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Army Officer Turned Ufologist Antonio Paris Chases Aliens With Reasonable Doubt

In our X-Files reboot world, it’s hard to take ufology, the study of UFOs, seriously. The problem, at its core, is less scientific than sociological. The community that believes in the proximity of extraterrestrial life has long had a fraught relationship with logic and reason. Antonio Paris’s job is to bridge the divide between those who want to believe and those who demand proof. As the head ofAerial Phenomena Investigations, Paris has spent the last five years working with a former NASA engineer and a journalist to uncover both evidence and its absence. Paris, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, also works as anastronomer at St. Petersburg College in Florida. He spends a lot of time looking up, but even more time looking around.

It bears saying — precisely because it doesn’t go without saying — that Paris is not a crank. In a sense, he’s exactly the opposite. He exhibits the rare ability to keep belief close and doubt closer. It is this trait, coupled with the thoroughness of his work, that has enamored him to the scientific community, which embraces him with open arms. Paris spoke with Inverse about dueling with investigative and scientific pistols at a time when most other Ufologists are stuck on Area 51.

Let’s get this out of the way: Have we been visited by aliens?

It all comes down to one thing. There’s still no hard proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that UFOs are in any way, shape, or form extraterrestrial. They could be — but in the cases we’ve seen, we have not made that determination. We’re not saying aliens don’t exist. But the evidence doesn’t lean that way at this point.

We have about a 30-page standard operating procedure that begins with basic information collection on the witness and ends with forensics. We use FBI investigative interview procedures — so it’s not like I just say, “OK, what did you see?” Seventy percent of what we’ve investigated comes from reliable people, people with credible backgrounds, who are highly educated — we’re talking about people who are in the military or other scientists. They see things on the way home that they cannot explain.

But, unfortunately, if you could shape this all into one sentence, 99.9 percent of everything we’ve done is based on a story, never any evidence provided or footage. First hand testimony, that’s all we have.

Even with smartphones becoming so common?

The average UFO event is only three to five seconds. Somebody sees something, they’re amazed by it, and then it’s gone. They really don’t have much time to open up the phone, unlock it, and get a camera focused. When we get footage that’s five minutes long, we’re very skeptical. Most of these are hoaxes or photoshop. Of every 100 cases we get, maybe three of those have successful photo or video evidence. And even then, that’s usually a smudge or a squiggly light. It’s not your classic flying saucer that was so popular in the ‘40s to ‘60s.

You get 400 or 500 cases a year, but only investigate a handful. How do you decide to pursue a case?

We need to check off five boxes before we start. The first is it has to be a recent case, usually within a year, year-and-a-half. We get a lot of, “Oh my god, I saw something 30 years ago!” That doesn’t help us a lot.

The second is we need multiple witnesses to corroborate information. I don’t mean four people in the same car. I mean someone sees the UFO in one spot, and then someone else at the other end of the city also reports the same thing on the same day.

Third, is it has to be evidence, not just testimony. It has to be a photo, video, even news or media reports of it.

The fourth one: It has to be during the day time. A lot of these UFO cases come from night, all they see is a squiggly line of light, they don’t actually see an actual craft.

The fifth is the events cannot happen within the vicinity of a military instillation, any of the places where there might be drones or top secret stuff. The main part of that is access. We’ll never get access to a military base, we’ll never get access to a classified location. Every time we ask we get turned down.

So if you put all of those five things together, it makes for a really compelling case.

Has the surge in consumer drones affected your investigations?

Yeah. There’s been an increase in UFO reports. We get the pictures, they tend to be quadcopters, drones, we get that a lot. It’s just something we have to deal with. Someone takes a picture of an image, in case we do get that, we can do some cross analysis and say this thing is basically one foot wide or a couple inches long, it has to be a drone. That’s usually what it comes down to.

Is there a certain case that sticks out in your mind? Maybe something that gave you pause or you had to file as inconclusive?

