Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Original Shag Harbour UFO Story

Ray MacLeod was a reporter for the Halifax Chronicle Herald in 1967, and was the man who initially covered the Shag Harbour UFO incident. His recollection of the events, his reportage, his thoughts on why he was pulled from the story, and his original article, can be seen at MacLeod's blog "Ray's Place".

Part 1

Part 2

An excerpt:

I arrived early Sunday night to start following leads on the Shag Harbour story. I was told management (above the managing editor level) had taken me off and arranged for Bentley to do all follow-ups “because we feel we can handle it better on dayside.” On the quiet, I was told David would have specific instructions and direct supervision. The next day, I ran into Bentley as the shifts changed. He drew me aside and apologized profusely, saying it wasn’t his idea and he didn’t like the smell of it. I asked him why he had not followed up some of my contacts, including RCAF Squadron Leader Bain in Ottawa whose comment had been used for my headline. Bentley stared at me and said Bain did not exist. I was never sure how to take that.
More information on his editor at the time, David Bentley, can be found here.

Interesting stuff from the first guy to cover the story.

Paul Kimball

New Menzel / MJ-12 theory

Well, not new exactly... something I noticed about three years ago, that might have a bearing on whether Donald H. Menzel could have been a member of the alleged UFO cover-up group MJ-12, as Stanton Friedman has long maintained was the case.

Check the number of letters in Menzel's full name:

Donald - 6
Howard - 6
Menzel - 6

Donald Howard Menzel = 666!

The number of the beast!! Not only was Menzel a member of MJ-12, he was apparently also the anti-Christ!!

I'm shocked that Friedman missed this. Shocked.

Paul Kimball

Friday, December 26, 2008

2008 Zorgy Awards

This year Rear Admiral Zorgrot and I have decided on the nominations ourselves (as we did in 2006), but as always we leave the voting to you! The polls will close on January 4, 2009.

Top Podcast
Strange Days Indeed
Binnall of America
Culture of Contact
The Paracast
Radio Misterioso
Free polls from

Top Troublemaker
Rich Reynolds
Alfred Lehmberg
James W. Moseley
Jeremy Vaeni
David Biedny
Free polls from

Top Publication
Fortean Times
Alien Worlds
UFO Magazine
Fate Magazine
Saucer Smear
Free polls from

Top Paranormal researcher
Loren Coleman
Nick Redfern
Stanton Friedman
Jeff Belanger
Nick Pope
Free polls from

Top Blog
UFO Mystic (Redfern & Bishop)
Posthuman Blues (Mac Tonnies)
A Different Perspective (Kevin Randle)
Entangled Minds (Dean Radin)
Free polls from

Top Paranormal News Service
The Daily Grail
Alien Worlds
The Debris Field
The Anomalist
The Keyhoe Report
Free polls from

Top Messageboard
Book of Thoth
The Paracast
Above Top Secret
Department 47
Binnall of America
Free polls from

Let the voting commence!

Paul Kimball

Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Hunting" UFOs

History matters. We can learn a great deal from the past, and anyone who thinks otherwise would be well served to keep the famous quote by Santayana in mind: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

On the other hand, one can spend too much time looking for answers to present problems in the past. The worst kind of general is the one who assumes that a current war is going to be fought like the last one - millions of men died from 1914 to 1918 because their leaders made assumptions like that.

So, where does that leave the study / investigation of the UFO phenomenon, which seems mired in the past, as UFO researchers continue to debate cases that are decades old? Is there a way to move forward, while at the same time building on the work that has come before?

Maybe, but the first thing that people are going to have to recognize is that the old model of after-the-fact investigation is inherently flawed, and will never lead to real answers. This method is based on eyewitness testimony which, while useful to a point, just doesn't provide enough reliable information upon which one can build a solid, working hypothesis, much less draw an irrefutable conclusion. No matter what UFO researchers will tell you, eyewitness testimony is always questionable. Stan Friedman likes to say that people are good observers, but poor interpreters of what they saw, but that's not true - most people aren't good observers, including pilots and police officers and military personnel, the three most oft-cited professions of quality eyewitnesses. There are exceptions, of course, such as the Santa Barbara Channel case of 1953, where you had two groups of very good witnesses seeing the same thing independent of each other, but these kinds of cases are rare.

What is needed is measurable data. What makes the RB47 case from 1957 so valuable is that you have not only eyewitness testimony, but multiple corroborative radar and electronic monitoring data. It still won't tell you what the UFO involved was, but it makes it impossible for anyone but the most fundamentalist of debunkers to claim with a straight face that there was nothing anomalous about the case that is worth investigation and consideration.

The problem is that UFOs don't appear on command. For sixty years the pattern has pretty much been that a sighting happens, i.e. people see something, and then investigators of varying degrees of competence show up after the fact to talk to them. Roswell epitomizes this flawed methodology in the worst possible way, given that the investigation didn't actually start until 30 years had passed.

UFO researchers can't rely on the government for their data either.

So where do they get it from?

I would suggest that the serious researcher take their cue from people who investigate ghosts and hauntings. I've worked with some good ones recently, and I'm engaged in investigations myself as we film our ghost investigation series. We're not trained scientists, but we can still gather data by actually going to the allegedly haunted site and setting up cameras and audio recorders and so forth. Upon review of one case we recently investigated, we discovered multiple instances of anomalous audio data that seems to corroborate an eyewitness story we were told, as well as what at the moment appears to be some very interesting video data which we're still analyzing.

A haunted house is a bit easier to cover than UFOs, of course, because it's one specific location, but the same general methodology could be employed in any area that is known to experience UFO sightings. MUFON, for example, could direct its resources towards the equipping of a rapid response field research team that could travel directly to an area in the United States (and perhaps Canada) that is in the midst of a UFO "flap" or "wave". Or it could set up a team in the New Mexico desert for a month or so to monitor the sky for any anomalous events. With alleged alien abductees, surely someone could set up a monitoring system over a prolonged period of time to see if anything really was happening. And so on.

There are plenty of bright people interested in the UFO phenomenon. If they really want to get some answers, however, it's time they re-thought the way that they approached the investigation of the enigma. In short, it's time they stopped fighting the last war, with outdated tactics, and looked to new ways of gathering useful data which may actually yield some answers.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wishful Thinking

Assume for the sake of argument that the Extra-terrestrial Hypothesis is correct, and that at least a few UFO sightings are the result of extraterrestrial visitation to Earth.

Are they friendly?

Many ETH advocates would say "yes, of course they're friendly" - they run the gamut from the more serious types, like Stan Friedman, who talks of the day when we may qualify for some benevolent "Cosmic Kindergarten" of higher awareness, and the less serious types, such as Steven Greer and most of the exopols.

They usually base this second assumption on a line of reasoning that goes something like this: aliens are obviously more advanced than us, in order to be able to get here from "there", so they must have survived their own nuclear age, or equivalent, which means they must be peaceful.

This kind of wishful thinking has pervaded "ufology" ever since the days of the original Contactees, and their pals the Space Brothers.

But why would an advanced civilization necessarily be benevolent, or peaceful?

Perhaps they did indeed survive their nuclear age, but for a different reason - they fought a nuclear war, and someone won. It could have happened here. Oh, sure, it wouldn't be a win for the people at the time, but in the long term, depending upon who your leaders are, maybe it would be a win in a strategic sense. Wipe out the rest of the Earth, and wait it out underground for a while, or something like that. There are people who would see in that scenario a victory, and in the long run, say a thousand years or so, maybe they would be right.

