Face Forward, Please.
It seems odd to me that some people seem to believe that if only the government would acknowledge the existence of UFOs, then the discussion would be over and universities the world over would establish ufology departments and existing physics departments would tear out the chapter on relativity from all of their textbooks. But is anything like that even remotely realistic. If President Bush were to announce tomorrow that some UFOs were in fact intelligently controlled craft, not built by any company or any nation, would anyone believe him? I can hear the scowls now. “Its obviously Christofascist propaganda being used as a pretext to take away our rights!!!” or “Just another example of the neocon’s anti-science agenda.” So Bush shrugs his shoulders, the UFO community stands with mouth agape, and not a thing has changed because the mainstream scientific community still doesn’t have anything to work with.
Maybe it would be useful to consider a world without government. What would we do if there was no government or military. There is no one to file Freedom of Information Act requests with. No Wright Patterson, Roswell Army Airforce base, NASA or area 51. But most importantly, no one to seek final approval from regarding the existence of UFOs. The thing about this hypothetical land, at least where UFOs are concerned, is that it is not terribly unlike the current state of ufology. Instead of having no government, we have a government that denies the existence of UFOs. In either case, those who acknowledge the phenomenon have to convince those who don’t that there is something to it, in order for there to be general acceptance. I suspect that we would look at the problem as we do with any sort of bet. Someone figures out a novel way to demonstrate or prove that it is correct, but they do it by looking forward, not looking backward.
In the end, a physical phenomenon is a phenomenon, whether the government or military says it is or not. “They” may have the best evidence under some super-duper classification, but where is it written that other evidence cannot be obtained. After 60 years of modern ufology we seem to be stuck in the “file-a-report” stage: File a report with NUFORC, file a report with MUFON, file a report with NARCAP. Actually we’ve probably regressed into the “file-a-report” stage from a more proactive period in the 70s when a few academics seemed jazzed to do something about it. Technology has progressed a long, long way since the 70s, but ufology somehow seems content to fill binders upon binders with backward-looking reports. Sure, NARCAP put out a nice big report on the 2006 O’Hare incident, but that was still just a report based primarily on eyewitness accounts of their impressions of an event that happened in the recent past.
Some people will say that the very nature of the phenomenon prevents science from obtaining real-time data. That of course is crap. Tell that to a seismologist (as far as I know we can’t predict earthquakes yet) and they’ll probably call you a neocon with an anti-science agenda. I probably have more processing power in my living room than the whole of NASA during the Apollo missions, but somehow ufology is stuck in a world that is still watching the first moon landing. If you look at modern computers and the networking capabilities of the Internet, its disgraceful that the best that we seem to be able to do is put out podcasts and watch hoaxed videos of Jamaican UFOs on youtube. (I actually think highly of podcasting but will save those thoughts for another post.)
Ufology needs to take the next step, looking at the information that has been collected and using it to help design experiments that can give real-time, concrete data, so that it can get to the bottom of the mystery. It may take a long time. It may be expensive. It will require new ways of thinking. But until we begin to perform actual experiments to verify what people have been seeing since time immemorial, we might as well be watching Ed Sullivan on a black & white.