“A NEW UFOLOGY: A Critical Examination of the Current State of Ufology and Ideas for Reform”
by Michael Huntington
INTRODUCTION: UFOLOGY AT THE CROSSROADS
For many researchers and students of the mysteries and histories of Unidentified Flying Objects, this enigmatic subject appears to be at a crossroads. This mystery, or phenomenon, has been with us, and a part of our culture – in it’s modern form – for the better part of eight decades now: numerous studies (governmental and private), books, films, television programs, radio shows, field investigations, and a multitude of investigative organizations have all attempted to tackle what noted Ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek called “The UFO Problem.” And after all of these years, and all of this research, little consensus has been achieved as to what the UFO phenomena actually is and what it all means. All agree that something is going on worthy of taking a look at, but what it is – whether alien or not – is still hotly debated and a divisive subject amongst many who follow the field. After so many decades, the UFO World finds itself divided into camps: all with their own histories, belief systems, personalities, rituals, and ideas as to what represents the UFO reality. So too, strategic divisions have arisen as to how the field should move on into the 21st Century – many recognizing that amidst the current noise of stories, ideas, theories, and personalities, perhaps the focus of finding solutions to the UFO Question (and demonstrating those solutions to a skeptical world) has been lost.
So, what is the current state of Ufology today? What exactly IS Ufology, anyway, and what are the goals? Are we on track to find some answers to at least some of the reported anomalies and is that track a rational path that mainstream science and culture can find compelling? Overall, what can we – as researchers, investigators, and grassroots “UFO Junkies” with a keen interest in the subject – do to better answer these questions and compel consideration of the merits of inquiry?
In this essay I hope to answer some of the questions regarding the various definitions as to what Ufology “is and isn’t” by examining the components, players, and ideas that make up the overall field. I will contend that Ufology is a SCIENCE, a HISTORY, and a CULTURE. I will offer critical descriptions of these aspects of Ufology and argue that the current state of Ufology has some issues that are becoming detrimental to rational inquiry, that these issues are proving frustrating to many in the field, and that reform of many aspects of the field is called for if Ufology is to survive – and thrive – into the 21st Century. I will offer specific recommendations for reform of various areas of Ufology, so that progress towards the goals of scientific advancement, academic acceptance, and anomaly identification can be better met. What is needed, ultimately, is a New Ufology, that is scientific in focus, to fulfill the promise that arose decades ago when the serious researchers in the field sought true answers and not the spotlight of a sideshow. New ideas, new approaches, new blood, and new techniques are needed. For the 21st Century, we need a New Ufology.
I must first say that no ill-will is intended and I hope that my critiques are taken with that in mind. That being said, I do anticipate that some will view my opinions in the negative and the personal. As a bona-fide “UFO Junkie” – who loves the subject, the history, the stories, and the personalities – I approach this with the intend of not hurting any reputations or feelings. Rather, I hope to not take away anything from what people in the field do and enjoy, but add to it by encouraging a change in focus so that the field might be saved from the existential threat of its own making that it currently faces. Overall, regardless of whether or not anyone agrees with my characterizations and remedies, now is a time to reflect on what Ufology means, where it has been, and what the best techniques should be to strengthen the field. Self-reflection, from time to time, is a positive thing. The opinions and critiques will generally be regarding American Ufology, although in our increasingly inter-connected world, such considerations are becoming less pronounced.
