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UFOs and Aliens

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  1. Comment by Todd, 03 Feb, 2009

    Hi John. I feel annoyed with the Skeptics like you who claim to know everything about the phenomenon of UFOs. Your attitude is completely disrespectful to those who are trained as observers or credible levelheaded witnesses. There is a great deal of official documentation and serious research by even government authorities that state that at least some of the sightings are of unidentified phenomena.

    First off you put both UFOs and aliens into the same box, which I believe is a clever tactic in your argument. We all know that when you do that you bring the "fantastical" in to discredit a serious sighting....nice one. Aliens are a separate issue all together, but you know this anyway. What if they, (the ETs) had mastered intergalactic travel via means that are not apparent to science yet? It is a fair open-minded question, but alas as a Skeptic you cannot bring another mystery into the equation. So if they do traverse physical space over millions of light years exploring planets you and your fellow skeptics would say on meeting one (a google eyed eight legged creature), "It is impossible you are here so therefore you don't exist". My fellow "Average Joes" and I would stand back in disbelief also but at your reaction on this momentous of occasions.

    Speaking of the extra terrestrial argument you say that due to our understanding of physics it is impossible, so you are saying we know everything about physics? WOW they should stop the CERN project and stop wasting taxpayers money! It wasn't long ago that Newton had the last word on physics.

    So what does an average person like my father do when he and his wife spot an object that doesn't fit into the natural phenomena category do? He keeps his mouth shut! I don't blame him also with people who (like yourself) are not even willing to validate his experience. Intelligent people don't need a Skeptic to make them feel any more alone on the issue. By the way my father hasn't got a solid opinion as to what was operating the vehicle, (it was solid of appreciable size and flying in a controlled manner). It could very well have been of terrestrial origin but alas it displayed characteristics of flight and design that would make anything in Jane's Weekly look like the Wright Flyer 1903.

    I agree that every sighting needs to be looked at in detail before a claim is made, especially in the case of the UFO phenomenon, but please be prepared for the unexplainable too. People who see UFOs are not all crazies so please don't round them up with cult leaders, psychics, mediums and crystal ball gazers.

    Unexplainable UFOs could really come from out in space or they might be of Earth origin. If they were of Earth origin it would be reasonable to say that since they defy our common understanding of aerodynamics and physics, somewhere someone has developed some pretty amazing technology. It is not unreasonable to suggest that it would be an organisation that was connected to the military as new technology is usually developed and used there first. By the way Boeing has announced in the past (2004) that it was working on an electrogravitic drive to power a new generation of aircraft. This is not conspiracy talk.

    Of course there are more exotic explanations out there for the truly unexplainable sightings but even I struggle comprehending them.

    Anyway thank you for taking the time to read this.

  2. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 11 Feb, 2009

    Thanks for your comments Todd, but we believe your annoyance with our article seems to be based on several false beliefs. First, your belief that skeptics claim to know everything is a flawed stereotype of true skeptics. We certainly don't know everything — by any stretch of the imagination — and have never claimed to. Please don't confuse a little knowledge and confidence in our view as arrogance.

    You go on to say that we are "completely disrespectful to those who are trained as observers or credible levelheaded witnesses". Actually most people that spot UFOs are not trained observers, in fact I know of no course or occupation that trains someone to identify UFOs or alien spacecraft. Even pilots and military personnel who are often touted as 'trained observers' are nothing of the sort. And as we said in our article, being a "credible levelheaded witness" counts for nothing if you have no experience in identifying UFOs. You wouldn't trust a lawyer to identify a malignant melanoma on your skin, even though they may be credible and levelheaded, simply because they are not trained to do this. Suggesting that someone is mistaken is not being disrespectful, it is simply debating the topic, whereas acquiescing to the flawed opinion of a "credible witness" will not lead us to the truth. Remember that most UFO sightings are made by credible witnesses, and yet nearly all are eventually accepted as reaching false conclusions as to what they saw. Credible witnesses have a really bad track record.

    We agree that there is "official documentation and serious research" that shows that "at least some of the sightings are of unidentified phenomena", but this means nothing. Unidentified means exactly that, unidentified. It is evidence of unresolved sightings, not evidence of strange craft or aliens etc. You can't say it supports alien craft etc if you don't know what it was. Most sightings that remain unidentified do so because there is simply insufficient information to reach a conclusion.

    Next you mistakenly say that we "put both UFOs and aliens into the same box, which I believe is a clever tactic in your argument... Aliens are a separate issue all together". We are very clear that UFOs and aliens shouldn't be viewed as one and the same thing. That is one of our main arguments, that people simply aren't justified after seeing a UFO of inferring aliens. We also that "We believe it's possible that an alien could land tomorrow, or may have already landed... So please don't write stating that we're arrogant to claim that aliens couldn't exist. Once again, aliens are definitely possible, what we're talking about here is alien visitation, we're saying that the evidence for them coming here and abducting hillbillies is non-existent."

    You ask "What if they, (the ETs) had mastered intergalactic travel via means that are not apparent to science yet? It is a fair open-minded question, but alas as a Skeptic you cannot bring another mystery into the equation." 'What if' questions are all very well, but at the end of the day you have to reject them if there is no evidence to support the question. What if witches really existed, what if the world was hollow and populated by lava people, what if prayer really worked. I don't know why you think skeptics have never thought about intergalactic travel — although it's far more likely to be interstellar travel — especially since all the credible information and theories we have about the universe come from skeptical scientists. We don't say alien space travel isn't happening, we just say there is no evidence that they're visiting us.

    You then go on to insist that if aliens did visit earth, "you and your fellow skeptics would say on meeting one... "It is impossible you are here so therefore you don't exist"." Again, (obviously predicting your comment) I clearly say in our essay that "contrary to what some may insist, the skeptical mind is not so biased against aliens that it unconsciously morphs them into clouds or sheep. If a flying saucer landed on my front lawn I'm convinced I would see it for what it was. I would be extremely surprised, delighted and apprehensive, but not in denial." You follow this line of thought with your claim that we insist that visiting aliens are impossible due to our understanding of physics. Again you have falsely attributed some bogus assertion to us. In fact we said, "In addition to the fact that intelligent alien life could be quite rare, there are many other cogent arguments that all suggest that aliens visiting us would be extremely unlikely. Not impossible, but extremely unlikely."

    As for your father's UFO sighting, a few comments are in order. The most obvious being, if your father told no one for fear of ridicule, then how do you know of his sighting? You say your "father hasn't got a solid opinion" on what he saw, but the fact that he calls it a vehicle means it isn't a UFO. He has identified it as an artificially designed and constructed vehicle, he just doesn't know who built it or who was flying it. You say it was flying in a controlled manner, but then contradict yourself by saying it "displayed characteristics of flight" that obviously stood out because they didn't match what we expect from normal controlled flight. If your father was close enough to determine its size and consider its differences in design in comparison to all known aircraft, civilian or military, then he has gained considerably more information than most observers get. With this confidence, it's surprising that he wasn't willing to relate his experience to others. You say that he kept quiet because people like myself are "not even willing to validate his experience". It's true I wouldn't blindly validate his experience if by validate you mean corroborate or authenticate his claim of seeing an "alien" vehicle. However if by validate you simply mean accept that he saw something in the sky that he couldn't identify, then I have no problem accepting his experience. As I said in our article, I personally have seen two UFOs and experienced waking up paralysed etc. We make it perfectly clear that these experiences happen to sane, rational, normal people where they see things they can't identify or experience feelings they don't understand. Our gripe is that rather than ask experts if they can explain what they might have experienced, people like your father keep it to themselves, and rely on their limited knowledge to jump to an unwarranted conclusion. Unlike you or your father, many of my friends and acquaintances have happily described unusual experiences to me in the hope that I might have an answer. They didn't feel that I was going to ridicule them. Likewise I suspect your father would have no problem asking the local astronomical society what a particular star he saw in the sky was. He would be willing to admit his ignorance and ask for assistance. No one fears they'll be ridiculed for asking about unidentified stars or aircraft, people only fear ridicule asking about flying saucers. Your father's unwillingness to speak out means that he has put his sighting into the flying saucer category. He has already made up his mind as to what it was he saw. This refusal to discuss, debate or openly research UFOs and aliens means that people negate the chance that someone will rationally explain what it was they saw. Since the validity of their sighting is never challenged, they remain convinced that their conclusion is the correct one.

    As for suggesting that we say people who see UFOs are crazies, nothing could be further from the truth. Our argument is that people who see UFOs and have weird experiences are completely normal in most cases. What we tried to explain is that some people falsely, and with no real justification, go on to believe that these experiences were caused by flying saucers and aliens. If your father saw an unidentified object in the sky then this is completely normal, but if he then convinces himself, while refusing to discuss it with others, that he has seen an "alien" vehicle, then this is not normal, rational behaviour. Like the crazies you mention — cult leaders, psychics, mediums and crystal ball gazers — he is refusing to have his beliefs tested or examined.

    You say that UFOs might even be of earth origin, and if so, probably connected to the military. Again you make the false assumption that UFOs are actual vehicles of some sort, rather than some natural phenomenon, although I agree that many UFO sightings can probably be put down to conventional aircraft etc. However it is unbelievable that the military has this amazing technology — and has had it for decades if not centuries — and yet refuses to use it. They continue to go to war and spy on their neighbours with aircraft, weapons and technology that is positively antiquated compared to the craft and technologies reported by UFO observers. The other 'earth origin' view that some put forward, that some hidden, advanced race of humans — from Atlantis or what ever — is responsible for UFO sightings is as silly as saying Bigfoot is responsible for most of our graffiti.

    I'm sorry Todd but you will not convince us that aliens are visiting us by simple statements like, "Yeah, but what if aliens had mastered intergalactic travel, what if we were being visited?". This is nothing but wishful thinking. I for one would love to meet a friendly alien, but realise this is unlikely. Nor will accusing us of being closed-minded or the sincere convictions of your father be sufficient to sway our view. Robust evidence is the only thing that will convince us. Believers keep insisting that this evidence exists, so why won't it stand up to scrutiny?

    As long as people continue to suppress their sightings through fear of ridicule, then this belief in alien visitation will continue. If instead they just honestly inquired about something they couldn't identify in the sky then they would realise that their sighting most likely had a rational explanation, and they would most likely learn something amazing about the universe in the process. They saw something alright, bit it wasn't an alien in his spaceship, a witch on her broomstick or a god in his fiery chariot.

    Thanks again for your comments. While we have differing views, it's always interesting to consider opposing thoughts.

  3. Comment by Todd, 17 Feb, 2009

    Hi John, thanks for replying... First off I would like to apologise for the tone I took in response to the UFO article... I do understand that skeptics are interested in using scientific reason and rational thought, which by the way I respect.

    I totally agree with you that the great majority of people are not reliable (trained) observers but to say a pilot is not trained in observation is not something I agree with. They are all too aware of natural phenomena, aerial traffic and visual landmarks. They see Venus not to mention the other planets, stars, cosmic dust and re-entry vehicles. It is therefore a fact that the majority of pilots are able to identify phenomena that doesn't conform to the usual. I wouldn't want to fly with a pilot that didn't have the ability to make accurate observations, would you? Military pilots have to rely on accurate observation skills (probably less these days) in order to carry out offensive strikes on targets. Their mistakes like their civilian counterparts can cost lives. But like you said they didn't get formal education on UFO identification. Well I say they don't need to really. A pilot would probably be only expected to file a report of his/her observation. What they (the pilot) speculate in their private life is up to them. The interesting thing about the pilot hypothesis is that both planes and the airports on terra firma have radar. On a rare occasion a sighting is made by a pilot and reported to control tower, observed by passengers, spotted on radar on both the aircraft and ground control. Is this classed as evidence? There have been reports of this kind that suggest a solid object, sometimes of a considerable size flying at incredible speeds performing seemly impossible manoeuvres, all caught on radar. Radar readings should be classed as evidence along with corroborating sightings because unless an object crashes (or the bumper falls off!) or they land and drop a cigarette lighter there will be no solid evidence forthcoming. As for trained UFO spotting per se governments have researched this topic (Project Blue Book, and the cynically named Grudge) so I'd say they would be the best positioned to identify craft but probably still remain in the dark as to the origin and composition of the phenomena, that is unless further knowledge hasn't been acquired.

