Thursday, May 25, 2017

The extraordinary legacy of Dr. J. Allen Hynek - "The Close Encounters Man"

Stephen Spielberg’s 1977 blockbuster film with the then unusual title “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” has a wonderful cameo.  As the UFO “mothership” lands among the secret team to initiate contact, stepping forward to consider the wondrous moment, was the scientist who created the term that became the film’s title. The film drew heavily from the reality that Dr. J. Allen Hynek spent decades studying.  The term “close encounter” became iconic and Dr. Hynek became a stellar UFO star.
Now in the year of 40th anniversary of the film the real story of “the Close Encounters Man” has finally emerged.
I highly recommend the new biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek by "High Strangeness" blogger Mark O'Connell"The Close Encounters Man - How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs" published by Dey St - an Imprint of William Morrow - part of the Harper Collins book empire on 13 June 2017. Mark kindly sent me an advance copy of the book. I hope it reaches a big audience.
I passed onto Mark O’Connell this endorsement after I read the book:
In a wonderful and entertaining "close encounter" with the scientist who created an icon and made it ok to be into UFOs, this book reveals in a compelling and engaging way why Dr Allen Hynek's fight for a UFO science needs to be understood and turned into a powerful momentum for change. The flying saucers, UFOs or UAPs that were a major part of his life have persisted as one of the most enduring and extraordinary mysteries of our times. Hop onboard the wild UFO comet ride of our lives.
The publisher’s description of the book:
The wildly entertaining and eye-opening biography of J. Allen Hynek, the astronomer who invented the concept of "Close Encounters" with alien life, inspired Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster classic science fiction epic film, and made a nation want to believe in UFOs.
In June 1947, private pilot Kenneth Arnold looked out his cockpit window and saw a group of nine silvery crescents weaving between the peaks of the Cascade Mountains at an estimated 1,200 miles an hour. The media, the military, and the scientific community—led by J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer hired by the Air Force—debunked this and many other Unidentified Flying Object sightings reported across the country. But after years of denials, Hynek made a shocking pronouncement: UFOs are real.
Thirty years after his death, Hynek’s agonizing transformation from skepticism to true believer remains one of the great misunderstood stories of science. In this definitive biography, Mark O'Connell reveals for the first time how Hynek’s work both as a celebrated astronomer and as the U. S. Air Force’s go-to UFO expert for nearly twenty years stretched the boundaries of modern science, laid the groundwork for acceptance of the possibility of UFOs, and was the basis of the hit film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. With unprecedented access to Hynek’s personal and professional files, O’Connell smashes conventional wisdom to reveal the intriguing man and scientist beneath the legend.
Tracing Hynek’s career, O'Connell examines Hynek’s often-ignored work as a professional astronomer to create a complete portrait of a groundbreaking enthusiast who became an American cult icon and transformed the way we see our world and our universe.
Here is a breakdown of the book’s contents:
In an author’s note Mark O’Connell explains he was asked to write the biography by Dr. Mark Rodeghier, who took on director’s role of Hynek’s organization CUFOS (the Centre for UFO Studies) – “the definitive account of Dr. Hynek’s remarkable dual careers. This was to be the first telling of Hynek’s significant accomplishments as an astronomer who pioneered the science of celestial imaging and as a researcher who was on the scene at many of the most amazing UFO encounters in history, and made serious discussions of the UFO phenomenon scientifically—and socially—acceptable.”
Mark O’Connell explains, “Hynek had spent nearly twenty years debunking UFO reports for the U.S. Air Force and was considered a sellout, a dupe, and a coward by many Americans for helping the air force “cover up” what they believed the government knew about the UFO mystery. For this sin, he was hated in UFO circles. But he was also ultimately disowned by the air force, because over time his views about UFOs changed dramatically and he began to demand that the government and the scientific establishment conduct a scientific study of the phenomenon, to find out what was really going on.”
This led Mark O’Connell to a core focus, “What kind of man, I wondered, could calmly stand at the center of a decades-long conflict and be equally despised by both sides? This is what I wanted to find out.”
