Our dear friend and colleague, the Spanish investigator and scholar Vicente-Juan Ballester Olmos has been working seriously with the purpose to clarify his ideas about the UAP subject, and the main positions about it: the existence or not of real unidentified phenomena, and the extraterrestrial or terrestrial origin, or no origin, if the UAP are not a reality at all.
This is not an easy task, but VJBO takes it with care and decision.
We invite you to read it carefully, take notes of the parts that call your attention, use your mind to think about them, and if you want, to produce a comment or comments which will be wellcome and published in this webpage.
Are UFOs a scientific anomaly?
Most rationalist and scientifically inclined UFO researchers have, unknowingly, followed Humphrey’s concept of “anomaly” (a fact or event demanding explanation) and his formal dictum:
…the logical structure of scientific theories and their historical evolution are organized around the identification, clarification and explanation of anomalies.
We find numerous examples of this in astronomy, electricity, optics, or quantum mechanics. Historically, observation of anomalies has led to the building of superior theories, like Newton’s experiments on the elongation of diffracted light, Leverrier’s work on the advance of the perihelion of Mercury, or Yukawa’s discovery of the meson particle. Examples abound.
We, naïve investigators who were for years fed and taught by erroneous textbooks, based on false knowledge about the existence of flying saucers surveilling our planet, thought of UFOs as a single, distinct, classical anomaly, a deviation to current physics. How mistaken we were! (Many are still under the same spell, unable to evolve after decades). If the cause of this phenomenon is understood—we argued—principles of astronautics and celestial mechanics would change. Ufology would become a new Relativity.
That is, until we finally realized that there is no uniqueness in the reported experiences. There does not exist one phenomenon; what we actually verify is an immensely large group of different occurrences—phenomena. Every individual event has its own, specific cause, which is the source of the misidentification. Myriads of them, of all kinds and species, material and immaterial. The only glue that joins this collection of disparate entities (UFO sightings) is an old, fictionalized, literary and cinematographic misconception: pretending (by desire, not by reason) that flying saucer reports, UFOs and UAP obey a one and only cause. This belief is a serious epistemological fallacy.
Is there a systematic resistance to accept new phenomena?
Jerome Clark is one of the more profound thinkers in our field of study. He is a pro-anomaly UFO intellectual that I respect, although we are in opposite—well, different at least—sides of the discussion thread. On March 4, 2008, he submitted a community email message commenting upon an essay published in JSE. It was based on a book reflecting on economic history and trends. The article made a point about how scientists deal with, or fail to deal with, the novel and the unexpected. Clark wrote:
I think there is a way to put into a Darwinian perspective. If you are an antelope, then when you see something that looks enough like a lion you should run…the basic idea [is] that some cognitive process goes on, and it results in action. Like the antelope, we have been wired through selection to pay attention to the ordinary regime because that is what we see most of the time, and if we learn the (probabilistic) rules of the ordinary regime, we will be more likely to survive (and procreate). It works for antelopes, and it works for us. When the antelopes see something they don’t understand (like a Land Rover), they look bewildered. So do we. Taleb [the economist author of the book that stimulated the essay] sees this evolutionary fact in two different ways. First, there is a tendency for us to formulate theories, and probabilities based on theories, working from the ordinary regime that we usually experience. He thinks this has the consequence that we have a built-in bias because the extraordinary regime sometimes manifests itself, but we misunderstand it because we expect the ordinary regime to prevail; so we try to interpret it in terms of the ordinary regime. Secondly, and somewhat perversely, when an event in the extraordinary regime happens, we tend to over-interpret it, falsely thinking that we should somehow incorporate it into our own version of the ordinary regime.
Applying to ufology well-versed arguments used in conventional disciplines is something we all have done in support of our ideas. Furthermore, it looks like scholarship. But it does not always work. I have a contrary vision on these outlooks. To begin with, we develop theories according to the world that surrounds us (data and experience): how could it be otherwise? It does not exclude to create new things, devise new philosophies, built new frameworks. The history of humanity is the history of inventions and of scientific revolutions, always based on‒but improving‒current knowledge. In other words, the ordinary regime has never impeded —it is surpassed, both in social and scientific terms. Let us address the core of the plot.
In the UFO subject, the prime antagonistic concept to the antelope scenario is that after 75 years we still do not have any sustainable physical proof that a “Land Rover” even exists. No compelling tell-tale signs are evinced at all. Moreover, antelope A describes that he saw that Land Rover, yes, but antelope B says he found what we would call a pick-up truck in his pursuit, yet antelope C tells his comrades that he was chased by what we human beings know as a Cadillac, although antelope D swears to God-animal that he observed a 12-wheel truck, while antelope E is convinced that he had in front of him what for us is a Japanese-trade automobile, and that ad infinitum. So, when the local antelope shaman got together the herd to evaluate the real risk of those metallic beasts in their territory, none of them agreed to have seen the same kind of creature. Not only that, but some antelopes also saw definitely that the solid-as-a-rock-lions had children on their backs or around them. However, they were unable to agree on the size, appearance and other features of the infants. Everyone had seen the danger differently. The group’s shaman concluded they were all crazy, or imbecile enough not to recount events correctly.
