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Abducted by logic

by Phil Plait, Nov 26 2008

It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I have to pack, write a dozen blog posts to hold over the
crowd that’s just one missed entry away from pitchforks and torches, do laundry (before packing, damn that arrow of time!), and go to my in-laws for dinner.

So please forgive me for this post which is essentially a link to another one I’ve written. But IMNSHO that you’ll like it. I was asked by Dave Mosher over at the Discovery Channel blog collective to write up my opinion on UFOs as part of their effort to support a program they’re airing about said objects. I agreed, partly because this is something I’ve wanted to write up a for a long time, it’s an important topic, and it’s a fun one. But I mostly agreed because I knew I could link to it from Skepticblog, my own blog, and maybe even Swift. Three alien birds with one logical stone! Spendthrift that I am, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

So here’s the link to the full post about aliens, flying saucers, and which of these things is more likely to be real (hint: aliens). And here’s an excerpt so you don’t feel totally ripped off:

As far as aliens go, I suspect pretty strongly that there’s life in space. We know of over 300 planets orbiting other stars, and we’ve only just started looking. In our Milky Way Galaxy alone there are probably literally billions of planets. Life on Earth got started pretty rapidly, relatively speaking, after the crust cooled and liquid water formed, so we know it’s not tough for life to get its start… and it’s entirely possible there is microbial life inside icy moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn.

So thinking aliens exist has a pretty decent scientific basis. But them coming here is an entirely different beast.

Read the rest to see my devastating blow to believers in UFOs being spaceships carrying aliens coming here to eat our bovine anusi and squish our cereal harvest.

And have a happy Thanksgiving.

9 Responses to “Abducted by logic”

  1. Wow, I had to give up on the comments over there. That Alan Haggard is… Well, it’s the Holiday Season, I’ll spare my thoughts in the interest of charity.

    Enjoy your time with the in-laws. I’ll try to figure out a way to deal with the BA Blog withdrawals somehow. :)

  2. Max says:

    Larian, does the UFO myth work in the Air Force’s favor? Accidental witnesses of classified aircraft are likely to interpret them as alien UFO’s, and get brushed off as UFO nutjobs. The B2 stealth bomber certainly looks like a flying saucer from a distance, and the photos from the crash site are spooky.

  3. “Abducted by Logic” — Best play on words in a blog post title evar.

  4. Venom says:


    The “astronomers don’t see UFOs” argument is really, but really bad, because it’s way to easy for ufologists to point to cases where astronomers testified seeing UFOS. And there are dozens of them!

    So we didn’t have to wait for long to have a ufologists ripping you apart on this:

    As I said on Bad Astronomy, you’re a great skeptic, but this argument is really lame (or need a lot more explanations), and you really should quit using it.


  5. Cambias says:

    Biggest problem I’ve always had with the UFO myth is simply how stupid the aliens act. If they’re exploring the Earth, why don’t they do it the way we gather information about our own planet and others — orbital cameras with high resolution, peering down at the surface. Small rovers to sample the surface geology and life forms. (If they can build interstellar spacecraft they could make their rovers look like pigeons or squirrels.)

    But instead they come around making low passes like World War I reconnaissance planes, and land to take samples and pester the natives like Captain Cook. Or, more significantly, like Captain Kirk.

    I’m a science fiction writer, and I’ve never seen a supposedly true story of a UFO encounter which struck me as convincing. I can and have imagined better aliens than the standard buttock-skulled skinny guys.

    When a UFO report is better than I can come up with, then I’ll take it seriously.

  6. Max,

    If anything, I think it distracts from the USAF Mission more than anything. Like many flights of fancy, it turns out to be a monumental waste of time and resources, that in this day and age of an all volunteer force could be used for many other things. It has not been the position of the USAF, as far as I am aware while I have been in, to actively encourage UFOism.

    As Carl Sagan said in “Demon Haunted World” if the USAF (or DoD in general) REALLY thought there were UFOs buzzing the earth, they’d be working out one heck of a budget to meet this unknown!

  7. My favorite UFO reports are those including navigational lights. Think about that – interstellar craft with *navigational lights*. Holy crap! How very many UFOs there must be to need nav lights in space!

    There is also the ongoing internal conflict of logic – UFOs are alien craft, but it’s unreasonable to expect scientific proof because their ‘stealth’ capabilities are far too advanced. And yet… witnesses see them… left and right… and photograph them.. and videotape them… and claim they’ve crashed all over the world… and they abduct humans left and right… and… and… and… it’s unreasonable to expect scientific proof because their ‘stealth’ capabilities are far too advanced! Well, which is it? Are they inept aviators who cannot keep from crashing their wondrous ships, cannot keep from being seen all over the place, or are they truly superhuman in their ability to keep all evidence of their existence and presence on Earth from us?

    It is amazing how the merest puff of a skeptical breeze can blow away all these alien craft.

  8. chuck says:

    there are simply too many credible reports. consider the two part documentary by Linda Howe on the cattle mutiliation phenomenon. These animals in many cases are completely drained of blood.

    And this has been happening worldwide for years. Suggesting that these people are all nuts and that all the evidence is forged (technically impossible) is nonsense.

    I mean, it’s unfortunate that the level of inquiry into UFOs is still restricted to “is it real?”.

    What about the Belgian flap in 1990? What about the Hudson Valley sightings in 1980-1995 ?

    Do you consider it “scientific” to reject all of these sightings out of hand? Whole villages of witnesses, each reporting the same thing?

  9. I started being a skeptic when I was around 12 years old.Like most skeptics I believe the proof is in the pudding I need scientific evidence before I commit myself to researching. I have kept a modicum of openmindedness which all skeptics should do just in case that one in a billion chance that someones outlandish claims happens to be true. Iread Randi’s Flim Flam when it came out. I read it again about a year ago. It is a great text. I have always had admiration for all
    scientists. There are no ghosts, no psychics, no Jersey Devil etc. I was a trained observering in the U.S. army for three years. I am a retired Public Safety Officer and Police Officer. Within a few minutes time, everything I ever believed in, was taught or took for granted was changed. For forty years I have carried an almost unbearable weight. The scientific community has missed completely on the UFO issue. Ihave been involved with UFO’s for over forty years. I am a college graduate with a dgree in Environmental Science. If scientists knew how absolutely foolish they sound with their theories as they try to explain the UFO sightings they would truly be ashamed. I do not publish any of my findings. I wouldn’t believe myself either.
    For those who have done genuine research and want the governments to release their classified files, you are certainly in the wrong. If there is one thing that I learned for certain in forty years is that the inhabitants of this planet cannot handle such an exposure. Maybe in another hundred years. Maybe not even then.