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How Ufologist Stanton Friedman Debunked Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke

Stanton Friedman challenged the science fiction community on the existence of UFOs.

By Joshua Samuel ZookPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

Stanton Friedman was like the Perry Mason of the flying saucer world, equipped and ready to defend any statement, destroy any criticism, debunk any myth.

A nuclear physicist, Friedman's background included inside experience working for front-line companies, including General Electric, General Motors, Westinghouse, and TRW, working on such projects as the development of nuclear flight, fission and fusion space rockets and compact nuclear systems to be applied for space use.

Stanton Friedman's initial involvement came as innocently as many other ufologists—by reading one book. In his case, it was Edward Ruppelt's Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. After many other books, years of research and study, talks with colleagues and others, he decided that, as a scientist, he could conclude that not all, but some UFO's are indeed exploratory vehicles which originated from off the earth.

Data, numbers and logic are the cards in this fact-vs-fiction game, and Friedman insisted that the rules used are straight and consistent. “People ask the wrong questions,” he said. “The question isn't ‘Is every UFO somebody's spacecraft?" The answer is ‘Of course not.’ The real question is, "Are any UFO's somebody else's spacecraft?' and the answer is ‘Yes." It's like asking ‘Is everyone over seven feet tall?" Of course not. ‘Is no one over seven feet tall? Of course not. One can easily get into trouble by asking the wrong question, because then you treat every sighting equally.” One could certainly get into trouble trying to pass off conclusions to Stanton Friedman which had not been thought out.

Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer, provided plenty of assumptions for Friedman to knock down. One of the most obvious was Asimov's series of calculations to determine whether there's intelligent life anywhere else in the Universe, which appeared in his book, Is Anyone There? Friedman elaborates:

“He starts by focusing on the unanswerable question of whether or not there are other intelligent life forms in the universe. He accepts a starting number of 640,000,000 Earthlike planets. He whittles this number down by an amazing sequence of assumptions...Earth has had life for about 3 billion years, a civilization for about 10,000 (1/300,000 of its history) and an industrial civilization for about 200 years (1/50 of the time for civilization).”

By dividing 640,000,000 by 300,000 and then by 50, Asimov gets 43 industrial civilizations, and further assumes that there are 21 more advanced than we, believing that we are roughly average.

Isaac Asimov, master of science fiction, speculates about life on other planets in Is Anyone There?

Stanton Friedman vs Sci-fi Writers

The articulate Stanton Friedman took a contrary view: “Asimov doesn't seem to know the difference between calendars which measure time and maps which show the distribution of things in space. Knowing the fraction of available time during which there has been a civilization on earth tells absolutely nothing about what fraction of planets have civilizations now, in the past, or in the future."

This kind of assumption, that Earth is the basis for all assumptions, Friedman thought obscured the issues. Asimov “assumes that nobody got started sooner than we did at having a civilization or at having an industrial one. This is un incredible assumption,” Friedman continued, "especially the solar system has been around almost 5 billion years and there are stars 5 billion years older than the sun...an error of only 1/10 of 1 percent in the 3 billion years would be 3 million years. The discussion also leaves out colonization, migration, the exiling of prisoners, or the dispersal of civilizations by those who started sooner.”

Asimov is only one of the popular science fiction writers Friedman took to task. Arthur Clarke, best known for authoring "2001: A Space Odyssey,” felt that the International Geophysical Year (1958), an extended series of experiments among nations, discouraged much interest because “they never discovered a single flying saucer.” Friedman cautioned Clarke to check the record, noting that one of the best photos of a UFO, the celebrated Trinidad photos, was taken on board a ship that was participating in the International Geophysical Year.

Clarke also used the ballistics missile warning radar system as a defense for why he believed no sightings are real, reasoning that such a sensitive system would surely pick them up. Friedman found this type of comment particularly questionable. “Considering that he was a writer and not a professional scientist or engineer working on radar for NORAD, I cannot believe that he would be on the distribution list for radar UFO reports.”

After laying a scientific framework for examining the data and countering arguments against their extraterrestrial source, Stanton Friedman makes a case for at least some UFOs being alien spacecraft.

