The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs / Edition 1

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"This is a definitive scholarly exploration of the UFO movement and community, as well as a fascinating book on the conceptual, religious, and scientific margins of modernity as we know it. Denzler has written a truly enjoyable book for both the scholar and the curious observer."‹Massimo Introvigne, Managing Director, The Center for Studies on New Religions, Torino, Italy

"In The Lure of the Edge, Brenda Denzler provides a fascinating and insightful guided tour through the complex maze that is the UFO subculture. She is an expert tour guide who enhances our perspective without imposing her own viewpoint. The result is a fine book and a valuable addition to the literature on UFOs."‹David Bromley, Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies,Virginia Commonwealth University, and editor of The Future of New Religious Movements and The Politics of Religious Apostasy

Author Biography: Brenda Denzler received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Sociologist Denzler presents a deeply researched history of "ufology" (the study and interpretation of UFO phenomena), illuminating what has become a significant American subculture. From the flying saucer sightings of the postwar years to the alien abduction boom of the 1990s, interest in UFOs has persisted despite official discouragement from government, scientific and religious authorities. Denzler takes a special interest in ufology's uneasy relationship with both science and religion, noting that although UFO phenomena seem to invite scientific and/or religious explanation, their anomalous and sometimes bizarre nature has excluded them from the mainstream. In the meantime, communities of ufologists and experiencers have gone their own way, some pursuing scientific rigor despite being dismissed as pseudoscientists, others promoting their own religious interpretations reflecting both Christian and New Age themes. Drawing on her experiences as a participant-observer in ufological groups and conventions, Denzler renders a sympathetic portrait of the UFO subculture without directly identifying with it, and reveals intramural tensions that other commentators have missed. Because Denzler focuses on the UFO community, broader social attitudes about UFOs are only a secondary interest: ufological subject matter in pop culture is virtually ignored. The book's academic style and copious citations make for a dense read at times, and the professionally impartial tone may not appeal to committed UFO believers or debunkers. But readers looking for skillful reportage and deft theorizing about "the UFO myth" (a term Denzler uses non-pejoratively), or a starting point for further academic research,should find it worthwhile. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520239050
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 313
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Brenda Denzler received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University and currently works in North Carolina as a writer and editor.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter Three

Ufology: On the Cutting Edge or the Fringe of Science?

In a sense, science has become the religion of modernity; instrumental reason and technical objectivity are the core of its cult.
—Stephan Fuchs, The Professional Quest for Truth

A discipline . . . is not essentially definable merely by the group of true statements it makes about its subject matter. It is also essentially composed of the acceptable errors it makes and makes possible. The acceptably false is what is recognizable and identifiable. . . . Outside the discipline, however, prowl "monstrosities" and monstrous statements. These seem to be outside the administration of the authoritative paradigm, outside the respectable parameters; they are wild, undisciplined statements that nevertheless seem somehow relevant.
—Bernard McGrane, Beyond Anthropology: Society and the Other

In 1968 Kevin Waters (a pseudonym) tore an article on UFOs out of Playboy and gave it to his son Michael to use for a school project. The article was by Northwestern University astronomy professor J. Allen Hynek, the scientific expert on UFOs during the air force's investigation into the phenomenon. Hynek had spent many hours in fieldwork and analysis of reports of strange aerial phenomena, and this was one of six pieces that he published on the subject. Five of those six appeared between 1966 and 1969.1 Only two were in scholarly or professional journals; the rest were published in the popular press. During the symposium on UFOs held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in December 1969, UFO skeptic Donald H. Menzel, an astronomer atHarvard, suggested that Hynek's professional position on the subject of UFOs was difficult to ascertain because he had only published in the popular press.2 The comment was a barb, since presenting a scientific case before the public instead of to one's peers via refereed journals is commonly viewed as a hallmark of pseudoscience.3 The reason that Hynek chose Playboy as publisher is revealed in a letter he wrote to Waters's son: "I am glad that your father removed my article from Playboy to show it to you. It is unfortunate that Playboy was willing to publish this article but Scientific American was not. This is a sad commentary on the closed-mindedness of many scientists."4 Like other scientists with an interest in UFOs, Hynek was denied a voice in most of his profession's publications yet ridiculed for presenting his work outside of them.

Despite similar rebuffs from the mainstream scientific world, ufologists continued to claim the mantle of science for themselves and their field of study. In part this was because, in spite of assumptions to the contrary, the study of UFOs quietly attracted the sober attention of a number of qualified scientists throughout the years. But in equal part ufologists' claims to scientific status were defensive. They fought the persistent tendency of debunkers and the uninformed to conflate contactees and their cults with study of aerial anomalies focusing on systematic investigation and data gathering. The former was perceived as a primarily religious phenomenon; the latter was seen as a science comparable to observational scientific fields such as astronomy.

A complicating factor in the struggle for scientific acceptance was the fact that the majority of those putting in the hours and the money to do the work of data gathering were not trained scientists. To compensate for this unavoidable shortcoming, most of the major UFO research organizations stressed the importance of developing good scientific methodology for investigating UFO encounters and tried to teach that methodology to the amateur investigators. Ufology thereby became "probably the last great public investigative enterprise wherein the gifted amateur is not at any disadvantage."5 But the effort to make scientists out of amateurs in the name of advancing scientific knowledge about UFOs, a move that might have been acceptable in the preprofessional, more democratic days of early scientific practice, was hardly acceptable to the scientific world of the late twentieth century. In part because of the nonprofessional status of most of its researchers, ufology was accounted, at best, as "one of American history's strangest and most extensive adventures in unorthodox science."6 More pejoratively, the efforts of ufologists were considered "a substitute for religion."7

Suspicion, however, did not move in only one direction. From the beginning there were ufologists who questioned the ability of traditional science to provide answers to the UFO mystery. Eventually the doubts found their way into the thinking of more of the professional scientists in ufology. Such doubts were increased by the advent of the abductee era and legitimated with the popularization of the "New Physics."

Science, Scientists, and UFOs

The modern age of UFOs was born at an important juncture in American history. With the end of World War II the practical benefits of a science that claimed to pursue knowledge for its own sake had become manifest not only to the people of the United States but also to the rest of the world. The enterprise of science ruled the day because of the benefits and the luxuries it could provide and because of the protection that it alone seemed to offer in the face of a Cold War made necessary, ironically enough, by the achievements of science. Questions about the moral valences of science emerged anew, as well as questions about just who would or should control its tangible—and intangible—products. For the most part the question of control boiled down to a question of the kind and degree of governmental (and military) control that would be exercised over scientific research. But in a democracy like the United States there was also an important popular factor in the issue of control. The people, who collectively footed the bill for government-sponsored research, needed to be persuaded to do so. And that meant public science education. It was not always an easy task.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, endeavors recognized as "science" had become embodied in a method that exalted secularity, rationalism, and naturalism. That is to say, the scientific method operated without reference to larger purposes such as human salvation or divine will. It was committed to understanding nature solely in terms of discoverable processes that operated according to abstract principles and laws. This method favored the establishment of schools to train individuals in its use and to provide them with the physical and financial means of doing so, which gave rise to the modern "research university" and the professional scientist. The days of the self-taught amateur scientist were very much on the wane by then, and drew more or less to a close by the 1920s after the famous Scopes trial effectively pitted an older view of science as a reading of God's Book of Nature against the newer view of science as the pursuit of truth based on the revelations of nature alone and uncommitted to any religious context.8

This professionalization of science, plus a growing tendency toward scientific specialization and an increasing abstractness in scientific discourse, tended to remove it from the intellectual grasp of the average person. Indeed, although science became increasingly successful on its own terms, it became less successful at appealing to the interests (and thus the goodwill) of the general population who were expected—nay, needed—to help foot the bill. To solve this problem an effort was made to promote wider popular appreciation not only for the practical fruits of science but also for the work itself—its purposes, methods, theories, and challenges. But because there were few or no professional rewards to scientists for doing this, the task of popularization fell largely to journalists and science educators with minimal (or no) scientific credentials. With the advent of television, the potential for science popularization reached a new high—but so did the potential for fracturing the "cultural symbolism" of science into mere bits of trivia disconnected from any substantive relationship to the practice and findings of science.9 It was in such a time of the simultaneous apotheosis of science and fracturing of its symbols that the UFO movement came to be—and to be caught in the middle.

The role of the government in the history of ufology is a central part of the UFO myth. The role of science is equally important, but it is typically treated, by scholars who consider the matter at all, as essentially nonexistent. Ufology is cited as an example of "unorthodox" (pseudo)science or of the lamentable failure of scientific educators to teach the American public to understand and use scientific ways of thinking. James Gilbert, for instance, in his excellent discussion of the interaction of religion and science in twentieth-century American culture, properly considers the UFO controversy as "a variant of the larger discussion about the place of science and religion in the postwar world."10 The appearance of the contactees alone justifies that statement. But his analysis stops there. According to Gilbert, ufology's only relationship to legitimate science was, first, through its role in reiterating and deepening the problems inherent in producing a scientifically informed populace, and, second, in its threat—albeit only briefly—to "subvert the united front of mainstream science" by gaining a hearing at the 1969 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.11 In the end, he writes, though "there was simply no scientific evidence to bolster their claims," ufologists won the day because the denials and criticisms of scientists only threw fuel on the flames of the debate about the roles of science and religion in modern life.12 The picture Gilbert paints of ufology's relationship to science is understandable given the fact that he relied heavily for his UFO information on the writings of debunker Donald Menzel. But the actual picture of the involvement of science in the UFO movement is considerably more complex.

The Positive Side of the Scientific Interest in UFOs

When he began his job as director of Project Blue Book in 1951, one of the first facts Edward Ruppelt learned was that "UFO's were being freely and seriously discussed in scientific circles."13 This does not mean that UFOs were the subject of funded and formalized scientific research, but rather that a relatively open attitude toward the subject prevailed in scientific circles during the early 1950s and led to the formation of an unofficial "UFO grapevine" that operated within and between major scientific laboratories.14 Even as late as 1958 there was an official UFO club at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.15 Most scientific (especially instrumented) research on UFOs was undertaken on an ad hoc basis by small groups of interested scientists whose places of employment were cooperative but formally aloof, stressing (when asked) that the investigations were strictly "the extracurricular affairs of the scientists involved."16 One such research group, masquerading publicly as a "rock hunting" group, measured radiation emissions in UFO flap areas during the fall of 1949 and then replicated their experiments sporadically through 1950-1951 with better equipment and procedures. News of their efforts quickly made it onto the UFO grapevine and assumed the status of rumor, because almost no one knew the principals involved. Though their findings were suggestive, they were never published and made available to the larger scientific community because the researchers wanted to avoid ridicule. The one or two other "rock hunting" clubs who took inspiration from the original group also failed to publish their results, for the same reasons.17 In 1973 a rash of UFO sightings in southeast Missouri prompted a physicist from a nearby university to set aside his fear that involvement would jeopardize his career. He began a lengthy instrumented and observational field investigation of the phenomena. Unlike his "rock hunting" predecessors, he eventually published the story of his research, though in book form and not in a traditional scientific venue or format.18

For most professional scientists, however, the fear of ridicule and loss of professional status prevented them from pursuing an active interest UFOs. An informal 1952 survey of astronomers revealed that none of them would admit publicly to having an interest in UFOs.19 But fear of public ridicule did not prevent scientists from having a privately respectful interest in the subject. In his capacity as director of Project Blue Book, Ruppelt was often called upon to provide briefings on the UFO phenomenon to groups engaged in government work.

