Robert Sheaffer at home January 2012
|Occupation||Freelance writer and investigator|
|Alma mater||Northwestern University|
|Notable works||UFO Sightings: The Evidence; Psychic Vibrations: Skeptical Giggles from the Skeptical Inquirer|
Robert Sheaffer (born 1949) is an American freelance writer and skeptic. He is an investigator of unidentified flying objects, having researched many sightings and written critiques of the hypothesis that UFOs are alien spacecraft. In addition to UFOs, his writings cover topics such as Christianity, academic feminism, the scientific theory of evolution, and creationism. He is the author of five books.
Sheaffer writes for Skeptical Inquirer (where he contributes the regular "Psychic Vibrations" column), Fate Magazine, and Spaceflight. He was a founding member (with Philip J. Klass and James Oberg) of the UFO Subcommittee of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and is a fellow of that organization. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and a member of Mensa.
On July 7, 2010 a flight crew preparing to land in Hangzhou's Xiaoshan Airport in China reported an UFO. As a precaution 18 flights were "delayed or redirected". Sheaffer's article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine's Nov/Dec 2010 issue is a discussion of how photographs and videos are used. "Reporters want an exciting story, and UFOlogists want to win converts. They will typically grab onto any photo or video that is supposed to represent the object and report as fact practically any claim that is made regardless of its source or veracity." In the case of the Xiaoshan Airport, most of the footage shown was actually taken a year previous to the July 2010 incident.
Ufologist Kevin D. Randle was interviewed by Sheaffer for Skeptical Inquirer magazine's January/February 2011 issue: looking to "explore their points of agreement and disagreement, finding that Randle gives more weight to 'eyewitness testimony' than skeptics typically do."
Interviewed by the Toronto Sun newspaper December 20, 2010, Sheaffer is asked by columnist Thane Burnett to debate UFO enthusiast Chris Rutkowski to "debate the known realities". When asked "Is it reasonable to conclude a UFO – something that was beyond our comprehension and understanding – has ever crashed on Earth?" Sheaffer relies "No, because no one has ever produced any proof of any extraterrestrial technology being retrieved, despite many claims. Talk is cheap, show us the evidence."
On the August 4, 2012 episode of the Skeptic Zone podcast, Sheaffer was interviewed by Richard Saunders. When asked about the UFO phenomenon, Sheaffer said, "The Fortean researcher Hilary Evans has said that the UFO mythos looked at in its fullness is the richest set of contemporary myth when you consider all that has come from it.... The Men in Black, saucer crashes, Roswell, aliens, alien abductions, alien hybrids, it just goes on and on from there. It's not just something narrow like Bigfoot.... UFOs have evolved into this enormous richness as a social phenomenon." He also discussed the fallacy of the trained observer. "Pilots, surprisingly, make relatively poor observers, when they're hit with some surprise, unusual stimulus. Their thought is not, 'Gee let me analyze what that thing is". Their thought is, 'I'm going to collide with that thing, I'd better go into a bank,' etc."
On January 10, 2014, a series called Close Encounters debuted on the Discovery Canada channel. The episode recounted a UFO incident that happened at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana on March 24, 1967. As Shearer summarizes it on his blog, "A bright, glowing orange UFO is allegedly seen over the base by security men, and then the Oscar Flight missiles were said to start going off-line, one by one." Sheaffer's investigation concluded that what the base security men probably saw was the planet Mars. "Whenever witnesses report a bright object in the sky that is red or orange, the first thing to check is whether Mars might have been the culprit.... Mars was only about 3 weeks away from its opposition of April 15, 1967, when it would be directly opposite the sun, and at its maximum brightness" As for the base's missiles going off-line, Sheaffer could find no evidence or paper trail to support that, only the claim of (then) Air Force Lieutenant Robert Salas. Noted UFO researcher Robert Hastings responded to Sheaffer's investigation by dismissing the possibility that the glowing object was Mars. Former SAC missile crew commander Tim Hebert goes further than Sheaffer, stating on his blog "At this point in time there is no supporting documentation or statements from security personnel corroborating the claims for what, if anything, was observed out in the field."
In an interview by Karen Stollznow on Point of Inquiry for May 16, 2011, Sheaffer was asked, "Have any conspiracy theories ever turned out to be correct, or is a 'true conspiracy theory' really something else?" He replied, "Conspiracies occur all the time. Organized crime is a conspiracy... there was a conspiracy to kill President Lincoln.... Real conspiracies do exist but not grand conspiracies [in which] The Masons are planning this, or there's always some shadowy group that you can't really point to or say who's involved."
Sheaffer is skeptical of global climate change, writing in 2008 that, "when a prominent theory is opposed by scientists of the caliber of Richard Lindzen of MIT, Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin, Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study, and many others, it is disingenuous to speak of a 'consensus.'" And concludes, "given that unknown factors have caused previous climate changes, how can we be certain that these same unknown factors are not active today?"
