A Look at the Alternatives.
John Rimmer

Back when this piece first appeared (Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 3, number 1, January 1970) few ufologists looked much beyond the ETH for an explanation. Keel and Vallée’s game-changing books had not yet been published, although their work was finding an outlet in the pages of FSR, then in an open-minded period under the editorship of Charles Bowen. Looking back on this piece after forty years it seems very naive, but it was written at a time when any consideration of alternative theories was rare.

For all its faults the ETH has many attractive features which commend a serious consideration of its claims, These can be summarised:

  • It fits the facts as reported, at least to a superficial degree. The majority of ‘straight’ UFO reports do accord with what one would expect from some advanced form of interstellar or interplanetary transport.
  • It is an explanation that is within human experience. It is clearly defined, and does not involve the introduction of new
    and unfamiliar concepts.
  • It is finite. It is capable of being proved or disproved, and analyzed in a straightforward scientific manner.
  • It is an attractive theory, both to the scientist and extravert, who would be excited by the thought of contact with an advanced civilization; and to the type of person who is receptive to space-brother ideas.

Obviously any other theory that claims to offer an explanation of the UFO must be strong indeed to take precedence over the ETH. The other explanations that have been put forward can be divided into three general categories: Physical Craft Theories, Natural Phenomena Theories, and Subjective Phenomena.

If one presupposes a physical craft, it must have an origin. Ruling out the ETH it must come from Earth. Many ufologists have put forward just such explanations. Perhaps the most spectacular is the idea propounded by Ray Palmer that the Earth is doughnut-shaped, with the UFOs originating from the part on the inside. Like most ideas of this nature a vast framework of shaky pseudologic has been painstakingly erected to provide some justification for it. The main interest with this theory lies in the examination of the mental imbalance of its fanatical adherents.

The Hollow Earth Theory does at least accept the spherical nature of the Earth, but alleges that it is either a hollow sphere with an alternative world on the inside curve, or that there is a vast world-wide network of caverns which shelter a race of deranged robots. – dero – bent an wreaking havoc amongst humanity. Again, considerable ‘evidence’ is presented to prove both of these theories. This evidence ranges from mysterious disappearances, strange caves and cave creatures, to the alleged ‘land beyond the poles’ where this world is supposed to open onto our own. These theories can be dismissed by a rational examination of the facts, although there is no denying the attraction they have for some people. It is possible that blaming the dero for all the ills that befall mankind is a subjugation of the feelings that in other circumstahces have blamed Jews, Blacks or foreigners.

Another terrestrial explanation suggests that the UFOs originate from under the sea. Often this is coupled with the ETH, claiming that there are undersea bases built by aliens. Or that there are underwater ‘gates’ to the inner world of the dero. Often the idea of Atlantis is introduced into these explanations. It can be considered as a refinement of the previous theories rather than an explanation in its own right.

Other Earth-bound explanations include unknown civilizations situated in the Andes or in Tibet or in some other comparatively remote part of the world. An ‘explanation’ that is constantly resurrected is that the UFOs are secret craft of some terrestrial nations variously identified as USA, USSR, Britain, even Italy and other less plausible countries.

The basically unsatisfactory nature of all these explanations is apparent. It can be summed up in the thought that if all the apparent UFOs and UFO related phenomena were earth-originated the facts would be so incredibly difficult to avoid that the matter would be common knowledge. The proponents of these theories do provide explanations for this, but these are so involved, requiring massive official secrecy, infiltration, suppression, intimidation, et al, that they become harder to accept than the original theory.

The Natural Phenomena theories must to a large extent be accepted by all serious ufologists, They cover what might be torned the range of ‘Menzelian Phenomena’, and are the explanation for many of even the so-called ‘unexplained’ UFO events, If one can also accept the distinct possibility of an unknown or little-known natural phenomenon one could probably account for 99% of even the ‘unexplained’ cases that crop up in the typical ‘lights in the sky’ sighting reports. Having said this one must add that a desire to explain all UFO sightings in these terms is as irrational and probably as worthy of psychiatric study as a desire to explain the matter in terms of doughnut shapad Earths or underground civilizations. There are obviously limits, drawn by the physical structure of the Earth and the atmosphere and the laws of science, to what a natural phenomenon oan do, This applies even to as-yet unknown phenomena. Similarly, even allowing for untrained observers there are limits to the misinterpretathon of facts that a rational person can make.

The range of subjective explanations is the widest of all, from theories that all UFO witnesses are psychotics to total mysticism. As the subjective aspects of ufology have only been probed with any enthusiasm in the past two or three years the various theories have not been worked out in as much detail as have the Physical Craft theories. One theory that has been presented in some detail is Allan H. Greenfieldis concept of ‘Alternate Realities’. This is a complex idea to explaing but it involves a number of universes occupying the same space and time, but on different ‘planes’ of existence. Put thus baldly it may seen to be confined to the realms of science fiction. However, some reccnt discoveries in sub-atomic physics may cause one to pause before discarding the idea completely. The theory explains the UFOs as ‘projections’ from one of these other realities. Possibly the main value of a theory such as this is to force us to re-examine our concepts of reality.

Another subjectivist theory that has been worked out in some detail is Jung’s idea of the UFO as part of mankind’s ‘racial memory’, a collective experience that is born into everyone. Various forces stimulate this memory, and cause subjective responses that are discerned as UFOs, psychic phenomena, and a wide range of supernatural entities and events. This theory accepts and accounts for the characteristic elusive quality of all these events, whilst at the same time explaining their relevance to an exceptionally wide range of the public. Critics however can point to the all-inclusive nature of this theory, and claim that it is a convenient ‘get-out’, to avoid many complex explanations.

Psychotic conditions in individual percipients are certainly relevant to some UFO events. A variety of personal anxieties may be worked out in a UFO context; many of the more bizarre and sensational contactee incidents can be seen in these terms. Whether similar conditions apply to more emotionally well-balanced witnesses and less spectacular events is something on which research is currently being done.

The pioneering work which John Keel is undertaking in the study of the vast range of associated phenomena has revealed many hitherto unknown facts of the UFO problem. These seem to take the subject beyond any of the theories outlined above. Seemingly, objective events seem to be linked with other events of a very subjective nature. Attempting an explanation for many of the incidents he describes takes one through the theories at an increasingly confusing rate, The overall theory that seems to be emerging from his work, and that of others who are independently is part of an elaborate hoax or deception. This is a very attractive theory, considering some of the more outrageous aspects of UFO experiences. It would seem that the strength or weakness of this theory depends on who is supposed to be doing the hoaxing. So far no definite suggestions have been put forward, although we may anticipate some revelations in Mr Keells forthcoming book.

Other ‘subjectivist? theories move into completely occult fields. One school of thought suggests that UFOs are a variant of spiritual and/or religious or cryof the Lord, or the Devil. This is a direct reversal of the ETH which explains that biblical descriptions of Angels and Devils are mininterpretations of extraterrestrial contacts. So little serious attention has been given to that class of phenomena described as ‘occult’ that many of the ideas associated with it seem rather woolly and indecisive. One interesting idea that has been put forward is that occult phenomena are so total and overwhelming that civilization is only possible through the action of the brain, which serves to filter out the occult influences.

Exponents of this theory would allege that UFOs and the Associated Phenomena are aspects of the occult reality which have escaped the brain’s filtering mechanism. Again, the complex and irrational nature of the phenomenon lends itself to such ideas, however there is as yet no overall theory worked out in any detail that can accomodate occultism in the light of present conventional knowledge.

The theories outlined above range from the plausible to the ludicrous. It is however, in the light of our present knowledge, a dangerous practice to reject flatly any of them, although I have done that, by implication, in this essay. The terrestrial origin theorists in particular are on very shaky ground, The theories seem to founder on their own absurdity. (one school of thought alleges that the UFOs are controlled from a secret South American base by Hitler and Martin Bormann) Even so one cannot rule out secret weapons and military devices for a small proportion of events. Can such an explanation be ruled out entirely for Socorro or some of the Warminster incidents? The natural phenomenon, known or unknown, seems a distinct possibility as an explanation for many as yet unidentified sightings. This Bulletin has published a number of articles suggesting the racial-momory explaanation, and pointing out folklore-occult-UFO links. At the same time the major drawback to most of the subjectivist theories has to be the lack of any viable conventional scientific basis. It can be argued that this is the very last thing one would expect to find in occult phencmena. A valid point of view.

The ETH is a theory worthy of consideration, and many ufologists will feel that it is the only aspect of the phenomena that is of interest to them. However if they do they will miss a very large part of the mystery of ufology, and may risk adopting a closed-minded attitude to many aspects of the problem. At the present time probably the great majority of ufologists are adherents of the ETH, and the majority of UFO publications put forward this theory almost exclusively. There is a real danger that research into the other explanations will tend to be stifled by lack of encouragement and scarcity of suitable outlets for published work.

It is vital that the alternative explanations should be given adequate consideration. The ETH must not be considered as the only explanation, with the assumption that if it is not the UFO subject then becomes something else, of less intrinsic interest.

 

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A Critical Look at the Interplanetary Spaceships Theory.
John Harney

From Merseyside UFO Bulletin (MUFOB), volume 2, number 1, January-February 1969

Ever since the study of unexplained aerial phenomena began to be pursued seriously, in 1947, various hypotheses have been evolved in efforts to explain them. The most persistent belief, among those who have bothered to study the evidence, is that UFOs are spaceships from other planets.

This idea caused much alarm among scientists and politicians. After all, it might even be the true explanation. The prospect of having the present world order (or disorder) upset by the arrival of superior beings from outer space was disturbing, to say the least. However, if people could be persuaded to ignore the flying saucers, perhaps they would go away.

Consequently, the scientific pundits were always ready to dispense explanations for publicised UFO reports. In many instances these explanations were usually the correct ones. In other cases the explanations did not stand up to critical examination. This usually did not matter because few people were prepared to critically examine them. When people did examine the the explanations and find them invalid, their objectios were normally ignored. The pundits had authority on their side. 

The stream of glib “explanations” generally lulled the majority, who were not particularly interested anyway, into a belief that the whole UFO business was some sort of publicity stunt, or just the latest craze from America, like hula-hoops or bubble-gum.

It had the opposite effect on UFO enthusiasts. Interested sceptics became believers. Believers became eager believers. The authorities, the powers-that-be, even, were desperately trying to explain away perfectly good sightings; therefore, they had something to hide, hadn’t they?

That was that, then! The UFOs were spaceships from other planets and the various governments had obtained irrefutable evidence of this. They dared not release this evidence for fear of its inevitable effects on religion and the stock market. Anyway, it would cause a panic. Orson Welles caused a panic in 1938, with his radio presentation of H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. So the revelation of the Truth about UFOs would cause a world-wide panic. Ponple everywhere would panic and go on panicking. A prospect too awful to contemplate. And so the interplanetary spaceships theory gained strength.

As the theory had rapidly gained general acceptance among ufologists, they could settle down to the serious business of deciding why the spacemen were here and what was to be done about it. It was necessary to find out whether the spacemen were friendly or hostile, or whether they considered humanity to be too low a form of life to be worth contacting.

The truth could be discovered by sifting the evidence. It was soon realised that, although there was plenty of circumstantial evidence which seemed to point to the activities of technologically superior space intelligences, there was no really convincing physical evidence. The authorities knew the truth though. Therefore they must have physical evidence. Actual flying saucers, spacemen, even! it was thus necessary to explain how, among all the thousands of keen amateur ufologists scattered throughout the world, not one had managed to catch a flying saucer.

Very odd, But ingenious minds were at work on the problem. The answer was soon plain: there was a world-wide conspiracy to conceal the evidence. Military authorities everywhere where ever alert for news of a crashed saucer. Each time a saucer crashed the troops quickly moved in. The area was cordoned off. The saucer was quickly wrapped up in canvas and carted off on a lorry to a secret air force base and placed in a hangar, on which an armed guard was mounted.

At one time there were quite a lot of reports of crashed UFOs. Hangar space was at a premium at some air force bases,  technicians maintained and repaired aircraft, cursing in the driving rain; because the hangars were full of flying saucers. Or so it seemed.

