Friday, December 30, 2022

Anthropocentric Parochialism Defines SETI Scientist Seth Shostak's Skepticism Over Aliens & UAP


                          UFO captured by Navy pilots in one 2017 encounter.

                                  Shostak: Disputes that any aliens are visiting Earth
Carl Sagan: Finally admitted UFOs were real To J. Allen Hynek

"I remember when Carl Sagan was asked if UFOs were a sign that we were being visited by an extraterrestrial civilization (“The UFO Crowd Wants an Alien Invasion for Christmas” by Holman Jenkins, Jr., Business World, Dec. 24). He responded, if I remember correctly, that if a civilization advanced enough to apply interstellar travel came to Earth, human beings would no more be capable of perceiving and understanding its presence than an ant is capable of perceiving and understanding ours."  - 'UFOs?  Don't Flatter Yourselves, WSJ,' WSJ Letter writer, Dec. 28th

SETI scientist Seth Shostak writes  in a recent WSJ op-ed (Could the Government Really CoverUp UFOs?, p. C3, December 17-18): 

"For the millions of Americans who think that Earth is being visited by aliens, the strange objects are important for a different reason. They could be the best evidence yet for something people have been claiming for more than 70 years: that the government is aware of extraterrestrial craft in our airspace and is keeping the news hidden to forestall massive civil unrest."

Shostak, however, misses the point, and by a country mile. Indeed, while it is true that for decades the "coverup" trope was in vogue, a 2014 paper by Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall  in the Journal Political Theory finally replaced that with a superior explanation. E.g.

Sovereignty and the UFO - Alexander Wendt, Raymond Duvall, 2008

 Therein they note the phenomenon of the UFO tends to be rejected as real - by government sources, as well as the military and the media - because it comes up against the human concept of state sovereignty.  The basic  takeaway: Humans, particularly in the top echelons of government, military, can't handle the concept of competition with any kind of more advanced exterior (to Earth) civilization. So, it has nothing to do with protecting a fragile public from ET contacts, but rather protecting a fragile government and security state from taking seriously an exterior threat or alien existence.  Even Shostak admits as much in his next paragraph,     

"A September poll by YouGov found that roughly half of the American public believes that space aliens exist, and approximately a quarter say that they have seen a UFO. Of course, this makes it hard to credit the claim that the government is hiding evidence of aliens simply because the public couldn’t handle the news. "

In his third paragraph he also admits the idea of actual alien visitors is not ruled out by science, i.e.

"The idea of alien visitors to our planet is not ruled out by science. The Milky Way galaxy houses approximately a trillion planets, of which tens of millions are likely to enjoy environmental conditions roughly similar to those on Earth. Few scientists would dispute the hypothesis that we have a lot of cosmic company."

Which is good, given the late Carl Sagan  - once a debunker of the idea -  did finally come around to accepting the validity in a one-on-one with Northwestern University astronomer J. Allen Hynek, e.g.

Excerpt:  "The pillar of modern space science Dr. Carl Sagan revealed to Dr. J. Allen Hynek, that he knew UFOs were real but could not talk publicly about the matter and possibly risk the loss of academic funding."

So it is difficult to reconcile that with Shostak's next claim:

"But while the aliens might be out there, it would be difficult for them to come here. Consider what would be required for them to pay a house call, even if the nearest extraterrestrials were a mere 10 light years away, a trivial distance by astronomical standards. To reach Earth in 50 years, a spacecraft the size of a small house would need an energy source able to pump out as many kilowatt-hours as the entire U.S. burns in a year, a requirement independent of the technology of the rocket."

Which, incredibly, is based on a more or less conventional "spacecraft" - albeit invoking a "requirement independent of the technology" of the typical earthling chemical rocket. This in itself telegraphs a monumental failure of imagination as well as abstract (theoretical) reasoning. Or, as I've noted before, when faced with evidence of a much more advanced technology humans  - like Shostak- are in much the same position as a Neandertal hunter trying to make sense of an F-117 Nighthawk,

 Am I comparing Shostak to a Neandertal?  Well yes, in a manner of speaking at least as regards his 'spacecraft' analogy for explaining UAP. It simply doesn't hold water, or even air.  By comparison, physicist Jack Sarfatti, in a 2001 paper ('The World Crystal Lattice Quantum Vacuum' ) fared much better than Shostak by at least getting into the remote 'ballpark'.  Basically, Sarfatti proposed a means of altering the local inertial frame metric,

To a non-inertial one, via use of zero point energy.  That transformation in curvilinear coordinates, would then enable an acceleration, e.g.  

a     <=>   m  ( a)

dx= Ö(hab  d x a d x b ) =   Ö mn  d x m d x n 

 So for any null 4-vector ( k m ) vacuum transition:

mn  (ZPF) k  kn > 0

Where mn  (ZPF)  denotes the zero-point tensor frame.

