07 August 2020

Why isn't studying UFOs considered to be a real science?

Argentinian Air Force Retired Commodore Rubén Lianza, is the head of the Aerospace Identification Center (CIAE). He wrote originally this article to be published in QUORA, a place on the Internet where you can expose your ideas and be open to comments.

The same happens with this, our web-page. 

He wrote his article "for people who can read English", and so, we reproduce it here like it is.

Obvious to say that we --as UAPSG--  have left behind the acronym UFO, and adopted the concept of Unusual Aerial Phenomena, which we find more appropriate. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that many people dedicated seriously to the subject continue using the designation UFO.

Ufology, meanwhile, has become nearly a bad word, due to the many charlatans and unscrupulous people that exploit the subject to obtain economic benefits, or who pursue to become famous. 

Some people call themselves "investigators", but their approach to the subject is wrong. Either they just interview the witnesses and reproduce their reports in some way --internet, magazines, books, radio or TV programs, congresses-- or they go a step forward and make an effort to find on a case feeble and sometimes ridiculous details trying to demonstrate the "strangeness" of it. In doing so, the unidentified thing is not only that to the original witness, but remains unidentified after the "investigation".  One honestly can ask: what kind of investigation is that?

 A real investigation starts with applying the scientific method, trying to clarify the situation and what was seen, photographed, or video registered. The purpose is to identify that thing or phenomenon that the original witness was unable to identify. 

When you do that, the U of UFO is definitely lost. 

That is what we expect from anyone seriously devoted to the subject, honestly dedicated to investigate, analyze, and come to valid conclusions.

The rest is garbage.

