Carl Sagan [was: Debunkers & ETH]
From: David Rudiak <drudiak.nul>
Date: Tue, 5 May 2009 12:33:00 -0700
Archived: Wed, 06 May 2009 08:30:00 -0400
Subject: Carl Sagan [was: Debunkers & ETH]
>From: Jerome Clark <jkclark.nul>
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 16:16:12 -0400
>Subject: Re: Debunkers & ETH
>>From: David Rudiak <drudiak.nul>
>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>>Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 10:40:58 -0700
>>Subject: Re: Debunkers & ETH
>>>From: Steven Kaeser <steve.nul>
>>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>>>Date: Wed, 29 Apr 2009 10:45:32 -0400
>>>Subject: Re: Debunkers & ETH
>>>>From: David Rudiak <drudiak.nul>
>>>>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>>>>Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2009 16:10:44 -0700
>>>>Subject: Debunkers & ETH [was: New Peer Review & Educational Magazine]
>>>I would probably give Sagan more of a pass than you, but your
>>>point is well taken. His comments are now over two decades old
>>>and should be taken in context, but perhaps there's also a
>>>little distrust for an astronomer who clearly touted the party
>>>line regarding UFOs.
>>I don't feel like giving Sagan a pass, because he was a
>>hypocrite and totally unscientific on the subject, for reasons
>>still unknown to us, even Stan Friedman, his old college
>I agree, David, that Carl Sagan (about whom I once wrote a
>scathing essay) deserves no pass, but I see no reason to
>conclude that his rejection of the UFO phenomenon was "for
>reasons still unknown to us," a phrase that has an unwelcome (I
>hope unintentional) conspiratorial ring. I don't think the
>reasons for his hostility to the UFO phenomenon are really all
>As a young astronomer Sagan jumped on the ETI bandwagon just
>before it was quite respectable. It hurt him, threatening to
>render him a fringe figure. UFOs, a toxic concept, would have
>been a heresy too far, and Sagan simply couldn't afford to
>embrace them at the same time he espoused (safely distant) ETs.
>Every day, people adjust their convictions to suit their
>convenience, often without doing so with deliberate, conscious
>Sagan was just another normal mope who chose to prove his
>respectability by beating on something unrespectable. (William
>Corliss once called it "anomaly snobbism.") It worked for him;
>if nothing else, Sagan always had a keen political sense. Yes,
>he was a pompous jerk (though he deserves praise for urging
>preservation of the Blue Book files), but hardly an
>enigmatically motivated one.
It could be that simple. Sagan was indeed a political animal,
often coming off as egotistical and somewhat self-aggrandizing.
I know many of his academic astronomical colleagues resented him
for trying to steal the spotlight from them. Closer to home, my
wife always loathed him for his narcissistic focus in "Cosmos",
with the camera repeatedly lingering over his awestruck profile.
Tone it down a little, Carl!
(On the other hand, he was an effective populizer of science,
and his political side hit a high point when he opposed Reagan
Administation "winnable nuclear war" propaganda with his nuclear
winter scenario, noting that even a "limited" nuclear exchange
of just a few hundred nukes could destroy much of the world's
food supply and civilization along with it. This doomsday
scenario probably played a key role in future arms' control
treaties between the U.S. and Soviet Union, realizing that tens
of thousands of nukes was indeed overkill.)
So it could be he was simply covering his ass to advance his
career. On the other hand, Sagan WAS part of the crazy top-
secret U.S. military scheme in 1958-59 to nuke the moon as a PR
ploy. The existence of this project (called Project A119) didn't
come out until a biography of Sagan was published by Keay
Davidson in 2001. The project is still classified. (So much for
the government can't keep big secrets for decades.)
The point is, Sagan was secretly working on a very clandestine
government project when still a young man. He wasn't a simple
academic astronomer. I still don't think it out of the question
that Sagan continued working clandestinely with the government
in later years, as is true of many scientists, often unbeknownst
to colleagues and family. Donald Menzel obviously springs to
mind (as found out by Stan Friedman) and I found a similar
instance with Berkeley physicist Luis Alverez when I researched
his papers, acting secretly as a consultant to the NSA and DOD.
Alvarez as a DOD Jason scientist in the early 1960s earned $800
a day, equivalent to $5000-$6000 today. A lot of scientists
wouldn't hesitate to make that sort of extra cash doing
classified consulting work for the government.
Another indication of how this works was suggested in Dr. Roy
Craig's UFO debunking book, "UFOs: An Insider's View of the
Official Quest for Evidence." Craig's book on the workings of
the Condon Commission is 99% smarmy UFO debunkery, but in the
chapter called "Cloak and Dagger Work," where he derides claims
of government cover-up and conspiracy, confiscation of evidence,
government threats, etc. he does add the following very
"...The CIA, established by the National Security Act of 1947
with the stipulation it would have no internal security
functions, was, by 1951, secretly recruiting scientists to 'take
any job you want, with any university, corporation, or
department--just report to us and collect a decent income.'
