Monday, September 3, 2012

The Political Roots of the UFO Taboo

CGI courtesy Markusram at Flicker Creative Commons
I just finished reading Leslie Kean's excellent and flawlessly researched UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. If you haven't read it, go buy or borrow it right now and dive in.

I promise that afterward you will never see this topic the same way again.

Kean concludes her examination of the hard evidence for the existence of UFOs with a discussion of the UFO taboo and why it is so strong, especially in the United States.

In 2008, Dr. Alexander Wendt, a political science professor at the Ohio State University, published a paper with co-author Dr. Raymond Duvall in the leading scholarly journal Political Science. 

The paper, Sovereignty and the UFO,  examines the cultural resistance to taking UFOs seriously and concludes that the problem is not scientific, but rather political.

The authors start out by noting that, "The proper application of science demands that at present we be agnostic about whether or not UFOs have an extraterrestrial origin, neither believing nor rejecting this," and yet a virulent taboo on even studying the phenomenon prevents serious study.

This is especially puzzling, the authors say, given the fact that we have multiple credible sightings over a period of at least 70 years, that many of these sightings involve multiple witnesses of high credibility, that contrary to 'common knowledge' we have physical evidence and lab-tested photographs, and we also have confirmation by credible university science labs that physical effects on plants and people have resulted from close contact.

You would think that this would be an exciting opportunity for scientific investigation and that finding out what UFOs are would be a necessary security task for modern nations.

Yet science won't touch the topic with a ten foot pole, and the US government actively discourages serious investigation of the phenomena.

Other countries no longer take the 'debunking' approach favored by the US. France, Chile, Belgium, and Britain have all had recent major sightings by citizenry and the military, and all have taken these sightings seriously, applied modern scientific analysis to whatever evidence could be gathered, and all continue to urge the US to put aside its secrecy and bad attitude.

All of these nations, and others, have set up agencies to collect data and seriously study the phenomenon. It is only the US that refuses to participate.

Wendt and Duvall conclude that the UFO taboo is built on three distinct political threats inherent in taking the phenomena seriously. Not all of these attitudes are conscious. In fact, mostly, these threats lurk just below the threshold of consciousness, but are still very real:

  1. The physical threat. The possibility that UFOs are indeed unknown, poorly understood, physical manifestations of something represents a powerful physical threat. If UFOs turn out to be extraterrestrial, then we can't know if they are friendly or are just doing reconnaissance work before they come and exterminate us. 

  2. The threat to national sovereignty. Governments may also be reacting to the threat that, were UFOs to be confirmed to be extraterrestrial, there could be a huge public push for a world government to strengthen our position--a move that most national leaders would want no part of, especially the US, which enjoys (for the time being) a spot as world leader. 

  3. The threat to human sovereignty. Possibly most threatening of all is the revelation that human beings are not the smartest creatures in the universe. Right now we take this for granted, so much so that we barely are even aware of it. This anthropomorphism (human centered view of the world) is a modern orientation. Prehistoric and ancient cultures often did not share it, recognizing instead that nature is more powerful. Today, this human-centered view of reality is so important to our culture it almost defines our culture. If we are not the smartest creatures how can we lay claim to the right to govern? 
These three fears result in a cultural and political reaction to UFO phenomena that is much the same as denial at the personal level. A certain circular logic persist in the face of steadily accumulating evidence: UFO phenomena can't be true, therefore UFO phenomena are not true.

In future posts I'll take a look at how Wendt and Duvall deconstruct the impossibility of the ET hypothesis. Clearly, the reasoning used to shoot they hypothesis down is faulty if not ridiculous, and yet this approach persists.

I'll also take a look at some of the weirder experiences I've had while blogging about UFOs that illustrate the tenacity of the political taboo.

I am not anybody.  I'm nobody, blogging.

And yet I have had my unpleasant 'stop it' encounters from total strangers.

Finally, the very existence of a serious paper in a prominent academic journal gives lie to the claim that UFOs are unworthy of serious study. Many, many highly educated people disagree and are willing to say so. And for every person willing to take that chance, there a likely ten that aren't.

It's a career killer, to go out on that limb.

But it's past time for it to happen, and it is happening, with or without the cooperation of the US government.


  1. I have seen weird things happening in the sky in the mountains, and so have other people. Good post on the subject.

    1. Thanks Julia! I was really impressed with Kean's book. There is WAY more evidence than most people think, and it isn't just reports, either.

  2. The truth is: the U.S. and other governments don't know what UFOs are and cannot stop them from doing whatever they want. That's the real secret they don't want people to know. If people knew this, the governments would lose power over their citizenry. They want us to believe that they know everything worth knowing, that they are the biggest dogs on the block and that they are running things. The reality of unexplainable UFOs would destroy that illusion therefore the public must not know the truth. Don't believe your lying eyes!