Absence of Alien Evidence

One of Stanton Friedman's favorite phrases— “absence of evidence is presumed to be evidence for the absence of evidence”—applied here, as it does to page after page of rebuttal and refutation which he compiled, all addressing the remarks, articles and appearances of science fiction writers. He battled egos as often as errors.

“As writers, surely they didn't or haven't worked on classified government sponsored programs. I worked on classified programs for 14 years and I am certain that secrets can be kept. As I have often noted, 80 percent of the engineers and scientists responding to the question, “Do you think the government has revealed all it knows about UFO's?" said, ‘No’ .” And Friedman's role as “Perry Mason” occasionally put him in circumstances where he tilted against a Supreme Court of scientists. Having a scientific background,” he reminded, “in no way assures that you'll treat UFO's appropriately.”

Indeed, an elder statesman of science, Dr. Lee DeForest, who invented the Vacuum tube, was convinced that, regardless of whatever discoveries were made by man, we would never visit the moon. DeForest made these views known in 1957. Hong Ye Chiu, a NASA/Goddard scientist, had written that, “It is unthinkable that the sun would be favorably selected among the 100 billion stars in the galaxy as the most desired star to visit.” Friedman countered: “Nobody says they think of us favorably, or that this is the most desired star—after all, Chicago isn't my favorite place to visit, but I seem to fly there fairly often.”

Even Dr. J. Allen Hynek, professor of Astronomy at Northwestern University, director of the Lindheimer Observatory and for nearly 20 years scientific consultant to the Air Force's Project Blue Book UFO study group, did not escape the Friedman scalpel. In answer to Hynek's contention that there is “no possibility" for space travel, Friedman had this to say: “Since fusion is the major source of energy for the earth and is the major source of energy production in the great majority of stars, one would certainly expect all astronomers to be aware of the fact that a combination of the right nuclei can produce vast amounts of energy per unit weight of the materials reacted. If the right nuclear reactions are involved one can produce charged particles coming out the back end of a rocket with more than 10,000,000 times as much energy per particle, as particles can get in the run-of-the-mill, brute force chemical rockets which we are currently using.”

Friedman felt that there was no way of telling just how many visits we received, and whether multiple sightings are all derived from the same visit. A comparison he enjoyed making is one between a mother ship with smaller earth excursion modules and a Navy aircraft carrier with 75 fighter or bomber planes aboard.

UFO Reports

UFO reports are often less accurate because witnesses will usually relate what they've seen, or think they've seen, rather than what they know. Friedman felt that the occupants of spacecrafts were usually humanoids sent to explore earth, and for that reason, had an outward resemblance to figures we would not question. He pointed out that our first being in space was a dog, and then a monkey, indicating to him that what or who is sent on an exploration is not necessarily the brains behind the caper.

The jury may still be out on the final verdict, but a widely-documented, real contact would certainly firm the evidence. What would happen to this planet and its people should this occur? Does the government give any serious thought or planning for this contingency?

“Practically none. I would like to see psychiatrists, religious leaders, psychologists, and god forbid, the military, thinking about what this means. First, we'd have to get over the ego business and recognize we're not the only life in the universe, and probably not the most intelligent.

“Second, I would like people to think what this might mean to religion. I think there's a need to look at the implications of what it means to be an earthling. To me that's the most important consideration. We have no leader. I think we need to recognize that. To them, we do look primitive.”

Two particular areas of concern which Friedman felt could be addressed by anyone interested in the subject, deal with information and access to it. People need to put pressure on the Air Defense Command and other government groups to reveal the highly classified information in their files. Friedman recommended a Centralized UFO Research Facility which anyone in the country could call while observing a UFO. This would tie together local, regional and national sources to record and comment on sightings, beginning with those groups which have been privately conducting this work for years on their own. It would be a 911 for alien sightings. "911, please state the nature of your UFO sighting."

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About the Creator

Joshua Samuel Zook

Grew up in a religious household. Listened to countless sermons on the wrath of God. An epiphany struck him and he realized no one is that angry, not even God.

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