This biography also well serves Allen Hynek’s mainstream science career, with Mark highlighting, Hynek’s “brilliant yet largely ignored career as an astrophysicist. This was a man who helped win World War II with science, who discovered how and why stars twinkle (not a small thing), and who helped determine the landing sites for the Apollo moon missions. Along the way, he pioneered crowdsourcing, developed the world’s first global satellite tracking network, discovered a record number of supernovae, and paved the way for the Hubble Space Telescope. If Hynek’s career as a UFO researcher was universally misunderstood and misjudged, his career in astronomy seemed to have been swept under the rug in its entirety.”
Mark O’Connell has a good flare for writing in this entertaining biography.  He writes, “This book … is an attempt to rectify Dr. Hynek’s story, to find the heroism, humor, and humanity in a man whose name has been relegated to a basement full of file cabinets when it should rightly be written in the stars.”
In the book’s prologue Mark O’Connell weaves an historical ferment of man’s dance with things cosmic leading to the 20th century’s framing by Halley’s Comet: its arrival in 1910 to its return in 1986 bound the life of astronomer J. Allen Hynek which “would, fittingly, grow up to embody the contradictory nature of scientific inquiry and investigation in the twentieth century, with its simultaneous dependence on and rejection of imagination and wonder.
It wasn’t just a boy who was born on May 1, 1910, to Joseph and Bertha Hynek. He was a spaceman.”
Chapter 1: UNDER THE DOME describes Allen Hynek’s early life journey and his adventures as he rose in stature as a young astronomer.  In Chapter 2: UNUSUAL STARS continues the coverage through the war years, with his scientific contributions adding to his rising scientific stature, particularly his studies of unusual stars.  The book introduces the arrival of “flying saucer” reports: “All summer long reports kept coming from every corner of the country . . . The trouble was there was not a soul on earth who knew what to do with them.”  “Flying saucer investigations” were at a low ebb, but Dr. Hynek was busy developing his mainstream scientific achievements
The confusion of those early days of “flying saucers” is described in Chapter 3: THE CROWDED SKY.  O’Connell confirms, “To Hynek’s sensibilities, flying saucers were a distraction from real science and an obvious mass delusion shared by a public that was jittery about another Pearl Harbor.” Then in 1948 the US Air Force came for a visit to their nearest university where astronomer Allen Hynek was director of the observatory at Ohio State University in Columbia.  Hynek declared, “I was somewhat like the proverbial ‘innocent bystander who got shot.’”  The following chapter describes the changing and firming debunking environment with the advent of USAF Project Grudge (Chapter 4: DEBUNKED).   But it was the “flying saucer’s persistence” that wedded Hynek into a consultancy role that would persist from the Ruppelt years.  In
Chapter 5 SCINTILLATIONS the story continues with Battelle’s secret study.  Hynek was enlisted to get a discrete picture of what the astronomy community felt about UFOs.   Mark O’Connell shows, “Hynek’s determination to find a natural explanation for any and all UFO reports, already fading after Ruppelt asked him to reconsider his analysis of the Mantell crash, started to slip even more seriously as he discussed the topic with his colleagues.” Hynek concluded, “Unless the problem is attacked scientifically, we can look forward to periodic recurrences or flying-saucer reports. It appears, indeed, that the flying saucer along with the automobile is here to stay.”
