CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2000
"After more than ten years of studying alien abduction stories and working directly with abductees, I can only state that there is a great paucity of true and incontrovertible scientific data upon which to build any useful theories. I believe that the scientific community has fallen very short in its view of the phenomenon. If there is no physical phenomenon here, then at the very least there is one that has components within the fields of sociology and psychology. In any case, alien abduction accounts should not be dismissed. Enough people are affected by Alien Abduction Syndrome that it is time for science to overcome its stigma of avoiding UFO witnesses and abductees. It is no wonder that UFO buffs and abductees take no notice of scientists' and debunkers' flippant attitudes. Why should they?" (p. 252)One of the most difficult problems in formal education is to deal with topics which are not normally considered within the conventional curriculum, but which, nonetheless, are of considerable interest to the students themselves. These topics, because of their widespread popular interest, become the stuff of tabloids and television, with a concomitant risk to the public's ever attaining a balanced and reasonably objective assessment of the questions involved. High among any such topics is that of the extraterrestrial (or ufology, as it is labeled in this book), a topic still occupying the margins of established science, medicine, and psychology. Chris Rutkowski's very readable but still very "scientifically correct" book, therefore, provides a timely contribution, both in terms of filling in an underdeveloped dimension of formal education, and in offering an appealing source for those in the wider adult population wanting some better understanding of the topic. In addition to a life-long interest in ufology, and a comprehensive command of the related literature, scientific and psychological, as well as "popular," the Manitoba-based author brings a career in science (astronomy) education. Consequently, the treatment of the issues and the various explanations offered of the phenomena involved are of an appropriately sophisticated level, but by no means beyond the capacity of a serious general reader. In attempting to give respect to the stories of those who feel they have experienced abductions and aliens, but without resorting to the credulousness of the sensationalist media and the "true believers," or the cynicism of the scientific establishment, the author, in fact, offers an excellent demonstration of the proper scientific method in action - of how an informed layperson can and should come to conclusions about controversial topics and phenomena. A good deal of the book is given over to the personal accounts, many of which were brought directly to the author himself. He, in turn, shows an admirable reticence to offer advice or interpretation beyond his own expertise - and offers telling cautions about those who do - both "ufology therapists" and conventional mainstream professionals.
The book is prefaced with an excellent overview of the topic, presented by John Robert Columbo; and provides a useful bibliography for those wishing to pursue the matter further. The reader will not emerge with any final answers, but certainly with a much more balanced appreciation of possibilities - and a sense of how the questions themselves might best be posed in a difficult intellectual and emotional terrain like this.
Alexander D. Gregor is a professor of educational history in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.