An event that slipped under many people's radar was the appearance of Dr. Jacques Vallee at the UFOs: The Full Spectrum Conference, held from December 1st to the 3rd in Virginia Beach, where he gave a presentation entitled "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena: Beyond the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis."
This came as a surprise to many because for years Vallee has shied away from public appearances, preferring to work behind the scenes. Why? Because he offered a critique of the ETH, and a different possible theory to explain the UFO phenomenon - two things that, in the world of American ufology at least, mark you as an outsider, or, as Vallee called it, a "heretic amongst heretics."
In 1990, he provided a concise statement of his reasons in for this switch in "Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects," in the Journal of Scientific Exploration:
"Scientific opinion has generally followed public opinion in the belief that unidentified flying objects either do not exist (the "natural phenomena hypothesis") or, if they do, must represent evidence of a visitation by some advanced race of space travelers (the extraterrestrial hypothesis or "ETH"). It is the view of the author that research on UFOs need not be restricted to these two alternatives. On the contrary, the accumulated data base exhibits several patterns tending to indicate that UFOs are real, represent a previously unrecognized phenomenon, and that the facts do not support the common concept of "space visitors." Five specific arguments articulated here contradict the ETH:
(1) unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth;
(2) the humanoid body structure of the alleged "aliens" is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel;
(3) the reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race;
(4) the extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded human history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon; and
(5) the apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives."
Is Vallee right? Who knows? I find his theories intriguing, but, like the ETH (which I still tend to favour, among all of the non-mundane explanations on offer), unproved. Still, ufology has suffered from his absence on the public stage. In my list of the Top 10 ufologists of all time, I ranked Vallee at #1. I wrote:
"A respected scientist (he has an MS in astrophysics and a Ph.D in computer science), Vallee is unquestionably Ufology's "deep thinker," i.e. one of the few ufologists to consider the more existential aspects of the phenomenon, and possibilities beyond the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), of which he was initially a supporter... Vallee is often at odds with die-hard ETH proponents, particularly in the United States, and as a result has largely withdrawn from the public realm of ufology, even as he continues his work in private."
His appearance at the Full Spectrum Conference is a welcome development, especially if it portends further public appearances by Vallee in 2006. His presence in ufology adds much needed credibility to the study of the UFO phenomenon, and he provides a serious alternative theory to the ETH that is worthy of discussion and debate.