An Open Letter to Scientists
I call into question the prevailing practice of the much-vaunted style of thinking, universally known as the scientific approach. Not that the scientific approach to a problem is unsound. Far be it from that. Rather that the widely accepted pattern of scientific thought as it is now practiced is in the nature of a tradition. There are certain accepted categories of scientific endeavor, and scientists in the manner of their primitive forebears are dominated in their habits by their traditions.
Among primitive peoples there is the adherence to traditional customs, blind acceptance of inherited beliefs. Among scientists it is the restriction of scientific thought to inherited categories of investigation, or what might be termed "proper" fields of scientific pursuit. In the interests of human progress it is of the utmost importance that the interests of science be widened.
In proportion as the knowledge of his environment has broadened and expanded, man's concept of the cosmos has also grown dimensionally. Early man's view of the cosmos was geocentric; as his knowledge grew and his scientific outlook expanded he became heliocentric. The heliocentric attitude subsequently gave way to the galactic-centered universe. Finally, a little past the turn of the century, the galactic-centered cosmos gave way to a universe of galaxies, the boundaries of which are yet to be ascertained.
The gradual emergence of human understanding generally is a parallel process. Blind adherence to traditional customs and practices has served to advance mankind in the early stages of his struggle for existence. Traditions for the most part have in themselves the protective influences that have
served throughout man's past experiences. It might be said that traditions are the accumulated wisdom of experiences, the values of which in many cases have been lost sight of in man's upward climb toward understanding.
As the method of science has little by little supplemented the thought processes of man, tradition has been gradually replaced by the knowledge garnered through scientific procedure. In this connection a word of warning might be in order. There is danger that too much reliance be placed upon the findings resolved by limited scientific study of a problem. The truths inherent in traditional thought are not always susceptible to accurate evaluation through what might be appraised as exhaustive scientific investigation.
The widespread concept of science as knowledge based upon experiment in itself clearly points out the limitations of the scientific method. For there are experiments and experiments, and the circumstances under which controlled experimentations are carried out are limitless in their variations. The findings of science are therefore tentative in character, all of them. They should therefore be regarded as such.
The concept of man as the crown of creation has not yet been superseded by another concept in human thought. There has been very little acceptance of the concept of personality existent in other modes of matter and material environment different from those which obtain on this planet. Even on this planet, the earth, there are widely divergent embodiments of personality found wherever matter exists, on the earth's surface, within the ground, in the atmosphere, in the waters of the earth, in the subterranean depths of the deepest oceans, and within the numerous bodies themselves, countless varieties and numbers of cell forms possessing individual existences. Indeed, life as we know it on this planet is everywhere in everything and practically limitless in its forms and varieties.
The geocentric view of the physical universe has long been superseded by more comprehensive pictures of reality. Man has had to gradually withdraw from an inflated concept of his importance within the physical scheme of things. This withdrawal has hardly been accompanied by a corresponding contraction of his ego. Paradoxically, instead of being deflated he has become inflated beyond degree. The rabid scientist
believes he can pull himself up by the bootstraps of the scientific method. He looks about him using the scientific gadgets he has constructed and believes that what his gadgets measure constitutes the whole of all there is. Sober minds among the scientific group acknowledge the flimsy sketchiness of scientific findings.
True, in our devaluation of scientific method we must not undervalue the great blessings of science to humanity in the controls achieved over human environment resulting from scientific development. Science is so interwoven in the life of mankind, its boon to human progress so keenly realized that nothing save man's self-destruction by his own scientific gadgets can thwart its onward march.
But in spite of the glorious achievements of science and man's over-confident pride in his understanding and use of science, he is still hidebound by tradition. Like his primitive ancestors he must abide by his traditions, his traditions of categories for scientific investigation, and any new fields that suggest departure from them are ignored and in many cases considered non-existent.
I would plead for a little more open-mindedness among the fraternities of scientific investigators. Refrain from ridicule of that which might sound preposterous, but which you have not personally investigated. In spite of the obscuration by bewildering clouds of ridicule, prejudice, fanaticism, and political suppression of information, there may be found an impressive mass of observational evidence for the reality of the so-called unidentified flying objects or UFOs now haunting the skies adjacent to this planet.
The more deeply one delves into this sphere of investigation, the more one becomes convinced of its potential significances. It would seem that the time is now at hand for the relaxing of the bands of restraint that prevent the disclosure of the accumulative factual material having to do with these sky visitors. There are those who would welcome the opportunity to be permitted to present the case for the reality of these strange phenomena before assemblies of scientists. At the present time the subject is still generally tabooed because of the disinclination of scientists as a class to be willing to disentangle themselves from their orthodoxy.
C. A. M. October 1956