Opinions. Opinions. Everybody's got one. But what makes an opinion worthwhile? This opinion piece explores ufology's particular problem with informed opinions.
The subject is not the problem. Society's attitude is the problem.
When we want good, solid information about a subject we go to an expert. But there's a problem in ufology. Where are the experts? The usual kinds of experts are missing. Why is this? Let's explore.
For ordinary subjects, like biology or automotive mechanics, or accounting or the history of the U.S. Constitution, for example, there are recognized authorities. Lots of them. Take your pick. Drop by any college or university. Or for automotive mechanics, try the Society of Automotive Engineers. Experts are easy to find.
UFOs are controversial. Maybe that's the problem. But maybe not. Consider other controversial topics like abortion, global warming, tax policy, and so on. Whom do you turn to? Even here, a good place to start is the colleges and universities across the land or perhaps a prestigious professional association. Then you go on to consult the alternative voices in the "loyal" opposition. But what do you do when virtually every authoritative organization and institution has avoided the subject you are interested in?
Ufology Ignored by Mainstream
You probably know where we're going. Yes, it's true. UFOs have been essentially ignored and avoided by all normal authoritative sources of knowledge and information in our society. You can check this by looking up UFOs in the Yellow Pages. Oops. No entries for UFOs. Or you can call up your local university or college switchboard and ask to be connected with any professor who studies UFOs. Oops. No professors. (Unless you happen to call the University of Oregon and they hand you over to the debunker prof, Ray Hyman!)
Or you can call up your local military base and ask to be connected with the "office that studies UFOs." You'll be put in touch with the public relations officer, and he or she will, as likely as not, refer you to MUFON, or maybe even laugh. Or you can go to your local college library and look up UFOs in Science Citation Index, which indexes a broad spectrum of science journals. There will be thousands of entries for just about any topic you pick, but only a handful for UFOs, maybe. (Actually, I haven't done this in 10 or 15 years, but the result will be the same as when I last did it. Compared to the frequency with which citizens report UFOs to MUFON and NUFORC, the number of scientific studies of UFOs is a trifling travesty. Virtually none.)
There are no mainstream authorities for UFOs. What authorities there are exist only in the UFO subculture.
A UFO Authority of the Past
However, despite the lack of mainstream authorities today, for a while in the 1950s and 1960s, a bona fide authority, the U.S. military, served as a source of expert opinion. This opinion originated from the personnel who ran the air force's Project Blue Book. Unfortunately, Project Blue Book, which gathered UFO reports from the public and made a show of investigating them, failed miserably to provide any satisfactory answers for the origin or nature of the mysterious flying objects in our nation's skies.
Project Blue Book Closed
And, to make matters worse, in the late 1960s, the air force divested itself from even its feeble Project Blue Book effort by commissioning a supposedly scientific study of the UFO conducted under the direction of the University of Colorado. The study, like Project Blue Book, also failed to find any satisfactory solutions to a significant number of its 100 plus cases. (Almost one third remained unidentified at the conclusion of the study.) Yet, physicist Edward Condon, who directed the study and wrote the summary and conclusion for the report, asserted that UFOs merited no further study by the scientific establishment. The National Academy of Sciences put its stamp of approval on the study, and UFOs have been abandoned by mainstream authorities in the U.S. ever since.
Citizens Continue Efforts Alone
When the authorities refuse to develop and publish reliable information about a subject, then citizens must do what they can. They step in and do it themselves. This actually happened from the beginning in ufology because a small handful of citizens felt they were not getting straight answers from the air force. And, after the air force abandoned UFOs, various citizen-supported groups continued to operate.
Informed Opinions Based on Facts
An informed opinion is based upon the positive knowledge in the field in which the opinion is held. There is lots of positive (factual) knowledge in the field of ufology. We know the dates, times, durations, and general circumstances of thousands of UFO events reported to citizen-supported investigative organizations in the last 60 years.
MUFON and other responsible citizen-supported organizations continue today the valiant effort to deliver to the public accurate, reliable evidence and analysis of the UFO situation. In these various organizations, you will find the best publicly available information about UFOs. This is where you will find the most informed opinion today about UFOs. At Oregon MUFON, we'll do our best to deliver for you.
Some Sources of Informed Opinion in Ufology
Here are a couple of UFO report sources online: National UFO Reporting Center and MUFON. The book and journal/magazine literature has much more, to say nothing of the thousands of case files held by MUFON and CUFOS that are not online. There are also many more thousands of case files held by the many citizen-supported investigative organizations of foreign countries such as the UK's BUFORA, Belgium's SOBEPS, and the former official French government UFO investigative organizations, GEPAN and SEPRA. The modern French government UFO investigation organization is GEIPAN, which is part of the French NASA, CNES. At GEIPAN, you can download official French government UFO investigation files.
There are many other sources, but this will get you started.