The one thing about these briefings that never failed to amaze me was the interest in UFOs within scientific circles. . . . Our briefings weren't just squeezed in; in many instances we would arrive at a place to find that a whole day had been set aside to talk about UFOs. And never once did I meet anyone who laughed off the whole subject of flying saucers even though publicly these same people had jovially sloughed off the press with answers of "hallucinations," "absurd" or "a waste of time and money." They weren't wild-eyed fans but they were certainly interested.20

Despite the reluctance of most scientists to get involved in the UFO controversy, on several occasions professional scientific (and other) organizations sponsored discussions on the subject. The American Optical Society sponsored a symposium on UFOs in October 1952; the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics convened a panel in 1968 to study the UFO evidence (and found that, contrary to the Condon Committee report, the subject did warrant further scientific investigation). As noted previously, the American Association for the Advancement of Science made UFOs, and especially the just-released Condon Report, a focus of its 1969 meeting and later formed a special subcommittee that reiterated the need for more scientific investigation of UFOs.21 In fact, the Condon Committee was a catalyst for a brief burst of UFO research. After the committee's creation, more scientists took up UFO investigations and, though scientific publications had refused to publish reports of aerial anomalies for two decades, the influx of scientists into the field and the legitimation of UFO research provided by the existence of the committee resulted in a temporary increase in the numbers of UFO-related papers and informational articles they accepted.22 A survey of twenty-two scientific journals and magazines from 1953 through 1990 reveals that there was one UFO article published in 1953, three in 1966, seven in 1967, eight in 1968, fifteen in 1969, three in 1970, five in 1971, and only a few scattered through the remaining years.23 Thereafter, scientific papers on UFO phenomena tended to be accepted (if at all) only in smaller publications with more limited readerships. A physiologist at the Ohio State University Medical School reported that between 1987 and 1990 he published five UFO-related articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.24 But although indeed peer-reviewed, the journals were mostly small, regionally oriented publications. This pattern for professional publication on UFOs is similar to that reported by Herbert Strentz in his survey of UFO reports in newspapers. He found that most UFO reporting was of sightings treated as local news events covered only by local newspapers. Large-circulation newspapers tended to publish only general articles about UFOs during periods of widespread UFO interest, and even then would do so only occasionally.25

Despite—or because of—the modest levels of formal UFO investigation made possible by the interest of scientific organizations and publications, most scientists continued to express a great deal of reserve about being publicly associated with the topic in any way, shape, or form. Surveys of engineers and scientists in 1971 and again in 1979 showed that anywhere from 18 percent to 22 percent had sighted something that could have been a UFO.26 Most of those individuals (88 percent) had discussed it only with family and friends.27 A 1973 poll of members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics found that most of the group would not report a UFO sighting unless they were guaranteed anonymity.28 In 1975 a poll of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) offered astronomers an opportunity to do just that: It revealed that 5 percent of the respondents had witnessed some kind of puzzling phenomenon in the sky.29 The conventional wisdom among UFO skeptics, however, was that scientists (and especially astronomers) never had UFO sightings and never made UFO reports. That wisdom was wrong. Not only did a fraction of the AAS report sightings anonymously, some well-known astronomers came forward to report that they, too, had seen a UFO. Probably the most famous astronomer-sighter was Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of the planet Pluto. According to ufologists, his sighting on August 20, 1949, propelled him on a quest to discover whether UFOs were from another world, and he came to believe, at the least, that aerial phenomena seen by pilots might well be "related to the question of space travel."30 According to a personal communication reported by Menzel, however, Tombaugh stated that the most likely explanation for his sighting was "some natural optical phenomenon in our own atmosphere."31 UFO sightings were also reported by Walter N. Webb, a lecturer on astronomy at the Charles Hayden Planetarium in Boston; Seymour Hess, the chair of the Meteorology Department at Florida State University (on May 20, 1950); astronomer H. Percy Wilkins (on June 11, 1954); Bart Bok of the Mt. Stromlo Observatory in Canberra, Australia (in 1963); Robert Johnson, chief of the Adler Planetarium in Chicago; and by the Majorca Observatory in Spain.32 Frank Halstead, the curator of the Darling Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota, stated that he thought we should "assume that we have had space visitors."33 And though he never claimed to have had a sighting, the father of German rocket development, Hermann Oberth, stated that he thought UFOs were interplanetary vehicles.34

The Question of Extraterrestrial Life

Despite the eyewitness reports of a few scientists and the interest of numerous others, the idea that UFOs really exist was never widely accepted in scientific circles. Part of the reason could be located in the term UFO itself. From an early date it was equated with "flying saucer," an object that was not unidentified but, rather, was identified as a vehicle from another planet. And the question of whether extraterrestrial life existed was not at all a settled one. Philosophers, theologians, and scientists had debated the possibility of there being a plurality of worlds for centuries.35 By the beginning of the twentieth century the general scientific opinion was that although extraterrestrial life might exist (or have existed or come to exist) in other parts of the universe, there was no evidence that it had been or currently was (outside of the Earth) a feature of our own solar system, or even a feature of our closest galactic neighbors.36 But for the most part the subject of extraterrestrial life was not widely addressed by science during the first decades of this century. It became instead a topic for science fiction writers more than a matter for serious scientific or philosophical concern—a subject "at the very limits of science."37

With the technological advances achieved during World War II and its aftermath, however, and as human space travel became a reality, some scientists began to entertain the possibility of finding signs of extraterrestrial life—not in the form of UFOs but as radio signals beamed into space by other civilizations.38 Carl Sagan, a major UFO debunker, nevertheless felt strongly that humanity was not alone in the universe and that the scientific search for extraterrestrial life was an almost sacred duty.39 Frank Drake, one of the pioneers in the radio astronomy program known as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), proposed a now-famous equation to estimate the number of technological civilizations that might exist in our galaxy alone. Starting with the number of stars in the Milky Way, Drake multiplied that number by a succession of fractions representing scientists' best guesses as to what part of all stars were sunlike (neither too cold nor too hot to support life), what part of these suns might have planets orbiting them, and so on. The exact answers derived depended on the guesstimates used, but the answers never approached zero. The final results of the equation are complicated by the factor of time: How many of the possible Earth-like worlds with intelligent life would be at a sufficient level of development to have the capability of sending us a sign of their existence right now, when we are, reciprocally, advanced enough to be able to receive it? Another question was, how many advanced civilizations survived the destructive potentials inherent in their own technology? Given the Cold War climate and the justifiable concern over the nuclear arms race, such questions were not merely disinterested speculations on the part of scientists.40

The results of the Drake equation could be cited by ufologists as a logical reason to believe that UFOs (considered as extraterrestrial vehicles) were real. This assertion was questioned by mainstream scientists, however, because of the distances involved in interstellar travel. There was no reason to suspect that other life forms would be unconstrained by the laws that bounded our own physical existence, and no life form known to humanity could live long enough to make a round trip to an extraterrestrial neighbor—even if they were able (technologically and physiologically) to travel at the speed of light. So although it seemed likely that we were not alone in the universe, most scientists felt that it was virtually impossible that we had been visited.41 But by the end of the twentieth century, the technological means of traveling to at least our nearest galactic neighbors was no longer impossible to envision. And if humanity could envision it, there was no reason why an alien race with only slightly superior technology might not have achieved it. Scientists then came up with a different reason for rejecting the idea that aliens had already visited Earth. The fact that no one could provide unassailable evidence of alien contact indicated that probably no intelligent extraterrestrial life existed.42 In the end, for most scientists, UFOsqua extraterrestrial flying saucers could not exist, no matter how many people claimed to have seen them, no matter how competent those observers might have been, no matter how likely it was that life existed on other planets, and no matter how sophisticated our own plans for interstellar travel might be.

And there were other reasons for doubting the reality of UFOs. Chief among them was the fact that the UFOs' reported actions were incomprehensible. If an off-world civilization was visiting Earth, why didn't they land on the White House lawn and initiate formal contact? If extraterrestrials were here as invaders, why hadn't they quickly conquered us, given the obvious superiority of their technology as witnessed by their vehicles? The same observation applied to the idea that extraterrestrials might come here for material gain. And if something like a religious "missionary impulse" were their motive for travel, surely they would have made formal contact so as to facilitate spreading their message.43

If the psychology of the alleged extraterrestrials operating the UFOs remained opaque, the psychology of the individuals and the society who claimed to see them seemed less so. Scientists thought that people were victims of their own misperceptions, wishful thinking (i.e., the hope for a cosmic savior), or the desire for fame and fortune, and that society as a whole was suffering from "Cold War jitters" and an insufficient understanding of the methods and conclusions of legitimate science. For many scientists the UFO phenomenon represented, most fundamentally, a failure of science to popularize itself among the masses so as to make its own ideas and approaches to natural phenomena a part of the intellectual currency of everyday life.44 The task of rectifying this situation, at least in regard to UFOs, was eventually taken up by a few scientists and technically trained individuals who came to be known in the UFO world as "debunkers." It was increasingly in the person of debunkers that ufology had its formal contacts with the world of mainstream science.

The Debunkers

Although Charles Mackay's mid-nineteenth-century Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds failed to mention any sort of mania resulting from UFO-like sightings,45 by the latter part of the twentieth century similar books regularly included ufology among the ranks of "popular delusions." Martin Gardner's 1952 Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science was probably the first to deal specifically with UFO sightings as one manifestation of popular pseudoscience in the modern world.46 After that, ufology merited inclusion in most books that lamented (and hoped to correct) the scientific ignorance of the public.47 The project of these books tended to run in one of two different directions. Some focused attention on individual instances of pseudoscientific belief in American society and attempted to show why such belief was irrational and nonscientific. They cited inconsistencies internal to the belief, inconsistencies of the belief with the known facts of science, and problems with the data or the methods used to analyze the data that formed the basis for the beliefs. Other books on pseudoscience in which ufology often received mention approached the problem of irrational beliefs from the perspective of the canons of logic that through the centuries had come to inform rational thought. They described the ways in which human cognitive processes are biased toward misperceiving random events as having a discernable pattern, toward associating events into cause-and-effect schemes, and toward seeing further events as confirming patterns and schemes that have already been mentally constructed, all of which leads most people, in short, to see what they expect to see. UFO phenomena were often cited as illustrations of these common logical fallacies. Most of the authors of these exposés of irrationality did not investigate ufology in any depth on their own, but relied for their knowledge of the subject on the writings of the few debunkers who made the crusade against ufology their special cause. These individuals thus functioned as gatekeepers between ufology and the scientific world.

At first the task of educating the public out of its belief in UFOs was undertaken on a case-by-case basis, as publicity of any particular UFO encounter made necessary (or possible).48 But in 1953, the same year as the Robertson Panel's recommendation that UFOs be systematically debunked, the first anti-UFO book appeared in the trade market and signaled the beginning of a long scientific polemic against ufology. Written by Donald H. Menzel, Flying Saucers was followed in 1963 by his The World of Flying Saucers: A Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age (coauthored with Lyle G. Boyd), in 1968 by Philip J. Klass's UFOs Identified, in 1975 by Klass's UFOs Explained, in 1977 by Menzel and Ernest Taves's The UFO Enigma: The Definitive Explanation of the UFO Phenomenon, and in 1983 by Klass's UFOs: The Public Deceived. Each book attempted to address new issues raised by the ever-growing, ever-changing UFO phenomenon. Thus, after the burgeoning interest in alien abductions took the UFO world and much of the rest of the American public by storm, in 1989 Klass published UFO Abductions: A Dangerous Game, and in response to the growing public fascination with the Roswell UFO crash story, in 1993 he wrote The Crashed Saucer Cover-Up. Though there were other important contributors to the effort to educate the public out of its UFO belief, Menzel, a Harvard astronomer, and Klass, an editor for Aviation Week and Space Technology who some called "one of the most careful of the UFO debunkers," were the most prolific of the anti-UFO contingent.49 When a group of concerned scientists formed the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP—pronounced like "psi cop") in 1975, Klass assumed the leadership of its UFO subsection.50 Together, Menzel and Klass helped to define the agenda—and set the tone—for the scientific debate with ufology.

Despite the fact that from time to time a ufologist would emphasize that the U in UFO stood for "unknown," at the heart of the belief in UFOs against which the debunkers battled lay the twin theories that there was other intelligent life in the universe and that it had been visiting the planet Earth.51 Rather than flatly reject the popular belief in extraterrestrial life, UFO skeptics averred that the government and most scientists were as enchanted with the notion as the American public and, further, that they would love to be able to acknowledge the reality of alien visitation if there were any evidence for it. But, sadly, there was none.52 In fact, the skeptics warned, the idea of aliens visiting the Earth was inextricably bound up with post-World War II science fiction and with antagonism to the intellectual and evidentiary "restrictions" imposed by the scientific method.53 Ufologists, as scientists saw them, exhibited at best a childlike disregard for the discipline of science and at worst a spirit of scientific anarchy with their insistence on the reality of vehicles whose appearance, maneuvers, and disappearance in Earth's skies implied the "overthrowing [of] the laws of gravity and inertia."54 Perhaps the cause of that anarchistic spirit, thought critics, was the fact that although some ufologists were "highly respected in their own professions . . . few are recognized specialists in the fields required for the analysis of most UFO cases."55 And many were only amateur scientists at best.56 When well-qualified scientists did take a proactive interest in studying UFOs, they were held up by the UFO community as instances of mainstream scientific validation and seen by the American public as spokespersons for science in general.57 But critics pointed out that these scientists were not representative of the mainstream scientific community. Instead they were individuals who through the conniving and deceit of others had been led, regretfully, "through the looking glass and into the study of things that are far beyond their ability to handle rationally."58

The deceptive "others" in this case were the nonscientific UFO researchers and the UFO witnesses, the latter of whom seemed to the debunkers to suffer from a variety of perceptual deficits and even, perhaps, psychological problems. Skeptical psychologists speculated that it was "a population of emotionally disturbed people" who were most likely to believe in extraterrestrial visitation and have UFO sightings as a result. When under stress, these individuals supposedly fell back on the more "primal" modes of thinking characterized by magical and mythical forms of explanation that lay beneath human conscious and unconscious thought processes.59 Other UFO witnesses, debunkers felt, were simply dishonest. "There is no doubt that a great number of alleged UFO sightings are attributable to liars telling lies,"60 observed Menzel as a preface to a discussion of the kinds of lies that people tell and the social or psychological motivations for lying. Some UFO witnesses, he said, seemed to fit the description of the compulsive liar—a person who is able to bamboozle people with the most outlandish tales but who, when faced with proof of their lying, can only say, "I'm sorry you don't believe me."61 Other witnesses were people who had mistaken normal phenomena for something extraordinary owing to defective vision.62

