It's late, it's dark and there's weird lights buzzing the Mini
After running into a couple of friends I hadn't seen in 5 years, we very quickly ended up in the wayback machine discussing who was up to what and laughing about good `ole times. Of course, a late summer evening in 1994 also came up that hardly changed our lives but certainly made me an avid fan of Agent Scully.
We had left Hamilton, a large service town smack dab in the middle of the North Island, New Zealand, heading for a our small hometown at the time, Morrinsville.
It was about 10:30pm and the last vestiges of light had disappeared about half an hour beforehand. Brucey drew our attention to a red light moving erratically around the sky, north of our position. We thought it an errant plane or the warning lights on the top of the transmission towers that littered this area, but the towers were west of us, far behind and no crop duster ever flew at night, let alone moving around like this object was.
We stopped and observed for about 15 minutes. The Foo now numbered half a dozen. Their colours would change, they would come closer then would disappear straight out into space in the blink of an eye, before returning back to our position about 300 metres away. The lights were odd, almost ethereal and we enjoyed the light show immensely, sure that their sighting would be in every local newspaper the next day. They weren't.
In fact, everyone who knew us at the time laughed, eager to find out who our dealer was. Thing is, we weren't high, there was no abduction, no alien sexual experimentation and definitely no anal probing. There were just three friends in a Mini who saw funny lights out on the plains late one summer evening.
Where have they all gone?
It got me thinking though, why don't we hear about UFOs that often, if at all anymore? Have the little green men really stopped visiting, or do we earthlings just have bigger things to worry about? Are the aliens simply observing us now instead of interfering with us or was it all a cold war / media fad? Researchers have discovered that Scotland has the highest concentration of UFO sightings in the world, with 300 reported close encounters every year. Are the Scots making this stuff up and confusing RAF sorties for little green men or are they really seeing aliens and we just don't hear about it?
Humans and UFOs go back a long way. We've been spying and spotting strange phenomena in skies around the world since biblical times, but it wasn't until Roswell in 1947 that UFOs went mainstream. This purported crash near the small New Mexico town had civilians arriving at the scene witnessing dead and injured alien bodies. When the U.S. military arrived they apparently captured the craft and aliens, initiated a massive cover-up and have been reverse-engineering little spaceships at Area 51 ever since. So whether it was an advanced weather balloon programme gone wrong, a giant hoax or real alien crash, Roswell helped propel the term `flying saucer' into the vocabularies of millions of people worldwide.
However, it seems that public interest in UFOs has waned significantly since Close Encounters of the Third Kind suggested that we were not alone. A recent statement on the website of the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA) declares that they are scaling down their activities as the "halcyon days of ufology are over," because of "dwindling subject material".
David Clarke, a historian at Sheffield University and the Fortean Times' UFO correspondent, is not convinced by the "peaks and troughs" line of UFO sightings. "People haven't stopped believing, but they do seem to be seeing far less than they did and it's not clear why," he says. "There's been a massive drop in sightings since 1996, which is when The X Files was on TV. It may also be that since 9/11 people have had other things to worry about. There is not just less interest in UFOs, but in all supernatural phenomena. People are more worried about terrorist bombs. The MoD also lost interest in UFOs when the cold war ended: what they had really been looking for was Russian intruder aircraft. They only collate sightings now because MPs keep asking questions about UFOs."
Are you a true believer?
The interesting news is that UFO Evidence reports that public opinion polls from the last 50 years, and from multiple different countries, report that 50% of the population still believes in the reality of UFOs; and 5% of the population has seen one.
My friends and I saw something weird that night but we have no proof and that's the killer for the UFO argument. There have been to many people out there `crying wolf' with poor evidence and that has given Ufology a bad name with the public and scientists alike.
Type `UFO' into Google and 41,900,000 entries appear. That says to me that the ET community hasn't gone away, just moved on-line in a big way. Unfortunately, UFO enthusiasts have also suffered by association with their loony element. Most of the sites that come up first are of the `right out there' fringe types, illustrating that UFOs, lizard races, Illuminati and the Masons are all in some grand league with one another to subjugate the human race to their will. Understandably, this kind of press is a deterrent to potential hobbyists. This doesn't really appeal to average Joe and neither does photographs of out-of-focus Frisbees at low altitude.
