Friday, July 13, 2007

Happy Birthday, Hysterics! The Roswell Incident Turns 60 (by Seth Shostak)

Well, in the more-than-half-century since Roswell, we still seem to be here with our lives and economy intact. If there's been any effect from an alien face-to-face, it's too subtle for me.

As rebuttal, some people claim that I'm wrong; that there really is a noteworthy aftermath to Roswell. Namely, that the military has reverse-engineered the debris, producing all sorts of strategically important technology breakthroughs. That, at least, would be significant. However, the idea, to begin with, is about as plausible as talking dogs. Could the Roman legions, a pretty successful military in their own right, reverse-engineer your laptop? They were, after all, only two thousand years behind us, and were humans to boot.

But plausible or otherwise, what's the evidence that we've in any way benefited from extrasolar imports?

Shostak seems to assume that if Roswell was the crash of an ET vehicle, we should have been able to figure it out by now -- despite his well-made point about ancient Rome's certain inability to make sense of laptop computers. He forces himself into an evidential cul-de-sac: we should know all about Roswell because of the event's importance, he complains, but that very importance is rooted in an assumed alien technology we don't have a chance of understanding. Ironically, Shostak's case against Roswell as an ET event actually winds up complimenting the idea that an alien craft was recovered and duly covered up by an understandably concerned military.

Regarding the Roswell crash's technosocial impact being "too subtle" for Shostak's taste, it's worth noting that technological forecasters such as Ray Kurzweil argue that technology even a few centuries ahead of our own will likely underscore Arthur C. Clarke's maxim that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" -- in which case classified laboratories could still be attempting to make sense of the Roswell debris in order to reproduce it for military or industrial applications.

In this scenario, we could hardly expect to have benefited from ET technology. Yet Shostak appears committed to the idea that human history should have been visibly changed by a single UFO crash despite the extraordinarily advanced (indeed incomprehensible) technology supposedly involved . . . to say nothing of the purported military cover-up.

But Shostak's arguments betray further naivete. For example, careful readers have likely noted his unaccountable insistence that the Roswell craft must have crossed interstellar distances by itself, dismissing the more logical speculation that the downed craft was more along the lines of a fighter jet launched from a nearby aircraft carrier. (Even a cursory reading of the UFO literature reveals a "wave" of UFO sightings in 1947. If even some of these objects were extraterrestrial, are we to think that each made the voyage to Earth individually? While we obviously can't outguess the propulsion savvy of alien physicists, ignoring the implications posed by observations of objects exiting larger apparent craft smacks of selective thinking.)

I don't know if the infamous "Roswell Incident" was the crash of an alien vehicle, nor do I know anyone who does. But Shostak's eager acceptance of the Air Force's belated Project Mogul explanation, coupled with the mercurial standards for evidence demanded of the "hysterics" of his essay's title, reveal a pundit whose need to believe casts a troubling shadow on claims of scientific objectivity.


Blue Skies said...

Personally I don't think we'll ever know what really happened there. UFO, weather balloon, top secret military project? I haven't got a clue. Neither does Shostak.

Mac said...

I agree. Roswell is receding into the territory of myth; we may never know.

mr. intense said...

Unless those elements of the US government involved in the "cover-up," if there was one, ever go on record or related info is somehow leaked and can be established as bonafide, I think you may be correct.

Even then, the evidence would have to be extraordinarily convincing and would require extensive vetting before anyone should or would be able to even begin to consider accepting it as portrayed from whomever may provide such evidence.

The USG, in different ways and times, has wanted ufo's taken both ways (real and not real) for various political, military, and psyop/intell (PMI) purposes, depending on who they are trying to convince, either way.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but elements of certain federal agencies and "communities" love to muddy the waters and lead certain parties through smoke-filled halls of funhouse mirrors--the process serves a variety of real PMI purposes.

I suspect there will be no real revelations from those quarters anytime soon, if ever, unless someone like Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame decides to potentially risk his life making any such revelation.

Unless an incident occurs which involves multiple, good witnesses, object reactivity or interactivity, dispersed over some geographical area, documented imagery, other MASINT recordings and effects from several sources, and some very anomalous (non-replicable) trace and/or material evidence, it may not be scientifically possible to provably establish any incident as something other than an anomalous natural atmospheric phenomena, a sophisticated hoax, or intentional pysop.

All of those elemental parts or requirements have never been met before, as far as is publicly known. The 1957 RB-47 case comes closest, but even that cannot be taken as proof of some kind of non-human intelligence being involved, despite Brad Sparks conclusions as documented in Jerome Clark's UFO Encyclopedia, Vol. II.

I would also suggest than any incident of the kind detailed above would also have to occur more than once in order to gain sufficient credibilty in the mainstream media and with other public, private, and governmental institutions to be taken to the degree necessary as truly something important and worthy of deep, well-supported scientific investigation

While I suspect the next 10, 20, or even 50 years _may_ yield such a case, it's just as or even more likely that it won't. I mean, it's just not done, you know--that would be telling, as Number 2 used to say.

Ambiguity, plausible deniability, and uncertainty are all part of the games being played, and perhaps even by non-human "agents" or "actors," either intentionally or inadvertently. We live in the land of Maybe, when it comes to ufo's. It's a kind of Heisenberg uncertainty principle, ya know?