That is the problem. It is not as simple as to borrow a wise disquisition that can be useful to a foreign academic area. Ufology is another ball game, although we desire to assimilate it to a body of formal, established cognizance, that is, something that violates the current regime of things. This is not the case, although it appears to be.
There is a continuing scholastic and ontological debate on what is the convincing evidence required to emancipate the UFO phenomena from pseudoscience and myth to actual reality. It seems logical to demand that my opponents deliver robust evidence, that is, incontrovertible, verifiable, multiple-testimony, physically supported deeds that defy present-day scientific understanding. This is surely a reasonable request when assessing the extraordinary claim that we are under visitation by beings from far galaxies. And because there is truly no significant proof at hand, we are discussing the sex of angels.
Progress of science is based on proven facts, from elementary particles to planetary rings, to underwater thermals, to new zoological specimens, to archeological findings, you name it. Since 1947, when someone wrongly described that the nine flying objects that Kenneth Arnold saw looked like “flying saucers,” people started to see this precisely, not the bat-like shapes Arnold officially reported. From aerial contrivances and lights in the sky to landings and abductions, our files are inundated with reports of alleged extreme stories, never two equal, none substantiated with, for instance, an extraterrestrial gadget, or an incontrovertible photograph.
The notion held by some colleagues in the “believer” trench that there is a permanent, evil resistance from the current regime to accepting and adopting fresh, original or unwonted exploits and concepts and insights is false. Everyday new discoveries are reported, in psychics, astronomy, geophysics, economy, history, biology, medicine, in all realms of science. Every day, new devices, equipment, and apps are built based on new solutions and developments, used from space exploration to simple domestic use.
In other words, it is patent that even “conservative” science daily accepts new phenomena, mechanisms or laws, provided factual evidence is collected or presented. Let us check another rare phenomenon, ball lightning. It is also a short-lived, infrequent event like UFOs. However, it enjoys an elevated recognition in sciences like atmospheric physics, meteorology and geophysics. To compare UFOs and BL with a metric, we can calculate the ratio of the actual number of papers, articles and reports admitted for publication in scientific journals versus the total number of raw reports.
Science journal publications
Number of actual event reports
The order of magnitude differs dramatically. And this means something. These
two anomalies, equally strange, elusive and unexpected, are treated markedly
different by “official” science. Why? In addition to the seemingly more
objective, neutral and straightforward nature of the evidence for BL phenomena,
in the case of UFOs the unproven, emotionally charged, and media-manipulated model
(e.g., extraterrestrial vehicles exploring the Earth) makes it unacceptable to
science workers. BL reports are passive and non-speculative instead. A
scientist has no trouble in considering the tale of a luminous globe that got
closer to a pond of water and evaporates it, being able to compute the amount
of energy wasted, but finds difficult to investigate the landing of a spacecraft
with aliens that commit rectal rape on abductees, or encounters that caused the observer to develop
In history, there have always been instances of bad science and appalling predictions that time
proved wrong. In ufology, the amount of academics proposing false conclusions (UFOs≈ET)
actually based on observations with trivial origins is ridiculously high, which unfortunately
demonstrates that in this domain blind faith reigns, not a serene, non-committal, technical
reasoning. The typical man/woman of science, at the sight of the standpoint and line of thinking
followed by certain UFO supporters (some of them with excellent academic, military or political
credentials), realizes that the UFO research environment is too biased by beliefs and is
therefore not a legitimate field of study. When academics external to ufology decide to review
the field of the best literature in peer-reviewed UFO journals, and they face a large number of
pages on lots of UFOs around US spacecraft in orbit that are simply debris, or thoroughgoing
analysis of a UFO photograph representing nothing but a frisbee, then discouragement and
embarrassment is rapidly imposed. Spoiled talent and failed science abound in ufology.
I do not demand‒for the acceptance that UFOs represent a discovery for science‒higher standards than those applied to other unusual phenomena. I am trying to understand why “ufology” is rejected, when the Academia has finally accepted other rare phenomena. Science advances with the concourse of trained but heterogeneous persons with different mindsets and ideologies, placed in different countries with different views of Nature and the world we live in. However, over seven decades from 1947, there seems to be a tacit agreement in the rejection of UFOs as a totally new phenomenon (deployed in the biosphere, mind-seated, or the indication of extraterrestrial intelligent life), which is almost an unprecedented event in history. Why don’t the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian Academy, the Russian Academy, or the Chilean Academy, for example, raise their voices to show that their home scientists are eligible for the Nobel Prize because they have the proof that UFOs exist as a geophysical phenomenon, or as a form of atmospheric electricity, or as a psychological disorder, or as visitors from deep space? Not at all. As far as UFOs are concerned, all over the world and for a couple of generations of scientists, there is a widespread disregard.
The trouble is: from the very
beginning, a tag or label of high significance (cosmic arrivals) was attached
to UFO observations well before any “evidence” was at hand, and it
created the problem because it added sentiments that have no place in a
scientific endeavor. The popular “solution” (vessels coming from outer space) was
planted by the press and swallowed by the citizenry long before the Academia
studied it. This is a most serious difficulty, coupled by the fact that it is a
kind of affair where “the media [has a] vested interest in
keeping the topic in the public eye”
which alters the public sensitivity on the topic.
