|Cover Story||January 13, 2011|
by Frederick Gomez
There is a running joke that more Americans believe in flying saucers than Social Security benefits being available when they retire. Cynicism? Perhaps. Sarcasm? Most certainly. In the discussion of extraterrestrial (ET) spacecraft, both cynicism and sarcasm readily come into play. Offsetting these two adjectives is a resolute noun: belief.
In this article, our exploration into this subject matter will be divided into two distinct phases.
It is, perhaps, necessary to do away with some, possible, semantic confusion: the term "UFO" was (initially) defined as an "unidentified flying object," a definition which could apply to any airborne object that cannot be positively identified or explained in conventional fashion.
However, down through the years, "UFO" has become, somewhat, collectively acceptable as "colloquially synonymous" with an extraterrestrial (ET) spacecraft. The term "UFO" still embraces its root meaning of "any unknown flying object whose nature is unknown," however, it has transitioned to a more emphasized definition focused on airships considered to have extraterrestrial origins.
For matters of convenience, this article will use the term "UFO" by its popular accepted definition, i.e. aircraft which are suspected of being other-worldly.
The study and search for life forms beyond our own planet is a very serious and systematic one. SETI (acronym for: Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is a worldwide network of radio telescopes, all aimed at the heavens with the hopes of detecting a signal from any celestial alien civilization that may be out there. SETI monitors the skies nonstop, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The SETI Institute, based in Mountainview, California, was popularized in the movie “Contact” (Warner Bros., 1997), and captured the world’s fascination with SETI’s purpose and intention of contacting life forms outside our own planetary neighborhood. The movie’s main character (Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Oscar-winner, Jodie Foster) was based on real-life SETI director and researcher, Jill Tarter. Tarter summons up an age-old question, “Are we alone?” Humans have been asking this question forever. The probability of success is difficult to estimate, but, if we never search – the chance of success is zero.” The late, celebrated astronomer, Carl Sagan, who authored the book “Contact,” (which became the hit movie) qualifies the need to continue looking to the skies for any ‘cosmic hello.’ “It is a supportable argument that there isn’t anybody out there. Bearing in mind that we could be wrong we are to keep looking. Because the question is of the most supreme importance; it calibrates our place in the universe; it tells us who we are, and so it is worthwhile science to try to find those civilizations – I would think – no matter what.” (UFOs and Aliens, Questar, Inc. video, Chicago, ILL.)
There are others, however, who voice concern over the possibility of discovering extraterrestrial life apart from our own. Especially, if ET is far more advanced than we are. Some social scientists believe that such a discovery of a super-advanced ET civilization may result in a panic-wide reaction in large segments of the world, as well as a pandemic inferiority complex. Dr. Albert Harrison, Ph.D, and author of “After Contact,” strongly believes the human psyche would be severely shaken, “There will be a percentage of people who will become distraught. These people might need a fair amount of support and help to get through this situation.” (UFOs and Aliens, Ibid.)
Likewise, others wonder if it would be wise of us to even respond to any such cosmic greeting, if we receive one. It is, possibly, a dangerous human presupposition to think that any alien civilization ‘must be peaceful,’ merely because they are of a superior intelligence, and technology. Our value system and philosophy of life is a humanly ethnocentric one; it would be supremely egotistical (and naïve) of us to blindly apply our own ‘bank of reasoning’ to any species of intelligent life that is not of this world.
In filing this exclusive report for Lyle E. Davis’ The Paper, I personally contacted Jill Tarter at the SETI Institute, on the telephone, to ask of the possibility that ET might be of a predatory or aggressive nature. Her chilling reply agreed with that possibility, “We do not have a body of information by which to go by and, therefore, there are no guarantees as to their (ET’s) possible nature.” Tarter also made it clear to me that she does not subscribe to any belief that UFOs have visited our planet or crashed near Roswell, New Mexico.
