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

Michio Kaku on aliens, SETI

Kaku points out why SETI is truly a silly effort to investigate:

"We could be in the middle of an intergalactic conversation, and we wouldn't even know."


"We are so arrogant, we're so conceited, that we say they must visit us... I don't think so."

Bingo again!

Paul Kimball

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Thomas Mantell Case Reinvestigated

The Thomas Mantell UFO case has been re-investigated by ace historical researcher Brad Sparks (Brad was the primary consultant for Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings). Brad's work, which disputes the official explanation for Mantell's crash, could well be the "bombshell" UFO revelation of 2008 - at the very least, it will reopen the debate about what really happened to Captain Mantell sixty years ago.

Here is an excerpt from Part 1, which Brad kindly sent to me.

This year is the 60th anniversary of the tragic death of the young fighter pilot, Capt. Thomas Mantell. Mantell crashed in his F-51D Mustang prop fighter plane while pursuing an unidentified object almost a hundred miles across the state of Kentucky, on the afternoon of January 7, 1948. He became known as the first fatality in a UFO encounter. He reported over the radio that he saw an object “metallic and tremendous in size,” a famous phrase that has become legendary in UFO history. He was just 25 and left behind a wife and two little children. The case has spawned 60 years of confusion, mystery, sensation, speculation, controversy and finally disdain.

At the time, the US Air Force and Mantell’s Kentucky Air National Guard (ANG) unit put the “blame” (actual word used) on Mantell for his crash because he pursued the UFO at too high an altitude without oxygen supply. The AF explained the sighting as merely the planet Venus then later changed the official explanation to a large Skyhook balloon, once it was admitted that Venus was difficult to see in daytime. Venus was very unlikely to trigger spontaneous sightings by large numbers of people in widely separated areas.

All this has turned out to be false, the no-oxygen claim as well as the official IFO explanations. The Mantell quote, “metallic and tremendous in size,” though sometimes doubted is in fact essentially correct, but his report was a bit more detailed than this. And, for whatever it is worth, the chief investigator of the Mantell accident speculated in the classified Accident Report on the possibility of an “outside force” causing Mantell’s crash.
If Mantell was not chasing after a Skyhook balloon, or Venus, then what was he chasing 60 years ago? Brad's work definitely makes for riveting reading.

Stay tuned. In the meantime, for more information on the Mantell case, you can check the NICAP website.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Fundamentalist Debunkery and Died-in-the-Wool Believerism

The creative scientist, eternally curious, keeps an open mind toward strange phenomena and novel ideas, knowing that we have only begun to understand the universe we live in. He remembers, too, that Biot's discovery that meteorites were "stones from the sky" was at first greeted with disbelief, and he hopes never to be guilty of similar obtuseness. But an open mind does not mean credulity or a suspension of the logical faculties that are man's most valuable asset.
The above is a quote made in reference to science in general, but also the UFO phenomenon in particular, and it is one that I agree with, at least in principle... even though it was written by arch-debunkers Donald H. Menzel and Lyle G. Boyd, in The World of Flying Saucers: A Scientific Examination of a Major Myth of the Space Age, who clearly had no understanding of irony (how can one purport to embark on an objective scientific examination of something when one has already concluded that it is a "myth").

In their book, Menzel and Boyd dismissed the idea that some UFOs might be alien spacecraft. They also scoffed at the notion that there might be a UFO-related conspiracy, despite the fact that in their introduction they wrote that if aliens were ever to visit Earth:

All governments would feel their responsibility to protect the human race if necessary, and to establish diplomatic relations with the alien race if possible. The scientists would want to study, analyze, and try to understand the nature of both the ship and its occupants.
As with the first passage quoted above, this makes perfect sense. But to Menzel and Boyd, this would obviously be done in public-view, after an acknowledgement of our alien visitors by government:

If a spaceship from another planet should ever visit the earth, no one would be more eager to acknowledge it than our government officials and our scientists.
So, as no such acknowledgement has been forthcoming, there are, ergo, no alien visitors. As to a cover-up, the government would never do that, eevn though, as Menzel and Boyd indicate, they would want to study and analyze whatever they might find.

