From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 2, number 2, March-April 1969
Alan W. Sharp
In assessing the value of the Condon Report the most difficult task is to arrive at some unbiased standard of worth. As a piece of scientific literature it leaves a good deal to be desired, but as a contribution to the understanding of the subject it contains much of general interest and some valuable elucidations of interesting sightings.
The temptation is to follow one of the least troublesome alternatives–uncritical acceptance of Condon’s conclusions, or rejection of the report as a piece of official whitewashing. Neither, I feel, would be correct.
The Committee had what all sensible UFO investigators know to be an almost insuperable task and can claim moderate success in carrying out their brief.
The number of cases investigated was painfully small, but the results were set out quite well. No evidence was found to support the extraterrestrial spaceships hypothesis, but the treatment was incomplete. Some cases were unsolved but most of these were too readily shrugged aside under the amorphous designation of insufficient evidence for evaluation.
All this is just about what one would have expected and the fact that the Condon team did not score 100% success in evaluation of even their limited number of chosen sightings is hardly surprising. Had they done so, the feat would have been
roundly condemned by everyone.
Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that complete success cannot be the correct criterion of the Report. It is also obvious that Condon himself was scarcely justified in making the sweeping assertions contained in his Chapter 1 summary. By and large, however, he is probably not far off the mark in saying that the scientific fallout from over 20 years of UFO research has been extremely small. Nevertheless, it is wrong to suppose that there has been none.
The interesting and valuable chapters dealing with many pertinent natural phenomena should be of considerable value and interest to all investigators of unusual aerial events and, in particular, to those who interest themselves in unidentifiod flying objects.
These chapters comprise the whole of section VI of the Report, from page 559 to page 810, plus a considerable part of Section III from page 51 to page 209, approximately 400 pages in all, out of 941 pages of text. Included in the latter part (Section III) are many analyses of sightings additional to the 59 cases which are described in detail in the 236 pages of Section IV.
Section II, called a ‘Summary of the Study’, includes comment on such facets of the UFO scene as the extraterrestrial hypothesis, intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, visual perception photographs of alleged UFOs, radar sightings, astronautsl sightings, instrumentation and the attitude of the general public.
Of the direct physical evidence which is mentioned in UFO literature, markings on the ground (p 87) and parts of UFO equipment discussed (p 92 et seq.) include the well-known Sao Paulo magnesium fragments, but the conclusion is reached that ground markings are inconclusive and the magnesium was of terrestrial origin. Angel hair is mentioned (p 89) and “space grass” is accounted for as anti-radar “chaff”.
It would be possible but somewhat tedious, to work through the whole report in this manner, but for anyone who is sufficiently interested to wade through such an intensive analysis the obvious course of action is to obtain a copy of the Report and peruse it at first-hand.
I would recommend such a course of action to all readers of this brief review. The main snag lies in the physical difficulty of reading a voluminous paperback, but the effort is well worth while and the 12/6 price makes the New York Times reprint a ‘must’ for all ufologists and many other people besides.
John A. Rimmer
Despite the frenzy of slighted UFO organizations, one conclusion emerges clearly from the Condon Report. The U.S.A. government has no secret evidence that UFOs originate from beyond, upon, or within the Earth. If they did it would have been impossible for the Committee to maintain such a stance of detached boredom. As one ploughs through the thousand-odd pages of the Report one can sense the ennui, and almost hear Dr Condon yawning and whimpering, as the phrase is. On page 548 (New York Times/Bantam edition) we are presented with a moving and dramatic picture of Dr Condon being virtually blackmailed to leave his beloved work on atomic spectra to start an investigation on a “confused and ambiguous subject”, one in which a “truly scientific study…was extremely difficult, if not impossible”.
Having however been inveigled into this vague, airyfairy world the good doctor proceeds immmediately to extricate himself. The four hundred or so pages of scientific padding are not intended for the likes of us. They are there to impress fellow scientists that although the team may be investigating a thoroughly unsatisfactory topic, they are not going to be led from the paths of scientific orthodoxy. Here are solid facts, lots of graphs and formulae. A really good attempt to keep up the tone of the neighbourhood. The actual UFO work (that which is original, and not reprints from earlier reports or papers) is carried out in a methodical and scientific manner, but does not give the impression that anyone is actually interested in the subject. Probably the approach would be the same if the Committee were asked to investigate Magyar vowel-roots in Icelandic.
The chapter “Conclusions and Recommendations” is a splendid example of the nineteenth-century materialist approach to research:
“Nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs cannot be justified in the expextation that science will be advanced thereby,”
The argument is that the scientific methods used to investigate UFOs are perfect and incapable of improvement, therefore it must be the UFOs that are at fault, and are inherently uninteresting. Further on in the same chapter Condon writes:
“As the reader will judge, we have focussed attention almost entirely on the material sciences … We have found rather less than some persons may have expected in the way of psychological problems related to belief in the reality of UFOs as craft from galactic or intergalactic civilizations … We do not suggest however that the UFO phenomenon is, by its nature, more amenable to study in psychological and psychopathological disciplines than in the physical sciences.”
