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UFOs and the social sciences:

Sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, historians, ... have things to say about the UFO phenomenon. Guess what? It's quite interesting.

David M. Jacobs, Historian:

This is a review of Dr. Richard F. Haines' book "Project Delta: A Study of Multiple UFO," by historian David M. Jacobs, Temple University, Philadephia, USA.

Project Delta: A Study of Multiple UFO

by Richard F. Haines.
Los Altos, CA: L.D.A. Press, 1994, Illus, Index, 250 pp. $9.95.

When Kenneth Arnold spied his UFOs on that fateful day in 1947, he set in motion a controversy that has lasted for over fifty years. The UFO controversy was first played out in the debate over the reality and anomalousness of the sightings of objects. In recent years, the controversy has branched into different areas. Abductees have testified about the phenomenon's goals, motivations, and procedures of the beings inside the objects and added depth and knowledge about the phenomenon. The meaning of the testimony has been hotly contested by opposing groups of researchers. Charlatan "contactees" who allegedly had ongoing contact with benevolent space brothers have proven to be case-studies of the culture's popular reaction to the sightings. They muddied the waters in the 1950s and, much to the UFO research community's relief, disappeared in the 1960s (only to resurface in a New Age and/or spiritual guise in the 1990s). UFO researchers forged ahead developing sighting analyses and discovering the abductions.

Since the early 1980s, the abduction phenomenon has changed much of the direction of UFO research, and it has shifted the debates from the UFO phenomenon's existence to the motivations of the intelligence behind it. Sighting analysis suffered as the abduction controversy changed the content and context of UFO research.

In spite of the change, the sightings of the outside shells of objects have provided the "backbone" of the UFO phenomenon and the primary way that researchers and the public have confronted it. Researchers have attempted to categorize sightings, debunkers have ridiculed them, investigators have scrutinized them, and they have prompted innumerable witnesses to say, "I don't care what you think, I know what I saw." The public history of the American government's tussle with the UFO phenomenon from 1947 to at least 1969 has been based almost completely on sightings and their various characteristics.

Like the governmental efforts, the entire UFO research community organized itself around the study of sightings. Methodologies developed to study the witnesses and record all the data that could possibly be gleaned from the observations. Theories about the meaning of the sightings abounded. The sightings, of course, remained implacable to public pressure. No matter what happened in the society — brinksmanship, war, Nixon, love-ins, hostages, Hinkley, broccoli, Paula Jones — witnesses continued to see UFOs. Sometimes people would see them singly and sometimes they appeared in groups. They reported a narrow range of shapes, colors, and maneuvers. They saw them in day and evening, on radar and visually. They recorded them in photos, tapes, and movies.

It is refreshing to see an established UFO scholar once again working within traditional sighting parameters. UFO flight characteristics have recently occupied the attention of Dr. Richard F. Haines, in Project Delta: A Study of Multiple UFO. Dr. Haines, a retired NASA research scientist, is an acclaimed UFO investigator and has written several serious books on the subject of UFOs. Project Delta is the second of his books studying various sighting cases. The other, Advanced Aerial Devices Reported During the Korean War, appeared in 1990.

In Project Delta, Dr. Haines provides a valuable compendium of 230 known cases of the sightings of multiple UFOs throughout history. He gives the reader descriptions of the events, and adds commentary. Haines creates numerous charts and graphs to help the reader understand the meaning of the data. He matches the sighting cases with what is known about the flight characteristics of terrestrial aircraft and concludes that if his data are to be taken seriously, "the likelihood that earth is being visited by highly advanced aerospace vehicles under 'intelligent' control is very high indeed."

His serious and sober study reminds us that the sighting phenomenon still exists and that solid researchers still track it, analyze it, and try to make sense of it. This is the essence of mainstream UFO research that takes special skills to do well. Dr. Haines once again demonstrates that no area of UFO research is beyond study, and that we can still glean information from older sighting cases.

David M. Jacobs
Department of History
Temple University
Philadephia, PA 19122

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This page was last updated on May 21, 2002.