Breaking Out of the Bubble
by Guest Blogger,
A Review of
The UFO Phenomenon: Should I Believe?
by Dr. Robert Davis
Dr. Davis has taken on an extraordinarily challenging task; outlining the many and disparate elements linked to UFOs and providing a broad perspective on the issues surrounding them. The literature of ufology is vast, but he manages to condense each area into cogent summaries. His writing is clear and concise and he has carefully referenced his sources. A thoughtfully crafted, thoroughly edited product, this book offers some of the background and controversies of each topic from a somewhat neutral and mostly scientific perspective. Dr. Davis is explicit he remains agnostic as to whether currently inexplicable UFO events reveal the activities of a non-human intelligence. Consistent with this stance, he examines the topic in a manner that will provide readers some appreciation for the controversies that plague the field.
One of the most interesting things Dr. Davis does is to combine his overviews with insightful assessments of the situations. Convinced a fundamentally more scientific approach and formally organized governance of the new efforts are the way forward, he offers specific recommendations for future work to improve understanding.
Ufology has fallen far behind the times and bringing new-found information to the fore should be a priority effort. Although farsighted, Dr. Davis failed to escape the bubble that has suffocated ufology. Insular and hostile to criticism this field collapsed into scientific stasis a long time ago. As long as investigators remain reluctant to accept the verdict of data, acknowledge the implications when it is conspicuously absent or even gauge its overall reliability, they will continue circling the same ground endlessly. Unfortunately, Dr. Davis overlooked some critical developments such as the Innocence Project and offers readers scant detail on revolutionary new DNA analysis technologies. These interrelated topics pose a substantial challenge to ufology and failing to address them adequately is a major oversight.
The Innocence Project (1) has upended the justice system completely by using DNA evidence to exonerate persons convicted of serious crimes. These efforts have forced a fundamental reconsideration of the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness testimony. How far can such evidence be trusted? In his book, How UFOs Conquered the World, David Clarke describes experiments which reveal eyewitnesses may produce accounts that differ from actual events (“Purple Lights and March Foolishness” chapter). These findings – relatively new and not-so-new – pose a significant challenge to the field and have never been integrated into the canon of ufology.
A failure to exploit new scientific advances may have contributed to the persistence of hypotheses in an absence of corroborating evidence. The prime example is alien abduction investigation which is now more akin to a literary genre than scientific research. Several investigators have issued specific claims that are potentially verifiable through genetic testing. Uncorroborated accounts of missing pregnancies, breeders, hybrids and more have been published and presented at meetings for years. The means to validate the claims have existed for years and still no one can deliver the genetic evidence or simply provide samples for independent analyses to prove them. Suggesting investigators document the validity of alien hybrid babies is a weak call-to-action that simply ignores the obvious failures and apparent refusals to conduct truly scientific investigations. Alien abduction writers have no incentive to get off the amazing stories treadmill until their books stop selling. Life in a bubble has been good for their business.
Scientific progress hinges on integrating new developments that open up new vistas and opportunities. Scientists and physicians have leaped on new DNA analysis and sequencing technologies to employ them in new situations. The pace of advancement is furious. In contrast, ufology abduction writers have been clinging to the same clearly problematic investigation methods for decades. This sad situation has not been appreciated within ufology although a number of investigators, authors and experiencers including Jack Brewer, Philip Klass, Kevin Randle, Carol Rainey, Jeff Ritzmann, Jim Schnabel, Jeremy Vaeni, Emma Woods and more have published devastating critiques of the methods and conclusions of abduction researchers.
Perhaps the UFO experience is like Plato’s Cave where we play the role of prisoners imputing motivations and deducing ‘facts’ from shadows cast on walls. The ambiguous nature of the phenomena may have enabled the non-human intelligence narrative to endure in an otherwise unsympathetic environment. Ignoring contradictory information and methodological challenges has kept unsubstantiated ideas alive far beyond their scientifically productive lifespans. Dr. Davis has provided some background material and suggested approaches that may help some readers decide if UFOs have any deeper significance. However, the scientific community abandoned UFO study half a century ago and nothing that has come forward since then has altered the consensus. Unless new ideas penetrate and new ways of conducting research take hold, ufology will remain voluntarily imprisoned in a static void.