Ufology, the Future, and Why Science Won't Save It.
Let me begin by saying that I love science, but when it comes to the UFO question, it alone cannot save Ufology, nor can it lead some sort of revolution in the field. The call of many in the UFO discourse is that mainstream science is essential to understand the phenomenon. While the sciences may be able to provide insight, the current economic and social realities of the West will not allow this happen. Gone are the days of “science for the sake of science”- rather, all science is strictly controlled, monitored, and governed. Science is very much a Capitalist endeavour; the race towards new products, patents, and the development of new technologies makes or breaks corporations, economies, and shifts world markets. Even in academia, collegial bodies and universities, which mostly function within Capitalist mechanisms, control who gets research grants. While Ufologists may be hoping for some scientific revolution for the UFO phenomenon, UFOs do not fit into the construct of major production or consumption. Even scientists themselves are limited by their ability to explore the UFO question; many are blackballed for even entertaining the topic.
If the general sciences are unable to participate openly in the debate, this leaves few avenues for solid legitimate research, rigour and criticism. UFO believers and truthers will continue to fall back upon their theological faith in an intelligent Other; this religious fervour unfortunately leaves no room for actual debate and discourse. The political Disclosurists will continue to petition the systems of power, which they openly distrust, to release UFO information; information that, by its very nature, is untrustworthy. Historians will continue to explore old government, military and personal documents, painstakingly categorizing old cases with hopes of finding the smoking gun. The journalists and writers will record, detail, and expound upon sightings new and old. What about the philosophers and theorists?
Approaching UFO discourse from my philosophical and critical theory background, I must begin to compartmentalise my understanding/bias of the objective UFO phenomenon, and the subjective ideas we all have when we approach the phenomenon. The two influence and shape each other. To put it simply, there is no UFO discourse without objective UFOs, and there are no objective UFOs without you and I debating and thinking about them. This dualism is common in many ideologies; for example, the concept of goodness can only exist if evil is also present, or for things to be “right”, so too must there be a “wrong.”
This dualism complicates matters, since it becomes impossible to look at any objective event with actual “objectivity.” I am only able to approach the event from my subjective world, and I carry baggage; my values, beliefs, thoughts, ideas and experiences. The objective and subjective merge, and the “reality” of the event is forever lost once experienced by the subject, by you or I. The only way this dualism can be unpacked and explored is via critical theory and philosophy.
Greg Bishop posited a terrific concept known as the Co-creation Hypothesis a few years back where the paranormal intelligence, whatever it may be, meets the witness “halfway”- they bring their ideological constructs to the table, and so do we, thereby creating an understandable but strange experience for the witness and experiencer. Bishop’s hypothesis is interesting, but limited, in that it does not dig deeper into the ideology of the human subject. We will never be able to deconstruct the other intelligence’s ideological zeitgeist, but we can deconstruct ours. If we begin to examine these ideologies, and we lose the objective reality of the UFO phenomenon due to our personal subjectivity, can the phenomenon ever truly be known? It is not that UFOs or anomalous alien entities are real or not, it is that our experience of them undoes their “reality” and forces them to fit into our human constructs and ideological illusions.
While the Co-Creation Hypothesis is an interesting examination of why certain themes, through-lines, and motifs exist in the phenomenon, it begs a larger question. Isn’t our participation in UFO discourse enough to create the subjective reality of the UFO phenomenon? In dealing with the physical phenomenon of strange encounters, UFOs, and the paranormal- we do not need help in generating illusions. As Nietzsche stated, “if you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Moving beyond Bishop’s hypothesis, we see the frame in which UFO discourse exists. As with any discourse, the simple act of existing in a cultural and social world removes the subject, you and I, from a base objective reality. By experiencing an actual paranormal anomaly, are we potentially, for a brief moment, cast into a sublime reality state and then, as our brains adjust, re-ideologized into our subjective reality? As in many accounts, the witness is at a loss for words; in some visceral act, they leave the illusion behind and experience the truest fear, that of the unknown. If this is the case, it does not take long for our cultural concepts, constructs, mechanisms, and languages to negotiate the strange event into our reality illusion. It’s not that the event didn’t happen, but it happened according to the framework our reality built for it, particularly when we talk about it.
We are left with a simple fact. If the objective UFO phenomenon is unknowable, barring some deus ex machina visit from an intelligent Other, then the only aspect of UFO discourse which can maintain any sort of academic, rational, and logical rigour is a philosophical one. If the sciences are unwilling or unable to participate due to social and cultural conditions, which they currently are, and the other aspects of UFO discourse are too theological and dogmatic for true debate, where else can we turn? Since, from a purely human standpoint, we are unable to understand the intelligent Other- we can only look to ourselves, our cultures, societies and the realities, ideologies, and illusions they generate.
It is fine for angry Ufologists to expound upon scientific principles, and for the CE-5 believers to fall down and worship their inter-dimensional space brothers. Let Disclosure continue to lobby and make documentaries. They are all dancing around the same issue, and none are making progress of any sort. UFO discourse is waning, not because one group is behaving foolishly, but because all of them are. They attempt to see through the fog into objectivity, totally unaware that the only reality is the fog itself. Philosophy and critical theory is not about trying to wave the fog away, as that is impossible. It is not about trying to see the reality beyond the fog, but the reality in the fog itself.
We are all seeking answers, scientists, believers and philosophers- perhaps we should take a lesson in what has failed us in the past when it comes to this discourse. Accept the fact that the fog won’t clear and embrace it.