BACKGROUND: CONFESSIONS OF A UFO FANATIC
So who am I? And why are my thoughts and ideas relative to the UFO Phenomenon worthy of any consideration? Well, I am a child of the 70s. And as anyone who grew up in that decade, or has studied it, knows that the subject of UFOs (and all things of a “paranormal” bent) dominated the culture of the times. UFOs were everywhere – not just in the skies or on some farmer’s field – but permeated throughout the culture: paperbacks, books, novels, newspapers, grocery store tabloids, UFO magazines, TV news, TV talk shows, TV sitcoms, TV movies, TV commercials, Hollywood cinema, talk radio, toys, games, t-shirts, etc. You name it. But not just in the sensational media and popular culture, though, folks were actually seeing “strange things” in the sky – in waves and flaps – all across the land: in cities, in rural communities, from airplanes, and on military bases. Witnesses represented all walks of life, all demographics, and all backgrounds. This stew of media, popular culture, and real mystery fed upon one another in a myth-making symbiosis that magnified the subject and led to increased interest and attempts by groups and scientists to figure out what was really going on. Out of this soil was cultivated my life-long interest in the subject of UFOs and the paranormal in general. I consumed all that I could at that young age: from the sensational, to the entertaining, to the heavily scientific. My fanatic obsession was confirmed with the sighting of a daylight disk and the release of Steven Spielberg’s film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” both of which had an equally profound effect upon a young mind already interested in the topic. I collected clippings, collected books and periodicals, and I joined the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) and later the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) to learn all that I could and to keep up on the latest goings-on. I obsessively read Ronald D. Story’s “Encyclopedia of UFOs,” recording the articles into a tape recorder to aid in my memorization of cases, figures, and theories! This sort of thing continued through to my adult life as I amassed a filing system and began to collect video of all things “UFO.” When I decided to go to college, I chose Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a school that had a history with the subject (the Project Identification Study) and I chose to major in the Philosophy of Science with emphasis on “pseudo-science demarcation.” I studied all of the literature related to pseudo-science, methodology, claims justification, sufficiency of evidence, and paradigms. I am currently a paranormal travel writer and UFO researcher who visits and documents historic UFO and paranormal-related sites, having visited nearly a hundred of these in the past few years. As an active observer of the UFO subject for over 40 years, I can proffer my unique perspective on what the current state of Ufology looks like and offer my take on what Ufology truly is and what is needed to fulfill the promise of solutions to the mystery and the advancement of rational inquiry that was promoted so many decades ago.
UFOLOGY IS THE STUDY OF UFOs
So, what is Ufology? Yes, Ufology is the study of Unidentified Flying Objects – “ology” means the “study of,” and “UFOs” is what is being studied. This is Ufology in its broadest sense: ALL THINGS UFOs. Pretty basic. But, what does this mean in reality and how does it (and how has it) played out since the term first came into popular use nearly a half-century ago? Yes, the term is loaded. It carries the weight of decades of alien attribution in the popular culture and a built-in ridicule factor that has limited it’s acceptance in the mainstream. “Ufology’ is not so-much a “science” as a descriptive for a field of study with science-engaging attributes. A field that has specific aspects, or areas, that get mixed-together in a confusing heap of culture and inquiry. The term best works when recognizing that Ufology is a descriptive for the “full-basket’ that is the UFO research field. And in that basket, is a variety of classifications, and sub-classifications, with unique components with their own identities that play a part of the larger research field. Ufology has been used incorrectly to describe it’s own component part as the whole, when the emphasis should be on each specifically depending on it’s reference. Overall, UFOs, like any other subject, is multi-disciplinary in that it can be studied by all mainstream fields in one way or another. In the academic world, UFOs and Ufology are akin to say, perhaps, Political Science in that it has a multitude of areas of focus under a broad umbrella: structures, movements, histories, personalities, influences, impacts that can be analyzed through many critical academic lenses: philosophy, physics, sociology, psychology, history, politics, cultural studies, media studies art, cinema, etc., ad infinitum. Ufology, as a field of methodological scientific inquiry into aerial anomalies, is distinct from the historical and cultural attributes. The specific “Scientific Ufology” relates to endeavors to solve anomalies and deal with philosophical questions related to methodology and the nature of science itself. The history of UFOs, while part of Ufology, is a history in it’s own right and worthy of consideration by the social sciences. As a culture, and a cultural influence for the mid-20th Century, the impact of UFOs (and the domination of the culturally-attached “Extraterrestrial Hypothesis” in popular entertainment) is undeniable: the UFO culture, and it’s sub-culture, has been a dominant part of humanity’s modern mythos since as far back as Orson Welles, and maybe further. The mythos created a culture and a sub-culture, that now influence one another in action and in public perception of the overall field. Ufology is a field and in that field are these three distinct arenas: Anomaly Science (Scientific Ufology), a History (Ufological History), and a Culture (a UFO Pop-Culture and a UFO Sub-Culture). All aspects of Ufology fall under one of these component arenas. Specifically, many cases, movements, or personalities can fall into multiple areas depending on the focus.