In Chapter 6: PROJECT HENRY Mark O’Connell describes how Allen Hynek, frustrated by the role of the CIA with its debunking Robertson Panel deliberations, had turned his Battelle consultancy work, with the assistance of his new university research assistant Jenny Ziedman, (nee Gluck, who became a lifelong friend of Hynek) into a productive reporting system that utilised his own Project Henry, Battelle’s Stork and Bear and the USAF’s Bluebook.  (I had the pleasure of joining Jenny Ziedman in a MUFON conference panel in Washington DC in 1987 along with Dr. Rodeghier, Stanton Friedman and Jenny Randles.  Luckily I had a friend from the Australian Embassy Jeff McLaren who took a photograph of us on the panel)
The sometimes strange and surreal world of UFO sightings and his hits and misses in mainstream science work are juxtaposed in Chapter 7: HYNEK IN WONDERLAND.  One of Hynek’s fondest wishes - the template of the grand international scientific collaboration focusing on a man made flying object – a space satellite - finding and optically tracking it, thrust him into a key role, coordinating the Smithsonian’s Optical Tracking Program.  It was thought this would be focused on a US satellite, but an invader of a different kind to a UFO, eclipsed the US.  The Soviets launched Sputnik, their Red Star, beating the US into the cosmic ferment.  O’Connell tells the story well in Chapter 8: FLYING SAUCER CONSPIRACY, describing how Hynek was thrust into the spotlight of tracking Sputnik and aiding in providing an objective calming influence for a concerned nation. 
By Chapter 9 INTERACTION, the juxtaposition with the flying saucer problem was given great prominence when UFOs started stopping American cars near Levelland Texas.  O’Connell shares that a clever reporter called “the Thing” that haunted Levelland “Whatnik” (a play on “Sputnik”), and Allen Hynek caught up tracking the Soviet Sputniks, hastily concurred with Bluebook’s inadequate conclusion that “ball lightning” was the culprit.   O’Connell quotes Hynek’s later position,  “(Had) I given it any thought whatever, I would soon have recognized the absence of any evidence that ball lightning can stop cars and put out headlights.”  But Hynek’s focus at the time was one of his great scientific successes.  Mark O’Connell highlights, “Hynek had been tasked with developing a means of observing and measuring something that did not yet exist, and was considered by many to be impossible, and somehow he succeeded.”  Tracking man’s first space objects, alien to American, namely the Soviet Sputniks, is a fine anology of Hynek’s later objective – tracking and understanding UFOs.  Hynek’s own ground-watch team hunting Sputniks picked up things that were clearly not of Soviet origin.
In Chapter 10: OBSCURING INFLUENCE O’Connell book ends the chapter with two of the most impressive entity encounter cases – the Father Gill case of 1959 and the Hill case of 1961.  The 1959 sightings would fixate Allen Hynek for the rest of his life – the Boianai sightings made by Australian missionary Reverend William Gill and natives at the mission in Papua New Guinea, then an Australian territory. Over two consecutive nights in June 1959 they witnessed UFOs and “visitants” – beings on the mysterious craft.  I am quoted, given I would get to know Father Gill well.  “It sure didn’t look like Americans,” (I) said. “Who are these guys? They’re glowing and, if it was as close as they thought it was, these figures seemed to be bigger than six feet. To (Father Gill) that was very impressive.” Further I said, “They fully expected it to come down and land, and all that ambiguity would have been taken away at that point.” It didn’t land but the entities seemed to interact with the witnesses below – they waved.

Allen Hynek at that time didn’t scrutinize the case deeply. That was to come.  He was preoccupied with his mainstream science commitments and was using his scientific and public celebrity status to great advantage pushing forward ideas and experience to achieve improved outcomes for things like optical astronomy, even anticipating and proposing the space telescope concept that would eventually emerge as the Hubble space telescope.  He was also on the move, not only to Evanston (Chicago) Illinois to take up the chairmanship of Astronomy at Northwestern University, he was tripping to places like Spain to make astronomical observations. His astronomical stardom was in the ascendant.
Mark O’Connell uses this change in direction for Hynek to introduce the invasion of our minds by the early science fiction TV shows like the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits focusing in particular on the alien “light being” encountered in the episode “The Bellero Shield” and the controversy that was manifesting in the “interrupted journey” of Betty and Barney Hill, which would eventually emerge as the first major US UFO alien abduction case, an encounter that would soon entwine Hynek into very “close encounters” with the UFO phenomenon and refine his take on the nature of the realities involved.
