Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#1628: Stanton T. Friedman

A.k.a. The Flying Saucer Physicist (his own moniker)

Stanton T. Friedman lives in Canada, but seems to be of American origin, and that might be sufficient to qualify for inclusion in the Encyclopedia. He certainly qualifies on merit. Friedman is a retired nuclear physicist who once worked on technology development for various large companies, but who since the 1970s has devoted his life full-time to traveling around the world lecturing about UFOs and giving TV and radio appearances. In fact, Friedman is sometimes considered to be one of the greatest experts on the topic, which is not necessarily very impressive, as he has, ostensibly, written some “80 UFO-related papers” (journals not specified) and even “provided written testimony to Congressional hearings,” where he explained that the evidence suggests that Earth is being visited by intelligently controlled extraterrestrial vehicles; unfortunately, Congress seems to have had a “you need to show us, not just tell us”-attitude toward that evidence, and wasn’t particularly impressed with what he had to show. He has also appeared on George Noory’s Coast to Coast AM radio show, which presumably gave him a more appropriate audience.

According to Wikipedia, Friedman was “the first civilian to document the site of the Roswell UFO incident” and naturally thinks the Roswell incident involved a genuine crash of an extraterrestrial spacecraft and – accordingly – a widespread government conspiracy to cover it up. As he told Congress, Friedman also believes that UFO sightings are consistent with magnetohydrodynamic propulsion, and in 1996, after researching and fact checking (some quotation marks would probably have been apt) the Majestic 12 documents, Friedman concluded that there was no substantive grounds for dismissing their authenticity – which seems to miss a point or two about who has the burden of proof in these cases. But as Friedman says, he has little patience for “nasty, noisy negativists” or – said in different words – the idea of trying to falsify hypotheses (rather than Texas sharpshooting) as a research strategy. Later on even Friedman himself provided evidence that at least some of the Majestic 12 documents were hoaxes, which, since they were “found” together is pretty solid evidence that they all are. In fact, they are all hoaxes, of course, and they are easily demonstrated to be so. At present, the Majestic 12 seems to serve as something of a gateway between fun-loving, open-minded, silly hobby UFO enthusiasm and tinfoil hat gubmint-is-using-mind-control-rays territory.

Does he have any positive evidence at all? Well, he likes to cite a 1964 star map drawn by infamous alleged alien abductee Betty Hill during a hypnosis session, which she said was shown to her during her abduction. The case is a pretty legendary example of (literally) searching for a terrain to fit the map: one astronomer, Marjorie Fish, spent much effort scouring the night sky until finding – if one adjusted things a little (removing some stars, adding others) – something that fit Hill’s map and story (and not particularly well at that). Even the fit-after-adjustments has later been utterly debunked by new astronomical discoveries, but it is unclear that Friedman even cares. After all, he has, together with Kathleen Marden, written a book about the Hills: Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience. Apart from the map, their evidence that the Hills were abducted by aliens is pretty much this: Betty Hill spent two years writing a UFO story and sharing it with her husband Barney, and then, when asked about that story under hypnosis, Barney Hill was able to tell it pretty much as Betty wrote it (dum-dum-dum-dum-dum).

Friedman has also repeatedly cited the 1996 Yukon UFO, which has conclusively been shown to be the re-entry of the Cosmos 2335 second stage rocket booster. He hasn’t mentioned that part. In fact, he generally doesn’t seem to take it particularly well when his claims get debunked, and has argued (e.g. in “The Pseudo-Science of Anti-Ufology”), in response to careful, scientific investigations of UFO phenomena, that skeptics’ arguments “aren’t scientific, but rather represent research by proclamation rather than investigation,” because their careful investigations don’t yield the conclusions he would like. Another piece of alleged evidence he seems to be fond of is the Project Blue Book Special Report Number 14, a statistical analysis of UFO reports released by the Battelle Memorial Institute back in 1955. It is discussed here. Needless to say, reasonable people are not impressed.

In fact, Friedman has written numerous books and, more importantly, appeared in virtually every UFO-fan documentary ever made, such as Overlords of the UFO and the hilariously and embarrassingly anticlimactic Best Evidence! Top 10 UFO Sightings which was supposed to give us what UFO fans considered the best cases of UFO they’ve got; this one was #1 (indeed, the Yukon case mentioned above made an appearance as well). When asked why UFO sightings have increased over the last half century, Friedman suggests that it’s obviously aliens checking up on us in case we nuke them rather than, you know, citing “higher population”, “better record-keeping” or “more effective media”; it’s a rather illuminating answer with regard to how Friedman assigns initial likelihoods to hypotheses.

Friedman is also an opponent of SETI, however, since the implicit premise of SETI is, as Friedman sees it, that there has been no extraterrestrial visitation of the planet (and the researchers are by extension not taking him seriously). He has, however, apparently endorsed semi-legendary and hilariously quaint distance healer Braco. In 2012 Friedman also received some attention for a spectacularly unsuccessful participation in a marketing ploy for the “found footage” movie Apollo 18.

Diagnosis: Oh, dear. At least he’s something of a legend, but possibly not for the reasons he would have wished (except, perhaps, among hardened lunatics). Entertaining fellow.


  1. Poor Santon. He doesn't have many months left on this earth. And the evil cabal that keeps the UFO secrets from the world have bested him at every turn. He probably has to know he's going to be cold in his grave soon, without ever being proven right. Kind feel sorry for him.

  2. Is it just me, or does he bear an uncanny resemblance to the late comedian Foster Brooks?