It doesn’t take much effort to see that UFOs are written off as a farce in today’s society. Whether you’re looking to the scientific community, leading space authorities, or just the general public, it’s obvious that aliens, unicorns, and magical creatures are categorized the same – they don’t exist.
Sure, UFO news is great for fluff pieces to sprinkle in with the “real news”, but by and large, most people fail to take the possibility of extraterrestrial life seriously. However, an article posted in February of 2020 encourages readers to think differently and outlines what scientists can learn from “alien hunters”.
According to the WIRED piece, the divide that occurred between UFOs and the rest of the world occurred in the mid-1900s when different branches of science began working together to answer the questions of the universe. While astrobiologists searched for signs of life and the right environments to host it, SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) looked for unknown technology signatures, a much more speculative area of study.
Due to SETI’s low probability of success and high expenses, it soon became an easy budget cut and humorous topic for politicians. This unfortunate turn led SETI to all out of the public’s good graces into an embarrassment for the scientific community.
According to a NASA history paper, SETI’s “giggle factor” lead it to be “wrongly associated with searches for little green men and UFOs”, and since astrobiology wanted to keep it’s distinction as an acceptable scientific study, researchers that once worked closely together began to distance themselves from these “alien hunters”.
SETI isn’t the only group that feels like they’ve been misunderstood, however. Ufologists have argued that their studies are equally valuable. Just 50 to 70 years ago, scientists worked alongside ufologists and the military had UFO-focused programs which gave the studies credibility, at least to some degree. But after the University of Colorado – Boulder ended their Air Force sponsored study of UFOs with nothing to show, ufology was ostracized. Just like SETI, ufology has been pushed out and defunded by scientists, including SETI.
Despite all the turmoil surrounding these fields, they do truly offer value to the science community, if only someone would listen. So what can we learn? For one, flexibility. Scientists are tasked with maintaining rigorous standards to ensure truth, but oftentimes these standards are too strict and miss the chance to discover a nugget of truth hidden in all the crazy conspiracies. At the heart of the matter, all scientists and researchers share a common denominator – the desire to find the truth and analyze the data for themselves. They don’t want to be told what to believe, but instead, find out on their own and come to their individual conclusions.
Unfortunately, sometimes the best, most ground-breaking info doesn’t fit nicely into strict scientific rules and spreadsheets. Yet, there is still likely some truth in personal experiences and stories that should be taken into consideration. Also, while science gives a baseline for many of our beliefs, it shifts with the time and culture, leaving room for more experiences at the table, so to speak.
So, in 2020 and beyond, is there hope for SETI and ufology to gain more legitimacy? Is the world awakening to the possibilities outer space holds now that our technology can reveal them? Let’s hope so.