Sunday, July 17, 2005

Guest Column: Nick Redfern on the State of Ufology

My pal Nick Redfern (author / researcher / journalist / raconteur - below) e-mailed me today with a response to my two latest columns, "Winning the Ufological PR Battle" ( and "Ufology - Going... Going... Gone?" (

As he gave me permission to publish his remarks, here they are.

"Hey Paul -

I just read the latest at your Blog re the lack of UFO books local to you, etc., and the implications for Ufology. I agree.

While those of us in Ufology that endlessly debate on UFO Updates, on the lecture circuit, in magazines, and elsewhere think that we are doing something important (and hopefully - to the people who share our interests, at least - for the most part we are!), as you have noted, the unfortunate reality is that 99.99999, etc., etc., of the population does not care in the slightest about UFOs.

And aside from watching the occasional TV show, or reading the occasional book on the subject, they won't care until the aliens land. If they land. If they exist. If we'll even still be around when they do finally say "Hi!" or say "XXZZGLP!" or whatever they say by way of a greeting.

They may, of course, also say the equivalent of "Eat Ray-Gun, Pal." And then it will matter even less what Ufologists think because we will all be worm fodder.

Ufology is not winning any PR battle.

In fact, ufology is a dwindling arena, with magazine sales dropping, membership of groups (including some very high-profile groups) dropping, and conferences suffering from dwindling audiences. The Golden Years of ufology have gone. People should just deal with it.

Today's world is one built upon reality TV; the erosion of civil liberties; the careful introduction of a Surveillance State; and the War on Terror.

One day, probably not too far into this century, I predict that ufology will be a thing of the past - completely - viewed by the generation after the next generation as some minor oddity of the 20th Century that came and went.

Will there be people still looking into the mysteries of this world? Of course, but I predict that in a few decades research into Ufology will be viewed in the same way that research into spoon-bending, Goblins and Pixies, and the Victorian era of spiritualism is viewed today.

But is that a bad thing? Maybe not. If we focus our energies on research instead of worrying about Ufological PR, we're far more likely to get the answers that we are looking for.

And I think that it's actually answers that most of us are looking for, not whether or not we have good PR or the public or the media cares.

So that's where we should focus: research. It doesn't matter what the public thinks of the subject - or doesn't think of the subject.

Well, actually, I suppose it does matter to some Ufologists, but they are the ones whose motives are not to resolve things, but to perpetuate the mystery to carefully continue their position on the lecture circuit, etc.

That's the point: the only people - as far as I can see - who are worried about Ufology losing its PR battle, are the ones who use the subject precisely for PR purposes. If people are into Ufology as I am, and as you are, to do research, then it shouldn't - and doesn't matter - what the rest of the world thinks.

They can go on losing sleep over who is going to get kicked off Survivor next week.

Some people may not agree with the data that appears in Body Snatchers in the Desert. But no-one can accuse me of trying to lengthen the controversy to ensure it goes on forever. I'm trying to do the exact opposite and lay it to rest, precisely so we can move on to other areas of the subject.

But that's life. In the words of the God-like Ramones: "Here today, gone tomorrow..." Or in the words of the equally God-like Sex Pistols: "No Future, No Future, No Future, for you..." Very apt, I predict for the subject!

Feel free to post this to your Blog if you wish.

Cheers mate!

Much of what Nick says certainly resonates with me, and hopefully will resonate with ufology in general.

I still think that "winning the PR battle" is important because a real search for the truth requires serious scientific (and historical and journalistic) effort, and that will only come about if the public demands it.

That's why broadcasters spend lots and lots of money on reality shows - because people want to watch them.

That's why scientists seem to be writing a lot of popular books about time travel and parallel universes these days - because people seem to find them fascinating (I do).

Vox populi.

No public demand = no resources for serious UFO investigation.

Exopolitics, "ETH as fact" statements, and personal attacks on anyone who questions ETH orthodoxy = No public demand.

Because they'll think ufology is too far "out there."

