UFO Phenomena and the Self-Censorship of Science

In the field of UFO research, there is a constant tug-of-war between zealot skeptics and zealot true believers, which like a Punch-and-Judy show distracts public attention from open-minded attempts to address the real issues, since both of these groups have their minds made up in advance.

It is unfortunate that a large proportion of the academic community falls into the category of zealot skeptics, insofar as UFO phenomena are concerned. Although regrettable, this is understandable, since any other attitude endangers the grants on which their livelihood depends, as well as their prestige in the hierarchy’s pecking order.

The treatment Dr. John Mack received from his colleagues and the trustees at Harvard after his book on UFO abductions was published amply illustrates what happens when a previously respected professor investigates a taboo subject and comes up with unconventional conclusions. However, Dr. Mack emerged from the controversy relatively unscathed, when one compares what happened to him with what happened to Dr. James E. McDonald about a quarter of a century earlier.

Dr. James E. McDonald was Senior Physicist of the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona. He thought that the Federal Power Commission was evading the evidence concerning UFO involvement in the total power failure that paralyzed New York on July 13th, 1965, and dared to say so in front of a Congressional committee. His courageous statements on this and other occasions triggered a torrent of derision and abuse, and he was ostentatiously ostracized by his colleagues, in ways reminiscent of the treatment Dr. Mack recently received from his colleagues at Harvard. However, unlike Dr. Mack, Dr. McDonald was shortly thereafter found dead under suspicious circumstances, which to this day have not been satisfactorily elucidated.

Arbitrary denial of the reality of UFO phenomena by the academic community, in spite of the substantial evidence to the contrary which has been surfacing persistently at irregular intervals for the last fifty years, demonstrates a self-censorship that amounts to an abdication of responsibility and is incompatible with the principles on which their work is supposed to be based.

No matter what the subject matter, scientific research is supposed to be carried out impartially, following the trail of truth wherever it may lead, without skewing the results one way or another to make them fit preconceived biases. It should make no difference if the results are unpopular or subject to ridicule by the ignorant who have not bothered to examine the evidence themselves, even if some of the ignorant happen to be in positions of authority that control research grants and advancement in the academic hierarchy.

It is the academic research community which sets the tone for so-called serious media coverage, as well as statements made by government representatives. Because it has systematically deprecated, minimized or denied evidence out of fear of ridicule, for a full half-century adopting an attitude of zealous skepticism, the academic community now bears a large part of the responsibility for the catastrophic present situation, in which the population as a whole must adjust to the shock of acknowledging the reality of the alien presence on this planet, although deeply conditioned for fifty years to dismiss it as a laughing matter, as easily controlled as a television set.

Of course, the decision made in 1953 by the CIA’s Robertson Panel to pursue a policy of systematic ridicule towards civilian UFO reports is also a major factor in the equation. This decision illustrates the extent to which contemporary science is influenced by the military/industrial complex, since that disastrous policy is still being implemented to the present day.

What is the evidence I claim is being arbitrarily denied?

An incident witnessed by a single person is always open to question, and an eyewitness report on its own does not constitute substantial evidence. However, in the investigation of a traffic accident or a crime, if there are multiple witnesses who independently give similar descriptions of the event, their cumulative testimony tends to be taken seriously in a court of law.

If there are literally hundreds or even thousands of witnesses independently giving similar descriptions of an event, the cumulative weight of their testimony becomes overwhelming. Long-term patterns over periods of sever-al decades that include entire populations of towns and cities making similar reports should be considered scientifically as even more decisively significant, no matter what the subject matter.

The exception is the taboo topic of UFO phenomena. There are literally hundreds of examples I could point to, but one incident illustrates particularly well how this taboo operates.

I’ll begin by specifying my sources, which are articles in the following newspapers:

  • Arkansas Gazette, Little Rock, AR, January 23, 1988
  • Arkansas Democrat, Little Rock, AR, January 23, 1988
  • Gazette, Texarkana, TX, January 23 & 24, 1988
  • BEE, Dequeen, AR, January 28, 1988
  • Northwest Arkansas Times, Fayetteville, AR, February 4—8 and March 27, 1988
  • McCurtain County Gazette, Idabel, OK, April 10, 1988

The magnitude and extent of the incidents that began to be reported on January 19, 1988, from Little River County in Arkansas were on a scale that went beyond any other UFO phenomena that occurred in 1988. The incidents clustered around the towns of Foreman and Ashdown in south-west Arkansas, near the Texas border. A few sporadic sightings had occurred in previous months, including a low-altitude sighting of a UFO as large as a football field in November, 1987, but the witnesses did not dare speak out for fear of ridicule.

The local population tends to be quite conservative, and the first witnesses to go public after a UFO chased three women in a car at terrifyingly close range on January 19, 1988, were subjected to persistent harassment and ostracism, until hundreds of citizens began seeing the phenomena simultaneously and its reality became undeniable.

A typical report described

… a ball of light that was as big as a hay wagon at first, but which got smaller when as many as 100 people gathered to look at it. The object changed color from red to green to blue. It was first seen near ground level, then flew high into the sky. It got under the moon and it looked just like a star up there until everyone went away, then it came back down. When it was up off the ground, lights were flashing, and you had to see it to believe it.

Witnesses included a professional astronomer, an Air Force veteran with 1,800 hours of flying time who had been a navigator on a B-52, a science teacher who had been selected as a finalist for the NASA “teacher in space” program, and a design engineer familiar with propulsion systems. Photos were taken that neither the Arkansas Sky Observatory, NORAD [North American Air Defense Command] or NASA were able to give plausible explanations for.

However, Clay Sherrod, the Director of the Arkansas Sky Observatory, succeeded in insulting everyone’s intelligence by maintaining that the extremely mobile metallic objects with multicolored flashing lights being perceived simultaneously by whole crowds of people, hovering at low altitude then suddenly rising straight up at incredible speed, performing maneuvers such as no known aircraft can perform, were either misidentifications of the planet Venus or moonlight reflecting off the bellies of white snow geese flying overhead.

Although newspaper coverage of the incidents ceased on March 27, the incidents continued to occur for approximately one full year well into 1989, without even being mentioned in the local press. They were considered no longer newsworthy, having been persistently disparaged by the authorities and the national news media, which parroted the “planet Venus” and “moonlight reflecting off the bellies of snow geese” explanations made by the Director of the Arkansas Sky Observatory, who was hundreds of miles away from the scene of the action in his office in Little Rock.

Besides the many eyewitness reports of UFO sightings, there have been many cases that involve craft landings, sometimes with physical evidence of landing traces left behind after the craft’s departure. These traces of physical evidence have often been carefully investigated, and once again there are literally hundreds of examples I could point to. However, one specific case is outstanding because of the remarkable way these details were supported by the meticulously conducted research of high-level scientists, which backed up the anecdotal eyewitness reports with hard physical evidence.

Trans-en-Provence is a little village near Avignon in France. The incident took place there at 5:10 P.M. on January 8, 1981. Renato Nicolai, aged 55, a retired mason who had become a farmer, saw a strange aircraft land in his garden, where it remained for about one minute. It then took off and disappeared over the horizon.

Mr. Nicolai thought that it was probably some sort of experimental craft being tried out by the French Air Force. He did not believe in flying saucers. That evening when his wife came home from work, he described to her what he had seen. The next morning she went with him to look at the markings on the ground, then told a neighbor about the incident. The neighbor was frightened and informed the police.

