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Kidz' Korner




Leading Skeptics and Debunkers

Ufology may have its proponents, but it also has its opponents. The field of UFO research is filled with experts that are very reputable, highly educated and extremely knowledgeable about UFOs, Flying Saucers and related matters.

But also added to the mix are those people whose skepticism remain unshaken. No matter what evidence you present to them, they will throw out any bit of information that doesn't fit their pre-conceived ideas and theories. Debunkers will even go further and tell you what you saw...instead of listening to what you, the eyewitness, actually saw with your own eyes!


1. Don't bother me with the facts, my mind is made up.
2. What the public doesn't know, I am not going to tell them.
3. If you can't attack the data, attack the people. It's easier.
4. Do research by proclamation because investigation is too much trouble.


• Absence of evidence is evidence of absence because looking is too much trouble.
• All Believers are liars.
• All Non-believers only tell the truth.
• Believers are only involved for the money.
• Non-believers turn over their money to charities.
• The proper way to do UFO document research is from one
's armchair. Archival visits are too much trouble.
• Defame dead people since one can't be sued for Libel.
• Of course TOP SECRET CODE WORD (ULTRA, UMBRA, MAJIC, etc) material would be referred in Confidential, Secret or TOP SECRET documents.
• Only the Roswell newspapers had relevant material.

Below is a list of the leading skeptics and debunkers, past and present, who have proclaimed...and continue to proclaim...that "there is nothing to UFOs", but have yet to do the research on a topic of which they know nothing about.

Dr. Donald H. Menzel

Dr. Donald Menzel (1901-1976) was a prominent Harvard astronomer, serving as a professor of both astronomy and of astrophysics. He was also the chairman of Harvard College Observatory from 1954 to 1966. Menzel was a globally renowned astronomer, participating in numerous international committees, leading solar eclipse expeditions, and establishing solar observatories. Menzel also debunked UFOs, authoring three books on the subject: Flying Saucers (1953); The World of Flying Saucers (1964); and The UFO Enigma: A Definitive Explanation of the UFO Phenomenon (1977). Menzel's disdain for the UFO subject and his published works have been used by skeptics Phil Klass and Robert Sheaffer as evidence that there is nothing to UFOs.

Phil Klass

The late Philip Klass, an electrical engineer by education and once the editor of the popular "Aviation Week", was the most famous skeptic in modern times, having authored five anti-UFO books and appeared on television countless times. In his first book, "UFOs - Identified" published in 1968, Klass suggested that, although terrestrial of origin, many reported UFOs were strong evidence of a new natural phenomenon which was similar in some ways to ball lightning. His subsequent books then revealed a complete reversal in his thinking. Klass had now adopted the position (curiously, this "change of heart" occured after his hypothesis on plasma balls had been thoroughly discredited and rejected by scientists) that the entire UFO phenomenon (including those cases Klass first thought to be accurate and evidence for new phenomena) was the result of, among others, hoaxes, and observational mistakes.

Isaac Asimov

One of the pioneers of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov invented or popularized many of the genre's tropes - Robot Buddies, Galactic Empires, world-spanning cities - but is best known for the Laws of Robotics and the Foundation Trilogy, both early works. He is considered one of the "Big Three" of Science Fiction along with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, and was the owner of one seriously awesome pair of sideburns.

Dr. Asimov was a professor of biochemistry, member of Mensa, and one of the most prolific writers of science fiction and fact in history. He wrote 515 books as well as an uncountable number of short stories and scholarly articles; his writing spans nearly every subject a person can write about, including a book about writing itself, a book of trivial facts about whatever came to his head, and at least two joke books. The prolific nature of his work was to the point where he wrote a book in every Dewey Decimal System category except for Philosophy (and technically, he is even in that category too, though he only wrote the foreword to a book on philosophy that was written by another author). His friend and fellow author Peter David once joked, after Asimov's death, that sooner or later a new book, ''Isaac Asimov's Guide to the Afterlife" would be appearing in bookstores, because if anyone could pull off a posthumous publishing, it would be Asimov. In addition, he was a Promoted Fanboy; he started reading the pulp sci-fi magazines sold in his family's candy stores when he was young, began writing his own stories when he was eleven, and managed to get published when he was nineteen.

