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A Column by Charles Miller
From The Anomalist: 8, Spring 2000

 I'm not a hardened, dogmatic skeptic--not at this moment, anyway. Over the years,  I've gone through several stages in considering the UFO and extraterrestrial intelligence  controversies, beginning as an ignoramus, then graduating to a believer, then to  a foamer (more in a moment), then to a cautious believer, then to a hardened skeptic,  then to a cautious skeptic, and finally to an intermediatist.

 Borrowing from Charles Fort, an "intermediatist" is one who accepts that  the universe is in a perpetual state of metamorphosis, such that no extreme identity  can stand for very long without evolving to another extreme. In the intermediate  universe, there are no eternal truths; at best, what we accept as "fact"  is actually an ongoing transition of fact-to-falsehood-to-fantasy-to-fact, ad infinitum.  In the intermediate universe, the most iron-clad scientific facts of yesterday may  (and usually do) topple into the trash-bin of scientific naivete, while the scientific  heresies of today may (and usually do) evolve into the iron-clad science facts of tomorrow. The "intermediatist" observes this peculiar evolution and comments  upon it.

 I must admit that the term "foamers," as used earlier, is a derogatory  expression. Essentially, the term refers to those UFO enthusiasts who make a leap  of reasoning, from observing an unidentifiable apparition (UFO) in Earthly skies  to concluding that its origin is from another planet, another stellar system or another  universe. These "Foamers" (or "UFOamers") defend their logic  with vehemence, foaming at the mouth as they concoct all grand manner of fantasy  and conspiracy theory to support their positions. Regardless of the evidence (or lack thereof), foamers will invariably argue that UFOs are an "extraterrestrial  presence."

 However, if we accept that fantasy is a mere transitional state of fact, I wonder  seriously if UFOamers realize that their fantasies may contribute to the creation  of religions of far-flung future centuries? Imagine all of the sensational documentation  of 20th Century UFOs distilled and reinterpreted over two or five or ten centuries,  metamorphosing into the next book of Holy Scriptures--replete with flaming chariots  on high, devils, angels and messiahs--dispensing reward for the "believers"  and punishment for the "disbelievers." At present, as regards the UFO phenomenon,  just the opposite situation exists: Believers are often punished with damaged reputations,  while disbelievers are rewarded with more credibility (and perhaps a little more  job security). But, again, this being an intermediate universe, how long will it  be before the system switches polarity?

 It all comes down to how we humans instinctively try to interpret the things we can't explain. In the distant past, and according to the understanding of the time, phenomenal events were attributed to gods and angels and demons. Today it's "UFOs"  and "Aliens." Tomorrow? Who knows? This is one reason why I think we need  more psychologists and philosophers studying the UFO and ET phenomena, rather than  relegating the task to physical evidence and hard-science groups. Technical definitions  of "evidence" and "science" change regularly in the intermediate  universe. The only apparent constant is our human capacity for interpreting (and  misinterpreting) the available data, making UFOs and ETs purely human anomalies.

 UFOs, by definition, certainly exist, and no amount of opinion can change that. I'm  fairly certain, judging from incidents in my own experience, that a very small number  of UFOs fall into a category outside of the more mundane explanations (black-ops,  hoaxes, meteorological anomalies, intoxication, etc.). This is why, for many years  now, I've referred to the truly unexplainable UFOs as "ultra-mundane apparitions."  This, however, is not suggesting that the craft are from "beyond Earth."  The craft I have seen are simply unidentified and unexplainable by me, in my experience.  That doesn't mean they don't have a rational and possibly even a terrestrial explanation.

 Having addressed myself to the topic, I would be remiss for not attempting a firm  answer to the question, "Are the few truly unexplainable UFOs extraterrestrial  spacecraft?" I think it's up to smarter future generations to make that precise  determination--we just can't say for sure with today's limited technology and understanding--but  I think it's a safe bet for now to conjecture that these "ultra-mundane"  entities originate from right here on Earth.

