In the world of scientific inquiry, some ideas seem to be more equal than others. What makes one theory an exciting new approach while another is treated as risible fantasy? Why are some “discoveries” applauded while the same idea was derided 50 or more years ago?
Still, despite science’s willingness to explore new territory, some things remain out of bounds. I think of them as the Big Two and I wonder why they not only get no attention, but no scientist will touch them with a 10-foot wand. This post deals with one of the Big Two.
Theories That Are Okay
A list of accepted scientific theories that are considered okay today would include:
- Black holes exist.
- Galaxies rotate around a black hole at the center.
- Traveling through a black hole could transport you to an alternate universe.
- Give the size of the universe, intelligent life likely has developed on other planets.
- A mirror universe might exist in which time runs backward.
Some of these ideas are pretty radical but they get peer reviewed and discussed in scientific journals and conferences. When it comes to concepts like this about the structure of the universe, radical is okay. Radical is even cool.
One of the Big Two — Alien Visitation
What the world of accepted science doesn’t find cool, in any way whatsoever, is that the life they are so willing to accept on other planets may actually have come to Earth at some time in the past. Much less that those alien lifeforms may be visiting us still.
I can see the rolling eyeballs from here. “Fetch some cold water, Martha, she’s talking about aliens again.” See what I mean?
No reputable scientist will come near the topic of alien visitation for fear of being ridiculed, losing status, being shut out of funding, and having his/her name grouped among the conspiracy crazies.That’s some pretty serious stuff to deal with.
The Question Science Won’t Touch
This prejudice is so strong that it can taint even reputable scientists who dare to speculate on the subject. I read a couple of articles recently about Avi Loeb, the astro-scientist who comes up with theories that lie somewhat outside the scope of what accepted science is willing to believe.
One of Mr. Loeb’s theories, which gained popularity on social media, was that the inter-stellar asteroid named “Oumuamua” that cruised through our solar system last year could be an alien craft. Oumuamua’s trajectory did not come close to earth and no one ever saw it. (The artist’s rendering here is imaginary.) Oumuamua has since exited the solar system but what the Boston Globe called Mr. Loeb’s “headline-grabbing supposition” gained him some notoriety.
Avi Loeb chairs the astronomy department of Harvard University and is a well-known working theoretical astrophysicist. Yet most astronomers refuted his Oumuamua idea with professional skepticism, labeling it “outlandish.” Some even charged him with “attention-grabbing.” Gasp. What a concept: an astronomer who welcomes attention. Have they met Neil DeGrasse Tyson?
Shrinking from the Concept
The point of this post is not to argue the likelihood of alien visitation or even to speculate on the potential for extra-terrestrial life. Many books, websites, and television shows deal with alien visitation in far more detail than I can include here. I personally recommend the History Channel’s show Ancient Aliens.
No, my question has to do with why the very idea is so outrageous that reputable astronomers and astrophysicists flinch from it like a slug shrinks from salt. If we are willing to posit the existence of other intelligent life among the millions of galaxies, billions of suns and myriad planets in the “Goldilocks Zone” that could support human life, why will we not consider whether any of those life forms come here?
Is it that scientists cannot imagine a superior civilization having the slightest interest in the third rock from the sun in a nondescript solar system on the far end of one arm of one unremarkable galaxy? Are they afraid of what a superior civilization might think of us—or do to us?
Or is it that this whole idea of alien visitation has been so ingrained in our culture that it long ago became the plutonium of astronomy? Touch it and you die. If so, when did that happen? And who started it?
Looking Behind the Curtain
Much as I enjoyed Mr. Loeb’s discussion of Oumuamua, I find the reasons behind accepted reality vs science fiction even more fascinating. Looked at logically, you would think that alien visitation is no more outrageous than theories about dark matter, a mirror universe, or a super-massive black hole at the galaxy’s center. After all, astronomer and author Bob Berman admits that scientists can’t explain “Why an entire universe as small as a mustard seed abruptly materialized out of nothingness.” Yet the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted in the scientific community and no one laughs at it—unless they’re watching the popular TV program.
(I also don’t understand how the Big Bang Theory fits with the Law of the Conservation of Energy. Or how, if super-massive black holes anchor every galaxy with their enormous gravity, the universe is expanding. But I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV.)
Evidence and Silence
And, unlike black holes and mirror universes, quite a bit of supporting evidence actually exists. After all, if a Canadian Minister of Defense, a Japanese Cabinet Secretary, a Russian Prime Minister, and a number of U.S. politicians have broken the cone of silence to say that alien visitation is real and beings from other planets actually do visit earth, there has to be more to it than the skeptics will admit.
So why the silence? As the activist Saul Alinsky said, “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” The ridicule aimed at anyone who dares to consider whether aliens visit earth—now or in the past—is immediate and far-reaching. It indicates that someone rolled out a pretty big weapon, probably around 1947.
The reason for that really piques my interest. Whatever created a government cover-up that has lasted over 70 years must be pretty compelling, don’t you think?. What might it be?
“Oh, Gawd, Martha. Fetch the smelling salts. She’s into the conspiracy theories.”