First, on whether or not there has been any kind of concealment of the truth - that's been established. Not by kooks, but by the organizations themselves coming clean, at least insofar as whether they held any information back.
This does NOT mean that UFOs exist, don't exist, or eat beans on toast. What it DOES mean is that honesty has not been a hallmark of claims or counter-claims in the past. And THAT means that anything said now, by anyone, should be taken with a grain of salt the size of Mount Everest.
Second, if we =really, truly= wanted to know if UFOs existed, we could and would. The problem is that knowing would destroy the market that's built up, would put large numbers of investigators out of work, wreck havoc with the mystical worshipping that takes place, and finish the tourist industry in major "hot spots". In short, nether those "for" or "against" have any real desire to know for sure. The mystery is what is keeping them in business. No mystery, no business, no pay check.
Ok, so how can we know? Well, we know that the laws of physics as we understand them MUST be a valid subset of any future physics, within certain constrants.
For example, if an ancient Greek looked at an Aircraft Carrier, he obviously won't recognise what it "is", since such ships didn't exist in his/her time-frame. On the other hand, they know Archimedes' Principle. This would allow them to figure out the mass. They know things remain stationary, unless pushed, and can see that this mysterious vessel complies. They know that certain geometric constructions are impossible, and that (therefore) builders probably won't use these. Again, the vessel matches theory perfectly. An examination of the engines would leave the Ancient Greek in awe, but they would likely notice certain similarities with the engine that did exist in their world. As such, it would not be unreasonable to believe that they could figure out (in time) the nature and purpose of these machines.
Just from these few, simple "laws" as the Greeks understood them to be, a picture of the nature, function, design and technology required, could be built up. This is only possible because newer "laws" DON'T replace old ones, they extend or refine them. The old "laws", within the constraints for which they were intended, still work perfectly.
How does this apply? Easy. Let's play-pretend, for a moment, that some amazingly advanced civilization exists, has developed means to travel interstellar distances efficiently, and STILL wants to visit Earth. Whatever science these people posess, HOWEVER advanced it may be, MUST STILL be a well-defined superset of our own science, as it exists right now.
The science that we posess makes some things clear: Action and Reaction are Equal And Opposite. ie: To move in one direction, you must apply a force in the EXACT OPPOSITE direction to the NET direction you wish to change in, and have a magnitude EQUAL to the NET change in magnitude along that vector.
This does not place any limitations on the form of propulsion used, the form of engine, etc. All it does is stipulate that Newton's 1st, 2nd and 3rd Laws will still be obeyed in the 210th century as much as it is in the 21st.
What does this gain us? Well, for a start, when you apply a force, you're going to change your environment. That is inevitable. It follows that if no change occurs (HOWEVER SLIGHT), then no force was applied, and no real vehicle was observed.
What constitutes a change?
- Temperature variation, plus or minus, outside a couple of standard deviations from the immediate vicinity.
- Localized chemical variation in the atmosphere. (If you've ever used a diffraction grating, you'll know how to do this test. Since an absorbtion line will still be there, if -any- of a given chemical is present, this should be valid for a good many hours.)
- Meteorological variation, in excess of 2 standard deviations from expeected values, within a day or so of the observation. (Meteorology is not an exact science, but it's not too bad, either. However, as was noted in James Gleik's excellent book "Chaos", even slight variations can have massive knock-on effects, over time. A butterfly's wings can, potentially, affect the course of a storm, over a continent away, given several months. It seems reasonable, then, to assume a large, fast-moving vehicle, performing extreme manoevers, would affect the local weather patterns a good deal sooner.)
The observent reader will note that I repeatedly talk of variations in excess of 2 standard deviations. ANYTHING =can= happen, given long enough. The question is not "will it?", but "how likely is it?". The best any statistical test can show is that there is a given probability. Here, what I am seeking, is to produce a verifiable, repeatable test which will have one of three results:
- 1) That the observations are within the realms of what is likely to be observed anyway, with or without something being present.
- 2) That the observations are NOT explicable, if you assume the null hypothesis (that nothing is present), to within the threshold defined.
- 3) There is simply not enough information to produce a clear-cut answer. The results could mean anything. Go round and try again.
Essentially, my test(s) reduce to the following statistical test:
Null Hypothesis: There is, and has not been, anything in this locality, within a reasonably short timeframe, that has perturbed the natural state of this system.
(Null hypothesys are ALWAYS given in the form of assuming that there is nothing happening. The test then seeks to see the liklihood of that being true. Depending on your field, the test results are given either as a number of standard deviations from the "norm", or as a percentile liklihood of the null hypothesis being correct. For something like this you really should be looking at the 1% or even 0.5% probability. Anything higher is just too vague.)
The concept is simple enough. If there's something out there, it DOESN'T MATTER what science they have. Our science will be a subset of theirs, a special case. One won't replace the other. We saw that, with the example of the Ancient Greek. Our science is vastly superior in many ways, yet the Greek could easily derive much information, simply by applying a few basic principles.
If there =isn't= anything out there, then no amount of observation, however acute, will EVER distinguish the results from the expected results. The two will always be close enough together.
If there =is=, then one observation showing a self-consistant variation from the expected should be enough to convince every skeptic on Earth that it's not simply a pursuit of the gullible or foolish.
The bottom line is this. We don't NEED to be ignorant. If we are, it's by our own choice. The question I will ask is "Why choose ignorance?" (Of course, I answered that, earlier. Ignorance is much more profitable, and gives better job security.)