Or maybe that advanced civilization is a technologically-based fascistic society, where human (er... alien) rights have been slowly done away with, not by war, but by the same kind of slow erosion that we sometimes seem to be dealing with today.

Or maybe they had their equivalent of a Second World War, and the bad guys won. It could have happened here.

Or maybe their species is just plain bad, or at the very least amoral, as far as we would be concerned.

Or... well, you get the picture.

Ufologists aren't the only ones making this inherently naive assumption - anyone sending a signal out into the galactic ether looking for contact is making the same assumption, based on the same wishful thinking... and someday could be in for the same rude awakening.

For those who think I'm too pessimistic, I can say only that I've found it wise to live my life by the following maxim: better to be pleasantly surprised than rudely awakened.

Paul Kimball

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What The Public Doesn't Know... Vol. I

This blog is over three years old now. In the early days, when a lot of my research into Wilbert Smith was published, there weren't more than a few dozen readers per day; the numbers have increased significantly since then. I've decided, largely as a result of Stan Friedman's accusation in his latest book Flying Saucers and Science that my views on Smith are nothing more than character assassination, to re-publish those old columns as an ongoing series under the title "What the Public Doesn't Know...", based on one of Friedman's four rules for debunkers (what the public doesn't know, don't tell them), which he himself employs on a regular basis. Friedman misrepresents my views and research (as well as the research of Brad Sparks), and then labels it as character assassination, instead of confronting the facts that he doesn't want you to know about. I figure you should hear the other side of the truth, as it were.

If after weighing all of the evidence, people still want to accept that Smith was the recipient of legitimate super-secret information about flying saucers from Dr. Robert Sarbacher, and that he really did run a super-secret flying saucer program in Canada, as Friedman would have you believe, that's fine - everyone is entitled to their opinion. But unlike Friedman, I'm a big believer that it should be an informed opinion, where all of the evidence is looked at in context.

So here is part 1 of the facts that Stan Friedman doesn't want you to know about when it comes to Wilbert Smith.

Wilbert Smith & the Department of Transport in 1950
(originally published 17 June, 2005)

I think it's important for people to understand just where Wilbert B. Smith fit in the governmental pecking order in 1950 when he met with Dr. Robert Sarbacher and was supposedly given information that was classified even higher than the H-Bomb.

On the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words, and because some ufologists have to be both led to the water, and then made to drink (and, in some cases, told what the water is), here is an organizational chart I put together of the Canadian Department of Transport in 1950, showing exactly where Smith fit in.

Note that this chart does not include all of the various civil servants from the other sections, like Meteorology or Canal Services, that would have been further up the proverbial food chain than Smith.

Now, I admit that we do things a bit different up here in Canada than our cousins in the United States, but not so differently that we would put someone like Wilbert Smith, a mid level (to be generous) civil servant in the Department of Transport, in charge of our flying saucer study. The fellas in the Department of Defence, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (in charge of foreign and domestic intelligence) would have been, to say the least, a little "miffed."

So, one more time, here is what the pro-Smith ufologists are saying - Wilbert Smith, senior radio regulations engineer, was "in the know" about the biggest secret out there, while hundreds of senior American generals, admirals, scientists and officials were not.

If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested in purchasing...

Wilbert Smith & The Department of Transport - Expenditures, 1950
(originally published 17 June, 2005)

As the old journalistic axiom goes, if you want to find the truth, follow the money.

If the question relates to just how important Wilbert Smith's work for the Department of Transport was in 1950, therefore, one should take a look at the Departmental expenditures, and see how much was devoted to Smith's section.

Here are the relevant figures from the Department of Transport (Canada) Annual Report, 1950 - 1951 (for the fiscal year ending 31 March 1951):

Total Department Expenditures - $ 78,901,296.55
Total Air Services Expenditures - $ 33,557,017.95
Total Telecommunications Division Expenditures - $ 10,458,484.61
Total Administration of Radio Act and Regulations Expenditures - $ 867,095.11

So, from the above we can see that the section in which Smith worked (Radio Act and Regulations) received the following:

- 1.10 % of total department expenditures
- 2.58 % of total section expenditures (Telecommunications Division being part of the Air Services Section)
- 8.29 % of total division expenditures (Radio Act and Regulations being a subsection of Telecommunications Division)

Contrast these expenditures with others that were far greater:

- $ 4,248,357.51 for Canal Services, Operation and Maintenance
- $ 4,064,678.03 for Aviation Radio Aids, Operation and Maintenance
- $ 1,216,860.25 for Telegraph and Telephone Service, Administration, Operation & Maintenance
- $ 6,413,037.11 for Airways and Airports, Construction and Improvement
- $ 1,087,573.81 for Departmental Administration

This is not to suggest that the work Smith's section did was unimportant; however, it does show that it was just a very small part of a very big operation. And remember - Smith wasn't even the head of the Radio Act and Regulations subsection.

Just the Canadian to whom I'd reveal the U.S. government's UFO secrets...

Paul Kimball

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Vallee interview

Greg Taylor of the The Daily Grail, which has just re-published Jacques Vallee's classic book Messengers of Deception, has a new interview with Vallee available that makes for very interesting reading. My favourite quote, which could be applied to the remaining defenders of MJ-12 is Vallee's observation that
"Many erstwhile ufologists don’t want the deceptive reports exposed, just as the Catholic Church long denied instances of abuse in its ranks... the best way to gain the respect of the intellectual community is to expose hoaxes, sloppy research and manipulation whenever we encounter them."
A few more choice bits:

"The evidence for an “undercurrent” of deceit behind some alleged UFO cases only becomes visible when you spend time in the field interviewing witnesses and tracking down the evidence. It became annoying to me because it represented a waste of time and a distraction from studying genuine observations. Researchers who collect reports only through books or media accounts would not necessarily encounter this level of the phenomenon and would understandably resist the suggestion that the belief in extraterrestrial intervention is being manipulated to serve political or cultist goals."

"If we do not establish a high standard for the data we publish, the entire field suffers. Then it becomes easy for skeptics to claim that the phenomenon only appears before “cranks and weirdoes,” as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking recently stated in England. This is exacerbated by the increased credulity of the public and its blatant exploitation by the media. It seems that people – including some highly educated folks – are ready to believe almost anything they see on the Internet or on Larry King."

"I don’t believe a UFO observation makes anyone “psychic,” to use the popular terminology, but the phenomenon comes in an environment of manifestations that include heightened awareness of synchronicities, paranormal sounds and lights and occasionally absurd coincidences similar to those described in the poltergeist literature."
You don't have to adhere to Vallee's particular conclusions about the nature of the UFO phenomenon to admire his way of thinking, and to appreciate his observations not just of the phenomenon (or "phenomena"), but of the people who study it as well.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

David Cherniack's UFOs: The Secret History

I caught the world premiere of Canadian documentary filmmaker David Cherniack's new film UFOs: The Secret History, on The History Channel here in Canada tonight. The film is must-see viewing for anyone interested in UFOs, but at the same time its accessible to the general public whose only real exposure to the UFO phenomenon has been The X-Files. A compelling, and at times lyrical, examination of the history of the UFO phenomenon and our relationship to it as a species, UFOs: The Secret History is an example of a documentary that manages to convey information in a compelling and entertaining manner, and which raises more questions than it answers. In short, it is superior filmmaking.