A contingent of the Draguignan police came to Mr. Nicolai’s farm. He described the craft to them as approximately 6 feet in length and 7 1/2 feet in diameter. The color was a dull gray, like that of lead. The shape was flat and circular, bulging slightly above and below. The craft rested on small telescopic legs. There was no light, and no smoke or flames. There was no sound except for a faint whistling. It first appeared at an altitude of about 150 feet, like a mass of stone falling. However, it came down lightly on the ground. He approached it and could see the craft clearly. He had advanced about thirty paces toward it, when it took off at very high speed. When he saw the object from beneath, it was round, and had four port-holes.

The police reported that there was a circular outline about half to three-quarters of an inch deep and 7 1/4 feet in diameter, with skid marks at two places. The site had the appearance of a circular stain, being darker in color than its surroundings. The police collected samples of soil and vegetation along a straight line through the impact site, writing on each sample taken its distance from the impact site.

Upon their return to Draguignan, they transmitted their report and the samples to GEPAN (Group for the Study of Unidentified Aerial and Space Phenomena), which is a branch of CNRS (National Center of Space Research, the French equivalent of NASA).

GEPAN passed the samples on to INRA (National Institute of Agricultural Research) and several other government research institutes for analysis. GEPAN personnel visited the site to take further samples on two other occasions. On June 7, 1983, after two and a half years of analyses, a bulky preliminary report which assembled data from the different laboratories was turned in.

The government scientists attributed the circular outline to a soil fracture caused by the combined action of strong mechanical pressure and a heat of about 600°C, which is about 1100°F. Dr. Bounias, who was the Director of the Biochemical Laboratory at INRA, had personally taken charge of the examination of the plant specimens. He carried out the analyses in the most rigorous fashion possible. First he established samples from plants of the same species (alfalfa), taken at different distances from the point of impact. Then he and his assistants meticulously analyzed the photosynthetic pigments (such as carotene, chlorophyll, and xantophyle), the glucides, the amino acids and other constituents.

He found differences sufficiently important that the statistical significance of the results is irrefutable. Certain substances that were present in the close-range samples were not present in those taken further away, and vice versa. The bio-chemical trauma revealed by examination of the leaves diminished as the distance from the UFO impact site increased. Some of the plants had been dehydrated, but were not burned or carbonized.

The following year control samples were taken from the site, which confirmed the changes made in the vegetation. After completing the analyses, Dr. Bounias made the following formal statement:

“We worked on very young leaves. They all had the anatomic and physiologic characteristics of their age. However, they had the biochemical characteristics of advanced senescence, or old age! This bears no resemblance to anything known to exist on our planet.”

Dr. Bounias refused to speculate about the cause of the strange facts he had established, or to propose any explanation at all for them.

Although neither Dr. Bounias nor the French government have followed through on the implications of this evidence, or proceeded any further with it, at least as far as the general public is concerned, the Trans-en-Provence case remains one of the most strongly substantiated investigations of landing traces in the history of UFO research.

Another aspect of UFO research which involves physical evidence is the crop circles, though there has been much dispute over whether they are caused by UFOs or by human hoaxers. I believe that some are made by UFOs, and some are made by human hoaxers. Other theories have been proposed, but at present these are the only ones that have retained their plausibility, since freak whirlwinds and hypothetical plasma vortices cannot by any stretch of the imagination explain geometrically precise pictograms and other complex symbolic formations.

From 1978 to 1989, the shapes were for the most part simple circles. However, since 1989, the patterns have become more and more intricate, eliminating the possibility that they could be caused by unusual meteorological conditions.

The summer of 1991 was a quantum leap as patterns of rings and circles became true complex pictograms. Straight bars, or boxes, and arcs, both inside and outside of circles, were combined with circles and rings to form complex pictograms. Some pictograms combined more than thirty elements.

