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Professor Says UFO Studies Should Be Taught At Universities 311

New York anthropology professor Philip Haseley wants young people to get the best education possible, and part of that education, he says, should be about UFOs. Haseley thinks universities should offer classes on UFOs and other unexplained phenomena from space. "[A sighting] happens to millions of people [around the world]. It's about time we looked into this as a worthy area of study. It's important that the whole subject be brought out in the open and investigated," he said. I want to believe the truth is out there in 500 words or less.


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Professor Says UFO Studies Should Be Taught At Universities

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  • Oblig. xkcd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mibe ( 1778804 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:55PM (#31834222)
  • Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:55PM (#31834224) Homepage Journal

    Some schools teach creationism. Some teach actual theology. Why should alien abduction be treated any differently? Teach the controversy!

    • Re:Why not? (Score:5, Funny)

      by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:02PM (#31834358) Journal
      "Why should alien abduction be treated any differently? Teach the controversy!"

      What about Bigfoot and Loch Ness? Can't leave them out, that's discrimination!
      • from article

        The main criticism of alleged non-human creation of crop circles is that while evidence of these origins, besides eyewitness testimonies, is essentially absent, many are definitely known to be the work of human pranksters and others can be adequately explained as such

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_circle [wikipedia.org]

      • That my friend comes under the fine study of cryptozoology. [google.com]

        It's the study of anything that you want to believe could be out there, without any real proof that they exist. :)

        Then again, if I remember right there isn't a legitimate school in the world that teaches cryptozoology, other than maybe in a passing reference in a real class.

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Some schools teach creationism. Some teach actual theology. Why should alien abduction be treated any differently? Teach the controversy!

      I suspect parts of first two groups you mention might actually have a problem with UFO studies (obviously false)...the conclusions from which could hit a bit too close to home.

    • They were certainly an important phenomenon especially in the 70s, so it can be expected that some people are not too familiar with them nowadays. Yet, they are responsible for some very important [youtube.com], memorable [youtube.com], and fascinating [youtube.com] things from that period, and can still be observed around the world even today. I suggest that anyone with a slightest interest in such things does some further research into this topic.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by ryantmer ( 1748734 )

        They were certainly an important phenomenon especially in the 70s

        Other things that were popular in the 70s: these [wikipedia.org]. Coincidence?

    • Yeah.

      You may as well have put "evolution" in your list. Except it wouldn't go well with the typical slashdotter. Or, even more appropriate... how about philosophy or psychology or behavioral sciences or sociology? Metaphysics? Homer? Plato? Aristotle? Shakespeare? Victorian literature?

      All of the above have had less of an effect on society and history than "theology" or "creationism" (both of which were meant to refer to, I assume, those topics as written of in the Bible)...

      I know it was a joke, but

  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:56PM (#31834250)

    Reasonable-quality audio/video recording equipment is becoming nearly ubiquitous, being embedded in cell phones.

    Yet the only "footage" that is available is grainy and poor quality.

    As the quality and availability of audio/video recording equipment grows, one would expect the quality of "sighting" recordings to increase, but they aren't.

    I think that's very telling.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:59PM (#31834298)

      ...one would expect the quality of "sighting" recordings to increase, but they aren't.

      I think that's very telling.

      It is telling. What your post tells me is... they got to you too. (sigh)

    • That's because of the nature of an Unidentified Flying Object. It flies through the sky but is too far away or obscured by other things (weather, buildings) to be identified. UFO's will always remain UFO's no matter whether they be nature-made, man-made or alien-made phenomenon.

    • by wwphx ( 225607 )
      My wife would love to bitch slap this guy when I tell her about this. She has a PhD in astronomy/astrophysics and has taught classes on extra-terrestrial life, including the Drake Equation. With the increase in the general population of increasingly high definition video cameras, there should be good footage by now of UFOs. THERE ISN'T.


      People don't realize how vast the distances involved are. They'll say "man didn't go to the moon", which is a piddly quarter million miles away,
    • by Jahava ( 946858 )

      Reasonable-quality audio/video recording equipment is becoming nearly ubiquitous, being embedded in cell phones. Yet the only "footage" that is available is grainy and poor quality. As the quality and availability of audio/video recording equipment grows, one would expect the quality of "sighting" recordings to increase, but they aren't.

      The aliens and ghosts are clearly reacting to advancing and increasingly-available technology by reducing their exposure and appearing in locations that whose obscurity is proportional to our gains in sensor clarity. Those bastards.

