Over at his UFO Conjectures blog, Rich Reynolds has a new article titled “It’s time to eliminate the term ‘ufology.'” Rich says: “Like a lot of past ‘ologies’ – astrology, graphology, demonology, et al. – ufology has served its purpose, as the identifier of an interest, by dolts, in UFOs. It’s time to deep six the sobriquet.” Basically, Rich suggests that we should do away with the term “Ufology.” Well, he does admittedly have a point.
It’s doubtful that the term “Ufology” (and “UFO” too) will completely vanish from popular culture anytime soon. But, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to revamp things. After all, Ufology is, in essence, the study of unidentified flying objects. But, no-one can doubt that the subject encompasses much more than that. And, many of those “other things” have very little to do with what passes for mainstream Ufology. If (unlike me) you are an adherent of the theory (and a theory is all it is) that all we are dealing with is metal ships from another solar-system then, yes, Ufology is not a bad term to use. But, there is far more to Ufology than just an alien equivalent of NASA paying us occasional visits. I’ll explain what I mean.
Like it or like it not, Ufology encompasses a lot of things that the very old guard (in particular) squirm about when it comes to matters relative to UFOs. I often see such squirming when I’m lecturing on the Men in Black phenomenon. For example, there are cases of MIB turning up not when people have seen a UFO, but when they have been dabbling with Ouija-boards. There are cases where the MIB won’t enter a person’s home until they are invited in (shades of vampire legends). And witnesses report falling sick after being in close proximity to the MIB. Time and again I have had people tell me that the MIB are from “the government.” They’re not. But, for those who fly the flag of Ufology, the “secret agent” angle sits well in what passes for Ufology, and has done so for decades. But, I can say for sure, issues relative to vampire parallels and Ouija-boards don’t sit well with a lot of people who like the “U word.” Why? Such issues embarrass and annoy them. Too bad.
What about synchronicities? I get a lot of them, some very weird, and often in relation to the UFO phenomenon. How about those alien abductees who have apocalyptic dreams of the future? Again, I have seen well-known UFO researchers – usually those who got into the scene in the 1960s and 1970s- get embarrassed and defensive when it comes to issues that border on the supernatural. Why? Again, because it doesn’t go down well with what they want Ufology to be – and what it implies. And, also how it impacts on them as ufologists too.
Of course, there’s also the tiresome ego angle to deal with. I have seen more than a few saucer-seekers loudly and pompously state that they are Ufologists – solely because they like being in a scene which allows them to be part of an “ology” and to be an “ologist.” Just like an archaeologist or a biologist. Well, no actually, not at all. Being someone who investigates UFO cases (and that includes me) does not make a person an “ologist.” It makes us people who investigate weird shit.
It’s much the same with Cryptozoology. Yes, it may be exciting for some to scream “I’m a cryptozoologist!”(I’m sure I’ve done that a few times…) But, really, people like me are – in the eyes of many – monster-hunters, and I don’t have a problem with that term. As I know, though, there are some in the field of strange creatures who won’t touch the term, “monster hunter.” Nope. They need that “ology/ologist” fix, and particularly so when dealing with the media.
I don’t think it’s absolutely vital for the word “Ufology” to be replaced with another one. But, I do think something else might rid us of some of the pomposity in the field, which would not be a bad thing at all. And that something just might allow the scene to expand further into alternative realms of research and not be so tied to just the word “UFO.”