Dr. James E. McDonald And The ET Hypothesis
By Raymond A. Keller PhD aka 'Cosmic Ray'
In the Star Wars movies, spacecraft employing hyper-drive technology made use of this “lighthouse network” of fixed-position beacons. These devices recorded local hyperspace data, which was then downloaded by visiting spacecraft. Apparently, every beacon served as a massive supercomputer in space that kept accurate data on hyperspace routes that could be accessed by spacecraft seeking to make hyperspace jumps within limited distances and direction in the local galactic sector. For example, a local network might require as many as twenty jump beacons. An individual spaceship would also transmit astronomical navigation information to the rest of the network when passing through hyperspace. Was George Lucas inspired by the speculations of the late physicist and pioneer UFO researcher, Dr. James E. McDonald?
Many of the prominent space scientists of the 1960s were leaning strongly in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Dr. James E. McDonald (1920-1971) was one of these. Dr. McDonald suggested that some UFOs might best be explained as actual, physical spacecraft occupied by advanced extraterrestrial life or non-human aliens from other planets visiting our world, despite being remotely tucked away, as it is, on the rim of the Milky Way galaxy. Dr. McDonald was a noted American physicist and tenured professor in the Department of Meteorology, University of Arizona at Tucson. He was best known for his research into the UFO phenomenon.
In an interview with Major H. C. Petersen, co-editor of Denmark’s UFO Contact, published in the June 1968 edition, Dr. McDonald commented that, “It is remotely possible that newly detected, mysterious signals from outer space may be galactic navigational beacons being employed by an advanced civilization to guide their manned spaceships along the Milky Way.”
Dr. McDonald further speculated that, “Perhaps immensely powerful radio beacons, placed at strategic points in the starry void, are transmitting regular pattern signals. Even if they are not aimed directly at us, the signals might be produced by an intelligent civilization as directional beams or light houses for a space navigation system. We have already used similar systems for air and sea navigation. It is possible that some civilization could have set up a space navigation system based on these signals.”
What was really remarkable about these statements from Dr. McDonald was that they were made in the late 1960s, when most scientists scoffed at the very notion that any kind of extraterrestrial life might exist, let alone be traveling the great expanse of the universe in flying saucers. Since the late 1940s, with UFOs appearing in greater numbers in our skies, most scientists had rejected out of hand the reported visitations to Earth of any extraterrestrial spacecraft and their crews.
Dr. McDonald firmly believed that some truisms could be established concerning science, technology and UFOs. In an address delivered to the employees and scientists attending the general seminar of the United Aircraft Research Laboratories of East Hartford, Connecticut, on 26 January 1968, Dr. McDonald declared that, “Proud as we can be of today’s cumulative record of scientific exploration of the world about us, we certainly do not know all that deserves the name of fundamental scientific knowledge….,” adding that, “A truism about technology that has strong bearing on what I shall be saying about UFOs today is this: Given time, an edifice of expanding technology far more impressive than that which we see about us in 1968 could be erected simply on the basis of the present stock of fundamental scientific knowledge.”
By this, the doctor made reference to the magnitude of the technological edifice that would surely expand proportionately with the seemingly exponential increase of future scientific discoveries with respect to the UFO phenomenon. Our future understanding of the enigma would be unforeseeably and vastly greater than anything afforded by the then contemporary technology of the late 1960s. That here we are, fifty years later, and no closer to the truth may, in my humble opinion, be more a matter of the lack of disclosure by the military, political and scientific powers-that-be than any fault of discovery by investigating parties.
The astute physicist maintained that, “A truism about modern man’s outlook on nature and on his place therein that has strong bearing on the present status of the UFO problem is this: In his centuries-long struggle out of slavery to superstition and fear of the supernatural, modern science-oriented man has developed subtle but well-ingrained dispositions to reject observations and reports of the anomalous and the inexplicable; and that rejection is the more vehement the farther the observations seem to lie beyond the pale of present-day science.”
Another truism about UFOs that Dr. McDonald discussed at length in the general seminar was that since the great flying saucer flap of the summer of 1947, the majority of scientists had come to view UFOs as a “nonsense problem.” For the most part, the subject of UFOs was deserving of nothing but scorn, or silent disdain. “Throughout the entire world,” said Dr. McDonald, “only a small handful of scientists have taken the trouble to attempt direct checks on the puzzling and recurring reports of UFO phenomena; compared with that handful, there has been a large and rather vocal group who have either explicitly or indirectly ridiculed the notion that there might be unconventional craft-like objects operating over our planet; and their scoffing has been based not upon extensive personal investigations of UFO reports but primarily upon a priori considerations.”
