Wednesday, March 29, 2006

My recent post on alleged extraterrestrials has aroused some (deserved) skepticism. Advocates of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis argue, for instance, that the UFO evidence supports the existence of an advanced, presumably spacefaring technology. Superficially, at least, this seems more congruent with flesh-and-blood space visitors than trans-mythical interlopers from the Great Beyond.

In defense of "ultraterrestrials" (which I'll broadly define as unconventional humanoids from Earth or variations thereof), I suggest that the high-performance flight characteristics commonly associated with UFOs don't necessarily imply ET origin (although I wouldn't be in the least surprised if the parade of close encounters that fall under the ufological rubric include at least some genuine visits from advanced interstellar societies).

Although perhaps unlikely, I think it's perfectly conceivable that a technically superior civilization could have arisen on Earth in the distant past. This civilization needn't be particularly large nor would its technology have to be centuries or millennia ahead of our own; the rate of technological change in the Western world, as students of the "Singularity" are fond of reminding us, is exponential, rendering accurate forecasts of the future effectively impossible.

(Within two centuries -- certainly a blip on an evolutionary time-scale -- we've harnessed electromagnetism and nuclear energy, events largely unforeseeable by the preceding zeitgeist. If certain rumors can be accepted at face value, an element within the military is actively experimenting with electrogravitic propulsion, in which case we may be encroaching on a functioning theory of quantum gravity.)

If an ultraterrestrial offshoot of the human species is indeed operating in our midst, we can reasonably expect it to have made huge technological advances given the time it would have had to develop (perhaps in tandem with our own technical progression). "Alien" UFOs, while undoubtedly remarkable from today's engineering perspective, may only be a century or so more advanced than earthly technology. Unfortunately, to my mind, we've become accustomed to thinking of aliens as being from far-away star systems, which in turn tends to make ufologists and SETI pundits alike think in terms of hundreds of thousands -- if not billions -- of years.

The "Ultraterrestrial Hypothesis," as presented here, hinges on what we know of our species' genetic and social history. Bluntly: Could we be sharing our world with virtual aliens and not even know it? My answer, equally blunt: Why not? As our scientific instruments improve, we discover mounting evidence that the popularly accepted history of homo sapiens sapiens is incomplete. (The recent discovery of the Flores "hobbits," for example, was unexpected enough to temporarily fuse the disciplines of cryptozoology and paleoanthropology, especially when it became clear that there existed a rich oral tradition of small, hairy people among the local population. Intriguingly, these hairy people were said to kidnap infants -- a trend that recurs explicitly in both fairy lore and contemporary accounts of fetus-snatching Gray aliens.)

In addition to gaps in terrestrial history, we're confronted by the possible existence of parallel universes, a theme that's attracted the attention of mainstream cosmologists who no longer speak of reality in terms of a singular "universe," but as a bewildering amalgam dubbed the "multiverse." (Ufologists will immediately seize on Jacques Vallee's use of the same term, as recounted in his iconoclastic study "Dimensions.")

As theoretical physicists narrow their search for a Theory of Everything, calculating the quantum wave function of our entire universe (as opposed to those of single elementary particles), new vistas of exploration appear, unbidden, like a froth of bubbles set loose from a bottle of well-shaken Perrier.

Could these realms -- so seemingly intangible -- harbor clues to the reality of some of our unlikely visitors?


Paul Kimball said...


Anything is possible, but...

Again, we know how to travel to the stars. It can be done. We could have done it by now if we had really wanted to. If we can go, it stands to reason that "they" - should "they" exist, which most scientists seem to think is the case - could be developed enough (perhaps, as you suggest, only decades, or a couple of centuries maybe, more than we are) to get here. That seems far more likely to me, should we be dealing with a genuine unknown, than the EDH / UDH.

Still, thanks for the thought-provoking read.

Now, go see V for Vendetta! :-)


Danieru said...

