Sigma Xi Lecture, April 11, 2014

I thank the McGill Chapter of Sigma Xi for inviting me to talk about extraterrestrial UFOs.

As a research psychologist I have been professionally interested in the UFO phenomenon since 1965, and tonight I am going to report some of what I have learned over that time.

Some of what people report as UFOs are extraterrestrial vehicles.

I think that this is established beyond reasonable doubt, the standard of proof required for a criminal conviction.

I will not have time to talk in any detail about two other propositions, which I think are true on the preponderance of evidence, but I discuss them thoroughly in the book I wrote in 2013:

Some of those ET vehicles have ET crews.

Some of those ET crews “catch and release” humans to study us, just as we study many of the other animal species on this planet.

What is the nature of the evidence?

John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher, wrote about inductive science as follows:

When from the observation of a number of individual instances, we ascend to a general proposition, of when, by combining a number of general propositions, we conclude from them a proposition even more general, the process, which is substantially the same in both instances, is called Induction.

Alfred North Whitehead emphasized the most empirical aspect of science:

WA law of nature is merely an observed persistence of pattern in the observed succession of natural things. …The pre-occupation of science is then the search for simple statements which in their joint effect will express everything of interest concerning the observed recurrences.

And (see above): Einstein put it very simply.

J. Allen Hynek lived from 1910 to 1986. He received a BSc in science and PhD in astronomy from my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Chicago.

He was hired by the United States Air Force in 1948 as their astronomical expert for Project Sign, then project Blue Book – the Air Force groups investigating UFOs. His job was to find the “normal” explanation for each unknown. He worked at that from 1948 to 1970, along with his day job at various universities.

Analyzing the Air Force records – the official collection agency from 1948 to 1970 – he and other workers found that about 80-85% of UFOs were identifiable with background knowledge about witness reliability, astronomy, engineering, airline schedules, satellite passes, metrological information and the like, but that 15 to 20 percent were not. Hynek developed the classical descriptive framework for UFOs: NL, DD, RV, CEI, CEII, CEIII (see above).

Hynek founded a UFO study group and wrote a classic book on the subject in 1972. He also pioneered the analysis and classification of anomalous UFO data. He hypothesized that some of what people report as UFOs were ET spaceships, so the idea – the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) with a scientist speaking up for it – is not new.  Hynek remained skeptical but open-minded and accepted the ETH as a possibility, although not a certainty.

Kenneth Arnold, Cascade Mountains, WA, June 1947: DD

The Evidence

Let us look briefly at some of the observed recurrences that establish the reality of ET UFOs. I gave four one-hour lectures  about the evidence in 2010 and wrote a 230-page book about the evidence in 2013. Four talks, or a book, define two different lower limits of the number of words and pictures required to establish a strong case for individual observations and for a systematic and comprehensive description of the phenomena that are the subject of this talk. I review a total of 37 separate observational cases in my book and there are thousands of equally good observations in the accumulated literature.

Tonight you will have to take for granted that – given my knowledge and research background in the experimental psychology of visual perception and memory – there are no spurious cases; no misperceptions of metrological or astronomical phenomena, misperceptions of other natural phenomena, misperceptions of airplanes, balloons or  satellites, psychological delusions, mass hallucinations, or hoaxes, included among the brief expositions of a very few of the cases that contribute to my conclusion that beyond reasonable doubt some UFOs are ET vehicles.

Kenneth Arnold, 1947 (the “index case”) DD, other witnesses. Arnold was a private pilot who saw the first widely reported “flying saucers” while flying over the Cascade mountains in Washington state in June of 1947.

In 1957 a US Air Force RB 47 reconnaissance plane was paced by a UFO for hours as it flew a practice mission over the Gulf of Mexico and then returned to its base in Arkansas. It was tracked on the aircraft’s radar, on ground radar, and it was seen by the members of the aircrew. The aircraft was giver permission to chase the UFO which it did: and the UFO stopped in midair below the aircraft, leading the aircraft to overshoot the UFO until the UFO caught up and paced it again until close to the end of the aircraft’s flight. Transcriptions of all of the communications, and reports on the incident, were discovered afterwards by Dr. James E. McDonald, an atmospheric physicist, who wrote an extensive report on the case.

A four-person Army medevac helicopter crew was intercepted by a UFO over central Ohio in 1973. The UFO pulled the helicopter thousands of feet above its normal flight altitude before flying off. The encounter was witnessed by passengers in a car below.  The encounter permanently damaged the helicopter’s magnetic compass. The case was described in flight reports filed after the incident; UFO researchers found and interviewed the ground witnesses.

Observations of low-flying boomerang-shaped or triangular objects, some as large as football fields, were made over a period of several years in the area of New York State and Connecticut east of the Hudson River between New York City to the south and Albany to the north. Many of the observations were reported from the Taconic Parkway, a major commuter artery from the suburbs to New York City. Many of the reports are described in Night Siege 2nd ed, by J. Allen Hynek, Philip Imbrogno and Bob Pratt: St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1998.

Observations similar to those near the Taconic Parkway were made in Belgium in 1989. They were investigated by the Belgian government. Jet fighters were sent up to intercept the low-flying UFOs on two occasions, and on one occasion a jet obtained a camera-recorded track of the UFO target. The entire episode is documented in UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Public Officials go On the Record, by Leslie Kean (Harmony Books, 2010)

The radar plot of a low-flying UFO intercepted by USAF jets and an air reconnaissance plane was obtained from  FAA radar records following visual observation of the large craft near Stephenville, TX in 2008. Complete documentation is available from the Mutual UFO Network, a US-based civilian UFO research organization.

