UFOs = Aliens: any convincing evidence?

There have been any number of sightings of “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena”. Many are just lights at night, some are poorly resolved distant objects in the daytime. A few observers have claimed to have seen them closely enough to identify them as machines or vehicles of some type.

But somewhere along the line the idea that these indeed are vehicles, specifically spacecraft piloted by alien beings, arose based on the accounts of supposed eyewitnesses. Now this is a different level altogether. An observer can be genuinely mistaken about a sighting that is actually a distant flock of birds, or the planet Venus, or a rare atmospheric phenomenon; but short of being the victim of an elaborate hoax there is little way one could be mistaken about having encountered alien beings. Either the reporter is lying; or credulously misinterpreting a mundane happening; or mentally ill; or suffered a temporary hallucination/delusion; or it actually happened.

On the basis of these accounts a veritable catalog of alien beings (“Greys”, “Browns”, etc.) has arisen and entered the popular imagination. To the point that the “alien” hypothesis of UFOs dominates virtually all discussions of the subject. But just how credible are these accounts? Do they possess any internal consistency supportive of being accounts of objective fact? Are they all B.S., or almost certainly so? In short is UFOs = Aliens a defendable hypothesis?

Former believer of that in my youth over here…

Got better.

Time has not been charitable towards the early writings about the issue, the promises and what should be next never materialized. (There was a UFO/moon hoax proponent in the SDMB years ago claiming that in 10 years schools would teach about the UFOs as real and the moon landings as not taking place, it is already more than 15 years after that claim)

New reported sightings have a lot of good non-alien explanations going for them, so almost all certainly BS or mistaken identifications.

Presuming that ‘it actually happened’ refers specifically to an alien abduction, it’s also possible that they misinterpreted an extraordinary event: they could’ve been abducted by time travelers, by the reptile people from the center of the hollow earth, by a secret advanced society hiding out in the Antarctic, by time travelers, by beings from a parallel universe-Earth, they could’ve been deceived by magic, had a visitation of angels which they didn’t know how otherwise to conceptualize, or perhaps they found an Easter egg in the Matrix.

Even if all ‘ordinary’ explanations for a given event had been ruled out, it would be difficult to decide what sort of evidence could be judged sufficient to adjudicate between the different ‘extraordinary’ possibilities, so we can’t really conclude to aliens just from the fact that a given event has no ordinary explanation. Perhaps it would be better to first try and establish whether any of the observed phenomena have no ordinary explanation (for which I think the answer is ‘no’), rather than pointing to aliens specifically.

The most credible sighting offered by UFOists is the Socorro Saucer. In April 1964 Policeman Lonnie Zamora reported an exotic object in Matanzas Arroyo south of town. There is no doubt he and others saw the object. It took off and disappeared to the southwest.

This was confirmed recently by a pair of investigators (two guys on vacation with a pick up truck). They followed the reported path of the object and discovered the crash site. A four lane road had been built to the sight and all evidence had been removed and hauled away by the military,

Lonnie Zamora (now deceased) saw and described his first hot air balloon. The strange emblem on the side is the Weyerhaeuser logo. In 1964 rural New Mexico, a hot air balloon was an unidentified flying object.

The crash site is a manganese mine that operated during WW2. You can see the mine road by opening the BLM gate to Six Mile Canyon off of hwy 60.

People will believe anything and they love to be fooled.

It’s a good question.

Yes, there have been many sightings of objects in the sky. And Lumpy explains why this happens.

The problem is that after a\many decades, there is no physical evidence.
So there is no reason to believe in UFOs, let alone aliens.

Statements like this are not helpful:

Or there was never any evidence in the first place. :nerd_face:

Actually I may have completely misunderstood Crane - if so apologies (if the post was to show there never was any evidence…

I’ve read a great deal about early UFO sightings. They go back much farther than popular imagination credits. I wrote an article, WHAT WAS IT? The Mystery Airship of 1896, about the hundreds of witnesses of lights, ships, and even words from the skies in Sacramento and San Francisco in 1896. The front page newspaper coverage was totally credulous and read uncannily like a 1996 article would.

