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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 1

Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

From: Dennis <dstacy@texas.net>
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 21:47:36 -0500 (CDT)
Fwd Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 10:43:25 -0400
Subject: Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

>To: "UFO UpDates - Toronto" <updates@globalserve.net>
>From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
>Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4
>Date: Tue, 30 Jun 98 08:48:41 PDT

>> Date: Mon, 29 Jun 1998 21:25:46 -0400
>> From: The Duke of Mendoza <101653.2205@compuserve.com>
>> Subject: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4
>> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>

<great snip>

>> It's not mentioned in the post to which I'm responding, but I
>> have it on good authority that someone, somewhere is working
>> even now on shredding Michael Swords' notions of exobiology into
>> teeny weeny bits, and that the results will be published
>> sometime this year.

>Great. 'Bout time. And I don't doubt for a second, having seen
>others make the attempt, that Swords will defend himself quite
>effectively, thank you.


>Jerry Clark

Duke, Jerry, List:

My three cents on this particular topic.

I happened to be present at the 1991 Chicago MUFON Symposium
when, to the best of my knowledge, Swords gave one of the first
public presentations of his thinking about exobiology, in
particular, why aliens might more or less resemble us, at least
in basic terms (body trunk, number of limbs, placement of eyes,
ears, mouth, nose, and other sensory organs, etc.). As far as it
went, I think it's quite reasonable (and well reasoned). For
those who haven't seen Swords's articles, to which Clark
constantly refers, its basic premise (to ruthlessly summarize
same) is that only certain body forms (resembling ours) will
achieve space travel, and therefore, those aliens we are most
likely to be visited by will resemble us in rough form.

An example: while it's reasonable to postulate that somewhere an
intelligent seafaring species with eight tentacles has evolved,
that species won't likely go on to develop spacefaring
technology because it's extremely difficult to smelt iron
underwater. And so on.

In abstract principle, Sword's thinking is perfectly
permissible, as far as it goes. But even Swords's theory
contains its own built-in limitations and complications. For
instance, regardless of whether or not one accepts every
component of the Drake equation, it still represents a sort of
fundamental starting point. By definition, Swords limits the
number of possible spacefaring aliens vis-a-vis Drake, which in
turn limits the possibility of contact. In other words, with
fewer civilizations qualifying as capable of interstellar
travel, the issue of how they could conceivably "stumble" across
the planet Earth, and repeatedly, at that  -- and just in our
lifetime -- is greatly increased.

In addition, Swords totally ignores other circumstances that
might be necessary for the development of life in the first
place, never mind spacefaring intelligence. There is a
considerable body of thought about the development of life on
this planet alone that treats with such issues as an internal
magnetic field, a placement of a satellite at such and such a
distance from the primary body (thus resulting in tides),
angular axis (which results in seasons, which seem to be a prime
evolutionary driver), and so on. (And this ignores local surface
planetary thinking a la Gould & others.) All of which again
drastically reduces the number of potentially intelligent
civilizations in the universe, regardless of whether one is
considering the numbers of Drake, Sagan or Swords. And it gets
more complicated from here. For instance, a reduction in the
numbers of potential intelligent civilizations greatly increases
their distances from us, greatly lowering the prospects of

To emphasize this last point, I recommend that everyone read the
article by Mike Davis ("Cosmic Dancers on History's Stage?),
which appeared in The Anomalist 5. As best we can determine,
this is the same Davis that just recently received a MacArthur
Foundation "genius" award, although we should point out that the
Amazing Randi received one of same as well.

Regardless, the thrust of Davis's article is that the history of
the planet Earth may well be (and arguably/demonstrably is)
unique, i.e., it possess a history nowhere else even remotely
repeated in the universe. The science is certainly just as good
as Sword's, which brings me to my last point.

I suspect that many of Clark's more vociferous and vocal critics
object not so much to the mere citation of Swords's writings,
then, as to a perceived attitude on Clark's part that simple
citation of same should resolve the issue once and for all -- as
if it were obvious. Needless to say, it doesn't -- and it isn't.

Would that life and science were so simple.

In the end, Swords's thoughts on the subject are just that. As
far as I'm concerned, every time that Swords is cited in favor
of the ETH, Davis should be cited in its disfavor. Now where are