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer of Northwestern University and a technical consultant to the Air Force Project Blue Book at the time, would eventually come to agree wholeheartedly with fellow scientist McDonald’s assessment about the typical skeptic’s operating from an agenda formed from preconceived notions that automatically invalidated the scientific substance of any UFO investigations.
Most of the derision from the so-called scientific community of the late 1960s was directed against the purveyors of the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH). It is therefore understood that the ETH asserts that at least some UFOs are types of extraterrestrial probes or vehicles, the products of some technology other than our own, and decidedly more advanced.
Dr. James E. McDonald (1920-1971), American physicist; did he know too much about flying saucers?
Scientist as UFO Investigator
Throughout his life, Dr. McDonald personally interviewed over 500 UFO witnesses and many UFO experiencers. He also uncovered many important and classified documents concerning the UFO phenomenon from United States government archives. Dr. McDonald was noted as one of the more vocal opponents of the government-funded Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects (1966-1968), led by Dr. Edward U. Condon of the University of Colorado at Boulder that recommended the closure of Project Blue Book and an end to further government sponsored UFO research. Project Blue Book was shut down in 1969, but UFO investigations continued to be clandestinely carried out by other United States government agencies up to our current day.
Scene above from sci-fi classic movie, This Island Earth (Universal International Pictures, 1955): Before entering the stasis chamber preparatory to interstellar flight aboard a flying saucer from the embattled planet Metaluna, space scientist Dr. Ruth Adams (Faith Domergue) turns to her associate, electronics wizard Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason), to inquire, “Tell me again, Cal, whose lame idea was it, in the first place, to research UFOs?”
In the closing years of the 1960s, scientific mindsets were slowly changing with respect to the UFO phenomenon. In the previous installment, we came to see how the extraterrestrial hypothesis became firmly embraced by Dr. James E. McDonald, a prominent American physicist and tenured professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Arizona at Tucson. The doctor took a long-range view of UFOs, declaring at the 26 January 1968 meeting of the United Aircraft Research Laboratories in East Hartford, Connecticut, that:
“After about eighteen months of study and direct interviewing of about three hundred witnesses in important UFO cases, I can say to you that I see the UFO problem as one of extraordinary scientific importance.
“I regard the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) as the most probable hypothesis to explain the UFO evidence. To go from that expression of hypothesis-preference to a position of claiming adequate proof is no small step, needless to say. That step will not be taken until quite large financial resources are behind monitoring and observation programs, supported by budgets that will probably dwarf the NASA budgets. And that step will not be taken until large numbers of scientists in many disciplines begin to confront the enormously intriguing questions posed by the UFOs. If my remarks to you today serve in any small measure to increase the number of scientists and engineers seriously concerned with the UFO problem, I shall consider my time well spent.”
Staying Clear of Cults
Dr. McDonald was aware of competing theories with the ETH. He found the following grouping of these theories to be quite useful in his scientific investigations:
From year to year since the Air Force began officially investigating UFO reports in 1948 under the auspices of Project Sign, and subsequently under Projects Grudge and Bluebook, the batting average for explaining away most UFO phenomena was varying between 88 and 90%. But there were always at the end of each year a persistent number of cases truly remaining in the classification of “unidentified.” These are the ones that Dr. McDonald considered as the best prospects for finding a true visiting spacecraft of extraterrestrial origin. For the most part, Dr. McDonald did not dispute that all of these categories offered viable explanations for the vast majority of UFO reports; but he was particularly miffed with category eight, messengers of salvation and occult truth, because in his estimation, as a scientist with a materialist philosophy of looking at the universe, anything smacking of the supernatural would only cloud and detract from the application of the ETH to the encounters and sightings falling into the unidentified slot. The physicist felt that persons subscribing fervently to such a supernatural hypothesis “undoubtedly contributed in a significant way to discrediting the UFO problem.”
But you may be wondering, “How so?” In answering that question, Dr. McDonald declared that, “Cultist and crackpot ideas abound in a garish ‘literature' of paperbacks and magazine articles…. This all-too-visible group is frequently identified by scientists as constituting the totality of those who take seriously the UFO problem. To lump serious students of the UFO together with the cultist-crackpot fringe is an error that results simply from limiting one's examination to a superficial, armchair approach to the UFO record. One can, in fact, easily and quickly separate the crackpots from the serious investigators.”
Dr. McDonald truly regretted that so few scientists had yet taken the trouble to carry out such a sifting process.
The editors of UFO Contact , Ronald Caswell in the United Kingdom and Major H. C. Petersen in Denmark, were openly puzzled as to why Dr. McDonald was submitting articles for publication to them and sharing information on his scientific UFO investigations. UFO Contact , after all, was the official publication of the International Get Acquainted Program (IGAP), whose very purpose of existence was stated to be a dissemination of “the philosophy brought to the world by Mr. George Adamski” as an aid in helping humankind uncover the truth of its celestial origin and future destiny among the stars.