    I think the whole idea of utilising credible witness information is a requirement in any investigation. Our legal system requires it in solving crimes. A witness is usually cross-examined before their testimony is considered truthful or not. So if in the case of UFOs the witness, or better still witnesses, describe something truly unexplained, I think you would have to take it seriously. It is then up to the investigator to say that it is either natural phenomenon as it is in most cases, or that it is anomalous in which case it is a UFO. My question to anybody that has a sighting is who you go to anyway to report such things. An astronomical society could only confirm if Venus or some other natural event is behaving in the manner that the witness describes which is fine if the circumstances do fit the phenomena seen. I would go to an astronomer if I had a distant sighting of a "strange light". If I had a close sighting i.e. I saw a solid object of an appreciable size performing a display of aerobatic prowess I think my choices of people to tell, particularly in New Zealand are nil. For my own curiosity I would ring the airport and ask if they had anything on their radar or if their pilots had spotted anything in that vicinity at that time. I would also contact the police.

    I'm curious to know more about your two sightings, I've never seen anything in the sky that I can't put down to the usual. Who did you contact or speak to before you came to the decision that you indeed saw a UFO. Don't you ever speculate as to the origin and composition of "your UFOs"? Or as a Skeptic you just say that what you saw was anomalous and until you have further evidence the jury is out. What about trying to get to the bottom of it? It drives me crazy that people like you and my dad can see this stuff and there appears to be no answers forth coming. I'm an advocate for answers! Alas speculation lacks evidence.

    Now I'd like to go into detail about my father's experience regarding his sighting. In March of 1995 my father and stepmother were returning home from a 50th birthday party. Both were sober, my father cannot consume alcohol in quantity at all (he has fibromyalgia) and I've never seen my stepmum indulge either. My father had to drive from Christchurch to Waikari (in North Canterbury), roughly 45 minutes driving. It was in the early hours of the morning. When my parents reached Leithfield they saw a bright light in the direction of Amberley. They continued driving and observed the motionless green light throughout. As they neared the light they saw that it was multiple lights. My parents continued to get closer. As they got closer they realised that the lights were attached to a triangular solid object that according to my father was as "big as a house". My parents continued past the object. My dad though was curious and turned back! He brought the car to a stop and got out of the car in spite of my stepmothers protests. The object began to move slowly over the car and cross the road. My parents were right underneath the craft and was only tens of metres away. The object then stopped momentarily and then shot off in a south westerly direction (my dad described it disappearing into a dot in seconds!). The local newspaper also reported people seeing strange lights in the location of the Loburn district, the direction that my dad's object was heading. Do you think an astronomer can help here? One skeptic I spoke to said it could have been an airship...... man (Steven Novella) has never seen an airship fly! I think the Hindenburg could have done with such flight abilities at Lakehurst that day. So John has my dad seen a UFO or did he witness Venus, swamp gas, migrating Godwits, a crop duster doing the late shift. I'd be curious as to what you think, but if I follow your logic that there are no trained observers for this phenomenon you would be unable to provide answers. He describes the UFO as a vehicle because it was solid and moving in a controlled manner. It was flying in the sense that it was up in the air and moving but it did not move like a conventional aircraft which relies on airspeed or thrust to stay aloft. There was no sound what so ever which is amazing since it came to a complete stop then accelerated to an amazing speed within seconds. Usually there would have been a rushing sound of air resistance but none was heard, or for that matter felt. My dad related the story to me because he knows that I have an interest in the subject and because we are family. Like I said before there is no one in this country who is conducting investigations in to this subject that we are/were aware of. In this case an observatory would have been unable to provide an explanation. Air traffic control would have been a good place to ask about anomalous blips etc but then again he never thought to ring there. I would have done that myself if it had of come to mind back then. As far as him not having a solid opinion on what he saw, that was with regards to its origin, this is what he "mulls over" these days. What expert could give him an explanation after seeing what can only be described as extraordinary? I assert there is no such expert here. A UFO is "all" he saw. For the others who saw the moving lights that night and reported to the newspaper, they could have had their sighting explained by an astronomer even though it could well have been my dad's one seen at a distance "hitting warp factor 9". An astronomer might have told those people that they had seen Leonid meteoroids hitting the atmosphere, if they only saw it at my dad's proximity.

    I can understand why many people don't come forward with giving information surrounding a sighting. Most people who truly witness something amazing usually just want to get on with their lives. Based on our current understanding there is no one who can tell them what they witnessed if it truly was a UFO. They will be no better off if they do tell the wrong people ("helpful" fringe UFO cults or Woman's Day). If they tell an astronomer they will get told it was Venus or Saturn depending on the month or time of day or space junk, meteorites if they occurred at that time. Who are the experts John? Skeptics? I think most people want to just know what they saw.

    I'm glad you are not opposed to concept of aliens' actually visiting earth. I'm afraid there are scientists who completely rule this out according to our current understanding of physics. I find that attitude completely counterproductive in the debate. In my email I didn't state that UFOs are evidence for alien visitation, that would be ridiculous to jump to such an assumption, but aliens cannot be ruled out as a possibility no matter how unlikely in your estimation. Popular culture throws the alien hypothesis to the forefront in many people's minds, which is unfortunate (probably to sell advertising on TV). As for the terrestrial hypothesis, you also cannot rule this out no matter how uncomfortable you are with this also. Boeing has already admitted to researching in antigravity drives (links here and here). As for the military having in possession advanced technologies and not using them therefore they don't exist is a flawed argument. How many people knew of the Manhattan Project before they devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, no one outside of the inner sanctum. They retired the SR71 after the 1st Gulf War so what took its place? Speaking of the first Gulf War the F117 nighthawk and B2 spirit bomber were rolled out for the first time, how many of us knew about these amazing new stealth aircraft? They were considered Black Projects until they turned up at air shows. Because they are on show it probably means that the next development is still under cover judging from the past history of releasing information to the Joe public. To be honest the average citizens do not have a "low down" on the current technology anyway. We see a stealth bomber amble into the air at sub sonic speeds but who knows what it can really do. Do you? Keeping secrets is what the military thrive on as it gives them the advantage over their perceived enemies so disclosure of everything they have is plain dumb. If the military had craft that emulated UFO flight characteristics would they bother using that if they could get away with using a B52 bomber? Against a more formidable enemy I would expect them to use the "good stuff". The US military is "fighting terrorists" so why bother sticking it to them with anything more than a few soldiers and an A10 aircraft. If you look at it in money terms it means that the US government can continue to expend some old Vietnam era ordinance on a pack of Fundamentalists and protect oil interests, but that's another story eh. Who knows how the military would use such a "weapon" that had the characteristics of a UFO, you seem to assume that they would use it to obliterate all that stand before it, why? I never asserted in my letter they (the military) had this so called technology for centuries either. By the way I use the term military but if they are of terrestrial origin it could be another branch of government (usually US) or outside that operates such craft.

    Of the whole extraterrestrial phenomenon I find the abduction phenomena the most hard to deal with. I don't think ridiculing these abductees is the answer though. If some of them did suffer from mental illness and were delusional they need a break! Of course with the contactee and abductee phenomenon you will get more emotive sensational and sometimes delusional testimony. That is not to say though that it could not happen. This area does smell of cult like activity more than anything.

    Please don't be too pedantic regarding distances in space, intergalactic just came out. Interstellar does present a better option...

    Again I'd like to think you for your reply, you seem like a nice enough person. I think after considering your reply I am not to far away from your position in many respects. But I differ in others. I agree that claims such as yours and my father's demand scrutiny but also demand continued research. What has to be understood also is that the witnesses of a "close encounter" to borrow from Hollywood should be treated with humility and respect because they could very well have witnessed something truly amazing.

    By the way I'm looking forward to when they finally turn on the Large Hadron Collider sometime soon. That's cutting edge stuff. Cheers.

  4. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Mar, 2009

    Hi Todd. Thanks for your interesting comments, so get comforatable and I'll try and give you my take on some of them.

    I agree that you'd think that pilots would be better equipped to identify things in the sky than a layperson, but unfortunately this belief is a myth. You mentioned the Project Blue Book run by the USAF and the experts working for it as being the "best positioned to identify craft". However UFO researcher Philip J. Klass has revealed that "When the late Dr J Allen Hynek [the chief scientific consultant for Project Blue Book] reanalysed UFO reports in the USAF files, he found that pilots were as readily mislead by prosaic objects as persons in other professions." The fact is that while most pilots can easily identify a Boeing from an Airbus from a Cessna, most will have never seen a fireball or a re-entry vehicle blazing through the sky. Nor will they be trained to navigate by the stars. Ask the next pilot you meet if he can visually identify a planet from a star.

    You're right that radar data is evidence, but only evidence of "something". Radar is not as selective as people believe, recording everything from rain to seagulls. It is rare that a visual sighting of a UFO is matched with radar data, but even when it is, this is merely evidence of "something", perhaps a fireball or a top secret military test flight. The addition of radar evidence is better than just visual evidence, but it is still very inconclusive evidence and certainly not evidence of aliens or a controlled craft of some description.

    You talk about credible witnesses and the legal system. You will be aware of recent research that demonstrates the often-flawed nature of eyewitness testimony. A witness can be credible, honest and completely sincere in reporting what they believed they witnessed, but still be completely wrong. Most everyone agrees — except in cases of hoaxes — that people who see UFOs did observe something strange in the sky that they couldn't explain. I take it seriously that your father saw "something". But I won't take it a step further and seriously believe that he saw a controlled craft of some description unless more substantial evidence is produced. I have read many accounts of where people — including pilots — were convinced they had seen alien craft, which simply turned out to be them misidentifying some natural phenomena. Remember that over 90% of credible witnesses who believe they have observed a "real" UFO turn out to be mistaken. They weren't lying, they simply reached a flawed conclusion regarding what is often just a fleeting glimpse of an object at night.

    You ask who does one report these UFO sightings to, what expert do we turn to? First, as you allude to, there is no single expert that can always give a definitive answer. As you say, much depends on what the "UFO" really was. Sometimes an astronomer will be able to explain a sighting if it involves celestial objects such as planets, meteors, fireballs, satellites etc. Daytime sightings might require a meteorologist, for such things as cloud formations, weather balloons etc. Then you might want to consult airports as to local flight paths, flight arrivals and departures, and unplanned fight activity such as search and rescue, air ambulance and fire-fighting. Who do you ask about the activity of hot air balloons, hang gliders and micro-lights? What about hobbyists building and test firing rockets? What about advertising planes towing banners? Who in NZ do you call about the re-entry of space junk? Do you ask the local high school if their science classes have been performing any outdoors science experiments that are out of the ordinary? Was there an outdoor rock concert miles away using a laser light show? Do you ask the police if teenagers have been caught hoaxing "flying saucers"? Do you consult a physicist, chemist or biologist, especially if you're in strange country? Maybe it wasn't an alien but just a friendly fruit bat? Maybe you should even consult a psychologist, because perhaps your experience was a rare but perfectly natural illusion created in your mind, like seeing patterns in clouds that aren't really there.

    My point is, the first person you ask may have the answer, but most likely not. If one "expert" can't identify what you saw as belonging to their field of expertise, then you need to keep asking. I have sometimes found "experts" — amateur astronomers, scientists, doctors etc — to be grossly ignorant on matters outside their field of expertise. Surveys have also shown this, and with specialisation it is to be expected. You for example mention contacting the police, and while I have great confidence in the police to perform their policing duties, I have no confidence that your average police officer could reliably identify anything in the night sky. All they could be relied on is as a collection point for phone calls from concerned citizens.

