The UFO Problem from a Strategic Events Perspective

April 13th, 2010

Tom Chivers the’s “Strategic Events Editor”, ‘science nerd and pedant’ startles us by the stupidity of his unintelligent and pedestrian twaddle on UFOs:

Marvellous. An “American professor” has called for UFOs and other “unexplained phenomena” to be a university subject.

Science IS marvellous… what is your problem?

It’s in the US, not in Britain, mercifully,

Properly executed Scientific method not being practiced in the UK is a good thing?

although with our excellent range of pseudoscientific BSc options you feel it’ll only be a matter of time (the University of Westminster’s course in “Vibrational Medicine” is a case in point).

I smell a Saganite, Shostlackite skeptic. And it smells BAD.

I’ve put the words “American professor” in inverted commas, not because he isn’t really American or really a professor, but because it’s a direct quote from the news story. It’s a funny thing that being a professor – of any subject, at any university – seems to make you an authority on anything at all.

In the same way that a “Strategic Events Editor” makes you an expert on Science. I guess.

So Prof Philip Haseley, a professor of anthropology at the Niagara County Community College in New York State, is now held up as an expert on alien life.

He at least, appears to be a real scientist, which is quite different to a skeptic; skeptics are not scientific, they are religious fanatics in the cult of Science. This cult of science has its own dogma, its high priests and rabid followers, just like Tom Chivers, who is, apparently, a fully paid up member.

Let’s be clear: I’m not saying a belief in alien life per se is ridiculous. The debate over whether or not we are alone in the universe is huge and ongoing.

That debate is over; haven’t you heard?

The most famous tool we have is the Drake Equation,

Here comes the dogma!

which – using estimated figures like how many stars there are in the universe, how quickly they’re formed, how many planets they have on average, how many of those planets could support life (and how many of those then do), and so on – attempts to work out how many extraterrestrial civilisations we might, in principle, be able to communicate with.

One set of current figures puts that number at two, but that is highly controversial; a few minor tweaks to the estimated inputs can easily raise it as high as 20,000 or as low as 0.000065, which would imply that we are almost certainly alone in our stellar neighbourhood. This continuing argument is the basis of SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which for 50 years has scanned the skies for signals which could only come from intelligent life (and there is, of course, a further argument over what that means).

Now lets hear from an actual, real scientist:

“Drake’s Brave Guess”. He waxed poetic about the Drake Equation, originated 45 years ago by radio astronomer Frank Drake (now co-director of the SETI Institute) which supposedly is a scientific approach to determining the number of civilizations in the galaxy capable of sending radio signals. The idea is that, if we just keep listening, we will make the great discovery that man is not alone in the galaxy. The reasoning is a great example of pseudo-science. The primary reason for the article was the fact that the new Allen Telescope Array with 42 dishes, each 20 feet in diameter, is just going on line at Hat Creek in Northern California.

Eventually there will be many more dishes. He really seems to believe the quaint notion that our best systems are on a par with alien civilizations’ best capabilities apparently assuming they would not have improved in what could easily be the billion years during which such systems have been around. I was using a slide rule 50 years ago. I don’t anymore. A laser printer is not just a better IBM Selectric Typewriter. Atomic bombs are not just bigger 10 ton block busters that were used earlier in WW 2.

Of course Shostak doesn’t mention that Hat Creek can’t tune into Southern sky alien radio transmitters,even assuming they are still transmitting using very old, for them, technology. In the “Zeta Reticuli Incident” by Terence Dickinson, which discusses Marjorie Fish’s very exciting research on the Betty Hill star map, it is noted that many sun like stars in the neighborhood can only be seen from below the equator.

Shostak presents the Sacred Drake equation and then plays dartboard physics to try to come up with values for such things as on what fraction of planets life develops; on what fraction of those intelligence develops; and on what fraction of those the ability to send radio signals develops and perhaps most important, the lifetime of a civilization.. Considering that we have data for some of these factors from one planet around one star in a galaxy of a few hundred Billion stars, one can see that this is just a mite of a stretch, a rather huge extrapolation. The galaxy may be 13 Billion years old and the sun is only about 4.5 billion years old. But Zeta 1 and Zeta 2 Reticuli, just 39 light years away, are a billion years older than the sun and just down the street.


My emphasis. Quoting Stanton Friedman is not an appeal to authority by the way, it is simply quoting facts. Here are some more facts about the Drake Equation:

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x fL = ?

