By Michael E. Salla, Ph.D.
The study of UFOs is commonly assumed to have began on June 23, 1947 with a sighting in Washington State by a respected local pilot Kenneth Arnold. After an interview describing what he saw, the crescent shaped objects were quickly dubbed by the media â€˜flying saucers.â€™ Subsequent books by Major Donald Keyhoe (ret. USMC) and other popular authors of the time increasingly came to the conclusion that flying saucers were extraterrestrial in origin. The term â€˜flying saucerâ€™ more and more became associated with the extraterrestrial hypothesis. If one spoke of flying saucers, it was accepted that one was talking about technologies that had an other-worldly origin, and this had important public policy implications. Keyhoe eventually realized that the highest echelon of the military leadership in the U.S. were very anxious to cover up the extraterrestrial explanation, and ignore the conclusions of investigations conducted by even their own senior technical specialists.
Covering up the extraterrestrial element was described by Keyhoe as â€œThe Flying Saucer Conspiracyâ€ which was the title of his popular 1955 book. Keyhoe rightly understood that the flying saucer phenomenon had become deeply political and imbedded within the national security system with respective advocates and opponents of releasing all the evidence to the public. The scientific question about flying saucers had already been conclusively answered â€“ they were not of terrestrial origin, at least not of any terrestrial science known at the time. The most plausible explanation was the flying saucers were extraterrestrial in origin, and the USAF was trying to steer the public from this obvious conclusion. Keyhoeâ€™s analyses of the politics surrounding flying saucers as extraterrestrial vehicles, forms the original source for what today is better described as exopolitics – the study of extraterrestrial life and its public policy implications.
During Keyhoeâ€™s time, the US Air Force took the brunt of accusations of a systematic cover up. The best minds of the USAF, secretly supported by the CIA and select U.S. government agencies, tried to come up with satisfactory answers to Keyhoeâ€™s probing questions and voluminous evidence he had gathered. Some of the evidence in fact was classified data that the Air Force itself had given Keyhoe access to during a time of greater openness, but now wanted to deny in what was clearly a change of policy. The final solution adopted by the USAF in response to Keyhoe and others was to obfuscate. The key to this new policy was to introduce a term that would help steer the public away from discussion of the extraterrestrial hypothesis. In 1952, the USAF through its Project Blue Book, introduced the term Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) claiming it to be a more objective term that did not have the same extraterrestrial connotation as flying saucer. The USAF left a big question mark over the origin of UFOs.
The new term at first did not take off with the public, but over time the scientific study of UFOs has come to represent research of any unidentified flying object whether of a terrestrial or non-terrestrial origin. The flying saucer term eventually disappeared from media and public accounts of what was being witnessed in the skies and the worldâ€™s oceans. Thus the UFO term has become associated with many mundane explanations that account for many public sightings. Up to 95% of UFO sightings are routinely dismissed as having mundane explanations which is consistent with the final report of Project Blue Book in 1970 that only 6 % of UFO reports are genuinely unexplained. Proponents of the scientific study of UFOs typically respond by saying 5% or so of thousands of UFO sightings still constitutes a lot of cases that might have an extraterrestrial origin.
More recently, retired civilian contractors and/or military personal personnel have emerged to claim that many UFOs are in fact highly classified aircraft built in the US. For example, retired contractors/servicemen who worked at Area 51 claim that UFOs were mistaken sightings of the OXCART spy plane and other highly classified aircraft from the 1950s and 1960s. This explanation supports a claim by CIA historian, Gerald K. Haines, that the CIA actually encouraged UFO reports as a cover for the secret spy aircraft being built for it at Area 51. If up to 95% of UFO reports have a conventional explanation, and among the remaining 5% many in fact are highly classified aircraft, what does that mean for the extraterrestrial hypothesis? One is looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack as more historical data comes out about classified military aviation projects being misidentified as UFOs. It increasingly appears that the scientific study of UFOs is a dead end if one wants to learn the truth about whether or not extraterrestrials are visiting the earth.
Exopolitics is a relatively new discipline that focuses on evidence of extraterrestrial life, and its public policy implications. Exopolitics has two main tracks of study. These are: A., the study of scientific evidence pointing to the possibility of extraterrestrial life in the universe; and B., whistleblower and witness claims that extraterrestrials are currently visiting earth and interacting with private citizens and/or military authorities. Professor Stephen Hawking, along with astrobiology conferences held in Rome (November 2009) and London (January 2010) have recently given a major boost to the first exopolitics track. It is now â€œperfectly rational,â€ according to Hawking, for scientists to discuss the policy implications for extraterrestrial life.
For Hawking, intelligent extraterrestrials are more than likely to be marauders in search of resources and should be avoided. In contrast, the Vaticanâ€™s chief astronomer, Gabriel Funes, believes extraterrestrials are more than likely to be ethically advanced â€œspace brothersâ€. No matter where one stands on this wide ranging debate, itâ€™s important to understand that major scientists are giving serious thought to it; and that this is clearly an exopolitics debate, and not a debate over UFOs. Indeed, the same scientists who are encouraging an exopolitics debate ignore the UFO phenomenon altogether.
When it comes to the second track of exopolitics, the testimony of whistleblowers and witnesses pointing to the visitation of extraterrestrial life in advanced space vehicles, itâ€™s important to accept that UFOs are NOT unidentified. They in fact are Identified Flying Objects whose origins are extraterrestrial in nature. According to these whistleblowers and/or witnesses, this is a well known among responsible government, military and corporate authorities. Thus the term UFO merely serves to obfuscate what these many whistleblowers/witnesses claim they have direct knowledge of, i.e., advanced extraterrestrial vehicles (ETVs) visiting our planet.
In conclusion, the rise of exopolitics in scientific debates over extraterrestrial life is to be welcomed, and is likely to quickly expand in future as more evidence is found of life supporting conditions in the universe. It is therefore important that exopolitics as a new field is not undermined by those wishing to subsume it with the scientific study of UFOs. Such a study is a dead end given the way in which the UFO term lumps together anomalous phenomena that have conventional explanations (up to 95% of sightings cases), highly classified military aircraft (remaining 5%), and objects that may be genuinely extraterrestrial in origin (again, part of the remaining 5%). Instead, something similar to the original â€˜flying saucerâ€™ term is necessary in order to be explicit that what is being discussed or investigated is a possible extraterrestrial vehicle (ETV) belonging to one or more visiting civilizations with profound (exo)political implications for our planet.
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