Friday, 26 October 2007

ET and Humans

I am at a continual loss to comprehend the complete lack of imagination applied to the enigma of human reaction to contact. Astronomy seems to be emotionally detached and approaches the subject in an academic monotone. UFOlogists just don’t get it and the liberal sciences rarely think of it.

Either people can’t envisage the response or they don’t want to.

Of course, it’s an unknown quantity but I simply can’t go along with the thinking that not a lot would happen, that people would be under-whelmed or that little would change. The manner of contact would be key and the consequences would understandably vary depending on whether we were being attacked or whether, for example, an artificial extraterrestrial construct was discovered in space. For the sake of this thread, let us assume the most benign possibility of them all; SETI detects a signal. And it comes from light years away and somehow SETI are able to establish that those transmitting are unable to reach us. There is no danger, no immediate threat of eradication, just a presence.

Hysteria anyone? Well inevitably there would be but to what degree is anyone’s guess. For guidance, Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds is what we point to, amidst revisionist claims that the reaction has since been exaggerated and was nothing like it has historically claimed to have been. Perhaps the myth is greater than the reality but the relevance today is oblique. Gone are the pre Second World War tensions of 1938 and the memories of a devastating depression, to be replaced with a hyped up, fear driven, head in the sands religious zeal of biblical intensity and dogma. Is there more fire and brimstone now than in 1938? Yes but, no but. It’s different, it’s the same.

But Roswell happened and if anything, that was more real. At least we all went looking to kick Orson Welles’ butt after the joke was revealed but in 1947, one of them actually landed here in America, did it not? The cheek of it! No, no hysteria, just intense curiosity.

Sixty years later we’re still in the same mess. For different reasons, what prevails now is what has prevailed for ever; fear. The Iron Curtain has gone and is replaced with Iran or terrorism or both but whatever, we’re still under the cosh, we can never relax, and at one level at least, human existence is a pretty miserable experience.

Conflicting with this zeal are increased levels of education, awareness, maturity and suspicion of government - the counter weight. Today is what matters and it’s a difficult call. My opinion is that there would be substantial elements of world wide hysteria which couldn’t be ignored, for it would inevitably impinge on the calmer elements. The most un-endearing quality within the psyche of the human spirit is arrogance. Our world is full of strutting little despots, be it militarily, politically, administratively, the religious realm, or even in our personal lives. People full of their own self importance and power, without humility or empathy, who would seize the opportunity to terrify and manipulate. Martial law in some quarters would be a real possibility. After all, this would be an event of a life time.

Would calm ever be restored? Would the threat of the devil a’coming be assuaged sufficiently for people to shrug their shoulders, go back to work, and get on with their lives? I guess pretty much, particularly when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse miss the starting line up for the 3:20 at Kempton. But sociologically, it could never be the same. A fissure of irreparable width would sear through the human throng and the mountains of Montana and other world wide remoteness would begin to resemble overcrowded metropolises. This, mind, relates to the “bad” part of hysteria, those with the complete screaming had-dabs, rolling tongues, staring eyes, and dribble down their chins. The “good” part are those who merely expect rapture. Large numbers of these will die in road traffic accidents as drivers attempt to swerve out of the way of figures kneeling in prayer in the middle of the road. It’s not beginning to look like a good thing.

Back in Normalsville, how would Mr Average react? Why don’t I ask him? Well, if I was absolutely assured of their non threatening behaviour, I’d be very curious, I would want to know whether they were ahead of us technologically, whether they would want to meet, what they looked like and what their world was like, what we could learn from them and them us; the usual things. I don’t think my inner self would be changed because of the realisation that we are not unique but rather to the contrary, there would be a real pleasure that we weren’t alone. I would probably undergo some element of spiritual sensation but only to the extent of putting candles around the bath. I wouldn’t start high tailing it off to church or temple any more frequently than I don’t do now and I wouldn’t get the colly wobbles either. I would feel different, certainly. I would be uplifted and feel like there was a point to it all after all. I would expect a reaction from my political leaders by way of an example and if it failed to come, I would be prepared to launch a physical attack against them because of their stupidity in not taking an opportunity for change. I would expect to see a world wide improvement in international relations a la the Regan principle. I would expect a realignment of views and approach. Frankly, I would expect a changed world and peace to break out all over the place. And if it didn’t, I would be very, very cross. It would be time to cut the crap.

