I understand the skeptical stance towards the subject of UFOs, having once been a debunker myself. However after reading numerous skeptical takes,
like the recent NY Time "Ideas Online, Yes, but Some Not So
" I feel it important to comment on scientific conservatism and the seemingly incongruous idea that something like
"dark matter" is accepted as a legitimate scientific
while the concept "UFO" not. Granted this is a matter of definition, mine being somewhat unique, but I'll get to that in a
First, addressing scientific conservatism ...
There's a phrase that has gained some currency that I find deeply unscientific. It is Sagan's razor, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary
proof". The fact is that what is extraordinary is a value judgment and has nothing to do with science. A hypothesis is testable. It works as long as
it handles data – as soon as it ceases to do so, it requires modification. That's all.
Certainly, we should be cautious too readily accepting new information in to our collective knowledge. However this isn't to say we should rule out
fringe subjects as not being worth further investigation and open-minded analysis. Especially when it comes to subjects like UFOs, which possibly
represent an area with serious repercussions for humanity.
With every pro we should consider the con. Likewise with every newly claimed discovery we should put it through peer-review to ensure it holds water.
However to falsely maintain that something hasn't passed a bar to uphold a personal belief, counter to well established fact, is insidious and in
opposition to the scientific method.
Second, on the concept of "UFO" being no different a place-holder than "dark matter" ...
Note when I say UFO I don't imply Dr. Hartman's definition (the stimulus for a report made by one or more individuals of something seen in the sky
... which the observer could not identify as having an ordinary natural origin, and which seemed to him sufficiently puzzling that he undertook to
make a report of it), nor Dr. Hynek's definition (a UFO is a report the contents of which are puzzling not only to the observer but to others who
have the technical training the observer may lack), nor do I imply the ET hypothesis or alien spacecrafts. Rather when I say UFO I define it to mean
"a process to identify an unidentified aerial sighting."
More specifically I see 'UFO' as a series of steps starting first with the observation, followed by the post-analysis (or confirmation of the
sighting – with the potential for it to reach a "true" unknown status), the hypothesis, and the eventual identification of the unknown. When I use
the word 'UFO' I attempt to qualify it with a descriptor to explain which of the stages it is I'm describing.
To graphically illustrate this:
- Flowcharted UFO stages)
If you look at the diagram (Fig. 1) you'll notice something I termed the "official escalation of explanation loop." The problem in the here-and-now
is there are very few bodies that are willing to do "official" evaluations to complete the "official escalation of explanation" loop.
It's interesting to note that the US government was confronted by many scientists who agreed average people were reporting a "true unknown"
phenomenon throughout the '40s and '60s (Drs. Mirarchi, La Paz, Hynek, Thayer, Shough, J. E. McDonald, S. Friedman, R. Leo Sprinkle, Garry C.
Henderson, Roger N. Shepard, Robert Hall, James Harder, Robert M. L. Baker, Frank Salisbury, Seymour Hess, Charles B. Moore, Al Cameron, Robert M.
Wood, Eugene Epstein, Gordon MacDonald, Robert Wilson, etc). In response to this the USAF / AFSAB started Project Twinkle and escalated to Project
Sign, Grudge, Blue Book and finally the Condon Committee.
Unfortunately Dr. Edward Condon's report was authoritative enough to render all opposing viewpoints moot despite 30% of the reviewed cases remaining
unknown after spending $500,000 of taxpayers money. Even scientists with an anti-UFO position, like Dr. Thornton Page, considered the report rubbish
because the "Conclusions and Recommendations" and "Summary of the Study" didn't accurately reflect the contents of the study. 
In part due to this, as well as the implied conservatism at the heart of the report, I believe history will ultimately view Dr. Condon in an
unfavorable light. As humans we know that we don't understand all of reality and thus we accept the following Venn diagram as true.
- Human Knowledge)
By shouting down the study of UFOs Condon was stating that there was nothing new in our skies that is "truly unknown" that could be learned through
the anecdotal testimony of the average person. In Dr. Condon's words,
As indicated by its title, the emphasis of this study has been on attempting to learn from UFO reports anything that could be considered as adding
to scientific knowledge. Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific
knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be
justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.
With the help of hindsight we can prove Dr. Condon wrong.
Sprites, large-scale electrical discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, were documented with anecdotal reports since 1885. ,
It wasn't till 1989 that scientists photographed the phenomenon. Colin Price, a geophysicist at Tel Aviv U., believes Sprites are the cause of many
UFO reports. 
Some have argued that Condon was using a different definition of UFO (i.e. alien craft). I'll quote the Condon Report's definition verbatim,
An unidentified flying object (UFO, pronounced OOFO) is here defined as the stimulus for a report made by one or more individuals of something
seen in the sky (or an object thought to be capable of flight but seen when landed on the earth) which the observer could not identify as having an
ordinary natural origin, and which seemed to him sufficiently puzzling that he undertook to make a report of it to police, to government officials, to
the press, or perhaps to a representative of a private organization devoted to the study of such objects. 
Since we have an example where Condon was incorrect does that not also suggest other ‘true unknowns’ could account for yet other sightings?
Obviously, it doesn't take a full treatment of PSMI to accept this notion.
Thus, the concept of true UFOs, as just that, unidentified objects, represents a place holder for something waiting to be identified. This concept is
a useful tool for science as is evidenced with dark matter. It allows us to create a bucket of things that represent genuine unknowns, that deserve
serious study, which may be unknowable now, but perhaps in 20 or 50 years may become answerable if only because the question was on the table and
asked in a manner that encouraged real scientific analysis.
[edit on 23-6-2009 by Xtraeme]
[edit on 27-3-2010 by asala]