It soon became obvious that most, if not all, of these reports were just hoaxes. Meanwhile, other observations were coming to the rescue of those who were trying to explain the lack of physical evidence. These observations were reports of exploding UFOs. The interplanetary spaceships apologists had two theories to account for this phenomenon.

Firstly, the UFOs employed an inertia-less drive. A “force field” surrounded the UFO in such a manner that every part of the craft, its occupants and anything in the immediate vicinity was subjected to the same force. This conveniently eliminated the effects of inertia and minimised air resistance by – carrying air along with it. However, should the power suddenly fail while the UFO was in rapid motion through the atmosphere, it would be destroyed instantly by friction with the air and its own momentum,

The second theory was the attractive idea that defective saucers were disintegrated by a built-in “destruct” system. The most naive version of the spaceships theory is that propounded by NICAP, or at least, by some of its more vocal members. According to them the earth is being surveyed by beings from other planets, possibly by the use of remotely controlled rather than piloted devices. The U.S. Government knows “the truth” about this and NICAP is the “flying saucer lobby”, dedicated to pressuring them into making this startling revelation. It seems that one of the main inspirations for this stems from the lively and informative books of Major Donald E. Keyhoe.

The main theme ef Keyhoe’s books is fascinating. The U.S. Air Force has discovered that the UFOs are interplanetary. Some officials wish to reveal this startlinq fact to the world, together with all relevant evidence. Others wish to explain away the best reports and conceal physical evidence, hoping that the UFOs will eventually go away. Still others refuse to luck at the evidence, regarding the whole business as just too preposterous to be considered.

This stirring saga of modern times is made more riveting by Keyhoe’s taut style and skillful use of dialogue. It is made even more riveting by the findings of rather less biased investigators that most, if not all, of the startling events he describes are undoubtedly true. On the other hand, the sightings and events chronicled by Keyhoe can look less impressive if one chooses to differ from him in the interpretation of them.

It is easy to got carried away by Keyhoe’s style. Here is a typical example, from Flying Saucers from Outer Space:

Riordan was silent until we turned into the airport road. “These foreign sightings — how many have there been?”
“Hundreds, anyway. Probably as many as we have here, only we don’t get all the reports.”
“How many countries that you know of?”
“Every country in Europe and South America, and most of the Far East. They’ve been seen in Canada, Mexico, Australia,
Africa, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Greenland — practically everywhere, even the Antarctic.”
“Somebody’s certainly damn curious about this earth. Any foreign air force pilots report the things?”
“Plenty,” I said. “And foreign airline crews, too.,”

NICAP has mainly concerned itself with reports of UFOs seen in the air, especially visual sightings, confirmed by radar contacts. This organisation has always been unhappy about reports of UFO landings, “occupants”, and “associated phenomena”.

The opinions of Keyhoe and other like-minded ufologists carried so much weight that any serious attempts to explain or describe the UFO phenomensa in terms other than those of a survey by alien spacecraft became discredited. This climate of opinion led to a distorted selection and presentation of the available evidence. Most ‘serious’ ufologists were of the opinion that UFOs were interplanetary spacecraft and that it was only a matter of time before this fact was accepted, in the face of an overwhelming accumulation of evidence and testimony.

These people sincerely believed that they were doing good to the cause of UFO research by their insistence on this plausible, if sensational, theory. But, as is new plain to many of us, this approach to the subject has ensured that, after more than 20 years, ufology is still popularly regarded as a pursuit for cranks, science fiction writers seeking inspiration, and dear old ladies. Sceptics have taken their cue from the prevailing attitude and set out to show that there is no convincing evidence of alien spacecraft.

In other words the UFO has been treated as a simple question. UFO erudites now realise that it is not a simple question, but a vast, open-ended field of study, which involves in some as yet unknown way, many types of phenomena, both physical and psychological. It is time to push the interplanetary spaceships theory into the background and to study the UFOs and the associated phenomena as they really are, rather than as some of us would wish them to be.

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A New Look to the E.T.H.
Luis R. González

From Magonia 17, October 1984

As everyone else, when I first introduced myself to the UFO environment I was immediately trapped by the ETH. After years of struggle I now think I have succeeded in putting it back where it belongs: within the realms of myth and fantasy. Nevertheless, I am used to being wrong, so just in case, I would like to offer some ideas for an ‘improved’ ETH that could be more acceptable.

Objections to the classic ETH can be summarized as follows:

  • A. It is highly unlikely that extraterrestrial beings could visit Earth precisely now, during the microscopic era of our Earth’s history when it happens to be inhabited by a civil-ized species just developing space travel. Consider for instance the immense distances involved, the light barrier, the energy require-ments, etc.
  • B. UFO evolutions are an apparent defiance of what we term ‘Laws of Nature’. Besides, the lack of any convincing hard evidence after 30 years of research points to a non-material explanation.
  • C. The great variety of shapes and sizes, details of design, etc., both of UFOs and the beings associated with them, would demand a wide variety of different civilizations and planets of origin, increasing the improbability of A. Besides, how can you explain the irrational behaviour described, particularly those misleading messages?
  • D. UFO phenomena seem to be linked to several other phenomena of earthly origin. As Hilary Evans said [1], we can find several amazing ‘connections’ between UFOs and psychic phenomena, SF and folklore, BVM visions, geophysical activities, etc.
  • E. Last but not least, it is now generally (and ashamedly) admitted that about 90% of UFO cases have conventional explanations, and not only that, but to make things worse, UFO and IFO cases are virtually indistinguishable.

At the same time, any ‘improved’ ETH must avoid those complex, all-embracing, non-falsifiable theories (Valleé’s ‘Control System’, Keel’s ‘Ultraterrestrrals’, etc.) or resorting to Clark’s Third Law (“any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic”) in order to explain the anomalous characteristics displayed by UFOs.

Well, I think that just introducing some minor adjustments into the classic ETH will give us a convincing ‘nuts & bolts’ explanation to counteract those ‘all-in-the-mind’ fashionable theories. I would like to thank our sympathetic sceptics for simplifying my task.

My suggestion is simply as follows: Suppose that several centuries ago (but not too many, in order to avoid embarrasing discussions about ‘space-gods’, I do not suffer from ‘Danikenitis’) just one world-ship, with a population of between 100,000 and 1,000,000 extraterrestrials [2] entered our solar system and stopped at the asteroid belt, near enough to Jupiter’s hydrogen for its fusion drive system, and safely away from those ‘intelligent’ beings contaminating the third planet. They are self-sufficient and are not interested in settling on a new planet, even less if they have to fight for it. On the other hand they do not want to continue their long voyage so they begin a careful plan to cope with the moment when our meeting will be unavoidable. Regarding our violent attitude, and their small number, they really must prepare extremely well this ‘ultimate encounter’ perhaps, in Leo Sprinkle’s words “awakening our space consciousness”.

How does this theory resist or assimilate the objections lodged? Let us see.

First, I have to acknowledge E, above, for drastically reducing the number of ‘real’ UFOs Really, 70,000 landings a year [3] were too many to cope with! A more reasonable estimate of 100 – 500 per year, the bulk of them unnoticed or unknown to ufologists, will be appropriate. The problem of ‘UFO-IFO indistinguishability just shows the success of their plan.

Objection C is explained away by E. Surely if we were able to sort out ‘the wheat from the chaff’ this apparent heterogeneity will become very much homogenous. As far as UFOs are concerned we many also be misguided by our present technology, centered on standardisation and mass-production to reduce costs. Computer technology introduces us already into a new era [4] of personal and computer-tailored products, each one different from another. Genetic engineering allows us to tamper with our own genetic code and (in the near future) develop useful modifications added to those Mother Nature gave us (an African pigmy and a tall Swedish blonde are quite dufferent indeed, even to our terrestrial eyes:). The misleading messages and irrational behaviour are likely to be a ‘contamination’ from IFO data. Another idea, considering their small number, is that it would be highly recomendable for them not to reveal the truth, and to reinforce intentionally the irrational components.

The astrophysicists proposing objections along A will (or indeed have [5]) accepted as possible just one visit of a world-ship, on a long journey of thousands of years, during our history. And the technology needed for such a voyage and ship is almost withing our present capabilities [6]. Other ‘illegal’ characteristics exhibited by UFOs are also becoming acceptable as scientists learn more and more: ‘invisibility to radar’, see STEALTH, US Airforce project; ‘sudden stops and right-angle turns’, see advanced avionics, etc. There has been some material evidence, but it has been quickly rejected because it had no ‘unknown properties’. This is stupid: Any alien space-craft will be built with similar (or the same) alloys as an American or Russian one. Elements are the same all over the Universe.

Finally, the connections discovered with several other phenomena may only be the effect of engulfing a real phenomenon (UFOs) with the imagery that forms the ‘dark side of the UFOs’ [7]. Besides, it is quite possible that some of the sightings have geophysical explanations (not ‘real’ UFOs).Well, I hope it will be enough, I almost convinced myself:! In any case, my last argument will be irrefutable: we need the ETH. If UFOs were explained and psychologists, sociologists, geo-physicists, etc. take over, what are we poor ufologists going to talk about?

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References

  1. EVANS, Hilary, The Evidence for UFOs, Thorsons 1983.
  2. SAN, Maurice G. de, Hypothesis on the UFO Origin, UPIAR Monograph, 1978.
  3. Idem, p.35
  4. TOFFLER, Alvin, The Third Wave.
  5. SAGAN, Carl & SHKLOVSKII, I.S., Intelligent life in the Universe.
  6. O’NEILL, Gerard, The High Frontier; human colonies in space.
  7. KEUL, A. G. ‘The Dark Side of the UFO’, in UPIAR IV no. 1, 1980/81

 

Adamski, Aetherius, Fry, Diophantes, et al: Farewell!
Paul Hopkins

At the dawn of the space-age, Paul Hopkins takes a pessimistic look at the implications for ufology and humanity. From Merseyside UFO Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 5, November 1970

That man has reached the moon is now history. That he will shortly reach out to the planets is no longer confined to the realms of science fiction. Gone with man’s journey to the moon is a good deal of mystery, imagination and romanticism. Indeed the moon is dead, as expected. No air, no water, no life, or even signs that life may have existed there in the past.

Where then, Adamski’s are your moon bases? Where are those outposts of alien civilizations that contactees claim?  The footprints of Armstrung and Aldrin, and those of the following lunar missions will remain on the moon’s surface for many years to come, as they are slowly covered by accumulations of cosmic dust and meteoric debris. An advanced civilization with resources and man power as grand as that which the majority of the UFO contact books and cases infer would surely have at some time left lasting scars on a relatively inert body such as the moon? Unless of course these aliens have a broom like appendage with which they are able to cover their tracks and sweep up their cosmic garbage. I think not.

I also think that they were never there in the first place.

We are entering an age of stark realism and chronic symptoms of cosmic loneliness. Science on earth, through materialism, has steadily decreased old beliefs, fears and hopes about the supernatural world on earth, and in its place the world of the supernatural has moved into outer space. As the progress of science has shown that each planet, save the earth, in our solar system is devoid of intelligent life, so these infertile spheres have been filled with a proliferation of spirit creatures existing on different planes, in different dimensions, in different states, and God knows what.

Of course it is possible to contact these entities, not through radio or laser beam, but through the mind, telepathic contact. The meanderings of insanity mixed with personal beliefs and subconscious urges are given as messages from the great Aetherius, from Diophantes of Sirius Six, and from other intangibles. From a host of telepathic messages there has not been, to my knowledge, a single, properly authenticated gem of information that has proved of value or use to mankind. The prophecies such as they are, are completely withoat impact, since we are told such obvious and daft things as our sun will become part of aa binary system, and. that the orbits of the planets will be displaced, or even such brilliant foresight as ‘a new age will dawn’.

