For as God was the help of our reason to illuminate us, so should we likewise turn it every way, that we may be more capable of understanding His mysteries; provided only that the mind be enlarged, according to its capacity, to the grandeur of the mysteries, and not the mysteries contracted to the nar- rowness of the mind.
Very few subjects have attracted as much attention throughout the world as Unidentified Flying Objects. Nearly everyone in the civilized world has at least heard of them. Even some natives beyond the reach of modern communications have described things in the sky that fit the definition. Beyond that, however, there is little unanimity. Every individual has naturally formed his own opinion on the topic, and beliefs vary greatly. Most reasonable people would accept a full and convincing proof of the identity of these mysterious objects. UFOs remain controversial, however, because no attempt at explaining the phenomenon has been entirely successful.
The fundamental fact confronting us is the existence of a large number of UFO sighting reports. Some of these reports may be fraudulent, but most investigators have concluded that the major ity are quite valid; that is, the witnesses themselves believed that they saw something real, external, artificial, and unusual. The primary aim of this book is to seek a satisfactory interpretation, or understanding, of these experiences.
On logical grounds it may be said that all possible explanations can be subdivided into two major categories, namely, A) physically real, manufactured objects that the witness could not relate to anything in his background, and B) something entirely different, such as obscure natural phenomena, hoaxes, or psychic projections. The possibility remains, of course, that the stimulus for a report of the first type was unique to a particular witness and could prove to be quite mundane to more knowledgeable and experienced people. The heart of the whole question, there fore, is whether or not there exists a subset of experiences in Category A that are unique and puzzling to mankind as a whole, including experts in every field. The majority of witnesses think so! This conviction is shared by most of the people who have diligently studied this subject. Contrary views are more popular among those who (a) feel that examination of the data would be undignified, (b) tend to reject any new concept out of hand, and (c) suspend judgment until irrefutable evidence is presented to them. Unfortunately, little progress in this perplexing field can be achieved while the mind is preoccupied with the issue of UFO existence. The reason for this dilemma is that while mentally coursing through the arguments pro and con, one's attention is deflected from discovery of more meaningful detail. The mind is then blocked from further enlightenment. Rational progress can be achieved only by setting such unwarranted skepticism aside, if only temporarily.
For the present purpose, the reader is requested to suspend his doubts and follow the argument that is developed in this book. Simply consider, for the moment, that UFOs are mechanical constructions that appear and behave in general accord with the accounts of the witnesses. Adopting this point of view cannot be harmful and may prove to be beneficial. As a working hypothesis, it will at least free the mind long enough to explore the available data. That alone is considered to be worthwhile. But its ultimate value can be assessed only upon completion of this book. At that time, we will recall that the reality of UFOs was merely assumed, as in a game, and not proven. One can then ask if this stratagem led to a more thorough, comprehensive understanding of the topic. Did it unravel some of the previous mysteries and reveal their true meaning in terms of scientific facts? Did it suggest some experiments in which new ideas may be tested? Affirmative answers to these questions will establish the value of the hypothesis. On the other hand, if the hypothesis fails to bear fruit, it must be uprooted like a barren tree and thrown out of the orchard. The importance of accepting the reports at face value can hardly be overemphasized. The reader should retain this new perspective throughout the book, otherwise he may become uneasy when some detail of a sighting is brought forth and discussed uncritically. Nowhere does the author attempt to prove the validity of sighting information, or even to evaluate it. The raw data are merely accepted without bias for the purpose of exploration. It is not necessary to believe the data in order to study it. Its truth or falsity will be considered only in the final appraisal.
A fundamental precept of science is the freedom enjoyed by the theorist in devising hypotheses. While hypotheses must accommodate confirmed facts, they need not be reasonable. In fact, major advances in science have been built upon hypotheses that seem to be wildly unreasonable. Even after earning a permanent position in scientific thought, they may yet appear to be quite arbitrary and at odds with reason. In searching for new truth, one simply can not forecast the form it will take. Therefore, justifying an hypothesis is not at all necessary. As a Concession to the reader, ample evidence is presented in Chapter 1 to illustrate why our hypothesis was selected. This data can be a helpful transition for the novice, but it may be skipped by the sophisticated reader who is familiar with it or who recognizes that it is logically extraneous.
