Friedman, Flying Saucers and Science

Stanton T. Friedman. Flying Saucers and Science, New Page Books, 2008.
The title suggests that this book should be placed on the Popular Science shelf in your local bookshop rather than Body, Mind and Spirit (or similar phrase), the shelf reserved for books of a distinctly nutty flavour. So, does it live up to its implied claim to be scientific?
Science, of course, has to be logical, but in Chapter 1, 'The Case for the ET Origin of Flying Saucers', Friedman's distinctive technique for applying elementary logic to ufology becomes amusingly apparent. He emphasises that most UFOs are not ET spacecraft. He then warns us: "There are some logical traps awaiting the unwary here. Some people want to claim: 'Isn't it reasonable to say that, if most UFOs can eventually be identified, all can be?' Think about that for a minute. Would it be reasonable to say that because most people are not 7 feet tall, no one is?'"
Well, it would be reasonable if there were constant reports and rumours of people over 7 feet tall but no actual proof that such people existed. Imagine a group of enthusiasts who have a thing about tallness trying and failing to find a genuine 7-footer. Visits to basketball games fail to find any such people. The nearest thing to physical evidence is a few fuzzy photos, almost certainly fakes. Medical experts wishing to study such people offer large amounts of money, but there are no takers. In such circumstances, would it not be reasonable to assume that 7-footers probably do not exist?
Friedman then makes the perfectly logical suggestion that we should concentrate on reports which "remain unidentified after investigation by competent investigators", and that the best place to search for such reports is in the large-scale scientific studies "almost never mentioned by the UFO debunkers".
The first such study he discusses is Project Blue Book Special Report No. 14, which was completed in May 1955. He argues that the statistics show that a large percentage of the reports are unknowns, apart from those for which there is insufficient information, and that the statistics were deliberately misinterpreted to hide this fact so that the authors could conclude that "...on the basis of this evaluation of the information, it is considered to be highly improbable that any of the reports of unidentified aerial objects examined in this study represent observations of technological developments outside the range of present-day scientific knowledge".
His main criticism of this and other more or less scientific UFO studies seems to be that they generally fail to endorse his belief that some UFOs are interstellar spacecraft. He avoids detailed discussion of particular cases, and thus does not need to mention that most of the really interesting UFO reports are highly controversial, and usually less convincing when their details are subjected to critical examination.
Along with all but a very few North American 'Serious Ufologists', Friedman praises the work of the late Dr James E. McDonald, for to them he is a kind of secular saint of ufology. Also, like the other Serious Ufologists, Friedman fails to mention that scientists possessing the relevant qualifications who studied McDonald's UFO papers did not agree with his interpretations of the sightings and radar records which he described.
Chapter 2 is devoted to arguing that interstellar travel is possible, which deals with the objections of some sceptics who argue that the very idea is absurd because of the vast distances involved. I have to agree with Friedman on this subject (although I would not like to get bogged down in the technical details). It is indeed true, as he asserts, that many sceptics fail to consider all the relevant details and fail to get their sums right. They are reminiscent of the early 19th century engineers who confidently asserted that it would not be possible for steamships to cross the Atlantic because they would not be able to carry enough coal.
However, it seems to me that this question is not strictly relevant to the question of the possible ET origin of some UFOs, because the task of ET enthusiasts is to find unquestionably authentic UFO sightings where the only possible answer is an ET craft. How they get here is not our problem.
Also, where they come from is not our problem, at least unless and until we establish that the alien ET craft really exist. But Friedman persists in dealing with matters which form the background of the UFO controversy, rather than the UFO reports themselves. These include SETI, which he calls 'Silly Effort To Investigate', as he thinks it unlikely to produce results as it makes unwarranted assumptions about ET activities and "the generally unscientific basis for the SETI movement, and the strong negativity of its comments about UFOs, despite its clear ignorance of the subject".
As Friedman is apparently so convinced that some UFOs are ET spacecraft, readers may wonder why he does not produce the compelling evidence which distinguishes sightings of these craft from the great mass of misperceptions, misidentifications and hoaxes. The answer, of course, is what he calls the 'Cosmic Watergate'. "This means that some few people within the governments of major countries have known since at least 1947 that indeed some UFOs are intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft." He then goes on to give examples of secrets being successfully kept for many years, but these are all matters over which governments have control, such as the development of new aircraft and weapons systems. He does not explain how ET craft, which can presumably appear at any time to any organisation or individual, could be kept secret for over 60 years.
Other chapters include the inevitable topics of MJ-12 and Roswell, as well as discussions of the attitudes of scientists and journalists to the subject.
In his introduction, Friedman tells us that this book is intended to stimulate, enlighten and entertain. If you don't agree with him, so that you are not enlightened by this book, then you are a "noisy negativist" or even a "nasty, noisy negativist". So there! - John Harney

1 comment:

terry the censor said...

Mr. Friedman is a broken record too. He has made these arguments many places for many years. (He has used the term "noisy negativists" for at least 25 years. Every column or interview contains the same four-point criticism of so-called debunkers.)