We’ve had several. Off hand I’d say two or three cases since founding led to us thinking, “What is it that this guy actually saw?” We had a U.S. official — we’ll keep him anonymous — in D.C. driving home toward Camp David. His car just stopped in the middle of the road. And when he got out of the car he saw this massive black triangle that made almost no noise as it moved over his car. He was, basically, mesmerized. It was low enough where he could hear a slow humming, and he could tell it was metallic.

We went through the whole set of questions — this guy is credible, he’s a lawyer, and spoke like a lawyer— and told us that he kept on thinking about reaching for his iPhone. But he was so mesmerized he just couldn’t reach for his phone. He got back in his car and he went home. The very next day he called me. I went to his house and we talked for days.

What do other astronomers and members of the scientific community think of your aerial phenomena investigations?

They know my reputation, they know I’m not a crack job — I’ve published official scientific work, and I look at specific cases of phenomena. There’s been no backlash, no emails from people calling me a crazy scientist. And that’s because I approach them the proper way. I know what conferences not to go to, what cases not to entertain. It’s worked out well for me and my team.

In general, it’s the UFO cult that has become an entertainment industry. It’s casting a shadow on the few people like myself — it’s not just me — who are trying to do this legitimately. Unfortunately, this big shadow is undermining the stuff we really want to do. We’re doing a pretty good job of slowly shaping public awareness. It’s not just a bunch of nut jobs, there are legitimate people who actually look at this from a fact-based perspective. There are at least 10,000 UFO reports a year, just in the U.S. I can’t say these are 10,000 crazies.

Photos via Aerial Phenomena, Giphy

From Inverse:

Four Years of UFO Investigations – What We Learned

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. — John Adams, 1770

Four Years of UFO Investigations – What We Learned: 

An unidentified flying object (UFO), in its strictest sense, is an unfamiliar anomaly in the sky that is not readily identifiable to the observer as any known object. Technically, “UFO” refers to something that cannot be identified; unfortunately, in contemporary popular culture, the term has become synonymous with extraterrestrial spacecraft. However, decades of investigations, research, and analysis from a cadre of UFO investigators, including the United States Air Force, have established that most UFO sightings are either hoaxes or misidentifications of man-made terrestrial objects and natural phenomena. Evidence of extraterrestrial life remains elusive as ever.

The lack of physical and scientific proof beyond a reasonable doubt has pushed UFOs to be regarded along with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the chupacabra, and leprechauns: subjects nestled together in the occult section of your local bookstore or library. This unfortunate occurrence, in my opinion, is a direct result of a once-worthy subject being hijacked by a convergence of armchair UFO investigators, conspiracy theorists, hoaxers, and people taking occasional cheesy photos of alleged extraterrestrials or flying saucers.

In early 2011, in an effort to revive and revolutionize Ufology, we decided to investigative UFO phenomena. First, to clean up Ufology, we needed to remove the extraterrestrial element from the equation and approach the phenomena from a nuts-and-bolts perspective.   Second, we needed to create a well-proven investigative process to make sense of the data. Therefore, we developed the Aerial Phenomena Investigations Guide. With our new vision regarding Ufology, we went on to create a new UFO research group made up of like-minded professionals. Our vision, which we knew would get initial pushback from mainstream Ufologists, was to recruit UFO enthusiasts willing to respectively set aside the extraterrestrial hypothesis and approach the phenomena from a nuts-and-bolts perspective.

In the middle of 2011, we began to attend dozens of UFO-related meetings and conferences throughout the United States, specifically in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., areas. As we expected, the premise behind most, if not all, of these UFO meetings and conferences were centered around the following:

  • Conspiracies about the alleged Roswell UFO crash.
  • Secret “world government” efforts to hide proof of extraterrestrial evidence from the public.
  • Occasional hearsay of a deathbed confession from a retired military or intelligence official claiming first-hand knowledge of extraterrestrials.
  • Setting aside all known laws of physics to argue for inter-dimensional portals that allow beings from other parts of the universe to travel to our planet at free will.

At none of these UFO meetings or conferences thus far, however, could people provide proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, to substantiate these claims. In the end, we came to realize most, if not all, of these stories were just folklore with an added touch of hysteria and pareidolia.