      I think that's very telling.

      They're clearly way smarter than we originally thought. Spooky!

    • Bullshit (Score:2, Interesting)

      by unity100 ( 970058 )

      The video quality has been improved ever since video cameras became commonplace.

      YET, now there are people who reject ufo footages because 'they look too clean'.

      make up your mind first.

      if you cant trust anything, just go check Soviet ufo files. they are open, and history channel even ran a documentary with footage from within them. some of the footages are very very out of the ordinary. you can find them on youtube too.

      • Quality has improved yes, but for much of that time it was: cheap, portable, quality, pick one (or two) Now you can spend a relatively small amount and get a very capable recording device that fits in a coat pocket, that is what people are really getting at, i think.

        Personally I could see rejecting footage for being "too clean" but only in certain circumstances depending on the media from which it came and the reported recording device. It would be like providing a "scan" of a polaroid ins
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by unity100 ( 970058 )

          search youtube for mexico ufo videos. such videos of the quality you seek is commonplace there, because ufos, for some reason, appear en masse there with no hesitations, for hours.

  • Religion Studies (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:57PM (#31834266) Journal

    I took a class in religion studies in college. UFO or other paranormal theories would fit right in there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sznupi ( 719324 )

      They would fit. But I would expect a lot of controversy with that approach.

      • by Eudial ( 590661 )

        Doesn't the same religious people prompt us to teach the controversy?

        • by sznupi ( 719324 )

          IMHO not quite - they don't see it as controversy after all (indeed, not teaching what they want and/or teaching things which are perceived by them as "against" - that is controversial...)

      • That's actually the context (religious studies) in which credible courses on UFO-ology and other "unexplained" phenomena occur.

        It's not a investigation of whether UFOs are real, but why the people who "see" them belive they are real. You can substitute any religious figure, conspiracy theories, or the Flying Spaghetti monster for UFOs - regardless of whether "it's true", people believe it, and "that settles it" for a lot of people even if contradictory evidence exists.

    • Re:Religion Studies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bmo ( 77928 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:13PM (#31834554)

      (T)he first really strange stories I remember hearing were Bible stories. And these stories were completely amazing: about parting oceans, and talking snakes. And people really seemed to believe these stories. And I'm talking about adults. Adults, who mainly just did the most mundane things imaginable: mowing their lawns and throwing potluck parties; they all believed in these wild stories. And they would sit around and discuss them in the most matter-of-fact way. So in a way I was introduced to a special local form of surrealism at an early age and so there was always a question in my mind about what's actually true and what is just another art form.

      -Laurie Anderson


    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cosm ( 1072588 )
      Similar arguments were made by the Ptolemaic churches attempting to discredit Aristotle.

      The UK acknowledges the phenomenon: Ministry of Defense [www.mod.uk]
      So does Mexico [rense.com]
      oh, and so does the FBI [fbi.gov]
      and the CIA [cia.gov].

      UFO's are not just some hoojum bullshit. There is a serious phenomena of unexplained activity/objects, and rigorous scientific endeavor would get much more credibility if this area was at least explored from a rational and logical standpoint in educational institutions without all the hooting and hollering,
      • by tixxit ( 1107127 )
        What is that video suppose to be of? It looks like a video of an actual experiment. The site lists many experiments performed on the tether and talks about the data gathered. It would seem to be an extreme close up of a crystal or something with dust and/or ice floating around.
      • by tibit ( 1762298 )

        LOL re STS-75 "incident". Those are not UFOs. Think about what the illumination was when this stuff was being filmed. Assuming it was filmed through the front windows, they likely had side light through the side windows, and this would be classical dark field visualization of dust. Large-enough dust particles will behave exactly like this in weightless environment. Small ones will do Brownian motion, larger ones will move in apparently straight lines. Besides, this video suffers from bad overexposure and is

      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        The scientific method needs actual data to even start to investigate the phenomenon. Eye-witness reports, grainy photos of luminous blobs, and shaky footage of luminous blobs simply doesn't cut it. That's the problem. All the phenomena that were previously called UFOs, but which now science has a firm grip on, were understood because getting actual evidence of them was easy. The ethereal "alien ship" UFO idea is simply not testable, until one stays in a fixed place for hours (either in the sky or on the
      • by dave420 ( 699308 )
        Oh, and that video shows out-of-focus dust/particles. Not massive UFOs or anything else. NASA 'conveniently' didn't discuss it because there's nothing to discuss. They also didn't 'conveniently' discuss Bigfoot flying by in a Zeppelin, too, because it didn't happen. That tether 'incident' video is the staple of the "UFOs are aliens even though no one has proof that they are" crowd. It's getting old, and very very pathetic.
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      I took a class in religion studies in college. UFO or other paranormal theories would fit right in there.

