Greetings ATSers. I would like to present my take on what seems to be the most common type of alien visitation story – humanoid “greys” who
travel across intergalactic distances – and the problems I have with the many reported sightings and general belief that we've been visited, now or
in the distant past. My post comes in two parts: the first addresses the issues I have specifically with the lack of evidence for visitation, and the
second deals with the question of why haven't we been visited yet. First of all I would like to keep this as scientifically-minded as possible. My
arguments would be based more on what I've learned in astrophysics and astrobiology, and less on what many people refer to as “common sense.” I am
also no expert on anything I say – I am a senior criminal justice major with a minor in astronomy, who in one month will be a lieutenant in the US
Air Force as an Air Battle Manager. A lot of what I am putting forth here is based on what I've learned in my astronomy courses and from private
discussions with my professors.
Now, I would also like to state very clearly - I am aware of no scientifically verified data which support the hypothesis that we are being visited by
extraterrestrial beings or have been visited in the past, anywhere. I have not seen and/or heard any strong evidence which would lead me to suspect
that extraterrestrials exist on or visit the Earth. All of the astronomers that I know personally, though only numbering in the 10s, have no personal
evidence for the presence of extraterrestrials. With regards to the latter, please keep in mind that these are people who regularly spend large
amounts of time on mountaintops staring at the night sky.
So let's start with the burden of proof. If someone claims to have seen an alien, it is NOT up to me to disprove them. As Carl Sagan put it,
“extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Unquestionably, the discovery of aliens visiting our planet would be the most important one
in history. As a result, we need to apply the highest standards of evidence to any claim of alien visitation – it has to be absolutely indisputable.
Yet, none of these claims have been able to withstand scrutiny. So what is the current status of all these claims?
The pyramids of Egypt were put forward as an example of alien influence when it was thought to be incredible that the ancient Egyptians could build
them. However, over time we've developed many hypotheses that suggest that the Egyptians had the know-how and certainly had the manpower and
resources. Of course, these are still hypotheses that are based on millenia-old findings – but why should the alien-aided construction hypothesis,
which has NO hard evidence, be considered over the others?
The Easter Island giant statues – some 887 of them – were a surprising find on this isolated, small island (roughly 63 square miles). When
Europeans arrived on Easter Island, there were some 8,000 natives living subsistence lives and worshiping the statues without knowledge of how they
were created. This scenario sound familiar? Yet, now we postulate through archeology that Polynesians first inhabited the island around 1000 AD. They
thrived and grew and eventually depleted the island and depleted the island's resources. At its height, the culture built the statues. By the time the
Europeans found Easter Island, they had declined through war, famine, and scarcity of resources. Is this less plausible than alien visitation?
The Nazca lines in Peru can sometimes be considered “too large” for the supposedly primitive people who constructed them. Is this evidence of
aliens or are the ingenious people trying to make themselves known to their Gods? Some people still think it is the latter, despite the fact that it
has been demonstrated that people could create these lines using the tools and technology that were available to the Nazca at the time – sometimes
in a manner of days, without aerial assistance. Crop circles are a similar phenomenon, and have likewise been shown to be the result of humans. Now to
take a step in the dreaded “common sense” direction for a bit – would a civilization that is capable of navigating through the interstellar
medium and evading human detection really need to construct massive, physical landmarks on the ground to guide them? WWII-era combat aircraft in the
Pacific navigated across a vast, featureless ocean with simple bearing and distance measurements.
Natural phenomenon can also sometimes be difficult to explain, and are sometimes seen as evidence for aliens. The Marfa lights in Texas, for example
are often attributed to as such. Current research however suggests that these are indeed the result of vehicular headlights appearing to hang in the
sky due to refraction. A research study in 2004 found that U.S. Highway 67 is visible from the Marfa viewing platform, and that the frequency of
lights correspond to the frequency of vehicle traffic. When the group parked a vehicle on U.S. 67 and flashed its headlights, this was visible at the
view park and appeared to be a Marfa light. Electrical discharges such as sprites, blue jets, and ball lightning are also often seen as
extraterrestrial or at least paranormal.