THE GOALS OF UFOLOGY
So what are the “goals” of Ufology? Is it to prove the existence of Extraterrestrials, Government Conspiracies, Roswell, or the reality of Alien Abductions? Sure, in the minds of many these are some of the goals, if not THE ultimate goals for the field. But is the field of study just about justifying these claims or is it more? I contend that the goal is the study of the field itself, and within that field are the different aspects that have differing (yet overlapping) goals. Just as physics is not just about proving the “Big Bang” or Black Holes, it contains those goals but also involves reflection upon it’s own historical movements and personalities, and it’s own influence upon aspects of human existence and advancement. Thus, I argue that Ufology’s arenas each have certain goals and missions of fulfillment.
THE GOALS OF SCIENTIFIC UFOLOGY
The ultimate goal of Scientific Ufology is to utilize the best methodology to gather data/evidence to attempt to answer questions related to anomalous events. This is Ufology in it’s purest sense, as a method and means for researchers and field investigators to conclude or eliminate competing theories to solve anomalies for the advancement of scientific knowledge and understanding. Investigations into anomalies benefits science regardless of whether or not the ultimate consensus for an anomalous event is mundane or esoteric – answering riddles and solving problems is what science is supposed to do. The goal, in this respect, is also to enact and engage in methodological practices that truly benefit science by demonstrating to mainstream academia that Ufology can be “science” and rise above the “pseudo-science” labels that have resulted from decades of poor technical methodology, little movement in the philosophical realms related to demarcation, and unsubstantiated sensational theorization. Ultimately, Scientific Ufology (or Aerial Anomaly Research) seeks a form of legitimization and respect – mostly so it can receive the benefits of a recognized scientific field in the form of research funding and accreditation. It also seeks to break past the “giggle factor” so that other established fields might aid in the inquiry without ridicule and fear. Once the ridicule factor is broken, many see that a Golden Age of Anomaly Studies is possible: with many multi-disciplinary fields each aiding their expertise to help solve some anomaly questions. Scientific Ufology also seeks to establish the best working neutral classification system possible, absent of biases, so that the best strategies and techniques for investigations and categories of interest/advancement can be devised in the most logical way possible.
THE GOALS OF UFOLOGICAL HISTORY
The main goal of Ufological History, as with any history, is to be as accurate and as truthful as possible with regards to events, movements, personalities, and their relative impacts upon the larger historical narratives. The history of the UFO phenomenon is a long one, filled with a multitude of stories and cases, numerous biographies about witnesses and investigators, and heaps of myths and folklore. To truly know the field of Ufology and the enigma of the UFO phenomenon, one must know what has happened, when it happened, where it happened, why it happened, who was involved, and what the results were. It is here, in this arena, where much of the literature that relates the UFO Story rests. Books, periodicals, TV programs, radio shows, documentaries, films, and archive websites all tell the history of UFOs and UFO studies – the volume of which is enough to fill a library or a museum in it’s own right. Documenting and archiving this history are some of the other goals in Ufological History and of UFO historians. UFO history, as with other histories, also encompasses the preservation of historic locations and artifacts that serve to aid in the study of historic UFO cases for future generations and for the benefit of communities willing to recognize (and exploit in a positive/celebratory way) the impact of such histories upon local folklore and the broader cultural landscape. UFO history also has relevance as it relates to many other historical fields: aviation history, military history, political history, media history, advertising history, etc., all of which can incorporate the UFO subject as a sub-field within their respective areas.
