Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Hypocrisy of Edward Condon

There is so much that is wrong with the University of Colorado Project for the Scientific Study of UFOs, aka The Condon Report, and in particular Dr. Edward Condon's conclusions, that it is hard to pick the single most egregious example. However, if I had to choose, it might be this passage from Condon's conclusion:
The subject of UFOs has been widely misrepresented to the public by a small number of individuals who have given sensationalized presentations in writings and public lectures. So far as we can judge, not many people have been misled by such irresponsible behavior, but whatever effect there has been has been bad.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to write this paragraph, lambasting civilian UFO researchers, when you consider the ones that came just before and after it:
It has been contended that the subject has been shrouded in official secrecy. We conclude otherwise. We have no evidence of secrecy concerning UFO reports. What has been miscalled secrecy has been no more than an intelligent policy of delay in releasing data so that the public does not become confused by premature publication of incomplete studies of reports.
No evidence of official secrecy about UFOs (which is different than saying there had been a massive coverup of something like a crashed flying saucer)? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but even I recognize that this statement is absurd on its face, given that there was plenty of evidence that the subject had been subjected to official secrecy. I'm not talking about bogus materials like MJ-12 (which, if it had been real, would have been in place at the time Condon was writing), but rather real secrecy, like the Robertson Panel (which was specifically referenced in the Condon Report), or even the cover-up of the Roswell Incident, which is undoubted, whether you buy the alien spacecraft explanation, Project Mogul, or something else - whatever it was, it was not a "weather balloon".

So, no official secrecy, and the government is perfectly clean - rather, it's the civilian UFO researchers, authors, lecturers, and so forth, who are the problem according to Condon. What to do about that?
A related problem to which we wish to direct public attention is the miseducation in our schools which arises from the fact that many children are being allowed, if not actively encouraged, to devote their science study time to the reading of UFO books and magazine articles of the type referred to in the preceding paragraph. We feel that children are educationally harmed by absorbing unsound and erroneous material as if it were scientifically well founded. Such study is harmful not merely because of the erroneous nature of the material itself, but also because such study retards the development of a critical faculty with regard to scientific evidence, which to some degree ought to be part of the education of every American.

Therefore we strongly recommend that teachers refrain from giving students credit for school work based on their reading of the presently available UFO books and magazine articles. Teachers who find their students strongly motivated in this direction should attempt to channel their interests in the direction of serious study of astronomy and meteorology, and in the direction of critical analysis of arguments for fantastic propositions that are being supported by appeals to fallacious reasoning or false data.
Whatever you might think of the UFO phenomenon, this section should anger any thinking, rational individual (particularly given the erroneous conclusions offered by Condon just before). If these children for whose welfare Condon was seemingly so concerned had read the data in his own study, the hypocrisy of this conclusion / recommendation would have been clear. There was evidence, there was data - in other words, there was something that was worthy of serious scientific study, as opposed to the virtual censorship advocated by Condon. Children would not be educationally harmed by reading about UFO reports; they were educationally harmed by the people who took Condon's conclusion as gospel, and acted on his erroneous and unscientific recommendations.

Whether intentional or not - and reasonable people can debate the motives that underlay the Condon Report - the effect was to achieve exactly what the Robertson Panel recommended in 1953: the debunking of the UFO phenomenon. The ultimate irony is that the Condon Report, when it discussed the Robertson Panel, concluded:

So far as we can determine, no official steps were ever taken to put into effect the training and "debunking" recommendations of the Roberston panel. A private effort was not to be expected, since such a program would not be commercially attractive and would conflict with books that were beginning to make money by exploiting popular confusion about the ETH and alleged government conspiracies.
Of course, who needed a "private" debunking effort, when you could get one funded by the United States Air Force, and directed by one of America's most respected and accomplished scientists, who, in chastising teachers for allowing their students to look into the UFO subject, ignored the data contained in his own report, which showed the subject of the UFO phenomenon to be one of the great unsolved scientific mysteries of the 20th century. Or, as the conclusion to the study of the Trent photos case (1950) found:
This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses. It cannot be said that the evidence positively rules out a fabrication, although there are some physical factors such as the accuracy of certain photometric measures of the original negatives which argue against a fabrication. (p. 407)
This should leave any reasonable observer with only one conclusion: that the real danger to the sound education of not just children, but all Americans, came from Edward Condon, and those in the mainstream who bought into his debunking, hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, the effect of his unscientific debunking is stronger than ever today - and citizens are that much poorer because of it, whatever the UFO phenomenon may represent.

Paul Kimball


Greg Bishop said...

Let's teach the kids Fundamentalist Skepticism. It'll make them better adults, right?

(I handed Paul a copy of the book from my shelf just before he wrote this great analysis.)

It's important to read these documents of the time, whether you agree with them or not. In fact, it's probably better if you DON'T agree with many things that you read.

Paul Kimball said...

Never leave me alone with a library! :-)

Russ said...

