This message is in response to your April 19 blog post, ‘Abduction and Hypnosis: a Letter from the Past.’ [sic], and particularly your remarks contained in the comments section. While your stance on preferring to remain independent of controversy surrounding hypnosis used as a memory enhancer and the extremely questionable activities of some of its proponents, such as Dr. David Jacobs, is noted, a reasonable argument could be made that a man in your position within ufology is not afforded any such skirting of the issues. This is by no means to suggest that you should be disproportionately criticized for the actions of others, but to moderately point out that a community should expect to look to its leaders for guidance on relevant issues.
In addition to subjecting hypotheses to direct tests, scientists employ a regular regimen of intense introspection. No less important than the basic investigations is the essential activity of critiquing the results and the means to obtain them. Are the data accurate and precise? Was the methodology sound? These questioning processes begin before the first experiment is conducted. Careers, money and prestige may all be on the line, but they all take a back seat to the review processes. In no case would the demands imposed for the responsible conduct of research ever be considered stirring up controversy. The bottom line is simple – scientists question everything, including each other.
A concern over the possible reactions of colleagues and friends for bringing up issues with hypnosis is a clear sign something is amiss. Your choice to edit the comments of Emma Woods and refuse to allow her to specifically name Dr. Jacobs as a controversial figure at your blog is indeed your prerogative. However, it could be interpreted to be much more of the problem than the solution. While reticence to delve into matters requiring legal remedies is both wise and appreciated, the fundamental problems with abduction research itself embodied by extraordinary reliance on a single problematic methodology and exposed by a long running public dispute warrant a broader discussion. Abduction research has imitated some facets of science, but without the underlying and critical procedures to ensure data quality and subject protections. The thin veneer of this faux ‘scientific’ process works well enough to mislead some, but those who know the difference have an obligation to sound the alarm.
While you are entitled to your perspective, an alternative and reasonable stance would be that denying public discussion of relevant issues impedes abduction research while indirectly supporting some perpetrators of unethical acts and adding to their undeserved credibility. Due to your position as a longtime member of the board of directors of the Center for UFO Studies, the UFO community might expect to count on you, as well as your peers and others holding similar positions in UFO organizations, to clarify and resolve relevant issues. Perhaps you will opt for alternative choices in the future, and contribute in more substantial manners to the much needed improvements in leadership within abduction research specifically and ufology in general. Notwithstanding friendships, loyalties and worries over making someone feel bad, it is impossible to have this both ways.
Tyler A. Kokjohn, Ph.D.