Philosophy 1050 (?) 1994
This was written in my first semester of college and after re-reading it's actually not the worst freshman writing I've read. It's not great though and I wouldn't pick this topic today with a gun to my head and yet I'm proud of my incredibly skeptical conclusions. Also, the X Files, wow I remember obsessing over that show and man can you tell! The assignment was an end of term paper on something typically contentious of a topic, abortion, capital punishment, etc. Because I was a gigantic dork I picked alien abductions because why the hell not? I still pick weird topics in my writing these days...
Are We Alone?
"I send greetings on behalf of the people of our planet. We step out of our solar system, into the universe seeking only peaceful contact." In 1977, Kurt Waldheim, past president of the United Nations sent this message out into space. It was sent in 55 languages on the Voyager 1 and 2 probes, and also on Pioneer 10 and 1 -each one on its way out of our solar system. Along with this message was sent over a hundred pictures that would not only show a sort of map to Earth,
but also give a tour along the way. Whether or not this message was ever received is still a mystery. There are a lot of people that believe the mystery has been solved. They range from fanatics to tabloid newspapers, to legitimate scientists. They have been dedicated to proving that extra-terrestrials have been visiting the Earth for a while now. Some of these people aren't just crackpots in the south searching for Elvis in the K-Mart parking lot. There are lawyers, doctors and numerous other professionals. They willingly risk their reputation on these occurrences. But the questions remain. Are there extra-terrestrials here, hidden by a massive government conspiracy. Or is this just another example of mass hysteria fueled by modern day myth?
In 1961, Betty and Barney Hill were driving home through New Hampshire. They saw a rapidly moving light and stopped to investigate. When they pulled out their binoculars, it disappeared. A few miles later, the strange light returned and seemed to follow them. It came closer and they saw that it was a circular object with figures moving behind blue tinted windows. Barney got out to get a better look. Suddenly, wings snapped out abruptly on both sides of the craft. Barney ran back to the car, panicked. Driving away, they looked back and it was gone. When they got home, they discovered that they had been gone an extra two hours instead of about ten minutes.
Betty began to have strange dreams, filled with haunting images of abductions scenes. She finally went to a hypnotist to find out what had really happened in the missing two hours. The therapist decided to use hypnotic regression to get the truth. When Barney stopped the car the second time, it had in fact stalled. The craft landed and aliens got out. They were separated and subjected to many biological tests, and what they called "sampling." Before they were returned to their car, they showed Betty a three dimensional map. It was a star map and she was told to study it carefully. Under her hypnotic state Betty was able to reproduce the map. When the aliens released them, Betty was already in the car and Barney found himself running back to the car panicked.
This could be considered and interesting "story," yet when the two separated accounts were compared, they were internally consistent on detail. The star map, their only tangible proof of the experience, was given to an amateur astronomer for further study. Five years later she concluded that the Hills had encountered aliens from the Zeta Reticuli system. Either they were going to the Zeta Reticuli system, or man would eventually go there. A few years later, this account was published. It was very popular and in 1975, made into a film called The UFO Incident. Millions of people relived the story of an ordinary couple, a postal worker and a social worker. This was only the beginning.
If aliens had visited the Earth, then why isn't it common knowledge? The most publicized accounts today come from tabloids and fanatics. There is not a lot of scientist or even government officials substantiating these claims. One of the reasons the governments around the world would want to hide these facts would be for our safety. Most of the books and movies in our culture portray them negatively. Popular opinion is that if aliens came to Earth, mass hysteria would ensue. The population would run for the hills. Any alien presence that can travel solar systems would surely have the capabilities to destroy the Earth. Or as the latest movies would suggest, kill or enslave the people and rape the planet. Remember "War of the Worlds"? That was only a fictional radio show and there was still a panic. For years the entertainment industry has been playing on our fears of destruction by some outside force. It's not the Soviet Union any more, It's E.T. He's back because we can't take care of the Earth ourselves and have forfeited our stewardship. Those fictional stories may just be for entertainment, but there are some interesting facts.
In the middle of the Nevada desert, possibly an extension of Nellis AFB, is something referred to as Area51. This is a real place. It was also very top secret. There are signs all around it restricting access, even that the security has the right to use deadly force. In 1951 an alien space craft supposedly crash-landed in Roswell, New Mexico. It was then transported to Area 51. The government of course denies this, but they do admit to some things. For example, Area51 was where the U-2 was developed and tested. Also the SR-71 spy plane that flew over Cuba on the 60's was made. Or the Stealth Bomber, the government still denies this project even months after pictures were taken and released to the public. It's not unusual to find strange lights moving in the sky at night. Area 51 has a reputation as testing grounds for experimental air craft. If the government had found a crash landed alien ship, this would be the place to assess it capabilities.
There is a lot of information, accounts, stories, etc. out in the world about the possibility of aliens here on Earth. This certainly warrants further investigation. The scientific community shouldn't be so quick to dismiss these claims. Just by the sheer number of them, they can't all be wrong, can they?
Of course they can! The Hill story was just one of many highly publicized cases. Millions of people watched then just as they do now. How many people saw "Fire in the Sky"? Most people today know what is supposed to happen if aliens from Mars come to "abduct" you, even to the point of knowing what they are supposed to look like. People say that in our time we don't have any myths or legends. I say that we do. They're called Area51, Roswell, and numerous other governmental conspiracies. People have taken their own fears and made them into these elaborate stories.
So then, is the government hiding alien life? Most people would agree that the government does hide things from the public. That's why they call it national security. Some of the things that our government does, we really wouldn't want to know. But more people agree that the government is really too incompetent to balance the budget much less fool millions of people. That would require forces beyond their current means. It's the Nixon era relived. Last year it was discovered that life did exist on Mars. This isn't a civilization either. Scientists found fossilized remains of bacteria millions of years old. It was found in a meteorite in the Antarctic. This is as close as we will ever come to life outside the Earth in our solar system with our current technology. Even this data is under scrutiny.
There is still a possibility of intelligent life nearby. The only problem is a big one for UFO fanatics. Why would they come to the Earth? Or how would they even know that we are out here? Scientists are using the most primitive means to try and contact outside life. We have only radio waves which would be the bottom rung of the ladder. So our scientist are using the radio waves and sending them into space. Even going the speed of light it would still take two hundred years to reach the nearest planetary system, which cannot support life. We may not even be around by the time alien civilizations receive it. It would still take them two hundred years to come here. That is of course going the speed of light. They would need one big generational ship. Faster than light speed is not possible with our current technology. But supposing they could safely go faster than light, they would of course have ways of overcoming one of the most fundamental laws of physics.
But I understand how inconvenient the laws of physics can be. There is another interesting theory. Any civilization that has been around long enough to become a member of the United Federation of Planets would need to have outlived many things. Wars, genocide, nuclear weapons, even its own UFO conspiracy theories. They would have to find a way to live in peace with themselves and others. They would have to realize that the Earth couldn't possibly be redundant elsewhere in the galaxy. If aliens have been coming here since the 1950's (when was "The War of theWorlds" first broadcast?), they have been experimenting on the wrong people. They should be abducting political, scientific, and religious leaders, not Betty and Barney Hill. People would believe Carl Sagan, but question Barney Hill. So then it's really a question of credibility. Alien life exists out beyond our solar system, but have they already come here?
We could just be a cosmic accident. We could also be a civilization searching for answers in the midst of many. Despite all of the evidence to the contrary, people are not entirely dissuaded. Maybe that's because all of the evidence to the contrary is not entirely dissuasive.