July 17 2012

South Park, 9/11, UFOs, and The Man (Part 2)

By The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff

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For that story, let’s now turn to Drs. Wendt and Duvall and a paper they published in the journal Political Theory, in 2008, Sovereignty and the UFO, and a companion piece, Militant Agnosticism and the UFO Taboo, they wrote for inclusion in Leslie Kean’s book, UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record, published in 2010.

“There is a taboo…. the UFO taboo…. Not in popular culture, of course, where interest in UFOs abounds, but in elite culture – the structure of authoritative belief and practice that determines what ‘reality’ officially is. With respect to UFO phenomena this structure is dominated globally by three groups: governments, the scientific community, and the mainstream media. Although their individual members may have varying private beliefs about UFOs, in public these groups share the official view that UFO’s are not ‘real’ and should not be taken seriously – or at least no more seriously than any other curious cultural belief. For these elites [any substantive works by individual members of that group that take UFOs seriously] is intrinsically problematic.” 

A particular “manifestation of the UFO taboo is official disinterest in responding to UFOs or in finding out what they are. Since 1947, when the modern UFO era began, neither the scientific community nor governments (with the partial exception of France) have made a serious effort to determine their nature, as far as we know” and neither a genuine, systematic survey nor a proactive search for UFO phenomena has been undertaken by any major agency or institution. This unengaged position is reinforced by the media who rarely cover UFOs, “and when they do it is inevitably with a wink and a nod, as if to reassure us that they really don’t take UFOs seriously, either.” 

And, since “modern science seems to find almost everything in nature interesting, such disinterest is puzzling. But disinterest alone does not make a taboo – which is something prohibited, not just ignored. Rather, what gives the UFO this special status is that it is considered to be outside the boundaries of rational discourse. Although members of the general public might believe that UFOs exist, the authorities know that UFOs are merely figments of overactive imaginations, no more real than witches and unicorns. Thus, to take UFOs seriously is to call one’s own seriousness into question. When UFO ‘believers’ appear to deny empirical reality, there is not much more for the elite culture to do than either ignore or condemn them as irrational or even dangerous. In this light the UFO appears not as ‘object’ at all, but as a troublesome fiction that is best not talked about – in short, a taboo that prevents reasoned debate.” 

But, since thousands of reports from all over the world have been made describing “unexplained objects in the sky,” it appears that something is going on. It’s true that most remain eyewitness testimony only, “which might be disregarded as unreliable,” the fact remains “that many UFO reports [coming] from ‘expert witnesses’ like commercial and air force pilots, air traffic controllers, cosmonauts, and scientists should give one pause.” Additionally, “some UFO reports are also corroborated by physical evidence, including scientifically analyzed photo and video images, physical ground traces affecting plants and soil, effects on aircraft, and anomalous radar tracks. In modern society, physical evidence is normally considered definitive evidence of reality, objective evidence for something that has a cause in the physical world. By this criterion, then, at least some UFOs are clearly real. The question that makes them a problem is: Could they be extraterrestrial?”

“UFO skeptics think that human beings know, as a matter of scientific fact, that UFOs are not extraterrestrial and therefore can be ignored. Yet none of the strongest arguments for this view in fact justify rejecting the extraterrestrial hypothesis as a possible explanation for UFOs. They don’t even come close. Actually, it is not known, as a matter of scientific fact, that no UFOs have an extraterrestrial origin.”

It is important to note here that Wendt and Duvall are not saying that the ETH is true. They are not taking a position on that question at all. What they are saying, emphatically, is that, “at this stage human beings simply do not know.” Now, since so little scientific attention and study has been expended on the UFO issue, the argument for rejecting the ETH is based upon an a priori conviction that ET “visitation is impossible: ‘It can’t be true, therefore it isn’t.’ ”

(Part 2 of 6)

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