I read a fascinating article in an old issue of “Skeptical Inquirer” - back in the early 1980’s I think it was, but I don’t have the relevant reference available to me at the moment. The gist of the article, shorn of all the rhetoric, could be set out in question-and-answer form as follows:-
“We already know all the important laws of physics.”
“But how can we be so sure that we know ALL the laws?”
“Because we can explain all known phenomena”
“But what about phenomena we CAN’T explain, such as UFO’s?”
“They are all mistakes or hoaxes or hallucinations.”
“How can you be so sure of that?”
“Because they violate the known laws of physics.”
“But how can we be certain we know ALL the laws of physics?
“Because we can explain all known phenomena.”
And so on and so on, round and round…..... I wrote to the editor of SI, pointing out that this was a classic example of circular reasoning, but never received the courtesy of a reply.
As I said in a previous post in this thread, I have met (and tried to reason with) both knee-jerk pseudoskeptics of this type and the wild-and-woolly UFO wingnuts who are certain that every odd-shaped cloud must be an alien spacecraft, and many in between, but very, very few people with scientific credentials who try to objectively and dispassionately examine the evidence (which is actually considerable, even if mostly, unfortunately, anecdotal). It is as if whoever, or whatever, is controlling the UFO phenomenon is quite deliberately making sure that the whole thing appears so ridiculous and outlandish to us that most “serious” scientists refuse to touch it with a twenty-foot pole, let alone the regulation ten-footer, thereby leaving the field wide open to assorted religious nuts, charlatans, crazies and just plain brain-fried types (at this point the name Applewhite springs to mind). And this makes the whole field seem even more ridiculous, so serious researchers are even less inclined to “waste time” on the subject, and round and round it goes, a vicious circle.
Note that I said “It is AS IF…..” And, no, I don’t BELIEVE my “as if” scenario - at least, not more often than once or twice a month, around the full moon - but it’s sometimes instructive to dream up “as if” scenarios and follow them to their logical (or illogical, as the case may be) conclusions. I suspect, just as an aside, that the currently-popular eleven-dimensional wiggling-string theory, or conjecture, or whatever it is, is just such an “as if….” scenario.
We have to accept that we don’t know everything. Over the last few years Hubble, and now Kepler, are showing us aspects of the Universe that were scarcely dreamed of thirty years ago, and many physicists are wondering about parallel or diverging multi-Universes; the notion of a few alien spacecraft coming by for a peek at us seems almost mundane by comparison. It would seem to me that the only honest approach to the UFO question is what I call rational agnosticism, an attempt to steer a middle course between wild-eyed credulity and knee-jerk dismissal. Reason PLUS imagination, if you like.
Oh, and before I forget; I haven’t yet seen a convincing counter-argument to my suggestion that aliens, if they exist, are much longer-lived than we are and think nothing of a 100 or 200-year round trip. Or, a few more “as if…“s; maybe they put themselves into a suspended-animation state for the duration of the voyage. Or maybe they have huge, multi-generational “motherships” to make the big interstellar voyages and little “saucers” to zip back and forth between mothership and planets. And maybe there is a mothership, or even half a dozen, here right now in our solar system but we can’t see them because the aliens’ stealth technology is 10,000 years ahead of ours…....
C’mon guys; try a little imagination…... I guarantee it won’t hurt…...