There is another side to the question. All over the globe, the national Air Forces, which initially were responsible for handling UFO reports on apparent violations of their air space, have finally abandoned and dismissed the subject as a matter of potential intelligence, defense, or technology value. No country with large UFO files has ever reported anything of great value, unable to cope. On the contrary, as a common stand (no interference to air safety, or to national security, they stated), they have declassified their documents and placed them in the public domain for all the curious to consult.
The establishment in July 2022 of an office for the resolution of all-domain anomalies in the US Department of Defense (AARO), truly shows the lobbyist influence performed by a number of intelligence, military and politicians, backed by ufologists of the hardcore line. An effort that in a number of years and after having wasted many millions of taxpayers’ dollars, will conclude that UAP‒the new name for old UFOs and even older flying saucers‒are not a national security, air safety, or military concern.
I believe it calls for a new strategy. A radical one. I have proposed it at the October 2022 CAIPAN-2 conference organized by GEIPAN (the UAP center of the National Centre for Space Studies). Applied directly to GEIPAN UAP research, I recommended that a committee of experts and academics unrelated to prior UAP knowledge and selected for a skeptical stand on the issue, should concentrate on any potentially irreducible UAP experiences. No more consultants sympathetic to unknown or alien UAP.
The paradox is that the powerful US DoD cavalry is presently focusing on airborne UAP sightings from advanced aircraft coinciding with military exercises or over critical zones (certainly aircraft, balloons, drones, even birds spuriously detected by the newest systems installed), when there are in the USAF UFO records for 1947-1970 thousands of citizens that would be glad to testify that they have indeed observed the landing of flying saucers and their crews! (Mostly work for psychologists.) Again, we are starting from zero and reinventing the wheel. What can we expect from the current, highest-level AARO program? I am convinced that they will collect no Stranger Things than we ufologists have been collecting for decades. So, no outstanding conclusions will be reached even if they are negligent enough to find mundane explanations to ambiguous aerial footage.
Genuine scientists are always willing to explore mysteries and enigmas, this has been the impulse of researchers throughout history, understanding prodigies, no matter if their data initially did not fit in any pre-established niche. Coming back to my correspondence with Jerry Clark, he affirmed that “no good scientific case against UFOs as such has ever been made; UFOs have simply been dismissed ex cathedra or anecdotally.” I am afraid I disagree. The case of ball lightning exemplifies the opposite. And, again, the issue of the charge of the proof arises once more. Have I to prove that aliens do not ride flying saucers to frighten surprised farmers, or have the believer to contribute evidence that aliens are visiting us?
The arch-question is: do UFOs exist? How to summarize a life dedicated to studying the phenomenon with a short and simple answer? Well, I will say yes, but with reservations. Provided by UFO we understand phenomena or objects that appear in the air or in the ground that the observer does not know how to explain, then of course there are as many kinds of UFOs as there are examples of stimuli that people ignore, since the vast majority of the lights or objects seen moving in the air deceive the observers because they do not know or do not expect to see a weather balloon, a fireball, the condensation trail of an airplane, a space reentry, a star or a planet, a missile, natural phenomena, etc., especially if observed under atmospheric conditions that alter their appearance.
Once we have discarded the “toxic” observations, a few events that seem genuinely strange remain in the filter. These are the phenomena that the expert cannot identify. Is it because they are exceptional indeed, or because, as we don't have the precise data about them, they cannot be properly probed? I support the second assumption.
But what is the nature of these reports of unusual content? Do they present truly abnormal, inexplicable characteristics? Do they show common elements with each other? Like all the phenomena of the universe, do they generate laws and models? The answer is no. Or, at least, none have been found to date. The data ensemble is chaotic—that’s a fact. There is heuristics in ufology. There is no consistency in information and that suggests its interpretation in sociological terms.
The evidence that exists for flying objects with extraordinary capabilities is nil, or (let us be generous) scant, at the maximum. If several pilots saw an unrecognized flying object at the same time, while it is detected by ground and on-board radar, and even seen from the ground, showing objectively exotic (not simply anomalous) morphology or dynamics there would be incontestable proof of the reality of a newfangled phenomenon. But when a pilot notices the presence of a supposed UFO, the radar does not pick it up and there are no additional or independent witnesses, or if there is a radar signature, but no visual corroboration exists when a fighter is launched on a scramble mission to locate it, this is not sufficient evidence.
In the real world, a massive testimony for an event (the sighting of a stranded whale, an eclipse, a power outage, a hailstorm, or a thousand other things) is synonymous to certainty and conclusive. When it comes to UFOs, when thousands of people attend an unusual-looking observation, it guarantees that there is a logical and conventional justification for the incident: when it is not a meteoroid or a bright planet, it is the flight of a weather or research balloon, the launch of a missile, the reentry of a rocket or artificial satellite, the result of a test in the upper atmosphere, or other examples of scientific or defense technology.
What should be the work of the ufologist? Do a public service. Study the reports of confused, surprised and even frightened citizens, eyewitnesses of phenomena they cannot rationalize, and give them a plausible and probable answer. And, in this process, if unclassifiable events do persist, retain them for comparison with other similar ones in order to look for repetitive patterns or establishing general principles that can confirm the substantivity of an anomaly. This has been attempted during decades to no avail.