THE GOALS OF UFO CULTURE AND THE UFO SUB-CULTURE
While it may seem odd that a culture would have goals, there are things that the cultures surrounding UFOs does want to perpetuate and/or does want to see happen. There are also marked distinctions between what the overall culture seeks and what the various sub-groups within the sub-culture of UFOs want. First off, let us define “UFO Culture” as being the cultural aesthetic that flows from the history of the subject to influence the overall culture of society: the UFO subject as a cultural influence that is perceived by the public as having certain attributes of style, presentation, and viewpoints. Those that are outside of the UFO World recognize UFO Culture and it’s aesthetic when they see it as it is continually demonstrated through the media, through the entertainment industry, and from those in the UFO Sub-Culture. The cultural influence of UFO culture and it’s mythos is all around us, in all parts of the Globe, and is easily recognizable. The goal of any culture lies in perpetuating itself as an influencing factor upon the popular culture at large. The UFO Sub-Culture, which consists of those within the UFO research communities, and “UFO Junkies” who are obsessed with the subject, is made up of numerous “belief camps” and social networks each with their own histories, ideas, personalities, heroes, mores, and rituals. These folks not only follow the UFO aesthetic, but embrace the culture as a “lifestyle choice” and as their social identification (and sometimes as their religion). Within Ufology, and throughout the subject’s history, there has always been the Rationalists, the Scientists, the Researchers, the New Agers, the Religious Cultists, the Experiencers, the Conspiracists, the Skeptics, the UFO Entertainers, the Merchandisers, the Con Artists/Hoaxers, and those that are just curious or seeking some campy fun. Each of these groups within the UFO Sub-Culture have divergent goals, that most often conflict, and often cause conflict – which is bound to happen when personal belief systems are challenged or groups themselves are criticized. The groups within the UFO World, overall, seek to perpetuate themselves and to influence others to their worldview. They also seek validation/legitimization of their views. Many aspects of the UFO Sub-Culture involve the niche “cottage industry” of the “UFO Business” and seek the most beneficial schema to maintain their livelihoods. Conspiracists and Disclosurists await “The Day of Disclosure” or “The Undeniable Event,” Rationalists and Scientific Investigators long for mainstream acceptance, the Professional Speakers and UFO Celebrities seek after the next gig, and UFO Junkies await the next cool sighting or movie (or TV show) that is sure to appear as they always do. The UFO Culture and Sub-Culture is a “continuous continuum” with something “UFO” going on somewhere at any given moment – this notion has been reinforced (as has the stratification of the various camps) due to instant internet communication throughout the culture. Modern UFO Culture now carries the entirety of the subject – and engages in real-time communication with one another – via cell phones and through the ever-present social media.
CRITIQUES OF THE CURRENT STATE OF UFOLOGY
There are a number of current trends and behaviors in the Ufological Field today that many deem to be negative to the field itself and as detrimental obstacles to the overall goal of establishing Aerial Anomaly Studies as a rational and respectable area of scientific inquiry. These criticism can be found in various aspects of Ufology, but all generally relate to a lack of scientific focus within the field and corrupting elements that limit it’s advancement. The criticisms leveled tend to be against the individuals and groups within the UFO Community that dominate the UFO Speaking Circuits, the UFO Entertainment Media, and UFO Publishing. We will examine the respective criticisms of each area of Ufology that many see as negative in more detail, but suffice it to say the overall criticisms of the entire field today are that Ufology is currently more focused on entertainment industry and public relations success (rather than promoting better science to solve anomalies) and that the field is awash with an Extraterrestrial Hypothesis/Conspiracy Theory bias that approaches cultism. All of this stems from a perceived imbalance within Ufology: that there is too much influence from the UFO Culture arena and it’s entertainment aspects, but not enough influence from Scientific Ufology or Ufological History areas. Sensational Celebrity UFO Entertainment for the Masses (and for profit), rules the field.
CRITICISMS OF THE CURRENT STATE OF SCIENTIFIC UFOLOGY
First off, the most glaring critique regarding THE SCIENCE is that there are too few actual scientists involved in the study of aerial anomalies, and the UFO subject, overall. There are a few PhDs and Masters Degrees holders in fields relevant to UFO discourse that are engaged in the subject, but merely a handful. Most folks involved in the investigation of UFO sightings and photographic evidence analysis are self-trained amateurs belonging to civilian research groups (in local groups or local chapters of larger groups) or are individual researchers. Most investigators are not trained in astronomy, physics, engineering, meteorology, geology, optics, agronomy, or other necessary fields of study in a formal way – although there are a few degreed specialists. Organizational field training does promote a cursory understanding of the sciences, but most actual investigations consist of the collection of witness-account data and the elimination of obvious IFOs (with no witness background investigation and few follow-up studies). There are a couple of pro-active field studies, but most investigations by UFO Groups are reactive.
