With the 70th anniversary of Kenneth Arnold’s famous “flying saucer” sighting fast upon us (24 June), we likely can expect a number of public reflections over the coming weeks on the Arnold case and the history of UFOs in general.
Veteran UFO researchers Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos and Thomas E. Bullard have taken the opportunity to share their thoughts on the subject. Both have spent many years examining the evidence and collaborating with ufologists. They both speak of the great enthusiasm they had when they first started following the UFO phenomenon, but both admit – to varying degrees – that the venture appears to have lost much of its steam.
Olmos puts it in rather stark terms:
Ufology not only fails to advance, it is a vicious circle. Today we see UFO news publicized on the internet with the same old images of lens flares or aircraft contrails that seemed strange in the 1950s. Because there are no academic or authoritative criteria universally accepted, and no hard evidence that exists as a certainty, past mistakes recur over and over. Ufology is immersed in a loop that never ends.
Bullard, however, remains more sanguine about the work:
The reason behind these consistencies might be cultural influence or investigator bias, but actual observation in contrast to imagination might also be the cause. At least the possibility is worth exploring. So many IFO reports in the sample, so many human errors and shortcomings in descriptions plague the record that they threaten to smother the signal from the very much smaller body of UFOs. In the past good minds have had to work with bad data limited in both quantity and quality, and the disappointing results come as no surprise. Today we have much larger samples and data of better quality to escape the garbage in-garbage out problem that dogged earlier efforts. I see reason to believe that some distinctive consistencies in the phenomenon may yet be forthcoming, and that reliance on quality cases as the database will reveal those consistencies in sharper relief. At least the effort should be made before we give up the spaceship.
In any event, their exchange of views makes for fascinating reading and testifies to the hold that the UFO phenomenon has historically had on many observers.