Monday, August 25, 2014

Thoughts on UFOs and aliens.

What are UFOs?  I don’t know what they are, but people continue to see objects in the sky (and rarely, on the ground, or on water, or under water) that they can’t identify.  The objects are usually stars, planets, planes, human satellites, balloons, experimental aircraft, drones, meteors, bolids, strange weather phenomena, hallucinations, or other things that have no supernatural or extraterrestrial origins.  There are also many reports that are hoaxes, or honest witnesses who have been deceived by hoaxes. But, I’m convinced there is a residue of sightings that are still unexplainable, and even among the hallucinations, I think there are cases that defy logical explanations (as some hallucinations may not conform to typical patterns of hallucinations, or multiple persons share a nearly identical subjective experience of the hallucination).   

I have always been intrigued by the similarities between alien and UFO encounters and folklore concerning faeries and supernatural creatures.  There also seem to be parallels between the entities encountered by persons who go into dissociative trances brought on through rituals or use of hallucinogens and the UFO experiences and encounters with faeries or elves in folklore.  I’ve often wondered if there might be some connection, where some sort of an objective experience of a different sort of reality is distorted through subjectivity and the psychological states of witnesses during their encounters.  

There are also photographs and films of some UFOs, and while most of these are hoaxes (especially now that people know how to create computer graphics and merge these into film using Adobe products) or simply prosaic objects (e.g., insects flying across the field of vision), some of the images may be authentic and may show objects that fall into the unexplainable category. And, if so, this further suggests an objective reality basis for the subjective “UFO encounter” experiences. 

There are some emotional reasons pulling me toward openness to the idea that at least some of the UFOs represent technologies of advanced non-human civilisations.  In the first place, the Fermi’s Paradox problem of why we have not detected intelligent alien life yet suggests a few frightening possibilities: 1) we are the first species to evolve to our level of civilisation in this region of the galaxy; 2) we are the only species or the first species to evolve to a stage of technological civilisation; 3) there is some sort of a barrier that makes it impossible or nearly impossible for a species at our level of civilisation to advance to becoming an interstellar colonial civilisation (perhaps civilisations such as ours always destroy themselves, or always fail to establish enduring interstellar civilisations, or always are destroyed by something before they can establish interstellar colonies).  The idea that some UFOs represent alien civilisations helps us get rid of the problem of Fermi’s paradox, and reassures us that we are not alone in this part of the universe. Otherwise, we may face a frightening destiny almost certain to wipe out our species or limit our ability to get off this planet and out of this solar system. Another emotional reason for believing that some UFOs represent advanced non-human civilisations is that it increases our sense of possibilities and unexpected knowledge. If some UFOs are from advanced non-human civilisations, their behaviours and technologies are quite different from what we expect. And, if there is a connection between entities encountered while in altered states of consciousness and folklore entities and UFO aliens, it seems reality is quite different from what we so far have understood through our use of the scientific method. That seems like an exciting possibility to me, so I’m emotionally attracted to that possibility.

Another reason to think that non-human civilisations are responsible for some of the UFO phenomena is that this helps resolve unexplained mysteries.  Many people are uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.  Currently, if you share my opinion that some small fraction (representing hundreds of cases around the planet each year) of UFO events defy explanation, you are left with perplexing mysteries.  I have no answer or explanation that satisfies. Simply leaving the matter at that becomes deeply dissatisfying, so introducing the hypothesis, and then the belief, that some of these encounters represent contact with non-human civilisations offers a resolution and some sort of answer to the problem.  It is far more satisfying (for most people, I suppose) to “know” that UFOs represent aliens or else always represent hoaxes, natural phenomena, hallucinations, and so forth.  Allowing that some cases may not fit into either category, or may possibly represent non-human civilisations, creates a tension of having no answer to a question.  That tension is too uncomfortable for many people.

There are good reasons for thinking UFOs are not evidence of alien non-human technologies.  It currently seems that the resources necessary for interstellar travel would be immense. For a civilisation to send a craft across dozens of light years, or hundreds of light years, and then have that craft controlled by a biological entity rather than advanced computers and artificial intelligence, and then have that biological entity behave as most unexplained UFOs are reported to behave, defies all common sense. But then, if any of these things are representatives of non-human civilisations and technologies, that is perhaps exactly what we should expect: they are not human, and human common sense may be utterly unable to grasp their non-human motives.

