First I’d better define exactly what I mean by a UFO. To me, a bona-fide UFO is any UFO that remains a UFO after comprehensive investigation and analysis by qualified experts have failed to identify the object as any known natural or man-made phenomena. The tag ‘unidentified’ means that the conclusion was that it couldn’t have even been a possible or probable natural or man-made phenomena, but what exactly it was remains totally ‘unidentified’ and probably forever unidentifiable. Observational evidence is suggestive that these bona fide UFOs could be extraterrestrial visitations – the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH).
But wait, I hear screams of protest!
One could ague and come to a conclusion that while it is probable aliens would stumble over our humble abode in the cosmos, it’s very improbable that it would happen within our lifetime; with the last couple of generations. It’s vastly more probable a visitation would have happened in ancient times, prehistoric times, maybe millions if not billions of years ago. While there’s something to be said for that, there is the counter argument that having visited once, the ‘tourist attraction’ we call Earth would become ongoing.
There’s more than one sci-fi story published that plots alien scientists charting our newly formed solar system, surveyed Earth of course, about four billions of years ago, left some rubbish behind, and thus spawned the origin of terrestrial life!
Fast forward several billions of years and our alien scientists or explorers (biologists this time) picked up a trilobite or two for their interstellar zoo or museum collection. And I’d bet even aliens might have been fascinated with the dinosaurs! Perhaps in our hypothetical interstellar zoo, terrestrial dinosaurs continue to strut their stuff, having suffered a pre-historical UFO abduction!
Alas, the odds any physical evidence of such vastly ancient prehistoric visitations or surveys or expeditions would be so rare, eroded away or deeply buried, that such musings will probably forever remain just wild speculations. All witnesses are extinct now!
But moving from millions of prehistoric years ago to more recent prehistoric eras, up through and including ancient history, say within the last 100,000 years, then we might start getting some more concrete pictorial evidence (cave art) or other archaeological, anthropological or mythological evidence – which of course brings us to the topic of ‘ancient astronauts’. All I’ll say on that is that most of the popular literature on the subject is bovine fertilizer or pure balderdash. But I’m not going to be so rash as to go on record as saying all of it is.
There’s a song by country-pop singer Shania Twain that goes something like “That don’t impress me much”. Specifically, when watching ‘ancient astronaut’ documentaries, or even reading the popular literature, I’ve never been impressed by the monuments argument that aliens either built them or helped humans to build them – monuments like Stonehenge or the pyramids (Egyptian or Mesoamerican) or the statutes on Easter Island. That’s selling human abilities short. I’m also not impressed with so called ancient technologies – thousands of year old batteries for example that look about as alien as a Model T Ford.
What does impress me are various highly anomalous and alien in appearance historical art works – pictures, cave art, paintings, sculptures, etchings, some of massive size like the Nazca line drawings in Peru so obviously designed to be viewed from a high altitude. Also of interest is mythology and comparative mythology that might be suggestive of ‘ancient astronauts’. These are legitimate and worthy areas for scholarly study, given the importance of the subject.
So, why the sudden surge in UFO activity in recent generations – 1947 to date? Well, maybe there hasn’t been – a surge that is.
Contrast that with the period 1847 – 1910; or 1747 – 1810. Look at relevant factors like population levels and distribution; the sorts of terrestrial technology that could be misconstrued as alien spacecraft; the technology that can detect UFOs; communication factors; and social factors.
Relative to those eras, the modern UFO era has a far greater population base; the more people, the more sightings. The modern UFO era, unlike previous eras, has airships and aircraft and artificial satellites and flares and searchlights and all that jazz which can generate sightings. The modern UFO era has cameras (still and motion picture) and radar and other technologies that are subject to electromagnetic effects that help to document UFO activity today that couldn’t have been documented 10 or 200 years ago. The modern UFO era, relative to 100 or 200 years prior, has way more communications – books, magazines, radio, TV, other mass media like newspapers, the Internet, films, and so on. If some UFOs are alien craft, the great unwashed is far more cognisant of it than our counterparts living 100 or 200 years ago. Lastly, 100 years ago, even more so 200 years ago, there wasn’t the sort of outdoor nightlife activity we have today. After dark, you went to sleep; up at the crack of dawn. Yet UFOs are more readily detectable at night. It’s easier to spot a bright light against a dark sky – but only if your outside.
For all those reasons, it might be the case that UFO activity hasn’t really changed over historical periods. Then again, maybe it has.
