Use ARROWS to page backward or forward

Imagemap

Page 17

 

unidentified object, which sometimes reportedly was not seen until after the malfunction was noted. No satisfactory explanation for such effects, if indeed they occurred, is apparent (p. 115).

The discussion of this evidence, both by Condon and by other members of the project staff, is of special interest. It is argued that, if automobile motors are stopped, it must be attributed to magnetic fields associated with UFOs (Condon & Gillmor, 1968, pp. 38, 101, 380). For the one case studied by the project, it was determined that the automobile had not been exposed to a strong magnetic field. Craig (Condon & Gillmor, 1968, p. 380) concludes: "The case, therefore, apparently did not offer probative information regarding UFOs." We shall return to discussion of this argument in Section V.

Scientific Methodology of the Colorado Project

The title of the Condon Report is "Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects." The great weight attached to this report by scientists, by the public, and perhaps by officers of the Federal Government, is based on the presumption that the study was, in fact, scientific.5 This has been disputed by a number of individuals, notably McDonald (1969) and Hynek (1972), who make specific criticisms of the methodology of the project. These criticisms will not be repeated here. The following comments are more general in nature.

Whether or not there is a well-defined "scientific method" applicable to all scientific problems, the fact is that the practices used by scientists vary from one subject to another. In research areas where the background noise and/or the inherent variability are high, such as epidemiology and meteorology, it is necessary to develop and use appropriate statistical techniques of data analysis. Where the experimental situation is well controlled and where the results are faithfully reproducible, it may suffice and may be desirable to analyze a single experiment in meticulous detail.

It was stressed in Section II that physicists tend to look for an outstanding experiment that, taken in isolation, conclusively proves or disproves some hypothesis. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that this is the approach adopted by Condon in appraising the information reported to him by his staff. To some extent, it reflects also the attitude of the scientific staff. For exceptions to this rule, one might cite the recently quoted paragraph by Craig (Condon & Gillmor, 1968, p. 115), concerning "Indirect Physical Evidence," which clearly reflects judgment based on an accumulation of evidence. It is also worth pointing out that, if the staff had indeed been searching for one or two cases to prove conclusively one hypothesis or another, it would have been necessary to devote far more time, attention, manpower, and resources to those cases than appears to have been given to any one case.


5 And also on the presumption that it was a free and open investigation with no secret aspects such as a hidden agenda or undisclosed involvement with sources of classified information. For further comments on this aspect, see the Postscript.

 

ImageMap