denver to ufologists: we don’t want to believe

November 6, 2010 — 7 Comments

Some residents of Denver are really, really curious about alien life. And obviously, I don’t blame them for their desire to know whether we’re alone in the universe or not, and if the latter is the case, what real aliens from a different solar system look like. In their desire to know, they proposed a commission to handle extraterrestrial affairs and succeeded in putting it on the ballot during the midterm elections. Fear not, your tax dollars had nothing to fear because the commission was supposed to be funded by grants and donations from citizens with an interest in alien life. Of course I say this in past tense because the proposition didn’t pass at the polls and the city of Denver won’t have it’s very own commission on otherworldly life. But why? Maybe the initiative’s appeal to long standing conspiracy theories involving government deals with UFOs had voters questioning if their city really needed to formally ratify UFOlogists’ lore, even if this wouldn’t be done at taxpayer’s expense?

You may remember some rumors about this proposition from late last year, when this blog hosted an edition of the Skeptics’ Circle and linked to a brief article on the subject. The whole thing was organized by UFOlogy buffs with a little too much time on their hands, one of whom even claimed to have real footage of a classic humanoid Gray alien peeking into a bedroom, and used this “evidence” to argue for a committee tasked with investigate UFO sightings and conduct exopolitical affairs for the city of Denver. And this isn’t the only time that zealous UFOlogists tried to create a legally recognized committee to deal with aliens. Over the summer of last year, European alien hunters petitioned the EU to form an exopolitical council and were summarily ignored, primarily because giving conspiracy theorists money and political clout to push their dearly held notions of an alien presence on Earth is a bad idea. Today, a lot of people are sure that aliens exist. There’s already a body that’s responsible for finding their attempts to communicate with us, and most of NASA’s current programs in space exploration are based on finding any possible scientific proof of alien habitats nearby.

So why give paranoid conspiracy theorists who convinced themselves that our governments are hiding aliens any influence in what scientists are already doing to find confirmed evidence of otherworldly life? So we could either waste money on chasing non-existent proof of their fervent beliefs, or justify their campaigns with votes and government seals of approval so others could throw their money down the same sinkhole? In case they haven’t noticed, money’s a little tight for everyone nowadays with the Great Recession and a job market that’s highly unlikely to recover until 2017, and will never be the same again, so spending it to order the military or bureaucrats to find documents that don’t exist is ridiculous to say the least. The public would quickly shift their opinion of UFOlogists, re-branding them from harmless conspiracy theorists with way too much time on their hands and not enough things to keep them busy, to expensive pests who need to be removed from positions of power. And even worse, most UFOlogists will just see the negative opinion of their actions as a conspiracy to derail them just as they’re getting close to “the truth” and obliviously press on.

It’s all in good fun when people who think we’re about to be attacked by aliens living on the dark side of the Moon, or that a sinister species of alien/human hybrids is using vaccines to cull our population, or that the valleys and craters of the Moon conceal ancient alien cities, or that the government was ready to show us the extraterrestrial diplomats with who they’ve been dealing for decades on the news last year, organize a club to vent their fantasies and float in the clouds for an evening or two. But when they decide to interfere with the real world and demand that scientists and governments show them something that simply isn’t there, we have to play the part of the bad guys and tell them to cut it out. Some amateur UFOlogists’ dreams of an alien intervention with our nuclear programs born of their concern for all living things, shouldn’t dictate policy or international law, much less how we spend our military and scientific dollars.

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  • Russ Toelke

    You gotta give ‘em credit, though. After all, Denver’s a little closer to the heavens than most major U.S. cities, and ostensibly would encounter any aliens first, right?
    Does the mountain air blow through between the ears easier or something?

  • Reed Esau

    I’d add that organized opposition on the part of Bryan Bonner and Matthew Baxter of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society contributed to the poor showing of this ballot initiative.

    Notably, for most every local news story in Denver that featured Jeff Peckman, you’d see Bryan and Baxter appear for balance, where they were often describing the shortcoming’s of Peckman’s initiative. They were also a registered lobby group called “MIB” specifically to counter the initiative :^)

  • http://gpwillard@gmail.com RaggMopp

    I know this comes way too late. If it ever had a chance it was papered over years ago, but I must protest, nevertheless: How did UFO (an abbreviation for Unidentified Flying Object,) a term that would seem generic and innocuous, and one that could have been of use for reporting and cataloging the myriad sightings of UFO’s become a synonym for space alien conveyance (SAC?.)

    And more to the point what do we use now? I have, with my own eyes, seen six UFO’s, some in company with others. Some of whom others had to be escourted home and fed chicken soup. Some of these were unsettling to say the least. I have not, nor have any of my co-observers that I know of, offered to promulgate opinions about space alien conveyances. The fact that I saw it in the sky, apparently flying and it was totally unidentifiable in terms of known phenomena, makes it a UFO to me. Why does that mean I will surely be bagged up with people whose imaginations have clearly run away with them?

    What it means is that upstanding citizens whose sworn testimony at trial could very likely lead to a conviction that carries the sentence of death can nevertheless be laughed at and lumped with raving lunatics merely because we are talking about strange, unidentified flying objects they have seen?