    Should you ask a skeptic? Skeptical organisations and some skeptics can be a good place to seek answers. Of course many skeptics, while they may not personally believe in aliens and UFOs, have no real interest in or knowledge of UFO sightings. Their skeptical interests may be in ghosts or psychics or Bigfoot. Asking these particular skeptics about UFOs is no more reliable than asking your plumber. However, some skeptics are interested in UFOs and have amassed a broad knowledge from astronomy, physics, meteorology, aviation, psychology, physiology etc. Rather than specialising in one field — although some may be professionals — they seek answers from numerous fields. They perform the task of interviewing the UFO observer and visiting the site of the event. They consult the astronomers, the physicists, the pilots, the air traffic controllers, the psychologists, the police etc and analysing all this information they try and explain what the UFO observer saw. And in at least nine out of ten cases rational, prosaic, natural explanations are reached. Skeptics interested in the UFO phenomena have the advantage of pooling knowledge from many different fields, whereas the local astronomical society — while they can tell you where planets are in the sky etc — often have no interest in UFOs. Likewise the local air traffic controllers can tell you what planes are around but again usually have no interest in or knowledge of UFOs. And neither astronomer nor air traffic controller knows anything about the delusions the mind can create, for that you need a psychologist, who in turn knows nothing about the movements of planets, meteors or local aircraft. Because UFOs can be caused by many completely unrelated things, for example astronomical, meteorological, aviation, psychological etc, no one "expert" has the required expertise to say that all UFO enquiries should be directed to them. No particular expert — an astronomer for example — will solve a UFO sighting if they insist on explaining it using their field of knowledge — like astronomy — when it might have been caused by an aircraft or, as you say, swamp gas. This is where skeptics have an advantage, being prepared to give numerous "experts" the chance to offer a solution and selecting the most likely or rejecting them all. But not all skeptics are created equal, some will be fonts of knowledge regarding UFOs, others know next to nothing and some shouldn't even call themselves skeptics. You need to choose wisely.

    As we noted in our article, there is a place in NZ that claims to be able to help people with their UFO sightings. That organisation is UFOCUS NZ, but as we also explained they are made up of committed believers who see aliens everywhere. They lack the knowledge or objectivity to investigate UFO sightings or counsel UFO observers as to what they may have seen.

    As regards the two UFO sightings I've had, perhaps I wasn't clear, but I said that I managed to observe them long enough to determine exactly what they were. They ceased being a UFO — an unidentified thing in the sky — and became an IFO — an identified, perfectly natural thing in the sky. For a short time though both sightings were highly unusual, resembled nothing I'd seen before — except in alien movies — and didn't match up with how things normally behave. Briefly, the first was an oval shape, solid in appearance, silvery with coloured flashing lights along the bottom, which was hovering about 100 metres up. It appeared to be about the size of a bus about a kilometre away, and I saw it in broad daylight.

    As I watched it hover in the sky I suddenly discovered what it was — a Boeing 737 approaching the nearby airport. Slowing down to land, it was coming directly towards me, and thus appeared to be hovering. The angle of sunlight caused its body to almost glow, while its tail and wings were completely invisible. It was only when it turned slightly that suddenly the plane's body, wings and tail all became clearly visible and it stopped appearing to hover and started to fly like planes do.

    My second UFO sighting was in an unfamiliar place just after dark and I noticed a bright light at some distance above the horizon. It was moving erratically, one minute travelling horizontally, then it would stop momentary and then travel in the opposite direction, loosing height slightly as it went. Sometimes the light would switch off then back on, and as I watched it stop and hover it was suddenly joined by a second light, then it became one light again and darted off to the left or right. It didn't seem that far away, but there was no sound. It continued this zigzag pattern, as if it was scanning the ground for something, occasionally hovering, momentarily splitting into two lights and back to one, then near the horizon it just suddenly vanished.

    So what was this strange light in the sky? Simple really, it was a car driving a zigzag road down the side of a steep nearby hill. The darkness meant the hill blended into the sky and was invisible, as was the car, but as it travelled left and right one headlight could be seen. As has it went behind various obstacles the light appeared to switch off. When it turned a sharp corner to reverse direction, it would be coming directly towards me and appeared to hover. This is when its two headlights became visible, becoming one again when it travelled perpendicular to me. When the car got near what I thought was the horizon it disappeared because the road was no longer in my line of sight. Because I'd "forgotten" that there was a hill where I was looking, and because I had no idea that there was a road on the face of it anyway, the thought that what I was seeing might be a car didn't make any sense and wasn't initially considered. Cars live on the ground not in the sky. However, eventually I discovered (and confirmed in the daylight) that there was a hill there and a road and the explanation of car headlights fitted my sighting perfectly.

    In hindsight it's obvious what I was looking at and a little embarrassing that I was unable to recognise the objects immediately. It seems so simple now, and no doubt many UFO believers will say what I saw wasn't a "real" UFO sighting since it was just a plane and a car. Also some might argue that I only confused the plane for a UFO because the sighting only lasted a brief time, around ten seconds, and that you can't describe everything that you don't immediately recognise as a UFO. Yet let's remember that most UFO sightings are very brief, and then they're over. The air traffic controller who is part of UFOCUS NZ only saw the object that made him an alien and UFO believer for 1.5 seconds!!! The main difference with my sighting and most others is that after my brief amazement and confusion, the object that I was watching didn't suddenly vanish and I was given the opportunity to observe it further. If I had gone to get a camera or a friend it would have seemed to have "vanished" when I returned, and all I would have been left with is the image of a hovering, flashing, "flying saucer" like object. An object that must have departed at some phenomenal speed while emitting no sound. A real mystery.

    But this is the nature of all UFOs, they are only mysterious when you don't know what they are. If you don't find out then they remain mysterious, but if like me and nearly all UFO observers, once you discover what the cause really was, it is often quite mundane. Unfortunately some people only get to experience the mysterious part of a sighting, and for whatever reason, they never discover the real cause of their sighting. It's like reading a murder mystery and then discovering that the last chapter of the book is missing. You never get to find out who done it. You spend the rest of your life guessing who the murderer might have been, just as UFO believers spend their days guessing who might have flown the craft they saw — aliens, ghosts, Jesus, black ops military, beings from another dimension, citizens from Atlantis?

    Had I not discovered what I had seen, you are correct in saying that as a skeptic I would simply insist that strange as it was, I couldn't identify what I saw "and until I have further evidence the jury is out". I would not insist I had seen an alien spacecraft or some unknown controlled craft. No one is justified in jumping to this conclusion. Both my UFO sightings were — initially — as weird and mysterious as any other UFO sighting. The first was the typical flying saucer shape, hovering with flashing lights. The second was a bright light in the sky performing strange aerial manoeuvres and "ejecting" another light, perhaps an alien probe, before instantly disappearing, perhaps due to fantastic acceleration. I'm sure I could get my sightings published in any UFO magazine — as long as I don't tell people what they really were. I was lucky enough to discover the source of my confusion, but unfortunately many UFO observers aren't. Another UFO sighting I "experienced" involved a friend who alerted me to a bright light in the sky just above the horizon. He said it was just hovering there, and that it wasn't a star or anything like that because it was too bright and even though it was dusk, there were no other stars in the sky. Following him outside I immediately recognised it as a planet, probably Venus I said. To prove this to him, we noted where it was in the sky and I took him inside and showed him on my computer's starchart program that Venus should be exactly where the bright, hovering light was. I also showed him where it would move to during the night, and we regularly went out and confirmed that it was following the path Venus would take. My friend was initially convinced that he was seeing a UFO, something out of the ordinary, and certainly not an astronomical object. I wonder how he would have described his UFO sighting to others if I hadn't set him straight? Evidence shows that nearly all UFO sightings take the form of my friend's, that is, that the UFO observer is initially convinced that he or she has seen something that is out of the ordinary. Then on discussing it with others, someone provides the explanation of what they actually saw, and it was perfectly normal after all. No exotic explanation involving mysterious forces or secretive government agencies or advanced aliens is required. From thousands of sightings, the handful that defy natural explanations remain unsolved because the available evidence — a blurry photo or a vague recollection or a description of a fleeting image — is simply insufficient to a make reliable judgement. Without exception, every UFO sighting, no matter how mysterious and seemingly unsolvable its description appears, when enough information has been provided and sufficient research performed, they all produce rational, prosaic explanations. Even honest UFO believers acknowledge that most sightings have ordinary explanations and that many that were touted for years as genuine mysteries have now been solved or exposed as hoaxes. However I recently watched a program on TV called "The World's Ten Best UFO Sightings" (or something similar), and yet the viewer wasn't informed that most had been explained or exposed as hoaxes, and the one or two that remain mysteries do so because the evidence is just so slim. Bogus programs like this convince the uninformed that there is good evidence for alien craft, when in fact they are just as devious as programs that say ghosts are real or that psychics can solve murders. They are made for people who want their fantasies confirmed rather than examined.

    Now to your father's sighting. You ask "So John has my dad seen a UFO or did he witness Venus, swamp gas, migrating Godwits, a crop duster doing the late shift". To start with, yes your father definitely saw a UFO. By this I mean he honestly saw something in the sky that he couldn't identify. Regardless of what it was — Venus, Godwits or a flying saucer — as long as your father is unable to identify it, it remains a UFO. If however by UFO you or he really mean alien spacecraft or secretive, controlled, highly advanced craft of some description, then no, he hasn't seen a UFO, since he has identified the object he saw as a secretive, controlled, highly advanced craft of some description. This is no different than a UFO being identified as a planet or fireball or helicopter or weather balloon. As soon as someone makes this judgement, then the UFO title disappears. If your father has identified his UFO as some physical craft — albeit of unknown design and origin — then the UFO title disappears. But like the astronomer who must provide convincing reasons and evidence as to why a UFO sighting was actually Venus, your father must likewise provide convincing reasons and evidence as to why it was a controlled craft.

    You say "He describes the UFO as a vehicle because it was solid and moving in a controlled manner. It was flying in the sense that it was up in the air and moving but it did not move like a conventional aircraft which relies on airspeed or thrust to stay aloft."

    I fail to see how people can assert that flight patterns that don't resemble what we normally consider controlled flight are actually good evidence for controlled flight. Surely it should be just the opposite? Flight patterns that appear erratic, random and/or death inducing should suggest the whims of nature rather than conscious control. Is a leaf as it flutters down from a branch moving in a controlled manner? Is its left right gently descending zigzag motion controlled flight? And remember that a leaf's quick reversal of direction is often what is described for UFOs. What about a weather balloon ascending into the atmosphere, a meteor blazing across the night sky or a child's runaway balloon flitting left then right and up and down in a seemingly haphazard manner? A manner again reminiscent of many UFO flight patterns. Weird flight patterns observed in nature generally suggest just the opposite to controlled flight.

    And all your father can really say is that it "appeared" solid, in a similar way that the moon "appears" like a disc rather than a sphere. I know this might seem pedantic, but since we are talking about an unidentified "object" we shouldn't use words that suggest we know more about it than we actually do.

    I suspect that you take none of those explanations you mention seriously, and I agree that none are likely to have caused the sighting. For the record, Venus, the planet most often confused as a UFO was not visible in the sky in March 1995. Swamp gas doesn't fit your description, Godwits to my knowledge don't glow or have onboard lights, and neither Godwits or crop dusters remain stationary in the sky. However there was a bright planet in the sky in March that was low in the sky and was located in the very direction you indicated. If it was a clear night Mars would have been quite noticeable directly through the windscreen as they drove towards Amberley. It would have remained motionless but it wouldn't have appeared green. However some cars do have a green tinted strip across the top of their windscreens which are invisible at night but do make objects viewed through them green. Did your father's car have such a strip? Of course Mars couldn't be confused with multiple lights and a large object that moved across the road. However it has been demonstrated in many explained sightings that people's attention often moves from one light source to another completely different one without them realising it. Contrary to what people say, they normally do not watch a light continuously, especially when driving. The light may go behind a cloud or disappear completely and when people look up again, they then search for the missing light, and often settle on another light in a slightly different direction that is higher, or larger or a different colour. They simply believe this means the light — or craft — has moved closer. Some would admit that Mars might explain the first part of the sighting but not the second, so obviously Mars can be discounted. Likewise some might agree that a night flying helicopter might explain parts of the close encounter but not the stationary green light in the sky, so the helicopter suggestion can be ruled out. But often there is not one simple answer but a combination of things that make up a sighting, especially one that lasts for some time. You don't say how bright the original light was or how big, say compared to the stars. Nor do you say how far away they thought it was when they first spotted it, or how long they drove before it turned into multiple lights and then appeared to be triangular. Seemingly, when they first spotted it, it was reasonably high in the sky yet when they got close it was only tens of metres above the ground. I know you're only giving me a quick description of what happened, but this means that I have a host of unanswered questions that prevent me from saying what your father might have seen. A true investigation would retrace the route looking for artificial lights, determine exactly where the sighting began and ended, research helicopter flights for that time, eg air ambulance, get your stepmother's view of the event, interview those in the Loburn district for their view etc etc. However few people talk about these events when they occur. When and if they are eventually recounted there are so many missing details that are needed to solve the case that they usually remain a mystery. Which is a shame.

