Information icon.svg At All things in moderation, we are currently voting on restrictions on the use of LLMs (chatbots) in RationalWiki. Reminder: you need to have at least 75 edits and to have been registered for at least three months to be eligible to vote.

Philip J. Klass

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Philip Klass
This might be
Icon skepticism.svg
But we're not sure
Who's asking?

Philip Julian Klass (November 8, 1919–August 9, 2005) was a prominent American UFO skeptic (cranks dubbed him a pseudoskeptic) and editor of the magazine Aviation Week and Space Technology. He is credited with coining the term "avionics". He is most notable for having written several books debunking UFOs. He also offered a US$10,000 reward if certain conditions proving UFOs were met. It remained unclaimed at his death. In 1999, Skeptical Enquirer named him number five on their list of top skeptics of the 20th century.[1]

Thorn in the side of UFOlogy[edit]

In nearly 30 years of searching, investigating famous cases, I have yet to find one that cannot be explained in down-to-earth prosaic terms.
— Philip Klass, PBS "NOVA" interview

Klass was born Nov. 8, 1919 in Des Moines, Iowa. With a degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University, his first job was working on aviation electronics systems for General Electric during World War II. Klass went on to become the first avionics editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology, the premiere journal of the aviation industry.[1]

Perhaps because of his immersion in the reality-based world of aviation and science, Klass did not automatically give the benefit of the doubt to claims of flying saucers and alien abduction that began proliferating in pop culture of the late 1950s and early 60s. His first skeptical analysis and debunking was in response to a 1964 claim by a local Socorro, New Mexico sheriff of encountering a UFO. Klass investigated, and found that things like ball lightning, a prank by local college students, or a hoax designed to bring tourism to the economically depressed town, were much more likely explanations than an alien spacecraft.[2]

Klass spent nearly 40 years aggravating cranks, UFO advocates, and alien abduction kooks simply by offering rational, prosaic explanations for sensational claims and fanciful stories. Not afraid to call bullshit by its name, he wrote a number of books such as "UFO Abductions: a Dangerous Game" (1988) and "The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup" (1997) that contained scathing critiques of UFOlogy. At one point, disgruntled UFOlogists took to calling Klass a "disinformation agent", hoping that fans would buy into the conspiracy theory that Klass was a tool of the evil government employed to cover up the real truth of alien presence on Earth.[2]

Heard why the supposedly earth-shattering Majestic 12 documents were actually a bald-faced hoax?[3] Or why the sensational "facts" of the Roswell UFO crash were just a combination of wishful thinking, faulty memories, and publishing hype?[4] Or how Travis Walton's fantastic alien abduction story was completely bogus?[5] If you have, you can thank Philip Klass.

In 1999, the grateful astronomers and scientists of the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid (1983 RM2/7277) in his honor.[6]