The truth is out there...WAY out there

Oh. My. F-ing. God. All the news that's fit to print???

I know some of my readers don't think much of the New York Times (yes, PP, I'm talking to you), but despite some of my reservations, it's still the Paper of Record. That's why I was, er, um, was nauseated was flabbergasted threw up in my mouth was surprised when I saw a piece on the OpEd page today calling for better investigation of UFOs.

If you just did a spit take on your LCD, please wipe it off now.

OK, done? Good.

I did not make this up. Really. I'm not going to go through all the arguments regarding the utter improbability of alien visitors, or a conspiracy to cover up alien visits. It's been done, and done, and done.

There are a few points about this particular piece worth pointing out. First,

It's the New York Freakin' Times!

Second, the main argument here is that the US reportedly stopped investigating UFOs in 1968, and in these days of hightened terrorist threats (what color are we now, RED!!111!!?) we should not be ignoring potential threats, especially threats that might be invisible to radar.

To parse it out, the author is essentially defining UFO's as FO's that are visible to credulous individuals, but not to radar. He points out that the US has stealth aircraft, so Bad Guys might have radar-evading craft as well.

OK, first, al-Queda can't afford a stealth bomber, 'k?

Second, does this guy think the US military is completely daft? Yes they have their problems, but the military is also staffed by some seriously smart professionals. D'ya think they are ignoring airborne threats to national security?

This whole piece is ridiculous. The only reason it isn't fit for the National Enquirer is that it uses too many words. Why it's in the Times is beyond me.


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Apparently, the author, Nick Pope, worked for the British MoD 'investigating' ufo sightings for a few years. I put some interesting quotes from his website in my comment on PZ's post .
His history of ufos is quite credulous, in my opinion.

Er, please breathe deeply. Wipe off that froth from the corner of your mouth. Relax. Check your post for typos.

Stress is not good for your coronaries. :-)

is this any more transparently nonsense than all the other transparent nonsense they so often publish? Say, in the run up to the Iraq war? At least this isn't too likely to get anybody killed....

Janne, all "typos" were intentional.

I think they're making an interesting point. Just because there is no radar indication doesn't mean people are just seeing things. The first sightings of the stealth bomber were probably dismissed as hoaxes too. Some skepticism is healthy but there is a good chance that we're not alone in the universe and the could be potential extraterrestrial threats. It seems prudent to have some plan in place if the day ever comes that such a threat presents itself. Have investigative systems in place will go a long way toward dealing with them.

Matt, if we ever do receive visitors from another star, we will see them coming. The energy needed to transport a craft across interstellar distances will light up NASA's equipment like fireworks. There will be no sneaking up on Earth... it's just too energy intensive.

" ...the military is also staffed by some seriously smart professionals."

Well, maybe. I'm sure there are some. But there are also lots and lots of seriously incompetent professionals, simple button pushers, plenty of pure hacks and (on the contractor side), some seriously money-grubbing professionals.

There will be no sneaking up on Earth... it's just too energy intensive.

Two points: First, NASA'd have to be looking in the right direction to see it and they aren't spending a lot of resources on scanning space randomly. Second, a sufficiently advanced technology might be able to do it. Seems unlikely, but so would the internet have in 1908.

That having been said, I'm not staying up nights worrying about the aliens invading. Large rocks falling from the sky and making like the extinction of the dinosaurs gives me occasional pause, but extraterrestrial life forms invading, no.

Having an open, skeptical mind is one thing- but the kind of scoffing you exhibit is decidedly un-scientific. I'll bet a million bucks you've never suspended disbelief for 5 minutes on this, or you wouldn't be so cocksure.

Nobody knows what this phenomena is. Many, many military folks attest to the reality of this, firsthand, and if you don't know who they are or what they've reported, you have no business passing judgment on the topic. You're just uninformed. Go listen to some of the brave men who endure just your kind of ridicule to tell their stories at the Disclosure Project, and see if you can tolerate not being so sure of yourself!

I'm not holding my breath, but perhaps some of you are more curious than dogmatic..........

