Sunday, February 20, 2011

New book alert - Bullard

Hi readers

I found one more new book in the pile by my bed. "The myth and Mystery of UFOs" by Thomas E Bullard. 2010. University press of Kansas. Lawrence, Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1729-6.


Bullard's 24 page introduction uses the 7 November 2006 observations of a "...dark gray, unlighted, elliptical or Frisbee-shaped object..." (p.1.) over O'Hare Airport, Chicago in the USA to introduce the concept of a divide between popular and official approaches to the UFO subject.

He uses this instance to state the theme, which arises time and time again throughout the book that "UFOs seldom attract a serious glance from scientists, academics, the elite media, or government authorities." (p.5.) He goes on to offer a number of suggestions as to why this is.

At the end of the introduction, Bullard states his own position on UFOs. "In the end I side with the believers. My conclusion is not based on personal preference but on familiarity with the evidence." (p.24.)

"Who goes there?"

After reviewing the Kenneth Arnold sighting of 1947, where the media used the name "flying saucers" despite Arnold's observation being of heel shaped objects, Bullard illustrates the "...glaring contrast between the documentary version and the version in UFO literature," (p.34.)when discussing the 1975 USAF base "intrusions."

"if the UFO mystery begins with individual experiential texts, the subsequent discussions that add related cases, interpretations, glosses, controversies, and associations also belong with UFO discourse. All such UFO talk integrates into a systematized or partially systematized network, to form a loose, protean, but unitary state. Such a cumulative end result also needs a name. The term to recognise this entirety is "myth." (p.40.)

Myths-what are they?

"One appealing quality of myths is its comfortable, human-friendly way of thinking." (p.43.)

"Attributes most helpful for understanding the relationship of myths to UFOs:
1. A myth is, at heart, a narrative text about events...
2. As a mode of expression myth exchanges an idiosyncratic for a collective representation...
3. Myths function to create meanings, express values, and serve social or personal needs...
4. Myths grow by association of ideas and tend toward inclusiveness...
5. In creating a belief world, mythmaking sacrifices some part of literal truth for a more coherent and desirable fiction...
6. An identifiable pattern of events and understandings distinguishes a myth...
7. Myths are more than false belief..." (pp43-45.)

How do you relate UFOs and myths?

"UFOs are inherently strange and fantastic. They behave in "magical" ways, remain embroiled in controversy and provoke a sense of awe, mystery, and power. For such reasons UFOs fulfil;l some basic criteria of myth..." (p.45.)

"One recurrent effort to relate UFOs to myth has treated them as part of an incipient religion." (p.46.)

"The growth and Evolution of UFO Mythology"

"...the UFO myth has grown out of observations and experiences, theories and speculations, media images and quarrels with official authority." (p.53.)

Chapter two traces "UFO mythology through four phases distinguished by characteristics of the reported phenomenon and interests of the people pursuing it." (p.53.)

Bullard describes these four ears as (1) Formation years 1947-1963;" (2) The era of high strangeness 1964-1974;" (3) Chasing the Next big thing 1975-1990;" and (4) The 1990's and beyond:uforia without UFOs."

Chapter three:

"UFOs of the past is used to illustrate that there have always been strange things seen in the skies. These range from the Romans' "Prodigies'" through the scientific recognition of such things as meteors, auroras, and weather events; to "airships." Bullard's view on the US 1896-1897 "airship" wave is that "...a disappointment lurks beneath the surface: not one of the thousand or so reports seems to describe a genuine UFO" (p.111) and that "Under critical examination even the most promising treasures of the past usually pan out as fool's gold." (p.119.)

Bullard then goes on to look at Gods, monsters and fairies - the myth of the "Others."

In mythical terms, "Space Brothers" parallel tradition idealization of the good "Other," while Grays often represent the bad "Other." (P.244.) Bullard argues that "What sets UFO aliens apart from supernaturals, Plinian monsters, and wild men is the uniquely modern concept of superiority through technology." (p.244.)

Next comes...

In two chapters titled "Explaining UFOs" - "An Inward Look" and "Something Yet Remains" Bullard tackles the issue of "psychosocial" hypotheses versus a mysterious residue after conventional explanations have been taken into account. On 'psychosocial" Bullard concludes "Psychosocial theory is powerful but not airtight." (p.284.)

"...a favourite supportive argument for UFO relies on consistency of description in their reports." (p.294.)

Referring to the work of David Hufford, Bullard notes that "Hufford's experience-centered approach has turned around the academic study of anomalies and restores respectability to experiential claims..." (p.303.)

High strangeness cases "...offer enough evidence to criticize yet resists every effort to explain them away..." (p.308.)

Bullard then offers the following threads:

1. "The alleged event fulfills basic authenticity requirements."
2. "Quality testimonial and instrumental evidence supports an anomalous record."
3. The strange quality oft he alleged event lies not in the vagueness of inadequate description but in the unusual character of well-specified incidents."
4. "A coherent account merges from reports of an anomalous event."

5. "The alleged event bears some similarity to other accounts."
6. "The alleged event differs in some respects from expectations."
7. "The report of an alleged event had undergone strenuous critical examination but survives alternative explanations with the anomalousness of the event intact."

In summary:

Pulling these threads together, Bullard concludes: "By these standards a small but non negligible body of reports gathers impressive eyewitness testimony and instrumental corroboration for an anomalous and seemingly unconventional phenomena." (p.311.)

"These cases suggest that the character of UFO narratives depends in some part on the character of UFO events, and those events owe their character to a source independent of UFO mythology. Even allowing for human fallibility and self-deception, a genuine mystery seems top be left over." (p.311.)

Bullard argues that the lack of knowledge as tot he nature of the events should not preclude studying the subject. "As social facts and cultural phenomena, UFOs deserve a prominent place in academic inquiry. Intriguing claims in quality reports rate UFOs as worth their hire for scientific research as well." (p.312.)

Finally, Bullard concludes "With a willingness to meet the mystery on its own terms, scientists can observe and learn about UFOs in field studies that will take time and lack the decisiveness of experimental proof, yet still compile a gradual understanding of whatever comprises the mystery." (p.313.)


I found this book quite hard to read, but persevered due to the fascinating way that Bullard builds up his lines of evidence to argue that the UFO "mystery" outweighs the UFO "myth."

The work is extensively noted, and contains a lengthy "selected bibliography" plus an in depth index, which helps the reader find their way.

Like Leslie Kean's work "UFOs" this is an important contribution to the latest growing call for a proper scientific study of the UFO phenomena.

Have you read this book, and what did you think?

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