So, he’s got an opinion or two then. What he left out is how small the Earth would begin to look and yet at the same time, how wonderful a place it will seem. Mental health issues would surge to the fore - “ordinary” issues like depression and schizophrenia would be rampant. The suicide rate would undoubtedly shoot up. There would be social unrest, disquiet, and extremes of communal highs and lows. There would be great joy, dramatic displays of human kinship and love and an animosity towards authority.

Science will pause and hold its breadth, not knowing which way to turn. Astrobiology will be cock a hoop. Anthropology will be thrown into confusion. Physics will want to give up. There will be many more questions than answers. The economy will suffer dramatically. Substantial numbers just won’t care anymore and will stop working. Markets will crash and turmoil will prevail. The quality of life will assume an even greater importance than it presently does.

What happens if I’m just not interested? That’s not an option – you won’t be allowed to be not interested. You won’t be left alone. Your senses will be assaulted by every conceivable media outlet. Your friends, your work colleagues will have little else of conversation. Literally, the only way to avoid it would be to lock yourself away in your house and shut the rest of the world out.

All this just from a confirmed SETI signal. I wonder what it would be like if we were under attack?


Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Anthropomorphism and Extraterrestrial Life

I am reminded of the ongoing circle of imaginative discourse involved in attempting to see planet Earth and its cosmic relevance through the eyes of an extraterrestrial over at Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams. In his piece Self-Consciousness Among the Stars he says;

Sometimes it seems that we humans give ourselves too much importance in the cosmic scheme of things. After all, what would our little planet have to offer in a galaxy that, as The Age (Melbourne) notes, is made up of 100 billion stars (and there’s that number again, 100 billion, which reminds me that estimates of our Galaxy’s stellar population range from this low-ball figure all the way up to Timothy Ferris’ whopping one trillion). Aren’t humans, we ask, just one more backward species trying to evolve?

Maybe, but the problem is that we have no way of knowing the answer. If we are the only civilization in the Orion Arm, then we’re hugely significant. If we’re one of ten thousand, then we’re not.

Giancarlo Genta, who has written wisely and sanely about SETI in his new book
Lonely Minds in the Universe (New York: Copernicus, 2007), would add that we don’t really know whether intelligence and self-consciousness always co-exist.

Paul encapsulates both points of view by either referencing in the third person or by quoting someone else. It would have been nice to know his opinion.

The opinion I hear most often, but do not share, is the former; namely that if a civilisation is capable of interstellar travel, we could not possibly be of any interest to them.

But I beg to differ. Regardless of the frequency of other life, as he himself illustrates, we have no real idea of how intelligence and consciousness from another environment might present itself. If we were to happen upon life that was obviously sentient but very different to us, we’d be intrigued and we’d stop or at least observe.

The futility of such a comment though is obvious. How can we possibly presume to know how another intelligence would think? If one extends that argument further, then a massive question mark must even appear over SETI as well.

So it seems we have no choice but to anthropomorphise because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t even get started, and there’s not much point to that.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

SETI; I blame Stan Friedman.

I was delighted for SETI the week before last that they got such a tremendous PR boost from the coming-on-line of the Allen Array at Hat Creek. Furthermore, one is reminded of how fortunate they are to have such a generous benefactor in Paul Allen. This is a classic example of putting your money where your mouth is except that in Mr. Allen’s case, I never actually heard him talking about the search for extraterrestrial life before he became involved with SETI. To be honest, I’ve not heard him talk much about it since then either, so he’s obviously a very discrete individual.