We are surely moving out of the era of sensationalist and unbounded speculation (just as we moved out of the dark ages) as the solar system is reduced to its essential physical and chemical equations by scientists and mathematicians. Thus the romantic flying saucer will die away in the minds of the cranks and nuts as generation gives way to generation. The flying saucer mystery will be killed largely by natural causes. Still, I believe an element of truth will still remain. Life must exist elsewhere in the universe, as mathematical probability is in favour. Must we keep it at arm’s length, or is it not kept from us by some divine plans or perhaps through man’s innate inadequacies

One Sunder paper recently carried a report on the dangers of seeking contact with extraterrestrial civilizations, and in particular warnings from Professors Zdenrik Kopal and Clyde Tombaugh. Both men agreed that it could be disastrous to contact other intelligent beings as we may well end up being treated like ants and put in test tubes, or treated little better than animals.

The fact is we are animals and our technological explosion has made us conspicuous by the amount of radio energy that this planet emits into space. I do not think it idle speculation to say that there is probably in the galaxy at least one race of intelligent beings thousands of years ahead of our technology who, having mastered the problems of interstellar flight, are quite aware of what is going on here on earth. Yet we are left alone. It is a process of civilization that there comes a point when intelligent beings realize that there is no need to ill-treat or eradicate lower forms of life without very good reason. A lesson that is only slowly dawning on the more enlightened homo sapiens after a million years or so of brutality, not only to animals in general but also to his own species.

If man lives or, should I say, survives a million years more, though he probes the universe to its outermost limits and the atom to its innermost secrets, he will never realize the meaning and purpose of the universe that imprisons him. We watch, and are watched. We observe, and see nothing. Yet we are ourselves observed and seen. We are as ants in a test tube, and when the experiment is done our owners will pour us down the galactic sink, and nothing we can do shall prevent it.

Is this the mystery of the flying saucer, and man’s sole purpose on earth? If so, what price religion now? What price admission to the human zoo?

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Abduction Absurdities
Willy Smith

From Magonia 52, May 1995

Dr. Willy Smith discusses John Mack’s new book with a passing Devil’s Advocate:

One more book (1) about abductions has appeared, but this time with a significant difference: the author is a distinguished Harvard psychiatrist and has the background and credentials that previous dilettantes (2,3) lacked. Thus, one would expect a more precise and scientific presentation of a controversial issue, establishing a solid platform from which a rational treatment of the subject matter could be launched.

Unfortunately, that is not the case, perhaps because the topic itself is unameanable to scientific discourse. As in previous attempts, all we find is a collection of anecdotes obtained mostly by hypnotic techniques from witnesses whose personalities, occupations, training and position in our society are barely sketched. The narratives are interesting, unusual, bizarre more often than not, with an abundance of detail that, instead of increasing their ontological validity, only emphasises the absurdity and physical impossibility of what we are told.

As in previous works, not a shred of evidence is provided to substantiate the stories, even in instances where apparently corroborating information could have been obtained. As one of Mack’s critics (4) has perceptively indicated, the author is content with whatever he obtains from the witnesses in his office and does not go into the real world to validate his contentions. In fact, one has reason to doubt that he has done his literature research with enough care, when, for instance, he uncritically repeats (Ref.1, p.12) that abductions have taken place in 17 countries, among others, France, Spain and Uruguay. The truth is that only one totally discredited abduction report in France is found in the literature, that the three or four cases allegedly occurring in Spain are very dubious and that – as far as I know – no abduction has ever been reported in Uruguay. The reality is that the abduction aspect of the UFO phenomenon occurs typically and predominantly in the US, not surprisingly considering that its main advocate, former artist Elliott Budd Hopkins, is a resident of that country.

The absurdities

From the viewpoint of the hard sciences there seem to be two options mutually exclusive: either the whole abduction structure has no foundation in reality, in which case we are wasting our time, or, alternatively, the stories reflect real events, although at times they may be somewhat distorted and diffuse. We will assume that the latter is true, and see where reductio ad absurdum will lead us.

(a) Provenance: The basic tenet of Hopkins et al.’s ideas is that we are presently visited by aliens whose world is coming to an end, and who are engaged in an all-out effort to save their race from extinction by applying their more advances genetic knowledge to engineering a hybrid race that eventually will take over Earth.

Since our spatial probes have visited most of the planets able to support life in our solar system and found no indication of life, it follows that the aliens must come from exterior space, bringing into focus the difficulties of interstellar travel. The abductees describe huge crafts, sometimes of the order of hundreds of yards, with large crews of at least two types of aliens, which have to be fed and lodged. But more important, the energy requirements to displace such a craft through distances of the order of light years would be staggering. Yet, we are led to believe that more than one of those interstellar crafts prowl in our atmosphere.

What does the Devil’s Advocate say about this?

DA:

  •  i) The crew could travel in suspended cryogenic animation, thus requiring few provisions;
  • ii) fuel could be obtained by sweeping hydrogen atoms from space while travelling;
  • iii) or, the ship could transit through a white hole, except that the magnitude of the gravitational forces would make survival impossible;
  • iv) a planet threatened with final obliteration would not hesitate to use all the available resources in a last interstellar fling, or even to mount expeditions to several neighbouring stars of the right spectral type; but it would be against its interest to send all crafts to the same destination;
  • v) the aliens arrived in the solar system a long time ago (ref. 1, p. 227) establishing a base on Mars (don’t forget that alleged head there!) or on the moon, and have to travel only short distances, an easy feat that even we, with our chemical fuels, can perform.

Only (v) above has some merit, but then the expectation would be to see smaller crafts better adapted for the Earth-Moon milk run, contrary to the data. The first absurdity is thus firmly stated.

(b) The familiar aliens: Since the pioneer work of artist E B Hopkins, passing through the entertaining book of historian Dr David Jacobs, and terminating with the respectable efforts of psychiatrist John Mack MD, we have been confronted with a parade of aliens having some surprising common characteristics: i) they are overwhelmingly humanoid, exhibiting two arms, two legs, one head, two big wrap-around black eyes, and the rudiments of mouth and nostrils; and ii) they move unencumbered in the Earth’s gravitational field, without requiring breathing apparatus.

Probabilistic considerations indicate that it is quite likely that among the large number of stars which form the galaxy, many will have the correct conditions to harbour planets capable of supporting life. But life, as we know it, is possible only within a very narrow range of physical parameters, and a small percentage change, say in the value of the solar constant, would wipe out life from our planet. Consequently, humanoids as described by the abductees must come from a planet almost identical to Earth, another absurdity. Such a planet indeed can exist, but can be anywhere in the galaxy, and the question is: why would the aliens select our insignificant star in a remote galactic arm as the destination of their quest for a new home?

D.A.: If the aliens reached the solar system many millennia ago, and settled in a base on Mars or the moon (say), they had a long adoption period, and only in modern times were capable of implementing their genetic plans.

(c) Alien multiplicity: The aliens described by the witnesses studied by each researcher (Hopkins, Jacobs, Mack) might be similar in form but the three authors make quite clear that their attitudes toward the abductees are remarkably dissimilar, although their genetic efforts seem to be the same.

We can safely reject the notion of three groups of aliens from the same remote planet, but having diverse philosophies, not only because of its absurdity, but also for the fact that the aliens described to each specific researcher seem to have the same attitude in spite of the random witness selection process.

D.A.: The descriptions of the aliens seem to be similar, thus establishing a common origin, which could be even a single planet, but might equally well result from the fact that latter-day abductees have unquestionably read previous books (Hopkins, Jacobs) and have subconsciously adjusted to the pattern.

Each abduction book is the end product of the interaction of a certain group, the abductees, with one specific analyst. An exact statement of the protocol is not given, but since the hypnotic sessions were lengthy and extended over many months, the influence of the
analyst is not only expected but unavoidable. This influence is not reflected in the physical descriptions of the aliens, but in their moral and ethical attributes, mirroring the political or other bias of the authors. While Jacobs’s aliens are indifferent to issues not related to the breeding activities, in the words of one critic (5) “the abductors have the same relationship to abductees that laboratory technicians have to white rats”. Mack’s witnesses are terrified by the entities, which inflict intense physical pain and torture with sadistic unconcern.

This dichotomy is an absurdity. For if the aliens have a common provenance and a common operational goal, it would inflexibly control their behaviour in all cases. Thus, the diversified perception of the entities by their victims, not randomised but sorted out by researcher, only decreases the potential reality of the abduction experiences.

devil

 

The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.

 

 

(d) Technical contradictions: The abduction researchers have asserted that the aliens are able to penetrate solid obstacles such as walls, (6) specifically during the initial stages of the events. There is no evidence for this except the testimony of the witnesses, but when one abductee arrives at the waiting craft, she is brought inside “through a hole in the floor”. (7) When the same victim is ready to be returned, the floor “sort of disintegrates beneath us”, (8) which is not the same as penetrating solid matter.

The main and apparently only objective of the aliens is the creation of a hybrid race, and to that effect they have mounted a vast operation to obtain sperm and ova from human victims, selected at random and transported to their ship(s) for the purpose. This implies not only a great deal of effort, but also entails a definite operational risk of detection. Yet, the same ends could be obtained by raiding a sperm bank or similar facilities where the desired items are stored without stringent security. This would be easy to accomplish by aliens capable of transversing solid walls, and yet, we don’t see any signs of such activity.

D.A.: The aliens endeavour to keep their activities covert, and the sudden disappearance of stock from a sperm bank would undoubtedly trigger an in-depth investigation. Forensic examination of the place would reveal the visit by non-human entities, something the aliens can’t afford. Besides, time is on their side, and their present method is less likely to attract attention, as so far there is no incontrovertible evidence of the abductions.

Alien visits to specific indoor spaces are sometimes a daily occurrence, as was the case with Melissa Bucknell, Dr Jacobs’s star witness. (9) An attempt was made to record the event using a TV camera, but it failed, as could be expected considering how easy it was for the aliens to circumvent the trap. It would have been a completely different story if someone had thought about doing an in-depth forensic sweep of the “scene of the crime” after the fact. Yet, absurdly, this was not done, perhaps because negative results would have been the kiss of death for abduction research.

D.A.: Indeed, immediate examination of the location of an abduction by forensic techniques could provide incontrovertible proof of an alien presence in a room But the staggering cost indeed was and is a powerful deterrent. Perhaps the Fund for UFO Research should consider setting aside the necessary resources and have them available at once if the occasion presents itself again.

(e) Craft size and multiple humans: Abduction researchers (Hopkins (10), Jacobs (11)) have repeatedly asserted that the crafts described by the witnesses are extremely large and display a constellation of lights. The huge dimensions are confirmed when the abductees tell the investigator that they were taken into gigantic rooms, with hundreds of tables where they saw other humans, “between one hundred and two hundred”, on whom procedures were being done (Mack (12)).

The absurdity of such a possibility is twofold. First, a large illuminated craft hovering over a fixed location for the duration of the procedures – which we are told is of the order of an hour or so – hardly would have escaped detection not only by the public at large but by the authorities monitoring our air space. And second, if the craft remains at a fixed place, the simultaneity of the procedures for ‘a hundred or more persons seems to demand that the abductees were taken from a limited geographical area, again an event that could hardly go unnoticed.

D.A.: The craft doesn’t have to remain stationary at a given location, but moves continuously to lift and return the abductees. If the lights are off, and the aliens have stealth technology, those motions will not be recorded by radar, and their chance of escaping detection is excellent.

The absurdity is then in the scheduling. To collect and return each abductee of necessity requires some time that, from the given narratives, one could estimate at two minutes, each individual at a different location. Thus, 100 abductees demand 200 minutes, to which a prudent man would add a transit time between stops, say another 2 minutes, for a grand total of 400 minutes, or more than 6 hours, just for the logistics of the operation. No matter how we look at it, the concurrent presence of one or two hundred abductees in a single room in an alien craft is almost a physical impossibility.

The hybrid question

According to Hopkins et al., we are being visited by one or more alien races in decline, whose purpose is to shore up their genetic pool by using the human reservoir. The abductions are aimed at obtaining sperm and ova for hybridisation processes.

Two things do not seem to fit this hypothesis. First, in the accepted view of present-day science the issue of mixed species is not fertile, and thus the resulting human-alien hybrids would not represent a definite solution for the long-term survival of the aliens. But perhaps the real purpose is different as, for instance, just to create a work force which could easily adapt to local conditions and perhaps eventually melt into the earth’s population and go undetected. This would explain the need for the continuous aggressive programme that the abduction experts believe is taking place.

