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Arguements By Scientists Against The UFO ETH And Why They Fail To Be Convincing - by John Prytz

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.

 

OBJECTION: UFOs, if alien owned and operated, can only be here, on-site, in response to the modern human presence. That’s actually advocated by many pro UFO ETH buffs that how can it be a coincidence that aliens have arrived just at the same time we started playing around with dangerous toys – nuclear weapons; going into space; and reeking environmental havoc upon ourselves. Skeptics counter that for humans to be known by those out there, they can only know of us via our electromagnetic (EM) signals, which propagate outwards out there at light speed. Thus, our EM signals (nuclear blasts, radio/TV broadcasts, radar emissions, etc.) haven’t had much time to get very far out there, because prior to say 1900 Earth was pretty quiet in giving off human technological EM noise. Even our atmospheric pollution, potentially detectable from way out there via spectroscopic analysis, wasn’t really at highly abnormal levels prior to 1900. It’s only in the 20th Century did it really kick into high gear.

 

So, if you take 1947 as the start year of the modern UFO era – their arrival date – and assuming they left home as soon as they detected our EM signal then their home has go to be so close by to Earth as to be statistically unlikely in the extreme. Since ET’s home is certainly not within our solar system, then by elimination, that leaves nearby stars. But only subluminal interstellar travel is possible, and even interstellar velocities of say 10% light speed are pushing the envelop. Our closest stellar companions are over four light years away, so it would take ET over forty years to reach us from the closest stellar abode. Add to that the four light years it took our EM signal to reach them in the first place, well that’s about 44 years all up. Subtract that from 1947 – well, 1903 isn’t known for our high intensity radio broadcasts, and radar, TV and nuclear lights are still future technology. Therefore, ET didn’t arrive in 1947 due to any human activity, and since obviously only human activity would attract ET to travel here in the first place – therefore UFOs can not be anything alien! 

 

ANSWER: The basic assumption here is so anthropomorphic (human centered) as to be laughable. Firstly, even if the aliens arrived out of concern to post-1900’s human activities, that doesn’t mean they weren’t already here, if not on-site, in the immediate solar system area, like having a lunar base, or even an orbiting space colony ship as base of operations. One doesn’t have to postulate them being a minimum of over four light years away. Secondly, let’s forget the human element – as per the above argument, Planet Earth has been noted and logged in a galactic database for a minimum of millions of years, more likely as not an order of magnitude greater – billions of years. It’s an egocentric inspired, but just coincidence, that alien UFOs are around when humans dominate Earth’s environment.

 

OBJECTION: There’s little or no credible evidence that any UFO event can be interpreted as an alien spaceship doing its alien flying thing. 

 

ANSWER: Okay, so multi-tens of thousands of eyewitness accounts count for nothing, especially when many of those sightings were by trained observers, and multi-witness cases at that. Eyewitness cases are often backed up by a radar tracking or ground traces or physiological effects or (electromagnetic) EM effects or motion pictures or still photographs. Radar, ground traces, EM effects also exist by their lonesome. UFOs are a global phenomenon that cuts across all age, sex, racial, cultural etc. boundaries. If UFOs were just the province of one country or region, or only witnessed by those with an IQ less than 90, well that would be suspect. UFOs have been taken seriously enough to be an official part of government programs from around the world, unlike say poltergeist events which aren’t, and expert military and scientific analysis can not explain, depending on where and time, between five and ten percent of all UFO reports.

 

The fact that there exists such a thing as the UFO ETH must suggest that there is some suggestive evidence in support. The UFO ETH only exists, post early 1950’s, is because for the first three to four years of the then ‘flying disc’ or ‘flying saucer’ phenomena, late 1940’s, ‘saucers’ or ‘discs’ were assumed to be terrestrial in origin – secret Soviet devices (to the Americans); secret American devices (to the Russians). When those ideas became untenable, the obvious conclusions were that it was all in the mind; misidentifications, hoaxes, hallucinations etc. But that became as equally untenable as solid case after solid case came in and proved to be unexplainable by any and all terrestrial possibilities. By elimination – well according to Sherlock Holmes, when you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth – one was forced to at least consider the ETH a plausible alternative. But the illogic of the scientific mind was made crystal clear in the ultimate debunking of the UFO ETH, the University of Colorado Scientific Study into UFOs [the Edward Condon study] which concluded it was all a lot of rubbish – except for the fact that that very study, that very report, couldn’t explain away, with any terrestrial phenomena known, over 30% of the UFO cases it studied. It’s like a jury stating 1/3rd not guilty; 2/3rds guilty – well the majority ayes have it – let’s carry out the execution. So, what part of the word ‘evidence’ don’t you understand?