The fact that there is antagonism between the SETI and the UFO camps is down to Stan. He has set the tone and the pace over the years and the rest of us, incapable of independent thought and sheep like, have followed suit. The Silly Effort To Investigate is quite a catchy jingle and one wonders why Stanley has never forsaken UFOs and nuclear physics and turned instead to the wonderful world of advertising, where his intellect might have earned him a crumb or two.

And it is all so self serving. Inevitably over the years, Stan and Seth have crossed swords and Stan has continued to lick his wounds. Seth of course, cannot for a moment give any ground because if he does, the game is up. If he even hints at the possibility that ET has already been here then the big switch gets thrown at Mountain View and someone will be looking for other gainful employment.

To be fair to Stan, the work and the approach that SETI takes attracts almost as much universal criticism pro rata as does the study of UFOs. Many regard SETI as simply pissing in the wind; that their whole premise is based on an erroneousness assumption and they should be using other methods other than the radio spectrum or, they should instead be transmitting instead of just listening, and so on. And most interestingly, they too have been accused of being faith based and not much better than a religion, something that will be familiar to UFO advocates. The more you consider it, the more alarming the scenario becomes as you realise that the niggles between the two groups are like two siblings squabbling.

That said, SETI have my unquestioning full support. We should be grateful for any properly organised attempt at discovering ET and if there is any honesty and generosity of spirit within UFO circles, then it behoves them to support Seth and his tribe. But there isn’t, so they won’t. Nonetheless, I can’t help feeling that both sides are going to miss out and that it will be the astrobiological mob that will plant the flag and be the first to discover and confirm the existence of extraterrestrial life.

As in many conflicts, there is great irony. Stan and Seth both seek intelligent life. The astro crowd want that too but are arguably the party with their feet most firmly planted in the world of reality and probability. The bugs will win.

I do have my own criticisms of SETI but they are more to do with their PR side. Their web site is poor, despite a recent overhaul and their general publicity machine could do an awful lot more than it does. But their heart is in the right place and their goals are spot on.

I wish them well and I thank Paul Allen.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

UFOs and Science

People who have had long, distinguished careers in a subject, who have contributed through books and even been a part of the history, should command the respect of others. That Dick Hall doesn’t do that for me is either a testimony to my mean mindedness or a tribute to his ability in pissing people off. Dick requires patience and “understanding” to deal with, and I can’t be bothered.

A major area of antagonism is his complete lack of good grace or manners towards others. Fresh from snarling at all and everyone, he has recently posted this message to the UFO UpDates message board. It’s about science and UFOlogy. In between regularly insulting the entire List about its complete lack of any scientific bearing or approach, it would seem that it is only him, a non scientist, who truly applies the scientific method in analysing UFOs.


Following up on recent posts about how science could and should study UFOs, here is what I outlined in The UFO Evidence, Vol. II (2000).

I thought I had it on a floppy disc, but if so I couldn't find it. In the original I argued the case more fully, so this is a bare-bones outline.

From The UFO Evidence, Vol. II (Scarecrow Press, 200), pp. 645-647,I reported the "Elements of a Scientific Study." Condensed here they are:

I. Adequate funding for scientific personnel and administrative staff infrastructure.

II. Systematic gathering of both historical and current information at one or more collection points.

III. Quick reaction teams equipped with instruments to conduct timely field investigations.

IV. Re-establishment or establishment of new reporting networks similar to successful ones of the past.

V. Cataloging, documenting, and data analysis of evidential types of UFO reports:

a. E-M effects
b. Radar
c. Physiological/medical effects
d Landing traces
e. Animal reactions
f. Photographic evidence
g. Computerized pattern and correlation analysis

VI. Publication and peer review of data, analysis, and findings.

VII. Testing of the hypothesis that some UFOs represent an as yet unexplained, potentially significant phenomenon of worldwide scope, giving both the appearance and some instrumented evidence of being solid, structured objects (i.e., craft).


