UFO- Forty Years On
by: John D. Aultman
Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting in 1947 began the modern era of the UFO phenomenon. Since Arnold's sighting the UFO has been the subject of numerous books, articles, debates, and controversy. We have seen stories of trips to Mars and beyond, claims of messages from the aliens, and claims that the UFO is nonexistent. Yet, the UFO has survived for four decades, and we still see the whole gamut of claims associated with it. As a layman who has observed the UFO phenomenon for over fourteen years, and who has studied its history, a number of thoughts have come to mind. Many of them may meet with mixed response from the UFO community, and some have been stated before. However, as the UFO and civilian UFO investigation enter their fifth decade, it is time that some serious attention is given to where both stand and what direction the future holds.
Just where does the UFO phenomenon and the UFO community stand? Over forty years a large number of unexplained cases have been collected. That the cases defy explanation can be seen in two lights. First, some probably have some known cause which is unforeseen because of lack of sufficient data due to insufficient observation or investigation. Second, some defy explanation because they either exceed our level of scientific development to explain, or they have an explanation within our comprehension, but which science is reluctant to accept. In a sizable portion of the unexplained cases which have a sufficient amount of data the logical conclusion is the latter: either they defy explanation or science is unwilling to accept the possible explanations that can be offered. The majority of witnesses to UFOs are Joe Average, having given no attention to the subject, or having scoffed at it at best. They have seen or experienced something which they can not explain or comprehend, and which science either cannot explain or is unwilling to. Most witnesses seek no personal gain from their experience, although some have chosen to do so.
From the unexplained cases with sufficient data, one can extract a fair amount of theoretical data about the UFO and its possible characteristics. We know that it can outperform any man-made aircraft, and perform maneuvers which are beyond our level of technology. They can be detected by radar, and some cases indicate an ability to elude radar. We know this is possible by recent developments in our own technology, although whether ours is the same as the theoretical UFO cannot be said. We also know that they may have left physical traces, such as burned circles, radiation, and landing gear imprints, as well as possible physical effects on witnesses. Additional, but less reliable, speculation can be made in such areas as human abductions, cattle mutilations, and appearance of occupants. All such speculation is interesting, and some of it may, in time, prove to be on the right track, or one that is close to being correct. However, it is still only speculation, none can be proven conclusively.
The UFO has left, in forty years, a sizable number of eyewitnesses, and some interesting, but unconfirmed, circumstantial evidence. All of it adds up to a case which can be very convincing of the reality of the UFO phenomenon, if not the UFO itself. The analogy has been used, with some validity, that if an attorney were preparing a case from comparable evidence, that they would be assured of winning their case. The evidence collected so far is convincing, and is enough so that the case for the reality of the UFO phenomenon would be likely to be won. However, a number of things must be held in mind. First, even though the evidence for the validity of the phenomenon is convincing, none of it, to date, is convincing enough to support any theory that would explain the phenomenon. Second, although science and law work on similar rules, science differs in how it approaches problems, especially those which would challenge accepted concepts of the universe and how it works. And the reality of the UFO phenomenon, and the implications of that reality. Offer too much that would defy a number of aspects of the current scientific model of the universe. While civilian UFO research has produced much in the way of eyewitness and circumstantial evidence, it has failed to produce the one thing needed to force scientific acceptance of the UFO phenomenon: hard evidence. The burden of proof of the UFO phenomenon today rests totally in the hands of civilian research.
As the UFO phenomenon has changed, so has civilian investigation. Groups and individuals have come and gone, with purposes as diverse as their claims. Some told of fabulous trips to Mars and beyond, while others spoke of all important messages from the aliens. Others sought personal gain and/or attention. Many just wanted to find out what was going on. Although most major groups in existence today are of a more serious nature, the crackpot and those out for personal gain still exist. But even serious minded research has faced many of the same problems through the years. Although many in the field present themselves as reputable investigators, they are anything but. Many show total disregard for even common sense investigative procedure; one has to go no further than to scan the number of blatant oversights readily evident in many public reports, articles, and books put out by these investigators. Often times, known facts are ignored, leads aren't followed up, and viable explanations ignored so that a 'valid' case can be built. Often, personal theories, reputations, and pride override the stated purpose of the investigator. Add to this the fact that infighting, feuds, and personal attacks are too often present. It is sad but true that the biggest stumbling block to civilian UFO research has been itself.
More important than where are we, is where are we going? Where will UFO research be ten years from now? Will it have provided a valid case for the UFO phenomenon, and be working with science toward a solution? Or will it still be fighting an uphill battle? If civilian UFO research is to make any progress, then it is going to have to take several strong steps toward solidifying itself. It is going to have to get its act together totally. I can not make absolute statements as what has to be done, but I can provide what I consider to be valid recommendations. First, civilian research has to take steps toward unity. I don't mean one organization, but rather, total cooperation among existing organizations and individuals; the sharing of information being not the least of considerations. Second, a standardized procedure for investigators, which would include a standard ratings system, perhaps similar to theHynek system used by ParaNet. Third, an accreditation procedure for investigators to certify their competency, and a standard of ethics. Fourth, disassociation of any investigator who fails to live up to the code of ethics, fails to achieve accreditation, or fails to adhere to standard investigative procedure (beyond a preset limit). Fifth, the establishment of an information sharing network. A series of computer based bulletin boards would be ideal for this purpose, since they would allow access by all but would limit access according to security clearance on the BBS.
Above all, even if none of the above is done, UFO investigation has to become more reliable. Infighting must come to an end, and those seeking only to feather their own nest must be ousted from the ranks of reputable investigators. The carelessness of the past and present only plays into the hands of debunkers who wish to portray the civilian UFO effort as an attempt to mislead the American public. Civilian UFO investigation has gained the level of respect it has due to the efforts of APRO, NICAP, MUFON, CAUS, and many reputable individuals who gave, and are giving, many hours of work to the purpose of proving the case for the phenomenon. If those in UFO investigation today would devote some of their time and effort toward rectifying the weaknesses which exist, and making certain that the mistakes of the past don't reoccur, then the day of proving the validity of the phenomenon will be that much closer.
John Aultman is ParaNet's Mississippi correspondent and a member of MUFON.
This article was originally submitted to the MUFON UFO Journal.
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