ABOVE AND BEYOND By Paul Kimball

“Ufology’s Two Biggest Problems - The Condon Effect & Roswellism” For over three decades, the subject of UFOs has been pushed to the fringe of polite conversation because of two separate, but in many respects similar, problems – what I have called “The Condon Effect”, and what I have called “Roswellism”. One is an attack on the seriousness of the subject from outside, and one is a self-inflicted wound. Dr. Edward U. Condon was a distinguished scientist, a pioneer in quantum mechanics, the director of the National Bureau of Standards, the president of the American Physical Society, and a professor of physics at the University of Colorado. It is in this latter post where his claim to ufological infamy rests. The Condon Report, which was the result of a two-year “scientific” study of the UFO phenomenon commissioned by the United States Air Force (known formally as The University of Colorado UFO Project), was released in 1968. Condon was the director. Virtually from the beginning, critics (including some of the committee’s members) charged that Condon and coordinator Robert Low were biased. When the report came out, in concluded that there were prosaic explanations for all UFO cases, and that there was no evidence to support the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. The Air Force, the American media (in general), and the scientific community (again, in general), accepted the report as the definitive word on the subject. Project Blue Book was terminated shortly after its release. Prominent critics such as Dr. Peter Sturrock, Dr. James E. McDonald, Stanton Friedman, and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, have all correctly noted that the report’s conclusions – which were authored by Condon himself – were sharply at variance with the evidence (Condon did not investigate any of the cases himself), which showed that 30% of the cases studied were classed as “unknowns,” higher even than earlier Air Force studies. As Sturrock wrote, “This report has clouded all attempts at legitimate UFO research since its release.” Little has changed in the almost four decades since the Report was released, as governments, the media, and many in the scientific community still cite it as proof that UFOs are not worth serious study. The Condon Report represents everything that science should not be, and irrevocably tarnished the reputation, for those aware of the facts, of a man who might otherwise have been viewed as one of the great American scientists of the 20th century. The damage it did to the serious study of the UFO phenomenon was incalculable.

Consider the following two exchanges in the Canadian House of Commons. The first occurred on Fenruary 6, 1969, shortly after the Condon Report had been released. The Hon. Barry Mather, an NDP M.P. from New Westminster, put forward a motion that all materials relating to the investigation of the Stephen Michalak case be made available (various M.P.s had been asking questions about the Michalak case, which had been under investigation by a number of government agencies, including the Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for some time - the matter had been tabled each time). In the course of his speech, Mather stated: "I believe that in the field of unidentified flying objects the Canadian government does not show enough serious concern... there is no real or active interest by [the National Research Council] in the very large and conceivably important area of u.f.o. information. This government agency is out of tune with the desire for more knowledge in this new field by a great many serious-minded North Americans. It is estimated that no less than five million Americans now claim they have seen u.f.o.'s, and the United States government recently received a detailed report by a special body which spent some years and half a million dollars to investigate alleged sightings." Proving that he was perhaps brighter than your average M.P. is thought to be by most Canadians, Mather continued: "The fact that the [Condon] report was of the opinion, in brief, that there was nothing to the stories and reports of u.f.o. incidents immediately aroused criticism by a number of scientifically oriented groups who are or appear to be very well informed to the contrary. At any rate, I believe that in Canada we should have a more tangible policy regarding u.f.o. investigations. I think the government should table all information available pro and con about these phenomena." Then Mather said something extraordinary (about as close as a Member of Parliament ever got to supporting the ETH): "I think we should also consider that our own little earth is now sending out flying objects, and if life exists on other planets the flying objects which the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. are sending into space may very well appear to that form of life to be unidentified flying objects." He concluded by quoting, among others: (a) UK Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding: "The existence of these machines is evident and I have accepted them absolutely."

(b) Dr. James McDonald: "... the hypothesis that these u.f.o.'s are extra-terrestrial surveillance... I regard as most likely." (c) and Dr. J. Allen Hynek: "... at first, without any question at all, I thought it was stuff and nonsense, but not any more." Heady stuff. Serious stuff. The government's response? They tabled the majority of the Michalak information (some was withheld on the reasonable basis of confidentiality), which was the point of the question. But, on the more general subject of UFOs, the Hon. Yves Forest, Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Privy Council, stated: "The hon. member... is not an expert in the matter of flying saucers and I think I could say so myself." Speaking of experts, however, Forest continued: "The hon. member... mentioned a report recently published in the United States, which does not give much credit to the statements of alleged witnesses. I do not think the government will establish a royal commission on that matter." Loosely translated? Forest to Mather: "Hey, neither of us is an expert - the real experts were the guys who wrote the Condon Report, which has pretty much wrapped things up, so we have no interest" -although he did offer that he was "sure the Department of National Defence and the [National] Research Council of Canada carry out routine investigations about those who claim having seen, in the skies over Canada, unidentified flying objects." [Emphasis added] [All of this can be found in the House of Commons Debates. Official Report, First Session Twenty Eight Parliament, 17 Elizabeth II, Volume V, 1969, pp. 5234 - 5236] And that, as they say, was that – almost. The subject of Unidentified Flying Objects has not been broached in the House of Commons since 1969, with one exception that proves