No, there’s nothing wrong with what he’s written, just in case you were wondering, and they are all very admirable sentiments. The only difficulty is that none of it is based in the land of reality. In fact, it is so far removed from the real world it almost makes me cry.

What scientifically based institution is going to undertake this sort of programme? None, for the simple reason, and I’m not being cynical here, that there’s no money in it. If he can coral Dan Akroyd or some other starry eyed celebrity with more cash than sense to divvy up then he might be in luck, but I doubt it.

Of course Dick gives the whole game away with his last paragraph. What he is saying is this: I believe that UFOs are extraterrestrial craft and I want science to focus all its resources into proving my pet theory. Sure Dick; here’s a few million dollars to indulge yourself with, you moron.

One of the small problems he faces is that there is precious little evidence on which to base a serious scientific study in the first place. Of course Dick would probably burst a blood vessel in his rush to disagree. He would wave his bundles of witness statements and photographs and all manner of other material but it’s all irrelevant because it begs one question; if there was any substance to any of it, someone would have jumped in before. Lots and lots of companies would want to know how a UFO flies and how it’s built.

Why do I always have to bring everything back to money? Because that’s the way America works.

Try as he might, he refuses to grasp what is obvious to most. There is a phenomenon but it’s probably in the plural and no one has a clue as to source. There’s simply no starting point. But Dick wants to throw money at it.

Oh, you can measure light refraction or cloud levels or where the nearest airport is or take an EM reading or even note when the dog last farted. But when you’ve done all that, then what? It’s anomalous! That helps a lot.

Worse, it could just be that his most favourite person in the whole wide world, Jacques Vallee, might even be right or at least going in the right direction. That would mean no Little Green Men for Dicky.

He just can’t let go of the ETH but wants it all nice and cuddly and respectable. He wants to be able to walk tall and feel that he has the weight of respected society and its institutions behind him instead of constantly ducking as yet another journalist labels those who study UFOs as nutters. He is trapped in a tunnel vision hell-hole without the intellectual capability or courage to cast his eye further a field which, by my reckoning, doesn’t make him very bright. It’s the ETH or nothing for him and he wants Society to bale him out. It is never going to happen.

We all want the ETH Dick. It's just some of us have grown up.

The great irony is, science not only takes an interest in, but is actually leading the march towards the discovery of extraterrestrial life. And it will unquestionably find it. But Dick isn’t interested in whether there’s extraterrestrial life; he’s interested in UFOs.


As I said, it’s enough to make me cry.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Disclosure

I find the entire concept of “Disclosure” a most bizarre line of reasoning. It is so unimaginative, restrictive, and incomprehensible that I wonder about the mindset of those that look to it and hope for its coming.

What I find perplexing are the assumptions. The primary one is that the government knows something or at the very least, knows more than us. This belief, for that is what it is, is based on the notion that government is powerful and all knowing and simply must have the answers, because of its resources, to what has been happening in the skies above us. They have these answers because they have somehow developed unspecified machinery or equipment that is capable of giving them this information or because ET has previously secretly made contact with the American regime and said “hello.”

People who follow this credo are no better than sheep in a flock; “Someone will tell me because I need to be told. I also need to be told when to wipe my ass.” I think the best that one can objectively claim about the American government is that they might have suspicions about this or about that but very little else. There is much argument and debate about just how easy it is for Government to really keep something secret. The most oft quoted example is the Manhattan Project during the Second World War, a programme in which many thousands of people were involved and about which not a word leaked out. And there are also undoubtedly many secrets concerning major events which have still to see the light of day.

I am one of those people who think, by and large, that Governments can’t keep secrets and that inevitably, stuff does come out. What confuses the issue is that other stuff also floats about so that one can never know for sure which premise is the right answer. But that the truth is out there is beyond question.

One can lose sight of the fact that “Government” is made up of beings called “People”. Regardless of their discretion, their intellect, and their skills, the bottom line is they are just like us, with all the foibles, weaknesses, and mental issues that the rest of the population possess. They aren’t anything particularly special.

