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How to Talk to a UFOlogist (if you must)

by Michael Shermer, Aug 25 2009

Confessions of an Alien Hunter (cover)

I’m a big fan of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intellience) and I think their search program constitutes the best chance we have of making contact. In fact, on a recent Saturday I was rained out of my normal 4-hour bike ride, so I read SETI scientist Seth Shostak’s new book, Confessions of An Alien Hunter (published by National Geographic), a brilliant and fun read. Seth has a fantastic sense of humor and in his book he presents some of great one-liners to use when dealing with UFOlogists, alien abductees, and the saucerites. For example:

Regarding the time it would take to traverse the vast distances between the stars, which would be millions of years (it will take Voyager II 300,000 years to reach a nearby star), Shostak notes: “That’s a long time to be squirming in a coach seat.”

As for the lack of tangible evidence for UFOs: “Physical evidence — a taillight or knob from an alien craft — is in short supply.”

UFOlogists claim that they have tens of thousands of UFO sightings, as if this is a good thing, but Shostak notes that this actually argues against UFOs being ET, because to date not one of these tens of thousands of sightings has materialized into concrete evidence that UFOs = ETIs. It’s counterintuitive, but more sightings equals less certainty because with so many saucers zipping around we would have captured one by now, and we haven’t.

Communion - A True Story (cover)

Shostak notes that crop circles are a very poor means of communication because they represent only a few hundred bits of information, 1,679 bits in the most complex crop circle to date, which is less than a paragraph of text! If ETIs are advanced enough for interstellar space travel, why resort to using wheat fields, which are only ripe a couple of months a year, and then the crop-circle communication is quickly mowed down by angry farmers!

As for alien abductees, Shostak points out that Whitley Strieber’s book, Communion, launched the modern alien abduction movement. And guess what Strieber does for a living? He is a SciFi/fantasy/horror writer! Actually, I knew this already because I met Strieber in the green room at Bill Maher’s ABC show, Politically Incorrect, and Whitley and I were chatting it up over coffee and granola bars in the green room before the show when I asked him what he did when he wasn’t writing about being abducted by aliens. He told me that he writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels. The show was over right there in the green room! What else is there to say to a guy who writes this stuff as fiction, then slaps a “nonfiction” label on the book jacket?

86 Responses to “How to Talk to a UFOlogist (if you must)”

  1. Cambias says:

    Don’t blame us science fiction writers! If there’s a literary subgenre more fervently skeptical than SF I don’t know what it is. Streiber may write the stuff but he’s not part of the identifiable core of the genre — and you’ll never find him at conventions bumping elbows with Klingon babes.

    • Dedalus1953 says:

      In my experience, “bumping elbows with Klingon Babes” will lead to either (1) broken limbs, teeth, spirtits, or, (2) a drunken-memory gap leaving physical trauma undreamed of by “non-fictional” abductees.

      • MarvelFan says:

        LOL! ^_^

        This thread took a deep dive into Geek Zone, didn’t it?

        I regularly attend a convention that has a annual “Miss Klingon Beauty Pagent”, although I find it unusual that outside of the films/TV shows most klingons (male and female) tend to be a bit overweight 9_9

        Also at this convention there are ‘hard science’ panels and “Paranormal” panels; not much attendees to the former though (although I’ve felt like attending the Paranormal panels as a vocal skeptic, but just haven’t had the guts to do so).

        One thing I will say is that I love reading about UFOs, Bigfoot, and the like because it is a kind of Pseudo-Science Fiction, which unfortunately some people actually believe.

        To point out how geek I am, I am someone who plays Role Playing games like Dungeons and Dragons.

        One in particular that deals with paranormal happenings is called Delta Green, which does a good job of mixing modern day conspiracy theories with, of all things, H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos :-):

        One final thought: I find it kind of funny that Streiber is responsible for one of the most lampooned aspects of UFO Abduction: The Anal Probe (even in the movie “Paul”, the alien wonders why everyone expects him to do that :-)

  2. John Paradox says:

    Would the ‘previous’ alien abduction movement be traced to Betty and Barney Hill?

  3. John says:

    It worked for Dan Brown.

  4. Bryan says:

    Now that Stan Romanek claims that he was put back after an abduction and was wearing Betty Hill’s flanel night shirt, I would assume that he is going to start claiming that he is one of the first abductees.

  5. James Sayer says:

    You believe that SETI would let us know about alien life? No! There is plenty of evidence. People really see UFO’s all the time and you can’t say all of them are false. Forget about the distance between stars. If you had better technology you could get there faster.

    • Dax says:

      If you had better technology you could get there faster.

      There’s both a physical and an economical limit to the speed of star travel. The physical limit is the speed of light and the economical limit (not in the modern sense of cash, but of resources) is the energy requirements to reach that speed and to decelerate to a manageable speed to move into orbit around an object. Also, the acceleration and deceleration is limited otherwise ET would be splattered all over the controls of his ship. Unless you have technology breaking the laws of physics, you cannot just move from solar system to solar system. If technology like this would be possible then why are these beings so interested in out anal opening? Seems rather counterproductive to me, to travel many parsecs only to stick probes up people’s butts.

      People really see UFO’s all the time and you can’t say all of them are false

      Agreed, many people truly do see an ‘unidentified flying object’ but this does not equate to alien spaceship. Probably one the most common UFO sightings is the planet venus, although those idiotic thai balloon lights seem to be the sighted as an UFO quite often, too.
      Get over it, UFO ≠ Spaceship.

      • catsnjags says:

        “The physical limit is the speed of light”

        Yeah, but nobody ever talks about getting there faster using the speed of DARK!