The film is not without flaws. Dr. Jacques Vallee and others like him are dismissed in a minute or so - Jerry Clark refers to Vallee's approach to the UFO phenomenon as "debunking with a more pretentious name", and Cherniack in his narration largely dismisses it as a result of the fascination with Eastern mysticism that arose in the counter-culture of the late 1960s. Cherniack makes a few factual errors as well - he refers to Dr. Edward Condon, for example, for example, as an astronomer, when in fact Condon was a physicist and a pioneer in quantum mechanics. I also dispute Cherniack's contention that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the first great UFO film, and a turning point where UFOs left the scientific realm and became firmly ensconced in pop culture, a conclusion that ignores a long and rich history of UFOs as part of pop culture, from Orson Welles' War of the Worlds to The Day the Earth Stood Still to Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

These are relatively small things, however, when compared with what the film gets right. It details the history of the UFO phenomenon from the late 1940s to the present day in just an hour, and manages to hit most of the high and low points along the way, from the founding of NICAP and the work of Dr. Jim McDonald on the one hand to the "swamp gas" and alien autopsy fiascos on the other. Cherniack shows how the United States Air Force and other government agencies, notably the CIA, have not been completely forthcoming about the UFO phenomenon, but he does so without the kind of rampant conspiracy theorizing that seriously marred Richard Dolan's otherwise useful book UFOs and the National Security State. Indeed, in the second half of the film, Cherniack shows how the descent of ufology into the fringe world of crashed flying saucer stories, conspiracy theorism, and the abduction phenomenon, has obscured the reality of the UFO phenomenon in the past thirty years, with the result that there is no real hope for a serious scientific inquiry into UFOs, and the UFO story gets ignored by the mainstream media now as being inherently silly.

Cherniack spends very little time on Roswell, for example (Stan Friedman gets less screen time here than he did in the ABC News documentary Seeing is Believing a couple of years ago), because at best it is inconclusive, and at worst it has proven to be a huge distraction from the search for the truth. Cherniack devotes more time to showing how Roswell led inevitably to the fraudulent MJ-12 documents than he does to the case itself, and we get to see rare clips from the legendary UFO Cover-Up Live program that featured Jaime Shandera and Bill Moore, as well as "Falcon", and stories that the aliens like Tibetan music and strawberry ice cream. That is where crashed saucer tales and things like MJ-12 have led ufology, and Cherniack wonders whether the UFO phenomenon has been deliberately manipulated to cover up what was really going on, whether extraterrestrial visitation or top secret US government testing programs.

But Cherniack is no debunker - he shows the absurdity of the US Air Force's Project Mogul explanation, for example. In one of the better segments, he also demonstrates what a pivotal moment the Colorado Project was for the serious study of the UFO phenomenon, and how it was a complete and utter scientific fraud foisted on the general public by the US Air Force and Edward Condon - much to the chagrin of many of the people who actually investigated the cases for Condon, including Dr. William Hartmann, who found the 1950 Trent photos case compelling (Hartmann appears briefly in the film).

At its core, however, UFOs: The Secret History is as much about us as it is about the UFO phenomenon. Whether UFOs are real or not isn't really the issue, he seems to be saying. It's our need to mythologize the phenomenon that's truly fascinating, and he delves into that aspect of the story with an expert hand, as he notes, for example, that whether abductions are real or not, "they were touching upon something deeply mythic". But Cherniack is not just about this angle either - like me, he is clearly convinced that there is an objective reality to the UFO phenomenon. Although he isn't quite sure what UFOs are, the hundreds of excellent cases that remain unexplained, and which feature multiple witness accounts and hard data like radar hits and other physical evidence, are impossible to ignore.

Like a great figure skater or gymnast, Cherniack completes his "routine" with a perfect ending. The version of contact that we have imagined, he says, is a myth that we have created to shield us from a reality that we have little hope of understanding, given that we may well be dealing with civilizations or intelligences millions or even billions of years more advanced than we are. As long as we are focused on crashed flying saucers, and conspiracies, and other fringe elements with no real evidence, we are truly missing what could be a very important story.

Cherniack's film demonstrates how we have held ourselves back in terms of our understanding of the UFO phenomenon through our own self-imposed perceptual limitations, and the "noise" we have ourselves created. At the same time, however, Cherniack shows us that there is still a "signal" out there worth looking for, if only we have the courage and the intellectual open-mindeness to try.

UFOs: The Secret History, is a profoundly rich and thought-provoking film, well worth repeated viewings. Here's hoping that it gets the attention that it deserves, and that people embrace a nuanced film that refuses to fall into either fundamentalist debunkery or died-in-the-wool believerism.

Paul Kimball

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Kevin Randle on Skeptics vs. Debunkers

I posted this some time ago, but it's worth looking at again so that everyone can remind themselves why Kevin Randle is a good UFO researcher, who understands the need to be skeptical but open-minded, as opposed to someone like Kal Korff, who if he still has any mind left has closed it off a long time ago.

Of course Randle has made mistakes over the years - Frank Kaufmann being perhaps the biggest one. But unlike Korff, Kevin is never afraid to admit when he's been wrong - indeed, when I pointed out to him that Stan Friedman had found legitimate documents which refuted one of Kevin's long-time criticisms of MJ-12, namely that ranks such as Brigadier General would not be short-handed in an official document prepared by a military officer to "General", he graciously acknowledged that Stan had proved his case with respect to that particular point (but not, it should be noted, a host of other MJ-12 flaws which Stan tends to skip over - but I digress).

UFO research needs more Kevin Randles, and fewer Kal Korff loons (be they fundamentalist debunker type or died-in-the-wool believer types), if it is ever to be taken seriously by the mainstream.

Paul Kimball

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Studying the Betty & Barney Hill UFO case

By far the best look at the alleged Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction case is Encounters at Indian Head, which was edited by Peter Brookesmith and the late Karl Pflock. It contains essays from several different authors that canvass a wide range of views on the case, from Pflock, who was convinced that the Hills really were abducted by aliens, to Robert Sheaffer, whose essay's title - "There Were No Extraterrestrials" - speaks for itself.

Unlike other books on this classic case, Encounters at Indian Head offers a balanced perspective from all sides, which allows the reader to make his or her own judgment about what really may have happened to the Hills in September, 1961. As the late Marcello Truzzi wrote in "Judging the Hill Case" (pp. 70 - 90):

Whether the future confirms or denies the Hills' claims, research into such cases seems likely to contribute to our overall knowledge. And that alone should make further examination worth our while.
The result of a symposium held in September, 2000, Encounters at Indian Head is a largely overlooked classic of UFO literature, and provides an invaluable template for how serious discussion about the UFO phenomenon should be conducted.

Paul Kimball

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dr. James McDonald on the Farmington Armada

Here are the comments Dr. James McDonald made at the hearings before the Committee on Science and Astronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives, 19th Congress, 2nd Session, July 29, 1968, with respect to the Farmington "Armada" case from 1950.

1. Case 9. Farmington, N.M., March 17, 1950

In the course of checking this famous case that made short-lived press headlines in 1950, I interviewed seven Farmington witnesses out of a total that was contemporarily estimated at "hundreds" to "over a thousand." It became clear from my interviewing that the streets were full of residents looking up at the strange aerial display that day. It was not only a multiple-witness case, but also a multiple-object case. My checking was done seventeen years after the fact, so the somewhat confused recollective impressions I gained are not surprising. But that unidentified aerial objects moved in numbers over Farmington on 8/17/50 seems clear. One witness with whom I spoke, Clayton J. Boddy, estimated that he had observed a total of 20 to 30 disc-shaped objects, including one red one substantially larger than the others, moving at high velocity across the Farmington sky on the late morning of 8/17/50. John Baton, a Farmington realtor, described being called out of a barber shop when the excitement began and seeing a high, fast object suddenly joined by many objects that darted after it. Baton sent me a copy of an account he had jotted down shortly after the incident A former Navy pilot. Baton put their height at perhaps 15,000 ft. "The object that has me puzzled was the one we saw that was definitely red. It was seen by several and stated by all to be red and traveling northeast at a terrific speed." Baton also spoke of the way the smaller objects would "turn and appear to be flat, then turn and appear to be round," a description matching an oscillating disc-shaped object. No one described seeing any wings or tails, and the emphasis upon the darting, "bee-like" motion was in several of the accounts I obtained from witnesses. I obtained more details, but the above must suffice here for a brief summary.