Before that embrace the case that strongly influenced Hynek evolving thinking on “the entity problem” is presented in O’Connell’s Chapter 11: BURNED BRUSH – the Socorro encounter of police officer Lonnie Zamora in April 1964 where there were landing marks and apparent entities.  Mark O’Connell quotes, “The Air Force is in a spot over Socorro,” said Hynek in confidential remarks recorded a few weeks after the event. “A vague statement identifying it as an unspecified U.S. experimental aircraft won’t go down. Congressional inquiries have been received, and Quintanilla is under pressure for an answer.” Unfortunately, Hynek lamented, “the Air Force doesn’t know what science is.” The new USAF Project Bluebook Captain Hector Quintanilla was “a sworn enemy of the UFO” and he dispatched Dr. Hynek, and officers Moody and Connor to get the “facts” “before the incident becomes legend.”  Hynek distanced himself from the Air Force during this trip describing the case to an AP reporter “It is one of the soundest, best substantiated reports as far as it goes.”  “I think this case may be the ‘Rosetta stone,’” he concluded. “There’s never been a strong case with so unimpeachable a witness.” “Despite my strong desire to find a natural explanation for the sighting ”, “I could find none; the case is therefore listed in the Blue Book files as ‘Unidentified.’”  “I think this case may be the ‘Rosetta stone.’”

Dr. Hynek’s thinking on UFOs and “the entity problem” was enhanced by a French doctoral student Jacques Vallee coming to Northwestern University in 1963. O’Connell reveals, “Northwestern also was home to Hynek, whom Vallee had long admired. Having been deeply involved in UFO research in his native country, Vallee was well aware of the significant contributions Hynek had been making to the field; to most Americans Hynek was still the Sputnik man, but to a growing community of people curious about strange aerial phenomena, Hynek was a person of much deeper and mysterious interest.” “Before long, Vallee was educating Hynek on the progress made in France by science writer and UFOlogist Aimé Michel, making the case that patterns could be identified in UFO events, and encouraging Hynek to develop a computer database of Blue Book’s thousands of UFO case files.”
While buoyed by new frontiers and research into the UFO mystery Hynek’s mainstream astronomy activity – Project Star Gazer – to capture celestial imagery above the atmosphere via high altitude balloons - was scuttled when the USAF shut it down. While initially livid Hynek would propose in 1965 to NASA an even loftier project – LUVO – a telescope on the Moon.  While the project never got there, Hynek’s Orthicon Imaging system tracked Apollo missions and helped select landing sites.
In two chapters (12 & 13) Parts 1 &2 of WILL-O’-THE-WISP, O’Connell gives an excellent accounting of the watershed events that changed the UFO game for Hynek – the “Swamp Gas” misstep - “it marked the end of the air force’s credibility and the end of Hynek’s innocence” - and would ultimately lead to the notorious and flawed Condon Report that sort to get the USAF out of the UFO business and bury the UFO problem. Over those chapters and the rest of the book Hynek came out big time.
Hynek telegraphed his scientific colleagues, perhaps spurred on Dr. James McDonald, in a lengthy letter to “science” magazine in October 1966 describing important elements of the UFO problem – a problem he argued that science should look at.  With the Condon Committee convened at Colorado University based study, funded by the USAF initially, Hynek initially felt he had got science’s appropriate attention. He felt empowered to dig into the deeper issues emerging within the UFO problem, such as the implications of Betty and Barney Hill’s “interrupted journey” (see Chapter 14: MR. UFO). But frustrations emerged with Hynek’s own university administration becoming uncomfortable with his rising UFO stardom (Chapter 15: SIGNAL IN THE NOISE).
In Chapter 16: INVISIBLE AT LAST Mark O’Connell contrasts the emergence of the “UFO Invisible college” (the growing team of scientists willing to seriously engage with the UFO problem”) and the scientific mirage of the flawed Condon report.  He quotes Dr. Michael Swords and Robert Powell from the UFO History Group’s massive study “UFOs and Government” (to which I contributed the Australian experience), “The years immediately following the [Condon] report were, paradoxically, a Golden Age of UFO research. The Colorado Project had awakened many academics and individuals, and they came, at least briefly, out of the closet with their interest.”  In this environment he shared with his colleagues his new type of UFO categories, which would be fully revealed in his major contribution – his 1972 book “The UFO Experience – a Scientific Inquiry.” 