 

I make one defense however for the UFO ETH since scientists counter that each of the threads of ETI having been then or now on Earth are weak-in-the-knees when it comes to solid evidence? Roswell is weak; UFO abduction cases are weak; the UFO conspiracy or cover-up case is weak; UFO photographs and videos are weak; UFO radar cases are weak; the case for Erich von Daniken’s ancient astronauts is weak; the ghost rocket sightings (1946) are weak; contactee claims are especially weak; UFO eye-witness reports are unreliable, etc. But, put them (and much more besides) all together and like all good detective stories combine/integrate all the clues into one composite whole (after separating out the wheat from the chaff and eliminating the red herrings) then the whole is more than the sum of the parts. You get a fairly consistent pattern that emerges; not the radio signal patter-of-little-dots-and-dashes the SETI scientist wants but a nuts-and-bolts and a here-and-now pattern.

 

Now admittedly any one of a hundred different and independent threads might in itself be not all that convincing, but then all 100 or so threads are woven together – that’s a different duck of another color. It’s like if it looks like a duck – it may not be a duck. If it flies like a duck – it may not be a duck. If it walks like a duck – it may not be a duck. If it swims like a duck – it may not be a duck. If it quacks like a duck – it may not be a duck. But if it looks, flies, walks, swims and quacks like a duck – then it’s a duck!

 

What the UFO ETH debunkers are confusing here is the concept of ‘evidence’ vs. the concept of ‘proof’. There are massive amounts of evidence for the UFO ETH as noted immediately above. For example, I’d consider as part of legit evidence documents released under the FOI Act that show that in 1947, the then Army Air Force (AAF) requested the FBI to assist in investigating ‘flying disc’ reports all as part of the developing Cold War hysteria at the time. The FBI (Hoover) responded that they would cooperate only if they were granted access to the “crashed discs”, something the AAF refused. That’s evidence; it’s not proof.

 

In fact there’s more than enough eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that would satisfy any court of law; any judge; any jury in just about any other set of circumstances to render a verdict of guilty. But the UFO ETH can not yet be rendered guilty, because though there’s not yet to date a smoking gun. There’s no absolute under-the-microscope, on the lab’s slab, proof positive of the UFO ETH. If any UFO ETH buff says they have proof, tell them to ‘put up or shut up’. If however they say they have evidence in favor of the UFO ETH, ask them politely what it is.  

 

OBJECTION: If the UFO ETH is correct then obviously the ‘land on the White House lawn and a take-me-to-your-leader’ scenario would be the obvious course of action for ET. That hasn’t happened; therefore the UFO ETH is ridiculous.

 

ANSWER: An alien by definition would have to have an alien mind, and alien psychology, and alien motives. We can’t hold them to our standards, our motives, our behavior patterns. Half the time I can’t figure out why my cats do what they do!

 

According to hundreds (probably thousands) of sci-fi writers and of course Hollywood (and equivalents around the world), alien invasion is even more a viable scenario – as entertainment anyway. But that hasn’t happened either, but again that’s no argument to suggest that because there’s been no alien invasion that UFOs can’t be alien technology. The U.S.A. hasn’t invaded Canada anytime lately and America has appropriate technology to do so if it wanted.

 

That leaves other motives – scientific, economic, etc. Let’s examine human equivalents. Humans have explored ever since we had the ability to explore. We’ve boldly gone, in person or via machine surrogates, to the depths of the ocean, to Antarctica, to the Moon, and to all of the planets (actual, or in the case of Pluto, on route). All this exploration for all practical purposes has been for the sake of just science, pure science, and nothing but the science. Of course there’s usually an ulterior motive in the back of the mind – exploration leads to exploitation. We explore, we like what we see, we colonize, we exploit, we build resorts for R&R, we migrate to escape various forms of environmental/political pressures, we mine for resources, and we farm for food and do more besides. Today the Moon is for science; tomorrow we may exploit its resources. Why should the ET-Earth relationship be any different?  

