Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Spooky Paradigm: “The Different Phenomena of the Social History of UFOs and Other Weird Things”

There’s a great piece on the Spooky Paradigm blog:

“The Different Phenomena of the Social History of UFOs and Other Weird Things”
by “ahtzib” who teaches a course on UFOs. As he points out, the problem with using academically approved type material addressing UFOs is that, well, it’s academically approved type material. (My words, not his.) These authors often are ignorant of the vast subject area of UFOs, and approach UFOs --or use UFOs -- as a pivot for their own pet field, theory, or study. UFOs are still cutting edge in academia, and you can do all kinds of things in terms of your own discipline. UFOs however aren’t to be taken seriously; not by themselves. Wrapped around anthropological theories and studies, or psychology, etc. it’s useful subject, as long as the writer "explains" UFOs away; as social anxiety for example, or post 9/11 fears.

Regarding Jung, this is what ahtzib writes:
A question I get asked all the time by academics is if I've read Carl Jung's (1978) writings (they typically haven't) on flying saucers. I have, and they're terrible. Mystical claptrap on how the saucer, being round, is a symbol of oneness in a dangerous age. Jung works largely with dreams and artwork that is only tangentially linked to UFOs. And yet because of Jung's name, this is top-shelf stuff. Saranov (1981) picks up the torch and jumbles up a bunch of vague similarities between 19th century Airship stories and various folktales, says it is all symbolic of something, and calls it a day.
The problem is in theories presented as “fact” to explain UFO sightings, rather than study those who see UFOs, and study UFOs. The problem with ignoring the latter, and focusing on the former Is:
What we cannot do is try to make those all the same people. Because if you do, your carelessness will simply muddy the water, and you'll just end up telling yourself a just-so story. These are different phenomena requiring different tools and theories to study. This happens all the time in conversation, or in informal study. Someone will put forth some vague broad brush notion to explain a social phenomenon. In this case, it might be "People see UFOs because they are concerned about some problem in society" or "People see UFOs because of status inconsistency" or "People see UFOs because of a symbolic need." But it then makes it into more formal opinion columns and essays in publications and blogs, and as I cite above, into scientific and academic articles.

As we know, this is true. It becomes a sort of meme; and often passed along by many within UFOlogy who should know better.

There is a lot more here, and it’s worth reading. His students are lucky to have a teacher who is introducing the study of UFOs from this perspective.

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