Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Will MUFON and CSI take the UFO Best Evidence Challenge?

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Will MUFON and CSI take the UFO Best Evidence Challenge

Put Your Science Where Your Money Is

James Carrion
By James Carrion

      After feeling extremely irritated after watching yet another UFO mockumentary on cable, my frustrated mind began to ponder how long this travesty of truth would endure. I then glanced over at my Facebook feed as it scrolled through the normal litany of paranormal garbage …”Proof that the moon is artificial” …”Russia warns US to reveal the truth about UFOs or it will”… “UFO video is proof positive that we are not alone”, etc. - further putting me into a foul mood.

I thought of taking the mental self-preservation action of simply tuning out these sources…but that made me just more irritated as I realized that UFO information permeates every orifice of our society…social media, cable shows, news radio, email, websites, etc…and trying to avoid all of this noise in my daily life would be next to impossible.

As I enumerated just the cable shows alone that mock truth with their pseudoscientific lineups, I wondered to myself…why aren’t the alleged skeptics raising hell about this poisoning of the American mind? Surely an organization like the Center for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) must be foaming at the mouth with this blatant saturation of the American airwaves with all of this bad UFO information. What does CSI have to say about all of the mockumentary non-history on the History Channel or the unscientific-discovery on the Discovery Channel?

I searched online for the CSI website and oddly enough one of the first results I clicked on lead me to their 2013 IRS nonprofit tax filing form 990. I decided to take a look out of curiosity. The first thing I noticed was that CSI revenue dropped from $2,751,545.00 in 2012 to $1,329,689.00 in 2013 with expenses of $1.9 million remaining the same for each year, meaning that in 2013, CSI experienced a significant net loss of over -$600,000.00.

The world’s largest UFO organization MUFON is also a nonprofit and has to file the same form 990 each year. I found their 2013 tax filing here. Oddly enough, MUFON shows zero revenue for 2012 and $265,309.00 for 2013. Total expenses for 2013 were $288,890.00, meaning a net loss for MUFON that year of -$23,581.00, not as severe as CSI’s loss but not promising either.

I compared the histories of both organizations: CSI (originally known as CSICOP) was established April 30, 1976 and MUFON was established on May 31, 1969, making the UFO organization only seven years older than its skeptical rival. After decades in existence, both organizations appear by all accounting to be walking a precarious financial line.

Comparing the mission statements of each organization, we can see that CSI’s is to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims while MUFON’s is the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity. Both organizations promote themselves as champions of science while at the same time claiming to have impressive lists of consultants/supporters with advanced educational degrees, who are willing to do the work necessary in support of these mission statements.

Two allegedly scientific organizations, one who believes UFOs to be real and the other that believes no such thing, but who in the process of their own style of inquiry end up doing a disservice to science by not working together to settle the UFO question once and for all.

If we can conceive of a spectrum of belief where on one extreme lies the UFO believer who knows UFOs are real, or extraterrestrial, or interdimensional, or your own label here, you will also find that diametrically opposed to the believer on the other extreme is the UFO debunker who knows that UFOs are not “the believer’s label”. What these two extremists share is a sincere belief that they are right; which means their minds are already made up and nothing can dissuade them otherwise. In the middle of these two extremes lies the true skeptic who can be persuaded towards one end of the spectrum or the other by unequivocal scientific evidence.

I will venture that MUFON finds itself closer to the believer extreme than it likes to admit and CSI finds itself closer to the debunker extreme than it likes to admit. So here’s my challenge to MUFON and CSI, both who claim the use of the scientific method in the pursuit of their mission – a publically funded challenge that will pit one against the other – and which will put the winner on a more secure financial footing in the process.

MUFON will present the best UFO evidence ever that it has accumulated in its over 40 year existence that proves UFOs are a real phenomenon that represent something beyond terrestrial technology and the known laws of science. This could be photographic, video, Radar, or physical evidence and should be vetted by MUFON’s academic consultants. CSI will then have the opportunity to employ its own consultants to explain away this best evidence, in the process creating an analytical report that will be presented to a panel of scientist judges – acceptable to both sides as an impartial third party (a jury of peers of sorts) who will declare who the winner of the challenge is. MUFON will win if their best evidence cannot be plausibly explained away by CSI and CSI will win if they can.

The challenge will begin when crowdfunding has reached the $100,000.00 mark. MUFON will have a four month period to present its best evidence and CSI will have a four month period to produce its analytical report. The panel of judges will have two weeks to deliberate before presenting a winner with a check for $100,000.00.

After MUFON and CSI have publicly accepted the challenge I will set up a crowdfunding website for donations at tilt.com. The cool thing about this crowdfunding site is that those who pledge will not be charged unless the $100,000.00 level is first met. So if the whole $100,000.00 cannot be publicly raised than no one loses a dime.

The question is will MUFON and CSI take the UFO Best Evidence Challenge, or will they just pay lip service to their mission statements? The gauntlet has been thrown and I sincerely hope MUFON and CSI pick it up and embrace their raison d'ĂȘtre as nonprofits and more importantly allow the public to see real science at work – not the mockery of science that we are fed by the media machine. In the process may the best science win!

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