      Well, other than Orson Wells War of the Worlds, how have UFOs been involved in shaping any actual events on planet earth? Weather you believe in some diety(s) or not, you can't deny the impact religion has had on society. Not so much for UFOs. My college freshman daughter just signed up for religion for next semester, and I have no problem funding the expense. If it was UFOs, she'd be looking for a different source to cover the costs.

    • You know, when you take away the "extra-terrestrial hypothesis" (ETH) from UFO research, there has been some very interesting work done in the field recently.

      A few names to look for are Mac Tonnies, Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern. They reject the ETH and have developed some very interesting theories on the subject. Mac Tonnies, in fact, wrote one of the most interesting serious books on the subject just before he died tragically last year at age 34. It's called The Cryptoterrestrials: A Meditation and it'

  • by chord.wav ( 599850 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:00PM (#31834306) Journal

    A rigorous scientific and professional approach would be far better than an amateur approach any day. Otherwise we deny the phenomenon entirely, or rely on amateur people who keep finding traces of them anywhere they look. You know they saying: "To a person holding a hammer, every problem is a nail."

  • UFO is an acronym (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:00PM (#31834328) Homepage Journal

    UFO doesn't mean aliens, space visitors, or conspiracies.

    It means: Unidentified Flying Object.

    If you see a condensation trail high in the sky, you know that there is something creating it, but if it is too high for you to see, it is unidentified. It is flying. It is an object. You have just witnessed a UFO. There is nothing ridiculous about it at all.

    If this class focuses on the spotting of things you don't understand, and the process in which you go through to try to discover it's identity, then I'm all for it. A class that pushes students to come up with multiple possible theories and find ways to research them, to prove or exclude them, and to report on their findings.

    Seems like an awesome class idea to me.


    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      From his quotes, he doesn't come off as a guy trying to disprove UFO sightings as alien encounters. Instead, he seems desperate to prove them.

      If he's teaching students to prove instead of attempt to disprove, he's doing it wrong... And let's face it, even if he's doing it right, as soon as they spread the course to other Uni's, those courses will be led by crackpots.

    • by sorak ( 246725 )

      This guy seems to be a true believer, however. This sounds eerily like the "teach the controversy" issue with creationists. He cannot find evidence strong enough to convince the scientific community, so he is wanting to take his case directly to the public, where it will be viewed with a more credulous eye.

    • You are making a good point for considering UFO's as object of science.

      Alas, here come another problem: science is as applicable to natural phenomena as much as they are recurring. The foundation of science is experiment which by definition of scientific experiment should be repeatable. The natural phenomena that are under science should be repeatable.

      If some UFOlogists observes each unusual phenomenon (UFO) only once, then there is not much science that could be developed around it.

      Resume: UFO is hardly sc

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chris Burke ( 6130 )

        Alas, here come another problem: science is as applicable to natural phenomena as much as they are recurring. The foundation of science is experiment which by definition of scientific experiment should be repeatable. The natural phenomena that are under science should be repeatable.

        More fundamentally, science is about observation. You make observations, construct a hypothesis which makes certain predictions, and then conduct further observations to either confirm or deny the predictions. This doesn't alw

  • Podunk professor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ZipprHead ( 106133 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:01PM (#31834336) Homepage

    Podunk professor from community college in remote town close to Canada has crazy ideas and other news at 11.

    Seriously this made the front page of /.? This could be on the Onion!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      No, The Onion would have a cover story like: "Guest speakers at university speak out against their oppression to include Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, Vampire, The Boogie-man, God, and other fictional characters"
  • I’d think they could get an actual picture of a UFO for TFS.

    (The picture came from here [googleusercontent.com] – translated from Dutch to English.)

  • Nope, despite a masters degree in UFO studies, they're still unidentified flying objects.
  • by CheshireCatCO ( 185193 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:08PM (#31834460) Homepage

    "We know people who think this is a nonsense subject. And we'll refer you to voluminous literature and facts about UFOs."

    Seriously? These guys do understand that "voluminous" literature doesn't equate to "quality literature", right? There are tomes and tomes on dragons at your local library, but I don't think many of us would consider "Draconic Studies" a worth academic pursuit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      but I don't think many of us would consider "Draconic Studies" a worth academic pursuit.