By far the most common reason debunkers suggested for UFO sightings was the misperception of meteorological phenomena combined with a vast overestimation of the reliability of human powers of observation.63 Early debunkers described at considerable length the various kinds and causes of meteorological optical phenomena that were reported as UFOs, and also discussed airborne objects like weather balloons and flocks of birds that had been similarly mistaken. The relevance of these phenomena to UFO sighting reports was illustrated by case studies in which a UFO report was explainable once the phenomenon producing it was understood. But not all sighting reports, the critics admitted, were so easily solved. Sometimes accounting for all of the reported features of a UFO sighting required the critical analyst to understand that rare meteorological anomalies could, and often did, combine in such a way as to produce particularly spectacular—and particularly intractable—UFO sightings. For instance, in one case dating from 1953 a UFO was sighted by multiple ground observers, simultaneously registered on radar, and photographed by gun cameras aboard jets scrambled to intercept the intruder. Critical analysis of the incident revealed that there had been more than one target in the air and that the visual and the radar targets had not been the same.64 Indeed, there were many UFO cases that required a "more prosaic though complicated solution" involving such "unlikely coincidences."65

In the end, though, admitted the debunkers, not all features of all UFO sightings could be explained, even by recourse to theories of multiple-causation, because of one centrally important fact: Giving "exceptional weight" to an observer's statements was simply unjustified. If the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) was a central organizing concept for ufology, the unreliability of witness observations was the central organizing concept of the debunkers, according to whom "most people are simply not good observers or good reporters of what they see."66 The fallibility of the human perceptual apparatus, combined with the all-too-human tendency immediately to interpret what is perceived, meant that "even the experienced observer is easily misled."67 Thus it felt like no defeat to debunkers to admit that there was a residuum of UFO cases that remained unexplained. These were the cases, they said, in which the data were incomplete or inadequate. But "where the sighting data are adequate, there are no unexplained cases."68 And even if the few unexplained cases seemed compelling to some people, "A residue of unexplained cases is not a justification for continuing an investigation after overwhelming evidence has disposed of hypotheses of supernormality, such as beings from outer space. . . . Unexplained cases are simply unexplained."69

Despite their overwhelmingly negative appraisal of the UFO phenomenon, debunkers did not entirely shut the door on the possibility that one day alien visitation might occur. "If . . . there should occur . . . just one sighting 'with irreproachable credentials and inescapable significance,'" wrote Menzel, "the reality and nature of the UFO phenomenon would be established."70 The issue of just what would be acceptable as "irreproachable credentials" was problematic, however. In fact, it was the crucial point of contention between ufologists and debunkers. In 1953 Menzel suggested the adoption of a five-part model for testing information. Reports should be (1) firsthand and (2) untarnished by interpretations made concurrently with the observation. They would, ideally, (3) come from a qualified observer and (4) be backed up by the observations of other independent, reliable observers. Finally, all observation statements would be written down and (5) signed "and thus backed up by the reputation of the person who makes them."71

By the 1960s and 1970s ufologists had offered a number of UFO encounters that seemed to fit these requirements. A classic case was the sighting in New Zealand by Father Gill. Another involved the sighting of a UFO on March 3, 1968, by multiple witnesses in Tennessee, Ohio, and Indiana. The timing of the sightings, the trajectory of the flight path, and the similarity of the object sighted in all three locations indicated that this was probably a single anomalous object. The witnesses, who included the mayor of a town in Tennessee together with two of his friends, a Ph.D. scientist from Ohio, and a group of neighbors in Indiana, observed a low-flying, structured craft with rows of "windows" around it. Appraisal of the sighting by debunkers suggested, however, that the event was caused by the Soviet Zond IV rocket reentering the Earth's atmosphere and burning up. (The windows reported by the observers were explained as misidentifications.)72

Clearly the standards Menzel proposed for evidence of UFO visitation were not foolproof. And they were not likely to be improved by adding instrumented observations to the criteria. As noted previously, simultaneous radar and visual sightings were not, in themselves, considered proof by debunkers, because two totally separate targets might appear coincidentally at the same time and place. Photographs and movies of UFOs were equally troublesome, because hoaxes were easy to create but harder to spot—and in any event the vagaries of film manufacture and processing, not to mention camera function, made film a questionable medium on which to hang hopes for proof.73 Similarly, alleged "artifacts" from UFO encounters always proved to be disappointingly mundane. Fragments of metal from malfunctioning or crashed saucers turned out to be foundry slag. Alien "pancakes" were made of thoroughly terrestrial ingredients. And "angel hair," the wispy threadlike trailings said to be left on the ground by passing UFOs, could be caused by anything from migrating spiders spinning webs to fabric threads wafting through the air from textile mills.74

Some debunkers in the late 1970s felt that "the most conclusive case for the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs, if just one could be established beyond doubt, would be one in which one or more earth people went aboard an alien spacecraft and engaged in some kind of contact or communication."75 But if the facticity of simple sightings was difficult to prove, direct contact between UFO occupants and Earth people was exponentially more so. As debunkers were wont to say, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."76 And contact evidence of any kind, much less "extraordinary" evidence, proved difficult to come by. One reason was because, to debunkers and their supporters in the scientific mainstream, many claims of close UFO encounters could be written off as hoaxes.77 This included not only the legendary contactees but even the growing group of individuals known as abductees. The abduction of Calvin Parker and Charlie Hickson in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was dismissed as a giant hoax. According to Menzel, the fear that the two so obviously exhibited was because "they had just created a real whopper and were about to see what would happen in consequence of trying it out."78

For the most part, debunkers felt that the stories told by abductees reflected deep psychological (but not real-world physiological) events. The abduction of Betty and Barney Hill, for instance, was a case of one person's (Betty's) dreams and fantasies becoming externalized and adopted by another (Barney).79 Indeed, one of the most oft-cited skeptical theories about the etiology of abduction stories was fantasy proneness—the tendency of some people to have a very rich fantasy life, be easily hypnotized, have vivid memories, experience "waking dreams" (otherwise known as hypnopompic and hypnagogic hallucinations), and report a wide variety of psychic phenomena such as out-of-body travel, apparitions, or automatic writing.80 The fantasy-prone were known to be subject to nightmares, and the abduction experience as it had been popularized was nothing if not a nightmare.81 In fact, in its basic contours it resembled folkloric tales of being "hagged" that is, waking up with the impression that someone has just entered the room and approached the bed, feeling paralyzed and unable to move or cry out, and being pressed on the chest or strangled.82 Alternatively, some skeptics felt that abduction stories were evidence of sadomasochistic tendencies and a "flight from the self" or manifestations of Munchausen's Syndrome or of dissociative states.83 Other skeptics felt that some abduction narratives were likely to be disguised artifacts of very real physical events, such as childhood sexual abuse or memories of birth trauma.84 Or that abduction experiences were produced from transient "electrical storms" in the brain like those that occur in epileptic seizures or through exposure to certain kinds of electromagnetic fields.85

No matter what psychological or physiological background the individual brought to their memories of abduction, skeptics almost uniformly agreed that the widespread use of hypnotic regression to "uncover" abductions was a major—or the major—contributing factor to the rise in claims of abduction experiences. Far from being a reliable tool for recovering lost and repressed memories of factual circumstances, hypnosis was a "dangerous, unreliable, and deceptive procedure" during which subtle social and psychological pressures to perform (not to mention incompetent technique on the part of the hypnotist) could produce "memories" of events that had never happened, a process known as "confabulation."86 According to debunkers, once individuals had (re-?) constructed abduction narratives with the help of a hypnotist, they tended to persevere in and elaborate upon their stories out of a desire to please the therapist, who in turn reinforced the story by proclaiming how important it was as a contribution to understanding the meaning of the alien presence on Earth. Thus a typical abductee went from being someone who "doesn't have much to attract people interpersonally" to becoming "the object of interest of a significant person" (the hypnotist-researcher) and, possibly, a celebrity in the UFO community.87 Paralleling earlier cautions about the accuracy of the human perceptual apparatus in UFO sightings, abduction skeptics cautioned that "We are not fully rational creatures. Our minds are not computers. . . . Our memories cannot be trusted—not our five-minute-old memories, and certainly not our decades-old memories. . . . With or without hypnosis, we are susceptible to suggestion."88

As for the alleged physical sequelae of abductions, debunkers emphasized that there was no real, substantial evidence.89 Odd patterns of scarring or bruising on abductees' bodies hardly constituted proof. Things (implants) removed from abductees' bodies only proved that something odd had gotten in there in the first place, but proved nothing about how and when it had happened, or who had put it there. And the suddenly missing pregnancies and subsequent reproductive irregularities reported by female abductees could be accounted for by any number of mundane phenomena. One skeptic pointed out that he would "sooner believe that she'd been to an incompetent abortionist than believe [an abductee's] story about alien abduction."90 As skeptic Robert Baker observed, "The physical evidence is, and has always been, merely circumstantial and never so massive that it has ever become persuasive."91

In the long run, the mainstream scientific world was unable to accept UFO sightings and still less alien abductions as proof of the reality of UFOs.92 UFO phenomena were too easy to hoax or to confabulate. Even given sincere reports, the best eyewitness testimony was still subject to distortion, illusion, and misinterpretation. Instruments used to record UFO encounters were subject to error and were often no better at detecting optical illusions than were human eyes. And memories were notoriously prone to error and manipulation. The only ones in the scientific community who failed to see things this way were, it was said, those "who believe in the existence of UFOs . . . largely because many of them have had personal experiences of sightings."93 And indeed, that was the bottom line for the scientific community as a whole. Not only could UFO phenomena not be brought into a laboratory and studied, they could not even be expected to appear in the skies for reliably scheduled and systematic observation. What was wanted and what was lacking for the majority of those who made their living by harnessing their experiences of the natural world to the strict methods and principles of science was personal experience itself. Seeing, and only seeing, would be believing. As astronomer Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp, pointedly declared:

If indeed there are alien spacecraft flying around Earth with the frequency with which UFO devotees are claiming, then I must ask how come I have never seen anything remotely resembling such an object, while at the same time I have managed to see all these various other types of phenomena. I consider it likely that there are advanced alien races somewhere "out there," and I remain open to the possibility that, unlikely as it may seem, one or more such races could be visiting Earth. But if so, where are they? If they possess the technology capable of traveling interstellar distances, then they are so far ahead of us that there can be no reason for them to be afraid of us. If they wish to hide from us, they could do so easily; if they don't wish to, then they have no need to play games with us and only show themselves to a few unwitting individuals. Let them reveal themselves to humanity at large, to our scientists, and to me.94

But when confronted with an experience of their own, scientists could be surprisingly receptive to the possibilities it adumbrated. Take the case of Kary Mullis, winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction. In 1985 Mullis traveled to his isolated cabin in northern California, arriving late at night. On his way to the outhouse he met a glowing raccoon who said, "Good evening, Doctor." The next thing Mullis knew, it was sunrise and he was walking along a road near his property, uncharacteristically dry and dirt-free for someone who had apparently spent the night outdoors. When he returned to his cabin, he found the lights still burning, his solar-powered batteries almost dead, and his perishable groceries still sitting on the floor where he had hurriedly left them, unrefrigerated. Reflecting on the incident, Mullis wrote:

I wouldn't try to publish a scientific paper about these things, because I can't do any experiments. I can't make glowing raccoons appear. I can't buy them from a scientific supply house to study. I can't cause myself to be lost again for several hours. But I don't deny what happened. It's what science calls anecdotal, because it only happened in a way that you can't reproduce. But it happened.95

In their high estimations of the evidentiary power of having a UFO experience of their own, scientists were actually very much like the members of the UFO community whom I surveyed. Where most of them differed was in their readiness to take seriously even the best reports of others' experiences.

