are we drawing in ufos with mushroom clouds?

October 4, 2010

Oh those pesky aliens, whizzing between this planet and other distant worlds, kidnapping cattle and offering a free, if not necessarily consensual rectal exam to the hapless human. But if you believe a group of now retired USAF officers, while not up to their usual shenanigans, the aliens are trying to stop our nukes. Apparently, in their grab-and-probe missions, they’ve learned enough about our species to take an interest in our politics, so for a few decades, they’ve been visiting nuclear test ranges and shutting off or sabotaging missiles to send us a subtle message about the dangers of runaway nuclear proliferation and M.A.D. Obviously, since we’ve built and now maintain more than enough nukes to trigger a mass extinction if we wanted to, the aliens failed in their mission and some humans are still armed to the teeth and extremely dangerous. But seriously, if we put aside the jokes that practically write themselves here, what possible interest could aliens have in our nuclear ambitions and why would they ever want to interfere in our politics? What could they possibly gain and how?

Now, if you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I take my aliens very seriously, which is why I’m more than willing to explore and discuss astrobiology and side with all those who say that somewhere in this universe, a space-faring, intelligent, alien species must exist. It’s just simple statistics that one will. But the odds of this species invading our world, or actually existing long enough to find us are open questions which too many people have tried to answer by adopting sci-fi movie tropes, outlandish conspiracy theories, and even stark raving imbecility quoting navel-gazing New Age airheads and conspiracy writers. So when you tell me that an alien species may be headed towards our planet right now, I’ll ask you to go on and tell me how you know, and how I can confirm this myself. But when you tell me that there are alien craft casually buzzing around on a regular basis and they’re here to save us from ourselves according to a UFOlogical messianic fantasy, I will call you out on indulging in nonsense and an utter disregard for the laws of physics. Why would aliens be a completely selfless egalitarian culture that only wants to do what’s best for us? If they evolve to be social, they will have no attachment to, or consideration for, us because we don’t share their evolutionary lineage.

To be fair, I could see a high minded alien species sending us a stern warning that our military experiments or our nuclear arms race may backfire in spectacular ways, but for them to stick around and play head games by manipulating nuclear warheads in mid-test? Why would they do that? Out of some pseudo-spiritual calling for universal peace and love? As we discussed before, alien life forms capable of the kind of intelligence we can see inventing spacecraft are probably going to evolve from predators and be just as skilled in killing as we are because that’s what it takes to rise to the top of the food chain. Our sense of compassion only extends to each other, and only then in certain circumstances. Why would we expect real world aliens to get warm fuzzies from us unless they thought we’d be really cute pets? Because that’s what we aspire to be like? It seems more like the officers in question were fantasizing about a messianic force to step in to end our military tensions while diffusing today’s geopolitical conflicts with their soothing presence and sage advice. Call me a pessimist, but I’d think it’s far more likely that any species that could actually do this would probably budget out its mission to our world and say: “um, yeah… this idea is probably too expensive to pull off right now.”

Finally, the alien/nuclear connection in this story deserves another application of basic physics and astronomy because it’s been around for a while thanks to scientifically inept conspiracists and states that aliens can see our nuclear tests and decided to come down to either help, or control us. Which one depends on who you ask and his or her mental state. In the real world, our solar system would look like a tiny dust cloud to aliens, so with stars pumping out hundreds of yottawatts every second, a one minute, blink-and-you-miss-it flash of our nuclear tests which put out hundreds of times less energy would be instantly lost in the radioactive noises of the galaxy’s day to day events. We’re not going to attract alien attention with a gamma ray burp because they’re going to be looking at an entire sky full of gamma rays. The truth is that we’re overwhelmingly likely to be alone when it comes to managing our nuclear arsenals and wars, and we can’t rely on messianic aliens to strain in an effort to find species to save, and descend from the heavens to offer us peace and wisdom. That would be a religious belief, not a scientific hypothesis, and we need to find viable answers to our own problems instead of looking up to the sky, waiting for them to fall from the heavens in the form of flying saucers.

[ illustration from a Rayovac print ad ]

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  • Bruce Coulson

    To swipe a trope: perhaps the aliens are the joy-riding equivalent of teenagers, having fun with our primitive species for their own amusement? That’s why all of the contacts are so random; when a group of teens get bored, they jaunte over here, play around with the primitives, and then leave when it gets boring.

  • Russ Toelke

    It’s like the Twilight Zone episode, man. We’re being farmed. Those Air Force pilots got a glimpse of select chapters of the To Serve Man cookbook.

    Can’t have nukes polluting the farm stock.

    Go ahead, keep eating cheeseburgers. Fatten up.

  • Paul

    If any sufficiently advanced technology is, as Clarke suggested, indistinguishable from magic; then it follows that any sufficiently advanced psychology is indistinguishable from Mysterious-Ways…

    But cereally folks… On a UFO conf, back in the old BBS days, I once heard the best explanation for a government cover-up. The idea is that the Roswell crash was real; interrogation/torture of the surviving pilot(s) revealed that we were being monitored by a paranoid xenophobic race which had a policy of killing any species which it considered a threat. And one of the prime “threats” is if we discover their existence. So the government covered up Roswell, and set up a group to cover-up or discredit any future sightings/crashes; and to secretly develop technology to defend the Earth when the inevitable D-Day arrives.

    Later, the secret group found out that the US and Russian space programs were pushing our planet up the “threat scale”, so secret meetings were held with the Russians, the Brits, and a few select others, info shared (including access to captured aliens), and an agreement reached (c.1970) to cripple the space programs. (SETI is similarly “got at”.)

    Hence, the conf-poster claimed, every time Believers are discredited is another day the secret defenders-of-Earth get to work towards building defences. And every “Truth About UFOs” special on Fox brings us closer to the aliens deciding we know too much and killings us off.

    I love this idea because it is consistent with everything the Believers consider “Facts” (and it’s more internally logically consistent than any other UFO-conspiracy-theory), and it puts them in an unwinnable dilemma. So if anyone reading this ever get accused of being “PART OF TEH COVERUP!!!!1one!”, consider reluctantly, oh so reluctantly, letting that Believer in on the Truth.