There are no mainstream/establishment scientific or academic institutions engaged in anomaly research or the UFO phenomenon, at least in American Ufology. A few credentialed scientists “outside of the field” are sometimes consulted, but interaction is limited and it tends to be the same few individuals being utilized – some of whom openly demonstrate bias towards the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and Abduction Reality, and are usually consulted for high-profile media cases or events where they seek confirmation of analysis. Indeed, most field investigators and civilian organizations demonstrate a bias towards the ETH/AR, which is quite evident at Conferences, sponsored speaking events, and at online group sites. Many investigators are now open with the promotion of wild conspiracy theories, the Ancient Astronaut worldview, the “Disclosure Movement,” Demonic Activity, New-Age Cultism, and even Cryptozoological involvement in the UFO question – some to the extreme, a few to the bizarre.
Data collection and pattern analysis from UFO Reporting Services are useful tools that are available for the benefit of Ufology and science, but are deemed by many as being problematic due to the inclusion of so many uninvestigated and anonymous/confidential accounts in the data logs. Investigations, by field researcher from various group, also have issues related to report and data access, as most reports tend to be proprietary and are not readily shared. Such confidentiality and proprietorship act as roadblocks to many independent researchers who attempt correlation of data. Controlling access to cases and information is a major criticism of dominant organizations, which do so, seemingly, so that such cases can be exploited for the benefit of the group’s marketing strategy in the profit-oriented publishing and entertainment realms of Ufology.
Fundamentally, the Science of Ufology suffers from a problem at it’s philosophical roots. Very little consideration has been made for engaging the scientific arena on philosophical grounds relative to promoting anomaly studies as a science as opposed to it being deemed a “pseudo-science” with scientific trappings. Very few in the Ufological Field know the important works by scientific philosophers (such as Kuhn, Popper, Feyerabend, and Lakatos) who have influenced Mainstream Science’s defining “line of demarcation” between mainstream science and pseudo-science. No attempts have been made, through peer-review publication or public debate, to promote aerial anomaly studies as a legitimate methodological field of scientific interest on philosophical grounds. Few attempts have been made in approaching Academia on philosophical grounds. Too few understand that if Scientific Ufology does seek legitimacy, then the field must engage the fundamental basis for demarcation, which spring from the works of the philosophers that defined it, and that these masters (and their contemporaries) must be mastered in order to push the Demarcation Line and the current paradigms.
The lack of peer-review papers and the submission of Ufological works to major philosophical and scientific journals is also a problem. Most presentations at UFO Symposiums and Conferences are not works of an academic, peer-review nature – most tend to be circuit presentations about historical cases, intricate ETH and conspiracy-laden analyses, New Age or Ancient Alien interpretations, promotions for commercial projects, or excerpts from books. Speakers at events tend to be recognized UFO celebrities that are part of the Professional Speakers Circuit – mostly writers, few scientists – which many in the grassroots view negatively as part of an elitist “Club.” Organizational Journals often mirror the focus of the conferences and symposiums as the organizations tend to sponsor these events. The lack of a true scientific journal in the field of Ufology is an issue that many in the field hope is remedied.
The lack of scientific field study has been mentioned before, but it is important to mention again as it is a major criticism of Scientific Ufology. Most efforts are made engaging in post-event witness account investigation and little on gathering scientific field data of phenomena that are observable and testable. No projects are being planned, and no funds are being raised, on practical data collection efforts that can be as cost-effective as internet-linked instrument arrays (or simple camera packages) at anomalous hot spots. Efforts in seeking funding for scientific projects for anomaly studies are non-existent because there are no scientific field study proposals being submitted (at least in American Ufology).
Other concerns rest in the field’s lack of an acceptable and unbiased nomenclature, the absence of a modern anomaly classification system, and stagnation in the organization of Ufology’s scientific field structures. There are current debates being waged within the community as to what terms should be utilized to best and most accurately describe the phenomena (such as the loaded “Unidentified Flying Objects” or the more-scientific “Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon”), but there has been no consensus reached and no technical conferences have been planned to establish the acceptable terminologies for the 21st Century. There have also been no academic textbooks written relating these Ufological Concepts or establishing them as a standard (and, thus, establishing Ufology).
