Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The 5 Most Important Qualities for UFO Researchers

A few months ago, in my first column for Alien Worlds, I identified what I consider to be the five most important qualities that a good UFO researcher should have, particularly if a researcher wants to maintain a public profile and effectively communicate his or her ideas and work to the public. Here they are:

1. They must be open-minded about the phenomenon, i.e. not tied irrevocably to any particular explanation. In other words, they must be an advocate of further serious study of the phenomenon, as opposed to an advocate for a particular theory as to what the phenomenon represents.

2. They must be articulate and media-savvy. This includes not just the print and broadcast media, but the new media as well. One of the greatest drawbacks of the “old school” ufologists has been their singular inability, or unwillingness, to adapt to the rapid changes in how information is conveyed to people. While many of them might have a website, they are not updated regularly, and most ufologists eschew things like blogs, and discussion forums, and MySpace and Facebook, and all the other social-networking tools that the younger generation take for granted. That has been a huge mistake.

3. They must have a broad range of interests, and be able to tie at least some of those into the study of the UFO phenomenon. A good example would be an interest in artificial intelligence, which is fascinating in and of itself, but which is also relevant to the UFO subject. Space exploration is another good example.

4. They must have a sense of humour about it all, and a sense of wonderment. The first is vital when you understand that there will always be people who make fun of your interest in the UFO subject. Better to take it in stride, with a smile on your face, then to jump up and down with your arms flailing about yelling about how unfair it is. As for the sense of wonderment, that should be self-evident.

5. They must have a sense of perspective about the UFO phenomenon. It is not the most important subject on the planet; it isn’t even close. Anyone who considers themselves a ufologist needs to keep this in mind, and avoid phrases like “paradigm shift” as if they were the plague.
These are the people, like Mac Tonnies, Nick Redfern, and Greg Bishop, who have the potential to move the study of the UFO phenomenon forward again, and away from the petty turf wars and barren ideological confines that have by and large passed for UFO research over the past three decades.

Paul Kimball

16 comments:

Greg Bishop said...

Hmm, maybe.

It's weird, I find that others who write about UFOs often have many other interests, but most of us never hear about them.

Thanks again for the unwavering support!

Greg Bishop said...

I like the "Challengers of the Unknown" instead of just a "cabal," which was made up by Reynolds anyway. It sounds like a comic book series.

Paul Kimball said...

Umm... it was a comic book series. Don't tell DC! ;-)

Greg Bishop said...

I don't know nuthin' about comic books. I read underground comics when I was a teenager.

Anonymous said...

The best researcher is a person, that experienced UFos and any kind of weirdos (creatures)themself.

Cori

Paul Kimball said...

Actually, Cori, that's the worst kind of researcher, because they have likely lost their objectivity.

JR said...

Well, not all of us, thanx.

Corvus Munnin said...

Greg Bishop: "I don't know nuthin' about comic books. I read underground comics when I was a teenager."

Oh ho! Then you must at least be familiar with the "Chariots of the Globs" issue of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers by Gilbert Shelton. In that issue, Fat Freddy's cat is abducted by aliens - who accidentally discover that cats produce highly concentrated fuel for their intersteller craft. E i e i o! And perhaps you and Mr. Kimball are both aware of the work of Rand Holmes (R.I.P.)... although I can't figure out a way to tie Harold Hedd or Baldric the Barbarian in with the UFO subject. Sorry.

Joseph Capp said...

The Number One Quality you didn't include at all, and for the most has part been absent from in the new breed of UFO researcher...true empathy for what an honest UFO witness goes through before and after the sighting. People like Stanton Friedman understands.
Joe Capp
UFO Media Matters

Paul Kimball said...

Joseph,
Sorry, but a witness is just that - a witness. Nothing less, and nothing more. The problem with guys like Stan is that they have gotten too close with witnesses over the years - shown too much empathy. The result has been clouded judgment, and a loss of objectivity, best demonstrated in Stan's case by his defense of liars Gerald Anderson and Glenn Dennis (even now, Stan can't bring himself to fully repudiate them).
Paul

Mac said...

Sorry, but a witness is just that - a witness. Nothing less, and nothing more.

