Friday, December 30, 2011

Scientific UFOlogy

Dear readers

Time to get out those books from my "waiting to be read pile" as Adelaide heads for maximums of 37, 39 and 36 degrees C over the next few days.

In this post I want to further explore the subject area of two previous posts, namely the one dealing with pseudoscience (click here) and a systematic science of UFOs (click here.) The former took a look at the question of "What is pseudoscience?" and the latter, just what a scientific look at UFOs would need to achieve. These posts led me to thinking just what is "scientific UFOlogy?"


For one view I turned to Eddie Bullard's 2010 book "The Myth and Mystery of UFOs." University Press of Kansas. Lawrence, KS. ISBN 978-0-7006-1729-6. Among a list of categories of people who study UFOs, which includes "activists" and "skeptics" are "scientific ufologists." Bullard writes:

"For this group UFOs are a phenomenon accessible to rational inquiry. These people pursue in-depth case investigations, critical examination of evidence, comparison of collected data, and rigorous research projects to determine if any UFO reports describe an unknown phenomenon. Scientific ufology aims to prove or disprove an evidential basis for the UFO phenomenon rather than to find meanings in it. Exemplified by Hynek and McDonald, professed by the leading UFO organisations, this scientific approach represents ufology in the purest sense of a scientific or scholarly discipline." (p.15.)

Popular ufology:

Contrasting with 'scientific ufology', Bullard speaks of 'popular ufology', which "...identified a normative expression of "what ufologists believe" based on an ideas that have attracted widespread attention and enthusiasm." (p.20.) Bullard notes that "Scientific and popular ufology often stand in opposition, the one dedicated to an objective understanding of the phenomenon, the other concerned with subjective understanding of what UFOs mean." (p.20.)


Long term readers of this blog will know of my interest in all aspects of intelligence agencies and in particular, their involvement in the UFO phenomenon. The intelligence process of collection, collation, interpretation and dissemination of data, has always struck me as a useful way to tackle the UFO phenomenon. You collect data, collate it to draw out patterns; you provide an interpretation as to the usefulness of the data; then you disseminate your findings for peer review.

Bullard, in my opinion, has accurately described what I would regard as 'scientific ufology' when he states case studies; analysis of data; and research projects are the elements involved. His end result of determining if any UFO reports "...describe an unknown phenomenon" to me, however, doesn't go far enough. If you find that some reports describe an unknown phenomenon, then I see no reason why you shouldn't then go on to test various hypotheses, such as the extraterrestrial hypothesis, against the data.

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