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Quotes for Skeptics: UFOs and Related Topics

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There are some hundred billion (1011) galaxies, each with, on the average, a hundred billion stars. In all the galaxies, there are perhaps as many planets as stars, 1011 x 1011 = 1022, ten billion trillion. In the face of such overpowering numbers, what is the likelihood that only one ordinary star, the Sun, is accompanied by an inhabited planet? Why should we, tucked away in some forgotten corner of the Cosmos, be so fortunate? To me, it seems far more likely that the universe is brimming over with life.
Carl Sagan

To me, it seems extremely likely that life has started and evolved at other sites throughout the universe, quite possibly in a great number of places. It also seems rather possible that, at some of those sites, evolution has created an intelligent species which has developed technology far in advance of our own and which might be capable of interstellar space flight. Despite the incredible distances between stars, and despite the vast dispersion in evolutionary states that must exist throughout the sphere of races that have achieved some sort of sentience, it is possible - although, to me, extremely unlikely - that one or more of these races has visited Earth within the relatively recent past.
Alan Hale

I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. I was interested in this: they kept arguing that it is possible. And that's true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not but whether it's going on or not.
Richard Feynman

Assuming there are one hundred advanced intelligences in our own galaxy and that they are evenly spread throughout the galaxy, the nearest one would be about 10,000 light-years away. To cover that distance by any means we know of would take at least 10,000 years and very likely much longer. Why should anyone want to make such long journeys just to poke around curiously?
Isaac Asimov

June 24 (1997) marked the fiftieth anniversary of the day UFOs were discovered, or else invented, whichever you prefer. On that date in 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine airborne objects, and the era of "flying saucers" was begun. Lost in all the excitement was a very simple, yet fundamental error. As skeptic Marty Kottmeyer points out, Arnold didn't say that the objects looked like saucers. Instead, Arnold told a reporter that "they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water." Actually, what he said was that they looked like boomerangs, but the reporter's account called them "flying saucers." And since newspapers were soon filled with reports of "flying saucers" in the skies, "flying saucers" are what people reported seeing, not "flying boomerangs." Seldom has the power of suggestion been so convincingly demonstrated. Kottmeyer asks, "Why would extraterrestrials redesign their craft to conform to (the reporter's) mistake?"
Robert Sheaffer

CSICOP and the Skeptical Inquirer have been dealing with UFO claims on a scientific basis for more than twenty years. We have attempted to provide, wherever we could, scientific evaluations of the claims. We have never denied that it is possible, indeed probable, that other forms of life, even intelligent life, exist in the universe. And we support any effort to verify such an exciting hypothesis. But this is different from the belief that we are now being visited by extraterrestrial beings in spacecraft, that they are abducting people, and that there is a vast government coverup of these alien invasions.
Paul Kurtz

Authenticated clear photographs of a UFO would be excellent evidence for UFOs as something other than hoaxes and perceptual constructions. UFO photographs certainly abound; the question is whether the extant photos are genuine. UFO photographs are extraordinarily easy to fake: a double exposure, a little trick photography, and you have a very nice-looking UFO photo or film.
Terence Hines

There simply is no scientifically credible evidence that we have alien visitors.
Philip Klass

It is an undeniable fact that many people have seen, or at least claimed to see, objects in the sky and on the ground for which they have no explanation. But it is also an undeniable fact that people can make mistakes about their observations. It is an undeniable fact that reports can come from people who are unaware of the various phenomena that are visible in the sky and from people who are not equipped or trained at making reliable scientific observations. It is an undeniable fact that a person's preconceived notions and expectations can affect his/her observations. It is an undeniable fact that some people will lie and will create hoaxes for any one of various reasons. Taking all these undeniable facts together, the simplest explanation - to me, anyway - for the UFO phenomenon is that every report is either a hoax or is a mistake of some sort.
Alan Hale

Eyewitness reports of actual spaceships and actual extraterrestrials are, in themselves, totally unreliable. There have been innumerable eye-witness reports of almost verything that most rational people do not care to accept - of ghosts, angels, levitation, zombies, werewolves, and so on.
Isaac Asimov

I suppose if you are an extraterrestrial and must have a name, these are as good as any. I must say, however, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously aliens with names like Knut, Oomaruru, Quamquat, or Luno. And would you want Caldon to take you away? I know I wouldn't.
Martin S. Kottmeyer

Many scientists and science fiction writers have noticed that the little gray aliens look incredibly human. As one writer put it, "aliens have no business looking so human.” The probability that an alien race, the product of a completely separate evolutionary history, would look even vaguely humanoid is vanishingly small.
Steven Novella