The second point is just an observation. In subsequent visits to what are apparently the same craft, the abductees are often shown human-alien babies which are their own, but no mention has been made in the published material of full-grown hybrids. There are two possible explanations for this omission: the alien breeding programme is failing, and babies do not reach adulthood or, on the contrary, the programme is a success and the grown-up hybrids are shipped elsewhere to do what they were designed to do in the first place.

I am not a biologist and only offer the above suggestions for completeness, in an attempt to give sense to those relentless activities which the abductionists believe are covertly taking place in our midst.

D.A.: The aliens are by far more advanced than we are in biology and particularly in genetic engineering, and have no difficulties in inter-species breeding, as shown by their activities, which otherwise would be senseless. It is anthropomorphic to attribute to them our own limitations.

ConclusionsThe absurdities loom in spite of efforts by the Devil’s Advocate to eliminate them, a clear indication that the interpretation given by the abduction experts to the bizarre narratives of their clients must be ontologically incorrect. Until such a time when and if physical evidence of the abduction phenomenon becomes available, those events have only anecdotal value at best, although the many books on the topic, even if of dubious scientific value, make entertaining reading and are a source of revenue for their authors.

References:

  1. MACK, John E., Abduction, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1994
  2. HOPKINS, Budd, Missing Time, New York, Marek Publishers, 1981 and Intruders, New York, Random House, 1987
  3. JACOBS, David M., Secret Life, New York, Simon & Schuster. 1992
  4. CLARK, Jerome, ‘Big (space) Brothers’, International UFO  Reporter, March/April 1994, p. 7
  5. Reference 4, p. S. col. 2
  6. Ref. 1, p. 170: “she described passing through her window, the porch and a tree” riding the beam of light.
  7. Ref. 1, p. 170
  8. Ref. 1, p. 174
  9. Ref. 3, p. 258
  10. HOPKINS, Budd, ‘The Woman on the Bridge’, MUFON UFO Journal,  298, December 1992, p. 8. Since the alleged witness (known only as Janet Klmble) “stated that it was wider than the size of the building”, an estimated diameter of 100 ft is conservative.
  11. Ref. 3, p. 82. “Abductees describe UFOs that range In size from thirty-five to hundreds of feet in diameter.”
  12. Ref. 1, p. 182. ‘Catherine’ was led naked into an enormous room “the size of an airplane hangar”.

 

Psychological Theories: A Reply to Rogerson.
Carl Grove

In a recent article in this journal, Rogerson (1) reviewed a critique of psychological theories of UFOs in which I had suggested that, as a rule, such types of explanation were inadequate (2,3,4). He concluded that the critique contained “a number of unfounded statements and over-generalisations and thus has not established its case”.

It seems to me that Rogerson has somewhere lost sight of the central point of the critiques which was finding an answer to the question: can conventional psychological facts and theories be used to explain UFO phenomena? I stress conventional. because Rogerson is perfectly willing to make use of ‘paranormal’ concepts within a general explanatory framework and, despite his assertions to the contrary, such ideas do not have “a wide measure of acceptance in psychological circles”. Nor– as I hope to show — is their introduction into UFO debates to be encouraged, since they carry with them multiple problems of methodology and metatheory which Rogerson neglects even to mention, although he is quick to point out similar defects in my own logic.

In many single-witness cases of alleged UFO sightings it may be logically impossible to rule out the hypothesis of ‘conventional’ hallucination (i.e., hallucination due to drug intake, sensory restriction, psychosis, etc.), no matter how implausible such an interpretation may appear on the surface. In regard to the special hypothesis of ‘normal’ hallucination, therefore, single-witness cases unaccompanied by information about the witness or physical evidence of some sort remain a matter of controversy. Certain statistical considerations indirectly counter this proposition (5), but empirical evidence, for or against, is notable for its absence. Much of the relevant argument can be found in Hall (6,7), Grinspoon and Persky Johnson (9) and the various papers of Schwarz and others.

When it comes to multiple-witness cases the theory of simple hallucination becomes irrelevant, because shared hallucinations are unrecognised by psychology. This has nothing to do with the question of whether such events have ever occurred of course, nor does it throw much light upon problems concerning the validity of using such a concept as an explanation.If we rule out the hoax theory at the outset — a convenience which might find some objections, inasmuch as it is the only explanation capable of relating all UFO phenomena — we are left in a situation in which as Rogerson argues, we shall have to throw down at least some of our generally-accepted ideas about the structure of the universe. The question being, which?

There are two major alternatives: reports of UFOs can be attributed to:
1, extramundane intelligence, which includes the ETH as well as some of the more exotic possibilities, or

2, some sort of parapsychological interaction.

Rogerson supports the second alternative. In deciding between them, it should be kept in mind that the criteria by which we judge theories of UFOs must be identical to those employed in the evaluation of less dramatic notions. The most important of these are the requirements that theories should be based upon the minimum number possible of inferred or unobservable concepts; and that they they should be advanced in sufficient detail as to be capable of generating testable predictions preferably quantitative in form. Theories which fail to measure up to those yardsticks are not satisfactory.

In fact, neither of the two alternatives defined above are truly satisfactory, on these terms. Both make assumptions hard to verify outside of the UFO evidence; neither make precise predictions. It is a poor choice, in regard to methodology. It is true that whereas extramundane intelligence is supported by no hard evidence, astronomical or otherwise, there is a corpus of recognised, if controversial evidence relating to ‘paranormal’ phenomena. On the other hand, it would probably be true to say that the scientific community views the concept of extraterrestrial life with less dismay than it experiences when the concepts of ESP or psi are touched upon. It is not hard to see why. Paranormal concepts reflect a fundamental break with most of our models of reality; even in the absence of direct observation it is reasonable to posit the existence of extraterrestrial life via a process of simple extrapolation. All we can conclude here is that both possibilities are equally ridiculous.The main weakness of the ESP approach lies in its total inadequacy as a concept. It is in no sense a unitary concept –rather,
it is a rough way of classifying a heterogeneous moss of puzzling events. ‘Paranormal’ merely means — so far as I can see — anything which present-day science cannot explain. Imagine what this same concept would represent to an ancient Greek, to a medieval monk, an Elizabethan sailor;, just about anything. It is not an explanation but a description; and if science ca. 1972, cannot explain UFO phenomena, there should be no argument against classifying UFOs as paranormal. But isn’t that just playing with words? Does it help us to understand anything?

Even the most naive form of the extraterrestrial hypothesis is is more constrained, better defined. We may dismiss the logic employed by Smiley (10) in ‘disproving’ that UFOs come from Mars but at least here is an example of the scientific method: a formal statement of basic assumptions, the production of specific (even quantifiable) predictions and he testing of those predictions. The Mars Cycle observed in some UFO data could clearly provide some support for an extramundane hypothesis, if we wore to relax the rather puritan assumptions made by Smiley in regard to the capabilities of possible alien technologies. Rogerson’s answer is that people may tend to have more hallucinations when we are closer to Mars. An argument that I don’t accept.

This example indeed highlights the weakness of the parapsychological approach. Rogerson makes no attempt to describe the mechanisms involved in the transmission of an hallucinatory UFO experience from one person to another. The vagueness which characterises ESP-type concepts relieves him of the need to do so. Thus the following questions, and many others remain unanswered:

1. If a single ‘experience’ is shared by several persons why do UFO events typically obey the laws of perspective? Why don’t UFO witnesses report totally identical stimuli as would TV viewers?

2. Admitting that question 1 raises a valid point, what mechanism is there inside the human information processing system capable of calculating the perceptual effects of change-of-perspective for each of a number of individual and instantaneously transmitting the appropriate image

3. If question 2 is left unanswered would this not logically force the parapsychologist to accepts the possibility of intervention by a superior, nonhuman intelligence?

4. It is easy to imagine visual images being ‘injected’ into the witnesses’ perceptual systems just as a signal enters a TV set and produces an image on the screen. but human sensory processes in general, and the visual system in particular, are remarkably complex. We have only a very vague idea about how they work. To To put it crudely: if we can’t explain how normal perception operates, what chance is there for a model of some even more exotic process?

None of this argument should be thought of as disproving or dismissing the parapsychological theory. Rather, the aim is to demonstrate the dangers inherent in a chain of reasoning which runs: paranormal phenomena cannot be explained, therefore any phenomena which cannot be explained are paranormal, therefore UFO phenomena can be explained paranormally. The weakness of this logic is glaringly obvious.

5. Is there any puzzling or inexplicable event or set of events which a ‘paranormal’ theory could not explain?

My personal feeling is that if the extramundane theory is weak (in methodological sense), the parapsychological theory is weaker still. It may not be very enlightening to claim that “people see UFOs”; but is our curiosity any more satisfied by the assertion, “people parapsychologically transmit UFO experiences to each other”?

Rogerson’s closing argument is that contemporary psychology is in a primitive state, therefore novel theories which attack psychological laws are in some way more satisfactory than are theories, such as the ETH, the acceptance of which would imply the violation of known physical laws. The argument contains one or two flaws, depending on one’s philosophy: monists would maintain that all psychological laws are ultimately physical, anyway; less committed thinkers night point out that telepathy and clairvoyance, for example, provide no less profound a challenge to recognised physical concepts than does any physical UFO.

In sum, I think that the parapsychological theory as statedby Rogerson is still not powerful enough to explain UFOs, primarily because of its lack of clear definition and the absence of any specified means of disproving it. But the extramundane theory is, so far, insufficiently developed, although it is a somewhat better choice than the more specific extraterrestrial model. The best thing to do would be to adopt a less contentious inductive approach, but UFO researchers, unable or unwilling to resist the lure of speculation, rarely accept this alternative. Proponents of rival theories blandly neglect inconvenient data. Thus Rogerson would be happy to explain away reports of physical traces and radar sightings; Sharp (11) is careful to dismiss reports involving paranormal or religious manifestations; and Menzel, Condon, et al. dismiss the whole lot. In all cases there are some perfectly rational reasons for rejection; the mistake made lies not in rejection but selection. As Fort pointed out on many occasions, if you reject what you can’t explain’ you should be able to explain everything, It merely depends what you mean by ‘everything’.

Some progress be made if ufologists seek to maintain a theoretically neutral position recognising that UFO reports such as the cases of Rita,Malley, ‘Dr X’, the Welsh wave of 1905, frequently involve phenomena which, at face value lie beyond most of our current physical and psychological concepts. A search for patterns which involved the systematic neglect of these phenomena would violate most of the requirements of statistical sampling. If the final answer is a completely novel concept, the deductive approach would necessarily fail.

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References

  1. GROVE, C. UFOs: Psychological Theories and their Defects. BUFORA Journal 1970, 2, (11), 3-5.
  2. GROVE, C. Hoax and Hallucination: The Evidence. BUFORA Journal, 1970, 2, (12) 3-5.
  3. GROVE, C. Jung and the UFOs. BUFORA Journal, 1970, 3, (2), 3-5.
  4. GROVE, C. A Note on Black’s Hypnotic Theory of UFO Generation. In press.
  5. HILL, R.L. Prepared statement. Symposium on UFOs: Hearings before the Committee on Science and Astronautics, U.S. House of Representatives, 90th Congress, 2nd Session. Washington: USGPO, 1968.
  6. HALL, R.L. Sociological perspectives on UFO reports. Presented at the AAAS Symposium on UFOs, December, 1969. In press.
  7. GRINSPOON, L & PERSKY, A.D. Some psychiatric considerations about reports of unidentified flying objects. Presented at the AAAS Symposium on UFOs, December, 1969. In press.
  8. JOHNSON, D.M. The ‘phantom anaesthetist’ of Mattoon: A field study of mass hysteria. Journal of Abnormormal Social Psychology, 1945, 40, 175-186.
  9.  SMILEY , C.H. Arriving from Mars by UFO? Project Blue Book, 1960. Washington: SAFOI, 1968.
  10.  SHARP, A.W. The New Ufology – a critique. MUFOB, 1971, 4, 55-72.

