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What I know for sure about UFOs
I've looked into this enough to write this post (on request), but it’s not a major field of study for me. Ufology is the sort of topic that produces far more heat than light, relies way too much on speculation, and leads for many into obsessive rabbit-trails.
Here are some things I can confidently state as fact:
Some proportion of UFO phenomena defy natural explanations (which includes lying or delusional witnesses). Hugh Ross calls this the rUFO hypthesis: the residual unidentified flying objects that remain after careful examination of every case, with an eye to eliminating false reports and events that can be best explained by natural phenomena. Ross says the number of residual UFOs is around 1-5%. I suspect it may be a little higher, especially in certain areas, but the point remains: as Christians, whose obligation is to the Truth, we cannot dismiss UFOs as universally fake.
While UFO phenomena can occur anywhere, they are especially prevalent in certain areas. These locations are often called window areas or areas of high strangeness: places where, for whatever reason, unusual amounts of paranormal activity seems to take place. They also tend to occur to certain people and families, who witness them repeatedly throughout their lives, often with other incidental witnesses present. This obviously implies that…
UFO phenomena are associated with other paranormal events not typically connected with the idea of extraterrestrials. This is indeed the case. In fact, the UFO phenomenon is indistinguishable in many respects from paranormal experiences which have been reported for as long as we have records of such things, and also especially cluster around certain areas and people. Such experiences include the more extreme abduction and seduction elements of “sleep paralysis” (better called, following David Hufford, the mara), which in turn is co-extensive with various kinds of haunting phenomena such as floating lights, shadow people, disembodied voices, shuffling footsteps, moved objects and the like. (This is by no means an exhaustive list.) UFOs also tend to show up around cryptid sightings like the mothman and bigfoot.
How UFOs present sometimes differs between eyewitnesses to the same event. For instance, one person may see a classic UFO, while another person with them may perceive instead a bright light, and a third may see a creature of some kind. In other words, while the phenomenon itself is objective, happening outside the people witnessing it, its appearance is subjective, seemingly accommodated to each of them individually. This is unsurprising, even predictable, if it is a generally spiritual phenomenon, but inexplicable if it is a purely physical one.
It was not until the advent of modern science that these paranormal encounters began to present as a purportedly scientific phenomenon. The earliest UFO encounters have the beings using dirigibles, and claiming to be from nearby bodies in our own solar system. As our technology and scientific literacy developed, so did that of the “alien” technology.
More distinctive (=extreme) UFO encounters are frequently accompanied by religious messaging. I am not aware of any instance where communication has occurred with the beings in question, and the message has not been religious in nature. The doctrine being delivered is invariably some version of gnostic/new age/spiritual evolution/enlightenment dogma, and directly opposes the gospel whether implicitly or (sometimes) explicitly.
Some UFO encounters leave behind physical evidence. This includes not just environmental evidence, but wreckage and even bodies. Again, this seem unsurprising to me. To take a pretty close analogy, if the people of Sodom had succeeded in killing one of the angels that visited them, presumably they would have been left with a body and clothing.
Further reading is nearly finished writing a book, Re-enchanting the Unseen, which includes a discussion of UFO phenomena and how they integrate into the biblical worldview. He is releasing it, appropriately, on All Hallows Eve, and you can pre-order it now. (Josh’s friend has extensive investigative experience in the paranormal field.)
Since I know people will ask, yes, Brian Sauvé and Ben Garrett’s Haunted Cosmos is very popular—but it lacks the depth of knowledge and critical analysis to recommend as a teaching resource on this topic.
Given the warning I opened with, it is fitting to close thus:
Finally, brothers, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Php 4:8)