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At the suggestion of neilmarr, I am starting a thread concerning the always-intriguing subject of Unidentified Flying Objects. (Not to be confused with Unidentified Frying Objects, often found in my kitchen.)

My own thoughts, in a nutshell, are that there is almost certain to be intelligent life in the Universe which is more advanced than we are. But whether they have ever stooped to coming here to observe (let alone interact directly or abduct) is another matter. Thoughts?
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Bob of QF
I cannot let reading about UFO's go by, without remembering a short story by someone or other.

It seems that there IS a galactic civilization. And they routinely test the maturity of a culture, before revealing real civilization.

The test is to send ambiguous UFO's to the planet in question, and see what the response of the people are.

The sightings are deliberately ambiguous enough, that no definitive conclusion can be had, just from the data alone.

The general response of the population tells all: if it's "there's definitely UFO's" then the population has jumped to a false conclusion.

If it's "there's definitely NO UFO's", same result: false conclusion based on insufficient data.

The correct, rational response would be something like, "there may be UFO's. But, it's not certain. Source, unknown. Will await more information, before drawing definitive conclusions."

I'm in that latter category. I think the odds are vanishingly small, mostly based on the sheer size of the galaxy, the light-speed barrier, and the short window of opportunity between our civilization and other possible civilization(s). Only the last one is an assumptive statement, the others are very real.

Obviously, light speed may not in fact be an issue, but so far as we can tell, it is.

On the third hand, RAMA by Author C Clarke postulated an interesting twist in the whole question.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
Sure, there's gotta be life out there. Maybe even intelligent life we could understand as such.

But the universe is a very, very, very big place. And time stretches backwards and forward over billions of years.

I just can't see a civilisation anywhere within reach and with our own exploratory drive maturing technologically in sync with us to the extent that they or we could pay a visit.

I'm not a UFO atheist, more a UFO agnostic. I have come across no convincing evidence yet of a flying object that might be identified as having been steered here from a society elsewhere.

I think I am more of an agnostic in this area myself. The way I see it is that we exist on this planet, right. So I cannot completely dismiss the possibility of other or at least one form of intelligent beings or creatures on a planet we have not yet discovered. The fact that we are here does make it possible but I still would like to have proof and see them but not by a private visitation lol. Right now in our own neighboring galaxy we see no sign of life but who knows what we will find as we advance further out.

If we had absolute proof of visitation from another life then I would say yeah they are much more intelligent and advaced than we are. This would simply be because they made it here first while we are still advancing in our abilities but haven't made to them yet.

I don't go by what people claim to have seen because a lot of people claim a lot of things without proof. Without proof it's just a thought of possibility and a lot of mistakes thinking they actually saw something that only turned out to be from this planet or a hoax.

My own personal theory of people who say they have been abducted or visited is because they feel they have been, in most ways, separated from mainstreem society. They feel disconnected and somewhat outcasted from almost most people they come in contact with. I have no proof of this it's just my personal theory I have.
UFO sightings are pseudoreligious. Very much like spotting Mother Mary in a grotto somewhere, they can be put down to mistaken identity, wishful thinking or complete fabrication.

Like religious revelation, there is no empirical evidence in support of a single case and those claiming to have made a sighting tend to be convinced UFOists to start with. And, like gods, pop-up saints, ghosts and miracles, our alien visitors seem particularly elusive and camera shy.

We are in the early stages of cosmic exploration, but we know enough already to say with certainty that, within our own section of the galaxy (and we can sensibly predict elsewhere), life must be extremely rare if, indeed, it exists lcally outside our own planet. The chances of two societies simultaneously developing technologically to the extent that they can meet across the mind-boggling distances involved is remote in the extreme.

And, of course, that such visits might even be deemed desirable pre-supposes the so-far uniquely human concept of investigative curiosity (cats excepted).

The distances are so great even within our own arm of our galaxy that it would be difficult to spot any signs of intelligent life. We can only detect extrasolar planets by using the gravitational wobble (and sometimes the light curves) of other stars. Any electromagnetic emanations from their civilizations would be extremely weak at such distances. I agree that the odds are small that two societies being nearly equivalent in development would become aware of each other, but given the numbers of other planets we are discovering (I think it's already 300+), there is a great number of possible life-bearing worlds out there.

It fascinates the hell out of me. I admit it! Maybe we will be found by spacecraft containing highly evolved felines.;meowy;
Edited by catman on 09/02/2008 02:08
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Bob of QF
I think it much more likely that we will be "discovered" by a Von Newmann machine of some sort.

And I think it will be accidental on the part of the machine itself--unless that was it's "major" purpose all along.

Hopefully, the machine won't land on Earth-- else if it's programming does not include "don't treat life as a resource for reproduction" then we could be "eaten" by the machines as they reproduce.

See the short story, "Mom and the Kids", by Larry Niven and David Drake. Also see, "Von Newmann's War" by John Ringo (a fairly recent book).

In the first case, a human outpost is taken over by self-replicating machines. In the second case, Earth is visited by them (and they try to "eat" the resources of Earth).

