Friday, December 29, 2017

The Debunkers That Time Forgot: Dr. Richard P. Youtz

Professor Richard P. Youtz, chairman of Barnard College's psychology department from 1946 to 1974.

In Richard H. Hall's introduction to "Historical Viewpoints" in the March-April 2004, Journal of UFO History, he wrote: "A regular feature will be viewpoints and opinions about UFOs offered up over the decades by all sorts of people. Some of the comments for astute, others sadly misguided, and some are by allegedly intelligent and educated people who should have known better than to shoot from the lip." The first sampling was led by the following: 
Under the headline "Saucers Explained" (Science News Letter, Apr. 30, 1960) Dr. Richard P. Youtz, a psychologist and Bernard College, New York City, it says that what witnesses are reporting as "flying saucers" are only "afterimages" resulting from having looked at a bright light source.
Dr. Youtz's work was based on years of study, and long before that 1960 paper, he'd been quoted in newspapers saying that 60% of reports of flying saucers were just optical afterimages.

The New York Barnard Bulletin Oct. 27, 1952
Barnard Bulletin, Nov. 5, 1956
And finally, a story on the presentation that formed the basis for "Saucers Explained."
Alton Evening Telegraph, May 2, 1960

A Rational Voice

Followers of Donald Keyhoe's claim that the flying saucers are real had little interest in hearing any science that did not support the extraterrestrial hypothesis for the origin of UFOs. Dr. Youtz passed in 1986, and received a nice obituary in the New York Times. Today, his work is remembered almost only by his former academy.

"Youtz's belief that the scientific method could be applied to the analysis of behavior guided much of what he did. No phenomenon seemed too far out to approach scientifically. He presented one paper in which he speculated that some reports of flying saucers might be due to visual afterimages. In another line of research, he spent three years studying the perception of colors through the skin. In the early 1960s, there were reports that scientists in the Soviet Union had demonstrated that some people were capable of dermato-optical perception. In careful experiments, Youtz demonstrated that the ability to detect colors was eliminated if the objects were covered by thick glass or if the skin temperature was below 24-degrees C. Furthermore, performance deteriorated if the colored objects were made of material that did not have good thermal conduction properties, such as wood or sponge. These experiments showed that about 10% of the population could discriminate colors by touching objects but that the basis for the discrimination was the thermal properties of objects. Youtz's was a rational voice in the sometimes wild discussion of dermato-optical sensitivity that was taking place."
The History of the Barnard College Psychology Department
Professor Youtz's flying saucer solution didn't catch on, but his work in "dermato-optical perception" seems to have been immortalized, inspiring DC Comics' Batman villain, the "Ten-Eyed Man," the man who could see with his fingertips.

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