Today, four years later, the API mission has not changed. Our goals are to conduct a systematic search for facts in order to determine whether or not a UFO sighting or alleged alien abduction can be attributed to a man-made object, natural phenomena, or a hoax. Our team accomplishes this by conducting aggressive investigative research and analysis; then, we assimilate, evaluate, and interpret a variety of reports on aerial phenomena. Throughout every investigation, we consider information derived from all credible sources and integrate it into our analytical process. API sets a high standard to obtain and provide proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a UFO or an alien abduction is of extraterrestrial origin. After four years of conducting hundreds of thorough UFO investigations, we found no proof of extraterrestrial visitation. Nevertheless, the results of API’s investigations do not mean that extraterrestrial life does not exist or, for that matter, that extraterrestrial life has not visited our planet. We identified most of the UFOs as terrestrial objects, closing very few cases in the “unidentified” file.

API to Host Another Virtual UFO Conference!

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Please note. This virtual conference is not intended to debunk the UFO phenomena. Rather, the intent is to bring together the UFO community to discuss fiction vs. facts regarding UFO phenomena.About the Conference: The scientific investigation into UFO phenomena has been derailed by new-age claptrap such as the alien agenda, disclosure petitions, and the alleged engineering of human-alien hybrids; and pseudoscience such as metaphysics and astroprojection. More importantly, it appears the UFO community is no longer concerned whether or not extraterrestrials can actually exist and are capable of interstellar or intergalactic travel. This Q&A, therefore, addresses what the UFO community conveniently fails to address: the astrophysical properties of alleged extraterrestrial star systems; the physiological aspects of interstellar travel; the speed of light and why it matters; and the limits of interstellar travel, to name a few. Collectively called “space science”, these topics during the Q&A will demonstrate how space functions; and more importantly, provide scientific facts designed to challenge the UFO community into shaping better arguments for the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO phenomena. Additional topics will include:

-UFO reporting numbers. Are they inflated?
-Science Fiction vs. Science Facts
-How Hollywood shaped the UFO culture
-Hunting for extrasolar planets
-Future interstellar travel concepts
-Kepler Mission updates
-and more

To RSVP click UFO Conference

Ufology Today

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Ufology is not a Science: Science is a systematic enterprise that constructs and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. Ufology, however, is not a science, and no research on or investigation of UFOs has provided a testable explanation and prediction. Nevertheless, there is a growing trend in the UFO community to present ufology as a science and a topic that requires urgent response from the government. Many mainstream ufologists as well as speakers at UFO conferences attempt to use fancy words such as quantum mechanics, which should immediately be considered a red flag. Most ufologists are not scientists and are simply invoking a poorly understood branch of science. Quantum mechanics is the science that deals with matter at the level of atomic and subatomic particles; thus, it cannot be applied to the macroscopic world of large physical objects such as UFOs.

Too often attendees at UFO conferences are perfectly willing to believe the alleged evidence that supposedly proves the UFO hypothesis in their favor, but they steadfastly refuse to consider the overwhelming evidence that contradicts or refutes their claims. In other words, most ufologists cherry-pick the evidence, which is not an allowable option in legitimate science.

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Confirmation Bias and Emotions:

Rather than applying science and logic to defend the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO phenomena, the UFO community addresses the issue through emotions and confirmation bias. Ufologists have a predisposition to favor information, no matter how fantastic, that confirms their beliefs or assumptions.  They display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively or when they interpret it in a biased way. This inclination is especially prominent at UFO conferences when emotionally charged stories of alleged alien abductions and government conspiracies are presented. Those who support the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO phenomena, moreover, tend to interpret ambiguous and anecdotal evidence as supporting their existing position. This is often the result of media sound bites, social media, and UFO organizations’ claims that they are “scientific” entities. When confirmation bias is coupled with pareidolia, apophenia, and illusory correlation, the end result is belief perseverance, which contributes to overconfidence and strengthens beliefs even in the face of contrary evidence. Moreover, belief in the extraterrestrial hypothesis of UFO phenomena did not develop into self-validating structures all by themselves. They are the direct result of the UFO community leaders’ often modifying and revising their agenda to conform to the prevailing culture of their memberships. A clear example of this occurred when the UFO community was faced with a serious institutional crisis regarding the U.S. government’s explanation for the 1947 Roswell incident. Rather than accepting the proven fact that the UFO was actually a balloon under the auspices of Project Mogul, the UFO community conveniently resorted to claims of a government coverup.