Robots in early science fiction almost always Turned Against Their Masters, a trope Asimov felt was ridiculous. Robots were tools; they would be safe by design. After a few preliminary stories, he formalized this with the Three Laws of Robotics:

• A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
• A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
• A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Ben Bova

Benjamin William Bova (born November 8, 1932) is an American author of more than 120 works of science fact and fiction, six-time winner of the Hugo Award, a former editor of Analog magazine, a former editorial director of Omni (magazine), a past president of both the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America, and lives in Florida.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (Sri Lankabhimanya Arthur Charles Clarke) (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

He is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, considered by the American Film Institute to be one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a large readership, making him into one of the towering figures of the field. For many years, he, along with Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.

Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system — an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute's Stuart Ballantine Medal. Later, he was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–47 and again, in 1951-53.

Clarke was also a science writer, who was both an avid popularizer of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability, who won a Kalinga Prize (award given by Unesco for popularizing science) in 1961. These all together eventually earned him the moniker "prophet of the space age".

Clarke emigrated to Sri Lanka in 1956, largely to pursue his interest in scuba diving. That year, he discovered the underwater ruins of the ancient Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee. He lived in Sri Lanka until his death. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 and was awarded Sri Lanka's highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.

On paranormal phenomena

Early in his career, Clarke had a fascination with the paranormal and stated that it was part of the inspiration for his novel Childhood's End. Citing the numerous promising paranormal claims that were shown to be fraudulent, Clarke described his earlier openness to the paranormal having turned to being "an almost total sceptic" by the time of his 1992 biography. During interviews, both in 1993 and 2004–2005, he stated that he did not believe in reincarnation, citing that there was no mechanism to make it possible, though he stated "I'm always paraphrasing J. B. S. Haldane: 'The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.'" He described the idea of reincarnation as fascinating, but favoured a finite existence.

Clarke was well known for his television series investigating paranormal phenomena Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World (1980), Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious Universe (1985) and Arthur C. Clarke's World of Strange Powers (1994), enough to be parodied in an episode of The Goodies in which his show is cancelled after it is claimed he does not exist.

Dr. Carl Sagan

Astronomer, educator and author, Sagan was perhaps the world's greatest popularizer of science, reaching millions of people through newspapers, magazines and television broadcasts. He is well-known for his work on the PBS series Cosmos, the Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning show that became the most watched series in public-television history. It was seen by more than 500 million people in 60 countries. The accompanying book, Cosmos (1980), was on The New York Times bestseller list for 70 weeks and was the best-selling science book ever published in English. Carl Edward Sagan was born Nov. 9, 1934, in Brooklyn, N.Y. At Cornell since 1968, Sagan received a bachelor's degree in 1955 and a master's degree in 1956, both in physics, and a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics in 1960, all from the University of Chicago. He taught at Harvard University in the early 1960s before coming to Cornell, where he became a full professor in 1971. Sagan played a leading role in NASA's Mariner, Viking, Voyager and Galileo expeditions to other planets. He received NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and twice for Distinguished Public Service and the NASA Apollo Achievement Award. His research focused on topics such as the greenhouse effect on Venus; windblown dust as an explanation for the seasonal changes on Mars; organic aerosols on Titan, Saturn's moon; the long-term environmental consequences of nuclear war; and the origin of life on Earth. A pioneer in the field of exobiology, he continued to teach graduate and undergraduate students in courses in astronomy and space sciences and in critical thinking at Cornell. The breadth of his interests were made evident in October 1994, at a Cornell-sponsored symposium in honor of Sagan's 60th birthday. The two-day event featured speakers in areas of planetary exploration, life in the cosmos, science education, public policy and government regulation of science and the environment -- all fields in which Sagan had worked or had a strong interest.

