A couple of days ago I was asked a question that went like this: "How do you become an expert in Cryptozoology and/or Ufology?" Thinking on it for a few seconds, I said I didn't really consider anyone to be an expert in these areas. Including me. Now, some people - with egos that go through the roof (we all know who they are) - would probably disagree with me. And vehemently. Too bad. Let's look at all of this a bit closer. Merriam-Webster say that an expert is "one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject." Your Dictionary states: "The definition of expert is someone who is very skillful or has advanced training and knowledge in a particular area or field." While I certainly go along with those definitions for some disciplines, I'm sure we can't (or shouldn't) say this applies to people who, like me, investigate mysteries that are shrouded in puzzles and totally lacking in hard answers.
It's important to note that having hundreds of reports on-file - concerning Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Ogopogo, the Abominable Snowman and a catalog of of other strange beasts - doesn't make you an expert. What it really means is that you have a large body of data on-file that strongly suggests there are unknown creatures out there; creatures that the worlds of science and zoology have yet to find and classify. On top of that, we even have no real idea of what the creatures are. Theories for what the Nessies might be, include giant-eels, plesiosaurs, huge salamanders, and even supernatural beasts. As for Bigfoot, some people say the creatures are completely unknown, in terms of what they might be. Others suggest surviving pockets of the ancient, huge ape known as Gigantopithecus. And, there's the Bigfoot-UFO angle that some researchers (and witnesses ) adhere to. At the end of the day, though, all of the creatures above successfully manage to elude us 100 percent of the time. So, how can we be seen as experts when, after decades upon decades of searching, we're still mystified? I would suggest that we are collectors of data on cryptid creatures. And there is a big difference between a collector and an expert. Consider this, too: a cardiac surgeon knows exactly how to unblock a dangerously-clogged artery. He or she is able to determine what the cause is and how to fix it. That's because they are experts. There is no mystery involved. In our cases, however, the whole scene is shrouded in mystery.
Onto the matter of the other portion of that question that was posed to me: In many respects, the same situation applies to UFOs and aliens. As with Cryptozoology, how can we be seen as experts when we can't even come to an agreement as to what is behind the UFO phenomenon. As for what our "aliens" might really be, the list includes extraterrestrials, time-traveler's, Mac Tonnies' cryptoterrestrials, demons, or the work of government agencies fabricating UFO events to see the extent to which the human mind can be manipulated. It's the same with the UFOs themselves. Some researchers will say "spacecraft." For others? Time-machines. Perhaps, secret aircraft constructed at, and flown out of, Area 51. As with Bigfoot and Co., ufologists have put together massive amounts of material on close encounters that are typically stored in filing-cabinet after filing-cabinet. But, what hard, undeniable answers to the riddle do we have? None. All we know is this: there is a UFO phenomenon that interacts with us, and has done so for a very long time. Has our, ahem, "expertise" allowed us to say we've got the truth? Hell, no!
I would say pretty much the same goes for ghost-hunters and those who work in the field of the occult. Yes, those phenomena exist (in my view, at least), but that doesn't give us the answers we yearn for. And, if we are so lacking in understanding the things we pursue, then how on Earth can we ever consider ourselves to be experts? The reality of the situation is this: we collect, we listen, we interview, we help to boost sales of those aforementioned filing-cabinets, and, finally, we disseminate data to anyone who might want to listen - all in large amounts. Beyond that? Well, there is no beyond that.
We should continue to investigate the things we chase down with the same enthusiasm we've always had. But, when it comes to titles, egos most definitely need to be locked away.