Debunking Skeptics (CSICOP & the Australian Skeptics for example) would do well to read Edward Ashpole
's new book "Signatures of Life - Science searches the Universe"
. So would the UFO "true believers." For the benefit of the latter it is easily to acquire via Amazon even as an e-book on Kindle. Skeptics should find it even easier - it has been published by their favoured publishing House - Prometheus Books.
From the publishers:
fascinating, this book delves into the topic of extraterrestrial life in a
thought-provoking yet scientifically responsible way. Are we alone in the
universe, or is life a universal phenomenon? For fifty years, astronomers in
SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) have scanned the universe for
intelligent signals, but with no success. In this intriguing book, Edward
Ashpole explains the probable reasons for this and discusses other avenues of
investigation more in line with the nature of science and technology. The
author examines the problems inherent in scanning the universe for radio or
optical signals from an alien intelligence. These include the difficulty of
trying to communicate with another species possessing a completely unknown form
of technology and the vast distances that alien communications would have to
travel to reach us. This leads the author to other ways of finding evidence for
extraterrestrial life, given that advanced civilizations would probably use
artificial intelligence for interstellar travel. Our scientists now know how to
detect the presence of life on a planet by observing its spectral lines, so
more advanced alien researchers would have had ample time (about two billion
years) to investigate these "signatures of life" coming from Earth.
Hence, the author argues, alien space probes could exist within our own solar
system; there might be evidence on the erosion-free Moon or on another moon or
planet. In fact, a few scientists have scanned NASA's best photography, looking
for evidence of such "alien archaeology." In a final chapter, the
author urges an open-minded attitude on the part of scientists to all credible
sources of information, along with the use of the scientific method to test
various hypotheses and weed out the fantasy factor, which so often interferes
with serious attempts to find hard evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.
From the contents pages:
I found that the author referred to me in the book:
The endnote in the text:
The quote from me comes from my chapter on "Physical Traces" in the book "UFOs 1947-1987" where I focused on the ground traces left in UFO landing events - Close Encounters of the 2nd kind in Dr. Allen Hynek's UFO parlance:
The "witches" reference comes from my 1996 book "The OZ Files - the Australian UFO story." I elaborate:
In 1973, I was a third year Science student majoring in chemistry
and mathematics at the University of New England. I was also engaged in "forbidden
science". It was not the first time. Nor would it be the last. I was experiencing some difficulties in
analysing soil samples from a UFO landing site at Emerald Beach, near
Woolgoolga, on the north coast of New South Wales.
A contact suggested I approach Dr. Keith Bigg, then Deputy Director
of Radiophysics - CSIRO. Dr. Bigg was
helpful in his advice. He was most
intrigued about my descriptions of the Emerald Beach incident and the fact that
"circles" had been found.
"Seems quite a classic case," he wrote. Dr. Bigg's parting sanguine advice had an
instructive twist to it. "Never
admit that your interest is in UFOs or you'll get nowhere. You're more likely to get cooperation in
hunting witches. Think up a
"scientific" reason...," he wrote. Dr. Bigg's analytical advice was in the true
spirit of science, a tribute to his own open mindedness, but his closing
remarks were a sad reflection of the prevailing myopic view of mainstream
science. The English visionary, William
Blake, referred to it as "Newton's sleep."
In my 2005 book "Hair of the Alien" I took the search for trace evidence into the more controversial area of alien abduction claims (see pages 6-7 of my book):
One of the great pioneers of scientific
detection or forensic science was Dr Edmond Locard. He is perhaps best remembered for the basic
principle or idea behind the whole body of forensic science: every
contact leaves a trace. While Locard clearly had in mind crime committed
by human felons, the application of the principle in this very controversial
area is of critical significance.[i] If alien abductions
really occur in the manner described by thousands of people around the world,
then at the very least a “crime” against the sovereignty of human kind is being
perpetrated. Most of the claims of alien abduction describe situations that are
clearly against the will of the individuals involved. Thus the “crime”
interpretation and the forensic approach it inspires are well founded. Beyond
the striking biological perspective there is a much broader and complex
dimension to the forensic viewpoint. As in classic crime scene investigations
the evidence for the reality of abduction claims can come from diverse avenues,
such as the biological, physical, intuitive, and just plain
commonsense. There is also a cautionary
element to forensic investigations; they require considerable care. Even while looking for the traces of alien “contact”, we must carefully examine the impact of
the “contact” that comes with the intrusions of researchers, investigators and
other participants into these bizarre situations. Their involvement can often give
a less than satisfactory or reliable dimension to the more prosaic senses of
“contact” with possible alien realities. Not every contact leaves a reliable
trace. Every aspect needs to be
carefully considered. Beyond these cautionary elements, the idea of a “contact” resonates powerfully
with the otherworldly implications of alien abduction experiences.
For an interesting discussion of Locard’s principle see the prologue of Dr.
Zakaria Erzinclioglu’s book “Every Contact leaves a trace”.
Edward Ashpole makes very important points in his book:
Debunking Skeptics and true believers would do well to read Edward Ashpole's fascinating new book. It highlights the need for UFO research to focus on good science, something I have been advocating throughout my own journey through the extraordinary UFO mystery. While Ashpole is providing a broad brush and in the process misses many scientific touchstones in ufology it is a great bridging work. However I suspect that those that really should read it - the debunking skeptics and the uncritical true believer may be very stubborn demographics if history is any measure. The book is a call for a more sensible path beyond the dogmas and beliefs of both extremes.