Last year, back when a few reporters took a look at the sorry state of UFO conventions in the United States, and wondered whether UFOlogy as a field had finally come to an end, some of the best minds in the world were meeting behind close doors on the other side of the Atlantic, having serious discussions about a subject which is still regarded as a form of deranged entertainment by the majority of mainstream media.
Those who were invited to participate didn’t have to waste time convincing the audience about the reality of the phenomenon; nor was this a reunion of ‘true believers’ spinning yarns of contact with benevolent Space Brothers or malevolent alien invaders (and they were certainly NO Kodachrome slides of child mummies displayed on cheap glass showcases!). The multinational team of scientists and members of the military gathered at the CAIPAN workshop, sponsored by the French space agency CNES, were gathered in the city of Paris on the second weekend of July of 2014, because they were already convinced UFOs are more than fodder for the supermarket tabloids. But more than that, they were keenly aware of an utterly embarrassing realization for those who claim to be ‘professional UFOlogists’: That almost 70 years after Kenneth’s Arnold seminal sighting in June of 1947, we still don’t know $#!t about what UFOs *are*.
Which was precisely the point of Jacques Vallee’s participation during the CAIPAN workshop. “Suppose the so-called Disclosure happened tomorrow,” Vallee proposes at the beginning of his presentation titled A Strategy for Research; were that to occur, and the press actually began to take the subject seriously and ask UFOlogists for information about the phenomenon, “we would be unable to answer a number of very basic questions.”
By getting back to basics, Vallee is setting forth a number of very straightforward and logical questions highlighting our monumental ignorance about the phenomenon:
Are there global patterns in the data?
What are the physical facts of the phenomenon?
Are there special locations where it manifests?
What are the social and cultural factors?
What is the impact on humans?
What methodology is applicable?
The most shocking aspect of the strategy proposed by Vallee, is the fact that ALL those issues can be researched today with the tools available to modern Science. UFOlogy does not require a ‘Moon-shot’ approach in which we have to patiently wait for the development of new technologies, in hope of one day starting to catch up with the elusive phenomenon. Parsing the databases already gathered by the few civilian groups conducting research –or the files left behind by defunct organizations, like APRO– could begin to throw some light about patterns observed by UFOs throughout history.
So why are we not doing it?
“UFOlogy has no Ontology” says Vallee, as a phrase meant to encapsulate the stagnation of a field which is already suffering from rheumatism, even though it has barely given its first few steps. With UFOs we try to study cases by exclusion alone –“it wasn’t a plane, or a balloon, or Venus, or a meteor, ergo it’s an unknown”– and until we come up with a useful methodology devoid of ideology, with which we can go beyond what UFOs aren’t and start to describe what UFOs are, another 70 more years will come and go, and our children’s children will still be wondering about those pesky lights in the sky.