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The Big Bang of UFOlogy

On or around Independence Day, 1947, during a severe thunderstorm near Roswell, New Mexico, an Air Force experiment using high altitude balloons blew apart and fell to the earth. This minor event in the history of reconnaissance turned out to be the Big Bang of UFOlogy. UFO enthusiasts have come to see that 4th of July as the day an alien spaceship crashed on earth. Some UFOlogists claim that aliens were taken away by the U. S. Air Force and other government co-conspirators for an interrogation or an autopsy.

Some claim that all our modern technology was learned by analyzing and copying the technology of the aliens. The actual crash site was on the Foster ranch 75 miles north of Roswell, a small town doing a big business *http://roswellnm. org/* feeding the insatiable appetite of UFO enthusiasts. Roswell now houses two UFO museums and hosts an annual alien festival. Shops cater to this curious tourist trade, much as Inverness caters to the Loch Ness crowd. This seems a bit unfair to Corona, New Mexico, since it is actually the closest town to the “crash site”.

Roswell is the nearest military base, however, and that is where the remains of the alien craft and its occupants were allegedly taken. Why the aliens were not taken to a superior medical facility remains a mystery. William “Mac” Brazel (rhymes with dazzle), foreman of the Foster Ranch, along with a 7-year old girl, Dee Proctor, found the most famous debris in modern history. They had never seen anything like it before. Millions now agree: the stuff was strange. Actually, it was pretty mundane stuff, including a reinforcing tape whose flower-like design was taken to be alien hieroglyphics.

Worse, the Air Force was not consistent in describing the debris. The Air Force has even had the audacity to claim that perhaps ardent UFOlogists have had a little trouble with their source memory. Perhaps what people are recalling as a single event was actually several events which occurred in different years (such as weather balloon and nuclear explosion detection balloon tests, airplane crashes with burned bodies, dumping of featureless dummies from airplanes, etc. ).

The likelihood that Roswell is a reconstruction involving many events over many years is supported by the fact that Roswell was ignored by UFOlogists until Charles Berlitz and William Moore published a book on the subject in 1980, more than thirty years after the event. This is the same Berlitz who popularized the myth of Atlantis and the urban legend regarding The Philadelphia Experiment. Berlitz is essentially an unreliable source who has made a career out of finding other unreliable sources to support his theories. To the UFO buff, however, the suggestion that they have erred is ludicrous.

Yet, they trust Berlitz and others with fantastic stories based on 30-year-old memories. And that the government made errors and was inconsistent is taken as sufficient evidence that there is a massive conspiracy by the government and mass media. They are trying to conceal the truth from the general public that the aliens have landed. Some even believe that the U. S. government has signed a treaty with the aliens. If so, let’s hope the U. S. government is more faithful with the aliens than it was with the Native Americans. Skeptics agree that something crashed near Roswell in 1947, but not an alien craft.

Skeptical explanations have varied from weather balloons to secret aircraft to espionage devices. Current conventional wisdom among skeptics is that what was found on the Brazel ranch was part of Project Mogul, a top secret project testing giant, high-flying balloons to detect Soviet nuclear explosions. The amount of energy expended on Roswell could probably support several alien galaxies for a million eons. It is enough to make a person believe in cranial cold fusion. To UFOers, Roswell is the resurrection, the proof of their faith. They have witnesses, they have inexplicable debris, and they have eyewitness accounts of the little creatures.

They have proof after proof of government and media conspiracy and cover-up. They have an entertainment industry that tries to pass off itself as part of the news media, especially the Fox (Alien) Network. This industry consists of radio and TV talk show hosts, publishers and television producers of UFO “specials” on the Discovery Channel and A&E. This industry does little to provide useful information and a great deal to feed UFO enthusiasts hungry for “proof” of their confabulations and government cover-ups. They even have an inept forgery of a filmed alien autopsy *http://www. trudang. com/autopsy. ml* which was shown to more than 10 million people in August 1995 on the Fox (Alien) Network.

They’ve got Marketing Mecca. To skeptics, Roswell is a classic example of what D. H. Rawcliffe called retrospective falsification *retfalse. html*. A story of the extraordinary is told, then retold with embellishments and remodeled with favorable points being emphasized while unfavorable ones are dropped. False witnesses put in their two cents. In the case of Roswell, we also have a few unreliable characters who add their delusions, such as Whitley Strieber, Budd Hopkins and John Mack (see the alien abduction *aliens. ml*entry).

There is also Robert Spencer Carr, the high school graduate who liked to be called “Professor Carr”. Carr is a hero in the UFO literature, but his stories of flying saucers and alien creatures were all delusions. His son has written: “I am so very sorry that my father’s pathological prevarication has turned out to be the foundation on which such a monstrous mountain of falsehoods has been heaped. ” It was that mountain of falsehoods that became part of the UFO memory, fixating conviction in a remarkable tale.

It happened at Fatima (during a time when the only aliens thought to be visiting our planet were messengers from God) and it happened at Roswell. One might think, however, that unlike the belief in our Lady of Fatima and other beliefs in apparitions from the supernatural world, Roswell might be settled some day since it involves testable hypotheses and refutable claims. Don’t count on it. UFO enthusiasts are every bit as devoted to their belief system as religious fanatics are to theirs. Evidence and rational argument are of little concern to those who consider science fiction to be a wiser guide than science.

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