Shearer has been an outspoken critic of contemporary feminism since the late 1980s. On his debunker blog, he wrote, "The feminist movement as we have come to know it in recent decades is fundamentally a 'con.' It is as filled with falsehood, inaccuracy, and foolishness as astrology or parapsychology. As it is considered treasonous to criticise a sister feminist, no standards of accuracy or honesty are ever enforced. Hyperbole and deceit thus become the formula for success, "peer review" playing no role in reining in misinformation. Any would-be feminist who raises scholarly objections to the rampant misinformation (Christina Hoff Sommers, Camille Paglia, Wendy McElroy, Elaine Showalter, Erin Pizzey, Elizabeth Loftus, etc.) is branded an 'enemy of women' and is drummed out of the movement." His article, "Feminism, the Noble Lie" was published in the Spring 1995 issue of Free Inquiry Magazine. In it, he criticizes feminist crusades against "satanic cults", and the use of "repressed memories" to uncover supposed "forgotten incest".
In his book, Resentment Against Achievement: Understanding The Assault Upon Ability, Sheaffer describes two systems of morality, the pride of achievement, and the resentment sometimes felt by those who have not achieved toward those who have. "Sheaffer predicts that a society which truly believes that failure is blessed will not long prevail on this earth."
Sheaffer is a member of Mensa International, having been introduced to it by Robert Steiner (1934-2013, fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, president of the Society of American Magicians from 1988 to 1989).
- Sheaffer, Robert (1980). The UFO Verdict: Examining the Evidence. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-338-2.
- Sheaffer, Robert (1988). Resentment Against Achievement: Understanding The Assault Upon Ability. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-447-8.
- Sheaffer, Robert (1998). UFO Sightings: The Evidence. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-213-7.
- Sheaffer, Robert (1991). The Making of the Messiah: Christianity and Resentment. Buffalo, N.Y: Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-691-8.
- Sheaffer, Robert (2011). Psychic Vibrations: Skeptical Giggles from the Skeptical Inquirer. Create Space. ISBN 1-4636-0157-3.
- CSI Fellows and Staff http://www.csicop.org/about/csi_fellows_and_staff/ retrieved 2014-10-12
- James Barron, "Looking Backward and Forward," The New York Times January 1, 1993. Retrieved 2014-10-12 from http://www.nytimes.com/1993/01/01/nyregion/looking-backward-and-forward.html
- "Predictions for a Lousy Year Ahead," San Jose Mercury News January 1, 1989. Retrieved 2009-07-24 from http://nl.newsbank.com/nl-search/we/Archives?p_product=SJ&s_site=mercurynews&p_multi=SJ&p_theme=realcities&p_action=search&p_maxdocs=200&p_topdoc=1&p_text_direct-0=0EB72F23321B6828&p_field_direct-0=document_id&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&s_trackval=GooglePM
- "SKEPTIC DOUBTS SAUCERS FLY. - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 2015-04-28.
- Sheaffer, Robert (November 2010). "Hovering UFO Closes Chinese Airport". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 34 (5): 27–29.
- Randle, Kevin (January 2011). "UFOdom's Most Prolific Author? A Conversation with Kevin Randle". Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 35 (1): 9–13.
- Sheaffer, Robert (1991). The Making of the Messiah: Christianity and Resentment. Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879756918. Retrieved 2015-04-28.
- Burnett, Thane (November 1, 2010). "The truth about UFOs?". THE TORONTO SUN. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
- Robert, Sheaffer. "Discovery Canada's "Close Encounters": Mars Mangles Missiles?". Bad UFOs. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Hebert, Tim. "Robert Hastings Responds to Robert Sheaffer's UFO vs Mars...or something like that". Did it Really Happen?. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Stollznow, Karen. "Robert Sheaffer - It's a Conspiracy". Point of Inquiry. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
- Sheaffer, Robert. "Why I am Skeptical of Claims About "Global Warming"". Debunker. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
- Sheaffer, Robert. "Combatting Feminist Ms-Information". Debunker. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
- Sheaffer, Robert. "Feminism, the Noble Lie". Debunker. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- "WORKSHOP 4B: Preserving Skeptic History". Lanyard. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- "UFO Claims". Lanyard. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- "UFOs: The Space-Age Mythology". Lanyard. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- "Animal Mutilations, Star Maps, UFOs and Television". Lanyard. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
- Sheaffer, Robert (April 1, 1988). Resentment Against Achievement. Prometheus Books. ISBN 9780879754471.
- Sheaffer, Robert. "Robert Sheaffer's Page of Singing and Opera". Debunker. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
- "Episode 217 – Robert Sheaffer Debunks UFO Sightings". Strange Frequencies Radio.
- Vaughn, Michael J. (April 21, 1999). "Very Verdi". April 14–21, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz. Metro Publishing Inc as Metro Santa Cruz.
- Creitman, Keith (April 14, 2002). "Opera hits Broadway!". San Mateo County Times. Retrieved April 27, 2015 – via Jeffrey Katz.