Crop circle developments during the summer of 1991 were well described by Michael Chorost in the October 1991 issue of the MUFON [Mutual UFO Network] UFO Journal:

One of the most interesting formations was a representation of the Mandelbrot set, a two-dimensional graph made famous by chaos theory . . . the last two seasons of crop circles have clustered densely in a tiny area containing Europe’s most remarkable ancient constructions: Avebury, Silbury Hill, Windmill Hill, Barbury Castle, Adam’s Grave, the White Horses, and the East and West Kennet Long Barrows. . . . I invite my readers to consider that the mystery of the crop circles is very much like the mystery of the megaliths.

Each consists of compelling geometric forms. No one knows why they were made, nor why they are where they are. Nor do we know how either were made. Perhaps the two mysteries are deeply intertwined. Not that either one “caused” or “inspired” the other, but that the two phenomena somehow “talk” about the same thing, a thing still unknown to us, or “do” a single thing, taken together as a total system. It could be that solving one mystery will automatically solve the other.

Chorost goes on to describe the research results of Marshall Dudley, a systems engineer for Tennelec/Nucleus of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as well as those of Michigan biophysicist Dr. W. C. Levengood.

Dudley detected significant isotope changes in the soil samples from crop circles he had been provided with, and Levengood found that cell pits in plant cells in the affected formations had been subjected to rapid heating that had separated the cell pits. He found this to be true in samples from England, the United States and Canada.

Another major breakthrough was made by Gerald Hawkins, the author of Stonehenge Decoded, who discovered that in eighteen photographs of crop circle formations, there was a repeated pattern of frequency ratios that are equivalent to the diatonic scale (the white keys on a piano). In addition to that finding, he has outlined four new theorems about relationships of triangles to circles to squares that he finds in the crop circle formations, and these theorems do not exist in any known academic text.

That is a very brief condensation of a large amount of highly complex technical research. In light of the fact that there is strong and abundant evidence in support of these results, one would think that the news media would eagerly leap upon so thoroughly substantiated a sensational story, and proclaim it to the world in banner headlines and TV special features.

What actually happened?

The world news media instead leaped eagerly on a flimsy story full of holes: that two British senior citizens had “confessed” to hoaxing the circles with no equipment except some planks. This was triumphantly pro-claimed to the world as the final and definitive solution to the mystery of the crop circles, in spite of the obvious fact that two men with planks can-not produce significant isotope changes in the soil, nor heating so rapid that it separates the cell pits without leaving burn marks on the outside of the plants.

Other obvious impossibilities deliberately ignored were how these two senior citizens had managed to make so many hundreds of circles without having once been detected, or how they managed to make patterns of such precision and size and complexity with planks while working in the dark. All the factual evidence was deliberately ignored in order to convince the public that the mystery of the crop circles had now been at least definitely solved: Doug and Dave did it.

The public was bombarded with ten-second TV shots of Doug and Dave flattening some wheat with some planks, until finally the vast majority was conditioned into accepting this absurdity as the proven explanation. The minority of those who persisted in trying to point out flaws in this explanation was then subjected to scathing ridicule and social ostracism.

Vast numbers of copy-cat imitators followed the example set by Doug and Dave, and have ever since devoted themselves to muddying the water and confusing the research picture, egged on with the full collaboration of the news media, intent on trivializing the subject.

In spite of the sabotage and harassment, the research haltingly continues. An intriguing development that occurred recently in England is that a group of hoaxers busily at work making yet another faked crop formation noticed several balls of light hovering above them, which seemed to be under intelligent control. This frightened them to the point that they abandoned their work and fled from the field. There are now quite a few eye-witness reports of small white discs and grapefruit-sized balls of light seen in the vicinity of the crop formations, and the small white discs have been captured twice on videotape.

Some of the crop formation patterns resemble traditional geometric artwork of indigenous tribal cultures from all over the world so closely as to be identical. Without exception the religious traditions of these indigenous cultures describe contacts with celestial beings in deep antiquity at the time of their tribal origins.

According to researcher Colin Andrews, all but a few of the symbols on the panels from the wreckage in the so-called Roswell film have been clearly and precisely reproduced in the crop circle glyphs.

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