Coincidentally, I just finished reading the section of Dick Hall's UFO EVIDENCE II book that dealt with the Condon Report.

If Hall's take on the report is materially accurate, the entire thing was a disaster. Not just in its conclusions but in almost every way.

I was left with the impression that Condon had some kind've breakdown during the early stages of the work.

The documentation makes a clear case the report's conclusion was decided before the research had even begun.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Mr. Condon almost sounds like a Scientologist, with his concern about "miseducation" and the reading of "unsound and erroneous material."

Good grief. If Dr. Edward Condon knew what really went on in schools, he'd be worried about things other than students reading during science class.

Joseph Capp said...

Dear Paul,
The Condon Committee is absolutely right like Bush is right going into Iraq. Why wouldn't a Government keep lid on this. In the Nov. 2007 MUFON Journal an article by a Former Dept. Sheriff Michael Nelson Of Portage Ohio discussed what happen when fate happened to intervien in a very important old UFO case.
While he was cleaning up the basement at the Potage County Sheriff Office in 1980 he came across the files of the famous Ohio case, where the cops chased a UFO and Project Bluebook concluded it was Venus( was in that part of the sky). They told him to throw them out but he kept them because they had stamped UFO case on a label. In 2006 he went through that box and guess what out jump out files proving a government conspiracy including instructions to the County Sheriff from a government group above Bluebook to keep some details from Bluebook. It also proved it was not Venus.

Both Sheriffs lwho chased that UFO that night lost their careers one a marriage . Mr. Nelson tracked them down and spoke to one who was glad it would come out, he later died. The other didn't understand why they did it - he was just doing his job.
This just proves how removed some of these government agencies are from real life. Congrats by the way on the DVD I like it.
Thanks for a great article.
Joseph Capp
UFO Media Matters

Paul Kimball said...

I know... what a shocker - students who actually want to read something, and maybe learn something!
That's just terrible, isn't it?

mr. intense said...

Nice dissection~autopsy of the stupid, bloated corpse of Condon, whose idiocy resounds in government policy to this day.

Perfect example of the public process of "The Big Lie."

Think Condon knew just how much of a confabulator he actually was? I think he _knew_ he was lying like a dog. The shame of the fundamentalist "scientist."


Where you say, "...files proving a government conspiracy including instructions to the County Sheriff from a government group above Bluebook to keep some details from Bluebook," could you provide further details on this case, like the name/agency of the government group "above Bluebook?" Intriguing.

Red Pill Junkie said...

You know, Paul... "Condón" is the spanish word for "rubber"...

I do not believe it to be a coincidence! :-D

Tony F. said...

Well, anyone familiar with Low's so-called "Trick Memo" I think would instantly be aware of the hypocracy of the entire study. From that standpoint, it seems the Air Force was simply looking for a University group who would be willing to say "There's no such thing as UFOs, and you all should just get back to normal things" in a way that would look scientific, unbiased and conclusive.

I think the ultimate legacy of the Condon Report is that trust between civilian UFO investigators and the government were irreperably damaged, most likely accounting for a huge number of conspiracy theories that are perpetuated.

Anonymous said...

Whereas Condon bases his conclusions derived from the evidence listed in a report, you have based your conclusions from thin air. For example, what documented evidence is there for the assertion that there is "plenty of evidence that the subject has been subjected to official secrecy"? What you need to do, if you ever wish to be taken as seriously as Condon (still) is, is find us a real life UFO -- a flying saucer or some other obviously alien vehicle -- and then show us where the Government covered *THAT* up. It can't be done. You are talking about something that clearly only exists in your poorly thought out imagination.

Furthermore, don't go around misrepresenting what Condon said. Reading civilian UFO reports is not what is harmful to children, what is harmful to children is reading civilian UFO reports and then growing up believing that any of them are acceptable representations of what is proper scientific reasoning and methodology. It is plainly obvious to any thinking, rational individual that civilian UFO reports/films/conventions are for entertainment purposes only and not meant to be taken seriously.

So stop whining about how bad Condon is and do something else -- like research and compile a scientific based report that would prove your case. That way, you could never be accused of being a hypocrite yourself.

mantecanaut said...

@Anonymous - agreed.
We all dig Star Trek,but seems to be a lot of truther whining here.Evidence speaks for itself,get some.And no,anomaly hunting and an old photo if a frisbee won't do.

Paul Kimball said...

"Truther whining"? Talk about a non-sequitur.

As for evidence, I would suggest that you acquaint yourself with the best cases before you talk to me, or anyone else, about a lack of evidence.

I encourage skepticism - I'm a healthy agnostic about these things myself. What offends me is the ignorance of people such as the last two posters, who have obviously drawn their conclusions without looking at the data, and who obviously have no interest in discussing the question seriously.

However, should I be wrong in this analysis, I await with eager anticipation your in-depth analysis of the 1957 RB-47 case. You can start there.

Paul Kimball