The search for truth about UFOs is severely handicapped. First of all, a sighting experience cannot be reproduced in the laboratory. Neither can a UFO be captured for detailed examination. The time and location of future sightings cannot be predicted. Spontaneous sightings are so brief and widely scattered that experts and scientific instruments can not easily be brought to the scene in time to observe the action. Is further understanding, therefore, out of the question? Probably not. But this pursuit of knowledge involves a curious irony. Although the sighting re ports have been derided as "anecdotal records," they are the only source of information on the subject. This reservoir must obviously be tapped if further insights are to be developed. This collection of reports undoubtedly contains some examples from Category B. Some reports that appeared to be well documented have later been exposed as pranks. Such material has occasion ally been accepted uncritically, with adverse effects. -But most worldwide and issuing from diverse cultures. The common discard it. Excessive zeal in this screening process has probably deprived the investigators and the public of some valuable information. To avoid this problem and the corollary one of assessing each report, a different approach has been taken here. Reliance is placed, not so much upon the details of an individual report, as upon the correlations of many independent reports scattered world wide and issuing from diverse cultures. The common elements threading their way through a large number of reports take on the greatest meaning. Several scattered but similar reports afford the opportunity of picking up some detail from one, more from another, and so on, until a composite picture of a typical event can be drawn. The present analysis relies heavily upon these concepts, even at the risk of unwittingly including a few hoaxes, hallucinations, internal eye flashes or whatever. The total number of reports is so large that such contamination of the source material is unlikely to distort the general findings.
The full magnitude of the UFO phenomenon is not commonly realized. A casual observer may have noted a dozen or so newspaper accounts in about as many years. He may have accidentally seen a few magazine articles sandwiched between sensational treatments of hunting polar bears and searching for treasure in the steaming Amazon. He may know of a few books on the subject, but not read them. Newspaper comments on the Condon Report (also unread) have assured him that there was nothing of special interest in the subject. It may be somewhat shocking for him to learn that the average number of reported sightings since 1947 is greater than 200 per year. Over 1,000 sightings were reported in 1967. As these figures apply only to the United States and UFOs are a global problem, the number of sighting reports is substantial. The total is not known, but there is every indication that it is on the order of 500,000 or larger.
While an individual author can do no more than scratch the surface of this voluminous collection, the results of analysis need not be proportionately compromised. After all, the portrait of a tiger can be painted from an adequate number of descriptions, although no testimony is received from the hundreds of people that have been eaten by them. To avoid bias in selecting source materials, the investigation should depend upon catalogs of sightings that have been laboriously compiled by others. As discussed in Chapter 10, the present work is considered to be only a preliminary investigation that should eventually be repeated and extended on a much more comprehensive scale. It will suffice here to demonstrate a productive method of research by unveiling some new vistas of UFOs even if, at this stage, they are seen "through a glass, darkly."
The nature of the material itself and the anticipated retracing of the steps dictate the need for extensive citing of references. Other considerations also reinforce this choice. Information throughout the book falls into several categories that should be distinguished. Yet the continual use of qualifying language for this purpose would be very burdensome and tedious. Within the framework of the hypothesis that has been adopted, we will allow ourselves to say merely that such and such happened, whereas it is actually known only that it was reported. Under the circumstances, however, the reader is entitled to know where the information came from so that he can investigate a particular incident further. Much of the information herein comes with impeccable credentials from technical and scientific sources, which can be most helpful in verifying or expanding upon points that are made. Distinctions are sometimes needed between deductions in which the author has every confidence and extrapolations or hunches that have far less secure foundations. Occasional notes can help to keep these chickens and ducks in separate coops. References and comments have been numbered serially and assembled at the end of the book so that a quick referral can usually resolve any fleeting question.
A thorough investigation of UFOs cannot be arbitrarily confined to a few technical fields in which a particular author may be trained. It becomes necessary to follow the tracks of the elusive quarry wherever they may lead. As shall be seen later, they lead into many areas of technical specialty. It can hardly be expected that an author could be uniformly competent in all of them or that his treatment of these subjects would be free of error. It can only be hoped that the general findings are valid, that the various invasions into professional provinces are not offensive to the practitioners, and that their aid will be forthcoming to correct any deficiencies.