Bio: Ron Westrum is emeritus professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University, holding an honors B.A. from Harvard in Social Relations and a Ph.D from the University of Chicago in Sociology. Dr. Westrum is a specialist on the sociology of science and technology, and has written books such as Technologies and Society: The Shaping of People and Things (1991), as well as Sidewinder: Creative Missile Design at China Lake (1999). He has written numerous articles on the sociology of hidden events, and is currently working on a book on anomalies and society, showing that events contradicting prevailing scientific doctrines can face significant hurdles even when evidence for them is strong. He has been a consultant for NASA, for the National Research Council, and also for the Mutual UFO Network.
Lecture: Hidden Events
When an event is widely experienced but seldom reported, we can refer to it as a “hidden event.” Many anomalous events, including UFOs, by appearing to violate common sense or scientific paradigms, fall into this category. My talk considers three types of hidden events: meteorites (18th century), the battered child syndrome (20th century), and UFOs (current). By looking at earlier examples of public and scientific response to hidden events, we can get some idea of the probable response to a new hidden event. Commonsense ideas about what would happen may be mistaken. Scientists, in particular, may not behave “scientifically.” By looking at what has happened in the past, we can develop a more realistic approach to what may be going on around us. If UFOs are real, we need to know how much we can depend on the “social intelligence system” to tell us what is actually happening, because sometimes the system of information on which we depend hides rather than reveals what we need to know.