Yesterday I attended a short speech given by former Apollo astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell at the University of Central Florida. Mitchell presented a scholarship to a UCF Engineering student and then gave a brief description of his career as an astronaut culminating in two 5-hour sojourns on the lunar surface as part of the Apollo 14 mission. Mitchell, with a Sc.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Aeronautics and Astronautics, then expressed his concerns and hopes for the future of humanity: concerns that we will destroy ourselves as our technological capabilities advance faster than our sensibilities, and hopes that we will survive these dangers to continue exploration of the cosmos. They are good and noble sentiments, and I appreciate him expressing them and pointing out that when the Earth is viewed from afar, as only he and a handful of other men have done, national boundaries evaporate and the precarious and unique status of the Earth as home to all life becomes painfully clear.

In response to questions, Dr. Mitchell expressed that aliens have visited the Earth, and while he wasn’t explicit, implied that they are living among us and concealed from us by a vast cover-up. He also affirmed that he had successfully communicated through ESP while on the surface of the Moon and that quantum mechanics now explained how this could happen. And this brings me to the criticism from “Object Reporter” on my post a couple of days ago in which I expressed dismay in a new call for government-funded research into UFOs. Object Reporter says I am uninformed on the topic of UFOs and accuses me of spouting nonsense. I stand by my statement that aliens are the least probable explanation for UFO sightings. While it is physically possible for aliens from another planet to visit Earth, there is no compelling evidence that that has ever happened. And compelling evidence is required for such an extraordinary claim. It is an extraordinary claim because the amount of energy needed for interstellar travel is huge, and a visit to the Earth by aliens would represent a huge investment of resources. For them to make this investment and then hide, but hide poorly, does not make sense. They hide poorly because somehow, while they escape detection by the vast network of aircraft and spacecraft tracking systems as well as the vast majority of the population including people like me who would be thrilled to meet them, they apparently occasionally make themselves plainly visible to some casual observers. Other explanations are more likely because in the vast majority of UFO sightings, ordinary terrestrial explanations for those sightings have already been demonstrated to be the case. If one hundred UFO sightings are demonstrated to be due to weather balloons, military aircraft, meteors, ball lightning, camera flares and other mundane explanations, then it’s likely something like that is the explanation for the one hundred and first. The claim of evidence for extraterrestrials carries the burden of proof. I, happily, do not have the burden to debunk each UFO sighting, anymore than if I claim that there is an underground civilization on the Moon someone else has the burden to prove me wrong. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I would be thrilled by the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, but so far there is no evidence, and the most likely evidence we’ll get would be an extraterrestrial radio signal.

The idea of a vast cover-up is also extraordinary. Forget for the moment that it is difficult to imagine a motive for a cover-up. The power of people in government is always enhanced by engendering fear in the populace, and fear is presumably one consequence of discovering aliens. NASA has as its mission to look for life elsewhere in the universe, and nothing would boost its budget more than the discovery of extraterrestrial life, even microbial in form. In short, lots of people in government have a self-interest in seeing extraterrestrial life proven, not hidden. But the biggest problem I see with the cover-up idea is how consistently miserable people are at keeping secrets. The most powerful person on the planet, the President of the United States, could not even keep a hotel break-in secret or (in a different incarnation) oral sex. The idea that, for decades, hundreds or thousands of people in the military and government could hide the existence of alien visitors defies reason. As for Dr. Mitchell’s demonstration of ESP, James Randi has a million dollars waiting for anyone who can demonstrate ESP or other paranormal phenomena. No one has succeeded, and by the way quantum mechanics, which beautifully describes the behavior of electrons and atoms, offers no explanation for ESP. Finally, in response to the comment on my previous post that “I wasn’t aware that the three doctors, half a dozen ex-military officials and a former state governor were supposed to be taken lightly…”: it is the claims of these people that aliens are on Earth I take lightly because they do not meet the burden of proof. And by the way, George W. Bush is a former state governor, and I take almost everything he says lightly. It’s the only way to avoid depression. Live long and prosper.

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Planetary Scientist and Asst. Professor of Physics at University of Central Florida; Movie Buff; Trekkie; Jethro Tull fanatic; part-time actor, piano player, writer; and full-time husband and father.

7 thoughts on “”

  1. I agree with you on all counts: it isn\’t that aliens cannot visit us, it\’s just that it\’s a highly extraordinary claim requiring strong evidence. Lacking that evidence (and resorting to ad hominem attacks on skeptics), the case is weak and the proponents ought to accept that they\’re going to have trouble convincing people. If they want to believe that aliens are among us, that\’s very much their right. But rationality and civility requires that they acknowledge that they aren\’t going to convince a lot of people with what they\’ve shown so far. By extension, it stands to reason that they should reasonably expect resistance to getting public funding for their inquiries.

    Sadly, I\’ve noticed that it\’s often the case that people who fail to produce compelling evidence for their theories do not adopt the rational, civil approach to their doubters. Happily, there are counter-examples to this phenomenon. (A colleague of ours, an advocate of a non-standard model of planet formation, comes to mind.)

  2. Yes indeed we believe him, but not because he claimed it. We believe it because the evidence that he and 11 other Apollo astronauts walked on the Moon is incontrovertible.

  3. The sheer scope of such a conspiracy is genuinely mind-boggling. Especially nowadays, when every backyard astronomer with a telescope would have to be in on it. As someone who works for the government, I just can’t believe it.

  4. If you actualy believe that there is life on other planets, get out of your dream world and stop being such an idiot! You just need to stop watching so many sci- fi shows!!

  5. To believe that there is life on other planets, you need to believe in evolution. By the way…… there is no proof for evolution!! All evolution is is another religion, because you have to believe it, without any physical evidence! so stop acting like it is science…because its not!!

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