The Ethical Ufologist

Berthold E. Schwarz

How can the UFO researcher be more responsive to the variegated data that is often associated with UFO experiences? How can he best discharge his responsibilities to the witness, himself and to his colleagues? Publish reports? Presentations at symposia and open meetings? Newsletters or private means? How does the witness balance the need to protect the anonymity and confidence of the UFO witness (contactee) with the need to publish all the relevant data about the experience?

How does the investigator cope with the issue when some of the evidential material might already have appeared in the popular press, and anything that he might say could reveal the identity of the witness?

In analogy to good medical practice and the Hippocratic oath, how does the investigator follow the ancient principle of ‘first do not harm’ so that the witness is not unnecessarily subjected to criticism and ridicule from those who do not understand the total situation, or particular parts of the account – foreign body material – that might be outside the particular reader’s expertise?

How does one obtain the UFO data and then proceed into often intimate and at times highly charged personal data and maintain, in alalogy to medical practice, the principle of informed consent? That is, would the purported witness tell as much if he were aware of the consequences of his detailed account? 

How does the investigator reconcile an exclusionary approach for the sake of brevity in his report, with the consequent omission of significant material because “it seemed inappropriate or it might offend”? Or, because of the investigator’s own blind spots, how can he minimize omitting significant detail? For example, in previous years many UFO reports were concerned chiefly with the astronomical aspects and little attention was given to the often bizarre experiential, psychopathological, biological or paranormal sides to the encounters. How are these often delicate interfaces handled so that the contactee’s health (and rights) is protected and the associated information of the experience is made available for investigators of disparate backgrounds?
In studying UFO cases, how does the researcher determine the cut-off point between foreign-body ‘crazy’ material, coincidence, and synchronicity? How is the data determined and evaluated so that the researcher maintains an open-minded attitude of maximal sensitivity for psi material? How does he combine a general knowledge of UFOs with an awareness for their possible paranormalaspects; and in his dealings with the experients andd their families how does he maintain a healthy dance between empathy and sympathy?
These questions are illustrated by the use of hypnotic-regressive techniques. Although hypnosis is as easy to master by many as it is easy for many to handle the surgeon’s scalpel – that is the least of it. For the problem of interpreting trance material often pertains to an understanding of the personality and psychodynamics profile of the witness – the unconscious life as seen in dreams, free associations, lost memories, reflexes, psychosomatic ailments, etc. Since sometimes these data are highly personal and tied in with material that would superficially not appear to be related to the UFO encounter, who is best qualified to elicit and analyze this information; and again, how far does one go in this probing so that defences are not pierced and the witness is not harmed?
Any UFO research that harms the witness is morally indefensible and in the long run always self-defeating. But where is the line drawn? What price is to be paid? For example, it might be economically feasible to travel a great distance, hypnotize a contactee, collect relevant trance data, and then leave. An article would then appear in an appropriate journal and the readers might be curious. However, what happens to the contactees, or those who related their ‘forgotten’ UFO experience while entranced, when they come out of the trance and they are left out on a limb? The investigator-hypnotist has left them and they have no professional helper close by to pick up the pieces. Again, an analogy to medical practice: unless one is prepared to follow up and show a responsible attitude to the hypnotised contactee, it might be inadvisable to use what could be considered a ‘hit and run’ technique.
How useful is trance data when taken apart from the psychological, social, biological matrix of the witness’s life? In relation to this how are the interests of the witness, research and researcher best served when it is desirable or mandatory to conduct long-term follow-ups for possible later effects and developments, in reference to their original experiences or to future repeated UFO contacts? How do the investigators become aware of the role of the unconscious in so many of these events – their own unconscious as well as the various mental mechanisms in the witness? How are skills developed for this type of investigation?
How does the researcher appraise the roles of subjective reality, unconscious lying, or the way the experience is coloured by the witness’s psychodynamic make-up? How is fraud, conscious or unconscious handled so that the disemination of such knowledge can spare future investigators from endless wild goose chases, and there is maximum separation of signal from noise? If the deception is unconscious, the dishonesty could be tied in with the UFO experience, and be tied 1n with the psychopathology of the witness, and this any tampering with this facade could damage the witness’s self-esteem and respect, and beyond that, their ability to function in society, support a family,and remain self supporting.
What can be gained by an investigator having an ‘ego trip’ at the expense of an emotionally disturbed, alleged UFO contactee?
If there is conscious deception, either for financial gain or notoriety, what is the best way of tackling it? What are the possible legal consequences of alleged libel and slander? Should the researcher be liable to malpractice prosecutions? How does the trained investigator who uses hypncsis, cope with the often highly charged emotional exchanges of unconscious feelings between himself and the contactee? It may be neccessary for the researcher to continue to use hypnotic techniques to obtain data not otherwise accessible, but in a way that the witness and researcher do not suffer unfortunate emotional and physical consequences.
How is the researcher to handle data which might be connected with national security? Who is such data to be passed on to? How can one handle material that might be related to a crime – either one committed in the past, or the possibility of a future criminal action? Irresponsible reporting may not only harm the individual UFO experient and researcher, but as the history of past epidemics of St Vitus’ Dance, cults of religious fanaticism, etc have shown, the social implications of ‘mismanaged’ UFO research could possibly account for major national and global social dispuptions.
In summary, what would comprise a suitable code of ethics for the conduct of UFO investigations, that would be comprehensive, humane, and applicable to most situations?