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Mack's Research Is Under Scrutiny

By Lana Israel

Dean of the Medical School Daniel C. Tosteson '46 has convened a secret "ad-hoc fact finding" committee to investigate the research of a Harvard professor noted for his study of UFO phenomena and Alien abductions, according to a source requesting anonymity.

And members of the UFO community are calling it a modern-day "witch hunt."

Both the University and Dr. John E. Mack, the professor of psychiatry under scrutiny, would have preferred to keep the matter secret. But instead, news of the committee has been circulating amoung the UFO legal and academic communities as well as the press and the Internet.

Mack, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former chair of the department of psychiatry at the Medical School, became the center of attention and controversy last year upon publication of his bestselling book," "Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens."

The book, which suggests that alien abductions may be real, catapulted Mack--a psychiatrist at Cambridge Hospital--into the national spotlight and onto the talk show circuit.

The University could neither acknowledge nor refute the existence of the committee. The Harvard press office issued the following statement: "It is the policy of Harvard University to neither confirm nor deny information relating to personnel matters, including those regarding members of its faculty."

But The Crimson has learned from a reliablesource requesting anonymity that an investigationis indeed going on.

"By agreement of all parties concerned it wassupposed to be confidential," the source said inan interview last week. "It was leaked by a breachof that confidence. The committee is still goingand no final conclusions have been reached."

News of the Committee was likely leaked byMack's former lawyer Daniel P. Sheehan, who actsas legal counsel for the Christic Institute, aWashington public-interest law firm.

In an attempt to muster support for his formerclient, Sheehan sent letters to prominentindividuals in the UFO community, appealing fortheir support and testimony. In the letter,obtained by The Crimson, Sheehan provides excerptsfrom the committee's "Draft Report" along with hisown commentary regarding its objectives andmotives.

Sheehan quotes the draft report as saying,"There is, of course, a long history of sightingsof unidentifiable object in the sky. But theinterpretation that these are 'spaceships'controlled by extraterrestrial beings iscontroversial. When carefully investigated, suchsightings have been proven to be erroneousfraudulent or due to known natural or man-madephenomena."

Sheehan also quotes the Committee's draftreport as declaring that "Dr. Mack adds no newevidence on the subject" and that he provides"only unsubstantiated reports of UFOs as supportfor the stories of 'abduction.'"

Dr. John G. Miller, an emergency room physicianat the Kaiser Hospital in Anaheim, called thiscontention "absurd."

"Whatever the shortcomings of his methods, hehas approached this problem in a scientificmanner, i.e. he has spoken with the witnesses,sought evidence and tested hypotheses," Millersaid. "Additionally, his work certainly generated'new evidence' in this field in that he hasstimulated others, myself included, to think andpublish ideas and data."

In his letter, Sheehan writes that thecommittee cans any acknowledgement that patientstruly experienced alien encounters as"irresponsible."

He writes, "To communicate, in any waywhatsoever, to a person who has reported a 'closeencounter' with an Extraterrestrial life form thatthis experience might well have been 'real', TheHarvard faculty Committee 'FINDS', isprofessionally irresponsible on the part of anyacademic, scientific professional person."

In his letter, Sheehan contends that theinvestigation may even result in the revocation ofMack's tenure.

But according to Medical School press officerKeren R. McGinity, "Dr. Mack states thatrepresentations made about his involvement in aninquiry process are both unauthorized andinaccurate."

Roderick MacLeish, Jr., Mack's current legalcounsel, who refers to himself as "Dr. Mack's solelawyer," said in an interview last week thatSheehan was not authorized to send out the letter.

George Lamb, an associate of one of Mack'sbenefactors, said Sheehan's unauthorized behaviormay have caused the termination of his legalrelationship with Mack.

"I understand that Sheehan had spoken out ofturn and their company parted," Lamb said.

The source requesting anonymity also challengedthe reliability of Sheehan's statements andinterpretations. The source said, "the committeewas convened by Dean Tosteson as an ad hocfact-finding committee, not as part of adisciplinary or misconduct committee."

Yet despite claims the committee exists solelyfor purpose of "fact finding," a furor over thecommittee's existence still persists amongacademicians and ufologists--those who study UFOs.

"My guess is that this [fact finding] is notreally what is happening," said David Jacobs,associate professor of history at TempleUniversity. "Fact finding is a very neutral kindof phrase," said Jacobs, who teaches a coursecalled "UFOs and America Society."

The secret investigation raises questions aboutacademic freedom, the existence of UFOs and whatconstitutes legitimate research among Harvardfaculty.

Some interviewed have speculated that thecommittee was formed because the Medical schoolregarded Mack as an embarrassment while otherssaid faculty members may have questioned thevalidity of his research methodology.

"I think it was threatening for some of thepeople on the Medical School faculty to have oneof their own publishing this book, going on TV andtalking about this very weird phenomenon," Millersaid.

Questioning the credibility of faculty studyingunconventional subject is not unprecedented.Jacobs, who also studies UFOs and the abductionphenomenon, said, "Temple University considers meto be an embarrassment also."

"If I continue with I'm doing I will never bepromoted to full professor--ever, no matter howmany books I write or how many publications Imake," he said. "The academics are extremelyconservative when it comes to this kind of area."

According to Beverly A. Rubik, director of theCenter for Frontier Sciences at Temple University,"Whether you're a young assistant professor or atenured professor, if you ask unconventional, boldquestions, you're going to find great oppositionfrom the Church of science."

Sheehan's unauthorized and allegedly inaccuratemass mailing has caused quite a stir in the UFOcommunity, with respected researchers calling theproceeding a "which hunt."

Nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman, who hadreceived a letter from Sheehan, said "I considerit a vicious attack, not because I necessarilyendorse all of John's methodology."

Friedman, an international lecturer on ufology,continued, "But that isn't the question. Thenotion that [Mack] shouldn't study the area iswhat I consider a 'witch hunt.'"

Robert A. Baker, professor emeritus ofpsychology at the University of Kentucky, said, "Idon't think anyone is trying to shut him up buttrying to see if he has not lost touch withreality."

"The question is: has he done anything todamage the institution and what it stands for?That is the problem," Baker said. "it's Mack'sideas, which are crazy, which are connected withHarvard University, and Harvard University doesnot promote crazy ideas."

With all the controversy and confusionsurrounding the actual intentions of thecommittee, Robert Mitchell, a Board member for theorganization for paranormal Understanding andSupport, said "There's a lot of innuendo andhearsay going on, but nobody knows for sure."

"I don't think that this is the kind ofpublicity that Harvard would like to see gonational," Mitchell said. "I think possibly thatMack wanted to keep this very quiet and then itleaked out and then it got into the Internet andthen it snowballed."

The informed source affirmed the integrity andfairness of the proceedings. The source stated"Mack was asked to appear and the voluntarilycooperated."

While there is much theorizing as to thecommittee's motives and purpose, Miller said "I'djust like to see that the committee looks at thisvery seriously. I'd be very happy to have moregood minds works on this and see what they come upwith."

"Some days I believe that this is definitelyreal and sometimes I think that it's a bunch ofhogwash," Miller said. "I don't have any axe togrind--whether there are aliens or not. I wouldjust like to know what the truth is. We'll neverfind the truth until we look.

But The Crimson has learned from a reliablesource requesting anonymity that an investigationis indeed going on.

"By agreement of all parties concerned it wassupposed to be confidential," the source said inan interview last week. "It was leaked by a breachof that confidence. The committee is still goingand no final conclusions have been reached."

News of the Committee was likely leaked byMack's former lawyer Daniel P. Sheehan, who actsas legal counsel for the Christic Institute, aWashington public-interest law firm.

In an attempt to muster support for his formerclient, Sheehan sent letters to prominentindividuals in the UFO community, appealing fortheir support and testimony. In the letter,obtained by The Crimson, Sheehan provides excerptsfrom the committee's "Draft Report" along with hisown commentary regarding its objectives andmotives.

Sheehan quotes the draft report as saying,"There is, of course, a long history of sightingsof unidentifiable object in the sky. But theinterpretation that these are 'spaceships'controlled by extraterrestrial beings iscontroversial. When carefully investigated, suchsightings have been proven to be erroneousfraudulent or due to known natural or man-madephenomena."

Sheehan also quotes the Committee's draftreport as declaring that "Dr. Mack adds no newevidence on the subject" and that he provides"only unsubstantiated reports of UFOs as supportfor the stories of 'abduction.'"

Dr. John G. Miller, an emergency room physicianat the Kaiser Hospital in Anaheim, called thiscontention "absurd."

"Whatever the shortcomings of his methods, hehas approached this problem in a scientificmanner, i.e. he has spoken with the witnesses,sought evidence and tested hypotheses," Millersaid. "Additionally, his work certainly generated'new evidence' in this field in that he hasstimulated others, myself included, to think andpublish ideas and data."

In his letter, Sheehan writes that thecommittee cans any acknowledgement that patientstruly experienced alien encounters as"irresponsible."

