A Testable Hypothesis

Jerome Clark
Magonia 99, April 2008
On June 25, 1947, a falsifiable hypothesis about the transparently bogus character of the "flying disc" reports suddenly flooding the American press would have advanced the following confident predictions: The excitement is a fad which will fade before it can do further harm to society. The most sensational and suggestive reports will collapse under scrutiny.
The unexplained reports will be the least interesting - overwhelmingly of nebulous lights in the night sky where well-known tricks of vision come into play - and will remain technically unaccounted for only because there is insufficient information to nail down the precise prosaic solutions that would otherwise be certainly demonstrated.

Except in the case of the most banal reports which can readily be ascribed to mistaken observations of astronomical and meteorological phenomena, weather balloons, aircraft, and the like, witnesses will be fringe personalities - specifically, losers seeking attention, sufferers from mental disorders, chronic liars, sociopaths, fanatics, paranoids, the poorly educated, the superstitious, small-town folk, and other misfits. Virtually no intriguing, suggestive sightings will be made by multiple or independent observers, indicating clearly that the experience is subjective, not objective.

A correlation between mental illness and extraordinary experiential claims will be empirically demonstrated. Soon, psychiatrists will identify individuals' belief in flying-disc encounters --- or, depending upon circumstances, belief that others have had them -- as a symptom of mental disorder sufficient, in some instances, to warrant institutionalization. In cases where such a correlation cannot be documented, the claim will almost always prove, or be suspected with good (not merely speculative) reason, to be a hoax or a practical joke. Investigators will establish that in common with psychiatric difficulties, hoaxing plays a huge role in disc-reporting.

Flying discs will not show up on radar or other instruments. Ostensible trackings will fall to firmly established, indisputable conventional explanations once professionals examine the data. Analysis by technical experts will prove that all films and photographs of structured, craftlike objects either are faked or depict conventional phenomena. When studied in laboratories by competent scientific authorities, alleged ground traces left by landed discs will be found in every instance to be of prosaic origin, and no educated authority will contest the identification.

Scientists, engineers, airline and military pilots, and other sophisticated observers will rarely, if ever, experience sightings that are unexplainable. Ostensibly puzzling sightings will be -- with barely any exceptions worth noting -- the province of naive, disturbed, or dishonest claimants.

There is, in short, no possibility that a quarter-century from now, a prominent, well-credentialed astronomer, drawing on many years of,field investigation and interaction with supposed observers, will write a book titled The Flying Disc Experience, putting forth a manifestly absurd proposition: "When the long awaited [sic] solution to the flying-disc problem comes, I believe that it will prove to be not merely the next small step in the march of science but a mighty and totally unexpected quantum leap." The more one knows about flying-disc reports, the easier it will be to solve them and to show to the full satisfaction of any intelligent, mentally stable outsider the conventional stimuli that generated them.

There will be no controversy about this except among the credulous, cretinous, and cracked, whom all responsible citizens must shun as undesirables. Belief in flying discs as genuine anomalies -- and it will be "belief' uncontaminated by evidence -- that defy current knowledge will be exposed as the intellectual equivalent of faith in a flat earth, sun-sign astrology, phrenology, and worse. Most flying-disc promoters, incidentally, will be the sorts of individuals who embrace all of the above, some of them from the rubber rooms in which they are housed.

The thinness of the evidence for flying discs, like that for ball lightning, will ensure that no respectable person ever takes up the issue, except to recall it as a moment in the history of social pathology.

Those who seek to speak and advocate otherwise will be effectively and permanently silenced via the judicious application of ridicule.