In UFO circles we frequently lose sight of most likely explanations. Part of the reason may be because so much time is devoted to imagining the extraordinary. We tend to gravitate towards believing what we hear the most, no matter how often it may be properly framed as supposition. It's difficult to keep things in perspective when a 15-second disclaimer is followed by an hour of podcast speculation. Squeaky wheels get oil, even when delivered through sources such as fictional movies and television shows.
We often suspect the existence of hidden agendas - conspiracies, if you will - within the UFO genre because it can be so difficult to accept select researchers and organizations are as incompetent and credulous as they appear. Did the Roswell Slides promoters truly think that mummified Native American was a crash-landed visitor from the stars? Did Dr. Steven Greer really think that Atacama skeleton was an alien and did he and Dr. Garry Nolan honestly not understand the ethical concerns that would arise over their handling of it? Did Robert Bigelow and a team of consultants think there was scientific merit in hiring "security guards" to reportedly play with alleged voice phenomena and conduct similar occult practices? (That last scenario was apparently funded by your tax dollars.)
Could they have all sincerely had such poor judgement? Such reasonable questions abound.
|The infamous Roswell Slides telltale placard|
We might consider that, from a perspective of assessing research integrity, answers to the above questions don't really make that much difference. The integrity of research is weakened when investigators fail to respect and adhere to universally recognized protocols and codes of ethics. No matter what their agendas, their research is not reliable if they must incorporate numerous hypothetical scenarios into forming their arguments. We really don't need to know what personally motivated David Jacobs and if he is as obliviously incompetent as he seems in order to accurately identify his ethics failings and resulting poor quality of research. This means we don't learn anything of value, at least not about alleged paranormal experiences, from such material, and we are at high risk of absorbing and exposing others to incorrect information. Meanwhile, people are harmed and justifiably offended in the process of such examples as named thus far.
Paul Carr is a spacecraft systems engineer who facilitates several science-friendly podcasts. In response to request for comment on research integrity, Carr replied that he considers virtues of UFO research to include patience, humility, integrity and skepticism. Carr directs Aerial Phenomena Investigations (API), a UFO research group with a track record of commitments to evidence-based investigation and ethical treatment of UFO witnesses. He says the two go hand in hand.
"UFO research primarily deals with human memories," Carr stated, "and it has become clear to us at API that while the ethical treatment of witnesses and an open, honest, and careful approach to collecting and analyzing data are not the same thing, they are both members of a healthy body of research practice. Whatever threatens to corrupt one also threatens the other. Willful abuse of facts and fallacious reasoning readily metastasizes into abuses of innocent persons. This isn't something that just happens to organizations. It is a choice they make.
"It's not that we won't make mistakes - we will. It's what you do and how you change after a mistake is made that is the best marker of integrity."
Perhaps Robert Bigelow and his various teams assembled over the years have been unjustly saddled with conspiracy theories. It is possible they are simply as credulous as they seem to want us to believe.
Substantial resources were poured into a Utah ranch. Claims of extraordinary creatures, portals to other dimensions, and various sensational happenings, the vast majority of which purportedly defied any kind of significant documentation, became the stuff of legends. Maybe the involved credentialed researchers sincerely do not understand the inherent problems in expecting others to embrace their unverified claims. Maybe they are truly that blinded by belief.
The Typhoid Mary-like innocence of claimed ignorance meets large problems when issues of fully informed consent arise. This was not only the case at the Skinwalker Ranch, as former security guards expressed concerns over their apparent unwitting involvement in state-funded research, but was a key component of the infamous Carpenter Affair as well.
Maybe John Carpenter, Robert Bigelow, John Alexander, John Schuessler and others were truly oblivious to the ethical minefield of covertly supplying Bigelow's National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) with information discussed between therapist and clients. Data and recordings of hypnosis sessions from some 140 case files were obtained for about 100 bucks apiece. Maybe some of the people involved in facilitating and concealing the transaction just didn't see publicly addressing the circumstances and voicing objections as feasible options. Obviously not, given their stances of mostly silence and aversion to questions.
Perhaps some of them honestly believed the potential research gains outweighed the liabilities and betrayals. Maybe they honestly misunderstood and vastly overestimated the minimal scientific value of a collection of hypnosis-induced accounts of alien abduction. Such missteps are magnified when the parties claim to be conducting scientific study, as was the case.
