Introduction to the Internet Edition

John Stpekowski, Sign Historical Group
Jim Giglio, National Capital Area Skeptics

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This project is a collaboration between the Sign Historical Group (SHG) and National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS). SHG and NCAS came together in this instance because both groups share an interest in presenting, on the web, primary source documents important in the history of the UFO phenomenon in modern life.

Dr. McCarthy's dissertation is a remarkable document in the history of the phenomenon. In it, he chronicles the activities of Dr. James E. McDonald and other participants in a number of UFO-related controversies between 1966 and 1970. This was a critical period of scientific and political decision-making on the issue. Scientifically, this was the period when the Colorado UFO project was conducted; its report to the Air Force recommended that further scientific study of UFOs not be supported. Those who disagreed with the methods and conclusions of that project, most prominently Dr. McDonald, undertook an explicitly political campaign to persuade the public and the scientific community that the Colorado investigators (and by implication the scientific community as a whole) had gone astray.

Two documents mark the opposing positions:

  1. The report of the Colorado project, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, [1] often referred to as the "Condon Report" after its Scientific Director, physicist Edward U. Condon.

  2. The record of the Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, [2] a hearing conducted by the Committee on Science and Astronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives. This record is often referred to as the "Roush Symposium" after Rep. J. Edward Roush of Indiana, who chaired the session.

Dr. McCarthy's dissertation, in effect, links these two documents by telling the story of Dr. McDonald's involvement in both.

But the dissertation goes further. Dr. McCarthy proposes the intriguing thesis that what Dr. McDonald attempted was nothing less than a fundamental "paradigm shift" in the Kuhnian sense, [3] in which an entire field of science goes through a revolutionary alteration of intellectual outlook and theoretical structure.

In introducing this thesis, Dr. McCarthy describes in the preface to the dissertation how he developed his approach. He started as a self-described "believer" with a perspective that led him to accept the idea that this planet is regularly visited by extraterrestrial vehicles under intelligent control (the "ETH," or "Extraterrestrial Hypothesis"). In this preface, Dr. McCarthy adheres to a high standard of intellectual integrity by alerting the reader to his support for the ETH and laying out how he structured the work in an effort to prevent this bias from influencing his approach to the issues in political science and history of science that lie at the center of the study.

In telling the story that supports his thesis, Dr. McCarthy relies primarily on the voluminous correspondence of Dr. McDonald, whose papers he had access to, supported by additional papers and correspondence of other participants in the events of 1966-70. These documents do much more than simply chronicle who communicated what to who at any particular time; they reveal a thoroughly human "cast of characters" who are by turns dedicated, inquisitive, passionate, ambitious, and on occasion, stubbornly devious; Dr. McCarthy presents them to us "warts and all."

It remains for the reader to judge whether or not Dr. McCarthy supports his thesis adequately. But whatever the reader's decision, we are confident that the presentation of the story will be of considerable interest to any serious student of the UFO phenomenon.

In closing, both Sign Historical Group and National Capital Area Skeptics wish to express our appreciation to Dr. McCarthy for allowing us to bring his dissertation to the internet.

  1. Condon, Edward U. and Daniel S. Gillmore, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects. New York, Bantam Books, 1969 (paper), New York, E.P. Dutton Inc., 1969 (hardcover). On the web at www.ncas.org and other mirror sites. - Back to Text

  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science and Astronautics, Symposium on Unidentified Flying Objects, July 1969. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office. On the web at www.ncas.org and other mirror sites. - Back to Text

  3. Kuhn, Thomas S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1970. - Back to Text

Note on Commercial Availability: The Colorado report can be found for sale on internet auction sites, as well as other sites specializing in out-of-print works, with some frequency. Kuhn's work is available both used and new, on-line and in stores; it is still in print. The Roush Symposium appears on auction sites that feature out-of-print works, but only rarely.

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