by Michael Gleghorn
A tale of two hypotheses
It seems that almost everyone is interested in reports of UFOs and alien encounters. But how should these reports be understood? Where do these "unidentified flying objects" come from and what are they? Are intelligent beings visiting us from another planet or some other dimension? Or are UFO reports merely a collection of hoaxes, hallucinations, and misidentified phenomena? Can all UFO reports be adequately explained, or are there some that seem to defy all natural explanations? These are just a few of the questions we want to consider in this article.
First, however, it's essential to note that most UFOs (unidentified flying objects) become IFOs (identified flying objects). John Spencer, a British UFO researcher, estimates that as many as 95 percent of received UFO reports "are turned into IFOs and explained satisfactorily."1 For example, the report might be found to have been a clever prank or to have some natural explanation. Planets, comets, military aircraft, and rockets (among many others) have all been mistaken for UFOs. But even if 99 percent of UFO reports could be satisfactorily explained, there would still be thousands of cases that stubbornly resist all natural explanations. These are called residual UFO reports.
If residual UFOs are not hoaxes, hallucinations, or some natural or man-made phenomena, then what are they? Most UFO researchers hold either to the extraterrestrial hypothesis or the interdimensional hypothesis. The extraterrestrial hypothesis holds that technologically advanced, interplanetary space travelers are indeed visiting our planet from somewhere else in the cosmos. Stanton Friedman, a representative of this view, states clearly, "The evidence is overwhelming that some UFOs are alien spacecraft." (2)
The interdimensional hypothesis agrees "that some UFOs are real phenomena that may exhibit physical... effects." (3) However, unlike the extraterrestrial hypothesis, this view does not believe that UFOs and alien beings come from somewhere else in our physical universe. So where do they come from? Some suggest that they come from some other universe of space and time. But others believe that they come from some other dimension entirely, perhaps a spiritual realm. (4)
How might we tell which, if either, of these two hypotheses is correct? Astronomer and Christian apologist Dr. Hugh Ross suggests that we employ the scientific approach known as the "process of elimination." He writes, "Mechanics use it to find out why the car won't start. Doctors use it to find out why the stomach hurts. Detectives use it to find out who stole the cash. This process can also be used to discover what could, or could not, possibly give rise to UFO phenomena." (5)
So what happens if we apply this process to the extraterrestrial hypothesis? Although quite popular here in America, there are some serious scientific objections to this viewpoint.
The extraterrestrial hypothesis
In the first place, it is highly improbable that there is another planet in our cosmos capable of supporting physical life. Dr. Ross has calculated the probability of such a planet existing by natural processes alone as less than 1 in 10174. You actually have "a much higher probability of being killed in the next second by a failure in the second law of thermodynamics (about one chance in 1080)." (6) Thus, apart from the supernatural creation of another suitable place for life, our planet is almost certainly unique in its capacity to support complex biological organisms. (See the Probe article "Are We Alone in the Universe?") This alone makes the extraterrestrial hypothesis extremely improbable. But it gets even worse!
Suppose (against all statistical probability) that there is a planet with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. What is the likelihood that such creatures are visiting our planet? And what sort of difficulties would they face in doing so?
Probably the greatest challenge to interstellar space travel is simply the immense size of the universe. One group of scientists, assuming that any alien spacecraft would likely maintain communication with either the home planet or with other members of their traveling party, "scanned all 202 of the roughly solar-type stars within 155 light-years of Earth. Not one intelligible signal was detected anywhere within the vicinity of these stars." (7) This implies that, at a minimum, E.T. would have to travel 155 light-years just to reach earth. Unfortunately, numerous galactic hazards would prevent traveling here in a straight line. Avoiding these deadly hazards would increase the minimum travel distance to approximately 230 light-years. (8)
Dr. Ross estimates that "any reasonably-sized spacecraft transporting intelligent physical beings can travel at velocities no greater than about 1 percent" of light-speed. (9) Although this is nearly 7 million miles per hour, it would still take about twenty-three thousand years to travel the 230 light-years to earth! Of course, a lot can go wrong in twenty-three thousand years. The aliens might run out of food or fuel. Their spacecraft might be damaged beyond repair by space debris. They might be destroyed by a contagious epidemic. The mind reels at the overwhelming improbability of successfully completing such a multi-generational mission.
