It has come to the attention of the captain of the good ship Blather that several subscribers to the mailing list are unsure as to my stance on various issues, in particular the ETH (ExtraTerrestial Hypothesis).
In fact, many are unwilling to believe that I do not believe in aliens at all. Personally, I do not believe that earth has been visited by intelligent living creatures from beyond our planet, mainly because I haven’t come across – or heard of anyone else coming across – sufficient proof to convince me otherwise.
I will agree however, that much information, nay, *reams* of information, has been presented to *suggest* that we have had visitors from outer space. It’s hardly the same thing. There’s been plenty of propositions in history regarding a flat earth, or that the sun orbits the moon.
They are not taken seriously today. I do not think that the incredible amount of rather dubious literature regarding UFOs and aliens is sufficient validation of their collective propositions, but it does suggest that some people will try and sell you anything.
Growing up in rural Wexford in south east Ireland, I was familiar from a fairly young age with the idea of aliens and flying saucers, but they seemed removed from the reality I existed in. It seemed that only people in America, or sometimes the U.K., were the ones who got themselves abducted. Crop circles weren’t appearing in my neighbour’s fields and I had never heard of anyone in Ireland having a ‘close encounter’.
Of course, there were stories: people were no stranger to ‘fireballs’ – possibly bolides or or perhaps ball lightning, which is often seen as a globe of fire moving from the clouds to the earth. My father told me of people in the locality who had seen three silver disks flying over the river Slaney, but no one had jumped to an ET conclusion. So I grew up sceptical, but not dismissive.
I’m not what you would call a ‘ufologist’ (perish the thought). My interests are in fact much broader than UFO material, but I have studied the subject reasonably extensively, from several points of view, not just the literature detailing an objective-reality interpretation of people’s UFO and abduction experiences.
There is a point of view pushed by some of the ufologists and ‘experts’ who *believe* that aliens are visiting our planet, that once someone believes that something ‘weird’ has happened to them, then they *must* have been abducted, or that if they have seen a strange light in the sky then it *must* be a flying saucer. Of course others just think that it’s all a vast government cover-up.
[If you missed my recent rant about the common, rather lazy, misunderstanding of the difference between ‘UFO’ and ‘Flying Saucer’, then check out Blather 1.3: ‘Intergalactic Tourists Hit Cork?’
I do not share their excitement for such conclusions. In Blather 1.7 I briefly described the 1947 appearance of the term ‘flying saucer’ in the mass media, as a result of Kenneth Arnold’s report of strange objects over the Cascade mountains of Washington State. While UFOs had been described as discs long before this, never before had it been an accepted fact that the alleged aliens simply always travelled in saucer-shaped craft.
Orson Welles did not spark a saucer fever with his infamous 1938 broadcast of H.G. Well’s ‘War of the Worlds’, although he did help prime the American consciousness for a fear of alien invasion. In the trailer for his 1973 film ‘F for Fake’, he claimed responsibility for the flying saucer craze – and perhaps it was a statement that was only partly in jest.
In ‘Book of the Damned’ (1919), Charles Fort documented reports of ghostly airships seen between 1896 or 1897. I find it ironic that today, weather balloons have often been reported as ‘flying saucers’. Consider the worldview of even an educated witness in 1896. There were no airliners, helicopters, satellites or, dare I say it, ‘flying saucers’.
Imagine a town in a reasonably sophisticated culture – but with little contact with the outside world, and let’s imagine that they’ve never heard of a horse, or seen one. A horse is just not part of their worldview. If a traveller *leads* a horse through the town, what do people see? A tall, shiny dog? A weird cow? A ‘monster’? An extraterrestrial?
What happens if the traveller comes through town on *horseback*? Do people see a centaur? This is a model that I’m inclined to use when considering the subject of UFOs. For instance, if someone sees a string of lights moving through the night sky, does it mean that it’s a craft with lighted portholes, or could it be some kind of natural phenomenon? Haven’t the aliens heard of curtains?
I suspect a likeness between some religions and the need to interpret inexplicable events as the work of beings of higher intelligence from outer space. [See ‘ET Links to Christianity‘ by Brian Boldman. For most people, the idea that there are aliens watching us is a far more attractive proposal than a more ‘natural’ explanation.
I prefer to consider more earthly prospects, for instance, The Tectonic Strain Theory by Michael A. Persinger, which argues that electromagnetic effects upon the brain and environment can cause anomalous phenomena, such as UFOs, or perhaps other paranormal experiences, such as religious fervour or ghost sightings. Not conclusive, but it seems to make a lot more sense than the ETH.
Another important source is Paul Devereux’s excellent book ‘Earthlight Revelations: Ufo’s and Mystery Lightform Phenomena’ (ISBN: 0713722096). Paul points out that ‘people usually report observing unusual light phenomena, near fault lines, power lines, transmitter towers, mountain peaks, isolated buildings, road and railways lines, and bodies of water. In many instances these lights seem to emerge from the ground and either swiftly dissolve or hover, sometimes touching down to the ground again and then rising several thousand feet in the air. They have also been seen during daylight hours and appear metallic.’
Of course, it can be argued that there must be some truth to the stories of all the alleged millions of people who say they really have had *some* kind of anomalous experience involving UFOs or abduction. In his essay ‘The Best Kept Secret’ in the Fortean Times book ‘1947-1997: Fifty Years of Flying Saucers‘ (ISBN 1-870870-99-9), Patrick Huyghe tells us of some hilarious and telling calculations relating to alleged abductions (Hypothesis Testing, Page 208-210). In 1991 the Roper Organisation carried out a survey of 5,947 U.S. adults using 11 abduction-related questions.
After much deliberation over results, 119 subjects were revealed to have had experiences indicative of a ‘typical’ UFO abduction. Applying that figure to the entire U.S. population, you get a possible five million abductees. Patrick goes on to show us how pilot and UFO researcher Robert Durant developed these results.
Durant says that five million abductees experiencing e.g. 10 abductions over a 50 year period (abductions typically begin at age 5 and end at age 55), gives us 2,740 abductions a day in the U.S.A. He goes on to explain that many people tell of about six aliens during abductions. If each team of six could do twelve abductions a day, you would need 288 teams, or 1,370 aliens. Double that workload if you want the abductions to take place at night only. About 3,000 aliens. And that’s only the ‘surgeons’.
When Durant applied that to a worldwide population, it meant that 22 million people are abducted every year, by about 66,000 aliens in about 11,000 craft. Imagine, 11,000 little saucers orbiting our planet. I find that to a be ludicrous proposition. Surely we would be tripping over the damn things by now.
Now if anyone reckons that this is not a convincing argument against the possibility that we are being visited by extraterrestrials, I would be only delighted to hear.
Dave (daev) Walsh
31 July 1997