Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What's In A Name?

A rose by any other may smell as sweet, but we cannot discount the importance of what we call things. Names can influence, malign, mislead, and exaggerate. When dealing with controversial topics, such as UFOs, we cannot deny that this term has become synonymous with "flying saucers" and "space aliens". While inarguably there is anecdotal evidence attesting to the veracity and accuracy of such labels, we do the field a disservice by allowing such a shorthand to continue.

In fact, many who research and study UFOs have come to the conclusion that we are dealing with disparate phenomena. It is only through the human propensity to find patterns, similarities, and to "chunk" information together that we have this need to pigeonhole and stereotype. At one time, it doubtlessly served a survival need. When one doesn't have time to quibble over the difference between a sabertooth cat and a sausage cart, this probably served a useful function. However, in modern times, it tends to get in our way. Now all that cannot be explained in the sky is a "UFO", and to most that means a flying saucer full of little green men.

I have on multiple occasions proposed a name change, if for no other reason than to shake things up and get people thinking once more. We have, by no means, solved these enigmas and yet many behave as if the answers are clearly written somewhere. They have become inextribably mired in a UFO culture that spends much of its time reinforcing its own beliefs until they become more than truth: they become Truth. You know, as in an almost divine wisdom. This fast instills an unshakeable faith and UFO zealots are born.

"What has been seen over these years ... is some sort of super flying-machine (the old fashioned name is used because some of the craft are clearly not 'planes'...."  Even in 1950, what we termed these phenomena seemed important to the likes of Gerald Heard, who wrote The Riddle of the Flying Saucers. And he penned these words less than three years after Arnold and Roswell. In the intervening years, we have come to establish a firm belief in UFOs as alien space craft without thinking much about other possibilities. Sure there are variations on a theme: craft from a hollow moon, craft from a hollow earth, trans-dimensional ships.... Yet, in essence, these are all the same thing. Others have postulated creatures that live in the atmosphere, collective psychic projections (the psi equivalent to mass hysteria), top-secret military craft.

But we do not have a shred of evidence for any of this. Not really. Much of these are not good working hypotheses. We need to strip away the patinas of assumption, wishful thinking, and bias to expose the observational truth at the heart of these sightings and begin anew. I suggest this first step down a new path begin with jettisoning the term UFO - at least among serious researchers. I realize it holds a place in popular culture and that is important, but researchers need to get back to the basics of observing these anomalous aerial phenomena without presumption of their composition.

It is a tough road to follow, I know. For more than sixty years nan has puzzled over the enigma without answer. In time, we find the answers, as if the human mind cannot abide uncertainty. After a while, it does not matter what answers we conjur from the ether, as long as it seems to ourselves we are finding them. If we can shake this need to find the answers instantly, we might embrace the patience required to find the truth. The 20th Century with its rocket-fueled pace of discovery may have led us all into a false sense of security when it comes to finding the answers to questions that plague science. Some things just take time and sometimes you have to begin again.

1 comment:

Autumnforest said...

We always seem to jive on these things. You're right. By assuming it's one thing or the other and having a "belief" system invested in it, we don't see other answers, like religious folks when faced with fossil records. We have the same issue in the ghost hunting world. Are we dealing with the souls of the departed or some very natural phenomena or perhaps even something extraordinary that would be more significant? So long as people need hard proof of life after death, these occurrences are part of a belief system and no one will say they're anything other than souls.