In light of these facts, it doesn't appear that the extraterrestrial hypothesis can reasonably survive the process of elimination. Does the interdimensional hypothesis fare any better? A growing number of serious UFO researchers believe it can. Let's take a look.
The interdimensional hypothesis
The interdimensional hypothesis holds that residual UFOs "enter the physical dimensions of the universe from 'outside' the four familiar dimensions of length, height, width, and time." (10) Where do they come from? Some believe that they come from another physical universe of space and time. But this does not seem possible. General relativity forbids "the space-time dimensions of any other hypothetically existing universe" from overlapping with our own. (11) For this reason, many researchers believe that residual UFOs must come from some other dimension entirely, perhaps even a spiritual realm.
What evidence can be offered for such a bold hypothesis? Many point to the strange behavior of residual UFOs themselves. Hugh Ross contends that residual UFOs "must be nonphysical because they disobey firmly established physical laws." (12) Among the many examples that he offers in support of this statement, consider the following: (13)
1. Residual UFOs generate no sonic booms when they break the sound barrier, nor do they show any evidence of meeting with air resistance.
2. They make impossibly sharp turns and sudden stops.
3. They send no detectable electromagnetic signals.
If residual UFOs are real (as credible testimony from astronomers, meteorologists, pilots, and others suggests), then their ability to defy the well-known and well-tested laws of physics is a strong indication, in the minds of many researchers, that they must be nonphysical in nature. Additionally, many researchers argue that residual UFOs also manifest characteristics consistent with intelligence.
For example, "relative to the number of potential observers, ten times as many sightings occur at 3:00 A.M (a time when few people are out) as at either 6:00 A.M. or 8:00 P.M. (times when many people are outside in the dark)." (14) If residual UFOs were simply random events, then we would expect more sightings when there are more potential observers. The fact that these events are nonrandom may suggest some sort of intelligence behind them. This is further supported by the fact that some people are more likely to see a residual UFO than others. Numerous researchers have observed a correlation between an individual's involvement with the occult and their likelihood of having a residual UFO encounter. This may also suggest some kind of intelligence behind these phenomena.
Finally, residual UFOs not only appear to be nonphysical and intelligent, they sometimes seem malevolent as well. Many of those claiming to have had a residual UFO encounter have suffered emotional, psychological, and/or physical injury. A few people have even died after such encounters. In light of these strange characteristics, many researchers have reached similar conclusions about the possible source of these phenomena.
The occult connection
Many serious UFO investigators have noticed a striking similarity between some of the aliens described in UFO reports and the demonic spirits described in the Bible. Although it may not be possible to know whether some aliens are actually demons (and I certainly do not claim to know this myself), the well-documented connection between UFO phenomena and the occult cannot be denied.
In 1969 Lynn Catoe served as the senior bibliographer of a publication on UFOs researched by the Library of Congress for the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. After a two-year investigation, in which she surveyed thousands of documents, she drew explicit attention to the link between UFOs and the occult. She wrote, "A large part of the available UFO literature... deals with subjects like mental telepathy, automatic writing and invisible entities... poltergeist manifestations and'possession.'Many... UFO reports... recount alleged incidents that are strikingly similar to demonic possession and psychic phenomena." (15) Veteran UFO researcher John Keel agrees. After surveying the literature on demonology he wrote, "The manifestations and occurrences described in this imposing literature are similar if not entirely identical to the UFO phenomenon itself." (16) The bizarre claim of alien abduction may lend some credibility to these remarks.
Many (though not all) of those who report an abduction experience describe the aliens as deceptive and hostile. Whitley Strieber, whose occult involvement preceded the writing of both Communion and Transformation, at times explicitly referred to his alien visitors as "demons." For example, in Transformation he described his emotional reaction to the aliens with these words: "I felt an absolutely indescribable sense of menace. It was hell on earth to be there, and yet I couldn't move, couldn't cry out, couldn't get away... Whatever was there seemed so monstrously ugly, so filthy and dark and sinister. Of course they were demons. They had to be. And they were here and I couldn't get away." (17)
Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that abduction is often physically and emotionally painful, Mr. Strieber tends to believe that its purpose is ultimately benevolent. When integrated correctly, the abduction experience can provide a catalyst for spiritual growth and development. Still, he candidly admits that he is really not sure precisely who or what these beings actually are, and he continues to warn that many of them are indeed hostile and malevolent. (18) In light of this, one can't help wondering about the experiences related in Mr. Strieber's books. If his encounters with aliens were not merely hallucinatory, or due to some mental disorder, isn't it at least possible that his sinister visitors really were demons? As noted above, many UFO investigators would indeed consider this (or something very much like it) a genuine possibility.
