Sign Historical Group

...most scientific problems are far better understood
by studying their history than their logic.
–Ernst Mayr

The Sign Historical Group (SHG) is pleased to present three primary documents with relevant supplementary materials from an era of augmented scientific and governmental interest in the study of unidentified flying objects. This era (1966-1969) marked one of the longest sustained waves of sightings, which resulted in a critical period of scientific and political decision-making concerning the UFO issue.

SHG appreciates the opportunity to mirror two documents that were originally presented on the National Capitol Area Skeptics (NCAS) website; and additionally to present, for the first time, Paul McCarthy's notable treatise:

FINAL REPORT OF THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS: Conducted by the University of Colorado Under Contract to the United States Air Force (1968), by Dr. Edward U. Condon, Scientific Director.

SYMPOSIUM ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS: Hearings Before The Committee On Science and Astronautics, U. S. House of Representatives, Ninetieth Congress, Second Session, July 29, 1968.

POLITICKING AND PARADIGM SHIFTING: James E. McDonald and the UFO Case Study (1975), Ph.D. Dissertation by Dr. Paul McCarthy.

Also included is a fairly comprehensive Links Section, which provides a significant number of ancillary documents and materials.

Brief Background

On February 3, 1966, the Air Force convened an "Ad Hoc Committee to Review Project Blue Book."  The O'Brien Committee's recommendation was for the Air Force to negotiate contracts "with a few selected universities to provide selected teams to investigate promptly and in depth certain selected sightings of UFOs."

Coincident with the release arrived one of the biggest UFO flaps in history. The flap energized the UFO community, but more importantly, it pushed the decision on a university study over the threshold. Blue Book's consultant, J. Allen Hynek's characterization of the Dexter-Hillsdale, Michigan sightings as "swamp gas" unleashed a howl of anger and ridicule by the press. Congressmen became so put-off by the apparent USAF irresponsibility that they put heat on the Pentagon to explain how this could be happening. Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford essentially demanded an apology to his constituents, and within a week the House Armed Services Committee held hearings. In May, the Air Force announced that it would begin looking for the recommended universities, which led subsequently to the Air Force contract with the University of Colorado in October 1966. The project director was Professor Edward U. Condon, a distinguished physicist. Work on this contract was carried out over a two-year period, resulting in the publication of the "Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects" (Condon & Gillmor 1969; often referred to as the "Condon Report"). It remains the most influential public document concerning the current scientific status of the UFO issue.

Of interest to historians is Section V of the Condon report, titled, "Historical Aspects of UFO Phenomena." This section includes Chapter 1, "UFOs in History" by Samuel Rosenberg; Chapter 2, "UFOs: 1947-1968,"; written by E. U. Condon; and Chapter 3, "Official UFO Study Programs in Foreign Countries" by Harriet Hunter. Condon's chapter provides a fairly detailed chronicle of events beginning in 1947 leading to the Colorado Study. Of particular significance was the publication of the letter dated 23 September 1947 from Lt. General Nathan F. Twining to the Commanding General of the AAF (Appendix R) recommending an officially sanctioned investigation; and the 30 December 1947 General L. C. Craigie letter to the Commanding General of AMC (Appendix S) authorizing Project Sign.  Both of these letters had been referred to previously (Ruppelt, 1956; Tacker, 1960), however, the full text of the letters were not released until publication in the Condon Report, over a decade later.

During the course of the Colorado Project, internal dissension brought about the terminations of several of the project personnel and resulted in a critical expose being published in Look Magazine in early 1968. Brought to the attention of legislators, Indiana Congressman Edward Roush took to the floor of the House to criticize the Air Force handling of the problem and also cited the Look article entitled the "Half Million Dollar Trick," which referred to the $500,000 budget of the Condon Study. Roush argued that the article raised questions of scientific profundity and objectivity; further explaining, that if the Look article was correct it raised questions about the University of Colorado's approach to the federal contract process. He said that as a result of his talks to and correspondence with most serious UFO researchers, he would propose Hearings conducted by the House Committee on Science and Astronautics.

The Symposium (which it was called rather than a hearing) On Unidentified Flying Objects took place on July 29, under the auspices of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics. However, the participants were not to discuss the past Air Force handling of UFO investigations or the current situation with the Colorado Project. In the words of Roush, "Our emphasis is to understand the technical and scientific facts surrounding these phenomena as the facts are understood by competent researchers in the field."

