"Thus I freely admit that in arriving at my proposals I have been guided, in the last analysis, by value judgments and predilections. But I hope that my proposals may be acceptable to those who value not only logical rigor but also freedom from dogmatism; who seek practical applicability, but are even more attracted by the adventure of science, and by discoveries which again and again confront us with new and unexpected questions, challenging us to try out new and hitherto undreamed-of answers.
The Logic of Scientific Discovery"
By Karl Popper
There are scientists and there are scientists. Dr. James McDonald was one of those true scientists: an adventurer. In "Firestorm " a biography by Ann Druffel, I got a lot closer to understanding what it’s like experiencing the pure joy of honest scientific thought.
We have many more scientists today, but how many of them are engaged in pure science? Dr. McDonald had a passionate love of pure science. You know what the pure kind is--the kind before ego gets involved.
Unfortunately it was through that passion that McDonald was destroyed. I’m certain McDonald’s presence would be powerful today…if he hadn’t committed suicide
So who was this man professional debunker the late Phil Klass tried to destroy?
Dr. James McDonald was the debunker of the bunk purveyors, people like Phil ‘No Class’ Klass and Dr. Donald ‘Merely’ Menzel.
McDonald was sharper than guys like these could ever hope to be, and they knew it. McDonald had the sharpest scientific mind --on both sides of the UFO controversy-- even to this day. He was also a great teaching professor, and we all know about that kind, too: the prof the students love, the lecturer who really teaches and fires them up, the inspiring kind of teacher and scientist. That was James McDonald. When the good Professor McDonald taught he never used notes, he had that kind of memory. From Firestorm:
“McDonald believed that curiosity was the heart of science”
Most of our scientists today seem to have more answers than curiosity,
Debunkers don’t really want to talk about McDonald’s good science on the possibilities of UFO reality, they’d rather take the easy way out and slander. Make that almost slander, since the professional debunkers have typically been too legal-minded to use full-on, prosecutable slander.
But it is true that McDonald was a pure scientist, something so rare it’s hardly thought of these days. He was like a monk who hadn’t learned the difference between the divine and the church.
Pure science was largely corrupted by government, with research grants cautiously doled out until the field of endeavor was no longer about science, but scientific funding. You had to toe the line to get the government money and the government told you what the line was.
But McDonald had a passion, transforming the value of inquiry into an almost spiritual belief that science should always be applied objectively, no matter what. Yet he was also a very practical researcher who did not spend time on those UFO cases he felt were patently absurd.
McDonald was tough on UFOs, but at the end of the day you knew the UFO reports Dr. McDonald couldn’t explain, nobody else --scientist or debunker-- could explain, either.
McDonald did what only a few UFO researchers do today: he went to the witnesses.
The minute McDonald debunked the science used to explain UFO sightings he became a problem. But it was because other scientists liked and respected him that he became a major problem. He didn’t know that the people he was rubbing the wrong way were radicals. These radical thinkers come in all guises but are the same type we find in fundamentalist religious groups and even inside the UFO community. These ‘I’m right no matter what’ people are addicted to lockstep thinking, and they can be dangerous if they go after you.
First, a telling scene from classic Christmas film “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Lionel Barrymore plays a sleazy bank president trying to destroy his more honest competitor, James Stewart, owner of a small town savings and loan. Stewart’s a good guy who approves loans to good honest working people of meager economic means in his community. Initially the corrupt banker tries to make a deal with Stewart and they shake on it. Stewart notices his hand is wet with sweat from the banker’s hand, and starts to walk out. At the moment he realizes what type of person he is dealing with, he understands that’s just what the banker lives for: to break down and corrupt honest men, to feel justified in his horrible actions, and most of all, to feel superior.
Enter Phil Klass in James McDonald’s life.
This Is How McDonald Would Have Loved It:
Nov 12 2007 National Press Club Wash. DC:
McDonald, after some common sense and research, had come to believe some UFOs were not explained by science. McDonald also made it his business to correct any sloppy science which was put forward to explain UFOs by other scientist.
Menzel found that out about McDonald rather quickly.
After a brief era of cordiality between Phil Klass and McDonald (and Stanton Friedman told me once that Klass was likable), the friendlier state of affairs ended when McDonald pointed out one of Phil’s “plasmoid” (ball lighting) explanations for a certain UFO sighting was impossible in atmospheric physics.
Klass started to hunt McDonald like a jackal hunting prey. Klass alerted the Navy, asking the brass if they knew McDonald was spending their money to investigate UFOs, by way of suggesting McDonald was either irresponsible or corrupt.
When the Navy replied McDonald had permission to do just that and did more than anticipated on all of his other duties, Klass continued to go up the line, hollering wasted money till he started to hit pay dirt.
Don’t you feel safer knowing good old Phil (No Class) Klass was watching out for us by destroying the reputations of decent people? Of course all this was nonsense. But Klass, defender of the faith and guardian of your tax dollars, continued his program of harassment.
McDonald was a kind of workaholic. Klass and Menzel could throw out their half-ass ‘scientific’ explanations untested, and only the brave would reply. It was simply that most scientists didn’t believe and some scientist couldn’t believe, but if any of them had checked they would have known. I’m sure they told themselves all kinds of reasons why they didn’t pursue looking at the exlanations seriously and carefully.
But thanks largely to the ceaseless program of attack-dog methods practiced --perhaps coordinated-- by Klass and Menzel, the only honest reason serious scientists of the era could give to avoiding proposing research projects or even commenting on the whole range of science related to ufology was lack of courage.
McDonald lectured before many scientific bodies and demonstrated how their explanations were frankly wrong, no question! He embarrassed scientists in front of their peers. Menzel --long a State Department ‘advisor’ in Latin America-- we know now was probably connected with intelligence. But I think from what I read, to Menzel, it was also personal with McDonald.
Here’s one example when McDonald demolished Klass. At a conference McDonald addressed Klass’s Plasma as The Theory of Everything UFO, citing a case where a bright object followed a plane. Take a good look at this one. A UFO reported as a bright light followed a plane almost --dare I say-- intelligently. Klass does a little scientific juggling and notices how his “plasmoids” (ball lighting) can be attracted to a negative charge much like that, he said, a dusty airplane might produce; therefore, the ball lighting followed the dusty plane. According, at least to Klass’s selective application of a primary physics principle.
Problem is, after McDonald gets out the slide rule and does some calculations, he uses a little science and some math to determine that the airplane would have to be moving slower than a person could pace, almost hovering, just so this ‘ball lightning’ could follow.
All these years, and at last! I have the answer: it was a UFO that was there, invisible, hovering, then flying next to the plane captured by a negative charge so the “Plasmaoid” must have been attracted to it. Guess that makes more sense than a walking airplane…
Dr. McDonald grew influential through his impeccable science and NICAP’s reputation as an organization flourished. Because NICAP had the top UFO research team with the most clout, it became a conduit for good reports and research. And so behind the lines even more influential eyes were watching, and it seems other powerful groups had planned for this very turn of events.
Part Two of The Last Scientist:
Science Loses A Friend