The previous accounts are straightforward, well documented and well attested (often with secondary evidence). The intersection of converging factual accounts defines the evidence in each case as well as the overall phenomenon. From these accounts I draw these general conclusions:

Some UFOs –

Are technologically superior artifacts under intelligent control because

  • They take an interest in humans and human artifacts (airplanes, nuclear bunkers, etc.)
  • They are solid radar reflectors, visible at close and long range
  • They react to human actions: attack, approach, etc.
  • They outfly jets that chase them
  • The acceleration, speed, and hovering ability exceed ability of terrestrial vehicles

Knowing what we know about humans and human science, they far exceed our technological capabilities. Therefore they are non-human artifacts and so by elimination, extraterrestrial.

What did Albert Einstein say about UFOs? See above.

Linus van Pelt spoke for Albert Einstein when he said essentially the same thing:

“No problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.”

Thomas Kuhn, a twentieth-century philosopher of science, explained in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions that modern science is theory (paradigm) driven. Science moves from one paradigm to another and it is not “naturalistic” in the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth-century sense. Establishment scientists have no time for anomalous observations unless they can be explained as resulting from an existing theory or supporting an opposing one.

Most of the efforts of what is called establishment science over the past 65 years have been devoted to pigeonholing UFO observations in one or the other of the categories I have already eliminated as explanations for the evidence discussed at the beginning of the talk: misidentified human artifacts, metrological phenomena, astronomical phenomena or psychological aberrations or abnormalities.

All of the UFO evidence cited so far is in Kuhn’s sense a collection of “counterinstances” without a theory. They all have to be ‘explained away’ by adapting (or stretching) theories of “normal science” to explain them. I have already said that none of the counter-instances I presented can be explained by stretching “normal science.”

We are left with the fact that “normal science” just won’t explain away all of the counter-instances.

But how do we (psychologically) deal with the UFO counter-instances?

Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, explained that we have mechanisms for dealing with disturbing counter-instances – things that are “dissonant” with each other.

It is “dissonant” with our sense of scientific superiority and physical safety to believe that there are intelligent beings who use a technology we cannot duplicate and who can come and go at will in our atmosphere without us being able to do anything about it. This is an upsetting idea. How do we make it less upsetting: Festinger suggested three ways to do that:

  • Change an element of the message: The person who is telling me these things is unreliable; he or she is a “wacko” and therefore I don’t have to take the message (or the messenger) seriously
  • It’s all just pop culture and cultists: “Contactees,”  mentally unstable people, “enthusiasts”, “UFO buffs”: people whose opinion doesn’t matter.
  • There really isn’t enough information; what I see is useless junk on the internet.

If I tell myself these things, I can counteract the anxiety-provoking message that some UFOs are extraterrestrial, with all that implies.

The US government’s policy makes cognitive dissonance an easy “way out.” Ever since 1969, the official position has been that UFOs are all misperceptions or psychological aberrrations.

The scientist Edward U. Condon headed a government-appointed committee of scientists to look into the UFO problem in 1966. He was a fierce critic of people who took the phenomenon seriously (see his comments above)

Michael Swords, a student of the UFO phenomenon, wrote

“There is something about this subject, some barrier to its believability, some challenge of an emotional kind, which produces the most inexplicable responses by otherwise reasonable, highly functional people.” (UFOs and Government: A historical inquiry, p. 115)

Since Condon published his report in 1969 the US government position has been: consistent denial that any UFOs are extraterrestrial. The statement quoted above has been the official position for decades. It is available on the US Department of Defense website.

Denial works. I once asked a professor who commuted to work along the Taconic Parkway and who told me that he had seen one of the Taconic Parkway UFOs what he thought he had seen. His answer was: “The government explained them so I didn’t think about it.”

That man is a scientist distinguished for research work in his field. It proves Thomas Kuhn’s point that counter-instances count for nothing in modern science.

American Scientist is the scientific magazine published by Sigma Xi, the host organization for this talk.  Even Sigma Xi thinks that the government’s denials are ridiculous.

Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall are American political scientists. They have taken an interest in what has happened to the UFO evidence. They suggest that “elite culture” explains UFOs as an example of the “popular culture” of the great unwashed, and buys the “normal science” explanation that it can all be explained as anomalous.

What they add – and this is relevant in the “cognitive dissonance” context – is the note that the evidence is particularly disturbing to people who are in some sense responsible for finding a response to it, because there is no well-articulated response and our society has not even begun to discuss such a response.

There is plenty of popular culture to associate with UFOs: remember that Leon Festinger’s  cognitive dissonance mental dynamic biases the interpretation and explanation of the evidence in favor of assuming the reporters are unreliable and the phenomenon is all the result of credulous people believing charlatans.

I have now reviewed the escapes. But the counter-examples have not disappeared

Let’s go back to where I started, and I will restate the three propositions (see above).

What do these three propositions give us to think about? I Have reviewed the evidence for ET UFOs, but I have not reviewed the evidence for ET “catch and release” of humans because it is too complicated and there is too much of it.