The preponderance of hoaxed UFO clickbait sites on the internet and streaming media is also of major concern for those who seek to promote a more scientific stance towards the subject. While not the fault of mainstream Ufology, many are frustrated with established organizations and groups that are neglecting to challenge the hoaxers and the con-men that are deceiving the public and perpetuating a negative sensational view in the public’s eye. Indeed, some groups, sites, and information/entertainment programs now embrace clickbait/hoaxes as a tool to drive people to their commercially-oriented pages. Hoaxes are not being called out as being hoaxes by much of Ufology – which is of concern, as much of what the public consumes comes from the hoaxers and charlatans.
CRITICISMS OF UFOLOGICAL HISTORY
UFOs, as a subject, has a rich history filled with fascinating stories and personalities, that has been interwoven into the broader areas of history and culture. The influence is apparent and the tales are numerous. Currently, the UFO field is focused on a few of the main historical cases (such as Roswell) through the biased lens of conspiracy-theory and the ETH. Most UFO history books do not deal in the dates, figures, influences, or movements within Ufological History, but in sensational and speculative analyses of prominent cases in the exploitable popular culture.
Modern UFO histories tend to not be as accurate as they are speculative, with some claims reaching to the heights of outrageousness and high strangeness. Historical connectivity and contextual analyses, relative to influencing factors, appears little in Modern UFO Historical Literature: there have been few UFO media studies, few works on folkore/cultural aspects, few works on socio-psychology significance, and few works connecting these aspects all together to establish a complete history beyond the oft-told “narrative tale” of UFO History. Ufology, as a culture, is also missing out on writing an accurate history of itself (complete with the good and the bad) that is part of the complete history – such “behind-the-scenes” histories are not being told except in personal conversations and occasional internet blurbs.
While many in the UFO world know their historical dates and cases (some do not), lacking is an understanding of other histories relative to the UFO historical field such as: military aviation history, national security history, technological history, etc., which are paramount to understanding the big picture as is relates to the subject. Many are simply unknowledgeable in this regard and simply wrong in various historical assumptions due to this lack of knowledge.
Skeptical interpretations of historical Ufological significance are largely ignored by the cultural UFO Establishment, with too few people in the field having a working knowledge of critical skeptical works or the more “mundane” theories that run counter to the dominant (and entertaining) ETH/abduction/conspiracy interpretations. Skeptical Ufology is a part of Ufological History’s complete story just as much as belief-based “Contactees” have been. Indeed, all that is part of the UFO realm is a part of the History of UFOs and all should be given merit, consideration, and research. There are so many stories to be told, in so many different ways, making the UFO field rich for historical exploration and accurate interpretation. There is much to be learned from the history around UFOs, within the historical context.
CRITICISMS OF THE UFO SUB-CULTURE
All the aforementioned criticisms stem from the actions (or inactions) and the attitudes (or focus) of the UFO sub-culture itself. The UFO culture, as we will call the sub-culture here, has charted the path for the field and has created the current state that exists today. While some may laud the negative influence of the media, or claim obfuscation from the military/security/political realms, or cry obstruction from Skeptics and Academics – Ufology (the culture and the people in it) is responsible for the current state of a subject that is supposed to be a rational field of inquiry and for it’s perceptions in the public. No one else is to blame. And just what is that perceived state?
As a snapshot, the current UFO culture – and thus, Ufology – is viewed as such by many within the community (and those outside of the culture) as being: a cliquish social sub-culture, dominated by many cultish “believers” and Celebrity Ufologists, that tend to promote biased conspiratorial views of ET reality, engage in pseudo-scientific methodology, support the promotion of New Age “paranormal unity,” and perpetuate dominant organizations and conferences that maintain the sensationalized profit-oriented UFO “Cottage Industry” and it’s social networks/social activities. While this characterization may seem negative or harsh, this is the “realpolitik” of the modern UFO World – few may disagree with this characterization, but most will recognize it as being true.
Many serious researcher, that I have conversed with this past year, now view the field with a critical eye and see the culture as being detrimental to Ufology’s advancement and progress. They see the dominating culture as being aligned too much with sensational fringe notions and oriented towards public relations positioning and entertainment profiteering. The UFO World moves now – and does it’s work – in cyberspace’s social networks, on talk radio, and at pay-for-play gatherings that are entertainment venues labeled as scientific symposiums. UFO events are events where you can buy an alien t-shirt or get a selfie (or a book signed) with your favorite UFO personality.
