Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Behold! A new SETI post:

UFOs: Why No "Open Contact"?

Assuming that UFOs represent extraterrestrial visitors (whether humanoid aliens in spacecraft or something stranger), there's no denying the secretive way in which the phenomenon has unfolded since the dawn of the "modern" UFO era in 1947. Strident debunkers have seized on the "ufonauts'" seeming desire to remain unseen as evidence that they don't exist -- and maintain that studying evidence that might suggest the contrary can only be a waste of resources. Although I think the debunking argument is steeped in anthropocentric baggage, it's a fair enough question, at least in principle: Why would aliens go to the trouble of crossing interstellar distances if they possessed no interest in revealing themselves?


Anonymous said...

One line of thought that seems to stick with me is the idea, often raised in discussion of the Fermi paradox, of something like a Prime Directive. If there is such a thing it doesn't seem to preclude buzzing the population and scaring the bejeezus out of people.

I can't help but wonder if one motive, of perhaps many, is a demonstration of the possible. We can't openly contact you. You have to learn how to contact us on your own. We can't give you a flying saucer but we can show you that they are possible. You have to figure out from first principles how to build field propulsion and along the way you'll discover a lot of things more interesting than just nifty transportation.

It's not hard to demonstrate that the ufo phenomena, whatever it actually is, has resulted in a lot of human engineers spending a lot of time thinking about how to reproduce a machine that behaves like a ufo. This in turn leads to bigger questions about energy and gravity and so on.

There are likely many other more bizarre motivations involved as well but it is hard for me to ignore this one as it seems so obvious. To people who would argue that there are far too many sighting to be representative of such a scenario I would think that this argument involves a large number of assumptions about the resources at their command.

Anonymous said...

How about they just aren't here?

Witnesses are hallucinating or groups of people are suffering mass hysteria apparently according to the last commenter.

Denial is an answer too I suppose.

Anonymous said...

It's like The Sentinel by AC Clarke and later 2001. We have to have evolved enough to understand what they have to offer before they will ever reveal themselves.

Think about it, do you break out the instructions on how to use an XBox with your cat?

We think we have evolved enough to understand. They see us as monkeys.

Frater Nicht

Anonymous said...

Mac -- I've decided I prefer posting here rather than "there" for various reasons. (Basically, I just feel "freer" here, somehow.)

I'm discovering the real problem that I have with UFO research in general and, especially, with the kinds of purely speculative hypothesis re the "phenomenon" that you describe so well is just that. They ARE speculative hypothesis with (it seems to me) little or no chance either of verification or falsification. Most of them, in fact, are not even testable IN PRINCIPLE.

For example, how will we ever know if we are the subject of some kind of "anthropological" study by aliens far more advacned than we are. There is nothing WE can do to test this hypothesis -- the choice would be entirely up to the aliens.

There does not even seem to me to be a way to determine which is the most PLAUSIBLE (let along testable) hypothesis. Is it any wonder that many academic researchers end up regarding UFOs as a "purely psychological phenomenon" (whatever that means). Psychological phenomena are at least testable and it's obvious from the research in this area that at least SOME UFO encounters partake of this nature....