Discussion. -- This once-headlined, but now almost forgotten multiple-witness case has been explained as resulting from the breakup of a Skyhook balloon. Skyhooks do shatter at the very low temperatures of the upper troposphere, and occasionally break into a number of smaller pieces. But to suggest that such fragments of transparent plastic at altitudes of the order of 40-50,000 ft. could be detected by the naked eye, and to intimate that these distant objects of low angular velocity could confuse dozens of persons into describing fast-moving disc-shaped objects (including a large red object) is simply not reasonable. However, to check further on this, I contacted first Holloman AFB and then the Office of Naval Research, who jointly hold records on all Alamogordo Skyhook releases. No Skyhooks or other experimental balloons had been released from the Holloman area or any other part of the country on or near the date of this incident. A suggestion that the witnesses were seeing only cotton-wisps was not only unreasonable, given the witness accounts, but was in fact tracked down by a local journalist to comments casually made by a law enforcement officer and overheard by another reporter. From my examination of this case, I see no ready explanation for the numerous disc-shaped objects moving in unconventional manner and seen by large numbers of Farmington residents on 3/17/50.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Proving your UFO case by debating

Victory in debates between people who study the UFO phenomenon about certain cases or theories are touted by some ufologists, most notably Stan Friedman, as part of their case that they are right, and their opponents wrong. This is ridiculous.

Debates in and of themselves prove nothing, particularly when the "outcome" is determined by a popular vote of everyone who listened to the debate. There are any number of factors that can skew the results.

For example, if you are debating Seth Shostak or James McGaha on Coast to Coast, and you take the pro "some UFOs are alien spacecraft" position, not only should you "win" the debate in terms of the popular vote, but you should do so by a wide margin, given the fact that the audience for Coast to Coast is already predisposed to accept your point of view.

Then there is the factor of the quality of the debater. So far in his career, Stan Friedman has been well-served by having some pretty poor opposition - no-one is ever going to confuse McGaha or Shostak with Martin Luther King when it comes to his oratorical skills, for example. A good salesman can get away with peddling faulty merchandise sometimes, and when it comes to selling, Stan is both good and experienced - but that doesn't necessarily make him right. However, against a good debater and public speaker, in a moderated setting (especially in cross-examination format, where Stan would be open to frequent questions), with a more or less neutral audience, I have a feeling that Stan would have a much tougher go of it that he usually does.

All of this is moot, however, because when it comes to matters of provable fact and unprovable conjecture, public opinion is worthless. George Bush and his posse convinced an overwhelming majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, including Senator Hillary Clinton. As everyone now knows, Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Using Stan's logic, however, where winning a debate at a particular time is deemed important, perhaps even definitive, Bush would still be right, because he could cite opinion poll after opinion poll from back then that showed a majority of people thought he was right.

Anyone who trumpets wins in a debate, whether on Coast to Coast or at Oxford, is trying to gull you into thinking that it matters. Don't be fooled - it doesn't.

What really matters are the facts, the data and the evidence, and the reasonable conclusions that can be drawn from them - not a single individual's well-honed ability to move a crowd at a particular moment in time. Science isn't a popularity contest, and neither is serious UFO research.

Paul Kimball

Karl Pflock on the Aztec UFO hoax

Here is the late Karl Pflock summarizing the 1948 Aztec UFO hoax. This is a re-edited clip from parts of my 2004 documentary on the Aztec saga, Aztec 1948.

The hoax lives on through the efforts of a few modern researchers who mean well, but who have let the will to believe overwhelm their critical faculties.

My own take on the Aztec hoax can be found in this blog's archives, mostly in March and April, 2005... or by typing "Aztec hoax" into the search engine.

As for Karl, he was one of the best UFO researchers of the past thirty years, and his insight is sorely missed by anyone genuinely interested in the truth about the UFO phenomenon, and by those of us who were fortunate enough to count him as a friend.

Paul Kimball

Ufological "Front Page Challenge"

One of my favourite shows when I was growing up was Front Page Challenge on the CBC here in Canada. The show featured four panelists, usually well-known journalists, who would ask yes-or-no questions in an attempt to correctly identify a mystery challenger connected to a front-page news item, as well as the news item itself. After the panelists had guessed correctly - or been stumped - they would proceed to interview the challenger.

Along those lines, today at Above and Beyond we have a special guest, and a series of questions asked by our ace panel, comprised of Rear Admiral Zorgrot, Zoltan the Hound of Hell, and Fox Mulder, with the answers from our mystery guest. You the reader will then be able to guess the identity of the mystery guest, with a free copy of Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings to the first person whocorrectly identifies our mystery guest.

Here we go:

Zorgrot: Are you a world-renowned UFO expert?

Mystery guest: Yes.

Zoltan: Woof, woof, grr... GRRR!!!

Mystery guest: Umm... sure, yes.

Mulder: Do you believe that the Roswell Incident was a crashed flying saucer from outer space?

Mystery guest: Yes.

Mulder (follow-up): Do you also believe that the Roswell Incident involved a second crashed saucer, on the Plains of San Agustin?

Mystery Guest: Yes.

Zorgrot: Do you believe that the 1948 Aztec incident involved the crash of an alien spacecraft?

Mystery guest: Yes.

Zoltan: Woof, woof, grr... GRRR!!!

Mystery guest: Umm...

Host: Moving on... Mr. Mulder.

Mulder: Do you believe that the United States Air Force was involved in a shooting war with alien spacecraft in the early 1950s?

Mystery guest: Yes.

Zorgrot: Do you believe that the supposed super-secret organization known as MJ-12 was real?

Mystery guest: Yes.

Zoltan: Woof, woof, grrr... GRRR!!!

Host: Okay, that's all the questions we have time for. It's time to guess who our mystery guest is...
As I said, I'll leave that up to you the reader... but in the meantime we take a brief break for the news, where we will show video of Dr. James McDonald and Dr. J. Allen Hynek spinning in their graves, which definitely qualifies as high strangeness.

Paul Kimball

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Crashed Flying Saucers and Radar

Proponents of alien crashed flying saucers at Roswell and Aztec, such as Stan Friedman, have speculated that perhaps advanced radar systems brought the spacecraft down. Indeed, in this clip from the doc I made about the so-called Aztec incident, Aztec 1948, both Stan and Scott Ramsey talk about that possibility, while Karl Pflock offers a much more reasonable and sensible analysis.

You can view my deconstruction of the silly "radar brought the flying saucers down" claims here.

Fact vs. fiction in New Mexico. Unfortunately, the ufologists supplied the fiction, the same kind you will find with Frank Feschino's wild claims of an air war in the 1950s between the USAF and aliens, which have been "shot down" by more sensible UFO researchers like Jerry Clark and Dick Hall.

Paul Kimball

Dolan and Redfern on UFO secrecy

In these clips from my 2004 documentary "Aztec: 1948", UFO researchers Rich Dolan and Nick Redfern discuss UFOs and government secrecy.