So now, what direct evidence do we have for UFOs? Once again, the burden of proof demands more than just hearsay. There are few credible photographs
on the Internet, and people trying to prove a point by purposefully photoshopping in UFOs and releasing them make it very difficult to trust Internet
Area 51, a detachment of Edwards AFB located by a dry salt bed, is commonly seen as the place where the government hides crashed alien vessels, greys,
and conducts reverse-engineering experiments. This location remains at the core of many conspiracy theories. Which brings me to a tangent – what is
the basic idea behind a conspiracy theory? It would seem that, overwhelmingly, it is the government hiding information from the public.
With regards to aliens, people claim that the government is hiding proof of them.
Why don't scientists speak up?
Because the government silences them.
But then what about the many other “claims” by so-called professionals?
Apparently heroes evade the US government.
The US government isn't that effective right? Why couldn't they hide Watergate?
They want to seem incompetant.
Basically, nothing can disprove a conspiracy theory!
Back to Area 51, and specifically the greys. The idea of a grey is something that deeply, deeply troubles me. That is, how is it that a civilization
that developed independantly many lightyears away happens to look almost exactly like a human being. Of all the creatures on Earth, how many are
bipedal, with two arms situated on the thorax with legs mirrored on the pelvis, with both sets of limbs parallel with each other, with two eyes on a
clearly distinct head that also contains a mouth, ears, and so on and so forth. The physiological similarities are much, much too close even for the
notion of parallel evolution and Panspermia. The idea of genetic engineering and cross-breeding also has no foundation outside of hopeful speculation.
Also, with regards to reverse-engineering, people rarely seem to think about how unlikely it is that we would be able to comprehend technology that is
at least hundreds of years ahead of us. If you showed an Ipod to an intellectual 60 years ago, they'd have been mystified – yet an undergraduate
electrical enginner could tell you how it works. If you showed something that is as mechanically simple as an automatic weapon, say with a reflex
sight, to people 500 years ago, they would have also been puzzled – even at a time when guns were in use. Yet, a highschooler could tell you how it
works. And now, we're talking about breaking down technology that has the means to accelerate a craft at speeds that are many orders of magnitude
greater than what we can achieve today? This is another “common sense” approach, but I feel I have to mention it.
On a similar note, I've seen people argue that it is possible that aliens really are not that much more advanced than us, but happened to stumble upon
a technology that magically gave them the ability to travel at such speeds. Yet people seem to ignore the fact that the challenges of space travel go
beyond going fast enough, and all the appropriate technologies have to be developed hand-in-hand. Because we know that there is no other intelligent
life in our solar system, let's look at the next star system, Alpha Centauri, which is 4.4 Lyrs away. Even if they found a way to accelerate
themselves to 0.006 times the speed of light, which is 100 times the fastest craft we've produced, it would take them 381 years to get to us. It would
also take them 4.4 Lyrs to communicate anything back home.
DISCLAIMER: Let's stay away from discussions involving wormholes and teleportation, since we have no observational evidence for them – although they
are at a base level theoretically possible, if you want to keep your fingers crossed.
Said aliens would also have to bring enough supplies, medical and safety equipment (a whole set of escape pods that have to serve the same function as
the original craft), and armament, (let's think about the supposed sizes of flying saucers in photographs) for the trip.They would also have to be
able to simply build a suitable spacecraft to house the propulsion system. High-energy radiation is stopped by our atmosphere, and theoretically could
also be stopped by the hull of a ship. High energy charged particles could also be deflected by a magnetic field. But what about micrometeoroids? At
such high speeds, flecks of dust, of which there is plenty out in space, would do tremendous damage to a hull over time. How would you even be able to
detect and avoid an object the size of a house before you hit it? That kind of technology would certainly be crucial! Keep in mind that hitting a rock
that size at 4 million miles an hour would probably release as much energy as a small nuke. Would aliens also suffer from conditions humans would
suffer such as loneliness, isolation, debilitating weightlessness, etc?
But, let's just say they indeed are highly advanced, and have conquered these issues. Now that we have established that there is no evidence that
reaches the standard necessary to prove they have visited us, let's ask - why aren't they here yet?
