by Mark R. Whittington - The Hill opinion contributor
While UFOs and the possibility of them being alien spacecraft have been a thing for decades, renewed interest in the phenomenon arose with the recent revelation that military pilots have been spotting objects in the sky, now dubbed Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP). Last year, the Office of National Intelligence issued a report on UAPs that left more questions than answers. In a quest to find answers, the House Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, and Counterproliferation (C3) Subcommittee of the House Intelligence Committee held hearings on what may or may not be evidence of alien visitations.
The open hearing, available to the public, featured Scott Bray, director of naval intelligence activity, and Ronald S. Moultrie, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. Publicly, at least, neither man disclosed any definite conclusions about what these UAPs might be. We know no more than we did when last year’s report was issued.
A small number of the UAPs that have been observed defy conventional explanation. They sometimes seemed to contravene the laws of physics as applied to physical objects in the air, hovering, suddenly accelerating and demonstrating no discernable method of propulsion, as understood by current science.
The open hearing seemed to be all about process. The lawmakers on the subcommittee sought to assure themselves that the reports of military pilots and other observers were being taken seriously without stigma. They also were keen to understand that the UAP phenomenon was being investigated with regard to science and without preconceptions. The desire for the investigation to be conducted with due transparency was also expressed. Whatever these objects are, they have some serious national security implications.
If the objects are of foreign but terrestrial origin, say from China, then clearly the United States and its allies are in trouble, unless the American military possesses similar technology. The classified portion of the hearings may or may not provide some illumination on that question, although hiding that knowledge from the public would tend to run against the expressed need for transparency.
The question of whether some of the unexplained UAPs are extraterrestrial in origin was barely touched upon in the hearing. The implications would be almost beyond evaluation.
The revelation that an alien civilization exists that can cross the interstellar gulfs to visit an obscure, isolated planet like Earth would be one of the most wonderful, hopeful events in human history.
Recently, according to Livescience, a paper was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science that seeks to explain why Earth has not come into contact with aliens. The paper suggests that every civilization is doomed to one of two fates.
The first fate is civilization collapse, either by a global thermonuclear war or some kind of environmental catastrophe brought on by unrestrained growth.
The second fate is something called “homeostasis,” in which a civilization undertakes to restrict unrestrained growth, seeking instead to prioritize sustainability and social wellbeing. The system might resemble some of the proposals offered by American politicians under the brand name Green New Deal.
Either path would seem to preclude widespread space travel of the sort that would make such civilizations easily detectable, not to mention capable of making a first contact.
However, if at least some of the UAPs are aliens, the theory described above is rendered hokum. In that case, at least one alien civilization would’ve escaped the choice between collapse and homeostasis and chose a third way, likely by expanding out into space to use its abundant natural and energy resources to maintain economic and technological growth.
If Earth is being visited by aliens, why have they not made first contact yet? Possibly they are bound by some version of the “Star Trek” Prime Directive in that they would not interfere with Earth’s natural development. However, since they have offered clues to their existence, they could be sending a message.
The message, if some UAPs are aliens, is likely: We’re here. We’re watching you. Someday, when you’re ready, we’d like to talk.
When would we be ready? Thanks to NASA’s Artemis Program, plus separate efforts by the Chinese, human civilization is preparing to expand beyond the home planet, to the moon, then Mars, then beyond. At some point, when human civilization has ensured its long-term survival by spreading out into space. ET will call us.
That’s the theory, anyway. It’s a much more pleasant theory than the choice of dooms offered in the Royal Society Open Science Journal. It’s an argument — and hope- — for the exploration and economic development of space.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of space exploration studies “Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?” as well as “The Moon, Mars and Beyond,” and “Why is America Going Back to the Moon?” He blogs at Curmudgeons Corner.