Now if it ultimately turns out that 100% of UFOs have zilch to do with extraterrestrial intelligence; that there never has been ancient astronauts; that no alien picnickers left behind their garbage billions of years ago; that we never were on the receiving end of a cosmic Johnny Appleseed – if Planet Earth is not in any cosmic database, then maybe we are the proverbial be-all-and-end-all. We are the first intelligence to arise in the Universe – the first, maybe the only. However, that assumption runs counter to the Copernican Principle or the Principle of Mediocrity that in the overall cosmic scheme of things, we are just the average run-of-the-mill. So, let’s not start off violating these cherished cosmological principles, rather go back to the assumption that some UFOs actually reinforce those principles.
Of course it is not sufficient enough for visiting aliens and their interstellar craft (UFOs if you will) to theoretically exist – there’s got to be some kind of actual evidence – and it exists in spades.
There exists a phrase “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”‘. I’ve seen that in numerous books, and I understand it originates from the late and great Carl Sagan. Were Dr. Sagan alive today I’d take the comments to him, but seeing as how he’s no longer available.
Claims require evidence. That’s not in dispute. However, the word ‘extraordinary’ is in the mind of the beholder. What might be an extraordinary claim to you might not be an extraordinary claim to me, and vice versa. Murder is a more extraordinary crime than jaywalking, yet the same evidence (say a security camera film) will convict in both cases. You don’t need twice the amount of evidence in a murder trial vis-à-vis being convicted of jaywalking. So, claims, of any kind, require enough evidence to convince anyone with an open mind – no more; no less.
If I, one of the great unwashed, were to make a claim that the double slit experiment provides evidence for the existence of parallel universes, or that a positron was actually nothing more than an electron going backwards in time, that would be extraordinary. If a professional scientist, a physicist, were to make the same claims, it’s not extraordinary presumably because physicists know what they are talking about. Yet it’s the same set of claims. They can’t be both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time!
Many of the greatest and now accepted parts of science started out as an extraordinary claim – like quantum mechanics or relativity theory or the fact that the Earth goes around the Sun. But did these claims really need extraordinary (like double the experimental) evidence vis-à-vis other claims that are now equally parts of the accepted science we find in the textbooks? For open-minded people, especially scientists, such claims probably did not require extraordinary evidence.
Few scientists now dispute the (initially extraordinary) claim of the reality of ball lightning, yet not only is it far rarer than UFO sightings, it has less of a theoretical underpinning than the proposal that some UFOs have an extraterrestrial intelligence behind them. Ball lightning hasn’t been put under a laboratory microscope any more than UFOs have. There are lots of parallels between ball lightning and UFOs for the sociologists of science to ponder. Yet one has credibility, one doesn’t. Why? It makes relatively little sense.
It is said, and there is truth in this, that science and scientists do not have the time and resources to investigate every claim ever made about the natural world. There must be some ways and means of distinguishing reasonable from unreasonable (i.e. – extraordinary) claims. While I don’t have an easy answer to that – though I’ll give one immediately below – I’ll just initially observe that there’s been a lot of seemingly reasonable claims that are now only footnotes in the history of science, and a fair few unreasonable claims that are now part of the bedrock on which our sciences, technology and civilization rests.
However, instead of ordinary vs. extraordinary distinctions, I’d suggest important vs. relatively unimportant claims. Lots of claims, whether proven or unproven, aren’t going to set the world on fire. Others have the potential to make for paradigm shifts in our understanding of the world and the cosmos. The equation UFOs = evidence for extraterrestrial intelligence is such an example. The claim needs to be investigated, yet not requiring massive more investigations than any other sort of scientific puzzle would require.
So, we desire evidence for the extraterrestrial nature of UFOs, not extraordinary evidence.
Skeptics would argue that the burden of proof that extraterrestrials are behind (at least some of) the UFO phenomena lies with the believers – those who claim such is the case. And that’s true. But there’s another side to that coin. Skeptics need to look at what evidence is presented and not have a mind-in-a-closet attitude.
