"Both skeptics and "sceptical believers" agree that the UFO field, as it now stands, is filled to the brim with rubbish. The latter group expects that, when the rubbish is cleared away, there will be a signal in the noise, while the former expects that nothing will be left." So writes Robert Sheaffer in the acknowledgements section (p.ix) of his new, 2016, book titled "Bad UFOs: Critical Thinking About UFO Claims," "made in the USA." San Bernardino, CA, on 06 February 2016." ISBN 978-1519260840.
The book's back cover tells us that "He is a fellow of the well-known Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly CSICOP)...author of UFO Sightings (1998), Psychic Vibrations (2011), and has appeared on many radio and TV programs...He is a regular columnist for The Skeptical Inquirer ...His website is www.debunker.com and his blog is www.BadUFOs.com."
The book covers "big picture" areas of the UFO subject; including sightings, videos and photographs; crashes and retrievals; abductions; conspiracy and "disclosure."
In each of thee areas; Sheaffer describes the subject material, then provides his perspective, based on the evidence he, or others, have gathered.
The 11 December 1996, Yukon; Canada, mass observation of an apparent large object traversing the sky, is revealed, after diligent analysis, to have been "...the re-entry of the 2nd stage of the rocket that placed Cosmos 2335 into orbit..." (p.17.)
The first part of the 13 March 1997 Phoenix lights event, is said to have been due to "...five Air National Guard A-10 aircraft..." (p.26.)
The most likely culprit, which caused delays to airline flights at Hangzhou's Xiaoshan airport on 7 July 2010, and on 11 September 2010 in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, was the planet Venus.
Photographs and videos
Sheaffer points out "...a photo or video cannot simple "stand by itself" as evidence of anything. For a photo or video to be convincing, we must know a great deal about its origins, the photographer, the location, etc." (p.59.) He reminds us that anonymous videos regularly feature on You Tube without explanation, or such details.
He reviews the 1950 McMinnville, Oregon photographs; the 1965 Santa Ana, California Polaroids; the April 1990 Petit Rechain, Belgium photograph; the 2011 Jerusalem videos; the "UFO drones" of the late 2000's; and others; and finds them all wanting as pieces of evidence for anything unusual.
Crashes and retrievals
Roswell, is of course the "crash" story everyone knows. Sheaffer writes simply, "There is no credible evidence that what was recovered at Roswell was ever anything bigger than tinfoil and sticks." (pp95-96.)
The 1950 FBI Hottel memo "...traces back, eighth-hand, to claims made by con-man Silas Newton about the supposed Aztec crash! " (p.101.)
Finally, he covers the very recent "Roswell Slides" fiasco in some detail.
In chapter five, Sheaffer starts off by examining the Betty and Barney Hill case. He states in respect of the known weather details of that night "...the Hill's recollection is seriously in error." (p.122.) As regards the two hours of 'missing time' "...the Hill's account of that evening's timetable has never been fully consistent." (p.123.) On the radar confirmation "The only piece of evidence in existence that in any way supports the supposed radar confirmation of the sighting is a brief paragraph from Pease Air Force Base." (pp.126-127.) On the topic of the 'Alien star map' "Today the Fish Map retains no credibility whatsoever..." (p.129.)
Sheaffer, then moves on to the 1975 Travis Walton abduction and "bedroom intrusions", before giving his views on Whitley Strieber; the David Jacobs/'Emma Woods' saga; and the recent revelations from Carol Rainey, Budd Hopkins' ex-wife.
Sheaffer likes to use the term "science fiction" UFOlogists when referring to people who identify with 'Scientific UFOlogy' (p.2.)
So, when it comes to UFO conspiracies, his perspective is "Given the near-universal belief among "science fiction" UFOlogists that UFO crashes, secret programs, and even alien captures have taken place, it follows that there must exist conspiracies of gigantic scale with vast resource to successfully conceal UFO secrets from the world at large." (p.164.)
Chapter six discusses Richard C Hoagland; Linda Moulton Howe; Joseph Firmage; the Rendelsham UK 1980 incidents; Jacques Vallee and the 'Pentacle Memorandum'; amongst other topics. Needless, to say, he is far from impressed with the evidence presented.
Dr Steven Greer's 'Disclosure Project' features heavily in chapter seven on disclosure. Also featured are Dr Dan Burisch; English hacker Garry McKinnon; and Nick Pope. Exopolitics as espoused by such individuals as Michael Salla; Andrew D Basiago and Laura Magdalene Eisenhower received coverage and comment. The latter two individuals' claims about a 'secret colony' on Mars is met with Sheaffer's "As one might expect, the proof offered to support this claim is pretty thin." (p.216.) Sheaffer concludes this chapter with ""UFO Disclosure" remains a dream, but it is a dream that seems destined to go on for a very long time." (p.222.)
Chapters eight and nine cover UFO researchers' views on the source/origin of UFOs; 'cosmic doomsday' stories and predictions.
The last chapter is titled "UFO skeptics are from Mars, UFO proponents are from Venus." Included here, we find "After one has been in the "UFO business" for a while, one realizes that, with a few rare exceptions, nobody on one side ever converts somebody on the other side." (p.265.)
Sheaffer names a number of well-known UFO proponents - James Moseley; Bruce Maccabee; Kevin Randle; John Alexander; Allan Hynek and Karl Pflock as people he got to know.
He then poses the questions "What is it that separates sophisticated UFO proponents from skeptics.." (p.265.)
His response is:
1. "UFO proponents generally place very high credibility in the "testimony" (strictly speaking, "anecdotes") of those who claim to have had experiences involving UFOs." (pp 265-266.)
2. "Very seldom does a proponent of UFOs or other weird things properly apply Occam's Razor to the situation." (p.267.)
3. Failure to understand important facts in astronomy or other sciences.
4. Personal experience. "Of course, people who have had such intense personal experiences seldom understand the unreliability of human eyewitness testimony, the malleability of memory, sleep -related hallucinations and misperceptions; and the mind's tendency to interpret the unfamiliar in terms of something that is familiar (such as a "flying saucer".) (p.269.)
5. Psychological and/or religious factors. "Some individuals are compelled by powerful psychological, ideological or religious factors to reach irrational conclusions." (p.269.)
It may surprise some blog readers, but not others, that I go along with much that Sheaffer has to say in this book; especially when it comes to case studies.
Many of today's UFO sightings have mundane explanations. I have previously written, and lectured about the rarity of interesting case, especially in the last few years. I have declared that the 'core' phenomenon is much rarer than the average UFO researcher believes.
Too many of my Australian UFO colleagues, go straight to the "it's a UFO" conclusion without conducting a critical analysis of the available raw data on a sighting.
I would hope that my Australian UFO colleagues will read Sheaffer's book and gain some insight into good case analysis, of Sheaffer and others, as presented in the work. I suspect however that most will either refuse to read the book, or give it short shrift. In my opinion, that would be a pity, because the fields needs individuals such as Sheaffer to provide a balance to the multitude of bizarre, weird and outright phony claims that make up a lot of todays' 'popular' ufology.