Arguments Against The UFO ETH And Why They Fail: Part One

Arguments Against The UFO ETH And Why They Fail: Part One

Whether you're a UFO ETH (extraterrestrial hypothesis) supporter, a UFO ETH debunker, or you don't give a damn either way about the UFO ETH at all (so then why are you reading this?), you'd be aware that overall the professional scientific community, including for some odd reason SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) scientists – the very clan who profess an intense interest in ETI – pooh-pooh the very notion of the UFO ETH.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

That might have historical roots however because from the get-go (circa 1947), UFOs (initially called ‘flying discs' or ‘flying saucers') were not viewed as a scientific issue or problem but rather one of national security – after all, unknown aerial objects were being tracked on radar and observed by credible witnesses including pilots and especially military pilots, invading the sovereign airspace of nations, and I do mean nations from around the world, not just the United States. This era was after all par of the beginnings of the Cold War, so unknown aerial objects would naturally be of intense concern to the governments of not only the superpowers but, in the era of this new nuclear weapons age, to all nations.

 

Though in the early days of the then termed ‘flying discs' era, national security was the issue. To avoid overreaction on the part of the public (‘the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!), this being just a few years after the turmoil of WW II, the flying disc issue had to be downplayed. Softly, softly and the less said about the Russians the better – flying discs had to be, in public admissions anyway, hoaxes, hallucinations, misidentifications, anything but the Russians or Chinese (or in Russia and China anything but the Yanks).

 

Ultimately nobody ever really had to worry about the Russians, Chinese or Americans (or any other terrestrial nation for that matter). But that wasn't immediately apparent.

 

By the time the flying discs were becoming more obviously a scientific issue as official public and unofficial secret investigations started eliminating terrestrial explanations of the artificial kind (unknown but highly advanced and potentially secret Russian, Chinese, American, etc. aircraft), well, by then the subject was well and truly a part of the military complex and intelligence gathering agencies and not just in the USA, though in the USA one not only had the acknowledged U.S. Air Force flying disc investigation, but also the unacknowledged participation of the NSA (National Security Agency), FBI and CIA (as later Freedom of Information suits uncovered). The scientific community was pretty much left out in the cold. Your average Ivory Tower academics don't normally hold top secret security clearances nor are they knowledgeable about foreign military technology capabilities.

 

So by the time it became clear and publicly acknowledged that UFOs weren't a national security issue, well over two decades had passed, and since by then it was all a non-issue (the only issue that counted being national security), no wonder scientists (with few exceptions) didn't take up the UFO baton as the military and intelligence organizations bowed out – at least they bowed out publicly, but behind the scenes, well that's another story. While publicly and officially stating that UFOs have proved to be of no national security concern, prudence dictates you keep a behind-the-scenes; an unofficial eye on developments; on cases, on things – just in case. "Remember Pearl Harbor" - You don't want to be caught off-guard again!

 

But the public never did acknowledge the flying discs, or by now termed UFOs were a non-issue – it never wavered in its fascination for UFOs, especially once it became obvious UFOs weren't secret weapons of a terrestrial foreign power. By process of elimination, if UFOs had nothing to do with a terrestrial source, therefore, an extraterrestrial power must lie at the bottom of things – the UFO ETH was born and matured.

 

To recap, the UFO ETH only came to the fore when the UFO TH (terrestrial hypothesis) was found wanting by official military and other national security agencies. The scientific community was in the dark since UFOs weren't associated with being a scientific issue, but the great unwashed did see the issue as a science issue and the UFO ETH obviously rang a responsive chord. Why? Well they (the public) had been preconditioned into accepting the notion that extraterrestrial life was not only possible but here, and here and now.

 

Extraterrestrials (usually nasty) in novels and short stories and films and TV shows were part and parcel of the culture of the times, often because it was easy for writers and Hollywood to substitute an alien menace for the red menace of communism. The aliens invaded, but that was just a roundabout way of saying the Commies were going to invade if we didn't ‘watch the skies'. Aliens, as substitutes, were also popular in the pulps before WW II, again as stand-ins for representing nasty foreign powers. Aliens were also used as a whipping boy to make social commentaries. Aliens were well established in the public consciousness.  