If we are not unique as a civilization that is potentially capable of colonizing the galaxy, where is everyone else? The Fermi paradox: Planets are
common, Earth-like planets are quite likely to be somewhat common, life would likely develop on some of these, intelligence is a natural adaptation
(something I have been taught but disagree with a little), so therefore many civilizations should exist.
Our galaxy is 100,000 lightyears across. At a speed of 0.0001 the speed of light, which is what we are almost capable of, we'd cross this distance in
a billion years. But the Milky Way is over 10 billion years old, and let's look at how far our race has come in 4000 years – that should be plenty
of time! However, we have a big problem – you can't reach every star by travelling in a straight line. The total interstellar distance that would
have to be traveled would be over a trillion light years. Does this effectively solve the paradox?
Not quite. Let's say we start out with one planet. We send out two ships to colonize a planet each. Many years later, those planets also send 2 ships.
We'll then get 4, 8, 16, 32, and so on. Exponential growth accesses the galaxy much faster, and in the end, time is really only limited by the
diameter of the galaxy. So why aren't the aliens here?
Possible conclusion 1:
We indeed are a one in a billion accident – so why do we exist? Maybe it is a one in a trillion accident – we live in one of the universes where
intelligent beings exist, and that we exist in this universe because it is perfectly suited to support our existence (the anthropic principle). Note
that the long travel times between galaxies (22 billion years travelling at 0.0001c to nearest galaxy) means that we only need to be a
once-in-a-galaxy accident for it to matter. A large fraction of galaxies could have a civilization, but we'd never know about it.
Life arose rather easily on Earth, too much so for it to be unique. Many other animals show signs of intelligence, so that can't be exceedingly unique
Possible conclusion 2:
Civilizations are short-lived. Assume there are a million planets in the galaxy which form intelligent life during a 2 billion year period. But each
one is only capable of, or interested in, interstellar communication for a thousand years, for whatever reason... how many would there be now? Even
with that many planets, on average there would be only one communicating right now.
Colonization would effectively make a species immortal – no single event would wipe them out. We, and presumably aliens, would have a strong drive
to better our technology.
Possible conclusion 3:
Interstellar travel is too hard! And there is no shortcut! Nobody ever came to visit Earth because the technology to make visits would have been
unreasonable. Even though there may be hundreds or thousands of civilizations in the galaxy, each would be confined to their home system. No
colonization. No artifacts. It could be that resource depletion becomes too serious an issue before a race develops a means to overcome it (a problem
I am afraid humanity may run into).
Think about how far we've come in the past 100 years. Thinking about 1000 years into the future, would we still have such problems?
Possible conclusion 4:
Self-replicating machines are impossible! If they can exist, they can spread without worry about the time that it takes – a race could construct
them and let them loose. So why aren't they here? Because they don't exist.
But... (clunky) versions DO exist (just Google self-replicating robots)! Development is needed, but this may be a non-issue in the near future.
Possible conclusion 5:
Mature civilizations have no motivation for colonizing other worlds. Realistically, interstellar colonization is not a solution to the problems on a
planet: It’s too hard to ship many people away,
the economic return of colonization is highly questionable, and the benefit to society is questionable.
So why would a world choose to do it?
All we need is ONE species with the colonization impulse. If advanced species are common, this becomes more likely.
Possible conclusion 6:
We live in a zoo. There is an extensive interstellar civilization. Earth is considered too primitive for contact. We have been declared off-limits for
now. Observe but do not allow detection. A similar idea is that we are simply beneath the notice of a galaxy-spanning civilization. They only need
bother with more advanced ones.
It only takes one to violate the ban and land a vessel on the front lawn of the White House. Also, any species that pursues colonization as an ends to
a mean could be considered aggressive – Earth's resources may be considered valuable.
Possible conclusion 7:
We are too primitive to communicate. This is the Sentinel hypothesis. There is an extensive interstellar civilization. But they are plenty busy
without us. Once we have developed the proper technology, either we will easily detect them or they have a sentinel program that will detect us.
Human energy use has risen monumentally with time. The same can be expected for aliens. A galactic civilization should be anything but subtle.
Possible conclusion 8:
They are too alien. Perhaps they think in completely different ways. Communicate in completely different ways.Perhaps their technology developed with
totally different logic, in a way that is unrecognizable to us.
