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An Astronomer's Personal Statement on UFOs, by Alan Hale

  * Forwarded from 'UFO'
  * Originally by David Bloomberg, 1:2430/2112
  * Originally to All
  * Originally dated Fri 28 Mar 1997 12:28P
  -*- Forwarded message follows: -*-
 Also from the most recent issue of Skeptical Inquirer:
                  An Astronomer's Personal Statement on UFOs
                                  Alan Hale
 When I am confronted with beliefs about UFOs or other paranormal
 phenomena -- or, for that matter, just about anything -- I am guided by
 three basic principles, to wit:
   1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The discovery
      that there are other intelligent beings in the universe -- and, as a
      corollary, that life and intelligence can and has evolved at locations
      other than Earth -- and that, moreover, these beings are visiting
      Earth on a semi-regular basis in spacecraft that seem to defy the laws
      of physics as we now know them, would unquestionably rank as the
      greatest discovery in the history of science, and most definitely is
      an extraordinary claim. Therefore, in order for me to accept it, you
      must produce extraordinary evidence. What might this evidence be? For
      one thing, the aliens themselves. Not some story where someone says
      that someone says that someone says that they saw aliens, but the
      actual physical aliens themselves, where I and other trustworthy and
      competent scientists and individuals can study and communicate with
      them. I'd like to examine their spacecraft and learn the physical
      principles under which it operates. I'd like a ride on that
      spacecraft. I'd like to see their star charts and see where the aliens
      come from. I'd like to know the astronomical, physical, chemical, and
      biological conditions of their home world and solar system, and how
      they compare with and contrast with ours. If possible, I'd like to
      visit their home world, and any other worlds that might be within
      their sphere of influence. In other words, I want the aliens visible
      front and center, where there can be no reasonable doubt as to their
      existence. Stories about "lights" or "things" in the sky do not
      impress me, especially when such reports come from people who have no
      idea of the vast array of natural and man-made phenomena that are
      visible in the sky if one would only take the time to look.
   2. The burden of proof is on the positive. If you are making an
      extraordinary claim, the burden is on you to produce the extraordinary
      evidence to prove that you are correct; the burden is not on me to
      prove that you are wrong. Furthermore, you must prove your case by
      providing the direct and compelling evidence for it; you can't prove
      it by eliminating a few token explanations and then crying, "Well,
      what else can it be?"
   3. Occam's Razor: If one is confronted with a series of phenomena for
      which there exists more than one viable explanation, one should choose
      the simplest explanation which fits all the observed facts. It is an
      undeniable fact that many people have seen, or at least claimed to
      see, objects in the sky and on the ground for which they have no
      explanation. But it is also an undeniable fact that people can make
      mistakes about their observations. It is an undeniable fact that
      reports can come from people who are unaware of the various phenomena
      that are visible in the sky and from people who are not equipped or
      trained at making reliable scientific observations. It is an
      undeniable fact that a person's preconceived notions and expectations
      can affect his/her observations. It is an undeniable fact that some
      people will lie and will create hoaxes for any one of various reasons.
      Taking all these undeniable facts together, the simplest explanation
      -- to me, anyway -- for the UFO phenomenon is that every report is
      either a hoax or is a mistake of some sort. If this explanation is
      incorrect, then you have to increase the sphere of undeniable facts;
      and for this, see points 1) and 2) above.
 To me, it seems extremely likely that life has started and evolved at other
 sites throughout the universe, quite possibly in a great number of places.
 It also seems rather possible that, at some of those sites, evolution has
 created an intelligent species which has developed technology far in
 advance of our own and which might be capable of interstellar space flight.
 Despite the incredible distances between stars, and despite the vast
 dispersion in evolutionary states that must exist throughout the sphere of
 races that have achieved some sort of sentience, it is possible --
 although, to me, extremely unlikely -- that one or more of these races has
 visited Earth within the relatively recent past. Indeed, I would be
 absolutely ecstatic if any such visits have taken place. No one would be
 happier than me to meet with and converse with these beings and, I dare
 say, there are very few people who are better prepared intellectually and
 emotionally to deal with this prospect if it were to occur. But again, I
 want the direct evidence for their existence; I want the aliens themselves.
 I don't want to hear stories about some "thing" that some person somewhere
 might have seen.
 As a lifelong amateur astronomer, as a professional astrono-mer, as someone
 who has read countless science fiction stories and scientific essays, I
 have devoted my life to unraveling the secrets of the universe and to
 pushing humanity and humanity's knowledge as far into space as I can. (This
 is my reason for claiming that there are few people in the world who are
 better prepared than I am to meet with an alien race; if there is any human
 being who could meet with alien beings, it would be someone like me.) At
 the same time, I suspect there is hardly anyone who watches and studies the
 sky more than I do, and while I have almost continuously observed the sky
 for most of my lifetime, I have yet to see a single object for which there
 was not a prosaic explanation. I have seen such diverse phenomena as:
 fireballs, rocket launches, satellite re-entries, comets, auroras, bright
 planets, novae, orbiting satellites, ionospheric experiments, high-altitude
 balloons -- all of which have been reported as "UFOs" by uninformed
 witnesses. If indeed there are alien spacecraft flying around Earth with
 the frequency with which UFO devotees are claiming, then I must ask how
 come I have never seen anything remotely resembling such an object, while
 at the same time I have managed to see all these various other types of
 In summary, I consider it likely that there are advanced alien races
 somewhere "out there," and I remain open to the possibility that, unlikely
 as it may seem, one or more such races could be visiting Earth. But if so,
 where are they? If they possess the technology capable of traveling
 interstellar distances, then they are so far ahead of us that there can be
 no reason for them to be afraid of us. If they wish to hide from us, they
 could do so easily; if they don't wish to, then they have no need to play
 games with us and only show themselves to a few unwitting individuals. Let
 them reveal themselves to humanity at large, to our scientists, and to me.
 -!- msgedsq 2.0.5
  ! Origin: If it's not the 4th of July, it must be Christmas  (1:2430/2112)
  * Origin: META_UFO where all the fun is... (1:105/64.33)

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