Who Needs Science or Facts?

No, I have no freaking clue.
Before I begin here today I would like to find out if I am alone on this. Every time I see, the recently retired columnist, Stella Foster I keep waiting for her to say “I am your mother Luke.” I think it’s the helmet hair. Also, just for fun, I now get regular updates on the Maine elections. How could I not? The overriding issue facing voters there is whether or not to elect an 85th level Orc to the US Senate. The election also features my favorite quote ever in a political forum; “I like to stab things and I’m originally from New Jersey, what’s your fucking point?” Thank God the economy’s all fixed and unemployment is below 1% there. Oh …. wait. Anyway not since, anti-masturbation activist, Christine O’Donnell took time out of her day to announce she wasn’t a witch, although many people thought she was a word that rhymed with it, have I been accosted with this many levels of stupid wrapped in scientific bundles.

Derrick Pitts, one of the 50 most influential African-American research scientists in the world, has clearly lost his mind. Which is a shame since, up until now, it was a mighty fine mind. You see, he wants to have real scientists do real research into UFOs.

Nothing kills a career faster than being branded a kook, and in many circles, that’s what you are when you admit you’ve seen a UFO.

The stakes are raised, of course, if we’re talking about academic communities, and even more so among astronomers — people who study the skies.

Many astronomers say there’s nothing of any scientific merit that could result in the study of UFOs.

With the career suicide stakes for astronomers so high, some UFO researchers believe many of them are hesitant to step forward. Certainly, the Air Force’s Project Bluebook — the last officially announced government study of unidentified flying objects — concluded that five percent of the cases investigated could not be immediately explained away.

Nevertheless, one nationally renowned astronomer, Derrick Pitts, tells The Huffington Post that it might be time for a thorough study of unexplained aerial phenomena.

“If you say, ‘Let’s pursue an investigation of UFOs so we can identify where these alien spacecraft are coming from,’ then people go, ‘What? I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole.’ But if you say, ‘Let’s look at what the possibilities are that, at one time, there were environments where life possibly could have developed on Mars,’ then everybody says, ‘Oh, yeah, I want a piece of that,'” said Pitts, senior scientist and chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia.

Pitts, pictured at right, is also a NASA Solar System Ambassador. He told HuffPost about the idea that most serious astronomers give no credence to UFO reports.

“I can speculate about what many astronomers would say if you ask them that question. Many of them would say, ‘I haven’t seen anything, so I can’t say that they exist. I can’t say that this five percent are alien spacecraft.’ But if you ask them in the same breath, ‘Would you be willing to engage in a research project to figure out what these things are,’ I don’t know what that answer would be.

“I’d say, yeah, let’s find out, let’s take a look at it, because here we have a phenomenon that causes a tremendous amount of interest. Why not try to understand what it is?”

A careful look at historical records reveals how astronomers have, indeed, not only endorsed efforts to study the UFO phenomenon, but in many cases, have themselves seen unexplained objects for which they couldn’t account.

In the late 1940s, astronomer — and UFO skeptic — J. Allen Hynek became the scientific consultant to Project Blue Book. During the nearly 20 years that Hynek was charged with explaining away UFO reports, he prepared a “Special Report On Conferences With Astronomers On Unidentified Aerial Objects.”

Included in the study of 45 astronomers was a general feeling that “if they were promised complete anonymity and if they could report their sightings to a group of serious, respected scientists who would regard the problem as a scientific one, then they would be willing to cooperate to the very fullest extent.”

Hynek later went on to coin the phrase, “close encounters of the first, second and third kind,” which described the various types of UFO reports made by people. As the director of the Center for UFO Studies, he was also the technical consultant — with a cameo appearance — in Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

Also in 1977, astrophysicist Peter Sturrock created a survey based on responses of members of the American Astronomical Society concerning UFOs. One respondent wrote: “I find it tough to make a living as an astronomer these days. It would be professionally suicidal to devote significant time to UFOs. However, I am quite interested in your survey.”

