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LIGHTS IN THE SKY & LITTLE GREEN MENA Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials
By HUGH ROSS KENNETH SAMPLES MARK CLARK
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2002 Reasons To Believe
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe UFO Craze
Jesse has a special place he goes to when he needs to do some undistracted thinking. He drives his pickup out into the desert and down a rutted road for miles until he arrives at a west-facing cliff. There he sits with his legs hanging over the brink and watches as the sun sets in a spectacle of reds and oranges. He continues to sit as the sky turns to blue and then to black and the stars come out in a profusion he never sees from his backyard in the city.
One such night in the desert he saw an unusual light moving rapidly across the sky. At first he thought it was a plane or helicopter. But it was moving too fast. And then it made a sudden, sharp turn that no ordinary aircraft could execute. Jesse got to his feet, his every sense alert. The object came nearer until it slowed and hovered over the ground less than a quarter mile away. Jesse was trying to decide whether he should flee or stay when an intense beam of light suddenly shone from the base of the craft onto the ground. Jesse knew something big was about to happen.
From antiquity, individuals have reported seeing unusual and inexplicable things in the skies. Often people observed real objects-natural phenomena that only later could be understood and appreciated in light of advancements in science, particularly in physics and astronomy. To those unfamiliar with astronomical or atmospheric phenomena, the ordinary can appear extraordinary. Nonetheless, some people insist that extraordinary flying anomalies have persisted throughout the ages. Even today, some reports of strange sightings are difficult to dismiss as being misidentified natural phenomena, though natural explanations may yet be found for at least some of them.
Flying entity reports, whether subjective or objective, often come in waves, and some of these waves began rolling in just prior to the age of human aviation. For example, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, so-called "airships" were reported in the skies above the United States. And during the early decades of aviation, reports of unidentified aerial objects began coming in from both commercial and military pilots. During World War II, Allied and Axis pilots reported observing mysterious aerial anomalies that paced their aircraft during flight. Both sides speculated that these "Foo Fighters," as they were called, were advanced enemy aircraft. No universally accepted explanation has ever been found for what these pilots reported.
Unidentified flying objects (UFOs) and the alien beings associated with them, known as extraterrestrials, as well as the possibility of life someplace besides Earth (extraterrestrial intelligence, or ETI), all continue to be sources of speculation. Is the human race alone in the universe? Or is there reason to believe intelligent life exists somewhere else in the cosmos? Could extraterrestrial life visit the Earth, and if it did, what would that encounter be like? These are some of the questions addressed in this book. And these were some of the questions that ushered in the flying saucer age, which began immediately after World War II and the appearance of the Foo Fighters.
A Flying Saucer History
As a number of UFO researchers have pointed out, the second half of the twentieth century has been called the "age of the flying saucer." More precisely, the beginning of that age has been identified as three o'clock in the afternoon on June 24, 1947. That's the moment when private pilot and businessman Kenneth Arnold, while flying his plane near Mount Rainier in Washington, first observed nine bright objects traveling at incredible speeds for the time (estimated in excess of sixteen hundred miles per hour). Arnold, a seemingly credible witness, described the objects as boomerang-like and disk-shaped, and he described their movement as appearing "like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water." The headline of an Associated Press story mentioned "nine bright saucer-like objects," and the age of the flying saucer had officially begun, at least for the media. Arnold was not the only one to report observing those mysterious objects that day. At least twenty other reports of similar sightings, the majority originating from the Pacific Northwest, added credence to Arnold's story.
Reports continued in the late 1940s, but the 1950s brought about a UFO obsession in America. Researcher Jerome Clark reports:
The first books with "flying saucers" in their titles saw print in 1950. Speculation about UFOs became a national craze, with popular opinion divided between those who dismissed the phenomenon entirely (as the product of hysteria, hoaxes, and misperceptions) and those who saw it as of enormous potential significance. Some individuals became consumed with UFOs, and by the early 1950s the first UFO organizations were formed.
Soon, for national security reasons, the United States government became interested in the emerging flying saucer phenomenon. The Cold War had begun, and the American military was concerned that these "ships" might be advanced Soviet aircraft. The military used a more conventional term to describe these aerial anomalies-"unidentified flying objects."
From the late 1940s through the 1960s, the United States Air Force investigated UFO reports through various projects and committees, including Project Sign (1947), Project Grudge (1949), and Project Blue Book (1951-1969). Just prior to the Air Force's closing of its investigation into UFOs, the Condon Report reflected the military's official conclusions on the subject. The report offered the following statement:
The emphasis of this study has been on attempting to learn from UFO reports anything that could be considered as adding to scientific knowledge. Our general conclusion is that nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby.
The lack of information forthcoming from the government, as evidenced in the Condon Report, gave birth to belief in a government cover-up about UFOs.
From the mid-1960s through the 1980s, UFO phenomena changed from sightings of possible extraterrestrial spaceships to associating UFOs and extraterrestrials with traditional paranormal and occult phenomena (ghosts, poltergeists, monsters, and so on). Claims of visitations from extraterrestrial or supernatural beings became commonplace among UFO reports, with the abduction phenomenon taking center stage. In the last twenty-five years more books have been written on alien abductions of human beings than on all other UFO-related topics combined.
The 1990s contained their share of unusual UFO-related events. The possibility that alien spacecraft had crashed on Earth, and that the spacecraft and even alien bodies had been retrieved, remained a viable option for people who continued to believe that UFOs were visitors from interstellar space. The 1990s also saw a UFO cult become deadly for the first time. In 1997 thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult committed suicide en masse. They willingly took their own lives, believing they would find eternal salvation by joining the "mother ship," a spacecraft they believed was trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
by their very nature, physical UFOs piloted by alien beings would validate the case for extraterrestrial intelligence if they were to show themselves to the world in an undeniable way. That sort of evidence remains lacking after more than fifty years of the flying saucer age. Yet UFO phenomena of different types continue to be reported.
