Ufology (/jˈfɒləi/ yoo-FOL-ə-jee) is the investigation of unidentified flying objects (UFOs) by people who believe that they may be of extraordinary origins (most frequently of extraterrestrial alien visitors).[1][2] While there are instances of government, private, and fringe science investigations of UFOs, ufology is generally regarded by skeptics and science educators as a canonical example of pseudoscience.

Etymology

Ufology is a neologism derived from UFO (a term apparently coined by Edward J. Ruppelt),[3] and is derived from appending the acronym UFO with the suffix -logy (from the Ancient Greek λογία (logiā)). Early uses of ufology include an article in Fantastic Universe (1957)[4] and a 1958 presentation for the UFO "research organization" The Planetary Center.[5]

Historical background

A Swedish Air Force officer searches for a "ghost rocket" in Lake Kölmjärv, Norrland, Sweden, in July 1946.
A Swedish Air Force officer searches for a "ghost rocket" in Lake Kölmjärv, Norrland, Sweden, in July 1946.

The roots of ufology include the "mystery airships" of the late 1890s, the "foo fighters" reported by Allied airmen during World War II, the "ghost fliers" of Europe and North America during the 1930s, the "ghost rockets" of Scandinavia (mostly Sweden) in 1946, and the Kenneth Arnold "flying saucer" sighting of 1947.[6][7] Media attention to the Arnold sighting helped publicize the concept of flying saucers.[8]

Publicity of UFOs increased after World War II, coinciding with the escalation of the Cold War and strategic concerns related to the development and detection (e.g., the Ground Observer Corps) of advanced Soviet aircraft.[6][9][10] Official, government-sponsored activities in the United States related to ufology ended in the late 1960s following the Condon Committee report and the termination of Project Blue Book.[11] Government-sponsored, UFO-related activities in other countries, including the United Kingdom,[12][13] Canada,[14] Denmark,[15] Italy,[16] and Sweden[17] also ended. An exception to this trend is France, which maintains the GEIPAN[18] program, formerly known as GEPAN (1977–1988) and SEPRA (1988–2004), operated by the French Space Agency CNES.

As a field

Further information: List of ufologists

Status as a pseudoscience

Despite investigations sponsored by governments and private entities, ufology is not embraced by academia as a scientific field of study, and is instead generally considered a pseudoscience by skeptics and science educators,[19] being often included on lists of topics characterized as pseudoscience as either a partial[20] or total[21][22] pseudoscience.[23][24][25][26][27][28] Pseudoscience is a term that classifies arguments that are claimed to exemplify the methods and principles of science, but do not in fact adhere to an appropriate scientific method, lack supporting evidence, plausibility, falsifiability, or otherwise lack scientific status.[29]

Some writers have identified social factors that contribute to the status of ufology as a pseudoscience,[30][31][32] with one study suggesting that "any science doubt surrounding unidentified flying objects and aliens was not primarily due to the ignorance of ufologists about science, but rather a product of the respective research practices of and relations between ufology, the sciences, and government investigative bodies".[31] One study suggests that "the rudimentary standard of science communication attending to the extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) hypothesis for UFOs inhibits public understanding of science, dissuades academic inquiry within the physical and social sciences, and undermines progressive space policy initiatives".[33]

Research

In 2021, astronomer Avi Loeb launched The Galileo Project[34] which intends to collect and report scientific evidence of extraterrestrials or extraterrestrial technology on or near Earth via telescopic observations.[35][36][37][38] In Germany, the University of Würzburg is developing intelligent sensors that can help detect and analyze aerial objects in hopes of applying such technology to UAP.[39][40][41][42] Non-profit groups of researchers like the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU) and UAPx[43][44] are attempting to develop and coordinate the use of standardized equipment to collect potential data.[45][46][47]

According to reports, the partly-public 2022 United States Congress hearings on UFOs after the 2021 UFO report 'Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena' by U.S. intelligence agencies (or the ODNI)[48][49][50][51] and the 2021 authentication of the Pentagon UFO videos[52] may result in the UAP issue being approached more seriously, such as for a scientific public pursuit for answers and an increased interest from scientists. Known ongoing scientific research is conducted by non-profit groups of researchers that use or develop expensive equipment for new high-quality data.[53][54][43] The UFO report called for a systematic, scientific study of UAP, by civilians as well as the military.[41] The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) is systematically aggregating, verifying and evaluating some UFO incidents to some extent in various ways.[55][56] In 2022, NASA announced a nine-month study starting in fall to help establish a road map for investigating UAP – or for reconnaissance of the publicly available data it might use for such research.[57][58][59]