      • James says:

        Big fan of your work, even if I disagree with quite a bit of it. Just curious if you’ve read Dolan’s, “UFOs and the National Security State”? Yes, I’m aware that you can find things he has said or done that could cast doubt on him personally, but I’m interested in a very narrow, specific, aspect of his research; concerning the documents in his book that are cited as being created by “US Government” officials that state, unequivocally, that UFOs (at least a small % of them) are “real” (nuts and bolts crafts of an unknown origin). Are these documents forged? If not, how would you explain the fact that according to these documents as well as the testimony of hundreds of former and current military personnel,pilots, policemen, and other credible sources,that there are some kind of aircraft of an unknown regularly visiting our planet? Visiting, if these Generals, Majors, and intelligence people are to be believed, sites that are supposed to be Top Secret. If this is true, I think to dismiss these claims as Venus and swamp gas, in light of the evidence is both dangerous and irresponsible. Thoughts?

    • JGB says:

      James is right: There is plenty of evidence and people do see UFO’s all the time. I myself have seen several UFO’s – one of them landed at a nearby airport and I still haven’t identified exactly what kind of object it was that was flying (airplane, helicopter – or maybe it wasn’t flying but simply floating like a blimp)

      Now as far as evidence of extra-terrestrial spacecraft – in science, we have to be careful to distinguish between observation and interpretation. They may see *something* but it is a matter of interpretation (opinion) that it is extra-terrestrial.

      BTW: if we had (sufficiently) better computers we could completely simulate the entire universe and predict next week’s lotto numbers –
      assuming that such computers could exist ;)

  6. MadScientist says:

    “more sightings equals less certainty”

    Being pedantic, I’d say “more sightings equals greater certainty of the negative hypothesis”. It doesn’t make much sense to say that it is even less certain that there are alien visitors; you can’t get more than 100% uncertain on a yes/no question.

    • JGB says:

      I think the point is: “more sightings without corroborating evidence increasingly suggests these sightings are unreliable and should not be given much credence.”

  7. Brian Cattermole says:

    A few years ago I raised this subject with a retired airline pilot and to my great surprise he told me of a convincing ufo experience when a large and unknown type of craft flew alongside his aircraft for some time and was seen by the passengers. He reported the event and on landing he, his crew and the passengers
    were sworn to secrecy ‘as a matter of national security’. Well, you either believe it or you dont

    • William Patrick Haines says:

      Well they do test a lot of aircraft so the sworn to secrecy is valid for one type of scenario . Well to sound even more high Fi Sci FI if independence day were to happen . I am sure if they were a chance of victory against the alien onslaught Barack Obama would be the choice of chief executive at the helm .See who said progressive liberals do not have a sense of humor.
      But even if FTL were possible an interstellar invasion would still be an expensive endeavor . I remember speaking to some one at an Astronomy convention years ago about Carl Sagan’s example of the Spanish versus the Incas of how an advanced civilization would inevitably slaughter a less advanced one.Well he said at the time the Inca military at the time was in decline and if they were at their peak they would have been a much more formidable challenge . Also what about how the Zulus decimated the British at Rork’s riff another scenario that disproves an interstellar invasion would be cake walk would enemy at the gates

    • Max says:

      If you’re not lying, then the retired pilot either lied/exaggerated or can’t keep a national security secret. Did he ask you not to tell anybody?

    • tensorthedino says:

      Well they were sworn to secrecy because it was probably a government proto-type as I would assume many “UFO’s” are. It’s my understanding that there is more than likely life else where. But if they are more advanced than us, they would have NO interest in us.

  8. William Patrick Haines says:

    Unfortunately a lot of the talk is spent on whether interstellar travel could be done but would ufos do it in the first place and a lot rubbish like Von Dänikenism is associated with flying saucers

    Little green men did not build pyramids

    I came across a book on the web I was wondering what it’s merit were

  9. Sprawn says:

    Along the lines of the sighting frequency being (counter intuitively) evidence against the ET hypothesis, I think it is safe to consider the photographic and video evidence as counter to the ET hypothesis. It would be a difficult, but potentially worthwhile, effort to generate an estimate of the total number of photographs taken in any given year since photography began. A survey of UFO photos should indicate that their number increases about proportionally to the total number of photos taken. My guess would be that 1,000 times more photos were taken in 2008 compared with 1958. If there were a thousand UFO photos in 1958, there should be a million in 2008!

    And when you further consider that the resolution of photographic equipment has increased by orders of magnitude over the same period, we should be seeing tens or hundreds of millions of UFO photographs. Yet, the opposite happens. As photo and video equipment gets faster, sharper, clearer, the UFOs seem to be getting smaller, fuzzier and more distant. A dedicated and deluded Ufoologist would surmise, I suppose, that the aliens can somehow detect the power and resolution of our photographic equipment and alter their flight plans accordingly. They always fly just beyond the limits of clarity. This strikes me as absurd as Yahweh placing millions of fossils in strata all over the world to “fool” science. I think a more realistic explanation is that the UFOs are simply insects, airplanes, stars, helicopters, bird flocks, and even the occasional weather balloon.

  10. It’s true. A lot of people were abducted and had hideous experiments performed on them. How else could you explain the signs of anal/cranial reversal of those who’ve claimed to be abducted?

  11. Loughlin Tatem says:

    Swort to secrecy, huh? Were there no children on board or were the children’s eyes covered… We know they have a hard time keeping secrets.Sworn to secrecy, how convenient.

