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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

Many reasons to discard 5 proposed reasons:

Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects

Jacques F. Vallee, 2882 Sand Hill Road, Suite 220, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Scientific opinion has generally followed public opinion in the belief that unidentified flying objects either do not exist (the "natural phenomena hypothesis") or, if they do, must represent evidence of a visitation by some advanced race of space travelers (the extraterrestrial hypothesis or "ETH"). It is the view of the author that research on UFOs need not be restricted to these two alternatives. On the contrary, the accumulated data base exhibits several patterns tending to indicate that UFOs are real, represent a previously unrecognized phenomenon, and that the facts do not support the common concept of "space visitors." Five specific arguments articulated here contradict the ETH: (1) unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth; (2) the humanoid body structure of the alleged "aliens" is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel; (3) the reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race; (4) the extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded human history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon; and (5) the apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives, three of which are proposed in outline form as a conclusion to this paper.

In answer, I propose:


"(1) unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth;"

There are many reason that can be opposed to this idea:

What are the reason to consider that close encounters are part of a physical exploration of the Earth? I propose that, admitting extraterrestrial presence would have as goal a physical survey of the Earth, there might be no encounter at all, as encounter is probably not required to a physical survey. The reason can then be formulated as "admitting an extraterrestrial presence on Earth, the goal is not necessarily a physical survey," and I do not think there are any reason yet to come to the idea that we could possibly conceive the goals and the methods to reach these goals that any extraterrestrial presence might have.

I have no underlying facts or figures indicating that close encounters are far more numerous than required for a physical survey of the Earth, as I have no underlying facts or figures of any sort of reliability to estimate the number of close encounters. I do not even see data to evaluate the number of admitted "true" close encounters against the number or "alleged" close encounters. I propose than before speculating on such numbers, they must be evaluated correctly. As for now, depending on the source, there is a general belief that most if not all close encounters are not due to any extraterrestrial presence, and thus my opinion is that there are very few true cases of close encounters where the best or only possible explanation is that of an encounter with a non terrestrial intelligence.

I do not favor the idea that determining what explanation suits best for UFO experiences could be devised by mind games and logical speculation; I favor that it can be sorted out only through best possible case by case investigation.

However, if I were to use logical speculation, I would ask for example: what are the chances we have of correctly assessing the means to perform the physical survey of a planet? To cite a very real situation, I would propose to assess how much probes and probably manned expeditions we will send to Mars, and for how log, before we will consider that we have acquired all the knowledge we desire about this planet, not forgetting that the general idea is that there is not so much to investigate on Mars than of Earth, from a visitor's point of view, and not forgetting that some propose that, admitted we have extra-terrestrial visits, they might be of more than a unique origin.

Also, if we admit the extra-terrestrial hypothesis in this discussion, then we admit that there are at least two intelligent civilisation in our vicinity of galaxy or in the universe: us and them. But, there is no sense in this: if there such thing as extra-terrestrial intelligence with a space travel technology, then there are probably not two, but a large number of these civilizations, and if we admit that there is some interest for them to survey our planet, then we are probably not surveyed by one unique extra-terrestrial civilization, but by many, in fact we may be under a constant flow of visits from various such civilization. An argument opposed to vallée is the well known Fermi paradox, where, actually, a reason (that can be opposed of course) to dismiss an extra-terrestrial origin of the observed UFOs is that there are not enough of them.

In few word, the whole argument is surprisingly poor when I come to think at it: unexplained close encounters are not really counted, we do not know what would be required for a survey of the Earth, we do not know how many extra-terrestrial civilization would be surveying the Earth, we have no evidence but can only speculate that there is a survey of the Earth.

In any case, I disregard the idea behind the argument here. UFO research is not about understanding the goals behind the intelligence that we may admit as the cause of the UFO sighting reports. Trying to interpret this intelligence puts us in a similar position as of prmitive pygmies trying to understand the goals and motivation of anthropologists in best best case, and probably more in the position of ants trying to figure out the rhyme and reason of the giant phenomenon that hit the ant farm - a human foot. At this point of UFO Research, (close to ground zero), all we can do is to gather the data and measurements and evidence hoping that our follower may be able to put some sense into it.


