Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


3.2  Ufology

Flying saucers and their progeny are largely a product of the Space Age. Since we now possess rudimentary spaceflight capability, people ask, could not aliens as well? This kind of reasoning has given added plausibility to the reports that Earth is now being regularly visited by ETs possessing high performance aerial vehicles with remarkable maneuverability (Mach-10 speeds with no sonic booms, right angle turns, vertical takeoff and landing, etc.)

This is not to suggest that the problem of UFOs ("Unidentified Flying Objects") is a new one. Humanity has been seeing strange lights in the sky for thousands of years. In 213 B.C. in Hadria, an "altar" was seen in the sky followed by the appearance of a humanoid in flowing white robes.1673 There were at least a dozen similar sightings during the next two hundred years. In 100 B.C., Pliny observed "a burning shield scattering sparks {as it} ran across the sky at sunset from east to west."720

The phenomena persisted into later times. In Nuremburg in 1561, for example, there reportedly was a mass sighting of flying balls and discs in the neighborhood of the rising sun.1920 The great astronomer Edmund Halley in 1716 apparently saw an object that illuminated the night sky so brightly that it could serve as a reading light for several hours.1673

It is easy to find thousands of "flying saucer" sightings, especially if we are willing to suspend our scholarly scepticism and uncritically accept all such accounts as being factual descriptions of aliens buzzing our planet. Most scientists would agree that there are many peculiar things to be seen in the heavens; it is the modern interpretation, by and large, with which they take issue.

A recent poll of the members of the American Institute of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineers turned up sightings from only 2% of the sample of 1,175 scientists.1919 But popular polls yield different results. In 1966 pollster Gallup found that more than five million Americans claimed to have seen what they believed was a genuine UFO.17 By November, 1973 the number had climbed to fifteen million (fully 11% of the adult population), and for the first time a majority of the American public believed that UFOs were real.1347

The literature in this field1790,1791 is extremely variable in quality, and opinions tend to be highly polarized with little rational debate. Typical books written by "uncritical believers" include those by Leslie and Adamski,1787 Edwards,1639 Lorenzen,1672 Sanderson,632 Keyhoe1623 and Holzer.1858 (In 1974 one "ufologist," Ralph Blum, confidently predicted that "by 1975 the government will release definite proof that extraterrestrials are watching us."1347) Slightly less credulous, perhaps, are Vallee,787,1189,1673 Cohen,331 Hynek,341,597 Saunders and Harkins,1789 McCampbell,1778 and Emmeneker,1640 who present facts somewhat more cautiously while maintaining their devout belief in the mysterious. Finally we have the debunking books written by the "hardened skeptics," such as Menzel,1788 McCrosky and Broeschenstein,1792 Condon,17 Klass,695 and Story.1870


Last updated on 6 December 2008