  12. liliane bar says:

    please I recomend you to watch in youtube Parallels Universes also in BBC and cords theories . They are from history channel. You will maybe understand a little more about new conceptions of science and see how it is possible to travel from one dimention to the other through warm holes. So you don’t need to run so long dimentions from one point to the other in the universe. SETI will never contact UFOS because they stay only in our dimention. There are maybe also explanations about extrasensorial phenomenous.People that travel from one to other dimentions.I have seen an UFO in Capilla del Monte, Cordoba, Argentina. I am a doctor and do not beleive in colored fishes.( so we say in Argentina). sincerely Liliane Bar

  13. kabol says:

    They are from history channel.

    well then it MUST be true!

    A lot of people were abducted and had hideous experiments performed on them. How else could you explain the signs of anal/cranial reversal of those who’ve claimed to be abducted?


  14. dan says:

    i have seen several ufo’s. most of my sighting were witnessed ranging from large metallic looking orbs to triangular shaped craft and lights and orbs that appeared over stones that i ‘unwittingly’ removed from sacred locations in ireland as memento’s. life would be so much easier and less complex if i had not seen such sightings or had associated experiences. there is hardly a day that goes by where i endlessly ponder on such events. if i had seen the ufos when i was by myself
    i suppose i could have found a way to dismiss the events but when such events are witnessed by others you have to live with the experiences.

  15. Baloney Detective says:

    I’m sure that people who claim to have seen UFOs have seen something; but to call these things alien spacecraft is one hell of a leap of faith.

    • kabol says:

      not to mention linking them to “sacred stones”.

      most of these people don’t really even want to believe that it’s simply military or something misconstrued. besides, things like sacred stones and little bug eyed gray beings sell more books and movies!

  16. cam tonin says:

    anal/cranial reversal….there may be some truth to this…i know a lot of people with their brains up their butts…and a lot more that talk like assholes…excuse the wording….

    • William Patrick Haines says:

      You might have something but UFO enthusiast do not a monopoly on either delusional or erratic behavior . Some examples Glen beck and the Bush administration. You do have a lot things in the media that a lot of people can get overwhelmed with and really more so than ever it is far more shallow superficial sensationalism than substance

  17. John Forest says:

    Point 1: The gobsmacking interstellar distance equals impossible theory.

    While I concede that given current propulsion systems, this is sufficient thinking. Nothing more is required, unless one possesses imagination. Therefore I offer the following thought experiment.

    Imagine asking a primitively evolved human from thousands of years ago whether it might be possible for people to construct a flying vehicle and safely pilot said vehicle across the ‘Big Water” spending much of the journey at altitudes above the clouds.

    Answer: unequivocal ugh which I take as a No. Impossible. Period.

    Point 2: Regarding the stray seat cushion, door knob or snack wrapper argument.

    I concede that the hull and major components of a ship with exotic (to us) propulsion systems may indeed be constructed of materials and formed by methods unknown on Earth. However this leaves a good bit of stuff that might conceivably be made of materials indistinguishable from what humans currently use. Furthermore, this doesn’t account for the possibility that an exotic propulsion system might be accompanied by some type of protective ‘field’. Such a field may offer the occupants and the materials protection from the many hazards of space flight thereby reducing the need for exotic materials. Speculation? Yes. Mystical flight of fancy? No.

    Point 3: Because sighting reports number in the thousands, we should have ‘captured one’ (sic) by now.

    Really? Assuming the UFO phenomena has an actual material basis, is that what we should expect. Allowing for the idea that we are discussing intelligent creatures from somewhere/somewhen else piloting exotic vehicles on, for us, unimaginable journeys. I find it a bit harsh for the writer to fault humans for failing to capture the genie in a bottle. (I hesitated to use the word genie, fearing that my reader would suggest that I would soon be discussing fairies and gnomes as well.) But seriously, in the words of Arthur C. Clarke; “any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic”.

    Point 4: Crop circles.

    I am confident most crop circles are man-made. However there is sketchy evidence of a correlation to UFO’s. I am in no way convinced that the two things are related and if they are that the circles would need to be a form of ‘communication’.

    Point 5: Whitley Streiber. No comment.

    Color me a skeptic with an interest in Ufology resulting from direct experience.

    • William Patrick Haines says:

      I have some articles that might be of interest

      Single stage to orbit:
      Magazine articles

      Dec 1988/Jan1989
      air and space smithsonian
      page 44 -50

      feb/mar 1994
      Air and space Smithsonian
      page 44-50

      Omni dec 1982
      vol 5 #3
      issn 0149 -8711
      page 24 continued on 167-168

      Interstellar travel:
      magazine articles
      Omni oct 1983
      page 79-84

      Oct/nov 1989
      Air and Space Smithsonian
      page 42-48

      Discover aug 1998
      page 70 -79

      Ftl ( Faster than light)
      magazine articles
      Popular science
      may 2001
      page 46-51

      Journal of the British interplanetary society
      nov 1995
      page 453

      Science digest may 1982
      issn 0036-8296
      vol90 #5
      page 79-81
      Books on interstellar Travel
      Frontiers of Propulsion Science
      Marc Millis and Eric Davis

      A study of interstellar warfare

      StarDrive Engineering’
      by Mark R. Tomion

      Prospects for interstellar travel / John H. Mauldin. – Univelt, 1992.xx, 370
      p. : ill. ; 25 cm. – (Science and technology series ; v. 80).
      Includes bibliographical references. – ISBN 0877033447
      Document type:

      The Starflight Handbook
      Mallove, Eugene
      Matloff, Gregory
      Date finished: 1997-08-01

      The Dream Machines: An Illustrated History of the Spaceship in Art, Science
      and Literature [ILLUSTRATED] (Hardcover)

      by Ron Miller (Author)