I am reminded of a scene at the end of a Matt Groening television cartoon, "Futurama," where Bender the rascally robot, after floating through the void of space, encounters an intelligent galactic entity of some kind, and enters into a dialogue with it.

My favorite lines are where the entity tells Bender, "Bender, being God isn't easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker, or a pick-pocket." It goes on to say, and this is the nub of the matter, "When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all."

So, while I think it is best to be moderate and an agnostic in all these things until "real proof" is otherwise available, no one should expect an overt, formal contact or confirmation via evidence for quite some time, perhaps beyond the span of the lifetime of anyone reading this contemporaneously, as I don't think the human species, in general, is truly ready for that, especially considering we still don't really know what the phenomenon's nature actually is or what it may represent (at least publicly or with any known genuine evidence that is empirically or scientifically acceptable to the mainstream).

Perhaps even Roswell itself, if there was a "damaged vehicle" of some kind and a few "bodies" found, was an "alien" or non-human ploy of sorts, intended to seed a mythos even among those who may be the human gatekeepers by some even higher level and more subtle form of intelligence or consciousness.

Remember the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy"? Maybe we're the isolated native bushmen, and Roswell could be the cosmic equivalent of a Coke bottle. Yes, I know: rather edge of the fringe stuff.

Of course, this is speculation, but when contemplating this unresolved issue, all reasonable (and even "unreasonable") possibilities should be at least considered, as I don't think in the case of ufos that Occam's Razor need necessarily apply, if we are dealing with something non-human far more advanced than perhaps we can even perceive at our current level of evolution. Could be more of a Mandelbrot fractal of levels and layers of complexity.

Vallee has suggested aspects of the core phenomenon seem to be somehow keyed to our expectations of it. So maybe we, the observers, in part by interacting with it, help create its form and displayed appearance.

On the other hand, things like Fatima in 1917, Ezekial's wheel, the burning bush, Roswell, and even most recently the incident at O'Hare airport all seem to suggest a "light touch", if not overt manipulation and/or mythic misinterpretation.

As Vallee famously once said, to paraphrase, "I don't know what ufos are. But I know they are a real phenomena." Vallee himself, as a teenager, along with his mother, and a school friend some distance away, were all witnesses to a prototypical 1950's style classic dull metallic disk with a rising dome on top. See his "Forbidden Science" for details, or use the Google book search feature.

Anyway, 'nuff said about all that. Sorry once again for the lengthy screed, Mac, et al. Mea culpa.

Oh, and Shostak? His vested radio SETI interests require him to be a debunker. He, too, is a "believer," but about the wrong approach to the exclusion and denial of nearly all others, and so resorts to ridicule and ad hominems towards any who dispute his contentions. Hysterics is such a dismissive, insulting term. [And he knows better. Or does he?]

As such, he is both ignorant of and unenlightened as to the history, facts, patterns, and subtle nature of ufo/uap phenomena, and I really kind of pity him for his limited perspective and need to deny what is already known (and about how better methods, techniques, and technologies could be applied to the question of how to determine if there is real evidence of some kind or kinds of advanced non-human intelligence, either here or elsewhere). Really too bad for him.

Short term and quality of gain, long term loss to credibility and integrity. IMHO.

He is a denialist, practicing denialism, for financial and personal reasons and a very minor character in the great scheme of things. Hi ho, and oh, well.

We must simply acknowledge this passe and antique approach of his, and move around and forward toward real scientific progress and exploration. Something wonderful is going to happen, to quote Commander Bowman in the movie "2010", we just don't know what or when.

We should still keep trying to know and investigate. Jes' my two bits worth. Keep on truckin'. We are definitely in for a long, strange trip that's worth the effort as long as we keep learning new things about ourselves and reality. Hup!

Anonymous said...

We're talking about the same Shostak that recently invited Krazy Kal Korff on his radio show. Rational thinker my ass.

Mac said...

We're talking about the same Shostak that recently invited Krazy Kal Korff on his radio show.

That was the PR equivalent of putting a gun to your head. Shostak's a screwball.

robert said...

As Stanton has said repeatedly...we HAVE evidence. Pages and pages of documents that are from the 1947 incidents that are nearly all blacked or whited out IS evidence.

If there's nothing to hide...why hide the information, objects or gag people or documents?

AS the Disclosure has shown with more than 400 reliable and military and astronaut is NOT lack of 'data or evidence''s lack of cahjones and ovaries of the media and politicians to come out and call the military on the issue regarding visiting ETIs.

The old line:

"Why don't they land on the White House lawn"? also falls flat.

In 1952 there was a huge wave of Flying Saucers over Washington DC with multiple radar tapes and military jets were launched and chased after them...some reports indicate one jet was ordered to fire and did so and was simply blown out of the sky.

Would you land in front of folks shooting at you openly and brazenly without attempting to communicate first?


Greg Bishop said...


Congrats on an insightful deconstruction of a sober-appearing yet confused and a-priori assumption-filled essay by Sleestak...I mean Shostak.

Those with no background in these matters with be convinced by Shostak and confused by Tonnies. The seasoned fundamentalist skeptic speaks in soundbites and writes a string of non-sequiturs, which are more easily understood and digested by those who allow little time to think on these matters, but a large space in their minds for opinions.

Oh well.