    Many people believe that no one will take them seriously if they report a UFO sighting, and so they keep quiet, and then they get annoyed years later because no one has explained their UFO sighting. Unfortunately some people bring this potential of derision upon themselves. Rather than just honestly say they saw some thing that they can't explain, detail want they saw objectively, and ask for opinions, all some people want is confirmation that they have seen aliens in a flying saucer. It is this firm belief that they know what they saw and that any explanation had better include aliens or at the very least a super top secret aircraft that resembles a flying saucer. UFO sightings can happen anywhere and to anyone, but it's some people's desire to automatically associate them with aliens that causes others to giggle. It's like those morons on the TV news that keep proclaiming, "It's a miracle. Praise God. Thank you Jesus", every time someone survives an accident or recovers from a serious illness. They continue to see God's involvement in perfectly natural events, just as UFO believers continue to see alien involvement in any sighting in the sky that they can't personally explain. If UFO observers want to be taken seriously then they have to demonstrate that they are simply looking for an explanation, and that they will be perfectly willing to accept a prosaic, rational, natural explanation if it fits the available evidence. However too many UFO observers take the stance that if they believe the evidence is inconclusive then they're going to side with the alien answer rather than take a stance of neutrality. Their default position is that it was aliens until proven otherwise. Rational people do not look on this attitude kindly.

    You mention that one possible explanation for UFOs is the "terrestrial hypothesis", that the military or some covert branch of government has developed and is secretly operating what the public might describe as "flying saucer" type craft. I believe there are number of problems with this scenario.

    Firstly I do agree that the military will have all manner of things that we are not aware of and that they only release innovations when they are already working on the next version. And I know you didn't assert that the military has had this advanced technology for centuries, but this is the first problem.

    If the UFO sightings can be explained by human developed "flying saucer" type craft rather than aliens, then we have had them for centuries. UFO believers claim that these craft are mentioned in the Bible and throughout history, and were already highly advanced during WWII at the very least. UFO sightings haven't just started in the last few years. This means that the military or government developed highly advanced "flying saucer" type craft long before they developed radar, the transistor, the jet engine, the computer, nuclear power, spy satellites, GPS or lasers, all of which they were willing to divulge the existence of to the public as they developed them. But for some reason they refused to tell us about their new aircraft propulsion system. Note that this is the only revolutionary thing that these craft seem to possess — a new type of engine. Stories from alien abductees aside, there is nothing to suggest that these manmade "flying saucers" have better weapons, navigation systems, toilets or more legroom.

    Not only that, they refused to even use them secretly, even in war. Not in WWII, not in Korea, not in Vietnam or Somalia where they were forced to make embarrassing retreats and not in Iraq or Afghanistan where they are again losing the battle. UFOs would be a formidable weapon since they nearly always mange to avoid radar detection — this is what they're trying to achieve with their stealth aircraft (obviously a different branch of the military) — and are capable of phenomenal speeds and manoeuvres. Only very rarely are they ever sighted carrying out whatever it is that they are doing. Thus a military UFO could swoop in and destroy a target without ever being detected. A building or enemy fighter jet would just suddenly explode without any obvious cause. As you say, the military love keeping their best weapons secret, and they could easily use this weapon and still keep it secret. If pushed they could just say it was a new version of cruise missile, which again they are happy to tell us about. Yet there is no history of this happening, of targets exploding for no reason. There are many things they could use these "flying saucer" craft for, yet there is no indication that they are. They are, as you say, using "Vietnam era ordinance" and getting their asses kicked. Why have UFO craft and not use them? They could still keep them secret and just say the surveillance information was obtained from spy satellites and drones and the destruction caused by cruise missiles and stealth bombers. They could win the war without having to reveal their secret technology. Also believers claim that they are testing these craft at the secret military base Area 51, but if they've been flying since Biblical times, or at least the 1940s, then you'd think they would be perfected by now rather than still in development mode. And one wonders how they fly so well without computers when our primitive fighter jets require them?

    Anyone that claims that the "military" has only developed these craft in the last decade or so, must also believe that all historic UFO sightings and those deemed by UFO believers to be genuine, are all bogus, since they all occurred prior to the craft's development. Yet the modern day UFO sightings all resemble the historic UFO sightings, so if historic sightings are bogus, then their similar modern day sightings are most likely bogus too. Whatever natural phenomena caused the historic sightings most likely caused the recent ones as well.

    Of course to take the opposite stance, if one believes that the famous historic UFO cases are actually genuine, then it must be explained how some group — military, government, mad scientist — could develop such an advanced technology prior to the development of our present science and technology. And it must be explained why they keep this relatively simple and unimportant thing — a vehicle propulsion system — secret while divulging other more earth-shattering discoveries. Like nuclear bombs and biological weapons.

    Another problem is with where UFOs are seen — everywhere. Let's assume that, the Americans for example, have developed flying saucers, why then are UFOs spotted not just in the USA but in Russia, Japan, Mexico, Australia, India — in fact all over the world — even in Kaikoura and Amberley, NZ? You state that the military keeps its new weapons secret, but it seems every country on the planet gets to view the UFOs. Are American UFO pilots taking their top secret craft for joyrides around the world? What might they have found so fascinating in a paddock near Amberley? For a group that is desperately trying to keep the existence of their flying saucer technology secret, they are certainly going about it in a strange way. Like why do they like to chase aircraft and cars and risk being seen? Our planes have onboard radar and can detect approaching objects, so why could the secret craft your father saw not detect his car approaching and move away before he got there or simply switch off it lights? And why do these highly advanced craft even need bright lights? I thought they were trying to remain hidden? Our "primitive" planes don't need lights to fly and our military pilots have night vision goggles, so why are these advanced UFOs stuck with shining spotlights around? And why did this craft fly leisurely right over the top of your father instead of immediately fleeing in the opposite direction in seconds as he said it later did, but only after it gave your father a good view? It's as if they want to be exposed.

    Another problem with a convert group having "flying saucers" is that from which all conspiracy theories suffer. It is unbelievable that an endeavour that would require enormous resources, manpower and intellectual input to develop and maintain could be kept secret. Not one of the scientists or pilots or the hundreds of thousands of lowly technicians, workers or security guards on the secret bases have blabbed to the media. Yes there have been people who claimed to work at the likes of Area 51 on alien flying saucers, but they have all be exposed as cranks. And yes the military did keep their stealth aircraft like the F117 relatively secret for a while, but only because they kept it isolated to one or two secret bases. They didn't risk flying it over downtown Moscow, Washington DC or Kaikoura. And quite frankly, there's nothing all that revolutionary about the stealth aircraft. All they've done is reduce — not eliminate like alien cloaking devices evidently do — the radar signature of the plane. The engines, weapons, navigation computers, construction materials etc are just natural innovations from previous designs. You mention that the likes of Boeing are researching antigravity drives, but why would they bother if the Americans already have something similar? Again it is unbelievable that all the scientists and aerospace engineers that work for Boeing have no knowledge or hint of the work being done by their colleagues in the military, some of which will be friends or ex-college roommates. Some may have even worked for the military. Even at the height of the Cold War American and Soviet civilian scientists were still exchanging scientific research. It is unbelievable that the world's top physicists have no inkling on how to make an antigravity drive yet military physicists worked it all out years ago. It's unbelievable that these military physicists have worked out a way to circumvent gravity and inertia yet can't make it fly without putting bright flashing lights all over it.

    I'm glad you find the alien abduction phenomena "hard to deal with". Many that claim they've met aliens or have been abducted are delusional I believe. You're right that ridiculing these people is not the answer, although listening to their stories can provide many a good laugh. I don't think they should be given a break though, and by this I mean allowed to write articles and books, speak on TV talk shows and generally spread their delusion without being challenged to front up with some evidence. It is these people that are providing future UFO observers with the bogus information that might lead them to falsely conclude that their sighting involved aliens. These people should be treated no differently than those that stand on street corners with a sandwich board that proclaims, "Repent! The End of the World is Nigh".

    If you described to a friend an unusual bird you saw and asked if they knew what it was, no one would ridicule you, or at least shouldn't. Likewise no one should ridicule someone for asking about something unusual they saw in the night sky. I believe many people fail to take UFO observers seriously when the observers bypass the investigation of what they might have seen and go straight to interpreting their sighting as aliens or secret controlled craft. It's a bit like the above bird spotter expressing the belief that the unusual bird he saw might have been the mythical Phoenix or the extinct moa. When people opt for explanations that have no evidential or rational support, then they can't expect to be taken seriously. No UFO observer should be surprised that listeners giggled if he suggested the cause of his sighting was Santa out test flying his sleigh. But many believe that aliens, unlike Santa, are almost as likely an explanation as meteors, bright planets and night flying helicopters. They're wrong.

    You say that UFO observers "could very well have witnessed something truly amazing", but then so too could have people driving along Loch Ness (monster), or tramping in California (Bigfoot), or having a near death experience (Jesus), or staying in an old castle (ghosts), or shopping in a mall in Kentucky (Elvis). The belief that aliens "could" be the explanation for UFO sightings has taken on a respectability it doesn't deserve. It's no good saying it "could" be true. This stance is similar to creationists arguing with evolutionists that either explanation "could" be true so both should be treated as equals, both should be taught in science classes. Astrologists could argue that either astrology or astronomy "could" be true, people could argue that maybe the Holocaust deniers "could" be right about the Holocaust never happening. A million and one things "could" be true, but we have to ignore that and concentrate on what the evidence suggests "is" true. And at present all the best scientific evidence indicates that we are not being visited by aliens, that UFO sightings are not alien craft and nor are they human developed "flying saucers" built independently or reverse-engineered from crashed alien craft.

    At the end of the day nearly all UFO sightings are eventually revealed as prosaic, natural phenomena, and the handful of unexplained ones most likely have similar causes, if only we had more information about them. Believing they are caused by alien spaceships with faulty cloaking devices or covert military craft lacking the ability to turn their lights off, both of which enjoy buzzing isolated people in rural settings, is I believe grasping at explanations that can't be supported.

    It seems that both of us Todd are looking for explanations as to what UFOs are. It's a shame that the general dismissive attitude towards sightings and the reluctance of people to talk about them means that most sightings go uninvestigated. More open minded investigation could explain many sightings, educate the public, for example by revealing astronomy facts, and may even reveal some unknown natural phenomena.

    Thanks again for your comments, and hopefully my reply has revealed why I take UFO sightings seriously, but not some of their explanations.

  5. Comment by Craigstar, 17 Jun, 2012

    The ones who wear the orange overalls are ok, but the other mongrels are just plain bad. Least the orange boys they put me back in bed.

  6. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 18 Jun, 2012

    On the surface your comments appear to be sarcastic, but then based on your claims regarding spooky spirits, perhaps you really do believe that you've been abducted by aliens, in orange overalls no less. If you're serious, can you add anything that would cause us to take you seriously?

  7. Comment by Craigstar, 24 Jun, 2012

    You so much sound like "Sheldon" of the big bang theory no less, but yes orange overalls, woke up sitting on my bed in a room that was sooo bright I needed a pair of sunglasses and yes it was night time John and the ceiling lights were off. What they did and wanted, can't remember as soon as I stood up the room went black. Can you explain what happened to me? Or am I just a delusional nut who believes in "spooky spirits".

