Most UFO evidence is not good evidence. Bad evidence (which we have in abundance) includes 1) blurry nighttime photos of blobs of light with no point of reference, 2) fake photographs, 3) eyewitness accounts, 4)anecdotal accounts or declassified government documents that are so blacked out they are impossible to read, 5) speculative theories, and 6)the annoying statement “absence of of proof is not proof of absence.” Let’s first look at the bad evidence and explain why its bad, then make some suggestions for what might constitute good evidence.
BAD PHOTOS. We’ve all seen them. Blobs of light against a dark background and… Okay, that’s it. Just blobs of light against a dark background. Sometimes we are presented with short videos of blobs of light against a dark background that appear to be moving. These may or may not be evidence of UFOs. We can’t tell because the photographs and videos are so poorly made. Even daylight photos (such as the many coming out of Mexico in recent years)are so blurred and without reference points they could be photos or clips of almost anything.
FAKE PHOTOS. Ever since Adobe Photo Shop was invented, photographic evidence of any kind has lost a lot of credibility. It is now possible to fabricate a very convincing photograph of almost anything, real or imagined. But even as far back as the 1950’s, people were faking UFO photos and getting paid handsomely for them. Sometimes the string suspending the UFO in front of the camera was actually visible in these pictures.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS. Even in unrelated areas such as law enforcement and law practice, eyewitness accounts have been shown again and again to be the least reliable form of evidence. Not only do eyewitness accounts differ from person to person, they change over time. This is due not so much to any given person’s propensity to embellish or lie outright, but rather to the nature of memory, which adjusts itself in every case to the current situation and the survival needs of that situation. Memory is notoriously open to suggestion, even in people who mean well. Mis-perception is another issue. Humans are so prone to it, that an entire branch of entertainment has grown up around it: stage magic. Hundreds of eyewitness accounts are suggestive, provocative, and fascinating; they are just not good evidence.
ANECDOTAL ACCOUNTS. Joe Schmoe is a scientist who was employed by the US military in the late 1950s to reverse-engineer military craft from captured Roswell UFOs. He remembers it all and is willing to spill the beans on camera and in print. Unfortunately, he has no physical or documentary evidence of this and no one in the US military will vouch for the credibility of his story. He may be telling the truth. He may be lying. He may be telling what he sincerely believes to be the truth even though he happens to have developed a chronic case of paranoid schizophrenia in the intervening years. We have no way of knowing. Which is why this kind of story is bad evidence.
SPECULATIVE THEORIES. UFOs are time travelers, and here’s how they could manage that. Wait, no, UFOs are from a parallel universe, and here’s how they get into ours. Wait, wait, no, no,UFOs are from a distant galaxy not visible even with our most powerful telescopes, and they get here by folding the space-time continuum over on top of itself and taking a sort of quantum short cut. All of these ideas are very fascinating and fun to read. Unfortunately, none of them constitute evidence.
THE ABSENCE OF PROOF IS NOT PROOF OF ABSENCE. Technically this is true. Just because we can’t prove UFOs exist, that doesn’t mean they don’t. The same statement applies to fairies, ghosts, supreme deities of all kinds no matter how benevolent, centaurs, and Democrats for George Bush. We can choose to believe what we want, and that doesn’t make us bad or crazy. We may believe in all the best things and ultimately be right. It’s just that belief is not evidence either.
What would constitute good evidence? Despite the curmudgeonly tone of this article, I would LOVE to see some good evidence for the existence of UFOs and/or alien beings from outer space. The topic fascinates me, in all its aspects. It’s just that the evidence for both is terrible. I would love to see the following:
A RECOVERED UFO OR PIECE OF A UFO. An actual physical artifact that could be studied and shown to be not of Earthly manufacture, and yet clearly created by some kind of intelligence, would stun the scientific community and make me really happy. In over 50 years, we have nada, zip, nothing of this nature. Every once in awhile an abductee comes forward with an “implant” that could be a piece of glass or hardened booger, we can’t really tell. I’d like to see something more convincing than that.
HABEUS CORPUS. Do you have an alien body? Then let’s see it, bring it on out. Even an alien fingernail, a collection of alien cells, an alien virus, and alien hat, anything would be most helpful. When human beings commit murder, forensic scientists are often able to track down the guilty individual years after the case has been closed by analyzing flecks of dead skin or the DNA in hair follicles. Yet somehow, alien abductees return from their extended and repeated captures with nary so much as an alien bit of dandruff.
A SIGHTING SO PROLONGED IT LENDS ITSELF TO SCIENTIFIC STUDY. How is it that even during the best, longest sightings, no scientists happen to be around? In this day and age, most people at least have a geeky cousin with enough technical equipment to build the Starship Enterprise in his basement. (In fact, you probably have a geeky cousin who has done that.) Where is THAT guy during long UFO sitings, and why can’t he come up with something convincing while the mothership spends its twenty leisurely minutes drifting over his major metropolitan area? Why is it that the only person with a camera always seems to be carrying Aunt Lily’s antique Polaroid? Or happens to be a guy with home video skills that rival those of the Blair Witch Project camera crew? Instead of calling the police when something like this happens, how about calling the nearest university astronomy department? That could be really exciting.
The topic of life on other planets taps in to a deep human-longing for certainty and no small amount of human fear. We are probably not alone in the universe. I personally believe this. But until we kick it up a notch in the evidence department, no one is going to take UFO investigations seriously. We get it right in the movies. We call in the science experts, and they instantly make “the greatest discovery in the history of science!” In the movies, they get it right every single time, and human ingenuity prevails.
Why can’t we do that in real life too?