Of course, there was nothing in the skies then. Or ever. Certainly not in the UFO craze of the late 40s. Or the alien abductions of the 60s. People create patterns out of randomness. They misunderstand real phenomena. They believe instruments when the readings are faulty. They tell tall stories or get reporters to do so for them. They copy others’ tales to enhance believability. They lie through their teeth for publicity or ego. Some, sadly, are clearly damaged mentally.

But absolutely none of them have ever publicly revealed anything that was alien.

I now await the claim that the lack of proof is evidence that the government is hiding something.

Damn. You beat me to this.
These things were supposedly seen by many people throughout the South and Southwest. As for the question in the OP, many people claimed to have close encounters with the pilot. In this case the pilot did not say he was from Mars, rather he was from New England.
At least as convincing as modern sightings.
BTW, these sightings were referenced multiple times in Charles Fort’s books, which was the first place I learned of them.

There was a continuous trail of sightings moving east across the country as far as the Mississippi River. The newspaper coverage was hilarious in retrospect. No tabloids existed at that time but the regular newspapers might as well have been the Weekly World News reporting about Batboy.

Charles Fort, BTW, was part troll and part idiot with nothing left over for sense. He would have made a million on the internet.

So would have Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and “there is a sucker born every minute” P.T. Barnum

Wait a second, did you time travel while you were writing that? Was it forward or back?

It’s a quirk of the way that brains work, that sometimes they hallucinate. And one of the more common sorts of hallucinations is of beings that look a lot (but not entirely, enough so to be uncanny) like small humans. In earlier times, a person hallucinating such a small person might describe it as a demon, or an elf. Nowadays, someone experiencing such a hallucination is likely to call it an alien.

Couple an “alien” sighting, with a UFO (from any of the myriad causes of such, be it Venus, a real human-built vehicle, swamp gas, or another complete hallucination), mix in a bit of the human tendency for pattern-matching, and it’s easy to conclude that the little human arrived in the mysterious flying thing.

In England we had (have?) crop circles. I remember them being reported in serious newspapers as ‘evidence’ of visits from aliens.

They were, of course, a hoax by some students using basic geometry, some rope and boards. I believe that beer played a significant part as well.

Almost as soon as crop circles became public knowledge, they attracted a gaggle of self-appointed experts. An efflorescence of mystical and magical thinking, scientific and pseudo-scientific research, conspiracy theories and general pandemonium broke out. The patterns stamped in fields were treated as a lens through which the initiated could witness the activity of earth energies and ancient spirits, the anguish of Mother Earth in the face of impending ecological doom, and evidence of secret weapons testing and, of course, aliens. Today, one of the more vigorously promoted ideas is that they are messages, buried in complex numerological codes, concerning a Great Change connected to the pre-Columbian Mayan calendar and due to occur in 2012.

Crop Circles: The Art of the Hoax | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine

But think how many hours he would have saved at the NY Public Library if he had Google.
I doubt he would have made a lot of money on the internet - too many competitors.
But he did inspire Eric Frank Russell.

I remember a UK article at the time that said, “Instead of little green men it involved large ruddy ones.”

One of the 1896 sightings of this “ship” was reported by a citizen of Lodi who had contact with the occupants while returning from a short trip. He said it was shaped like a cigar and had landed next to a canal where several occupants attempted to grab him an force aboard the craft. They failed because they lacked the strength in earths gravity as they had the appearance of “ethereal angels” according to him.
Coincidentally at about this time Count Zeppelin was beginning to build his airships and a blimp was rumored to exit in the Bay Area. The prevailing winds are to the east most of the year and Lodi is easily a place where it could have shown up. This is almost certainly what this guy saw and imagination did the rest.

You’re probably referring to the story headlined “Three Strange Beings” in the November 27, 1896 Stockton Evening Mail. It’s a long “interview” with a Col. H. G. Shaw. I put “interview” in quotes because the piece is nothing but Shaw telling a very tall tale. He’s spouting a piece of science fiction out of the other H. G., Wells, that is, an encounter with “inhabitants of Mars” that can’t be believed even for a second. Shaw was a Stockton civic booster, either jealous of the attention given to the rest of SF area or friends with a local reporter and allowing him to [mis]use his name. He was never “interviewed” again that I found, and clearly no one treated the story as anything but self-serving fiction.