  8. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Jun, 2012

    What amazes me is that you claim to have seen aliens, several different sorts it seems on different occasions, and yet all you consider worth mentioning is that they wore orange overalls!! You've met aliens from another planet and you can't be bothered telling us what they looked like, how they behaved or what they said. One of the most amazing encounters of all time — the discovery of alien life — and all you think is important is orange overalls? If you reply by saying that the light was so bright and that you immediately blacked out, then how do you know that they really were aliens and not burglars or people harvesting organs for the illegal transplant trade? After all, you are probably the only guy on the planet who thinks aliens wear orange overalls, and are really interested in you for some reason.

    My guess is that you saw neither aliens nor humans. Most likely you were dreaming or experiencing sleep paralysis, and you probably just fell asleep before you turned the light off. Speaking from experience, waking at 2am and discovering the light is still on, the room does seem very bright. I'll ask again, can you add anything that would cause us to take you seriously? A simple vision of orange overalls, a bright room and apparently falling back to sleep doesn't suggest aliens to us.

  9. Comment by CJD, 06 Dec, 2012

    Thank you. Thank you for taking the time — in painstaking fashion — to lay out one of the few — very few — rational counter arguments that I see on the net or anywhere in our alien/UFO saturated culture.

    I thought I grew up in a culture more or less shed of superstition and silly beliefs but that isn't the case. People who don't believe in ghosts, or ghoulies, or spirits, or magic, or angels, or demons, or alien visitors are a distinct minority in our culture- that seems maniacally incapable of distinguishing fact from fiction or even being able to use simple logic.

    There is so much on the internet about aliens and UFO's that assumes their existence and that they have visited Earth without offering anything by way of real proof that it is sickening. Meanwhile — one searches mightily to be able to find rational essays on this subject like this one. I despair the culture. Good work.

    I once saw a show about how teams of college educated Indian students travel the countryside of India dispelling superstitions and dangerous silly beliefs among the population. It is sad — but I think America could use some teams like that now.

  10. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 06 Dec, 2012

    We're glad you found our article useful. You're right that there is an excess of nonsense out there regarding aliens and UFOs but very little that challenges it. There are some good books and documentaries, but they are swamped by the nonsense. And you're correct too in that our culture appears on the surface to have shaken off superstition, but you don't have to dig very deep to discover that far too many people still harbour silly beliefs. Skeptics worldwide have a lot of work yet to do.

  11. Comment by Anonymous, 31 Oct, 2014

    This is cool

  12. Comment by Zoran, 25 Mar, 2016

    The current understanding is; I believe; that all thought processes are electrical signals. What if the proliferation of electrical devices; including radar, telephone micro-wave signals included, is causing interference that manifests as apparent visual phenomena yet lacks any audio (hence silent UFO) or if memories are scrambled into a lucid concious awareness but effectively are hallucinatory? Much phenomena could also be induced by chemical upsets of the electrical processes of the brain/s; maybe a mere side effect of environmental influence such as volcanic dust, high humidity, lack of nutrition, nutritional deficits, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, cosmic rays, mas inducted hysteria and trickery, fluoride in water etc etc.

    If one is a pragmatist, as I aspire to be, one often seeks the rational explanation behind the delusional or strange. I fully concur that cultural programming (especially religious geographically-based and delusional brainwashing) will pre-empt any real conscious analysis or explanation and provide an instant biased rationale, even extremely delusional quasi-intellectual explanations. (ie. angels)

    Most people are totally unaware of the mistakes that memory makes constantly and the thin line between true conciousness and awareness and a semi-concious or sleep state. Dreams are sometimes impossible to separate from reality yet it is now in common parlance to refer to dream house, dream job as if they are part of conciousness rather than the delusional machinations of the mind in cataloguing and emotionally analysing mostly daily events but also conjectural events to widen the bodies interpersonal strategic defences and emotional levels in particular.

    My personal train of logic suggest we are in fact most likely all part of a virtual world on some "computer" and such things as ghosts and ufos and everything else of that nature may merely be mere leakage from other virtual realities and software on that same PC; maybe a manifestation of malware even.

    That worldwide that the most undeserving and pathetic specimens of humanity are positively encouraged to breed when they lack even the most basic survival skills such as adequate food or water, on a finitely sized planet with ever diminishing resources, suggests that the actual governance cannot be ascribed as being "in house" so that further lends itself to the the idea of us all being a "Matrix style" virtual reality. Pragmatically though another rationale would be that human bodies are important as genetic material and that the lack of intellect (blindly stupidly breeding low IQ low achievers) essentially is an advantage in mere volume production similar to factory farming livestock for meat/eggs etc. Higher IQ higher achievers invariably spawn far fewer children so clearly are not truly in control at any real level of governance World-Wide even though one would rationally expect that.

    There is a great deal of logic in ascribing the basis of the disparate religions having some "fundamental" basis insofar as the deity reference refers to the instigator/s of humanity and there certainly is good rationale in belief of homo sapiens being a construct of "aliens" which means they are very much "in house" from the outset. Our own in house deitys.... There is a huge amount of logic that the Moon is an artificial satellite and the biblical reference to "the arc'. It has already been "scientifically quantified" that the moon does exert influence, not just gravitational but on a neurological level. That is even more logical if its the control centre.

    Should there be that "alien" basis for the origin and construct of our solar system it would suggest a rather greatly more advanced and sophisticated scientific capability; one which most readily be able to influence electrical communications within any brain and construct any reality or "sense" and as we are the sum of our life experiences we could be manipulated into whatever the design remit was. That of course would explain just about every action taken by any and every individual in the context of a "game" even if it is a crude analytical scenario staging to see how the currently developed homo sapien reacts etc.

    I am always wary of the expression "expert"; to me I classify an "expert" as someone with more knowledge in their particular field, often delusional about their real ignorance and often proven extremely ignorant in the not very distant future. Even experts such as Einstein, the quintessential expert to most laypeople is an obvious idiot as he fails to understand that two particle of light travelling in opposing directions are actually travelling at twice the speed of light relatively and he merely paraded his ignorance as being fact as if he had a monopoly on knowledge. (particles travelling beyond speed of light cannot produce light so become invisible and beyond current determination and would logically induct a black hole/antimatter transformation) In a virtual reality matrix-style reality multidimensionality is merely a reference to the capacity to run numerous simultaneous "solar systems/universes" and their "life forms" and of course there would be time travel in the form of reloading previous saves (of the game/study) as well the ability to teleport a character from one scenario into another. Gravity is an in game construct, in such a scenario, so could be beyond any quantification or explanation and just a parameter for the game scenario to work

    It could even be possible to have vestigial artefacts of 'memory" of (previous/future) lives if the true nature of individual conciousness is merely as the AI characters within a game/study scenario. We might merely be entertainment or a break from "homework".....

    As for the explanation of time and space I would suggest that the virtual reality game ascribes the scientific capabilities to travel through time and travel from the distant future into the distant past and create all our current perceived reality from the future. That fits perfectly with a virtual reality illusion on a computer having required the technology of "modern electronics".

    So my own personal explanation of a strange flying craft that I saw from the bridge of a ship that I commanded many decades ago is that it was apparent to numerous of my work colleagues so was shared hallucination or else advanced military craft or just plain (host) alien. It was silent and executed very dramatic accelerations which would turn any human pilot into mush unless it had some sort of zero gravity environment internally. I correctly suggested the magnetic compass would lose all directive force and some electrical equipment would malfunction (radars, VHF, echo sounder, data loggers) but do not know where my innate knowledge came from; could be my character in the virtual reality was party to that information. Of course the craft could have been pilot-less. It lacked any fuzziness or lights but then it was daylight and I had 20/20 vision but sadly lacked a camera at hand or the ego to want to do any more than experience what I saw and NOT require an explanation. I do, however, recall making an entry in the ships deck log book but referred to "unusual military craft sighted" and circumvented any "UFO" nomenclature. I identified it as an unusual aircraft and most logically one of the superpowers on manoeuvres.

    I personally believe we really do not realise the huge depths of our ignorance but that some of us grasp that concept and make the logical rationale of no longer demanding an explanation of any sort or pigeon holing to any inducted belief system from any source. I remain an Atheist; maybe not so "bright" under my personal parameters, but then I find life is rather complicated and very difficult at times without having to constantly add layers of complexity in seeking the truths or explanations to what are apparently sensory phenomena but could just as easily be hallucinatory, even group hallucinatory; maybe even part of an experiment in how we reacted as individuals. (I think I was a disappointment to any observer as I was unemotional and rather matter of factly ruled it as "unexplained and not meriting further consideration).

    My cents worth. Ignorance is widespread and conjecture even more so. Dogma and delusion are also rather too pandemic for my liking.

  13. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Mar, 2016

    Hi Zoran. I'm glad you note that conjecture is widespread, since I find your views of the universe and reality as all very conjectural. Your belief that the observed universe is 'in fact most likely all part of a virtual world on some "computer" ... a "Matrix style" virtual reality' is philosophically interesting, but I see no evidence that it is. Of course it can't be proven that it isn't, but then we can't prove that you or I or some other intelligent mind isn't simply dreaming about what we perceive as 'our' universe.

    But first I want to agree that electrical signals are indeed involved in our thought processes. However, regarding UFOs, I don't believe that a 'proliferation of electrical devices... is causing interference that manifests as apparent visual phenomena'. Electrical interference can't be the cause of UFO sightings because people have been seeing UFOs throughout history, much of which had no electrical devices. Of course only in recent times have people described the strange things they saw as alien spacecraft, in the past it would have been gods, demons, witches or angels, but clearly radar or cell phones weren't needed for people to misidentify things in the sky. But then you suggest that there could be many environmental influences that cause UFO sightings, however your list is so encompassing, and have existed throughout history, that if true, people would be seeing strange things in the sky most everywhere and nearly all the time. So no, I don't think there's any evidence that the likes of dust, high humidity, nutritional deficits, cosmic rays or fluoride in water etc causes UFO sightings.

    Matrix While 'a "Matrix style" virtual reality' (VR) might seemingly explain some things, in the end it still leaves the big questions unanswered. It's no different to the answer that god believers offer: they say we can't explain how the universe and life could have arisen, it's all just too mysterious, so some god must have created it. But they're still ignorant, they're still confronted with the mystery of the origin of things, they've merely moved it back a step. Now the question is not how their universe arose, but how their god arose. And logically, if a simple universe couldn't arise naturally or have existed forever, if it needed to be created, then of course a very, very complex god capable of creating a universe must have definitely needed a creator too, a god even more complex. And if this universe and its creator god both needed a creator god, then this god would also have needed a creator too. And on and on it goes, something that's called infinite regress.

    And if as you believe, that this universe and life are just software creations on some alien's PC, part of 'a game/study scenario', then when this alien takes a break from his computer, won't he also look around at his own universe and wonder how it originated? Unlike you or me, since he knows without doubt that a virtual universe can be created, he's playing around with one after all, won't he forced to conclude that he most likely is a virtual construct as well? He knows that you and I wouldn't 'exist' if not for him creating our universe, so how could he confidently argue that his universe must be real when he laughs at me for telling my friends that our universe is real? If I couldn't exist without him creating me, then isn't it equally likely that he couldn't exist without an alien creator either? If I needed a creator for me to exist, albeit an alien and not a god, then why wouldn't he also need a creator too, and we're off again on our infinite regress. If our alien didn't need a creator to exist, if it could stop with him, then it would be far simpler to have stopped with me and my universe. In my universe we only have to explain one universe, if the alien playing on his PC exists, then we have to explain two universes, the one I live in and the one the alien lives in. And for all the many mysteries we have to explain in my universe, it only gets much, much worse if I have to explain the alien's universe as well. And then the universe that holds the next alien that made our alien's universe, and on and on. Whether people explain our universe by positing a creator god or alien, either way they have given up looking for answers close to home, because our creator exists beyond our universe and works in mysterious ways, ways we'll never be able to discern. We are merely pawns in some prodigious intellect's game, so it's time we got used to our place as mindless, entertaining playthings.

