Sceptically Underwhelming

James Oberg. UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries: A Sympathetic Sceptics Report. 1983.

This is by far the most lightweight of the works of the 'Sceptical Three' of American ufology (the other two are Scheaffer and Klass), and is basically a collection of essays written for such prestigious scientific journals as Omni, Saga's UFO Report, etc. Chapter three, dealing with the variety of folktales surrounding alleged UFOs seen by the crew of Apollo Eleven and Chapter nine dealing with the Petrozavodsk 'UFO' (actually the launch of a spy-satellite) and the bizarre 'explanations' dreamt up by Soviet scientists to hid the truth, are of interest, but much of the rest is pretty pedestrian stuff. It is a sad commentary of current standards of education that Oberg felt it necessary to refute such nonsense as 'spaceship moon'.

The chapter on 'Close Encounters' is rather poor. As usual, the Klass version of events is taken for granted, and easy targets chosen. Oberg makes a good point when he mentions that libel laws (notoriously fiercer in the UK than in the US) can keep many cases in the 'unexplained' camp. On the other hand, they do not appear to deter Oberg overmuch; and ufologists should beware of accepting unverified gossip about the private life of UFO percipients as much as gossip about crashed spaceships and radio contact with aliens. -- Peter Rogerson, Magonia 18, January 1985.


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