The Case for Scientific Collaboration
Originally published in INUFOR Digest July 1997
There is a good deal of paranoia in the UFO community; hence, the famous X-Files catch phrase "trust no-one". Much of this paranoia is focused on the scientific community because of their openly sceptical stance. This is unfortunate, for scientists, although sceptical by nature and training, are not the enemy. Most are much more open-minded than some of you might think.
Scientists tend to be naturally inquisitive, highly imaginative, romantic in their own way and very, very dedicated. If they were otherwise, they would have become accountants or lawyers, (no offence intended to anyone in those professions in the audience) because they certainly have the brains to have pursued far more lucrative careers. You see science, in general, doesn’t pay very well.
It pains me to see the schism that continues to develop between science and ufology for the simple fact is that we are all seekers of the greater truth. We are all asking the same basic questions. What is the Universe really like? Is this the only reality, or are there others? What is the true nature of perception? And perhaps the biggest one of them all, are we alone?
Science has brought us a long way, but we’re nowhere near the end of the road yet. It seems the more we learn, the more we learn we don’t know. The same applies to ufology. It seems to me that if we are ever to find the answers, we are going to have to work together.
I like to think of ufology as a rather special branch of science. One that requires highly specialised knowledge across a wide range of disciplines. Let’s take a look at some of those disciplines.
Disciplines of Use in Ufology
I have devised a little self test. You may like to undertake it. Just give yourself a mark out of ten according to the accompanying scale. Add up your marks and average them by dividing by 28.
It may interest you know that I took this test myself and thought I’d done well with a score of 6. My ideal ufologist would have a score of somewhere between 9 and 10. Of course, no such person could possibly exist. It would take a lifetime of tertiary study to reach that level of competency in all the necessary fields. I should also add that my list is by no means exhaustive. If we tried hard enough, I’m sure we could all think of something that could be added.
Allan Hendry, an American UFO researcher and astronomer who worked closely with Dr J. Allen Hynek, likes to say that ufology makes amateurs of us all. I couldn’t agree more. I am a professional astronomer, but an amateur psychologist, linguist, geologist, etc. This all goes to reinforce my point about ufologists and scientific specialists working together. If you are serious about investigating UFO reports, then sooner or later you are going to need help from a specialist in at least one scientific discipline. None of us can know enough about all the required subjects to do the work alone. We need each other if answers are ever to be found to the questions ufology poses and if this research if ever to gain broad-based respectability.
Let’s now take a look at how scientific specialists can help us in our work.
I have broken the table up into categories of investigation
and my suggested specialists. To those listed, we could also add many other
non-scientific specialists such as Air Traffic Controllers, for example,
but they lie outside the scope of this talk and have not been included.
As we can see the list of possibly useful specialists increases with the complexity of the case in question. Although my reasons for the inclusion of many of the specialists in the different categories should be obvious, you may wonder why I have included people such as statisticians, mathematicians and demographers in so many of the categories. These people can be useful in the analysis and or determination of trends and distribution of reports over time.
You may also wonder why I have included geologists in every category. This is because there is strong evidence that earthlights over faults and geologically active regions may account for many UFO reports. Earthlights are associated with strong electrical and electromagnetic forces within the Earth’s crust that could account for many effects, not only on the environment, but also on witnesses.
Meteorologists can provide information on weather conditions that may be pertinent to the sighting or verifications of particular aspects reported. Their records stretch back over many years and they have an excellent understanding of the different types of atmospheric phenomena which are subject to misinterpretation.
Aeronautical and aviation engineers and aerodynamicists can help with information on various aircraft types, their structure and performance capabilities.
Forensic scientists, biologists, electronics or electrical engineers, industrial chemists, mineralogists, metallurgists and crystallographers are required for the analysis of any physical evidence which may be involved. This analysis can only be done properly in the laboratory or workshop with the appropriate equipment and is not a job for the amateur. It is probably in these areas where the strongest evidence of visitation will be found so it is of paramount importance that any testing be done by qualified personnel of good reputation and professional standing.
Physics is a very broad subject and every UFO researcher should aim to make friends with at least one good physicist. A physicist can help with the determination of trajectories, velocities and flight paths. He or she has also been trained in mathematics, statistical analysis and some chemistry as well as possessing a working knowledge of different materials, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, relativistic effects and other subjects too numerous to list here. So you see you can have several specialists in one. Physicists are good value!
Psychologists and psychiatrists can help with witness evaluation, particularly in cases involving alleged contact, abductions, or where the witness reports a sense of dissociation or missing time. Such experiences could be due to schizophrenia or other disorders and this determination is best left to mental health professionals. Such professionals can also perform hypnosis sessions where deemed appropriate and can counsel individuals who have suffered trauma as a result of their experience.
Linguists and cryptologists may be able to help with contact cases where the witness reports having seen writing or symbols or hearing another language spoken.
A zoologists should be contacted if a witness reports seeing a strange animal or unknown creature.
Astronomers can help where the likelihood is that the witness is reporting a star, planet or meteor, but as most professional astronomers have also had to study mathematics and physics, they are useful stand-ins or replacements for these professions as well. Astronomers are very good value - not that I’m biased, of course.
So now we know how these specialists can help the only question that remains is how to approach them and get them on side.
If you belong to a group, the simplest method is to invite them to come along to one of your meetings to give a talk. Most scientists will be flattered by the offer and more than happy to oblige as it gives them an opportunity to talk at some length about what is usually their pet subject. Depending on their status and organisation, some of them actually have budgets to do just that as part a public outreach program and are quite accomplished public speakers.
You can find your specialists through universities and organisations like the CSIRO. Always go for the top person - a professor is better than a doctor - and, despite what you might think, you will find most of them to be very approachable. Find out the name of the departmental head and go for that person. If they cannot oblige you themselves, ask them to refer you to someone else.
A phone call is all that is required initially, but follow up any verbal invitation that is agreed to with a formal letter. Be respectful and diplomatic in all your dealings and most important of all, try to impress your chosen specialist with your openness and objectivity. We need to explode the myth that UFO research is only conducted by the lunatic fringe.
Once the initial contact has been made and the talk has been given keep the lines of communication open. Ask if they would be prepared to act as a consultant for your group. If you publish a newsletter, ask if they would like to be put on the mailing list for your publication. If they agree, then your mission has been a success and you will have your specialist consultant. It really is that easy.
Many scientists have interdisciplinary contacts, so once you have one consultant, they can help you find others. We need to develop a cross-disciplinary network of professionals, whose opinions carry some weight, who are prepared to take a serious, open look at UFO phenomena. The larger this network grows and the more prestigious its members are, the more credence this area of investigation will be given. And that in itself, is a worthy goal.
Many of you may wonder why I have chosen to present
this material here. Little of what I have said is new. In his recent book,
Oz Files, Bill Chalker mentions an international group of scientists
interested in UFO research. He refers to them as "the invisible college".
I believe it long past time their mantle of invisibility was lifted. These
people should be able to openly discuss their interest in this fascinating
subject, publish papers and act as referees without jeopardising their
careers and attracting of the ridicule of their more sceptical peers. It
is up to us, as fellow researchers, to help create a climate in which they
can do so. We must clamp down on sloppy research, woolly thinking and the
general tendency to accept reports at face value which has dogged this
avenue of investigation for 50 years. Our failure to do so will only result
in our continued ostracism to the fringe.