July 23 2012

South Park, 9/11, UFOs, and The Man (Part 6)

By The Philosophy Channel Editorial Staff

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But is any kind of pro-active stance available that might catalyze the possibilities for resistance noted in our previous installment? After all, decades or centuries could pass before any substantive shift in perspective occurs regarding the UFO question. The authors suggest that such a course of action is possible, but challenging. Their prescription for “the kind of resistance that can best exploit these weaknesses”: Militant Agnosticism.

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“By ‘agnostic’ here we mean that no position on whether UFOs are extraterrestrial should be taken until they have been systematically studied.” Resistance needs to be agnostic because, with our current level of knowledge, “neither denial nor belief” in the ETH is justified – “we simply do not know.” And this agnosticism means actually “seeing the UFO for what it is rather than ignoring it.” We need to take it seriously “as a real and unidentified object.” As we’ve seen, this kind of basic, realistic acknowledgement of the reality of the UFO would in itself be a “kind of personal resistance” where the UFO taboo is concerned.

Political effectiveness, however, is a different story and for this a militant approach, “public and strategic,” will be required. “Indeed, purely private agnosticism about UFOs, of the kind that people in the modern world might have about God, does nothing to break the spiral of silence that surrounds the issue and so in effect contributes to it.” Breaking the cycle will require a focus on “reducing our collective ignorance about what they are,” while seeking to avoid sideshow battles over the extent and rationale for historical, official secrecy to date. Essentially, the authors are calling for “a systematic science of UFOs, on the basis of which we might be able to make informed judgments about them,” instead of the current practice of flinging semi-informed “dogmas” at each other.

This new science will need to emphasize three things. “First, it will need to focus on aggregate patterns rather than individual cases.” Though studies of individual cases “have sometimes been able to rule out conventional explanations – what they are not,” it hasn’t done much to “tell us what those UFOs are.” Perhaps, UFOs have something in common with “meteorological phenomena, which can be properly studied only in the aggregate.”

“Second, a science of UFOs will need to focus on finding new reports rather than analyzing old ones.” Why? Because existing high-quality reports are rare and were almost inevitably “collected by accident and through a variety of means, making it almost impossible to find patterns. Trying to generate new reports systematically might greatly increase our data points, and put them automatically into context, as well.”

And, this “science will need to focus on collecting objective, physical evidence rather than subjective, eyewitness accounts,” challenging as this will undoubtedly be. Here, I think, one may question the degree to which it is fair to explicitly devalue eyewitness accounts; after all, people are sitting on death row because of eyewitness accounts, but the larger point remains – shifting current inertia on this topic is going to take some pretty convincing evidence, to put it mildly. 
               
And in the end there will be no guarantees. No assurance that “systematic study would actually end human ignorance about UFOs. But after sixty years of official denials about this potentially extraordinary phenomenon, it is time to try.” 

Wendt and Duvall’s work illuminates a fascinating view on a controversial topic that has a fairly high profile in the popular imagination, but garners little or negative professional interest and status for members of the elite with the temerity to publicly hold a genuinely open and unbiased attitude on the matter, let alone for those who actively engage in the research.

Our authors, in discussing the political, metaphysical, and sociological frameworks attendant upon our current - Official - outlook on the UFO question may be doing a bit more than just shining a creative and disturbing light upon this corner of our experiential attic. They are also prying the door open a little further to the possible existence of what could be something akin to a shadow world (should the ETH be true) that may lie just over the horizon, but largely out of reach and invisible – only seen in cross-dimensional glimpses, oblique and removed from our normal frame of experience.

There is a scene in a made-for-TV mini-series of Ray Bradbury’s, The Martian Chronicles, from 1980, that came to mind as I wrote this article. I have very little, detailed memory of the series, but I do recall one brief moment that has stayed with me through the years. It showed a human colonist of Mars walking across a barren Martian landscape. Out of nowhere, a Martian (with humanoid features) appears and they are somehow able to communicate.

It’s a brief exchange, and at one point the Martian waves his hand and gestures off to the distance and asks the colonist to look at the glorious city the Martians have built. The colonist looks and sees nothing, just a featureless, windswept plain. The conversation soon comes to a frustrated close as neither being can actually see the world inhabited by the other. As each takes a step to continue on their journey, the Martian now disappears. Our colonist has now disappeared from the Martian’s perspective as well, one imagines.

Our current, prevailing worldview, regarding the UFO issue (and related, edge phenomena, that will be explored in future TPC postings and productions) seems captured in that colonist’s shuffle; after one last look over his shoulder, he trundles on, steadfastly, in the opposite direction, across an enchanted landscape, resolutely unexplored.

(Part 6 of 6)

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