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Rated: E · Essay · Cultural · #1996973
I did this for a college English course. I'm a UFO agnostic my self.
On June 1947 Kenneth Arnold, a business man and civilian pilot from Boise Idaho, was using his private plane to aid in the search for a missing military C-47 cargo plane near Mount Rainier in Washington State, when he sighted nine aircraft of a type he could not identify. Having been a pilot for many years, he became curious and turned to follow the unusual craft. He described them as being chevron shaped, silver in color, and flying in a motion reminiscent of a “saucer being skipped across the water”.

Arnold dutifully reported his encounter, and his story was picked up by the world press. Misquoting Arnold, the press coined the term ‘flying saucer,’ despite the fact that Arnold’s saucer analogy was used to describe the way the objects moved, not their shape.
This was the beginning of what is now called UFOlogy: the study of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.

The topic of UFOs has been the subject of tremendous ridicule and less than friendly humor. Those people who claim to have seen such objects are often suspected of mental illness, or of outright dishonesty. Yet despite this stigma, people, many of them holding positions of great responsibility, still report encountering such phenomenon. While quantifiable, tangible evidence has not yet been produced, one thing is certain: the UFO phenomenon cannot be explained away in its entirety.

While it is certain that the UFO mythos has become a commercialized farce, it is also true that many well credentialed scientists and political leaders have risked considerable damage to their careers and reputations because they investigated, and in some cases, continue to investigate UFOs and related issues. Perhaps the two most prominent examples of this are Doctor John Mack and former Congressman Stephen Schiff.

Mack, a tenured professor and Doctor of psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School, investigated the phenomenon of UFO abduction for over a decade, and published several books on the subject before his death in 2004. Doctor Mack concluded that the patients that believed that they had been abducted by UFO occupants were, for the most part, “…sane and well adjusted individuals who had experienced something real”.

Schiff, during his term as Congressman from New Mexico, personally petitioned the Defense Department, Central Intelligence Agency, the National Archives, and the General Accounting Office for any and all material relating to UFOs. Schiff also publicly supported groups as Citizens Against UFO Secrecy. (C.A.U.S.) Despite over 40 years of receiving reports, including over twenty years of official government interest in UFOs under three different project names, (Projects Sign, Grudge, and Bluebook) Schiff received only thirty pages of information, much of which was censored. Given the Government’s propensity for record keeping, one would think that there would be hundreds of pages of eyewitness reports alone.

These two prominent citizens had everything to lose and nothing gain by investigating UFOs. They did so because they believed that the phenomenon, science fiction and fantasy aside, merited investigation if for no other reason than its sheer scope.

Additionally, while the United States government has been less than forthcoming about UFOs, the governments of Belgium and France have been more candid. The French in particular have been transparent in their investigation of UFOs, publishing a ninety page report entitled The 1999 French Report on UFOs and Defense. This report says, in its conclusion, “The physical reality of UFOs, under the control of intelligent beings, is a very reasonable conclusion, although not proven.” Although this report was prepared as private venture, the authors were all former or active members of the French Institute for Advance Studies on National Defense, (the French equivalent of the United States Military’s War Colleges) and was the product of ten years of studying the UFOs incidents in which physical evidence was present, and the eye-witnesses were of the highest credibility. The report was given to French President Jacques Chirac who suggested it be made public.

The importance of this report cannot be understated. It concluded that it was scientifically plausible for UFOs to be real, physical objects, and they could be piloted intelligently. The authors of the report are not UFO enthusiast or persons of questionably character they are prominent members of the French scientific and defense apparatus who felt that if their was any validity to even some UFO reports, French national security could be at risk.

The understandable reluctance for the average person to believe UFO accounts is continuously reinforced by popular culture, which makes great fun of UFO enthusiasts. However, reports continue to be made despite the ridicule that is sure to follow such reporting, and mountains of UFO photos and video footage continue to accumulate. Is it reasonable to believe that every report and all the photographic evidence taken since 1947 are all either misidentified phenomenon or hoaxes? Is it not more reasonable to assume that at least some of these instances are real phenomenon that are, as yet, unexplained.

No one with any credibility can categorically state that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin. However it is equally incredible that the phenomenon itself is entirely fabricated or imagined. Something is happening in the skies, or possibly with the human psyche, which has yet to be explained. Rather UFOs are purely psychological (but no less real) manifestations, misunderstood atmospheric anomalies, experimental terrestrial aircraft, or an extra-solar spacecraft, the phenomenon exist; it is real, and should be studied seriously.

UFO debunkers and skeptics will argue that pressing problems such a global hunger, fatal diseases, and environmental issues are more deserving of precious research dollars than a subject as fanciful as UFOs. They point to the fact that an overwhelming percentage of UFO sightings have been explained as natural phenomenon or misidentified conventional aircraft. These are valid points, but the UFO question needs to be looked at in a different light. Let us say that all UFO sightings, even the five or ten percent that have not been explained despite intense scientific inquiry, are indeed not extra-terrestrial craft. Let us concede that people are seeing something explainable by natural and scientific laws. Let also concede that the vast majority of people who report UFOs are honest, sane people that actually saw something, or believed sincerely that they did. Since the number of sighting reports number well into the thousands each year, and since even the most hardened skeptic will concede that not all of those thousands who report UFO incidents can be hoaxers, then is it not in our best interest to find out what these people are seeing and why?

If it is an as yet unidentified psychological phenomenon occurring in thousands of people (including airline and military pilots, police officers and military personnel, and public officials including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan) then does it not have to be worthy of study?

In the case of the abduction phenomenon, the alleged abductees (also called by the more politically correct term 'experiencers') report extreme traumatization, and often seek psychological help. If these people have a mental disorder that has yet to be diagnosed correctly, or an unknown variation of an identified disorder, then they cannot receive proper treatment. Further, some abductees have been victimized by charlatans claiming to be legitimate therapists, but who have no credentials whatsoever. Many times, these charlatans dabble in hypnotherapy, and mind altering drugs to help and abductee ‘remember’ an abduction experience, but actually use those methods to further damage the alleged abductee’s mental health.

Another, more likely, explanation put forth for UFO sightings is the misidentification of experimental aircraft. However, since many sightings occur over heavily populated areas of the United States (as in Hudson Valley, New York sightings that occurred repeatedly throughout the 1980s) one must ask why secret military vehicles would be tested where thousands of people would be sure to observe them? If experimental vehicles are being tested in populated areas and, as is claimed, local air traffic controllers truly know nothing about such tests, then there must be a great danger to the public due to possible aircraft collisions if nothing else.
Also consider that such experimental aircraft are funded by taxpayer dollars. Even acknowledging the need for secrecy in the interest of national security, there still must be some accountability for the fear, confusion, and wasted resources that accompany UFO reports if they are, indeed, caused by experimental aircraft.

In summation, even if all supernatural aspects of the UFO question are ignored or dismissed, the question itself still exists, and has direct bearing on the lives of many honest and loyal American citizens. Is it right to belittle these people and marginalize them because they have seen and reported something they cannot explain, or because they have a view of the universe that dose not agree with convention? I submit that if we allow them to be marginalized, we cannot help but marginalize ourselves.
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