By John Doyle (not verified) on 30 Jul 2008 #permalink

"D'ya think they are ignoring airborne threats to national security?"

Do you think they fly over US airspace with nuclear weapons?

nuff said.

Chuck, the question isn't just whether we have nukes flying across the country, but whether they are arm-able. Still, not a wonderful thought.'ve never suspended disbelief for 5 minutes...

Damned strait. To paraphrase a friend, it's possible to be so open-minded that your brains run out uselessly on the ground.

Second, does this guy think the US military is completely daft?

I don't see as he'd be too far wrong if he did, frankly...

By Interrobang (not verified) on 30 Jul 2008 #permalink've never suspended disbelief for 5 minutes...

I don't know about anyone else, but I try to avoid suspending disbelief unless I'm watching or reading an SF/F movie or novel. In the real world, I don't suspend my disbelief. Acknowledge that I don't know everything, yes. Evaluate the evidence, no matter how unexpected, yes. Suspend disbelief, no.

Although I will admit that in one way I'm willing to be a little more lax in my evaluation of the possibility of extraterrestrial life than I would be in evaluating, say, whether shark cartilage shrinks tumors: If an ET presented itself to me and I was able to demonstrate that its genetic code was written in something other than nucleic acids, that its effector molecules were something other than proteins, and generally could prove that it wasn't a hoax, I'd take it as strong evidence for extraterrrestrial intelligence. Even though it would be, technically, just an ancedote.

As the late Marion Zimmer Bradley--who herself spent some time thinking about space travel--said, "Suspension of disbelief does not mean hanging it by the neck until dead."

John, don't make the classic mistake of believing that because we don't agree with you we haven't thought about the subject. There's a big step from believing that people have had strange experiences to deciding that these experiences all have the single cause of alien contact.

As the late Marion Zimmer Bradley--who herself spent some time thinking about space travel--said, "Suspension of disbelief does not mean hanging it by the neck until dead."

Sigh. I miss Marion Zimmer Bradley (as an author...I never met her personally.)

NASA'd have to be looking in the right direction

Any sort of drive capable of accelerating a large craft to interstellar speeds, then slowing it down again on its arrival, is going to have some pretty spectacular visual/electromagnetic/radiation effects to go along with it. I would be willing to wager that it could be seen with the naked eye years before any possible alien craft could approach our orbit.

Occam is good for more than shaving, ya know. Magic stealth UFO's? Please.

Comforting that the percentage of credulous believers here appears dramatically lower than the commenters on the NYT website. You'd think Phil Klass and other knowledgeable debunkers of UFOs had never published a word or given a talk, to read much of what, ahem, "cropped" up in response to this charlatan Pope.

As usual, the sales value of the "proof" of nonsense is far higher than the value of its debunking. Quelle domage.

Lets change the point of view here.
As one who has interviewed people who have seen things ["Oh it weren't no UFO, it was a little boy in a bird cage with fire underneath him. He was trying to get away from helicopters" 1978 Tucson, AZ.] I have to say that anyone can gather information.

How is it that US govt will do a better job investigating than any other evidence gathering organization? NYTimes should do their own investigations.

Concenring this unknown and controversial phenomena, there are far too many people having the same experiences, including many military personnel - to deny there is a developing pattern here. The more you know about this, the more patterns there are to recognize. One can certainly deny the implications that are derived from these experiences (and that's what they are - people's experiences, many times shared experiences). On a cosmic note, every moment of time is different - and the phenomena that is being discussed here has to do just as much, if not more - with time phenonena. Space-time is the medium and extra-dimensionalilty is the topic, rather than simply extra-terrestrial. Science is having a hard time keeping up with reality, expecially the parts of it that are beyond our grasp. But one thing that scientists konw that the public must add into this equation is that we live in a multi-verse and we are very much not alone.

By Zap Morgan (not verified) on 30 Jul 2008 #permalink

You are from a jurisdiction where marijuana is legal, no?