Science in the UFO Community

The reaction of the UFO community to the criticisms leveled by the debunkers and the rejection by mainstream science was varied. Some defended science and the scientific method as the one sure way to learn more about UFO phenomena and sought the answer to ufology's rejection by science within ufology itself. The problem preventing more widespread acceptance, they suggested, was the way in which UFO facts were presented to the scientific community, which was accustomed to certain styles and standards of presentation.96 Others in the UFO community felt that the reason the UFO problem had not received its rightful share of attention by the scientific mainstream was because the military establishment had assumed the dominant role with regard to UFO reports from the outset, with the consequence that scientists, instead of being in charge of UFO investigations, were only employed as assistants to what was treated as a military and security issue.97 Others maintained that the problem was just the reverse: Scientific advisors during the earliest days of the air force inquiry into UFOs had assured the military that UFOs were not unknown phenomena, which had caused all future air force investigations to be seriously deficient.98 Still others located the main problem in the association of contactees with the UFO phenomenon or in the incredible aerial maneuvers that UFOs were reported to make—neither of which was likely to persuade scientists that UFOs were a real scientific problem, because both suggested a radical break with known scientific laws and principles.99 Another observer pointed out that hostile reception of skeptics' arguments within the UFO community may have helped to dissuade other scientists from taking up the study of the phenomenon. "Scientists who have dared to express attitudes skeptical of alien visitations have been called liars, CIA disinformation agents, dupes, [and] incompetents. Then these same [UFO] believers demand that scientists investigate UFO's."100

Other critics within the UFO community located the problem more in the scientific community than in ufology. One observed, "I cannot help but be skeptical of the attitude that normal science will graciously invite ufologists into the club just as soon as they clean up their scientific act."101 They insisted that the main problem was the debunkers who addressed themselves to UFOs but were not, in fact, scientific in their attitudes or their methods.102 Most debunkers, ufologists claimed, were only "armchair experts" on the subject who had done little or no actual fieldwork investigating UFO sightings.103 Debunkers based their criticisms "on the worst science, the shoddiest research, and the most inflated rhetoric" in ufology, all of which admittedly existed, given the field's necessary reliance on nonprofessional investigators.104 When debunkers did address themselves to the better UFO reports, they took only pieces of them, twisted the facts to fit their own theories, then dismissed or ignored the rest of the report as well as other reports that tended to corroborate the first.105 Skeptics' attitude toward witness testimony amounted to saying that witnesses were lying about parts or all of their experiences.106 And when it came to appointing panels of scientists to consider UFO data, almost inevitably the scientists selected were those who had little or no background in the subject, instead of being from among those who were thoroughly conversant with the topic.107 Vallee expressed the views of many in the UFO community when he observed that "the scientific method has never been applied to this problem."108 In fact, ufologists said, rather than being an embarrassment to science, a truly scientific study of UFOs would be an excellent way to educate the public about how science works.109

Despite their disapproval of the debunkers, the UFO community did not want to reject out of hand all ideas contrary to UFO reality. Skeptical criticisms of the phenomena were welcomed, ufologists said; it was biased investigations conducted in the name of science that were not. "Opponents are valued parts of any healthy controversy," folklorist Thomas Bullard pointed out. "They keep proponents on their toes. . . . Enemies are another matter."110 In the eyes of many in the UFO community, the evidential demands and the criticisms of the debunkers had gone far beyond the point of rational skepticism. Worse, debunkers' pronouncements were picked up and echoed by people in the scientific community who had even less direct experience with or knowledge of UFO phenomena. All of which made it difficult (and even sometimes seemingly pointless) to try to distinguish the obdurate debunker from the critical scientist whose interest might be won under the right circumstances. Yet some ufologists cautioned, "As long as we regard everyone in science, journalism and government as our intransigent enemies by definition, the more we isolate ourselves and our subject of study from the mainstream of American thought."111

The crux of the argument between ufologists and skeptics was the issue of proper presentation and interpretation of data. A year after the Condon Committee released its report with its 30 percent of unresolved sightings, skeptical scientists were still saying that what was required of the UFO community was just one good case. "If the proponents of extraordinary phenomena want to be taken seriously, they must pick one case which they agree is strong evidence and invite other scientists to investigate it. . . . The only way to convince the scientific community that something strange is going on is to present specific evidence concisely."112 But therein lay the problem. Even in the early 1950s the question of what constituted "strong evidence" was a contested one. Ruppelt noted that each time the UFO evidence began to meet the requirements set forth by the skeptics, the evidential bar would be raised.

What constitutes proof? Does a UFO have to land? . . . Or is it proof when a ground radar station detects a UFO? . . . [When] the jet pilot sees it, and locks on with his radar? . . . When a jet pilot fires at a UFO?. . . [What skeptics then demanded was] any . . . kind of instrumented data. . . . When the small group of independent scientists had gathered instrumented data suggesting that whenever there were nearby UFO sightings, background radiation rates went up significantly, the consultants called in to look over the data said "the data still aren't good enough."113

Despite the ever-changing standards, the response of the UFO community to this request for evidence was to supply case after case for the skeptics' consideration—so much so that Robert Low, of Condon Committee fame, called the UFO world a "revolving showcase" of sightings wherein one report said by skeptics to be mundane merely generated three more in its place.114 To mainstream scientists the parade of UFO encounter cases offered up by the UFO community seemed the mere accumulation of a series of basically unreliable anecdotes.115 Ufologists, in contrast, saw the accounts as having a striking homogeneity and thus as constituting a "considerable body of . . . evidence" for UFO reality.116 They pointed out that "in a court of law, if this many credible men and women presented such intricately corroborative eyewitness testimony" it would be sufficient to send a person to jail.117 But the skeptics rejoined that "if one is to convince the world that strange, solid objects, controlled by some unknown intelligence, are flying about in our sky, he or she must have evidence beyond common human testimony!"118

Some members of the UFO community felt that the "one good case" approach, with its endless series of individual reports, was never likely to be very convincing. Instead, what would be compelling was presentation of the overall pattern of information found in the variety of UFO reports.119 But even here there was a problem with the debunkers, who were just as likely to reject UFO evidence presented in aggregate as they were to dismiss individual reports. Menzel, citing a statistical analysis of electromagnetic effects of UFOs, criticized the study in question by saying it had lumped together heterogeneous data and then tried to use mathematical methods to make sense of it.120 Other UFO studies that looked for patterns in the data (few though such studies were) failed to attract the attention of the larger scientific community.121 A UFO skeptic writing in the 1990s stated that no clear patterns of UFO behavior had ever emerged from UFO reports.122

One skeptic attempted to spell out the exact nature of the evidence that would be acceptable to scientists. "Scientific evidence," he explained, is not defined by its reproducibility, for many natural phenomena are not reproducible on demand. Nor is it defined as that which can be recorded "objectively," without the mediation of a human witness, for much good science has been done by human beings using merely observational methods. Rather, good evidence involves a "detailed and self-conscious analysis of the competence of the instrument to support the inferences drawn," meaning an analysis of the full chain of events that were involved in a particular witness having had and having reported a particular observation. "I think a witness's statement should be regarded in much the same light as the reading of a barometer or the print-out of a computer: a large number of judgments, inferences, assumptions, and hypotheses are necessary to interpret it. The analysis of that chain is the essential feature of scientific evidence."123 For ufologists, however, the "chain of events" standard was inherently impossible to meet, because the skeptic admitted up front that "I would say that no witness is credible who bears a sufficiently strange story."124 And reports of UFO encounters were the very definition of "strange stories." It was comments like these that made many ufologists feel that the scientific world was behaving in anything but a cool, dispassionate, rational scientific manner when it came to UFOs. Indeed, Vallee predicted that the scientific world's reaction to a UFO on the White House lawn would be emotional rather than scientific.125

Of course, skeptics felt that it was the ufologists who were being unscientific and insisted that they become more so, if they wanted to be taken seriously.

If the UFO believers employed any of the recognized methods of science and they were trying to demonstrate the existence of extraterrestrial visitation, they would gather together their evidence, reduce it, analyze it, draw conclusions, and present the material in a scientific journal. They would invite other scientists to examine it and see if they confirm the results and interpretations.126

In other words, to gain scientific legitimacy ufologists should behave like professionals and argue their case within a peer community. Ufologists with scientific backgrounds such as Hynek, Vallee, James McDonald, and others would gladly have complied but for the fact that they were almost always denied the opportunity to publish in refereed journals because their subject matter was considered to lie outside the realm of legitimate science.127 The effect was to exclude pro-ufological scientists from that network of citation and mutual referencing that characterizes the professional production and warranting of knowledge.128 In addition they were denied access to the sources of funding that would have allowed more in-depth study and better research of UFO phenomena. Therefore the idea that other scientists would be able (or willing) to try to replicate ufologists' research findings was ludicrous. In fact Menzel specifically advised that "As a matter of research priority, we suggest that all scientists can spend their time to better advantage than in the study of UFOs. Taxpayers' monies, certainly, should not be diverted into this activity."129 The track record indicates that his advice was taken; some ufologists felt that lack of adequate funding was the single greatest impediment to the progress of ufological research.130 Finally, if the difficulty in finding a professional peer community and the difficulty in securing research funding were not sufficient incentive for most scientists to avoid the study of UFO phenomena, the problems encountered by those few who studied them anyway were no doubt instructive. Being known to hold a positive attitude toward UFO research could hurt scientists' professional reputations and cast into doubt even their nonufological work. Very early in the 1970s astronomer James McDonald testified before the House Appropriations Committee on the negative impact that the proposed Supersonic Transport (SST) would have on the Earth's ozone layer. Those who supported the SST used McDonald's interest in the UFO problem to ridicule and impugn the reliability of his cautionary remarks on the transport.131

If scientific persuasion is carried out by arranging "people, events, findings and facts in such a way that this array is interpretable by readers as true, useful, good work, and the rest,"132 debunkers gradually made it clear to ufology that there were no conceivable circumstances under which students of UFO phenomena could present a convincing case. Should the evidential demands made by debunkers on behalf of the scientific community not be forbidding enough, ufology was further marginalized by having the contributions of its scientist members to peer-reviewed journals rejected and their research grant requests turned down. In the final analysis, if "our current list of pseudo-sciences is . . . defined by the Great Denials,"133 then ufology, by virtue of its denial by the mainstream scientific community, must be recognized as one of the premier examples of pseudoscience in the twentieth century.

Ufology as Pseudoscience

In the lexicon of the physical sciences, "pseudoscience" is the name for all that which claims to advance or to exemplify the methods and principles of science, but which in fact does not.134 Various criteria have been proposed for distinguishing pseudoscience from the real thing. Although admitting that confusion about the difference between science and pseudoscience is a "permanent feature of the scientific landscape," Friedlander provides several clues to help with identification. He characterizes pseudoscience as observations and theories, made usually by nonscientists, which resemble science, and distinguishes it from "pathological science" (the kind of science that results from careless scientific method or the faulty interpretation of facts) and from fraudulent science (which results from deliberate manipulation of experimental or observational data). He places ufology firmly in the category of pseudoscience.135 Pseudoscience is produced by simple assertions of fact rath er than by the "internalist consensus" of the scientific community, is supported by belief rather than by rational argument and demonstration, is presented in popular rather than in professional venues, may invent its own specialized terminology, tends to lack significant mathematical support, and is more likely to gain professional acceptance only from those whose areas of specialty are not relevant to an informed analysis of the subject in question.136

These criteria, while useful, fail to take into account the obstacles to their fulfillment. One of the most important is that the social and technical conditions of doing science can influence whether (or to what degree) an idea gets the attention of the scientific community so as to allow "internalist consensus" through rational argument and demonstration in professional venues. There is in fact a complex series of social and technical considerations within the scientific community that can deprive would-be scientific topics of a thorough hearing. The criterion of pseudoscience being supported by scientists outside their special areas of expertise elides another important consideration. The inherent conservatism of the scientific community may make scientists in the most relevant disciplines reluctant to take an active interest in a topic deemed pseudoscience by the rest of the scientific establishment. In contrast, a nonspecialist's interest in the pseudoscientific field may be professionally safer for him or her to undertake, and nonspecialists may hope to make valuable contributions to the field because they bring to it their grounding in the general principles and methods of science. To be fair, it is necessary to review the entire history of a pseudoscientific field before accusing it of being illegitimate on the basis of its pursuit and promotion by nonscientists or nonspecialist scientists. In the case of ufology, in the early years it had several supporters from the most relevant scientific disciplines who in death or retirement were not replaced by junior colleagues, probably because of the by-then considerable professional opprobrium attached to the study of UFOs.137 In the final analysis, Friedlander's criteria for pseudoscience amount to a pernicious hermeneutic circle: A field is condemned as pseudoscientific and forever outside the fold because it does not follow the procedures accepted by recognized fields of study, while at the same time it is denied access to the resources that would make procedural conformity possible because it is outside the fold.