Robert Sheaffer

A member of CSICOP (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry into Claims Of the Paranormal)'s UFO subcommittee and author of several UFO debunking books. As with Klass, Sheaffer remains vociferously active in this department. Sheaffer feels that "sympathetic consideration of UFO sightings" is not only "irrational" but threatens a "new dark age." UFOlogy of any sort, even a cautious methodological variety is, in Sheaffer's estimation and his italics, "fundamentally a reaction against science and reason."

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer is the publisher of Skeptic magazine, the director of the Skeptics Society, the host of the Skeptics Lecture Series at Caltech, and an adjunct professor at Occidental College. He is the author of Why People Believe Weird Things (W. H. Freeman) that was widely and positively reviewed and was on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list as well as nominated as one of the top 100 notable books of 1997.

(The Amazing) James Randi

James Randi is a retired professional magician ("The Amazing Randi"), author, lecturer, amateur archaeologist/astronomer. Born in 1928 in Toronto, Canada, where he received his high school education. He was naturalized a U.S. citizen in 1987, and now lives in Florida. He is single.

He was a founding fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) based in Buffalo, NY. This organization of academics and other experts is devoted to the examination of paranormal, occult and supernatural claims. Nonprofit, it serves the media, other scientific groups, and the public as an information source. Their journal is the Skeptical Inquirer, which reaches 40,000 subscribers. Mr. Randi also writes a column, “'Twas Brillig,” for The Skeptic, the journal of the Skeptic's Society, headquartered in California. He is editor of SWIFT, the online newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) – to be seen at www.randi.org.– which was set up in 1996 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as a data source for educators, students, media, and researchers. The SWIFT web page receives thousands of hits a day from all over the world. The Foundation offers prizes and scholarships to students, conducts seminars and workshops, and also funds and originates selected, original parapsychological research. The JREF also offers a million-dollar prize – details to be found on the web page. An annual conference – The Amaz!ng Meeting – is held annually in January, featuring international speakers on a variety of topics.

James Oberg

James Edward Oberg (born 1944) (often known as Jim Oberg) is an American space journalist and historian, regarded as an expert on the Russian space program.

After service in the US Air Force, he joined NASA in 1975, where he worked until 1997 at Johnson Space Center on the Space Shuttle program. He worked in the Mission Control Center for several Space Shuttle missions from STS-1 on, specialising in orbital rendezvous techniques. This culminated in planning the orbit for the STS-88 mission, the first International Space Station assembly flight.

During the 1990s, he was involved in NASA studies of the Soviet space program, with particular emphasis on safety aspects; these had often been covered up or downplayed, and with the advent of the ISS and the Shuttle-Mir programs, NASA was keen to study them as much as possible. He privately published several books on the Soviet (and later Russian) programs, and became one of the few Western specialists on Russian space history. He speaks English, French, and Russian and has used his language skills and a friendly demeanor to gain access to the heart of the Russian and European space establishments. (As a result, he has often been called to testify before the US Congress on the Russian space program.)

In the 1990s, Oberg authored Space power theory, sponsored by United States military as a part of an official campaign in changing perceptions of space warfare, specifically deployment and use of weapons in outer space, and its political implications. In Oberg's view, "space is not an extension of air warfare but is unique in itself."

As a journalist, he writes for several regular publications, mostly online; he was previously space correspondent for UPI, ABC and currently MSNBC, often in an on-air role. He is a Fellow of the skeptical organization CSICOP and a consultant to its magazine Skeptical Inquirer. In 1991, PBS transformed his book Red Star In Orbit into a documentary series. HBO has optioned Red Star in Orbit for some future made-for-TV miniseries. At about the same time Oberg launched a six-year battle for official recognition of Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. (1935–1967) as a United States astronaut; United States Air Force officially recognized Lawrence in January 1997.