In this there appears to be something of the attitude that ‘if we can’t find out anything then neither can these trickcyclist guys’. Again, true materialism, everything can be explained in terms of billiard-ball atoms and steam engines.
One of the conclusions that has generated a good deal of controversy is the recommendation that schoolchildren shpuld be discouraged from reading the ‘wrong kind’ of UFO book. This evinced cries of ‘dictatorship’ from many enthusiasts. However I would regard this as another manifestation of boredom rather than some sinister plot. Possibly it can be seen as part of the educational backlash against current teaching methods. Dr Condon, probably brought up on an educational diet of solid learning, reinforced with such worthy works as ‘Every Boy’s Book of Atomic Spectra’ would certainly look askance at such woolly-minded attitudes to education.
In short then, the Report is one made by materialists bored and rather annoyed with a subject that they cannot get hold of and put in their spectrum analysis equipment. Best parts are chapters 1 and 2 of section V; chapter 3, section VI; and appendix V. Here one or two intangibles are allowed to creep in, although kept carefully under control, The case studies section IV, are the same as all the ones you ever read in Menzel’s books. Section VI is very nice if you like that kind of thing, but it’s got nothing to do with UFOs.
The Report of the Condon Committee is currently available as a paperback, consisting of nearly 1,000 pages (“Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects”, a New York Times Book/Bantam Book.
The main conclusion reached by the Panel is that:
“Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science. will be advanced thereby.” (p 1)
However, they admit that:
“Scientists are no respecters of authority. Our conclusion that study of UFO reports is not likely to advance science will not be uncritically accepted by them.” (p 2)
Thus the members of the Condon team fully realize that their report is extremely unlikely to end the scientific controversy on the subject of UFOs.
Apart from the foregoing remarks, the team seem to have been unable to state anything definite about the subject, and’ their attitude to the unexplained sightings in the report is somewhat negative.
There is something very familiar about their style and approach to the subject. All of the comments and evaluations have a distinctly Menzelian air about them. Indeed, Condon bemoans the fact that Menzel’s book Flying Saucers (1953) never achieved a large enough sale to be issued as a paperback, whereas Leslie and Adamski’s Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) became a best seller. (p 525)
It seems to me that it would be fair to sum up the general attitude of the Project as follows. The vast majority of UFO reports can be explained satisfactorily as misinterpretations of aircraft and natural phenomena and others explained as hoaxes and delusions. There remains a small number of unexplained incidents. In these cases, although it seems that genuine UFOs were involved, it is conceivable that the witnesses were mistaken or lying, therefore they must have been mistaken or lying. In another field of enquiry, the same sort of argument has been used to discredit psychical research.
The Report contains a number of apparently contradictory statements and comments. The most interesting concern allegations of government secrecy concerning UFOs. Condon writes: “We have no evidence of secrecy concerning UFO reports.” (p 5) Yet in the Case Studies, Case 5 (pp 260-266) concerns an incident in 1957 when the crew of a B-47 aircraft encountered a UFO. The Project interviewed three of the crew members but were unable to obtain any information from the Air Force concerning the 0fficia1 reports said to have been made at the time.
The team also remark on claimed UFO events at Air Force bases, about which they were unable to obtain any official information (p 70), quoting one of the cases they report in detail as an example (p 341). This case came to the attention of the Project from a “source considered to be reliable.” However, after attempting to obtain official confirmation or denial of the report, the Project came to the following conclusion:
“Although it is that the report of this incident was never more than a rumor, it is also true that project investigators were not able satisfactorily to confirm or deny that a UFO incident, had occurred. Attempts to investigate the rumor were met with evasion and uncooperative responses to our inquiries by base information.”
It seems to me that most people would tend to interpret incidents such as these as being strongly indicative of official secrecy in operation, although it is only fair to point out that some groups greatly exaggerate the part played by official secrecy in concealment of UFO data.
Much of the Report consists of padding. Some of this padding is very interesting, particularly the section dealing with atmospheric electrical phenomena. However, as most of this material has only an indirect bearing on the question and is already available to UFO researchers in the appropriate scientific textbooks, there seems little if any justification for including it. Worse, little attempt is made to correlate this material with actual UFO observations, although there is some useful discussion on the uses and limitations of radar in the detection of UFOs.
For some very pertinent criticisms of the Report, the reader is advised to consult the latest issue (Volume 15, Number 2) of Flying Saucer review.
There is one use for the report for UFO investigators. It brings together, between one set of covers, information on various types of natural phenomena, many of which could under certain circumstances result in spurious UFO reports. Thus it could help some ufologists to avoid making elementary scientific blunders when evaluating the reports which they investigate.
The report is available from Amazon Books. Click on this link:
Final report of the scientific study of unidentified flying objects conducted by the University of Colorado under contract to the United States Air Force (A ‘New York Times’ book)