A new book by authors Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel explores what might happen if UFOs turned out to really be from another world.
There are some insightful ideas contained in this book, regrettably packaged with credulity-straining aspects of the ‘disclosure’ movement. The consequences of extraterrestrial contact are much more important and vital than the specifics of how ET visitors arrive – even more significant than the details of any sinister government coverup. Foregrounding the UFO conspiracy angle in this book excludes readers interested in the implications of extraterrestrial life but uninterested in conspiracy lore. Nevertheless, Dolan and Zabel spend roughly half of the book meticulously laying out the case for a purported U.S. government coverup going all the way back to 1947. Zabel has credentials in this area, having produced a fictional TV show in the 1990s along the lines of the X Files.
If the authors hadn’t been saddled with the need to situate their arguments within popular conspiracy belief systems, they might have simply begun: “Suppose that aliens arrive tomorrow,” and gone from there. Other authors have avoided UFOs while discussing the momentous question of contact with extraterrestrials and allowed themselves more room to speculate, notably Albert Harrison in his (2002) After Contact: The Human Response To Extraterrestrial Life, and more recently Michael Michaud’s (2006) Contact with Alien Civilizations.
Despite my skepticism with respect to the disclosure ‘core narrative’, I have admiration for much of Richard Dolan’s other work concerning UFOs. If not the first, he is certainly the most prominent academic to try to bridge the gap between mainstream political science and the marginalized discipline of ufology. Dolan’s scholarly training as a historian has given his early contributions to the field much needed reflexivity and analytical rigour, Something sorely lacking elsewhere in the contemporary UFO community.
By contrast, this book is peppered with buzzwords from the exopolitics/disclosure movement: “truth embargo” “false flag” “MJ-12” “free energy” “anti-gravitics”. Seemingly pulled from the dark corners of the conspiracy Internet we also find aspects of millennial eschatology: “It will end soon”… “it’s inevitable”.
In A.D. After Disclosure, the authors’ eagerness to abide less credible ideas tarnishes the impact of their overall contribution. It would be a shame to see Dolan transmogrify into another Stephen Greer or Michael Salla (respectively of the Orion Project and Exopolitics Institute), neither of whom appear to have encountered an unsubstantiated claim they didn’t like. For a particularly egregious example see a report by Salla in which he identifies and names exactly 57 races of alien creature “known to be currently interacting with Earth”.
Dolan and Zabel’s book reads a little bit like the fantasy of a nerd who, picked on by the popular kids and jocks in high school, dreams of exacting revenge one day by becoming rich and famous. Here, the jocks and popular kids are replaced by longstanding bugbears of the UFO/disclosure community: mainstream science, journalism and skeptical members of the public.
The inevitable act of UFO disclosure will herald a new paradigm in which skeptics are repudiated and UFO believers get to say, “I told you so”. In the wake of UFO disclosure, scientific textbooks will have to be re-written and skeptics will have their belief systems “shattered,” the authors explain, almost gleefully. In this A.D. world, the fringe will become the new center:
“Most people, including the self-described “skeptics,” have refused to read anything about UFOs. They have avoided thinking about the subject in any way other than as story fodder for science fiction films. They will be the most shocked; their belief spectrum will shift radically, all at once. Others less dogmatic, or especially those who have taken some time to acquaint themselves of the facts as they can be known, will have less distance to travel.”
It is not without cause that ufology regards traditional science and its institutions with suspicion. Beaten up by mainstream media and ridiculed by official government institutions in the early days of saucer mania – a fact that Dolan chronicles elsewhere in his excellent UFOs and the National Security State – many UFO believers have had to become fact hounds of the sort that would embarrass Encyclopedia Brown. But all of the careful documentary research and fact finding has created a blind spot in ufology to the big picture – the philosophical implications of the thing they are working so hard to prove exists. Because of this blindspot, other disciplines of mainstream academic and scientific thought such as astrobiology, evolutionary cosmology and information theory risk leaving ufology behind in the quaint middle twentieth-century paranoid mode in which it appears trapped.
After Disclosure is at its best when it deals with those bigger questions and moves beyond the insular language of UFO conspiracy. There are excellent but brief sections toward the end of the book dealing with the implications of extraterrestrial contact for human legal, geopolitical and religious structures. I broadly agree with the authors that contact with ET would provoke a cultural response in humanity similar to the upheavals of the 1960s USA. I also agree that the legal status of non-human entities is an under-explored and important component of any post-contact scenario. I simply wish that the authors had devoted more of their considerable talents to fleshing out those original ideas.
Going forward, it would be refreshing to see Dolan break with some of the more dubious elements of the exopolitics/disclosure meme set. He’s already demonstrated a willingness to part ways with mainstream academia over the taboo subject of UFOs. What ufology needs right now is not another preacher to the converted, but a critical thinker who can communicate the implications of ET contact to wider audience. Dolan and Zabel would do to take some of their own advice from the pages of After Disclosure:
“When we cannot find the right word or phrase, we will invent new ones.”