Tuesday, January 26, 2016

UFOs and the muddy middle


There is something that has begun to unsettle me with all things UFO.

Actually there are several things, but I'm focusing on one in particular for the moment. That is that the mode of discourse appears to border on the wholly unproductive. What do I mean?

Well, take Roswell for example. Whether for better or worse, the name of that town is cemented with UFOs in the public consciousness. As such, I sometimes get asked about my opinion on the case. Did a UFO crash there in 1947 and did we recover the wreckage of the craft and the bodies of the crew? My brief response is that I'm in the muddy middle. I'm more willing to argue that something of human origin happened at Roswell. By the same token, I don't think that any of the official explanations we've been given, such as Project Mogul, really make any sense. Whatever happened there, we've never been told the full truth about it.

If past experience is any indication, I would get a fair amount of heat for saying that. It would probably come from both ends of the spectrum.

First, the "space people" True Believers wouldn't be very happy with me. I would likely get the usual accusation of "you just haven't done enough research" and then get a link to an obscure website from the dark corners of the Internet. In terms of Roswell, it might be an interview with a "new witness," who usually turns out to be a friend or a relation of someone who claimed to have been there but is no longer living. If it's another case then I'll typically get a blog where someone has done their own analysis on a photo or some such. So I'll tell them that if the information is really solid evidence, it should have no trouble getting through scientific peer-review. "You're so naive," I've been told in response. "You have no idea how much the government controls that process. In fact, the mere fact you suggest that makes me think that you're a government disinformation agent."

Now that would be a cool job. If that's what I'm doing then I sure hope somebody pays me for it. Like, soon.

The other side of the argument isn't always pleasant either. Ardent skeptics can be condescending, snarky, and as unwilling to engage in productive discourse as their counterparts. You can explain anything, even if you have to refract light from Venus through swamp gas to do it. More importantly, be dismissive as you explain and keep crying "Condon Report." Don't believe the Project Mogul explanation? Then off with you, ignorant cur.
I once read a post from Seth Shostak where he bemoaned the vituperative responses he gets almost daily from UFO proponents. I'm certain he does have quite the full inbox and the ad hominem attacks do little to benefit the reputation of Ufology. But I have also seen Shostak be caustic and derisive towards people in interviews. What you toss out there is what you can expect in return.

It's a perpetual feedback loop. It's polarizing. It's each side growing more entrenched in its own esoteric myopia and we end up getting nowhere. In many ways, it reminds me of the current political climate of the United States.

I can guess what a few of you might be saying. "Is this seriously news to you? Welcome to the Internet, Jon. That's everything these days."

That may be. But that doesn't make it right. If your true intent is to persuade, then you'll be more successful with a softer tone and a willingness to consider another opinion, no matter how much you may disagree with it. This makes me think of the Roman rhetorician, Cicero. He was an amazing writer and speaker. He also was known for his invective nature, which contributed to his ultimate fate, being nailed to a post with his hands and tongue cut off.

So here I am in the muddy middle. I fall on neither of the two polarized sides and therefore earn the enmity of both. As the "big cases" I was once sold on, such as Rendelsham and Barney and Betty Hill, get more knocks in their hulls and just keep sinking, a nimiety of the cases begin to look explainable without any need for extraterrestrials being involved. That being said, I'm still convinced that something beyond our current understanding is going on. What exactly that is I don't know. That is my most honest and forthright answer: I don't know.

But I'm starting to identify more and more with thinkers such as Vallee, Keel, and Tonnies.

I will await the inevitable "They're not credible!!" comment.




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