the "Condon Effect" rule, and which put an exclamation mark on the answer Forest gave in 1969. In 1975, the Hon. Dr. Bruce Halladay, the Progressive Conservative M.P. for Oxford, asked: "1. Did the Canada Council award $6,000 to study Canadian reports of Unidentified Flying Objects and, if so, was the Council aware that the United States Government spent over half a million dollars between 1966 and 1968 to have competent scientists conduct an intensive study of such reports, including Canadian reports, and that their conclusion was that there was no evidence to warrant any further scientific investigation (the Condon Report)? 2. Did the Council consult with officers of the National Research Council about the advisability of funding such study?" The answer was delivered by the Hon. James Faulkner, the Secretary of State: "I am informed by the Canada Council as follows: 1. Yes. Under the Council's Explorations program, Mr. John B. Musgrave has been awarded $6,000 to catalogue old sightings of strange aerial phenomena as reported in Canadian newspapers, journals and local histories, and to interview people who have witnessed such phenomena, especially prior to 1947. The Council's decision was based on an independent appraisal by four scientifically qualified people who were undoubtedly aware of the Condon Report: the Chairman of the Department of Astronomy in an American University, the Director of the Mutual UFO Network in the United States, a biologist, and the editor of the Canadian U.F.O. Report. 2. No. This was not felt necessary for the following reasons: (a) the candidate has a solid background in the history of science and particularly of astronomy, having studied these subjects at two major United States universities, and is now involved in scientific work while teaching at Athabaska University, Edmonton; (b) the focus of the project is historical rather than scientific." [House of Commons Debates. Official Report: First Session - Thirtieth Parliament, 24 Elizabeth II, Volume V, 1975, p. 4502] Note the following: 1. The question had switched from Mather's "why aren't we looking seriously at the UFO phenomenon," to "why are we spending $6,000 on the subject, when the Condon Report

showed there was no scientific merit to studying UFOs?" 2. The answer was even more telling than the question. It was not a defence of the validity of the serious scientific study of the UFO phenomenon. Instead, Faulkner was pointing out that it was a historical study, not a scientific one. The long and the short of it? The Condon Report had settled the question of the scientific study of UFOs, and that UFOs were now worthy of study only as a historical subject. That is the Condon Effect, and it is still in "effect" today. But that’s only part of the story. Ufologists can’t blame just the Condon Report for their problems, because they have foisted on the study of the phenomenon their own particular brand of stupidity – Roswellism. What is Roswellism, you ask? In broad strokes, it is: 1. The unequivocal acceptance of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ie. UFOs are alien spacecraft) as Fact; 2. The unequivocal acceptance that alien spacecraft crash landed near Roswell in 1947 (and the resulting acceptance that any other crashed flying saucer story may be true); and 3. The unequivocal acceptance that the American government has covered up the truth about 1 and 2 since 1947, in an organized “conspiracy of silence” that represents a “Cosmic Watergate." Prior to the re-discovery of the "Roswell Incident" by Stanton Friedman and others in the 1970s, none of these three propositions was a “given” in ufology. For decades, no serious ufologist gave much credence to crashed flying saucer stories in the wake of the Aztec hoax in the early 1950s. The ETH was one of many competing theories as to what UFOs are – the most prominent, perhaps, but not to the extent that it defined ufology either internally, or in the public mind. Finally, while most agreed that the government had probably been less than completely forthcoming with the truth about what it knew or did not know about the UFO phenomenon, this did not mean an organized conspiracy, nor was it a defining element in the study of the UFO phenomenon. All of that changed in the wake of Roswell. The middle ground, occupied by the sceptical truth seeker, interested in cases other than Roswell, uncertain of the validity of the ETH, dubious about crashed flying saucers and dark government conspiracies, was

marginalized. Roswellism has been the dominant trend within ufology for the past thirty years, and has achieved nothing of substance. It is has been a failure, because it is based on a flawed, unproved set of assumptions, masquerading as facts. It is unscientific. It is a-historical. In short, it is no different than Condon’s methodology. What ufology needs, and has started to get in the past few years, is a “Third Way” (to borrow a term from Tony Blair) between Condon’s un-scientific debunkerism and the true-believer cult of Roswellism. This “Third Way” maintains that: 1. Roswell is but one case. There are many others which provide more compelling evidence that the UFO phenomenon is real, and worthy of serious scientific, historical, journalistic and political attention. 2. Roswell remains unsolved, but is worthy of continued objective investigation until an explanation is finally proved. 3. The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is a plausible explanation for the UFO phenomenon, and is worthy of serious scientific consideration, but remains unproved. Further, other possible explanations, including time travel, extra-dimensional travel, and the prospect that UFOs are terrestrial phenomena and devices of which we may or may not be aware, also deserve study and consideration. 4. The American government has not released all information it has pertaining to the UFO phenomenon; this is not proof, however, of a conspiracy of silence / Cosmic Watergate to keep the “truth” about extraterrestrial visitors / crashes from the public. Of course, this will all seem very wishy-washy to the “True Believers” on both sides. Roswellites will call it a sell-out (to be polite), and those who have bought into Condon’s world-view hook, line and sinker view this “Third Way” as Roswellism-lite. Each side will see it as a defeat of all they hold dear. But this is the only way to find common ground for the vast majority of people who no longer accept either extremist position, and to move the serious study of the UFO phenomenon – in all of its facets - forward as a result. Paul Kimball

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful