James McGaha is a retired USAF pilot, astronomer and director of the Grasslands Observatory. He held a TOP SECRET compartmented security clearance and was involved in numerous classified operations including operations in the so-called “Area 51.” His current work includes astrometry and photometry of asteroids and supernovae. He has discovered 15 Asteroids and 52 Comets and has over 1700 M.P.E.C. publications on Near Earth Asteroids. He is the winner of the 2002 Shoemaker NEO Grant. He has appeared widely in the media, having actively promoted science and debunked pseudoscience for over 35 years, focusing on belief in UFOs and astrology. He is the founder and chairman of the Tucson Skeptics and a Scientific Consultant to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
In this interview with D.J. Grothe, James McGaha talks about his astronomer- beginnings as a skeptic of UFOs, and the limitations of the term “UFO.” He answers how open-minded he is about the possibility that extraterrestrial beings are visiting the earth today. He talks about the origins of UFO belief with the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, along with Fate, a magazine promoting paranormal belief. He talks about the history of Project Bluebook and the Condon Report. He details qualities of human perception that may explain UFO accounts, and explores some of the reasons people may adhere to UFO belief. He explains the famous Phoenix Lights sightings. He explores how to respond to those who have unshakable belief in unsupportable UFO claims. He compares qualities of contemporary UFO mythology with certain aspects of religious belief, including views of apocalypticism and salvation. And he talks about the dangers that belief in UFOs pose to a civil society.