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Not the E.T.H.
Jenny Randles

This articles was first published in Magonia 17, October 1984, which was a special issue reviewing the current status of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Related articles include:


I was surprised but very pleased that MAGONIA has decided to descend from the heights of psycho-social theorising (at least for one issue) and face the very real problems still proferred by the possibility that some UFOs just might be alien. I have a feeling that we have all rather got carried away with our theories regarding a wholly subjective solution to the UFO enigma. We are getting dangerously close to the point where we were willing subconsciously to distort the facts if they challenged our newly won and much vaunted theories. Anything which even hinted at some sort of exotic UFO reality was not to be regarded with the slightest trust, nor afforded more than a cursory or derisory glance.

I know that I nearly fell into that trap myself, for I swam with the torrents of raging subjectivity for several years, up to the last two or three. In working on my last couple of books I went back to basics and reappraised a few things in my own mind. I also started to listen to UFO witnesses for a change. That was a rather eye-opening thing to do; for I discovered that I had been preaching to them, largely from ignorance, saying “Sorry – despite what you think you saw that night two years ago you did not really see it at all, you only imagined it, but in such a way that it seemed very real”. Again and again witnesses would stare back at me and say, “But if you had been there, you would know:”

Then it occurred to me that I was foisting my conviction that their encounter could not be describing reality, onto them. But with what right? A dozen witnesses who were generally fine observers, clearly sane and intelligent, and obviously sincere, were telling me each year that what they saw was as real as the nine o’clock bus. And a dozen armchair theorists (me included) were telling them that this just could not be.
If you really think through this situation you may get a hint of the magnitude of error I believe we have been making. But I think I now understand why we have been making it. Quite simply we have always assumed that the world comprises black and white choices. In truth it rarely does. The question of UFO reality does not consist of either John Smith saw a real, objective, exotic craft that flew through the air, landed somewhere, and then stayed there until its next flight past an unsuspecting witness; or else he merely dreamt/hallucinated/imagined/archetypally reconstituted/birth trauma dramatised this, when nothing was actually there at all.

Whenever you keep hedging around a question in many different ways but still end up with paradoxes in return, then quite simply you have asked the wrong question. That is a basic scientific principle. We have never resolved this clearly because exotic UFOs are neither objectively real nor subjectively real. They are something else altogether. They are what I call ‘Quasi-Conscious Experiences’. They form their very own niche on the spectrum of reality.

We, as ufologists, have been acting rather like chemists in the last century, struggling with the embryonic periodical table of elements. We have this ‘thing’ called mercury which is a whopping great anomaly. But we have only two elements on our table clearly defined: hydrogen at the ‘light’ end and lead at the ‘heavy’ end. Mercury has certain characteristics of lead so we might choose to call it ‘funny lead’. Others may argue that it is too ‘light’ to be lead and call it ‘funny hydrogen’. The debate rages and goes nowhere.

From our cushion of years this looks stupid because we know mercury is mercury and not any sort of hydrogen or lead. But only the clear development of the table of elements demonstrates this. I think we are now similarly failing to see that the UFO close encounter, as a facet of QC-Experience is neither a strange kind of subjective reality, nor an extreme form of objective reality – but something in between and altogether different.

Once we accept this gradation of reality some remarkable things start to happen. We can slot particular experiences into their correct little niche and clearly define their parameters. What is more, we can predict sorts of experiences and their properties which seem to fit into the gaps in our gradation – just as the chemists were able to define the properties of rare elements which completed the Periodic Table. It is in this way that the QC-Experience is seen to be a necessary feature of the spectrum of reality. If nobody had ever experienced anything like it, we would be rather puzzled because the way phenomena blend into one another, as we move from objectivity to subjectivity, clearly shows that it ought to exist.

If we take total objectivity at one extreme, for example posting a letter in a bright red postbox. This is objective, everybody who approaches it sees the same red box. But the complete extreme of total objectivity is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, because our mind and perceptions experience the box, and (however slightly) distort our interpretation of it. We may perhaps feel a strong empathy, or antipathy, to the colour red. This will distort our view to some extent.

At the other extreme of the spectrum is total subjectivity; again hard to achieve in practice, but most dreams come close. The imagery is wholly imagined and personal to us. But just as emotions affecting our colour concept of the postbox produce a slight step down from total objectivity, so can external data intrude into our dreams, and thus create a step down from total subjectivity.

These two step-downs enable us to see how the extremes begin to blend together, and the image of the spectrum of reality becomes clear. At some point, of course, there needs to be a 50/50 halfway house, where there are equal levels of subjectivity and objectivity. But there are also many shades in between.

Our present need is to slot the vast wealth of what we call ‘paranormal’ phenomena into their correct places on the spectrum of reality.
One phenomena we can place is the lucid dream [1], that strange experience where the person knows they are dreaming as the dream unfolds, and this realisation allows a certain conscious control over the dream imagery, and also sharpens the focus of the dream-making: it becomes dramatically more ‘real’ or lucid – hence the name.

It was my own personal experience of these magical things, plus later reading and research into them, which helped clarify my ideas about the spectrum of reality. The lucid dream has a place between the subjective end of the spectrum and the halfway house. It may be perhaps 60% subjective and 40% objective – although these are no more than figures at this stage of the game and ought not to be taken too literally.

The lucid dream seems so real because it contains such a relatively high degree of ‘objectivity’, but it is still recognisable as a dream because it lies on the subjective side of the halfway house. We can define it as a subjective experience with a (say) 40% level of objective data intruding; thus allowing the ‘waking consciousness’ to partly control and adapt the environment created by the ‘sleeping unconscious’. In other words, the dreamer emerges from a sleep/dream state, close to 100% subjectivity, with the dream landscape thus intact, but the new level of objective override moulds and shapes this.
Now, if you have accepted my argument so far you will see that some sort of phenomenon must exist that fits the point on the spectrum between halfway house and the objective end of the spectrum. In many respects this is a mirror-image of the lucid dream, and it is what I recognise immediately as the Quasi-Conscious Experience. The term ‘waking lucid dream’ may well be apt.

Here the person emerges from normal waking reality, and steps down towards the subjective end of the spectrum, with the intrusion of a 40% subjective over-ride. Consequently the landscape which finds itself moulded and shaped is originally an objective one – the ‘real’ world. In the QC-Experience, or Waking Lucid Dream, the percipient finds subconscious data flooding in to a 40% level, to such an extent that it changes the perceived environment to a considerable extent.

In the lucid dream the balance favoured subjectivity and the step down occurred from the dream state, so the percipient believes the new experience to be a dream, but much more real. In the QC-Experience the opposite is true. The balance favours object
ivity and the step down was from the ‘real’ world. Now the percipient believes the new experience is real, but more dream-like.
UFO close encounters display this dream-like aura well – I call it the ‘Oz Factor’ [2]. It is, in my view, just the symptom which denotes the stepdown towards subjectivity.

I have tried to put these ideas across to ufology for the last couple of years, but with limited success. This is probably because it is a complex thing which is much easier to grasp in my case because: a] it has developed over a long period, and b] I have experienced several of the different niches on the spectrum of reality.

But I am quite excited by it, because it seems to be making sense out of so much that previously left me baffled and confused. In no way am I suggesting this as some sort of dramatic discovery. To me it is only something reasonably obvious that many people must have seen before. Nor does it solve the problem of precisely what UFOs are (except that they are neither real nor unreal – but a bit of both. However, I think it opens up new
avenues of exploration.

You see, UFOs are many things, and I want it clearly understood that I am here discussing what I term ‘Exotic UFOs’ (principally close encounters). UAPs – Unidentified Atmospheric Phenomena – are entirely different, and are objective. They really exist, in every sense of the word real, and are natural physical mysteries on the threshold of science. There are almost certainly several different UAP types that are reported as UFOs; earthlights may well be one, extreme forms of ball lightning are another probably kind. I need to make this very plain, because certain reviews of my two latest books – including one in Magonia – have referred to my alleged theory that UAPs are alien. That is nonsensical, UAPs are earthbound, natural and in no sense controlled by intelligences of any description. The evidence that they exist is, to me, irrefutable.

The ‘Exotic UFOs’ are actually a very small residue out of the total of UFO reports; a fairly obvious fact when you realise that up to 90% of UFO reports are IFOs, and possibly up to 90% of the remainder are UAPs. The left-overs are few and far between, but in global terms they are still a large number of experiences.

Exotic UFOs are not spaceships. That fact is reasonably obvious once you see that, a] we have no photographs of UFOs landed or involved in creating close encounters and b] we have no photographs of alien entities, and c] nobody has yet witnessed somebody else undergoing an alien contact of any kind. You can backtrack as much as you like with convoluted hypotheses, but there is really no way out.

Similarly, Exotic UFOs are not totally subjective experiences of any kind. I say that because they contain far too many obscure but repetitive motifs; because they generate real physiological effects which are unlikely to be psychosomatic; because there are physical effects (e.g. car stops) which demonstrate some form of energy exchange; and because animals get disturbed by them too. I leave aside the thorny question of multiple witness close encounters, although enough exist with sufficient overlap to worry any truly open-minded adherent of the psycho sociological school.

What we end up with is something in-between. A QC-Experience does have heavy subjective overtones, simply by definition. The very thing which makes it different from normal objective reality is the over-ride by subjective data. What we have to do now is to decide the origin of this subjective over-ride.

It may come from inside ourselves, I accept that option. In a lucid dream the intrusion of objectivity is essentially self-oriented. But there is, to my mind, ample evidence that this is not always the case. Precognitive dreams, for example, seem to involve external objective data from the ‘real world’ (or ‘real universe’) – and this in a sense beyond the normal confines of space. In other words, information from an alien civilisation somewhere ‘out there’ is received subconsciously and intrudes into objective reality as a subjective data over-ride, thus changing our perception of reality, to create an alien or UFO reality.

The only reason I am taking the alien origin of the subjective data over-ride seriously is that it explains what we see much more simply. It explains why there are patterns and consistencies (the source is consistent); it explains why there are individual differences (the degree of pick-up and the way we integrate it into our experience will vary from person to person). It explains the form of the QC Experience – it is alien, because that is what lies at the heart of the message; I think it even explains the physical and physiological effects. It is my viewthat UAPs, or ambiguous IFOs, are at the root of most, if not all, close encounters. When UAPs are involved energy will be associated.

We have a situation like the following: Witness A sees a UAP and thinks “Oh my, a UFO”. Energy is emitted and may or may not harm the witness or the environment. Meanwhile because he is naturally susceptible to switches of location on the spectrum of reality (in other words he is psychic) or because of some other unknown trigger, he steps down into a QC-Experience. The Oz Factor takes hold and he later describes his strange sensations and maybe even describes a time-lapse, due to his temporary slip out of normal objective reality into UFO Reality, where time is not as easily delineated. In the QC state the subjective data flows in from the alien source and moulds the external reality. If it is an orange ball of light (a UAP) this may become a spaceship, symbolising the information he is receiving in terms familiar and acceptable to his subconscious, just as when we receive objective facts in a precognitive way in a dream we tend to express them in dream symbols.

As the QC-Experience unfolds the witness believes he is perceiving reality exactly as before, unaware that he has slipped into another niche on the spectrum, where he is now subjectively dramatising received data and superimposing this on the UAP. The experience eventually ends, possibly when the UAP disappears, the aircraft flies away, or the satellite reentry burns up, or when whatever had been the initial stimulus no longer exists.

Of course, the essence of the episode lies in the witnesses mind, clothed in symbolism, and he may not, consciously, even realise that fact. When questioned he will tell what he believes he ‘really’ saw, but that is not terribly important. What is important is the inner substance of the message – the data which was responsible for the over-ride.

Perhaps we ought to be analysing UFO encounters rather like Jung analysed dreams. But we should do so recognising that we may be seeking something much more interesting than our own deeply hidden wishes or desires, or some archetypal facet of the human race. We may be decoding messages from an alien realm.