Until this changes, there can be no doubt that ufologists - the good, serious ones, like Dick Hall, Jan Aldrich, Brad Sparks, Stan Friedman and Jerry Clark - will be left to wonder, in the words of the equally God-like Smiths (hey, if Nick can quote rock musicians, so can I - especially as I used to be one):

"How soon is now?"

Paul Kimball


Dante Rosati said...

I can imagine historians of the future saying, "yes, in biblical times, it was firey chariots and angels, in the 16th century people were abducted by elves, in the 20th century it was grey aliens, now they are meeting and are abducted by....". Whatever that may be in the future, of course. So the interesting question is what is this "something" that manifests in each age in a different guise but has enough in common from age to age to identify it as the same, or a similar phenomena?

Are we going to identify what it is by cataloging and analyzing the incidental cultural traits of the particular age we live in? That is, trying to pin down the "space craft" and the "aliens", what they look like, how they behave, etc?

Or will it be necessary for "researchers" to engage with whatever it is that is and has been interacting with humanity in this strange way throughout history? Do scientists need to become psychonauts in order to penetrate this phenomena? Do only actual "contactees" have any hope of understanding this?

Science prides itself on objectivity and the ability to stand away from the subject of inquiry, measure it, experiment with it. This is entirely appropriate for the material sciences, but this methodology fails when it comes to consciousness and the spirit.

An analogy is the difference between western cognitive psychology, which tries to measure and map the consciousness of test subjects, and Buddhist meditation which endeavors to investigate and work with one's own consciousness. Ultimately, I feel that the Buddhist, and other allied approaches, are far more fruitful in this arena.

If the larger phenomena that we in the 20th (now 21st) centuries call "the UFO phenomena" is ultimately a phenomena of consciousness, of spirit (albeit one that can bleed into physical reality) then the same dichotomy may apply. To approach it with the tools only of scientific materialism may be too limited to do anything other than go round and round in circles like UFOlogy has been doing for the last 50 years, getting absolutly nowhere. What may be needed is personal engagement with the phenomena in some way, however that can be brought about, and if it can be brought about deliberately.


Paul Kimball said...


I am nothing if not a supporter of "western cognitive reasoning."


Anonymous said...

I think you guys are a little off on this I think that all UFOlogy needs is another flap or serious sighting to generate the massive PR response you are looking for. It is always there in the background lurking and ready to re-emerge when the latest wave of published sightings occurs just like there has been a rise in "bigfoot" interest due to the recent sightings. I think you may be seeing a drop in sales or lack of books on shelves because the public has consumed the available information and just dosent want to pick up another "Roswell" book!They feel right or wrong that they know the story and do not need 12 books about a particular event to understand it. I will give you an example I am a military history buff and read tons of material about various conflicts throughout the ages. I however have only a passing interest in World War one and thus I have only one or two books about the period. I do not rush out and pick up any and every book about WWI that comes down the pipe because I have read two very concise histories about the Great War and I do not need every perspective. However my love for history is no less and it does not mean that if something comes along that does peek my fancy I wont pick it up!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the above posts by dante and jburney.

I also think that Ufology needs to move in the direction of consciousness studies ala Jung, Vallee and Mckenna. "Oversoul as Saucer" so to speak. Not only is this the most interesting area of Ufological research, it is also perhaps the most sparsely documented.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: hearing the same stories about sightings of lights that "move too fast and in too sporadic a manner to be conventional aircraft" as well as typical accounts of abductions told and retold is boring and offers little to the subject. Jburney said it best ... We don't need to read every single book published on WWI, so why would the public continue to honor new publications of essentially the rehashing of the same ol' stories.

Finally, I also agree that there seems to be very little interest in Ufology because there is no new and exciting buzz concerning flaps or particularly groundbreaking sightings that offer a new perspective and hence, public discourse. Sure, we all see those clips on the net or perhaps even on the local news every month or two that feature the characteristic lights in the sky that don't seem to do very much. What we need is a breakthrough...or I too fear that Ufology will go the way of "spoon-bending" as Nick put it.