    But then you seem to offer another view of our origin, that 'there certainly is good rationale in belief of homo sapiens being a construct of "aliens"'. You claim that 'There is a huge amount of logic that the Moon is an artificial satellite' and note that should there be an '"alien" basis for the origin and construct of our solar system it would suggest a rather greatly more advanced and sophisticated scientific capability'. You suggest that these aliens could 'readily be able to influence electrical communications within any brain and construct any reality' and thus we could be 'manipulated' into believing whatever 'life experiences' the aliens desired. So this isn't a virtual reality universe, it's a real universe and the aliens are part of it. Likewise, we humans and the planet we stand on are real, but your suggestion is that we didn't evolve naturally, we are artificial beings living on an artificial planet constructed by advanced aliens. It's like kids playing with radio-controlled cars. The aliens are the kids making us 'radio-controlled' humans do as they wish. You say, 'That of course would explain just about every action taken by any and every individual', but like your virtual reality scenario, this again means that holders of this view can stop looking for answers as to why people act as they do; why some make sacrifices to help others and some murder and rape. Again, we are merely lab rats in some experiment, our actions manipulated by invisible powers. We shouldn't automatically blame someone for deliberately harming a child or praise someone else for saving a child, since perhaps they are mindlessly going this way and that at the whim of controlling aliens. Any belief that we control our own fate is a delusion.

    But as I understand it — or maybe my alien controllers are making me 'think' this — there is no evidence whatsoever that humans, the moon and the entire solar system are all alien artefacts. I'm not sure why you might think the moon is a 'control centre' or what you mean by saying that it has 'been "scientifically quantified" that the moon does exert influence... on a neurological level'. Beyond the likes of me thinking that the moon looks beautiful on a clear, starlit night, I'm not aware that the moon influences human behaviour. People turning into werewolves and the belief that more people go crazy during a full moon are myths.

    And you really damage your credibility when you argue, without evidence, that Einstein was 'an obvious idiot' who 'merely paraded his ignorance'. Your claim that 'two particle of light travelling in opposing directions are actually travelling at twice the speed of light relatively' and that 'particles travelling beyond speed of light... would logically induct a black hole/antimatter transformation', shows that you have no real understanding of relativity. You apparently accept that Einstein was an expert, 'someone with more knowledge in their particular field', and yet you somehow see yourself, someone who clearly isn't an expert, as being able to understand and then dismiss complex, well-supported theories that you know little about.

    Then moving away from your artificial solar system constructed by aliens and returning to your 'virtual reality matrix-style reality', you claim that 'Gravity is an in game construct... so could be beyond any quantification or explanation and just a parameter for the game scenario to work'. But now we're back to our infinite regress problem again. That explains gravity in our virtual universe, it's just some software coding, but surely gravity is real in the alien's universe, so how does it work in a real universe? But again, if gravity is just software coding in a game in our universe, logically it could be the same in the alien's universe, meaning they're just part of some bigger game by some other unseen aliens? But surely we have to stop somewhere, eventually some universe must be real and must have real gravity? So how does it work there? Why don't we simply accept that our universe is the real one and try and work out how our gravity works, rather than just palming the problem off to some alien untold steps down the way? Of course your 'virtual reality matrix-style reality' might seem to explain gravity, multiple dimensions, teleportation, time travel, past-life memories, but so does a dream, or arguing that we're simply characters in a movie or a novel. Let's remember that fictional characters in movies tell us of their past experiences, which of course never happened, and characters in books tell us that they've just thought of a cunning plan, when of course no real thinking occurred.

    As for your personal sighting of 'a strange flying craft' decades ago, while you say it 'was silent and executed very dramatic accelerations', and that 'It lacked any fuzziness or lights', you don't give any real details that might aid identification. You don't say the obvious, that is, what it looked like, eg what colour or shape, did it have wings, windows, markings of any sort? Nor do you say how big it was, how far away it was or how long you observed it for. You don't say whether it appeared to be aware of your ship's presence or oblivious to it. If it was so small that it was difficult to make out the size, any structural details or hear any sound, then this suggests it was a long way off, assuming it was a real object and not some sort of visual illusion. If identifying details can't be provided, then this means that the sighting should remain as a UFO. And let's remember that UFO actually means Unidentified Flying Object, something you can't identify, it doesn't mean alien flying saucer! Nothing in your meagre sighting details indicate to me that it was an alien craft. You argue for an alien craft because it 'executed very dramatic accelerations which would turn any human pilot into mush unless it had some sort of zero gravity environment internally', but I don't think you understand the science involved. Zero gravity within the craft wouldn't help the pilot, he would still die. You're confusing gravity with inertia, which is surprising for someone with an intellect that could expose Einstein as 'an obvious idiot'.

    You also say that your compass, radars, VHF, echo sounder and data loggers all malfunctioned. What do you mean by 'malfunction', and how long did the sighting last? Apparently long enough to allow it to noticeably affect all this equipment, and even though you had all this fancy gear on the bridge of your ship, you evidently didn't have a single pair of binoculars! Did you notice the VHF malfunction when trying to make a call, to a nearby ship perhaps, and if so, did they observe the UFO? You said that you 'correctly suggested' to your colleagues that these instruments would malfunction, implying that the sighting lasted long enough for you identify it as a possible alien craft, then explain to your colleagues that alien craft are known to disrupt these instruments, and then go and look for said malfunctions to support your theory. Regarding flying saucers and their quirk of affecting instruments, you say that I 'do not know where my innate knowledge came from; could be my character in the virtual reality was party to that information'. Oh come on, only someone younger than 5 or someone that had never watched a sci-fi movie or TV show in their life wouldn't know that flying saucers supposedly play havoc with compasses and electrical systems. You don't need to be a fantasy VR character programmed with special knowledge to know something that every man on your ship no doubt also knew. This is what we argued in our article, that Hollywood primes society with so much 'information' about how alien craft behave that people, without thinking, apply this bogus checklist to real events.

    You also say that the 'strange flying craft' that both you and your work colleagues saw 'was shared hallucination or else advanced military craft or just plain (host) alien'. You apparently saw no real detail that could point towards either aliens or the military, and it's flight pattern argued against the military, thus you writing in your log — "unusual military craft sighted" — was nothing more than a guess. So this leaves hallucination as the likely explanation, and indeed hallucination explains every UFO sighting that has later been explained, and the few that remain unexplained remain exactly that — unexplained. Not one single sighting worldwide has ever been shown to be a true alien craft. Now, by hallucination, I don't mean a delusion caused by drugs or a mental disorder, I mean simply, as my dictionary states, a 'false or distorted perception of objects or events with a compelling sense of their reality, a false or mistaken idea'. It's all very easy to see something unusual in the sky and to initially misidentify it. I personally have seen three UFOs that all had the hallmarks of flying saucers, and have had others point out what they thought were flying saucers to me, but luckily on every occasion I managed to resolve exactly what they really were. Every sighting had a perfectly natural and boring explanation, such as ordinary aircraft, weather balloons and even the planet Jupiter. However if I didn't have my knowledge of astronomy and my skepticism, I most likely would now be convinced that flying saucers are real and their existence is being covered up. I mean, I might be mistaken with one sighting, but three? But the reality is that I was indeed mistaken — initially — with all three sightings. And if in the future I see another UFO that I can't explain, one that like the first three is lacking in identifying detail, I hope that I'll have the integrity to call it an unidentified object rather than jumping to the unjustified conclusion that it must have been an alien spaceship. And frankly I'm not all that convinced that your sighting was that inspiring or amazing, even to you and your colleagues. I've never heard of it in the UFO literature, so apparently none of you thought it was worth reporting. You make no mention of followup research by any of you to explain what you saw or to dismiss the usual suspects, eg aircraft, weather balloons etc, which suggests your sighting wasn't the life-changing event that spotting aliens might conceivably be. You even say you ruled it as 'unexplained and not meriting further consideration'. Apparently, at some level, you all realised that your sighting was too vague to really argue for alien visitors, that it probably had a simple explanation, so you all let it drop.

    And I must say that I find your closing philosophy quite defeatist: 'I personally believe we really do not realise the huge depths of our ignorance but that some of us grasp that concept and make the logical rationale of no longer demanding an explanation of any sort or pigeon holing to any inducted belief system'.

    Of course I agree that there is much we don't know about the universe, but this ignorance will remain if we don't at least try and seek explanations. Ignorance is not something to be proud of, and I for one am not happy being ignorant if I believe an answer already exists or can likely be found with a little effort. Of course life can be complicated, and scientific explanations especially so, but the broad answers from science (and history, philosophy etc) can be understood by the layperson without having to become an expert. We don't have to understand the maths to accept that the planet isn't flat.

    For centuries mankind had the view that gods were running the world, and now you suggest that it's not gods but aliens — we're just the playthings of aliens (or gods), they created us and now they're moving us around like actors in some otherworldly drama that we will forever be unaware of. And those that think we are nothing but some powerful being's pawn or lab rat, have decided to give up, to stop seeking an explanation for the universe and life. The irony is that by giving up they have actually settled on an explanation: 1) An alien (or god) created everything, and 2) It's all just too difficult to learn anymore!

    You say you're an atheist, but semantics aside, I'm not so sure you are. An atheist is someone who has no belief in gods, and generally one specific god, an unseen, unimaginably powerful being that exists outside the space and time of this universe, that actually created this universe and all that's in it, and who now surreptitiously oversees and manipulates actions and events within this universe at its whim. So you tell yourself you don't believe in this god, but all you've done is swap an unsupported belief in a powerful creator being that is couched in primitive, religious terms for essentially the same unsupported belief expressed in 21st century scientific terms. Nothing has changed except the name you give this being, you call him an 'alien' rather than a 'god'. Religious folk wonder why things happen as they do and settle on it being part of god's plan, now you say events are actually due to your alien's actions; it's the way he wrote the VR program or is playing the game. You may talk of alien VR games or their experiments with artificial worlds, but your fanciful descriptions of them toying with our lives are no different to the fanciful stories the religious have provided through the centuries of their gods doing the exact same thing. And by definition, what are unseen, powerful aliens that create universes and life which they manipulate for their own purposes, if not gods? So no, I don't see you as an atheist, since you believe, or at least suspect, that there was a creator of the universe, life and everything. The religious have a name for this 'religious' belief that cunningly doesn't mention religion or gods — 'Intelligent Design'.

    The reason I'm an atheist is that there's no evidence of gods, or any need of gods to explain our universe. And this argument applies equally to aliens creating our solar system, either artificially or through VR. Thus without aliens or gods to explain our existence, we're compelled to seek naturalistic explanations. And when we can't find a ready explanation, we're honest and say we simply don't know the answer, that some event is, as yet, unexplained, be it the origin of the universe or the cause of a UFO sighting. We don't give up and say, Well, I can't explain how clouds cause lightning, so it must be electricity leaking from another alien VR game.

    As I've said, every time we fob off an explanation onto powerful aliens or gods then we haven't really explained anything, we've just given up. As hugely complicated as explaining our universe is, it's still easier seeking a natural explanation than trying to explain how aliens or gods made it, and with no evidence to the contrary, far more rational to assume no gods or aliens were involved in its construction. So you've failed to convince me that the observed universe is 'in fact most likely all part of a virtual world on some "computer"'. Not even the slightest doubt is creeping in. But I guess I'm programmed to think this way!

  14. Comment by Ron, 18 Dec, 2017

    Hi John. Read a news item today stating that the USA has spent 22 million dollars on investigating UFO reports. This is small bikkies for them but they are obviously trying to get this theme taken more seriously. A retired senator, Harry Reid, pushed for this funding. The reason behind this latest interest is a number of navy pilots have reported sightings of craft that were able to make manoeuvres that should not be aerodynamically possible. They have no explanations for this. It is believed many alien craft are out there and that some have landed in the U.S. I wonder also what explanations could there be. Strange craft landing there is not new, so it seems, with the famous Roswell incident in 1947 involving a crashed craft and alien bodies, all were taken by the military and hidden under tight security, never to be seen again and many locals warned not to say anything, or else. What odd behaviour. But back to the latest item, for the 22 million bucks what is achieved, what is learnt, what worthwhile information will come of it. Anything?

  15. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Dec, 2017

    Hi Ron. I've read an account of this UFO program on The New York Times website: 'Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program', and saw an item on last night's TV news.

