it seems incumbent on some of us the revitalize the field.

As far as the size of the scientific population considering the issue, that is something I don't have a handle on, and I will have to keep searching for an answer. A key difficulty might be the fact that the science of Ufology is still quite newborn, and is still trying to make inroad in the more basic sciences.

Most, but not all, scientists are specialists and by nature have trained their minds to focus very tightly on one area of study. They find it quite difficult to integrate disparate pieces of data, especially when it means compiling ideas that don't have an "established" basis in a science other than their own. It may be that one branch of science finding a "truth" regarding UFO's is what will begin a softening of the other branches, allowing a real foothold on the frontier of investigation.

Intuition certainly has a role to play in science, and indeed is the possibly the most powerful tool this young field has right now. Coupling intuition with science usually results in a spirit of invention and discovery, though my concern with science is more basic than that. Namely, "establishment" science is still having a big problem getting over the giggle factor on what should be the legitimate science of Ufology. There is a lot of work that could be done with even simple scientific method, if scientists would look at the issue without the colored lenses of previous refutations and institutional ridicule.

Of course, a source of considerable ridicule is the purely intuitive idea that somehow we are dealing with "spiritually superior" alien operators of UFO's, and we won't (or can't) understand the phenomena until we are spiritually more evolved. My response to this attitude is that it would be unfair to disregard this sort of concept. That said, I take the view that sincere scientific investigation would go a long way in developing the UFO data, without resorting to spiritual bridges of intellect. These bridges exist and are useful, but the foundation need not be built upon them. Merely the suspension of the past's foolish scientific and technical paradigms would be revolutionary.

I don't yet have an answer on whether of not science can begin or already has begun taking the topic more seriously. As it stands right now, it seem that a great deal of Ufology hinges on speculation, sprinkled with a growing but still unquantified and misunderstood reservoir of physical data. Such speculation is fine, as you have to start somewhere, but this does present a credibility problem. Without previous scientific disciplines backing up Ufology, speculation on the matter is stigmatized in the establishment. However, there are a lot of serious thinking folk who are willing to do something to investigate, if only the laughter would die down to a dull roar.

There is also a perception problem with the study of the UFO enigma, resting squarely on the possible linkage with abductions, and requires clearing the hurdle of ridicule reserved for terms like "anal probe". I say there is enough to investigate with UFO's without the presupposition that aliens are involved. Of course, I am NOT saying that the two aren't related, just that scientific investigation doesn't require the assumption of such a linkage. A sober evaluation of UFO's without the encumbrance of extraterrestrials would go a long way to legitimizing the field, and further links between the two could be easily borne out as the evidence begins to come in.

It's sort of like saying to the scientific community: "Discount the idea of aliens in the background. Look at UFO's and tell us just what you see, and analyze what may really explain their behavior - assume they are real objects."

A real data mining exercise along these lines, for example, would be in determining how many UFO types from circa 1968 would now be considered Identified Flying Objects (IFO's). Indeed, Have we gotten better (or more expedient) at discovering IFO's? I mean expedient in the sense that UFO's may be identified for expediency not accuracy. In the 1950's through the 1970's it was far to easy to give the scientific community a pass when determining that a UFO was merely "swamp gas", or some similar convenient contrivance.

Dr. Page also speaks to the public face. In light of nigh-certain ridicule, part of my frustration with the whole issue of science's blind eye is that the public has been coerced into a knee-jerk skepticism. Without an interested and serious public view of the matter, science has become sloppy. There is such a sense of whimsy that has been attached to even considering the validity of UFO as anything other that Mis-identified Flying Objects (MFO's?) as to make Ufology very hard to accept. There are some of us who have held an open mind prior to "experiencing" something, thankfully, and it will be interesting to find out how the public perception has changed in the past 35 years.

As I stated earlier, the subject of UFO's has dropped off of the radar, so to speak. Does the subject of UFO's come up in casual conversation? Perhaps not. Most people's heads are filled with other daily concerns, but that doesn't mean they don't have a position on the issue.

Here's an interesting idea: Perhaps people aren't willing to make their opinion known because those "casual conversations" aren't taking place often enough. Maybe we need to bring it up more, and take note of the trend we see. I'm not suggesting that we should take a poll. Polls put people on the defensive, since it's obvious that you're recording the data. Going on record with one's views about Ufology is still an intimidating prospect. But just bring up Ufology more often, and note what people tell you. If it is broached often enough in this way, perhaps some of the stigma will die. Ufology may even become a common topic.

A severe sense of impending ridicule has been a big stumbling block for many people in deeply discussing Ufology, even among friends. My circle of friends, though small, seems less pretentious than some, and as such I obviously feel free enough to tackle the subject. I have a spectrum that starts with folks such as the residents of the Unknown Country, who certainly are convinced of UFO's reality, and ends with the scornful. In my case, the latter population is actually quite sparse. That isn't always the case for everyone, and that is one of the foundation goals of this blog.

The scorn needs to be removed from the discussion, but how?

The scornful suffer from peer pressure to marginalize such things as ufology, as doing so keeps them from confronting uncomfortable concepts. Lately, more and more disturbing and perturbing concepts are filling our worldly experience. As this world fluctuates into this less comfortable state, perhaps this sort of blind-eye mindset will fade.

The stories of strangeness and the previously unconceivable are multiplying, and it's increasingly simple to get bombarded by history at your doorstep, via our copious media exposure. Of course, the media certainly has been a negative force in the past for the most part. The journalistic world is slow to change course, so we'll have a challenge in getting a clear message displayed regarding Ufology. For example, most recently, a story came out about a group that is dissatisfied with the progression FOIA access on UFO's and is going to sue to get the ball rolling again. Every news outlet that even addressed the story did so only as eye-rolling comic relief. It is very disrespectful, and is actually shutting them out of reporting something truly interesting.

So. Before us lies what certainly appears to be a long, dusty, and very cluttered road to legitimacy in Ufology. Along that road we're going to have to enlist each other's aid as best we can, and with a common, focused purpose. Let's start walking
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