Aliens and UFOs have been the stuff of science fiction books, videos and films. Most of us have long entertained the thought that there may be intelligent beings aside from us who may have at one time or another visited our planet. We gaze at the stars each night and come to the assumption that maybe we are not alone in this vast universe. Philosophical and deductive reasoning has lead to different beliefs regarding the possibility of alien intelligent life forms. These different beliefs can be broadly categorized into two groups: the believers and the skeptics.
Believers would present many theories and possible evidences that aliens do exist. They are usually proponents of cosmic pluralism – the philosophical belief in numerous “worlds” in addition to Earth, which might support and develop extraterrestrial and intelligent life form – and the Copernican principle, which states that Earth does not occupy a unique position in the universe and is just an ordinary habitable planet among other possible habitable planets in the universe.
Skeptics on the other hand would believe this is otherwise. Although there may be some of these skeptics that believe in extraterrestrial life, they do not share the same optimism as believers that they are intelligent life forms. Skeptics may accept that extraterrestrial life at simple, cellular levels may exist, but not intelligent ones. Earlier beliefs that there are intelligent aliens on the Earth’s moon, Mars, Venus and other bodies in our Solar System have been debunked with the advent of powerful telescopes and vehicles for space exploration. Also, projects such as Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) that monitor the galaxy for electromagnetic interstellar communications from civilizations on other worlds, have so far failed to detect an intelligent radio signal from other worlds after decades of operation. This somehow dims the enthusiasm spurred by the beginning of the space age.
Another area to contend with is the subject matter of UFOs or unidentified flying objects. Over the course of history, humans may have witnessed numerous sightings of unusual activities of unidentified objects in the sky. Some may have disregarded the unusual events as illusions, while some have taken time to document what they saw in the hopes of finding viable explanations for them in the future.
The 20th century has been a particularly interesting one in the course of UFO sightings and observations. By mid 20th century, sightings of “flying saucers” or saucer-shaped objects increased in frequency, which prompted the US government agencies such as the CIA and the U.S. Air Force to conduct an investigation into these unusual aerial phenomena. The projects named Project Sign, Project Grudge and Project Blue Book were spawned in the effort to investigate and explain these mysterious phenomena. Project Blue Book was the longest and most extensive of the three UFO investigation projects, and was conducted by experts and scientists such as physicists, astronomers and rocket engineers. This project was able to collect more than 12,000 reports of UFO sightings or events for a period of 17 years (1952 to 1969). The events were then classified as (1) “identified” – having a known astronomical, atmospheric, or artificial (human-caused) explanation; and (2) “unidentified”. A very large number of these sightings (94%) were considered as “identified”, while the remaining 6% were categorized as “unidentified” – sightings and cases with insufficient information to be identified with a known phenomenon or explanation. Committee reports on these projects were released to the public, and dismissed the sightings as commonplace phenomena with known explanations. The sightings eventually dissipated and the UFO monitoring projects were dismantled. Still, all hope is not lost for UFO believers as other scientists founded their own investigative bodies for UFO sightings, such as the Center for UFO Studies (CUFOS). Other countries such as Canada and United Kingdom also kept records and formed investigative bodies of UFO sightings.
There are many emerging discoveries outside of our home planet that may somehow prove or disprove the existence of aliens. And within our native soil, developments regarding unidentified flying objects are also picking up speed once again. Recent UFO sightings by not just ordinary citizens, but also professionals such as airline pilots, military personnel, astronauts and even astronomers, are giving promises of credibility and validity. Thus, we should not underestimate our propensity and capacity to believe. And so, we go back to the million-dollar question: Are aliens and UFOs real? With our intelligence and capability of critical thinking, we can find our own answers.