Methodological issues

Although some ufologists (e.g., Peter A. Sturrock) have proposed explicit methodological activities for investigation of UFOs,[60] scientific UFO research is challenged by the facts that the phenomena are spatially and temporally unpredictable, are not reproducible, and lack tangible physicality.[61][62] That most UFO sightings have mundane explanations[63] limits interpretive power of "interesting," extraordinary UFO-related events, with the astronomer Carl Sagan writing: "The reliable cases are uninteresting and the interesting cases are unreliable. Unfortunately there are no cases that are both reliable and interesting."[64]

Josef Allen Hynek (left) and Jacques Vallée
Josef Allen Hynek (left) and Jacques Vallée

The ufologists J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallée have each developed descriptive systems for characterizing UFO sightings, and by extension for organizing ufology investigations.[65][66][67][unreliable source?]

Phenomena linked to ufology

In addition to UFO sightings, certain supposedly related phenomena are of interest to some ufologists, including crop circles,[68][69] cattle mutilations,[70] anomalous materials,[71][72] alien abductions and implants.[73][74][75][76]

Some ufologists have also promoted UFO conspiracy theories, including the Roswell Incident of 1947,[77][78][79] the Majestic 12 documents,[80] and UFO disclosure advocates.[81][82]

Skeptic Robert Sheaffer has accused ufology of having a "credulity explosion,"[83] writing that, "the kind of stories generating excitement and attention in any given year would have been rejected by mainstream ufologists a few years earlier for being too outlandish."[83] The physicist James E. McDonald also identified "cultism" and "extreme...subgroups" as negatively impacting ufology.[84]

In Posadism

During the Cold War, ufology was synthesized with the ideas of a Trotskyist movement in South America known as Posadism. Posadism's main theorist, Juan Posadas, believed the human race must "appeal to the beings on other planets...to intervene and collaborate with Earth’s inhabitants in suppressing poverty;" i.e., Posadas wished to collaborate with extraterrestrials in order to create a socialist system on Earth.[85] The adoption of this belief among Posadists, who had previously been a significant political force in South America, has been noted as a contributing factor in their decline.[86]

Governmental and private ufology studies

Further information: Identification studies of UFOs and List of investigations of UFOs by governments

Starting in the 1940s, investigations, studies, and conferences related to ufology were sponsored by governmental agencies and private groups. Typically motivated by visual UFO sightings, the goals of these studies included critical evaluation of the observational evidence, attempts to resolve and identify the observed events, and the development of policy recommendations. These studies include Project Sign, Project Magnet, Project Blue Book, the Robertson Panel, and the Condon Committee in the United States, the Flying Saucer Working Party and Project Condign in Britain, GEIPAN in France, and Project Hessdalen in Norway. Private studies of UFO phenomena include those produced by the RAND Corporation in 1968,[87] Harvey Rutledge of the University of Missouri from 1973 to 1980,[88][89] and the National Press Club's Disclosure Project in 2001.[90][91][92] Additionally, the United Nations from 1977 to 1979 sponsored meetings and hearings concerning UFO sightings.[93][94] In August 2020, the United States Department of Defense established the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force to detect, analyze and catalog unidentified aerial phenomena that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.[95]

UFO organizations and events

Main article: List of UFO organizations

Further information: List of skeptics and skeptical organizations

A large number of private organizations dedicated to the study, discussion, and publicity of ufology and other UFO-related topics exist throughout the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Switzerland. Along with such "pro-UFO" groups are skeptic organizations that emphasize the pseudoscientific nature of ufology.

During the annual World UFO Day (July 2), ufologists and associated organizations raise public awareness of ufology, in an effort to "tell the truth about earthly visits from outer space aliens."[96][97] The day's events include group gatherings to search for and observe UFOs.[98][99]

