Carl Sagan popularized the maxim that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” This advice should not be optional for policy makers. In today’s world of misinformation, conspiracy driven decision-making andsensationalist-dominated governance, our capacity for rational, evidence-based critical thinking is eroding, with deleterious consequences for our ability to effectively deal with multiplying challenges of ever increasing complexity.
As director of the Department of Defense’s All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), charged by Congress in 2022 to help bring science-based clarity and resolution to the long-standing mystery surrounding credible observations of unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAP), also known as UFOs, I experienced this erosion up close and personal. And it was one factor in my decision to step down from my position last December. After painstakingly assembling a team of highly talented and motivated personnel and working with them to develop a rational, systematic and science-based strategy to investigate these phenomena, our efforts were ultimately overwhelmed by sensational but unsupported claims that ignored contradictory evidence yet captured the attention of policy makers and the public, driving legislative battles and dominating the public narrative.
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