George Adamski was the most prominent contactee in the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s. He maintained that the Venusians and other extraterrestrials were here on Earth, living and working clandestinely, for the express purpose of saving us from ourselves. Our development of fissionable nuclear devices, along with our continued progress in fabricating the technology to deliver such deadly payloads, threatened the continued existence of all life on Earth, as well as the destabilization of the orbits of the planets within our solar system. Since Dr. McDonald had previously pinpointed some contactees who had spoken about “Space Brothers from Venus, Mars and Saturn” coming here to save us from such hazards, as being “cultists,” Caswell and Major Petersen questioned, “Are we among the ‘crackpots' and ‘cultists' of Dr. James E. McDonald? Are we of the lunatic fringe?”
The editors answered this rhetorical question by asking the readers of UFO Contact to look through all of the back issues and see if they could find any articles in the magazine that give any indications of “cultish leanings.” Caldwell and Major Petersen wrote, “Or has it not, time and again, brought forth strong evidence for its reasoning? Has it appeared as an eccentric magazine with no set purpose except a willy-nilly pushing of outer space contacts, or has it tried to bring inquiry where inquiry was needed, pressure where pressure should be brought to bear, in the interest of all?”
When Alan T. Weston and I co-edited the Flying Saucer Report in Bedford, Ohio, from 1967-1972, we exchanged publications and carried on a correspondence with Major Petersen at the International Get Acquainted Program. The magazine was always first-rate, in my estimation. Each issue of UFO Contact kept its international readership well informed in all aspects of the UFO phenomenon. George Adamski, in all of his writings, stressed the fact that his mission did not include the propagation of any new religion; and he made it a point for the attendees at his lectures and the readers of his books to stay in the ranks of their own religion and continue to strive and live up to its highest principles. Adamski also stressed that his extraterrestrial friends were not “space gods” and did not need for anyone to worship them, or pay them homage. He was not a prophet, just delivering cosmic telegrams. “And basically,” emphasized the editors, “we have tried to do what George Adamski did during his lifetime: tell the world about flying saucers, entertain no ideological ideas, offer no nationalistic portrayal of events, and fear no man.”
Dr. McDonald was himself a subscriber to my own Flying Saucer Report , however; so I know from correspondence with him, albeit from more than 50 years ago, that he did not lump Adamski in with some other contactees, who more or less described their encounters with extraterrestrials as having taken place on the psychic plane. Following his initial and physical contact with Orthon on 20 November 1952, out on the Mojave Desert, Adamski became more cautious with respect to any forms of psychic communication with space people.
According to the premier Swedish ufologist and foremost European authority on the contactee phenomenon, Hakan Blomqvist, it was well known that later in his life, Adamski “was very much against any form of psychic communication with space people and strongly objected to the esoteric interpretation of his physical contacts given by Meade Layne and Riley Crabb of Borderland Sciences Research Association (BSRA).” See Hakan Blomqvist's blog dated 29 October 2013, “George Adamski Correspondence,” http://ufoarchives.blogspot. com/2013/10/the-george- adamski-correspondence.html . Although Adamski suspected there might be some kind of metaphysical interplay taking place in his encounters, he wasn't ready to fully commit himself to the explanations proffered by the BSRA contingent.
The two BSRA leaders regarded the craft and space people as belonging to a world in an ethereal dimension that was normally invisible to us. Adamski was relatively sure that his encounters occurred in the physical universe; but he wasn't quite ready to completely dismiss any possible metaphysical connection to his unique experiences. Moreover, given the subjective nature of the contactee conundrum, committing to the confining explanations of the BSRA would limit Adamski's options in interpreting it within his own cultural and personal context. That Adamski, Crabb and Layne were all members of the Theosophical Society decidedly shaped their philosophy with regard to the possible nature of extraterrestrial life; but this was no guarantee for the emergence of any consensus on the details of ultra-dimensionality.
Dr. James E. McDonald was intelligent enough to detect and respect these nuances. Insofar as Adamski was in the ballpark of a physical universe for the vast portion of his life as a contactee, and not caught up in living an illusion, then Dr. McDonald could make the time to work as a strong ally with the members of the International Get Acquainted Program. The IGAP membership honored the continuing legacy of George Adamski. Perhaps we should, as well.
(Note: Continue reading this blog site for the third and concluding installment of the Cosmic Ray's “Dr. James E. McDonald and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis.” Dr. Keller will delve into the alliance of Dr. McDonald and Dr. Hynek in challenging the University of Colorado at Boulder's so-called Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, in addition to the unusual circumstances leading up to the alleged suicide of Dr. McDonald. You will definitely not want to miss it! -The Editors)