      Popular Science space 2100


      Erik Baard ,Bruce Grierson, Fennella Saunders, Wendy L Schultz, Jeffrey

  18. Antonio Luz says:

    For me, it goes without saying that if aliens are visiting Earth, they aren’t travelling from their home planets at the speed of light and “squirming in a coach seat” for years. If evidence was found that they are in fact here, I would assume that they are using another kind of technology that we don’t understand. And, naturally, this wouldn’t constitute any “breaking the laws of physics”. As an illustration, I remember this guy named Jean Paul Jacob appearing in a TV show in my country and joking that when he was a Physics student, he “proved” that superconductivity was “impossible”. Nevertheless, a few years later, he could demonstrate that very thing in the show, using only a thermal bottle with liquid oxygen and a piece of ceramic superconductor.

    As most people visiting this blog, I don’t take Erik Von Daniken, L. Ron Hubbard or Whitley Strieber seriously. I think that no real proof that aliens are visiting us has been produced. But, as Carl Sagan and Seth Shostak, I believe that it’s possibly (even likely) there’s life out there in the universe. And, if this hypothesis can be true, why is such a big leap to conjecture that some alien life form could be intelligent and technologically advanced so they can indeed visit us? In this context, I wouldn’t dismiss immediately every claim of people saying they saw an UFO and I wouldn’t always label as ridiculous the explanation they provide that what they saw appeared to be a machine using technology we don’t possess or understand. Also, I think the “planet Venus” and “candle balloons” so called explanations (a la Project Blue Book) are a priori answers in many cases. These explanations are too simplistic and don’t really explain many of the supposed observations. In short, I think we should be more open minded about this subject. Of course we need real evidence, but we won’t find any if we always rule out the possibilities presented by the witnesses and keep denying that some observations are worthy of scientific investigation or believing that the explanation will be always something we already know. I think that there are plenty of reports of things supposedly happening that defies simple explanations or that can be ruled out simply accusing the witnesses of gullibility. Of course, a lot of the UFO guys out there deserve that attitude, but this can’t be a silver bullet. By the way, I never saw an UFO.

  19. kabol says:

    I think that there are plenty of reports of things supposedly happening that defies simple explanations or that can be ruled out simply accusing the witnesses of gullibility.

    name a few of those for us?

  20. Patrick says:

    Some years ago I remember reading an article, put out, I think, by the (called then) Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (now called the Committee for Scientific Inquiry, called “What Else Could They Be?”
    It was a lengthy list of common and uncommon naturally occurring phenomena that could elicit a standard UFO report, like the planet Venus seen through clouds or fog, lenticular clouds, etc, etc.
    I think skeptics should make such a list more available to the general public and whenever a UFO report makes the news, it should be stressed that one should make every effort to explain the sighting using the list instead of automatically jumping to the conclusion that it’s an alien spacecraft.
    This idea that “I couldn’t explain it, therefore it must be an ET” is just bad critical thinking, the kind you hear on “Coast to Coast AM” every night.
    But then there’s a lot of money to be made if you can make people believe and you don’t have any scruples.

  21. Patrick says:

    As a follow-up to my previous post, I just looked up “other explanations for UFOs” and got a large number of hits. The best one is an article on the “Skeptics Dictionary” site that doesn’t give a list as such, but does discuss many naturally occurring events that are commonly mistaken for UFOs.
    It seems to me that a rational person has the responsibility to eliminate all possible normal explanations before you accept a paranormal one.
    To me, that’s what critical thinking is about.
    To say, “I can’t explain it, therefore it must be an alien spacecraft.” is just bad logic.
    Also, I recall a UFO report that made national news where the people who saw the objects said they were hundreds of feet long, traveling at hundreds of miles a hour, making right angle turns, and flashing beams of light down to the ground. The police were kept busy the whole night responding to UFO sightings.
    The next day several college kids, home on a term break, contacted the authorities saying they had, just for the fun of it, made hot air balloons out of dry-cleaning bags and had launched these using birthday candles. They had no idea they would cause a UFO flap and they apologized.
    From this you get people who make this into an alien spacecraft.
    You see what you want to see.
    Even trained observers can be mistaken.

    • John Forest says:

      When I had my close encounter, I did not approach the situation with the idea that the anomalous object was an extra-terrestrial craft. Exactly the opposite. I thought this is odd but there must be a prosaic explanation and I will calmly go down the list and find it. I wanted to find a simple answer, a known quantity. The evidence before my eyes led me to conclude that the solid craft I witnessed did not follow the rules of either ballistic motion (as in meteorites) or propelled lift vs drag flight (as in known aircraft). Even then I did not immediately conclude that it was piloted by aliens. I merely opened the mental doorway to that possibility based on the fact that the list on the other side of the balance sheet had shrunk to near zero.

      On a side note, I outright reject the notion that highly advanced super secret aircraft are being regularly flown at tree top level over populated areas. I would certainly accept that the U.S. government is always attempting to expand the boundaries of our defense capabilities. Are there craft resulting from those efforts being tested in the deserts of Nevada or similar places? Probably, though I am not privy to that information. Would such craft cause the average person to be awe-struck by levels of technology dwarfing that of radar absorbent jets? I’m not on the need-to-know short list there either. But I’d put it in the possible column.

      An what does it all matter? It doesn’t at some level because of what I call the “Contact Effect”. Referring, of course, to Carl Sagan’s novel in which a highly trained scientist is dropped into a wormhole or whatever. What happens in the end? Half the people believe her. Having returned without a clearly discernible alien artifact, the other half discount her claims. They are certain that she misinterpreted what she saw or out right lied.