He was commissioned by NASA to write a rebuttal of Apollo Moon landing conspiracy theories. NASA later dropped the project; however, Oberg has said that he still intends to pursue it.

James McGaha

James McGaha is a retired USAF pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory. He held a TOP SECRET compartmented security clearance and was involved in numerous classified operations including operations in the so-called "Area 51." His current work includes astrometry and photometry of asteroids and supernovae. He has discovered 15 Asteroids and 52 Comets and has over 1700 M.P.E.C. publications on Near Earth Asteroids. He is the winner of the 2002 Shoemaker NEO Grant. He has appeared widely in the media, having actively promoted science and debunked pseudoscience for over 35 years, focusing on belief in UFOs and astrology. He is the founder and chairman of the Tucson Skeptics and a Scientific Consultant to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, James McGaha talks about his astronomer-beginnings as a skeptic of UFOs, and the limitations of the term "UFO." He answers how open-minded he is about the possibility that extraterrestrial beings are visiting the earth today. He talks about the origins of UFO belief with the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, along with Fate, a magazine promoting paranormal belief. He talks about the history of Project Bluebook and the Condon Report. He details qualities of human perception that may explain UFO accounts, and explores some of the reasons people may adhere to UFO belief. He explains the famous Phoenix Lights sightings. He explores how to respond to those who have unshakable belief in unsupportable UFO claims. He compares qualities of contemporary UFO mythology with certain aspects of religious belief, including views of apocalypticism and salvation. And he talks about the dangers that belief in UFOs pose to a civil society.


James McGaha provides his "expert opinion" on the 1997 Phoenix Lights case and the Stephenville, Texas UFO case on the Larry King Live show:


Paul Kurtz

Paul Kurtz (born December 21, 1925 in Newark, New Jersey) is best known for his prominent role in the United States skeptical community. He has been called "the father of secular humanism." He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research.

Kurtz has published of over 800 articles or reviews and has authored and edited over 50 books. Many of his books have been translated into over 60 languages world-wide. Among his most important[citation needed] are "The Transcendental Temptation," "Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism," , "The Courage to Become," and "Multi-Secularism: A New Agenda." His published bibliography of writings from 1952 to 2003 runs over 79 pages.

Kurtz founded the publishing house Prometheus Books in 1969. He is also the founder and past chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)), the Council for Secular Humanism, and the [Center for Inquiry]. On May 18, 2010, he resigned from all these positions. Moreover, the Center for Inquiry accepted his resignation as chairman emeritus and board member, the culmination of a years-long "leadership transition," thanking him "for his decades of service" while alluding to "concerns about Dr. Kurtz’s day-to-day management of the organization."

He was editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Humanist Laureate and president of the International Academy of Humanism. As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto II. Former editor of The Humanist, 1967-78. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.

Seth Shostak

SETI Institute Senior Astronomer

Seth is an astronomer with a BA in physics from Princeton and a PhD in astronomy from Caltech, and is involved with the Institute's SETI research. But he's also responsible for much of the outreach activities of the Institute. He is science editor for "The Explorer", gives more than 50 talks annually for both academic and general audiences, and writes magazine articles (and books) about SETI. He also teaches informal education classes on astronomy and other topics in the Bay Area, and is the inventor of the electrical banana, a circumstance he claims has had little positive effect on his life. He is the host for the SETI Institute's weekly radio program Are We Alone?

Before coming to SETI, Seth did research work on galaxies using radio telescopes at observatories and universities in America and Europe. His avocations include photography, filmmaking, and electronics.

Seth has produced a series of lectures on tape and video on the subject of SETI.



Dr. Jill Tarter

Astronomer Jill Tarter is Director of the Institute’s Center for SETI Research, and also holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI. She is one of the few researchers to have devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and there are few aspects of this field that have not been affected by her work.

