UFOlogy’s Fatal Flaw

Sitting on my shelf next to my computer is an array of dog-eared books and white papers, that I had as a kid on space, robots, and UFO’s—nostalgic reminders of the exciting ideas that whisked my mind away to other places and other possibilities. As I became more educated and experienced in our little sliver of the Universe I realized that a grave injustice is being waged in UFOlogy. Please consider the following carefully. It is an excellent starting point to make yourself impervious to UFOlogy nonsense.

Human beings are obsessed with the possibility of life on other planets. Countless movies, books, and television shows are centred around alien civilizations, and there is an entire subculture of people devoted to the idea that aliens not only exist but have already visited our planet for the inexplicable purpose of livestock mutilation and the molestation of the barely-literate. Up to 90% of all UFO/Alien cases can immediately be thrown out due to the extreme improbability that they could and would never happen. Take for example the fact that almost all UFO cases that are reported involve humanoid aliens.

Three things are generally intrinsic about human beings:

1. We think we know everything. Who says we are intelligent at all.

2. We think everything is about us.

3. We need things to be about us in order to care.

Thus, in most of our stories about aliens, the aliens come because of us (be it to kill, enslave, or steal our women) or to take resources that are dear to us.  Never mind the gaunt, nearly skeletal figure with the long talons and the scorpion-like tail and the mouth full of razor teeth. Never mind the little green or grey men with oversized craniums and oversized eyes and tiny mouths. Never mind the cat-men or lizard-men or dog-men or people with blue skin and strange, tattoo-like markings or odd brow ridges or pointier ears. Why would an alien look that similar to us?

I blame movies and TV for such unimaginative insights into what is possible in the Universe. I also blame the sorry state of education in science. In science fiction movies and TV shows, intelligent aliens are usually the same basic shape as humans: two arms, two legs, and a head. But why would creatures that evolved on a completely different planet look so similar to us?

The truth is, aliens tend to look like us in science fiction for a couple of basic reasons: budget, and relatability. When it comes to film and TV, it’s problematic to make a race of aliens that do not resemble humans. Actors have to play these roles. What aliens look like in the real world will depend on where they evolved. An alien that evolved in interstellar space would have very different needs from an alien that evolved on an Earthlike planet.

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“Most aliens in SF are humanoid because humans produce SF,” says Michael H. New, an Astrobiology Discipline Specialist at NASA. “While we are interested in the ‘other,’ our conception of otherness is often limited.”

Most if not all Exobiologists firmly agree that aliens would not look at all like humans. For example, a life that evolved elsewhere would look totally different from us — and in fact, if you “reran the tape” from the beginning of life on Earth, you wouldn’t end up with humans on this planet either. The emergence of humanoids on Earth is a totally random event that was a fluke, even with the exact conditions that we arose from.

We have to contemplate the nature of a life form that has evolved on a completely separate planet. Even that statement is limiting. Life may be able to evolve on moons, nebula, or on planets that are bombarded with strange sources of radiation. They may exist and function on different time scales based on the gravity that they evolved in. Special relativity makes for very strange bedfellows. It is possible that they could be here already just beyond our perceptual ability. There truly are more things in heaven and earth than is dreamed in our collective philosophy.

It is intellectual ignorance to think the nucleotides A.G.C.T. are the only alphabet letters of life. Assuredly the letters, language, and syntax of life will be unknown to us. Truly alien. That is what would be expected by isolated evolution.

But that is not what we are seeing in UFOlogy.  The overwhelming consensus of alien reports in the media and in first-hand accounts predominantly highlight humanoid type aliens. Aliens that are structurally similar to our construction is what is usually reported. They may be grey, blue, green, scaled, tall or short, but a humanoid nonetheless.

Consider that on our planet our human physical form is the same one that we share with the great apes. Humans and the other great apes only account for less than a dozen different types of species. We share the humanoid form with our closest primate brothers but that is essentially it. Interestingly Mother Earth has an estimated 8.7 million species with still up to 80% still to be found, according to Nature magazine. So the percentage of life forms on Earth that are humanoid in form only accounts for 0.0000003793% of all currently known life. By any measure and consideration that is an impossibly small number. So the logical conclusion to draw is that the humanoid form is exceedingly rare even on Earth.

So what really is the odds that an alien race would evolve on a different planet than us, find us in the vastness of space, in this sliver of time, and look anything like us? It would be a probability that so infinitesimally small that it would be in the ballpark of a googolplex raised to the power of a googolplex to one. That is a number a thousand orders of magnitude larger than the total amount of elementary particles (2.5 x 10^89) in the entire Universe. Just think about that for a moment.

Now if we think of different planetary systems, the environment, chemistry and the strength of forces there might not have any resemblance to Earth at all. I would go as far as to say, we do not even have a rigorous definition of what constitutes a “living system”. But for beings with “intelligence” to understand and explore the universe, give them a few million years evolutionary head start than humans (which is insignificant by universal time scales) and they would do all sorts of things which we cannot even start contemplating. They might not even restrict their “consciousness” to their original physical bodies and found out ways to immortalize themselves through machine entities, preserve and operate the “brain” without any bodily requirement and discovered novel ways of “reproduction”.  Although not well-regarded for their wits as individuals, the remarkable “hive minds” of bees and ants could point to another manner in which alien intelligence arises — across many individuals acting collectively, rather than as discrete beings.

UFOlogy's Fatal FlawWith the immense grandeur of the Universe still only scratched by our limited intellect makes us a very uninformed species. Life when we truly encounter it will not be a mutated version of ourselves. It will be more strange, unexpected and probably terrifying to our primate brains. If you look at all the cases in modern UFOlogy you will soon realize that almost all of them have humanoid type aliens. You can immediately discard them as wish fulfilment or downright delusional.

I understand that the ideas in this article are the equivalent to intellectual heresy in the UFO field and represent a major flaw in modern UFOlogy. This major failing can be fixed by using critical thinking when assessing a UFO report. For UFOlogy to regain respectability it must appeal and make sense to the non-true believers. We must strive to eliminate the giggle factor and drive toward sense and sensibility.  A good first step in that intellectual crusade is to know humanoid aliens are nearly impossible in probability.

A reflection of the observer, not a reflection on reality.

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