Further exploration into Ufology and its arguable relation to consciousness, reality and the spiritual dimension, even with regard to psychedelic substances and the history of ET contact and its relationship to the occult (while avoiding the new age fluff) is what is needed for a rejuvenation and revolution of ideas.

C'mon who are we fooling? Even we Ufology nuts get sick and tired of the subject. It's beginning to sound like a broken record.

Paul Kimball said...

With respect, what you fellows (Dante and anonymous) are talking about is exactly what has gotten the study of the UFO phenomenon into trouble in the first place.

Let the study of "consciousness" be the purview of religion, or philosophy - the serious study of the UFO phenomenon is a scientific and historical question.


Kyle said...

Paul -

I have to agree with this last, with all due respect to the others' comments. It is a "peaches and kumquats" discussion.

Nick said it himself..."Today's world is one built upon reality TV; the erosion of civil liberties; the careful introduction of a Surveillance State; and the War on Terror."

If the study of UFOs is to move beyond small cliques with their internecine squabbles, it will be when the field is carefully aligned with the very Surveillance State, and War on Terror that ignites the public.

A flap would only bring out the familiar faces, and a new debate would as usual. The furor as always would just fade away while the bickerers bickered.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I do agree with what Paul said to a certain extent but one has to consider that the avenue of scientific/historical studies on the UFO phenomenon is spent.

The short and simple answer to this is in regards to hard evidence. There is none. None! We all have yet to see a very clear, no uncertainty-about-it video clip or picture of a genuine UFO (If you're getting all uptight over this and disagree, please please point to a for-sure, no-doubt-about-it media clip).

Sure, we have testimony by "reputable" sources concerning sightings but we also have testimony by sources of the same calibre that attest to encounters that they have had. This is the main point I am trying to make.

Yes, I do understand what you mean about the consciousness end of things getting Ufology into trouble, but at the same hand, you must also consider that what Dante was suggesting may have some validity.

If (public)scientific research - in 50 years! - hasn't been able to definitively categorize UFO's as "nuts and bolts" in construction and has very little to say in the way of other possibilities then why not move into scientifically rigorous studies of UFO's and their relation to consciousness? I think that this sort of "personal engagement" as Dante put it is a very fruitful area to explore and to be honest I think it could be better corroborated historically - in texts and mythology - than mere sightings of UFO's throughout the ages. After all, you're dealing with personal accounts via texts and journals for both areas - sightings and encounters.

If this is correct and UFO's are an exteriorization of soul or an intersection of some intelligence with human consciousness then I think it is plausible to assume that approaching it with the "scientific" research and debate that Paul is talking about will have us going around in circles forever.

On the other hand, if it is a nuts and bolts situation, I fear that Kyle is right ... we will see the nature of this thing when and if it is unleashed as a tool or catalyst to bring about the dark future of the planet that so many assume it is gearing up for.

Paul Kimball said...


The "scientific" approach does seem frustrating in this era of instant gratification, but it ignores the fact that most mysteries take an awful long time to solve, and require many false starts, dodgy paths, and outright goofs (check any study of exploration in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th century to see what I mean).

There are loads of great cases out there that make the case for the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon - the question that remains unsolved is not whether it exists, but rather what is it. That may not be one we'll be able to answer for a while, and certainly not until sufficient resources are devoted to addressing the question.

With respect, the amatuers of ufology have taken things about as far as they can (and kudos to them). It's time to get the professionals to step in and help move things forwardfrom there.


Kyle said...

Paul -

Bravo and amen.


Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly about the question at hand:

What is it?

How do you propose that professionals go about looking into the phenomenon? What sort of research needs to be conducted that will yield conclusive proof/hard evidence?

Finally, who do you classify as amateurs and and who are professionals? Is Stan Friedman an amateur? Was J. Allen Hynek?

Those who hold the cards are keeping them quite close to their chests, will nothing happen until they "release the files?"

I ask only because I am lost on how this whole thing can proceed in a direction that is any different from what has been happening. I'm sure that we all know that the problem here is an issue over public vs. private institutions and the limitation of funding as well as access to and use of the technology that is required to complete a large-scale investigation.

I'm really not sure what setup the science nuts are looking for here.