If the study of UFOs should have taught us anything, it is exactly the same lesson to be learned from the study of the paranormal and from Bigfoot; intangibility and elusiveness. Everything is always just beyond our reach and just over the horizon. And yet in the eyes of those asking for disclosure, somehow, this doesn’t appear to apply to the government.

Or maybe it is that ET has chosen to make contact directly to a nation’s leadership. Why would He do this? Because it’s the obvious thing to do? Obvious to whom? Obvious to our way of thinking and of doing things perhaps, but how can we possibly assume to know how an extraterrestrial might think?

People want answers and that is understandable. But demand for disclosure is a shifting of responsibility and immature reasoning. It is a lazy way of blaming someone else for the frustration that the study of UFOs brings about.

And the ironic thing is, if the Americans announced that ET was here, half of those clamouring for The Truth wouldn’t believe them and would insist they were still covering something else up.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Have Aliens Ever Visited Planet Earth?

As my journey within UFOlogy has moved on, my philosophical position has mirrored that of a fuel gauge in a car, moving gradually from full to near empty. From being an almost wide eyed believer, I have become sceptical. Not cynically so, not bitter or fed up, but in to a position that I think of as a realistic perch on which to sit. This has happened as a result of recognising the degree and depth to which UFOlogy has been the victim of the American Intelligence services.

In early October of 2007, I posted up on the UFO Review website an article by Canadian writer Bernard Pelletier which amounted to a good old fashioned side swipe at sceptics. I prefaced it with the observation that the views contained did not necessarily represent the opinions of the web site etc but the article had some element of worth and although I disagreed with it fundamentally, within certain limits I’m quite prepared to offer a platform to pretty much anyone.

The writer displayed the despair of the scared believer, one who feels his position undermined but who is desperate not to let go. It was, frankly, a rant. My reason for mentioning this is to illustrate the point that sceptics come in a variety of colours and shades and to blindly thrash around waving a bat at all of them is silly.

You see, I believe that aliens have visited planet Earth.

When most people offer the opinion that they think it’s very unlikely that ET has visited here, inevitably they do so from the trapped cultural perspective of the Gray. They may not have that word in mind but undoubtedly behind the statement, somewhere in their consciousness, will be a mental image of something with a head and limbs jumping out of a saucer-shaped craft. That scenario is just so unlikely that it’s a doddle to reject. And it’s true; it is easy to reject because for one thing, there’s no acceptable proof.

This is a trap that we all constantly fall into, as do those who insist that faster then light travel is impossible. On the one hand, at some level we recognise that this is a mysterious subject that has defied explanation for centuries. It presents itself in myriad forms that perplex, puzzle, frighten and confuse. It fills us with awe and fear as well as intense expectation and reaches into the Human spirit in a way that shuts out the mundane and excludes the banal.

Yet we look at it through the camera lens of Stephen Spielberg. What we don’t do is to bring to this subject the one thing that it needs: imagination.

We want what we want, and what we want is the cliché. However people twist it, however they deny it, and no matter what intellectual or research level they hold within UFOlogy, fundamentally, they want their Space Brothers. They want to be rescued, guided, and mentored. Which is why for many people within the subject, the science of astrobiology induces a yawn.

Microbes aren’t exciting and they don’t interact. Red rain remains a phenomenon that can be conveniently ignored. The bizarre life forms that might have evolved on Europa are just glorified fish. And the Mars Rovers are a pain in the ass because nothing so far has stood up in front of them holding a card reading “Come and get me Earthlings”.

ET is here alright. He’s the bumble bee in the room or the dust swirl in the garden. He is frankly, anything your imagination can let him be. But if there is intelligent life out there, no matter how far away it might be, that is a hundred years or more ahead of our science, and there will be, then it will have come. It will have got here and had a look at our planet and lamented the pitiful lack of imagination among its inhabitants
.