And so finally to answer the question really posed by this article: are the UFO phenomena alien in origin? If we mean in the traditional sense of gravity-powered space ships from Alpha Century my answer must be no. The ETH in that sense is dead. But I have a growing suspicion that the ETH in a more subtle – or Quasi Conscious) sense may yet provide a few surprises. 


1. Celia Green;Lucid Dreams. (Proceedings of the Institute of Psychophysical Research. vol. 1.) Institute of Psychophysical Research, Oxford, 1968.

2. Spencer, Lawrence R. The Oz Factors: The Wizard of Oz as an Analogy to the Mysteries of Life AuthorHouse, 1999

Is the ETH a Scientific Hypothesis? Peter Rogerson

From Magonia 65, November 1998

For many ufologists, particularly in the United States, the ETH is still the prime explanation for as-yet-unexplained UFO reports. Peter Rogerson analyses the ETH as a scientific hypothesis rather than an article of personal faith.

There are considerable disagreements among philosophers and scientists as to exactly what constitutes a scientific hypothesis, but the general consensus is that scientific hypotheses should yield specific, testable, predictions; thus if hypothesis A is correct we would expect an experiment to yield, or to observe in nature B, C and D, if however the experiment yields, or we observe in nature X, Y or Z, then the hypothesis is unlikely to be true. In other words the hypothesis should lead to specific conclusions, the universe, or some aspect of it should be an observably different place if the hypothesis is true, than if it is false.

A well known example of a hypothesis which is not a scientific hypothesis, because it leads to no testable conclusions, is the one invented by the Victorian geologist Philip Gosse, who sought to reconcile the growing evidence for the great age of the earth, with his personal belief in the Biblical account of the creation of the world in 4,004 BC. His answer was to argue that the prior history of the earth existed as an idea in the mind of God (as virtual reality, as we would say today). The world went through cycles of development, and at some point in 4,004 BC this virtual world was manifested by God, complete with the record of its previous virtual history such as fossils in the ground and Adam and Eve’s navels (and presumably their memories of non existent parents). Clearly such a hypothesis leads to no different conclusions that one in which the world really existed for vast ages.

Also scientific hypotheses should lead to further questions, they should not end with question stopping answers such as “that is the way God wills it, it is not for us to question why”, or because boggarts cause it. (Why does sodium when placed in water fizz and spit – because the boggarts make it so). In other words they should not invoke supernatural forces, or arbitrary wills, whether that of God, or lesser supernaturals such as angels or devils. That explains everything, and therefore nothing.

If the UFOs behave like conventional machines, then the evidence of exotic machines proves the ETH; if they behave like something else entirely then this also proves the ETH

It is here that the ETH in its most general form clearly falls, in the absence of any independent knowledge as to the nature and capabilities of ETs, ufologists feel free to invest them with any properties they choose, often self contradictory ones. If it suits the case for the ET’s to come in fallible machines which repeatedly crash in the New Mexico desert, then they will ascribe that property to them; if it suits to grant them near omnipotent supernatural powers, for example enchanting whole cities while abducting people through solid walls into invisible space ships, they will gladly do so. If the UFOs behave like conventional machines, then the evidence of exotic machines proves the ETH; if they behave like something else entirely then this also proves the ETH, because, of course no-one is naive enough to believe that they could come here by any kind of machine or process which we are familiar. It’s clear that wherever the evidence leads, proponents of the ETH will find confirmation for their belief it ETs.

Not surprisingly, Jerome Clark, for example, has never responded to my challenge as to how he would go about refuting the ETH. The only way that could be definitively be done, would be to search every planet in every solar system in the entire universe for signs of life, and even then if none were detected proponents of the ETH would say that was because the ET’s had camouflaged themselves so well, or because they were the wrong vibrational level for our instruments. 

This does not mean that no version of the ETH can ever be a scientific hypothesis; however unlikely. The hypothesis that UFOs are fusion powered spaceships from Mars is a scientific hypothesis. We could work out in advance what the properties of fusion powered spaceships are likely to be, and compare them with unexplained UFO reports (there is a problem there we will come to later), and eventually go to Mars to look. In other words the hypothesis stands a chance of leading to specific conclusions, and one can devise a finite, once and for all, test.

How general can the ETH be made and still be a scientific hypothesis? At the very least we have to limit the ET’s, however advanced their technology, to the currently understood laws of physics, and I think we have to make the assumption that the ET’s are in very general sense, somewhat like us. They have manipulative organs, and the equivalent of a complex, highly developed form of consciousness. Make these two assumptions, in order to make the ETH at least somewhat manageable, and something interesting happens. It does not predict UFOs, predicts that it is more likely than not that if ET craft carry biological beings, they will be very, very big indeed, but if they are mechanised they are more likely than not to be very, very small indeed.

How can make such a prediction? Note that I said we have to say that the ET’s are roughly like human beings and that statements made about human interstellar flight apply to them also, and that we denied them any mysterious Z-process. This means they can’t go faster than light, so all journeys take a very long time. This means that whatever means you use, explicitly or implicitly you are sending your astronauts into permanent exile.

There are three main methods suggested by which human beings might reach the stars. The first is the space Ark, this travels at moderate speeds, but takes huge amounts of time to reach its destinations. Generations pass on the ship before star-fall, there is no return. This is a route for permanent colonies only. The Ark therefore has to be huge. Remember this is not just a colony which must sustain itself for ten or so generations of travel, but must establish a long term breeding programme at their destination. A minimum population to establish a wide enough genetic mix, to guard against future disease, population crash, etc., is probably in the region of 10,000 people. Some other points must be borne in mind. These people would have to be given space, a colony divided into separate villages seems more sustainable than some giant apartment block. They would have to take a sustainable biosphere; we simply do not know how bound up with the general biosphere human beings are, how simple things like the cl-mate, the seasons, the alternation of night and day, the tides, etc., affect us. Remove us from the earth for long periods of time, and viability cannot be guaranteed. It seems a whole artificially biosphere would need to created. We are thinking of ships many kilometres long.

No human society ever before would have gone into such a permanent exile, with not even the wildest, fondest dream of return.

 In any case it is not at all clear that such a voyage could ever succeed. For a start could any sane human society ever permit any group of people to make a totally irredeemable choice on behalf of unborn generations to come? Even if the voyage got under way the psychological problems seem overwhelming. No human society ever before would have gone into such a permanent exile, with not even the wildest, fondest dream of return. No human society before would become so enclosed, locked in with themselves, unable to escape. What sort of people might be initially attracted to the ideas of being pioneers among the stars? The restless, the adventurous, the derring-do, precisely the sort of people who would eventually find being cooped up into the space Ark, even one a couple of hundred kilometres in diameter, unsustainable. Their world might become enclosed on itself, abandon its original project, or, I suspect, collapse in personal and factional feuds.

If the space Ark is not a very pleasant prospect, then what of the two touted alternatives: some kind of artificial hibernation, or very very fast relativistic voyages, taking advantage of the time dilation effect? Though it may seem these offer the chance of voyage and return within the lifetime of the crew, in reality these too offer a subtler form of irrevocable exile, the world to which they return if they choose to return, will be one transformed beyond recognition, all friends, family, familiar landscape, gone, all social mores changed, the language transformed. Returnees would indeed be strangers in a strange land. If ETs have the sort of complex level of consciousness needed to build spaceships, then, because it seems that consciousness has at least in part of evolved as a means of dealing with social interaction, the ETs will be as embedded in their society as we are in ours, capable of feeling their equivalent of pain, loss, loneliness and bereavement.

This means that whether there is a planned return or not, a small crew is out, you would have to send a social support network, capable to sustaining the voyage and creating a society within a society on return. Given the vast changes on return, why return? The relativistic or cryogenic spaceships are likely also to be colony ships, with vast crews and no plans for return. It should be borne in mind that even relativistic spaceships will take crew-time voyages of several years: it takes time to accelerate and decelerate.

Furthermore, very, very, very fast voyages are probably not possible. This is because the discussions on ultra fast flight, say 99.99% of the velocity of light, are based on idealised models in which interstellar space is an absolute vacuum, but this is not the case; there is gas, fine dust and no doubt small lumps of rock out there. Of course the density from the view-point of a static observer is very low, but from the point of view of traveller close to the velocity of light, the distances ahead are increasingly foreshortened; the faster the ship, the greater the density of the interstellar matter, and, from the ships point of view, the greater the mass of its components. At these high speeds, impact with something the size of a grain of sand, would breach the hull, anything the size of a pea, blow it to smithereens. Not only that, the foreshortening of the incoming space, means the wave-length of incoming light will in-creasingly shortened. As the ship gets ever closer to C, the incoming light will blue shift into the ultraviolet, then into hard X-rays. The crew will fry. What relativity gives with one hand, it takes with the other. This leaves out the stupendous energies which would be required to accelerate the ship to velocities close to C, as the ships mass (from the viewpoint of an external observer) is ever increasing.

All of this suggests than neither slow nor very fast space-ships are a practical proposition, if human beings are to go to the stars, it will be in fast (say 25 per cent to 75 per cent of C ) but not ultra fast, very big ships, with founding populations in the many thousands. If ET’s are anything like us at all, it is more likely than not they are coming in something very big indeed. If UFO reports are generated by biological ETs they must have a very big base somewhere in our solar system. No-one has detected one so far, nor do we see daily spaceships visiting us.

If however, we go for unmanned probes, then the priority is speed, in order that we can get the information from the probe in as short a time as possible. The route is as obvious as possible, An unmanned interstellar probe should be as cheap, and small and fast as technology will permit. Indeed the major limit here may be finding a way of decelerating the probe at the other end, though use of friction with interstellar dust might work. Launching would be using some process which does not use on-board fuel, firing from laser cannons, or using some vast linear accelerator (on the Moon perharps). How small these probes can get will depend on advances in computer technology, but my guess is that they could get pretty small. Once that path is taken both the costs and risks will be some many orders of magnitude less than manned voyages that the manned voyage route will never be taken. If ET’s are anything like us, it is not likely they will send biological beings on interstellar voyages.

The problem with the ETH is now clear. The ideas underlying much of the speculation surrounding it are already old fashioned by our own science.

 The problem with the ETH is now clear. The ideas underlying much of the speculation surrounding it are already old fashioned by our own science. The ETH was formulated in days when spaceships, (always thought to come from Mars) were seen as kinds of ultra high performance aircraft, before ultra high resolution satellite surveillance, before the computer revolution, before miniaturisation. If real ET’s were visiting us, we would probably never notice.

It may be argued that that all of this is very anthropomorphic, that real ETs may be very different from us, that they come here using processes which we cannot understand. There could be a lot of truth in that, but supporters of the ETH must understand that the moment they invoke unguessable psychologies and exotic technologies about which we know, and can therefore say nothing, they are abstracting the ETH from the realms of science, into those of metaphysics and personal faith.There is another difficulty which would face proponents of an ETH even if they could state in advance what the properties of the ET craft were, so as to compare them with UFO reports; this is that there is no agreed upon, uncontaminated data base of UFO reports. Indeed as the definition of UFO is essentially a negative one, those reports as of today not yet identified, there can be no guarantee that the reports will not be explained tomorrow, (remember Peter Day’s film) There are no UFO reports which are wholly different from all IFO reports. There is furthermore no reason to suppose that even if (as might well be the case) that there are UFO reports generated by novel phenomena, they all have the same cause. As I found out while compiling the notorious INTCAT, there are few cases which everyone agrees on. There would also be the problem of determining whether an equal or better fit might not be made with some other phenomenon in the future.

As I have noted several times before, there is an even bigger problem with the ETH. Its central proposition may be just too anthropomorphic; the belief that there are ETs who are in essence people of another shape, perhaps looking different from us, but who are engaged in essentially the same projects. The occupants reported as being connected with UFOs are just too human, and there is a large measure of agreement among evolutionary biologists that there is little chance of human beings evolving elsewhere. Indeed if human beings were wiped out tomorrow, there is almost no chance of them evolving on earth again. At this point there is a tendency among some Ufologists to cry parallel evolution; what these people forget is that parallel evolution is something which occurs when creatures having different immediate ancestors, (but like all terrestrial organisms sharing a good deal of common DNA coding), adapt to very similar ecological niches.

