Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Ufologists

Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Ufologists

Ufology is a religion. There’s no escaping this: it is a full-fledged religion with its own high priests, collected works with extensive commentary, and adherents from all walks of life.

Do I write this dismissively? Actually no, but it has gotten to the point where I’ve tired of the more evangelical of the Ufologists and their insistence that all of human history is nothing more than an alien laboratory (see the execrable “Ancient Aliens”). That all of our ancient poems and stories are actually eyewitness accounts. That there is no such thing as human imagination. And where every human achievement is the product of a super intelligence acting for its own mysterious purposes. Mostly though, I’ve tired of religion in general and Ufology is certainly no different from any other belief system, despite what the various congregations say about “evidence.” But just like I sat down and made a list of questions about organized religion, so here are my general questions about UFOs.

Ufologists claim that the universe is so large, it’s arrogant to think humans are the only sentient life. I tend to agree, although I personally think microbial life is more widespread than creatures like you and me. But my agreeing with the possibility of alien life is very far away from assuming we are being visited by them. That millions of alien eyes have fixated on Earth and are making a long, perilous journey to get here.

And then to do what? This is something that has always perplexed me. Ufologists often claim that alien spacecraft are routinely zipping around in our atmosphere, moving at incredible speeds and making impossible right angle turns at the drop of a hat. But why? Why would any intelligent species enter the atmosphere of an alien world to fly at fantastical speeds that could potentially damage their craft? A craft which is, by the way, their only means of getting home.

And am I supposed to believe that these creatures do not have any sufficient imaging technology that requires them to leave the relative safety of orbit and hover above cornfields and cattle, above forests and deserts? We have space probes around Mars that can take incredibly detailed images of the Red Planet’s surface, yet intelligent beings from another world can’t get a fix on an Earthly target without using their protective ship as a big lens? I would expect more from such an advanced civilization, whose technology, we are assured, would almost seem like magic to our primitive senses.

Along those lines, why have we never detected any space probes? I’ve never read any account that we’ve discovered a spy satellite of non-human origin orbiting our planet. Come to think of it, we’ve never stumbled across anything orbiting other planets at all. Is the universe that boring that the planets in our solar system are so humdrum that not even a mildly curious alien species would bother to study them? Wouldn’t it be terrifically awesome if we did spot an alien lander roving Mars? We have at least two of them; any sufficient technical intelligence should be able to put a lander on an alien world (better than zipping through Mars’ thin atmosphere at insanely stupid speeds) and have it cover far more ground than ours have. But nope: we’ve never spotted a curious moving, artificial object other than our own.

So if the aliens are uninterested in the other planets in our system, why don’t they just make contact? A variation of the Star Trek “Prime Directive” has been floated around as a pseudo-explanation but this is ludicrous: certainly the aliens know that we know they are here. If they are somehow incapable of monitoring all the electronic chatter, perhaps they aren’t as technologically advanced as we like to believe. It would be the universe’s worst kept secret: who do they think they are fooling? If you don’t want your presence known, then the best way to observe is either from far away or with a probe you’ve carefully designed to avoid detection. Yet even then, why bother?

To that end, a few years ago, I read what I think is the best book about alien abductions: Abducted, by Susan A. Clancy. This slim volume was written with great care and respect for people who claim they have been abducted, but it absolutely convinced me that there is no such thing. My question here is not dismissing peoples’ unpleasant night terrors, but something actually a bit more practical. Am I supposed to believe that aliens which evolved on a different planet, can actually stand upright on our planet, can breathe the life-giving yet poisonous gas we call oxygen in the exact measure as we’ve evolved with, and can communicate with us in our various languages with the appropriate points of cultural reference? If they’re going to all that trouble, it makes no sense to cut out the middle man and just make a very public introduction. Sometimes the aliens sound less like evolved creatures from another world and more like angels who have no problem slipping between different realms (the heavenly and the earthly) but ultimately skulk about in secret.

Now let me quickly get to the entire alien TSA routine: these creatures come here to take people and feel them up, probe their asses, extract sperm, eggs, make hybrids and also carve up our cattle because....they lack the technology to study us without such traumatic procedures? I’m supposed to take this seriously? Your cancer-giving back scanner at the airport gives you a better look at the human body: why should aliens even need to do that at all? One cannot invoke advanced technology to explain their magical appearance from God knows where only to have it all devolve into ugly rape scenarios. Is this what needs to be done in order to become a member of the Ufology sect? Undergo such perverse rites of initiation?

In the second part of this essay, I’m going to ask a few more uncomfortable questions.