This is what Sarfatti compared to achieving an "anti-gravity" effect. Any kind of a craft employing this ZPM mode of transport would not suffer the limitations of the more conventional "spacecraft" transport invoked by Shostak.  Is the basis as understandable as Seth's example?  Of course not! But why should it be?  If we are in the relative position of say, Neandertals, trying to make sense of an F-117.  The most we can do is hypothesize daring but 'cartoon' configurations that can at least theoretically achieve the result of transporting any alien species - no matter how distant - to our humble little planet.  While acknowledging, as Shostak does, it must be independent of the concept of rockets as earthlings know them.

In a previous post (July 18) I also offered my own version of a conveyance entity able to make use of branes. I suggested the use of networked D2 branes e,g.

manipulated so the physical parameters exactly matched a distant region of space-time.  In this depiction, each D2 brane panel has the capability of extracting zero-point energy via   instantonic   D(-1) branes to access a higher dimensional D5 brane.  This would then comport with the late physicist David Bohm's hypothesis (Wholeness and the Implicate Order, pp. 233- 242) that a higher dimensional implicate order can be accessed to enable transition to another coordinate region in 4D space -time.  

In effect, this 'brane' craft uses no fuel (chemical or nuclear) as such, but a collection of malleable branes that alter their local properties (electric, magnetic, gravimetric) to that of a distant target region.  When the complete synchronization of the properties is effected an instantaneous linkage is forged so the localized brane hole expands and then detaches in the distant space-time, e.g.

X(B) ->  X(B')   and represented:

This makes much more sense than trying to use chemical or nuclear fuel rockets to achieve interstellar travel, though I admit most conventional thinkers will dismiss it or try to debunk it. The same way a Neandertal might dismiss a distant F-117 soaring high above him as just a new kind of bird- as opposed to an incomprehensible entity outside his ken. 

 Shostak's  human chauvinism and parochialism also shows in his next remark:

"Aside from the Navy reports, what proof can we offer? It’s hard to believe that these cosmic visitors would have made the long journey just for the chance to tease our military aviators."

But this assumes first the 'reports' are not proof.  But in fact they are proof (indeed, video evidence e.g. 

of an observational kind, as much as the UFO I observed over north Miami 60 years ago.  Indeed, moreso because multiple sets of instruments recorded these objects and they could not all have been "glitches" as Neil deGrasse Tyson once claimed. So they are proof of something not within humankind's ability to imitate technologically- or likely even contemplate conceptually -  especially given the incident (reported on '60 Minutes' 2 yrs. ago) of a craft diving into the ocean at supersonic- plus velocities and emerging again.   

Failing to accept the UAP as proof, however, Shostak has little choice other than to assume he can get inside the minds of any such visitors     and extract their motives, then demean them.  No surprise the best his limited human brain can come up with is they might be just "teasing our military aviators".  But why assume this?  What if they are in fact probing to detect any hostile responses?  Perhaps, and this is conjecture, they are playing a long game of targeted encounters, probes to see how or if we respond with hostility before more openly revealing themselves. 

 Shostak's next comment is equally lacking in intellectual heft, especially for a supposed SETI research scientist. He writes:

"For other types of evidence, the pickings are equally slim. There are approximately 8,000 active satellites in orbit around the Earth, many of them continuously imaging our planet. This nonstop reconnaissance has failed to find any alien craft."

Well, let's see. First of all, even 8,000 satellites around Earth cannot possibly see or access every single acre of territory - land and sea- at every possible moment.   Even if they could Seth has somehow missed the aspect that the UAP just might be able to employ stealth visual technology to avoid detection.  I mean, hell, if they can master brane craft intricacies or ZPM (anti-gravity) transport they can surely master visual stealth capability.  So his next question about whether some 80 satellite launching governments are keeping their UFO findings under wraps is simply fatuous.  No surprise he then jumps to the next non-sequitur,

"According to the International Astronomical Union, there are about one million amateur astronomers worldwide. If our skies host even a few alien craft, you’d expect frequent sightings by these amateurs, who are well practiced in recognizing things on high."

