No evidence of alien visits, says York prof

Former Canadian defence minister Paul Hellyer, 83, is calling for a public disclosure of alien technology obtained during alleged UFO crashes – such as the mysterious 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico – because he believes alien species can provide humanity with a viable alternative to fossil fuels, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 28. Hellyer will be discussing his views at the upcoming screening of a new UFO documentary called Fastwalkers, in Toronto on March 7.

Michael De Robertis, professor in the Department of Astronomy & Physics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and a member of the Ontario Skeptics Society for Critical Inquiry, said there is "little or no compelling evidence" that we have been visited by beings from another planet. "If (Hellyer) wants to broker some kind of communication, that would be great," he said. "But I think the probability that there is someone out there for him to make contact with is highly improbable."

But if aliens have indeed visited Earth, there is no doubt their technical knowledge could benefit humanity, De Robertis added. "To have travelled hundreds of trillions of kilometres, interstellar visitors would, at a minimum, require a civilization that is thousands – if not millions – of years ahead of our own. One would imagine they went through their own fossil fuel era and that they solved it and didn’t go through some kind of pollution holocaust. There is no doubt they would have different solutions, different fuels and different energy sources."

CCTV studies should be arm’s length, says York criminologist

Let us return to the subject of those closed-circuit television cameras soon to be installed by police, wrote Joe Fiorito in his column for the Toronto Star Feb. 28. I noted [in a previous column] that the cameras have had little impact on crime in Glasgow, while they seem to have had an effect on crime in Tokyo. James Sheptycki, a criminologist in York’s Faculty of Arts, wrote to set me straight.

"The reason why the data from Glasgow did not show a CCTV impact on crime rates is partly because the evaluation studies there were conducted by independent researchers, whereas the Japanese study was an in-house police evaluation.

"It is obvious that independent researchers are more able to deliver negative findings, if negative findings there be, than in-house researchers…If the Toronto Police Services Board wants to experiment with CCTV cameras, let them. But there should be an arm’s- length evaluation by criminologists who are independent of the police service, and who are properly qualified evaluation researchers."

For want of a father

According to Anne-Marie Ambert, a retired York University sociology professor, and lead author of a report for the Vanier Institute of the Family on youth behavioural problems since 1970, the situation is dire. On the surface, the report seems objective, wrote columnist Barbara Kay in the National Post Feb. 28. A closer reading, however, reveals a disconcerting undercurrent of gender bias as well as a significant professional oversight.

She notes that children growing up "with a lone mother or lone father" are "at greater risk for behavioural and emotional problems," implying the risk is parentally gender-neutral. In fact, lone parents are virtually all mothers, which means it is mainly children without fathers who are at risk.

Fatherlessness in general, now recognized by sociologists and front-line workers with at-risk youth to be a major predictor of exactly the aggression in boys and promiscuity in girls that lead to Ambert’s "severe" behaviours, is nowhere identified in the report as a critical factor in creating problem children.

The report’s subtle gender bias and its failure to acknowledge the elephant in this sociological room calls the utility of the whole report into question. Despite all its scholarly ruffles and bows, I am afraid I must give this report a failing grade.