High Strangeness: The Secret Life of UFOs

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Secret Life of UFOs

Yesterday one of my UFO research contacts sent me a link to a very interesting article that has given me a lot to think about... The article is called "The Secret Life of J. Allen Hynek." Which is not the same as the secret life of UFOs. So I lied. The fact is, I tend to get way more pageviews when I use the term "UFO" in the title of a post, so there you go. Be thankful I didn't title it "UFO, UFO, UFO."

Back to business: The article appears in the latest issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, the official publication of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which sounds like the most depressing group in the world. Basically, you only get to be part of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry if you don't believe in anything. When these people were kids and Peter Pan begged them to clap so that Tinkerbell would live, they sat on their hands. They would have let Tink die.

Their publication, the Skeptical Inquirer, is essentially the anti-matter version of the National Enquirer. National Enquirer runs a headline about the Bat Boy; Skeptical Enquirer runs a headline saying "Can't be!"

So what was the secret life of J. Allen Hynek? Aside from being one of the world's foremost experts on UFOs, the world knew him as an accomplished astronomer and longtime director of the astronomy department at Northwestern University. But that's not all...

He was also interested in... The occult! The paranormal!! Parallel dimensions!!!

This is the big scoop in the article, and the writer uses Hynek's interest in strange pseudoscience as some sort of evidence of intellectual fraud. How can anyone take Hynek's call for a serious, scientific study of UFOs seriously, the writer asks, if the guy was secretly reading about psychic phenomenon?
Wouldn't it be cool if you could just know when someone else was thinking about ESP?
I think he's off base. Hynek was always interested in finding the limits to science... He knew that science could explain a great deal about our universe, but it couldn't explain everything. And so it was worth his while to consider any fringy science that held out at least the possibility of letting us peek around the corners of our reality and see what else was out there. And in the later years of his life he considered that the UFO phenomenon was just as likely to be a psychological phenomenon as a physical phenomenon. I don't see that as inconsistent at all. I see it as the logical byproduct of an inquisitive mind.

And then there's this: CERN scientists eye parallel universe breakthrough. Yeah, that would be the same CERN that just discovered the Higgs boson.

Take that, Skeptical Inquirer!

Here's the thing, though: the article was great! It was very well-researched and tightly written and very enjoyable to read. I don't agree with all the author's points, but I respect the way he made his case. I wrote to him to compliment him, and I hope to hear back. I think he would be a good guy to be talking with as I move ahead with the Hynek book.

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