UFO Conjecture(s)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ufologers' Mind-sets

Not surprised or stunned by the lack of intellectual or creative thought in the UFO community but greatly disappointed, I wondered why some notable and no-so-notable UFO mavens behaved and/or thought the way they have and do.

In our small circle of regulars we have the brilliant Kandinsky and the creative genius Jose Caravaca mingling with the significantly well-read and erudite Bruce Duensing.

But that’s about it when it comes to deep thought.

Outside our immediate circle we find Patrick Huyghe, Tim Printy, and Cathy Reason, who is a UFO Update habitué, unfamiliar to me, except for what I read by her at UpDates; each of these persons evoking signs of deep cogitation and eminent reasoning.

In the noted category, but not representing anything close to intellectual brilliance is Jerome (Jerry) Clark, Kevin Randle, and Stanton Friedman, among a few others you can name.

Now I ask, what make Stanton Friedman think as he does – gullible at times (the MJ-12 papers) and a believer in a vast armada of extraterrestrials visiting Earth (and crashing near Roswell)?

And what gives Jerry Clark the patina of an elderly curmudgeon who has a vast knowledge of UFO sightings but hasn’t provided an hypothesis or theory about what they are; that is, he hasn’t conjured up any scenario to explain sightings as he mounts them in a raft of books, only as a chronicler (not a historian surely, like Toynbee or Tuchman).

Why was Philip Klass so viciously anti-UFO?

What allows Bruce Maccabee or Don Ledger to think they have cachet about UFOs; neither has made a mark that counts.

Richard Hall was brilliant but marked by an image of grump. Why?

Let me provide and over-arching opinion about why or how Ufologists think the way they do or did…

Stanton Friedman appears to be a happily married man who loves his wife and family, which creates for him a mind-set that is comfortable and cushy. This makes for an optimistic view of life. Even as Mr. Friedman stokes the UFO filed with complaints of a Cosmic Watergate, the epithet itself tells us that he is locked into the halcyon days of UFOs (1970s) and political life when dramatic incidents were benign actually, only serious to those personally involved.

The UFO topic was moribund in the 1970s or, at least, not riled by major UFO events. (No, The Travis Walton or Pascagoula episodes didn’t ring the public bell as did the Arnold 1947 sighting or the concoctions of Adamski in the 50s and the Betty/Barney Hill story of the 1960s.)

The 1970s were a blissful time as far as UFOs go and Mr. Friedman was at the beginning of his fame as a “ufologist” – capitalizing on that “fame” with his Roswell splurge.

This modicum of fame, coming from a quiet decade, created the mind-set that engulfs Mr. Friedman today. His mental configurations were established by the pleasant vicissitudes of an era where he, free of a real job, was able to grow and sustain himself as a ufologist, thus formulating his movement along the UFO spectrum in the 80s, 90s, right up to now (2012).

His mind-set has been concretized by this euphoric, personal time-line.

Jerry Clark, who wrote callow pieces about UFOs early on for Fate magazine and others, thought he had cemented a worthwhile legacy. But in the 21st Century he realized that he has no real legacy and this has made him bitter and condescending toward others. (His divorce, it seems, embittered him further.)

Clark is a non-entity among today’s younger UFO set. He is a no-show, without cachet about anything, although he’s tried his hand at a plethora of non-UFO activities and interests – to no avail, which exacerbates his bitterness and spiteful remonstrances at UFO UpDates where he is still seen by that site’s aging moderator as a UFO notable.

Richard Hall is all but unknown by today’s UFO aficionados. He was grump for not being able to capitalize on his UFO acumen, retiring near poverty and dying alone and destitute. But his legacy is cemented by his two-volume The UFO Evidence, which contains his pithy approach to UFO sightings with merit.

Philip Klass, long dead but still influencing today’s UFO skeptics, developed a mind-set aggravated by his need to be an expert about aircraft, which was usurped by things purported to be flying all over the Earth’s skies and followed by energetic believers in the idea that the things were highly advanced aircraft from outside the Earth.

Klass couldn’t abide the thought that aircraft, outside his desired expertise, was being exploited by men he saw as inferior to himself, in the intellectual area, especially about flying machines.

Klass took the rode that persons often take when their career toes are stepped upon – the rode of attack, take no hostages, and to hell with truth or civility.

Personages Randle, Maccabee, Ledger – Ledger the lesser known among any of the so-called ufologists – are settling into old-age, without garnering any public adulation for their extended UFO “research” and losing recognition among youthful UFO hobbyists.

Looking back to noteworthy UFO sightings and events, we do not see any person who stands out as worthy of our admiration for intellectual thought or creative interpretation of UFO sightings and events.

