New York Academy of Voodoo Science?

Bruce Maccabee
July, 2000

I suppose what initially caught my eye was the nearly naked man well hung with bananas (!) on the front cover. But that wouldn't have been enough to get me to buy the magazine to read while flying to St. Louis. What said "buy" was the list of articles across the top of the page, with "Roswell Cover Up" sandwiched between "Industrial Ecology" and "X-Ray Eye." I quickly grabbed the 'zine and found the Roswell article entitled, "Welcome to Planet Earth." What I didn't fully realize until later, when reading the article on the plane, was that I was face to face with "voodoo science" published by the New York Academy of Sciences (May/June issue, 2000).

The article by Dr. Robert L. Park was abstracted from his recent book, _VOODOO SCIENCE: THE ROAD FROM FOOLISHNESS TO FRAUD_ (Oxford U. Press, June, 2000). Although I have heard of this book as of this writing I have not read it. I don't know how much of the ufo subject appears in his book, but from reading this article I gained the impression that if the rest of it is like this then it is aptly named because anyone reading it would, indeed be on the road from foolishness to fraud.

This article presents his version of ufo pseudoscience.

According to Park, "The current fascination with aliens can be traced back to the strange events that took place near Roswell, New Mexico, in the summer of 1947." (Of course, the "current fascination with aliens" actually had many roots in the history of the ufo subject. Roswell is only part of it.) According to Park, on June 14, Mac Brazel, foreman of the Foster ranch about 75 miles northwest of Roswell "spotted a large area of wreckage about seven miles from the ranch house." Hmmmm. Park has picked up on what Brazel said AFTER he had been held incommunicado by the Army Air Force for a while. The initial stories indicated that Brazel had found the material the week before the press th Army (Major Marcel) had learned of it. But now, get this! In describing the material which Brazel and Marcel, etc. were not able to recognize, Park has written, "The debris included neoprene strips, tape, metal foil, cardboard and sticks."

My response to reading this was , WHAT? Looks like Foolishness/Fraud #1. Neither Brazel nor any of the other civilian witnesses said anything like this.

I read onward. "Brazel didn't bother to examine it closely at the time, but a few weeks later he heard about reports of flying saucers and wondered if what he had seen might be related. He went back with his wife and gathered up some of the pieces."

WHAT? With his wife? Whoever said that? Not Brazel. Foolishness/Fraud #2.

"The next day he drove to the little town of Corona, New Mexico, to sell wool and, while he was there he 'whispered kinda confidential like' to the Lincoln County sheriff, George Wilcox, that he might had found pieces of one of those 'flying discs' people were talking about."

WHAT? Try Roswell. That's where the sheriff's office was. F/F #3. As for whispering, this is conjecture by Park.

"The sheriff reported the matter to the nearby army air base. The army sent an intelligence officer, Major Jesse Marcel, to check out the report. Marcel thought the debris looked like pieces of a weather balloon or a radar reflector...."

WHAT? Marcel reported nothing of the sort. He was convinced the material was totally unusual and probably not even of this planet. He carried out simple tests that convinced him it wasn't simply a weather balloon or radar reflector. F/F #4.

(Continuing)" any event, all of it fit easily into the trunk of his car."

WHAT? Marcel described debris covering a large area. In 1978 Marcel told Stanton Friedman the material covered an area more than 1/2 miles long and hundreds of feet across. The Roswell Daily Record of July 9 says an area 200 yards in diameter. Even Park has a reference to a "large area" (see above). It would not simply fit into the trunk. Two vehicles were loaded, according to Marcel, and later more men came and picked up much more material. F/F #5.

"There the incident might have ended - except for the garbled account the public information office at the base issued to the press the next day. The army, the press office noted, had 'gained possession of a flying saucer through the cooperation of a local rancher and the sheriff's office.'"

WHAT? Garbled account? Actually the account was quite straightforward. According to Walter Haut, the public information officer, he was directed to write this by Colonel William Blanchard, the base commander. F/F #6

"The army quickly issued a correction describing the debris as a standard radar target, but it was too late. The Roswell Incident had been launched. With the passage of year the retraction of that original press release would come to look more and more like a cover-up."

Park goes on to say that some 30 years later (when Marcel's story was first investigated) alien bodies were added to "Major Marcel's story about loading sticks, cardboard and metal foil into the trunk of his car." Then "second and third hand" witnesses indicated there was "not one crash but two or three" and the aliens were "small, with large heads and suction cups on their fingers. Like a giant vacuum cleaner, the story had sucked in and mingled together snippets from reports of unrelated plane crashes and high- altitude parachute experiments involving anthropomorphic dummies, even though some of those events took place years later and miles away." (Suction cups? Plane crashes? Dummies? F/F #7,8,9)

Park presents the Mogul balloon explanation for debris, as conjectured by Dr. Charles Moore who was involved in early Mogul experiments: "The debris found on the Foster ranch closely matched the materials used in the balloon trains" (of Project Mogul).

WHAT? The Mogel balloon trains were made of the same material as the weather balloons, just more of it. None of this matches Brazel's or Marcel's (or other first hand witnesses') descriptions of material that couldn't be torn, creased or burned. Marcel has also pointed out that the metal-like sheet material was porous.... he said he could blow though it....therefore it could not hold air like a balloon! F/F #10.

Park also presents the CIA's "myth" that after the U-2 started flying, "more than half of all the UFO reports from the late 1950's and throughout the 60's were actually sightings of secret U-2 reconnaissance flights." This has been proven by sighting statistics to be completely incorrect. (In fact, there was a slight decrease in sighting reports soon after the U-2 started flying.) F/F#11

Park is correct on one thing: the fact that the Air Force kept the UFO/flying saucer information secret did allow an air of suspicion to grow over the years so that in the present times Air Force pronouncements regarding the subject may not believed. Park writes, "The real cost of the Roswell incident must be measured in terms of the erosion of public trust."

This is true, and applies to Park as well: if he had presented an accurate recounting of the Roswell incident and some reasonable analysis (as other skeptics have done) he might gain the trust of the public. Unfortunately, he has only gained the trust of those who agree with his interpretation but know next to nothing of the event itself and so can't evaluate the accuracy of his presentation.

Park writes in his concluding sentence, "Concealment is the soil in which pseudoscience flourishes." Since he has concealed the actual facts of the case, he has allowed for a considerable flourishing of "voodoo science."

Top of Page

© copyright B. Maccabee, 2000. All rights reserved.