UFO reflections III

See previous posts on this topic. I have backdated this post so it will show up alongside the others.

September 29, 2017

How we approach it. As with anything else, how we approach the UFO topic makes a big difference. It’s the difference between seeking truth or emotional satisfaction. It’s the difference between being taken seriously or not. It’s the difference between creating a field that scientists will want to approach or not.

If we latch onto beliefs and take them as true even if we cannot really know, it will be obvious – to ourselves and others – what we are doing. We are acting out of reactivity and an emotional need. We allow emotional reactivity override rationality. Many do exactly that in this field, and that’s why it’s often viewed with suspicion or even ridicule by others. (When I say it’s obvious to ourselves, I mean that a part of us knows what’s going on, and we are still doing it. We are also aware of others doing the same but may chose to not say anything.)

If we approach it with honesty, groundedness, and sanity, it’s quite different. Then, it’s just an investigation into something mysterious. We are open about what we may find. We are more invested in finding and reporting on what’s really going on than supporting a particular view or theory. We hold off on drawing conclusions. We practice generating and exploring a wide range of possible solutions including the ones that would be disappointing to us. (We may even practice favoring the most boring solutions.)

In the first case, we are more interested in a short-lived emotional satisfaction than truth. And in the second case we are more interested in truth than in satisfying wishes, fears, or identities.

Of course, for most of us, there is a mix of the two in how we relate to most areas of life.

And it’s helpful to be honest with ourselves when we do one or the other. We can look for the signs.

Do I feel invested in a particular answer or interpretation? Do I feel or act defensive? Do I feel or act reactively? Are there particular interpretations I particularly want to dismiss? Do I feel an emotional charge around the topic? Do I feel a charge around wanting to back up my view and get others over on my side? Do I use word such as “I know….” even if I cannot know for certain? If so, I am most likely caught in emotional neediness and may favor satisfying that over a more rational approach.

The more rational approach also have some signs. Do I practice generating a wide range of possible solutions, including the ones I don’t personally like? Do I keep an open mind? Do I acknowledge that I don’t know? Do I acknowledge that any interpretation is an interpretation, and that there are other ones out there – including many none of us may be currently aware of – that would fit the data equally well or better?

I am aware of only a few in the UFO field that takes such a dispassionate view. Jaques Vallee is one, and Clas Svahn is another (although their approaches are quite different from each other). Most are somewhere further along the spectrum towards being emotionally invested in a particular answer, whether it’s pro- or -anti-alien. (Whatever they understand as alien, whether it’s beings from another part of the universe or something more “supernatural.)

I personally have an interest in the field for two reasons. One is that it helps me see the difference between rational and emotional approaches more easily, and I get to see and examine my own approach in that light. The other is that the different UFO phenomena likely have different types of solutions and each of them are quite interesting – whether it says something about human psychology and sociology, about unexplored natural phenomena (Hessdalen), or something else that falls outside of our current modern and scientific worldview.

October 23, 2017

Ariel Phenomenon. The mass sighting at Ariel School in Zimbabwe in 1995 seems to be one of the most interesting cases we know about. I have watched John Mack’s interviews with the children (at last what’s on YouTube), read what he wrote about it in Passport to the Cosmos, and am very much looking forward to the coming documentary.

December 18, 2017

UFO investigation. Pentagon recently admitted to investigating some UFO sightings. It seems obvious that they would since unknown aerial phenomena – whatever they are – potentially are a security risk. They may be unknown technology from other nations. They may be unknown natural phenomena. Some of them may be something known whether it’s from humans or nature. (Although the ones investigated by the Pentagon don’t seem to fit anything known.) And it may be something else. In either case, it only makes sense for the military to investigate and figure out what’s going on.

April 12, 2018

UFOs & Owls. I enjoy Mike Clelland’s take on the UFO phenomenon, and I have very much enjoyed his podcast (not so active now due to book writing), and his two books on UFOs and owls. I am personally interested in the similarities between a spiritual path and the path of several who report alien encounters. These are both paths often filled with mystery, a sense of not knowing, awe, curiosity, synchronicities, personal transformation, an opening of the heart and mind, and a life of service. (Of course, there are exceptions.)

January 20, 2019

Project Bluebook TV series. I had been looking forward to watching the Project Bluebook TV series (about J. Allen Hynek) but had to stop just five minutes in. The fighter pilot irrationally started shooting at a light just seconds after seeing it, and I can’t imagine he would be allowed to fire over a densely populated area without it being strictly necessary and after receiving permission. In the following scenes, the military people all acted unprofessionally and as if they are constantly angry and need to prove something (a good example of toxic masculinity).

I know the creators of this TV series feel they need to make it more dramatic to get people interested. And I am perfectly willing to “suspend disbelief” to some extent. But when they start out with a very unrealistic first scene and following scenes that seem equally unrealistic and make me dislike the characters, it doesn’t bode well. To me, this an example of lazy writing. I decided to set it aside for now and perhaps return to it later.

“I know when people are telling the truth”. One of the things I sometimes hear from less serious UFO investigators is, “I know when people are telling the truth”. Which is so clearly wrong.

Research and common sense tell us we cannot know for certain whether someone tells the truth or not, especially when the only information we have is their words.

Some people are very good actors. Some may believe their own lies (to some extent). Some may have developed a great deal of detail and invest their stories with a great deal of emotion. And research shows us that the ones who are the most certain they can tell whether someone is telling the truth or not, are often worse than average at just that. (And the average person is not very good at it.)

When people tell themselves and others “I can tell when people tell the truth”, the irony is that they are telling themselves a lie. They are unwilling to admit they don’t know.