If cases of this kind persist, the scholar has homework to do and in spite of the infinitesimal hope of discovering a new phenomenon for science. And there are examples of episodes of enormous strangeness, like the alleged “close encounters” with spacecraft and crew humanoids, even stories of abductions by aliens. The dilemma is that when the qualification of the observer is not poor, there is (mainly) only one witness, or he or she is not reliable. Or they are cases never or miserably investigated. In my view, these weirdest cases are to be held in quarantine. There is much empirical experience showing that such "extraordinary" events finally are clarified and solved, after arduous investigation disclosing their natural origin or the falseness of the claims. Efforts to analyze the reliability of storytellers of such claims are vigorously recommended.
Positive statements like “extraterrestrial UFOs exist” must be unfailingly proven, otherwise they do not differ from faith, since statements in the negative are impossible to prove. As is blatantly evident, the burden of proof is upon the proponent. Linked to that is the ontological principle of the identity of what is indiscernible. Applied to UFO study, this means that if UFOs and IFOs (UAP and IAP) look and behave the same, that is, share the same properties, then they are the same phenomenon. Or phenomena, as there are thousands of mundane and natural objects to produce visual mistakes.
UFO activists vs detractors
The weight of one’s credibility in this debate is a basic consideration. In the NICAPresearch forum list, hardcore ufologist Francis Ridge once described as “weird skeptics” those opposing UFO (alien) beliefs and quoted a member of the Society for Planetary SETI Research recommending a paper on “pseudo skepticism,” defined as a form of scientific misconduct. Before continuing, let us indicate that the SPSR is a society promoting the existence of mysterious artifacts on the Moon and Mars, thus suggesting their artificial origin.
The publication in question was authored by a philosopher of the Free University of Brussels. And, yes, it is a very good paper, because‒contrary to its own authors’ motivation‒it shows exactly the tell-tale signs by which credulity and blind faith is recognized: ad hominem attacks, vitriolic tone, non-specific comments, absence of proof, false metaphors, contradiction with basic principles of science, and straight to the media. I challenged that list’s members to compare writings from skeptics and from believers to see which group was much more prone to follow the seven attributes raised by Marcoen Cabbolet. Who is he, by the way? Cabbolet is a dissident scientist proposing alternative physics and may talk from resentment towards the mainstream academia, which turns its back on him. He may be quite right in highlighting these principles, but these are not the principles of the pseudo skeptics but the principles of proponents of weird theories responding to his critics.
By the way, someone in that forum claimed that the term “believer” I had used in my exchange was a pejorative noun. Not in my opinion. It is simply descriptive. In fact, if one skeptic is a disbeliever, then the opposite is a believer. Anyway, that correspondent’s response equated skeptic to debunker. Now that is really insulting. The problem here is that most believer ufologists maintain they are simply open-minded to UFO reality, not faith-based believers, but this is untrue. Their degree of belief is obvious in (a) their articles, and (b) the way they contradict the true skeptics.
Attempting to maintain an educated discussion I replied in diplomatic terms:
Probably semantics, but skeptic, incredulous, agnostic or disbeliever mean very similar states of mind. If we speak of the alien origin of UFOs, the contrary term would be believer. Debunking is discrediting, a diligent action against a belief, and it has nothing to do with non- believing in something. Most UFO/alien skeptics are not debunkers. The same in the believers’ side, most of them are not propagandists.
What are my current thoughts in this regard? Let us review the debate in certain detail. In the process of scrutinizing the UFO affair (sighting reports, history, social effects, media involvement, cultural impact, etc.), people end by reaching a conception of what the phenomenon is. About its nature. Generally speaking, two opposite fronts open: UFOs exist and UFOs do not exist. But the problem is not as simple as that. Because the character of its existence varies. In general, there are two major viewpoints within the UFOs EXIST category: there are soft believers who think that there is a sufficient quota of explained observations to suggest that UFOs are a form of phenomenon unknown to present scientific intelligence, with an undetermined origin (a still undiscovered atmospheric anomaly such as the Sprites, or original optical effects such as the Crown Flash, for example). In the spectrum of credence, we can call it a restrained or prudent position. But a definite conclusion after all. One that maintains that UFOs show and occur in the physical world as entities distinct to man-made objects, Nature’s phenomena, or psychological experiences. They are convinced that some UFOs are unexplainable but do not go beyond that affirmation.
Others, to be honest, most of the ufologists and enthusiasts who investigate UFO cases, are members of UFO organizations, buy lots of UFO books, attend UFO conferences, consume TV channels’ wild UFO documentaries, or make pilgrimages to Roswell today, and they hold the notion that UFOs are authentic spacecraft from other galaxies piloted by aliens who land, take samples (rocks, plants and animals), talk to scared witnesses, abduct observers, etc. This represents a radical position to be taken when confronting this set of reports. This is a popular view amongst Americans, according to recent opinion polls. It is the hard believer.
In spite of my sharp disagreement with them, I use of the term UFO believer with profound respect, usually being persons who hold a firm conviction sustained by years of serious study).