I have explained the limitations of modern science in dealing with counter-examples, and  I have explained the strong emotional resistance to tolerating or accepting the ET hypothesis.

But I am persuaded that the ET hypotheses: all three of them, are established on strong evidence: for the hypothesis that some UFOs are extraterrestrial,  beyond reasonable doubt, in the other two, on the balance of probability. These are expressed as probability statements, so they fall into the discourse of knowledge, not religious belief or disbelief, or of politics.

And as I said earlier, it took me four lectures in 2010, and a book in 2013, to lay out the evidence in greater detail; you have had a brief and necessarily incomplete summary over the last 45 minutes or so.

If you tentatively accept the evidence as I have presented it – and then if you promise yourself to follow up with some more serious reading to understand the evidence better (the reading is provided at the end of the lecture), and if you have understood and discounted the defenses against that evidence: its incompatibility with modern science, the effects of cognitive dissonance, government denial and dismissals, then you have got to face the questions that the evidence raises but does not answer:

Who is visiting? Where are they from? How do they get here? What do they want?

There is evidence that some ETs look like the “grey alien” with the big black eyes that is a standard feature of ET fiction. There are many sources for this idea. One of them is shown above: a drawing by an artistically talented abductee whose experiences, along with three other abductees, was reported in a book by Ray Fowler published in 1993.

The Kepler orbiting telescope has opened our eyes to the literally thousands of planets in our own Milky Way Galaxy on which creatures like ourselves could, in theory, survive, because, given their distance from their stars and their size, they are warm enough for us and have comparable gravity. That doesn’t mean we know where the visitors are from. What we know now – and didn’t know five or ten years ago – is that there are plenty of places from which they might be visiting.

How do they get here?

Paul R. Hill was a NASA aeronautical engineer who died in 1991. He was not permitted to publish his observations on the UFO phenomenon while he worked for NASA, so his book: Unconventional Flying Objects: A Scientific Analysis  was only published posthumously in 1997. He observed UFOs himself near Hampton Roads, Virginia where he worked in a NASA lab, and he read extensively on the subject. Using his knowledge of physics and aerodynamics, he explained in principle how UFOs might work: he suggested that they used an anti-gravity drive.

Hill did not claim to know how to build an anti-gravity drive; just that an anti-gravity drive explained best what was known about UFO observed appearance, traces and performance.

The book is written both for the lay reader and the technically educated reader: it contains mathematical appendices as well as chapters that are devoted to explaining the appearance and performance of UFOs in plain language.  I strongly recommend it.

I don’t claim to know. All I do know is that UFO occupants have taken and are taking a very thorough look at our planet, ourselves, and, most likely, other species on this planet as well.

When will things change?

The public discussion has been largely influenced by the US government’s position on UFOs. That position hasn’t changed in over fifty years. The US government’s position matters because the US government is opinionated. Other governments have begun to unbend on the evidence and have basically shrugged their shoulders and said “it’s not my problem.’ But the US government might change. Here is an analysis of what are, and what might be, the effects of changes in the US government’s public position on UFOs (see above).

A cultural revolution is a significant change in the collective expectation and understanding about some aspect of our lives and the environment in which those lives are lived. Obvious examples in recent history have been the civil rights movement, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, and the gay rights movement.

Something, sooner or later, is going to trigger a cultural revolution when a sizeable minority, and eventually a majority, of humans finally realize that we are under surveillance by extraterrestrials. The effects of that revolution are unpredictable, as are the effects of any cultural revolution.

If my interpretation of the evidence is correct, and if the evidence continues to accumulate, then, cognitive dissonance and government denials notwithstanding, we have to collectively face the facts.

The goal of this lecture was to present the ET UFO evidence to one elite scientific group with the hope that I can persuade you to take the evidence seriously, and to begin thinking – in public – about what we can and should do about it.

They may go away and never come back

Another possibility that must be  acknowledged is that our ET visitors might fly away and not come back – perhaps never, perhaps for a very long time. We don’t control the ET agenda. The skeptics who thought it was all nonsense, and the people who know better but pretend that it’s all nonsense will be relieved, and the public will forget about it and historians will call it the “flying saucer craze” and that will be the end of it – until the next time.

Frances Parkman, the author of a long series of books on the history of England and France in North America, contradicted many previously held beliefs about that history in the course of his writing. He wrote a preface to Count Frontenac and New France under Louis XIV which expresses clearly my own feeling about the message I have brought to you tonight.

He wrote:

Some of the results here reached are of a character I regret, because they cannot be agreeable to persons for whom I have a very cordial regard. The conclusions drawn from the facts may be matter of opinion; but it will be remembered that the facts themselves can be overthrown only by overthrowing the evidence on which they rest, or bringing forward counter-evidence of equal and greater strength, and neither task will be found an easy one.

Samuel Johnson, the great English man of letters, said a very similar thing in a very few words (see above).

I have told a brief story about evidence that our planet is being visited by extraterrestrials. I think it is an important truth, and I don’t think it is a good idea to hurry off as if nothing had happened.

If I am right we should begin to change a lot of our working assumptions. I believe that we should begin to think about how to adapt to a larger universe of experience, some of which has been imaginatively envisioned in fiction, but which is likely to become increasingly real, whether or not it matches the world that we may have imagined.