The bigger problem with a blimp as the answer, as it is for the ones that postulate other types of local aircraft, is that it requires us to believe that a powered craft would make one flight in darkness and leave no other traces or claims to its existence. Nobody in those days sent any type of experimental craft into the air after dark; it would be sheer lunacy, pardon the pun.

Of all the stories told in California during the fall and winter of 1896, Shaw’s is the least credible.

Crop circles was an interesting phenomenon.
They were hailed as clear evidence of aliens leaving us messages.

I remember a TV program in which some ‘UFO experts’ stated this was indisputable. The presenter then introduced the three chaps who had actually made the circle (with their rope and planks!) and asked the ‘experts’ what they thought.
“No problem” replied the ‘experts’ “- these men are confused. It was aliens…”

I would reply like David Mitchell did in QI to those “UFO experts”.

Because they never saw the ones making the circles, then they assume “aliens did it”? Do they also think that graffiti on trains is made by aliens?

There is no convincing evidence that any UFO accounts, modern or pre-modern, are associated with an intelligent species visiting Earth from another planet.

At the end of the day, the more we have learned about physics, the distances between us and any nearby likely habitable worlds, the travel limits imposed by the speed of light etc, we know that most likely any other spacefaring species is likely from outside our solar system. We also have a good amount of evidence to suggest none of the star systems near us is likely to have planets where intelligent life could have developed, based on our best knowledge of conditions required for such things to occur. The Alpha Centauri triple star system does have a roughly earth sized planet in the “habitable zone” of Proxima Centauri, but other things we know about the conditions there suggest it is unlikely life or a civilization could have developed in that location. For example that world is subjected to stellar winds 2000 times stronger than Earth, meaning the world would need a significantly strong magnetic field or its atmosphere would likely be blown away. It is also possible (but not certain) that this world is tidally locked to its star, which would be another major hurdle for life to develop.

This means within the bounds of known science, if there is a spacefaring civilization out there it is most likely more than 5 light years away. This is a vast distance.

I also believe the more we have learned about the unique circumstances that lead to life on earth, and then the evolutionary processes and cataclysmic events that lead to the evolution of tree dwelling apes, and then the series of events that lead to one species of those apes developing intelligence and societies, and eventually a civilization capable of spacefaring, suggests that such life developing is likely a very rare event. The odds that any hypothetical other spacefaring civilizations are remotely near us, or that if they were, they would have interest in reaching us, is low. Additionally within the bounds of our knowledge nothing suggests this spacefaring civilization would be able to solve the fundamental, physical problems of distance, energy, and speed that make interstellar travel of crewed vessels seem fundamentally impossible. Now is it impossible? We haven’t proven that. We do know it is a very very hard problem, and it stands to reason not every civilization could hope to solve it if it could be solved.

Now all that being said, that means just the baseline likelihood that aliens are visiting is very, very low. For something that is so unlikely, very solid evidence should be demanded as proof. If someone comes into work on Monday and tells you he was shooting hoops on his garage hoop, and landed 4 baskets in a row without missing…you don’t really need proof for that. That is not a particularly impressive scenario. If he said he landed 1000 in a row, you would likely demand some evidence. The aliens visiting here thing is a lot less likely than someone landing 1000 baskets in a row, and thus should demand proof of the highest level.

Instead we have events that all fall into a few categories:

  1. Frauds/deceptions
  2. Sightings of genuine craft which are simply human made terrestrial craft, be it weather balloons (which actually can look really weird), standard aircraft seen at a weird angle or in a weird lighting, or experimental craft being worked on by the military
  3. Sightings of natural phenomena that seem freaky and weird but are akin to mirages or effects like the “Fata Morgana”
  4. Simple human eye failures of perception or memory
  5. Failure of instrumentation that supposedly detected the craft
  6. After all of that we have genuine “incidents with no clear explanation”, a great many of these incidents could fall into one of the first 5 types, but likely at least some do not. But just the existence of unexplainable incidents is not anywhere close to the evidence needed to assume we have alien visitors.