Friday, October 7, 2011

Are You Going to CSICon in New Orleans?

It's coming up in just a few weeks: the first CSI(COP) conference in several years, to be held in New Orleans on Oct. 27-30: .

"The conference dedicated to scientific inquiry and critical thinking.
Separate history from legend and science from voodoo by joining the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) for four days of fun, mystery and reason, in New Orleans's famous French Quarter."

I will be there to speak about UFO Conspiracy Theories, on a panel with astronomer and UFO skeptic James McGaha, moderated by physicist Leonard Tramiel. I will be discussing how UFO conspiracy theories are put together, from the most plausible-sounding, to the most extreme. James will be talking about new developments in the claimed UFO landing at Bentwaters AFB / Rendlesham Forest in the U.K.

So, please come and spend Halloween with us in New Orleans, meet some skeptical celebrities like James "The Amazing" Randi, Eugenie Scott, Phil Plait, and chat about really interesting stuff. And don't forget to bring your Halloween costume! I won't tell you yet what mine is going to be.


  1. Speaking of UFO conspiracy theories, there is one put out long ago (c. 1960) by a Dr. Leon Davidson, who issued several editions of the Project Blue Book report.

    This was the idea that Adamski was the victim of an amazing trick perpetrated by the CIA (including his meetings in the desert and his rides to the moon). It created a bit of a sensation but died a quick death and slipped forever from the UFO scene. Davidson was deadly serious about it. Most strange.

  2. Have you read Michael Barkun's book about UFOs and conspiracy theory? Highly recommended.

  3. cda,

    I am familiar with Leon Davidson, who for decades was operating what amounted to a one-man "CIA conspiracy" crusade. He was obsessed with the idea that the CIA was behind the entire UFO phenomenon. When the first CIA UFO documents were released via FOIA during the 1970s, I read somewhere that more than half of the "documents" were letters to the CIA about UFOs from the public, and of those letters more than half were from one individual. (And all UFOlogists knew who that person had to be!). Davidson also had done an analysis showing that the symbol that the late Lonnie Zamora allegedly saw during his famous UFO sighting could be twisted around to make the letters "CIA."

    I'm pretty sure I exchanged a few letters with Davidson during the 70s, maybe 80s, and got some of his writings. If I ever got myself organized, I would scan the important letters like that and put them on my website There's already a fair number of such letters & documents there from the arch-UFO skeptic Philip J. Klass (look under "historical").

  4. Terry,

    I'd heard a little about that book, but did not read it. I just read the chapter that is available on the publisher's website. It has a lot of really good information about UFO conspiracy claims. It looks like the author is developing a politically-based theory to explain UFO conspiracy belief, but I'm not sure that I'd agree with that.

  5. Yes, Barkun's background is studying right-wing extremists.
    My cynical take is that conspiracists were shut out of the maintream market (before FOX News), so to increase their meagre market share -- or to just stay viable -- they were forced to merge with their competitors, so to speeak.
    It's probably no coincidence that David Icke, the most successful conspiracy theorist, accomodates the broadest range of conspiracies, no matter how stupid or baseless (he has softened his anti-semitism though -- bad for business). Texe Marrs, by contrast, is a marginal figure because he attacks non-Christians, New Agers and feminists, alienating a lot of potential customers.

  6. I am trying to think of when the first UFO conspiracy idea arose. Certainly not Roswell because although the event occurred in '47 it was not until 1980 that a conspiracy thesis was put forward. Keyhoe's first book in 1950 probably sowed the seeds of UFO conspiracy theory, but maybe Frank Scully beat him to it by a few weeks/months. I just don't know. I am fairly certain none existed before 1950. Ray Palmer was another early conspiracist, but from a different angle.

    Alas, I shall not be able to attend at New Orleans.

  7. For those who are interested to see some photos of CSICon, I have posted a public photo album on my Facebook page:

    I also posted on my Facebook page two videos of the Jazz Band Parade after the sessions. Not the best quality, but it shows what it was like.


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