I hear too often the arrogant argument from sceptics that, it's highly unlikely we are being visited due to various scientific factors regarding space/time/vast distances involved.
Well,given that the scientific advances being made by the human race are going at a fair speed,isn't it highly likely that a more advanced civilisation(s) have overcome many such obstacles and are capable of space travel with apparent ease compared to our steps into space so far?.

Get with the program,please,accept the possibility that such things are thought of more as probable than possible these days,with such huge numbers of potentially life bearing planets throughout the known universe.
It would be ignorant and highly arrogant of us as a species to think otherwise,actually.

I think most scientists would certainly say that life somewhere else in the universe is a reasonable possibility. It's a big leap from that statement to, "and they like to come visit us and use their anal probes."

I will do more than "accept the possibility" of alien life somewhere out there. I will go so far as to say that it is a near-certainty that there is intelligent life somewhere out there. The sheer scope of the universe almost guarantees that.

However, with the speed of light being an absolute limit it would take centuries to travel to even the closest stars. Any drive capable of that would be extremely energetic. I'm not discounting the possibility of extraterrestrials dropping by for a visit, just the idea of them being able to sneak in the back door.

Reading for comprehension... why do they have *SUCH* a problem with it?? (Rhetorical question...)

Wow, there's some brilliant "science" for you: Alien visitors are utterly improbable; therefore, no need to look at data or physical evidence behind UFO reports. How convenient. Armchair investigating rules!

I hope you folks don't employ this approach in your medical and legal careers.--Rob Swiatek

By Rob Swiatek (not verified) on 30 Jul 2008 #permalink

Why shouldn't it be in the Times? I would expect the crowd here to be sympathetic to the idea of alien visitors. After all, planet formation is empirically found to be commonplace, and life origination and evolution processes should produce some intelligent beings besides ourselves. It's not a "paranormal" concept since the biology and physics are there, just with some difficulties. Sure, getting between stars is not easy but is it *so obviously bad* a technical hurdle (or maybe, social one since cross-generational travel is an option) that we should sneer at the idea of being visited? I would more expect creationists to object, for reasons such as "The Bible says Man is special" or "The UFOs are really demonic signs - from the Lord of the Power of the Air - of the immanent second coming." Aliens are the perfect affront to Fundies, I would think. I don't have a firm opinion, I just don't get the resistance - what's your excuse?

I also know that described UFO behavior doesn't fit what we'd expect, but if false IDs and reports were mixed in with a few real ones it's hard to tell. Behavioral suppositions about non-humans are not a rock solid grounds for hard skepticism. IMHO, skepticism and especially derision about UFOs in these quarters is a psychological artifact and not well thought out: the intuitive "feel" that this is something weird, not part of the accessible realm in practice (even if reasonable in overall principle), the ad hominem issue of the sorts of people mostly attracted to it, etc.

Finally, Edgar Mitchell said he's been shown info that visitation is real. Yeah, he's a little offbeat but I don't think someone with his accomplishments can be just "blown off", which is not the only alternative to "having to agree with":…

Also, it's a straw man (and false dichotomy) to think that you either have to be sure UFOs are alien visitors, or be dismissive. IOW, one doesn't have to "settle" on a presumption. You could try thinking, maybe so or not so, and it doesn't hurt to spend more time looking or evaluating what we've got already.

By Neil B. ☼ (not verified) on 30 Jul 2008 #permalink

Well, some people may assume that because we dismiss the idea that we haven't actually studied the evidence.

That would be, sadly, wrong.

As a geek and a sci-fi nut, I would love evidence of actual extraterrestrial contact. I still have hope that SETI may come up with something. I get a little thrill at each new tale...

But there is no there, there. There is only delusion, hallucination, or swamp gas. Seriously... when Gort comes by, I will be the first in line to greet him. "Klaatu Barada Nikto!" But I refuse to let my hopes overshadow reality.

Okay, so they come way across the galaxy in their traceless generational ships to seek out other life. They find us...and decide to play peekaboo. For generations. Maybe they're very shy aliens.

Or maybe there are a number of things that people experience that they can't explain. And maybe there are a few people generating money and attention with the books, interviews and lectures that claim there is much more similarity between experiences than there is. And maybe people who want to believe in alien visitations aren't willing to check to see what's already been explained, quite mundanely.