If you would like to read my assessment of the reality of ET surveillance in greater detail, here is where you can find it. This is a story that I have contributed to, assessed and reported but did not originate. There are 48 acknowledgements to individual researchers and scholars who I know or have known, and five acknowledgements to research groups, most of which continue to actively study and report on the UFO evidence. And there are many other sources.

This reading list provides, in my opinion, an authoritative, scholarly and comprehensive introduction to the UFO phenomenon as we know it in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is very much like the reading list I would assign for a course on the topic, if I happened to be teaching such a course.

Thank you very much for your attention.

An review

B. Dorn wrote this five-star review on Amazon; I have reprinted it here. I am of course pleased that B. Dorn liked the book. And I must add that I don’t know him/her!   

A Must Read For Anyone Interested In Flying Saucers, Aliens. World’s Top Scientist Examines The Best UFO Evidence!

October 23, 2013.

Phenomenal information on the topic of UFOs. A must read for anyone interested in the learning about the best research, facts and information that has been accumulated (in the past half century) on the topic of UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions.

Don Donderi, PhD (author) is a worldwide respected scientist; with the most stellar educational, professional credentials and/or experience! He is a psychologist, engineering developer, scientist, dean, researcher and/or UFO expert. Fun, entertaining and very easy-to-read.

Don Donderi (author) takes a realistic view from a scientific perspective of all the relevant evidence in regard to the topic of UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions. Broken down into ten easy-to-read chapters, or three distinct sections. Incredibly insightful.

Easy to follow and understand. Great writing that includes the best uncovered information, stories, scientific information in regard to Earth’s most explosive information on the topic of UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions! This book only includes the best content on aliens, flying saucers.

Pages 1-55 (part one) provide a brief foundation on the field (topic). For example, the topic of UFOs initially became a pervasive topic within in the United States in 1947. Foremost, “the first officially recorded case of an epidemic is called the index case,” and/or “the 1947 Kenneth Arnold sighting” (p.3). The date of “June 24, 1947,” inside of his small Cessna airplane (while flying across the Cascade Mountains in Washington state), this man saw “nine bright objects traveling south between Mount Baker,” and “estimated their speed at more thatn 1,200 miles per hour–faster than the few new jet planes of the era” (p.4). This story was the first of many similar reports in which several eyewitnesses rushed forward to share from 1947-1965! Also, analyzed; are the many cover ups and/or disinformation involved during the cold war between the Soviet Union and the USA between the years of 1947-1991. Stellar content, sharp.

Part II deals solely with Extraterrestrials, from 1965 — 2013, I LOVED READING this section, the stories involved in part are spectacular. MONEY WELL SPENT; for the entire book. Six of the most important, verifiable, time-tested abductions are discussed in part II. Plus, this section analyzes all of the characteristics involved within the topic of what these ETs are. One striking case is the “index case” for alien abductions (p.87). This is the most explosive, proven and/or relevant abduction case in all of world history: the “Barney and Betty Hill story” (p.87). On “September 19, 1961,” while driving through New Hampshire, both occupants were abducted by a spacecraft and given a physical examination. Star charts, hypnosis, verifiable facts provided to Betty and Barney were later proven by Stanton Friedman, top scientists. Astonishingly, many other similar stories, events have occurred in USA history that have proved verifiable. “The Allagash Abduction,” were four friends in “northern Maine in August, 1976” were abducted while camping (p.110). Their stories, through dreams and/or hypnosis and/or other verifiable scientific factors proved they had in fact been honest, abducted. Excellent true stories. The text reads like a suspenseful mystery novel that also explains the psychology, science and/or all relevant facets inside the topic, experiences involving UFOs, ETs, and Alien Abductions.

Finally, section III (Us) is a brief analysis of science, government involvement of UFOs. How they tie into each individual piece of the puzzle on the topic. For example, all three factors are discussed when analyzing the “Roswell,” incident of “July 8, 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico” (p.176). From the evidence gathered, eyewitness testimony, uncovered information, disinformation, investigations, all pieces to more than sixty years in finding and fitting the facts, pieces into one picture.

Don Donderi (author) has delivered an outstanding nonfiction book on the topic of UFOs, ETs, Alien Abductions. His work, research, analysis and/or discussion inside this exciting field is a must buy! Great for anyone interested in the topic of flying saucers and/or aliens. Far superior content to any past global bestselling about aliens, flying saucers. Better than #1 selling nonfiction book: CAPTURED by Stanton Friedman (author) about the Betty & Barney Hill’s abduction. Also, far superior in quality and/or content that the global bestseller: The Day After Roswell by Philip Corso (author). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED reading for anyone on planet Earth. Overall an incredible text, mind-boggling. The BEST nonfiction book available on Earth today on the topic of ALIENS, FLYING SAUCERS. SOLID GOLD!

(By the way, I think that Stanton Friedman’s and Kathleen’s Marden’s book Captured and Philip Corso’s book The Day After Roswell are both worth reading; I cite a lot of Friedman’s and Marden’s work in my book — DCD)

A review of UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions by Bill Chalker

Here is a review by Bill Chalker, an Australian Ufologist, who got it right about my intentions in UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions. You will see why I appreciate his analysis. – Don Donderi

SCIENCE and the UFO controversy
by Bill Chalker 

“UFOs ETs and Alien Abductions” 

Psychologist, researcher and retired university professor Don Donderi provides intelligent and thought provoking arguments for the reality of UFOs, extraterrestrials and alien abduction in his book “UFOs ETS and Alien Abductions – A Scientist Looks at the Evidence” (256 pages, Hampton Roads Publishing, 2013).

