(Micah Hanks) What is the reality — if any exists at all — behind the UFO phenomenon?
by Micah Hanks, October 1st, 2017
This question has been asked for decades already, and still we collectively don’t seem to have any real answers that help instruct us as to whatever “reality” may constitute serious, tangible data on UFOs.
Way back in 1955, Edward Ruppelt, the first director of the USAF’s Project Bluebook, wrote that, “I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to what the final outcome of the UFO investigation will be, but I am sure that within a few years there will be a proven answer.”
I often wonder if Ruppelt would ever have foreseen that well after the turn of the next century, we would still be awaiting that final “proven answer” that he anticipated.
At the very least, we might say that, based on what anecdotal evidence has been collected in UFO witness testimony since the end of World War II, there appear to have been varieties of unusual aircraft seen in our skies for decades now. Their origin, however, remains a matter of conjecture, due to the lack of physical evidence to support the range of theories that have been proposed in this regard.
Hence, with little more than decades of witness testimony, and the occasional (though scant) physical evidence that turns up rarely, perhaps one of the most important questions that should be asked is, “how useful is the anecdotal evidence at our disposal?”
At this point, it would seem appropriate that I give a disclaimer: what follows in this article is intended for readers that are still perplexed by the subject of UFOs, as I am, and are willing to ask serious, sober, and scientifically-informed questions about it. The points addressed will likely be of disdain to the willful believers that are already “certain” (in their minds, at least) of an extraterrestrial reality, and of space brothers who came here long ago to instruct humankind, or perhaps even save us from our own destructive potentials. In equal measure, dogmatic skeptics may be similarly discouraged from bothering with reading further; particularly those who have convinced themselves that nothing exists behind any UFO reports whatsoever (even those which seem indicative of clandestine, experimental manmade aircraft… which constitutes a perfectly reasonable potential solution to at least some alleged UFO reports).
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For those willing to continue in the spirit of open-minded, but discerning skepticism, we must return again to the question of anecdotal data: what does it really tell us about the UFO enigma?
While unable to provide physical evidence that can be tested under laboratory settings, the point is frequently argued that anecdotal evidence, particularly gathered from multiple sources, is often what must be relied upon in a courtroom; especially in cases where physical evidence is lacking. I realize fully that this argument does little to sway the minds of skeptical scientists, who demand (and rightly so!) physical proof before they can commit to belief. However, the point to be made is that in the face of numerous instances where testimonies given by individuals seem to match, or are otherwise relatable in some way, perhaps some anecdotal data should be given consideration, as it is presently all that we have to work with.
Recently, a pairing of questions were posted at the Paracast Forums, where one of the users, operating under the amusing moniker of “Greer’s Event Planner,” raised several points of contention about UFOs in modern times. Among these had been the following:
“As a total body of evidence there is nothing that would pass scientific muster and there are no reliable multiple witness cases that prove the aliens in physical ships hypothesis.”
The thread had been partly in response to a recent appearance on The Paracast’s subscriber show by researcher Paul Kimball (also a friend and colleague of mine), who similarly offered that, “There may be a paranormal / supernatural component to it all, but I don’t see anything that even remotely indicates structured craft from an extraterrestrial source.”
Indeed, while we have a plethora of UFO reports that have piled up over the decades, some of which lend descriptions of strange beings or other phenomena, where has there been any hard evidence of extraterrestrial visitors?
This raises a common, but important misconception about the broader UFO phenomenon: that if proof of unidentified flying objects were obtained, it would therefore mean that proof of aliens exists.
The extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) has long been a favorite among UFO theorists, but it is by no means a consensus view among UFO advocates. The UFO phenomenon remains far too ambiguous and varied to be able to present a good case for any conclusive origin. If anything, it could be argued that early interpretations of UFOs as being evidence of extraterrestrial visitors probably relied heavily on the influences of science fiction books and films on our culture (both in America, and abroad). Also influential were our expectations about space travel in the coming decades, and our own projections for how space travelers from elsewhere might get here, from the perspective of a civilization only on the cusp of going off-planet ourselves.
Old ideas die hard, of course, and this seems to be the case with the extraterrestrial hypothesis. While it seems evident that a variety of expectations (and misconceptions) were likely informing our bias toward “alien” visitors, that meme has stuck throughout the ages… and still today, many see the concepts of “UFOs” and “aliens” as being indistinguishable.
Perhaps they should never really have become bedmates in the first place.
Returning again to what the anecdotal evidence says, we are faced with myriad problems. For one, there is the issue of the apparent variety of UFO craft reported over the years. While there are some general themes which have emerged consistently — “flying saucers” are probably the most well known of these — the actual variety of UFO craft reported since the end of WWII far exceeds anything that could be expected of a single, systematic survey of Earth by intelligent extraterrestrials. Varieties of craft include discs or saucers, globes, triangles, cigars or torpedo-shaped craft, and other strangely shaped aerial objects.
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