Chapter 17: THE UFO EXPERIENCE which also recounts his close re-engagement with the Father Gill Boianai encounters where he went to Australia, met Reverend Gill and with the assistance of Rev. Crutwell journeyed all the way to Boianai Papua New-Guinea and located and interviewed some of the native witnesses. O’Connell’s quotes  Hynek, “The case has always intrigued me.”  (It has always intrigued me and like Hynek I discussed the sightings in detail with Reverend Gill himself on numerous occasions).
With Chapter 18: THE SPUR O’Connell describes the impact of the massive 1973 UFO wave across the US and focuses on the Pascagoula abduction case.   


In Chapter 19: PURPLE PEACH TREES the extraordinary Coyne Army helicopter case, (which also involved Allen Hynek’s long time research associate Jennie Ziedman doing the primary research) and the Pascagoula affair would “spur” Hynek’s “invisible college” into the open, after a fashion – his organization the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS) was formed.  Chapter 20: HYNEK VS. SAGAN focuses on the confrontations between Allen Hynek and Carl Sagan – an insight into style and substance.  
In Chapter 21: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS the Travis Walton is addressed along with the implications of Hynek’s deeper engagement with the UFO mystery.  His wide ranging collaboration with Jacques Vallee emerged with the 1975 book “The Edge of Reality – A progress Report on UFOs,”  - “a book about what UFOs mean, both to the human race in general and to the witnesses in particular,” writes Mark O’Connell.  This theme emerges in Steven Speilberg’s use of Allen Hynek’s terminology and research in his blockbuster “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” 
Interestingly O’Connell quotes Hynek as saying “the French Ufologist character” in the film, Lacombe, was based on Claude Poher, who was at that time the head of the new French UFO agency GEPAN.  Jacques Vallee attributes Speilberg as telling him that it was himself, Vallee, who has widely connected as being the inspiration for the character.  Despite his “close encounter” in the film cameo, Hynek is quoted in O’Connell’s book as saying he felt left out, as he had never had a close encounter in real life.  He had 2 UFO sightings, one he photographed from an aircraft window. The photos appear anonymously in his book “The UFO Experience” and attributed to him in “The Edge of Reality.”
With Chapter 22: ARIZONA Mark O’Connell describes initially the rise of a promising “UFO science” – the collaboration of Dr. Claude Poher’s French UFO agency GEPAN and Allen Hynek’s CUFOS, but it was short lived, with Poher steeping down and GEPAN on shaky ground with eroded resources.  O’Connell states, “in the end CUFOS survived GEPAN.”  That can be debated. Despite producing some “textbook models of how (UFO) investigations should be carried out, GEPAN all but disappeared, but would later reemerged as GEIPAN with an emphasis on education and information.  CUFOS excelled in at least one excellent case study – the 1979 Marshall County Minnesota – which involved Sheriff’s Deputy Val Johnson striking close encounter with a UFO.  His squad car became the focus of a detailed study and Johnson himself experienced a loss of consciousness and eye problems diagnosed as “mild welding burns.” 
By 1984 after encouraging focuses on physical evidence type cases, Allen Hynek and his wife Mimi decided to move from Evanston Illinois to Phoenix Arizona.  Allen was lured by the promise of substantial funding and “a UFO research center without rival in the world.” I managed to stay with Hynek before he departed Evanston and got from him some insight into his future objectives.  The Arizona promise failed to materialise, with Mark O’Connell quoting me, “the ‘dream’ turned out to be a mirage. Allen had his affections for the paranormal, but probably found (the “Arizona mob”’s) take and trajectory incompatible with his own and ultimately a bridge too far, remote and adverse to his own.”  Hynek’s son Paul put it more succinctly, “Arizona was just a bunch of bullshit.”