Professor Donderi made a fascinating contribution – “Science, Law, and War: Alternative Frameworks for the UFO Evidence” – to the excellent book “UFOs and Abductions – Challenging the Borders of Knowledge” edited by David Jacobs (University Press of Kansas, 2000), where he concluded, “It is a serious error to assume that professional scientists are the best evaluators of the UFO evidence ….  The critical, empirical attitude of a skilled attorney and the alertness and open-mindedness of a military intelligence analyst will both produce a clearer understanding of the UFO evidence than the theory-driven closed-mindedness of the professional scientist.  And between them, the attorney and the analyst might just persuade the scientist that there is something here that merits paying attention.”

Donderi, a citizen of both the US and Canada, graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA and a BSC in biological psychology. He worked as an applied psychologist for IBM Corporation and worked at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, from 1962 to 2009, as an associate professor of psychology and became Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. He also co-authored the reference book “Textbook of Psychology” with Donald Hebb.

Don Donderi, with extensive professional training and experience in what people see and remember, namely human visual perception and memory, writes in his book introduction, “On the basis of that training and my knowledge of the evidence, I think that some of what people report as UFOs are extraterrestrial vehicles. I think that some of those vehicles are like our unmanned reconnaissance drones, but others are crewed by extraterrestrials.  I think that some people have come into involuntary close contact with extraterrestrials, and I think that government statements about UFOs conceal more than they reveal.”

Donderi’s position originated in his foundational understanding that “We know the world best through direct experience.  When our senses turn up something new in the world, there is something new in the world, and it is an obligation of a trained professional who understands the human senses to report on it.”

He introduces 3 events he helped work on that in his estimation describe something new in the world.  These are a photographic case at Lake Baskatong in northern Quebec in March 1978, a sighting of “humanoid” figures behind windows in a UFO near Montreal in 1973 by a university professor and a study of symbols seen by abductees on-board UFOs, the latter being reported in a poster paper at the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco during 2009 (See Stuart Appelle, Don Donderi, J.  Bellissimo, and Budd Hopkins, “Common Symbols Are Remembered by People Self Reporting Alien Abductions”).  Donderi concludes, “Nothing in the behaviour or personal history of any of them leads me to think that they are mentally disturbed or that they told fabulous stories for personal or psychological gain.”

Donderi extrapolates that much more evidence has been gathered by “many competent people over many years”, yielding “a consistent story reported by competent witnesses and evaluated by competent investigators.”  As part of this evidence he examines well known cases such as the 1947 Kenneth Arnold sighting, the 1957 RB-47 case, and the 1973 Coyne helicopter incident.

With these cases as his stepping off point he describes the evolution of the USAF’s “estimate of the situation” from the legendary 1948 “estimate” which concluded that “flying saucers” were “probably extraterrestrial,” its rejection by the Air Force Chief of Staff, and the current status quo USAF position that no UFO reports represent a threat to national security, that they did not represent “technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge,” and there was no evidence that UFO sightings were extraterrestrial vehicles. 

Much of Donderi’s book then is a broad brush marshalling of facts which he contends demonstrate exactly the opposite, namely that UFO reports do describe “machines that are technologically superior to anything humans can now produce.  These machines are extraterrestrial vehicles, and they are a threat to national security because we cannot defend against them.” Further Donderi contends, “The truth of the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) will become self-evident to any intelligent person who learns the facts.”

Don Donderi then focuses on what he calls the “chronology of doubt”, a period of UFO history he sees as running from 1947 to about 1980.  He states, “The doubt resulted from the interaction of the UFO evidence with the gaols and personalities of the people and organisations responding to that evidence.”    We then get a rapid tour through the main historical signposts that have defined this period, ultimately anchored in the engineered attempted burial of the UFO mystery by the so called Condon Report.  Despite its obviously flawed nature, the Condon Report succeeded in getting the USAF out of the “UFO business” and many argued it was about the conclusion that “science has finally gotten rid of the UFO problem.”

Given we have this book “UFOs ETS and Alien Abductions – A Scientist Looks at the Evidence” in 2013 and at least another 40 years of the UFO controversy to contend with, it is patently obvious that the UFO “problem” has not gone away.  I have written previously about the flawed Condon report and its agenda so I share many intersection points on the issues Donderi raises in his bold book.

Donderi then focuses on his “favourite skeptic” R.V. Jones who headed up British scientific intelligence during World War II.  Jones was the author of a skeptical appendix in the Condon Report.  Donderi secured from Jones in 1991 an update of his position, “I agree that we have to keep an open mind.  There can certainly be some so far unidentified natural phenomenon which we have not so far understood, but I should be doubtful about an intelligent extraterrestrial origin until the evidence is very much stronger.” 

Don Donderi utilizes Jones’ insightful tool of “touchstones” (using facts already known to evaluate and confirm “novel intelligence” or data), contending that “now the UFO evidence is very much stronger, there are many touchstones, and the chronology of doubt about the ETH is long past.”

