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

Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

From: Jerome Clark <jkclark@frontiernet.net>
Date: Wed, 01 Jul 98 11:08:33 PDT
Fwd Date: Wed, 01 Jul 1998 17:43:56 -0400
Subject: Re: MAGONIA ETH Bulletin #4

> Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998 21:47:36 -0500 (CDT)
> To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <updates@globalserve.net>
> From: Dennis <dstacy@texas.net>
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: 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>

> 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.

The weight of evidence, of course, is currently falling in
the direction of Swords and others who suspect the galaxy --
and the larger universe -- is densely populated.  All one
has to do is to read the newspapers; you don't have to go
to obscure scientific journals anymore to follow the argument.
The discovery that planets are apparently ubiquitous should
give heart to anyone sympathetically inclined to the ETH.
If the galaxy is full of millions of advanced civilizations, we
ought to EXPECT to see them.  If we don't see them or any
evidence of them, they likely don't exist, and the SETI program
is a big waste of time, money, and personnel, and all those
popular and academic books on intelligent life elsewhere
are destroying trees for nothing.

Again, I urge everybody not to read my summary or Dennis'.
Go to Swords' papers in JUFOS and elsewhere, then follow
the threads of argument and debate in the ETI literature he
cites as well as the literature he doesn't cite.  (There you will
discover, by the way, speculations about ETI that will strike
you as pretty implausible, and rather less based on empirical
reasoning than Swords'.  That sort of stuff may make you feel,
as it did me, good about being a ufologist, where at least we
[or the most thoughtful of our number, anyway] try to argue
from a body of perceived evidence, not just from the
unfettered imagination. The products of the latter ought to be
identified for what they are: science fiction.)

The point Dennis misses here, I think, is the one I have
attempted to make continually (not "constantly," Dennis),
albeit so far without any notable success: namely that,
contrary to what debunkers and Purely Speculative
Hypothesizers (if there is any longer a distinction) want us
to believe, the ETH is neither absurd nor indefensible.
Swords shows that the ETH can be defended using principles
embraced by many scientists writing and researching in
exobiology.  You can determine that easily by reading this
literature for yourself.  Swords does not go beyond that
observation, and neither have or do I.

The larger question -- of whether the ETH is right or wrong (or, for
that matter,  whether its more serious rivals are right or wrong)
 -- awaits resolution.  And that is why the recommendations of
the Sturrock panel are a good step in the right direction.

It's also why, the PSHers and their frequently expressed desire
for instant and comforting answers notwithstanding, our discussions
ought  to be focused on the pragmatic and the here-and-now.
The ETH is a reasonable provisional hypothesis, conclusive
proof or disproof of which -- barring a White House landing -- is
on the other side of a whole lot of hard work and analysis.  If you
want it quick and easy, folks, you're in the wrong business.  And if
you think all of the important questions have been answered,
you're living in dreamland, and I don't mean the one in Area 51.

Jerry Clark