A somewhat sensationalist sounding article appeared in Space.com concerning a book called The Mystery Behind Real Flying Saucers. Written by one of the coauthors, Jon Rogers, it explores the rise of interest in U.F.O.s and “flying saucers”.
Could today’s widespread belief that flying saucers are extraterrestrial spaceships be the result of an unintentional, civilian conspiracy? One that created real flying saucers in order to achieve its end?
The use of the word unintentional sort of undermines the usage of the more exciting word, conspiracy. In fact, on a bit more reading, the book does seem to take the more sober approach. It’s probably no surprise that much of the craze was fueled by media (news, movies, etc.) feeding to people what they wanted to buy. We humans have, in general, always wanted to seem to think there was something bigger out there, perhaps something of which we are part. This is probably, in part, what contributed to religious desires. If forced to speculate, I would guess that this was an evolutionary byproduct of being part of a larger society, a good survival technique for smaller hunter gatherer tribes in a hostile environment.
So, what about U.F.O.s? I believe they exist. I myself have seen phenomena I could not identify. I can reasonably guess things that I have seen though. Usually they’re planes. Just recently, driving home, I saw a U.F.O. It was brightly lit, and from a distance, looked like something from Close Encounters. It appeared to be hovering and doing some strange maneuvering (at least the long curves in the road on which we were driving made it appear so). As we drove closer to home (and to the object) we could finally see that, in fact, the strange object was a colorfully lit advertising blimp. There are also new strange atmospheric phenomena that we are still discovering. Simply because I can not identity some light I see in the sky does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that it is a spaceship piloted by extraterrestrials though. Usually further investigation reveals the natural source, and if not, there was probably not enough data to make any type of conclusion. Given the vastness of space and the great cost of its exploration (that’s just physics, really) makes the alien hypothesis extremely unlikely and, given the success of natural explanations, it seems reasonable to expect such explanations for the more difficult problems as well.
I do think it very likely that there is extraterrestrial life out there, maybe even some of it purposeful and intelligent. We need to further investigate Mars and I have long wanted a Europa exploration. But, the possibility of any intelligent extraterrestrials visiting us is probably less likely than me winning the lottery. But it does make for a fun story.