Pentagon confirms new UFO footage is real
Is belief in UFOs religious? Today the world is reeling from a new video of an object flying like no human craft. But some think our UFO obsession is just a new answer to an ancient problem.
In July 2019, the USS Omaha was suddenly swarmed by 14 unknown aircraft. Video footage of the event released this week shows a small object shaped like a pill that bobs and weaves from side to side, before disappearing into the sea without a splash. A submarine sent to investigate found no sign of wreckage.
In recent months, several videos like this one have been verified by the US military. They have shown airborne objects that appear to have no propulsion system, yet can easily climb to 30,000 feet and move at supersonic speeds.
The Pentagon is due to release a report on its study of UFOs since the 1940s on 25 June, prompting many experts to start taking the question of UFOs much more seriously.
Previously, people who believed that extraterrestrial life had visited Earth were often dismissed as mad conspiracy theorists.
But in truth, believers in UFOs are not confined to the fringes of society. More than half of people in the USA, the UK and Germany believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. A poll earlier this year found that 67% of British people think the government should have a strategy for dealing with alien contact.
Some think belief in UFOs can actually tell us a lot about society.
Diana Pasulka, a professor of religion, claims that like religious belief, UFOs satisfy two deep-seated instincts in human beings: the need to understand our place in the universe and the need for some external power to make the world better.
In the religion of ufology, technology wields power over humanity and promises to revolutionise our lives.
And there are other similarities. Like any religion, ufology has its relics. At a secret location in New Mexico, there is a site where ufologists claim to have found fragments of material that cannot have originated on earth. Pasulka describes one of these materials as a metal alloy that is like “metallic frog skin”.
It is certainly true that human beings have often used gods to understand themselves by attributing human characteristics to divine beings. Aristotle described god as “self-thinking thought”: he treated God as the highest possible form of a uniquely human attribute – the capacity for thought.
Karl Marx argued that gods are quite simply an imaginary projection of humanity. He thought that people used these projections to lend authority to their own moral rules, but that gods end up taking control of our lives and oppressing us.
In the same way, Pasulka argues, we use UFOs to understand who we are and where we stand in the universe.
But others think it is a shallow comparison. Religious belief is about more than just finding the meaning of our lives: it provides people with a moral code and a way of treating others. Belief in UFOs might be like a spiritual experience, but it is very far from being a religion.
Is belief in UFOs religious?
Yes, say some. All human beings have ever wanted is to be told who we are and what we are here for. For most of our history, and for billions of people still today, the answer to that question lies with a god or gods. But in an increasingly secular world, we are having to turn to different powers in the skies to give us a sense of where we stand in the universe.
Not at all, say others. Unlike religion, belief in UFOs is not about faith: it is about logic and cold, hard evidence. Given the size of the universe, it is vanishingly unlikely that intelligent life would have evolved on only one planet. And now there is mounting evidence that Earth is regularly visited by technology well beyond any human science.
- Do you ever worry that aliens might invade Earth?
- Do human beings need religion?
- In a small group, draw what an alien visitor to Earth might look like. Imagine that they had evolved in very different ways from human beings.
- In pairs, come up with some ways in which a spaceship could travel at very high speeds without an apparent propulsion system, then draw your design.
Some People Say...
“But who shall dwell in these worlds if they be inhabited?… Are we or they Lords of the World?… And how are all things made for man?”Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630), German astronomer
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Most people agree that the report later this month is unlikely to reveal much about aliens. The Pentagon is not primarily interested in alien life: it keeps track of UFOs, which it calls “unidentified aerial phenomena”, because of their national security implications. Every UFO is potentially Russian or Chinese hardware in US airspace. So those hoping for new proof of alien visits may be disappointed if the report ends up focusing exclusively on defence matters.
- What do we not know?
- There is some debate over what aliens might want with Earth if ever they did make contact. In the past, when a group of explorers have made contact with an established civilisation, as when Europeans first arrived in the Americas, it has been to ask for help with supplies and navigation. However, once newcomers started to settle the land or covet its resources, conflict invariably broke out. Alien contact could follow the same pattern.
- USS Omaha
- A US navy vessel launched in 2015.
- Propulsion system
- A machine that produces thrust to move something forwards.
- Human technology leaves vapour trails and makes a loud “bang” when breaking the sound barrier. UFOs leave no trail and make no sound.
- The building that houses the headquarters of the US Department of Defence.
- A catch-all term for things whose origin is not on our planet.
- A popular term for the study of UFOs.
- Objects thought to be holy. In Christianity and Islam, the remains of saints are treated as relics. Buddhists venerate items that belonged to Buddha.
- New Mexico
- A state in the USA that has been linked with UFO conspiracies: the town of Roswell was thought to be the landing site of an alien spaceship in 1947.
- An ancient Greek philosopher, widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in history.
- Karl Marx
- A 19th-Century philosopher and economist who wrote an influential critique of capitalism and advocated its replacement by communism.