Supporters of the ETH must understand that the moment they invoke unguessable psychologies and exotic technologies about which we know, and can therefore say nothing, they are abstracting the ETH from the realms of science.

 This has not happened in the case of upright walking, tool users. There are no marsupial people, there are no New World people, there aren’t any people descended from the orang-utans. The best parallel evolution might come up with is some ET equivalent of a nondescript little furry animal, Unless one makes the assumption that the presumed ET world has ecological niches virtually identical to our own, even that might be asking too much. As most women who have given birth, and as anyone who suffers from back problems will tell you, the human body is not particularly well adapted. Large-headed upright walkers are not likely to be widespread. And as for the Mekon-like entities so often reported, they are even less likely. How do they give birth? How could a small heart in a small body supply enough oxygen to such a large brain.

Could creatures physically very different from us be sufficiently mentally similar to us to build radio telescopes and space ships? It has to be remembered we are not just talking about creatures which are anatomically different from us, such as elephants and pangolins, but physiologically and possibly even biochemically different. It is by no means clear that they would be composed of DNA, as opposed to some other complex reproducing molecule, which had evolved in the specific circumstances of their primal ooze. These would be entities who genetically would be far more different from us than yeast is. When, as I noted a few issues back, we realise than a very tiny genetic mutation in our own species can produce a major transformation of consciousness, it seems very improbable.

Perhaps this would be the next Copernican revolution, not to see ourselves as being of such cosmic importance that the universe would be somehow bereft if not filled with us or our surrogates, but to accept ourselves as one unique species among many, on one unique biosphere, in a universe of unique biospheres and unique entities. (We don’t seem to have any problem in facing up to the fact that we are not likely to live in a universe filled with armadillos and kangaroos). That our ability to build radio telescopes would be no more or less surprising that the unique nature of any other unique species abilities.

We also have to realise that the idea of building radio telescopes and space ships is not just unique to our species, among all the hundreds of millions which live or have lived on earth, it is unique to ours alone among many thousands of human cultures past and present. ET’s wouldn’t just have to think like humans, they would have to think like twentieth century Euro-Americans. The ET/CETI proponents don’t just regard all other species as being somehow irrelevant, all other human cultures and human achievements are tossed aside as being of no importance.

As evolutionary history shows that the coming of human beings was not an inevitability, so history shows that the coming of heavy industry was by no means inevitable. The merger of science and technology appears to have been the result of something specific about western European culture, possibly a merging of Greek notions of rationalism, with Irano-Judaic notions of the linearity of history, the existence of a common culture and lingua franca (Latin) in the absence of a centralised political authority, as well as notions of individuality, the relative lack of affluence and comfort in the ruling class, amongst other factors. One can say with some confidence that many of the other cultures depicted in Star Trek, say, as having space travel, in reality would be most unlikely to develop techno-scientific heavy industry.

Of course proponents of the ETH can argue against all of these points, and I would be the first to agree that in our state of such profound ignorance (we don’t even know that there are any extraterrestrial life forms) there can be no certainties. But it is precisely for that reason that the ETH, while by no means wholly irrational to hold as an article of personal faith, is not and cannot be a useful scientific working hypothesis.

The Plurality of Worlds, Part 1: From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century. John Harney

From Magonia 4, Summer 1980

We may perhaps gain some insight into the real nature of the controversy concerning the extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) as an explanation for UFO reports by examining the historical development of the idea of life on other worlds.

Our attitudes to this question are determined, to some extent, by the traditional world pictures and world views which we have inherited. Traditional western thought is derived from a fusion of Graeco-Roman and Hebrew ideas, together with the development of Christian theology. Western philosophy and theology were increasingly influenced, from about the time of the Reformation, by the rise of modern science.

ptolemaicsystem

The ancient Greeks entertained various ideas concerning the nature of the universe but the model which dominated medieval thought was that of Aristotle. For him the Earth was stationary at the centre of the Universe. The sublunar world of gross matter consisted of the four elements, earth, water, air and fire and natural movement in this sphere was upwards towards the lunar sphere, downwards towards the centre of the Earth. The rest of the universe was quite different in nature, consisting of a perfect, unchanging substance called the ether, or quintessence. The natural movement attributed to this substance was circular. Thus all of the unchanging heavenly bodies moved eternally, with uniform motion in circular orbits around the Earth. Although changes obviously took place on Earth the Forms (ideas) were eternal, so that although individuals were born and died, humanity and the environment remained basically the same.

In such a system there could be no room for ‘other worlds’ as we generally understand the term. Perhaps equally importantly, there was no idea of progress, of change through time, which would enable us to devise the means to visit other worlds, or for beings from other worlds to get around to visiting us.

The early Fathers of the Church drew upon these ideas for their formulations of Christian thought. Thus Christian theology became almost inextricably entwined with Aristotelian physics. Christianity is a historical religion which views the world as having had a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and being destined to come to an end, when all things will be made new (Rev 21:5). This is incompatible with the eternal and basically unchanging world of the Greeks, so why did Christianity not simply follow traditional Jewish thinking?

The answer lies with the beginnings of the rise of Christianity. St Paul preached to Gentiles as well as to Jews and his insistence that Gentile converts need not be circumcised or practice the various ritual observances of Jewish law obviously facilitated the rapid growth of the new religion. Paul was well aware of the problems caused by bringing together people of different traditions to share a common faith, as their ways of thinking were so different. He observed that ‘… the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom.’ (1 Cor. 1:22.) In the beginning the church at Jerusalem was the predominant one, but the centre of gravity of the Church shifted to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This event removed Christianity from its Jewish context and led to its gradually becoming an integral part of the Roman-Hellensitic world.

As well as suffering persecution from the Roman authorities the early Church had other problems, in particular the threat to its unity and integrity posed by Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that matter was inherently evil, and this beliefalthough consistently condemned by the Church, has had a strong effect on Christian thought throughout the centuries and right up to the present day.

The uneasy compromise in Christian thought between the Jewish and Greek traditions was institutionalised by the Council of Trent (1546), which decreed that Biblical interpretation should not depart from the general consensus of the Church Fathers. The Council of Trent had been convened in order to reform the Church and in doing so it gave more rigorous definitions to certain doctrines which were a source of confusion because of doubts as to their proper interpretation or importance. The definitions arrived at by the Council served to highlight the differences between the Church of home and the growing Protestant sects.

This increasing disunity in Christendom gave an impetus to an alternative approach, or third force, which was a campaign to develop a new religion which would reconcile Protestant and Catholic by being universally acceptable. This religion was to be based on the study and interpretation of a collection of occult writings attributed to one Hermes Trismegistus, but actually written by a number of unknown authors. One of the Hermetic beliefs was that there was life on other worlds. This idea arose naturally from the pantheistic nature of Hermetism. The universe itself was alive and individuals were regarded as being transitory manifestations of the eternal life of the self-sufficient universe. The sun was placed at the centre of the centre of the universe because it was the obvious source and sustainer of life on Earth.

An enthusiastic purveyor of such ideas was Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake in 1600 for his pantheistic heresies. Galileo came under suspicion for a time, when it was thought that his reasons for wishing to place the sun at the centre of the universe might be Hermetic – and therefore heretical – rather than purely scientific.

Up to the time of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) there had not been very much scope for speculation about life on other planets, because of the general acceptance, by the scholastic philosophers, of the cosmology of Aristotle, which I have described above; although there was speculation as to whether there might be a large, or infinite, number of Aristotelian universes. The picture changed when Galileo argued in favour of the system devised by Copernicus, supporting his arguments with accounts of his telescopic observations.

As the gradual acceptance of the new cosmology changed the received world picture it also changed the world view. The idea emerged of the Earth as one of several planets orbiting the sun, which was but one of millions of stars. Thus the Earth was now seen as not being unique: other planets were basically similar. This gave rise to speculation based on analogical arguments (eg. ‘The Earth is a planet and is inhabited: Mars is a planet, so Mars may be inhabited’).

This kind of argument has continued to the present day, but for a long time it was complicated by theological considerations. Many thinkers were concerned that Scripture had nothing to say about other worlds, although a nineteenth-century Scottish schoolmaster, Thomas Dick, claimed in his Sidereal Heavens (1840) that the doctrine of the plurality of worlds was embodied in many passages of Scripture (eg. Heb. 1:2, 11:3).

The belief that there are rational beings on other planets was important to Christian thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries because of their need to try and gain some insight into God’s purpose in creating the universe. There was no problem with the small, Aristotelian universe, enclosed by the sphere of the fixed stars; it had been created for the benefit of humanity. The mathematician, philosopher and physicist, Christiaan Huygens (1620-95) argued that as most of the universe could never even be seen by man, he could not believe that a wise Creator would put all His creatures on one spot, and leave the rest of His immense universe devoid of life. He also made the moral point that speculation that God had created rational beings on thousands of ether worlds would reduce the tendency for humanity to have an exaggerated idea of its own importance in Creation. This point was also made by Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), who also pointed out that as God Is infinite and incomprehensible, His creation also must be infinite and thus far greater than anything that could be known to man.

descartes

 

Descartes separated the physical from the spiritual so that the physical universe could be thought about and investigated without recourse to metaphysical ideas, and sought to explain all natural events as the effects of matter in motion

 

 

Thus we can see that the philosophers who discussed the plurality of worlds in the wake of the Copernican revolution were arguing by analogy and, perhaps more importantly, employing the idea of final causes. However, this way of thinking, which combined the natural and the supernatural in attempts to solve philosophical and scientific problems, cams under increasing opposition with the development of a mechanistic philosophy.The principal developer of a mechanistic philosophy was René Descartes (1591-1650). He separated the physical from the spiritual so that the physical universe could be thought about and investigated without recourse to metaphysical ideas. He sought to explain all natural events as the effects of matter in motion. As one particle moved it displaced other particles, but without leaving any gaps, rather like goldfish swimming around in a bowl. In devising this scheme Descartes intended to found a scientific method based on certainty, so that the universe could be described in terms of simple cause and effect, like the workings of a clock. However, his ideas were attacked on both religions and scientific grounds.

A religious objection was that in describing a deterministic universe, he was leaving no room for the working of divine providence, so his ideas would lead eventually to atheism. Also, for Descartes, belief in God was attained by the exercise of will rather than intellect. This was unacceptable to many other philosophers, for in the seventeenth century natural theology was becoming increasingly important and many books were published which used the argument from design in an attempt to pursuade doubters of the existence of God, and of His wisdom and goodness. This emphasis on natural theology arose largely because of a general weakening of religious faith, particularly among intellectuals, which could be attribute, to the constant quarrelling among the numerous sects into which Christianity hart become divided.

The chemist Robert Boyle (1617-92), one of the founder members of the Royal Society, said that by neglecting final causes, Descartes was throwing away one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God and one of the most impressive proofs of His wisdom. He did not agree that God’s purposes were inscrutable unless conveyed to mankind by revelation, but that at least some of them could be discovered by the observation of nature.

It was this empirical approach that Boyle shared with other natural philosophers of his day, such as Hook, Newton and Pascal, which clashed with the rationalism of Descartes. Because light goes through empty space, Pascal argued, that was no excuse for philosophers to fill it with an imaginary substance just to make the process comprehensible. Descartes’ clear ideas and logical deductions from them did not necessarily correspond with reality. It was the task of the natural philosophers to discover what the laws of nature actually were, and not what they should be according to our ideas of what is or what is not rational.

This approach was both a scientific and a theological criticism of Cartesian philosophy. His contemporaries accused Descartes of relying too much on his own unaided reason and were able to show that some of his scientific theories were wrong, notably his rules for the behaviour of colliding bodies. Isaac Newton (1642-1727) attacked his ‘vortex’ theory of celestial motion. He also said that vortex motion would quickly decay and illustrated his arguments by studying the behaviour of various fluids when stirred.