Most attempts to define pseudoscience, like Friedlander's, begin from a premise in which mainstream science is taken as the norm for the discovery and legitimation of knowledge, and pseudoscience is described as a series of departures from that norm.138 From the point of view of the pseudoscience in question, there are always objections or rationales for why the field has not met the standards, and a (potentially never-ending) debate ensues. A more fruitful way to approach the question of pseudoscience is to consider the social processes involved in the production of both science and pseudoscience. In this way, both start on a more equal footing, and the different processes that come to distinguish them are equally problematized. This has been done by Nachman Ben-Yehuda in his study of deviance as a part of social processes of stability and change.139

Ben-Yehuda points out that the kinds of questions science is likely to ask—and the answers it is likely to provide—are conditioned by the particular worldview within which they arise. That worldview contains certain assumptions about the nature of reality. But "science finds it extremely difficult to cope with those aspects of reality that can neither be controlled nor created at will under specific laboratory conditions."140 When science encounters phenomena that are consistently "irreproducible, elusive, and hard to detect or record," the scientific community begins a process of negotiation to determine the status of the phenomena in question. That negotiation takes place within and is "intimately linked to the prevailing scientific paradigm," which is in turn supported by the larger culture's worldview.141 Ideas that get rejected in this process are sometimes those whose time has simply "not yet come," such as the oft-cited case of the theory of continental drift or the discovery that "rocks" do indeed sometimes fall from the sky.142 Others are ideas that in the end prove unable to gain the support of enough high-status scholars to win legitimation.143 In the aftermath of a debate prompted by a would-be science, the boundaries of mainstream science become redefined and attempt to more firmly exclude the insights of the science declared deviant because those insights violate the picture of the world—of reality—that has been built over the years.144 This is an important insight. What is at stake in the process of the scientific production of knowledge is not only the legitimacy of science but also the rationality and reliability of the larger worldview on which it is based. Most deviant science not only proposes a different view of the real world, but "a different form of rationality as well."145

There are benefits to the agonistic process of knowledge construction. First, having to evaluate and decide upon what is deviant and what is "legitimate" science stimulates flexibility in the cognitive categories of science.146 Second, the process creates a group of individuals (the deviants) who can afford to explore the topic in question more freely and creatively because they are freed of the constraints that would be imposed by working within the structures dominating the scientific world.147 Ben-Yehuda sees ufology as "a true deviant science" that has continued to thrive, in part, because "it is exceedingly difficult to persuade people who saw and experienced very strange and incredible sights or contacts that they had actually not experienced anything."148 As a result of its marginalization by the mainstream, "the major burden . . . of developing research paradigms and investigating techniques has fallen on voluntary organizations . . . [which have] developed [their] own methodologies, hypotheses, journals, communication networks, and body of knowledge."149 Rather than seeing the involvement of nonprofessionals and nonspecialist scientists as a problematic feature of ufology, Ben-Yehuda notes that in the field of astronomy amateurs made major advances because they were not afraid (or unable) to take risks. "One cannot help speculating," he writes, "whether the amateur activity in ufology will not prove to have played a similar role."150

In contrast to Ben-Yehuda's view of (at least some) pseudoscience as nonstandard scientific pursuit, another analysis of pseudoscience sees it as a form of popular activity in American culture (indeed, as a "growth industry").151 In the best of cases, Lyell Henry points out, the more visible of the pseudoscientists are "handled roughly" by skeptical critics. More typically, however, the majority "still suffer from the oblivion that has traditionally attached to the practice of science outside the circle of orthodoxy."152 Probing the sources of interest in deviant science in the face of such disincentives for its pursuit, Henry suggests that, just as for mainstream scientists, those pursuing less-favored sciences are drawn by intellectual curiosity and by the urge to make significant discoveries.153 But more than that

Their work . . . might be interpreted as efforts to re-enchant the world through science. They would bring back into science's ken the monsters, giants, wee people, dread cataclysms . . . that once upon a time were exorcised from science and by science. There is, in other words, a fascinating apparent effort to be "for" science and yet, at the same time, against its "impoverishing" impact on our modern world view.154

Thus the work of the unorthodox, "popular" scientist is almost foreordained "to remain forever in the zone where science, the enchanted, and even the transcendent meet. . . . In sum, science is used to establish the existence of other realms into which orthodox science can't go."155

These two analyses of deviant sciences—one considering them as possible protosciences, the other depicting them as a sort of "missionary arm" of science in dialog with the transcendent—accurately reflect the ideological tensions that have hounded the UFO community almost from its inception.156

In Search of Cultural Legitimacy

During a real-time discussion on America Online on October 26, 1995, MUFON founder and International Director Walt Andrus was asked if one has to study science in school in order to be a UFO investigator. "No," replied Andrus, "you do not have to but it is advantageous to have a science background. This is a scientific enigma. You are better able to cope if you have a scientific background." Indeed, the themes of the annual Mutual UFO Network symposia underscored the importance that the UFO community placed on its status as a field of scientific endeavor: "A Scientific Approach to the UFO Phenomenon" (1973), "A Scientific Assault on the UFO Enigma" (1974), "UFOs: A Scientific Challenge" (1983), and "UFOLOGY: The Emergence of a New Science" (1993).157 Though MUFON, the oldest surviving grassroots UFO group in the United States in the 1990s, was an open membership organization, it actively solicited its professional members to serve as "consultants," listing about half a dozen new ones each month in the MUFON UFO Journal, along with their fields of specialization. Given the fact that MUFON membership began to decline in the late 1990s, it is reasonable to speculate that perhaps the many consultants thus named did not all remain interested and involved in the subject and that the published consultant lists reflected a "revolving door" parade of professionals into and out of a major UFO organization. Because the level of scientific training differed widely among the general membership, and because UFO research had unique features requiring a distinctive methodology, MUFON sought to improve the quality and consistency of its UFO investigations by producing a manual and testing procedures for certification of field investigators.158 Attempting to organize professional interest in another way, the Center for UFO Studies was founded by Hynek as the official arm of a community of scientists who constituted an "invisible college" interested in UFO phenomena.159 In addition to publishing a quarterly general-interest journal, the International UFO Reporter, CUFOS also published the Journal of UFO Studies, a refereed journal. The youngest organization on the UFO scene, and the one most removed from direct popular interest in UFOs, was the Fund for UFO Research Inc. (FUFOR), a group whose raison d'être was to raise funds from private citizens for UFO research and to award grants for UFO-related projects. As of 1995 the FUFOR had raised more than five hundred thousand dollars. Though all UFO research could not be supported by this fund, ufologists continued to propose projects that could be undertaken to further knowledge and understanding both with respect to UFOs in general and with respect to abductions in particular.160 The chronological development of these organizations indicated the seriousness of the drive toward professionalization of the discipline, a drive that was reproduced in the pages of UFO publications in the form of regular calls for a more rigorous application of the scientific method to every facet of UFO research.161

Another aspect of that drive for professionalization was to capture the interest and participation of scientists in the mainstream. For ufology in general, but especially for the actively proscience branch of the UFO community, it was a triumph to gain the respectful attention of credentialed scientists. However, in order for interested scientists to feel reasonably safe in taking up an overt interest in UFOs, most had to have careers that were sufficiently progressed to make them at least somewhat immune to the negative sanctions they would likely suffer from the academic community. The professional ridicule suffered by James McDonald because of his UFO interests has already been noted. Hynek cited his own status as a junior scientist and concerns for his career as one reason for his reluctance to come forward as a UFO believer long after he had ceased to be an inveterate skeptic.162 In the early 1990s the positive attention given to abduction accounts by Harvard psychiatrist John Mack was seen as a potentially significant breakthrough in ufology's relationship with the scientific establishment. Mack's status as a Harvard scholar and as a Pulitzer Prize-winning author combined to make his endorsement of the reality of abductions a particularly exciting and compelling one to many in the UFO community. However, the professional consequences of serious study of UFO phenomena had not changed a great deal since the days of Hynek and McDonald: Ufologists' excitement over Mack's interest was not shared by many of his colleagues at Harvard, who initiated a formal peer review after the publication of his popular book on abductions.163 Beginning with the assertion that "there is no present definitive scientific proof establishing as a scientific fact that there exists any form of intelligent life in the universe other than human life," the committee expressed its concern that Mack was "sustaining delusional behavior in his patients" instead of discouraging it and, where appropriate, medically treating it.164 But, unable to uphold the ideal of academic freedom and still censure Mack's choice of topics to study, they ultimately censured his abduction work on the grounds of methodological weakness while reaffirming his freedom to study whatever he wished.165

In 1997 the UFO community noted with approval that the Society for Scientific Exploration (a skeptics' organization less doctrinaire than CSICOP) had convened an international panel of scientists to review UFO evidence with a view toward answering the question of whether the subject deserved further scientific investigation. The panel's answer in the affirmative was greeted with pleasure by ufologists.166 Equally well received was the 1999 release of a French study by a number of scientists and military officers and a variety of other experts. The report, a result of several years' study, stated that the numbers of reliable UFO reports from around the world that have accumulated during the past fifty years "compel us now to reconsider all hypotheses as to the origin of UFOs, especially extraterrestrial hypotheses."167

The Science of Religion in Ufology

Though the first decades of the modern UFO era focused on winning scientific respectability for UFO studies, ufology came to suffer from a condition common to all rejected knowledge: having an "inordinate respect and envy" for the Establishment and pointing with pride to any kind of mainstream support it received, coupled with scorn and ridicule for the "dogmatic" narrowness of an Establishment that refused to grant it recognition and legitimacy.168

There were always some in the UFO world who rejected science in part or in whole as an explanatory framework for UFO phenomena. This ambivalence, too, was reflected in the themes of the annual MUFON symposia, such as in "UFOs: Defiance to Science" (1971) and "UFOs: Beyond the Mainstream of Science" (1986). Some ufologists felt that the deductive method of science was simply the wrong tool to use to learn about UFOs.169 Others felt that the tools of science worked, but the discipline itself was too narrow-minded to deal with the facts thus discovered. Science, they said, needed to enlarge its cognitive categories before it would be able to adequately address such a "complex, multifaceted" phenomenon as UFOs.170 Some emphasized the need for more interdisciplinarity among the sciences in the study of UFOs.171 Others suggested that scientific approaches should be augmented by insights from disciplines such as philosophy.172

As time passed, some scientifically trained ufologists slowly recognized that there were advantages in not being accepted by the Establishment. The most important advantage was the freedom to research whatever one felt to be significant without having to answer to a central authority whose control of research funds would determine what got studied and what got published.173 To the general public—many of whom now believed in the reality of UFOs—the reluctance of science to fully engage the UFO question only justified their growing disenchantment with science.174 "When an ordinary person witnesses something which lacks an obvious reference, and which science renounces both knowledge of and interest in, then he turns to the student of mystery. He may well get a rather curious response, . . . but at least he is listened to."175 As the "purely scientific approach" appeared increasingly untenable, the path toward further ufological insight seemed to lie in other directions, such as the occult.176

There had been an association between UFOs and the psychic or occult from the earliest years of ufology. One of the first proponents of the occult link attempted to maintain at least a formal association with a scientific approach as well. In 1960 Trevor James claimed that inspirational contact from UFO occupants was being made not only among the contactees, but among scientists too. It was, he suggested, "a special kind of an educational programme."177 "But," he explained later, "such men hold their tongues for fear of ridicule, social ostracism, and of being hurled into mental institutions."178 James pointed out that the fact that UFO research was being conducted largely by "scientific amateurs" indicated just how fearful orthodox scientists were. Amateurs were the only ones willing to take the risks. The proper approach to UFOs, he said, was a "spiritually scientific" one in which the scientist would throw his entire self into a participatory investigation of the phenomenon and then communicate his findings in a rational, scientific fashion to his colleagues. James cautioned, however, that the entities being encountered by UFO witnesses were both "of the anti-Christ" and of "the Christ forces," with the agenda of the former being to enslave humanity and the agenda of the latter to emancipate it. Attempting to pursue a fully scientific (qua spiritually informed) investigation, he warned, was dangerous, and he recommended that it only be undertaken by those scientists with "awakened minds." In 1962 James elaborated on the need for natural scientists with "a working knowledge of occult science" to investigate UFOs. In the final analysis, however, he expected most of the revolutionary knowledge to come from occult practitioners rather than from scientists, because natural science was "a measuring science" and thus an approach too limited for ufological study.179

By 1968 there was growing recognition among some members of the UFO community that a variety of psychic phenomena seemed to occur to people who had had UFO encounters, leading to speculation that both might be essentially the same type of thing, or that psychic phenomena might be an aftereffect of a person's contact with tangible, physically real UFOs.180 At the very least, the psychic connection seemed to indicate that an alliance between scientific studies of UFOs and of psychic phenomena (especially manifestations) might be in order, though there were many in both fields who were reluctant to complicate their already marginalized status in mainstream scientific circles by associating themselves with the other field of inquiry.181 Nevertheless, some pressed the paraphysical issue in ufology.182 It is an irony of UFO history that several of the physical scientists who were actively involved in studying UFOs eventually championed this "psychic link" hypothesis. J. Allen Hynek, first a convert from skeptic to believer, later came to feel that "the scientific framework, by its very internal logic, excludes certain classes of phenomena, of which UFOs may be one."183 Wilbert B. Smith, once director of Canada's "Project Magnet" to detect UFO activity, came to adopt a paraphysical theory of UFOs, as did biologist Ivan T. Sanderson and numerous others.184

Although some saw ufology's entertainment of theories other than the extraterrestrial hypothesis as a welcome "weaning" from outgrown ideas, others defended the ETH and sought to keep UFO phenomena clearly separated from the realm of metaphysics and the occult. A comparative study of apparition reports and UFO entity reports observed that although there were similarities between the two, there were also important differences. Given the fact that the aliens' mode of transportation was obviously superior to anything of which humanity was capable, it seemed reasonable to conclude that they were "super-intelligences" whose "lofty degree of development would not be evident only in technological achievements" but would also extend to an understanding of and ability to manipulate "material and spiritual reality." Thus, argued one ufologist, it was easy to see why they might appear to be metaphysical entities yet remain conventionally, physically extraterrestrial.185 And if they were extraterrestrial, then they were subject to investigation and ultimately to understanding via the methods and models provided by science.

The Central Problem: Are We Alone?

In addition to the evidentiary and methodological issues that came between mainstream scientists and ufologists, there were political and social issues that contributed to the disinclination to accept the UFO phenomenon as real. Three of those stand out: the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, and the space race. The struggles of World War II had made American intellectuals and policymakers keenly aware of the dangers of unscientific thought raised to the level of a national ideology. It was scientific illiteracy and confusion that had led the German people to support the Nazi political machine with its "insane racial theories."186 Thus when it was decided that UFOs were not real, continued belief in their existence seemed to pose a threat to the security of the United States not only because it might be used by enemies to disguise a real attack (as the Robertson Panel suggested in 1953) but also because it was an example of the same kind of confusion that had led to the disastrous situation in Germany. In short, unscientific beliefs like UFO reality posed a potential danger to democracy on both a practical and an ideological level. To educate the public out of its belief in UFOs seemed to be not only a rational necessity but a patriotic duty.