Further, focusing on “low, big, and slow UFOs” as his “touchstone” Donderi argues that evidence from the 1965 Exeter sightings (see John Fuller’s classic 1966 book “Incident at Exeter”), the 1983 New York state “triangle” wave, the 1989 Belgian wave, the December 11 1996 Yukon Territory event and the January 2008 Stephenville Texas incident potently shows that “the End of Doubt” moment had definitely arrived and that in these sorts of reports UFOs “were flaunting their presence.”

Donderi musters a similar series of “touchstone” cases in the more controversial areas of  “humanoids” and “alien abductions.” 

With regard to “occupant” “touchstones cases” Donderi mentions the outstanding 1959 Reverend Gill Boianai entity sightings, the bizarre Ririe Idaho encounter of November 1967 (which Donderi examined in 1968 as part of NICAP’s “UFO occupant panel” made up of aerospace physicians, anthropologists, astronomers, biologists, psychologists, linguists, neurologists, philosophers, psychiatrists and sociologists, with Donderi concluding that the 6 occupant reports were “good reports … (and) this was just the first step in establishing the reality of the occupant phenomenon”), the fascinating 1967 Cussac France case (which was reinvestigated by the official French UFO agency GEPAN), and the 1974 Stonehenge Apartments entity encounters in North Bergen New York (which initiated Budd Hopkins career in ufology – see his book  “Missing Time” (1981)).

The Ririe Idaho encounter was remarkable because it not only involved 2 Navajo Indians having their car control by a small UFO with a transparent dome with 2 occupants, one of who floated down and entered the car.  It had supportive sighting events, including an unfortunate man who had an identical experience.  The case was also a potent “touchstone” event, with that type of UFO with transparent dome and usually 2 occupants reported widely (see for example Richard Hall’s excellent foundational study “The UFO Evidence, Volume II: A Thirty-Year report” (2001) where Hall refers to them as “dyad “scout craft””).

Abductions are introduced in the book via “the index case” of Betty and Barney Hill and then Donderi covers his “touchstone cases,” namely those that include “credible, repeated facts that strengthen confidence that the reports form a consistent basis for understanding the abduction phenomenon.”

His cases are the 1968 Buff Ledge Camp case, the 1969 West Nyack, New York incident (one of Budd Hopkins’ cases in his book “Missing Time”), the 1976 Allagash abduction (described in Ray Fowler’s book “The Allagash Abductions”), an abduction near Goodland, Kansas in 1989 (reported in the Journal of UFO Studies), and the well known Linda Cortile Manhattan affair (described in Budd Hopkins book “Witnessed”).  Donderi then discusses the elements of “the abduction narrative” that are in common and different in the cases, the attempts to explain the alien abduction experience, the problems with hypnosis and the various studies undertaken.  He concludes,  “Based on the consistency of the evidence, its congruence with other aspects of the experience, and its congruence with non-hypnotically obtained evidence, I think that hypnotically recovered abduction memories following a close encounter and missing time are accurate (within the limits of memory accuracy) accounts of what happened during the period of missing time.”  He further concludes that aliens have abducted people.

Donderi then reviews “what we know about UFOs,” citing NASA aeronautical engineer Paul Hill’s research, described in the fascinating book “Unconventional Flying Objects,” as “a brilliant and informative book about UFO technology.”  He also covers weapons system interference cases, specifically the 1976 Teheran Iran case and the 1967 Malmstrom missile base incident.  He also gets into paranormal elements such as “occupant telepathy.” 

Donderi ends this section with the following comment, “Besides Paul R. Hill, no scientifically or technically trained writer has tried to systematically explain how UFOs work or what occupants can do.”  But here Professor Donderi perhaps should have included some references to works like the research of Kenneth Behrendt, described in his books “Secrets of UFO Technology” (2007) and “The How and Why of UFO’s” (2011), and Robert Schroeder’s book “Solving the UFO Enigma – How Modern Physics is Revealing the Technology of UFOs” (2011).  There have been many other contributions to this aspect of the UFO mystery.  While one may not agree with everything in the theories expressed in the works of “The UFO Propulsionists” (the title of the chapter Kenneth Behrendt wrote for the book “UFOs 1947-1987: The 40 – year search for an explanation” edited Hilary Evans with John Spencer (1987)) but it is intriguing to see to what extent their research accounts for the UFO evidence.  Kenneth Behrendt graduated from Rutgers University with an MS in chemistry in 1980, holding various positions since then such as pharmaceutical chemist and metal industry engineering consultant. Robert Schroeder’s academic background includes a BA in mathematics from Rutgers University and an associate’s degree in aerospace engineering.  He worked for 26 years in operations and product management for a major computer company.

In a chapter entitled “Science and UFOs” Donderi provides insights into why “Science has had a hard time dealing with evidence about UFOs.”  In a nice synthesis of the elements of classical inductive science, Einstein’s concept of “physical bodies” and philosopher of science Alfred North Whitehead’s contention that “the pre-occupation of science is then the search for simple statements which in their joint effect will express everything of interest concerning the observed recurrences,” Donderi argues, “The observed recurrences are the UFO phenomena and associated observations of UFO occupants and occupant behavior.”

The crux of Professor Don Donderi’s synthesis is simply and elegantly expressed, “Those experiences that establish the reality of UFOs, occupants, and abductions are sometimes raw eyewitness accounts of phenomena but are equally often the outputs from instruments like cameras and radars.  The ensemble of these consistent sense perceptions allow us to identify a class of Einstein’s “physical bodies” that we call UFOs.  The consistent multiple accounts of remembered experiences called abductions cannot be explained away as psychological abnormalities because the people who remember being abducted are not psychologically abnormal.  This class of sense impression is consistent with other evidence about the existence of UFO occupants, and the witness accounts describe a consistent class of occupant behavior.”