I personally do not believe that we share this planet with intelligences greater than our own, whether terrestrial in origin or otherwise.

What I do find interesting about alien hypothosese (!) is the clear view they give us into the collecive subconscious of our species. Interesting, for similar reasons, was the recent discovery of Flores, not because it was verification of 'little people' all around us, but for the dent it made in the self perception of our species. The idea of 'species' in general is a human attempt to model an infinitely complex universe - our slight comprehension of which regularly comes back to bite us in the butt.

And it is this view that I take on aspects of multiple universes, and the massively shared delusion prevelant in some modern circles that 'aliens' are among us (whatever you conceive them to be). There is an infinity of complex universe out there, manifesting itself in incomprehensible ways to our remotely evolved, minutely focussed consciousnesses - to jump to the conclusion that visions of humanoid people, angels, aliens or otherwise are anything more than a compromise of our conscious minds to grasp a universe far beyond the merest possibility of our reflexion is a jump too far for me.

Ockhams razor suggests the simplest solution to a problem is the most likely to be the case. That the human mind misunderstands much about the universe and tries its best to manifest an understanding through forms common to its comprehension (i.e. humanoid agents, ethereal entities, uber-men) is a much simpler explanation to me than alien space craft buzzing thousands of light years across space, time or multiple realities and government conspiracies designed to mess with our minds.

An obvious, but very relevant, point of view that often gets missed completely in these kinds of debates.

LGW said...

My belief is no different than a certain popular sci-fi show...we came, we saw, we conquered,...we settled, we got restless, we mastered spaceflight...we left.
And on and on. What if the very ultra-terrestials we sit around and ponder about are us? Our ancient Ancestors paying a visit to the mythological earth?
Consider the idea that ancient astronauts were always described as humanoid. And with regard to the never-ending slew of ideas in regards to multi-dimensional greyskinned, slant-eyes beings...acting like robots or soulless beings-What if an elite group of ancient humans run the universe?

Now, that is something new to consider.

it's me said...

good article--glad to see you writing more--

lots to ponder in your article and comments above--

ufoia1310 said...

Wonderful exchange between you and Kimball-- this is the kind of thing I as a ufology buff like to see. Good stuff. As the above commenter said, there's lots of stuff to think about here.

Mac said...

good article--glad to see you writing more

Thanks; it feel nice. This blog began as an excuse for me to write, and it will remain so despite my obsession with cool off-site material.

Mac said...

Wonderful exchange between you and Kimball-- this is the kind of thing I as a ufology buff like to see.

You and me both. Unfortunately, much of ufological "discourse" is so much pompous bickering.

magnidude said...

Alien" UFOs, while undoubtedly remarkable from today's engineering perspective, may only be a century or so more advanced than earthly technology

There's where I see the biggest flaw in the argument against ETH. It seems like 60s-70s perspective, when SF writers (e.g. like Haldeman in Forever War) envisioned extrasolar exploration, first contact with ET intelligence on equal terms, and even warring with them to happen in more-or-less 20ys. Now, where are we today? Still stuck at good-old Earth it seems. Our civilization
more inwardly orientated than ever. Today even mere reproducing the Apollo Program would've been embraced as a major achievement. And it was half-century ago - accomplished with hard-to-believe (from today's POV) primitive technology.

Recently I've become more and more convinced that considering our contemporary reality as fast-paced progress toward famed Singularity, especially from social perspective, is more a media-produced bogus served to us to believe than a real fact. Surely, we used to have such a rate of progress, but when was it? 19th century and the dawn of 20th one.

When considering such concepts as existence of mutlidimensions, wormholes, time-travel etc. you have to remember that there are still a decent number of established physicists for whom it's just mathematically-derived mumbling having no equivalent in hard reality :). And BTW when you read some of today's physicist discussions you'll find yourself dumb-struck how many of their arguments are still stuck in early 19th century.

magnidude said...

emm.. early 20th century, I meant.