Sunday, July 18, 2010

Clearing Up a Confusion

Recognizing the potential diversity of the audience here, I hope to be explicit enough in these early posts not to overwhelm the UFO newcomer, while conveying enough sophistication to appeal to the interests of those who are steeped in the field. Whether I succeed at this, you can be the judge.

For the wider public, UFOs conjure up alien spacecraft and little green men. For the fully initiated, this idea is called the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis — the notion that these disks, rods, cigars, snow cones, conical hats and black triangles flying the friendly skies hail from distant solar systems or even other galaxies. While the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis appears to be the most widely held theory among American ufologists, after sixty plus years of modern research into UFOs, we still have no smoking gun, or should I say, smoking ray gun. Moreover, there are several lines of evidence that suggest that UFO occupants do not come from other stars.

The idea that UFO occupants are aliens from another world appeals to our anthropocentric bias and our desire for metaphysical clarity. Just as we have sent men to the moon, presumably an advanced civilization will send them to the stars. And while we can’t drive down to the White House lawn and “kick the tires,” at least we can imagine that there are tires to be kicked. But what if these strange gray beings are time travelers or creatures who live in other dimensions? What if the craft we see in the sky wink in and out of existence? What if they can — as is commonly reported — change shape and even split into multiple craft and then rejoin? And what about the fact that a witness may see a UFO, while another person in close proximity will not? Very soon our tidy sense of metaphysical clarity breaks down.

None of this rules out the real possibility that we are being visited by extraterrestrials from other worlds. Isaac Asimov pointed out that a sufficiently advanced technology would appear to us as magic. Having grown up on Close Encounters and ET, I would like nothing more than for enlightened space beings to come down and lift me (and the rest of you) up to a higher level of consciousness and intergalactic brother and sisterhood. Even the darker motifs displayed in abduction reports reflect the idiom of our collective nightmares. But the deeper one delves into the UFO literature, the more complicated the landscape becomes. In other words, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

In sum, it seems important for proponents of ETH to specify conditions that, if satisfied, would distinguish genuine extraterrestrials from other sorts of visitors. One promising line of evidence comes from the work of Dr. Roger Leir — a California podiatrist who has carved out a rather unique medical specialty in extracting so called “alien implants” from those who have had close encounters with ETs. Dr. Leir has reported that surgically removed implants have included materials with isotopic ratios not found on Earth. Even more compelling would be material that comes from outside the solar system, since we can presume that future human time travelers would very likely be mining the asteroids and the moons. In fact, recently Dr. Leir has made such a claim. It will be interesting to see what the scientific community makes of any released lab reports.

One could argue that it doesn’t really matter who is flying about our skies, since clearly they aren’t from here. But in my view, who they are and where they come from, is intimately connected with why they are here. And that, in a nutshell, is the heart of the matter.

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