      Conundrum noted. Perhaps someone rather smarter than I will solve it for us all in a few elegant sentences.

  22. JGB says:

    I want to know why these space aliens have great mastery across the fields of physics and engineering but their most advanced form of medicine is proctology?

    • Joe says:

      Perhaps in a more advanced age we will find that proctology, and not genetics, will save all our asses.

    • William Patrick Haines says:

      Perhaps they are trying to exam the minds of Bush supporters . Of all the things to have hallucinations about . Are you sure telemarketers/ bill collectors are not triggering vivid nightmares after all they are a persistent pain and expect to pull money out of nowhere

    • William Mook says:

      Well, all things with the genitalia – not just asses. Since our asses and genitals are really important to us – despite what we say or do – obviously legends surrounding the UFO idea deal with these. I notice that the UFO legends as they proliferate into different types have interests in different body parts. This replicates ancient Vedic traditions related to chakras – those legendary power centers of human consciousness.

      Now, we’re all biological creatures. Our minds exist as an epiphenomenon of brain function, and brain function occurs within a larger organism that entails body function. Is it beyond possibility that brains are aware internally somehow by direct biological connection to these different body functions?

      Consider, as biological creatures we crap, we reproduce, we digest, we have feelings associated with our hearts, we breathe, we have eyes. Each sub-system is located at a specific point in the body. Each sub-system is connected to the others by a variety of interconnects. The spinal column, the vagus nerve, the lymphatic and circulatory systems.

      Is it surprising that we make up stories about each of these centers of biological function?

      Is it surprising even that these stories may have relevance and assist us in our journey through life?

      Is it surprising that denied any credible belief in godlike beings that we create from the possibility of superior technical species in the cosmos legends about creatures that in a pinch take the place of our gods in god legends?

      Obviously these ideas exist and persist, are created, and re-created for a reason. That reason isn’t logical. It is likely however that the reason is useful to us.

      The alien abduction hallucination involves examination of these 7 power centers.

      Clearly we are creating legends and experiences to express something within our biology that requires expression. While this may seem irrational to the logical mind, we shouldn’t under-rate its importance for that reason since our biology – which is the result of billions of years of evolution – may have something important to tell us!

      After all, anuses were evolved well before brains and we ignore the assholes at our peril! This reminds me of Mark Twain’s story about how the asshole got to be voted the most important body part.

      • kabol says:

        anuses were evolved well before brains and we ignore the assholes at our peril

        tee shirt slogan?? not so much???

      • Tim says:

        I wonder what university this Mook got his MD at. He seems to know so much about biology. Which genes in our DNA are responsible for inner knowledge again? I’m afraid I also forgot what parts of the brain FMRI results showed are active when inner knowledge is being accessed. Also I have misplaced my peer reviewed journal articles detailing behavior studies which show people who access inner knowledge in contrast with people required to operate exclusively on logic and reason. Could I trouble you to post those again please?

    • tmac57 says:

      Maybe its their version of a handshake.

  23. dan says:

    from the response to my earlier posting is it any wonder why some folk who see and have unexplained experiences tend to keep it to themselves!
    it seems that most people never see a ufo or have a paranormal experience and probably less still have witnessed accounts. but since i have had such experiences it is not important to try and convince the overwhelming majority who have not seen or believe in such matters. ones whole perspective on lfe changes after experiencing such events. why some see and others do not may have its reasons. maybe some beings are not meant to see, maybe they have not been selected. why that may be the case is for them to ponder!
    those that have seen ‘know’ those that have not seen
    may ridicule as exclusion from the club must be painful!

    • kabol says:

      those that have seen ‘know’ those that have not seen
      may ridicule as exclusion from the club must be painful!

      no one has ridiculed you that i can see. many skeptics have had unexplained (to them) or mysterious experiences, but they realize there’s a logical explanation out there and do their best to find it instead of settling on it being something paranormal or extra-terrestrial.

    • Joe says:

      True Dan.

      I have seen UFO’s. In fact I live in the Hudson Valley, a UFO hot spot.

      I even witnessed the UFO with another person who also saw it.

      We both were duly impressed, but after a couple of well-earned “wows” and a goodlaugh about it, cooler minds prevailed and we realized what we had seen was not one incredibly large craft moving eerily slow across the sky, but a group of ultra-lights in formation screwing with the public at large as they had been in this area for some time.

  24. Tim says:

    There was an episode of Monk just the other day on UFO’s. It is nice to see popular television calling bunk-bunk.

    USA also has a show called psych, which stars a fake psychic which mocks psychics.

    Things are moving in the right direction (although I admit that these observations are hardly scientific).

  25. Tim says:

    Speaking of crazy…

    Now here is some crazy stuff.

  26. dan says:

    maybe the world is protected from more intense and direct confrontation with aliens as we have an audible and visible
    presence that we term as paranormal/spiritual and which aliens
    are also aware. maybe a paranormal/spiritual dimension experienced
    by some humans is unique to this planet and beyond the comprehension
    of alien visitors and indeed their understanding. our protective shield
    may be the claimed sightings of earthly ghosts and poltergeist that some of us humans have experienced.

    • tmac57 says:

      Or, maybe all of this is just a product of an overly active imagination of credulous individuals.

  27. Stephen says:

    I recall with some amusement an incident reported in Britain a few years ago in which a pilot of a light plane was offering expensive flights for people wishing to see from the air the various crop circles that lay in the fields thereabouts.
    UFOologists have a strong propensity to issue claims of military cover-ups and government conspiracies preventing the Great Unwashed being informed about the actuality of alien visitations.
    I found it somewhat interesting that the UFOlogists’ cynicism and investigative mindsets did not alert them to the rather more earthly and mundane probability that they were witnessing a collusion between the pilot, the crop circlers and the farmers.