Jill was the lead for Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken. Now Jill heads up the Institute’s efforts to build and operate the Allen Telescope Array, a massive new instrument that will eventually comprise 350 antennas, each 6 meters in diameter. This telescope will be able to enormously increase the speed, and the spectral search range, of the Institute’s hunt for signals. A subset of the full array will begin operations in the Fall of 2007.

Indeed, being as much of an icon of SETI as Jill is, perhaps it is not surprising that the Jodie Foster character in the movie “Contact” is largely based on this real-life researcher.

This SETI scientist claims UFOs don't exist. Her evidence for such a scientific conclusion? She claims to have attended a single UFO lecture and once mistook the moon for a UFO. How does an astronomer holding a chair at SETI mistake the moon for a UFO?! That says it all about her qualifications in determining UFOs don't exist. So much for being scientific and looking at the evidence. Jill, you should put your Ph.D back in whatever box of Cracker Jacks you got it from... SEE: SETI


Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell (born December 1, 1944) is a prominent skeptical investigator of the paranormal. He also works as an historical document consultant and has helped expose such famous forgeries as the purported diary of Jack the Ripper. In 2002 he was one of a number of experts asked by scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to evaluate for authenticity the manuscript of Hannah Crafts' The Bondwoman's Narrative (1853–1860), possibly the first novel by an African-American woman.[2]

Nickell is Senior Research Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and writes regularly for their journal, the Skeptical Inquirer. He is also an associate dean of the Center for Inquiry Institute. He is the author or editor of numerous books.

Nickell holds B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Kentucky. His Ph.D. is in English for graduate work focusing on literary investigation and folklore.

Nickell has worked professionally as a stage magician, carnival pitchman, private detective, blackjack dealer, riverboat manager, university instructor, author, and paranormal investigator, as well as listing over 200 "personas" on his website.

Nickell has evaluated manuscripts and written works for authenticity, including the purported diary of Jack the Ripper (which he helped to reveal as a forgery), and Hannah Crafts' mid-nineteenth century novel The Bondwoman's Narrative, whose authenticity he supported.

The protagonist of the 2007 horror film The Reaping is loosely based on Joe Nickell. He was brought onto the set to consult with actress Hilary Swank.



Bill Nye (The Science Guy)

William Sanford "Bill" Nye (born November 27, 1955), popularly known as "Bill Nye the Science Guy", is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, and mechanical engineer. He is best known as the host of the Disney children's science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–1998) and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator.

Nye is a fourth-generation Washington, D.C. resident on his father's side of family. After attending Lafayette Elementary and Alice Deal Junior High in the city, he was accepted to the private Sidwell Friends School on a partial scholarship, graduating in 1973. He studied mechanical engineering at Cornell University, where one of his professors was Carl Sagan, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1977. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by The Johns Hopkins University in May 2008. In May 2011, Nye was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Willamette University where he was the keynote speaker for that year's commencement exercises.

Nye began his career in Seattle at Boeing, where, among other things, he starred in training films and developed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor still used in the 747. Later he worked as a consultant in the aeronautics industry. Nye told the St. Petersburg Times in 1999 that he applied to be a NASA astronaut every few years but was always rejected.

He is also a fellow of the committee for skeptical inquiry, which represents many skeptics.


Stanton Friedman appeared on the Scooter McGee show on 07-30-08. Here he talks about confronting "UFO debunker" Bill Nye off-camera on Larry King Live about Nye getting facts wrong about the 1947 Roswell incident.



Bill Nye was out of his league on the Larry King show. Bob Jacobs seemed more aggressive than usual; maybe that was because of Nye's exhausted attempts at debunking.


Dr. Michael Persinger

Michael A. Persinger (born June 26, 1945) is a cognitive neuroscience researcher and university professor with over 200 peer-reviewed publications. He has worked at Laurentian University, located in Sudbury, Ontario, since 1971.

