Sagan on UFOs in ’66

Here’s a 1966 interview with Carl Sagan, hosted by Walter Cronkite, discussing UFOs and the possibility of contacting alien civilisations. Also interviewed is Thornton Page, who was a member of the CIA’s 1952 ‘Robertson Panel‘ investigating UFOs. As usual, Sagan’s manner is somewhat sniffy when it comes to the idea of alien craft buzzing planet Earth, though not so much on the idea that there is life elsewhere:

It may be worth noting that the (at-the-time secret) Robertson Panel that Page was a part of concluded that an ‘education’ campaign should be initiated to lessen the public’s interest in UFOs (along with other dandy ideas like surveillance of civilian UFO groups and their members):

The Panel’s concept of a broad educational program integrating efforts of all concerned agencies was that it should have two major aims: training and “debunking.” The training aim would result in proper recognition of unusually illuminated objects (e.g., balloons, aircraft reflections) as well as natural phenomena (meteors, fireballs, mirages, noctilucent clouds). Both visual and radar recognition are concerned. There would be many levels in such education from enlisted personnel to command and research personnel. Relative emphasis and degree of explanation of different programs would correspond to the categories of duty (e.g., radar operators; pilots; control tower operators; Ground Observer Corps personnel; and officers and enlisted men in other categories). This training should result in a marked reduction in reports caused by misidentification and resultant confusion.

The “debunking” aim would result in reduction in public interest in “flying saucers” which today evokes a strong psychological reaction. This education could be accomplished by mass media such as television, motion pictures, and popular articles. Basis of such education would be actual case histories which had been puzzling at first but later explained. As in the case of conjuring tricks, there is much less stimulation if the “secret” is known. Such a program should tend to reduce the current gullibility of the public and consequently their susceptibility to clever hostile propaganda.

Also worth noting is that at this time, Sagan was a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book, which concluded that Blue Book had a number of scientific flaws and recommended another panel (the Condon Committee, headed by Sagan’s former teacher) to scrutinise the study and give its ‘independent’ conclusion on the validity of the UFO phenomenon.

  1. from the We-Live-in-Other-People’s-Worlds-Dept.
    There’s a reason for Carl Sagan’s attitude there and it all has to do with one person and their lifelong dedication to enforcing their Belief System on his world, that of debunking UFOs. Well, all except his one UFO experience which he never did decode.

    He was a quite successful example of how one person’s beliefs can become other people’s fundamental axioms (‘facts’) to which to base their beliefs around.

    (and no, tis not Carl Sagan — I found Carl started out quite agnostic aboot UFOs, but even he couldn’t resist being changed by this one man’s crusade)

  2. My illegitimate son is named Carl Sagan, coincidence?
    Great video! Always love seeing Carl Sagan in the last stages of his pupal metamorphosis. I too support the educational benefits of teaching critical thinking skills the world over, however, the foundational support required to uphold such an education is not there. Thus leaving either an individual that can discern such false evidence or an individual that is confused; wherein, lies and dishonesty will build, to combat that requires ten fold energy. Whereby concluding that such a world does not exist, except for the one you live in.

  3. Sagan and Friedman
    Always fascinating to hear Sagan speak, even when one disagrees with his views. (Fascinating, too, that he was classmates at the U. of Chicago with Stanton Friedman–of all people!)

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