      And why not? I think the class would be a good one as it discusses the differences between red, blue, green, yellow, white, etc dragons.

      One has to know ones enemy before they can defeat the enemy.
  • Anthropology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c++0xFF ( 1758032 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:09PM (#31834482)

    I think a class that studies those who believe in UFOs would definitely be worth of an anthropology class.

    Who are the believers? Why do they so strongly believe they saw a UFO? What is the cultural basis behind this belief? What are the equivalents in other societies? Ghosts? Evil spirits? Angels? A study of the people would be very interesting.

    I think this anthropology professor might even be qualified (if biased) to teach such a class.

    • This. UFOs could be useful to study as a psychological or anthropological phenomenon. That's about as far as I'd want to take it in a college curriculum, though.

      • Oh, I think you can take it quite a bit further. If well done, this could be a quite excellent "critical thinking" class that could be actually interesting to the students. Think about it - the process that transforms an "unidentified flying object" into an "identified flying object" is pure scientific method. The analysis of rumors, urban legends, popular beliefs and conspiracy theories is, apart from the anthropological value, an excellent exercise in critical thinking. Once you find that kernel of truth
        • Field trip: make your own crop circles.

          Full points are awarded if someone reports it as a UFO sighting. Extra credit if they refuse to believe you were the one that made it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by khallow ( 566160 )
      It's also worth noting that there are interesting mass psychology phenomena here. For example, belief in UFOs has declined in popularity since Y2K (IMHO though my opinion was backed in 2001 by anecdotal observation of ufology vendors at a conference in San Jose). There's been no change in knowledge of UFOs. What has changed?
  • I agree (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameMaster ( 148118 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:10PM (#31834502)

    I think this guy is right. There should be a class on this. I even have a name suggestion:

    Anthropology 150: The UFO Phenomenon as a Study in Mass Delusion

  • Get a copy of Jane's aircraft guide and some of those silhouette flashcard that fighter pilots use to train. If it's not in the book or on the card, it's not a bird/bug/bat, and it flies, it's a UFO by definition.

  • Which is it? One place the article says one, another it says the other. They are not the same thing.

  • but perhaps not for the reasons he's suggesting or the outcome he wants.

    I think that the study of UFO's *societal* genesis and spread could be quite interesting, as part of some sociology thing. But as a serious study into their existence? I think not. Weren't there no UFO sightings before space movies? And if so, did they just happen to co-arrive?

  • It's been done (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    UFOs have been put under plenty of scientific scrutiny, and absolutely nothing has ever stood up to the test. The very best results these fools can come up with is the occasional statistical outlier that they fixate on as proof that "it couldn't have happened by accident." The simple fact is, if there were any basis to this nonsense at all, it would have been proven true a long time ago. By the way, the same applies to ghosts, bigfoot, telekinesis, and prayer.

  • France, britain, russia already opened their secret ufo files to public. in some countries like mexico, ufo matters have never been a matter of 'national security' and were hush hushed. It is only united states that still hush hushes serious incidents, confiscates serious footages, and regularly invokes 'experts' to ridicule and demean any person that comes forth with anything ufo related. (including former usaf notables).

    it is evident that something is happening. especially in mexico. tens of thousands of

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 )

      Project Blue Book
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Blue_Book [wikipedia.org]

      The US did research it and did publish what they found. Of course they covered stuff up because the UFOs are classified aviation programs by USAF, CIA, USN and who knows what other TLA.

      • no, even project bluebook participants afterwards said that (long afterwards) the project was to satiate the media and the public and thwart any further inquiring eyes to the matter.

        search 'soviet jets chase ufos' in youtube, and watch the footage. and then tell me if the world has that kind of technology even now, leave aside then.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm shocked at how closed minded so many of you are. A lot of things sound ridiculous until you start learning about them. Here on slashdot we have tons of comments from people who have absolutely no knowledge of an area that are just dismissing it because it doesn't fit into their limited view of reality. I am not a "believer," but I sure as hell am not a pseudo-skeptic debunker either.

    I have dedicated many hours to studying these things, so let me say a few things. I'm going to stick with abduction

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lurker2288 ( 995635 )
      I suggest you read Carl Sagan's 'The Demon-haunted World.' He dedicates an entire chapter to describing a perfectly plausible theoretical explanation for abduction stories which does not require any kind of alien (or otherwise supernatural) phenomenon.

