Dr. J. Allen Hynek Testimony
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in room 2318, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. J. Edward Roush (chairman of the symposium) presiding.
Mr. ROUSH. The committee will be in order.
Today the House Committee on Science and Astronautics conducts a very special session, a symposium on the subject of unidentified flying objects; the name of which is a reminder to us of our ignorance on this subject and a challenge to acquire more knowledge thereof.
We approach the question of unidentified flying objects as purely a scientific problem, one of unanswered questions. Certainly the rigid and exacting discipline of science should be marshaled to explore the nature of phenomena which reliable citizens continue to report.
A significant part of the problem has been that the sightings reported have not been accompanied by so-called hardware or materials that could be investigated and analyzed. So we are left with hypotheses about the nature of UFO's. These hypotheses range from the conclusion that they are purely psychological phenomena, that is, some kind of hallucinatory phenomena; to that of some kind of natural physical phenomena; to that of advanced technological machinery manned by some kind of intelligence, that is, 'the extraterrestrial hypotheses'.
With the range in mind, then, we have invited six outstanding scientists to address us today, men who deal with the physical, the psychological, the sociological, and the technological data relevant to the issues involved. We welcome them and look forward to their remarks. Additionally we have requested several other scientists to make their presentations in the form of papers to be added to these when published by the committee.
We take no stand on these matters. Indeed, we are here today to listen to their assessment of the nature of the problem; to any tentative conclusions or suggestions they might offer, so that our judgments and our actions might be based on reliable and expert information. We are here to listen and to learn.
Events of the last half century certainly verify the American philosopher, John Dewey's conclusion that "Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination." With an open and inquiring attitude, then, we now turn to our speakers for the day.
They will include:
Dr. J. Allen Hynek, head of the Department of Astronomy, Northwestern University;
Dr. James E. McDonald, senior physicist, the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the University of Arizona;
Dr. Carl Sagan, Department of Astronomy and Center for Radio physics and Space Research, Cornell University;
Dr. Robert L. Hall, head of the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago;
Dr. James A. Harder, associate professor of civil engineering, University of California at Berkeley,
and Dr. Robert M. L. Baker, Jr., Computer Sciences Corp. and Department of Engineering, UCLA.
Gentlemen, we welcome your presentations. We ask you to speak first, Dr. Hynek, followed by Dr. McDonald, and then Dr. Sagan. This afternoon Dr. Hall will commence our session, followed by Dr. Harder and then Dr. Baker. The subject matter of the presentations determines the order in which you speak. We hope at the end of the day to allow the six of you to discuss the material presented among yourselves and with the committee in a kind of roundtable discussion.
Mr. Chairman - the chairman of our full committee, Mr. George Miller.
Chairman MILLER. I want to join in welcoming you here. I want to point out that your presence here is not a challenge to the work that is being done by the Air Force, a particular agency that has to deal with this subject.
Unfortunately there are those who are highly critical of the Air Force, saying that the Air Force has not approached this problem properly. I want you to know that we are in no way trying to go into the field that is theirs by law, and thus we are not critical of what the Air Force is doing.
We should look at the problem from every angle, and we are here in that respect. I just want to point out we are not here to criticize the actions of the Air Force.
Mr. ROUSH. I think it is only appropriate that Dr. Hynek be introduced by our colleague, Mr. Rumsfeld.
Mr. RUMSFELD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It is a pleasure to welcome all the members of this distinguished panel, and particularly to welcome Dr. Allen Hynek, who is a son of Illinois, and presently serves in the Department of Astronomy and Director of the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center. Dr. Hynek is a member of a number of scientific societies, and has served in the Government service as well as in the academic community. As his Congressman I am delighted he has been invited to appear on this panel, and we certainly look forward to his comments.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. ROUSH. Dr. Hynek, the floor is yours.
[Hynek's specialty is astrophysics, and his work in stellar spectroscopy, F-type stars, and satellite tracking is extensive.
As the scientific consultant for the Air Force on the subject of UFOs for some twenty years, he held a unique position. Falling into this sideline job almost by accident, he began to find the sheer weight of accumulated data extremely heavy for one lone scientist to bear. For while a large majority of the cases could easily be explained by natural phenomena, the residue of unexplained cases was most bothersome. Equally distressing was the fact that there was no hardware to crystallize a genuine scientific solution, and at the same time there was no other scientist to share with him the official load of the swarm of Air Force cases.
In the testimony, he tells his own story in revealing terms.]