But again he assumes too much. Amateur astronomers, when they do take to the skies to observe, are generally not 'star-gazing' but directing their attention at specific astronomical objects, whether M31 in Andromeda, easily resolvable double stars, or variable stars. Given the focus on one location it is unlikely they'd spot a UFO -UAP in their exact region of interest. And if the object is moving as fast as the one I saw in Miami 60 years ago, chances are they either miss it entirely or simply dismiss it as a man-made craft, maybe a jet or commercial aircraft.  Only the very rare amateur would pursue it.  So he's correct, "amateurs aren't seeing any alien spacecraft" because that's not what they are looking for!  They are more likely focused on external galaxies, nebulae (like M42 in Orion), variable stars, or planets -

like Mars (left) and Jupiter.  

Shostak next acknowledges that if the UAP-UFOs do indeed mark alien visitations it would be "the biggest news story of all time, proving Earth is not the only home of intelligent life".  Then writing:

"But it would also imply that another society somehow knows about us and is willing to spend the considerable time and expense of paying a visit— all the while managing to keep themselves largely out of sight."

Again, he's making human assumptions based on human motives.  Thus, if only the aliens were like us they'd not be hiding themselves, oh no! They'd come right out and show themselves, never mind all the slaughter they've observed with the Russian obliteration of Ukraine, as well as smaller conflicts worldwide, the sheer violence of one group of humans against other, including the tortures of women in Iran, the gun violence in the U.S., the depredation and destruction of the Amazon (under Bolsanaro) in Brazil.  Golly gee! Why on Earth would they remain largely out of sight, given our most welcoming and insightful species? 

 But his question begging doesn't stop there. Nope, he's on a roll, e.g.

"they could give us a more complete understanding of physics—knowledge that would permit our species to leap ahead into a more expansive technological future and deal with problems like climate change."

Yes, righto! And of course they've already seen first hand how much we can be entrusted with such specialist knowledge - with our 18,000 standing ICBM- laden nukes in 3 major nations' arsenals (Russia, U.S., China), our hypersonic rockets, etc.  Predictably he then goes to the opposite pole imagining hostile aliens and how they'd flatten our cities.  But then offering this comeback:

?But such scenarios are relevant only if extraterrestrial hardware is truly hanging out above our heads. And despite the fervent hopes of many, I doubt that the impending Pentagon report will endorse that idea. The unclassified version of the 2021 report never mentioned the possibility that any of the incidents it investigated could be attributed to alien visitors. The new report will surely make the same conclusion."

But as I showed, using much more advanced conceptual bases than Seth's rockets, it is possible for such hardware to be here. It's just that thinking at the level of a Neandertal (confronted by an F-117 ) doesn't move the ball forward in grasping the feasibility.   But he is correct the Pentagon report wouldn't endorse the idea of visiting aliens anyway, since as I already pointed out it violates the prevalent (and myopic) human concept of state sovereignty, i.e. that we are at the top of the cosmic food chain and there ain't no aliens to worry about knocking us off our cosmic perch. This is our world and our cosmos and until they show themselves we are the bosses.

 I will correct one last Shostak claim, that none of the 2021 report's claims mentioned alien visitors.  True, but it did leave the possibility open in trying to account for a core of unidentified encounters.(This defined the 'other' category that included all the footage from over a dozen inexplicable cases which the military had already confirmed as being authentic.)  From the Preliminary Assessment Report  e.g.

Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena

We have:

"144 reports originated from USG sources. Of these, 80 reports involved observation with multiple sensors. o Most reports described UAP as objects that interrupted pre-planned training or other military activity.

One can say then that Seth Shostak suffers from an anthropocentric parochialism: judging any potential, external intelligent life only by human standards and capabilities. A trait characteristic of too many scientists, but unforgiveable in one involved in SETI.

See Also:

Even if You Think Discussing Aliens Is Ridiculous, Just Hear Me Out     

How would contact with U.F.O.s and other civilizations change ours?


Transient Optical Phenomena of the Atmosphere - a Case Study    


Physics Today Book Reviewer Kate Dorsch Is As Clueless About UFOs As Neil DeGrasse Tyson 


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