But a self-replicating machine culture can literally spread like a virus-- anywhere there are sufficient resources for the machines to reproduce, they can multiply exponentially.

Thus, I think the first likely contact will not be from a living organism in the purest sense, but by the mechanical representatives of some civilization.

But, space is vast-- the odds are still vanishingly small.
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
I think this is two separate questions. Do UFOs exists and is there intelligent life out there. UFOs definately (And I don't necessarily mean extra-terrestrial origin) I know I'm be pedantic and taking the term UFO literally, but I think most UFOs are of earth origin. Military craft for example.

Alien spaceships.....hmmm, if they are way more intelligent than us then they may look at us in the same was as we look at animals in which case they wouldn't be too bothered at being spotted. If they see us as intelligent creatures (with a knack for starting global genocides and wars) then you'd think they take a lot more care over being seen.

Has Earth been visited by alien craft. Possibly. Are we visited as regularly as people think- probably not. As for the actual existence of alien life. There are so many planets out there, solar systems and galaxies that to assume we are alone is both naive and arrogant. Is it life as advanced as us? Could be. Could be single celled life on one planet, highly evolved on another and the equivalent of homo-erectus on another.

People think of alien life and assume it's one civilisation. The law of averages must surely indicate numerous other life forms spread across numerous planets.

Of course, a Theist would take these statements and say "If you think in the infinite space there must be alien life, then why not a God?". Of course this is easily countered by pointing out we are talking about biology, the fact that there are enough planets out there and the fact that water (one of the vital building blocks of life) is abundant in the universe.

Alien life is very exciting. As long as it isn't Borg I'm happy! I want green Orion slave women!
Doubting Thomas
Here's what I think about UFO's.

UFO's, as Unidentified Flying Objects, do exist. That is, objects are seen in the air which the observers can't readily identify. That being said, about 90-95% of UFO's turn out to be terrestrial in nature, either natural or man-made, or objects like meteors or space debris burning up in the atmosphere. The remaining 5-10% could probably be identified if more information were available, however it is not. But without an identification there's no need to jump to the automatic conclusion that they are 1. manned air/space craft, and 2. extra-terrestrial in origin.

The whole Whitley Streiber alien abduction craze is bunk in my opinion. Nobody has shown any definite proof that such events really occurred, and a vast majority of the time such "events" are revealed under hypnosis, which is not reliable as a way to remember "suppressed" memories. The person undergoing hypnosis is way too susceptible to suggestion, and memories aren't perfect anyway. Then there's always the chance the person is deluded or their mind may be making the story up.

Do I think there's life out there? It's possible. Do I think aliens visit the earth? Maybe, but unlikely. Chances are good that intelligent life has evolved on other planets, but there's no guarantee that they are even as technologically advanced as we are. Or they possibly could be even more advanced but still haven't discovered how to conquer the problem of billions of light-years of space travel. We have never even been able to pick up any definitive radio transmissions from SETI that would prove that someone else is out there & wants to communicate with us.

There might be a small chance that, if alien intelligence found an answer to the long distances of space travel, they could be secretly visiting the earth and observing us, but it's unlikely that to do so they'd come in brightly lit spacecraft.
***about 90-95% of UFO's turn out to be terrestrial in nature ... The remaining 5-10% could probably be identified if more information were available***

Here again is where the wishful thinking of Ufologists and theists are perfectly in step, DT. A theist will fill any gap in current scientific knowledge with his god, a Ufologist will claim -- if there is no other handy means of explaining an unidentified object in the sky -- that it must be flown by ET.

True enough, Neil, but there is one important difference: An alien in a spaceship, though exotic, would still be part of the natural universe. Wink
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Point taken, Cat. At least an alien visit is within the realms of possibility. But you do see the similarity between religious fervour and UFOMania? And, of course, the current complete lack of concrete evidence for either.

Granted the argument for life elsewhere has reason and scientifically supported probability on its side. I'd just like to see reason applied reasonably and without the accompanying wild, unsubstantiated claims of UFOndimentalists.

Sure, Neil, I can see that. Some of the nuttier UFOers remind me of the flower children's astrology. "Reason applied reasonably" is a fine concept! :yes:

I'll never forget a goofy friend of my mother's, who told me at a party that she could take me out in the back yard and show me where an alien ship was, since she knew exactly where it hung out. Her name was 'Cat'. A real piece of work, she was.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Doubting Thomas
Neil, it's not just the UFO crowd that has turned their delusion into a religion. Look at all the Bigfoot hunters, ghost hunters, etc. Of course, that doesn't compare with conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are even more fervent in their beliefs than a lot of religious people are in theirs, and no amount of logic or reason will dissuade them from their beliefs. I think there is a strong correlation in the thought patterns of theists and conspiracy theorists. Both have the core idea of "My belief is correct, and no amount of information to the contrary will ever change it." Any evidence to the contrary is considered the work of the evil government or the devil, as the case may be. I could really go on about this but I think it's material for a different thread.
You're certainly right about that. Living in the Dallas - Ft Worth area, I've been subjected to endless conjecture about the conspiracy involved in the JFK assasination, which fortunately has abated in recent years.
"If I owned both Hell and Texas, I'd live in Hell and rent out Texas." - General Sheridan
Bob of QF
I think that there is a basic function in the human brain to "label" things-- to put them into pidgin holes, and consider it "done".