The lack of evidence
Additional evidence that is endlessly cited is "expert testimony." Pilots, astronauts, and others with experienced eyes and impressive credentials have all claimed to see odd craft in the skies. It's safe to say that these witnesses have seen something. But just because you don't recognize an aerial phenomenon doesn't mean that it's an extraterrestrial visitor. That requires additional evidence that, so far, seems to be as unconvincing as the trickery-free saucer snaps.
What about those folks who have experienced alien beings first-hand? Abduction stories are awash on the net and some of them are pretty convincing. While some people such as Budd Hopkins, a pioneer UFO abduction researcher who brings out people's abduction incidents under hypnosis, fully believe that aliens have visited us through the 700 cases he has researched, others such as Harvard's Susan Clancy think that most people who believe that they were abducted by aliens, don't have vivid memories of what happened and they just suspect they might have been abducted. These are based on certain experiences that they've read about, watched on TV, or seen at the movies.
The other problem with strange craft prowling our planet is not only with the lack of actual evidence but why are they actually coming here at all. Humans can be a rather evil species that would happily temporarily disengage from their own petty grievances to unite against the new arrivals, whether they were peaceful or not. On landing, we'd probably react similarly to the 1978 Fort Dix incident and just shoot first, thereby setting off a multi galaxy misunderstanding. Yikes.
If they truly want to make a grand peaceful entrance, perhaps they should do so at Glastonbury, or any other large rock concert that is awash in feel good drugs. Even though their first `coming out' meeting would most likely be with some spotty tripping teen asking what was wrong with their faces, it would nonetheless get rid of all of the scepticism/fanaticism that seems to have built up over the years with anal probes, clandestine visits and relations with the US government of all establishments. They would also find us at such events on rare good form.
The bottom line is that the evidence for extraterrestrial visitors has not convinced many scientists nor the remaining 50% of the population. Very few academics are writing papers for refereed journals about alien craft or their occupants. Confronted with this, the UFO experts usually take refuge in two possible explanations:
The US government has it all
Ahhh, of course. All the material that would be convincing proof has been collected and secreted away by the U.S. government for it's own ends. Granted, this is endlessly appealing to UFO fanatics but it is also tantamount to saying to saying "we can't show you any good evidence because we haven't got any", and implies to boot that governments the world over are seeking to obscure the truth from their populations.
Mainstream Science has simply refused to take a closer look at our evidence and have dismissed it as a crock
In other words, scientists should blame themselves for not been swayed by what is often at best patchy research performed by the parts of the UFO community.
The scientific community does take the existence of ET seriously. A lot of good research is been done by many scientists around the world, with the most commonly known group, SETI; tasking themselves and their legions of Internet-connected computers with listening and processing the endless streams of narrow-bandwidth radio signals from space. This is all in aid of detecting intelligent life outside of Earth but as yet they haven't found any. This doesn't mean ET isn't out there, just that we may not be listening in the right way. Or David Icke is right and there really is malicious extra-terrestrials out there that have thrown a "frequency net" around our planet to prevent us accessing higher forms of consciousness ;)
The burden of proof is on those making the claims, not those who find the data dubious. There are plenty of investigators out there that are convinced that craft from other worlds are buzzing ours and I think their passion and search for the truth is great.
But they have an obligation to present the absolute best evidence they have and not resort to explanations that appeal to conspiratorial cover-ups or the failure of others to be open to the idea.
These UFO advocates are not asking us to believe something either trivial or peripheral, because there could hardly be any discovery more dramatic or important than visitors from other worlds. All bad information and sensationalism does is harm the very thing they are trying to get governments and the public as a whole to take a second look at.
I for one already have my exhibit A; that of a strange evening filled with wondrous lights some 12 years ago. What I need now, is a compelling exhibit B that everyone can believe in.