UFOs, Chemtrails and Aliens
(for those who want to understand the viewpoint from the other side)
by T. L. Keller
UFOs, Chemtrails and Aliens:
What Science Says
(3.5 out of 5 points)
Authors: Donald R. Prothero and Timothy D. Callahan
Forward by: Michael Shermer
Publisher: Indiana University Press, 2017
Hardcover or Kindle
Bibliography, notes, index, 91 photos and illustrations ( B&W)
Retail bookstore price: $28
So why have I selected a book like this to review? You know, it’s better to understand the viewpoint of other folks who do not share your opinions, beliefs and experiences. In a college debate, the debaters are often not allowed to argue their side; they are given their opponent’s argument to debate. This forces the debater to understand the pros and cons, the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition and how to defend and argue from the opposition’s viewpoint. This process strengthens the contender as a fierce debater when it comes to “showtime.”
About The Book’s Authors
When I read the subtitle, “What Science Says,” I had assumed that both of the authors were scientists in such fields as physics, cosmology or anthropology. Not quite so. Prothero received his Ph.D. in geological sciences in 1982 from Columbia University. He is the author of 40 books on geology and 300 scientific papers on evolution. He has been a college professor in geology and paleontology for 40 years. Prothero wrote the book, Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future. Others followed on the topics of the Yeti, Nessie and “Other Famous Cryptids.” To quote Prothero:
“There are lots of people out there who accept science when it’s convenient; but there’s a lot of things that science tells us they don’t want to hear and so then they reject those so-called inconvenient
truths. “ 1
Prothero became a member of the skeptical movement in the 1990s when he was invited by Michael Shermer to join the editorial board of The Skeptics Society.
Timothy Callahan was trained as an artist and worked for 20 years in the animation industry. Callahan is the religion editor of Skeptic Magazine and provided the artwork for the book’s well-executed, hand-drawn illustrations. The cover states that, “While their approach is firmly based in science, Prothero and Callahan share their personal experiences of Area 51, Roswell, and other legendary sites . . “ 2
On Anecdotal Stories
UFOlogy is jam-packed with anecdotal stories. To quote another author, John Grant:
“To a scientist all of these anecdotal accounts mean almost nothing in terms of evidence. Of course, it’s always possible that the anecdotes really do stack up to something that is worth further
investigation. But we have to do the actual investigation of the anecdotal evidence, not just assume
the collection of anecdotes is the investigation.” 3
Short version: If you want to convince a scientist, you’d better have more than an anecdotal story and a photo of lights in the night sky; you do need extraordinary evidence.
On Extraordinary Evidence
Prothero and Callahan very prominently quote the late astrophysicist Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Legal evidence in court comes from many sources: hard evidence (knives, bombs and smoking guns), photographs and CCTV, fingerprints and DNA, eyewitness testimony and . . . formal documents. That’s pretty much it. [The guilty rarely testify if they have a good lawyer.] Do we, the general public, have extraordinary evidence like the remains of alien spacecraft or extraterrestrial cadavers? No. They argue, from the first chapter, that this is the kind of evidence that is needed to prove the case. To quote them: “The only evidence worthy of attention in the scientific community is undisputable physical evidence: a live specimen, a carcass, or even part of a carcass that can be clearly distinguished from something already known to be real.” 4
So what evidence is there for UFOs and aliens? Prothero and Callahan follow the breadcrumbs from “hard evidence” to photographs to eyewitness testimony to reason with the reader that UFOs and aliens are not visiting Earth. [We’ll address documents later.] And they do a pretty good job of it too.
The two authors allocate a number of chapters to sites of ancient civilizations and discuss artifacts that have been discovered in various parts of the world. They cover the Nazca lines, chemtrails, ancient architecture, Adamski, Meier, Walton, the Rendlesham Forest, Roswell and a myriad of other topics and events. Their discussion of the evolution of human versus non-human skulls is excellent. Testimonies, even deathbed confessions, whether civilian, government or military, are treated as only anecdotal stories. Prothero and Callahan simply state that many of the “testimonies” are from older people who have either forgotten the details (i.e., early onset dementia) or have fabricated colorful events of their past to garner attention by the media.
On Classified Documents
During the 1930s, the Nazi concentration camps were only known to relatively few politicians outside of Germany. They were denied and kept secret for years by both the Nazi and foreign governments. Now, the Holocaust is no longer denied. Why? Because the evidence is so overwhelming: the extermination camps, the survivors and the eyewitnesses. But perhaps just as importantly, there are the documents — the Nazis’ own records (they were meticulous record keepers). Here is what Prothero and Callahan have delicately avoided: formerly classified, US military and government records that have been discovered and made public. Perhaps documents are not so easy to explain away.