(2) the humanoid body structure of the alleged "aliens" is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel;"

The humanoid body structure of the human body, which is not alleged but known, is on the same way not likely to have originated from the moon, and in the same way not biologically adapted to space travel; however, we went to the moon with that body structure.

Technology is the demonstrated solution to this imaginary problem. And technology comes better to the humanoïd body.

The only idea that can be inferred from the humanoid body structure in term of visit to another planet, is that the visit requires an advanced technology. It is not at all unrealistic to claim that such a technology is within the reach of beings similar to us.

So, as opposed as Vallée's argument, I would put forth that alien visitors, if they do not merely visit us with automated devices, robots and technological probes, then what might be the more efficient body structure that would be dapated to space travel?

Could they be very small, like ants? Probably not, because they would be unable to master the fire, a first step towards the manufacturing of even the basic tools. Could they be water creatures? Again, water creatures, however intellegigent they may be, and the dolphins on our planet may be a suitable example, are unlikely to develop any transportation need, they probably rather have am efficient body for their own diplacement in a liquid water environment. Could they be vegetal, lichen, microbial colonies? Intelligent gases or plasmoïds? It cannot be excluded.

But on the other end, what would exclude an humanoïd body for extraterrestrial visitors? Two legs, two arms, hands with fingers, nails, two eyes, all the humanoïd features that we have enabled us to develop a technologgy and not only an intelligence. For example, if they had no nails, our ancestors qould have had a very hard time. While there are no proof that only the humanoïd lifeform makes sense when it comes to developping a technology, there are even less proof the other way round.

What is so wrong with the humanoïd body when it comes to space travel? Resistance to acceleration? If there is a technology to travel from one planetary system to another, it is very likely that in a way it consists in a mastering of gravity, and this aspect is probably solved de facto. Is is resistance to cosmic radiation? Again, if interstellar travel is achieved, this problem is probably a mere detail.

There are many seculative reason to support the notion that the humanoïd form is suited or not suited for space travel.

But if one takes the "best evidence" cases of UFOs, no humanoïd form is seen, yet the extra-terretrial hypothesis may still apply. The vast corpus of "alien abductions stories revealed by hypnotic regression" implies humanoïd beings at large, but this corpus is certainly not the "best evidence" as I call it.

There are many other possible speculation: if UFOs occupants are really generally of the humanoïd shape, maybe this is because they have a long history of biological interaction with us? Or maybe these beings are simply a result of biological engineering in terms of defining a bilogical entity suitable or optimized for landing and wandering on our planet's surface, while the entities that engineered these earth explorer may be more or less non humanoïd?


"The reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race;"

The reported behaviour mentionned here should be taken with a grain of salt, to say the least, for a number of reasons.

When anthopologists arrived in their Range Rover at a remote location in Papua New Guinea and were seen for the first time by the isolated tribe, a description of the encounter by the tribe went like this:

"The big mother arrived, roaring, and stopped to give birth to babies. These babies were just as big as we are, but they had strange features, for example, they could put their hands inside their skin and out again without being hurt."

The interpretation of the Range Rover as a biological entity giving birth to babies is very telling. The skin in which the hands were introduced was the explorers clothing.

Yet in this simple example - I could develop a lot more - we have human beings confronted to other beings of their own species, with exactly the same biology, different only in terms of technological advance. It is my firm conviction that when a UFO report involves interaction between extra-terrestrial beings and human beings (and though we have numerous report we are yet unable to talk about hard evidence in the usual sense of this expression and we have such a vast quantity of nonsense reports), then the human witness is preceiving and interpreting the behaviour and actions of the supposed extra-terrestrial beings with the same or probably a more important distortion.