  28. dan says:

    i live in england not far from wiltshire where many of the crop circles are seen. i believe many of the crop circles are man made as a form of art. however, it seems that some of the circles do appear overnight even when the locations have been under overnight surveillance by people equipped with heat seeking camera’s and although crop circles were evident at daybreak no people activity was picked up by the camera’s. also crop circles do appear in remote areas and not always in crops and where their outline are only picked out by chance maybe by a hill walker looking down over the landscape. my experiences with landscape energies was a result of me disturbing residual energy embedded in a location for example a holy well and previously in pagan times often a sacred place. water it seems and I believe stone and living matter can tune into and store the vibes given out by people. how we are thinking or living at any given time can impact a local or meeting place which maybe a place of trauma release or peaceful contemplation. eventually that local will attune to the general theme as exuded by maybe generations of people visiting that spot. eventually such places can build up a residual energy powered with good intent and sometimes the opposite. this residual energy can be topped up and
    further en-powered by visiting people. what you have is a collective consciousness embedded in the landscape. disturb it and the sensitive energy is disturbed. ignore it and its energy will eventually wain or stabilize not as good or bad energy but as flowing energy. we are of the earth.

    • Tim says:

      What is this energy made of? What acts as a conductor for this energy? How can we test for such energy? If you were going to set up an experiment, what would be your control?

      The burden of proof lies on those that make the proposition. You have made a proposition so now the burden is on you to prove it. Cite some evidence for us and I will certainly be happy to look at it and I will do so as objectively as I can. I imagine others will too.

  29. dan says:

    i believe chinese medicine make propositions about the use of acupuncture based around body energies. from my experience it works
    but i have never seen evidence of body energies or the existence of chakras. i have heard about folk who have gone to lourdes and claim cures some i believe have been medically documented, but lourdes water from what i have seen seems to be just water which i believe has produced no scientific evidence to be anything else. the american red indians and aboriginal peoples worldwide have their sacred places and belief systems but what scientific evidence have they produced to confirm such propositions? my believe system is partly based on my ancestors the indigenous peoples of britain and ireland and my own consequent experiences but that is for me and my tribe. it is for others to seek and find their place in the scale of things. being a skeptic is fine but is it a position held because one is not tuned into a potential parallel dimension that others take for granted ? the burden of skeptism may lay with you being able to disprove the belief systems and experiences of others, that’s why i have said in a posting it is not important for me to convince others! how can i when we may be on different wavelengths that i cannot re-tune as that may be a DIY excercise
    stimulated by ones own internal clock of enlightenment, as we the peoples of this earth may be on different plains of existence. beware of the ego of self importance as we all eventually end up as dust, atoms (hint) that water stone and the universe consist off.i my opinion life is all about feeding a godhead with knowledge yes those life experiences do have meaning and when you stop acting them out the god head knows you have wised up and the great calm is there for the taking. but like everything i say it is just my opinion – or is it? the greatest concern i have is trying to find a biscuit that can be dunked in hot tea without falling apart.yes becoming a spectator rather than a player has its own trauma have you ever tried drinking tea with biscuit bits afloat?

  30. ttch says:

    Mr. Shermer, Whitley Strieber is undoubtedly a hysteric or a liar, but using his fantasy writing against work he labels fact, is a low blow.

    Isaac Asimov wrote science fiction and fantasy. By the standard here I guess it would be proper to dismiss Asimov’s other writings — on science (including evolution), history, literature, and the Bible — as fantasy by association.

    I should think you would want to set a higher standard. In fact this entire column’s use of ridicule should be beneath you as it flies in the face of the quote from Spinoza that you have tried to associate with your Skeptic magazine.

  31. I heard that since writing his book, Strieber had changed his mind about his “alien” experience, and now he believes his mind created it.

    The best book I’ve read, so far, about the public’s fascination with UFOs, is Captured by Aliens, by Joel Auerbach. (sp?)

    I have personally seen a UFO. all silvery and elliptical…………very beautiful.

  32. dan says:

    maybe we are the aliens on this planet. escapee’s from an experiment
    and our sightings of them are them just monitoring our behavior and lack of progress. we may think of this planet us our home but it may only be so as a result of us being brought here. maybe aliens are the original inhabitants but left because of climate change and now live elsewhere and come and visit. we may have been rescued as a species from another planet that was in demise and transplanted here and now viewed as just a bunch of monkey’s where we are experimented on to see how we are genetically changing to our new environment.

    • tmac57 says:

      I think I see a budding Sci-Fi writer here!

    • kabol says:

      i think he’s likely created some ultra-interesting (mind bendingly so) cookies in his search for the perfect biscuit that won’t fall apart in his tea.

  33. opinionated old fart says:

    Dan you’re about to make my head explode! I think I’ll go put my cranium in a nice warm hole and sleep it off.
    Several months ago there were several people sighting lights in the sky near Stephenville, Texas. Pretty soon truckers were showing photos of weird clouds and calling them flying saucers. The military at first denied then aknowledged that there were F16s flying in formation in the area. As far as the media being helpful they couldn’t even get the location of the town right, refering to Stevenville as in East Texas – not even close!

