Our Haunted Planet
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Our Haunted Planet

Why UFOlogy is Not Pseudoscience

It’s actually scientific.

Often the term pseudo-science gets bandied about by people who should know better. Scientists themselves often use the term to describe ideas which they do not agree with: Astrology, Homeopathy, Spirit Research, and UFOlogy fall into this category often. Some of these are pseudo-scientific depending on your definition. Regardless of the implications, I wish to make one point. Just because something isn’t scientific in nature, doesn’t make it incorrect.

Much of modern mathematics is based on axioms like ZF set theory which isn’t empirical and scientific yet it is true by axiomatic definition. Also lots of engineering work is done on an intuitive basis with figures determined through intuition rather than some rigid scientific testing method. Yet much of our world built by engineers still seems to work. Claims of pseudo-science often imply that the idea isn’t correct or true in some way. However, not all truth is determined by the scientific method. One must distinguish truth from science, they are not the same thing.

That being said, I wish to claim that UFOlogy, the study of UFOs is scientific. To make this claim, we will look at what the study of UFOs actually does. According to the philosopher Karl Popper, what is science is determined by falsifiability. The ability for a theory to be tested and proven false. An example of this would be the theory of relativity. Where if it made an incorrect prediction, it would be falsified if the experiment can be replicated several times.

In other places, Popper calls attention to the fact that scientific theories are characterized by possessing potential falsifiers — that is, that they make claims about the world that might be discovered to be false. If these claims are, in fact, found to be false, then the theory as a whole is said to be falsified. Non-scientific theories, by contrast, do not have any such potential falsifiers — there is literally no possible observation that could serve to falsify these theories.

One might say that theories in UFOlogy can’t be falsified, but this is not the case. Take the ETH for example, the extraterrestrial hypothesis, which states that UFOs are actually extraterrestrial craft. A falsification could come from several sources, an actual UFO being taken down and shown publicly to not come from extraterrestrials but from some other source. Extra-dimensional, government, etc. Somebody might say, that can’t be replicated easily, nor tested in laboratory conditions so it can’t be technically falsified under proper conditions.

However, there are many scientific fields which can’t easily be replicated, yet we still consider them science. The social sciences are one example, and themselves face a replication crisis. Cosmology is another example, when dealing with stellar events that occurred millions of years ago. UFOs can’t appear all day long and so thus can’t be flown in on demand. Other sciences have this problem as well, Cosmology with rare stellar events, and political science with revolutions and conflicts. These events don’t occur at regular intervals and may occur unexpectedly and randomly.

Falsifiable experiments do take place within the field on materials purported to be from UFO craft. Dr. Garry Nolan is one example, he has conducted several tests of purported meta-materials and UFO experiencers. To claim that we can’t falsify theories in UFOlogy is nonsensical. Some hypotheses have already been falsified such as the idea of the Atacama skull being an extraterrestrial. Meta-materials are still being tested, and we will see in the future whether they contain any materials uncommon in this solar system. The blanket claim that hypotheses in UFOlogy are untestable or unfalsifiable in untrue and this makes UFOlogy a proper scientific field. Even, if the critics don’t want to agree.

I suspect many of the “skeptics”, who know who they are. Want to discredit the study of UFOs and make it akin to ghost hunting or astrology. Not to diss on those paranormal topics because even they have scientific attributes to them. However, of all the paranormal topics I consider the study of UFOs to be among the most scientific in nature. There are scientists working in the field with expertise in biology, engineering, and materials science. There are falsifiable and testable theories. There is also active research in those fields. How is that any different from paleontology or cosmology, neither of which can really be tested in a lab. I hope this labelling of UFOlogy as a pseudo-science stops because it clearly is not. It should be more respectable and even have mainstream journals covering the subject eventually.

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A little corner of the internet where I write about Forteana, Science Fiction, Philosophy, Consciousness, and Phil Dick with an occasional dose of humor. The name is a reference to a book by John Keel.

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Robert Ford

Robert Ford

I once wrote android software at Delos, now I write about the unseen realities of our universe.