Admit for the sake of the discussion the notion that human witnesses are not in a position to clearly understand and describe the UFOs occupants, that they cannot really understand the function and appearance of any apparatus on bord of the UFO, and that they can only interpret the acts of the UFO occupants through the filter of their cultural background, and read again the descriptions of Charles Hickson in the famous Pascagoula abduction case of 1973. Maybe you will then share my opinion: any speculation about the acts, intentions, appearance, technology of reported UFO occupants should not, as for now, be used as some valid basis in any discussion such as "do aliens have good or bad intentions?" "why do they not interfere?" "aliens cannot exist because the idea that aliens are collecting our genetic material in such a primitive manner is silly" and so on.

In short, I propose that we cannot trust ourselves when we report the behaviour of supposed aliens, and we should not dismiss their existence on grounds that are merely established on the basis of testimonies subjects of enormous distortions, interpretations in our own terms, cultural filtering and perceptive limitations. In fact, it would be extremely astonishing that we could really preceive and understand anything of an alien interaction with us in any of its aspects.


"The extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded human history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon;"

Let us admit for the sake of the discussion that the extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded history is actually demonstrated (In a strict sense, it cannot be - there are no radar traces, ground sample analysis, photographs and mid-air sightings possible as far as past UFO sightings reports are concerned).

If we reverse Vallée's point here, it reads:

"If there were no extension of the UFO phenomenon in recorded history, it would make the case of the extra-terrestrial origin of UFOs better."

This simply does not make any sense.

When one looks at the ancient records of what may have some relation to the modern UFO phenomenon, we get a large panel of very different types of accounts and contexts. Some "fairy tales" and "Leprechaun recports" have similarities with some moden close encounters of the third type reports, while other have not a single resemblance with the latter.

Some skeptics argue that modern stories of alien encounters are the modern equivalent of fairy tales of the ancient times. Some oppose this view, indicating that ols fairy tales were the way that actual alien encounters were reported in the past. Very few people realize that in each case they carefully choose the example that suit their demonstration and ignore the example that oppose their demonstration. Both skeptics and convinced people fail to see the consequences of our everlasting incapacity to interpret the appearance and acts of the possible aliens in any other way than allowed by the cultural filter. Even worse, both fail to see that when we now study these "old reports" our cultural filter is also at work.

Let me propose one example only here. Vallée himself has often quoted a so called "ancient aliens" story of the past, and used the name Magonia for his database after this case.


"The apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives, three of which are proposed in outline form as a conclusion to this paper."

If we wish to evaluate what type of capacities must have an interstellar probe or ship to reach other stellar systems, we soon come to the notion that such craft must have a capacity to manipulate and control space and time. NASA and other space agencies are well convinced that "traditionnal" rocketry is not the way we can reach for the starts and they are starting to look for other breakthrough ideas, involving time, space and gravity control (time, space and gravity are deeply mingled of course.)

Our own theoretical attempts to devise the physics behind efficient interstellat traverl imply a breakthrough control of time, space and gravity. It seems rather obvious that the reported capacity of alien crafts to manipulate space, time and gravity is in fact a reason among other reasons in favor of their extra-terrestrial origin rather than the opposite.

If not extraterrestrial hardware, what are the three suggestions by Vallée? They are "earth lights," the phenomenon to which P. Devereux attributes UFO sighting reports; that is, an unappreciated terrestrial phenomenon that impresses mental images on the minds of observers; Ot, they are artifacts of a "control system" operated by a nonhuman intelligence or, perhaps, a "Gaia" like manifestation of supernature (of which we are a tiny part) that is trying to modify our behavior; or they are apparitions caused by entities manipulating space and time; viz,. time travellers from our own past and/or future.

The Earthlight phenomenon does not account at all for the most part of unexplained UFO sighting reports. When a pilot reports that his aircraft has been folloed by a flying saucer at an altitude, earthlights do not constitute an acceptable explanation. It also does not explain any of the best evidence cases including radar/visual multiple witness observations, photographic evidence, radar records and so on. Actually, Earthlights are not more and not less than one of the poorly known natural phenomenon that accounts for a specific category of reports. Even worse for this hypothesis, there is not one single evidence that Earthlights "manipulate space and time," on the contrary they seem severely bound to space when they are observed almost exclusively at seismic location or fixed location, and I know of no physical evidence that they would manipulate time in any way.