The final chapter of Mark O’Connell’s biography Chapter 23: THE SUPERSENSIBLE REALM opens with Allen Hynek thinking something could be rescued from the situation – the possibility of a grand alliance of MUFON, APRO, his friend Dr. Willy Smith’s UNICAT computer catalogue, the Fund for UFO research, CUFOS, and “Arizona” who had him. A collaborative effort could have addressed the ongoing complexities of ufology, like the 1980 Cash Landrum case, the Hudson Valley sightings of 1982 and the lure of repeat phenomena from UFOs or UAPs in Hessdalen, Norway. Hynek himself went to Norway in early 1985. But sadly the grand vision was not to be.  Illness started to drain the cosmic UFO star and the spectre of Halley’s Comet returning bookended the life and stellar career of astronomer and UFO expert J. Allen Hynek.  Mortality naturally led Hynek to contemplate the spiritual dimensions of the “supersensible realm” (of Rudolf Steiner) melded with the teachings of his astronomical idol Johannes Kepler.  Jennie Ziedman, family and friends were there for Allen Hynek when Halley’s Comet returned.  Jenny Ziedman saw it as “the circle” had been completed.
(Erling Strand & Allen Hynek at Hessdalen)
Mark O’Connell concludes in his terrific biography “that J. Allen Hynek has single-handedly brought a consciousness of the UFO phenomenon to the forefront of world culture.”
As I said in my open endorsement of Mark O’Connell’s book “The Close Encounters Man: How One Man Made the World Believe in UFOs”:
The flying saucers, UFOs or UAPs that were a major part of his life have persisted as one of the most enduring and extraordinary mysteries of our times. Hop onboard the wild UFO comet ride of our lives.
The RAAF/DAFI memo describing the meeting Allen had in Canberra Australia
Now some more personal reflections:
                                        Allen Hynek & me in Chicago in 1984
In September 1984 I was in Chicago while attending a company based international quality assurance conference.  I took the opportunity to meet with Allen Hynek.  It was like open house, with a lot of great friends and researchers in and out, but Allen kindly invited me to stay over night, so I could peruse the CUFOS files, and talk at length the next day when everyone had departed.  I got the opportunity to interview him as well, and also focused on us both going through his 1973 notebooks he used in his trip to Australia.  While Allen was in Australia at that time we only spoke on the phone.  He was interested in joining me on the Dorrigo plateau to check out the intense Tyringham Dundurrabin localised flap that I had been closely monitoring. But by then, I recommended that it probably wasn't worth his while to come up from Sydney (he was in the good company of my friend David Buching) and besides, the intense phase of the flap had largely passed.  While I spent a wonderful time with Allen Hynek in 1984, I wished we had covered more.  He soon after relocated to Arizona but sadly he passed away in 1986. Revisionist histories paint Allen Hynek's UFO interests in a wide range of perspectives.  I knew him as an open minded scientist deeply intrigued by the UFO mystery.  He signed my copy of his classic book “The UFO Experience”: "To Bill Chalker - we'll unite the two hemispheres - at least ufologically! - J. Allen Hynek."  I certainly formed a closer connection with Allen, but his move and subsequent illness, meant that his CUFOS organisation continued on without his day to day input.  I joined the International UFO Reporter (CUFOS’s publication) as a contributing editor continuing that connection until is ceased its hard copy presence in 2012.
During a Macquarie University post graduate open day on campus in Sydney on April 12 2005 I had the opportunity of briefly talking with Professor Paul Davies. I asked him about his friendship with Hynek, who records in the acknowledgements for his book thanks to “Dr. Paul Davies, Institute of Theoretical Astronomy, University of Cambridge, England, for productive discussions in the latter stages.”
