Sunday, August 09, 2009


Day 3 of the MUFON UFO Conference

Today started out with breakfast in the atrium. Didn't want to eat alone so invited a few stragglers to join us. First was a guy named Doug Dempsey (?) from out east somewhere. Very nice, keen guy, first time at a UFOcon of any kind, a school guidance counselor.

An older gentleman joined us, told us his name but it didn't click right away. He was kind of a caretaker on a ranch in Utah, and was here as a guest of Bob Bigelow. His name was Junior Hicks. Then it dawned on me. This was the guy who did the original research and investigations with Frank Salisbury on the Uintah Basin cases dozens of years ago. Remarkable.

This was fortuitous, because the first talk of the morning was by Frank Salisbury, who by his own admission was coming back to ufology after a 30-year absence! Great to see him and talk with him. He even discussed his view of the relationship of theology with ufology. Interesting.

Then it was over to the vendor area where I sat for a while to talk with attendees and try to sell a few books. The ABC crew from 20/20 were there, interviewing Stan Friedman, Kathleen Marden and Stan Romanek, for a show to air August 18th (I think). Met some nice people from across the country.

Lunch was a talk by John Greenewald on the Black Vault project, talking about this trials and tribulations of filing FOIA requests for UFO docs since he was 15. He has a half a million docs on his website now, or so. Sharp guy, entertaining speaker.

Later in the afternoon was a presentation by Ted Phillips and his SIU team, about changes in trace cases since the 1970s. As I note in my talk, CE2s have all but vanished from ufology, but Ted has been doing some field investigation in Missouri where they have captured on film and video some amazing objects. In fact, I can say that whereas I have no trouble explaining most UFO videos on YouTube, I have no idea how the Marley images Ted has investigated and shot himself could be created. Curious.

For dinner, we found fantastic Italian restaurant that served delicious scampi and veal, plus had a bonus wine-tasting special for dinner. We were still able to find our way back to the hotel.

Finally, it was time for Kevin Randle's talk about scientific ufology. he made a good case for why studying UFO reports is scientific, despite what debunkers insist. He then described a skeptics' "experiment" in which they faked a UFO case to show how foolish UFO investigators really were. Even though MUFON investigators initially thought it was a hoax after talking with witnesses, it turns out that the hoaxers themselves pretended to be witnesses, giving false information which muddied the water and complicated the investigations. Skeptics announced that they had indeed fooled ufologists, but the truth was something different.

One thing that was borne out throughout the conference so far is that ufologists are a whole lot more skeptical than debunkers give them credit for. In fact, the level of investigation and debate before reaching conclusions is at the forefront for serious UFO researchers. Furthermore, many take time to do field investigations, run comparisons, and examine the data in detail without prejudice, unlike many scientists who dismiss UFO reports out of hand without any consideration. Randle made the case in his talk that more ufology has to be unbiased and that ufologists should not jump to conclusions or interpretations... not answering or rebuting debunkers directly, but simply improving stardards within ufology.

Now: sleep. I'm on in the morning.

Shouldn't part of making UFOlogy more scientific involve creating a culture that involves self-criticism, and coming to consensus about cases that do NOT meet the grade? Seems to me (though my knowledge of UFOlogy is somewhat superficial) that this doesn't happen much, except where there's personality conflict.

Bruce Maccabee still supports Gulf Breeze, Randle and Friedman still support Roswell.

Your summary seems to suggest that UFOlogists are more concerned about railing about debunkers than subjecting their own arguments and evidence to criticism.

There is good discussion and introspection going on within ufology, although not necessarily at conferences. This is especially true at the more popular ones where the public pays to hear the wilder stories.

As far as Roswell goes, Randle and Friedman disagree over its genesis, but do still believe it was extraterrestrial. There is a lot of discussion about the case throughout ufology, although it's not as cut-and-dry as one might think. I, for example, think it was a significant and real event, but I am not convinced it was ET, balloons or crash test dummies. I hear the objections from all sides and I find it more interesting to study how the theories are evoling (on both sides).

Ufologists are indeed defensive about criticisms from skeptics, but they are critical within their field as well (although most people don't hear about it). Also, I should note that when I use the term "ufologists" I am referring to a relatively small group of individuals rather than the broad brush that encompasses a spectrum of people interested in UFOs, including wide-eyed believers and, indeed, skeptics.

Thanks for your comments! Good to reconnect!
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