Dubious Evidence

Don Berliner with Marie Galbraith and Antonio Huneeus. UFO Briefing Document: The Best Available Evidence. Dell, 2000.

This is the briefing prepared by the Lincoln Rockefeller Foundation to persuade scientists and others to take UFOs seriously, and has been endorsed by CUFOS, MUFON and the Fund for UFO Research as providing the 'best available evidence for the existence of UFOs'. So the supporters of ETH have put down their money. Some of the chapters deal with groups of cases, but the individual 'best' turn out to be Lakeneath, Trindade, Socorro, Falcon Lake, Canary Islands 1976, Tehran, Rendlesham, Trans-en-Provence, a 1986 Brazilian aircraft report, the Japan Airlines report, Kapustin Yar 1989, and the Belgium UFO wave.

As you can see most of these are the same old suspects, and Magonia readers will be aware that serious questions have been raised about several of them. Rendlesham has gone, Trans is deeply suspect; others have had conventional explanations given, still others may well be hoaxes. Only occasionally do the authors give hints as to the complexities and arguments surrounding these reports which are presented in one sided essentially pro ETH light.

Even on their own terms, as attempts to convince scientists as to the 'reality of UFOs' these presentations fail, because they give nowhere enough detail and background for readers to come to their own conclusions, they are little more than news briefings. Instead of detailed accounts, giving all sides and emphasising the complexities of UFO oases, the report wastes a vast chunk of space of padding, including 56 pages devoted to a pointless one sided collection of quotations, some of which are out of context, some of which may be apocryphal and still others just ufologists giving their spiel. Nobody outside of the paranormal does anything but laugh at this sort of attempted argument from authority these days.

There is also space left to flog the dead horse of Roswell, and to engage in speculation about the UFO secrecy being at the behest of the aliens who are running things behind the scenes, back-engineering and the like, and the belief that Air Force secrecy means there is proof of the ETH. Sceptics can think of other reasons for secrecy. For example, to take purely hypothetical examples, the authorities wouldn't like it to be known that certain atmospheric conditions render their fabulously expensive state of the art radar system useless, that there have been a number of occasions on which airline passengers have been injured when the plane swerved to avoid Venus, that the personnel guarding highly sensitive nuclear weapons bases are so stoned on cannabis, cocaine and high octane booze that they don't know whether they're in Middletown USA or Zeta Reticulli, or that that personnel on another base sell wild stories of base life in exchange for sexual favours.

UFO reports may be worthy of scientific investigation but you wouldn't know if from this botch-up. Its endorsement by the three leading US UFO groups establishes, if we didn't already know it, that they are essentially partisan advocacy groups in favour of the ETH, with little interest in a genuinely open minded and open ended study of UFO reports. In their eyes anyone who does not endorse the ETH (or some more esoteric theory involving non-human intelligences) is a debunker, and any conventional explanation of their favourite cases is to be automatically denounced. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 73, January 2001.

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