What’s the general evidence for UFOs? Well, you have multi-tens of thousands of sightings, probably six figures worth by now, many multi-witness sightings, more than a few independent multi-witness sightings; sightings by people used to outdoors aerial phenomena (like pilots), films and photographs that have defied the best experts to explain them in conventional terms, radar returns, physical traces, physiological effects on biological tissues, including humans, often more than one of these categories applies. You have a global phenomena, where countries from Australia, the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, France, Russia, Mexico, etc. have devoted considerable resources to finding answers to what some see as a ‘silly season’ with a high ‘giggle’ factor. That makes little logical sense – the ‘giggle’ factor, not the official investigations. There are neither psychological, sociological or cultural reasons to explain the origin of UFOs in general, nor specific UFO reports. It’s all evidence, and grist for the mill. The crux of the matter is not lack of evidence; it is how that evidence is interpreted. So take the bona-fide UFO residue. Now what is this residue and what happens if you apply Occam’s Razor to it? Well, maybe bona-fide UFOs are just ghosts, or angels, or the work of the devil, or some nation’s secret weapons, or craft from an advanced civilization that inhabits our hollow Earth! Or, maybe the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) is the most plausible. I think Occam’s Razor would err on the side of the ETH.
There must be something suggestive within the evidence to point in the ETH direction, and nearly from the very beginning of the modern UFO phenomena (June 1947). The idea or association didn’t just pop out of the ether for no reason
The trouble with UFOs is that they won’t stand still! You can’t put them under a microscope, poke and prod them, or study and measure them at your leisure like you can most phenomena. You can’t predict in advance where and when and for how long they will appear.
Anyone who poo-poos the extraterrestrial hypothesis for UFOs, “it can’t be therefore it isn’t”, clearly hasn’t actually studied the subject, read the literature, studied official government investigations and reports, done personal field investigations and interviewed witnesses. Out of all the hundreds of thousands of sightings, worldwide, over all these decades, all it takes is one (smoking gun) case to validate the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Is there anyone out there who can say for 100% certainty that at least one case isn’t the real deal?
Now I don’t want anyone to tell me that the University of Colorado UFO investigation on behalf of the USAF, the Condon Report, closed the book on the subject – not unless you have real the entire report and not just the introductory / summary first chapter. There is no similarity between the questions the actual report raises and the conclusions reached and given in that first chapter. Few people have taken the time to separate the wheat from the chaff in the Condon Report. The first chapter is the chaff; the bulk of the report contains the wheat. So, read the entire report – do so, and then talk to me!
Every major country has had, or does have, either an official UFO investigations programme, or at least investigates reports of UFOs – six decades after the ‘fad’ began! Australia, Canada, France, England, Belgium, the USA, etc., etc. all have or have had UFO investigation programs. So, conclusion number one is that senior officials took, and many still take, the phenomena quite seriously. FOI requests have shown serious interest in the UFO area by not only the USAF, but by the FBI and CIA as well, continuing even after the USAF supposedly got out of the UFO investigations area, as a result of the above cited Condon (University of Colorado) study. It’s not just the great unwashed, low IQ, blue-collar population who are interested.
In contrast, have you ever heard of, or are you aware of, government bodies investigating Bigfoot sightings, or ghosts, or spoon bending, or the Bermuda Triangle (in general – specific incidents are of course investigated by relevant safety maritime and/or aviation and/or military authorities), or the Ouija board or astrology? You probably have not, because these concepts aren’t taken seriously, and the public would be outraged if their tax dollars were so used.
As an aside, I find it interesting that the American Congress has often voted against publicly funding SETI (legit science if there ever was). To this day SETI is mainly funded by private individuals and institutions. However, the American Congress has never voted down, cut, or denied funds to the USAF to investigate UFOs. That’s interesting. I’m not aware of any American congressman or senator ever arguing or voting against official government funding spent investigating UFOs – how very, very interesting. Are you aware of any? What’s also interesting is that Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed that both the FBI and the CIA have had an intense interest in the subject, despite pre-FOI denials of any interest. So, that’s a lot of top level interest in a silly-season subject with a high ‘giggle’ factor. Read into it what you will.
Each and every UFO investigation has yielded up a reasonable percentage of cases that despite the best scientific and/or military scrutiny remain unknown as to what the ultimate cause was. That is not in dispute.
Unknown cases include not only independent multiple witness testimony, but physical evidence – photographs, motion pictures, radar returns, electromagnetic effects, physiological and psychological effects and physical ground traces. That is not is dispute. You’ll find documentation in the official government investigations and reports.
There are professional scientists, senior military officials*, senior government officials, and a host of other people in responsible positions who have witnessed UFOs (airline and military pilots; astronauts, police officers, etc.) who have either spoken out as pro-UFO or a minimum state that this is a legitimate phenomenon. That is not in dispute – it is on the public record.
What we need is a/the smoking gun. Not quite THE smoking gun, but one of many, may highly unexplained UFO cases, is the events surrounding Frederick Valentich on 21 October 1978. It’s more a case of where there’s smoke, there’s smoke, but smoke there certainly is, and lots of it.
