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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

"Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers."

Bernard Haisch

Another scientist joined UFO research:

Bernard Haisch has this open letter as an introduction to his web site dedicated to the scientific exploration of the UFO phenomenon. The letter is addressed to scientists. It speaks for itself.

Dear Colleagues,

I have been an active professional astronomer since earning my doctorate in 1975. I have published a respectable number of scientific papers in most of the right journals (including our favorites, Science and Nature), have been Principal Investigator on several NASA studies, have served as referee and proposal reviewer for NASA and NSF, belong to half a dozen professional societies, have chaired international conferences, i.e. I've engaged by and large successfully in all the usual activities of a busy professional scientist. For those of you who want the full details, click here for my CV [Dead link now].

During my career I have had the responsibility and privilege as an editor of accepting or rejecting somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand articles in a prestigious astrophysics journal. This does not conclusively prove, but certainly indicates, that I recognize good science when I see it. I have also had the responsibility of accepting or rejecting papers on the UFO phenomenon in a quite different refereed journal, the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE). For 12 years I served as editor of JSE (as an unpaid public service) because I believe that examining evidence that may challenge prevailing scientific dogma is good for science and a necessary part of searching for the truth. The road of discovery may have 99 deadends in the thicket for every new path winding its way up the peak, but that is just how it is. Curiosity and tenacity are equal prerequisites for a scientist... as is an open mind.

I have learned quite a bit about the UFO phenomenon over the years (certainly more than I had bargained for) and have met many of the leading figures, some credible, some deluded. When Prof. Peter Sturrock, a prominent Stanford University plasma physicist, did a survey of the membership of the American Astronomical Society in the 1970s (1), he made an interesting finding: astronomers who spent time reading up on the UFO phenomenon developed more interest in it. If there were nothing to it, you would expect the opposite: lack of credible evidence would cause interest to wane. And the fact of the matter is, there does exist a vast amount of high quality, albeit enigmatic, data. UFO sightings are not limited to farmers in backward rural areas. There are astronomers and pilots and NASA engineers -- and others who have been around the block a few times when it comes to observing natural phenomena -- who have witnessed events for which there is no plausible conventional explanation.

There is another aspect to the UFO phenomenon that involves politics and secrecy rather than observational evidence. Over the years I have gotten to know individuals who for one reason or another would be aware of the existence of black programs and secret projects. From such sources, certain possibilities have made it through my credibility filter and now reside -- like Schroedinger's cat -- in kind of an unresolved mental superposition of quantum states having both the eigenvalues "true" and "false" and no operator around to collapse the wave function. My credibility filter is a function of several parameters such as my own knowledge of physical laws, state of technology and history of its origin, some personal experience with government agencies and security classification systems, but mostly the filter is tuned to the questions: Which people have I learned over the years to be trustworthy, sensible and knowledgeable? How would they be in a position to know the things they do? Why and to what extent would they tell me anything, even based on long-time friendship? Do they have anything to gain by telling stories or making claims? What consistency and convergence is there among various people's claimed information?

I see myself a bit like the kid standing next to the kid looking through the hole in the big tall fence at the baseball game. This means that the closest I am getting to inside information will be a recounting of what is going on in there. I myself am definitely not an insider, but certain contacts I have acquired and/or befriended over a long period of time seem to be on the periphery of some kind of inside which appears to contain at least remarkable information, and apparently more than that. Let me be (somewhat) more specific. I now have three completely independent examples of individuals whom I trust reporting to me that individuals they trust have admitted to handling alien artifacts in "our" possession in the course of secret official duties. (The special access level in the one case for which I know it is R, a not widely known SCI level whose existence was finally verified for me by someone who himself had a very high access level, though short of that one, as being "reserved for someone at the very top." I do not know, however, whether it is specifically reserved or designated for this topic.) It is interesting that from the clandestine intelligence world perspective the scientific community, for all of its technical and theoretical sophistication, is viewed as remarkably naive in certain respects. We scientists tend to think that we know better than anyone else what is possible and what is impossible, and that we of all people could surely not be kept in the dark for very long. Over the course of time I have learned how it would indeed be possible to maintain decades-long secrecy on this topic and why this might be justified, concepts I myself once dismissed (see Black Special Access Programs, also Some Thoughts on Keeping It Secret). My impression is that the justification may be waning at last. (For some insight on the origin of this situation see the book UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History. Vol. 1: 1947-1973 by Richard Dolan; also The Missing Times by Terry Hansen which documents the history of ties between the national media and the intelligence community.)

The above is, of course, short of any kind of proof, but all in all I have now gotten to the point in my exposure to the subject at which I think it somewhat more likely than not that something not merely delusional, but real and important may be going on with regard to the UFO phenomenon. If so, I would like to discover what it is, or what the ensemble of phenomena are if it is a multiplicity of things. My estimation of the probable reality of the subject puts me somewhere between the majority rejectionist view of the mainstream scientific community and the majority accepting view of the general public (depending on how the issue is presented in opinion polls).

I propose that true skepticism is called for today: neither the gullible acceptance of true belief nor the closed-minded rejection of the scoffer masquerading as the skeptic. One should be skeptical of both the believers and the scoffers. The negative claims of pseudo-skeptics who offer facile explanations must themselves be subject to criticism. If a competent witness reports having seen something approaching a steradian in size (as happens) and the scoffer -- who of course was not there -- offers Venus or a high altitude weather balloon as an explanation, the requirement of extraordinary proof for an extraordinary claim falls on the proffered negative claim as well. That kind of approach is also pseudo-science. Moreover just being a scientist confers neither necessary expertise nor sufficient knowledge. (I wish it did, sigh.) Any scientist who has not read a few serious books and articles presenting actual UFO evidence should out of intellectual honesty refrain from making scientific pronouncements. To look at the evidence and go away unconvinced is one thing. To not look at the evidence and be convinced against it nonetheless is another. That is not science. Do your homework!

It is my hope that this website will be a respectable point of entry for any professional scientist interested in educating himself or herself on this controversial but possibly significant topic. However I have neither the time nor the inclination to run an electronic discussion or newsgroup. Naturally I would consider posting relevant and informed commentary, or, better yet, real evidence coming from the ranks of the scientific community. I would respect a request for anonymity with regard to a public posting on this site, but I myself would have to know who you are so as not to be hoaxed or manipulated. In all the scientific papers I have handled as editor I have never compromised the identity of a referee who wished to remain anonymous (the vast majority of referees).

This website is a work in progress. It is certainly no statement of any "truth" but in that regard it is worth keeping in mind something Winston Churchill once said on that topic: "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

Bernard Haisch

Palo Alto, California


(1) Bernard Haisch mentions this study reproduced in my site; scientists see UFO also, but do not like to mention UFOs openly.

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This page was last updated on November 20, 2005.