    The answer to your question, will anything come of this program, is yes and no. From a scientific point of view, no worthwhile information has been gathered and nothing has been achieved. It was a complete waste of $22 million, and that's why it was shut down in 2012 after running for five years. I suspect most scientists and people with some knowledge of UFO claims would argue that it should never have been funded in the first place, as there is no evidence whatsoever that we are currently being visited by aliens in their sleek flying saucers. And plenty of evidence that shows that so-called UFOs are misidentifications that have rational and down-to-earth explanations in nearly all cases, and the remaining few are usually unexplained simply because someone saying something vague is not enough info to go on, eg 'I saw something weird when I was kid, can't remember exactly when or where now, sorry I can't be of more help'. So no, nothing good will come of this program.

    But unfortunately something will likely come from these media reports of the 'The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program'. Something bad, and that would be renewed interest in the deluded belief that aliens are visiting us, watching us, abducting us from our beds, experimenting on us (including the infamous anal probes), genetically engineering alien/human hybrids, building secret bases on the Moon and Mars, planning an invasion, conspiring with our governments to exterminate us. playing tag with our jet fighters, impersonating the British Royal Family ... and the list of silly things that aliens are doing goes on and on. We've been thinking that in the last year or three we haven't heard anyone claiming in the media to have seen a flying saucer or of having been abducted and whisked off to Venus. Maybe people have finally realised that, like kids claiming they've seen Santa in his sleigh, or Christians seeing an image of Jesus on their toast or the Virgin Mary leaving their local café, it was all down to misidentification. But no, thanks to this new media report, people that know absolutely nothing about astronomy or astronautics or skeptical thinking will once again rally to the cry of, What are our governments hiding from us? Why would the Pentagon start such a program if there wasn't already good evidence of an alien threat? Why does the secretive Area 51 military base exist if not to hide what is known about aliens?

    These questions are based on the erroneous assumption that all US senators and Pentagon employees are intelligent, rational people, when clearly they're not. Many US senators and even ex-presidents believe that Noah's Ark was real and its remains are worth looking for, that Adam and Eve chatted with a talking snake, and that God is going to bring the world to an end any day now. A few decades ago the US government thought it a good idea to use psychics to spy on their enemies. At one time the US government foolishly used to stand around and watch nearby nuclear explosions too, they exposed people to dangerous x-rays in shoe stores just to check their shoe size, and they even put radioactive radium in their toothpaste. One of the most famous wastes of taxpayer money was a psychic remote viewing program called 'Stargate', which was a complete and utter failure and closed down decades ago. The above program is merely a repeat of that mistake.

    What this revelation of a covert UFO program should do is embarrass Americans that a lot of their money was spent on such a foolish endeavour, and force them to demand a more critical oversight of future programs. But in reality these silly programs will likely continue and many Americans and people worldwide will continue to believe that aliens are a threat, and that the existence of this program proves it. They'll argue that even though the funding has stopped, the article reports that, 'the program remains in existence'.

    When you say that the report claims that, 'a number of navy pilots have reported sightings of craft that were able to make manoeuvres that should not be aerodynamically possible. They have no explanations for this', this to me is little different to this statement: 'Children report receiving presents from Santa even though their house has no chimney and their doors were locked. They have no explanations for this'. It may well be true that pilots and children have no explanation, but it's not true that others don't have rational explanations of what they experienced. You mention 'the famous Roswell incident in 1947 involving a crashed craft and alien bodies, all were taken by the military and hidden under tight security, never to be seen again and many locals warned not to say anything, or else'. The reality is that there was no alien craft and no alien bodies. A rancher did find some strange, but not alien, material on his land, and the military did come and collect it. There was a newspaper report that a flying saucer had been recovered but the military denied this, saying it was simply a weather balloon. Everyone accepted that nothing untoward had happened and the incident was quickly forgotten. It was several decades before a journalist wrote a book about the incident and the Roswell alien myth was created. If people read about what really happened rather than reading and watching the bogus Roswell alien books and documentaries they would quickly realise that no aliens stepped on the accelerator rather than the brake and crashed their saucer into the New Mexico desert. That's not to say there wasn't a conspiracy of sorts, since we now know that there was, thanks to the release of previously confidential documents. The military were concerned with collecting the material and keeping quiet about what had crashed in the desert, but not because it was an alien flying saucer, but because it was a top secret balloon called Project Mogul. Attached to the high flying balloon were instruments designed to listen for evidence of Soviet nuclear test blasts. The military were quite correct in denying that it was a crashed saucer, but beyond that they were understandably reluctant to explain exactly what it was and what it was doing. If people preferred to think aliens rather than spying then the military wouldn't have been rushing to set them straight, although again, at the time the public weren't thinking aliens and it would be decades before the world heard of Roswell. Of course prosaic explanations don't make for exciting and mysterious plots for books and TV shows,

    UFO video The UFO photos, documents and video they showed on the TV news item were, bar one, decades old, and some have even been debunked as hoaxes, but they're still trotted out when UFOs are mentioned. The only new video was shot in 2004 from a military jet, and clearly showed a very small, blurry, indistinct blob, shot in grainy black and white (See blob in centre of the image on the right). It could have been many things, from dust or moisture on the lens to a bird, but what is indisputable, and should have been quite obvious to everyone, was that no one could point to anything that indicated it was an alien spaceship. It's true that it appeared to be an object that appeared to be flying and that it remained unidentified. But you can't jump from blurry blob to alien flying saucer, anymore than you could claim it was Santa's sleigh. That's just wishful thinking, like seeing a curtain blow in a slight breeze and thinking ghost.

    Of the three senators that apparently supported the recent UFO program, and the person who ran it, none of them were scientists with any expertise in the field. I'd suggest that you take more notice of what experts say, and the article did quote two such people:

    'While not addressing the merits of the program, Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at M.I.T., cautioned that not knowing the origin of an object does not mean that it is from another planet or galaxy. "When people claim to observe truly unusual phenomena, sometimes it's worth investigating seriously," she said. But, she added, "what people sometimes don't get about science is that we often have phenomena that remain unexplained."

    James E. Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle engineer and the author of 10 books on spaceflight who often debunks U.F.O. sightings, was also doubtful. "There are plenty of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories," Mr. Oberg said. "Lots of people are active in the air and don't want others to know about it. They are happy to lurk unrecognized in the noise, or even to stir it up as camouflage."'

    The article quoted Senator Reid as saying, 'I think it's one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I've done something that no one has done before'. If Reid believes that then he's even more of a fool than I first thought, since a few seconds on Google would have told him that UFO research is nothing new, it's already been looked into, and found to be a waste of time and money. The article even noted that 'U.F.O.s have been repeatedly investigated over the decades in the United States, including by the American military', and when the last investigation into UFOs was closed down, the secretary of the Air Force explained that further research, 'no longer can be justified either on the ground of national security or in the interest of science'.

    However UFO investigations are in the interest of media profits, since the public loves a good mystery or hint of a conspiracy. Mentioning the discovery of planets outside our solar system, the TV journalist said that things have changed since the early days of UFO conspiracies, since 'evidence of alien life has been building all the time'. Rubbish. Scientists have yet to collect a single piece of evidence of alien life. The discovery of other planets certainly increases the odds that alien life exists elsewhere in the universe, but that is not evidence of alien life. And if it does exist, the odds are overwhelming that it is microbial life, such as algae, and not advanced aliens zipping around in the latest model of flying saucer giving anal probes to hillbillies. Last week another sensationalist TV news item told us of what is likely a passing asteroid that has come from outside our solar system. Following his autocue, the puppet-like newsreader Mike McRoberts told us that in the news coming up, 'scientists have found an alien object from another galaxy and it's zipping through our solar system'. The item began with, 'In a galaxy not so far, far away, namely this one ... ', which signifies that the people that research and write these items have spent more time studying 'Star Wars' than astronomy. At no time did the scientists suggest that the object was from another galaxy, but since many movies always have aliens coming from other galaxies then most assume that's where aliens come from. And while you can technically call an asteroid an alien object, since it is alien to Earth, most people will view the phrase "alien object" as meaning an artificial object made by advanced aliens deliberately sent here to do who knows what. And frankly that was the general theme of the entire news item, that this object might be an alien spacecraft, when the odds of that being true are very, very, very remote, and the odds of it being from another galaxy even more remote. We were told that the "asteroid" is about 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide, and the journalist informed us that the 'cigar-shape is almost identical to the alien spaceships described in science fiction novels and films', and cue movie footage of aliens attacking the Earth. Why would the shape of an alien spaceship resemble our movies, do people seriously think that before aliens build their spaceships they watch our movies and copy Hollywood's design? What the hell does some Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein know about interstellar spaceships? And since when could you describe a flying saucer as being cigar-shaped, or the fictional spacecraft on 'Star Trek', 'Star Wars', 'Independence Day', 'Battlestar Galactica', 'Stargate SG-1' etc as being cigar-shaped? Clearly the journalist thought that it would be dead boring talking about a big chunk of rock drifting through empty space, so decided to spice his piece up by introducing the notion that aliens might have made "it", supported by the bogus argument that a big rock passing us in space can't just be a coincidence. There is a lot of stuff floating about in empty space that we can't see and that isn't orbiting some star, such as asteroids, planets, black holes and even dead stars, and as remote as the odds are that one of those will wander into our solar system, they're still more likely than a cigar-shaped alien spaceship, just as the solid object your spade hits in the garden is more likely to be a rock than pirate gold.

    If you want our extended take on UFOs and why people see aliens, we'd suggest you read our article 'UFOs and Aliens'

  16. Comment by Ron, 24 Dec, 2017

    Hi John. Your reply to my UFO comment had some info that was new to me. You suggest I take more notice of experts such as Sara Seager as quoted, but she said little that is new and she says science does not have all the answers, which is true. So in relation to the navy pilots observations of activities by strange craft, there must be an explanation. There are many hundreds of sightings, often by numerous people per sighting, all with no answers. Skeptics and others say where is the evidence but on the other hand all one ever hears is any evidence, esp. in the USA is quickly taken by govts via the military never to be seen again. And people frequently scoff at the likes of pilots, air traffic controllers, military personnel who report various sightings which, to me, is an insult to their intelligence. Are they all dreaming, mistaken, imagining? After all so many of us daily trust and rely on these people and their judgments to transport us, keep us safe, etc. I try to keep an open mind and don't think for a minute that we are the only beings in this vast galaxy let alone the universe. I have never seen any strange objects but the whole topic is vexed. In different ways the alien/ufo thing can seem far-fetched. For example, why do we mostly hear about the USA and their govt, what about all the other countries. Do aliens never bother visiting most of them and if they did would their military quickly hide any evidence of a crash or visit forever? Also, when certain individuals say the aliens come from other galaxies then they must have astonishing lifespans because until recently the nearest galaxy was known to be 179,000 light years away. A new discovery is 70,000 lt yrs away. Plus another silly one is those supposed abductees who tell us the aliens told them they were from alpha centauri or from a particular constellation, that has to be pure nonsense. Alpha Cen. is a large hot star, anything close would be vaporised surely and how come an alien knows what names we give constellations, which are only groups as seen from here on earth with some imagination thrown in. In reality the stars are totally unrelated as in any group they are actually many light yrs apart and travelling at huge speeds in various directions. Another issue here is amateur astronomers. There are thousands of them globally watching the heavens nightly wherever. Surely they could report loads of sightings but when did you ever hear of any from that group. But hopping over to the other side of the fence again. What has been hailed as proof of visitations is the leaked US govt documents, declassified CIA files of UFO sightings and how recovery from crash sites have taken place since 1941 apparently to keep the info from the public. Will finish by mentioning a guy called Stanton Friedman, nuclear scientist and top ufologist. An "expert"? He claims aliens are here and will take over, that they will quarantine us and stop us from trying to colonise space. His claim is govts are trying to take advantage by obtaining their technology. He has not a shadow of a doubt we are being visited, that the existence of intelligent aliens are covered by a truth embargo. Sounds like a crackpot. But isn't he an expert?