In a nutshell, on the evening of that date, Mr. Valentich piloted a private plane from Melbourne, intended destination, King Island in Bass Strait. He took off only to shortly thereafter radio in that there was this UFO hovering over him. The UFO was spotted by several independent witnesses. While radioing his observations, all contact ceased; all communications abruptly ended. Mr. Valentich, plane and all, vanished without trace. An extensive air and sea search failed to find any sign of Mr. Valentich, or his plane. No oil slick, no floating wreckage, no body – nothing, zip, bugger-all. No trace has ever been found of pilot or plane – not then, not since, not ever. The weather had been perfect for night flying.
One obvious explanation was that Mr. Valentich staged his own disappearance, although friends and family could offer no reason why he would do so. Of course many people voluntarily disappear themselves for various reasons; many eventually are found, are caught or reappear voluntarily. But keep in mind; it wasn’t just Mr. Valentich who disappeared. One entire aircraft vanished as well, never to be seen again. Surely if Mr. Valentich wanted to ‘drop out’, there were easier and less conspicuous ways of doing so. If he had deliberately gone walkabout, in these decades since of security cameras and computer facial software recognition technology, it would be hard to remain an unknown walkabout in any populated area.
Was suicide a motive? Again, no wreckage or body was ever found, and who would go to all the bother of reporting a non-existent UFO overhead – a non-existent UFO that happened to be independently reported by others.
And what of the plane since no wreckage was ever found floating on the surface of Bass Strait; washed up on beaches, or found on the ocean bottom – Bass Strait isn’t that deep.
It’s a mystery, and while it doesn’t prove aliens nicked off with Mr. Valentich and plane, there’s not that much wriggle room. Now multiply this sort of unexplained case by the thousands worldwide, and you do have the ETH as a plausible hypothesis.
Interestingly, despite my asking for a copy of the Valentich ‘accident’ case report in an official capacity related to my employment at the time, the Department of Transport (Air Safety Investigations Branch) refused. To this day, to the best of my knowledge, that report has never been publicly released.
Those who have investigated UFOs with maximum time, energy and resources are of course those from government agencies, representing the government. Therein lays a problem. No government is ever going to admit – assuming an extraterrestrial intelligence behind UFOs – that is doesn’t have full control over its airspace. No government is ever going to admit it is near powerless against possible invaders, including a hypothetical extraterrestrial one. Any government that has insights into the artificial (extraterrestrial) nature of UFOs technology is certainly not going to share that information with other governments, however allied, far less their great unwashed Joe Doe public.
Now skeptics will argue that some countries with official UFO investigations programs have shut them down (or at last that’s the official line). There are two possible reasons for that, assuming everything is on the up and up. The obvious one, to sceptics, is that there’s nothing to the subject – time, money, manpower, resources have been wasted and it’s time to bail out and cut the losses. The quite less obvious one is that we now know what we needed to know and therefore there’s no point in carrying on. That means either a secret admission that we’re helpless no matter what, so no point, or there’s been a conclusion that UFOs pose no threat, so again no particular point in carrying out more studies. In fact, if you example the reasons governments (American and British immediately come to mind) have given for getting out of the UFO business is that phrase – ‘no threat’ – UFOs, whatever they are, or aren’t, pose ‘no threat’ Note that there’s never a definitive statement that absolutely no UFO has represent extraterrestrial intelligence technology, that aliens aren’t here, it’s always that UFOs pose ‘no threat’ and therefore we’ve got better things to do – like dealing with things that are threatening! That ‘no threat’ phrase might represent a possibility that the powers-that-be know more than they’re telling – ‘no threat’ means different things to those in the know vis-à-vis the great unwashed who might not be quite as convinced if they knew what the powers-that-be knew. That’s a good reason for not confiding in the great unwashed!
UFOs pose ‘no threat’. That’s the real justification for bailing out. And while such statements usually have an additional proviso that no evidence of extraterrestrial activity has been uncovered, the government can not claim there’s no aliens about – absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of absence. Specifically, it’s difficult to draw the conclusion that no UFO sightings can be attributed to extraterrestrial activity with all investigations leave behind a statistically significant residue of unknowns; unsolved UFO sightings. I’m not talking here about cases ‘solved’ within categories of possible this, or probable that, or even insufficient data, but totally unknown, as in we haven’t a bloody clue in (or out) of this world as to what the sighting actually was even though we had apparently sufficient data to suss it all out. It’s a case of your guess is as good as mine. Now if the sum total of all unknowns were countable on the fingers of one hand that result might be dismissible. However, the unknowns usually account for about 7% or thereabouts of officially investigated cases; cases investigated by government officials, usually the military, aided with civilian scientific expertise as required. In the case of the Condon Committee University of Colorado UFO study, if memory serves, reading the entire text reveals an unknowns rate of about 30%, but then they did select the best of the best of the previous unsolved cases to try their luck against.
