Mutual mistrust may have added some X files to UFO era


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– Unveiling the flying saucer movement in the United States could offer historians a glimpse into the Cold War attitudes at work in society, as well as a glimpse into how science communication can be linked to current movements in denial and conspiracy theory, according to a Penn State historian.

Scientists, military officials, and amateur investigators of unidentified flying objects – often referred to as ufologists – have clashed almost since the onset of the modern flying saucer era, which began in 1947 when aviator Kenneth Arnold spotted what he claims to be nine silver flying discs in the Cascade. Washington Mountains, said Greg Eghigian, associate professor of modern history, State of Pennsylvania.

“From that event it explodes very quickly and becomes a center of media attention, but the question for me as a historian is why haven’t historians been more curious about what is happening? ‘has happened and has been going on for quite some time now, “said the Egyptian. “It had a clear impact on the way people think about science, the way people think about technology, and the way they think about government and authority.”

Eghigian, who reports his findings in a recent issue of Public Understanding of Science, said the UFO phenomenon has fluctuated since the late 1940s, but has recently vanished from its peak, something he attributes to the late 1940s. cold War.

“I think there is some evidence that this is not the same phenomenon as it once was, at least as a mass movement that fascinates people,” Eghigian said. “It was the anxieties of the Cold War – but also the enthusiasms and passions of the Cold War – that had a direct impact on this.”

According to Eghigian, in a sample of 25 newspapers, the number of headlines mentioning UFOs or flying saucers fell to less than 20 headlines each year in the post-Cold War era. Prior to the 1990s, there were typically over 40 titles on the phenomenon each year.

“The United States is coming out of WWII, so the country is concerned about national security and still has a warrior mindset,” Eghigian said. “It’s a world teeming with secrecy and secrecy, so it helps inform both how governments and the military handle evidence.”

Mainstream scientists almost immediately rejected the UFO movement, and UFO’s response to that rejection, in many ways, mimics current debates about climate change and vaccination.

“One of the things that marks the long history of this movement is the issue of mistrust and I see this as part of the skepticism we see today,” Eghigian said. “While there are a few differences, the UFO debate was sort of everyone’s grandfather and could be a model for examining some of these other controversies.”

Academics and scientists tend to believe that when laymen disagree with scientific findings, they are either biased or ignorant of the science, Eghigian said. However, ufology does not easily fit into this framework, he added.

“My experience with UFO phenomena and the history of ufology is that these amateur investigators were not at all ignorant of the science,” Eghigian said. “This goes with other theories that people are less wary of science than of scientists and scientific institutions – it’s the disconnect that needs to be explained.”

In many cases, after being excluded from mainstream scientific research, amateur UFO investigators have formed separate groups who have imitated the scientific method and tried to copy it into their own studies, he said.

“Ufologists have not tried to take over any scientific domain or institution,” Eghigian said. “What they have done is create parallel institutions and emulate what academics have done, create organizations, organize conferences and do research and inquiries.”

The over-reliance on the UFO community‘s own research, however, has only heightened academics’ mistrust of the research results of these enthusiasts.

“The study is really not meant to weigh in on whether UFOs may be of extraterrestrial origin,” Eghigian said. “I think the most important point is how scientists, officials and ufologists have tried to understand each other.”

The American Philosophical Society supported this work.

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