UFO Reporting Number are Deceptive:

Every year hundreds of thousands of reports of unusual sightings and alleged abductions flood the Internet and social media. Organizations such as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) inundate the UFO community with reports that thousands of UFOs are being documented each month. If only 1% of these sightings were both reliable and credible, it would appear, on the surface, that at the very least thousands of extraterrestrials are visiting planet Earth. That is not the case.

In 2013 I conducted a comprehensive analysis of approximately 10,000 sightings reported to MUFON. The analysis concluded, first, that the vast majority of these sightings were reported by the average person and almost never by professional or amateur astronomers, who are trained observers and spend inordinate amounts of time observing the sky. Second, more than 85% of these reports were incomplete, contained inaccurate and ambiguous information, and were not properly vetted under a systematic control system. The reliability of most of these reports, therefore, was questionable at best. I suspect that if a proper case control system had been in place and the monthly reporting numbers reflected such a process, perhaps only a few dozen reports per year would be forwarded for investigation. In short, most reports of UFO sightings are unreliable, and the numbers routinely published are deceptive.

From time to time a handful of pilots, military personnel, and police officers did report seeing a UFO. The credibility of these witnesses was taken for granted because of their official titles and/or positions. Unfortunately, however, such reports are too often sensationalized to imply that, because there are no logical explanations for what the officials observed, it must have been an extraterrestrial spacecraft. Regardless of these witnesses’ positions, their reliability can only be established once a thorough Personal Credibility Assessment Investigation on them is completed, which my research found to be rarely conducted.

Plausible Origin of the Grays

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While reports of the Grays have circulated in the UFO and conspiracy-theory community for decades, their origin is often associated with the 1961 Betty and Barney Hill abduction claim.[i] Because the media began to report on the alleged creatures after the Hill claim, the UFO community has assumed that the Grays are a recent phenomenon. However, that is not the case. The first appearance of the Grays can be traced as far back as 1891, decades before the post-1947 UFO wave. Almost 125 years ago Kenneth Folingsby published a book titled Meda: A Tale of the Future.[ii] The book, which derived from the author’s visions of the future while in a coma, described “tiny gray men with heads shaped like hot air balloons.” Soon thereafter readers were fascinated by what the human species might look like after millions of years of evolution. In 1893 H. G. Wells wrote a short article titled “The Man of the Year Million” in which he speculated on that subject. Wells imagined human beings as having no hair, mouth, or nose, but they would have an enormous light-bulb-shaped head and a small body.

Wells also published The War of the Worlds in 1897. His representation of Martians in that novel, according to a biography, was a convergence of pure imagination and Wells’s research on evolution. He depicted Martians as having enlarged heads because they supposedly were a more intelligent race than humans. Furthermore, according to Wells, the Martians had large eyes, no nose or ears, and very small mouths. He also envisioned Martians as communicating telepathically with each other to eliminate all misunderstanding, a trait that remarkably has been reported by alleged abductees.

In the 1930s and 40s, once again before the UFO wave, little gray aliens were a staple feature of many comic books such as Amazing Stories, Wonder Stories, and Science Wonder Stories. During this era when comic books were having a large impact on society, many of the tales they published concerned gray “visitors from space.”

[i] Betty and Barney Hill. University of New Hampshire Library. http://www.library.unh.edu/special/index.php/betty-and-barney-hill.

[ii] “A Media History of Gray Aliens.” http://www.theironskeptic.com/articles/gray/gray_history.htm.