  34. dan says:

    my first ufo sighting was of three orbs about the size of large beach balls moving along in line above a railway track. they were a silvery color and were about 5 meters about 15 foot about the track. as they moved along at less then 10 mph they would momentarily stop and the orb at the back would move over the two in front and they would then move along again and repeat the procedure. when the orbs came to a road bridge over the track they stopped and after several seconds and one by one they moved to about 20 meters or 60 foot above the track to form a stationary line into a clear blue sky. then one by one they shot at incredible speed into the blue yonder. this was witnessed about mid day by me and 3 other folk after we stopped our car to watch. i will post details of my other sightings. this incident happened here in middle
    england about 33 years back. those folk that were with me now try and avoid speaking about the seems that most people try and blank out such things because they cannot square them up and it places them out of their comfort zone.

    • Max says:

      Were there power lines over the railway?

      • dan says:

        from memory i think there was some kind of power lines.
        i still live near the location and i do not think the track has been greatly changed since the incident because the small one width car ‘brick built bridge’ is still in place, so i will make a point of checking it out. i have heard from other folk who have seen inexplicable brightly lite orbs near power sources. i heard this from a security guard from a nearby factory and the area beyond the security fence that he referred to housed a small unmanned power unit i think they are transformer stations. however, some years back i seen a silent black triangular craft with small lights in each corner. i made
        contact with a county ufo monitoring group who sometime later came back to me to confirm they had other independent sightings of a same looking craft traveling in the same direction. during the conversation with the
        monitor i mentioned something i had seen a couple of years earlier which was a stationary black wedged shaped object about 4 meters (20 foot) above another nearby factory roof which made transformers. i was aghast when he could tell me the exact date and time when i seen it. apparently i was seeing a side on view of a triangular craft that silently stationed itself over the high roofed test point in the factory. people who seen it from below said that it emitted a low level humming noise and was a dark metallic gray rather than black and had indentations on the underside. apparently this craft just disappeared vertically up at great speed when factory workers were heading towards it internally from within the factory. I also heard about some farm workers a few miles from both sightings who watched such a craft being stationary at less then tree height only to take off when they started to gather their senses. what intrigues me about these craft i seen is they look as if they have been inposed
        on the skyline they are there but they do not seem to be three dimensional. thinking about it i wonder if it is another intelligence playing with our human psychi. the ufo’s i have seen were there but may not have been as i perceived them ie; solid. maybe, some folk are selected to see them because they want us to and maybe at the exclusion of other folk because they want it that way. maybe this is to condition some individuals to test our reactions. it could be a gradual grooming say to avoid panic. as objects of their curiosity they might prefer
        thus far to assess us in a more normal mode of behavior
        and when to worlds populace has been sufficiently groomed
        to expect and accept their arrival, they will come. as a
        species we should be concerned about their agenda. this
        planet is a nice piece of real estate. divide and conquer
        built some powerful human dynasties. lets be cautious about world events that they are not manipulated by non humans as a staging post to establishing their presence!

      • Max says:

        Let’s focus on the orbs for now. Did you take notes afterward? Was the sky clear, and were you inside or outside the car? Did you or anyone ever see orbs there again?

      • Max says:

        How was your eyesight? Were you wearing glasses?

  35. dan says:

    the sky was clear the sun was shining it was reflecting off the orbs
    there were three other witness’s with me. we were in a car but we got quiet close maybe 60 meters ( 180 foot ) i did not make notes as it was so clearly etched in our minds. the episode lasted for some minutes and although we watched the objects initially through the car window when we became stationary i wound down my window for a view and to hear if there was any noise. the only noise made was when they took off into the sky one by one in a line heading at an angle of about 2 o’clock from vertical. it was a wooshing noise. on the day i would have been wearing high spec glass’s ones with a slight tint the eyesight of the other 3 witness’s is perfect. this was not a fleeting glance at an object we watched for minutes with a clear unobstructed field of vision. certain things happen in your life and you have heightened clarity your senses become highly focused. I have seen orbs since but not at the same spot and they were different in make up. local reports of orbs seen by other folk are reported but i would need to check if they were in the same local.i am fortunate because many of my ufo sightings have been witnessed accounts. but most people later clam up and prefer not to talk about it. have you seen ufo’s ?

  36. dan says:

    i watched the dots but could not hear a sound and the associated brief was interesting. they are different types of orbs. i have seen some the size of a grapefruit semi translucent emitting a grayish white light. some the size of ping pong balls yellowy orange with a fizzy white perimeter and others maybe 4-6 meters ( 12-18 foot ) across like a bright moon or with concentric silver and gold circles. the moon type orbs formed like a jigsaw over several seconds. by the way all these sightings were witnessed and in one instance we were standing no more than 4 meters (12 foot) away from four orbs that formed a square.

  37. dan says:

    i need to clarify that the orbs 4-6 meters across were round luminous objects and not orbs as in a round ball, but like a coin, ‘flatish’ and round. they were not like conventional lights in that they did not emit a beam of light but were lit up! two of the objects were independent and free but under control and two when i approached them were attached to a structure that was not of this world.

  38. baryogenesis says:

    Once again, very late to the party. The claims by Dan appear to be ballooning into the realm of the fantastic. No one here -AFAIK – was witness to these orbs, so we must go with whatever evidence is presented. Oh…there is no evidence. Sorry, mate, but are you seriously asking readers of this blog to accept any of these claims as evidence of aliens? Originally, some here tried to pin you down in the details of these orb activities, looking for possible rational explanations, but this evoked even wilder claims and visionary experiences. Trying to be kind, but “…attached to a structure that was not of this world.” says a lot. All others can do, for the gazillionth time, is quote Dr. Sagan: “Extraordinary claims….etc.”

