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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2011 > Oct > Oct 3

Re: Non-Ordinary Nuts & Bolts

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark.nul>
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 2011 09:08:34 -0500
Archived: Mon, 03 Oct 2011 10:40:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Non-Ordinary Nuts & Bolts

>From: Gerald O'Connell <goc.nul>
>To: post.nul
>Date: Mon, 3 Oct 2011 11:59:35 +0100
>Subject: Non-Ordinary Nuts & Bolts [was: Shirley MacLaine]

>>From: Jerome Clark <jkclark.nul>
>>To: <post.nul>
>>Date: Sun, 2 Oct 2011 13:40:15 -0500
>>Subject: Re: Shirley MacLaine


>>I've been thinking today of two much-missed, departed
>>colleagues, Isabel Davis and Coral Lorenzen, who must be rolling
>>in their graves at the moment.

>>Davis - whom a prominent ufologist once characterized to me as
>>the most intelligent person he'd ever met in this field - and
>>Lorenzen helped create and shape American ufology in its early
>>days (and in Lorenzen's well into its middle age). Both argued
>>for nuts-and-bolts UFOs and spurned "non-ordinary realities"
>>(i.e., paranormal/occult) advocates and approaches.

>Jerry, I wonder if we could just tap into your encyclopedic
>knowledge from a 'History of Ideas' perspective here? How was it
>that this particular bifurcation arose and then became
>entrenched in the subject? To be more specific, it seems to me
>that there should have been plenty of room for a 'non-ordinary
>nuts and bolts' interpretation that left the jury out on the
>ultimate nature of the phenomena while further and better
>evidence was being gathered.

>Is it simply a question of the nuts and bolts advocates having
>read too much science fiction while the paranormal/occult
>advocates had read too many ghost stories? Were they drawing on
>different sets of evidence in order to focus on the data that
>best supported their respective interpretations?

I hate to keep referring people to the second edition of my UFO
Encyclopedia, but these issues are taken up in two extended
entries, one "Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and Ufology", the
other "Paranormal and Occult Theories About UFOs".

Here's the five-cent version:

The ETH was a perfectly rational response to the UFO phenomenon
chronicled in the early days. It was embraced not just by
ufologists but by a surprising number of scientists, not to
mention individuals in government and military. There was no
reason to go looking for more fantastic possibilities. The
reigning presumption was that all sightings could be explained
prosaically (however far one had to reach in some cases) or at
least some were observations of ET vehicles. A search through
the best archives (NICAP, Blue Book, Condon, and others not so
well known) confirms what people were seeing and reporting was
essentially the same as people were reading in books, magazines,
and newspapers. There were also - most interestingly - letters
from witnesses, where the testimony is unfiltered. Again, no
dissonance is apparent there either.

These considerations led the late Karl Pflock to speculate that
ET visitors were here in those days but then left, leaving
Something Else in their place.

The alternate approach - based on those same sighting reports,
plus the channeling of medium Mark Probert and Theosophical
doctrine - was offered by Borderline Sciences Research
Associates, based in southern California, which is also the
birthplace of the contactee movement. Mainstream ufologists
thought these guys were nuts, an inelegant judgment perhaps but
one a modern reader would still have difficulty refuting.

By the latter 1960s, for some reason reports of UFOs (or of UFO-
like phenomena) began getting stranger. These kinds of stories
found champions in two strong personalities, Jacques Vallee and
John Keel, who maintained they represented the true phenomenon.

FSR, then the leading English-language magazine, rejected the
ETH and, with Bowen and Creighton at the head, favored "other
realities" aka paranormal/occult approaches. With surprising
speed the ETH passed out of fashion. It still had its adherents,
mostly the old guard who argued that ufology would get nowhere
if it embraced a primitive supernaturalism (and they had a
point); still, the high-strangeness accounts were often
genuinely puzzling.

In the 1980s, owing to fascination with crashed-disc reports and
abductions, the ETH made enough of a comeback that in the latter
part of the decade I gave a lecture to a MUFON conference on the
ETH's fall and rise. The ETH still has not regained the foothold
it had, notwithstanding the explosion in discovery of earthlike
extrasolar planets which give the hypothesis new credibility,
but all of ufology at least is no longer a parroting of Passport
to Magonia and Operation Trojan Horse.

The puzzles remain, of course. Are the UFOs of radar/visuals the
same as the UFOs of the high-strangeness experience? After
grappling with the question for many years, I have come to
conclude that no, they are fundamentally different and related
only by appearance. I've written about this at length elsewhere
and lectured the Society for Scientific Exploration on it in

In short, both sides of the debate may have been equally right
and equally wrong; they had just grabbed different ends of the

Jerry Clark

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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