Less Is More
One of the problems with ufology is that it tries to accomplish far too much with far too little. The usual goal seems to be trying to convince the general public or the academic establishment that extraterrestrials are visiting Earth. The resources available to accomplish the goals are few. Maybe a skilled researcher is hunkered down in a government archive digging for official reports of high strangeness or filing Freedom of Information Act requests. More often it is a barely trained field investigator interviewing an unprepared witness. Most often, an angst-ridden enthusiast is simply reading Internet stories and getting angry at the government for the ‘truth embargo’. The problem with trying to accomplish the grand goals of ufology is that the people going about it rarely have the skills needed to fulfill the task. Not that the ufological community is talentless, far from it, but how does one become an expert in a subject whose very existence is denied by academia, the community we normally trust to produce experts?
The SETI Institute’s Dr. Seth Shostak tells us that thousands of scientists would be working on the problem if they thought there was anything to it. I take that as being a somewhat reasonable statement, although I find it difficult to imagine Dr. Shostak praising any of his colleagues for their ufological efforts. So maybe ufology would be better off spending its time showing that something is going on, not necessarily exactly what is going on. If we define the problem as showing what is going on, we find ourselves appealing to unproven notions of extraterrestrial or interdimensional beings. If we define the problem as showing that something is going on, rather than exactly what is going on, the solution to that problem may well fall into the realm of fairly conventional science. Further, as was the case in the movie Contact, if widespread acknowledgment is ever achieved, it is very likely that the ufological community will be marginalized in favor of other mainstream scientific groups with more adequate equipment, training, facilities, and financial resources.
So if the ufological groups aren’t going to prove that aliens have landed, what are they to do?
As I see it, the assets of the mainstream ufologoical groups are databases of historic sighting reports, some leaders that are recognized and respected by the rest of the ufological community, and a fairly thick collective skin. What I would like to see from present and future ufological groups is to take their years of experience with all aspects of the phenomenon and conceive of some sort of hypothetical roadmap to a broad acknowledgment of a phenomenon. It shouldn’t seek acceptance of any particular theory (extraterrestrial, cryptoterrestrial, interdimensional, intertemporal, spiritual, utterly natural or other), just a possible path to general acknowledgment that something odd is operating around our planet.
Groups and individuals could propose something like the following illustration which would show a series of steps, events, or paradigm shifts that would could bring us from ridicule to acknowledgment. For the first section, organizations would develop a list of steps that they believe could lead to the general acknowledgment that something is out there. Three steps may not be enough, they need not necessarily be linear, and they will almost certainly need to be revised, but the goal would be getting to the acknowledgment that something anomalous is happening. Steps 4-7 would bring us from acknowledgment of something odd to acceptance of the phenomenon and (dare to dream) establish it as worthy of traditional academic study. Mainstream ufology would probably have very little, if any, involvement with the second group of steps, although its entirely possible that individuals from within ufology could bring their individual skills to bear on the problem.
What form steps 1-3 take would be determined by a given organization as it sees fit. MUFON, for example, would probably have a different take on a roadmap than NARCAP. A group may seek to consult with mainstream scientists or not. It may focus on concrete, outcome-oriented tasks or more general guidelines, where the method of achievement is proposed and executed by others. Perhaps new organizations would be formed, with their members designing and executing their own roadmaps. Ideally, however, the roadmaps from all the organizations would be publicly available, with the methods, measures of progress and problems encountered also made available eventually so that observers, both within and without ufology, could also make suggestions and contributions.
In the end, achieving the steps between ridicule and acknowledgment should be far easier to accomplish than the steps between acknowledgment and acceptance, if only because members of the ufo community already know, or believe they know, that something odd is out there. Achieving a critical mass of people who acknowledge the phenomenon may be as simple as increasing the number of people exposed to existing information on the subject, making it simply a marketing problem. After 60+ years of the modern ufo era, however, this may be necessary but alone is probably insufficient. What will be needed to get us to acknowledgment is yet to be determined, but whatever it is, improved leadership in the community will certainly be necessary to get us there.