  39. dan says:

    i have never once mentioned seeing aliens as part of any ufo’s i have seen.i have never seen an alien or had any communication at any level with them but may have been subject to attempted telepathic communication. i am just telling you what i have seen. i am not concerned if i am believed. but what have i got to gain for talking about such events ? when i say i seen something not of this world thats exactly what i seen but i have never disclosed to anyone exactly what it was and the reason for that is that it was so incredible and frightening that i would understandably be dismissed as a complete liar. on seeing various ufo’s i have been in touch with a respected monitoring group, the police and the management and security gate guard of a nearby factory. i suppose i could spend lots of time and money presenting evidence but i am not trying to prove anything. these events happened some years back but i would consider undertaking a lie detector test sometime in the future. there is one thing i would like to say about such sightings with the exception of one occasion and that is the feeling that these objects are not only alien in the sense they are not man made but are a threat to mankind and our home planet. its strange how humans respond for when i reported a sighting to a security guard that almost happened above the factories security gatehouse where he was stationed he admitted that he and a colleague were seeing ufo objects outside the factory security fencing. however, weeks later when he seen me in one of the local diy stores he made it obvious that his family who were with him were being laughingly told by him of our encounter, no doubt with me being the subject of a joke or two and him conveniently forgetting his admissions of having seen ufo objects. fellow beings be worried and concerned about these sightings from all around the world. there is much more i could say on this posting but that is best kept quiet but be assured when i reported such events ‘but not in full’ to people who need to know they did not dismiss what i had to say. they took matters seriously and i have since found out why. the world needs to be making preparations for at least some kind of cohesive response should an encounter with ufo manifestations or/and alien appearances happen to such an extent that it cannot be waffled away. unprepared minds could flounder with mass panic and trauma and is partly the reason why people like me should say something as we will all be in the same boat if matters develop.

  40. dan says:

    its been interesting seeing the response to my postings but there will not be anymore. I have better things to do with my time. so its a goodbye from me.

  41. Donna Gore says:

    This is exactly what Dr. Shostak discussed at his DragonCon panel, and yes, he was quite humorous and entertaining.

    And WE MISSED YOU, Dr. Shermer!!! Hope you can come back next year.

    There was no “smackdown” this year…….I think you guys scared em off !!!

  42. Tim says:

    I want to say thank you to Michael Shermer for autographing my UFO and my brother’s UFO photos:

    You will have to decide for yourselves what it is. No seriously, take a look before reading on. This disclaimer is a spoiler alert, you want to look at the photo first. So, is it a flying saucer carrying extra-terrestrial beings who have traversed the vast distances of interstellar space in order dive into our atmosphere to survey our planet? Or, is it a flying saucer lid from a cooking pot being thrown into the air? I guess we will never know…

  43. Andrew says:

    The thing about believing in UFO’s and direct alien contact is why would such an advanced intelligence bother with cloak and dagger tactics (occasionally coming out for a light show in the middle of nowhere) if we are actively seeking contact with the likes of them? They’re shy, yet vastly superior to us? And why, in their medical probing, do they require the use of utensils, metallic instruments if they could probably scan our bodies and extract the materials needed with some other device? And why the hell do they need us anyways? You’re telling me that throughout their intergalactic travels they found us to be particularly useful in whatever the hell they could possibly be doing? Sounds like we turned visions of demons and elves and angels into little green and gray men. Religious iconography was replaced by the blasting of these new fantastic images at us by magazine covers and comic books and through television. And fear. And the ability of the human imagination to fill in the gaps. We formed a collective vision-experience around a new set of images, not necessarily a new set of archetypes (because an incubus used to be the demon that watched over women in the night, and would take them into malicious and sexually charged nightmares; i.e. into a spaceship for some sex-oriented experiments). Instead of horns you now get big black eyes.

    UFO’s have not been proven to be occupied by alien entities. And government refusal to talk about these supposed incidents (no matter how numerous or descriptive and vivid the accounts) is not proof either. Just means they might be covering up some sort of blunder they made on their part. A die-hard believer asks no questions, but why it happened to them. A better question would be, has it happened to anyone? Belief does not prove a thing; nor does proof lead to belief. That’s the crux of it.

  44. Paul says:

    I’m open minded about UFO’s, but I think the best way to go about learning about is through scientists. There could be a study of us going on by extraterrestrials, however I don’t think abductions are real. If so, I don’t understand why Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking has never been abducted. Once the greats in astronomy come back with startling information about extraterrestrials, then I will remain skeptical in the story telling of the UFO phenomenon.

  45. Ruthe Fetz says:

    hallo, im from france so my english knowledge is not that amazing. Please dont blame me. I try to read blogs to make my english better and i have to say that your blog was perfect readable for me, because the english is really clear-thinking and all the posts are perfect readable. I will keep on reading it, to improve my english even more. Thanks a lot :)

  46. Tony says:

    SETI have spent millions of dollars in “research” over the last 40 years. To this day, they have succeded in only one thing: Spend money.
    Assuming how far behind schedule we are in the cosmic evolution compaired to potential ET civilizations, I think it is quite pretentious to claim we are the one who will make contact. Scientists are indeed needed, but when it comes to ET life, their failing attempts to analyse and interpret is really only based on what they are mentally able to comprehend. What would have said any scientist, even just one hundred and fifty years ago, to someone who claimed possible the sending and receiving of data (being either text, photograph, film or sound) anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds? So, regarding the time it would take to traverse the distances between the stars, it is really up to the technology implied. None of the Phds, who spend more time writing books than actually genuinely researching anything, have a clue.

  47. I’d suggest looking at Drake Equation, it would probably be of interest to a lot of people here.