The unknown cases residue provides an interesting challenge to science and scientists – those with an open mind anyway. There’s a scientific wealth of gold in them thar hills to be research and mined. There’s nothing less than the possible proof of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life at stake.
This wouldn’t be complete without reference to Roswell. I don’t wish to say too much about the Roswell, N.M. case (July 1947), other than to point out that the then US Army Air Force admitted publicly, in the media, in newspapers, on radio, that they had captured one of those mysterious (and only recently sighted – the modern UFO era was just weeks old) flying discs. No amount of back-pedalling can alter that now historical fact. It’s on the record. Look it up yourself!
I’m in a bit of a quandary about which UFO era is the best for mining. Ordinarily I’d say the earlier the better in that contamination is limited or reduced. Thus, the first (or close to the first) visual sighting or the first (or near first) physical trace case or the first (or second or third) this or that. Alas, that means going back to say the first five to ten years of the modern era – 1947-1957. Witnesses and associated evidence has been diminished over the interval between then and now, even if original documentation still exists. Latter eras are better, but recent cases have a greater chance of having been influenced by what has come before. All else being equal, I’d mine those first ten years, but that’s me.
Do I have the smoking gun? No, otherwise I’d be booking my flight to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize! Does the smoking gun exist in the raw unknowns’ data? I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt for it to be combed through again.
So, why aren’t scientists jumping at the chance to prove the ETH? Why no serious academic study of the phenomena. I mean there’s probably a Nobel Prize at stake, just waiting for that scientist, or team of scientists, to boldly go and prove the ETH. Well, it’s basically because the entire subject of alien visitations, whether UFOs or ancient astronauts, have been hijacked by extreme elements – the lunatic fringe. Thus, the field has achieved a high ‘giggle’ or ‘silly season’ reputation. Newly minted academics, looking to establish themselves as bona-fide serious scientists, ingrain themselves with their peers (who largely control promotions, funding, etc.). That means, they tackle serious topics – not ‘giggle’ factor and ‘silly season’ topics, unless they want their careers nipped in the proverbial bud. And so, in public at least, you tend to get attitudes along the lines of ‘everybody knows that it’s nonsense’, ‘it can’t be, therefore it isn’t’ or ‘don’t confuse me with facts, my superior’s mind is made up therefore my mind is made up’. And so it’s a vicious circle. Only serious scientific study will remove the ‘silly season’, ‘giggle’ factor; but the ‘silly season’, ‘giggle factor’ prevents serious scientific study.
Anyway, there are two sides to this situation! All the government secrecy – and secrecy has well and truly been documented – could come unstuck, could be immediately negated, if an extraterrestrial UFO lands in Central Park (or equivalent). So, why doesn’t said extraterrestrials so land with a ‘take me to your leader’?
Firstly, there is obvious danger in interpreting / comprehending / understanding an alien mind-set or psychology or behaviour. I mean intelligent human mind-sets / psychology / behaviour is hardly a rigorous science. If what makes us tick is problematical, what hope do we have understanding, even up to an equal degree, intelligent aliens?
All of which brings me to possible motives for an alien race(s) to come calling and stick around. There’s thousands of sci-fi stories, films, TV shows, even academic texts dealing with this. Perhaps one or more of the following makes sense.
Firstly, we have tourism. That’s quite comprehensible to us.
Secondly, and most likely IMHO, we have a scientific (experimentation, observation, curiosity, specimen gathering, etc.) rational.
Thirdly, and probably most common in the sci-fi literature, Earth is ‘target earth’ for proposes of colonization, war, invasion. They want our resources, even if not our women!
There’s the possible motive central to diplomatic and foreign relations. They want us to come join their interstellar federation.
Fifthly, maybe it’s something we haven’t yet thought of – or can’t think of, alien psychology being totally outside our realm of comprehension.
So, in conclusion, where is everybody? IMHO, ‘They’re heeeere.’
And, I think we’re property!
*For example, USAF Major-General John A. Samford, at a Pentagon press conference in late July 1952 made the statement with respect to the then recent Washington D.C. UFO flap that these sightings were by “credible observers of relatively incredible things”. It’s on the public record.