See also

References

  1. ^ Blake, Joseph A. (2015-05-27). "Ufology: The Intellectual Development and Social Context of the Study of Unidentified Flying Objects". The Sociological Review. 27: 315–337. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954x.1979.tb00067.x. ISSN 1467-954X. S2CID 146530394.
  2. ^ Restivo, Sal P. (2005). Science, technology, and society: an encyclopedia. Oxford University Press US. p. 176. ISBN 0-19-514193-8.
  3. ^ Ruppelt, Edward (2007). The Report On Unidentified Flying Objects. Charleston, South Carolina: BiblioBazaar. ISBN 978-1434609168.
  4. ^ Sanderson, Ivan T. "An Introduction to Ufology." Fantastic Universe. Feb. 1957: 27-34. Print.
  5. ^ Adam. "Challenge of UFOs - Part II Chapter VII". www.nicap.org. Retrieved 2017-11-12.
  6. ^ a b Brake, Mark (June 2006). "On the plurality of inhabited worlds;a brief history of extraterrestrialism". International Journal of Astrobiology. 5 (2): 104. Bibcode:2006IJAsB...5...99B. doi:10.1017/S1473550406002989. S2CID 122271012.
  7. ^ Denzler, Brenda (2003). The lure of the edge: scientific passions, religious beliefs, and the pursuit of UFOs. University of California Press. pp. 6–7. ISBN 0-520-23905-9.
  8. ^ Denzler (2003), p. 9
  9. ^ Schulgen, George (October 28, 1947). "Schulgen Memo". Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  10. ^ "The Air Force Intelligence Report". Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  11. ^ Haines, Gerald K. (April 14, 2007). "CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90". Archived from the original on October 1, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  12. ^ "UFOs". nationalarchives.gov.uk.
  13. ^ "UFO reports to be destroyed in future by MoD". Telegraph. London. February 28, 2010. Archived from the original on 2022-01-12. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  14. ^ "Archived – Canada's UFOs: The Search for the Unknown – Library and Archives Canada – Archive 蒃 – Le phénomène des ovnis au Canada – Bibliothèque et Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  15. ^ "Secret UFO archives opened". The Copenhagen Post. January 29, 2009. Archived from the original on November 3, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  16. ^ Italian Air Force UFO site (in Italian)
  17. ^ "För insyn: 18 000 svenska UFO-rapporter". Expressen (in Swedish). May 6, 2009. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
  18. ^ GEIPAN stands for Groupe d'Études et d'Informations sur les Phénomènes Aérospatiaux Non-identifiés ("unidentified aerospace phenomenon research and information group")
  19. ^ Moldwin, Mark (November 2004). "Why SETI IS Science and UFOlogy Is Not: A Space Science Perspective on Boundaries". Skeptical Inquirer. 28 (6): 40–42.
  20. ^ Tuomela, Raimo (1985). Science, action, and reality. Springer. p. 234. ISBN 90-277-2098-3.
  21. ^ Feist, Gregory J. (2006). The psychology of science and the origins of the scientific mind. Yale University Press. p. 219. ISBN 0-300-11074-X.
  22. ^ Restivo, Sal P. (2005). Science, technology, and society: an encyclopedia. Oxford University Press US. p. 176. ISBN 0-19-514193-8.
  23. ^ Shermer, Michael, ed. (2002). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience (PDF). ABC–CLIO, Inc. ISBN 978-1-57607-653-8. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  24. ^ ""Beyond Science", on season 8, episode 2". Scientific American Frontiers. Chedd-Angier Production Company. 1997–1998. PBS. Archived from the original on 2006.
  25. ^ "Scientific American". Archived from the original on 9 October 2009.
  26. ^ Fraknoi, Andrew (October 2009). "The 'Great Moon Hoax': Did Astronauts Land on the Moon?". Astronomical Pseudo-Science: A Skeptic's Resource List. Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  27. ^ "Statement of the position of the Iowa Academy of Science on Pseudoscience" (PDF). Iowa Academy of Science. July 1986. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2007.
  28. ^ National Science Foundation (2002). "ch. 7". Science and Engineering Indicators. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation. ISBN 978-0-7567-2369-9. Archived from the original on 16 June 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2018. Belief in pseudoscience is relatively widespread... A sizable minority of the public believes in UFOs and that aliens have landed on Earth.
  29. ^ Hansson, Sven Ove (September 3, 2008). "Science and Pseudo-Science". Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  30. ^ Feist (2006), pp. 219–20
  31. ^ a b Eghigian, Greg (2015-12-06). "Making UFOs make sense: Ufology, science, and the history of their mutual mistrust". Public Understanding of Science. 26 (5): 612–626. doi:10.1177/0963662515617706. PMID 26644010. S2CID 37769406.
  32. ^ Cooper, Rachel (2009). "Chapter 1: Is psychiatric research scientific?". In Broome, Matthew; Bortolotti, Lisa (eds.). Psychiatry as Cognitive Neuroscience: Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-19-923803-3.