With the rise of science and scientific inquiry (against the nearly overwhelming tide of religious oppression) the old "explanations" of "ghosts, devils, wevils and boogy-men" no longer holds water.

In the old days, it would've been "evil spirits" or "gholies" whenever someone observed odd phenomena in the atmosphere.

Nowadays, many people wish to be "scientifical" about it, so they invent ET's and such.

In either case, the results are the same: a label "explaining" what they saw.

Most folk are not comfortable with "I do not know".
Quantum Junction: Use both lanes

Reality is that which is left, after you stop believing.
The idea that another planet exists in the universe that is viable to sustaining life is not an impossibility. But when you start adding in other factors (when discussing UFO's) things get a little like believing in God.

First off the UFO's planet would have to be in a stable enough area that it was reasonably assured of having the trillions of years necessary to evolve intelligent life without being setback by such natural disasters as surface eruptions, strikes from large objects from space and threats from other species on the planet ranging from large carnivores to tiny virulent germs and viruses.

Another chance that would limit our chances of being visited by intelligent extra terrestrials is that of being close enough to earth to be able to traverse the distance in a short enough period to make it a survivable and affordable effort on the behalf of those UFO passengers.

Now you are really increasing the odds to the realm of utter impossibility. We are an intelligent species, some would argue, but we are nowhere near the ability of traveling any farther than our own satellite at the moment. Ability to travel to the next solar system is still in the unforseeable future. Assuming we survive as a species long enough. Our ability to travel to a planet that sustains life (even unintelligent life) that could be tens or hundreds of thousands of light years away is just about in the realm of the impossible. And I am a bit of an optimist.

These same obstacles will be confronted by any intelligent life form that wishes to come here and perplex us with sightings of their means of conveyance.

I am afraid I no more believe in UFO's piloted by super intelligent beings from outer space than I believe we were created by super intelligent beings from outer space.


Edited because no matter how many times you proofread it there always seems to be one mistake that eludes you when you finally post it.
Edited by derF on 09/04/2008 00:40
I'll drink to that. Or anything else for that matter.
Doubting Thomas
catman wrote:
You're certainly right about that. Living in the Dallas - Ft Worth area, I've been subjected to endless conjecture about the conspiracy involved in the JFK assasination, which fortunately has abated in recent years.

Unfortunately, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists have taken off where the JFK assassination conspiracy theorists stopped.

During the DNC convention I was watching MSNBC where the newspeople were sitting in front of a crowd where one guy had a bullhorn and kept shouting "911 was an inside job!" You could tell he was getting on their nerves because they were straining to hear each other and even themselves talk. I was thinking, "What better way to get your point across then by looking like a psychotic nutjob on national TV?"
You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you.
Doubting Thomas
I have to agree with derF here. As I stated above, there's no guarantee that if life exists on other planets, they will be sentient enough or advanced technologically enough to be able to visit us.

Also, there's no guarantee that life on another planet has evolved like life here on earth. Whenever you talk to the UFO crowd, they always portray aliens as being humanoid with certain differences from humans. I'm sure everyone's familiar with the "greys" of Whitley Strieber alien abduction fame. Ever notice how nobody ever described aliens as looking like that before the 1977 movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind?"

You're just jealous because the voices are talking to me and not you.
***to put them into pidgin holes***

Many thanks for the early morning chuckle, Bob. That's another one for my famous collection of hilarious psychologically-motivated and meaningful typos. One day, I must post the list so far. It's amazing just how often a simple slip of the fingers reveals the subconscious feelings of the writer.

I'm afraid I'm very hard on Ufologists. But, I think, rightly so. As with those who claim the existence of a god, the burden of proof is on the alleged sighter. And they'd never sway an unbiased and sane jury.

My first experience of this strange breed was in the mid seventies when I travelled to Monaco (long before I lived here) to cover as a reporter the First International Congress of Ancient Astronauts.

The gathering of about a thousand delegates from all over the world was hosted by the organisation's president, the unspeakably unscrupulous Erik on Daniken of 'Chariots of the Gods/Was God an Astronaut?' fame.

I've never met such a bunch of loonies. Those very, very few serious UFO investigators present seemed as embarrassed as I was by the general atmosphere of utter pottiness.

UFOs were big news in the 70s and I travelled all over following up leads. Never once was any sighting, photograph or film footage anything more than flatly unconvincing.

I had to make a living, though, so my overly generous yardstick was 'does this witness have more to lose than gain by reporting a sighting?' A few did. Policemen, pilots, one or two highly qualified doctors and professors whose reputations for general credibility, reliability and responsibility would seem to be on the line.

But, of course, even these admirable folks can be as nutty as fruit cakes.

In dozens of cases I reported tongue in cheek, I never once felt anything other than amusement and pity.

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