A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Yesterday, the British Ministry of Defence declassified 35 documents and released them to the public. They’re all about UFOs. There are over 8000 pages of absolutely brilliant stuff: pictures and drawings, eye-witness reports and secret investigations. There are testimonials and detailed descriptions of sightings by policemen, air traffic controllers and members of the military. There’s even stuff about a debate in the House of Lords. It’s really cool and you can download it for free HERE at the British National Archives. This stuff covers everything except one teeny-tiny, itty-bitty point. There is not one scrap of tangible evidence that extraterrestrials have ever visited Mother Earth – not even on a flyby.
Now, before every nerd west of Cape Cod pulls up his fightin’ pants, let me assure you that I believe there is other intelligent life in the universe. I went to school like everybody else; I understand that there are millions of galaxies, billions of stars and trillions of planets. I know that the universe is billions of years old. Simple logic dictates that when you’re dealing with numbers this big, probability is no longer a percentage; it’s a certainty. Somewhere, sometime, some thing crawled out from under that rock and became self-aware. It’s a fact. Anybody who still believes we are alone in the universe obviously flunked Math 12 and didn’t do very well in Science, either. However, having said that, I don’t believe flying saucers are zipping around our stratosphere, playing peekaboo with American F-18s. I don’t believe spacemen showed up one day and built Stonehenge and the Pyramids. And I sure as hell don’t believe aliens crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico and the government is keeping them on ice in the basement of the White House. None of this stuff is true. Here’s why.
Every single theory about alien visitations runs into the same three insurmountable problems. The first one is the total and complete lack of any evidence. Just FYI, grainy photographs and jerky videos do not constitute evidence. I have a 13-year-old niece who Photoshopped Santa Claus with a fighter jet escort; shiny disks in the sky wouldn’t be a problem. And all those eye-witness accounts are, at best, circumstantial. I’m sure that the people who report these things do see something (in most cases, I don’t think they’re actually lying) but there’s a huge leap of faith between shapes that move in the distance and alien invaders. That’s why they call them UFOs: the big word to remember is “unidentified.” It doesn’t mean “unearthly.” People see things, but what they see is a whole different matter. After all, any detective will tell you eye-witness accounts are the least reliable evidence at a crime scene. Without any physical evidence to back them up, photos, videos and eye-witness accounts are suspect, at best.
The other thing that bothers me about all these eye-witness accounts is that 90% of the spaceships are flying saucers, and 99% of the aliens look like ET. Billions and billions of planets, but Toyota has more different kinds of vehicles than the aliens do? That doesn’t make any sense. As far as that goes, there’s no reason aliens should have two arms, two legs and a head, either. Again, billions and billions of planets: you would think that one or two of them might have had a different evolutionary track. So why, then, do all reported alien sightings feature creatures and technology easily recognized by humans? Finally, to all those people who claim they’ve been abducted by aliens, I want to know one thing. Why did they give you back? Why aren’t you in a zoo somewhere — or stuffed — in some Martian Museum of Natural History?
The second insurmountable problem with alien visitations is, quite simply, why. Why are aliens coming here? What’s the attraction? We are a small planet, revolving around a tiny star in a minor galaxy, tucked away in the corner of the universe. We’re so far off the Intergalactic Interstate we probably don’t show up on all that many maps. Our sun is barely visible from Pluto, for god sake. Anybody else who’s looking wouldn’t even see us. So why come here? Are they trying to learn from our exemplary environmental record? Or is it our successes in international relations? Or maybe they just want to download some apps? The truth is we don’t have that much to offer sophisticated beings capable of intergalactic travel. Perhaps they’re just going Jane Goodall on our ass and studying us, like chimpanzees. If they are, you’d think they’d want to get a little closer look than stealing a fat guy from Pig’s Nose, Arkansas and probing him. The only reason I can see that maybe — just maybe — those bright lights in the sky are spaceships is if they’re stolen, and a bunch of alien crack addicts are joyriding in the back of beyond. Aside from that, there’s no reason for them to come here and certainly no reason for them to come back several thousand times.
This brings us to the third and final insurmountable problem. Why do aliens always show up in weird places? Let’s assume, for a second, that there is something here that aliens might be interested in. Why don’t they just go there and either get it or study it? There’s no reason any being (from whatever planet) would take the time and trouble to come all the way here and then dick around, flying over Heathley Common in England, making crop circles. You’d think they’d want to talk to somebody from MIT — or visit the Louvre — or have lunch with Mandela or Obama (or even Ignatieff — he’s a smart guy.) But no — they go sneaking around in the twilight, over some schoolyard in Nebraska. Even if aliens can’t figure out who’s running the show on this planet, they must know who the dominant species is and where the majority of us congregate. Yet you never have alien sightings on 5th Avenue, New York — or Trafalgar Square — or the Kremlin. It stretches the elastic of disbelief to the breaking point to have several thousand alien sightings but none of them in a populated area like the Tokyo-Yokohama corridor, or Cairo. This just doesn’t make sense. After all, if your ancestors built the Pyramids, why not go back there?
What does make sense, however, is despite the intervening 500 years since Copernicus, humans still think that we’re the centre of the universe and that beings from far and wide can’t wait to eyeball us (if they even have eyeballs.) We’re not folks! Get over yourselves. Aliens have way better things to do with their time than flying around the suburbs, waiting for Meghan and Eddie to read the instructions on their Handycam.
The documents from the Ministry of Defence are fun, though, and a great read. And, quite honestly, I have no logical explanation for half the stuff that’s in there.