Donderi doesn’t dodge the implications of this robust analysis.  He contends, “From the performance of UFOs, and from the appearance, behavior, and physical and mental abilities demonstrated by the humanoids associated with them, I conclude that the machines were not made on our planet and their creators do not come from here.  That is why the simplest way to classify these phenomena is to call them observations of extraterrestrial vehicles, some of which have extraterrestrial crews.”

With “the Psychology of Modern Science” Donderi gives his arguments for why the professional scientific community, despite the overwhelming body of observational evidence available and its extraordinary relevance, has consistently ridiculed or ignored the subject.  He puts it down to the theories and legacies of 4 scholars, namely William James, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Kuhn and Leon Festinger.

Kuhn came up with the concept of excepted and prevailing science as the existing and mandated paradigm.  That paradigm constrains mainstream science, despite the quality of evidence for UFOs, and does so because “no physical theory published in the open literature explains how UFOs work.”  Therefore in the prevailing paradigm generally scientist would always view UFOs “as a puzzle to be explained by reference to atmospheric, meteorological, or psychological processes.  Barring a dramatic, attention-riveting change in the UFO phenomenon, or an even more unlikely change in scientific attitudes, scientists will not agree that UFOs are real until there is an excepted theory about how to make a machine that will do what UFOs have repeatedly been seen to do.  Until then, the scientific community will always say it is “premature” to so much as acknowledge the existence of facts that no theory can explain.”

The problem is that UFOs represent, at best, anomalies to scientists that are not readily explainable, and they do not fit into the prevailing paradigm.  Indeed scientists are trained to disregard anomalies, particularly those that don’t fit the prevailing paradigm, nor contribute robustly to constructing a new scientific paradigm.  This situation creates a problem, because no government research grants or scientific establishment funding would fund UFO research with the limiting attributes of novel but unexplainable anomaly status. An exception, as Donderi points out, might be the narrow framing of UFO sightings and alien abduction “as a study of psychological abnormality.”

Psychologist William James characterised scientific thinking as so conservative that it could ignore phenomena that did not fit the prevailing consensus.  In 1890 he wrote, “we feel neither curiosity nor wonder concerning things so far beyond us that we have no concepts to refer them to standards by which to measure them.”  Donderi contends little has changed, as science in practice almost ordains it.  Psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance is central, according to Donderi, to understand “how the scientific community has responded to UFO and close encounter evidence.” Evidence that falls outside the standard paradigm is often deemed to be unreliable and the source is seen as suspect, even if that source may have a credible scientific background.  Donderi also draws in Freud’s  concepts of repression and sublimation to explain how “normal science” often borders on the irrational to avoid a direct embrace with the UFO mystery.

Donderi concludes, “During the half-century or more since government-supported science began to function less by observation and induction and more by the principles described by Kuhn, James, Festinger, and Freud … the scientific establishment has lost the ability to absorb, comprehend, and respond to anomalous data.  This means that the recognition of, and response to, the presence of extraterrestrials will not be led by the government-supported scientific establishment.  It will be led by people whose curiosity about the natural world has not been curtailed by the excessive conservatism of modern science.”

Dwelling on the Roswell saga and the JAL Alaska sighting as having “coverup” dimensions, and the Kirtland AFB events that drew in Paul Bennwitz and Linda Moulton Howe are examples of disinformation, Donderi argues that evidence of government oversights of “Unacknowledged Special Access Programs” (USAPS), further validating that there is a UFO reality behind these controversies.  A more transparent and forward thinking approach to the problem is argued for, that would allow mankind to have a more proactive and viable interaction with what is essentially still not a well understood phenomenon.    Donderi airs the political dynamics inherent in the handling of the UFO problem by governments and sorveign states, agreeing with the ideas of political scientists Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall, who argue that some members of “the cultural elite” have sought to minimize the significance of the UFO phenomenon, because not to do so, may lead to an erosion of their authority, through, as Donderi puts it, “relegating the frightening idea of superior extraterrestrial technology to the fringe of cultural awareness” – a “soothing oblivion” aided and abetted “by the secrecy and disinformation practiced by people in positions of authority who know the facts but won’t reveal them.”


Ultimately Don Donderi is arguing for a more imaginative and realistic response to the UFO phenomenon.

While this territory and perspectives are personally well understood , I admired the bold synthesis Professor Don Donderi has undertaken with his memoir “UFOs ETs and Alien Abductions – A Scientist Looks at the Evidence” and recommend it as an impressive exploration of the potent touchstones of the UFO mystery.  The enduring UFO enigma needs to be more appropriately revealed and examined, rather than the conflicted and skewed sorry history of neglect and misrepresentation that has been the main game of governments, society and science for far too long.  Don Donderi’s potent meditation on the UFO enigma is a touchstone for a renewed and better-informed approach to the extraordinary UFO mystery.

A Review of a Review — by the author

….Here’s an author’s review of the review published on the website about UFOs, ETs and Alien Abductions. Author’s comments are presented in italics throughout the review.