Michael Persinger was born in Jacksonville, Florida and grew up primarily in Virginia, Maryland and Wisconsin. He attended Carroll College from 1963 to 1964, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1967. He then obtained an M.A. in physiological psychology from the University of Tennessee and a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba in 1971.

During the 1980s he stimulated people's temporal lobes artificially with a weak magnetic field to see if he could induce a religious state (see God helmet). He claimed that the field could produce the sensation of "an ethereal presence in the room". This research has received wide coverage in the media, with high profile visitors to Persinger's lab Susan Blackmore and Richard Dawkins reporting positive and negative results respectively. Dawkins reported a range of minor effects (relaxation, sensations in his limbs, etc.), while Blackmore reported "One of the most extraordinary experiences" she had ever had.

Michael Persinger has also contributed to research into the Miracle of the sun at Fatima and other Marian apparitions. He theorized that the stimulation of the cerebral-temporal lobe may have been the actual cause of the Marian apparition phenomenon. He believes the religious content of the experiences may have been a result of their obsession with religious themes and their lack of education. He has contributed to 2 papers about The Miracle of the Sun.

Persinger has also come to public attention due to his 1975 Tectonic Strain Theory (TST) of how geophysical variables may correlate with sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs). Persinger argued that strain within the Earth's crust near seismic faults produces intense electromagnetic (EM) fields, creating bodies of light that some interpret as glowing UFOs. Alternatively, he argued that the EM fields generate hallucinations in the temporal lobe, based on images from popular culture, of alien craft, beings, communications, or creatures. In the UK, Paul Devereux advocates a variant geophysical theory similar to TST, the Earthlights theory. However, unlike Persinger, Devereaux generally restricts such effects to the immediate vicinity of a fault line. Devereux's approach also differs from Persinger's in holding triboluminescence rather than piezoelectricity as the "more likely candidate" for the production of naturally occurring UFOs. Devereux doesn't advocate, as in Persinger's TST, that the phenomenon might create hallucinations of UFO encounters in people, instead proposing an even more radical hypothesis: that earthlights may possess intelligence and even have the ability to read witness' thoughts.

UFO researchers critical of the tectonic strain theory admit that, while observations of diffuse lights during (and sometimes before and after) very severe earthquakes may give some weak support to some parts of TST and Earthlights theory (see Earthquake lights), they question the ability of fault lines to generate luminous effects and hallucinatory experiences under much less severe conditions(as cited above). Nonetheless, even TST critics such as Rutowski think such theories may hold some promise for explaining a small percentage of UFO phenomena, although they doubt that they can ever offer a comprehensive explanation for the vast majority of unexplained UFO cases. Other UFO researchers (mainly in the U.K) believe this very limited interpretation of the TST is brought into question by the clustering of UFO reports within areas prone to faulting - such as the Pennine region of northern Britain. While acknowledging the drawbacks of Persinger's theory, they feel that amended versions of it may account for a significant proportion of "True UFO" reports.

Persinger's claims regarding the effects of environmental geomagnetic activity on paranormal experiences have not been independently replicated and, like his findings regarding the God helmet, may simply be explained by the suggestibility of participants.



Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson

John Prytz (John Prytz)

Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Philosophy On UFOs: Some Comments

Sooner or later, nearly every astronomer, especially if they have a relatively high public profile, has got to face the UFO issue and expound upon whether there is any scientific credibility to the idea that some UFOs are bona-fide alien spacecraft. One such astronomer, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium, New York City, has indeed made his point of view known. He doesn't deny the theoretical possibility, but that is about as far as the credibility goes. I take issue with some of his opinions as this essay details.

When it comes to the emotive subject of UFOs (as in alien spacecraft), scientists just don't want to know or enter into the debate if it can possibly be avoided, for the prime reason that those who make the UFO = alien spaceship equation fail to either put up or shut up. That's 'put up' in terms of the sorts of evidence that scientists tend to have to 'put up' when they make claims. If they have to 'put up', they expect in turn that others will 'put up' evidence to them. The scientific consensus is that UFO = alien spaceship buffs haven't done an adequate job in the 'put up' department. One such scientist with that point of view (POV) is the fairly well known astronomer, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. While overall reasonably correct in that POV, some of his arguments are flawed and lack credibility in my POV.