Davies acknowledged that Hynek was a nice guy and that he had once stayed at his Chicago home. He felt that there was no one of Hynek's stature in the field of UFO research today. I said there were some interested researchers of note. Knowing Davies had endorsed Michio Kaku's new book "Parallel Worlds", I mentioned Kaku's interest in the UFO subject. He seemed unaware of this or skeptical of my statement, so I suggested he inform himself by watching the Peter Jennings' documentary "UFOs - Seeing is believing" which was airing on Australian television the following weekend. I alerted Davies to Kaku's open endorsement and advocacy of serious investigation of UFOs, and said this was not the first time that Michio Kaku, "one of the world's finest science writers" (Davies own endorsement) and a world-renowned physicist, had made positive comments about the subject. I also indicated that Jennings' documentary also would show a positive presentation of part of the contribution his old friend Allen Hynek had made to the UFO subject.
Allen Hynek gave us a great foundational study and a systematic way of categorising the vast range of UFO experiences. His classic study “The UFO Experience: a scientific Enquiry” (1972) also gave us a simple definition of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs):
“We can define the UFO simply as the reported perception of an object or light seen in the sky or upon the land the appearance, trajectory, and general dynamic and luminescent behavior of which do not suggest a logical, conventional explanation and which do not suggest a logical, conventional explanation and which is not only mystifying to the original percipients but remains unidentified after close scrutiny of all available evidence by persons who are technically capable of making a common sense identification, if one is possible.”
Because the term UFO has increasingly become uncritically seen as meaning “extraterrestrial spacecraft” many researchers have adopted the more neutral term UAP or unidentified aerial phenomena.”  I find that move quite understandable, but Allen Hynek had already recognised that concern and hoped that a scientific data focus would help clear away this misconception.
Stanton Friedman qualified his dogmatic use of the term “flying saucer” as being a subset of UFOs, namely that “some UFOs are ET spacecraft.  Most are not – I don’t care about them,” he argues.  Stanton Friedman in his book “Flying Saucers and Science – A scientist investigates the mysteries of UFOs” (2008), explains his distinction, “Flying saucers are, by definition, unidentified flying objects, but very few unidentified flying objects are flying saucers.”  
Still despite these issues the term UFO is almost universally accepted and at worst its blurring into the sense of “extraterrestrial spaceship” provides a convenient opportunity to focus on its more neutral sense and then go beyond that to contemplate the limitations of this loose stereotyping.
Both the simplicity and uncertainty of the Hynek UFO definition has always appealed to me, because it anchors the term firmly in the realm of science, informed by doubt, investigation and research – the critical underpinnings of the scientific approach.
Thus my approach to investigations and research over the decades has always been informed strongly by the idea of scientific skepticism. 
Scientific skepticism is an important discriminating tool in UFO research.  Doubt and testing of data, through careful investigations, creates an objective approach to evaluating the case for UFO reality.  I see it as a powerful tool for the assessment of UFO cases as it focuses on letting the quality of the evidence for any particular claimed UFO event determine if there is a credible UFO event involved.
J. Allen Hynek’s foundational study in “The UFO Experience” placed emphasis on applying good scientific techniques.  Without these the future of ufology could be dominated by an uncritical acceptance of every claim, no matter how dubious they are.  There is so much potent data available now it is dismaying that many UFO enthusiasts feel they have to jump on every story doing the rounds, without critically evaluating the evidence for them. 
If the UFO field wants an enduring mainstream future it seriously needs to engage with the principles of scientific ufology.  These are not about debunking, but they are based on scientific skepticism, not the rants of the debunking skeptics who seem to argue there is nothing worthwhile looking at and anyone who does is suspect.  True believers also need to understand that belief based on critical thinking and a serious engagement with actual evidence is the best way of bringing this extraordinary phenomenon from the fringe world it dwells in, into the mainstream of wide public and scientific recognition.
Hynek’s Probability/Strangeness scale is a very useful starting point.  Clearly if an event is not very strange or unusual and simultaneously it has been reported by a witness who is not very reliable it is unlikely to encourage a serious investigation.
I would encourage an aspiring UFO researcher or investigator to use a book like Hynek’s “The UFO Experience” as an objective starting point.  It provides a great foundation for a rational approach to UFO investigations.  It highlights case studies of his well known categories of UFO encounters from nocturnal lights, daylight disks, radar visual cases, and close encounters of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd kind.