Newton’s criticism also had theological motives. He did not like the identification of matter with space, as he could conceive of empty space as having always existed as a great void in which God decided to create matter. Whether or not the concept of space existing all by itself has any meaning is an interesting philosophical problem, butNewton’s ideas of the universe as particles of matter with nothing but empty space in between them gave rise to certain difficulties. Descartes had explained how bodies could act on one another at a distance, and rejection of his idea of the universe being completely filled with matter made interactions such as gravity and magnetism profoundly mysterious. Newton was thus unable to explain gravity without attributing it to the agency of God. However, Newton and some of his contemporaries did not want to devise models of the universe in which everything could be explained in terms of simple, mechanical cause-and-effect relationships. Such models would be too deterministic, leaving no scope for free will or divine providence, this being one of the main objections to Descartes’ system of interlinking vortices.

When Descartes denied that animals have souls he thought that he was doing a service to religion by emphasizing man as a special creation, different in kind from the animals, not superior simply by possessing a more elaborate brain. His critics did not see it that way, though, and saw Descartes’ analogies of animals with soulless automata as a possible first step towards atheism, by gradually devising explanations of all animal, and even human, behaviour in  purely mechanical terms. Of course, his critics were right in the long term, but in the seventeenth century the idea was used to support rather than erode religious belief.

I have dealt with these seventeenth century controversies concerning science and theology to show that these two subjects did not develop independently. This meant that an attack on theology could also undermine the philosophical bases of scientific theories. Most readers will have some idea of the ferment of ideas which characterized the eighteenth century and will realize that eighteenth-century thought can not be summarized briefly. However, two important points are the movement to exclude God from natural philosophy (i.e. science) and attacks on the idea that science can provide us with knowledge of the universe which is certain, rather than merely probable. 

david_hume

 

Hume also attacked the concept of cause and effect and insisted that knowledge of the world must be based on experience and not on the a priori assumption of a rational order imposed on nature

 

 

 

 

One of the most notable of eighteenth century philosophers (at least from the British point of view) was David Hume (1711-76). He used various arguments in his attacks on natural theology, one of them being that the theologians argued from the a priori assumption that the God whose existence they were seeking to establish through the observation of nature possessed all the attributes of the God of Christianity. He also attacked the concept of cause and effect and insisted that knowledge of the world must be based on experience and not on the a priori assumption of a rational order imposed on nature. Of course, the scepticism of Hume and others did not destroy religious belief; it merely added to the plethora of competing creeds and philosophies. It also served to build up an intellectual climate in which nothing would for long be taken for granted or remain unquestioned.

In the seventeenth century there had been a number of books published which were devoted to speculation about the possible inhabitants of other worlds, for example The Discovery of a New World, by John Wilkins (1638) and Cosmotheoros by Christiaan Huygens (1698). Both of these authors had theological motives. For them the principle of sufficient reason required the universe to be teeming with life.

Their speculations, and those of other authors of the period, were imaginative, but there was something lacking. This was the idea of development and fundamental changes either of humanity or of the universe. This meant, of course, that their ideas about life on other worlds tended to be rather anthropomorphic, although Wilkins, Huygens, and other writers on the same subject were careful not to describe the hypothetical inhabitants of other worlds as human.

Another notable book on the same theme was Entretiens sur la Pluralité des Mondes by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, published in 1686. However, Fontenelle’s aims were somewhat different from those of the writers mentioned above. He was one of the philosophes, whose writings culminated in the Enlightenment (or Age of Reason) and the French Revolution of 1789. The philosophes were deists or atheists; who regarded religion as superstition. They believed that the pursuit of reason would lead to happiness. Many of those who lived on until 1789 were sadly disillusioned as they fell victims to the Revolution.In contrast to the optimism of the philosophes, many seventeenth and eighteenth century thinkers saw human history as a story of degeneration rather than progress. A notable example of this attitude was Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88), which saw history since the Roman Empire as a story of the continuous decline of civilization.

Our present ideas about life on other planets are influenced by ideas which have developed since the eighteenth century. However, I have attempted to outline the ideas entertained by intellectuals, ignoring, popular beliefs and folklore. In spite of the ideas which have developed from the late eighteenth century to the present day, such as evolution, Marxism, relativity and quantum theory, the world views of many modern UFO enthusiasts seem to me to be derived from the distant past, rather than from the science and philosophy of the twentieth century. We heae, for instance, the benevolent ‘apace brothers’ of so many of the contactee stories of the fifties, who come to warn us of the error of our ways, and who seem real, yet exist on a higher plane, being made of matter which has ‘higher vibrations’ than earthly matter. This reminds us of the Aristotelian universe in which all supralunar beings are made of ether, which is incorruptible. This concept of the earth being made of ‘gross’ matter unlike the rest of the universe, is obviously connected with Gnostic beliefs which regard matter as being inherently evil.

The ‘nuts and bolts’ ufologists appear to be passionately eager to find evidence of the reality of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Although they rarely display overt theological motives, their concern perhaps has a similar motive to that of the philosophers of the seventeenth century, in that they believe there must be some reason for the existence of such an immense universe.In this article I have tried to sketch the intellectual background which most of us quite unconsciously draw upon when we consider the possibility of life on other planets. I hope in future articles to review some of the more important scientific and philosophical ideas as they have developed from the eighteenth century to the present day, discussing how they might effect our attitudes to UFO reports and speculations about extraterrestrial life.

On to Part Two, “From Darwin to the Present Day”

 

The Case for Humanoids. John Harney

from MUFOB New Series 6, spring 1977

mufob-06Is it likely that there are intelligent beings on other planets? Would they resemble us, or would they be totally different in appearance and behaviour?

Many scientists today believe that life will eventually evolve wherever it is physically possible for it to do so, and given sufficient time and favourable conditions, intelligent beings will eventually emerge. New discoveries in biology are taking place almost daily, but the question of the origin of life is still controversial. Some experts believe that the origin of life on Earth was a singular event, the result of an extremely unlikely chain of chemical reactions, an event so improbable as to be unlikely to be repeated anywhere else in the Universe at any time. According to Jacques Monod:

“…the biosphere does not contain a predictable class of objects or of events but is a particular event, certainly compatible indeed with first principles, but not deducible from those principles and therefore unpredictable”. (1)

However, many scientists would argue that it would be possible to predict the occurrence of life, is only we knew enough about biology. Those who believe that life is quite common in the Universe often say that it is unlikely to be much like life on Earth:

“Some scientists have been especially impressed by the number of individually unlikely events which are together responsible for the development of men and human intelligence. They have emphasised that even if the Earth were started out again from scratch, and only random factors allowed to operate, the development of anything like a human being would be highly unlikely”.(2)

Such opinions seem very plausible, but they fail to take into account the various constraints imposed by the laws of nature. For example:

“…silicon compounds might replace carbon compounds as structural biochemicals”. (3)

The notion that there could be forms of life based on silicon rather than carbon compounds crops up again and again in the literature. It should not be taken seriously, as such an idea betrays an ignorance of elementary chemistry. Some writers assume that because silicon is the nearest neighbour to carbon in the Periodic Table and also has a valency of four, then it can form bonds with other silicon atoms and hydrogen, oxygen, etc., to produce compounds analogous to compounds based on carbon and having similar properties. This is not true. The bond energies involved in the links between silicon and other elements, and carbon and other elements have different values. The Si-Si bond is weaker than the C-C bond, but the Si-0 bond is stronger than the C-0 bond. To see what this means in practice we can compare the gas that bubbles out of fizzy lemonade, carbon dioxide, with a lump of quartz, silicon dioxide. I maintain that anyone who takes the trouble to consult the appropriate chemistry text-books will readily be convinced that a biochemistry based on silicon is impossible.

So here we have a basic constraint on the nature of any living creature, imposed by the laws of chemistry. Observational evidence indicates that these laws are the same throughout the observable universe, so there would seem to be no way of avoiding this conclusion.

Assuming that intelligent beings have evolved on other planets, what then would they look like? It is tempting to speculate that they would look like “nothing on Earth”, but we must not let our imaginations run wild. The laws of nature impose many constraints on the size and shape of living organisms, and even on the social behaviour of intelligent creatures.

If we wish to design a hypothetical intelligent being, where do we start? Well, it would need a brain, and a very elaborate one at that. Thus it will need to be big enough to support a large brain, and this delicate organ will need some form of protection. How about a skull? The brain will also need sensory inputs to tell it what is happening in the outside world. It will need eyes, if only to avoid such disasters as falling down cliffs, or walking under buses. Yes, but would those eyes necessarily see the same wavelengths as our eyes? Undoubtedly so, because planetary atmospheres are most transparent to those wavelengths which we detect as visible light. What about “seeing” with radio-waves? Well, with radio waves:

“In order to have any useful resolution – that is, detection of fine visual detail – the effective collecting area must be enormous. To have the same resolving power at 5cm wavelengths that they eye has at 5000A. wavelength, an extraterrestrial microwave “eyeball” would have to be roughly half a mile in diameter”. (4)

We could go on to fill a full-length book with similar arguments, but the whole question is neatly summed up in the words of Professor M R House:

“Typical gross form associated with ecological habit for a given animal size and node of life, suggests that there is a ‘paradigm’ or theoretically appropriate form for given circumstances, and that selection pressures tend to work towards this by eliminating those organisms least approximating to it”. (5)

House points to various examples of evolutionary convergence such as gross similarities between swimming reptiles, mammals and fish and the fact that “sabre-tooth tigers of the Tertiary of South America were marsupial mammals, whilst the present day tigers are placental mammals”.

In other words, where there is an ecological niche it will eventually be filled, by the processes of evolution, with the appropriate animal or plant. Because of the natural constraints imposed by the laws of physics and chemistry, ecological niches on other planets must bear some resemblance to those with which we are familiar on Earth.

There is nothing new in the idea that an intelligent being should conform to a certain specification. According to the Bible: “…God said Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”

There is nothing new in the idea that an intelligent being should conform to a certain specification. According to the Bible: “…God said Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (6) Also it is difficult to imagine an intelligent being which did not have the “knowledge of good and evil”. (7) That is, any creature which we would regard as being intelligent would have free will, or the power to choose between different possible courses of action. It is customary to draw a distinction between intelligent and non-intelligent sentient beings. We tend to assume that animals (at least the higher ones) are conscious, whhereas we humans are not only conscious, but also conscious of being conscious. In other words, we have the “knowledge of good and evil”, but we do not hold animals to be morally responsible for their actions.

This brings us to the question of whether intelligent extraterrestrials would have any religious beliefs or not. Would beings more advanced than we are be theists, atheists, or agnostics. Some theists maintain that the existence of God is pretty self-evident, and would presumably be even more so to more intelligent creatures. Atheist argue that belief in God is mere infantilism, so more advanced beings would have grown out of it. Maybe, but one cannot help speculating that a unanimously atheistic race, lacking any convincing ultimate purpose for its existence, might eventually die of inanition.

We are hardly likely to reach general agreement on this matter, so let us move on to slightly firmer ground, that of economics. Can you imagine a civilized society without some form of monetary system? In ancient times, as human cultures gradually grew larger and more complex, money had to be invented in order to replace the practice of barter which gradually became more complex and difficult. It is easy to dream of a Utopia where money is abolished, but would it work? No. Some such system is needed, however honest people may become, if only to act as a check on supply and demand, and to monitor and control the distribution of resources. Such considerations, as well as many other economic facts of life will continue to apply on Earth and will also apply to any other conceivable extraterrestrial civilization.

I think that I have said enough in this essay to begin to make some sort of a case for extra-terrestrial intelligences bearing some physical resemblance to ourselves. I have also argued that they would tend to resemble us in many other important ways in their social organisation and behaviour, as they would undoubtedly have to face and find answers to similar problems to ours – technical, economic, political and philosophical.

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References:

  • 1. MONOD, JACQUES. Chance and Necessity. (translated by Austryn Wainhouse). Collins, London, 1972.
  • 2. SHKLOVSKII, I.S. and SAGAN, CARL. Intelligent Life in the Universe. Dell, New York, 1968.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. HOUSE, M. R. “Evolution and the Fossil Record” in Understanding the Earth, (I.G.Gass, Peter J.Smith, R.C.Wilson, eds) Artemis Press/Open University Press, 2nd edn., 1974.
  • 6. Genesis 1.26
  • 7. Genesis 2.17; 3.1-24.