People tend to believe in a whole host of things because it brings them some sort of sense of identity or comfort. For example, you might believe in white supremacy because you're Caucasian. You might believe the British are best, because you were born, raised and live in London. You believe in ghosts because that's evidence that there's a 'life' after death. You believe in God (or the gods) because that gives your life a meaningful purpose. You believe in astrology because you know what's in store for you and can make your plans accordingly. You believe in the positive curing powers of alternative medicine when you're diagnosed with a terminal illness and given just months to live.
But what does believe in aliens give you? - At best, absolutely nothing positive. Aliens here and now don't really effect your world view those set of beliefs or faiths that direct you in your every day-to-day affairs. There's nothing to be psychologically or emotionally gained from belief that little grey men are walking amongst us, maybe abducting us, unlike say your belief that you had better get your bills paid on time. Now that's important!
On the other hand, at worst, collectively there's a case for not believing in aliens if aliens, then humans aren't the Big Cheese of the cosmos. If you believe in aliens you lower your own status (as well as the status of humanity as kingpins of the universe).
No one is born believing that ET has established an existence here, so that belief has got to have been acquired based on some sort of evidence.Â
Public opinion polls from the early to mid 1950's onwards have shown that a reasonable minority of the public seriously believe that aliens have been and/or are here now. That this is the case despite all the denial that come from the scientific community and other officialdom (the government and the military) is not in any way disputed. It's not usually a matter of "I want to believe" like Fox Mulder of "The X-Files" as rather 'I do believe'. Why such belief for such a lengthy period of time? There's not to be something suggestive that in this case officialdom is wrong by intentional design or by incompetence.
UFOs vs. evidence for the ETH there is no absolute smoking gun - yet. I'd be the first to acknowledge that. I'd suggest however that this is a case of where there's smoke, there's smoke. The fire has yet to be seen through the smoke. There however has got to be something suggestive about the nature of that smoke to drive lots of people, even some quite intelligent people, to accept the possibility of the UFO ETH. I mean the idea just didn't pop out of the ether out of thin air. Something very suggestive is driving it. Yet, as noted, there has been no smoking gun' proof.
No UFO has crashed in Central Park, NYC an event which couldn't be concealed or covered-up.
No ancient tomb or grave site has yielded or contained the remains of an obviously extraterrestrial entity.
No president or prime minister or equivalent has ever announced to the world that their country had alien technology in their possession.
No Little Green Man (LGM) has landed on the White House lawn and said in traditional fashion "Take me to your leader".
No exotic metallic alloys have ever been found incorporated in ancient structures like the Egyptian or the Mesoamerican pyramids.
ET can't telephone home because no mobile phones have been found by archaeologists on their digs and put on display in any museum's ancient history exhibits.
So belief in ET being here must stem not from one biggie piece of smoking gun evidence but from lots and lots and lots of little clues. That's much like whodunit murder mysteries. The guilty party is revealed at the end by someone piecing together a lot of small clues that, when put together, when everything falls into place, finally point the finger at the murderer.
We probably innately realise they (ET) should be here there's nothing to prevent that from being the case, and lord knows that probability has been reinforced again, and again, and again in sci-fi books, short stories, movies and TV episodes, as well as documentaries of the written or visual kind. But just because they could be here, or should be here, doesn't translate immediately into belief that they are here. So, why do we believe (well many of us anyway) that that's the case?
Well for starters there are personal experiences your own UFO sighting(s) or abduction(s). However, relatively few of us actually have such a personal interaction or close encounter, and in any event personal experiences are well, personal. But if you had one (or more), well a common phrase is "I know what I saw". Therefore, I believe.
More likely as not it's the sum total of all the eyewitnesses testimony of others, over six decades worth, worldwide, the sort that is commonplace not only in our daily conversations with others ("I saw Jane Doe and Joe Blow together at lunch last week") but in legal proceedings in courtrooms though apparently not allowable in the courtroom of science which demands a body on the slab in the lab.
For eyewitnesses to be convincing, they need to be credible observers, so we're not talking here about alcoholic bums lying in the gutter; elementary school dropouts who couldn't tell the difference between astrology and astronomy if their life depended on it; New Age hippies zonked out on the latest designer or party drug; and those, who through no fault of their own are mentally disabled in one way or another.
No, what the great unwashed know of credible UFO sightings come from pilots (military and civilian); astronauts, police officers, professionals like health professionals and medical doctors, lawyers, engineers and yes, even scientists; politicians (okay, maybe not pollies who can't even lie straight in bed); as well as the average citizen whose word and credibility wouldn't be under any strain under any other set of circumstance. Even used car salesmen and real estate agents usually qualify as credible observers, though most of all tend to be those people who spend a lot of time outdoors/outside and thus are quite aware or familiar with the sky and associated optical and atmospheric phenomena.