The fact that many UFO witnesses are trained pilots, radar operators, or other professionals, and that they are not crazy, drunk, or on drugs leads UFO proponents to conclude that they must have seen just what they say they saw. This conclusion is, in fact, fundamentally wrong. The great failure of the pro-UFO movement has been the unwillingness to accept the fact that human perception and memory are not only unreliable under a variety of conditions (and these conditions are exactly those under which most UFOs are reported) but that perception and memory are also constructive. That is, perception is a function not only of actual sensory stimulus that is picked up by the eye or the ear but also a function of what we know and believe about the world, even if that knowledge and belief are wrong. The constructive nature of perception is greatest when the actual sensory input is weak, unclear, or ambiguous - just the type of sensory input present in most UFO sightings. Memory, too, is constructive. Experiments (...) show clearly that what we remember about an incident can actually be changed after the fact. When this happens, the witness truthfully testifies to remembering something that never happened.
Terence Hines

Consider their love of the dramatic, is it any surprise that millions are willing to believe, on mere say-so and nothing more, that alien spaceships are buzzing around the earth and that there is a vast conspiracy of silence on the part of the government and scientists to hide that fact? No one has ever explained what government and scientists hope to gain by such a conspiracy or how it can be maintained, when every other secret is exposed at once in all details - but what of that? People are always willing to believe in any conspiracy on any subject.
Isaac Asimov

In my opinion, the alien abduction phenomenon is the product of an unusual altered state of consciousness interpreted in a cultural context replete with films, television programs, and science fiction literature about aliens and UFOs. Add to this the fact that for the past four decades we have been exploring the solar system and searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence, and it is no wonder that people are seeing UFOs and experiencing alien encounters.
Michael Shermer

Since Robert A. Baker's pioneering article appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer (Baker 1987-1988), a controversy has raged over his suggestion that self-proclaimed "alien abductees" exhibited an array of unusual traits that indicated they had fantasy-prone personalities. Baker cited the "important but much neglected" work of Wilson and Barber (1983), who listed certain identifying characteristics of people who fantasize profoundly. Baker applied Wilson and Barber's findings to the alien-abduction phenomenon and found a strong correlation. Baker explained how a cursory examination by a psychologist or psychiatrist might find an "abductee" to be perfectly normal, while more detailed knowledge about the person's background and habits would reveal to such a trained observer a pattern of fantasy proneness.
Joe Nickell

A common misconception about the nature of sanity and insanity hold that a person is either crazy or sane, with little ground in between the two conditions. That stories so unbelievable are told by individuals who appear to be quite rational understandably adds to their credibility. In fact, psychological disturbances come in numerous shades and varieties. This point is vital in understanding the psychology of those who report being abducted.
Terence Hines

Spanos et al. (1993) have pointed out the similarities between abductions and sleep paralysis. The majority of the abduction experiences they studied occurred at night, and almost 60 percent of the "intense" reports were sleep related. Of the intense experiences, nearly a quarter involved symptoms similar to sleep paralysis.
Susan Blackmore

The UFO phenomenon remains a vast and controversial part of modern culture. Without definitive proof as to the cause of the phenomenon, we are forced to infer the best explanation. When the entirety of the phenomenon and all evidence are considered, I submit that the psychocultural hypothesis emerges as the best explanation to date. The extraterrestrial hypothesis, although compelling to many, remains without credible support.
Steven Novella

As a lifelong amateur astronomer, as a professional astronomer, as someone who has read countless science fiction stories and scientific essays, I have devoted my life to unraveling the secrets of the universe and to pushing humanity and humanity's knowledge as far into space as I can. (This is my reason for claiming that there are few people in the world who are better prepared than I am to meet with an alien race; if there is any human being who could meet with alien beings, it would be someone like me.) At the same time, I suspect there is hardly anyone who watches and studies the sky more than I do, and while I have almost continuously observed the sky for most of my lifetime, I have yet to see a single object for which there was not a prosaic explanation. I have seen such diverse phenomena as: fireballs, rocket launches, satellite re-entries, comets, auroras, bright planets, novae, orbiting satellites, ionospheric experiments, high-altitude balloons - all of which have been reported as "UFOs" by uninformed witnesses. If indeed there are alien spacecrafts flying around Earth with the frequency with which UFO devotees are claiming, then I must ask how come I have never seen anything remotely resembling such an object, while at the same time I have managed to see all these various other types of phenomena.
Alan Hale

The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.
Bill Watterson

In my view, what we are dealing with is "the transcendental temptation," the tendency of many human beings to leap beyond this world to other dimensions, impervious to the tests of evidence and the standards of logical coherence, the temptation to engage in magical thinking. UFO mythology is similar to the message of the classical religions where God sends his Angels as emissaries who offer salvation to those who accept the faith and obey his Prophets. Today, the chariots of the gods are UFOs.
Paul Kurtz

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