The State of UFO ResearchBy Larry Cates, MUFON Field Investigator
MUFON Georgia State Director’s Note: In a follow-up to a recent MUFON UFO Journal article, Georgia Field Investigator Larry Cates comments further about the current state of affairs within UFO research.
The prevailing, mainstream scientific view of ufology may be summarized as: “At best it’s a total waste of time, and at worst it’s the domain of utter lunacy.” Should we find this view surprising?
The majority of thousands of UFO reports across the United States (and presumably the globe) are heavily-laden with anecdotal misidentifications and contaminated by a few hoaxes and miscellaneous whackos. What scientist, with an active career and commensurate workload, would want to fiddle with all this?
Some scientists have grounded their UFO knowledge in the 1969 Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, also known as the Condon Report.
By 1966, the UFO phenomenon had become such an irritant to the Air Force that it contracted with the University of Colorado to place “the controversy as to the nature of unidentified flying objects in a proper scientific perspective.” For about thirty years the Condon Report has been the final scientific word on UFOs.
In it, the UFO controversy was pronounced officially and scientifically dead. As the likely intended consequence of this report, it enabled the Air Force to rid itself of any responsibility for managing UFO investigations. In fact, there has remained no officially recognized agency for UFO reporting at all here in the United States.
For almost thirty years after Condon, the UFO controversy simmered like an insignificant underground fire. While a few brave scientists worked on the problem, no scientifically-respected groups did so. Until, that is, a small group of credentialed scientists decided to take a closer look.
At this point, let me introduce you to Professor Peter A. Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford University. He has contributed to many areas of mainstream research, and the list of said contributions contains more detail than is appropriate to itemize here. Suffice it to say, his credentials, research experience, and achievements in mainstream science are significant.
Yogi Berra once said, “You can observe a lot just by looking.” Prof. Sturrock decided to look. Having made his own assessment that the UFO controversy was worth a better examination, in 1997 he assembled a panel of respected scientists from the mainstream and not from the pool of UFO researchers. Their task was to review the best of the best UFO reports. The scientists met at the Pocantico Conference Center in Tarrytown, New York.
While the Condon Report essentially declared there was nothing of scientific value to be found in UFO reports, the Pocantico Proceedings said otherwise. They examined quality UFO reports that, according to the assembled scientists, raised serious questions about the validity of summarily dismissing all such reports. The following statements are abstracted from the Pocantico Proceedings Report:
- Concerning the case material presented by the investigators, the panel concluded that a few reported incidents may have involved rare but significant phenomena such as electrical activity, but there was no convincing evidence pointing to unknown physical processes or to the involvement of extraterrestrial intelligence.
- The panel nevertheless concluded that it would be valuable to carefully evaluate UFO reports since, whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility that scientists will learn something new by studying these observations.
- However, to be credible, such evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses.
- The best prospect for achieving a meaningful evaluation of relevant hypothesis is likely to come from the examination of physical evidence.
- The chances of a significant advance are considered to be greater now than at the time of the Colorado Project that led to the Condon Report thirty years ago, because of advances in scientific knowledge and technical capabilities, and in view of the example of a modest but effective UFO research project provided by the French space agency CNES.
I highly recommend that any reader who is a scientist read this report as you might have read the Condon Report in order to form your own personal conclusions.
So far, the 1997 report has not helped that much. Science still has the general perception that UFO reports are anecdotal misidentifications, hoaxes, and whacko claims. Not surprisingly, science rubber-stamps them, regardless of any objective data contained therein. Currently, there remains the belief that ordinary explanations for such events will always be found after hours of brain-wrecking work, so why bother?
But the real issue goes beyond simply ignoring UFO reports. Today, even the attempt to conduct research into the UFO phenomenon is largely discouraged by academia, as well as the government, to the point that doing so threatens careers and funding. Research into the UFO phenomenon is simply not considered or is reduced to a laughing matter.
One perfect example of this ‘don’t look’ attitude is the pressure placed on commercial pilots to refrain from reporting UFOs. In fact, there is an unspoken, career-threatening moratorium on making such reports. While there is one organization out there for pilots to report UFOs (NARCAP), it remains the only one. Airlines do not (so far as is known) direct pilots to report there. Some have suggested the airlines have a real fear that commercial pilots reporting UFOs may be unstable. I have talked to a number of pilots. A significant number of these have told me they know a friend of a friend who is a pilot and has privately mentioned seeing ‘something.’ It is all very cagey, and cautiously vague.
When some of the best UFO observations are made by pilots, how can objective research possibly be done under these circumstances? Neither the FAA nor the military are volunteering very much these days. Should we assume this means there is nothing to share?
UFO researchers face derision, resistance, and hostility because of the toxic mix of human nature and massive amounts of misinformation surrounding this phenomenon. This is a fundamental reason why there is little valid research into the UFO phenomenon.
Yet hope remains. While the official scientific position on the UFO phenomenon is unsupportive, it would appear that Dr. J. Allen Hynek’s ‘Invisible College’ of interested scientists is alive, well, and growing. Many scientists known to MUFON Georgia, and many others known by various MUFON state chapters and MUFON Headquarters, are interested in UFOs, regardless of what the mainstream says. This bodes well, and seems another example of science progressing incrementally, as it should.
The search for earthlike planets around extrasolar suns has blossomed. The definition of astrobiology has been extended to include the study of the properties of life under all kinds of conditions on other planets and even moons. The glass ceiling on the belief of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe-possibly more intelligent than ourselves-will soon be candidly broken. The immutable laws of physics, particularly regarding faster than light travel, are being aggressively investigated in physics disciplines like quantum mechanics and general relativity. While these laws will remain on the books, science may yet discover ways of circumventing them. (viz. the Alcubierre drive, Krasnikov tube, etc.) The scientific circumstantial evidence for the existence of UFOs continues to accumulate.
Science will come around. If UFOs are truly part of our objective reality, science will have no choice. Why? Because objectively provable UFOs would represent facts, and science always addresses the facts. Sometimes It just takes a while.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MUFON or MUFON Georgia. Publication of said views and opinions on this website does not constitute an endorsement by either organization.