      For me, it's a fairly simple question. We know that people are prone to confusion, delusion, and wishful thinking. We know that people sometimes believe very strongly in things which do not exist. On the other hand, we have no tangible evidence of abductions,
  • "It's about time we looked into this as a worthy area of study." They did. And after millions of dollars and decades of research they concluded that it was a waste of time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Blue_Book [wikipedia.org]
    • It is worthy as a topic in a psychology or sociology class, but otherwise:
      [profressor]: What is that in the sky? [student]: I don't know. [professor]: Very good! You get an 'A.'
  • Others have suggested this would go well with a religion class, but I really wish everyone had a class at some point on why people are biased to believe dumb things because of our biological tendency to recognize patterns even if they're not there and how you can combat that tendency in yourself. Commercial advertising tactics would play a big part of this, as would religion/cult tactics, new age anything, 'audiophiles,' fan death, etc. UFOs fit right in.

    Not saying that Unidentified Flying Objects don't exi

  • The issue is poorly framed because she real sources of controversy are not whether "UFO studies" is taught but whether it is taught be skeptics or believers and whether it is publicly or privately funded.

    For instance, your position might be to both endorse publicly-funded skepticism of alien encounters and to permit privately-funded teachings alien encounters. Then it is misleading to frame the issue as being for-or-against UFO education.

  • I think this topic demands some rigorous scientific study. You look at the number of govt / intelligence / military industrial people / astronauts coming out with these "I want to say this before I die" stories, and it makes one wonder. Either they are lying, crazy, or telling the truth. I find it hard to believe they are all lying or crazy.
  • He's part of the problem. But here's the "Official UFO Quiz" to test yourself on what you do know. http://www.scribd.com/doc/13586254/The-Official-UFO-Quiz [scribd.com]

    Michael Horn is a tireless, fast-talking promoter of Billy Meier who will argue with you endlessly trying to make you believe that the Billy Meier photographs are real. Actually, the pics have been proven fake many times. They've used garbage can lids, models, and props. They've lifted pictures from books--one of a dinosaur to 'prove' Billy traveled back

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Michael812 ( 1789344 )
      We have defeated EVERY skeptical challenge to the Meier case, as you can read - for FREE - at the site. Further, Meier is simply the source of the most abundant, specific, prophetically accurate scientific and world event related information in human history, something the naysayers and defamers simply can't address. The person who's posted the plainly inaccurate and defamatory claims in response to my post has a very vested interest in Meier not being genuine. Unfortunately for mschuyler, 68 years worth of
  • Essential (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:54PM (#31835436) Homepage Journal
    ...in psychology and sociology courses. If they want to see crazyness and mass hysteria in action, is a perfect real world example. Probably would be useful in advertising related careers too. Why manipulate people when they can perfectly manipulate themselves?

    Anyway, i would put it in the same course as religion, probably those kind of "wonders" are the kind of things that started most current religions, attribute what you cant recognize or understand as an act of gods, ghosts or aliens is cultural, next ones could be mutants, murphy fields, time machines or quantum entanglement.
  • Most people don't learn how to *think* until their late 20s, if then.

    I was hoping universities might start teaching classes in skepticism and rational inquiry so every third person I meet isn't a blithering idiot about science.

    But UFOs sounds much better. Why not angels or astrology or atlantis?

  • that a fool and his/her money are soon parted.

  • IMHO, unexplained aerial phenomena (I hate the term 'UFOs') are quite an open question. There is a lot of data out there to establish the reality of the phenomenon and that a significant number of events are unexplained. Probably the best are a number of radar/visual cases occurring in the 1950s and 1960s, in which multiple radars and multiple aircraft all tracked an anomaly for a lengthy period of time. For a good summary of unexplained cases, I recommend looking up the report of the Sturrock Panel (http
  • What I Have Learned (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @04:49PM (#31838768) Journal

    I used to read extensively about UFO's. I was determined to "get to the bottom of it" and figure out once and for all whether the phenomenon was hardware or wetware (psychology). I never did come to a conclusion. The debunking was usually disappointingly sloppy; they make almost as many logic flaws as the "believers". My analysis left me with a Big Null.

    But the one thing I did learn by reading many witness accounts and the after-math is that if YOU see a flying saucer or UFO, shut the hell up. Reporting it is a recipe for headaches and ridicule.

    Call MUFON or a similar organization to report it to get it off your chest and into their database. Other than that, it didn't happen. Move on.

Remember to say hello to your bank teller.