A year after Sturrock’s survey, Hynek found himself addressing the United Nations, pictured below, on the topic of continuing global sightings of UFOs.

“If it were not worldwide, I should not be addressing … these representatives from many parts of the world,” Hynek told the UN Special Political Committee in 1978. “There exists a global phenomenon the scope and extent of which is not generally recognized. It is a phenomenon so strange and foreign to our daily terrestrial mode of thought that it is frequently met by ridicule and derision by persons and organizations unacquainted with the facts.

“Yet, the phenomenon persists; it has not faded away as many of us expected it would when, years ago, we regarded it as a passing fad or whimsy. Instead, it has touched on the lives of an increasing number of people around the world.”

Joining Hynek at that milestone UN initiative to try and get the world body to create an internal UFO committee was astronomer Jacques Vallee, portrayed by Francois Truffaut in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

“We are beginning to pay the price for the negative and prejudiced attitude with which our scientific institutions have treated sincere witnesses of UFO phenomena,” Vallee told the U.N. delegates in 1978. “Lack of serious, open-minded research in this field has encouraged these witnesses to think that science was incapable of dealing with the phenomena.

“This attitude has led many people to seek answers outside the rational pursuit of knowledge to which science is dedicated. Only an open exchange of information on the subject could now correct this dangerous trend.”

Vallee closed his remarks at the United Nations, saying, “All the great nations of the world are represented on this committee. Let us keep in mind that the UFO phenomenon may represent an even greater reality. It is our choice to treat it as a threat or as an opportunity for human knowledge.”

Still close in our collective memory are all of the UFO reports that emerged from China in 2010, making almost daily headlines as unexplained lights and objects were seen throughout the country, and in some cases, responsible for airports temporarily closing down until the UFOs left the area.

Wang Sichao, a planetary astronomer at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the UFO reports “refer to events of credible facts backed by observation. But these facts cannot yet be explained by existing scientific knowledge or natural phenomena.”

Wang has investigated UFO sightings in China for four decades and told the Beijing Review why there hasn’t been much progress in available UFO information.

“The reason is that a UFO only appears randomly and often disappears rapidly in a few minutes. By the time large professional telescopes are started up, it has already disappeared. So, we can only rely on information from occasional sightings or encounters by observers,” he explained.

Back in Philadelphia, Pitts suggests what needs to happen to ultimately lend more credibility to people who want to study UFOs and eventually solve the mystery, one way or another.

“There are two ways in which this can happen. The first way is if a UFO lands on the front lawn of the White House — that would take care of all of that right away,” Pitts said.

“Then, the other way is if some legitimate, recognized scientific institution engages in research about these particular objects. And something that would help it is if we change the name of what it is that’s being investigated, because that immediately causes problems.

“If that helps to legitimize the research and makes it acceptable in a way that will bring the strength of others to bear on resolving the questions, then that’s a good thing.”

By the logic above we should also investigate all fairy sightings and hunt down those Orcs that are living in Maine. Regular readers already know why I think that time spent on UFO research would be better served if people showed up in soup kitchens and fed the homeless.

But let’s go over some of the basics again, just for fun.

  • (1) UFO crashes require you to believe that beings could travel billions of miles and then not handle maintaining orbit.
  • (2) Project Blue Book said that 5% of the sightings were truly unidentified, not that they dropped in from Alpha Centauri. They could easily have been unknown atmospheric phenomena.
  • (3) Why would someone travel billions of miles to find life and then ignore it? Or worse, tease it and drive it crazy?
  • (4) If you look at a galactic map you will see that we are pretty far from being in the thick of things. If the galactic center is New York City, we are in Anchorage Alaska. There is not a lot of incentive to come here but, if someone did, they may as well stick around and do some exploring.
  • (5) We have sensors sensitve enough to clearly monitor a world from orbit without needing to enter the atmosphere, why do people think super advanced beings don’t?

You get the idea. It isn’t fairy breath moving the leaves, it’s not storks delivering babies and it’s not aliens hiding in the clouds.

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.

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