What about the NOT EXIST front? In order not to get lost in phraseology, in this field of study, the skeptic is the one who is confidently conscious of the non-existence of extraterrestrial UFOs and that UFOs are a mix of a multitude of trivial objects, advanced aircraft and other flying devices, astronomical stimuli, Earth phenomena, psychological episodes, fakes and hoaxes. Never an a priori disbelief, UFO skepticism follows a deductive approach based on a highest probability that something is untrue or unequal (UFOs as anomalies or aliens in nature). It is a rational extrapolation from a large array of solved cases everywhere. Admittedly, there is no absolute certitude in this position, because you cannot investigate and explain all CE incidents, for example, but the absurd, the clutter and the lack of a UFO system in the mass of claims guides one to infer: UFOs do not exceed the range of familiar objects, sky phenomena or human experiences. At the end of the day, the burden of proof lies with the proponents of a new phenomenon. Skeptics propose that there is nothing new under the sun.
The discussion between proponents and critics of claims of the paranormal dates back to the 19th century. In 1978, the well-known sociologist Marcello Truzzi edited the journal Zetetic Scholar, “an independent scientific review of claims of anomalies and the paranormal.” It was a mine of erudition. In the very first issue, Laurent Beauregard wrote as a conclusion to his significant paper:
The problem of balance between skepticism (criticism, inclination to reject) and belief (openness, inclination to accept) remains. This is the problem of the growth of scientific knowledge. And yet, a certain bias against paranormal claims is not necessarily nothing but an irrational prejudice. It may well be that true scientific objectivity in psychic investigations and in UFO research positively requires a negative bias toward the phenomena being studied.
Not wishing to comment (I believe it is a big problem mixing Psi and UFOs, and a mistake equating criticism to closed-mindedness), I just want to highlight that this respected author used skepticism in opposition to belief and, therefore, “believer” in the context of those who admitted the paranormal (UFOs included).
If you are a member‒or a simple voter‒of a political party and discuss issues with opponents, you never withdraw your ideas. If you belong to a religion‒or barely a service attendant‒you are not supposed to abjure your beliefs. If you are a soccer club’s hooligan‒or merely a sport’s follower‒you will not betray your loyalty to the team. Just think of yourself. Like it or not, that’s how life works. In ufology, if you hold the view that UFOs are unexplainable or alien in origin (i.e., believers), you do not accept opposite views from critics, your ideological adversaries. Not only that, but you might call them debunkers, an offensive term implying that they discredit events, methods, and even people. Nevertheless, we skeptics of the alien solution think otherwise. We would love to be proved wrong! Most‒if not all‒of us started UFO investigation by believing in flying saucers. In the course of the years, research and study shifted our initial thoughts towards denial of an absolute unaccountability of an alien origin, due to (1) lack of proof, (2) proportion of ordinary case settlement, and (3) a high rate of hoaxing in close encounters (which is, in turn, the maximum exponent of the UFO “anomaly”). Thus, with that background, if the US DoD’s AARO, NASA, or the AIAA conclude and demonstrate that we are being visited by extraterrestrials, such discovery will be joyfully received by us. Absolutely. In fact, we would like this to happen. But this is only an unreachable dream.
Matter of fact, ufology is a residual matter. The Academy rejects its study, partially by the shameful and abusive commercial and lucrative use that many have made in the treatment of UFO narratives. I maintain that the drama is the monetization of ufology. It is what has led to its loss of prestige because related poor rigor, lack of scruples and exceeding sensationalism, much more than authors credulous or blinded by the belief in extraterrestrials, because the latter can be amended and self-corrected, but the desire or the need of living off the UFO story, cannot.
With a few exceptions, governments, specifically the ministries of defense, which have dealt more or less surreptitiously with the files of UFO sightings since the end of the 1940s, have for many years now closed their cells dedicated to the subject and declassified the reports collected during decades by delivering them to the public domain, disregarding the issue, due to their lack of risk to national security and zero weight from the scientific point of view. Exceptions are France, Chile, Argentina (an identification agency) and now, USA again. Ufology today is a study of visual mistakes, confusions and errors of observation. It is a reverse analysis: moving from an uncertainty to a certainty. And this requires the continued use of the tools of science and technology, as well as the available scientific information. And in the same way that a technician examines astronomical plates in his office and discovers new space objects, the UFO investigator can solve unknowns without having to leave his den with the help of online technology.
Because, contrary to the false assumption repeated by some simple souls, it is not necessary to be in a lost town in the country, and much less wear the vest of Coronel Tapiocca, to find that an enigmatic bright light is resolved as the planet Venus. Nor is it necessary to interview the author of an amazing film to establish that the geometric image is only the result of the misuse of the zoom of the camera. Nor is it necessary to be a psychiatrist to be aware of the evident psychological disturbance that overwhelms those who produce stories of alien abductions. Nor do you need to be Poirot, Maigret, Holmes or Marlowe to know when someone is trying to pull your leg. It's enough to be an experienced investigator and follow common sense.
Probably, at the end of the day, everything will finish as a 20th century mythology with a sociological and anthropological key whose genesis we are living through, with trees preventing us from seeing the forest.
The mystery core of UFO phenomena‒we all know that‒are not peculiar lights seen in the sky but strange-looking, material objects that descend close to a “witness,” on most occasions a single observer. The report does not seem akin to any standard hallucination. As described, the reported crafts do not match with usual man-made aircraft or other state-of-the-art contrivances. No natural phenomena either. A potentially rich idea dictated by Belgian researcher Van Utrecht is a “false memory installed itself into the witness’ mind during a dream.”
