UFO believers gather at symposium

Former professor touts evidence at yearly Aztec event

Durango Herald News/March 28, 2009

Aztec - Michael Salla dresses neatly. He wears crisp, white slacks with a simple white jacket worn over a crisp, purple collared shirt. He has a warm gaze, and his gray hair is combed nicely to one side - tinfoil hat conspicuously missing from his head.

The former political science professor at American University, who was in Aztec on Friday for the 12th annual Aztec UFO Symposium, isn't a stereotypical UFO theorist. Sitting straight-backed with his legs crossed, Salla takes a few seconds to consider each question and leans in when he begins his answers, in his smooth Australian accent.

"The popular image is that, for people who are interested in UFOs or extraterrestrials, it's like believing in Jesus or God - that it's somehow a matter of faith," he said. "But it's not. It's driven by evidence. It's driven by experience and a natural longing to learn about things that are mysterious."

Salla is the founder of the controversial "exopolitics" movement, which considers the possibility of alien encounters from a political perspective. He has a doctorate degree in political science from the University of Queensland in Australia and was considered in the late 1990s as working at the forefront of his former academic focus: conflict resolution.

He was asked to leave the faculty at American University after the publication of a Washington Post article that highlighted his work studying an alleged encounter in the 1950s between President Dwight Eisenhower and two aliens at a military base near Roswell, N.M.

Lately, he has spent his time being the voice of his movement, exopolitics, jetting between conferences and his Exopolitics Institute in Hawaii. The movement has a Durango chapter, run by Niara Isely, also a speaker at the Aztec conference.

Even though Salla draws ire for his view, he poses some questions: What country has the right to fire on a UFO? Can any one state speak for the human race?

"I'd like to get people to look at the public policy implications of the data," he said.

Brian Burke, a professor of psychology at Fort Lewis College, said he thinks there are often far more credible explanations for alien encounters, accounts of which, he said, have become increasingly common. He goes over various implanted memory experiments that have shown that not only are instances of false memory high, some people are more likely to get things wrong.

"Those who believe they are abductees may actually have more vulnerable and suggestible memory systems than other people, which may cast doubt on the veracity of their report in favor of an alternative explanation," he said.

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