  33. ^ Dodd, Adam (27 April 2018). "Strategic Ignorance and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Critiquing the Discursive Segregation of UFOs from Scientific Inquiry". Astropolitics. 16 (1): 75–95. doi:10.1080/14777622.2018.1433409. ISSN 1477-7622. S2CID 148687469.
  34. ^ Loeb, Avi (19 September 2021). "Astronomers Should be Willing to Look Closer at Weird Objects in the Sky - The Galileo Project seeks to train telescopes on unidentified aerial phenomena". Scientific American. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  35. ^ "Galileo Project: scientists to search for signs of extraterrestrial technology". The Guardian. 27 July 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  36. ^ "Can we find UFOs from above?". The Hill. 24 January 2022. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  37. ^ Mann, Adam. "Avi Loeb's Galileo Project Will Search for Evidence of Alien Visitation". Scientific American. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  38. ^ "Public Announcement". projects.iq.harvard.edu. Archived from the original on 12 August 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  39. ^ "Deutschlandweit einmalig – Ufo-Forschung an der Uni Würzburg". BR24 (in German). 3 September 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  40. ^ "UAP & SETI - Chair of Computer Science VIII - Aerospace Information Technology". www.informatik.uni-wuerzburg.de. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  41. ^ a b ""Where Science and UAP Meet"" (PDF). Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  42. ^ Andresen, Jensine; Torres, Octavio A. Chon (9 March 2022). Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Academic and Societal Implications. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1-5275-7925-5.
  43. ^ a b "Why some scientists want serious research into UFOs". Science News. 19 May 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  44. ^ "How We Operate". UAPx. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  45. ^ David, Leonard (21 January 2022). "2022 could be a turning point in the study of UFOs". Space.com. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  46. ^ Hanks, Micah (16 May 2022). "Scientific Group Urges Congress to Ask "Piercing Questions" in House Panel on UAP". The Debrief. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  47. ^ Dowd, Will. "2021 was so weird, that big UFO news totally went over our heads - The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  48. ^ "UFO report: Government can't explain 143 of 144 mysterious flying objects, blames limited data". NBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  49. ^ Wattles, Jackie. "NASA is getting serious about UFOs". CNN. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  50. ^ "Reconnecting with our interstellar family - Thought Leader". thoughtleader.co.za. 27 December 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  51. ^ "Here's How the Latest U.S. Intelligence Report on UFOs Might Bring Science to the UFO World". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  52. ^ "Pentagon releases three UFO videos taken by US navy pilots". The Guardian. 28 April 2020. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  53. ^ David, Leonard (18 May 2022). "What's next for UFO studies after landmark congressional hearing?". Space.com. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  54. ^ "After Congress' first hearing on UFOs in 50 years, some scientists want to be let in on the investigation". news.yahoo.com. Retrieved 22 June 2022.
  55. ^ David, Leonard (25 January 2015). "They Want to Believe: UFO Hunters Plan Database to Track Sightings". Space.com. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  56. ^ David, Leonard (26 June 2019). "UFOs Remain Elusive Despite Decades of Study". Space.com. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  57. ^ "Nasa UFO study to focus on gathering data, not making conclusions". The Independent. 10 June 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  58. ^ Hunt, Katie; Strickland, Ashley. "NASA is assembling a team to gather data on unidentifiable events in the sky". CNN. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  59. ^ Bock, Michael (9 June 2022). "NASA to Set Up Independent Study on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena". NASA. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  60. ^ Sturrock (2000) p. 163
  61. ^ Denzler (2003), p. 35
  62. ^ Hoyt, Diana Palmer (2000-04-20). UFOCRITIQUE: UFO's, Social Intelligence and the Condon Committees (Thesis). Master's Thesis. Virginia Polytechnic Institute. p. 13. hdl:10919/32352. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  63. ^ Markovsky B., "UFOs", in The Skeptic's Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, edited by Michael Shermer, 2002 Skeptics Society, p260
  64. ^ Sagan, Carl (1975). Other Worlds. Bantam. p. 113. ISBN 0-552-66439-1.
  65. ^ Hynek, J. Allen (1974). The UFO experience: a scientific enquiry. Corgi. ISBN 0-552-09430-7.
  66. ^ Tumminia, Diana G. (2007). Alien worlds: social and religious dimensions of extraterrestrial contact. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0-8156-0858-5.