A young Orson Welles terrified an entire nation with his 1938 radio version of Herbert George Wells’ novel, “War of the Worlds.” That large numbers of Americans panicked is a sobering fact, not just a theory. The possibility that an alien race might be hostile is certainly a very real one, albeit, an uncomfortable concept for us Earthlings. After all, their other-worldly evolutionary pattern would be, understandably, different than ours, and their logic and sentience may well be the opposite. Professor Ted Peters, from the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences, at Berkeley, California, says “Logical and topical issues are: ‘What about their ways to get along as beings? Would they have discovered principles of harmony? Would they have as much crime as we do? Would they have passions, such as jealousy, and things that cause so much destruction?’”
The other side of this ‘cosmic coin’ is they (ET) may not even be interested in us. Our human egos may wish to resist such a notion from any inter-stellar ET civilization, but, it is a strong possibility, given our primitive nature and rudimentary technology. Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of SETI @ Home Network states, “They may not be very interested in us. If they’re very advanced, we may look like ants to them and they’ve probably seen many primitive civilizations like us and they might say ‘that’s a new civilization that’s developing,’ and they’re going to wait a little while till we get more interesting.” (UFOs, 50 Years of Denial? Quick Fox Productions, Venice, California, 1997.)
Another dimension of thinking that is often overlooked, is of a Godly nature. Many of the world’s religious communities may regard such an other-worldly encounter as apocalyptic, and very frightening. One penetrating query is: would contact with a super-advanced inter-stellar civilization have a devastating effect on our planet’s organized religion? Professor Ted Peters (Center for Theology and Natural Sciences, Ibid.) addresses such a possibility: “My answer to that is, ‘no,’ it would not. But it’s an important question because there is a lot of disinformation about this being spread from various sources. One source is your kind of, radical, secular scientists who want to continue to believe the myth that religion is centered on Earth and centered on the human race; and Carl Sagan is a good example who perpetuated this belief because it always makes the scientists look like the great intellectual saviors and anybody who is religious is a neurotic. Well, this is a complete misleading of both religion and history.”
Professor Peters goes so far as to believe that such an alien encounter would not only be ‘non-devastating’ to our planet’s religious communities, but, that it would have a positive effect of spiritual affirmation. “You know,” Professor Peters argues, “if we discover these beings in outer space, it’ll just show me how big God’s creation really is!”
Regarding Professor Peters’ assertion, another religious scholar begs to differ. Reverend Joey Condon (Masters in Divinity), a scholar in comparative religion in San Francisco, California, states “Religion as a whole is very Earth ethnocentric. All of the religions are based on the reality that we are alone. The reality is that if an alien force comes here, the question, naturally, is: ‘Do they have a soul?’ If not, if they don’t have a soul, then what are they?” Based on Rev. Condon’s question, a whole new genre of sub-questions begin to unravel. Rev. Condon continues:“If Christ had to die for them, did Christ go and die on their planet and another planet, and yet another planet, if there is a multitude of alien life forces? Or is this just a statement of being a larger event than we ever imagined?” From this matrix of queries, a disturbing conceptual reality begins to rear its grotesque head. The Rev. Condon boldly confronts the issues of prejudice and intolerance, elements that have wreaked human destruction for eons: “Most of our theology and philosophy is not broad enough even to accept other faiths and other races within our own human family. I think we see that in the centuries of religious experience that we have not had as much tolerance as the Man from Galilee. We talk about it, yet we have not had that amongst our fellow human beings. What then are we going to do with alien life forces?”