POLITICKING AND PARADIGM SHIFTING: James E. McDonald and the UFO Case Study (1975), Ph.D. Dissertation by Dr. Paul McCarthy.

Politicking and Paradigm Shifting chronicles the activities of atmospheric physicist, Dr. James E. McDonald (University of Arizona), in a series of UFO-related controversies between 1966 and 1970. This was the period when the Colorado UFO project was underway, in which the final report to the Air Force recommended that further scientific study of UFOs should not be supported. Also, on July 29, 1968, the Committee on Science and Astronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives organized a one-day Symposium on the subject of Unidentified Flying Objects.

From the historical perspective, Dr. McCarthy's dissertation provides significant background to these documents by revealing the story of McDonald's efforts to influence the outcome of events and convince scientists that the pursuit of satisfactory explanations for UFO reports represented an important scientific problem, which was not getting adequate attention. For example, in Chapter III we find McDonald working to influence the Air Force-sponsored Colorado Project and in Chapter IV engineering the 1968 Symposium by the Committee on Science and Astronautics of the United States House of Representatives.  Dr. McCarthy extends his inquiry to another significant event in Chapter VI, the AAAS UFO Symposium held in Boston on December 26-27, 1969. Dr. McDonald found few allies in this scientific quest, and many of the relevant questions remain unanswered to this day.

Paul McCarthy in the Preface and Introduction to Politicking and Paradigm Shifting has provided a comprehensive introduction to his rationale and modus operandi in choosing this particular subject as a dissertation topic. The reader is encouraged to review these sections to better understand his motivations behind the study.

In a recent interview Paul McCarthy explained that back in 1970, he was inspired by Thomas Kuhn's renowned book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), which, at the time, produced a drastic change in our view of science and scientific progress. A fine summary of Kuhn's work can be found here.   Kuhn argued that science advances not from proof, but from conviction, and he questioned the possibility for science ever to find a truth. Accordingly, the problem McCarthy resolved to address was "how does one convert the scientific community to a belief without real evidence?" It needs to be noted that in the early seventies, the concept of Political Science did not effectively incorporate interpersonal (political) issues as playing a significant role in the advancement of science. Rather, the concept was almost exclusively associated within government-funded sciences. In this sense, Kuhn's book succeeded in establishing a paradigm itself.

Dr. McCarthy was fortunate (or unfortunate, as the case may be) in his timing, since James McDonald died in June 1971. Following his death his widow requested the help of Richard Greenwell (then with APRO) in organizing her husband's sizable research materials. This corresponded with Dr. McCarthy's trip to Tucson where Greenwell assisted him in accessing the files. McDonald had spent a considerable amount of time reinvestigating old cases, made detailed analyses of possible explanations and maintained regular correspondence with most of the leading researchers of the time. He was by all accounts prolific and wholly determined in his effort to convince the scientific community that unidentified flying objects represent "the greatest scientific problem of our times." In this respect, McCarthy could not have asked for a better study to explore what he calls the "personal politics of science. This consists primarily of how scientists interact with one another, and an explication of the personal strategies they adopt in the pursuance of their science-related goals."

Preparations of these on-line versions are a collaboration between (SHG) and National Capital Area (NCAS). Both SHG and NCAS share an interest in making accessible primary source documents relevant to the history of the UFO issue.

There are many people to thank for the work involved in bringing these materials online. Especially, we wish to express our gratitude to Jim Giglio for his resolute work and perseverance on the project, as well as, the staff at NCAS including, Lynn Francis; Mary Pastel; Neil Inglis; Tim Scanlon; Barry Blyveis; and Zoe Ann Lapinski.  In addition, SHG would like to extend its gratitude to Richard Greenwell, John Schuessler, Philip Klass, Peter Sturrock and Michael Swords for permission to include various works presented on these pages. SHG also gratefully recognizes the assistance and materials provided by Jerry Cohen, Jean van Gemaert, Richard Moss and Joseph Dundovic in the links section, and extends its sincere appreciation to Brad Sparks and Candy Peterson of SHG who helped with important suggestions and editorial assistance; and specially to John Stepkowski, Project 1947 and SHG webmaster, for his patience and untiring work on this project.

We think you will find that Jim and John have done an exceptional job maintaining the look-and-feel of the original documents, while providing an extremely efficient means of navigating these web documents.

Additionally, we would like to thank Dr. McCarthy for ensuring this valuable resource will remain available to students of UFO history.

Tom Tulien
Sign Historical Group – September 7, 2002

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