The UFO matter is not a deep well. It remains a pond (or puddle even) that hasn’t been dredged nearly deep enough to see what is at the bottom.

The mind-sets of ufologists is just that “mind-sets” – not reservoirs of elaborate thought or cogitation; ruminations without depth or creative imagination.

This is why the UFO enigma continues to "enig"….



  • In the earlier epoch considerations labelled with the tag Ufology and associated theories were largely simple to define and discuss as either the impossibility or probability of engineered and extraterrestrial unidentified aircraft.

    Aviation experts could exercise their knowledge of avionics and other very terrestrial based sciences to parse this or that, all in the context of debating their their theoretical existence or non-existence, all of which by way of every major sighting was examined in this context.
    Their legacy as a group on either side of the skeptic fence was constrained by their own analysis based on their own label of unknown "hard craft" for the phenomenon.
    Jacques Vallee reshuffled the cards and came up with other contexts that post editorially made the earlier context appear naively reductionist in regard to both skeptics and adherents of a would be ET cult.
    Now the rapid developments in various disciplines in science has outstripped previous platforms for discussion to a point of abstracted bewilderment as to the possible versus the impossible nearly on a daily basis.
    Roswell seems like a tale from the Civil War, a nostalgic look back at both a safer territory and a simpler world.
    Ufology itself has no testable theory, no associated evidence found in repeatability or prediction. Suggestion, myth making and inference derived from the imaging of one's imagination is the material left at the bottom of the beaker after all this centripetal diffusion of the material.
    So, I think the context is there is no context now, hence everyone chooses their own rather than following the naive idea of an expert or experts which now the aggregate sum seems more of a Utopian Dream Team, the fog of human behavior versus the fog of the phenomenon. The rationality of the Enlightenment catching lightning in a jar seems wistful now, as time has progressed and many have moved on. I think as a whole, most of us are left less naive and more humbled by what we do not know versus what we do.
    Perhaps that was the point of the exercise. Perhaps not.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Sunday, April 22, 2012  

  • You are probably generalising too much in your analysis. Ufologists come in all shapes, sizes and viewpoints, just as in any other field of interest.

    Also, remember that a lot of ufologists change their stance with time. Some (such as Stan Friedman) stick hard and fast to ETH but others do not. Also, there is a large contingent that have no fixed opinions one way or another.

    Certainly in the early days it was either ETH or nothing; but in the intervening years some ETHers have become disillusioned, others have given up. New ones have of course emerged, and so on. The subject continues to attract attention and always will.

    Conspiracists abound, but even then there are degrees of conspiracy theory. Abductions appear to finally be on the decline, but I had better shut up in case someone pops up and contradicts me. They will never totally die out, any more than crashed saucers.

    You could quote many names of ufologists who, over the years, have thought this or that, and have contributed briefly then faded away.

    The one thing I have learned is to never accept sightings at face value. And certainly NEVER to assume that anyone is an 'expert' when talking about UFOs, however academically or scientifically qualified they are.

    There are no such persons as experts on UFOs. Just as there are no experts on psychic phenomena.

    By Blogger cda, at Sunday, April 22, 2012  

  • CDA:

    I'm really harping on the lack of deep thinking, not thinking in general.

    The shallowness of the debate is striking and disappointing.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, April 22, 2012  

  • I tend to agree that 'deep-thinking' is a rare bird in the subject and one would need to read far and wide to find current examples. Bruce is out there but finding it lonely and frustrating without peers to bounce ideas off. He's not alone. Others are hunkered down in their blogs and fire off emails/messages in faltering attempts at discussion...

    This is perhaps part of the discouragement that confronts anyone with more than a passing interest? At least,it might apply to the public side of things. Private thoughts are inevitably deeper than those expressed elsewhere.

    There's also a startling realisation that 'new' ideas have been fed through the UFO mangle before. Bloody hell, damn near any idea I've had has been formed or half-formed by somebody else...often years earlier.

    Other mind-sets agglomerate around thematic ideas like prison planets, saviours and the current enchantment with demons. This reflects the popular culture side of ufology as people are drawn to what they fancy in the same way we favour musical genres over others.

    So I guess you are right and proper to chide the public complacency and lack of tenacity in ideas. At the same time, the lure of curiosity is off-set by several decades of decreasing circles.

    Recently, I've found Aime Michel's thoughts novel and refreshing. Perhaps in exasperation, he wrote, '... it shall spread more and more as rumour, but that at the same time it shall elude human methods of establishing proof, that is to say, it eludes science. I think we can take it as proven that the phenomenon has its own camouflage of such a kind that it goes on increasing indefinitely without ever entering the field of perception of the dormant culture, in these eyes of which it will continue not to exist.'