    This is an unacceptable situation. I may only report certain approved phenomena. Or risk being ridiculed because the only sensible term I have to describe what I saw has been captured, and captured with the approval and help of the national media, by a small group who believe (and believe is the correct term, because they have no more evidence than the established churches have for their stories) in extraterristrial visitors. I cannot say I saw something in the sky that is, as of this moment, unexplained without being labelled a UFOlogist.

    Man, that’s cutting off a whole world of earnest observations, anecdotal perhaps, but not necessarily untrue.

  • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Just Al

    The fact that I saw it in the sky, apparently flying and it was totally unidentifiable in terms of known phenomena, makes it a UFO to me. Why does that mean I will surely be bagged up with people whose imaginations have clearly run away with them?

    I don’t think it does, really. I think a fair percentage of the general public can take it as reported, provided that they see it as reported. The problem is, the mainstream media isn’t capable of doing that, and about the only others who pay much attention are the ones who sensationalize it and draw wild conclusions. But speaking as someone who used to examine (it’s not accurate to say “investigate”) UFO reports as I came across them, I’m perfectly cool with treating them exactly as the acronym defines. And reminding plenty of others of it, too.

    What it means is that upstanding citizens whose sworn testimony at trial could very likely lead to a conviction that carries the sentence of death can nevertheless be laughed at and lumped with raving lunatics merely because we are talking about strange, unidentified flying objects they have seen?

    Well, that’s a different kettle of fish. I’d be fine with treating both exactly the same way, but this means that eyewitness testimony would be greatly reduced in value in court cases – it’s far too untrustworthy to merit much attention or emphasis. This isn’t disparaging your sightings at all, but it is placing them in context. There’s a distinct difference between, “an aircraft that headed straight up at several hundred miles per hour,” and, “a pinpoint light source that traversed in a straight line between alt/az positions X/Y and X1/Y1 over a period of roughly three seconds.” This is something that court cases don’t engage in often enough, if you ask me, and that very few people understand is the only way their experience should be recorded.

    Robert Sheaffer, a serious (read: skeptical) UFO investigator now has a new blog at http://badufos.blogspot.com/ . He strikes me as someone who could examine your sightings objectively, if you have the desire. I would just be clear that you’re not drawing any conclusions yourself, but wondering what they could be. You’re also welcome to contact me through my site, linked in the name, to discuss them as well – I’m easygoing ;-)

  • Greg Fish

    “Man, that’s cutting off a whole world of earnest observations, anecdotal perhaps, but not necessarily untrue.”

    It’s one thing to report that you saw something odd, something you can’t really place. It’s a very, very different thing to claim that you know that the government has aliens in a freezer while making shadow deals with an extraterrestrial species, and demand that every light in the sky be investigated as an alien encounter.

    You’re talking about the former. The UFOlogists in Denver were doing the latter.

  • http://gpwillard@gmail.com RaggMopp

    Yeah, I know. Like the airline pilot approaching Dulles who called in some “things” riding his wingtips. The tower came back, “United 623 do you wsh to report a UFO?” Ten pregnant seconds later the pilot responded, “Nah, Dulles, I guess not.”

    I think the pilot subsequently refused to comment.

  • http://gpwillard@gmail.com RaggMopp

    @Just Al: I’m with you to point.

    “Well, that’s a different kettle of fish. I’d be fine with treating both exactly the same way, but this means that eyewitness testimony would be greatly reduced in value in court cases – it’s far too untrustworthy to merit much attention or emphasis.”

    I can see why you jumped to the conclusion that my statement about testimony must be interpreted to apply only to eye witness testimony. I agree, up to a point. However, even eye witness identification of persons is only truly shaky when we’re talking about persons unknown to the witness. If I, as a witness (and let’s assume we’re speaking only of witnesses in open court) said I saw my wife come out of the bank and get into a green Buick. The jury would be nuts to discount that testimony without first deciding that I was lying. They, and you, know that they and therefore probably I can identify our wives from hundreds of yards without ever getting a look at her face. Can you not remember a case where you spotted your wife from blocks away and only finally caught up with her, through the crowd, half an hour later? Maybe her response was, “Well, I had nearly given up finding you, where in the hell have you been?” But the real point is that there was never a doubt in your mind that it was her. Even there it seems prudent for a juror to not get fixated, but it’s at least 100 times as good as your ID of a person admittedly unknown to you. Further eyewitness testimony is not limited to identification of accused persons faces, it includes who did what where and when, and all sorts of nuanced interpretations: “Yes I thought Mr. X was reaching for a weapon.” “No, I was not surprised that the officer reacted the way he did.” Etc. Much of which testimony can be difinitive.

    So does that mean that since the identification of unknown suspects by (purported) “eye witnesses” to a crime that affected them to the point of crying and trembling is notoriously unreliable mean that all eye witness testimony may be equally discounted? I’m going to hope that you can see your way clear to accept that there are important issues that are yet to be resolved as to the reliability of eye witnesses.