Let us take a step back from the indictments against the UFO Culture, for a moment, and give it it’s fair due. First off, it is nearly impossible to manage a culture, it is comprised of people that are going to do what they want. And they should. The culture of the UFO community is that of a community. They are friends and family that has been at this exploration for a long time and most view each other as such. Ufological events are family gatherings as much as they are places to share stories, interpretations, and ideas – and to have some fun. No one begrudges this, in fact, I too love attending traditional conferences as much as any UFO Junkie: I buy the tickets, seek out the personalities, and buy the collectible merchandise. But, I (like many) want a better Ufology, not just a UFO cosplay-convention. I enjoy the community and the gatherings, but I want more answers, more science, and more movement to advance the field to better examine the questions and find solutions. Alternatives are needed, new ideas are needed, and reform is needed (even if it is in the form of subtle “nudges,” as opposed to sweeping systematic change).
What many seek now is more balance with the science realm and less focus on the profits, personalities, and public relation-oriented elements that stem from the culture. Reformers seek more science, less unsubstantiated speculation that acts to hold back the field, and less support of cult-like beliefs that add to public ridicule and divert focus. There used to be better delineation within the culture between the scientists, the contactees, the paranoid conspiracy buffs, and the UFO fans. This is all muddled together now, in a confusing mix that grows increasingly convoluted and adds to the growing frustration and cynicism of many serious-minded investigators and followers of the field. The field of Ufology is holding back the field of Ufology, but Ufology can redeem itself through reform and a change of focus. The goals of Scientific Ufology, Ufological History, and UFO Culture can be met if a concerted effort is made to do so.
A NEW UFOLOGY: REFORM OF UFOLOGY FOR THE 21st CENTURY
To deal with a problem, one must first recognize that there is a problem before attempting remedies to address the problem. For those that do not see any problems in the UFO field needing redress, then you are in denial. Folks may not agree with all of my characterizations, interpretations, or reform remedies, but they can at least agree on a few, or at least be a part of a discussion as to how the subject moves forward in the coming years. The ultimate goal is to have more and better science and less speculation and profiteering. This is a goal that all should readily agree upon and support.
So how do we achieve the goal of better science and less exploitation? We work at it, debate it, discuss it, and implement it. Following are some of my ideas (and ideas from other reform-minded people in the field) that are intended to move the field forward in a positive direction. Again, these are opinions and opinionated ideas, others may have different views or better ideas. The intent is to encourage discussion, debate, and contemplation of the state of Ufology. Now is the time to chart the field’s course and now is the time to push for change. Now is the time to create a New Ufology. Mainstream Science and the Entertainment Industry could care less for Ufology or reform measures; it must come from those in the field that do care and others must be made to care by demonstrating the importance of the questions that surround the UFO Mystery.
The arguments critical of the current state have been made previously and the reform solutions will mirror those criticisms. Specific reforms will be conveyed as a list of measures that can be taken (or at least focused upon) for different aspects of the field.
STRATEGIES FOR THE REFORM OF SCIENTIFIC UFOLOGY
More Scientists are needed in the Study of Ufology. Attempts must be made to encourage involvement by Mainstream Scientists and Academia.
Ufology needs to master the philosophical underpinnings of Scientific Demarcation in the Philosphy of Science. Papers and debate must be encouraged that engage Mainstream Philosophy in order promote the field beyond the pseudo-science label that limits legitimacy.
Organizations need to be more scientific and less public-relations oriented. Better methodology, more field study, academic training, and the promotion of the field as a science needs to come from the dominant organizations (or from new organizations more aligned with scientific research and promotion).
Those engaging in Scientific Ufology must take a more neutral stance when it comes to the ETH and the Abduction Issue. Bias towards speculative beliefs, without evidence, is non-scientific. Ufology can benefit by taking a more skeptical bent. The field should challenge hoaxers and charlatans when it is evident to do so.
Scientific Ufology must engage in more data-gathering field studies at hotspots of anomalous activity. Witness accounts are important, but measurable evidence is better from a scientific viewpoint. Anonymous/confidential cases need to be ended and the anomalous events more fully explored. There needs to be more sharing of data and information among Scientific Ufologists – proprietary control of data for-profit purposes needs to end.
Ufology needs to seek funding for UFO studies/surveys from all disciplines of academia. It also needs to engage in studies that are of benefit to various disciplines.
