Facts often trump fiction. A lightning bolt generates temperatures five times hotter than those found at the sun’s surface. More than 2,500 left-handed people are killed each year from using products made for right-handed people. It’s illegal to drink beer out of a bucket while sitting on a curb in St. Louis, and the names of Popeye’s nephews are, in fact, Pipeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and Poopeye.
Usually when we encounter the strange but true, it is with a bemused inward chuckle. These harmless anecdotes, though strange, roll off our backs. Unless perhaps you’re a leftie or have a compulsive need to curb-bucket-beer drink in St. Louie. After all, there is nothing personally offensive about Poopeye’s unfortunate moniker or the exact temperature of a lightning bolt. But in the case of UFO and extraterrestrial encounters, our society seems to falter, which is odd, because UFO’s aren’t really something to take personal offense to, right? Yet, presented with strange but true UFO facts, we’re no longer laughing. (Unless we’re laughing at rather than with.) That’s why today’s post is U for UFO.
Here are some juicy quotes to get you into the weekend.
“The phenomenon of UFOs does exist, and it must be treated seriously.”
“I know that neither Russia nor this country has anything even approaching such high speeds and maneuvers. Behind the scenes, high-ranking Air Force officers are soberly concerned about UFO’s. But through official secrecy and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe that unknown flying objects are nonsense. To hide the facts, the Air Force has silenced its personnel.”
— Admiral Roscoe Hillencoter (former director of the CIA, at a 1962 NICAP press conference in Washington D.C.)
“Sarah, there’s a government inside the government, and I don’t control it.”
— President Bill Clinton (as quoted by senior White House reporter Sarah McClendon in reply to why he wasn’t doing anything
about UFO disclosure.)
There are scores of respectable people who claim to have either seen UFOs or been abducted by little green men. You don’t have to look very long to learn that we’ve got presidents on the left and the right of the political aisle who have personally testified to witnessing a UFO. (Reagan and Carter – did you know?) Also, nearly every president since FDR has been compelled to publicly weigh in on the subject. Personages no less than Winston Churchill have personally investigated UFO sightings. (I’m not making this up, people.)
So, if our elected leaders claim to have seen UFOs – and that they’ve not been kept “in the loop” about UFO activity, then why is the subject still a
laughing matter for so many? Besides the fact that most of our elected leaders are already laughing matters.
In a word: Evidence.
For the skeptic, the case against the impending Romulan invasion is all about a lack of evidence. We live in a day and age where people will take almost nothing on faith. Well, unless we’re told to on Sunday morning – or unless it’s a character assassination of someone whose politics we already despise. But otherwise, we’re critical thinkers, right? It is the skeptic in us who asks, “Where is the physical evidence?” There is no shortage of claims about cover-ups, bodies and/or wreckage whisked away by mysterious MIBs (Men in Black, duh) or implants recovered that science simply “can’t explain.” (I won’t, um, delve into exactly where these implants were recovered from in this post…) Video and audio evidence abounds also, evidence that is usually debunked, and when it isn’t, well, cinematic FX regales us with images of flying saucers all the time, so it’s hardly a stretch to make a fuzzy, distant set of lights appear authentic.
Then there is the matter of the subject’s intrinsic complexity. Like its paranoid, delusional brethren topics such as the JFK assassination or 9/11 conspiracy theories, UFO believers feel compelled to substantiate their claims with a variety of intersecting, interdisciplinary topics – the likes of which can become incredibly difficult to follow. Faced with the prospect of trying to understand (brain … hurts …) or giggling dismissively in the face of someone who is earnestly telling us, “Jesus was an alien,” well, most of us would choose the latter. After all, the simplest explanation is probably true … right?
Finally, there are all the people out there who are deliberately faking “evidence.” The most successful purveyors of this drivel are those who are data collectors with delusions of grandeur. But, while some people turn data into wondrous gems, others manage only a bowl movement.
