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Science and the UFO
There is a problem with the so-called science of UFOlogy: Those practicing it are anything but scientific in their approach to it. All too often we in the UFO community talk about applying the rigors of scientific methodology to our study, and then we fail to do so. For the most part, we believe in science but a too often reject it when it does not conform to our beliefs about UFOs.
Scientists, on the other hand, reject UFOlogy because of our lack of scientific standards. To the scientific community, we fail to make our case within a proper scientific framework. Our information, according to them, is anecdotal, poorly documented, and without foundation. They claim we have presented no physical evidence for our beliefs in UFOs; in fact, according to scientists, we have no physical evidence with which to make our case.
It seems that wethe UFO community and the scientific communityare at opposite ends of a long spectrum, never to meet. Until or unless something spectacular happens, that is the way the situation will remain-neither side conceding a point to the other.
Of course, this is often the situation in which science and the general public finds itself. Science will make a pronouncement and not be believed simply because it is inconvenient for the public to do so, the pronouncement violates a long-held belief, or it is in conflict with what science said just last week, last month, or last year.
Much of this is the public's fault. We listen to the scientists' words and then interpret them incorrectly. When science suggests a causal relationship between a chemical and cancer, for example, we don't hearhow the interpretation of evidence is phrased. We leap to the conclusion that the use of the chemical will cause cancer-not that those who use the chemical are at a higher risk for developing cancer, which isn't exactly the same thing.
Or, in the case of the tobacco companies and cigarettes, we hear the government scientists telling us that smoking causes cancer, while the tobacco scientists are telling us that the evidence for that is not conclusive. Here we have two groups of scientists telling us two things that are mutually exclusive, so both can't be right. One set of scientists has to be wrong, Both are credentialed, both have the same sort of training, and both groups are at opposite ends of the spectrum. How can we, the lay public, understand the situation?
In this case, it is easy. All we have to do is look at who pays the scientists. If they are government scientists and they discover no causal link between cancer and smoking, they'll get paid. If they discover the causal link to cancer, they still get paid. The scientists have no agenda other than learning the truth.
On the other hand, the scientists working for the tobacco companies have an interest in discovering no causal link to cancer. If they find one, they are pressured to cover up or reinterpret the results. We've all seen the scientists on 60 Minutes telling us about the pressure applied on them by the tobacco companies to hide their results. The scientists have an agenda to convince the public that smoking is not harmful. Given these facts, it is fairly simple to determine which sets of data are most accurate and most likely correct.
But what do we do when the agenda of the scientists isn't as clear-cut? How do we determine whether science is being fair to the question? How does the layperson determine the truth without having to spend years studying the questions for him or herself? And isn't that what scientists are supposed to do? Aren't they supposed to answer these questions for us accurately, fairly, and with no agenda attached?
Yes, I think so. I think that we all rely on the expertise of others because, in today's world, no single individual can possibly know everything needed to survive. You could spend years learning the law, but that doesn't help if you catch a virus. You can understand the workings of the IRS, but that doesn't help build a personal retirement fund. You can become a master gardener, but that doesn't make you a farmer. The point is that all too often we must leave the answers to those whose expertise can help us learn those answers.
But we have all heard stories of how the experts have been wrong, time and again. We forget that the experts often merely parrot the conventional wisdom of the time and have no expertise beyond what the lay public possesses.
We in the UFO community often point to the fact that the French Academy of sciences, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, rejected the idea that rocks could fall from the sky. Everyone knows that there are no rocks in the sky, and those who suggest otherwise must be deluded, insane, lying, or simply mistaken.
What we rarely talk about is how the French Academy of sciences reversed itself in 1803 when a proper scientific study, along with physical evidence, was offered, proving that rocks could fall from the sky. Jean-Baptiste Biot published his report, and the scientific community in France accepted his study. We in the UFO community could certainly benefit from understanding how Biot accomplished this.
Three weeks after the residents of a Normandy village reported that rocks had fallen from the sky, Biot traveled there from Paris to begin his investigation. I mention this only because it is often weeks, months, or even years after a UFO event has occurred that any sort of investigation begins. Being on the scene of the event is not necessary to proving that the event took place, especially if there is some form of physical evidence left behind...