The Field of Ufology

This is my second post ( the first is here ). I posted this topic in General Discussion because in truth, it doesn’t belong in the pseudoscience thread for the following reasons:

  • There are a number of definitions for the word "pseudoscience" all of which impart the idea that a pseudoscience is a topic of study that claims to be a science and/or presents itself in such a way as to unmistakably give the impression that it is a science, but fails to meet the standards set out by accredited scientific institutions. Quibbling about the details of this definition make no difference to the reasoning below:
  • Ufology fails to meet both criteria set out in the definition above, because 1. ) it makes no unified claim that it is a science unto itself, or that it even should be considered a science, and 2.) the vast majority of presentations relating to ufology are in the form of mass market publications and entertainment programming aimed at the general public, not scientists. Therefore it neither claims to be a science, nor presents itself as such. Those instances where science is mentioned are simply references to science, scientists, or an advocacy for the use of science within the field, not that the field itself is a science.
  • Another reason is that the field of ufology includes a large cultural element as well as history, mythology, and the arts, and is therefore too wide to accommodate the scientific method.
  • Another reason is that any field of study can have instances of pseudoscience within it without it meaning that the entire field is itself a pseudoscience. For example medicine has many examples of pseudoscience, yet the entire field of medicine isn't cataloged under the heading of Pseudoscience.
Given that ufology as a field simply doesn't fit the definition of pseudoscience, it is intellectually dishonest to label it as such. The objective truth about ufology is that it's neither a science, nor a pseudoscience, but simply an informal field of interest. There is also nothing about it that could not be approached entirely objectively and academically. In theory it could then be cataloged under the Humanities.

Now with all that being said, further discussion on this issue is welcomed as well as anything else relating to ufology as a field and how it can more constructively approach the study of UFO reports so as to dissolve the divide between critics and those who take the subject seriously. For example we might discuss where the dividing line is between personally pursuing a constructive interest in the subject and becoming a “UFO fanatic”.

You make good points. The problem is, given our current pop culture, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ufology is astrology, numerology, etc. And unfortunately, the whole Ancient Alien thing has really ruined things for serious study. It started out okay, but at this point like so many things, it has become primarily a money making scheme. Its TV shows used to be semi-plausible, but have devolved into plain old goofiness. And that has an effect on the perception of what you’re calling ufology.

Your second point defines ufology to fit your other points, but it doesn’t necessarily meet the definition of what others use and what I consider the definition that is currently commonly understood. If I was going to talk about UFO’s in the manner you suggest, I would state that up front. I would say I’m talking about UFO books, not that I believe them beyond the degree that I would believe any independent, unverified, self-reported data. Or I’d say I’m talking about our perception of objects we don’t identify. But that’s not what people do at all. They have “museums” and “studies” and people claim certainty about their conclusions.

I wish there was a “like” or up-vote button for your post. There’s no question that there are the sort of problems you describe. Yet I question whether it’s prudent to give-in to biases based on pop-culture rather than the sort of objective logic we purport to embody here.

Michael Persinger Dies in August 2018 at age 73

Michael A. Persinger (June 26, 1945 – August 2018) was a professor of psychology at Laurentian University, a position he had held since 1971. His most well-known hypotheses include the temporal lobes as the central correlate for mystical experiences, subtle changes in geomagnetic activity as mediators of parapsychological phenomena, the tectonic strain within the Earth’s crust as the source of luminous phenomena attributed to unidentified aerial objects, and the importance of specific quantifications for energy (10−20 Joules), photon flux density (picoWatt per meter squared), and small shifts in magnetic field intensities (picoTesla to nanoTesla range) for integrating cellular activity as well as human thought with universal phenomena … Source

That’s perfectly fair comment. To elaborate further, there are those who arbitrarily define ufology to fit the definition of pseudoscience without providing substantial reasoning. Then there are those like me who provide substantial reasoning based on logic and example as to why ufology doesn’t fit the definition of pseudoscience. We can then choose to go with the former or the latter.

Personally I choose the latter, not simply because it’s my viewpoint, but because it also appears to be true, and that is nearly always my bottom line when it comes to why I believe one viewpoint carries more weight than another. In other words I don’t believe all opinions carry equal weight by simple virtue of them being an opinion. They need to be substantiated by critical thinking.

That being said, you make a very good point about differentiating objective study from blind faith or belief. Perhaps that’s one of the markers between fair-minded interest and fanaticism? I would contend that ufology would fit well into the humanities because there we have other subjects like religious studies or mythology that don’t require adherence to any particular belief system covered in the curriculum.

Was Walton’s Abduction Due To A Fugue State?

In a recent interview with psychologist Nigel Watson, it was suggested that the Travis Walton abduction experience could have been the result of him entering a fugue state for several days, during which time his mind manufactured most of the experience. It sounds far fetched at first, but if Walton was honestly relaying the experience as he perceived it, then this could explain it without having to invoke either a deliberate hoax or aliens. It’s an interesting alternative to the usual hoax versus it really happened type of debate.

Fugue State:

ufology??? Isn’t it nonsense to give something a capitalized name as if it is a genuine field of realistic study?

Sorry deros, but I find that loaded questions rarely contribute constructively to a discussion. Try another approach.


Okay. . . and the point is?

The opening OP was interesting and made sense enough, but not sure where this discussion is supposed to go.

Thanks for the comment. The discussion can go anyplace that’s relevant and constructive. There’s a lot of overlap between ufology and other topics.