Think inside the box
|By Billy Cox|
All indications are that Dr. Jeffrey Bennett is a thoughtful, affable scientist who wants to build bridges between “the UFO community,” whatever that is, and astronomers panning for signs of intelligent life off-world. Indeed, he shows no reluctance to speak at conferences on The Great Taboo, and his 2008 book, Beyond UFOs: The Search for Extraterrestrial Life and Its Astonishing Implications for Our Future, aspires to the higher ground where we “share common interests and common amazement.”
But in the minefield of semantics, the author of textbooks on science, astronomy and statistics still manages to keep that distance intact. As he told a MUFON conference in 2009, “I think we can figure out where that bridge comes in, between UFO research and scientific research. We’re focusing on different areas but we’re looking at the same kind of questions.”
OK, so there’s UFO research. And then there’s scientific research. Got it.
Two weeks ago, Bennett took the same common-ground message to Greensboro, N.C., for the “Symposium on Official and Scientific Investigations of UAP (UFOs).” But it seemed like an odd venue to keep nurturing binary approaches to the same quest. After all, official representatives from two nations that actually conduct formal scientific research on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), France and Chile, were on hand to explain their methodologies. Former NASA scientist Richard Haines discussed documented cases involving radar data, near misses and electromagnetic effects. “To discard UAP evidence only because it does not fit easily or conveniently into the paradigms of science is not only non-scientific but is also stupid and potentially dangerous,” Haines stated before the conference, “leaving us blind to reality.”
De Void emailed Bennett this week about the incongruity. Bennett replied that he “did not get a chance to see any of the other speakers, so I can’t comment on them.” He added, “There’s no doubt that many people have reported phenomena in the sky that do not have easy explanations. But in order to study these scientifically, we need evidence that meets scientific standards, which means something other than eyewitness reports. While I have not investigated any of these reports in detail myself, I very much doubt that there is out there that meets these standards, because if there was, other scientists would have jumped all over it by now.”
Actually, they probably would if funding were available. Leslie Kean’s 2010 bestseller UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record offered a no-BS look at some of the world’s best cases, which provoked endorsements from at least two of Bennett’s peers who enjoy popularizing science. Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku said Kean’s evidence “is bound to set the gold standard for UFO research.” The Franklin Institute’s Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer and planetarium director, lauded the “rock solid objectivity, diligent research, and reports from credible eyewitnesses [that] clearly separate her work from fantastic claims of alien visitation. Perhaps this will, at last, encourage the serious scientific analysis needed to explain this most compelling phenomenon.”
But Bennett remains undeterred. Citing “lots of funding opportunities for scientific study of Earth, the atmosphere, the near-space environment and the prospects of finding extraterrestrial life” among government and private foundations, he says “I’m pretty convinced that the only reason scientists (and governments) are not devoting resources to UFO-type phenomena is that there’s nothing worthy of study. Of course, that doesn’t mean the phenomena aren’t real — it only means we don’t have enough evidence of them to justify a large investment of scientific or financial resources ...
“Bottom line in my opinion: The normal research process already enables these phenomena to be studied if and when there is anything worthy of study,” he writes, “so we should not devote any time or resources to setting this up as some sort of ‘special’ study area outside the normal scientific process.”
So it goes ...
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