June 4, 2019 

Clas Svahn. I really like Clas Svahn and his approach to UFO investigation. Level headed. Honest. Avoids speculation. Journalistic. Perhaps it’s because I am Scandinavian like him. I also like what he says about how the UFO topic is seen in Sweden. Because the UFO investigators and the UFO organization is grounded, level-headed and avoids speculation, the UFO topic is treated as serious and deserving attention. (As opposed to, for instance, the US where many investigators are cooks and the topic is – often deservedly – treated with ridicule.)

Reality vs fantasy orientation. In the UFO field, as in life in general, we can be more reality-oriented or more fantasy-oriented. Do we really want to find and see what’s real? Even if it doesn’t match our preference? Or do we pursue a fantasy? Do we fit limited data into our idea of what should be? What we hope or fear it is? There is usually, or always, a mix of both, but we can certainly lean one direction or the other.

July 2019

SETI profiles & intellectual dishonesty. I generally love SETI and SETI researchers like Seth Shostak Jill Tarter. Their work is hugely important as they may eventually find signs of life elsewhere in the universe. And also because their work – serious scientists looking for ETs – helps change people’s opinion on the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

I also understand why they habitually reject and downplay the UFO phenomenon. They want to be seen as serious researchers so they want to distance themselves from the UFO kooks.

And yet, in doing so, they have to engage in intellectual dishonesty. They have to reject something that is genuinely mystifying and worthy of serious investigation. 

And that’s exactly what Jill Tarter does in this video from Wired: Astronomer Jill Tarter Answers Alien Questions From Twitter. She downplays the now famous US navy tic-tac UFO observations, as reported in NY Times and other places, as mechanical glitches in their equipment. That’s clearly wrong since the reports include visual (eye) observations.

She either explains it away without knowing much about the case. Or she knows the case (more likely) and uses an explanation that’s designed to sound plausible to those who knows little or nothing about it, and she knows cannot explain the case.

Either way, she is intellectually dishonest. She is unscientific in her approach. And she probably feels she needs to be in order to be taken serious as a scientist. 

And that says something about the state of UFO research today. It’s a real phenomenon that deserves serious scientific investigation. And yet, it’s a “poisoned cup” which most serious scientists feel they have to distance themselves from, even if they secretly may be interested in it.

I understand the need to appear serious so they don’t risk losing funding. But there is no excuse for intellectual dishonesty. Another approach, and one that’s more honest, is to say something along these lines: I can’t comment on it. It’s interesting but it’s not my field. I’ll leave it to those who study it.

October 2019

I recently listened to Lee Spiegel’s interview with Jacques Vallée. There are many things to explore from this interview and I’ll mention just two.

UFOs influencing humanity. Jaques Valée is one of my favorite UFOlogists and I love his books and approach to the phenomenon (or phenomena). It’s obvious that an important and understudied aspect of the UFO phenomenon is how it impacts human society and culture. Individuals are sometimes greatly impacted, and it influences humanity as a whole to some extent – especially as UFO and alien encounters are reported from many different cultures across the world including indigenous ones. And that influence may partly be intentional.

It’s a bit of a jump to assume that UFOs are part of a control system as Valée sometimes suggests. Perhaps it’s because I balk a bit at the word “control” and prefer influence. But it’s also because the influence is indisputable, and as soon as we use terms like “control system” we go into a territory that’s more speculative, disputable, and sometimes an unnecessary distraction.

UFOs & SETI. Spiegel occasionally talks in ways that seem a bit reactive and one-sided. For instance, when he got into the topic of SETI researchers rejecting any suggestions of the possibility of aliens visiting Earth, he suggests the reason is that if they admit the possibility they would automatically lose funding. (If aliens are already here, why look for them out there?)

To me, that’s clearly wrong. It seems much more likely that SETI researchers habitually reject the possibility because they want to be seen as serious scientists (which they are) and are afraid to lose funding and credibility if they give people even the smallest opportunity to lump them in with the kooky UFO people.

And if we collectively admit to what we collectively know, that there are phenomena out there we can’t explain – like the Nimitz tic-tac UFOs – why would that impact SETI? Even if we made some sort of official contact, which seems unlikely, it wouldn’t necessarily impact SETI. When biologists started identifying and cataloging plants, they didn’t stop with the first they found. When anthropologists contacted the first Amazon tribe, they continued to seek out more tribes.

Admitting that the UFO phenomenon is real and mystifying won’t impact SETI research, and even official contact wouldn’t really impact it. SETI is still more than worthwhile.

Avoiding drawing conclusions. It’s been interesting to see how mainstream media covers the Nimitz/tic-tac UFO story. Most seem to take it seriously and report on it in a sober and straight-forward manner. After all, the New York Times first published it and the source is the US Navy. Most also avoid commenting on the story or draw conclusions, and it’s perhaps wise to take this approach. It’s been a ridiculed topic so why not step a bit cautiously.

At the same time, this story puts us face-to-face with some inescapable conclusions. There are multiple witnesses and multiple forms of observation (radar, video, sight). The sources are considered reputable (NY Times and the US Navy.) The tic-tac UFOs clearly seems to be operated by some intelligence and are able to do things far outside of any (known) human technology.

So we have a few possibilities. It seems impossible that the observations are due to a technical glitch. It’s possible although highly unlikely that it’s an elaborate hoax or smokescreen. And it’s possible and equally unlikely that it’s some form of unknown extremely advanced human technology (considering how far beyond our current technology it must be).

If we take the reports at face value, which it seems we must, the nearly inescapable conclusion is that we are faced with alien intelligence and technology. And we know close to nothing else about it. We don’t know where it’s from, what it’s doing here, how it got here, or what its intention is.

Another inescapable conclusion is that we need to take it seriously and devote resources to study the UFO phenomenon. Considering the importance of the topic, I would think we need to devote considerable resources to study it and do so around the world including at universities and research institutions.

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