Thursday, April 28, 2005

The Generational Gap in Ufology

During the past year, I have spoken with several UFO researchers (Stanton Friedman, Mark Rodeghier, Richard Dolan, and Paul Kimball) about the widening generational gap in modern ufology. Nearly every speaker at the 2005 X-Conference was middle-aged or older. The same trend applies to the Aztec UFO Symposium 2005 and recent International MUFON Symposia. John Greenewald, Jr. seems to be the only consistent speaker of my emerging generation.

This is not surprising. Given the popular stigma on UFOs and the conflation of a vast conspiracy with the phenomenon, sincere public treatment has declined considerably. The result is a generation unintroduced to UFOs.

But even if sightings were treated with at least some interest and respect, young people (late teens to late twenties) have priorities far removed from lights in the sky. As Paul Kimball put it in an email to me: "There are a whole host of other things they have to worry about - dating, marks, career, not necessarily in that order - that UFOs (and often anything outside the insular world of the university) rank pretty low." Unfortunately, he's absolutely right.

This is not to say that college-age people have no serious investment in national and international issues. While I have my own views of current youth protest methods, many students participate in socio-political groups. They are not simply academic drones. If the UFO phenomenon were compelling enough, then I believe more young people would invest time and energy into it.

The problem is comprised of three interlocked parts: [1] most young people do not consider the UFO phenomenon to be a viable research project because [2] the phenomenon has been a mystery since its modern conception and has [3] arguably lost much of its scientific and intellectual appeal in the last decade or so. Who wants to pursue something that may never yield a conclusive answer?

After reading some literature by Richard Dolan and Dr. Steven Greer, I began to think that socio-political implications of the UFO phenomenon, such as budgetary waste, could be used to attract young people to the phenomenon. I thought UFOs equated to U.S. government secrecy, and that investigating one would lead to the other.

I have since stepped back and re-evaluated the phenomenon itself, and while exopolitics is interesting, it makes the still-unproved assumption that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin. I would like to make that assumption too, but it would risk establishing an unstable foundation, and that only leads to unstable conclusions.

What must be done then to sustain ufology? Will there be pioneering young researchers to move in and resume the search once the major players begin to retire?

To offer an answer to my first question, I suggest ufology re-evaluate itself in relation to its long-term goals. Exopolitics and phenomena-based methods do not have to exist in stark opposition to each other. It stands to reason that if UFOs are of either extraterrestrial origin or are secret government craft, then they would be highly classified and shrouded in secrecy. While all sightings must be investigated in and of themselves, disassociated from socio-political contexts, the possibility of government secrecy must not be deliberately avoided. I suggest we first evaluate UFO sightings for what they are and then apply socio-political criteria if necessary.

In accordance with long-term goals, ufology, if it is to sustain itself, must begin to articulate its scientific, intellectual, and even social hypotheses regarding UFOs. This may seem incredibly impractical given the current division among UFO researchers, but NICAP was onto something when it released The UFO Evidence in 1964. Today, I suggest a similar effort to organize our research and present it to the public as part of a calculated effort to restore the UFO phenomenon to public legitimacy. UFO stigmatization is as much a governmental and Congressional issue as it is a cultural one.

While many books have been written since The UFO Evidence, none have carried the deliberate purpose of NICAP's work. Their firm resolution and desire lifted the book from the status of mere cultural imagining to the level of governmental, media, and public interest. I firmly believe that a targeted campaign to inform young people--and all people, for that matter--of the UFO phenomenon is necessary to sustain long-term research into the 21st century.

To answer my second question above--I certainly hope so. I have been considering the viability of a UFO panel at Northwestern University. Both Stanton Friedman and Mark Rodeghier are receptive to this idea. It is a matter of planning and execution.

There is, in fact, an urgency to modern UFO research. The possibility exists for it to die off, or at least dissolve even further, within the next few decades. We must begin now a new methodology, a new UFO discourse, dedicated to the upkeep and progress of our collective work.

In his Estimate of the Situation: 2004, Francis Ridge writes:

If this is something real, and I for one am sure that part of it is, nothing proves this is going to get released or be easy to find. It is understandable that if this is all as big as it now appears, we only have what somebody wants us to have. We might even find out that forcing it out might be a big mistake. Our desperate need to know may not be justified in this very unstable world we live in. But some of us have peeked through the keyhole and simply walking away just doesn't work. The implications for the human race are just too big. We're not alone.
Ufology is not dead. All searches of grand proportions enjoy times of great productivity and endure periods of dissatisfaction. We have acknowledged the origin of our discontent. Now we must move forward.

brad.

4 Comments:

Blogger RRRGroup said...

Brad:

Your articulate presentation here should provide a theoretical mandate for those who want the UFO question answered.

And young, brilliant persons need to be brought in to the UFO fold, even if that fold has to lie outside what is considered the UFO community of the moment (and past).

A mission statement might help. And it has to be disseminated to the college crowd certainly, and some of the high school set also.

While I love Stanton Friedman, and admire some of those you've mentioned here and elsewhere, it seems to me that the new UFO paradigm has to start without these people; not because they are bad, but because they bring the discredited (rightfully or wrongfully) baggage that has accrued to the UFO phenomenon over the years and culminated, somewhat, with the Peter Jennings UFO special on ABC earlier this year.

I really think that the UFO hierarchs have to be eschewed and new blood engaged.

Rich Reynolds

10:17 AM

 
Blogger owendrab said...

Rich,

Regarding a mission statement... Yes, I wholeheartedly agree. There may be books published, but they often sit on bookshelves and are never written with the deliberate purpose of distributing them to the public, to the media, to Congress, etc. I've been reading a lot about NICAP's methods, and they worked with that kind of resolve in mind.

I think a collective mission/position statement is necessary. It should be actively distributed to independent media sources and on college campuses. The same goes with any work published; NICAP's The UFO Evidence was compiled with this kind of goal in mind. It was not written to just sit on a bookshelf.

We have to realize that we are now fighting an uphill battle for legitimacy and recognition. The era of widespread serious UFO treatment has passed, but that does not mean it is extinct.

brad.

10:47 AM

 
Blogger TheCategorizer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:48 PM

 
Blogger TheCategorizer said...

UFOs are real, f*ck the 21st Century.

Check out my music at www.soundclick.com/posseoftwo

10:49 PM

 

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