New Article: A History of the Mistrust between Ufology and Academic Science

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In 1966, the University of Colorado became the home for an expert commission, headed by American physicist Edward Condon, to scientifically study UFOs. Already before the release of its report in 1968, the group’s work was being greeted by many with skepticism.

I have just published a new article on the history of the UFO phenomenon. The journal Public Understanding of Science has released the early online version of my piece, which is entitled “Making UFOs Make Sense: Ufology, Science, and the History of Their Mutual Mistrust.”

The focus and general argument of the article is summarized in the abstract below.

Reports of unidentified flying objects and alien encounters have sparked amateur research (ufology), government investigations, and popular interest in the subject. Historically, however, scientists have generally greeted the topic with skepticism, most often dismissing ufology as pseudoscience and believers in unidentified flying objects and aliens as irrational or abnormal. Believers, in turn, have expressed doubts about the accuracy of academic science. This study examines the historical sources of the mutual mistrust between ufologists and scientists. It demonstrates that any science doubt surrounding unidentified flying objects and aliens was not primarily due to the ignorance of ufologists about science, but rather a product of the respective research practices of and relations between ufology, the sciences, and government investigative bodies.

While copyright does not allow me to post the article here, I am happy to share it with those interested. Simply contact me via the email address listed in the “About” section of this blog.

This Day in UFO History: The Incident at Exeter

An article on the Exeter sightings in True magazine (1967).

An article on the Exeter sightings in True magazine (1967).

On this day in 1965, witnesses around the town of Exeter, New Hampshire (USA) reported seeing a large, silent, and glowing object in the late-night skies overhead. To be sure, reports like these occurred with some regularity at the time. But what made this flap different was the fact that two local police officers also claimed to have witnessed the strange object. And reports of sightings for several weeks later only added to the mystery.

The story of that night was covered several months later in an article in Look magazine and some time later in the magazine True. But it was the 1966 book by John G. Fuller (Incident at Exeter) that helped turn the event into a canonical part of UFO lore.

In 2011, UFO skeptics James McGaha and Joe Nickell put forward what they consider to be a definitive explanation for the original sightings: a U.S. Air Force KC-97 plane in the act of refueling another aircraft.

A U.S. Air Force KC-97. From: James McGaha and Joe Nickell, "‘Exeter Incident’ Solved! A Classic UFO Case, Forty-Five Years ‘Cold,"’ Skeptical Inquirer, 35 (November/December 2011).

A U.S. Air Force KC-97. From: James McGaha and Joe Nickell, “‘Exeter Incident’ Solved! A Classic UFO Case, Forty-Five Years ‘Cold,”’ Skeptical Inquirer, 35 (November/December 2011).

For some additional photos and follow-up materials regarding the case, follow this link to UFO Evidence.