Ufology needs more scientific peer-review papers, scientific publications for peer-review, and technical venues to publicly present serious anomaly works. It needs to promote conferences and symposiums that are science-oriented and not profit-oriented. An academic textbook also needs to be produced to help establish the science.
Scientific Ufology needs to chart it’s path as a scientific field. There needs to be conferences with the deliberate intent of discussing the future of the field: it’s structure, it’s terminology, it’s classifications, it’s methodologies, it’s techniques, etc. There needs to be a “Conference on Ufology” which is about the state of the field itself and not cases or personalities.
Scientific Ufology needs to be more cutting-edge in it’s understanding and utilization of advancing technology. More can be done by using the interconnectivity of the internet to communicate and better network. Cheaper and better camera systems are becoming more readily available for field study applications. Scientific Ufologists need to become masters of the various technologies that are part of the Modern Scientific World and apply those technologies. Drones, social media, podcasts, cell phones, phone apps, and other technologies are tools that UFO researcher of the 21st Century are utilizing that previous generations have not had the benefit of being able to use.
STRATEGIES FOR THE REFORM OF UFOLOGICAL HISTORY
Articles and books of historical UFO accounts, movement, and personalities need to be as accurate – and as unbiased – as possible. Sensationalism needs to be replaced with measured analysis and thoughtful interpretation within an historical context. All subjects of interest are on the field, but approaches must be historically accurate.
More Ufological History needs to be studied. There are too many in the field that lack basic knowledge of Ufology’s cases, accounts, movements, and personalities. Timelines and encyclopedias need to be produced that convey the historical facts and dates. More study of correlative events, that may have had influence upon cases, also needs to occur.
Historical archiving of all UFO-related items, that is accessible to the field, needs to continue. Historic preservation, and celebrations by communities, of historically significant locations needs to occur and be supported on cultural grounds.
More study and publication in the cultural studies/folklore realms of UFO history needs to occur. More study into various historical aspects of the numerous disciplines that cross paths with the subject of UFOs needs to be encouraged.
STRATEGIES FOR THE REFORM OF THE UFO CULTURE
The UFO Culture is not going to change unless it changes itself. Recognition of the necessity of change is a first step in achieving it.
The UFO Culture needs to be less biased towards ETH, less New Age, less Cult-like, less money-oriented, less commercially-oriented, less celebrity oriented, and less biased against skeptical viewpoints and Mainstream Science/Academia. There needs to be better delineation of Ufology from the paranormal realm (Ancient Aliens, Bigfoot, Spiritualism, etc.) that now cross-pollinates and influences the UFO field.
There needs to be less support/tolerance of clickbait hoaxsterism and frauds that seek to exploit the field and the culture. There needs to be less tolerance for charlatans and sensationalists that favor profits and personal egos over the necessity to further the field towards a more scientific and professional stance.
There needs to be a delineation between UFO festivals, traditional conferences, entertainment events, and technical UFO Symposiums. There needs to be more input and involvement by grassroots researchers that seek to improve the field’s scientific standing. There needs to be a reform (or the replacement) of dominant organizations that are elitist, non-inclusive, non-responsive, and which are pre-occupied with organizational market branding in the for-profit entertainment realm.
Yes, Ufology is at a crossroad in it’s long history. Many have demonstrated unhappiness with the current state and the path that this field of inquiry is currently speeding down. Will the field adapt to meet the needs of the New Ufology? Or will we continue with the status quo, being thoroughly entertained along the way, but no closer to finding the true answers to the riddles that perplex us with this phenomenon? Change will come or it won’t. I lean towards reform and change because we are not meeting the goals that we strive for and we are not fulfilling the promise that Ufology offered, so many decades ago, in charting a rational path towards finding answers. And I am not alone. While the thoughts and ideas that have been presented here may not be agreed upon as interpretations we agree with or the solutions we seek, it is a hopeful notion that this essay has at least encouraged people to think about what Ufology means and what the future of the study of UFOs should be. It is time for the field to define the field, or someone will define it for us. As a life-long UFO Junkie, I long for the fulfillment of Ufology’s promise and, ultimately, to find out what lies behind the mysteries that have fascinated me and perplexed me all my life. This is a sentiment, I am quite sure, we all can relate to and agree with.