If I am quite convinced that this phenomenon explains diurnal or nocturnal lights in places compatible qith their apparition, I am very doubtful on the idea that these lights can create tough illusions to their witnesses consisting in making them see extraterrestrial craft and occupants or fairies or trolls. We now have a decent observations catalogue of earthlights, including some above cities, and if they are confused with machines of extraterrestrial origin, it is generally by their visual aspect only, without additional illusions, and generally without anyone reporting to have seen occupants.

"The idea of a nonhuman intelligence that is trying to modify or behaviour" is in my view exactly what I call the extra-terrestrial hypothesis: if it is non human, if it is intelligent, if it is able to physically manifest itself, then, it is extra-terrestrial. Discarding the extra-terrestrial hypothesis on the grounds that the extra-terrestrial beings would not conform to what we expect them to be or do is pure nonsense.

Time travel and "other dimensions" are cited as "alternatives" to the extra-terrestrial hypothesis in a very naive way: space travel and time travel are known to be mingled. Adding a dimension to the plot does not render extra-terrestrial candidates terrestrial in any way, on the contrary, if further dimensions are required to account for UFO sighting reports, then it makes our extra-terrestrial candidates even more extra-terrestrial. If the reported aliens are visitors from the future or the past, they master a technology that makes perfectly clear that they are not "us" in any way. If beings master time, they also de facto master space, and they are then able to wander through space. Adding a few "other universes" or "parralel universes" do not make these visitors less extra-terrestrial than "standard" visitors from a "regular" extra-solar planet of our own more or less familiar universe.

Of course, one can see this discussion as a simple play of words. Skeptics are often the first to define extra-terrestrial beings as necessarily of the greenish color, necessarily or Martian origin, and with the set of features that can be seen in old 50's US Science Fiction pulp magazine but not ar all in reports of radar/visual observations by military pilots for example.

I cannot help to note the gap between scientists that studied the UFO phenomenon and scientist who did not: the latter are almost all convinced that there must be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, most of them would consider the idea that only the human intelligence exists and only on our planet is considered an aburdity by almost all, but only those who were deeply involved in in-depth study of the UFO sighting reports have found out that they may visit our planet, while the other seem convinced that they do not, without any interesting reason given. Interestingly, if the UFO phenomenon was supposedly not caused by any extraterretrial intelligence, it might be the other way round: scientists who are not involved in UFO studies may think that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin, while UFO specialists would then explained that the have confronted this hypothesis to the data and found out that there is no evidence to support this idea.

The concept of a "Gaia" as intelligence is a concept that cannot be disproved as for now. But it is only an additionnal hypothesis, and it severely fails when it comes to physical evidence or witness reports. I feel that such hypothesis are of little interest in the sense that they are merely an ad-hoc construction of the minds that reject the extra-terrestrial hypothesis: "we do not like the extra-terrestrial hypothesis, we then propose an even more extraordinary hypothesis." This inclination is fruitless, except if their authors are able to devise a test or experiment to prove or disprove it. The method of explaining a phenomenon that we observe but do not understand by proposing a larger phenomenon that we understand less and do not observe at all is a sort of abandon of the scientific methods which proved efficient so far in aplaining many phenonmenon, and in many ways a return to the ancient religious "explanation." ("gods makes the rain fall" or "the Sun is a God" etc.)

I wish to add a word about the notion that a phenomenon can trick our mind. There is no way to prove that things are what we think they are. There is always the possibility that everything we observe of feel is "faked" or a scenery organized by some "higher intelligence" or whatever of the sort. One can question the entire nature of reality. Does the universe even exist, or is it merely an illusion? Ancient philosphers of many cultures have had deep thoughts on the very nature of reality, mystics have even reported direct experiences relating to an illusionary nature of the reality we are "trapped" in, the American writer Philip K. Dick has explored this question in so many of its facet that we still have to work on his ideas to fully understand the implications.

