BOULDER, Colorado -- The 37thannual Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) symposium is being held July 14-16 in nearby Denver, attracting throngs of believers, the downright curious--as well as upright skepticsand debunkers.
Thesymposium's title is the drawing card: "Unconventional Flying Objects: The BestEvidence". The three day gathering features a potpourri of UFO discussion - fromborder crossings of the third kind, UFO crash retrievals, and triangular UFOsto the alienagenda and ethics of contact. Also add in reports on the physical evidence forUFOs.
Thereis no doubt that UFOs are here to stay, agrees John Schuessler, MUFON'sInternational Director at the group's headquarters in neighboring Morrison, Colorado. "We see no drop inUFO reports," he told SPACE.com, but added that some of the charactersin the UFO arena muddy the waters...a lot.
Schuesslersaid MUFON is devoted to help unravel the UFO saga and set society straight onthe prospects of possible visitors from afar.
"MUFONis working diligently to improve the data collection process, train workers inthe field, and improve the credibility of documented evidence," Schuesslerexplained. "We have approximately 350 volunteer consultants and researchspecialists with good scientific credentials. At the present time we havemore than 450 trained field investigators throughout the U.S. and have another 800-plus in the training process. That is pretty good for anall-volunteer cadre."
Thereare issues to wrestle with, Schuessler pointed out, in sorting through UFOsightings.
"Wehave found that a lot of the scientific-sounding responses given to cases inthis field are often nothing more than opinions by well-credentialedindividuals that have actually done no field work," Schuessler noted. "Theygive their answers in a way that makes them seem like they actually know whatthey are talking about when in fact they are doing nothing but debunking basedon their own beliefs. That happens on a regular basis and many peoplebelieve them. Science is not well served when this happens," he said.
Continuing mystery and controversy
Thereis something of potential importance within the UFO mystery, and it is two-fold,according to Don Berliner, a longtime UFO investigator and an independentaviation/science writer. He also is Chairman of the Fund for UFO Research,located in Alexandria, Virginia.
Firstof all, there are the detailed descriptions from veteran airline and militarypilots of objects seen at close range in broad daylight.
"Thesewere said to have been solid, metallic-looking objects with sharp edges andsimple geometric shapes that were completely unlike any known aero-spacecraft,and displayed performance--extreme speed within the atmosphere, violentmaneuvers and spectacular acceleration--that was even farther from the norm,"Berliner told SPACE.com.
Secondly,there is the "excessive zeal" shown by the U.S. Air Force when claiming to havesolved the UFO mystery, Berliner suggested. "Statistics were manipulated,intelligent adult witnesses were treated like naive children, explanations werefabricated, scientific theories were twisted to fit, information known to havebeen false was released to Congress and the public, and portions of witnesses'testimony were ignored when they clashed with prepared explanations."
Allof these claims, Berliner added, can be supported with quotes from Air Forcedocuments, letters, reports and public statements.
Still,there are many UFO sightings that deserve to be chalked up to moredown-to-Earth explanation, Berliner said.
"Mostreasonable persons, no matter what their conclusions, agree that the greatmajority of UFO reports are easily explained as misidentified conventionalphenomena. It is the remaining five to ten percent that constitute thecontinuing mystery and controversy," he concluded.
Digging in for the facts
GeorgeKnapp, an investigative reporter for KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, Nevada has beendiving into the UFO enigma for nearly two decades. He senses there's a big-timestory worthy of shoe leather and digging in for the facts--but are we any closerto resolving the UFO question?
"No,not at all, not even close," Knapp told SPACE.com. "UFO researchers havecompiled a vast treasure trove of information, including photos, videos,eyewitness statements, government documents, and physical traces from allegedlanding sites, along with radar reports, and a lot more. Much of thisevidence is compelling and has withstood the knee jerk, almostperfunctory, and unscientific 'explanations' that are routinely tossed out by asmall but reliable cadre of diehard debunkers."
Afternearly 60 years of research by well-meaning but under-funded individuals andorganizations, there is only one point on which all of the researchers canagree, Knapp suggested. "An elusive, unknown intelligence is operatingwithin our midst. If we assume for the moment that some UFOsrepresent an 'alien' civilization, we still can't answer the three basicquestions--Who are they? Where are they from? Why are they here? Anyone whohas a definitive answer to those three questions is either a liar, ahuckster, delusional, or one of 'them'," he said.
Cracking the case
Sowhat's it going to take to get to the bottom of the UFO phenomenon?
Knapphas some observations on the matter:
- Time and Death: When the current generation of scientists dies out, a new generation of scientists will include at least a few mavericks that challenge outdated dogma.
- Independent Media: With the growth of cable networks, Internet news sources, satellite radio, and other less-centralized information outlets, the power of the mainstream media organizations will diminish. These alternative information sources will have objectives that are far less conservative and less stodgy than the current corporate behemoths.
- Political change: This is the last and most unlikely change that will occur, but it could be the most significant. If the science establishment gets more serious about UFOs, and if that causes the mainstream media to be more even-handed, it is conceivable that political figures will feel more secure about jumping in.
Backedby years of his UFO sleuthing, Knapp said the sheer size and complexity of the subjectis daunting.
"Unproventheories abound," Knapp continued. "We are pretty sure the visitors are ETs...orinter-dimensionals...or time travelers from our future...or manifestations ofthe collective consciousness. We also know they are benevolent guardians, evilreptilians, harvesters of souls or genetic materials, angels from heaven,demons from hell, or maybe androids dispatched by incomprehensible super-beings. It'sa proven fact that they are here to help us, teach us, or eat us, or mate withus, or mess with our heads, or save their own species while they carve upour livestock, doodle in our wheat fields, and befuddle our most sophisticatedtechnology."
AreUFOs driven by teenage pranksters on a joyride through the cosmos, Knappquestioned, or perhaps anthropologists from a parallel universe, modernmanifestations of pixies and leprechauns, or pragmatic politicians from Serpo--a planet of Zeta Reticuli--who have cut a deal totrade advanced technology for the unfettered opportunity to abduct andtraumatize certain unfortunate bloodlines?
"Takeyour pick," Knapp said.
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Leonard David is an award-winning space journalist who has been reporting on space activities for more than 50 years. Currently writing as Space.com's Space Insider Columnist among his other projects, Leonard has authored numerous books on space exploration, Mars missions and more, with his latest being "Moon Rush: The New Space Race" published in 2019 by National Geographic. He also wrote "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet" released in 2016 by National Geographic. Leonard has served as a correspondent for SpaceNews, Scientific American and Aerospace America for the AIAA. He was received many awards, including the first Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History in 2015 at the AAS Wernher von Braun Memorial Symposium. You can find out Leonard's latest project at his website and on Twitter.