Paul Kimball

UFOs, New Mexico, and the Farmington Armada

In this slightly re-edited clip from the 2004 documentary "Aztec: 1948", Stan Friedman, the late Karl Pflock, and reporter Deborah Mayeux of the Farmington Daily Times discuss UFOs seen over New Mexico in the late 1940s, and the Farmington Armada case from 1950.

Paul Kimball

Monday, June 30, 2008

Jerome Clark on Anomalous phenomena

I've given Jerry Clark a rough ride at times, here and elsewhere, for what I think was a far too casual dismissal of Mac Tonnies' crypto-terrestrial hypothesis. It's not that I agree with Mac, but rather that I think people should wait until he's done with his book, and has published, before they offer a critique of any sort.

Having said that, however, I have the greatest respect for Clark, despite any disagreements we may have. Whereas some ufologists have spent years on the lecture circuit, and late-night talk radio, to no great effect and with no lasting legacy, Clark has left behind a body of work - his UFO Encyclopedia, his other books (Strange Skies: Pilot Encounters with UFOs is one of the best), his work as editor of the International UFO Reporter, and so forth - that will serve future generations well, and in much more useful ways than the work of many of his ufological contemporaries.

In the most recent issue of Jim Moseley's 'zine Saucer Smear is a summary by Clark of where he stands on the subject of anomalous claims and phenomena that deserves a broader audience:

There are, as I see it, three classes of anomalous claims and phenomena:

(1) Pseudo-anomalies, which is to say the noise generated by misperceptions, wishful thinking, hoaxes, delusions, and exaggeration.

(2) Core anomalies that manifest as unusual and puzzling events in the world - in other words, they give us some reason to suspect their objective and physical, if unexplained, presence in the world - and that will be eventually explained within the boundaries of expanded existing knowledge.

(3) Experience anomalies, shadow phenomena that 'exist' in vivid (frequently collective) perception, that sometimes have a parasitic relationship to (2), while being epistemologically unrelated, and whose existence cannot be proved at the event level even as the extraordinary appearances at their center can be, in some subjective sense, experienced in deeply anomalous states of consciousness. We lack so much as a vocabulary for these, and they are so far beyond current knowledge (if - emphatically - not universal human experience) that explanations and theoretical frameworks cannot be usefully discussed. Literal interpretations are certainly wrong.
It is (3) that interests me most these days, and to which I intend to devote my energy and attention as an anomalist from here on.
There are people out there that think UFO research - and presumably research into anomalous phenomena in general - needs some sort of revolution. What they don't understand is that meaningful progress is always best served by building on the work of good people like Clark (which doesn't mean that one has to agree with everything he, or anyone else, has said), and not by some sort of "revolution" which will merely end up setting real research back, with the eventual result that everyone will just be re-inventing the wheel.

Clark politely turned me down when I asked him to appear in Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings, which I viewed as a shame, both for him and for me - for him, because it would have given him a chance to make some of his views known, even in short spurts, and for me because it would have made for an even better film. Most of all, however, it was a shame for viewers, who should be more familiar with Clark, and the very good work he has done over the years.

Paul Kimball

Best Evidence - The Santa Barbara Channel case

The Santa Barbara Channel case, aka the Kelly Johnson case, from 1953 - it came in at #5 in the documentary Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings. A detailed report of the case by Joel Carpenter can be found at the NICAP website. The case file for the case from Project Blue Book can be seen here.

Paul Kimball

Best Evidence - The RB47 case

The RB-47 case from Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings. Serious UFO research would be a lot further along if ufologists had focused on cases like this over the past 30 years, as opposed to crashed saucer tales like Roswell.

Paul Kimball

Best Evidence - The Malmstrom AFB Case

This is the segment on the Malmstrom AFB UFO case, which came in at #7 in Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings.

Paul Kimball

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Determining the Origin on a UFO

This was originally posted by Brad Sparks at UFO Updates. I think it is near perfect summary of this particular issue should be approached, so I asked Brad if I could post it here, and he said yes. His point about what these supposed aliens tell people, like Betty and Barney Hill (assuming that we accept their testimony as legitimate, at least as they honestly recall it), strikes me as particularly pertinent - just because a supposed "alien" tells you he or she is from Zeta Reticuli, doesn't mean that they are telling you the truth. Indeed, if they are real and as secretive as they seem to be, this might well be some form of misdirection.

Paul Kimball

How do we determine the extraterrestrial origin of an unidentified object?
by Brad Sparks

At the simplest level, there is the rhetorical trick, and that is all it is, it hardly qualifies as scientific "evidence," which seemingly eliminates terrestrial explanations. This debater's trick merely says there were no IFO's in the right place at the right time. Therefore, so says the trick, it must be "extra"-terrestrial or ET if there are no "terrestrial" explanations. But that really places enormous stress on the completeness of one's catalog of terrestrial explanations and one's database of IFO occurrences.

At a slightly higher level, there is the more reasonable argument that lays stress on the shape and flight performance of a UFO, to argue that it is beyond the characteristics of natural phenomena and terrestrial devices.

However, this still does not identify the origin of the UFO. Some will still wonder if some secret earth-based military project created it, or if it was some extradimensional phenomenon or some such, assuming such can exist.

For there to be an observation of the ET origin of a UFO someone or some instrument must observe the UFO coming to or from that place of origin. It's that simple. Everything else is an inference not a direct observation.

Identifying the origin of an unknown object, substance or even person is always difficult. Labels prove nothing. Lots of people have bought merchandise advertized as "Made in the USA" on the outside of the box only to find "Made in China" or "Made in Mexico" on the inside. And there must be many with no labels inside saying "China" or "Mexico" who are still fooled to this day.

Statements of alleged "aliens" alone prove nothing either. A witness who is told by an alleged ET alien that the alien comes from Zeta Reticuli 2 is not a percipient witness of that origin. The witness has not observed that alleged place of origin, but is only a witness to a statement made by some alleged entity who could very well be lying (if the entity even exists and is not hallucination or lie by the witness). The statement may be true or false, but the witness only observes the statement, not the facts alleged in the statement.

Even in human experience we know that controversial or disputed statements (allegations) must be cross-examined and corroborated by independent evidence. The alleged alien from Zeta Reticuli 2 has not been cross-examined closely by experts seeking to verify the claim. The alleged alien has not been put to the test. To use a courtroom analogy, no witness testimony is accepted without cross-examination, under US law.

This confusion between observation and interpretation is widespread in UFO research. It is used to great advantage by debunkers who seize upon a witness' mistaken interpetations of what he saw in order to discredit his observations. Most witnesses are accurate in their observations if one carefully strips away the interpretations, which are usually mistaken. In my study of the IFO cases in the Condon Report, used as a control sample, I found that witness observations were 97% to 98% accurate, if their interpretations were excluded.

The bottom line is that for the extraterrestrial origin of a UFO, say, from at Zeta Reticuli 2, to be observed, some instrument or observer must see or detect the UFO coming from Zeta Reticuli 2. Alien "say-so" is worthless. Traces of a UFO path between Earth and Zeta Reticuli 2 may lead to the inference of a ZR2 origin, but it still isn't direct observation of the origin.

As I have pointed out in previous posts, the USAF adopted a policy in 1952 of bypassing anecdotal UFO reports in favor of sensors and instrument data. This anti-case anti-anecdotes policy discouraged what was regarded as worthless or nearly worthless investigations of anecdotal UFO reports given by military pilots and other credible witnesses. It also meant bypassing Project Blue Book, which was converted from an intelligence function to a propaganda role. This was long before the Bolender memo of 1969 which talked about real UFO intelligence data already bypassing the Blue Book system anyway so that BB could now be shut down.

All the "credibility" and truthfulness in the world, of a human eyewitness, in almost all cases cannot determine a 1-mile distance from a 10-mile distance from a 100-mile distance or a 1-foot UFO from a 10-foot UFO from a 100-foot UFO traveling at 10 mph or 100 mph or 1,000 mph or 10,000 mph, unlike instruments which can do so, which can so determine size-speed-distance-altitude data.

There are people who love to wallow in worthless cases where 1 mile cannot be distinguished from 10 miles or 100 miles, or where they have decided in their heads this must be "proof of ET" so they "know" it is a huge spaceship 100 feet in size 100 miles away or whatever, instead of a 1-foot bird at 1 mile. But USAF Intelligence wisely decided to get out of that hopeless losing game back in 1952, and stick with data of scientific intelligence value. Maybe they went too far with that policy in discouraging or rejecting UFO sightings of limited value and accidentally lost some good data but they were right to do something about the mass of worthless reports, so that intelligence analysts were not bogged down with thousands of junk cases.

So, yeah, "authorities are unwilling to give serious consideration to the identification" of anecdotal UFO reports -- because they have something much better to work with. But some want to turn this lack of interest by "authorities" in story-telling UFO anecdotes as proof of their lack of interest in UFO's altogether.

All the beatings of the dead horse of anecdotal UFO sightings will not change these facts and decisions of US intelligence history to bypass the anecdotes in favor of instrumented UFO data.

Another Lister then asked this question, to which Brad replied:

How do we divest ourselves of the crank factions? That is the first (apparently insuperable) obstacle IMO.

Good question. And how do we divest ourselves of the planted disinformation agents, who force their way into the public spotlight as alleged spokesmen for the entire UFO research community while trotting out "crank witnesses" as the "best evidence" that all UFO researchers have to offer?

Their strategy is to discredit the whole UFO research field with the "giggle" factor using their array of lying or deluded nutballs in public, and using stinker "witnesses" whose "testimonies" would implode under any serious questioning at a Congressional or other hearing.

The USAF has a long track record of applying this discrediting technique, including its clever setting up of the CIA at the Robertson Panel with known or suspected IFO cases misrepresented as "best" UFO Unknowns. When the Panel of scientists scrutinized these planted false "UFO" cases the cases of course blew up in their faces, humiliating the CIA which had gone out on a limb to defend UFO research and even ETH, and naturally led to the searing, caustic anti-UFO conclusions which have now become famous. And it got the CIA off the AF's turf, the UFO business, for a long time, which was the point of this USAF interagency disinformation scheme.

For a more recent example of a stinker time-bomb "witness" whose testimony is ready to explode in the faces of the UFO community, I refer to liars such as the alleged "witness" military radar operator who claimed he personally tracked a UFO on his radar (not multiple radars) for 2,000 miles up and down the Eastern Seaboard, including height-finding, when in reality no such radar existed then or now, such radars being limited to no more than about 300 miles maximum range.

These bogus "witnesses" are designed to have "testimony" that sounds plausible, even impressive, to the non-experts, but are ready to blow up the moment they are scrutinized, with the intent that the exposure occur at the most humiliating moment for the UFO research community, such as perhaps under intense questioning at a Congressional hearing should one ever occur. This is a setup, so the government can bring on their own witnesses who will easily make mincemeat out of the UFO claims made by their disinformation agents pretending to be "spokesmen" for the UFO research community.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Godfather of Exopolitics

Exopolitics takes a lot of flack, and rightly so in my opinion, from many UFO researchers. But some of those same UFO researchers are the intellectual and spiritual "ancestors" of exopolitics, none more so than the most ardent defender of the belief that some UFOs are alien spacecraft, Stanton T. Friedman, who is, in many ways, the "godfather of exopolitics" as practised by the likes of Dr. Michael Salla.

Here is the definition of exopolitics from Salla's website:
Exopolitics is the study of the key individuals, political institutions and processes associated with extraterrestrial life... exopolitics focus[es] on the political implications of an extraterrestrial presence known to clandestine quasi-governmental entities that keep knowledge of this presence secret from the general public, elected political officials & even senior military officials. The supporting evidence is overwhelming in scope and shows that decision making is restricted on a strict 'need to know' basis.
Take the word "exopolitics" out of the equation, and that sounds like something Friedman would say. Indeed, if you've heard Friedman speak as many times as I have, you'll note the similarity in the main themes - aliens are here, government is covering up the knowledge of that fact, and we the people have a right to know the truth. At Salla's website for his "exopols courses", he even uses the motto "preparing for our cosmic graduation", which directly echoes Friedman's decades-old mantra that perhaps someday we will be ready to qualify for the cosmic kindergarten.

Friedman's biggest issue with exopolitics, at least in public, seems to be the fact that they are not terribly fussy about vetting their so-called witnesses and whistleblowers. In that respect, he's quite right. However, as more than one exopol has pointed out to me, Friedman has a history of touting his own very flawed witnesses (Gerald Anderson pops to mind right off the bat, followed closely by Glenn Dennis), and cases (Aztec, Flatwoods, perhaps even Roswell).

Frankly, while I disagree with the very premise that underlies their belief system (that at least some UFOs have been proved to be alien spacecraft), the more I think about it, the more I find the exopols to be more intellectually honest than people like Friedman, who agree with them on the big picture, but have done little or nothing to try and effect actual political change. The exopols have it right - if you believe aliens are here, and the government is covering it up, then that is a political issue of the highest order, and no longer a scientific one.

Friedman is the de facto Godfather of Exopolitics - in large part, he created the "family" that is modern pro-ET, "Cosmic Watergate" ufology, but like Vito Corleone, he is incapable of taking what he has created and moving it into its next logical phase. Indeed, like the Don, it is a phase that he wants nothing to do with, even as others around him, who have been inspired by him, recognize the logical and inevitable implications of what Friedman has been saying all of these years, and are prepared to act on it, no matter how much he protests.

Paul Kimball

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

Monday, June 23, 2008

Parallel Universes

A BBC documentary on parallel universes.


Paul Kimball

Are We Ourselves?

A question that I've asked here before: instead of trying to figure out where UFOs might be from, perhaps the question should be "when" they are from. Could they be time travellers from our distant future? Modern physics tells us that they just might be.

Time travel could account for any number of the weird aspects of UFO sightings, not the least the big question - why don't "they" reveal themselves to us? The simple answer is that they might not be able to - they may be able to observe, but not interact, whether through limitations inherent in time travel, or as the result of some sort of temporal prime directive.

Even more interesting, as a possibility, is that time travellers have been interacting with us, perhaps in ways of which we are aware, and perhaps in ways of which we are not aware. For example - what if future scientists, or historians, as part of a research project, are endeavoring to create multiple time streams, to see how things would have turned out if A had happened instead of B? By doing so, they wouldn't run the risk of altering their own time stream - instead, they would merely be creating a new time stream that continues on separately from the moment they effect a change, that they could then observe.

In short, we couldn't go back and save Abraham Lincoln, or kill Adolf Hitler, in our own time stream (what's done is done, and even if we could, then we would cease to exist, because we would have changed our past), but we could go back and save Lincoln or kill Hitler to create a new timeline, and then watch how things played out.

Indeed, perhaps we are one of those alternate timelines? Perhaps, in the original universe, Hitler was killed, hit by a stray bullet during the Munich putsch, or, more likely, if you were a historian, killed in the July, 1944 bomb plot (if Hitler had been killed in Munich, he would probably not have been important enough a figure to bother with, but the July 1944 plot could have been a pivotal event if it had gone the other way), and some future historians decided to go back and see what would have happened otherwise.

