The Invisible Undergraduate
One of the cool things about ufology is that its leads you down all sorts of paths, through areas that you may have previously never had any interest, so you get to learn a lot. A person with an interest in the UFO phenomenon needs to know something of physics, political science, history, logic, and philosophy.
One of the not-so-cool things about ufology is that it leads you down all sorts of paths, through areas that you may have previously never had any interest. Its very easy to spend a lot of time trying to fill in the gaps in your educational background, following leads that in hindsight may not have been the smartest way to go, as you try to figure out just what the heck is going on in the skies (and oceans and space.)
Unfortunately, from this blogger’s perspective, many people (this blogger included) who have developed an interest in the ufo phenomenon lack an educational background that is broad enough to a begin to ask appropriate questions (That statement may actually be more true for those who dismiss UFOs out of hand.) That is not to say that they are uneducated; many people with an interest in UFOs are highly educated. It is often the case, however, that specialization in the interest of career wins out over general well-roundedness. Furthermore, even someone with an extremely broad education may not have touched on the specific areas necessary for a study of the phenomenon and its relationship to society. For example, without some understanding of relativity, the practical and theoretical difficulties of interstellar flight may not be apparent. Without an understanding of the philosophical framework of the scientific establishment, it is difficult to understand why so many professional scientists scoff at the notion of UFOs. I think many of the people who have developed an interest, have often done so because they’ve noticed inconsistencies in how the world deals with the phenomenon and are simply attempting to reconcile what they are seeing with what they believe to be true.
In an effort to help address this problem, I would like to propose a concept I call the Invisible Undergraduate. I am borrowing from the title of Dr. Jacques Vallee’s book, The Invisible College. In Dr. Vallee’s book, he briefly describes his association with a group of scientists who are involved with the study of UFOs, often in secret. The Invisible Undergraduate proposes a slate of college-level courses, something along the lines of a major, to help prepare students (actual students, and students of life, hard knocks, etc.) for the difficulties that go along with an interest in ufology. In this case, you won’t be getting any official recognition and your teachers won’t know why you are taking the classes.
Now, obviously, no accredited college in the United States is going to grant an undergraduate degree in ufology. But that’s okay, a piece of paper is not what we’re after here. What we are seeking is a better understanding of the world. Looking at the Internet, the lack of critical thinking in ufology is all too apparent. To be sure, a lot of extraordinary work that has been done, but there is plenty of absolute crap. It seems to me that part of the reason is because there is a lack of any structure within ufology, and no way to get everyone on the same page. The Invisible Undergrad concept seeks to help students obtain a solid background in existing academic subjects, and use that as a foundation to eventually help improve the state of ufology.
Fortunately, because the Invisible Undergrad doesn’t have to satisfy any administrators, he or she has certain flexibility in how the requirements are fulfilled. There isn’t any time frame, previously earned credits transfer easily, and future credits can be obtained at the student’s leisure. Furthermore, the Invisible Undergrad doesn’t even have to be an undergrad at all. The concept lends itself well to adult learners who may only have time to take a night class from time to time.
In the end, the source of the UFO phenomenon may contradict what we currently know about the world. It may not. In any case, ufology will have to come to some reasonable reconciliation of the phenomenon with our current understanding of the rest of our world, either by altering our understanding of the world or finding a way to append it to what we already know. In either case, ufology needs more people working on the problem and it needs to have those people better prepared to do so. The Invisible Undergraduate is one way to get more people on the same page, so that maybe some progress can be made.
What follows is one possible curriculum for the Invisible Undergraduate. For the most part I looked for courses that I thought were relevant (from what I’ve gathered as someone with an interest in UFOs). They were listed in the student handbook from my college days, although they should be available at most schools. Many of these courses, or close substitutes can also be found at MIT’s OpenCourseWare program.
Obviously, this list will not please everyone; it is nuts-and-bolts oriented, and admitedly America-centric (feel free to add your ideas in the comments section.) Some may find that looking for answers to the ufo problem within academia is a waste of time. I believe it is, however, important to know what fundamental work has been done already, before you can actually improve upon it.
Physics (will require mathematics prerequisites)
- General Physics I/II
- Sophomore lab
- Electricity and Magnetism I/II
- Modern Physics (including relativity)
- Quantum Mechanics
- Introduction to Astronomy
- Modern Astrophysics
- Elementary Logic
- Introduction to Existentialism and Phenomenology
- Descartes, Hume, Kant
- Philosophy of Science
- Introduction to American Politics
- Public Policy and the Political Process
- America in the nuclear age
- Introduction to Journalism
- Investigative Journalism