The Absence of Scientific Interest in Ufology
A common question often asked by members of the UFO community is – why aren’t scientists, who are the people who should be devoting themselves to UFO matters, doing so? Good question. The reason given for this blatant avoidance of the UFO phenomenon is usually put down to the scientist’s need to continue to receive funding in their research, or the challenge of losing status by showing interest in such a dubious subject. To understand the motivation behind their decision more correctly perhaps it would help us to be familiar with the infrastructure of research selection including evaluation criteria, funding mechanisms and status hierarchy within the scientific community.
In general, it appears that fields that study broader phenomena typically rely on models, data, and theory from fields that employ more molecular levels of analyses. For example, chemists are generally likely to draw on the field of physics to understand a chemical response than they are to draw on biology. Biologists are generally more likely to adopt techniques from chemistry or use the findings of chemists to address a broad range of biological issues e.g. from stream pollution to human physiology, than chemists are to consult the data and methods of biology.
Psychologists, in turn, look to biological and chemical principles to explain human motivation, cognition, and behaviour. Sociologists draw on principles of individual and group behaviour in psychology as elements of theories about large-scale collective processes. Each discipline obviously offers its own unique perspective and methods to issues and problems, and I am sure there are the exceptions. Nevertheless, reductionist tendencies in the sciences leads disciplines typically to rely more on fields that have a more molecular focus. As a consequence, a status hierarchy of disciplines emerges. In this example, status from highest to lowest is physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and sociology.
Consequently, it could be speculated that so-called pure laboratory research of a molecular nature is the valued norm in science and the less of that there is to research the less valuable the research, therefore the less funding available and less attractive it becomes. So we have a model emerging that holds tangible molecular repeatable evidence at peak value for study, and as this decreases so does status, funding and attention. So where is UFO research on this map? Unfortunately, considering we have very little tangible, molecular and repeatable evidence, this field of interest remains at the bottom of the heap. The UFO phenomenon falls closest to the behavioural science field which is the farthest away from molecular science and of least relevance to the scientific community but probably holds the most interest of this field. It is no wonder that there is a propensity towards psychologists taking an interest in the UFO phenomenon than members from any other scientific background.
Although people like John Mack and David Jacobs, who have the relevant behavioural science credentials, have become involved in UFO research, their background is still at the lower end of the status scale previously mentioned. Therefore their interest in the UFO field does not have as much impact as a few astrophysicists might. It appears it will only be when UFO research attracts and becomes saturated with those well qualified in chemistry and physics that the field will gain any recognition by those who should have been scrutinising it carefully all along. In other words, if you can touch and feel it, it is more important than any unrepeatable or subjective evidence that is produced.
My goal here is not to make the UFO community to feel that the UFO phenomenon will never receive the attention it deserves. I remind you that my comments reflect speculation and observation only, not hard data. They were intended to help explain why the subject of UFOs is not attractive to the scientific community. However, if there is some validity in these speculations, then I think the UFO community can and should draw some strength and chart its direction from this reality. One implication is that UFO research perhaps strengthen its scientific base to increase respect of the subject. However, this does not mean that UFO research should weaken or abandon its commitment to the application of an eclectic approach.
Personally I think UFO research is a bridge between laboratory science and our as yet unknown emerging new science. As a bridge our foundations need to be solid on both sides. However, as a bridge we also need to be sure that the connection between the sides is smooth, broad, sturdy, and accessible. Two foundations do not make a bridge alone. Similarly, a field of research that supports both mainstream science and lateral science is not sufficient to address our mission. UFO research has to support and encourage the integration of these approaches. This is our unique and important niche. In addition, we need to attract people who appreciate the need to engage directly in “true” research, to examine the validity of current theories, to develop new theories and to be willing to apply creative and unorthodox thinking.
Although independent UFO researchers and organisations can fall between the gaps and at times be ineffectual, they also have the unique potential of bringing previously separate ideas, people, knowledge, and resources together to make more significant contributions than “mainstream” people. This is one of the roles and possibly obligations of this field. We need to embrace this role consciously, both as an organization and as individuals, and demonstrate the unique status that we occupy within our own discipline.