Wednesday, December 27, 2006





In a new post, partner-in-crime Paul Kimball calls me on my recent almost-dismissal of the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. (In retrospect, I agree that my argument was too brash; maybe it just came out wrong.)

Paul, defending the validity of the ETH, writes:

I see nothing "extraordinarily unlikely" about the ETH based on the various reports. Let us suppose, for example, and just for the sake of argument, that the aliens are perhaps no more than 30 or 40 years more advanced than us.


While I agree that the ETH is a viable potential explanation for the UFO phenomenon (despite my recent preoccupation with other ideas), I don't think Paul's "30 or 40 years" argument survives careful consideration.

In a comment appended to Paul's post, I remark (in part):

Faced with the vast amount of time in which our galaxy has evolved into its present state, the odds of visiting aliens possessing a technology a few meager decades ahead of us are very, very low. We'd be more likely to expect aliens hundreds of thousands, millions (or even billions) of years ahead of us -- and I think mainstream astrobiologists like [David] Grinspoon would back me up on this.


Which, of course, leads to an unsettling realization: Most "mainstream" thinkers like Grinspoon (who could help ETH proponents in their ostensible quest for the truth) steer clear of ufology. It's possible this has less to do with the phenomenon's scientific validity than with the ETH proponents' unhealthy certainty that we're dealing with ET spacecraft.

As long as the ETH remains dogma, we'll see little or no productive dialogue between the ufological "community" and the scientific mainstream. And while neither side is totally to blame, I feel it's incumbent upon ufology to break the ice. It can start by refamiliarizing itself with scientific methodology and the need to suspend conclusions -- however fetching -- in the face of a genuine unknown.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

As long as the ETH remains dogma, we'll see little or no productive dialogue between the ufological "community" and the scientific mainstream. And while neither side is totally to blame, I feel it's incumbent upon ufology to break the ice. It can start by refamiliarizing itself with scientific methodology and the need to suspend conclusions -- however fetching -- in the face of a genuine unknown.

BINGO!

You're absolutely, 100% correct, that it's up to ufology to move towards science first, and not the other way around - and that will involve, as you suggest, the jettisoning of dogma, and self-satisfied holier-than-thou know-it-all-ism (I just made that one up), and a return to a balanced look at a subject that remains an enigma. It also means a willingness to entertain criticism, even harsh criticism, in the search for the truth.

Paul

W.M. Bear said...

I don't think Paul's "30 or 40 years" argument survives careful consideration.

I'm wit you, Mac (with apologies to Paul, for whose observations and analysis of the subject of UFOs I have a great deal of respect). And for the same reason -- this coincidence in degree of technological development just seems highly unlikely (and this is indeed where "mainstream science" could make a big contribution to UFOlogy).

One added point on the notion than any ETIs (in our galaxy, at any rate) are likely to be anywhere from hundreds of thousands to billions of years "ahead" of us. Consider this. We are already predicting the arrival of the human race at a "Singularity," at which point, evidently, we will undergo a quantum evolutionary leap into more-or-less godlike beings of a nature essentially unimaginable to us at our present stage. If ETIs are hundreds of thousands to billions of years ahead of us, would they not presumably have ALREADY undergone their own version of the Singularity and evolved into said godlike beings? And when I say godlike beings, I mean GODlike beings with powers that do make their technology "indistinguishable from magic." (And BTW, a technology indistinguishable from magic IS magic, to all intents and purposes.) At this point, it seems to me, even referring to them as ETIs seems beside the point. They ARE, in effect, gods.

One further observation on all this, though. Is it possible that godlike beings while keeping tabs on sentients at our level might CHOOSE TO APPEAR only a few decades in advance of us? It would certainly seem well within the realm of possibility for them to do so. IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the problem with the ETH is that the data is so varied and downright weird (with no clear dividing lines between ufology and the weirder edges of cryptozoology and other branches of Forteana) that it is just an inadequate explanation.

From what I've seen I'm not 100% convinced that Mac's CTH will be able to explain it all either but then again nothing does (Keel and Vallee are a little to nebulous and really just suggest something very strange is going which is not unreasonable conclusion but doesn't offer any testable hypothesise). The reason I'm looking forward to seeing what Mac comes up with is that it offers a theory that can be tested against the data which is in the end what science is all about - hypothesis testing. Even if the hypothesis doesn't work out it has provided another angle on exmaining the problem and might be slightly closer to "the truth" than previous efforts. It also helps mix things up and shows people they can try thinking along different lines.

Mac said...

Even if the hypothesis doesn't work out it has provided another angle on exmaining the problem and might be slightly closer to "the truth" than previous efforts. It also helps mix things up and shows people they can try thinking along different lines.

My thoughts exactly.

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