Equally important in the worldview making it difficult to take an interest in UFO reports was the fact that the beginning of the modern UFO era coincided with the beginning of the Cold War. To meet the challenge of defending the West against possible communist aggression, the United States had brought some of the best rocketry experts of Nazi Germany into the country to assist in the development of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to Russian targets. Because the Russians were assumed to have done the same, the appearance of UFOs in American air space was initially considered a security issue more than a scientific one. By the time it had become apparent that UFOs were not a physical threat, the human use of space for strategic and scientific purposes seemed a real possibility to military planners and scientists. But another kind of space exploration program, the SETI program using a radio-telescopic approach, was not as widely nor as enthusiastically supported. Indeed, governmental support for SETI, which held out the hope only of long-distance extraterrestrial contact, was modest—and all too often in danger of being cut,187 presumably because SETI did not have many obvious military applications. When it came to allocating resources, UFO studies seemed to promise even less than SETI in the way of tangible military benefits that could be turned to fighting communist expansion.

In addition the SETI program and ufology alike could not promise to satisfy other important aspirations of the day, which were frankly Christian and missionary. In his study of the religious valences of technological development in the twentieth century, David Noble recounts the symbolic resonance of the idea of flight with the idea of the Ascension of Christ and how that symbol worked in the space race during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s:

Religious inspiration, coupled with Cold War competition, fueled the manned-spaceflight effort. . . . It was God's purpose, wrote [Werner] von Braun . . . "to send his Son to the other worlds to bring the gospel to them." Von Braun had come to view spaceflight as a millennial "new beginning" for mankind, the second and final phase of his divinely ordained destiny. The astronaut, the mortal agent of this new "cosmic" era, was thus another Adam, conceived to extend the promise of redemption across the celestial sea.188

Von Braun's religious vision was echoed in the atmosphere (if not in the official mission statements) at NASA installations in Huntsville, Alabama, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and in Houston. In the early years of the space program, displays of religious conviction by NASA personnel sometimes went unquestioned by NASA officials.189 And a religious orientation was typical of the astronauts, many of whom were professing Christians who expressed their faith commitments in their public role as astronauts by reading Bible passages or reciting prayers from space, leaving Bibles on the Moon, and even performing the first lunar-based Communion service.190 For an age that could find embodiment of its religious convictions and aspirations in a program of space exploration, the pursuit of elusive UFOs within our own atmosphere seemed far less compelling. The notion of extraterrestrial contact in this kind of religious context implied us going there—not them coming here.

It is tempting to look even more deeply into this small confluence of events and see a piece of the American psyche revealing itself. In his study of the cultural dance between religion and science in early-twentieth-century America, Gilbert saw the UFO controversy as a search for a new language and an "imaginative framework" within which to understand humanity's relationship to the universe.191 One way of viewing the framework that ufology presented is to see it as having suggested that instead of being the explorers, the colonizers, and the missionaries of space, the inhabitants of planet Earth might instead be the explored, the colonized, and the missionized. This was, at a deep and inarticulate level, simply inconceivable to a society still intoxicated by the successes of World War II, enjoying postwar affluence and beginning to parent what would become one of the largest generational cohorts in the nation's history. The late 1940s and the 1950s were a time of large thoughts and large plans. The idea of alien vehicles circumnavigating the globe with impunity was inimical to the self-image and exploratory thrust of a country that had taken on the role of military guardian and economic savior of the world and that had its eye on the heavens.

But after all the social, political, and scientific reasons were offered for the rejection or the acceptance of the reality of UFOs, the whole issue always came down to a question of belief, and this raised the entire affair "almost to a pseudo-religious level" for all concerned.192 Mainstream scientists and ufologists had two different cognitive maps of the world—of reality—which shared only some areas of overlap. No matter what the evidence, mainstream science just could not believe that the Earth was being visited by extraterrestrials, and could always find reasons—some better than others—for their doubt. And ufologists could always find cases—some better than others—that suggested that scientists had closed their eyes to important evidence that UFOs were real.

Some ufologists tried valiantly to shift the scientific debate away from the ETH and focus it simply on the question of whether there were anomalous aerial objects that could be usefully studied by science.193 But questions about UFO reality and the use of the ETH to understand it were hard to separate. If you took all witness statements at face value, the reported actions of UFOs seemed to indicate that there was some kind of intelligence guiding them. The UFO community eventually came to hold a variety of views about their provenance—many of them incompatible with scientists' views. Some proposed that UFOs were from a civilization inside the Earth and accessible mainly through the polar regions, or that UFOs were visitors from time, or top secret terrestrial craft, or biological atmospheric life forms.194 The most popular alternative to the ETH in UFO circles, the theory that UFOs were paraphysical manifestations, sounded to some ufologists and to most mainstream scientists like a reversion to prescientific occult explanations for the unknown.195 If ufologists had to argue for UFO reality in a way that addressed the issue of UFO origins, the ETH was at least more scientifically respectable. But that was not always saying a lot.

For most of the twentieth century the idea that life might have evolved on other planets had been a popular but very contested one, even in scientific circles. Those scientists who devoted their careers to the pursuit of evidence for extraterrestrial life or in fields where the existence of extraterrestrial life was a lingering background assumption were considered by the rest of the scientific community to be on the precarious boundary of scientific legitimacy.196 The association of the idea of extraterrestrial life with the phenomenon of UFOs merely joined one marginally acceptable hypothesis in the scientific community with another that was quite outside the community. Many scientists were not disposed to be convinced that either hypothesis was sound. The existence of extraterrestrial life—especially intelligent extraterrestrial life—was considered likely to remain a hypothesis at best, for many years to come. For all intents and purposes, for this day and age, science said authoritatively that UFOs could not exist because humanity was alone in the universe. And even if extraterrestrial life did exist, asked their more hopeful peers, what was the likelihood that such life would want to visit human beings, the "retarded cousins in the backwoods" of the Milky Way galaxy?197 About such self-deprecating assessments of human worth, Rabbi Norman Lamm commented, "A number of scientists have become intoxicated with the sense of their own unimportance. Never before have so many been so enthusiastic about being so trivial."198