  17. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Dec, 2017

    Hi Ron. Concerning UFO sightings and aliens I did suggest that people should take more notice of experts rather than pilots and police and the local plumber who saw something strange on the way home from the pub. I'm not denying that these people usually saw something strange, but I question their ability to explain it. In some UFO reports of course no one saw anything strange because it was all a hoax. But for those that genuinely saw something weird, it's not realised by most as to how people can be so easily fooled by something that is nothing out of the ordinary. Most UFO sightings are simply the planet Venus, and untold people that swear a UFO chased them were actually looking at the Moon as they drove along. I had an excited adult friend years ago rush in and drag me out to look at a UFO he had spotted hovering on the horizon. It was the planet Jupiter. I personally have spotted three UFOs over the years that all exhibited classic alien spaceship appearance and movements, and were for a while very freaky. Luckily I was eventually able to categorically identify them as a plane coming in to land, a car descending a hill at night, and a silvery weather balloon. It was merely unusual lighting and angles that caused the problem with identification. There are indeed many hundreds of UFO sightings, sometimes by numerous people per sighting, but most do have answers, it's just that the media loves to report a mysterious sighting but are very reluctant to later report a prosaic explanation. Mysteries sell papers and bring in viewers, boring explanations of being fooled by a weather balloon do not. And when many people report seeing the same UFO, these sightings are almost always easily explained as such things as fireballs or rocket boosters falling back to earth or space junk re-entering the atmosphere or hoax UFOs. There is not a single case where multiple witnesses saw what was clearly an alien spacecraft, or for that matter, a single case where a single witnesses saw what was clearly an alien spacecraft. There are lots of UFO sightings worldwide, just as there are lots of ghost sightings worldwide and sightings of the Virgin Mary, but this is just people describing what they imagine they have seen, it has no relationship to what they actually saw. Number of UFO sightings: hundreds. Number of UFO sightings that were shown to be alien spacecraft: zero. Likewise one hears stories, usually at the pub after a few beers, of the military seizing evidence of crashed saucers and threatening witnesses to ensure their silence, but these stories are no different to someone saying that the military is hiding evidence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster and that Elvis is alive and well and was spotted at a supermarket in Oxnard, California. It is easy to claim that the government is hiding things that don't exist, and impossible to prove that they're not.

    You're right that astrophysicist Sara Seager said little that is new, but that's because there is nothing new to add. It's just a natural occurrence in the complicated world that most people seldom see. Until someone fronts up with a real alien or their spaceship, then the scientific stance will be the same, nothing to see here folks, move along.

    Scientists and skeptics don't generally 'scoff at the likes of pilots, air traffic controllers, military personnel who report various sightings', unless they insist that what they saw was an alien spacecraft. People that report a UFO sighting are treated seriously and respectfully if they stick to the facts, and by this I mean that they simply describe what they saw, and don't go on to contradict themselves. By contradiction I mean that they start out by saying they have a real mystery on their hands, they saw something they couldn't identify, but by the end of their tale they are insistent that it's not a mystery at all. Their unidentified object has been identified, it was an alien spaceship. For a more common example, think of someone that goes to a doctor with a strange rash on their arm and asks what it might be. They are taken seriously. But if they take their mystery rash and, combined with a complete lack of medical knowledge, immediately start informing the doctor that it's smallpox, then the doctor might well scoff and ask why they've bothered to ask his expert opinion if they've already made a diagnosis?

    People that report UFO sightings usually aren't dreaming or imagining what the saw, but they often quickly forget that what they actually saw was often just a small blurry blob. Unable to identify it, they start to wonder what it could be, and this is where they jump to unwarranted conclusions. These people may be pilots or policemen or military personnel, and as you say, we 'trust and rely on these people and their judgments to transport us, keep us safe, etc'. But we trust pilots to fly planes and policemen to combat crime and military personnel to fight the enemy, we don't trust them, nor do we train them, to be able to identify alien spacecraft. None of these professionals are trained observers of the night sky and there is no reason why we should trust their judgment when it comes to identifying the planet Venus. Pilots and military personnel will typically know no more about astronomy than will plumbers or politicians. Interviews concerning sightings with the likes of pilots and police, who because of their job experience more sightings, show quite clearly that they are just as easily mistaken and just as ignorant of what might fool them as is your accountant. I may trust a policeman to chase down a stolen car, but I wouldn't trust him to diagnosis that his granny has lung cancer, nor would I trust him to know the difference between a meteor and a meteorite. When it comes to differentiating between alien spacecraft and the untold ordinary things one can see in the sky, the only professionals I have confidence in are the likes of astronomers and scientists and folk that have specific knowledge of these things, and that spend their careers examining them. As you say Ron, astronomers, both amateur and professional, are globally watching the heavens nightly, and they would love to find some evidence of alien life, and yet they fail to see these aliens zip by. This is because thanks to their training astronomers are not as easily fooled by bright lights in the sky as pilots and plumbers are. Again, pilots and plumbers are not lying with their UFO reports, they are merely mistaken, just as when a judge or doctor says they saw a ghost at the end of their bed.

    UFOs are seen in other countries, even NZ, but the population and the advanced technology in the USA, eg they have a space program and a military that tests secret aircraft, ensures they get more sightings. Plus we speak English, so we tend to only hear their news reports, for the same reason that we only get movies from Hollywood and not from Bollywood, even though they make more each year. And why do people think that the military would always get first dibs on alien artefacts? When I saw UFOs my first thought wasn't to call the military so they could hide the evidence. If evidence of alien artefacts existed then there would a wealth of it still in the hands of civilians, and yet no one has ever bothered to mention it, sell their story to the media or sell their flying saucer aerofoils on the Internet. The military hiding all the evidence is just a childish excuse to try and explain why no evidence has ever surfaced. As for the declassified government files on UFOs, they all conclusively show that not a single sighting was ever shown to be an alien spacecraft and not a single alien artefact was ever recovered. They don't offer proof of visitation, at most they offer proof that the government discovered absolutely nothing. As for Stanton Friedman, nuclear scientist and top ufologist, he not only 'sounds like a crackpot', he is one. However, you're unsure and ask, 'But isn't he an expert?'

    While Stanton Friedman is a scientist and may be an expert in nuclear physics, he's not an expert in the topic of explaining UFO sightings and the question of alien visitation. So how can we decide what an expert is and which experts we should trust? I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating. When people are debating, you may have heard some dismissing a claim by insisting that it is merely an 'appeal to authority', where they usually argue that we shouldn't automatically believe something just because some authority figure or authoritative group such as a government makes the claim. But there is more to it than this. As Jill LeBlanc points out in her book 'Thinking Clearly: A Guide to Critical Reasoning', no one can know everything about everything, and so what is meant by 'an authority is someone who possesses expert knowledge on a particular subject'. In this case it does not mean someone that we are compelled to obey or believe, like a policeman ordering you to stop or the government making you pay your taxes. We must all make an 'appeal to authority' when we are dealing with the likes of doctors, lawyers, engineers and even plumbers, any professional that possesses specialist knowledge that most of us lack. But this doesn't mean that we should automatically accept whatever someone with a qualification claims. LeBlanc lists the following 'Criteria for judging acceptability for authority:'

    • The authority must be identified
    • The authority must be respectable
    • The matter must be in this authority's field of expertise
    • The matter must be one on which there is a consensus of experts

    So should we be blindly accepting of the claims made by someone like Stanton Friedman? He fulfils the first two criteria, he is identified and he is respectable, that is, he has a qualification such as a PhD. But he fails on the last two criteria, in that he's not commenting on his general field of expertise — nuclear physics, and his view is not one held by the scientific community in areas such as astronomy, astronautics, engineering and exobiology. There is no consensus of experts, this scientist is a maverick, and thus any use of Stanton Friedman's claims about UFOs is a fallacious appeal to authority. Stanton Friedman cannot be pointed to as an expert or an authority, it can't be argued that we should believe his claims because he's an expert and we're not. But clearly this is what websites and books pushing UFOs are doing, implying that Stanton Friedman is an expert that we need to defer to, that he is authoritative. He is not. He is merely stating a view that has little or no evidence to support it in the mainstream view. To change this state of affairs he must find this evidence and sway the other experts, he cannot rely simply on the PhD after his name to convince people. This is not to say that someone that disagrees with a consensus of their fellow experts is wrong, only that they cannot claim to be authoritative, and nor can others suggest that we should defer to their authority. It amazes me why some people will blindly believe some claim made by a solitary so-called expert because he has a PhD and is saying what they want to hear, while at the same time easily dismissing the contradictory view held by a thousand other experts with PhDs. How does the view of one loner trump the view of a thousand?

    And you're right about your comments concerning constellations etc, the nonsense spouted by those that claim to have met aliens just goes on and on and reveals without doubt that they are either lying outright or quite deluded. Unfortunately many that believe in alien visitation are not blessed with the critical thinking gene and are quite ignorant about the universe, getting their space "facts" from Hollywood movies. And of course movies love to remind us that the government is hiding the existence of aliens from us. Thus when someone says they've seen an alien spaceship, many are primed to believe, and when the local media makes no mention of the encounter, it's just a sign that the Men in Black have gotten to them.

  18. Comment by Anonymous-2, 05 Aug, 2018

    Excellent 'paper'. It would be interesting if you can comment on Jacque Vallee's latest comments on the isotopic make up of some alloys he has had examined at the nano level from 'slag' from alien space ships !!

    Actually to be fair to JV he has always stepped back from saying "alien space ships", even postulating some form of other dimensional 'intelligence' that can inter-penetrate our dimension and leave actual material.

    I don't quite know why he has hit on the 'outside of our own reality' paradigm but so it goes...

  19. Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Aug, 2018

    I think the first problem with claims about extraterrestrial materials is that there is always the implication that we know it's from alien space ships or from some other dimensional 'intelligence', and the only problem that doubting scientists need to solve is how did they make it. To me this is as silly as finding a piece of carved wood that is usually only found in Scandinavian countries near the North Pole and insisting that it must have fallen of the sleigh of Santa Claus.

    The reality is that if we had any sort of convincing proof that aliens actually existed, a handful of people wouldn't be fixating over some slag they apparently left behind. And out of 7 billion people on the planet, and thousands of scientists, it is always just a handful of people, usually lay people, that believe these silly beliefs, or if there are one or two scientists, they're usually not qualified to speak authoritatively on the objects or points they are arguing for.

    Unfortunately, even if we just consider the few scientists that believe in alien visitation, it needs to be explained why they can't convince even a dozen or so of their fellow scientists, let alone thousands and thousands of other scientists, that their arguments should be taken seriously. It doesn't matter whether some microbiologist or chemist can convince a layperson that some complex science argues for alien visitation, since the layperson can be easily fooled due to a lack of the necessary knowledge and skills needed to correctly evaluate the evidence. The question is why can't a single expert sow even a seed of doubt in the minds of thousands of other experts? Is it likely that one scientist, usually operating outside his field of expertise, can see a flaw in the scientific evidence that thousands of other scientists can't, even when it's explained to them? It's true of course that occasionally a scientist expresses a hypothesis that runs contrary to the accepted view, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein for example, but it's also true that if this hypothesis has the weigh of evidence behind it, then other scientists are soon swayed by its validity and it becomes part of the new accepted view.

    Over the decades ufologists have argued that many strange objects and occurrences were surely clear evidence for alien visitation, but not one has withstood the glare of rational and scientific investigation. Most of these believers fall into the trap of thinking that if some object or event is mysterious to them, then it must be mysterious to everyone. And to them mysterious things means aliens are about, whereas to others of a like-mind it might mean ghosts or time travellers from the future.

    But how mysterious is the old piece slag that Jacque Vallee and his cohorts are talking about? I suggest you read the article by Robert Sheaffer entitled: 'Bigelow's Researchers disclose Poltergeists and UFO Crashes', where these strange metals are discussed, there is even a photo. The relevant text is half way into the article. Search for the following sentence:

    'This is clearly of a piece with the other bits of exotic metal that fellow Bigelow consultant and ufologist Jacques Vallée has been talking up for the past year.'
    Sheaffer reveals what the metal likely is (spoiler alert: it's not alien), and this explanation in turn comes from an article by Jason Colavito: 'A Potential Solution to the Mystery of the "Alien" Metal Promoted by "To the Stars"'. Once again ufologists like Vallee have been fooled by something unusual, a strange object to be sure, and were too quick to rush to the alien explanation. As we explained in our article, centuries ago people attributed strange objects and events to gods and demons, now people that feel too silly to blame a demon point at aliens instead.

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