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Aliens Among Us? A Perspective

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Pentagon or paragon?

Alan Boyle with MSNBC's Cosmic Log has hosted an interesting and lively online conversation about UFOs entitled "UFOs in the Clouds" ( I have added my own two-cents but thought it was interesting to lay out my own arguments against the likelihood of UFOs being alien creatures among us.

Sociologically, the phenomena of UFO sightings seems to be inversely proportional to our culture's belief in God; as increasingly more Westerners reject the theism of their forbearers, the incident of UFO sightings rises. This is not without good cause. For tens of thousands of years, humans have illustrated their willingness to buy into religious belief systems as exhibited in the art, architecture and writing of countless civilizations and native cultures. Anthropologists have even found evidence that our Neanderthal brethren may have buried their dead with ceremonial flowers, possible indication of some existing socialized belief structure ( Whether there exists a genetic component prompting assimilation to one of the many conceptualizations of god or whether it is strictly environmental, a learned behavior, humans have nonetheless generally accepted the notion that the reason for their existence or the meaning of their life is somehow related to a higher power, what many call "God" or the gods.

With the advent of scientific and technological discoveries over the last few millennia, the generally accepted infallibility of religion and religious institutions and leaders has waned. Heliocentrism, which was revived by the likes of Copernicus and Galileo in the 15th and 16th century, put the first big nail into Western civilization's religious autocracy, while others such as Darwin added their own huge nail. Arguably, the discovery of cosmic microwave background "noise" and genetics have further aided in the decline of religious influence in the West, yet in many parts of the world such discoveries seem to have done little to change the political and cultural structure of society because there has been little corresponding technological advancement to augment or compel social change. This fact is critical to my argument for several reasons.

First, beyond the technologies of warfare, non-Western societies have not yet been completely inundated by the culture of capitalism and the "wants" that arise from its growth. Immersed in the religious and spiritual faith of the past, many of these cultures have not experienced the mass falling away from faith which we otherwise witness daily here at home. Without the insidious compulsion to grasp rationality and scientific reasoning, many societies have yet to experience the disillusion often associated with advanced technological and sociological changes spurred by free market economies.

Secondly, without the continual exposure to industrial technologies like space flight, telecommunications and the like, many non-Western cultures are not exposed to ideas that compel outside-the-box thinking that may challenge preconceived notions of their world. Ideas on their own are worthless without some means or method of generating their continued contemplation and creation. Certainly, it has been said that ancient Greeks may have had exposure to technology as advanced as a rudimentary steam engine, yet without the proper economic and sociological ideology that would otherwise open up minds to the possibility of new ideas and innovations, creations like this are lost on that society ( This, I purport, is what we find today in much of the world.

Third, the political infrastructure of many, many nations lacks the impetus for change necessary to bring about such technological creations or innovative thinking. Sectarian warfare that has raged for centuries often seems to be the norm for much of the non-Western world. Where an individual or family's need to find food, shelter and safety is uncertain, there is little time left over to contemplate ideological and philosophical issues.

All of this, of course, I point out because in the West, we have seen a marked rise in these sightings of UFOs beginning with the advent of jet propulsion. Prior to this technological development, the incidence of sightings was negligible. In addition, as scientific and cultural advancements have increasingly shunned the timeless need for religion and god, humans who were raised to believe in traditional religious and spiritual values find themselves out in the cold, with few alternatives for their god. Money, addictions and the race to own possessions have replaced some of these needs, yet the hole remains as Westerners increasingly find religious figures unable to explain the place of "God" in their modern, technologically-driven lives.

Yet the innate, cultural need to recognize something or someone as morally superior and greater than himself or herself has to be filled somehow. Thus, we find that as belief in a traditional god decreases, the belief in higher life forms as represented by aliens takes its place.

Statistically, the odds of a sentient, technologically super-advanced species having traveled the Galaxy at greater-than-light speed to visit the potentially trillion planets located around billions of stars is fantastically remote. Even if such a culture could visit one planet each minute and completely analyze its ecology and explore its ruins and life forms, it could take two million years to visit each and every world in our galaxy alone (1,000,000,000,000 potential worlds divided by about 525,000 minutes in a year). Moreover, if it took days, months, or even years to explore each planet, that number grows even more staggering.

Even if one attempts to discount all planets other than earth-sized terrestrial worlds, the chances of them visiting us just as we arise as a species is very, very improbable. Besides, assuming that life may only exist on worlds like ours and summarily dismissing all other planets is hubris, akin to saying that we know how life can form and what forms it can take. We do not know what life - even sentient life - could look like or where such life may exist, for physics cannot discount the possibility of life originating even in the most inhospitable of environments, and the only examples we have to study are our own world's species. Ultimately, we may never know.

So many variables, so many unknown factors, such lack of knowledge and incomprehensible distances only confound our ability to accurately attribute UFO phenomena to extraterrestrial origins. In essence, the simplest explanation is often the most accurate (and certainly the most logical). Where extraterrestrial explanations are offered, I see only complications and useless conjecture. Since we live on a planet where the dominant species is creative, inventive and often secretive - at least on a macro-political scale - rather than seeking illogical otherworldly explanations, I believe that the answers lie much closer to home. More often than not, the objects that we see in the sky above are readily explainable incidents such as planets, weather craft and meteorological events, and those which cannot stand up to such simplistic scrutiny may be more nefarious but equally local.

It is considerably more likely, I conclude, that these inexplicable UFOs are indeed nothing more than experimental or prototype top secret aircraft devised by affluent governments in an attempt to hide military-related projects and initiatives. In all likelihood, a good portion of these $70 for hammers and $140 for toilet seats the DOD pays for in their budget is being diverted for such projects in defiance of all international treaties on space-based objects and the use of nuclear material in space.

In the end, whether one adheres to the belief in aliens visiting us or not, just considering the likelihood of each explanation leads one invariably to the conclusion - as bad as it may feel - that such phenomena sound more like Pentagon than alien paragon. What do you believe?

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