 

So, left out in the cold by the official establishment, scientists hadn't a real clue about the nature of UFOs any more than the military or public did, but at least the military's jurisdiction – national security – had been eliminated as a possibility, so they now washed their hands of the problem (or so it seemed). The public however wanted answers; the military couldn't provide them other than UFOs posed no threat to national security, so the public turned to the scientists for answers. But the scientists were caught on the hop. All they knew apart from the now non-existent national security issue was that there was not only flying discs being identified as just hoaxes, hallucinations, or misidentifications (for public consumption as reassurance that the flying discs weren't Russian, etc.) but that there was this fringe element towards UFOs – the contactees and flying saucer cults which were loonier than just about anything going.

 

The scientists weren't really aware that the cultists and contactees and alleged (for public consumption) hoaxes, hallucinations, and misidentifications were the chaff and the haystack. They didn't know that there was wheat and a needle to be dealt with. So, the wishes of the great unwashed be damned, scientists weren't going to dirty their lab coats by entering murky waters dealing with the only UFO residue they knew of – cultists and contactees and hoaxes and misidentifications and hallucinations. So, under pressure, their only possible response was a quick with respect to the UFO ETH "it can't be therefore it isn't – now excuse me for I got better things to do that will better enhance my career prospects". But of course they did have to come up with specific objections to the UFO ETH – The sweeping and generalist "It can't be therefore it isn't" wouldn't sit all that well with the great unwashed. So, let's go onto the specific objections, and examine why they are in turn, objectionable.

 

OBJECTION: We are the proverbial IT – there are no other advanced extraterrestrial civilizations, therefore UFOs can not have anything to with extraterrestrial intelligence.

 

ANSWER: With 13.7 billion years to play with since the origin of our Universe (the Big Bang event); with billions of stars in our own galaxy alone; with billions of galaxies scattered throughout the cosmos each with billions of stars therein, with extra-solar planets being discovered around many of those stars in our own galaxy (and by implication other galaxies as well); with the chemical elements required for life commonplace throughout the Universe; with the principles of Darwinian evolution given as universal, what odds that we are really the proverbial IT?

 

Of course when it comes down to the UFO ETH it's only our galaxy we need concern ourselves with. Even I acknowledge that though extraterrestrial civilizations exist in other galaxies, travel times between galaxies quickly exceed logical transit times available. Interstellar travel however is quite another matter. Still, our own galaxy gives us some ten billion years to play around with; billions of stars and no doubt planets, those abundant chemical elements, and Darwinian principles. Again, it would be a very brave soul to suggest again those sorts of statistics that we are, even in our own galaxy, the proverbial IT; not just the new kid on the block, but the first and only kid on the block.

 

Not even a UFO ETH skeptic SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) scientist of my acquaintance would argue we're the proverbial IT – it would make a mockery of his own chosen career path.

 

OBJECTION: Extraterrestrials exist; extraterrestrial intelligence doesn't. No alien intelligence means no-go to the UFO ETH.

 

ANSWER: Again, not even respectable SETI scientists would propose this an objection to the UFO ETH since that would undercut their own work. Clearly the evolution of intelligence, albeit being just one of many competing traits for biological survival of the fittest, does have ultimate survival value. The Earth provides a practical example of that as many species can be attributed a reasonable degree of an ability to figure things out, and that it is possible to evolve extremely high levels of intelligence is witnessed by ourselves. If Mother Nature can evolve one biological highly intelligent species, she can do it again, and again, and again on other worlds. 

 

OBJECTION: They (the aliens) can't get from there (wherever there is) to here – interstellar space is the ultimate no-fly quarantine zone and since superluminal velocities (i.e. – Star Trek's warp drive comes to mind here) are a violation of Einstein's special theory of relativity (though there's nothing theoretical about that inconvenience anymore) that takes care of that. ET exists but can't get here; therefore UFOs can't be the products of ET.

