Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Ufological Top 10 - #1 Peter Jennings and "Seeing is Believing"

My column from Monday, March 7, is reprinted below. I meant it then, and I mean it even more now, as the year comes to a close. I have amended only the end, to reflect the untimely passing of Peter Jennings since March.

It was the best thing that happened to ufology in 2005. Could it have been better? Of course - any program that omits Dick Hall, Dr. Peter Sturrock and Dr. Jacques Vallee could have been better. But despite some flaws, it was well done nonetheless - fair, even, and balanced (abductionologists and Roswellians will no doubt disagree, but, as the ongoing debate over the recent books by Dr. Susan Clancy and Nick Redfern should show, those two issues are still pretty contentious - to say the least).

The bad news is that some ufologists couldn't see the generally positive side of Seeing is Believing, and the potential to use it as a step forward.

The good news is that others did.

Check out the website about the program here.

Paul Kimball


People within the UFO community have spent the past week and a half commenting on the Peter Jennings ABC News Special UFOs: Seeing is Believing. Most, but not all, of the commentary has been negative, focusing on the second hour and the anti-Roswell and anti-abduction stances taken by ABC, and the time given to the SETI scientists.

Count me as one who disagrees with this general assessment of the program. I thought it was quite good, particularly in the first hour, which I thought was the best UFO documentary I've seen yet - compelling stuff. I agree the second hour went a bit too far - even if you think Roswell was a Project Mogul balloon array (a not unreasonable position, as the matter of what happened at Roswell is still a contentious one, even amongst ufologists), the portrayal of Stan Friedman as nothing more than a "Roswell promoter" was unfair.

Still, some of the people who are lambasting Seeing is Believing (including some who - of course - claim it is all part of the great "cover-up") strike me as more the "glass is half empty" types (or, in many cases, the glass is "completely empty") than as objective observers. The program didn't present all of their pre-conceived notions about UFOs as gospel, so there could be nothing good in it.

Too bad, because Seeing is Believing has opened a real opportunity for Ufology to move back towards the mainstream, and away from the likes of Michael Salla and Steven Greer. The witnesses they presented, particularly in the first hour, were reasonable, responsible types (police officers and USAF crew especially) - the kind of witnesses who are hard for even the debunkers to ignore. No Bob Lazar's, or William Cooper's, or Philip Corso's.

No Exopolitics.

Thank God for that.

But, most important, the SETI scientists came out looking particularly bad. Who are the true "believers"? Watch the SETI people talk (if you can get past their smug condescension), then watch guys like Jerry Clark (pictured, left) and Dr. Mark Rodegheir talk. No question who made the more logical presentation - the ufologists.

Better still was the end of the program. There was Michio Kaku, one of the pre-eminent physicists of our time, taking the side of the ufologists.

Some quotes:

"Some people slam the door on the question of other civilizations visiting the Earth because distances are so far away. I say, 'Not so fast.' "

"The fundamental mistake people make when thinking about extraterrestrial intelligence is to assume that they're just like us except a few hundred years more advanced. I say 'Open your mind. Open your consciousness to the possibility that they are a million years ahead.' "

"When you look at this handful, handful of cases that cannot be easily dismissed. This is worthy. This is worthy of a scientific investigation. Maybe there's nothing there. However, on the off chance that there is something there, that could change the course of human history. So I say, ' Let this investigation begin.' "

Dr. Kaku's website can be found here.

So much for those in science who say there's nothing worthy of investigation.

So much for those who say you can't get there from here.

Kaku came across as a visionary. The SETI people (Shostak, Tarter and Drake, especially) came across as cultists.

Chalk one up for ufology.

So, when discussing Seeing is Believing, ufology needs to keep its eye on the ball - yes, there were things that some in ufology won't agree with (Roswell, for example). But the study of the UFO phenomenon needs to get back into the mainstream, after years of wallowing in conspiracy theory, New Age-ism, and wild tales from alleged "whistleblowers" about dozens of alien races.

It needs to move away from "Exo-politics", and back to looking at the evidence again.

And yes, it needs to make its case to the general public, to the media, and to science.

Seeing is Believing was a critical first step in that process. Kudos to ABC, and the late Peter Jennings.


The Odd Emperor said...

I too was very upset that Vallee was not included. Any pro-conspiracy person is going to pan this presentation simply because it failed to validate whatever their pet idea happens to be. The reason we hear from them now as apposed to ten years ago is simply the fact that we have far more freedom of communication (read The Internet) than we did in 1990. Now anyone with a strange idea can get a world audience, this is a huge liability to the UFO field which lacks credibility to begin with. What the field needs is a method of accreditation like in any other research field.

The Jennings’s piece is a step in the right direction. The oft repeated phrase "those (blank) scientists were smug and condescending?" I frankly didn’t notice that. I did notice professionals speaking with great familiarity about a field that they work in day and day out. If that’s smug and condescending to some people I say they should get over themselves. Perhaps start reading up on a subject that they are apparently to ignorant to comment on.

I too that the show was positive overall to the UFO field. It did not present all the facts (how could it?) But, it did present a relatively balanced encapsulation of some of the facts. I don’t think any documentary could be asked to provide more.

Paul Kimball said...

Your Imperial Oddness:


The truth is that, at least for some of the pro-ETH crowd, NO ABC News documentary would have been good enough. Even if it had validated all of their beliefs, they would still have found a reason to rail against it, simply because it was made by the dreaded MM (mainstream media), which, of course, has been hijacked by (pick one): The New World Order, the Illuminati, the Neo-Cons, the Kinghts of Columbus, MJ-12, the Muppets... whomever.

And so it goes, ad infinitum idioticus.