Dr Who? UFO study earns University of Melbourne researcher a PhD
Media Release, Monday 4 August 2008
A researcher who investigated the mysterious world of UFO sightings, ufology and ufologists will be awarded a PhD at the University of Melbourne this week.
Martin Plowman, from the School of Culture and Communication, investigated hundreds of UFO sightings and interviewed dozens of ufologists as part of his PhD thesis.
Mr Plowman will become Dr Plowman next Saturday (August 9) when he is conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne.
As part of his research Mr Plowman visited key sites in the history of ufology, including Roswell, New Mexico; crop circle hotspots in Wiltshire, England; and the Valley of Elqui in the Chilean Andes, and examined the links between UFO sightings and religion, politics, national security and popular culture.
“Ufology is one of the longest enduring subcultures of the past century but its roots can be found way back in ancient culture and religion,” he says. “Ufology exists in practically every country on earth and the word UFO is spoken in almost every language.
"The intense reaction to recent claims by former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell that aliens do exist, shows that ufology remains a topic of great community interest and debate."
Mr Plowman said he was fascinated by the impact believing they had seen a UFO could have on a person, and how they made sense of their encounters with UFOs, whatever the objects might actually be.
“For some people ufology is an attempt for them to make more sense of their place in the universe and compensate for the fact that science, or religion, cannot explain everything,” he says.
“I also wanted to explore the whole phenomenon of how someone can explain the paradox of how people can talk about an object that has been identified as unidentified.”
He is now working on a book, supported by a manuscript sponsorship from the University of Melbourne’s Writing Centre for Scholars and Researchers.
But after 80,000 words and seven years devoted to the subject, Mr Plowman remains open-minded about whether UFOs exist or not.
“When a person tells me they have seen something in the sky that they can’t explain I tend to believe them,’’ he says.
“But belief must be tempered by curiosity, and this curiosity has taken me to the edge of the unknown without falling into it.”