The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Vs. The Unidentified Flying Object (UFO)

The phrase ‘Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence’ (SETI) says nothing at all about how to search. Traditionally, the usual ways and means have centred on using the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and the engineering techniques and technology tried and true to radio astronomy to seek out new or established radio communicating civilizations. That is, we position radio telescopes to either target various specific points in the sky at stellar objects that theory suggest E.T. might be located around and might be deliberately broadcasting from with a view towards interstellar communication, or just sweeping the sky willy-nilly in hopes of detecting general radio leaking from civilizations broadcasting, perhaps just for their own use (radio, TV, radar) somewhere out there. SETI is based mainly on a theoretical premise that technologically advanced civilizations – advanced enough to have radio communications – exist and can have said technology detectable by us at a distance.

SETI has also searched the optical and infrared parts of the electromagnetic spectrum for signs of advanced extraterrestrial technology, as well as trying several other approaches as well, like looking for possible alien artefacts at various strategic locations in outer space – like the asteroid belt or the Earth-Moon Lagrangian points where objects so positioned tend to have long duration stability.

But SETI, after five decades of scanning the heavens for intelligent messages, have managed to come up with only one ‘WOW’ signal; one unknown signal, one unidentified signal, that unfortunately never repeated itself and thus couldn’t ever be scientifically and properly verified.

For some strange reason however, SETI scientists exclude alien artefacts that have any potential connection with UFOs, and closely related the concept of ‘ancient astronauts’. That seems to be putting your SETI eggs in relatively fewer baskets than is necessary! I mean, SETI is trying to find extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI). If UFOs and/or ancient astronauts provide evidence or support for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, you’d think SETI scientists would include UFOs and/or ancient astronauts in their collective baskets.

Now I’m not claiming here that UFOs provide the ‘smoking gun’ establishing proof positive for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. I am suggesting however that there must be something highly suggestive in the collective evidence over more than six decades of the modern UFO era that point to extraterrestrial intelligence as a plausible answer.

So, what, to date, provides more plausible evidence or support for extraterrestrial intelligence – SETI or UFOs.

So sorry to have to say this, but UFOs have a lot more extraterrestrial intelligence runs on the board than SETI, despite SETI being legit, accredited and accepted science and UFOs anything but. Despite that, the track record for UFOs as a bona fide ETI subject is way better than the track record for SETI. As even UFO sceptics (like SETI scientists) have to acknowledge, some 5% to 10% of all UFO sightings or incidents, from around the world, remain hard core UFO sightings or incidents after proper analysis (and thus remain plausible or viable candidates for the UFO extraterrestrial hypothesis or ETH) – the ‘unknowns’ category.

If 5% to 10% of all interesting-at-first-glance SETI signals also proved, after proper analysis, to be legitimate ‘unknowns’; ‘WOW’ signals after the one and only one such ‘unknown’ ever recorded, that would really set the SETI community abuzz. That one SETI ‘WOW’ signal has withstood the test of time – it remains a bona fide SETI unknown. My point is that each and every one of those 5 to 10% bona-fide unexplainable UFO incidents is, for all practical purposes, a ‘WOW’ event, equal in potential to the lone SETI ‘WOW’ signal. In the case of the UFO, the collective of ‘WOW’ events now number in the thousands to tens of thousands. As I said, UFOs have more ‘WOW’ runs on the board than SETI.

As an example, one such ‘WOW’ UFO event happened on the evening of 13 March 1997 over the city of Phoenix, Arizona. Thousands of citizens, including the state’s Governor, Fife Symington III, witnessed (and several filmed) an aerial display of a silently gliding formation of lights in the sky of unknown origin, now dubbed, not surprisingly, ‘The Phoenix Lights’. Needless to say they remain unidentified, and you can get in-depth documentary coverage on YouTube.