While the letters UFO stand for "unidentified flying object" and thus reveal the term's general or basic definition, the subject is so complex that it is increasingly difficult to provide an unambiguous definition for the term UFO. In fact, many serious UFO researchers now use the term "UFO phenomena" or "UFO phenomenon" instead of "UFOs."
This nomenclature distinction, while it may seem trivial, suggests the difficulty the experts have in getting a handle on the subject.
Six difficulties arise when one attempts to provide an adequate and positive definition for an individual UFO, and these intensify when it comes to providing an adequate explanation for the phenomena taken as a whole. While these criticisms are not fatal to thinking about UFOs, they deserve careful reflection. Some may view these criticisms as excessively skeptical-but then the subject could use a little more commonsense skepticism! The six points overlap to some degree.
First, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between UFOs and their accompanying multifaceted phenomena. The two seem hopelessly intertwined, and therefore an adequate definition needs a combined logical, scientific, sociological, psychological, and religious assessment.
Second, in attempting to define a UFO, one is trying to identify that which is yet unidentified. This is similar to the problem in logic of defining a negative. It is difficult to provide meaningful definitions, not to mention classifications and categories, for phenomena that reside largely in the realm of the unknown. There is a certain logical legitimacy in reasoning from what is known to what is unknown, but beginning with the unknown and moving to the known is fraught with difficulties.
Third, it is impossible to perform a direct study of UFOs. Rather, UFO researchers study human reports about UFOs. One cannot overstate the difficulty of performing objective, scientific, and logical analyses of phenomena that come to researchers secondhand and mediated through intense subjective experience.
Fourth, UFO phenomena often involve bizarre occurrences. A report of these strange events often violates any previous definition that has been set down. Thus, subsequent UFO-related reports require attempts to form a new definition.
Fifth, definitions for UFOs suffer from both vagueness and ambiguity. Definitions lacking in clarity result because UFOs by their very nature defy precision.
Sixth, the meaning of terms changes over time. Originally, UFO simply stood for "unidentified flying object," but with the advent of UFO movies, saucer clubs, and unusual reports, UFO has come to mean "a spaceship with extraterrestrial life forms on board."
Despite these difficulties, ufologists and others still find it possible to speak intelligibly about UFOs. As long as one keeps in mind that UFO phenomena are diverse and complex, it is worthwhile to pursue a study of them.
People Interested in UFOs
Those who spend a considerable portion of their time dealing with UFOs come from all walks of life, all socioeconomic levels, and all geographic locations. From hobbyists to scientists, farmers to astronauts, all types of people from all over the world are captivated by UFO phenomena.
Nine groups of people interested in UFOs are listed below, along with their basic conclusions concerning UFO phenomena. The views ascribed to each group are not representative of each and every person within a given category but instead represent a paradigm, or model, for that category.
Natural scientists. By and large, the Western scientific community remains highly skeptical concerning the reality of UFOs, especially when these are understood as metallic craft transporting extraterrestrial visitors. Usually Western scientists maintain that UFOs are the result of misidentified natural or man-made phenomena. Many physicists, chemists, and astronomers, however, think that the existence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe is feasible in light of natural evolutionary processes. They have launched "exobiology," a new branch of biology that considers the posssibility of life's origin and evolution on different planets. But for most scientists, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is separate from the highly questionable phenomena of UFOs. Recently, however, a distinguished panel of scientists concluded that some UFO reports may indeed be worthy of scientific investigation.
U.S. government officials. Military investigations conducted in the United States from the late 1940s to the late 1960s concluded that evidence for an extraterrestrial interpretation of UFOs was lacking and that the unexplained UFO reports were likely misidentified natural or man-made phenomena. They also concluded that UFO phenomena posed no threat to American national security. The federal government partially funds NASA's SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program, but overall it doesn't seem interested in the subject of UFOs. Due to consistent accusations of cover-up by some conspiracy-oriented UFO researchers, it is important to note that there doesn't appear to be any clear and convincing evidence that the U.S. government is or has been involved in a significant cover-up or conspiracy concerning UFOs. Some key UFO researchers have asserted, however, that the official government investigations into UFOs have been superficial and flawed and that the government may have presented disinformation on the subject.
Professional ufologists. Professional-that is, scientific or technically oriented-researchers of UFO phenomena are known as "ufologists," and these people are divided over how to interpret UFOs. Some remain skeptical as to whether there is an actual, objective, and intelligent stimulant to UFO reports. Even those who affirm UFOs as an objective and intelligent reality are divided as to whether they are best explained as extraterrestrial visitors or as interdimensional (from a different dimension of reality) phenomena or even possibly as something else. The extraterrestrial hypothesis is popular among American ufologists. However, many leading ufologists in other parts of the world lean toward some form of the interdimensional hypothesis. Well-known UFO research organizations include the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies, the Mutual UFO Network, and the British UFO Research Association.
Social scientists. Sociologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists generally begin with the presumption that UFOs are not an objective empirical reality (or any other kind of objective reality). Instead, most social scientists hold that UFO sightings and related phenomena are caused by social, cultural, or psychological factors. Social scientists study the types of people who claim to have had UFO-related experiences, such as contact with extraterrestrials or abductions.
Excerpted from LIGHTS IN THE SKY & LITTLE GREEN MEN by HUGH ROSS KENNETH SAMPLES MARK CLARK Copyright © 2002 by Reasons To Believe. Excerpted by permission.
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