Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Combating the Condon Effect - The Sturrock Gambit

In “The Condon Effect and Canada, Part I” I showed how the conclusions in the Condon Report – at least so far as they are generally known to the public, and, more important, government officials, stopped the interest in the UFO phenomenon by government, at least in Canada, dead in its tracks. It changed the way that the people who matter (i.e. the ones who could fund a serious study of the UFO phenomenon) think about UFOs. It became a subject for historians to study, more from a cultural perspective than anything else. It became fodder for fringe radio and the alternative media, but not the mainstream media, which could make a difference. It became science-fiction, instead of science.

And that’s pretty much where it sits today, as I have noted here before.

Now, ufologists can’t blame just the Condon Report. Roswellism, i.e the descent into conspiracy theory, and crashed flying saucer stories, and MJ-12, and, above all else, the acceptance by many of the ETH as a proven fact, hasn’t done the cause of the serious study of the phenomenon any good. These things have merely confirmed the impression created by the Condon Report, and have seen ufology reduced to the fringe. Every time the words Cosmic and Watergate are uttered in the same sentence by a ufologist, the people who matter tune out.

I recognise that believers don’t care about “the people who matter,” and I suppose I don’t blame them. They’ve already accepted that the ETH is a fact, so, for them, what’s left to study?

It’s time for the rest of ufology, however, to recognise that further association with this group just makes things worse, not better. It’s time to wish them well, and then head in separate directions, because, no matter how much one might like them as people, the harsh reality is that they’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

That doesn’t mean repudiating the ETH as a hypothesis. It does mean parting ways with those who can’t see that it is still just a hypothesis.


Because there is something “up there” that is worthy of serious study, but the nature of that “something” is still unknown, and that serious study requires the resources that only government can really muster.

Of course, if you think that the government is the real problem, then this approach is obviously not for you. You’re in the first group, mentioned above, and, as I said, I wish you well (you might want to stop reading at this point). Make your appearances on Rense, and Coast to Coast, and at conferences where fellow-travelers chat about the latest crash retrieval, or exopolitics. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing these things – it just isn’t the way forward. It won't accomplish anything.

For everyone else, I can guarantee you that the Condon Effect will remain in place, and those resources will not be forthcoming in any meaningful way, until the “H” is put firmly back in place in the “ETH.”

I’m sorry if that seems harsh, but reality isn’t always pretty. Sometimes you have to make the hard choices in order to make progress. But ask yourself - is ufology interested in pleasing everyone, or in searching for the truth? Is ufology a social club, or a serious scientific and historical study? If it's the latter, then it needs to act like one.

Assuming all of that is done, and ufology sorts out its own house (a BIG assumption, but one can always hope), what then?

How does serious ufology counteract the Condon Effect?

Well, with the ufological flanks secured, and everyone singing from the same hymn book (more or less), ufology should then employ, in a concerted, public way, what I call “The Sturrock Gambit.”

First, you let the decision makers know what the Colorado Project really found, as opposed to what the Condon Report said it found – that there were still a significant percentage of cases investigated that remained unexplained. Don’t talk about dark conspiracies to cover-up the truth – simply present the Condon Report for what it was – the work of a biased man (Condon) who acted in an unscientific-manner, and ultimately screwed the pooch. After all these years, it’s time to present the Colorado Project to the decision-makers, and not the Condon Report, and remind people that they were, for all intents and purposes, two different things. Give them the facts, in other words, and not the personal agenda of Edward Condon.

Then fast-forward to the late 1990s and the Sturrock Panel, a far more recent look by scientists at the UFO phenomenon.

Point out that the Panel was composed of top scientists, led by distinguished physicist Dr. Peter Sturrock (above - his specialties were plasma physics, astrophysics, and solar physics). Include their bios.

Don’t try and sugar-coat the Panel’s conclusions. Decision-makers, or their aides, at least, can read - and they will.

Give it to them straight.

Tell them the following:

The panel found that, despite the fact that the specific cases presented to it by UFO investigators did not provide “convincing evidence pointing to unknown physical processes or to the involvement of extraterrestrial intelligence,” nevertheless, it would be “valuable to carefully study UFO reports since, whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility that scientists will learn something new by studying these observations.”

To be credible, stated the panel, such evaluations must take place with a spirit of objectivity and a willingness to evaluate rival hypotheses. The best prospect for achieving a meaningful evaluation of relevant hypotheses, the Panel concluded, “is likely to come from the examination of physical evidence.”

The Panel then specifically addressed the Condon Report from 1969:

“The chances of a significant advance are considered greater now than at the time of the Colorado project that led to the Condon Report thirty years ago, because of advances in scientific knowledge and technical capabilities, and in view of the example of a modest but effective UFO research project provided by the French space agency CNES.”

The Panel concluded that:

“1. The UFO problem is not a simple one, and it is unlikely that there is any simple universal answer;

2. Whenever there are unexplained observations, there is the possibility that scientists will learn something new by studying those observations;

3. Studies should concentrate on cases which include as much independent physical evidence as possible and strong witness testimony;

4. Some form of formal regular contact between the UFO community and physical scientists could be productive; and

5. It is desirable that there be institutional support for research in this area.”

Throw in a copy of Dick Hall’s The UFO Evidence, Vol. I and II. Reference the Project Blue Book Archive, for those decision-makers who are Internet savvy ( Mention RB-47 and Minot AFB. In Canada, try the 1996 Yukon case. In Europe, the 1990 Belgium multiple witness, multiple radar, F16s-scrambled case. Reference national UFO studies, like Canada’s, that show the phenomenon is alive and well (to say the least). Cite polls that show people (i.e. constituents) think the UFO phenomenon is worthy of serious study (different than saying that they believe that there is ET life somewhere out there). Work at a grassroots level, not for “disclosure” (which is anti-government, in that it assumes the government is lying), but for government-funded scientific study of the phenomenon. Get a petition started in each constituency calling for serious scientific study of the phenomenon. 100 signatures in each riding will create an impression with the M.P., and force him to at least take a look at the subject, and the materials you send him or her. Believe me - an M.P. might ignore 1 constituent; they will not ignore 100, or more.

Compile a list of the fifty best unexplained cases that meet the criteria outlined in point #3, above, by the Sturrock Panel. Prepare a synopsis of each case.

All of this, and more, can be done - but it's important to have all the ducks in a row.

Then, when you have their attention (and you will get someone’s attention), prepare a budget for a five year scientific study to boldly go where science has not gone before (Condon doesn’t count, and the Sturrock Panel was only a start). Keep the budget reasonable – a few million dollars, spread over those five years, would be a good start.

And always remember that once a government program is in place, it is very difficult to get rid of – especially if it actually shows some results, and doesn’t go off the rails (i.e. exceed its mandate)!

And then make your case.

This will, I know, be a hard pill for many in ufology to swallow.

But Roswellism – i.e. the “everything-is-a-conspiracy, ET-is-here” approach - has been dominant for the past twenty plus years, and has achieved nothing of substance.

It is has been a failure, because it is based on a flawed, unproved set of assumptions, masquerading as facts.

It is unscientific.

It is a-historical.

The Sturrock Gambit is the way forward.

It is the Theory of Evolution to Roswellism’s Intelligent Design.

And if it isn’t done, then someone else will be writing in ten years about the “Condon Effect” – and offering the same advice I just have, even as they mutter under their breath “ca plus ca change, ca plus ca meme chose.”

Paul Kimball

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