Very likely you have seen the article in The Telegraph of London November 4 titled "UFO enthusiasts admit the truth may not be out there after all." The main point of the article is a statement by one Dave Wood, chairman of something called "the Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (Assap)," who said that a "meeting had been called to address the crisis in the subject and see if UFOs were a thing of the past."
|The Telegraph's illustration accompanying this article|
To be truthful, while I stay pretty current on the UFO literature, I had never heard of this guy before, or his organization ASSAP. And yet here he is being cited in a major publication as a spokesman telling us the future of UFOlogy. What's with that? I tried to find something on the web about Dave Wood and UFOs predating the Telegraph article, and couldn't find anything. I did find something about ASSAP investigating a haunted house. So why are we supposed to care about what he says concerning UFOs?
Well, it turns out that this "meeting" he is talking about is not some emergency get-together to address a UFOlogical Crisis of Faith. Instead it is called "Seriously Unidentified? ASSAP's First UFO Conference," and it looks like most other UFO conferences. Nothing in it suggests a 'crisis of faith' for UFOlogists, and the fact it's described as ASSAP's "first UFO conference" suggests that they expect to be holding more. Indeed, this looks like "business as usual," with speakers ranging from skeptic Ian Ridpath to Cal Cooper, author of a book titled Telephone Calls from the Dead. (The late parapsychologist D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless co-authored a similarly-titled book Phone Calls from the Dead; see my book Psychic Vibrations, p. 136.) The only thing on the conference schedule even hinting at the supposed 'crisis of faith' is a fifty-minute "Round table discussion on the likely future of British Ufology and possible future trends." Panels like this are common at UFO conferences, and that wording could mean anything.
As you might imagine, some people on the pro-UFO side are quite miffed by this claim. "Reached at his Cincinnati headquarters office today, MUFON Executive Director David MacDonald said ufology was alive and well. 'The fact is that MUFON is receiving on average more than 700 cases a month,' " In 2006, MUFON was receiving an average of less than 150 cases a month. This doesn't sound to me like UFOs are a 'dying belief.' Skeptic Dr. David Clark, quoted in the Telegraph article, asks in his Blog whether the UFO subject is dead again. He concludes that it's at a dead end, which is obvious. But that has always been the case, and that never seemed to matter before.
Interest in UFOs will be with us for a very long time. It is true that the emphasis of UFOlogy is shifting from groups and publications to electronic media. Most UFO believers today get their UFO thrills from cable TV programs like UFO Chasers and Ancient Aliens, from podcasts, websites, and Facebook pages. Indeed, there have been times in recent months when the National Geographic Channel was serving up back-to-back UFO programming as if there were nothing else to present. They would not be serving it if the audience wasn't eating it up.