For the record, the MZB quote above was part of her standard checklist rejection letter for science fiction and fantasy. As fun as the shy-alien story might be to write, she wouldn't have bought it. Me neither.


It's one phenomenon, and more than one phenomena.

Thank you.

Responding to PalMD - I got a kick out of your Ganja comment to my post yesterday. No, I'm not in a 420-friendly enviornment, nor do I partake. I will go for some more caffine, though. I guess what I'm trying to interject into this discussion is why is everyone talking about space travel? This isn't the 1950's anymore. There are universes right next door. This is already accepted by physicists. Flying crafts are shifting in and out of a dimensional barrier into ours and probably have for eons. They're as terrestrial as we are. And our military folks have to deal with this because they are charged to protect our airspace. I mentioned the time element - that means time travel. It would make sense that Our Visitors if they are making use of time travel probably have to keep a low profile - so as not to alter too much in the time continuum. Things may be changing though.
With the advent of our experimenting with atom smashing in the last 60-70 years - which most likely has generated some kind of effect in their universe - we've attracted some attention next door.

By Zap Morgan (not verified) on 31 Jul 2008 #permalink

Flying crafts are shifting in and out of a dimensional barrier into ours and probably have for eons

And you know this because...

Research |logic (when possible). It's not my idea. There are many researchers out there and scientists who regard this as a plausible explanation for the phenomena (Valle, Keel, also torsion theorists, quantum theorists). There are lots of brilliant minds trying to sort this out, and eventually we will find out. But in the meantime, public opinion on the phenomena seems to be stuck in the 1950's mindset. This is a brave new world - science fiction has a tendency to become science fact. Expect Anything.

By Zap Morgan (not verified) on 31 Jul 2008 #permalink

This is a brave new world - science fiction has a tendency to become science fact. Expect Anything.

The most accurate typo of the year.

Why would aliens who had conquered FTL travel bother to come here? Seems just a TEENSY bit anthrocentric, not unlike other religious beliefs. If we can't have proof of "god," by all means, let's have proof of higher life forms that, it is to be hoped, will provide us with all sorts of kewl new tech, medical breakthroughs, eternal life, and the like, right?

Meanwhile, here's one of our former moon-landing astronauts on this issue:

How scary is that? But hardly shocking, I'm afraid.

Responding to Michael PG, I'm sure Earth at this point in time is a very interesting place to observe/participate. And, as I put forth earlier, there are those who believe that our breakthru in atomic science which also ushered in the modern UFO era has caused ripples in someone else's quantum backyard. So we've got some kind of neighbor who's been checkin' out how well our tool-making is coming along.

And considering the the most recent news events and the totality of all the UFO flaps (Stephensville, O'Hare Airport, Bucks County, many places in England), the Larry King coverage, former astronauts' testimony, Vatican astonomer announcement, etc.- it seems like its coming to a head.

Maybe the Virgin Mary will appear again somewhere and straighten it all out. I hope so...

By Zap Morgan (not verified) on 31 Jul 2008 #permalink

there are those who believe that our breakthru in atomic science which also ushered in the modern UFO era has caused ripples in someone else's quantum backyard.

How...Roddenberry of you.

Considering the quality of the majority of UFO reports, our visiting aliens have quite an obsession with rednecks' butts.

No amount of quantum woo will replace evidence. Just because a spate of celebrity twits are blathering about it, does not constitute evidence. Larry King has not been relevant for a long time.

I hear ya. But add up yer rednecks, yer former military, yer airline pilots, and all the miscellaneous folks in between and the term relevant loses its relevance. You're right, the evidence is slippery. That's a sleeper...
And what's that Vatican astronomer chirping in for? Playing the odds?

Larry King (and others) are covering the subject because there's a buzz - there are lots of reports - and they're coming in from many sources and many countries. Just look at the pattern. Isn't this blog about denialism?

By Paz Nagrom (not verified) on 31 Jul 2008 #permalink

The problem with the hypothesis that human subatomic experiments sent ripples into their world is that the natural background of such things is very much higher even today and always has been. The natural background in places like Jupiter is higher also.