He writes, "To communicate, in any waywhatsoever, to a person who has reported a 'closeencounter' with an Extraterrestrial life form thatthis experience might well have been 'real', TheHarvard faculty Committee 'FINDS', isprofessionally irresponsible on the part of anyacademic, scientific professional person."

In his letter, Sheehan contends that theinvestigation may even result in the revocation ofMack's tenure.

But according to Medical School press officerKeren R. McGinity, "Dr. Mack states thatrepresentations made about his involvement in aninquiry process are both unauthorized andinaccurate."

Roderick MacLeish, Jr., Mack's current legalcounsel, who refers to himself as "Dr. Mack's solelawyer," said in an interview last week thatSheehan was not authorized to send out the letter.

George Lamb, an associate of one of Mack'sbenefactors, said Sheehan's unauthorized behaviormay have caused the termination of his legalrelationship with Mack.

"I understand that Sheehan had spoken out ofturn and their company parted," Lamb said.

The source requesting anonymity also challengedthe reliability of Sheehan's statements andinterpretations. The source said, "the committeewas convened by Dean Tosteson as an ad hocfact-finding committee, not as part of adisciplinary or misconduct committee."

Yet despite claims the committee exists solelyfor purpose of "fact finding," a furor over thecommittee's existence still persists amongacademicians and ufologists--those who study UFOs.

"My guess is that this [fact finding] is notreally what is happening," said David Jacobs,associate professor of history at TempleUniversity. "Fact finding is a very neutral kindof phrase," said Jacobs, who teaches a coursecalled "UFOs and America Society."

The secret investigation raises questions aboutacademic freedom, the existence of UFOs and whatconstitutes legitimate research among Harvardfaculty.

Some interviewed have speculated that thecommittee was formed because the Medical schoolregarded Mack as an embarrassment while otherssaid faculty members may have questioned thevalidity of his research methodology.

"I think it was threatening for some of thepeople on the Medical School faculty to have oneof their own publishing this book, going on TV andtalking about this very weird phenomenon," Millersaid.

Questioning the credibility of faculty studyingunconventional subject is not unprecedented.Jacobs, who also studies UFOs and the abductionphenomenon, said, "Temple University considers meto be an embarrassment also."

"If I continue with I'm doing I will never bepromoted to full professor--ever, no matter howmany books I write or how many publications Imake," he said. "The academics are extremelyconservative when it comes to this kind of area."

According to Beverly A. Rubik, director of theCenter for Frontier Sciences at Temple University,"Whether you're a young assistant professor or atenured professor, if you ask unconventional, boldquestions, you're going to find great oppositionfrom the Church of science."

Sheehan's unauthorized and allegedly inaccuratemass mailing has caused quite a stir in the UFOcommunity, with respected researchers calling theproceeding a "which hunt."

Nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman, who hadreceived a letter from Sheehan, said "I considerit a vicious attack, not because I necessarilyendorse all of John's methodology."

Friedman, an international lecturer on ufology,continued, "But that isn't the question. Thenotion that [Mack] shouldn't study the area iswhat I consider a 'witch hunt.'"

Robert A. Baker, professor emeritus ofpsychology at the University of Kentucky, said, "Idon't think anyone is trying to shut him up buttrying to see if he has not lost touch withreality."

"The question is: has he done anything todamage the institution and what it stands for?That is the problem," Baker said. "it's Mack'sideas, which are crazy, which are connected withHarvard University, and Harvard University doesnot promote crazy ideas."

With all the controversy and confusionsurrounding the actual intentions of thecommittee, Robert Mitchell, a Board member for theorganization for paranormal Understanding andSupport, said "There's a lot of innuendo andhearsay going on, but nobody knows for sure."

"I don't think that this is the kind ofpublicity that Harvard would like to see gonational," Mitchell said. "I think possibly thatMack wanted to keep this very quiet and then itleaked out and then it got into the Internet andthen it snowballed."

The informed source affirmed the integrity andfairness of the proceedings. The source stated"Mack was asked to appear and the voluntarilycooperated."

While there is much theorizing as to thecommittee's motives and purpose, Miller said "I'djust like to see that the committee looks at thisvery seriously. I'd be very happy to have moregood minds works on this and see what they come upwith."

"Some days I believe that this is definitelyreal and sometimes I think that it's a bunch ofhogwash," Miller said. "I don't have any axe togrind--whether there are aliens or not. I wouldjust like to know what the truth is. We'll neverfind the truth until we look.

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