Imagine the ethical dilemma if you knew that you could go back in time, and create a new timeline where Hitler would conceivably have almost another year in power before his defeat, during which time millions more would die - or worse, where the Nazis might have somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in 1944 / 1945, or prolonged the war through the intelligent use of new weapons. Would an ethical species allow such experimenting, and the creation of a new timeline that might lead to a world with real people (just not our people) that would suffer horribly, simply so we could conduct some historical research?

I have little doubt, watching the development of our timeline, that we would. And maybe, just maybe, someone else, somewhen else, did just that... and here we are today.

Paul Kimball

Jacques Vallee on UFOs

Vallee on UFOs, then...

And now...

Great stuff.

Paul Kimball

Major Donald Keyhoe interviewed by Mike Wallace

A classic interview by Mike Wallace of Major Donald Keyhoe, can be seen here. Well worth a look, especially if you've never seen Major Keyhoe in action. As you listen to the exchange, you'll notice that nothing much has changed in the fifty years since, either in the media's handling of the UFO phenomenon, nor in the responses given by ufologists to questions, particularly when they are supporters of the ET explanation.

Paul Kimball

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Why the "Roswell Incident" was not a crashed ET spacecraft

As the 61st anniversary of the "Roswell Incident" approaches, I thought I would look at some of the most obvious reasons why whatever happened back in 1947 was not the crash of a "nuts-and-bolts" alien spacecraft (or two, as Stanton Friedman and a couple of others assert).

The first reason, and the one that makes the most sense (which means you will never hear Stan discuss it), is what I call the "U.S. Marine" factor, namely that you never leave a man on the field... or, in this case, a crashed spacecraft with highly advanced technology that, were I an alien concerned about these pesky humans (as Friedman suggests is likely), I would not want to fall into their hands, under any circumstances.

Friedman often describes the supposed alien spacecraft as excursion modules, that are sent out from a "mothership", which is what the aliens would have travelled between the stars in (he makes this observation in my film Best Evidence, for example). This is a sensible observation if one is to credit the ETH with any degree of plausibility.

However, Friedman ignores the implications of this scenario when he deals with Roswell, or any other crashed alien spacecraft case that he favours (which would have to include the supposed El Indio crash that is referenced in the MJ-12 documents that he promotes).

If there was a mothership, surely they would have moved to recover any crashed excursion module as quickly as possible, a process which, considering the advanced technology that the aliens must possess in order to get "here" from "there" is something that they would have accomplished before Mack Brazel discovered the debris field and then alerted the military, even if that involved simply disintegrating the debris field so as to leave no trace behind of the crash.

The alternative is that the aliens were willing to leave their advanced technology in the hands of a species that Friedman claims was beginning to pose a potential threat to them (A-bombs, advanced radar, rockets, and so forth). That is patently ridiculous.

Friedman's reasoning when it comes to Roswell is internally inconsistent, and contradictory. He wants to have it it both ways:

- the aliens are advanced enough to get here, but are then highly accident prone, to the point, in Friedman's scenario about Roswell, that they crashed two spacecraft at roughly the same time (the other being on the Plains of San Agustin, in western New Mexico).

- the aliens are concerned about we humans, and the prospect of our taking our brand of "friendship" out there (i.e. militarism), but they are willing to leave highly advanced alien technology in our hands, with the concomitant risk that it may be reverse-engineered and someday used against them.

- the aliens travel from other star systems in large, aircraft-carrier like motherships, and use excursions modules to explore the Earth, but when an excursion module crashes, they don't have a procedure to immediately recover it or destroy the evidence.

Does any of this make any logical sense?


Will Friedman ever provide an answer to these questions?

No, because he can't... at least not in a way that makes sense in terms of the explanation for the 1947 Roswell event that he favours, and has spent the last three decades promoting, to the detriment of serious scientific research into the nature of the UFO phenomenon.

Paul Kimball

Chris Rutkowski

Chris Rutkowski is one of the more thoughtful, and measured, UFO researchers active today. On his website, he sets out his position on the UFO phenomenon, with which I am in general agreement:

I believe it possible that an advanced, technological civilization may have found ways of traversing interstellar distances without violating physical laws. However, after more than 25 years of research and investigation, I do not see any incontrovertible evidence of this.

My opinion is that if UFOs are not physical phenomena, they definitely are sociological or psychological phenomena. In either case, they are worth scientific study, because they have, at the very least, permeated the minds and imagination of the populace, if they are not physical phenomena.

I first met modern-day contactees in the 1970's. In the late 1980's, abductees began seeking my help in understanding their experiences. I and my colleagues in UFOROM (Ufology Research of Manitoba) have been actively investigating a broad spectrum of reported experiences since 1975. Although many cases are intriquing and a small percentage are unexplained, they do not offer conclusive proof of extraterrestrial visitation.

I am interested in bridging the chasm between "believers" and "debunkers" in an attempt to catalyse rational discourse on these topics. I know that, deliberately or otherwise, incorrect information has been propagated by individuals who have made "names" for themselves in these fields of study. Because of some training in deconstructionist educational theory, I am critical of published research and popular interpretations of the phenomena.
Instead of rushing out to pick up Stan Friedman's new book, Flying Saucers and Science, which has little to do with real science, and which contains very little new material or information (question: what the heck does MJ-12, to which Stan devotes an entire chapter, have to do with "science"?), readers would be better served to purchase a copy of Rutkowski's 1999 study of the alleged alien abduction enigma, Abductions & Aliens: What's Really Going On, which is an excellent survey not just of that topic, but of some of the topics (and problems) with ufology in general.

Some choice bits:

Can a ufologist ethically advise/counsel/treat an abductee without referral to a professional psychologist or psychiatrist? Probably not. It would seem that it might be unwise to counsel abductees because of the possibility that they may have underlying psychological problems, and most ufologists are not trained to deal with this. Certainly some of the people who have come to me with abductee/contactee experiences have had such problems, and I would suspect that it is more pervasive than is usually acknowledged... Although most abductees seek help from ufologists, it is increasingly apparent that ufology is ill-prepared to deal with them. An abductee case is far more complicated than an ordinary sighting of a UFO... It is usually recognized that UFO investigators do not investigate UFOs, but the reports made by the witnesses themselves. Already, ufology is once-removed from pure scientific investigation and could be considered more analogous to memorate studies by anthropologists. Abduction cases are even more humanistic; there is often no definite "time" of an event, and it might not "take place" in a precise location. They are extremely subjective and may represent something beyond our investigation. This is why psychologists are more suited to abduction studies. Researchers have often found that abductees have emotional and psychological problems that may or may not be directly related to their experiences. Some appear to have a history of sexual or domestic abuse, and others exhibit symptoms of stresses within their lives. (It has been suggested that because of such backgrounds they are "chosen" or otherwise sensitive to abduction-like encounters, or that lifelong abductions are the cause of the psychological problems.) Regardless of the cause and effect, however, an abductee seeking help from a UFO buff is asking for trouble. Simply put, few ufologists have the therapeutic tools and expertise required to properly unravel an abductee's experiences within a framework of personal problems. (p. 232-234)

Eminently sensible, as is his conclusion, wherein he rebukes the scientific community:

After more than ten years of studying alien abduction stories and working directly with abductees, I can only state that there is a great paucity of true and incontrovertible scientific data upon which to build any useful theories. I believe that the scientific community has fallen very short in its view of the phenomenon. If there is no physical component here, then at the very least there is one that has components within the field of sociology and psychology. In any case, alien abduction accounts should not be dismissed. Enough people are affected by Alien Abduction Syndrome that it is time for science to overcome its stigma of avoiding UFO witnesses and abductees. It is no wonder that UFO buffs and abductees take no notice of scientists' and debunkers' flippant attitudes. Why should they?

