The UFO Hypothesis: Strong v. Weak Versions, and the Skeptic’s Retort

In researching UFOs over the past several weeks, and trying to decide what I think about the claims surrounding them, I’ve noticed that there are strong and weak versions of the UFO hypothesis. In general, people who believe in the strong version of the hypothesis may suggest such things as these:

  • Aliens, perhaps even of several different species, are actively, regularly, and in great profusion, visiting Earth in triangular, ball, cigar, or saucer shaped metal crafts
  • These crafts range from tank size to “mother ships” that are a mile wide or more
  • In addition to silent hovering and moving fast in all directions, these spaceships can time travel and disappear into other dimensions, then reappear suddenly
  • The most characteristic forms of the aliens inside the spaceships are gray-skinned and short, and they have enormous black eyes and heads
  • The aliens are actively abducting people for odd purposes not understood by us, and they communicate with abductees telepathically
  • Alien spacecraft sometimes crash, as at Roswell, and the government has recovered both living and dead aliens from these wreckage sites, and it has both crafts and aliens in their custody
  •  The government is covering up its very extensive involvement with UFOs, and if we had access to the files, scientists, and physical evidence being concealed from us, we would be shocked at the degree of concealment
  • Many modern technological advances, from stealth aircraft to microchips and fiber optics, are the secret products of reverse engineering alien spacecrafts and learning things directly from the living aliens in our custody
  • Ala Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), aliens may already be with us, inhabiting human bodies. They may also be producing hybrids on their spaceships
  • Aliens are so extensive in our solar system, they may have bases on Mars, the dark side of the moon, and even deep beneath the Earth’s oceans
  • Aliens may be guiding our physical and cultural evolution, and may have been doing so for millenia
  • Aliens are anti-nuke environmentalists currently concerned we don’t destroy ourselves or bring our pathological behavior and weapons into space
  • Aliens may have benign or malignant designs for the human race; in other words, they may want to save us from  ourselves, but perhaps not for  ourselves 

In short, the strong UFO hypothesis suggests that we’re not only “not alone,” we’ve been virtually invaded by UFOs (we just don’t know it yet). By contrast, the weak version of the UFO hypothesis makes far more conservative claims, or fuzzies up the hard claims with highly qualified statements:

  • UFO sightings and abductions are “not of this world.” They are born of real extraterrestrial, extrapsychological, and extracultural stimuli, but we don’t know what those stimuli are; we can only document their curious patterns
  • People are seeing nonhuman, intelligently directed objects in the sky, and these may be extraterrestrials from space, but they may also be paranormal minds from other dimensions that we scarcely comprehend right now
  • Governments may possess extensive classified materials and files on UFOs, but they may be inconclusive, showing multiplied instances of what civilian researchers already know, have documented, and are perplexed about

Of course, in opposition to the strong and weak versions of the UFO hypothesis, there is the skeptical hypothesis, which can be stated succinctly:

  • UFO encounters are not extraterrestrial, extrapsychological, or extracultural phenomena; they are born of terrestrial, psychological, and cultural stimuli, and UFOs can be fully and adequately explained in these terms

Where does my mental spaceship land on this subject right now? I find myself hovering (pun intended, I suppose) between the weak UFO hypothesis and the skeptical hypothesis. I think, with regard to UFOs, that there may well be something more going on than the skeptical hypothesis allows, and so the issue is not closed for me. And I do confess that I find the strong UFO hypothesis delightful to entertain, and spooky to imagine—and I’m keeping an open mind—but (to echo Hume) extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

But if anything like the strong UFO hypothesis is correct, my guess would be that we are then experiencing our future selves travelling back in time to visit their ancient relatives (us). This might account for the alleged similar body features of aliens to humans and might also eliminate the need to explain how aliens from another solar system could even reach us in the first place. If we limit the technological leap to time travel alone, maybe that makes the strong UFO hypothesis at least a tad more possible (if not plausible). 

In general, I find the whole UFO issue akin to the ghost of Hamlet’s father. UFOs are maddeningly spectral phenomena, and they generate in me a kind of paralyzing indecisiveness, a Hamlet syndrome:

“To believe or not to believe, that is the question.”

Shakespeare was so brilliant, do you suppose that he might have been an alien? He did write, afterall (Hamlet Act 1. Scene V abt. 1601.):

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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1 Response to The UFO Hypothesis: Strong v. Weak Versions, and the Skeptic’s Retort

  1. Thoth says:

    I’ve seen quite a few UFO’s. Some quite odd.

    I could probably have explained quite a lot of them by going to check on what the neighboring kids were throwing around on their side of the fence though.

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