Monday, September 8, 2008

Extraterrestrials: Several million UFO reports later ... the state of the question

Recently, I have been reading Hugh Ross's Why the Universe Is the Way It Is (Baker, 2008) (which I will review). Ross heads up Reasons to Believe, an Christian apologetics ministry aimed at scientists, based in Pasadena, California. He notes,

After 60 years of investigation into several million UFO reports, researchers have concluded that 90 to 99 percent of all UFO sightings are, in fact, IFOs. Identifiable flying objects include natural phenomena, human-made (often experimental) aircraft, pranksters' hoaxes, and psychological phenomena. Of the remaining 1 to 10 percent, scientists have found no credible evidence (such as crash debris or physical artifacts) indicating that these sightings involve physical craft, with or without beings on board.

The publication of the Condon Report on Project Blue Book in 1969 did little, if anything, to quell public speculation about alien visitors, which continues unabated. However, subsequent rigorous interdisciplinary studies yave yielded sufficient data to demonstrate that at least some of the residual (still unidentified 1-10 percent) UFOs are real and yet not tangible, or physical, in nature. They may be categorized as occult or nonphysical manifestations. (P. 59)

In other words, we have no idea what they are, but we don't know a reason to think they are Drake and Sagan's extraterrestrial intelligences.

One thing I find really interesting is that, contrary to a carefuly cultivated stereotype, it is the theists and non-materialists who are the skeptics, while materialists indulge in theories that erase space and time, and multiply universes ad lib.

See also:

Younger astronomers less likely to believe than older ones?

So what if fossil bacteria are found on Mars? Polls show many Americans expect Star Trek!

Some scientists hope that the aliens are NOT out there!

Increase in UFO sitings in Canada - what's behind that?