I have great compassion for abductees. During the course of my research, I have met many fine people, outstanding individuals who are genuinely bewildered by their experiences. They have sought help because they are having trouble coping with their memories and emotions, and have received a scattershot response from clinical professions unfamiliar with the phenomenon and unsure of diagnoses, procedures, and methodology. In the absence of clinical assistance, abductees have turned to self-proclaimed experts in a variety of fields who really have no more answers than anyone else. The creation of cultish groups acting independently and reinforcing abductees' fears and anxieties does little towards helping those in need.

My advice for abductees is: Don't give up. There are some dedicated and sincere individuals out there who are willing to listen. Social workers, counsellors, and medical professionals are slowly becoming aware that AAS is a real problem. You're not alone.

Above all, don't believe everything you read.(p. 252-253)
Rutkowski has for years been asking hard and informed questions about a variety of UFO-related subjects, and has been offering real answers, always with the realization that there is no one answer, and that the questions may in many cases just lead to more questions.

That's not a bad thing, however - rather, it is the sign of a good UFO researcher, one who is interested in the truth, wherever it may lead, and even if it challenges their existing opinions.

Beware of people who offer you definitive answers about a subject like the UFO phenomenon. They may be many things, including sincere in their own way, but they are not truth-seekers.

Instead, seek out people like Rutkowski, who in his own way follows in the tradition of Hynek, Vallee and McDonald, and who respresents the best that ufology has to offer.

Paul Kimball

Friday, June 20, 2008

Flying Saucer Fundamentalists

In Why the ETH supporters probably have it right... and wrong I used an analogy - that we would appear to advanced aliens as ants appear to us - that ruffled a few feathers amongst some nuts-and-bolts types, who pointed out that at least a few humans do indeed study ants - entomologists.

Quite so.

But for them I have the following question:

How many entomologists spend 60 years - or longer, if you are a proponent of the notion that ET has been coming here for centuries - studying the exact same ant hill?

That idea strikes me as ridiculous. It's a desperate attempt to force fit our own way of thinking onto potential life forms that would be far more advanced than we are - and they would have to be much more advanced in order to get here from there (ignore someone like Stan Friedman, who will try to tell you about how it's actually relatively easy to get to our local galactic neigbours, if only we would try harder).

Again, I'm not saying that the ETH isn't a good hypothesis... indeed, as I noted before, I think it's the most plausible one amongst the various paranormal hypotheses on offer. It's the claim by nuts-and-bolts ufologists like Friedman and Keyhoe - and hucksters like Billy Meier - that ET is making his way here aboard flyings saucers and acting like we do that I take issue with, because, despite the misleading title of Friedman's new book, that contention is far more science fiction than science fact.

Ufologists like Friedman and Keyhoe who try to convince you that aliens are basically just like us are no different from religious fundamentalists who portray God as a kindly, white-haired anglo saxon. Such portrayals tell you a great deal about the people who put those images and beliefs forward, but absolutely nothing about the possible entity or entities under discussion.

They are flying saucer fundamentalists, and in their own way they have done as much damage to the serious scientific study of the UFO phenomenon as people like Dr. Edward Condon, Dr. Donald Menzel, or Philip J. Klass.

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Drake Equation

Here is SETI's Dr. Frank Drake explaining his famous equation for determining the prevalence of alien life in the galaxy:

If you want to play around with the numbers in the Drake Equation, and see what you come up with, you can do so here.

You can also read Stan Friedman's critique of the Drake Equation (and SETI in general) here.

Paul Kimball

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why the ETH supporters probably have it right... and wrong

Of all the non-terrestrial theories that have been offered to explain the UFO phenomenon, the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) has always seemed the most plausible one to me. I don't think it's been proved, but I think it's a better bet than the others on offer when one looks at the evidence, and the science.

The evidence seems to indicate that at least some UFO cases represent a non-human intelligence at work.

The science now tells us that there are almost certainly other intelligent beings in the galaxy, and if they are more advanced than us, there's a reasonably good chance that they could make their way here.

So, you might ask, why am I always so hard on the ETH supporters amongst ufologists?

First, I think it's important to remember that the key letter in ETH is the "H" - it's still just a hypothesis, and anyone who tells you that they can prove that aliens have visited Earth beyond a reasonable doubt, or even on the balance of probabilities, is putting the cart well before the horse.

Beyond that, however, I think the biggest problem with the ETH supporters within ufology is that they're so... "limited" in their outlook.

On the one hand, they are convinced that aliens have visited Earth, and in many cases they are convinced that they are still visiting Earth, and interacting with humans in all sorts of ways, some good and some bad. They are of the "nuts and bolts" school of thought, i.e. Joe Alien made his way to Earth in a flying saucer, in much the same way that Captain Kirk and all of our other science fiction icons make their way about the galaxy.

This is what I call "Keyhoe-ian" ufology, because it is based directly on the way of thinking that Major Donald Keyhoe first put forward in the 1950s. It is out-of-date, and badly out-of-touch with modern science. It presumes that aliens are only a few hundred years or so more advanced than us, which is highly unlikely. It presumes that the aliens are preoccupied with us, and that we are somehow important to them, which is also highly unlikely. In short, it is a point of view that is based on what people who grew up in the pioneering days of sci-fi and the space race expect of their aliens, and not the point-of-view that modern physicists and astrobiologists take.

If aliens are here, it is probable that they are far more advanced than we are, by an order of thousands of years, not hundreds. As Michio Kaku stated in the video I posted here earlier today, we would be to them as ants are to us - beneath their notice. This would explain the inherent weirdness of many UFO sightings - things that appear to us almost as magic, or something that in a different era would have been framed in religious terms. As Kaku noted, there may well be a galactic conversation going on, but in a "language" that we are thousands of years from being able to truly comprehend.

The pro-ETH stance of people like Keyhoe, and his successors, like Stan Friedman, is a relic of a different time and place, which is ironic when one considers that these people often criticize scientists for not being open-minded about the UFO phenomenon, and for being stuck in the past.

The ETH supporters may well have it right about aliens being here... but they are almost certainly wrong when it comes to the how, and why, of that presence. If you doubt that conclusion, ask yourself this question - when it comes time for humanity to travel to the stars (as opposed to the Moon or Mars), many hundreds or thousands of years hence, what will we look like as a species, and how would we view another species that we may find on some distant planet that is at our current level of technology? Does anyone really think we would care, anymore than we care about those ants crawling around in our backyard?

By focusing on the idea that little green / grey men have been coming here in nuts and bolts spaceships, ETH supporters like Keyhoe have done a grave disservice to the search for truth about the UFO phenomenon, and its possible alien origins, in the same way that thousands of years of religious leaders have undermined the search for the true nature of God by force-fitting it into a limited paradigm that simply served to reinforce their own worldview. They have not sought wisdom, nor understanding - they have simply proclaimed an "answer" which has been no answer at all.

If the truth behind the UFO phenomenon is that at least some cases represent an alien intelligence, then like God that truth is probably beyond our comprehension, at least at this time in our development. This makes things more exciting, because it shows us a direction to the future, and a reason for getting there someday.

The reductionist approach that has been adopted by the nuts-and-bolts crowd, on the other hand, which seeks to make potential alien life over unto our own image, lacks vision. It is more concerned with what they see as the destination, and their need to get there now, when what we should really be focusing on is the journey, and the wonders we may discover along the way.

That's the real signal in all of this. Everything else is just noise.

Paul Kimball