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UFOlogy and its fans resist scientific scrutiny

Lots of people believe in astrology, too, but that doesn't make it scientific fact.

Daniel Caton

Special to The Observer

Published: Thurday, July 18,2000


Page 11A

A few  The topic of UFOs has festered up in the Observer again, like a bad sore that won't heal.  George Fawcett reminisced on these pages about 53 years of "modern" UFO reports and lamented the usual coverups by government and dismissals by scientists.  He has investigated reports from 24 towns in North Carolina and 54 in South Carolina.

It reminds me of a project I wanted to do a couple of years ago.  I became disturbed at the number of books published on the topic of UFOs.  I had already noticed titles frequently available at discounted prices, as remainders listed in Hamilton Books' monthly catalog.  But then Hamilton started carrying new titles, marked with asterisks, and I suddenly became aware of three or four new UFO titles every month! At big prices.

Since I was not aware that we were actually being invaded by aliens at a rate to merit such a production of books, I assumed that these were written to make money.  I then came up with and idea: I would write a book titled "Twenty Covered Up UFO Encounters in the South" (under a pseudonym, of course).  It would be easy to write, since I would make up all of the stories.  Is that legal?  Well who can prove that any of the stories already in print are real?  I would then go on the book circuit, scooping up cash at signings and UFO meetings.

 The project evolved into a trilogy: volume two would be an exposé of the whole scam and my description of  life among the UFOlogists.  Finally, volume three would describe the  reaction to the exposé.

Everyone thought this would be a hoot!  I made contact with a publisher just off the mountain and we met over a delightful lunch of South American food at a small restaurant in Jefferson.  I unfolded my concept and we hashed over the idea.  To my chagrin, they did not think it would work, hypothesizing that once the media figured it out I would lose control of the whole project. Even if I maintained secrecy, there would be little to distinguish the first volume from the books already hitting the market.  Indeed, the publisher suggested that those very books may include intentional fakes.  That's right.

Mr. Fawcett went on to claim that only one percent of reports are proven hoaxes yet failed to mention that 78% (his number) are due to natural phenomena.  A minority of reports remain unexplained.  Most people have no clue how to interpret things they see in the sky,  lacking any distance perspective and having little or no knowledge of astronomy or meteorology  (or science, for that matter).  An example: we've all seen bright meteors that seemed a hundred yards away, yet they really are closer to a hundred miles away when the burn up.

The fact is that there is not a single piece of substantiated, hard evidence.  Not even a piece of a spaceship, an abandoned probe, or an alien--dead or alive.  Why is it that not a single UFO has set down in a populated area with intentions of opening up communication?  The population centers of the Earth are obvious from space, marked by light and radio pollution.

Ed Williams seemed to give George's voice a tongue-in-cheek stamp of approval, quoting poll statistics that show 45% think that we have been visited.  Well, more than that believe in astrology even though none of the many scientific studies done have shown any validity to it.  Sorry, but believing it doesn't make it so...

I also would not hold my breath for George's "surprising revelations" from declassified government documents.  If ET were in a freezer at Area 51, then real physical evidence would have been stolen long ago and sold to Time magazine.  That has not happened, thus ET is not there.  That's America.

Fawcett states that many scientists are urging investigation of UFOs.  But, the problem is that the phenomenon does not lend itself to scientific investigation.  All of the evidence is anecdotal, and eyewitness reports are notoriously unreliable.  And how could you possibly devise an experiment to capture substantial evidence from a phenomenon that only displays itself randomly and rarely?  If you did, who would fund it?

The trouble with current UFO investigations is that they are done by advocates "want to believe"whereas good science is done by skeptics who must question themselves at every step and then submit their reports to anonymous referees who will also question every assumption and result.  That's not UFOlogy.

That's science.

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