Ufology Versus Exobiology? - Belief Versus Science?

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Pablo Edronkin

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Could ufology become a respected science or will it always belong to the field of the esoteric and pseudoscientific?

Would you believe me if I told you that there is a UFO in my garage? Of course, if I could show you it, but if I don't, even if that were true, you wouldn't believe me but that wouldn't also preclude me from selling the story. This metaphor explains the twofold problem of ufology: Lack of tangible proof and excess of belief selling.

Not many people know that about the seventeenth century some alchemists began calling themselves chemists because they wanted people to make a difference between the scam-riddled alchemy and what they pretended to do. A few decades later their science adopted the official name of chemistry and has stayed like that ever since then. Today we have ufologists and exobiologists; would the first become the latter or would they keep their identity? Would ufology continue to be an essay in disparity, with some researchers trying to be serious and others just trying to believe and even making up alleged proof? What if ufology evolves into a true science in its own right?

In the case of all activities that want to show some sort of "truth" there are those that try to do so in a fair and serious way while others just want to bend reality to show what they want others to believe that is truth; after all, even genetics had to endure a Lysenko. There is nothing particularly bad in ufology in this regard, neither there is nothing perversely new; but what happens in this activity is typical of others that have not attained a scientific level of analysis because there is no method to separate what are sound observations and reasonable conjectures from baseless ideas, the honest from the scam. In ufology, the honest observer is depending on the dishonest; there is no freedom to say the right thing because it will not be believed since the prestige of the good researcher will not be judged by itself or its credibility. It will be tainted because since there is no truly scientific mechanism to discern the correct from the incorrect, everyone is assumed to be lying. Had Lysenko been an ufologist, his ideas would be still considered on a par with those coming from any other people dedicated to the activity. Having been a geneticist with ideas that proved totally wrong, in genetics he is seen as a bad seed and no one would buy books on the subject. That is, ufology lacks a proper interpretation of the scientific method that would be acceptable as credible.

The lack of acceptable physical evidence and cross-disciplinary analysis is what turns ufology into a non-scientific endeavour. It is not that it is taboo or deals with an exotic issue; many sciences deal with very strange things like cosmology, quantum physics or even the SETI program, but despite all their weirdness, these activities follow strict and discernible scientific protocols. Maybe there is a particularly difficult reason behind the fact that we get no part form a flying saucer to test. Maybe there is even a government conspiracy or MIB corps. The problem is that ufology doesn't have its own adaptation of the scientific method taking into account that hard evidence is difficult to come by, and there is no explanation - at least a plausible one - that could be proved explaining why is that the case.

This shouldn't be taken as an assumption that ufology could not become a serious scientific activity in all its aspects, o maybe, serious ufologists would prefer to migrate to sciences like astrobiology or develop something like astroanthropology. The final form of such a maturing process would depend on criteria proper of epistemology but no matter how the serious study of UFO phenomena would eventually be called, if it becomes truly scientific it would hurt no one, for it was never to the disadvantage of the world that a new science is born from time to time. Undoubtedly something is happening; there are hundreds of reports made by honest and web-meaning people. Whether they have interpreted what they have observed or experienced is another matter, but the UFO phenomenon is real in the sense that influences the behaviour of many individuals. With a less-questionable study methodology it could provide a lot to our common knowledge: If it is related to unknown natural phenomena, then we might get to know more about our word, if it is mass hysteria, then psychologists may benefit from such research, aid if it is of an alien nature, well, we may be at the doorstep of one of the greatest events in our history. But scientists need true rigour and seriousness; most of them would be delighted to follow such a study path.

Could be say that ufology and exobiology are set worlds apart and opposed? As things are right now, indeed because one sees the issue of possible extraterrestrial life in a completely scientific manner and the other doesn't. but it shouldn't be so in the future: If ufology evolves into a truly objective study of the UFO phenomenon then both may complement each other very well. And regarding the UFO in my garage, I really don't have one but it would certainly be interesting to hitch in such a ride.

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