When it comes to judging the reliability of a source, there are two key factors to look at – the first is whether the source is competent, and the second, if he or she passes this hurdle, is whether they are credible.
It is time to lay to rest, once and for all, the contention that Wilbert Smith, Canada’s supposed flying saucer guru, has passed either of these tests, as they relate to the subject of UFOs.
Was Smith competent?
That depends on what you mean by “competent.”
Was he a competent civil servant, who fulfilled the job functions that he was assigned during his tenure in the radio regulations division of the Civil Aviation section of Canada’s Department of Transport? Here the answer is yes. Indeed, as pro-Smith ufologists constantly point out, he won a posthumous award for his contribution to the development of Canada’s broadcast industry.
For Smith's work at the Department of Transport put into proper perspective, see:
(4) http://redstarfilms.blogspot.com/2005/06/wilbert-smith-only-pawn-in-their-game.html; and
However, by focusing on Smith’s years of service as a bureaucrat and radio engineer as evidence of his “competence,” pro-Smith ufologists like Grant Cameron and Stan Friedman have missed the boat completely. After all, a perfectly competent radio engineer and bureaucrat does not necessarily a perfectly competent scientist make, and it is on the issue of Wilbert Smith’s competence as a scientist, capable of devising, managing and completing experiments and observations related to the UFO phenomenon, that the question of professional competence is relevant.
When this area of his work is examined, the answer as to his competence is different. It is clear that he was not competent. Indeed, this was the conclusion drawn by Dr. Omond Solandt (who was a competent scientist, and then some), who wrote:
“He was not a good scientist… Frank Dawes, head of our telecommunications research Lab and an authority on terrestrial and other magnetism repeated the experiments with Smith and showed that the results obtained by Smith were due to sloppy measurements with uncalibrated equipment. There was nothing in the theory.” [Letter to Christopher Allan, 3 August, 1989]
Smith was not out to objectively examine the subject of UFOs, but was out to prove that UFOs were alien spacecraft. As Solandt said, “He was out to prove that there were UFOs and that the ‘Establishment’ was dedicated to suppressing all knowledge about them.” [Allan letter, ibid.] In other words, he did exactly what a competent scientist or researcher would not do – he formulated his conclusions first, and then conducted his experiments in order to try and make whatever data he found fit his conclusions. On the question of UFOs, he was a conspiracy theorist (and therefore the perfect target for an American disinformation scheme – see www.redstarfilms.blogspot.com/), not a scientist.
This can be seen in his work. Take, for example, his interim report for Project Magnet, from 1952. After a year of experimenting in his part-time, he was unable to offer any results. As Smith admitted, “The results to date have hardly been spectacular and may even be claimed to confirm only what could be expected in the behaviour of fields.” He also admitted that “the limited amount of information available regarding the flying saucers has proven a serious handicap in evaluating the characteristics and salient features of this possible other technology.” Nevertheless, this did not stop him from drawing the conclusion that “flying saucers exist,” demonstrated “strong magnetic fields,” and operated in a very particular manner (“rims rotate; rims not airfoil; rims get hot”).
In 1953, again with no evidence to support this conclusion (and in breech of security, which was supposedly, at least so far as his alleged American sources were concerned, two "points" higher than the hydrogen bomb), Smith gave interviews to reporters in which he stated that there was “a 60 per cent probability that [UFOs] are alien vehicles.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 12 November, 1953]. In his own mind, however, that figure was 100%, as his personal correspondence confirms beyond any reasonable doubt.
This is competence? Hardly.
But, you may ask, surely Smith didn’t just make this stuff up? He must have had something that underpinned his conclusions about aliens?
As it turns out, he did, which leads us to the question of credibility, and the extremely important aspect of Smith’s activities that pro-Smith ufologists rarely, if ever, mention. Instead, embarrassed by the truth, they resort to euphemistic phrases like the one Stan Friedman used in his May 2005 MUFON Journal column:
“Yes, Wilbert had many interests, some of which might displease some people. So what?”
If those interests had included things that were unrelated to UFOs (and so long as they were not criminal), then Stan would have a point. What Stan doesn’t tell you, however – in the process breaking one of his four “rules for debunkers,” i.e. the one that states, “What the public doesn't know, we certainly won't tell them” (http://www.stantonfriedman.com/) – is that the “interests” to which he refers relate directly to Smith’s “study” of the UFO phenomenon, and to his credibility as a source.
Because Wilbert Smith was a “contactee.”
To be continued…