False recall as a generator of UFO (non) events has been already explored in the psychology literature.,, If it is not a mental construct, then what other options are left?: an alien spacecraft floating graciously over the ground (with the overwhelming implications it carries along), or a human capacity to tell unreal stories while being self-believed as events that happened in the real world, in the absence of any psychopathology. For the former, not an iota of evidence exists. For the latter, there is no medical definition.
But hold on. It has been proposed that nowadays nobody takes seriously the accounts of flying saucers with portholes, antennae, ladders and occupants anymore. Really? This has been the most important part of UFO belief for decades. If they have been dismissed, what was that based on? I am afraid we have jumped a step in the reasoning chain here. The ET scenario has actually been reinforced by those incidents. Do not get me wrong, I do agree that such accounts are fantasies, but we must propose the mental mechanism that produces them.
For the sake of a scholarly discussion, Martin Shough has suggested a converse possibility, that is, “real experiences so seemingly strange that in distant retrospect or in absence of physical record one toys with the idea that they must have been dreams or fantasies.” Again, the validity of this argument leaks when noticing the disparate portrayal of the “visions” that makes us regard UFO sightings as affairs from another world: from the singular, personal and non-transferable world of the perceiver.
There is an intricate, grey region lying between essential hoax accompanied by further inaccurate recollections and exaggeration, and the plain truth (actual events). Can the creation of UFO close encounters have its origin there?
By its exceptional, distinct and implausible idiosyncrasy, I doubt that there exists a memory of an unreal vision that exclusively wraps up the notion of the extraterrestrial visitation. It connects indissolubly to the flying saucer mythology, which developed in a given time of history within a given cultural and social environment. But if there existed a particular type of hallucination, a temporal fugue colored by the flying saucer idea, that would be a major contribution from psychology to ufology, and to social sciences as well.
My feeling, built from field experience, is that in studying these hardcore cases we place ourselves in the limit of our own competence and ideology: how to assess weird human testimonies and accommodate in our liberal mind that ordinary people can cheat us for nothing?
Willing as I might be to experience grand discoveries in my lifetime related to UFOs, with my own contributions standing, I would accept, in the absence of material proof, a second-level line of evidence, for example, concrete data for a generally admitted descriptive portrait of a typical UFO event, based on statistical Gaussian-peak testimonies. For example (fictitious):
An ellipsoid of 20 m in length, emitting white light in the visible range of the spectrum and electromagnetic radiation in the 30GHz (microwaves) and 300 EHz (ionizing) frequencies, with dynamics that break the laws of inertia, such as the capacity to immobilize in the open air over the ground, flashing bright red light in the acceleration phase, leaving soil traces as concave marks 30 cm in depth with strontium residues, affecting plants through an acute dehydration process and producing tissue damage to living creatures at close range, as well as creating psychological hallucination.
After many thousands of close encounter stories in the world, no such model for the UFO phenomena can be developed. On the contrary, we contemplate an anarchic set of features that significantly suggests that everything is invented by the human mind, under conditions still to be clearly determined by further research. But today's "influencers" (chiefly book, article and TV documentary script writers) seem not to realize this and continue proposing wild scenarios on ultra-dimensions, parallel universes, and the like. Anything except quitting their imaginative conception that there is a unity behind the UFO phenomenon that directs it.
Intellectuals and scholars disagree with each other quite frequently when discussing topics in the frontiers of the mainframe knowledge. I remember reading a piece by Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994), the famous Austrian philosopher of science, an authentic bête noire of strong critical spirit that took him to postulate the “epistemological anarchism.” There he stated:
Science is not a unit, its elements have different strengths and failure is more frequent than success and success is the result of methodological daring, not adherence to a totally obsolete "rationality."
Although I sympathize with the audacity to challenge the canonical book (proved by 50+ years dedicated to UFO study), in the case of UFOs the problem is not a blind, short-sighted, restricted, or censoring methodology. It is the bare data. It is the basic components of the “phenomenon” whose existence is surveyed that are corrupted by default. Unsolved UFO sightings are very rare, mostly old or, if recent, none without alternative readings. Skeptics, who have generally evolved from past believers, have dissented to normalized dogma supporting events with apparent high strangeness, until we discovered that UFOs became “objects of interest”. Thus, this is not a philosophical‒or even worse, ideological‒battle but a mere rationalization of the information. It is not a question of following obsolete or universal rationality schemes, it is exclusively pursuing a path where reason does not collide with irrationality.
Renowned thinkers may have not noted that in the field of UFO study, observation and belief go hand in hand, which is not common in science and technology. The disadvantage of scientists not previously confronted with the UFO subject, is that they can be affected by an intellectual mirage as they are not used to dealing with falsehood. It is this delusional awareness of the mystery of this topic that fictionally elevates its significance, coupled with a certain naivety of scientists who confuse skepticism when applied to UFOs with narrow-mindedness and limited vision. In addition to not properly recognizing the failure of existing databases (over 95% IFOs content), wrong evaluation comes from a freewheeling interpretation of “experts” and writers. You can apply data mining or artificial intelligence but if your base is polluted or is compromised by prosaic, ordinary events, do not expect it to yield extraordinary findings.
