Editor’s Note: I always say that I have the same attitude toward UFOs as I do about God. No proof for either, but I would like both of them to exist. By the way, does anyone know where the title of this article came from?
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
— Arthur C. Clarke
sensible person would take seriously a National Enquirer or New York Post report
on Scientology’s theories about extraterrestrial visitations. However, a New
York Magazine article on an “undisputed” New York Times analysis of the
Pentagon’s five-year UFO investigation should generate some interest.
it isn’t just the DoD that’s gotten involved. Silicon Valley
entrepreneurs, NASA astronomers and astrophysicists, the Chinese, and
scientific geniuses, such as the late Dr. Stephen Hawking, have been
taking an interest in whether we’re alone in the universe. This focus
has also been reflected in the number of sci-fi programs and “Ancient
Aliens” documentaries on TV, and even “the man on the street” now
has opinions on UFOs.
I don’t believe flying saucers are real. There’s no concrete evidence,
and the cosmic speed limit (the speed of light) makes interstellar travel
unlikely. My attitude toward UFOs mirrors my beliefs about God: Many
people claim to have experienced the deity, just as there are many reports
of close encounters with aliens (including abductions), but I’ve had no
such experience, so I remain skeptical. At the same time, I hope I’m
wrong and ETs are
visiting, just as it would be nice if there were a God.
In a Huffington Post survey of 1,700 Americans, nearly half (47%) claimed to believe in aliens. In part, it seems to reflect a universal human desire for salvation from the heavens. Jews are waiting for the Messiah, Christians expect a return visit from some variation of that Messiah and Muslims are awaiting the Mahdi. Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reports that less-religious people are more likely to “endorse empirically unsupported ideas about UFOs, intelligent aliens and related conspiracies.”
religious folks and secularists come to their hope for celestial visitation from
opposite directions. Evangelicals believe we live at the center of the universe
— the place to which God sent his only son — where the fate of the cosmos
will be played out, with the rest of a virtually infinite universe as mere
background. As a result, they’re suspicious of modern science, and there’s
even been a resurgence of belief among flat-earther
sects in geocentrism, especially within the lunatic fringe on the internet.
Pat Robertson has criticized NASA for wasting money searching for
nonexistent aliens on “barren rocks” and “gaseous balls,” while
the fundies’ favorite anti-science website, Answers in Genesis, is
adamant that the Bible “rules out the possibility of intelligent life in
outer space.” One of their many problems with alien life is that,
because ET is not descended from Adam and Eve, he would be free from
original sin, so he wouldn’t need the redemption offered by
Christianity. And, according to the Bible, God gave Satan dominion over
the Earth, not the Andromeda Galaxy.
Since the 2016 election, liberal Christians and secular progressives have become desperate for salvation from a different sort of devil. Many on the Left see the current administration as so corrupt that, as democracy festers in Washington, even the worst Democratic politician is better than the best Republican. So the chance an alien race might be an improvement over the orange demon in the White House represents an increasingly hopeful option.
question of what aliens might be like is similar to the deism debate. Even
if it could be proved mathematically that there definitely must be a God,
that still wouldn’t tell us anything about what He’s like or what He
wants from us. However, the one thing we would know about aliens is that,
if they’ve mastered interstellar travel to get here, they’ll be so far
advanced that, by comparison, we’ll seem like Neanderthals.
they be hostile, it will be nothing like “Independence Day,” the 1996
sci-fi movie in which we defeated highly advanced invaders with late 20th
century technology. We’d be more like the ancient Sumerians, armed with
spears, trying to fight off the modern U.S. Marine Corps. The only way we’ll
avoid the fate of less-advanced cultures that have historically suffered
genocide (e.g., the American Indians) when they encountered more-advanced
civilizations will be if the aliens are a lot more “civilized” than
Dr. Hawking warned of the dangers of attracting the attention of potentially hostile extraterrestrials. There’s no reason to assume that an older and more technologically advanced species will have a higher morality than a more-primitive culture. The Nazis and Communists were as brutal as the Assyrians, Romans and Mongols, some of the cruelest empires of ancient times. And four out of five of the worst human monsters in history carried out four of the five worst genocides in history during the century that just ended.
I still hope the saucers arrive during my lifetime. It would be depressing
indeed to think that we humans are the “only game in town” in terms of the
galaxy’s sentient population. Given our barbaric history, we hardly seem worth
the time and effort that nature, evolution or God expended on such a vast scale
to produce us.
way things are going, we need to shake things up. I’d like to see
an ET delegation land in Washington, D.C., and demand, “Take me to your
leader.” Assuming they have
faces, try to imagine the expressions on the faces of highly evolved,
super-intelligent aliens returning to their saucer after such a meeting of the
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