Now if each and every eyewitness to a UFO event were a lone witness, that would or should ring alarm bells and delight the sceptics. Of course that's not even remotely the case. Not only do you often get a group of witnesses, but often two or more eyewitnesses in two or more separately placed locations independent verification of events by multi-witnesses from multi-sites.
There's another form of independent verification. The presence of physical evidence is often, not usually, but often, left behind. UFOs can and do have an impact on the environment. If UFOs are solid objects and some come close to ground level and even land, you'd expect broken tree branches perhaps and ground traces. That box is ticked. You'd expect UFOs, if they can be seen, to be photographed (still pictures) and filmed (motion pictures), evidence even more valuable in the pre CGI and Photoshop era. If UFOs don't cloak all the time, you'd expect some radar cases that's another box ticked. There have been documented cases of people suffering ill effects after a UFO close encounter, sometimes extreme effects akin to radiation exposure. Electromagnetic (EM) effects, like automobile engines cutting out when in the near vicinity of a UFO have been documented more often than is necessary to establish the reality and credibility of the phenomenon.Ã‚Â
What becomes of all those UFO eyewitness reports (sometimes backed up by physical evidence)? Well those qualified to do so, scientists, military personnel (because UFOs were once a national security issue) and others so qualified try to come up with a prosaic answer. They don't come up with an acceptable answer in all the cases. So then there are the UFO unknowns Ã¢Â€Â“ the actual hardcore, bona-fide unidentified flying objects. Even the most hardened of UFO sceptics acknowledges that between 5% and 10% of UFO reports turn into hardcore unidentified sightings. When translated over six plus decades, worldwide, that's one hell of a lot of mysterious residue one has to come to terms with. Why science and scientists, presumably charged with the responsibility of exploring the unknown and figuring out how things work, choose to ignore this massive pile of hardcore unknowns is quite beyond me.Ã‚Â I mean if each and every UFO report that came in was quickly explained away, well everyone should and probably would be sceptical when yet another report hit the fan. But that's not the case.
The fact, as noted above, what most sceptics readily acknowledge, is that between 5 and 10 percent of all reported UFO incidents remain unidentified after investigation by those qualified to do so. This fact apparently excites the scientific, astrobiology, and SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) communities not one jot. But, if SETI received out of all radio signals, 5% to 10% unexplained radio signals, ("WOW" signals), that of course would set the SETI community abuzz.
In a similar vein, if 5 to 10 percent of particle interactions were unexplainable by the current standard model of particle physics, that would set the physics community abuzz without question.
If the speed of light varied ever so slightly 5% to 10% of the times it were measured, the special relativity community would be agog, and extremely interested.
If 5 to 10 percent of galaxies showed a discrepancy between their red-shifts and their distances, that would set the cosmology community abuzz.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â
So, why the big scientific yawn over the apparently bona fide UFO's unidentified percentage? Perhaps it might take sociologists who study the sociology of science to pin that one down. There's a mystery just begging for serious attention here that has the potential for massive ramifications, not just scientific ones.
Now the hardcore unknowns aren't a possible this' or a probable that' or maybe yet some other thing(s) that acquaint yet again to something in terms of a prosaic explanation. The experts haven't a clue what these 5% to 10% of UFOs are.
So, faced with these hardcore bona fide unknowns, the public focuses on the ETH. That's understandable as how many other possible explanations for the hardcore can there be?
Okay, maybe it's time travellers from our future as one alternative. But then hardcore UFO unknowns aren't clustered around significant historical events that would be must sees the bread-and-butter of that industry to tourists and historians from our future.
An early UFO ETH theory was that UFOs were actual living organisms who lived in outer space but now and again would dip into our atmosphere. No biologist could actually explain how such creatures could survive, far less thrive, in the harsh conditions of outer space.
Some suggest that the hardcore represent some sort of totally new natural phenomena, except there's no even theoretical underpinning for new natural phenomena, and after six decades, well that's a total failure to come to terms with an easy way out of the hardcore mess. However, natural phenomena wouldn't exhibit intelligent behaviour in any event, which the hardcore UFOs do. That's why they often tend to be the hardcore.
Now one might argue that if nine out of ten UFO reports turn out to be prosaic, then the final tenth one will to. That point of view (POV) is seemingly logical, but really illogical. If your footie team wins nine grand finals on the trot, well that's no reason another team won't win the next one. Toss heads nine times in a row the tenth toss is still 50/50, not 100% in favour of heads. Nine out of ten of anything tells you zip about the tenth occurrence.