For instance, some guy (I found on the internet) claimed to have been given a recording of a presidential briefing to President Reagan on the subject of
UFOs, and actually took the time to share a “transcript.” The author is clearly a fan of Reagan, and has accrued a wealth of data about the man, the actor and the president, and presents it alongside his steaming pile of fiction in an attempt to beef up its credibility. Then, claiming to protect the identity of the others on the recording who are still living, he nobly doesn’t produce the actual recording itself. (Of course, this is predicated on the assumption that the other people in the room isn’t already a matter of record, or can’t be sleuthed.) This kind of stuff makes it embarrassing to be a human being. I mean, really – if there are aliens up there watching us, they must be choking on their popcorn.
“Lameniacs” like the Reagan transcript guy are inventing this stuff simply because they need a “new evidence fix” at a faster rate than he can get the old-fashioned way. (By doing research, remember? You remember, research?) Fact is, you don’t have to spin a yarn to make a compelling case. There is a ton
of actual evidence to support the existence of UFOs and alien abductions. More than a ton, really. I’m not talking about alien spacecrafts or autopsy photographs. I’m talking about stuff that you genuinely can’t explain.
Now, a skeptic will tell you that he/she doesn’t need to explain it – and that is true. I don’t need to be an expert in physics or comedy to have a rudimentary grasp on the fact that face-plants are intrinsically funny and evidence of gravity, for instance. On the subject of gravity, it is true that one can replicate said face-plant (possibly for increasing hilarity) and because one gets consistent results, one can make a reasonable assumption that if you do “x” (say, stick your foot out in front of an unsuspecting – and unloved – coworker), you will get “y” (face-plant). Nevertheless, the skeptics rule is generally a good one.
Until it isn’t.
The skeptic also has a bias, he/she just won’t admit it. The skeptic skews his/her data by unnaturally weighing against human observation. For example, there are scores of air force pilots from around the world – astronauts, commercial pilots etc. that would normally be considered “reliable” witnesses, and whose testimony would be excluded by a skeptic due to a lack of physical evidence. (Except when physical evidence – say, a video – is provided, in which case the skeptic will exclude that for reasons we’ve already discussed. Do you see the problem?)
I’m not saying the skeptics are wrong on this. Actually, I think that they pose very reasonable arguments generally. I only think that their exceptions go to the very heart of the dilemma: if we are being visited “in secret” by a radically advanced intelligence, then how would we find proof? Remember the invisibility cloak in Star Trek? Ridiculous, right? It isn’t. It’s already available in the real world. Why shouldn’t ET have it, and more?
Besides, aren’t curiosity and tenacity a scientist’s bread and butter? Aren’t they supposed to figure stuff out? Aren’t they supposed to not prejudice their research with personal biases? Don’t they owe their fellow smarty-pants better explanations than “unusual atmospheric phenomenon?” Well, the truth is: not necessarily.
Back in the 70s, a prominent Stanford University plasma physicist conducted a survey within members of the American Astronomical Society. According to his findings, astronomers who spent time researching the UFO phenomenon developed more interest – not less. Which would be counter intuitive if there were nothing to it, right? Fact is, the astronomers, pilots and NASA engineers that comprise the list of credible witnesses have been around the block a few times when it comes to observing natural phenomena and many – if not most – of the naysayers haven’t. Even when the skeptic is a venerable, tried and true reliable scientific expert, well, he/she doesn’t have to offer much of a counter argument at all in order to maintain his/her standing in the scientific community. After all, everybody knows we haven’t been visited by ET, and who wants to risk their neck shooting holes in an argument supporting that assertion? So it turns out that it’s OK to pre-bias one’s research, if one’s bias is popular.
My point is that the skeptics and believers alike need to learn to come back to the center. That is generally where one finds truth, after all. I’m prepared to
give a General, Admiral or Colonel in the Armed Forces a little credit, even if the staunchest skeptics won’t. But stuff like the Reagan “transcript” guy, and his larger sinkhole of “hours-of-your-life-you-can’t-get-back” called SERPO, a top-secret alien exchange program with our buds in the Zeta Reticuli system deserve to be trashed. (By the way, the last half of that sentence falls under the category of “never let anyone hear you say this out loud” – unless you’re at a Star Trek convention, in which case, have at it.)
So, consider this post for all of you out there who are like me, and looking for sobering reasons why believing in ET doesn’t make you like that wild-haired tanning goggle guy on the History Channel’s Ancient Astronauts series. It doesn’t. Honest.