By Keep it real – Published on
Format:Paperback|Amazon Verified Purchase

I had high expectations for this book. So did the author whose goal was presenting “facts about UFO’s and extraterrestrials.” That objective wasn’t met as ‘facts’ aren’t separated from hearsay, hoaxes, or other possibilities. However, the book is a pretty good summary of the UFO arena, but not on a scientific level, not close.

Two examples of my complaint about this book (i.e. the lack of science within it).

First, in his discussion of an ‘abduction case’ in which he had first hand experience (meeting one of the alleged ‘abductees’), on pages 119 and 120 he recounts the allegations of ‘Richard’ and ‘Dan’ which supposedly provided confirmation of the event. At the end of his summary about ‘Richard’ and ‘Dan’ the author says their complicated saga played out behind closed doors so he doesn’t know what happened to them. Author fails to mention that this supposed ‘Richard’ and ‘Dan’ were never identified. All of the details pertaining to them on pages 119 and 120 were from letters sent to Hopkins. Someone, still unidentified, wrote the ‘Richard’ and ‘Dan’ letters, which I suspect contain false information. I don’t believe there ever was a ‘Richard’ or ‘Dan’ but just someone who fabricated both sets of letters. The author of this book never even mentions that they were never identified, never even entertains the possibility that the letters are fake.

….The reviewer disbelieves the information presented about this case, but does not tell us why he disbelieves. “The author of this book never mentions that they [two of the principals in the case] were never identified, never even entertains the possibility that the letters are fake.” I have no reason to “entertain that possibility” when I have seen and listened to the original evidence, as I have, and have concluded that the evidence and the original researcher —  Budd Hopkins – are both reliable. The reviewer continues “I think the odds that this case involved a real abduction by ETs is zero”. Your reviewer is giving you his opinion, but his opinion is only that. In my opinion, the odds that “this case involved a real abduction” are closer to 1.

There is no scientific or any other kind of analysis of this particular case in this book. I think the odds this case involved a real abduction by ETs is zero. (Yet I believe UFO’s are probably extraterrestrial and there might have been some or even many abductions.)

Second, in the only attempt at science in the book, he compares images drawn by people Hopkins thinks were abductees who saw what they think was alien writing with a control group who made up images upon imagining they were on a UFO. Author says he compared 24 ‘abductees’ with 24 in the control group. This has potential for being interesting. However, by my count the book shows only 31 symbols by perhaps 9 people. Yes, what he shows seems to show a difference between the groups, but if drawings of 48 people were studied, why am I allowed to see only 31, probably drawn by fewer than 10 people. I don’t even know by how many people because he doesn’t say. I’m just guessing fewer than 10 based on how they look and how they are organized. Nor do I know who any of the ‘abductees’ are, which is important because some cases I know about are much more likely to be fakes or delusions than others. Thus the possibility of some scientific analysis regarding these symbols just doesn’t materialize within this book.

….The reviewer should have followed citation no. 6 on page xix (just after this research was described) to page 201, where the following research is cited: Stuart Appelle, Don Donderi, J. Bellissimo and Budd Hopkins: “Common symbols are remembered by people self-reporting alien abductions (San Francisco, CA: Association for Psychological Science, 2009). “The possibility of some scientific analysis” indeed did materialize: in fact, the analysis preceded its summary presentation in the book.

This would be a decent book for someone who wants a basic summary of UFO cases since Roswell, but it isn’t what I expected from a scientist looking at the evidence. I don’t have any better sense of the real nature of the abduction phenomenon from having read this book. Working it all out scientifically would be too much to ask of anyone, but I hoped for a few new insights into some of the cases he discusses, but it wasn’t there. It is true that “a scientist looks at the evidence” in the book, but no scientific evidence is provided.

….The reviewer probably skipped chapters 7, 8, and 9, titled, respectively, The abduction narrative, What we know, and Science and UFOs. Chapter 7 summarizes what is known about abduction cases, Chapter 8 summarizes what is known about the performance and operating characteristics of UFOs and extraterrestrials, and Chapter 9 explains – scientifically – why scientists either ignore or ridicule the UFO evidence. The reviewer skipped the hard parts!

If all of the details regarding the symbols by the ‘abduction’ group and the control group were provided so we could study them, it might be possible to discern something. Even if there is a difference between the two groups, however, I can think of possible reasons other than ‘abductees’ seeing writing inside UFO’s. What about disinformation spreading around, or hoaxed information spreading around, etc? Without more data we can’t make any kind of meaningful analysis.

….Good for the reviewer. He or she  is paraphrasing what I wrote on page xix after describing the symbols experiment: “This symbol evidence is consistent with, but not sufficient proof of, the conclusion that the abduction experiences were real.”

Those who already believe in abductions will like this book as it supports their ideas. Those who don’t believe in abductions will also like this book because it provides no evidence to refute their ideas. But for those like me who are looking for evidence it ultimately fails in its objective to give us what can be called ‘facts’ and certainly no scientific facts.

….My review of the reviewer’s review is that he or she has read the book with insufficient attention to detail, that, contrary to the reviewers’ opinion it includes a summary and analysis of about sixty-five years of facts, and I confess I don’t understand what the reviewer wants when he or she asks for facts or scientific facts. The book is a narrative of facts and analysis, and it all seems to have gone over the reviewer’s head.

Go to to see the review 3.0 out of 5 stars