Milton W. Hourcade
UAPSG International Coordinator

I asked myself the same question for decades. Until I got in touch with scientists and learned from them what most amateur “ufologists” do not want to learn. For one thing, they refuse to use the Occam´s Razor principle, which suggests that, at the time of describing an entity (or when investigating its true nature) if you want to make an accurate diagnosis, the chances are far better if you start with the simplest hypothesis and THEN (if better evidence is found), move on to more complex ones. But NOT jumping directly into the most bizarre hypothesis to try to explain something initially unexplained by manipulating evidences to fit your favourite theory.
Another big mistake most “ufologists” make is not being able to recognize the difference between “unexplained” (which is temporary) and “inexplicable” (which means “permanent” meaning that neither them nor anybody else can explain). For science many things are still unexplained, for sure. But history of science has demonstrated that many things considered completely “inexplicable”, were finally explained thanks to effort, dedication, patience and even casualties. For science “paranormal” actually means “normal things that we haven´t quite understood yet”. And I tend to agree with that, since our mind is still very limited. But whoever says “this is inexplicable” means that if he/she could not explain it, then NOBODY ELSE WILL. So, I wonder… which attitude is more arrogant? that of science or that of the investigator who thinks that he/she has all the authority in the world as to lower the hammer like a Judge in court and dictate that this or that is definitely: “inexplicable”?
Carl Sagan and many other serious researchers identified at least five (5) "sins" that ufology has been committing for decades to "self-boycott" the great possibility of being included within conventional science.
It has even been proposed to change the name of ufology to “ufolatry”. For advocates of such a change, ufology is neither a science nor a discipline, but a form of religious faith. This request is based on several points, including an avowed desire that observations be extraterrestrial visits. In this case, ufology is classified by several authors (such as Carl Sagan, as mentioned above) as a PSEUDOSCIENCE for the following reasons (1)
1) IT LACKS THE STUDY SUBJECT: The first problem that is pointed out so that ufology is something more than a collection of stories, lies in lacking an object of study. All sciences mark a determined object of study. Even very broad sciences, such as biology, focus on a specific field of the universe, in the biological case they would be living beings, from bacteria to chordates. Ufology, meanwhile, is based on what has not been determined, what could not be known or identified, that is, it studies EVERYTHING THAT IS NOT. It could be concluded, as Luis Ruiz Noguez does, that what is really analyzed is the small number of cases resistant to physical, aerospace, meteorological, astronomical, psychological explanations, etc. All in all, a world renowned ufologist: Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos (2), states that positive cases do not show a pattern, or several, by which conclusions can be drawn, nor a group of common characteristics. Each “positive” is unique, therefore a science or discipline would be necessary for each of them since there is nothing generic to analyze. If that weren't enough, after several decades of studying the “UFO phenomenon” on his latest work: “An indispensable book yet to be written” (3), Ballester Olmos stated: “I have reached the conviction, sustained by the facts, that there does not exist any material phenomenon in the flow of UFO reports which is new to science, nothing extraordinary or paraphysical has emerged. It is unreal in the physical sense. It only exists as a sociological, anthropological, historical, cultural construct. Physically speaking, UFOs are but a mirage. Seven decades of reports and testimonies and events prove that there are no unidentifiable flying machines, it is a´phenomenon´ devoid of any material proof”. And this could be corroborated overseas as well. The Aerospace Identification Center from Argentina (CIAE), has confirmed the existence of at least 7 different “genres” of causes for all the sighting claims that the public send to them for analysis. All of them can be considered as belonging to some of the fields of modern science: many sightings are generated by biological causes (birds or insects crossing the field of view at the time of shooting the photo); optical causes (external reflections, internal reflections [lens flares], burnt pixels, sensor problems, etc.); astronomical causes (the Moon, Venus, some first magnitude stars); aeronautical causes (aircraft lights at night, Loon balloons, etc.); satellites (Iridium flares, irregular flares from geodetic satellites, etc.); objects willingly or unwillingly launched into the air (helium balloons, soap bubbles, etc); objects tied to the ground (surveillance camera´s LEDs, hanging objects, etc.). We should consider an eighth genre which should be named: "Fakes", but fortunately the CIAE has not received any of them, so far.
2) IT LEAVES THE BURDEN OF PROOF TO OTHERS: In sciences such as the aforementioned biology, whoever claims to have made a discovery should be the one to provide evidence that convinces the community after a peer review. An example may be the discovery of a live coelacanth, an animal that was considered extinct millions of years ago. In this case it was possible to analyze what was left of the specimen and even capture others later. Other times, such as when the okapi was discovered, data were provided that confirmed the discovery, such as the place or date of the observation. Other professionals were able to go and corroborate the existence of a non-cataloged species. In ufology one of the documents that is usually presented as evidence is photographs, but impossible to retake by another person with another camera, because the objects photographed are no longer there, verification is impossible. In addition, no photo of those presented has meant a contribution of knowledge of any kind. Some for being too far away, others for being too blurred, others for being discovered caused by known objects and others for being hoaxes. For several decades there was some logic about the absence of detailed photos. Until the beginning of the 21st century, cameras were bulky and not many people had one, and even fewer took it with them everywhere. In the 1970s, it was said that it had never been possible to record or photograph an airplane or car accident at the time of occur. However, with the proliferation of local televisions and later digital technology, millions or billions of people carry cameras of a certain quality, on mobile phones, everywhere, yet there is no unquestionable proof of extraterrestrial visits. The Group GEIPAN from France (GEIPAN: Le GEIPAN)
and the Aerospace Identification Center from Argentina (Centro de Identificación Aeroespacial )
, are very good examples of agencies utilizing special photo and video analysis software (like IPACO) to sharpen blurred images and re-interpret photos that could be considered by most photographers as being way beyond the limit of interpretation (and exploitation). Many old UFO cases have been reexamined with these new tools and were finally resolved, exactly as it happened with old unresolved crimes, which today can be resolved thanks to the advent of the DNA test techniques.
3) UFOLOGY USES PERSUASIVE RATHER THAN DEMONSTRATIVE ARGUMENTS. Academics like Ricardo Campo show the “fallacy of the residue” as the main of these persuasive arguments. According to this fallacy, there is always a percentage of cases unexplained, these unexplained cases are proof that something mysterious still exists and even beyond the capacity of the human being. This argument has been answered indicating that there is nothing abnormal in the existence of a small percentage of unsolved cases. In any discipline with a sufficient number of investigations, there are always some that have not been clarified for different reasons. There are unexplained crimes and accidents whose causes are not known, which is not a demonstration of the existence of werewolves or any other demonic being. Unfortunately ufologists continue to use (by default) unresolved cases AS PROOF of the presence of alien objects, while actually an unresolved case is an unfinished job, so it does not guarantee an extraordinary cause nor an ordinary one. We do not know what we are talking about untill the object is IDENTIFIED, that is to say, turned from UFO into an IFO regardless if its a terrestrial or alien object. So if it is a Klingon vessel with warp drive capacity, cloaking device and 14 crew members, the Final Report SHOULD READ: “The object is identified as a Klingon vessel with warp drive capacity, cloaking device and 14 crew members”. So it becomes a new IFO. Period.
4) Linked to the previous point, scientists such as Javier Armentia have indicated that UFOLOGY HAS NOT REPORTED NEW KNOWLEDGE. In the event that the ultimate cause was extraterrestrial visits, ufology has not revealed the existence of any exoplanet, nor has it provided any clues to detect any intelligent signal, nor has it made contributions in metallurgy, aeronautics, microelectronics, propulsion ... In the 70s, the company Avro Aircraft investigated whether the saucer shape could offer better air performance than other configurations. The United States resumed the investigation and continued financing the prototypes, but they never came close to the expected capabilities, in addition to being highly unstable. One of the reasons for the scarce contributions of ufology is given by Luis Alfonso Gámez when he indicates that ufological literature has always lagged behind scientific fiction. Thus the messages to preserve the Planet were previously disclosed to those contacted in films such as Ultimatum to Earth, as well as the abductions, which had appeared in magazines decades before the Hills said they had been introduced in a flying saucer.
5) Finally, another objection to ufology lies in the fact that IT DOES NOT SEEK TO OBTAIN NEW KNOWLEDGE, BUT RATHER THE PERSONAL PROFIT OF THE BEST-KNOWN UFOLOGISTS, through the creation of esoteric movements, pronunciation of conferences and income from publications of all kinds. Despite this, skeptical authors such as the aforementioned Gámez make a caveat and recognize that serious ufologists can be found and that they seek to expand knowledge, but generally "the seriousness of a ufologist is inversely proportional to his volume of sales," says the Spanish author. Fernando L. Frías has found that it is not just about spreading unverified stories, it is even about making up stories as a regular and even daily practice.
So, as a final thought, I believe that, same as Astronomy divorced from Astrology in the 17th Century (and also did Chemistry from Alchemy in the 18th Century) some day a new scientific discipline will be born, that will go a separate way from “ufology”. I do not know if it would be named “Ifology” or what.
At least we started by trying: “Aerospace Identification”.
I humbly hope that all these points could, somehow, be of use for to dissipate your doubts.
Best regards.
(subtitle: Ufología Vs Ciencia)
(2) Ballester Olmos, Vicente-Juan (2000). «Ovnis el enigma que nunca existió». Muy especial (Madrid: G+J) (45). ISSN


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