 This may indeed go against the grain. On the one hand, it's enticing to believe that  the universe is teeming with life and intelligence; such a discovery might shatter  more than a few burdensome Earth-centric beliefs, and humanity might subsequently  enjoy new and unbounded intellectual freedom. But it's a double-edged sword: If "they"  actually are "out there," there's no guarantee that "they" have  respect for life or intellectual freedom. And so we might trade the comparatively  minor burden of Earth-centric ignorance for the awesome burden of interstellar fear.  This would probably have a detrimental effect on humanity, as some would scramble  to make themselves militarily prepared, while others would isolate themselves to  await "rescue." After all, at present we're not even in a position to defend ourselves from rocks falling out of the sky, never mind invading alien forces.

 In the supremely confounding intermediate universe, perhaps we could better spend  our time exploring the possibility that this is the only planet with intelligent  life. If a "most advanced" intelligence exists or ever existed in this  universe, it had to begin somewhere--why not here? Why is this such an astonishing  concept, and why is it greeted with such a negative public reaction? We may actually  be alone, and we humans may be a "freak" of nature with no recognizable  intelligence more advanced than our own. Or perhaps a very advanced intelligence  does exist, perhaps it originated on this planet, and--guess what?--perhaps it's  not human.

 Here's the modern evidence: To date, UFOs are only seen in the vicinity of the Earth.  They appear in the skies, sometimes they land on the surface, sometimes they slip  beneath the waves--but they are all witnessed in the vicinity of the Earth. In the  popular reportage, their "occupants" are hominid, they apparently have  little trouble negotiating Earth's gravity, and they seem comfortable with our atmospheric  gases at the same pressures we enjoy (by mcsweeney at tforge). This and other anecdotal evidence indicate  to me that the "Others," if they actually exist, are probably Terrestrial  in origin--not a product of our "advanced" technology, but perhaps of a civilization that coexists with us on Earth.

 Part of my argument with the foamers includes this metaphor: The kingdom of the insects on Earth dwarfs our human population to insignificance. Although we share the same surface area, insects are barely aware of human presence unless we swat them, cropdust, step on an ant mound, or examine them under our microscopes. As far as the vast insect world is concerned, contact with humans is a rare and usually traumatic occurrence.  Such is the narrow focus of insects.

 Likewise, perhaps a species of greater intelligence, greater technology, and much  smaller population coexists with us on Earth, living who-knows-where, and only infrequently  do they step on our "nests" of humanity, or examine us under their microscopes.  Perhaps we cannot even recognize the presence of the "Others" unless it's  a case of deliberate interference on their part, a rare and traumatic occurrence.  Such is the narrow focus of humans.

 Indeed, it may be a hateful thought for Believers, Skeptics, and Humanity in general,  that the "Others" regard us as insects or less, biologically and intellectually,  and that we pose no real threat to them. Our survivalist predisposition is to cast  "aliens" as recognizable anthropoids, reacting logically and emotionally  as humans do; and, ultimately, we love to think that human ingenuity will either  render them our "friends" or blast them into oblivion. One of the most  hateful thoughts for humans is that our input is not necessary in the greater scheme  of things, and that the "Others" are blissfully unaware or our puny intellectual gymnastics.

 Frankly, whether or not intermediate theories or UFOamer fantasies are correct, our collective obsession with the phenomenon may be a detriment to our progress as a  family of creatures. What if ants, for example, started obsessing with the "possible  existence" of humans, and thus compromised their insectoid duties, in anticipation  (pun intended) of humans either exterminating them or coming to their rescue? Ant  civilization might turn chaotic, dividing into ant "Believers" and ant  "Skeptics," some ants fleeing their colonies, other ants committing mass  suicide, and still other ants listening intently for humans transmitting ant-like  signals. Would we humans even notice the controversy raging beneath our feet?

Copyright 1999 by The Anomalist