Dr. Hynek concluded, “In terms of scientific study, the only significant UFO reports are, as we have seen, UFO reports that remain puzzling after competent investigations have been conducted."
As a physical chemist I have had a strong interest in physical evidence for UFOs.  I took a particular interest in “physical trace cases”, where UFOs left evidence of a physical presence – specifically UFO landing trace events or close encounters of the second kind (Dr. Allen Hynek’s classification).  In these sorts of cases, given sufficient commitment, resources and potential physical evidence, a careful investigation can possibly establish “the fingerprint of a UFO.”
Ted Phillips & Allen Hynek together examining "the fingerprint of a UFO"
Science progresses by the collection and assessment of data.  Hypotheses to explain the data are considered and if they are verifiable then viable theories can emerge. In UFO research that scientific perspective has had a variable history.  The quality of data varies enormously, with much of it falling far short of what might reasonably constitute scientifically evaluated UFO data.
In an article in “Frontiers of Science” (an interim publication in the journey of IUR (the International UFO Reporter) May-June 1981,  Allen Hynek identified the problem stating, “Here we come face to face with the charge that after thirty years of dealing with UFO reports we still have no really convincing “hard data”, i.e. parts of a UFO, unimpeachable residues from soil samples, unequivocal evidence that a UFO caused damage to animate or inanimate matter.  Yet the fact is that we do have large amounts of such evidence … I grow livid when such charges of “no data” are made.  After years of frustration without the funds to pay for adequate laboratory and other professional work, I bristle at the lack of understanding on the part of scientific skeptics, who wouldn’t get to first base without well-funded research projects with staff, travel and laboratory facilities …”
“All we have are abortive, often amateurish attempts at data gathering, data analysis, and feeble attempts at laboratory studies (on a charity basis, of course), all of which dwindle into inconclusion and frustration … It is my contention that “hard” data may well have been present in many UFO cases but their discovery and definitive establishment has repeatedly gone by default for lack of professional (funded) treatment.  It has always been the case of “too little too late,” necessitated by the use of volunteers bolstered only by their unselfish devotion to the pursuit of an overwhelming mystery,” Hynek concluded.
Dr. Hynek lived to see the beginnings of some “thorough, professional study” in the work of GEPAN, specifically the Trans-en-Provence UFO landing physical trace case of January 1981.  Indeed, given access to the GEPAN files, at the direct invitation of the French government, he found all of the GEPAN cases to be very well investigated.
The fight for a UFO science gained prominence and focused on the odysseys of three scientists, namely J. Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee and James E. McDonald.  Vallee’s initial forays were excellent foundational scientific studies – “Anatomy of a Phenomenon: Unidentified Objects in Space – A Scientific Appraisal” (1965) and “Challenge to Science: The UFO Enigma” (co-authored with his wife Janine in 1966). Then in 1969 which “Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Science” he took the field down strange pathways. In 1975 Vallee gave us “The Invisible College – What a group of scientists has discovered about UFO influences on the human race” which had a strong focus on “the psychic component.”   Such views found their way into his 1975 collaboration with Allen Hynek – “The Edge of Reality – a progress report on UFOs,” which steered a broader and popular direction.
Dr. McDonald’s path is described in Ann Druffel’s fine biography “Firestorm – Dr. James E. McDonald’s Fight for UFO Science” (2003) – a path that was ultimately mired in tragedy, with the suicide of McDonald. McDonald’s courageous battle is an extraordinary case study of the problems that beset the efforts to legitimise UFO science. 
Dr. Hynek’s UFO odyssey was longer than McDonald’s and more cautious.  He was both an insider and a focus in the attempts to bring about a science of the UFO.  As stated above Allen Hynek’s most potent statement about the UFO problem was his classic study “The UFO Experience – A Scientific Enquiry” (1972).  I recommend you seek it out and read it carefully, then broaden the experience of Allen Hynek’s legacy by reading Mark O’Connell’s excellent biography – “The Close Encounters Man.”



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