So, here is where I stand on the UFO phenomena: I think some of the unexplainable encounters with UFOs may represent non-human technology.  I have no idea what sort of non-human civilisation might be behind the UFOs: are they time-travellers from this planet, or visitors from other dimensions, or visitors from other solar systems light years away from ours?  I suspect there is a connection between encounters with UFOs, deities (such as bodhisattvas, Mary, various other saints, local or traditional gods), and folkloric magical humanoid entities (elves and faeries).  I would not be surprised if encounters with ghosts are also somehow connected. For the present, the connection I make is that it seems to me that the unconscious mind of the persons who encounters these things is playing a large role in shaping the experience, and the collective ideas of the culture (archetypes) also seem to shape the experience and its interpretation. 

I think some aspects of consciousness and memory exist outside the brain.  That is, I believe consciousness plays a role in shaping brains and physical reality as we experience it, and I believe that brains “receive” the mind as well as generate mental phenomena.  I believe this because I think there have been sufficient cases of out-of-body perceptual experiences, near-death experiences, reincarnation phenomena, and some forms of telepathy to give me a reasonable empirical grounding for suspecting that consciousness is not entirely depending on brain functioning.  The fact that I am a religious believer and my religion also teaches me that reality includes things that are not usually available for scientific testing and that some aspect of personal identity survives death also informs my opinion that consciousness is not entirely dependent on the brain (although manifestation of consciousness in the material world does seem to generally require brain activity). Because I believe consciousness exists in some form outside the material processes of the brain, I’m open to the possibility that UFO and alien encounters represent interesting “consciousness” phenomena or technology, rather than advanced spaceship technologies.

Since I already believe in consciousness existing outside the brain, I’m open to the possibility that UFO and alien encounters have more to do with human consciousness than interstellar travel. I recognise that some of the unexplained UFO phenomena involve physical objects, or at least physical evidence that multiple witnesses see or things that can be captured with photographs and movies. That suggests interstellar travel rather than some sort of supernatural paranormal encounter involving altered states of human consciousness, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that technologies involving consciousness might be able to create physical phenomena such as “spacecraft” or whatever. If there are non-human alien civilisations, they may have had hundreds of thousands, or tens of millions, or even billions of years to develop their science and technology so that what they do appears indistinguishable from magic to us.

At a personal level, saying I wouldn’t be surprised if some UFOs represent non-human alien technology is quite different from making a scientific claim that this is indeed true. I am not convinced at a level where I would “reject the null hypothesis” and claim I have high confidence that aliens are visiting humans. That is, I’m guessing there is a greater than 5% chance that all UFO phenomena have accurate explanations involving no alien non-human technology or entities. But, I guess there is a 85% or 90% possibility that some UFO phenomena do represent alien entities or technologies, which means I generally think non-human entities are sometimes observed or experienced by humans. Unlike many true believers in UFO phenomena, I don’t think encounters with aliens are extremely important. I’m unimpressed by the claims of people who say aliens are giving them guidance or using them as mouthpieces to send messages to humanity; these people always seem to be self-deluded or actively lying. If aliens are contacting some humans or allowing humans to observe them, but they are not landing craft at the UN headquarters, I assume they prefer to remain observers and unobtrusive and not influential.  I also assume if aliens visit Earth they represent civilisations that are tens of thousands of years older than ours, or perhaps millions of years more advanced than ours, and so I assume they are wiser and more far-sighted than we are. If they want to remain a mystery, and do not seek to reveal themselves in some unambiguous way, I trust they have their reasons. 

I am comfortable with ambiguity, unanswered questions, and lack of definite final resolution of mysteries. So, I like the mystery of UFO phenomena. I like the way UFO and paranormal fields create a sort of counter-culture that questions the dominant mainstream, because I am generally suspicious of dominant mainstream hegemonic discourse and world views. The UFO and paranormal scenes are too full of crackpots and charlatans to attract much of my time or attention, but I admire people who try to do quality investigative work and theorising related to these mysteries. I respect people who are more certain than I am in their conclusions about non-human civilisations visiting Earth. And, I admire some of the skeptics that help expose the hoaxes and charlatans and crackpots.