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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 12

Re: that ol' Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis

From: Greg Sandow <gsandow@prodigy.net>
Date: Tue, 11 Nov 1997 17:49:56 -0500
Fwd Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 17:53:45 -0500
Subject: Re: that ol' Extra Terrestrial Hypothesis

Replying to more of Dennis's points.....

> Date: Sun, 9 Nov 1997 00:29:32 -0600 (CST)
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>
> From: Dennis <dstacy@texas.net> [Dennis Stacy]
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re:

> Greg, again we appreciate the problem, but this won't wash. In
> case you haven't noticed, Pritchard's name appears quite
> prominently as one of the editors of (and contributors to) "Alien
> Discussions." He was also featured and interviewed in C. D. B.
> Bryan's big book (if I have the name right) about abductions. His
> involvement in UFO research, in other words, is hardly any media
> secret, let alone one closely guarded from his MIT colleagues. I
> appreciate your description of the situation, but it just isn't
> the case. Sorry.

Go argue with Pritchard. I picked him as my example precisely because
his name HAS gotten around. When I first spoke to him, he not only
begged me not to use his name, but told me as a condition of the
interview that I couldn't. He said that it was fine to let his name
be used within the UFO community, but that -- at the time of the MIT
conference, I believe -- he'd been mentioned in the Wall Street
Journal, and gotten in serious trouble. He probably regreats being in
Courty Bryan's book, but there's nothing he can do about it, since he
allowed Bryan to come to the conference as a journalist in the first
place. Obviously Pritchard has to fish or cut bait -- if he's deeply
worried about his reputation, he should back out of UFOs altogether.
But the  sentiments I've passed on from him are genuine.

While we're on this subject, let's not forget McDonald, who was
UFO-baited when he testified before Congress on a completely
unrelated subject. People opposed to his views on developing civilian
supersonic planes ridiculed him because (in their words) he believed
in "little green men." Public advocacy of UFOs isn't good for a
scientist's professional health. Nor is this even news. You can read
the same thing in Hynek and Vallee. The "invisible college,"
remember? That's why it was invisible...because the scientists with a
genuine interest in UFOs didn't want their interest known.

> This is a nice bit of effluvium, Greg, but are you seriously
> suggesting that ufologists can't squarely confront the "whole
> issue of alien visits [which] has our culture in a tizzy"?
> They've been actively promoting it for something like a half
> century, and you say they can't get quite squared away about it?
> What kind of logic is this? Did it ever occur to you that one
> reason why society might be in such a tizzy is because ufologists
> have extrapolated the original ETH beyond all bounds of decency
> and common sense?

I've addressed this in another post, and I apologize for not being
clearer when I originally made the point. The idea actually comes
from James Oberg, who once told me (and I imagine he's said this in
print as well) that, as our world begins to explore space, we're a
ssailed by fantasies of hope and fear about what lies out there.

Or, in other words, we're assailed by belief in UFOs. That was his
skeptical point. He impressed me with it, though I preferred to apply
it to skeptics as well.

Of course many ufologists have trumpeted the idea of alien visits.
What few of them have done is consider the implications. When I first
met people in this field, I'd ask them what they FELT about aliens
being here. I found the answers extraordinary. "It doesn't mean much
to me. I've been used to the thought since I read science fiction in
high school." (Kevin Randle) "I never explored my feelings about this
until I was at the MIT conference, and confronted the possibility of
abductions." (Richard Hall. I'm paraphrasing these remarks, by the

And so on. The UFO business hasn't done a good job facing the
implications of alien visits, for all the widespread talk about "the
most significant event in history." Turning to the skeptical side for
a moment, what about Klass's mantra, about how he'd be thrilled to
have aliens land in his back yard, becuase it would turn into the
biggest story he'd ever written? Utter bilge. Aliens land and all it
means to him is a journalistic coup. Pure denial, in my view. Often I
meet people who, learning of my interest in UFOs, want to hear about
it. When I get to abductions, there are always a few people who say
"Don't tell me about that. The whole idea is too scary." When that
happens, I feel I've met an honest person, or, more specifically,
someone deeply in touch with their emotions -- a phrase which, in my
view, wouldn't describe many of us in the UFO community (including

> I'm a working writer and so are you.  But if neither of us has
> anything else better to do with our time, I'll gladly accept your
> "challenge to compare Stan's work on [MJ-12] with SETI astronomer
> Frank Drake," having already admitted previously on this post
> that I'm no particular fan of Drake's work and conclusions.

> Let me also add that you're comparing apples and oranges here.
> But if you really and seriously want to adopt the voice of
> Friedman's "apostle of sweet reason" as your own, then so be it.