 

ANSWER: I can not believe this old and totally outdated chestnut is still bandied about. The idiotic assumption here is, in a very anthropological way, is that ET must have a lifespan equal to that of humans. Humans cannot travel to the stars because we can't travel fast enough in our short life-spans to make the journey from start to finish, and I assume here that if you start the journey you want to be around to finish the journey. Now there is no law in biological science that says an intelligent flesh-and-blood entity must kick-the-bucket after roughly three score and ten years. If you recall from mythology, the cosmic and sky ‘gods' were (at least from a human perspective) as close to immortal as makes no odds. Quasi-immortality makes interstellar travel quite feasible. Of course any alien intelligence that can visit us will have technologies far beyond our own. Genetic or other forms of bioengineering could artificially extend life-spans by many orders of magnitude. Perhaps flesh-and-blood has morphed into silicon and steel. There's the standard sci-fi scenarios of the multi-generation starship or hibernation that passes the time away without much additional aging. Then too perhaps a super-civilization of the extraterrestrial type has been able to approach luminal velocities; perhaps have physics and engineering that can go superluminal. But one doesn't need such extreme possibilities. All it takes is the first initial journey. Once here, our quasi-immortal ET (the ‘gods' of mythology) sets up shop, say even a lunar outpost. No further interstellar journeys required.   

 

OBJECTION: It's unlikely in the extreme that we (humans) would just happen by chance be the lucky generation, after 4.5 billion years have passed Earth by in cosmic isolation, for us to now experience on-site cosmic company. If you were to throw a dart randomly at 4.5 billion balloons, what odds that it would hit a balloon that co-existed with humanity's existence, even being generous and giving us (humanity) an existence of say two million balloon years, far less hitting the balloon labeled 1947 (the accepted start of the modern UFO era)?

 

ANSWER: This is IMHO actually the best anti UFO ETH argument going but when taken to its logical conclusion provides the very answer which makes the UFO ETH nearly inevitable. Indeed, it would be utterly extraordinary in the extreme if that tiny niche of terrestrial time, say 1947 to the present, were the first and only niche of terrestrial time to host a visit by extraterrestrial intelligence(s). The obvious answer is that there have been previous niches in time, intervals of time, probably lots and lots and lots of them, when ET paid a visit. ET had had billions of years to randomly (or selectively) explore the (our) galaxy. At 1% light speed it only takes 10,000,000 years to cross the galaxy edge to edge. But the galaxy is ten billion years old. If there's lots of space-faring alien civilizations, or even if there is just one, they are probably a lot closer to us than the worst case scenario of edge-to-edge (obviously, since we're not on the galactic edge). Those who have pondered this issue and crunched the numbers, suggest that 10,000 to 100,000 years is a rough estimate of time intervals between random visits from ET. Still, 1947 to date could easily and probably would on probability fall outside that range. Maybe the last random visit was 9,000 years ago, or 90,000 years ago. We'd still have a bit of a wait (one thousand to ten thousand years) for the next call. But, and there's always a "but"…

 

It doesn't take much imagination – and many have imagined it – that ET has been in Earth's hair on a nearly ongoing basis. The key point is once that initial chance discovery has happened, and that could have been billions of years ago, we're charted, noted and logged biological real estate. We're now a colored pin on the galactic map, say green for simple biosphere; yellow for complex life, orange for intelligence and red for here be a civilization. Within 100,000 years of that first contact (even if it were ET greeting our microbial ancestors), light speed radio communications would have notified all potentially receptive (and future receptive) alien civilizations that here was one of those rare abodes, a planet with a biosphere, and thus one worth ongoing routine (not random) investigations – for scientific reasons if nothing else.

 

The terrestrial parallels are obvious. Once we discovered Antarctica it quickly became common knowledge. We went back, again, and again and again, finally setting up near permanent quarters despite the obvious costs and hardships, all in the name of science. We'll go back to the Moon too one day – maybe not anytime real soon, but eventually. Your great grandkids will see lunar settlements or outposts like we today see in Antarctica. ET and Earth may have had the same ongoing relationship. We might find we have ET for company on the Moon like we've had ET for company on Earth.

 

Now fast-forward and recall from our mythologies around the world – all races, all cultures, all geographical settlements – the tales of the sky ‘gods' and beings associated with various constellations and stellar addresses.  Those same ‘gods', who often get around in aerial ‘chariots', gave the gifts of knowledge and culture and rudimentary technologies to primitive (hunter-gather) mankind. They stick around to monitor their experiment.

 

Now fast-forward to 1947 through to the present. The ‘gods' have become ET, and they are going to keep close tabs on us, since they know that one day, even if thousands of years down the track, we'll boldly go like they have boldly gone. We have our intelligence gathering agencies; ET has theirs as well.

 

To Be Continued...

Science librarian; retired.

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