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses — just so we’re clear — are merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be “informed guesses.” If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It’s simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing…

In the case of the Drake equation, we wind up with a formula that would be science if the values were known, but they aren’t so it doesn’t tell us anything. They may claim to use conservative estimates in their calculations, but if the value has no known basis then there’s no good reason to suggest the “guesstimate” is conservative or wildly optimistic. Of course, looking for ET to call home, or Earth, is not that serious a question so we cut the SETI folks some slack even though they are spending taxpayer money.


And by the way SETI SHOULD be closed down, not only because it is junk science, but because it is being funded with stolen money. They should be cut no slack whatsoever, they should just be CUT.

But I digress.

But even if we assume the 20,000 figure, the nearest alien civilisation would probably be about 1,500 light years from Earth. So what Professor Haseley is proposing we take seriously is the following:

All true scientists take everything seriously. It is precisely the same sort of mocking and illogical posture that ‘scientists’ in the 1800’s took when they shouted down the real scientists who proposed that meteorites came from space.

1) That one or more alien civilisations have either developed vastly faster-than-light propulsion systems or flown for a minimum of 1,500 years across space to find us

This argument is faulty. First of all, it is like arguing that the only way to cross the atlantic in three hours is by building a boat that travels at twice the speed of sound. You do it in a plane, not a boat. There are probably many ways of travelling long distances that have nothing to do with the holy laws of physics (thou canst not travel faster than the speed of light. To say so is HERESY!). victims of such experimentation. It would look inexplicable, unfathomable, terrifying. It would leave marks, and of course, your fellow polar bears would say you were insane when you recounted the story. If polar bears could talk.

They’re big claims. And, as Carl Sagan said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.


And there is no such evidence.

That is a lie. One out of three.

The trouble with the whole field of “UFOlogy” is that it relies on a logical fallacy. “You can’t explain this photograph/video/experience”, say the UFOlogists, “therefore aliens did it.”

That is another lie. Two out of three.

It’s reminiscent of creationist logic – “you can’t explain this chemical pathway/complex organ/unfound fossil, therefore God did it”, and like creationist logic it cheapens what it wants to promote.

And yet another lie. Three for three.

It is a weak and attenuated religion that hides God in a dwindling supply of feeble, unexplained details, instead of seeing God in the whole glory of the universe; and it is a sad misrepresentation of the serious and important search for alien life to reduce it to conspiracy theory and nonsense.

I don’t know Prof Haseley, or the Niagara County Community College. Maybe the course will be sceptical and scientific. But I think the really interesting university course – and one more appropriate for a professor of anthropology – would be one examining why humanity has such a powerful urge to believe that they have seen ET. What is it in our psyche that needs to know we are not alone?


Here is an interesting question; how would a “Strategic Events Editor” recommend the release of information relating to the reality of UFOS as alien spacecraft, so that the minimum number of people goes insane when the trigger is pulled?

We may never get the answer to that one, but one thing is for sure, this particular “Strategic Events Editor” does not have the intellectual capacity to design that programme.

Another classic example of weak mindedness, poor logic, religious dogma masquerading as science and ostrich posturing.

Finally, science is not something that can be ‘cheapened’, at least, not in the minds of people who actually have an understanding of how science works.

The scientific method can be applied to anything. Your personal prejudices, deeply held superstitions, religious beliefs and childish thinking have no effect on what is and is not true. If someone is applying the scientific method to a subject that offends you, science is not in any way cheapened. This is the language of the religious fanatic; what this man is really saying is that studying UFOs is blasphemy and that the people who are doing it are fit only for ridicule and then excommunication.

The history of science is littered with this sort of bad behaviour:

and the very least we can expect from people with even one brain cell is caution when ridiculing a scientist. Not only does it serve no purpose, but you might just find yourself having to eat your hat.

2 Responses to “The UFO Problem from a Strategic Events Perspective”

  1. Fresh From Twitter: Tom Chivers … | – The world's largest UFO news and information resource – updated live 24 X 7 X 365 Says:

    […] Chivers of The Telegraph gives us his take on the UFO Problem from a Strategic Events Perspective: […]

  2. BLOGDIAL » Blog Archive » Stephen Hawking: incomplete thinking on Extraterrestrials Says:

    […] could use it for any conceivable or inconceivable purpose. The point is that when non scientists (Sagan, Schostack, Blackmore, etc etc) talk about aliens, we must remember that they have refused on […]

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