  67. ^ Vallée, Jacques F. (1998). "Physical Analyses in Ten Cases of Unexplained Aerial Objects with Material Samples". Journal of Scientific Exploration. 12 (3): 360–61.
  68. ^ Andrews, Colin; Spignesi, Stephen J. (2003). Crop circles: signs of contact. Career Press. ISBN 1-56414-674-X.
  69. ^ "Coming soon to a field near you". Physics World. 4 August 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  70. ^ Howe, Linda Moulton (1989). Alien Harvest: Further Evidence Linking Animal Mutilations and Human Abductions to Alien Life Forms. Linda Moulton Howe Productions. ISBN 0-9620570-1-0.
  71. ^ "Stanford Professor Garry Nolan Is Analyzing Anomalous Materials From UFO Crashes". Vice. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  72. ^ Nolan, Garry P.; Vallee, Jacques F.; Jiang, Sizun; Lemke, Larry G. (1 January 2022). "Improved instrumental techniques, including isotopic analysis, applicable to the characterization of unusual materials with potential relevance to aerospace forensics". Progress in Aerospace Sciences. 128: 100788. Bibcode:2022PrAeS.12800788N. doi:10.1016/j.paerosci.2021.100788. ISSN 0376-0421.
  73. ^ Denzler (2003), p. 239
  74. ^ Leir, Roger K. (1998). "The aliens and the scalpel : scientific proof of extraterrestrial implants in humans". Columbus, NC : Granite Pub.
  75. ^ "Watch This Doc on Alien Gangsters and the 'Biggest Story Never Told'". www.vice.com. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  76. ^ Leir, Dr. Roger. "The Smoking Gun". Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  77. ^ Dunning, Brian. "Skeptoid #79: Aliens in Roswell". Skeptoid. Retrieved 27 December 2016.
  78. ^ Friedman, Stanton T.; Berliner, Don (1992). Crash at Corona: The U.S. Military Retrieval and Cover-up of a UFO. Paragon House. ISBN 1-55778-449-3.
  79. ^ Randle, Kevin D.; Schmitt, Donald R. (1991). UFO Crash at Roswel. Avon Books. ISBN 0-380-76196-3.
  80. ^ Friedman, Stanton T. (1997). TOP SECRET/MAJIC. Marlowe & Co. ISBN 1-56924-741-2.
  81. ^ Salla, Michael (2004). Exopolitics: Political Implications of Extraterrestrial Presence. Dandelion Books. ISBN 1-893302-56-3.
  82. ^ Greer, Steven M. (2001). Disclosure : Military and Government Witnesses Reveal the Greatest Secrets in Modern History. Crossing Point. ISBN 0-9673238-1-9.
  83. ^ a b Sheaffer, Robert. "A Skeptical Perspective on UFO Abductions". In: Pritchard, Andrea & Pritchard, David E. & Mack, John E. & Kasey, Pam & Yapp, Claudia. Alien Discussions: Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference. Cambridge: North Cambridge Press. pp. 382–88.
  84. ^ McDonald (1968)
  85. ^ "J. Posadas: Flying saucers ... and the socialist future of mankind (26 June 1968)". www.marxists.org. Retrieved 2019-09-12.
  86. ^ John Sandor Steven (2006). Permanent Revolution on the Altiplano: Bolivian Trotskyism. Ann Arbor, Michigan: ProQuest Information and Learning Company, p. 314.
  87. ^ Kocher, George (November 1968). "UFOs: What to Do?" (PDF). RAND Corporation. Retrieved May 8, 2010.
  88. ^ Rutledge, Harley D. (1981). Project Identification: the first scientific field study of UFO phenomena. Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-13-730705-5.
  89. ^ Dickinson, Alexander K. (February 1982). "Interesting, But UFO's Still Unidentified". The Physics Teacher. 20 (2): 128–30. Bibcode:1982PhTea..20..128D. doi:10.1119/1.2340971.
  90. ^ Katelynn Raymer (May 10, 2001). "Group Calls for Disclosure of UFO Info". ABC News. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  91. ^ Rob Watson (May 10, 2001). "UFO spotters slam 'US cover-up'". BBC News. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  92. ^ Sharon Kehnemui (May 10, 2001). "Men in Suits See Aliens as Part of Solution, Not Problem". Fox News. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  93. ^ A/DEC/32/424 Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine UNBISnet- United Nations Bibliographic Information System, Dag Hammarskjöld Library (Retrieved May 4, 2010)
  94. ^ A/DEC/33/426 Archived 2011-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, UNBISnet (Retrieved May 4, 2010)
  95. ^ "Establishment of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force". U.S. Dept. of Defense. August 14, 2001. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  96. ^ "July 2: World UFO Day, the Real U.S. Independence Day, I Forgot Day, Violin Lover's Day and Freedom from Fear of Public Speaking Day". Yahoo News. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  97. ^ "Organisations & Groups supporting / celebrating World UFO day". World UFO Day Website. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-08.
  98. ^ "Can you answer the UFO questions?". BBC News. 2 July 2003. Retrieved 2003-07-02.
  99. ^ "Out of This World, Out of Our Minds". The New York Times. 3 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-03.

Further reading

Academic books about ufology as a sociological and historical phenomenon
Pro-ufology
Skeptical opinions
Ufology studies