1 The articles in question were Hynek 1953, 1966a, 1966b, 1967a, 1967b, and 1969.
2 Menzel 1972, 129.
3 Bauer 1992, 57-61. In the interest of fair play it should be pointed out that even scientists whose fields of research are thoroughly within the pale of mainstream science have resorted to popular presentations of their results before peer review or professional publication has been performed. See Perlman 1976, 251.
4 J. Allen Hynek to Michael Waters (pseudonym), personal correspondence, 6 May 1968.
5 Barclay and Barclay 1993, 16.
6 J. Gilbert 1997, 229.
7 Donald Menzel to Charles A. Maney, 14 February 1962, p. 1, box 8, file: M, Donald Menzel UFO Papers, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and cited in J. Gilbert 1997, 233.
8 For the history of science in the United States, see R. Bruce 1987; Conser 1993; Kohlstedt 1976; Reingold 1979; LaFollette 1990, esp. 151-57 on science as a rival to religion; Shapin 1982; and Grabiner and Miller.
9 An excellent treatment of the cultural symbolism of science, and its evacuation of content, is Tourney 1996. For the popularization of science see also Perlman 1976; Whalen 1981; Whitley 1985; McElheny 1985; and Nelkin 1987.
10 J. Gilbert 1997, 235.
11 Ibid., 236.
12 Ibid., 237.
13 Ruppelt 1956, 115.
14 Ibid., 204.
15 Anon. 1958.
16 Ruppelt 1956, 207. Also see Sturrock 1994a, 1994b, and 1994c. The findings of the survey of American Astronomical Society members were summarized in Sturrock 1977a and 1977b.
17 Ruppelt 1956, 199-209.
18 Rutledge 1981.
19 Ruppelt 1956, 216; David Michael Jacobs 1975, 82, cf. 234, 260, 300; and Hynek and Vallee 1975, 190ff.
20 Ruppelt 1956, 191.
21 David Michael Jacobs 1975, 85-86, 222, 259, 257. The most recent institution to review the scientific evidence for UFOs is the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE), which announced the convening of a panel for that purpose. The SSE is "an interdisciplinary organization of scholars formed to support unbiased investigation of claimed anomalous phenomena." ("Society Convenes Science Panel to Review UFO Evidence," press release of the Society for Scientific Exploration, 6 October 1997.) Also see Sturrock 1999.
22 On the increasing numbers of scientists who investigated UFOs, see David Michael Jacobs 1975, 214. On the refusal to publish, see Vallee 1965, 129.
23 The periodicals surveyed were (or were published by) Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Journal of Physics, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist, Applied Optics, Icarus, Astronomy, Industrial Research, Scientific Research, Popular Science, Engineering Opportunities, Science and Mechanics, Technology Review, Nature, Journal of the Optical Society of America, Journal of Astronautical Sciences, Bio-Science, Science, Physics Today, and Popular Photography. List taken from "UFOs in Scientific Literature," downloaded from on 3 March 1997.
24 I. Scott 1990.
25 Strentz 1970, 57-58, 76, 94, 96-97. See also Hickman, McConkey, and Barrett 1995-1996.
26 Anon. 1971 and 1979.
27 Westrum, n.d.b, 7.
28 Rutledge 1981, 244.
29 Sturrock 1994a, 4.
30 F. Edwards 1966, 45-46; Keyhoe 1960, 99; Michel 1956, 60-64; 235.
31 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 269-70. Tombaugh passed away in 1997. It remains for a biographer to sort out the facts concerning his sighting and his interpretation thereof.
32 F. Edwards 1966, 36-49. C. Lorenzen 1966, 207.
33 F. Edwards 1966, 40.
34 Ruppelt 1956, 238. See also Oberth 1955.
35 One of the most notorious was eighteenth-century scientist-turned-mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg, whose visions of and conversations with the inhabitants of other planets were collected and published in 1758 as De Telluribus in Universo. For a modern English translation, see The Worlds in Space, trans. John Chadwick (London: The Swedenborg Society, 1997). For the exhaustive history of this debate, see Dick 1982 and Crowe 1986. For a discussion of the extraterrestrial intelligence question in the early decades of this century, especially in the years around World War II, see Swords 1992. Also see Dick 1996.
36 Crowe 1986, 475.
37 Dick 1996, 547.
38 Davies 1995a, 11-12.
39 See Sagan 1994.
40 For Drake's own work on these questions, see Drake 1961, 1954, and 1981, and Drake and Sobel 1992. For a brief presentation of the actual equation and a discussion of the larger scientific issues involved in the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life, see Swords 1989.
41 For example, see Menzel and Taves 1977, 199-209. For a discussion of extraterrestrial visitation based upon a negative evaluation of even the possibility of extraterrestrial life, see Sheaffer 1981, 129-38. Also see Carlson and Sturrock 1975, 63, cited in Fowler 1981, 224.
42 This argument is known as the Fermi Paradox, named after its originator. See Tipler 1980, cited in Swords 1989, 87-88. Yet another take on the visitation issue is proposed by Nickell, who says that for a space-faring civilization there must be myriads of interesting places to visit—so much so that they would be unlikely to spend any amount of time in just one location. The UFO sightings reported on Earth are far too numerous and have been taking place for too long a time to correspond to such a situation, which indicates that UFO sightings must not be of anything so exotic as extraterrestrial vehicles. (See Nickell 1995, 193-95.)
43 David M. Jacobs 1983, 220. See also Swords 1989, 89-90. On the likelihood that missionary concerns might motivate extraterrestrial travel to Earth, see Swords 1987a.
44 This is a major conclusion of M.I.T. physicist Philip Morrison when contemplating the reasons for people's fascination with "parascience," which to him includes ufology. See Morrison 1981, 361. For the dangers that scientific illiteracy presents to the "modern world view," see Holton 1993, excerpted in The Skeptical Inquirer 18:3 (spring 1994): 264; and for the public education potential of ufology, see Page 1972.
45 C. Mackay 1852.
46 Gardner 1952a.
47 Among those generalist books taking "pseudoscience" to task, see Gardner 1981; Cazeau and Scott 1979; Abell and Singer 1981; Gilovich 1991; Sagan 1996, esp. 210-16; Shermer 1997; and Nickell 1995.
48 However, debunker Robert Sheaffer pointed out that UFO sighting reports that gain a lot of media attention seldom receive as much attention later when their prosaic cause(s) are determined. See Sheaffer 1981, 12. Menzel was also no fan of the media, which he felt had a pro-UFO bias and only helped to fuel UFO flaps while ignoring later, more rational explanations of UFO sightings. See Menzel and Taves 1977, 180, 186, 8; also see Sullivan 1972.
49 For other notable efforts, see Oberg 1982; Sheaffer 1981; Peebles 1994; and Matheson 1998. For a similar critique of the abduction phenomenon from within the UFO community, see Randle, Estes, and Cone 1999. On Klass and Oberg, see Friedlander 1995, 104, 107.
50 For a brief history of CSICOP and an analysis of its rhetorical practices in one scientific controversy, see Pinch and Collins 1984.
51 David M. Jacobs 1983. The adequacy of the ETH to account for UFOs has been a subject of debate among ufologists for many years. Hynek warned against a too-quick acceptance of the hypothesis, emphasizing that there was much about UFOs that remained unknown. (Hynek 1983.) Swords argued for the acceptability of the ETH, as long as it was considered alongside other acceptable possibilities. (Swords 1989.) Also see Vallee 1990b, 1991b, and 1992b; Wood 1991; Bramley 1992; and Jerome Clark's monograph on UFO hypotheses in Clark 1997b.
52 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 3, 228-89.
53 Skeptics pointed in particular to Ray Palmer, a science-fiction editor who published allegedly true stories of an underground space-faring civilization on Earth and later helped popularize the Kenneth Arnold sighting, and to Charles Fort, an early collector of scientific anomalies. Menzel and Boyd 1963, 1-30. Also see Peebles 1994, 3-7, 12-15.
54 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 3, 191, 196. Physicist Philip Morrison observed that it is not right to expect "large discoveries" in science—the kinds of discoveries of new laws of reality that are suggested by phenomena like UFOs. Instead, "truth enters more modestly, a little at a time." (See Morrison 1981, 359.)
55 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 277. Indeed, Menzel attributed the early pro-UFO stance of the air force investigation to the fact that "not one of the individuals chosen to study the observations had any training in the important and relevant field of meteorological optics." See Menzel and Taves 1977, 7. Bauer cautions scientists who are open to reasoned examination of anomalies against thinking that their expertise in one field makes them qualified to offer opinions on matters more closely allied to other fields. (Bauer 1987.)
56 Martin Gardner calls these amateurs "unorthodox scientists" who feed like parasites on the success of legitimate, mainstream science and are driven by paranoid and egomaniacal needs. See Gardner 1952a, 12-14.
57 Stiebing 1995, 5, and Randi 1981, 215.
58 Randi 1981, 210-11. Gardner was not so generous. He opined that legitimate scientists who supported fringe theories did so mostly out of a need for "an outlet for their own neurotic rebellions" (Gardner 1952a, 15).
59 Grinspoon and Perksy 1972.
60 Menzel and Taves 1977, 225.
61 Ibid., 228-229.
62 Ibid., 169-77.
63 Ibid., 142. Craig 1995, 95-96.
64 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 167-71. Ufologists placed great stock in sighting reports that involved simultaneous visual and radar observation. But Menzel cautioned that in no case can one ever "say with certainty that the source of the radar blip and the visual stimulus are identical" (123).
65 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 163. For other instances where multiple separate but simultaneous causes are invoked to explain UFO sightings, see Menzel and Boyd 1963, 6, 38, 48, 70-71, 80, 82-83, 183, 238, 239, 252, 253, and 282. Robert Moore named the "interaction of diverse rare mundane stimuli" the Mundane-synthesistic Hypothesis of UFOs. (See Robert Moore 1993, 90.) Charles Bowen, editor of the Flying Saucer Review in 1979, commented on this discrediting of visual and radar sightings:
It is hard to avoid the impression either that radar equipment is given to malfunctions, or that the air controllers, and the pilots, who use various forms of that equipment, are incapable of distinguishing true signals from those spurious images like "angels" caused by various kinds of anomalous propagation due to temperature inversions, and so on. Indeed, if [debunkers are] to be believed, then it is remarkable that any reliance at all is placed on radar and other devices of the same genre, or on their operators. And yet every time we make a journey by plane we put our lives in the hands of operators like these, or pilots, and their "unreliable' tools."
(Bowen 1979, 1)
66 Menzel and Taves 1977, 142, 153; F. Drake 1972. Moore stated that there were more than 150 "mundane phenomena" that could generate a UFO report (Robert Moore 1993, 66). He recommended decreasing by half the number of accepted "unknowns" from UFO reports, on the assumption that even after extensive investigation, there were that many undetected instances of human misperception (90-91).
67 Menzel and Taves 1977, 14; Menzel 1953, 150; Barry Beyerstein, "How We Fool Ourselves: Anomalies of Perception and Interpretation," presentation given at the CSICOP conference, Seattle, Washington, 23-26 June 1994 and reported in The Skeptical Inquirer (March 1995), located at . Emphasis on the unreliability of the powers of observation of even the experienced observer was a necessary rhetorical strategy for the debunkers, because ufologists (and the Battelle Institute report prepared in 1953) noted that the best UFO reports came from the most qualified and competent witnesses. See Maccabee 1979 and 1983; Zeidman and Rodeghier 1993, 19-20.
68 Menzel and Taves 1977, 186, cf. 116 and Menzel and Boyd 1963, 274, 275. Also see Nickell 1995, 193. This conclusion was questioned by the UFO Subcommittee of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who wondered if scientists were justified in extrapolating from the solved cases to the unsolved cases (Dick 1982, 305). Klass explained this reaction by claiming that the subcommittee had been filled with UFO believers. He proceeded to provide explanations for the cases that the subcommittee had studied (Klass 1975, 186-233). Menzel and Taves did the same for the unexplained cases from the Condon Report (see 1977, 89-116). Note, however, the circular reasoning involved: Unexplained sighting reports remained unexplained because there was inadequate data. Having enough data did not mean having certain kinds of data (like mutually confirming multiwitness testimony or instrumented readings of anomalous activity or information about extant meteorological conditions or the medical history of a witness) or certain quantities of data, but having whatever kind of data would permit the case to be explained prosaically. If a case could not be explained prosaically, then it had, by definition, inadequate data.
69 Hoagland 1969, 625.
70 Menzel and Taves 1977, 114.
71 Menzel 1953, 150-51.
72 Menzel and Taves 1977, 145-53; also included in Menzel 1972, 155-61; Klass 1981.
73 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 205-218; Menzel and Taves 1977, 187-95. For a lengthier discussion of motion picture evidence, see R.L. Baker 1972.
74 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 219-37.
75 Menzel and Taves 1977, 212.
76 This maxim seems to be the unofficial mantra of the skeptical community. It has been used by Marcello Truzzi (Truzzi 1987), has often been attributed to Carl Sagan, and was invoked most recently by one of the codiscoverers of the Hale-Bopp comet, Alan Hale, in his "Personal Statement on UFOs" published in The Skeptical Inquirer (March 1997) located at .
77 For a discussion of kinds of hoaxes, see Menzel and Taves 1977, 211-23, which feeds into a discussion of the role of lying in the creation of UFO narratives in pp. 225-38.
78 Ibid., 214, 215.
79 Ibid., 239-49.
80 See Robert Baker 1988 and 1989; Nickell 1996. At a CSICOP conference Baker pointed out that hypnagogic and hypnopompic hallucinations afflict 4-5 percent of Americans and, "except for variations in the hallucinatory content, the descriptions given [by sufferers] are almost identical to the accounts of alleged alien abductees" (Genoni 1995a). For a rebuttal of the fantasy-prone hypothesis of abductions, see Basterfield 1994. For a rebuttal of the sleep paralysis hypothesis, see J. Carpenter 1995a.
81 For a comparison of the nightmare-prone personality with abductees, see Kottmeyer 1988.
82 The definitive study of hagging is Hufford 1982. Hufford reflected on the similarities and differences between being hagged and abduction experiences in his presentation at the Abduction Study Conference held at M.I.T. in 1992 and published in Hufford 1994.
83 On sadomasochistic tendencies, see Newman and Baumeister 1996. The entire issue of the Journal in which the Newman and Baumeister article was published focused on articles debating the reality of alien abductions and the psychological states of abductees. On Munchausen's Syndrome and dissociative states, see Jim Schnabel 1993.
84 Halperin 1995. Also see Robert Baker 1996, 337. A study by psychologist Kenneth Ring revealed that abductees have a higher incidence of reported childhood abuse, but the study does not posit that abduction memories are simply falsified renditions of those incidents. (See Ring 1992.) Also see Laibow 1989. On memories of birth trauma, see Alvin H. Lawson 1984.
85 Persinger 1983 and 1988; Persinger and Lafrenière 1977; Budden 1995a and 1995b; and Pickover 1999. For a discussion of this theory and what is known as the tectonic strain theory (TST) in general, see the "Issues" section of the Journal of UFO Studies, n.s. 2 (1990).
86 Robert Baker 1988 and 1996, 141-80, 326-37; Bowers and Eastwood 1996; and David Gotlib 1993. Also note Randle, Estes, and Cone 1999.
87 Martin Orne, on Extension 720, WGN-Radio, Chicago, as transcribed in Martin Orne 1988, 277; and Robert Baker 1988, 159; also Martin T. Orne, et al. 1996. Klass characterized abductees as "little nobodies." See Rae 1993, 33.
88 Gleick 1994.
89 Robert Baker 1996, 327-28, 330; Gleick, 1994.
90 Carroll 2000, s.v. "Alien Abductions."
91 Robert Baker 1996, 330. See also Carl Sagan's summary of the skeptical viewpoint of various forms of evidence offered by ufologists in Sagan 1995, 180-88.
92 In many ways the UFO debate can be seen as the creation of certainty on an institutional level within science—especially the field of astronomy—in the face of anomalous evidence through the use of four techniques commonly (but largely unconsciously or uncritically) used by scientists: jettisoning the uncertainties, minimizing them, resolving them with reference to other certainties, or, least often, distributing the uncertainties so as to minimize their impact on the overall certainty of the discipline. For a description of these processes, see Star 1985. Star's article builds on earlier analyses describing the processes of managing uncertainties in laboratory work and in the public presentation of experimental results. Most important of these are Latour and Woolgar 1979 and Knorr-Cetina 1981.
93 Wilkins 1957a and 1957b, quoted in Swords 1992, 120. In all fairness to Wilkins, his own perspective on UFOs admitted that entirely competent scientists could also believe in the reality of UFOs through a study of the best reports and a feeling that they could honestly come to no other conclusion. This was not a view that was often shared—or at least spoken—in the mainstream scientific community. A study of MUFON consultants (those with advanced degrees in their fields) conducted by Charles Emmons in 1994 revealed that 48 percent had had some sort of UFO experience and another 8 percent thought they might have had one. Most of these individuals cited their experiences as the primary reason for their involvement in the UFO community. But, once in, having had a UFO experience made them no more or less active in the community than were the nonexperiencers. (See Emmons 1997, 48-54.)
94 Alan Hale, "An Astronomer's Personal Statement on UFOs," The Skeptical Inquirer (March 1997) located at . Condon stated that the only kind of evidence that would convince him of the reality of UFOs was for one "to land on the lawn of a hotel where a convention of the American Physical Society was in progress, and its occupants were to emerge and present a special paper to the assembled physicists, revealing where they came from, and the technology of how their craft operates. Searching questions from the audience would follow." (Condon and Gillmor 1969, 29.) Similarly, astronomer William Markowitz stated, "As for me, I shall not believe that we have ever been visited by any extraterrestrial visitor . . . until I am shown such a visitor" (Dick 1982, 296, citing Markowitz 1967).
95 Mullis 1998, 136.
96 Weber 1961. In 1985 Jenny Randles and Peter Warrington observed that it was "ufologists themselves to blame for the fact that they are not taken more seriously" (Randles and Warrington 1985, 67-68), a sentiment echoed yet again in 1996 by Bob Pratt, who wrote that science is still "the best hope for explaining the UFO phenomenon," but that "on the whole, ufologists have done a poor job of presenting their case" to the scientific world (Pratt 1996, 301). Randles and Warrington make insightful comments about the deficits of ufological research and the problem of scientific respectability (1985, 67-69, 81-82, 164-70). In 1994 Chris W. Brethwaite proposed seven ways to reform ufology and make it more scientific, including demanding minimum academic attainments for MUFON officers, a refusal to publicize sensational cases with little corroboration and cases from "anonymous" sources, and a renewed concentration on finding "that right front fender of a UFO" (Brethwaite 1994). Bernhard Haisch pointed out that at the public and the scientific levels there is a great deal of interest in understanding more about the universe and whether we are alone in it (Haisch 1996). He suggested that ufologists harness that interest by promoting grassroots lobbying efforts in government and by generating more truly scholarly articles for publication in professional journals, by which scientists' interest could be piqued through "'evidence of evidence,' credibly, soberly presented" (15). Also see Saul H. Goldstein's response to Haisch's article in Goldstein 1996. Finally, see Stuart Appelle's critical review of the interpretations given to statistical work on abductions, in which he castigates ufologists for "demanding acceptance from the scientific community" instead of earning it (Appelle 1996, 12), and see his follow-up article (Appelle 1997).
97 Maney 1956a.
98 Hynek and Vallee 1975, 73, 189.
99 Maney 1958. Sharp 1961. However, for twenty-five years, NASA engineer Paul Hill gathered and studied UFO sighting reports in order to understand the aerodynamic and physical properties UFOs appeared to follow. Far from finding that UFO maneuvers broke the laws of physics, Hill felt he could make sense of it all. The manuscript describing his findings was published posthumously. See P. Hill 1995.
100 Munro 1997.
101 Emmons 1997, 191-92.
102 Girvan 1960b and 1967.
103 B. Cannon 1983, 304; Clark 1996c, 3-4; Hynek and Vallee 1975, 3; J. Carpenter 1993a, 18-19 and 14-16, respectively. However, one ufologist pointed out that while the UFO community ridiculed scientists who pronounced "ex cathedra" on UFO matters without having done any noticeable fieldwork, they "heaped praises upon" those who spoke out in support of UFO reality though in terms of field experience they were "equally unqualified to make . . . pronouncements" (Sharp 1960, 11).
104 See Clark 1996c, 4.
105 Vallee 1965, 163.
106 Hynek described his own transformation from skeptic and debunker into believer as a decision to "quit calling all these people [UFO witnesses] liars" (Hynek and Vallee 1975, 202, 205).
107 B. Cannon 1983, 305; and Vallee 1965, 98, 113, 115, 124, 138, 149. The choice of relatively uninformed rather than well-informed committee members reflects the real nature of the topic under consideration in such venues. Uninformed participants might be considered appropriate when the issue is, at heart, belief in the object of study and the sponsoring group wants to weed out those whose previous exposure to it might bias them toward belief. Informed participants would be appropriate in a venue wherein the very existence of the subject matter was not at issue but its properties and their implications were.
108 Vallee 1968.
109 Hynek and Vallee 1975, 30.
110 Bullard 1989a.
111 Stacy 1993d, 12.
112 Hartmann 1972, 21.
113 Ruppelt 1956, 45, 201, 209.
114 Robert Low, quoted in Menzel and Taves 1977, 235.
115 Friedlander 1995, 107.
116 Hynek 1972a, 40, 50.
117 Hopkins 1996, 358. Attorney Peter Gersten made a similar statement about the quality of evidence released under the FOIA about UFOs. (See Gersten 1981, esp. 22.)
118 Craig 1995, 193.
119 Vallee 1965, 152; Sturrock 1974; also noted by Dick 1996, 311-13.
120 Menzel and Boyd 1963, 187-88.
121 For instance, the compilation of UFO evidence sponsored by NICAP and published in 1964 as The UFO Evidence (Richard Hall 1997), and McCampbell 1973.
122 Robert Moore 1993, 90.
123 Morrison 1972, 276-78. In this regard it is important to note how closely Morrison's criteria for the "chain of evidence" puts the focus of the evaluation on the witness as a private observer subject to nonobjective, irrational perceptions and interpretations. Pinch and Collins point out that focus on the private aspects of experimental science is one method used by hostile opponents in scientific debates. Discussion of the personal and private aspects of laboratory work, such as the motives, interests, failures, and financial problems of the researchers, serves to destroy "the privacy necessary for the predominance of fact-like accounts" and thus puts the one so depicted at a disadvantage in any debate over the scientific merit of their work (Pinch and Collins 1984). In like fashion, Morrison's evidential criteria tend to shift the primary focus onto the witness's private predilections and peccadilloes rather than allowing the focus to rest primarily on the witness's statement.
124 Morrison 1972, 282. For an extended critique of the idea that scientific progress relies on reproducibility see Travis 1981.
125 Vallee 1965, 108, 110, 155-56, 222.
126 Robert Low, quoted in Menzel and Taves 1977, 235.
127 Hynek 1972a, 50.
128 See G. Gilbert and Mulkay 1982; and G. Gilbert 1976. For a more extensive treatment of the social aspects of the scientific production of knowledge, see Fuchs 1992. Also see the critical essay on the peer review system in science in Gold 1989.
129 Menzel and Taves 1977, 273.
130 Randles and Warrington 1985, 68, 82; Hynek and Vallee 1975, 9, 71. Hynek observed, however, that the Condon Committee had proven that money alone was not enough to generate good UFO research. The subject also required intellectual support (85).
131 David Michael Jacobs 1975, 260-61, cf. 220; Peebles 1994, 193-94. For a lengthier treatment of McDonald's role in the promotion of ufology before government panels, see McCarthy 1975.
132 Law and Williams 1982, 537.
133 Ravetz 1981, 201.
134 Some skeptics would not even dignify ufology by calling it a pseudoscience, preferring to think of it, instead, as more of a cult. (See Emmons 1997, 96.) See also the summary of various proposed schemas in Bauer 1988 and 1989.
135 Friedlander 1995, ix-xii, 164.
136 Ibid., 159-72. For a discussion of peer reviewed publication and pseudoscience, see Bauer 1992. For other attempts to establish criteria for identifying pseudoscience, see Langmuir 1989, 36; Gardner 1952a, 11; and Bunge 1984, 36.
137 Support for this conjecture lies in the informal survey of astronomers conducted by Hynek in 1972, as mentioned previously. He found that a number of his respondents would have been interested in studying UFO phenomena if there had been no stigma and some professional scope and reward for doing so.
138 See Whitley 1972.
139 Ben-Yehuda 1985.
140 Ibid., 108, 114, 112.
141 Ibid., 141-44.
142 Ibid., 120. For a discussion of that incident and others in the history of science, see Mauskopf 1979. For a discussion of the discovery of meteorites, see Westrum 1978.
143 Ben-Yehuda 1985, 116. For a discussion of the processes whereby this support of high-status scientists is won or lost, see Fuchs 1992.
144 Ben-Yehuda 1985, 140.
145 Ibid., 117.
146 Ibid., 123. For an example of this self-redefinition at work, see Pinch and Collins 1984, wherein a CSICOP challenge to a researcher whose statistical findings tended to provide limited support for astrology resulted in CSICOP's having to reevaluate and restate its position on the character of legitimate scientific knowledge and its production.
147 Ben-Yehuda 1985, 141.
148 Ibid., 156, 161.
149 Ibid., 162.
150 Ibid., 165 n. 53; cf. Peters 1977, 78. Physicist Philip Morrison's understanding of the relevance of deviant science disagreed with Ben-Yehuda's more positive approach. Morrison felt that "We can be sure . . . that some valuable part of the fabric of science we now accept will be held naive and erroneous by those scientists who come after us. Just which part we are not given to know. To me it does not seem likely that it will come in one of the 'paranormal' fields" (Morrison 1981, 362).
151 L. Henry 1981.
152 Ibid., 7.
153 Ibid., 8.
154 Ibid., 12. The irony being, of course, that it is "explanation by scientific theory [that] is the essence of disenchantment."
155 Ibid., 12-13.
156 For more on the idea of deviant science as protoscience, see Truzzi 1971 and 1977.
157 Bauer points out that this use of the term science and its cognates is more a rhetorical device appealing to "Science" as a symbol of Truth than an appeal to any particular body of facts and principles that could be universally agreed upon as the substance of "science," and that the term is used for its rhetorical force within the scientific community just as often as it is outside of that community. (See Bauer 1987.)
158 Andrus 1995b. The first edition of the MUFON Field Investigator's Manual was published in 1971.
159 Hynek 1972b, 188. Also see Vallee 1975, esp. 46-47.
160 Rutkowski 1994; Alexander 1993.
161 Clark 1993b, 3; Vallee 1991a, 170-171; Garner 1993.
It should be noted that Vallee decries not just the abandonment of scientific methodology by UFO researchers, but also the abandonment of UFO research by qualified scientists. He considers the "visible part of American ufology today" (such as abduction research) to suffer from "crude methods of hypnotic regression" that are "worthless" because performed by "neocultists who are busy exploiting the public's fear of the unknown. They fill the vacuum science has left behind" (ibid.).
162 Hynek and Vallee 1975, 193.
163 Mack 1994.
164 Emery 1995; Honan 1995; Rae 1994; Internet post to UFO-L discussion list by William Hauck ( on 5 March 1995 quoting a letter from Mack's attorney, Daniel Sheehan; Internet post to UFO-L discussion list from William E. Pfleging ( on 6 March 1995; and Internet post to UFO-L discussion list by Stan Kulikowski II ( on 7 March 1995, also citing the letter from Daniel Sheehan. Kulikowski expressed the opinion that if Mack's activities had resulted in patients claiming injury, then such a review was entirely appropriate. If the review was motivated "on the grounds that his beliefs are strange to other doctors," he felt that the review was unwarranted. (None of Mack's abductee patients were claiming injury.) See also the statement of the psychiatric community's interest in alien abductions and the proceedings against Mack in Puhalski 1995 and the response to the statement in Nyman 1995.
165 Daly 1995, 1.
166 Press Release, "Society Convenes Science Panel to Review UFO Evidence," 6 October 1997. Friedlander, a skeptic of things paranormal, describes the SSE as composed of practitioners of science "concerned with careful scientific checking of claims for paranormal observations." Though he admits that the SSE is "somewhat more open to sympathetic evaluation of paranormal claims" than CSICOP, he nevertheless cites it as an example of scientists' "serious attempt[s] to cope with claims that cannot be dismissed out of hand" (Friedlander 1995, 167). The information considered by that panel and the group's conclusions and recommendations were later published. See Sturrock 1999.
167 "High Level French Government Report On UFOs and Defense," CNI News 5. no. 11 (1 August 1999) at
168 Stiebing 1995, 4-5.
169 Barclay and Barclay 1993, 13. One abductee reported being advised by the a liens not to pursue science "in an orthodox academic setting and fashion," but rather to cultivate his intuitive skills (Mack 1994, 62). Another abductee also transmitted a warning against trying to find material, scientifically verifiable proof of abductions, such as implants, because anything that seemed to hold out such a promise would inevitably disappoint by its apparently prosaic nature (Mack 1994, 263).
170 Donderi 1993, 18.
171 Randles and Warrington 1985, 77; Hynek and Vallee 1975, 71.
172 Girvan 1960a and 1961.
173 Hynek and Vallee 1975, 226-27.
174 Ibid., 165, 215-16.
175 Randles and Warrington 1985, 176. The authors point out that, for all its concern to educate the public for a higher level of scientific literacy, when science decides to "tell members of the public what they have or have not 'really' seen . . . [the] attitude can only do harm to the scientific professions" (191).
176 Merrow 1960; also Maney 1956b; and Girvan 1962.
177 James 1961 and 1962a, quote from 1962a, 10.
178 James 1960.
179 James 1962b.
180 Bowen 1968. Also see Llewellyn 1969, and the article on the correlations between poltergeists and UFO sightings in Owen and Owen 1982. Also note Gratton-Buinness 1973. Bowen 1969a.
181 When I broached the subject of UFOs at the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man in Durham, North Carolina (formerly the psychic research group founded by J.B. Rhine), I was told that they preferred not to get involved with such questionable subjects. Similarly, James A. Harder, a professor of civil engineering with ufological research interests, related a conversation between himself and a psychic researcher. Whereas the psi-researcher confessed that he was secretly interested in UFOs but would not let it be known for fear of ruining his credibility in the psychic research community, Harder confessed that he was secretly interested in psychic phenomena but was reluctant to mention it for fear of reducing his effectiveness as a UFO researcher! See Harder 1988. Note also the disclaimers of UFO interest made by contributors to Stoeber and Meynell 1996, 20n.6 and 81n.4. This dynamic was also at work among cryptozoologists, among whom having their field associated with ufology was a cause of considerable tension. See Allan Dowd, "For Hunters and Fans of Bigfoot, A Philosophical Divide," Reuters News Service, 27 September 1999.
182 See P. Edwards 1970; Bord and Bord 1979.
183 Hynek 1972b, 261.
184 For a list of these figures as of 1970, see Keel 1970, 34-39. For a description of Smith's paraphysical interpretations of UFO phenomena, see Craig 1995, 122-32.
185 Uriondo 1980.
186 Gardner 1952a, 7.
187 For a discussion of the viability of the ETH and the importance of (and history of) the SETI project, see Heidmann 1995, esp. 111-76 and 214-26.
188 Noble 1997, 126.
189 Ibid., 129, 131. Noble recounts one instance when repeated attempts to perfect a guidance system for a rocket booster had failed. Finally the designers wired a St. Christopher medal to the gyroscopic apparatus, noting their objective in the required specification form as "Addition of Divine Guidance" (136).
190 Ibid., 137-42.
191 J. Gilbert 1997, 235.
192 P.M.H. Edwards, quoted in "UFO Forum," in Schwarz 1983, 305.
193 See, for instance, Randles and Warrington 1985, 72, 75. For a discussion of the UFO controversy as it related to the fortunes of the ETH in the larger scientific community, see Dick 1982, 267-319.
194 Davenport 1992; V. Johnston 1993. Vesco 1971. Constable 1958 and 1976. The biologist Ivan T. Sanderson said that UFOs were most likely a life form or constructions of a life form and speculated that they could be or could contain robots, androids, or "living machines," among other options. See Sanderson 1967, 93-94, 110-111, 133-34. For other opinions about the origin of UFOs and their occupants, see Lindemann 1991.
195 See, for instance, Clark 1994a.
196 Dick 1982, 551-52.
197 Menzel and Taves 1977, 197-209, esp. 209.
198 Lamm 1965-1966, 12.

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Table of Contents

1 A Short History of the UFO Myth 1
2 A Short History of Alien Encounters 34
3 Ufology: On the Cutting Edge or the Fringe of Science? 68
4 Ufology and the Imaginal 103
5 Ufology, God-Talk, and Theology 124
Afterword. Final Thoughts on Science, Religion, and UFOs 155
App A Picture of the UFO Community 161
Notes 179
Bibliography 243
Index 287
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