Don Berliner, former NICAP investigator and director of the mostly dormant Fund For UFO Research, has some ideas on how to jump-start a sober re-evaluation of The Great Taboo that doesn’t involve new research: Declassify all the Project Blue Book files (yes, some are still censored more than 40 years later), assemble a team of independent credentialed scientists to render evaluations on the true unknowns, case by case, and air them out in the contemporary public arena. No doubt the effort would run into some bucks, but the cases would come from official government files. And non-government panelists wouldn’t likely shy away from criticizing the slipshod work of another federal agency.
De Void rarely features guest bloggers, but at 84, Berliner merits some space here, meager though it be. So here’s Don:
For the past several decades, the private UFO community hasn’t moved one inch closer to solving the greatest mystery of the past century. Even worse, we’ve lost almost all our ability to influence the opinions of members of the scientific community, the mainstream media and most of the governments of the world.
We reached our peak in the mid-1960’s when the 14,000-member National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), under the inspired leadership of Donald Keyhoe and Richard Hall, had established highly effective relationships with those vital elements of our society. The media, in particular, regularly came to NICAP for facts and guidance. Today, with two national organizations each collecting more than 500 UFO/UAP reports a month, it would be hard to find a reporter who has any clue that such is happening, with the result being that the public has no idea that strange craft are still being seen.
NICAP’s facts were produced by the highly qualified and experienced members of carefully selected investigative sub-committees who went out into the field to find out what had actually happened, not to reinforce anyone’s preconceived opinions nor to add to anyone’s collection of allegedly unexplained events.
There are changes that can be made to improve the situation:
1. Get rid of “UFO”, which to most people means “flying saucer,” and that means alien spacecraft. In other words, “UFO” is a conclusion, when it should be no more than a starting point. A replacement is ready and waiting: “UAP,” meaning Unexplained Aerial Phenomena. Many of the scientists in the private UFO community have been using this for years.
2. Get rid of “Ufology” and “Ufologist,” which strongly imply that the collecting of information and the subsequent study of it constitute a science. It will remain no more than a hobby until we make drastic changes in the way we view the subject and our own involvement.
3. While we’re at it, let’s add “sincere” to our list of words to be dropped. The category of people most needing to be considered sincere is “con-artist.” And while we certainly aren’t suggesting that more than an occasional sighting witness deserves to be in that group, using it to describe someone who hasn’t been subjected to an extensive background investigation is passing judgement on the basis of emotion, rather than logic.
4. Stress the need for field investigators having advanced educations and/or practical experience in appropriate scientific fields. By including hobbyists and “saucer fans,” we are actively discouraging the participation of the very people we need most. Imagine a curious scientist joining a field investigation, only to find himself working alongside someone who is in serious danger of flunking freshman chemistry. The scientist won’t be back, while the marginal student will.
5. Forget about trying to influence the U.S. Congress as a way to force the release of a large quantity of withheld government information. Members of Congress lack both the will and the motivation needed to risk their jobs over an issue that promises little beyond embarrassment. Let’s face it: one of the easiest ways to replace a sitting member is to accuse him of believing in flying saucers. He or she may be able to withstand personal attacks based on financial or sexual misconduct, but not on something viewed by peers as suggesting a serious lack of common sense.
6. Start using the Hynek “Strangeness/Credibility Scale” to pin-point UFO/UAP reports having the potential for adding to the accumulated knowledge of UFOs/UAPs. Cramming filing cabinets with sightings of meandering night lights amounts to nothing more than wasting time on trivia. It is the quality of cases that will eventually pay off, not the quantity.
7. Perhaps the biggest step we can take in the near-term is to stop behaving like the mystery has been solved and all that remains is to lay out the evidence for the ignorant masses to absorb. In fact, the UFO mystery has not been solved, nor will it be until we have acquired proof, not merely debatable evidence. Just because we haven’t been able to come up with logical, non-alien explanations for hundreds of baffling cases doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. Maybe we have overlooked something subtle that could change the picture
Just what will constitute proof?
A. Clear, sharp photographs that can be scientifically verified and which show sufficient detail so that they could not possibly be of anything terrestrial.
B. Government documents that can be scientifically confirmed as original (not photocopies), and which include specific information whose authenticity can be checked.
C. Physical evidence such as obviously unusual debris from one or more crashes, whose origins can be traced with confidence and whose properties do not resemble anything found on Earth. The professional scientists or scientific organizations doing the analyses must be willing to sign their names to any reports.
We aren’t going to get any of the above by sending out “saucer fans” to interview people who claim to have seen funny lights. We have to start taking the mystery as a serious challenge, and not as entertainment or a way to attract attention to ourselves.