Contrary to predictions, belief in UFOs has not significantly declined in the 60 years since such claims have been made, but it has changed, with a major split occurring between “New Age” and “scientific” UFOlogists, writes Robert Scheaffer in the Skeptical Inquirer magazine (January/February).
Scheaffer, a skeptic regarding UFOs, writes that UFO belief has come in different phases. The phenomenon started with the alleged sightings of spaceships (the last large-scale national wave of UFO sightings was in 1973), and then by the late 1960s the interest had shifted to alien abductions. But since the early 1990s, the claims of abductees have been marginalized in UFO circles.
Now the movement is divided between “New Age” UFOlogists, who usually claim to receive extraterrestrial messages via dreams or channeling, and “scientific” UFOlogists, who seek to prove the phenomenon as a scientific fact.
The New Age camp, which tends to downplay scientific evidence for UFOs, is taking on increasingly end-times themes, such as a metaphysical change happening with the ending of the Mayan calendar in 2012. The scientific wing is represented by the Mutual UFO Network, the largest UFO organization, and is currently focused on UFO crashes and recoveries and the conspiracies surrounding them, which are often promoted on cable TV shows and talk radio. But with the memory and publicity fading over Rosewell, the most celebrated UFO case, a new phenomenon is needed to sustain the movement, probably offering devotees an element of personal relationship and involvement, writes Sheaffer.
(Skeptical Inquirer, P.O. Box 703, Amherst, NY 14226)