Stan is, comparatively speaking, an apostle of reason. At least he's
concerned with facts, and with testable hypotheses. When he plunges
into the archives to determine the truth of MJ-12, he asks himself
questions that actually have answers. "Did Eisenhower recieve other
briefings around the time of the alleged presentation on MJ-12?" "Are
there names, dates, and checkable facts in the MJ-12 documents that
nobody could have known at the time the material surfaced?" You may
hate his conclusions, or think he does sloppy work, but at least he's
concerned with testable reality. Others can follow him into the piles
of dusty papers, and come to conclusions of their own. Nor does he
insist that the reality of MJ-12 is absolutely proved. He considers
his research a work in progress.

Compare Drake. Drake (see the book he co-authored with Dava Sobel)
asks questions of mammoth, in fact cosmic import. Having postulated
the existence of civilizations a billion years ahead of us, he asks
whether interstellar travel is possible -- or in other words whether
these advanced races can visit each other (or visit us).

Many of us would counsel caution in the face of such a question. But
Drake throws caution out the window. He delcares with complete
unshakable conviction that interstellar visits aren't possible.
What's his evidence? Well, the usual stuff -- there's no way to
exceed the speed of light, and, even to approach it, the amount of
power required is prohibitive.

These arguments are based on real data. Our science, in its present
state, supports those two propositions. But what about science a
billion years more advanced than ours? Drake doesn't even ask himself
that question. A more sensitive SETI scientist, Paul Davies, consi
dering the same question, takes time to make a fairly obvious
observation. If you believe that vastly advanced aliens would face
the same interstellar obstacles that we face, he says, you're
assuming that we, even in this early stage of our technological
development, have discovered laws of nature so basic that even in a
billion years of evolution we won't find a way around them.

Well, maybe. Drake and Davies are entitled to believe this, if they
like. But how would they prove it? They can't. Nobody can. So this
assumption of Drake's -- and therefore the idea about interstellar
travel that rests on it -- isn't a scientific proposition. It can't
be proved or disproved. It's a matter of faith. Again, I don't mind
if Drake holds this faith. But he puts forward his belief as science,
which it emphatically is not. Scientific propositions have to be
testable. How do you test this one? How could you prove it wrong?

Having gotten this far, Drake takes yet another step, which proves
beyond any doubt how subjective (and therefore non-scientific) his
thinking is. He notes an objection from a colleague. This other
scientist, he writes, believes that the power requirements for
near-lightspeed travel can be overcome. After all, as our own
civilization progresses, we find ourselves with vastly more power
available to us than we used to have. Why not assume that this trend
will continue into the future?

Here's Drake's answer. Fine, maybe we'll have more power -- but what
happens when we get into interstellar space? Maybe we'll all be fried
by cosmic rays! At least in his initial arguments against
interstellar travel, he had solid data to fall back on. We don't know
any way to exceed the speed of light; that's absolutely rock-solid
science. Here, however, he's speculating. He has NO data on the
danger from cosmic rays. He's reaching far beyond the facts,
flagrantly making things up, in order -- this is my opinion, anyway
-- to support a conclusion he's going to hold on to, no matter what
opposing arguments anyone makes. And even if you don't support my
interpretation of his odd behavior here, you have to agree that his
proposition about the danger of cosmic rays in interstellar space is,
again, unverifiable, at least at our present state of knowledge.
Again, Drake has abandoned science. Of course he's entitled to his
views, and is free to believe that interstellar travel is impossible
no matter what technology anybody has. But he ought at least to admit
that he's theorizing, and the tone of his writing doesn't allow that
possibility. He talks in tones of absolute certainty, about things
neither he nor any of his colleagues can possibly be sure of -- and
that, according to me, makes him a far less reasonable man than Stan

And to end of a comic note....

>Then I've got some theories I would like to promote about
> the origins of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto Numero Uno, one of
> which is that the latter was actually present at, and survived,
> the battle of the Alamo.

Poor Tchaikovsky...he was a nervous sort, and I think the gunfire
would have upset him. But here's a true anecdote. Tchaikovsky was
gay. So was Saint-Saens, the French composer. Once when Saint-Saens
visited Moscow, the two of them dressed up as ballerinas, and danced
a pas de deux. Not that I'm saying all gay men like to dress as
women. But the point here is that this charming incident was hushed
up for generations, because the classical music world took the same
view of unorthodox behavior by great composers that the scientific
world takes of UFOs. Pure prejudice, either way....and look at the
great stories prejudice makes you miss!

Greg Sandow

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