Last week I was in Boulder, attending first the annual ISSSEEM conference, and then the annual SSE conference. The former meeting was focused on subtle energies and energy medicine, the latter on scientific anomalies.
There is some overlap in the interests of these two societies because no one knows exactly what subtle energies are, except that they are associated with living systems in some important way, they underlie concepts like chi, prana, and kundalini, and they're used in therapies like acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and Johrei. Some people claim to feel these "energies" quite strongly, and as such they are anomalous since most instruments conventionally used to measure energies (like electromagnetic and electrostatic fields) don't detect anything.
I suppose like many scientists, before I experienced a flow of subtle energies (for want of a better term) during a couple of bodywork sessions, I was skeptical that such reports were anything more than hallucination or wishful thinking. Afterwards, I had no doubt that whatever it is, it is not hallucinatory and nor is it subtle.
One highlight of the ISSSEEM meeting for me was physicist Brian Greene's talk on quantum mechanics and string theory. Nothing he said was new, but he is an entertaining speaker and presented some basic concepts with clever animations. I was hoping he would talk about the spookier aspects of quantum theory, but he skillfully avoided any hint that consciousness is inextricably wound into quantum mechanics. When a questioner from the audience asked about the possible role of intention in quantum theory, to my surprise he denied any role at all. When I gave a presentation the next day at the same conference, I gently corrected his mistake.
I thought the highlight of the SSE meeting was a presentation by Paul Hellyer, former Canadian Minister of Defence. He stated in no uncertain terms that not only are UFOs real, physical craft, but that there are aliens among us. Other speakers, including Col. John Alexander, agreed that the preponderence of the evidence for UFOs is now overwhelming, but he questioned Hellyer's assertion about aliens.
Over the years I've read a fair bit about UFOs, and I've listened to credible people saying incredible things. I've been most influenced by speaking to Edgar Mitchell, Jacques Vallee, and John Alexander, and reading Richard Dolan's works. While I haven't seen a UFO myself, I am persuaded by these researchers that UFOs are physical things in the sky (and sometimes in the ocean), they respond to radar like real physical objects, they have been observed close-up by experienced pilots, sometimes by hundreds to thousands of witnesses on the ground, and they occasionally leave physical traces on the ground. And yet, they seem to be associated with consciousness in some ill-defined way, and at times their behavior suggests that they are not entirely physical.
All this presents a significant challenge to the everyday world portrayed by the nightly TV news, which rarely mentions UFOs, and when it does it's usually just ridiculed. As a result, the topic is very rarely discussed in scientific forums, which is a pity. Just as psi offers a challenge to prevailing theories about the mind-matter and mind-brain relationships, UFOs challenge our idea about what sort of reality we think we're living in.