Such scenarios, regardless of motive and intent, border dangerously on mad scientist territory. Codes of ethics are designed, in part, to deter researchers afflicted with delusions of self-importance from sacrificing human welfare during an incorrectly perceived pursuit of historic breakthroughs. This widely eludes much of the UFO genre and particularly its pro-hypnosis segment. Virtually anything appears deemed worth the cost of chasing an alien abduction carrot which has consistently remained out of reach.
"The importance of ethics in research integrity is that it creates the ground level from which all of your work is built," explained Dr. Christopher Cogswell, who holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering and co-hosts a popular podcast which explores fringe topics from reasoned perspectives. "If the ground isn't stable, then everything else you generate or say becomes built on a shaky foundation, which can easily be toppled by the first critical look at your methods and history. It is OK to be wrong or make a mistake, we are all human. But to continue despite evidence of mismanagement, error, or unethical practice makes your entire body of work suspect and tinged with that lens."
We could carry our line of considerations to its chronological next steps, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) and the resulting To The Stars Academy (TTSA). Maybe intelligence professionals such as Luis Elizondo and Christopher Mellon are simply overly enthusiastic about the UFO topic and don't understand the problematic nature of trying to turn film clips into proof of the extraordinary. Perhaps Elizondo was simply too inexperienced at UFO investigation to adequately assess an extremely questionable case he and the seemingly ultra credulous Tom DeLonge highlighted on cable television. Maybe there's just an overwhelming amount of UFO history for Elizondo to learn, and maybe it simply never occurred to him to secure receipts that could answer questions about his background before he went to TTSA and started making claims he was apparently unprepared to adequately address if questioned.
Maybe shelling out 35 grand for Art's Parts will prove brilliant. Perhaps the group's collection of alleged metal alloys, UAP fragments, or whatever the current going designation is will lead to paradigm-shifting discoveries. And, if not, maybe it all happened for no other reasons than none of the TTSA personnel knew any better.
An obvious problem with AATIP is it consisted of Robert Bigelow and some of his perpetual cast members. This is not necessarily a negative thing in itself, but from a perspective of integrity of research, it is only prudent to question the effectiveness of the work of investigators who spent decades apparently more dedicated to belief than time-tested protocols. That's the case, anyway, if we are to believe their past indiscretions, as already described, resulted entirely from simple error. Again, it doesn't matter from an integrity of research standpoint whether they are incompetent or have ulterior motives when the outcome chronically produces nothing of significant scientific value.
As may have been the case with issues surrounding the security personnel at Skinwalker and the exploited hypnosis subjects of John Carpenter, perhaps it was poor understandings and lack of foresight that contributed to the Bigelow-facilitated covert funneling of DIA funds into MUFON. Maybe Bigelow, Schuessler, and none of the involved parties realized the problematic nature of an intelligence agency funding a 501(c)(3) UFO organization while concealing the fact from the rest of its governing board members and the public at large.
|Some of the boys in the Remote Viewing band. And NIDS.|
And Skinwalker. And BAASS. And AATIP. And TTSA.
This isn't about people who may possibly be influenced by false memories or misidentify an exotic aircraft. We're not discussing individuals who experience some kind of event(s) they don't understand and go in search of answers. We're talking about credentialed scientists and professional intelligence personnel who in some cases subscribe to irresponsibly unsupported beliefs and flawed research methodologies, sometimes while under the commission of United States government grant funds.
It seems more than clear to this writer that, if we give all these people the benefit of the doubt and take them at their implied word, we should fully expect to scrutinize their opinions at length and have their research claims painstakingly verified before fully accepting them. Such investigators apparently, at best, suffer from recurring episodes of rather astoundingly poor judgement.
The good news is we don't have to rely on personalities and popularity as tools for assessing research. Its merit or lack thereof should be self-evident.
The fact will always remain that should some yet to be proven assertions turn out to be correct, they're indeed not established yet. Just because the future may show something to be accurate, that does not in any way mean you should currently exempt it from reasonable fact-checking. That's how we find out if it's true.
It is important we know the difference between facts and claims asserted by investigators, hold them accountable, and commit ourselves to respecting ethical standards and best practices as recognized by the professional research community. Integrity of UFO research, and ultimately what people believe is flying around up there, depend on it.