More than an anecdote
In a memorable pro-UFO article, French astrophysicist Pierre Guérin (1925-2000) enunciated that
…reductionist explanations [were] only possible at the price of a rejection of a part of the observed facts, those which do not “accord” with established principles.
Re-reading this with current perspective, not 30 but 75 years after Arnold, one meets with what it is, in my understanding, the nucleus of the belief in UFOs as a phenomenon unknown to science: it is credulity. It is a blind faith in what the informants report. Such “facts” are not facts, these are merely claims from supposed eyewitnesses. Here lies the grand divide line whether you believe or not in the fantastic tales only supported by testimony. Guérin, and many scientist-ufologists like him, takes what UFO raconteurs tell at face value and considers it valid observational data, no matter how ludicrous their stories are.
The gradient of acceptance of weird narratives largely increases when said UFO accounts apparently have not been satisfactorily explained. They say they build their pro-alien UFOs reasoning because they have left aside all IFOs, but this is not true. Believers simply are unable to explain many of the most complex-looking cases. But the problem here‒sort of a self-deception‒is that unexplained cases exist because of bad or insufficiently investigated input data (I used to call it bad science). I remember a meeting I had in France in 1973 with Aimé Michel, Claude Poher, Dr. Pierre Guérin and others. In a lunch break, Pierre and I sat together. As a junior, he gave me a lesson on UFO propulsion physics based on the extraordinary photograph taken November 22, 1966 at Willamette Pass, Oregon, by a Ph.D. biochemist. When I expressed my doubts about the document, he called me naïve. In 1993, Dr. Irwim Wieder proved that the picture showed the image of a road’s sign blurred by the motion of the car from where it was made. This is a clear example of the situation. And it can be generalized.
I said the above Guérin piece was memorable because it assessed the three major “models” to interpret UFO visions: the space visitation, the paranormal origin, and the spontaneous waking hallucination. After refuting them, he proposed another solution to the problem, by embarking into paraphysics, “which seems to belong more to magic than to current physics.” Once the ETH is negated as inadequate, he speculates “they” must master “a hyper-physics permitting the use of space-time warps or other processes [he admits] of which we do not have for the moment any idea. No idea in 1979, no idea in 2023. This is the type of proposition that lies in rhetoric, not in science. When one does not dare to admit that alleged UFO events are pointless and absurd by themselves and just the product of mind, the only shortcut is to invent a fancy scenario that can make compatible preposterous accounts and lack of proof. Statements like “an intelligence, which is not our own, directs the UFO’s” are, for me, just literature. Particularly, in the same article Guérin summarizes his thinking as follows:
The UFO phenomenon is not therefore what it appears to be at first sight-even if an extraterrestrial intelligence is controlling it…UFO’s are not space-ships travelling through interstellar space; nonetheless, they present to us in the form of flying machines…Everything takes place as if the Intelligence in question “shows” us landing scenes (utilizing, perhaps, the resources of provoked hallucinations) whose scenario is often inspired by the preoccupations of the witness, his culture and his specialization.
What an alembicated script, a convoluted plot to circumvent and avoid the bare reality: UFOs of the close encounter class come under the reign of the human mind, and the “sightings” do contain features from the claimant’s thoughts, ideas, memories, dreams, information, etc. If this is all that the best scientists involved in UFO study think, then we are irremediably lost in a world of unproven fantasy that has nothing to do with real science. We are entering into unstable, fragile and, above all, completely subjective terrain. We have abandoned analysis, estimates, calculations, values, data. It is now fiction and baseless speculation on an immaterial intelligence that acts and makes us do (“see”) things. How do you refute that?
Looking at the future
Propaganda shapes the citizen’s ideology. This is quite evident in politics. A heavy indoctrination acts as a true brainwashing process, and the people swallow that disinformation. It explains why, in a great nation like America, able to land spacecraft on the Moon and Mars, 61% of republicans believe that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election...only…due to voters’ fraud. The problem is that, when confronted with truthful information versus their flimsy evidence, we find illogical reactions to defend that position like: “Whether it is true or not, their perception is their reality,” as answered by Nevada election denier Mark Kampf (no pun intended, a real name). What? Truth does not matter anymore, just impressions or perceptions?
The same is observed in the perception of TV viewers, book readers, and movie fans, who have been buried by a heavy slab of false documentaries, literature, fiction and documentation convincing them that flying saucers do exist and come from outer space. Most of those people do not have access to thoughtful treatises on the psychosociological model for UFO phenomena and other skeptical refutations, and so would remain fully committed to what they have watched or read.
The only way to dispel that supposed aura of credibility of alien UFOs would be that scientific organizations aired statements clarifying that there are not “UFOs” actually (unexplainable objects or phenomena) but a few historical events that were not resolved, due to poor research techniques or bad background information. And, especially, that no aliens have visited the earth. For a number of reasons, the USAF Blue Book project (1947-1969) and the subsequent Condon Report did not convince hardcore ufologists and after some decades these helpful studies were forgotten by the public.