This is either breathtakingly naive, or monumentally stupid, and demonstrates in full measure the intellectual bankruptcy of Menzel and Boyd's debunkery. The government has covered up a great many things, and continues to do so, of far less potential import than alien visitation (or, even more significant perhaps, a recovered alien spacecraft), particularly during the Cold War when Menzel and Boyd were writing, and when the West was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the Soviet empire during which they did many things, more than a few not according to the "rules", in order to protect their citizens.

If the United States, or any other country, had recovered a crashed alien spacecraft (and I am not convinced that they did), I have little doubt that they would have kept it secret, simply because they kept all sorts of other, lesser things secret... and because it's exactly what I would have done. As I've written elsewhere, I would probably still keep it secret, because I don't think humanity is ready for that knowledge - and here I'm talking about all of us, and not just the college-educated minority even within Western countries, who would be better equipped to handle such a revelation.

But fundamentalist debunkers, like died-in-the-wool believers, are never about the truth, which is usually coloured in shades of grey. They live instead in a world of black and whites - either "they" are here, or "they" are not; either the government is covering it up, or it is not. Neither position has anything to offer the free and rational thinker who is interested in facts and evidence, even when all that those facts and evidence leave us with a mystery... as has been the case with UFOs for over sixty years.

Paul Kimball

B-Movie Aliens, Vol. I

I love B-movies sci-fi, particularly the ones that involve aliens and beautiful women. One of my favourites is Roger Corman's 1988 remake of Not of This Earth, which starred former porn queen Traci Lords.

The plot was pretty simple - space alien vampire guy comes to Earth, kills people to get blood to sustain his planet. At one point, in my favourite scene, a stripper comes to his house by mistake (she had been hired to deliver a "stripogram"), and he hypnotizes her - after she disrobes, naturally - and sends her through a transdimensional portal that kills her. Classic!

Lords plays the space vampires nurse, who gives him regular blood transfusions! Here's a brief clip...

Stupid space vampire - he has the power to hypnotize Lords, and get her to do anything he wants, and he's just going to send her back to his world for her blood. No wonder his planet is dying - it's obviously populated by idiots!

Paul Kimball

Friday, June 06, 2008

Where is the alien Bach?

Every once and a while, someone asks the question: if there are aliens out there, and they are visiting us here, why haven't they shown us evidence of their cultural achievements, such as music, or art, or literature? In short, where is the alien Mozart, or Bach, or Shakespeare, or Monet?

Leaving aside for the moment the possibility that perhaps aliens have done exactly that, but in ways that we perhaps cannot comprehend or do not recognize as "art" or "literature" or even "music" (I wonder how many people in ancient Rome would consider the Sex Pistols to be "music", at least as they understood it), one should entertain two other possibilities - one rooted in the way we behaved when dealing with less technologically advanced cultures, and one that is rooted in the question of who, or what, might be coming here.

In terms of the former, it is useful to remember that when Western explorers landed on unfamiliar shores, art, literature and music were by and large the last things that they had in mind when dealing with the local populace. Power, as Mao observed, comes from the barrel of a gun, not from a toccata. Perhaps aliens are "human" enough to behave in much the same way that we once did. In other words, perhaps they are here to do with us what they want to do with us, and not give us a crash course in modern music on Zeta Reticuli.

More likely, however, is the prospect that any "aliens" who would be visiting here are artificial life forms - robots, to use the classic reference, or AI to use the more modern term. The so-called "finer things" in life may well be beyond them, or were not included in their programming or mission by whatever beings sent them on their way, in the same way that the plucky little Mars Rover isn't packing an IPod full of Paul Simon songs.

There is one final possibility - perhaps an alien culture would be, you know, "alien", in the sense that they would have vastly different priorities and concerns than we do. Maybe music, and art, and literature, are meaningless to them, in the same way that they hold little or no meaning for some human beings?

All of this is grist for discussion over a few beers, but when you read someone telling you that there can't be aliens coming here, because they have never shown us their "finer things", don't take it seriously.

As can be seen, we have no idea what their "finer things" are - one could just as easily ask why the aliens don't show us porn, which, judging by its prevalence on the Internet, is more popular than Bach.

Maybe, just maybe, we should be looking for an alien Jenna Jamieson ... and maybe, just maybe, given the number of alien abduction encounters that include a sexual element, we've already had one!

Paul Kimball