 

OBJECTION: Every cubic inch of the sky is monitored from above and below 24/7/52 by highly sophisticated electronic surveillance equipment, always on the lookout for sneak attacks and to track satellites and space junk. The orbits of thousands of bits of space junk are known with high precision, even if that bit is no larger than a ham sandwich! Any alien spaceships that large or (obviously) larger that’s up there, well, we’d know about it.

 

ANSWER: Advanced stealth technology rules; okay anyone? It’s a major and ever ongoing R&D into stealth technologies are of interest to the military, the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies on Earth. What might an advanced alien civilization 1000, 10,000 years in advance of our have in the way of such camouflage? They’d obvious use that technology to prevent being shot at by trigger-happy generals! In ‘Star Trek’ terminology, we’d call this sort of technology something akin to a ‘cloaking device’.

 

OBJCTION: If ET is, or was here, there would be artifacts left behind, even if it’s just ET’s garbage and little.

 

ANSWER: Unless we humans start launching our garbage into space, say the ultimate incineration in the solar furnace; well let’s just say that option is going to increase waste disposal rates several thousand fold and therefore isn’t a realistic option. Therefore, we have little option but to use Planet Earth as a garbage dump – much to the delight of archaeologists who base much of ancient human history on just such detritus. But of course time, natural forces and biological agents ultimately deal with most forms of human waste – solid, liquid and gaseous.

 

Those same natural forces and biological agents would also strut their natural recycling and breakdown stuff on ET’s waste. But, in addition, ET can and does have the option of removing their detritus off planet. Secondly, would we of necessity recognize and distinguish ET’s rubbish from all other forms of human rubbish especially without any obvious differences that would suggest such rubbish is somehow different and should be subject to complex analysis that would be required to confirm that this rubbish isn’t ordinary rubbish but extraordinary rubbish?  Lack of ET’s garbage is not evidence of a lack of ET.

 

There’s yet another solution. A technologically advanced ET is probably equally advanced in recycling technology. If you undertake interstellar voyages you’d better be damned efficient at recycling. Anyway, I don’t recall anyone in ‘Star Trek’ for example leaving behind their litter – an artifact, maybe like a book on Chicago’s gangsters yes, but not rubbish! But speaking of artifacts related to ET, there have been lots of authors, quite apart from Erich von Daniken, who have made careers out of pointing out archaeological evidence suggestive of ET. Now clearly much of that is embellishment and wishful thinking and often plain nonsense, but, as most of life’s little mysteries are, this isn’t an either/or situation. There are many shades of gray here and I’ve sen quite a few artifacts that are quite suggestive of an ET in our past, and of course if past tense, why not present tense? Now throw in some mythology…

 

FINAL FALLBACK OBJECTION: The UFO ETH can’t be therefore it isn’t; alright it might be but it still isn’t; don’t bother me with facts, my mind is made up; and in any event it’s all pseudoscience and I just deal with real science. Trust me on this – I’m a scientist!

 

FINAL ANSWER: Once upon a time Galileo Galilei and Nicolaus Copernicus would have been considered pseudo-astronomers; Heinrich Schliemann (of Troy fame) someone who dabbled in pseudo-archaeology; Charles Darwin was a pseudo-naturalist; and Alfred Wegener, obviously put forth a theory (continental drift) that could only be described as pseudo-geology at the time. Even originally Albert Einstein was so far out in left field that his scientific seniors and superiors could easily have described his physics as pseudo-physics. Only time and history will be the judge whether or not the UFO ETH is or was pseudoscience or real science. The jury IMHO is still out on that issue. 

 

CONCLUSIONS: Scientists rally against the UFO ETH and perhaps they are right – or maybe not. Scientists aren’t all-knowing. They too are human with all the accompanying baggage that implies and they can, and do, make mistakes.



Science librarian; retired.

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