Nowadays, both the US Department of Defense, NASA and the AIAA are reviewing the UAP issue and analyzing recent sightings. I expect that in a number of years those institutions will conclude that there is not the slightest evidence of alien visitation and, on the contrary, there exists outstanding proof that eyewitnesses confuse things and are wrong in their observations, no matter how strange, anomalous and mysterious they seem.
It is a question of patience.
The author thanks Martin Shough and Steve Roberts for editing and comments.
 Williard C. Humphreys, Anomalies and Scientific Theories (Freeman, Cooper & Co., San Francisco), 1968, p. 12.
 Mikel Aickin, “Inference and Scientific Exploration,” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2007, Volume 21, No. 4, pp. 665-671.
 Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Random House, New York), 2007.
 Paolo Toselli, author of a major catalog of ball lighting reports. Personal communication, August 4, 2022.
 Stanley Singer, “Ball lightning-the scientific effort,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, Vol. 360, 15 January 2002, pp. 5-9.
 George Eberhart, probably the most comprehensive UFO bibliographer in the world. Personal communication, August 4, 2022.
 Dr. Donald Johnson, curator of UFOCAT, the largest existing UFO catalog. Personal communication, August 4, 2022.
 I personally think that this is a very low estimate, a full figure might be even ten times more.
 Dr. Ron Haddow, Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defence Region. Volume 1, Chapter 5, Summary of Study Findings, Item 16 (The Way Ahead). Scientific & Technical Memorandum No. 55/2/00, Defence Intelligence Staff, Ministry of Defence, London, December 2000,
 V.J. Ballester-Olmos, “The Soucoupe Volante Problem: A Radical-Pragmatical Approach,” presentation to GEIPAN’s CAIPAN-2, Toulouse, October 2022, ), https://www.cnes-geipan.fr/fr/node/59754 (scroll down to “Mr. Ballester”.)
 I wonder of those sophisticated monitor systems need to be adapted to the clutter being observed, for which these were not really programmed.
 Jerome Clark, personal communication, March 3, 2008.
 The latest reliable information of “unknowns” in the set of “high quality” UFO sightings in a catalog of 15,000 Canadian UFO reports reduces it to 1.1%. Chris Rutkowski, “Le Canadian UFO Survey: de la recherche sans speculation,” in De l’experience à la science, Yann Vadnais (ed.), GARPAN (Québec, Canada), 2021, page 507.
 Role model is the Argentine Air Force’s CIAE: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/sites/default/files/2018/11/informe_ciae_2022.pdf
 V.J. Ballester-Olmos and Richard W. Heiden (eds.), The Reliability of UFO Witness Testimony (UPIAR, Turin), 2023, in press.
 Francis Ridge, July 10, 2016, NICAP Research.
 Marcoen J.T.F. Cabbolet, “Tell-Tale Signs of Pseudoskepticism (Bogus Skepticism),” https://www.bmartin.cc/dissent/documents/Cabbolet15.pdf
 V.J. Ballester-Olmos, NICAP Research forum list, July 11, 2016.
 “Four in 10 Americans now think some UFOs that people have spotted have been alien spacecraft visiting Earth from other planets or galaxies,” https://news.gallup.com/poll/350096/americans-believe-ufos.aspx
 Unfortunately, it only lasted nine years and eleven issues: http://www.tricksterbook.com/truzzi/ZeteticScholars.html
 Laurent Beauregard, “Skepticism, Science, and the Paranormal,” Zetetic Scholar, Volume 1, Number 1, 1978, pp. 3-10.
 I am afraid‒some of my colleagues will pardon my sincerity‒it conceals a certain sympathy to the extraterrestrial concept, as it is hard to admit that people spends decades of their life pursuing a UFO phenomenon to be a natural phenomenon, a new type of hallucination, or a secret aeronautical device.
 Wim van Utrecht, EuroUFOnet forum list, January 5, 2018.
 Leonard S. Newman and Roy F. Baumeister, “Toward an Explanation of the UFO Abduction Phenomenon: Hypnotic Elaboration, Extraterrestrial Masochism, and Spurious Memories,” Psychological Inquiry, 1996, Vol. 7, No.2, pp. 99-126.
 Susan A. Clancy et al, “Memory Distortion in People Reporting Abduction by Aliens,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2002, Vol. 111, No. 3, pp. 455-461.
 Joshua D. Finkelstein, “The Ψ-Files: A Review of the Psychological Literature Regarding False Memories of Alien Abduction,” The New School Psychology Bulletin, 2017, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 37-44.
 Martin Shough, EuroUFOnet forum list, January 10, 2018.
 1,200 reports collected for Spain and Portugal only, for a population of 0.7% of the globe and a land surface of 0.4% of the planet.
 Paul Feyerabend, “Democratizar el pensamiento,” EL PAÍS (Madrid), December 19, 1991.
 Pierre Guérin, “Thirty Years After Kenneth Arnold: The Situation Regarding UFOs,” Zetetic Scholar #5, 1979, pp. 35-49.
 Irwim Wieder, “The Willamette Pass Oregon UFO Photo Revisited: An Explanation,” Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1993, pp. 173-198, https://www.scientificexploration.org/docs/7/jse_07_2_weider.pdf
 “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” season #9, November 2022.
 Daniel S. Gillmor (ed.), Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., New York), 1969,
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