But what next?

Does this make the hypothesis that there is intelligent life on extra-solar planets and that extra-terrestrial beings might visit us a disproved hypothesis? It is legitimate to question all phenomena, it is legitimate to question the entire nature of reality, but it will lead nowhere as long as these interrogations are not accompanied with any single proposition of an experiment. For example, if there is no "sighting report of Gaia" and if we fail to imagine any experiment to check if "Gaia exists or does not exist," then the "Gaia hypothesis" will not increase our understanding of the nature of reality.

I am proposing that the extra-terrestrial hypothesis should not be dicarded in any way for now, on the contrary, it should be tested: data must still be gathered, UFO reports must be put on record and investigated on the field as quickly and thoroughly as possible, radar, geiger counters, spectroscopes and spectrometers must be used, and so on. This has yet to be done in an open manner, while until now such research has been confronted to general mockery. This, is ufology, and it is particable science, not wild speculation.


Vallée has on repeated occasions over time written contradictory proposition as of the nature of the UFO phenomenon. He has seemed to change his mind. For die hard skeptics, Vallée is a scientist that realized that UFOs are not extraterrestrial. For die hard believers or ufologists or scientist who consider that UFOs are "nuts and bolts" extra-terrestrial crafts, vallée appears as some sort of "traitor" that once considered UFOs as "physical" and now promotes the idea that UFOs are of the stuffs dreams are made of, just like fairy tales and goblins.

Actually, almost everyone is wrong about Vallée.

For Vallée, for example, UFOs might be physical though not extraterrestrial. For Vallée, an "intelligence" that ww eould not be aware of may be capable of creating physically real UFOs for some purpose. Vallée has considered the 5 reasons above, and my position is that these reasons are not valid, but Vallée has never formaly expressed that the extra-terrestrial hypothesis must be disregarder, instead, he rather proposes that this hypothesis must not be a reason to disregard even more fantastic hypothesis.

The only way to fully embrace the concepts behind Vallée's quest is to read the work of Philip K. Dick, because Vallée's concepts are actually Philip K. Dick's. To get the neccessary infotmation about Philip K. Dic, I highly recommend Emmanuel Carrère's biography of PKD "Je suis vivant et vous êtes morts." The book by P.K.D. I recommend are: I have been reading the 50 or some books and some 300 short novels by P.K.D a dozen times in French and English for more than 20 years and fully understand how this life changing work lead Vallée to import the quest for "what is real?" into the field of ufology. What worries me is only that Vallée's inclusion of the fundamental questionning of reality has, first, totally isolated him from attention by mainstream ufology, and second, has been promoted by third parties of the skeptic kind as grounds to dismiss the reality of the phenomenon at large, or to promote ideas that UFOs are illusions in the common sense of the term, or that UFOs are not extra-terrestrial.

Part of the responsibility fot misinterpretations of his thoughts lies in Vallée's own hands, and the "5 reasons why UFOs are not extraterrestrial" is a good example.

What worries me even more is that in this example, the 5 reasons are of such a naïve nature that I started to wonder if the reason of this piece of Vallée writing was not to provoke a reaction and indicate in a hidden manner that the reasons to dismiss the extra-terrestrial explanation are actually reasons to reinforce it. Didn't he also write about the five reasons to consider that UFOs are of extraterrestrial origin after all?

And there are many other examples of Vallée statements of a somehow "exploration of anything that can be proposed" nature, such as:

"So reality is like a computer database in that the right search word or "incantation" might cause a piece of information - a UFO or ghost or other anomaly - to materialize. If you think of [reality] as the software for the universe, all it would take is for someone to change a comma in the program and the chair you are sitting in wouldn't be a chair at all. The major benefit from this model is that it handles anomalies very well. Coincidences would be a normal expectation. If you address a database with a request for anything with the word "pool" you will get ads for sunscreen, lotions, billiard balls and an investment prospectus or two. In parapsychology, gifted subjects may be forcing similar coincidences between separate locations or separate minds. One way of testing the theory, by the way, is to create massive informational anomalies and see what happens when they collapse. You could enhance remote viewing experiments, for instance, by loading the site with large quantities of data about highly unlikely events or situations, then quickly erase that data to collapse the singularity."

