High Strangeness: UFO Irritant

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

UFO Irritant

I've been trying to maintain a more positive vibe here at High Strangeness lately, but after putting up my post about UFO Genealogy the other day things went a little off the rails, and for a very strange reason...

I posted a link to the blog at the Google group The UFO Collective, and almost immediately got a wonderful, warm reply from UFOlogy goddess Jenny Randle. My post had brought back some good memories for her of working with Dr. J. Allen Hynek over the last few years of his life. I was thrilled to read her reminiscences of Dr. Hynek, and even more thrilled when she agreed to do an interview for my Hynek book!
It's amazing how often this picture seems appropriate to what I'm blogging about...

The good feeling didn't last long, however, for soon after some numbskull posted a response taking a gratuitous swipe at Dr. Hynek. After complaining that any scientist who thinks he or she knows anything about UFOs is acting on "borrowed authority" he said this:
The late Allen Hynek’s standing in ufology is partly based on such borrowed authority – the fact that he was a scientifically qualified astronomer. Admittedly, he had a longstanding interest and involvement in the UFO subject, which in itself would have created some expertise; and it’s true to say that he was a positive force in his later years. But when we consider his ‘ufological career’ as a whole, it’s evident that he wasn’t always a luminary. In fact, in the earlier years, he was complicit in an official cover-up of the UFO phenomenon. 
So, what, in the rare instance that a scientist actually becomes interested in the UFO phenomenon and finds it worthy of study, we have to dismiss said scientist as having impure motives? I don't get it.

Then, to support his argument, the guy posted a YouTube link to some ancient, moldy, superficial TV special about UFOs that was so full of misinformation that I wanted to scream... First the show completely mis-characterized Hynek's message in a 1966 Congressional hearing on UFOs, then it got worse:
"(Hynek) faithfully continued to dismiss all UFO sightings as swamp gas, mass hallucinations, temperature inversions, and conventional aircraft until Blue Book was terminated in 1969."
Where to begin with such a stinking load of crap? Hynek did not "faithfully dismiss all UFO sightings until Blue Book was terminated in 1969"; he identified them as misidentified astronomical objects, or airplanes or balloons or natural objects when those explanations fit the facts, but the 20% of the cases that couldn't be so identified he categorized as "unknowns." Which, as we all know, or should know, drove his Air Force bosses crazy. Further, he only ever raised the "swamp gas" explanation in regards to two 1966 sightings in Michigan (and only as a possible explanation), and it was Donald Menzel who tried to dismiss all UFO sightings as "temperature inversions." Hynek was nearly always skeptical when that explanation was invoked, because it rarely held up to scrutiny...

Jenny wrote a very patient, but very firm response to the gentleman, and he fired back. Jenny wrote another patient but firm response back and that was pretty much that. Jenny did not back down, but in defending her opinions she was polite and charitable to the other commenter to the last. Ms. Randle earned my undying admiration for her handling of the situation.

In the same spirit, I bit my figurative tongue and suggested to the commenter that he should not base his opinion of Dr. Hynek on a poorly researched, 50 year old TV special, and he said this:
"My thoughts about Hynek weren’t created by my watching that clip. But I found what he said interesting, since he indicated that he was aware that weak (easily explained) cases were being given differential emphasis." 
Okay, so his thoughts weren't formed by the TV special, but he was using the TV special to validate his thoughts, so..

The thing is, neither Jenny nor myself denied that Hynek had been far too enthusiastic about debunking UFO reports in the early days, and Hynek himself admitted as much later in his career. So why trot out this sorry excuse for journalism to "prove" something that no one was denying? I found the whole exercise in axe-grinding very sad and discouraging. There are just too many perfect people out there who refuse to forgive Hynek for his mistakes.

And the same commenter kept coming back and picking at Jenny's comments that 5% of UFO reports remain unsolved, all but accusing her of trying to mislead him. Was she referring to cases, or reports, he demanded? Because, you know, there could be one single UFO appearance that generates "scores or hundreds of" reports! "Now, if that UFO were deemed to be unexplained," he ranted, "it would give us multiple, unexplained sightings."

Good grief. Where do people like this come from? 

No comments: