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5.0 out of 5 stars Leslie Kean Answers Jim Oberg, September 7, 2010
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This review is from: UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record (Hardcover)
This rebuttal to Oberg's piece, an expanded version of his "review" here, was posted to MSNBC:

By Leslie Kean
Special to [...]

When I wrote my book about officially documented UFO reports, I fully expected the skeptics to react. That's why I was careful to focus only on the very best evidence from the most credible sources in "UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record." Since 95 percent of all sightings are eventually identified, the book is concerned only with the remaining 5 percent -- those UFO events that have been thoroughly investigated, involve multiple witnesses and ample data, but still cannot be explained.

That didn't stop James Oberg, a space analyst for NBC News, from complaining that the book was based on a "questionable foundation."

In the biographical note appended to his commentary, he notes that he spent 22 years at NASA's Mission Control and has written books about space policy and exploration. But he neglects to inform readers of something UFO researchers already know all too well: that he is a founding fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly CSICOP), a group whose aim is to debunk UFOs and any other unexplained phenomena that challenge our familiar ways of thinking.

For many years, Oberg, while retaining his stance as an objective student of the UFO phenomenon, has been a consistently vocal skeptic. His long list of articles dealing with UFOs date from the 1970s and are posted on his website under the heading "space folklore," which accurately sums up his attitude towards the subject. He may be qualified to serve as an unbiased, expert consultant on Russian or Chinese missile systems, but not on UFOs.

Story: UFO book based on questionable foundation: [...]

His objection to my many varied cases has to do with his notion that pilots are poor observers. To buttress this idea, he quotes J. Allen Hynek referring to questionable statistics compiled in the 1960s by Project Blue Book. He also cites Russian researchers describing two events in 1982 when pilot sightings were accurately identified as "military balloons" after the fact.

This is not surprising, since the vast majority of sightings can be explained, and this kind of identification is made all the time. However, such solved sightings -- whether made by pilots or anyone else -- have absolutely nothing to do with the cases presented in my book.

I wonder if Oberg gave "UFOs" a careful read. He spent many paragraphs quoting me concerning a report on aviation cases by French researcher Dominique Weinstein. The problem is, those are not my quotes. The chapter from which he extracted them was written by Jean-Jacques Velasco, head of the French government`s UFO agency for over 20 years, as is obvious in his byline and narrative about French research.

Oberg gleefully proclaims that I have "faithfully vouched for" the cases in Weinstein's list, but actually, I have respectfully allowed Velasco to write his own chapter. (About half the chapters in my book were written by highly credentialed authorities and expert witnesses.) If Oberg wants to discuss the Weinstein study, he'll have to contact Velasco.

Oberg's fixation on the question of the reliability of pilots as witnesses is not raised by the generals and aviation experts I have interviewed -- officials who have studied pilot cases and interviewed pilot witnesses for decades. As described in "UFOs," French Air Force Maj. Gen. Denis Letty initiated an extensive study of UFO data because competent pilots he knew personally were confronted by the phenomenon. Chilean Gen. Ricardo Bermudez was instrumental in the founding of his country`s official UFO investigative agency in 1997 because of inexplicable sightings involving pilots.

Richard Haines, who has written more than 70 papers in leading scientific journals and published more than 25 U.S. government reports for NASA, was formerly chief of the space agency's Space Human Factors Office and served for 21 years as a retired senior aerospace scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. Having studied pilot sightings and related aviation safety issues for more than 30 years, and having personally interviewed hundreds of pilots during that time, Haines has concluded that pilots are indeed excellent witnesses, given their thorough training, expertise and hours of flying time.

Haines is now chief scientist for the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena [...]. Sadly, most pilots never report their sightings, as he points out in "UFOs."

Most importantly, the aerial cases documented in "UFOs" -- and many more on the record elsewhere -- involve multiple factors such as:

*Sightings of long duration, allowing for accurate voice transmissions and the refinement of the initial identification.
*Multiple witnesses -- co-pilot, crew, passengers, other aircraft in different locations, and occasionally observers from the ground.
*Onboard radar and ground radar recording the presence of a physical object, often corresponding exactly to the visual sighting.
*Direct physical effects on the aircraft, such as equipment malfunction.

As an example, Brig. Gen. Jose Periera of Brazil, commander of air force operations until 2005, reports on an "array of UFOs" observed over his country in 1986. Two pilots chased one of the objects for 30 minutes. Numerous other pilots saw the objects. Radar recorded them. Six jets were scrambled from two Brazilian air force bases to pursue them. Some of the pilots made visual contact corresponding to radar registrations. Both military and commercial pilots were involved. Onboard as well as ground radar systems confirmed the presence of the objects.

"We have the correlation of independent readings from different sources," Periera writes. "These data have nothing to do with human eyes. When, along with the radar, a pilot`s pair of eyes sees that same thing, and then another pilot`s, and so on, the incident has real credibility and stands on a solid foundation."

In 2007, airline captain Ray Bowyer saw two gigantic, bright yellow objects suspended over the English Channel, which he observed carefully for 15 minutes. His passengers saw them, another pilot on a second aircraft was also a witness, and an object was registered on radar.

In 1986, three Japan Airlines pilots watched a series of UFOs for 30 minutes, communicating with air traffic control while radar operators picked up the objects in corresponding locations.

I could go on with many more examples, presented in detail in the book.

Oberg says pilots may misinterpret visual phenomena when forced to make a split-second diagnosis before taking immediate action -- very rare cases, I would assume -- and no one would disagree with that. But, just as was the case with the solved Russian sightings I discussed earlier, this is entirely beside the point with respect to my book, because the cases presented do not involve such a scenario.

In addition, "UFOs: General, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record" presents many other cases that do not involve pilots at all -- but often military personnel and police officers -- including:

*The famous 1980 incident near RAF Bentwaters in Britain, involving the landing of a UFO and objects sending beams of light to the ground.
*The 1981 "Trans-en-Provence" landing case in France, investigated by the official French agency GEPAN.
*Belgian Maj. Gen. Wilfried De Brouwer`s report on the wave of sightings in Belgium in 1989-90, which includes a spectacular photograph.
*The 1993 "Cosford Incident" involving a UFO over two Air Force bases in Britain, investigated by the Ministry of Defense.
*The 1997 Phoenix Lights incident that former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington described.

These are just a few of a host of cases with abundant data that don't rely on pilot observations -- and which are still unsolved. It`s the aggregate of cases, the accumulation of evidence and the long-running but unsuccessful attempts of qualified experts to resolve them that establishes the reality of a yet-unexplained physical phenomenon with extraordinary capabilities.

Oberg says that "if investigators are unable to find the explanation for a particular UFO case, that doesn't constitute proof that the case is unexplainable." Fair enough. Perhaps there is some prosaic explanation still to be discovered. There`s always that possibility, no matter how small.

But we remain in a state of ignorance concerning UFOs, leaving us with the conclusion presented in the book: We need a systematic, scientific investigation of the skies that actively looks for these mysterious and elusive objects. In the meantime, all I ask is that devout skeptics like Oberg read the entire book before raising objections that actually have no bearing on the matter at hand.

Investigative journalist Leslie Kean is the author of the New York Times bestseller "UFOs: General, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record" (Harmony/Crown). Her work has appeared in many publications including The Nation, International Herald Tribune and the Boston Globe. She is also the co-author of "Burma's Revolution of the Spirit" and co-founder of the Coalition for Freedom of Information.
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Showing 1-10 of 22 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 8, 2010 4:52:03 PM PDT
Ms. Kean's reaction to Mr. Oberg's critique is entirely understandable. Rising to a strong challenge, she issued a spirited response affirming the validity of her arguments.

But much of the evidence hinges directly on witness testimony and the concerns Mr. Oberg raises regarding the fallibility of human perception and memory are not easily dismissed. Perhaps you have heard a statement like "the evidence in hand is sufficient to prove an extraterrestrial origin of UFOs in a court of law" or something similar. Now consider the grave implications of the Innocence Project which has used DNA-based evidence to exonerate a number of persons erroneously convicted of serious crimes by a jury of their peers.

The information available is not definitive and the assertions of either Ms. Kean or Mr. Oberg could be correct. In the bizarre, largely unexplored universe of the UFO phenomenon, the strange truth is that in some contexts and situations both of them could be correct.

Ms. Kean is calling for a serious investigation of the UAP issue while Mr. Oberg agrees that we might just discover something interesting in that effort. Unfortunately, pitted in a veritable cage match, an opportunity to recognize this critical common ground may be overlooked completely.

Posted on Sep 8, 2010 5:13:56 PM PDT
Carol Rainey says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 8, 2010 8:29:32 PM PDT
It is #29 on the NYT Best Seller list as I type this (Hardcover Nonfiction) Look harder before you post blatant falsehoods.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 8, 2010 8:43:34 PM PDT
Ms. Kean thinks the implications of UFOs being real are of such import and the mystery so great that the issue deserves an officially funded investigation. Even a very small one. Mr. Oberg has dedicated much of his life to trying to steer the public away from serious discussion and investigation of the subject, and would absolutely NOT be in favor of any credibility or official acknowledgement given to it. He feigns open minded skepticism and reasonableness, but if he posted a bibliography of his writings on the subject over the years whenever he opined upon it, it would be blindingly obvious what his true intentions and agenda are. He is an enemy of truth masquerading as its champion.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2010 6:47:57 PM PDT
Carol Rainey says:
You're right. I apologize. This week it's #30. I trusted the Times' search engine. Type in "UFO" or title of the book or author and it returns 0 results for any of those search terms.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 13, 2010 10:59:24 PM PDT
It is #29 at this moment and both "UFO" and "Leslie Kean" produced solid hits for me from the NYT home page. Odd.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2010 11:47:57 AM PST
Average Joe says:
Good for you Ms. Keen, I applaude your handling of Mr. Obergs transparent attempts to further muddy the truth.

As I responded to him: "There are actually many cases where physical traces and effects were left behind by these unexplained phenomena. Some of this trace evidence has been analyzed, like abnormal radiation that is localized and out of place. But these are quickly dismissed by the skeptics along with any and all testimony.

The fact is, people like you will never be satisfied until you have your own personal experience, or the parties responsible for the phenomena hold a White House press conference. Even then I suspect you will blame James Cameron and Hollywood effects.

Reports of strange things in the sky, corroborated by many witnesses, and radar operators, essentially professional observers, DOES demand serious consideration in science. Science is after all based on observation.

Carl Sagan, Steven hawkings, Allen Hynek and many other credible scientists have weighed in on the topic, none of them were foolish enough to outright dismiss the phenomenon as fantasy. In the case of Hynek, he went from an extreme skeptic, for which he was chosen for Project Blue Book in order to debunk UFOs, to a staunch believer and champion. I seriously doubt you have given the same scrutiny and open minded logic to the topic that the giants of science have."

I ordered your book and look forward to reading it.

Posted on Mar 23, 2011 2:34:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2011 3:00:14 PM PDT
> "95 percent of all sightings are eventually identified", Leslie Kean said.

The other 5% actually refers to top-tier kinds of sightings that were not able to be identified at the time by experts.

However, there were more than 5% that were not actually "identified", in some studies WAY more.

Those below that top tier were often guessed at, not identified. (And you also have to take into account just who was doing the study.)

The percentage of sightings IDENTIFIED, therefore, is far smaller than 95% (depending on the study).

(Btw, I read the book -- and the author's response above -- and think the book is a great starter book for beginners.)

-----

Now to completely discredit myself, LOL:

If you were to do a survey of people to find out how many had seen a UFO, how would you go about it? Cold calls to homes? That would likely make people paranoid who had seen one. A UFO-oriented site? That would probably have a much larger percentage, but not a good cross-section of the populace.

Many would not report it, out of fear. So then, Where? How could we get folks to admit that they'd seen a UFO? (anonymously or otherwise)

How about a high school connection site!

Someone (I am not saying who) was on the Classmates Web site, answering "been there done that" questions, when the following question came up:

"Ever seen a UFO?"

Want to know how large a percentage said Yes? (Of course, this may not be a "scientific" survey, per se; nor were the numbers of the surveyed shown.)

"yep 22% want to 13% nope 65%"

22%? Wow. Do the math! LOL. (I did some, but am not posting all here.)

Maybe take a range of 15%-29% (7% in either direction); for it's hard to predict the fear and spoof factors on this one (though the "want to" category probably absorbed a lot of the latter). But let's say that the few percent who spoofed "yep" almost evened out the few percent who were still too afraid to say that they'd seen one (for fear that the survey wasn't really anonymous, as they were likely logged into the site under their own names).

Using various ranges, I still got HUGE numbers (if we suppose that 5% of those would be "unidentified" by experts).

Some calculations:

The U.S. Bureau of the Census' "U.S. POPClock Projection" says that the USA population is 311,035,268.

15%-29% (7% in either direction) = 46,655,290.20 to 90,200,227.72.

5% of those totals = 2,332,764.51 to 4,510,011.39.

That's a LOT of possible sightings, folks! And that's just using the US population.

2.3 to 4.5 million.

The U.S. Bureau of the Census' "World POPClock" projection says that the World population is 6,907,631,669. (Looks like possibly 7 billion in 2012.)

15%-29% (7% in either direction) = 1,036,144,750.35 to 2,003,213,184.01.

5% of those totals = 51,807,237.52 to 100,160,659.20.

That's a LOT of possible sightings! LOL.

51 to 100 MILLION in that particular 5% zone.

Even if 50% of the people spoofed it, those would still be HUGE numbers. And I seriously doubt that many folks lied, and said "yep". :)

Where are they (the UFOs)?

Seriously consider invisibility technology, or something similar.

Why aren't they plainly identifying themselves?

Because they have decided not to, for the most part. Reasons may be garnered from writings throughout history and "myth".

Are they from distant places, or have they always been here?

Good question. I think the latter is likely, to some degree, but am not so certain about the former (questions of physics and all, though we are still fairly ignorant of such).

What is being done?

Various, small organizations, some with scientists, are doing what they can.

What CAN be done?

Investigate!

But maybe not put TOO much trust in some government or military group! LOL.

However, it would be VERY helpful to have group access to their reports and records. (One can wish, LOL.)

UFOlogy "needs" billionaires and millionaires to assist! with a focus on discovering the truth, not covering it up.

©2011 by me.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 28, 2011 6:47:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 28, 2011 6:48:34 PM PDT
BobSutan says:
Don't forget Blue Book's unofficial stance that if it was possible to be identified, then it was classified as identified. For example, "That is most likely the planet Jupiter, therefore it's officially recognized as Jupiter from now on". That's not good science and was endemic of the official study because the people running it were staunchly against it and had no interest in impartiality.

If BB was reopened and the evidence reevaluated I guarantee you that 5% figure would skyrocket.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 25, 2011 7:00:03 PM PDT
It's called "pathological scepticism", by which no possible evidence can sway the sceptic. I read the Sceptical Inquirer on a regular basis. I know this will be hard to believe, but the SI has embraced "global warming" and refuses to seriously question it.
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