    A cop-out and/or a fair summary of the state of play? There's a point where deep-thinking has to take a break or retire. Barring a handful of outposts, this might have happened back in the 'moribund' 70s.

    By Blogger Kandinsky, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • One can't do justice to the various motives - conscious and subconscious - of the attitudes and views of the ufologists you have mentioned in a short blog article. It needs a book. The broad topic of ufology touches on so many taboos in our society (in science, religion, psychology, sociology) and each person is more sensitive to differing taboos and to differing degrees, depending on their own personal psychology, life experience and related. All this has to be taken into account.

    I gotta say that I think your broadside against Jerry Clarke is unwarranted and uncalled for. Yes of course Clarke has lost his way, going back to the ETH after having rejected it in the early 70s and making numerous blunders he should never have made (and he has not always acted the scholarly gentleman, getting way too personal in some of his tiffs). Yet Clarke and Loren Coleman's 'The Unidentified' (published prior to the u-turn back to the ETH of course) remains a landmark work, its inevitable errors and flaws aside (like the Cottingley fairies). Clarke of course has disowned it. Yet I think this ironic and it leaves me bemused, as it is an original and radical work and perhaps will be rediscovered by a future generation of saner ufologists (if that ever happens) and recognized for the seminal book that it is. Whether Clarke and Coleman are ever given their due for their paraufology thesis - even as they are now embarrassed by it! - remains to be seen. However for that achievement *alone* they deserve recognition, even if they don't want it!

    I also think the numerous motives for Clarke's u-turn (and Coleman's) have never been properly recognized or plumbed by anybody (as far as I have been able to discover) and as I think such motives are largely subconscious, I don't think Clarke is cognizant of them neither. I realize that comes across as presumptuous, yet so be it. In other words, Jerry Clarke is a human being whose actions and notions re ufology are not as rational and reasoned as he may like to think (just like the rest of us). Everybody has messed up in the swamp of ufology. It's inevitable, we're all in the dark here.

    As far as the younger generation of ufologists is concerned, why should we care what they think? For the most part, they don't appear to be bothered to read the history of the field in any depth (if at all), can't be bothered with meaningful and in-depth readings in psychology, sociology, folklore, mythology, parapsychology, religion, mysticism, shamanism and related (aside from physics and astronomy of course). Why is the whole subject such a mess again?

    Whatever genuine advances are to be made in ufology will (if ever) in all likelihood come from outsiders to the field, outsiders looking in. The insiders are not looking out, they're not even looking.. As long as they remain wedded dogmatically to ET, their opinions ain't worth too much frankly.

    The only thing I am dead certain of re ufology is that at the end of the day, anybody wanting to make headway (if it's at all possible) needs to remember that the Trickster rules supreme here as he does everywhere. If you forget that, well Coyote has a way of biting you in the ass!

    By Blogger Lawrence, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • Just a small point for Lawrence.
    It is Jerry Clark, not Clarke.
    I should point out that Arthur C. Clarke complained that he was referred to as Clark at times.

    Nothing to do with ufology I know!

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • As the years went by, it became apparent that a great deal of attention, energy and writing was
    directed by way of logical rationalism without anyone asking themselves deeply why this topic fascinated them so much. If the same amount of thought was placed on this question, I somehow missed this context. However, your piece was directed as to the nature of public dialog and consider how little thought in our time has been given to self questioning or even self verification of alleged facts.
    To me, this phenomenon was always revolved around existentialism and the human condition more so than simply lights dancing in the sky.
    It's a ink blot for revealing human behavior, fantasy prone as it mostly is.
    Ufologists must always hand the knife by the handle to dyed in the wool positivism. They have the empirical world at their disposal and uncertainty is a anathema to the public. They want self comforting explanations, not questions questioning their motives and so it comes back round to denial, childish fantasy and cult like behavior.
    For most I suspect this falls under the bus due to it's entertainment value. The preference being to be entertained rather than think and this is the essence of the 21st Century by in large.
    Rote thinking and the repetition of language as in "UFO" has locked the subject into a box. Any expert is sealed in that box.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • Rich, the ufologists aren't the only ones to consider. There are the professional writers such as Keyhoe, Purdy, Keel, Scully, Palmer, and various reporters and editors. I'd put Randle and Redfern in this category, not the 'ufology' one.

    The actual ufologists were to be found in the Army Air Corps and its successors, as well as the CIC and its successors. They invented the concepts 'flying disc' and 'ufo' and also the ETH. They collected reports of thousands of sightings and wrote analyses and developed methodologies regarding the subject and the data collected.