The mention of eyewitness testimony of course brings to the fore visual images. For visual images to really be effective, they have got to be captured in some form or other. Still photographs and motion pictures come to mind here. There are of course a fair few photographs; alas fewer motion pictures of UFOs no bona fide examples of actual LGM (the "G" could stand for "Gray") - are present and accounted for. However, films and photographs and fakery are too often associated. But even real motion pictures of lights in the sky', albeit unidentified lights in the sky' don't have quite the same visual impact as some of those from our historical past Ã¢Â€Â“ not film, but something more durable. It's a lot harder to explain away images from ancient historyÂ images often carved out of stone or carved into stone.
For example, there are the famous statues on Easter Island. Well, the representations are human, but not quite human enough. If they are a representation of ancestor worship (as is commonly cited) then either the ancestors were very strange or else the stone masons were rather poor carvers, or they were one of the first to have invented abstract art. There's something screwy somewhere in attributing the Easter Island statues as representing a strictly human form. If not strictly human, what's the alternative?
You have some of the ancient Egyptian gods' with jackal and falcon heads how many humans do you see down at your local shopping mall with animal heads?
The Nazca Lines are world famous. They basically are etchings (representing various animals and other objects) made in the dry desert plains in Southern Peru that, much like crop circles, can only be really appreciated from the air. In fact they were only discovered in the 1930's from aircraft flying overhead. Â There's no doubt humans constructed the lines, which took a lot of time, effort and energy, but to what purpose? Certainly they were not runways for flying saucers and astronomical alignments and associated explanations fail too. Since they were clearly meant to be seen from the air and since we're talking about their construction some 400 to 650 years AD sort of our pre-flight era then the most logical explanation is that they were art works for the sky gods to see and appreciate.
Tassili n'Ajjer is located in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria. It's famous for its prehistoric art rock paintings, many of which are really, really weird. One archaeologist dubbed one such art work the Great Martian God'. Humans drew the various images of well what exactly? Many of the images certainly don't depict anything terrestrial that's for sure. Just plug in the term Tassili' into Google Images for examples, and decide for yourself.
Visoki DeÃ„Âani is a major Serbian Orthodox Christian monastery located in Kosovo. Within are various murals. On the "The Crucifixion" fresco, painted in 1350, objects similar to UFOs can be found. They represent two comets that look like space ships, with two men inside of them, and are often cited by those interested in ancient astronauts'. The images are certainly striking. You have to decide for yourself if these images are representing really real ancient astronauts' aerial craft.
Cylinder Seals date from about 3500 BC in Mesopotamia and surrounding regions. They tell picture stories' and were engraved on cylinders that could be rolled onto a flat surface like wet clay. The interesting bit is that not only are some images clearly mythological, showing dragons and various gods, but some images are clearly astronomical. Celestial objects abound. No less a scientist than the late Dr. Carl Sagan, is on record (in his co-authored book "Intelligent Life in the Universe") as noting that some cylinder seals clearly show various extra-solar planetary systems, often in association with specific deities.
There are many, many ancient figurines or statues showing beings something less than what we'd call human'. Of the lot, I personally found some of the most striking to be male and female clay figurines dating from the archaeological period called the Obed time or Obed horizon in Mesopotamia, roughly fourth millennium BC, with insect-like heads or at least eyes. In fact the eyes are very striking, and certainly representing nothing terrestrial they remind me of the modern depiction of the eyes of the UFO-related greys.
Speaking of which, there was that immense psychological subconscious reaction to the face of the 'Grey' on the cover of Whitley Strieber's book "Communion".
The Piri Reis Map is another well known case of something that really shouldn't be, but is. Piri Reis was a Turkish admiral and cartographer who strutted his stuff in the early 1500's. The famous map in question shows in considerable detail the coastlines of the Americas, greater detail than exploration of that era would have been possible, plus the opposite side of the Atlantic (which, okay, was pretty well known), but most impressive, parts of coastal Antarctica, a continent which hadn't yet been discovered (though highly speculated about). However, in fairness, there are enough errors that sceptics can easily dismiss this as evidence ofancient astronauts' close, but no cigar.
Then there's the popular literature.Â There was the immense popularity of Erich Von Daniken's ancient astronaut books they really rang quite a responsive chord around the world. UFO books tend to sell well too, for example, as noted above Whitley Strieber's "Communion" and sequels; also Budd Hopkins "Missing Time" and later works. For people to shell out their hard earned bucks for books that are on the fringe of science and acceptability well, there's got to be some sort of responsive chord driving this.
In conclusion, I want to believe? Indeed I do believe that is!
Science librarian; retired.