Monday, February 16, 2009

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?

There are several possible answers, none of them particularly comforting.

1.) We're being observed as part of some long-term anthropological study. In this scenario, occasional run-ins with UFOs and their occupants are purely accidental. The aliens rely on a screen of plausible deniability, lurking where least expected in order to further their scientific aims and taking considerable effort to leave the human population unsuspecting.

2.) We're being prepared, however patiently, for contact at some later time. Maybe the aliens are engaged in a psychosocial campaign designed to inoculate us to the presence of "others," thus ensuring we make for interesting company when we're eventually deemed ready for open dialogue.

3.) On the other hand, perhaps we're being harvested like so many unsuspecting cattle. Much of the "abduction" literature is concerned with the alleged taking of reproductive material and the creation of human-alien "hybrid" offspring. Author David Jacobs, for one, sees a distinctly malevolent agenda afoot. In his book "The Threat," he describes what amounts to an impending takeover by aliens who've been stealthily acclimating themselves to our planet. In my opinion, Jacobs' perspective is severely limited; nevertheless, it provides an engagingly paranoid synthesis that deserves attention if only to be intelligently refuted.

4.) The aliens are here for purposes that have little or nothing to do with us. Earth could be a way-station or even a vacation spot. Similarly, the aliens could be avoiding open contact for much the same reason humans avoid "open contact" with chimpanzees: we have nothing of value to gain that can't be deduced from passive observation.

5.) In the same spirit as number two (above), the aliens might desire contact but consider our social paradigms too fragile to accommodate a meaningful exchange of ideas. If our own history is any indication, abrupt encounters between cultures of differing technological prowess end in disaster; the aliens could be entirely aware of such a risk, deciding to monitor our social evolution until we're up for the challenge.

The problem with the above scenarios is the unwelcome (and often deliberately ignored) complexity of the UFO phenomenon. We seem to be dealing with an intelligence every bit as "paranormal" as it is "technological" -- but then again, isn't that what we might realistically expect from beings thousands or perhaps millions of years more advanced than us?

Discerning UFO researchers have noted the failure of "nuts and bolts" hypotheses to adequately address the weirdness that accompanies so many UFO-related events, calling the conventional interpretation of UFOs as spacecraft into serious question. Sizing up the phenomenon from the early 21st century, it would seem that visiting ETs could do a much better job at concealing their presence if they truly desired. Far from constituting a paradox, this begs us to reconsider the motives of a truly alien intelligence, even is that means casting away much of the ufological conventional wisdom (to say nothing of SETI dogma) in the process.

This piece originally appeared at


Gareth said...

If they are 'ETs' then I think it probable they didn't actually travel interstellar distances to get here.

It makes much more sense that they would have some sort of 'base' (for lack of a better word) nearby.

That could lend further weight to the 'observational' model.

Mac said...

If we're dealing with ETs, I suspect you're on the money.

Cap'n Marrrrk said...

I'm betting no open contact because the hate me. I've dreamed of, and wanted to see aliens and alien worlds since I was a child, and they're doing it to thwart me.

The day I die, you know the ships will come screaming out of the sky playing, "Children of the Sun".

On a serious note, you're still giving aliens human motives: "curiosity, domination, risk". Might be closer to your answer if you randomly mix emotions, colors, numbers and nouns together then try to wrap your head around that. For example, because the blue 15 is rounded on the escarpment melange happy/sad continuum.

That's the problem with aliens is that their alien.

Mac said...

The day I die, you know the ships will come screaming out of the sky playing, "Children of the Sun".

Hmmm. Maybe I should hire someone to "make you disappear." ;-)

That's the problem with aliens is that their alien.

The problem with me is that I'm encumbered with a human nervous system.

drjon said...

Two words.


Mac said...


That's actually what I think we're seeing. But *if* they're ET . . .

drjon said...

Good point. And I note I misspelled Vallee's name. My apologies to him.

Gareth said...

@ drjon:

He reads this blog too. Dude wont be happy.

Mac said...

Vallee reads this blog?

drjon said...

I think @Gareth might just be extracting my urine.

But I really am sorry I misspelled M. Vallée's name. I have a great deal of respect for both him and his work, and would not want him thinking I was being disrespectful.

Anonymous said...

Uh, it's Dr. Jacques Fabrice Vallee. Don't know where the "M" reference came from, but I imagine the ghost of Peter Lorre is pissed. M = Mr./Mssr.?

Trickster said...

Mac, you forgot MY favorite theory :
We're under quarantine. I know if I was a superior alien being I would treat humans like an insanely dangerous virus :D
Or, it could be like Cap'n Marrrrk says - they're just too different for us to understand. (Read 'Blindsight' for a great and creepy example.)

Jeff said...

I think it's more than likely that there is one of two things going on here.

1. There are people in high places (whether its government or business) that are benefiting from some agreement with aliens. The aliens also benefit from the agreement somehow, and part of the agreement is for them to remain unidentified.

2. The aliens purposely avoid interaction with us because they don't want the governments of the world to retaliate.

There's a lot of people hoping that aliens will one day land on the white house lawn and the president will go out and shake their hands. Then humanity will move on into a new age of enlightenment and join the 'intergalactic community' ala Star Trek.

But come don't really think power hungry politicians are going to let that happen are you? Power hungry individuals aren't going to want to give up that power to an advanced race of aliens. This is why rulers have been trying to eliminate old religious beliefs. It took European rulers years to break away from the religious authority of the Pope. Communist rulers establish atheism as the national 'religion' so their authority isn't limited by a higher power or religious beliefs.

So if power hungry rulers don't want to bow to God or any other authority, what makes anyone think they are going to bow to aliens? So if this is the case, then the aliens probably see no point in making their presence known. They may choose not to interfere because they don't want to have to retaliate.