Despite differing opinions, scientific and religious, regarding the possible emotional, spiritual, and confrontational impact any inter-cosmic ‘first-contact’ may have, most parties are in general agreement that inter-galactic intelligent life is more probable, than doubtful, somewhere in the universe. Even the ultra-conservative views of the Roman Catholic Church concedes as much. In a recent article in the Vatican newspaper, Vatican astronomer, Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes was quoted as saying it is okay to believe in ET. The director of the Vatican observatory, Rev. Funes explains, “I think that that possibility exists. Astronomers believe that the universe consists of hundreds of billions of galaxies, and each of these consists of hundreds of billions of stars. Many of them, or almost all of them, could have planets. How could we rule out that life has also developed elsewhere?” When the highly respected Catholic astronomer was asked if this ET possibility might clash with Catholic faith, he made clear his viewpoint: “I don’t think so. Just like there is an abundance of creatures on earth, there could also be other beings, even intelligent ones, that were created by God. That doesn’t contradict our faith, because we cannot put boundaries to God’s creative freedom.” From this Roman Catholic standpoint, spokesperson Rev. Funes ties a tolerant bow around his summation: “As saint Francis would say, when we consider the earthly creatures to be our ‘brothers and sisters,’ why couldn’t we also talk about a ‘extraterrestrial brother’? He would still be part of our creation.”
The final provocative question of redemption was posed, and Rev. Funes answered with Vatican approbation, “We who belong to the human race, could very well be the lost sheep, the sinners that need the shepherd. They (ET) might have stayed in full friendship with their Creator. Jesus incarnated once and for all. The incarnation is a unique and non-repeatable event. However, I am certain that they too, in one way or another, would have the possibility to experience God’s mercy, just like we men have.” (The Vatican newspaper, May 14, 2008, as reported by Nancy Atkinson.)
PHASE TWO: UFOS.
Various descriptions of flying saucers (or flying discs) have, reportedly, been around since the Middle Ages (c. 476 A.D. to c. 1500), perhaps even earlier. There have been many allegations of UFOs depicted in cave dwellings that are several thousands of years old, however, such renderings are often left to the imagination of the observer. Such claims that UFOs are in these ancient cave drawings are highly controversial; each person seeing much as they may wish to see or envision, let alone interpret.
There have been many famous people who claim to have seen a UFO. There are too many celebrities to enumerate who lay such claim, but a few more notable ones are: Jackie Gleason, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Mick Jagger. The reliability of these celebrity reports are greatly unsubstantiated, at least by scientific methodology. Predating this modern array of glitter are questionable ones, such as Alexander the Great and Christopher Columbus, who are often mentioned by, sometimes, overzealous proponents of UFOs; proponents who wish to promote an ambitious agenda of UFO acceptance. In the case of Alexander the Great, a claim forwarded by modern author, Frank Edwards, that the great general witnessed a fiery flying saucer, has been called into question by scholars who view Edwards as unreliable and short of integrity, since he quotes – among other things – undisclosed sources, which cannot be verified.
The term “flying saucer” became (globally popular) in 1947, after a celebrated UFO sighting by a pilot named, Kenneth Arnold. While flying his airplane, Arnold reported seeing nine “flying vehicles.” One was clearly described by him as being crescent-shaped; the remaining eight airborne UFOs were variously described by the newspaper as being of a “saucer,” “disc,” or “pie-plate” design. (East Oregonian newspaper, June 24 (late edition, same day as the sighting), 1947, as reported by Bill Bequette.)
Years later, Arnold claimed he was misquoted by reporter, Bequette, in that he (Arnold) never described the UFOs as “saucer shaped,” or “pie shaped.” According to Arnold, his intent was to describe the peculiar (motion) of the mysterious flying vehicles, not their (shape) when he used the word "saucer": “They flew erratic like a saucer if you skip it across the water." Nonetheless, subsequent newspaper accounts, all over the globe, erroneously perpetuated the image of the mysterious objects as being of a saucer design, rather than crescent or disc-like, as Arnold had originally stated.
Soon after Kenneth Arnold’s story first broke in the East Oregonian newspaper, stating that he saw the nine UFOs from his CallAir A-2 airplane, the wire services picked up the story, also misquoting his crescent or disc-shaped UFO descriptions: United Press, International, "They were shaped like saucers and were so thin I could barely see them." Associated Press: "He said they were bright, saucer-like objects -- he called them ‘aircraft.’ He also described the objects as ‘saucer-like.’ Arnold described the objects as ‘flat like a pie pan.'" Chicago Tribune: "They were silvery and shiny and seemed to be shaped like a pie plate.”
The above examples (save for the Portland Oregon Journal) emphasize the irony that 'if you repeat something fictitious often enough, it can become fact in the public's mind.' However, Arnold's own voice recording and a photo of him holding an accurate UFO design, clearly and visually, confirms his original testimony, all of which was distorted by the print media.
Where and who first coined the term "flying saucer" is controversial and not clearly defined. It is popularly (but erroneously) believed that East Oregonian reporter, Bill Bequette, first used the term but this is nowhere to be found in his earliest reports of Arnold's strange airborne encounter. Kenneth Arnold never used the term (initially), and the first reporters to interview him, Nolan Skiff and Bill Bequette, both of the East Oregonian (June 24-25, 1947), did not coin the term in their first press releases (East Oregonian archives, Ibid). Again, urban legend has scored a dubious and insidious victory, to this very day.
The term "flying saucer" is generally agreed to have 'blossomed out' from other newspaper articles which began to pick up on the sensational storyline, worldwide, sometimes on their front pages. Any earlier use of the term 'flying saucer' is not substantially proven and, until a source surfaces which can be verified, such prior claims must, reasonably, remain in the realm of 'hear-say.'
The term "saucer" had been used long before Kenneth Arnold's celebrated report. Almost 70 years prior to Arnold's 1947 incident, a Texas farmer by the name of John Martin described a UFO sighting while on a hunting expedition, in Denison, Texas, on January 2, 1878. In the case of Martin, he used the word "saucer," (again, inadvertently) in attempting to describe the size of the object in question, not the shape, as was reported in a newspaper article of the day ("A Strange Phenomenon," Denison Daily Newspaper, January 15, 1878). Collecting his thoughts afterward, a stunned Martin described the mysterious object as more round, as opposed to flat. The Denison Daily Newspaper reported part of the episode thusly: "The peculiar shape and velocity with which the object seemed to approach riveted his attention and he strained his eyes to discover its character." The article caught the imagination of the local citizenry. The experience was further described: "After gazing at it for some time, Mr. Martin became blind from long looking and left off viewing it for a time in order to rest his eyes. On resuming his view, the object was almost overhead and had increased considerably in size, and appeared to be going through space at wonderful speed."
Since Martin was, by all accounts, an earnest man not given to exaggeration, the report ended by imploring further serious investigation: "When directly over him it was about the size of a large saucer and was evidently at great height. Mr. Martin thought it resembled, as well as he could judge, a balloon. It went as rapidly as it had come and was soon lost to sight in the heavenly skies. Mr. Martin is a gentleman of undoubted veracity and this strange occurrence, if it was not a balloon, deserves the attention of our scientists." In cases such as this, it is extremely difficult to substantiate the details or corroborate the incident by other eyewitnesses. So, it remains "sketchy" at best, and is categorized as a (dubious) bona fide ET sighting, made with honest intentions. However, if the details at hand were accurately conveyed by an honorable man, such as Mr. Martin was described, then, it would be equally puzzling that any such large balloon -- especially in 1878 -- could be capable of traversing the heavens at such a velocity, or emitting a dazzling light source that would temporarily blind an onlooker.
The term saucer or disc of a UFO nature has long been in use, its origins perhaps shrouded in time.
Sightings of UFOs by extremely reliable sources, such as by astronauts, U.S. presidents or foreign leaders are not so easily dismissed. It is a well-known fact that the term "foo fighter" was in broad use by our Allied pilots during World War II. These strange UFOs were variously described in the skies in both the European and Pacific Theaters of Operations. 'Foo fighters' was the designated terminology by the U.S. 415th Night Fighter Squadron, as well as other segments of operation, to describe aerial phenomena from that period. Foo fighters began to be formally reported by our Allied airplane pilots from about November 1944 onward. Interestingly, Allied and Axis forces suspected these foo fighters to be secret weapons from the enemy. Conversely, the German and Japanese pilots, thought these extraordinary foo fighters to be of American or British origin. These aerial anomalies were never fully explained by our military intelligence and have, for the most part, been kept highly classified, to this day.
Foo fighters were first encountered by Allied forces flying over Germany in 1944, whereby fighter pilots reported them as "fast-moving round objects," that appeared to be following and 'toying' with their aircraft. These same airmen, consistently, reported that these UFOs flew in formation and behaved “as if under intelligent control, but they never displayed hostile behavior. However, they could not be outmaneuvered or shot down." (Associated Press correspondent, Bob Wilson, December, 1944)
On January 15, 1945, Time Magazine ran a "Foo Fighter" story which dazzled its readership. The article reported "foo fighters" that looked like "balls of fire" and followed USAAF night fighters for over a month! Scientists tried to explain them away as "illusions, probably caused by afterimages of dazzle caused by flak bursts." Such rationalizations were not bought by the general public, and especially not by experienced fighter pilots who were all too-experienced in dealing with such flimsy explanations.
Dr. Herman Oberth, a Nazi rocket engineer who was taken to the U.S. after the war and became one of the fathers of modern spaceflight said, "There is no doubt in my mind that these objects are interplanetary craft of some sort. I and my colleagues are confident that they do not originate in our solar system." Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding, commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain stated, years later, on August, 1954, "Of course flying saucers are real, and they are interplanetary."
The alleged retrieval of alien technology from the so-called flying saucer crash site near Roswell, New Mexico, is a very muddled and conflicting story. Nevertheless, the late Lt. Colonel Phillip J. Corso, U.S. Army, and President Eisenhower's science advisor, member of the National Security Council (in the 1950s), and who was assigned to Research and Development at the Pentagon, confirms in his memoirs that there was a UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico; that alien bodies were recovered and that he was involved in "reverse engineering" whereby alien technology was "decoded” for U.S. industry, at large. According to Corso, "Artifacts harvested from the spacecraft led to today's integrated circuit chips, fiber optics, lasers, and stealth technology." (The Day After Roswell, Pocket Books, 1997, with William J. Birner.) Many other high-ranking people have broken their silence on the erstwhile taboo subject of extraterrestrial life forms and spacecraft. In 1971 Apollo 14 Astronaut, Capt. Edgar D. Mitchell said, “We all know that UFOs are real. All we need to ask is where do they come from?" In a letter to the United Nations, in 1978, Mercury 7 Astronaut, Col. Gordon Cooper wrote: "I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets and are obviously more advanced than we are . . ." In a memorandum written on July 10, 1947, and released under the Freedom of Information Act, FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, expressed a complaint that the U.S. Army denied the FBI access to crashed UFOs. In part he states: "We must insist upon full access to disks recovered. In the case of the Army, they grabbed it and would not let us have it for cursory examination." Former USSR leader, Mikhail Gorbachev was quoted as saying, "The phenomenon of UFOs does exist, and it must be treated seriously." (Soviet Youth Magazine, May 4, 1990) President Richard Nixon (1969 to 1974) was more blunt, "I'm not at liberty to discuss the government's knowledge of extraterrestrial UFOs at this time. I am still personally being briefed on the subject."
It has been postulated, that if the United States government does, indeed, have information of UFO vehicles and their occupants, this information would exist at the very highest possible level of security -- even more secret than our nuclear or atomic weaponry. While U.S. presidents may have access to such ultra (or cosmic) level secrets once they obtain the oval office, it is theorized that this other-worldly information is strictly given on a "need to know" basis, in order to insulate such data from any infiltrated espionage potential.
On December 4, 1985, in Chicago, Illinois, during a question-and-answer session, U.S. President Ronald Reagan quipped about the possible threat from outer space, "Wouldn't we all-of-a-sudden find that we didn't have any differences between us at all, that we're all human beings, citizens of the world, and wouldn't we all come together to fight that particular threat?"
The human race globally united at last? Yes, but, at what price?