Two Disappointing Chapters
Chapter 3, “Area 51,’ is a disappointment. Prothero describes how he investigated Area 51. He gives a good general description of it, but bad-mouths Bob Lazar by saying that “. . . Lazar was a big liar.” Here’s where Prothero goes off the rails. He never met or spoke to Lazar. But I did in the early 1990s. Then, I was told by Lazar to go to the outskirts of Area 51, look toward Papoose Mountain (where S-4 is located) and that after about 8 pm on a Wednesday night, if lucky, I would see flying discs being tested. I did see them, eventually, but only after two or three separate visits there. Months later, I also went on to see three star-like, luminous objects landing behind Papoose Mountain and during daylight. Here, Prothero makes the same mistake that he criticizes “pseudoscientists” of doing: he pushes his “expert opinion” to make his case. He doesn’t realize that Area 51 and S-4 are two separate facilities about 12 miles apart, and that the “lights at night” happen over Papoose Mountain, not Area 51. Folks who work at Area 51 don’t know what goes on at S-4, but the authors assume that they do. Prothero’s “personal experience of Area 51” didn’t include sitting in a lawn chair from 8 pm until 1 am on a Wednesday night in anticipation that something might appear over Papoose Mountain.
Chapter 4, “The Roswell Incident: What Really Happened?” is like a puzzle palace to me. Here Prothero and Callahan follow the Project Mogul 5 storyline of the explanation of the Roswell incident. They report a series of anecdotal stories, without attribution, that I personally have never heard of before. The authors also discuss the Annie Jacobsen version as described in her 2011 book, Area 51. Her bizarre version is that Roswell was a real event, but the craft was German Nazi in origin and piloted by Russian children who were deformed by no other than Dr. Josef Mengele following WWII (!). 6
In the final analysis, I’ll stick with the late Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who grew up in Roswell, New Mexico, was a US naval aviator, test pilot and pilot of the Apollo 14 lunar module. He said about the Roswell incident, “ . . . in other words, there was a UFO crash. There was an alien spacecraft.” 7
Interviewing and Double-Checking
According to Prothero and Callahan, UFO researchers “. . . rarely do the hard work of interviewing witnesses and double-checking their stories for consistency . . .” 8 Speaking of consistency, in Chapter 3, “Area 51”, Figure 3.7 is a photograph of a Lockheed Martin Nighthawk, commonly known as the “Stealth Fighter” (actually a misnomer). The designation shown is “A-177.” In the text, it is called the “A-117” and later the “F-117” — all on the same page. Which of the three designations is correct? Answer: F-117. In Chapter 4, “The Roswell Incident,” their Figure 4.2 is annotated as “General Ramey at Fort Worth, Texas, holding up the debris from the Roswell crash.” In fact, it’s a photo of Major Jesse Marcel, Sr. holding up remains from a RAWIN weather balloon. It also seems apparent that neither the editors nor the authors took the opportunity of checking out the MUFON website or interviewing Jan Harzan prior to printing their book. The name of MUFON’s Executive Director is misspelled multiple times (thereby disallowing the chance of it being a typo). The same goes for the misspelling of author Richard C. Hoagland’s name. In another chapter, Porthero and Callahan claim that Mars is a “waterless wasteland.” But even NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft photographed water rivulets running down the slopes of Garni crater. It would seem that, somehow, the authors of this book did not work well with the editors and vice versa. So much for interviewing and double-checking.
A Challenge To MUFON
In the final chapter, Prothero and Callahan analyze UFO “clubs” and “subcultures of believers” and submit the following challenge:
“But a close examination of MUFON and other UFO groups shows that they do not use critical thinking or the scientific method but rather practice ‘sham science’ and try to sound ‘sciencey’ without actually thinking like a scientist must. They have a long way to go, and many clear steps that they must take, if they want to be taken seriously by real scientists.” 9
UFOs, Chemtrails and Aliens is a skeptic’s book of some merit. One of the “takeaways” of this book is that UFOlogy will never provide sufficient proof to most of the scientists of the world without hard evidence. Anecdotal stories are abundant, but are virtually worthless — except to the person who reported them. Prothero, at age 63, has been a skeptic for over 30 years and will not change his position on this subject until an extraterrestrial being is hauled in front of a Congressional investigation committee. But that’s okay. He and Callahan present — in some chapters — well-researched material, but certainly not in all. But they have completely ignored some of the best evidence — US government documents that were discovered by such researchers as Stanton Friedman and Steven Greer. As a result, I’d have to discount this book a bit with an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 points. Nevertheless, this is a book that should be read by all “UFOlogists” and neophytes just starting out on their own adventure of discovery. The book will certainly make most of them question some of the stories that they have taken for granted over the past decades.
Prothero, Donald R. and Timothy D. Callahan, UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens, Indiana University Press, 2017, back cover.
Grant, John, Bullsh*t: How to Detect Junk Science, Bogus Claims, Wacky Theories and General Human Stupidity, MJF Books, 2014, page 58-59.
Prothero, Donald R. and Timothy D. Callahan, UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens.
In 1995 the US Air Force released The Roswell Report that explained their version of the incident. Project Mogul was an experimental, high-altitude balloon used from 1947 to 1949 to detect Russian atomic bomb testing.
Jacobsen, Annie, Area 51: An Uncensored History of America’s Top Secret Military Base, Back Bay Books, 2011, pp. 370-371.
Keller, T. L., The Total Novice’s Guide To UFOs, 2FS Press, 2016, digital edition.
Prothero, Donald R. and Timothy D. Callahan, UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens, page 402.
Ibid, page 407.
© T L Keller 2017