Their recruiter said those words to me, in sworn secrecy, when I
was about to receive a graduate degree from Iowa State
University." (p. 175)
So Craig spills the beans that the CIA was illegally recruiting
young, promising scientists, not to work within the CIA itself,
but to surreptiously work in academia and industry outside the
CIA, but for the CIA. No doubt this was a Foustian bargain.
Probably many were spying on colleagues and their work. Others
reported back on what foreign colleagues were up to. And some
were probably used as respected scientific authority figures to
manipulate public opinion in the media, be it something like
downplaying the dangers of nuclear fallout and war, or in our
world, debunking UFOs.
Senator Frank Church's committee in the early 1970s similarly
found out the nation's press had been illegally compromised by
the CIA. The CIA finally admitted that at least U.S. 500
journalists were on their payroll, again in violation of their
Just about every time it seems the UFO issue might gain some
traction in the mainstream media, out pop the debunking
journalists and scientific authority figures, be they
psychiatrists, astronomers, or whatever, reminiscent of the 1953
CIA Robertson Panel's recommendation to use such people to
minimize people's interest in the subject.
I came across multiple instances of this clear back in July 1947
at the height of the U.S. flying saucer flap. Various authority-
figure psychiatrists and scientists popped up to debunk the
saucers. This was in the same stories where UP and INS also
declared that the military was running a debunking campaign to
stop all the rumors.
(United Press main Roswell story, July 9, 1947)
"Dr. Edward Strecker, director of the Philadelphia Hospital, for
Mental and Nervous Diseases, described many of the reports on
the "saucers" as due to a mental condition known as
"He said that at the beginning of the saucer episode, some
persons 'may have seen something such as the glint of an
airplane in fast flight.' This probably led to a
misinterpretation of an illusion, he said, recalling that
illusions are common.
"He said that the emotional state of many persons had been
overactive since the first atomic bomb exploded."
So if you think you have seen something unusual, don't believe
your own lying eyes. You suffer from a "mental condition" known
as "pathological receptiveness", otherwise known as gullibility
+ mass hysteria. Better check into your local clinic for "mental
and nervous diseases" you whacko.
Who was Edward Strecker? I decided to look him up and discovered
he had been president of the American Psychiatric Association,
but more interesting, he was a "spook" psychiatrist with a top-
secret clearance who worked with the wartime OSS (CIA
predecessor) on drugs for interrogation (which would be in
violation of the Geneva Convention). He was also a leading
proponent of "momism", a notion back then that overindulgent
mothers were making their sons gay and ruining American manhood.
In other words, Strecker was a jerk. He was already compromised
by his WWII work, which may have been criminal under
international law, and would have made the perfect government
Then there was astronomer Dr. Harlow Shipley:
(INS Roswell story, July 9, 1947) "At Cambridge, Mass., Dr.
Harlow Shapley, world- famous director for the Harvard College
Observatory, commented that the mystery of the discs is not one
for meteorologists or astronomers--'but one for psychiatrists.'
Dr. SHAPLEY suggests two ways to see the discs. They are:
(A) -- Rub your eyeballs.
(B) -- Be in your cups.
Here's another Shapley quote in a "Flying Magazine" flying
saucer article from 1950:
"No evidence that flying saucers are other than natural neurotic
phenomena has been received at the Harvard Observatory."
In short, according to this "world-famous" astronomer anybody
who thinks they've seen a UFO has mental problems and is drunk,
neurotic or seeing things. Nice! However, there is no evidence I
know of that Shapley may have been a secret government spook
scientist. If anything, his liberal politics got him into
trouble during the McCarthy era.
Interesting historical tidbit: Shapley's successor a few years
later at the Harvard Observatory was none other than Donald
Menzel, the Godfather of UFO debunking astronomers. As Stan
Friedman discovered, Menzel held a top secret clearance and was
involved in many military clandestine projects, completely
unknown to his colleagues and even his own family. Many of
Menzel's UFO debunking arguments were so unscientific, quite
unlike the rest of his career work, it is no wonder many of us
suspect that the man was a government agent paid to do his UFO
Of course, the top secret Jan. 1953 CIA Robertson Panel also
recommended public debunkery of UFOs, using exactly such
authority figures. Menzel's first such book ("Flying Saucers")
appeared soon afterwards in 1953.
It isn't much of a stretch that the government would go looking
for a replacement for Menzel as he grew old. Sagan was young,
well-known to the public, articulate, and photogenic. He already
had held a top secret clearance. He was already publicly
speaking out of both sides of his mouth on the topic, though
generally hostile to UFOs. He would be the new, improved, anti-
UFO astronomy authority figure for the TV age.
Of course, this is all speculation with no proof. But I don't
consider such speculation outrageous or strictly conspiracy
theory fodder given the history of how the government operated.
Many scientists and journalists WERE illegally on the CIA
payroll, were compromised, and therefore could, and probably
were, used as propaganda tools on all sorts of subjects.
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