One other point, SETI scientists poo-poo the UFO extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) saying there’s no PHYSICAL evidence. Eye witness testimony counts for absolutely nothing. Well of course there is PHYSICAL evidence for the UFO ETH of the exact same nature as that would satisfy a SETI scientist of E.T. – after all SETI scientists look for a PHYSICAL signal which they can study at their leisure, not an actual E.T. in the flesh. Well, UFOs have produced PHYSICAL evidence because they too can, and have, produced a PHYSICAL signal – radar returns, and there exist a fair few bona-fide radar returns of UFO events that have, after due investigation, remained unidentified. Now the PHYSICAL evidence left behind by bona-fide UFO radar cases, those unexplained radar cases, deserve intense respect, or the operators that interpret those radar returns. If radar operators can be trusted to distinguish a flock of birds from an incoming ICBM or foreign miliary bomber intent on doing us a mischief, the reason the radar DEW line was established and manned during the Cold War; if radar operators can have entrusted to them the lives of military and commercial pilots, crew and passengers, then they must have the ability to tell an echo from a temperature inversion from a solid object – in this case the aircraft. If you fly, you entrust your very life to the ability of those radar operators to tell who’s who; distinguish what’s what. Sorry, but UFO radar returns are solid PHYSICAL evidence for the reality of unidentified flying objects.

Contrasting SETI’s PHYSICAL evidence with PHYSICAL evidence for the UFO, consider that in each case we have an object – SETI has the E.T. radio telescope; UFOs the UFO itself. In each case we have an electromagnetic event – SETI has radio waves; the UFO event has radar. In each case we have receiving technology – SETI has the terrestrial radio telescope; the UFO event has a radar dish. In each case we have a visual display – SETI probably has some sort of monitor or oscilloscope; the UFO radar return some sort of cathode ray tube (CRT) or monitor. Both displays can be captured for later and fuller analysis. That’s the closest parallel regarding PHYSICAL evidence with SETI. Of course UFOs leave behind other PHYSICAL traces from films and photographs, to ground traces, electromagnetic effects, even physiological effects too.

Another point is that say there’s one extraterrestrial technologically advanced civilization reasonably close to by – say within 10 to 50 light-years. Say their radio transmission leakage window of (our) opportunity for (our) successful SETI is 100 to 200 years before all their transmission traffic is via fibre optical or other cable and the radio noise, their radio leakage, for all practical purpose ceases. So, our SETI has up to 200 years to point an antenna tuned at the right frequency and pointed in the right direction to log up a success story.

Now, what’s the duration of our extraterrestrial civilization’s attempts to boldly go – interstellar exploration? 100 years? 200 years? No, its way more than that because once started, even assuming the home planet goes kaput, exploration is ever ongoing. So the window of opportunity for us stay-at-home terrestrials to detect these boldly going, interstellar travelling extraterrestrials (and sooner of later we’d be accidentally stumbled over even if we hadn’t been detected before-the-fact due to our bio-signatures – technological or otherwise) is also pretty unlimited. If extraterrestrials are not here now (via UFOs), then maybe there’s some evidence they were here 200, 2000 or 20,000 years ago; or maybe there will be evidence tomorrow. The argument doesn’t really alter that much, if at all, no matter how many technologically advanced (capable of both radio and interstellar travel) civilizations there are. Radio leakage is short term; exploration is long term. Therefore, UFOs (exploration) are a better bet than SETI (radio leakage) in uncovering the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence.

Now that’s not an attack on SETI. I like SETI; it’s good science. I wish SETI every success and if SETI captures THE signal tomorrow, I’d be delighted. It’s just that SETI isn’t the only game in town. UFO research is not a replacement for traditional SETI, but complementary – if the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence is your goal.

SETI scientists & UFO extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) hunters have something in common – they both need the deliberate or inadvertent cooperation of what they seek – aliens (if aliens they be). SETI scientists need that radio (or optical or infrared) transmission. UFO hunters need UFOs to just bloody well stand still, or at least have the decency to crash in a public location!

In conclusion, I again wish to make it clear that I totally support radio, optical, and infrared SETI to the hilt. It is bona fide science. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is applicable here. Repeating myself, traditional SETI isn’t the only game available, and I equally support and encourage any and all other search strategies. To support the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, there should be a scholarly examination of terrestrial mythology, especially religious mythology, for hints of ETI. For example, do all gods in all the worlds religious mythologies live in the sky (like Heaven, or Valhalla) and possess magical (technological) powers? Also, for once, there should be a serious scientific examination of the UFO data to determine once and for all if there is a case for some UFO events (like the Phoenix Lights) exhibiting ETI technology.

Whatever investigation, including those into ancient astronauts and UFOs, that tells you that ETI exists, or once existed, or doesn’t exist at all (and a negative result is as important as a positive one) is a part of bona fide SETI.

Science librarian; retired.


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