When it comes to evidence for this or that explanation for a UFO sighting, especially the UFO = alien spacecraft explanation, eyewitness testimony is suspect. Or so relates astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson via several YouTube clips relevant to his take on UFOs. But wait, there's more!

Dr. Tyson quite correctly points out that the "U" in UFO stands for "unidentified" and that's as far as anyone seeing, what to them is an Unidentified Flying Object, can expound upon. One should not jump to the conclusion that "U" equals alien spacecraft. No argument there. However, he also points out, an equally valid comment, is that we don't like mysteries like things that are unidentified and so therefore we do tend to jump the gun and jump to unwarranted conclusions in order to identify the unidentified and maybe unidentifiable. No argument from me there either other than to point out that we leap to the conclusion of UFOs = alien spaceships in favour of some other explanation probably because there must be something suggestive of that possibility; there's something in the observational date that points to alien ships and not to something else.

He notes that there exist natural phenomena and conditions which can befuddle someone not familiar with those phenomena. No argument on that observation either.


But he goes slightly off the rails by suggesting the least likely form of bona-fide evidence is human perception or eyewitness testimony. Optical illusions are a case in point as he delights in pointing out. However, relative to man-made or designed optical illusions, there are not all that many natural ones, although there are some of course, like mirages or that 'sinking' ship as it passes beyond the visible horizon.

I get the impression from Dr. Tyson's comments that eyewitness testimony has as much reliability as a $7 bill. Human perception is absolutely 100% fallible. Although eyewitness testimony is a cornerstone in legal proceedings, courtroom lawyers have a field day in discrediting eyewitness testimony. Experiments by psychologists prove overwhelmingly that any sudden and unexpected event witnessed by ten people will result in ten different versions of what happened, but not drastically so. I mean ten witnesses will differ on the height, weight and attire of the person in the unexpected happening, but they won't differ on the fact that it was a human and not an elephant!

Humans are actually pretty good when it comes to the details, otherwise why would law enforcement officials ask you to point out the criminal in a police line-up or the news reporters question witnesses to some unusual news happening? To take just one of thousands of possible examples, you can easily tell your face from your parent's faces and from the face of every other person you know (in person) or have frequently seen (like Dr. Tyson's on YouTube). You know a new and different face when you see one. You can tell a human face from say a reconstructed one of Homo erectus. You can distinguish a primate face from a feline face from a canine face from a bovine face. You can tell apart the face of a penguin or an eagle from their ancient ancestor, the T-Rex. If you can't tell apart a frog face from a crocodile face from a shark face from a spider's face, there's something seriously askew. Assuming there's nothing askew; you can tell apart all these examples of faces despite the fact that they are all faces.

Therefore, in your day-to-day life, 99.9% of what other people tell you they saw (i.e. - Joe Blow drinking down at the pub) you'll believe them. Human perception is flawed, but it's all you got for all practical purposes - despite zillions of smart-phone cameras around snapping anything and everything. People don't tend to tell you they saw Joe Blow at the pub AND show you their smart-phone camera picture of Joe Blow at the pub since you obviously wouldn't believe them without the pictorial backup.

In any event, perception in humans usually tends to be more than adequate, say when driving a car or playing a game of baseball. Humans have an excellent innate ability to judge height, depth, colour, direction of sound, types of sounds, motion, velocity (speed plus direction), etc. We'd better have those skills if we are to survive day-to-day; week-to-week; month-to-month; etc. from birth through death.


