Tuesday, September 26, 2017

'Reframing the debate.'


I have been slowly reading a book titled 'UFOs: Reframing the Debate,' edited by Robbie Graham (White Crow Books, Hove, UK; ISBN 978-1-98677-023-3.)

Image courtesy of Amazon Books
The book is composed of 14 chapters, written by individual UAP researchers, and experiencers. The editor, inter alia, writes 'Each of the contributors in this volume is sharply aware of the futility of concluding. Instead, they offer strategies for understanding - understanding the phenomena, and understanding its social and cultural effects.' (p. xx.)

Issues highlighted by the contributors include

* The decreasing use of the scientific method

'This dismissal of science is encountered frequently among UFO zealots, who insist that their esoteric knowledge supersedes scientific methodology...'  (p.7.)

'Modern ufology appears to have rejected science in favour of a more mystical and religious view.' (p.1.)

'...such subjective discourse has almost completely supplanted any rigorous attempts to study the subject with anything resembling scientific methodology." (p.1.)

* The non inclusion of data from high strangeness reports

'The close encounter witness is at first blindsided by something for which he or she has no previous framework, and which the mind tries furiously to stuff into a mental "filing box" during and soon after the event.' (p.193.)

'While plenty of cases superficially support the N&B/ETH view, its materialist foundations are shaken when confronted with the High Strangeness characteristics of a majority of UFO close encounters." (p.51.)  [N&B = nuts and bolts. KB.]

'One of the greater problems I see within modern UFO circles is the outright dismissal of high strangeness reports by investigators who subscribe to the Extraterrestrial (ETH) as the default explanation for cases that challenge conventional science.' (p.167.)

'...we need to be aware that these more complex accounts are not easy to categorise or share.' (p.29.)

* The circulation of incorrect information

'I contend that a great deal of information circulated around the UFO community - the vast majority- is simply incorrect or, at the least, unsubstantiated, while detrimentally accepted and promoted as common knowledge.' (p.47.)

* The debate about the value of personal stories

'[Speaking of UFO believers] 'Their experiences cannot be investigated as "ordinary" UFO reports...In effect, their experiences are not viable as data that can be considered in any scientific evaluation of the UFO phenomenon.' (p.15.)

'One such dynamic is that personal stories, interesting and entertaining as they may be, are often of little value to the professional research process.' (p.40.)

Suggested ways forward include

* Researchers need to educate themselves about the processes of human memory

'It would also be helpful if investigators encouraged one another to further educate themselves on such topics as memory, witness testimony and emotional trauma. ' (p.44.)

'Perhaps by looking within and at the human mind, our senses, and how we remember things, we can better calibrate our main instrument for measuring UFO encounters.' (p.207.)

'The value of personal stories is further questioned by the strides made in memory research. Qualified experts have demonstrated that memories are filled with errors.' (p.41.)

* Disband large UFO groups and work in smaller units

'Could the Roswell Slides Research Group serve as a model for future research and investigation of UFO cases?" (p.107.)

'To this end, perhaps large UFO groups should be disbanded, in favour of smaller, autonomous groups with a narrow research focus.' (p.192.)

* Gather data with no preconceptions

'Investigators should start with no preconceptions about what they are seeking. The gaol should be only to gather information from witnesses.' (p185.)

* Follow the data wherever it leads

'Reframing the debate includes taking advantage of such opportunities, following the trail of evidence to what logical conclusions it provides,  and acknowledging when physical evidence is either entirely absent or if investigators questionably failed to pursue it.' (p.45.)

'The study of UFOs and alien abductions has zero obligations to a N&B/ETH model. What it does  owe an obligation to is, to quote Alex Tsakiris, "follow the data wherever it leads."' (p.62.)

* Use better source material

'Work could further be legitimized by relying more heavily upon sources recognized as credible within the professional research community. These include such resources as authenticated documents, newspaper clippings, journals and similar media that offer valuable use as reference materials.' (p.44.)

* Look at high strangeness reports

'Currently, the testimonies of UFO witnesses that describe corresponding high-strange and paranormal events are often either ignored or met with ridicule from ufologists who would rather not deal with the more bizarre aspects of UFO reports, and by the professional skeptic organisations who are openly hostile to anything other then the Null hypothesis, i.e. it's all just swamp gas and Venus.' (p.169.)

* Ditch the use of hypnosis

'The time for experimenting with hypnotic regression is a memory enhancing tool of alien abduction is long gone..." (p.44.)

* Continue to use the scientific method

'Thus, the argument remains that scientific UFO research... is of utmost importance to the study of UFOs..." (p.65.)

'...I hope to instill in the mind of the readers that proper adherence to scientific methodology, and a reasonable, open-minded skepticism, will be of great benefit to the study of UFOs.' (p.74.)

*Recognise that mainstream media is entertainment

'In the click bait age, the mainstream media uses UFOs and their followings as entertainment like never before.' (p.82.)

My comments

On a personal level. I have for many years spoken of the need to secure original source material, and to follow the data wherever the end results lead. Many years ago, I foresaw the need to move from large, formal organisations to either work alone, or in a small team, and made this move. Today, I work by networking, across the globe.

Regarding high strangeness reports. I have indeed come across, documented, and published, (e.g. in the MUFON Journal; International UFO Reporter) such accounts. I have  worked with numerous individuals over time, to examine their highly personal experiences. This is long before the establishment of this blog in 2009, and why some blog readers might easily gain the impression that I have never studied these type of accounts. As a number of chapter authors indicate, exploring high strangeness reports takes time, and can be exhausting, both for experiencers and investigators.

My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that I agree with the chapter authors who urge us to study high strangeness reports, and document what they tell us. However, I also urge both investigators and experiencers to become familiar with current research on such topics as memory processes; the fantasy-prone personality; sleep paralysis; hypnagogic imagery, fugue states, and other similar psychological and physiological processes. For, just as 95% of incoming raw sightings turn out to have mundane explanations after intelligent investigation and analysis, I personally find that some high strangeness reports do indeed have explanations which lie in psychological processes. I believe that at the moment, this fact is insufficiently acknowledged, by both researchers and experiencers.

All in all, this book is an extremely welcome addition to the UAP literature. I would recommend it highly to anyone who has a serious interest in our mutual topic.

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