Come to think of it, maybe that is the obsession with anal probing, they know that Uranus is a likely source of mini and perhaps not so mini black holes.

Yes, this blog is about denialism. That would include reality denial. As a matter of fact, all denialism would be a denial of reality on some level.

The difference here is that we, the skeptic community, would like to see evidence. If actual evidence were produced, and could be tested, we would believe. Denialists would not, and would use their denialist tactics to obfuscate, hide, and deny the evidence.

When faced with evidence that disproves a pet theory, we say "Hmm... that's interesting. Can I see that?" and we go on to test the evidence, and modify our own beliefs as necessary. And the plural of anecdote is not data. It doesn't matter how many of "yer rednecks, yer former military, yer airline pilots, and all the miscellaneous folks in between" you add up, it still is not evidence. One actual, non-retouched photo. One radar trace. One piece of alien technology. One piece of an alien organism. Actual, you know, evidence.

A denialist sticks his fingers in his ears and screams "LALALALA I'M NOT LISTENING TO YOU!"

To quote Fox Mulder, "I want to believe".

Some alien DNA would be pretty good evidence.

A whole genome of it would be impossible to fake with today's technology and would be very obviously completely alien.

Any alien organism including alien bacteria would be completely obviously alien, completely impossible to fake and trivially easy to get with any kind of "real" contact.

Imagine... a whole new KIND of DNA. Perhaps something that uses raised nodes on the surface of the cell, designed to be read by pseudopods from another cell. Sort of a BDNA (Braille DNA)!!

New parasites to study. New biological truths to uncover! Oh joy! Oh rapture!

Seriously. Science geeks like us would be THRILLED to have alien organisms to study. But we're definitely gonna have to see proof of purchase.

(I'm tired, yes. Going to bed, I am now)

Daedalus2u I hear you all the way. At this point, I'm looking at patterns - in human experience, more than evidence. Because when evidence is consistently THAT slippery - on this magnitude, I build that into the phenomena - not deny that there's something unusal going on. I'm skeptical too about the little green man theory, but not about the possibility of multiple dimensions. As far as evidence goes, who's ever produced any proof of the existence of the Man-with-the-white-beard floating in the Heavens - or anything even close to that. But that is the MAINSTREAM belief in our country and many others. Of course we're getting into religion rather than science, but there could be a link between all these phenomena. After all, all are valid human experiences of some kind. So if you acknowledge that 'something' is going on out there- what is YOUR explanation? If nothing is going on except hype and thousands of ordinary people having shared-lunatic experiences, then that too deserves some kind of explanation.

By Zap Again (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Correction: I was responding to LanceR's comment ending with "I want to believe" ...

(my problem - "I just want to know")

By Zap Again (not verified) on 01 Aug 2008 #permalink

Why they keep bringing up some Air Force pilots who saw something, this argument from authority is old. Even when they saw something, they don't know. A freaking astronaut was caught wearing diapers and trying to kill the girlfriend of another astronaut she was stalking. These people are as prone to being deluded as anyone else. Including scientists, that's why they have to follow the fracking SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Scientists just generally (of course there are exceptions) not to jump to conclusions until evidence comes around.

And do I have to mention that the arguably (and SO fucking LAMENTABLY) most powerful man in the world believes god talks to him? Also, as a premium, he's an all-around imbecile.

And Zap, I dare you to mention any reputable quantum physicist that agrees with your views. Hell, mention any STRING theorist that agrees with you.

What is the position of the anti-denialism community on ball lightning?

andyo: An entertaining response..To respond to your dare - I'm not sure anyone agrees exactly with my point of view, there may be. I'm not looking for votes. I'm just suggesting to keep an open mind to other possibilities. What I have been mentioning in this blog is another possibility of where (or when) these proportedly advanced crafts are coming from. If one doesn't believe that any of these thousands of reports have any validiy to them - or until there is some hardcore evidence, then of course it is all speculation.

By Zap Morgan (not verified) on 04 Aug 2008 #permalink