Dr. Tyson makes much of the child's game of 'telephone' and how that relates to evidence of how unreliable eyewitness (or ear-witness) testimony is. It's that version of someone who told someone, who told someone, who told someone, who told someone, who told someone, etc. etc. That story that goes in ear number one ends up usually bearing little relation to what the last person in the chain relates what they were told. Cases where someone who told someone repeated many times over on down the line are indeed suspect, but that's not usually the case with UFO sightings. 'Telephone' is actually pretty irrelevant to UFO reports since the chain is usually just a chain of one link between two individuals - the UFO witness relates first-hand their story to the UFO investigator. There's no twenty-something someone who told someone links here. Direct first-person testimony is written down or otherwise recorded for posterity.


Dr. Tyson makes the point that average Joe Blow citizen isn't usually all that familiar with astronomical and meteorological and optical phenomena and thus sightings of lights in the sky are frequently misinterpreted - Venus becomes an alien spaceship. However, not all UFOs sighted are reports of dot points of lights in the sky. UFOs have been seen close up on the ground and often exhibit a substantial disc when seen in the sky. That's why the late Dr. J. Allen Hynek (who was a pioneer in the scientific study of UFOs while also an astrophysicist like Dr. Tyson) came up with that category of UFO sightings called "close encounters" where misidentification of say a star for an alien spacecraft is unlikely since a star never exhibits a substantial 2-D or 3-D geometric shape.


Dr. Tyson also suggests (tongue-in-cheek?) that if you are abducted, you grab (steal) something off the alien's shelf in order to back up your claim with something that can be put on the slab in a lab for independent testing. That's flawed for several reasons. Assuming you've been abducted by aliens, you've got to think of it at the time under rather trying circumstances. That's if you're not naked on the slab being poked and prodded - you have no pockets available in which to squirrel something away, assuming there is anything in arm's reach to squirrel away in any event. That's also assuming you are not being watched. Even if you do nick off with something, elements and compounds tend to be uniform across the cosmos so an alien ashtray or knife could be made of the same stuff as a terrestrial ashtray or knife. Any alleged alien artefact would clearly have to be of such a nature as to rule out any terrestrial origin or a hoax. It's a sensible suggestion but a way more likely bet is that any alleged UFO abductee would pick up alien micro-organisms which might be detectable and cultured as evidence.


One obvious flaw in Dr. Tyson's reasoning is that, according to Dr. Tyson, if UFOs are alien spacecraft, why should said aliens land in a farmer's field as opposed to something more visible like touching down in Times Square (New York City). Well, aliens, by definition, are alien and will have alien motives; an alien psychology. We cannot determine before the fact how aliens should behave since we have no studies to hand on alien wetware, alien neurochemistry and alien motivations.


Dr. Tyson also ridicules UFOs as alien spacecraft by noting the [Roswell] crash. How can advanced high-tech aliens navigate and travel across the galaxy then end up crash-landing? They must be pretty stupid inept aliens. Actually, it is in this case, an unusually inept example of reasoning by Dr. Tyson. Dr Tyson - shit happens! How many UFOs (if alien spacecraft) haven't crashed? Nearly all would be an appropriate answer. And how many of our Mars-bound probes have coasted safely through the relative vastness of interplanetary space only to crash onto the Martian surface at the final moment. Sometimes, albeit rarely, we have aircraft crashes. Most times aircraft don't crash. If terrestrial shit happens, extraterrestrial shit happens. These are fallible aliens, not infallible deities.

In conclusion, Dr. Tyson's various YouTube presentations are clearly his standard answer to the UFO question and his well rehearsed monologue on the subject. They were pure showmanship - witty, highly entertaining, but, alas scientifically barren. His presentations contributed nothing to furthering the coming to terms with the bona-fide UFO phenomena. As the saying goes, "if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem".

P.S. By the way, Dr. Tyson also made a big issue of why UFOs would need runway lights as in the film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". I need remind people here that the movie was a science fiction film and not a documentary. Any fault in logic lies solely and squarely on the shoulders of those who made, produced and directed the movie.

No infringement intended. For educational purposes only.