I have to disagree. Having witnessed something inexplicable (or seemingly so) doesn't logically imply that the witness can't engage in meaningful investigation.

Mac said...

Oh, and I liked "Cabal" better. More sinister! ;-)

Paul Kimball said...

Mac,

Proper investigation just doesn't work like that. A police officer who witnessed a murder would never be assigned to investigate that murder, for example. There's a very good reason for that.

Paul

Mac said...

Paul--

Proper investigation just doesn't work like that.

But in the case of a "paranormal" occurrence, chances are no one's life is at stake. We don't have to worry about tainted testimony sending someone to prison.

True, the witness' reality might have been altered, but this very fact may be the sole factor that allows sense to be made of a phenomenon that might otherwise remain stubbornly inexplicable.

I'm reminded of the work done by Graham Hancock. Agree with his conclusions or not, but he's one of a handful of thoughtful researchers who's actually willing to ingest psychoactive substances before describing their effects.

I can readily understand why a policeman who witnessed a murder would be kept off the case, but I think a new paradigm* is called for in the case of phenomena that result in altered modes of perception.

Gonzo ufology, anyone?

*My apologies for using the much-overused "P"-word.

Alfred Lehmberg said...

"...Not the most important thing"?

If true, would it not be _the_ most important thing?

Seems to me a "para-terrestrial" extant would trump everything from cancer through global warming to the proverbial gerbil packed up Richard Gere's bum, eh?

That said, may I say how pleasant it is not to have to sneer through this question like I did in the "bad" old days. [g].

alienview@roadrunner.com
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spearcarrier said...

Hi there. I came to this conversation late while trying to find researchers near me. I've read it and pondered it. This is what I think, and I may or may not be right or wrong because in the end this is a matter of subjectivity.

It is true that as a researcher one must not get too close to the subjects that hold the material and in a lot of cases being a witness does mean you lost your subjectivity and cannot identify things scientifically or logically past the wonder or horror of your experience.

However, what I've noticed while bouncing around here and there is that the witnesses are used as "harvesters" for information and it's almost as if they do not have any identity at all. As an under-trained anthropologist, I disagree with this. I disagree with it not just because people should not be treated that way, but because there is a lot of information out there that just is flat out being overlooked due to this circumstance.

This isn't a matter where we take a test tube and work an experiment and then jot down our findings. Murder cases are not treated that way, and neither should this. This is a matter where you're dealing with people. You have to understand them and you do have to get a little close to them in order to get information, perspectives and clues that you would not get otherwise. You have to be able to, essentially, put yourself into their shoes.

One thing I've noticed is that the same old surface-mind tidbits are hashed and rehashed while the deep stuff never even gets touched upon. Just as a person is started to formulate the deep stuff onto their tongues to share, they get dumped by the researcher. So the accumulation of decent knowledge is stagnate if not super slow, and I've yet to read anything new in two years. Two years!

I was speaking with a researcher last night (who has decided that I'm a Sleeper apparently. How nice... being unable to find anyone who deals with THAT I'm rather left hanging here because she also cut off the conversation and effectively dumped me once she had what she wanted.). This researcher said something that I have actually heard from others.

"You know about that? Others mentioned that but I thought they were off their rocker because it was so fantastic sounding."

This is where anthropology (which touches on psychology) would come in. If a researcher would show a little bit more patience while maintaining their subjectivity, they'd get past the "wow this sounds crazy" part and discover "wait a minute... ice cream wielding reptilian ninjas are REAL?! Whoah!"

So I guess what I'm saying is that good researchers would, while acting like science sleuths, realize that yes this is science... but it's a science of sentient people (not necessarily human) and so needs less of a clinical white coat bent and more of a "seeking to understand" one. I know that I personally wanted to use my training for something like that, but I've yet to find anyone serious and open-minded enough to accept me for who I am.

Apparently I frightened the last one. -_- My mistake for mentioning that I've trained people how to remote view and that such things were family tradition I guess.

Wow. And people like that want to deal with aliens that scoop flesh from your body. It boggles the mind.

~Blue, Comic artist extraordinaire