In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul delivered a stirring indictment against every gospel but that of Christ. "But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (1:8-9). Evidently, the purity of the Gospel was deeply important to Paul.
In today's pluralistic society a variety of gospels are being preached. And among the great throng of voices clamoring for our attention are many UFO cults. Since the 1950s a number of these cults have arisen, often around a charismatic leader who claims to be in regular contact with otherworldly beings. Interestingly, unlike the abduction phenomenon, most contactees do not claim to have ever seen the aliens with whom they communicate. Rather, they claim that the aliens communicate with them psychically or telepathically. The contactee is simply a channel, or medium, through whom the aliens communicate their messages to humankind. This method of contact is rather intriguing for those who favor the interdimensional hypothesis. As John Saliba observes, "Many contactees... write about UFOs and space beings as if these were psychic phenomena, belonging to a different time/space dimension that lies beyond the scope... of modern science." (19)
So what sort of messages do the aliens allegedly communicate to contactees? Often they want to help guide us to the next stage of our spiritual evolution or give us advice that will help us avoid some global catastrophe. Strangely, however, many of them also want to deny or distort traditional doctrines of biblical Christianity. Oftentimes these denials and distortions concern the doctrine of Christ. For example, the Aetherius Society "views Jesus Christ as an advanced alien being... who communicates through a channel and travels to Earth in a flying saucer to protect Earth from evil forces." (20) As a general rule, "UFO religions... reject orthodox Christology (Jesus'identity as both God and man) and thus reject Jesus Christ as the... Creator and... Savior of humankind." (21)
A deficient Christology, combined with an acceptance of biblically forbidden occult practices like mediumistic channeling (see Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:10-12; etc.), make many UFO cults spiritually dangerous. By preaching a false gospel, they have (perhaps unwittingly) placed themselves under a divine curse. By embracing occult practices, they have opened the door to potential demonic attack and deception. Nevertheless, there is hope for those involved with these cults. There is even hope for those tormented by hostile beings claiming to be aliens. The Bible tells us that through His work on the Cross, Jesus disarmed the demonic rulers and authorities (Col. 2:15). What's more, for those who flee to Him for refuge, He makes available the "full armor of God," that they might "stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:11). Regardless of who or what these alien beings might be, no one need live in fear of them. If Jesus has triumphed over the realm of evil demonic spirits, then certainly no alien can stand against Him. Let those who live in fear turn to Jesus, for He offers rest to all who are weary and heavy-laden (Matt. 11:28).
1. John Spencer, ed., The UFO Encyclopedia (New York: Avon Books, 1991), s.v. "identified flying objects (IFOs)," cited in Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, and Mark Clark, Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 2002), 25.
2. Jerome Clark, The UFO Encyclopedia, 2d ed., vol. 1 (Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1998), s.v. "Friedman, Stanton Terry," cited in Ross, et al., Lights in the Sky, 31.
3. Ross, et al., 32. 4. Ibid., 109. 5. Ibid., 34. 6. Ibid., 39.
7. Ibid., 57. 8. Ibid. 9. Ibid., 59. 10. Ibid., 109.
11. Ibid. 12. Ibid., 69. 13. Ibid., 69-70. 14. Ibid., 116.
15. Lynn Catoe, UFOs and Related Subjects: An Annotated Bibliography (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1969), p. iv (prepared under Air Force Office of Scientific Research Project Order 67-0002 and 68-0003), cited in John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on UFO's and Other Supernatural Phenomena (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1992), 17.
16. John A. Keel, UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (New York: Putnam's, 1970), p. 215; cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, The Facts on UFO's, 18.
17. Whitley Strieber, Transformation: The Breakthrough (New York: Morrow, 1988), p. 181; cited in Ankerberg and Weldon, The Facts on UFO's, 23.
18. For example, his recent online journal entry, "How We Can Protect Ourselves," (Aug. 28, 2003) at www.unknowncountry.com/journal/.
19. John A. Saliba, "Religious Dimensions of UFO Phenomena," in The Gods Have Landed, ed. James R. Lewis (New York: State University of New York Press, 1995), p. 25; cited in Ross, et al., Lights in the Sky, 145.
20. Ross, et al., Lights in the Sky, 150. 21. Ibid., 164.
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