Example: in David Brin’s Uplift series, hydrogen breathers have almost no intersection with oxygen breathers. What about species that somehow live
inside of stars? Not ones that evolve there, but ones that find such environments higher-energy. We might never detect them.
We've detected plenty of bizarre things on Earth using strange methods. Also, a galaxy-spanning civilization should have some commonalities with us,
such as energy use, which would help identification.
Possible conclusion 9:
Technology is a unique accident on our world. Civilizations exist on many planets, but maybe ours is the only one that has the resources to allow us
to fully develop our technology. Perhaps the coal and oil deposits on our planet are unique. Perhaps the combination of land, water, and plate
tectonics is unique.
Some energy sources, like solar power, must be universal. Other animals on Earth can construct rudimentary structures and exhibit tool usage, so it
can't be that unique.
Possible conclusion 10:
Aliens are here observing us but their technology is so superior that we do not know it. Nano-robots could wander the Earth freely with little chance
of detection – things the size of grains of sand or
fine dust. Perhaps they are interacting with us and directing our development, protecting us?
This assumes aliens would be delicate. That surely is a happy thought, but are you ready to pay the price for assuming incorrectly? And maybe one
alien race would, but why would all? What do they have to gain from helping our development? If they really want to help us, why are they doing it so
gingerly and indirectly?
Possible conclusion 11:
We aren’t listening and looking in the proper way yet. Other civilizations exist, but space travel is too hard to do on a lark. Civilizations
communicate with each other – but using technologies that we have not yet discovered or not yet exploited.
Easiest way to communicate is using photons – long-distance, energy-efficient. We already observe the entire electromagnetic band – why would such
strong signals escape us? Could light be emitted in a way that it only becomes a strong signal if received the right way? How would different
civilizations stumble upon the same method of emission/reception without prior contact?
Possible conclusion 12:
The future shown in the movie “The Terminator” never happens – machines never rule. It can be argued that we, biological beings, are a step in
the evolutionary process to thinking robots.Thinking electro-mechanical beings could have infinite lifetimes so slow interstellar travel is no
barrier. Such beings, controlling the resources of a planet, could easily start colonizing space travel – and would colonize the galaxies in a few
million years. Hence, they do not exist if they are not here.
Again, machines are easy to construct. Somewhere, some alien civilization should have been able to do this by now.
So to wrap this section up:
- It can be argued that single-celled life is easily created.
- From there on, it is evolution driven by natural selection – all the time, everywhere.
- Natural selection – survival of the fittest – drives species to maximize their genetic advantages.
- Intelligence is an advantage to be maximized. However, if a species has evolved other means to fully take advantage of their environment,
intelligence may not be a necessary tool for survival, which is ultimately what is important. Brains are incredible energy hogs, so there has to be a
good reason for its development.
We humans, as a species, came to dominate other developing intelligent species on our planet due to our superior control of technology and aggression.
Would anyone disagree that intelligence, tecnology, and aggression is a result of natural selection? Should aliens therefore have the same drives?
Species who balance aggression and cooperation survive in the long run… else they die (and another one arises). So any instance of life on any
planet should eventually develop an intelligent species with a technical civilization.
So where is everyone?
Questions to ask yourself:
If aliens are here…..
Why are they so good at avoiding definitive detection, yet not so good at avoiding ordinary people?
Why are they interested in sneaking around instead of making real contact?
What is their purpose? This is a large expenditure of resources… for what purpose?
Why would university scientists keep it secret?
Why do they look so much like us?
Think about how humans have explored. Long sea voyages, many resources needed. We didn't attempt to hide, but rather made every attempt to make
contact and explore. This does not guarantee an alien race's psychology, but it sure seems like a long trip to make just to harrass people on lonely
I do not have any reason to be AGAINST alien visitation, or whatever that implies. I consider myself to be, at least compared to my peers, someone who
more than anything else would like to believe that aliens are right there above the atmosphere waiting to communicate with us. The fact is however, I
refuse to pin my hopes on faith, feelings, and just plain old poor evidence. I am interested in what other conclusions people might have about why we
have not run into any alien civilizations, even though it seems that we should have by now.
edit on 13-5-2011 by qalameid because:
edit on 13-5-2011 by qalameid because: Grammar