Dr. HYNEK. Thank you.
My name is J. Allen Hynek. I am professor of astronomy at Northwestern University, Evanstown, Ill., where I serve as chairman of the department of astronomy and director of the Lindheimer Astronomical Research Center. I have also served for many years, and still do, as scientific consultant to the U.S. Air Force on Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFO's. Today, however, I am speaking as a private citizen and scientist and not as a representative of the Air Force.
We are here today, I gather, to examine whether the UFO phenomenon is worthy of serious scientific attention. I hope my comments may contribute to your understanding of the problem and help lead to its eventual solution.
The UFO problem has been with us now for many years. It would be difficult to find another subject which has claimed as much attention in the world press, in the conversation of people of all walks of life, and which has captured the imagination of so many, over so long a period of time. The word UFO, or flying saucer, can be found in the languages and dictionaries of all civilized peoples, and if one were to collect all the words that have been printed in newspapers, magazines, and books in the past two decades, it would be a staggering assemblage. The bibliography of the subject recently compiled at the Library of Congress is a most impressive document, and illustrates that the UFO became a problem for the librarian even before it did for the scientist.
As we all know, the scientific world is a world of exact calculations, of quantitative data, of controlled laboratory experiments, and of seemingly well understood laws and principles. The UFO phenomenon does not seem to fit into that world; it seems to flaunt itself before our present day science.
The subject of UFO's has engendered an inordinate emotional reaction in certain quarters and has far more often called forth heated controversy rather than calm consideration. Most scientists have preferred to remain aloof from the fray entirely, thereby running the risk of "being down on what they were not up on," as the old adage goes.
It is unlikely that I would have become involved in the study of the UFO phenomenon had I not been officially asked to do so. I probably would have - and in fact did for a time - regarded the whole subject as rank nonsense, the product of silly seasons, and a peculiarly American craze that would run its course as all popular crazes do.
I was asked by the Air Force 20 years ago to assist them, as an astronomer, in weeding out those reports arising from misidentification of planets, stars, meteors, and other celestial objects and events. In the course of doing my 'home work" I found that some 30 percent of the then current cases very probably had astronomical causes, but my curiosity was aroused by some of the patently nonastronomical reports.
These were ostensibly being explained by the consultant psychologist, but I frequently had the same feeling about the explanations offered for some of these cases that I have had when I have seen a magician saw a woman in half. How he did it was beyond my own field of competence, but I did not question his competence. Yes, I was quite sure that he did not actually saw the woman in half!
My curiosity thus once aroused led me to look into reports other than those of
a purely astronomical nature, and in the course of years I have continued to do
so. I have pondered over the continuing flow of strange reports from this and a
great many other countries, for it is a gross mistake to think that the United States
has any exclusive claim to the UFO
Those reports which interested me the most - and still do - were those which, apparently written in all seriousness by articulate individuals, nonetheless seemed so preposterous as to invite derisive dismissal by any scientist casually introduced to the subject. Such baffling reports, however, represent a relatively small subset of reports. I did not - and still do not - concern myself with reports which arise from obvious misidentifications by witnesses who are not aware of the many things in the sky today which have a simple, natural explanation. These have little scientific value, except perhaps to a sociologist or an ophthalmologist; it matters not whether 100 or 100,000 people fail to identify an artificial satellite or a high altitude balloon.
The UFO reports which in my opinion have potential scientific value are those - and this may serve us as a working definition of UFO's - are those reports of aerial phenomena which continue to defy explanation in conventional scientific terms. Many scientists, not familiar with the really challenging UFO data, will not accept the necessity for a high order of scientific inquiry and effort to establish the validity of the data - and therefore such detailed, conscientious, and systematic inquiry has yet to be undertaken.
We cannot expect the world of science to take seriously the fare offered at airport newsstands and paperback shelves.
I have been asked by some why, as consultant to the Air Force for so many years, I did not alert the scientific world to the possible seriousness of the UFO problem years ago. The answer is simple; a scientist must try to be sure of his facts. He must not cry "wolf" unless he is reasonably sure there is a wolf.
I was painfully aware, and still am, of the amorphous nature of the UFO data, of the anecdotal nature of UFO reports, of the lack of follow-up and serious inquiry into reports (which would have required a large scientific staff and adequate funding), of the lack of hardware, of the lack of unimpeachable photographic evidence, and of the almost total lack of quantitative data - of all those things which are part and parcel of the working environment of the scientist.
Part 2 of the hearings.