    I won't refer to those named in your article, but in general:

    There have been some researchers (I won't call them 'ufologists") who have taken notice. It is ignored by ufologists or, due to conspiratorial paranoia, dismissed out of hand or held in deep suspicion.

    Ufology is susceptible to psuedoscientific bottom-feeding, for example...

    Some time back, here on Iconoclasts, we discussed the Stephens and Gray case from 1975. I think it was Bruce and I who recognized the witness was either poisoned or drugged. I can't recall...was if four or six MUFON types who investigated? What was their interpretation? Something to do with 'Psi' and 'ESP' (for the bored teenagers, in 1975 those were the new ideas a new generation came up with in place of the old fogey nuts 'n bolts) and arrange for the witness to be hypnotized by a bat-shit insane (I am not exaggerating) hypnotist. Any 'high strangeness' in that case was what others would call a 'dysfunctional family environment'.

    The generalization of 'ufo' to any and all seeming oddity on earth or above (at least if you could pop a craft into it somewhere), the lack of intellectual discretion, and plain life experience, and common sense explains a lot about ufology.

    If I had to choose between the professional writers and ufologists, the writers win hands down (even Palmer). But I'd rather read the USAF because, at least with it, there are good odds of reading primary documents.

    "UfO mavens" shoud at least understand Use-Mention:


    And so should the skeptics.



    By Blogger Don, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • Thanks, Don, you put the topic in proper perspective, as usual.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • Is any of this surprising though, when Annie Jacobsen can write a bestseller - 'Area 51' and get on C-Span to be asked softball questions from reporters. She appears to be peddling at best some truth mixed with tall tales and at worst disinformation.

    Recently I've found some fascinating old videos (early-mid 1990s)that are posted on Youtube of the late Karla Turner, who, as some here may know, was a self-described "abductee" and also an investigator and writer on the subject of ufos, 'aliens' and the abduction syndrome. I found what she had to say on these videos (filmed at ufo conferences) well-spoken, cogent and carefully thought out. Her personal experiences and those of the people she investigated were dark, troubling and complex. How sad that she died relatively young (48) from a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer.

    It's been years since I read her books but I think I'm going to go looking for them in my downstairs library and re-read them.

    ~ Susan Brown

    By Blogger Brownie, at Monday, April 23, 2012  

  • What really is the definition of “Ufology” anyway? The word has been pulled and stretched in so many directions to fit so many pet theories and beliefs it’s now a meaningless term. Ufology is a trash bag stuffed with saucers, cigars, triangles, ancient gods, stationery lights in the sky, orbs, chupacabras, Grays, Reptilians, back-engineering, alien abductions, rods, government-alien conspiracies, alien-human hybridization, religious visions, underground bases, tulpas, PSI-Ops, crypto-terrestrials, inter-dimensional beings, space brothers, time travelers, Area 51, demons, angels, fireballs, tricksters, USOs, Bigfoot, etc., etc.

    Face it, absent any irrefutable publicly available tangible evidence (which we still don’t have) everything is on the table for discussion. Nobody’s right; nobody’s wrong. We either like and agree with someone’s opinion or we don’t. Without hard evidence to back up our speculations, every one of us is just blowing smoke.

    By Blogger purrlgurrl, at Tuesday, April 24, 2012  

  • Purrl:

    Even hard evidence would not necessarily suffice. Given time it would, but only after extensive analysis by scientists. It is conceivable that one day UFOs may get acceptance from the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society, but I do not envisage that coming soon. It will take an awful lot to really turn the tables, maybe centuries in the future.

    The little 'hard evidence' we have (or had) has disintegrated into nothing, so far. All those photos, videos, abductions and crashes, and what have they have produced? Zilch. Amazing.

    But of course the 'authorities' have it all hushed up. Of course.

    By Blogger cda, at Tuesday, April 24, 2012  

  • cda writes [....]

    As if there really is something to all this "UFO" nonsense. [LOL]

    He's so funny, knowing the "UFO" delusion is history already.

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Wednesday, April 25, 2012  

  • Zoamchomsky:

    I once asked you if you had ever visited the little village of Portmeirion in North Wales. Just in case you are still wondering what the point of it was, I can now give the answer.

    Your photo reminds me of a certain TV actor of the 1970s & 1980s. One Patrick McGoohan I believe. He once did a TV series filmed in that same village, the series being called [look it up in Wikipedia]. Dangerous guy he was. Mr. 'Danger Man'.

    Ufology is a highly dangerous subject, not to be left in the hands of the ET fantasists, pontificators, religious fanatics, or conspiracists.

    I seriously doubt the 'UFO delusion' is history. Those persons referred to in the above paragraph will ensure it lives on indefinitely.

    Here's to ufology's future.

    By Blogger cda, at Wednesday, April 25, 2012  

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