The idea is appealing but flawed. It implies that ufologists preceded the UFO phenomenon. But a large majority does not believe in the UFO pehnomenon, at least, a large majority of scientists does not, and the larger public did not wake up one fine day believing in UFOs. The phenomenon exists, it is "looked at", then explanations were attempted (hallucinations, mass hallucination, new fashion, confusions, misinterpretations, hoaxes, Russian secret crafts built after captured German advanced plans, meteors). After one part could be attributed to these prosaic explanation, a relicate of still "unexplained" cases existed and the extraterrestrial nature of it became the best reminding working hypothesis.

If I consult the "computer database" with the search words "pink elephants" or "flying cows", my query brings back zero results. On the contrary, a query to UFOs brings back massive amount of data, and also massive amount of data indicating that the subject is not taken seriously but mocked, denied, and that its classical scientific investigation is regarded as pure nonsense.

If I use Philip K. Dick's proposed definition for reality, which is "reality is what remains once you cease to believe in it," then I propose, as any investigation would show that people reporting UFOs are not correlated with people who believed in UFOs at all, that UFOs were observed and occasionnaly reported in contradiction with the general lack of belief in their existence, that they manifest themselves without taking any care wether the observer is skeptic or not. The notion that UFO reports would be a coincidence in a vast amount of data that allows coincidences to happen opposes the notion that Vallée sometimes proposes: UFOs were reported in the past also, as fairy tales and goblin stories. Furthermore, I am in this case surprised that there were and there are no reports of pink elephants and flying cows, and in particular, that there are no radar/visual reports of the sort.


Scientific opinion has generally followed public opinion in the belief that unidentified flying objects do not exist, in the sense that they are all caused by natural phenomena.

Very few scientists have devoted time and resource to the study of the UFO phenomenon, and the conclusions reached by those who have investigated the most and the closest is that the extra-terrestrial hypothesis is the best. Their investigation and findings are ignored by the vast majority of the scientific community.

The general public seems to either dimiss the reality of UFOs or to take at face value their extra-terrestrial origin. It is of very little interest for the progress of UFO research to blame either side of the general public. First, the research should be conducted in a proper manner on a much larger scale. Change of public paradigm should not be a goal of UFO research, it may only be an effect, and nearly a side-effect (did Gallileo change the paradigm of the general public?)

It is also my view that research on UFOs needs not to be restricted in any way and that any hypothesis, and particularly new hypothesis yet to come, are welcome.

But I do not see that the accumulated facts do not support the common concept of "space visitors." On the contrary, I am convinced that they do, if we keep in mind that we are unable to perceive, describe, understand and discuss the appearance, characteristics and behaviour of advanced alien beings and their craft. The concept of "space visitors" is certainly not a common one when it comes to assessing shapes and technologies of UFOs, appearance and intents of their supposed occupants, erroneous reasoning and probably even common reasoning should not be involved in attempts to dismiss the extra-terrestrial hypothesis.

Everyone should bear this is mind: "a more advanced technology would appear as magic to us."

I propose that to gain a better knowledge of what the UFO phenomenon is, we urgently need to stop concentrating on wild speculation and hypothesis more extraordinary than the extra-terrestrial hypothesis, and gather more facts. What we need is not to give up scientific investigations because the reality might be an illusion or because goblins were reported centuries ago. What we need is to get access to government records hidden data, to relif ooths of secrecy of military witnesses, to switch off radar filtering, to switch on the spectrometers, to analyze soil samples, to explore our solar system so that we better know if life is an common or uncommon phenomenon, and to investigate claims of contactees and abductees with the scrutiny of the best scientific police investigation methods.

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This page was last updated on February 24, 2002.