Empty premises

DIG

While Flat Earthers have welcomed the explosion in articles and videos espousing their cause in recent years, it undercuts their claim that a dangerous truth is being repressed. Logically, a repressed idea is one that is not being heard, which brings us to the idea of a hollow Earth.

There are websites and essays that tout this notion, but these receive a tiny fraction of the notice that those produced by Flat Earthers receive. The proposal has been around in various forms for millennium. Early hollow Earth enthusiasts idealized inhabitants as deeply evolved, supremely healthy beings who were peaceful, prosperous, and rippling with muscles. A few religious movements sprouted from this idea. These days, Earth’s insides are mostly thought to house some combination of superior 12-foot humanoids, wayward Greenlandic Vikings, immortal peace-lovers, the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel, and Third Reich leadership. Those peace-lovers have their work cut out for them if those last two groups are both present.

Those favoring a more rational approach engaged in genuine scientific pursuit to find out if Earth was hollow and at least two excursions were made in the spirit of exploration to try and find the entry point. Edmond Halley wondered if auroras were caused by a combination of ferrous matter and a supple magnetic pole. He pondered that an aurora could be caused by luminous gases spewing from a polar door. To explain anomalous compass readings, Halley also suspected Earth might have a hollow shell about 500 miles thick, followed by two inner concentric shells, then an innermost core.  

Such speculation was admirable, as was his method of using observation and testing using proper protocols. By employing these channels, he and later scientists learned such notions were incorrect, yet some hollow Earthers continue to cite Halley as a supposed proponent. This is what Steven Novella meant when he said that such groups use science like a drunk uses a lamppost: For support, not illumination. About a half century later, mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euler talked what would happen if one drilled a hole all the way through Earth and dropped a stone into the opening. He never said Earth was hollow; in fact, drilling all the way through would be unnecessary if it was. Yet he too is sometimes touted by hollow Earth proponents as a believer.

The idea of subterranean realms made appearances in various mythological and religious texts, with it sometimes being the destination of departed souls. Greeks, Celts, Hindus, Nordics, Tibetans, Jews, Mesopotamians, Native Americans, and Christians have all embraced this notion in some form. While the port of entry is usually near one or both poles, prospective entrances have been surmised in locales as diverse as the Amazon, the Himalayas, and downtown Paris. Through an unexplained mechanism, these portals open to enable travel between the inner and outer portions of our planet.

The most common hollow Earth hypothesis in the 19th Century was that we were the ones on the inside. Championed by Cyrus Teed, this idea held that all observed celestial bodies were inside Earth with us. He founded a religious movement based around the idea and sprinkled it with pseudoscientific guesses about light, gravity, and other natural phenomena.

Later, Nazis got in on the act, with Luftwaffe pilot Peter Bender devising another mystical movement whose tenets included a vacuous planet. There exist tiny pockets of both fascists and non-fascists who think Third Reich leaders escaped to these locales, usually aboard flying saucers.

The idea of us being on the outside is more attractive because getting to the other side would be much easier that way. So the concave planet has few adherents anymore and John Symmes was an early promoter of the reverse notion. He wanted to make a North Pole expedition to get inside but was unable to obtain funding. Jeremiah Reynolds did go on such a jaunt in the opposite direction, but if he found an Antarctic opening, he kept the location to himself.

While previous motivations were religion or idealism, those have largely been replaced with a 21st Century conspiratorial flavor. Now, an anonymous, malevolent “they” hides the hollow Earth truth from the populace, with a few brave rebels tirelessly trying to convince the sheeple.

There are a few exceptions. Dianne Robbins, whom I’ve previously profiled, sees inner Earth as a paradise populated by immortal, absolutely peaceful beings with whom she communicates telepathically. And on ourhollowearth.com, the site maintainer likewise considers our planet’s innards to be a terrestrial wonderland, in this case the place where the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel hang out. Tribe members are responsible for flying saucer sightings, as they leave their subterranean sanctuary to ward off dangers to Outer Earthlings.  

Among those who think these truths are being hidden rather than just not widely known, Raymond Bernard claims many early polar explorers were engaged in a secret mission to find these openings and reach the inhabitants. Fellow author Jan Lamprecht writes that evidence for a hollow Earth includes animal migration and early maps having been changed, which he thinks suggests subterfuge.

However, reasons to reject these hollow Earth hypotheses are found in evidence from seismic activity, gravity, and density. 

With regard to the first of those, the time it takes seismic waves to travel through and around Earth is inconsistent with an empty sphere. Such evidence shows Earth is filled first with solid rock, then liquid nickel-iron alloy, and finally solid nickel-iron.

As to the proof provided by gravity, massive objects tend to clump together and create solid objects like stars, satellites, and planets. Such a configuration is a way to reduce the gravitational potential energy of the object being formed. Additionally, ordinary matter is too weak to support a hollow planet against gravity’s ample force.

Finally, we consider density and that’s not a reference to hollow Earthers’ mental acumen. Based on the size of Earth and the force of gravity on its surface, the average density of the planet is 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter. However, densities of surface rocks are only half that. This is crucial because if any sizable chunk of Earth were hollow, its average density would be much less than what the density of its surface rocks is.

While doing background work and compiling my information for this post, I could find no proponents or websites extolling the concept of a flat, hollow Earth. Sounds like repression to me.

  

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“The limit’s the sky” (Astrology)

STEWIE

In a piece this month for Quartz, Ida Benedetto outlined her case for giving astrology more respectability. To help with this venture, I can state that I knew pseudoscience would continue to thrive in 2018, so this is could be a point in favor of correct visions of the future.

Benedetto had two main points, both of which lean on the appeal to antiquity. Her first argument was to blame astrology’s tattered reputation on pop psychology, which she says permeates modern astrology. She lays into modern seers, writing that they rely too much on feel-good platitudes instead of that tough love from above approach she credits the ancients with. She wrote that texts from days of yore show that astrologers told it like it was, not how the customers wanted it to be.

As to the modern-day charlatans, Benedetto wrote, “The nurturing approach psychologists take has polluted modern astrology with watered-down interpretations that seek to protect their clients. Even if an astrological configuration spells trouble, the modern astrologer will describe it as an ‘opportunity for growth.’” Benedetto rejects horoscopes and astrological signs as counterfeit currency deposits in the astrological bank.   

As to the good (really) old days, Benedetto writes that before the Common Era, “Astrology flourished alongside various sciences like mathematics, medicine, and engineering.” Here, she is trying to piggyback astrology on legitimate gains and is committing the division fallacy. This is where one asserts that if something is true for the whole, it must be true for all parts. In this case, Benedetto figures that since disciplines which benefit us today flourished in the Hellenistic period 2,300 years ago, astrology must also be of value since it likewise had its heyday during this place and time.

During that era, Benedetto wrote, “Astrologers based their interpretations on centuries of observations recorded by the Mesopotamians who came before them. They kept careful records of astronomical phenomenon, looking for correlations between what happened in the sky above them and the material world around them.”

However, Steven Novella called this an instance of Tooth Fairy Science. This refers to research done on a topic before that topic has been shown to exist. Novella wrote, “If you carefully documented the amount, denomination, and timing of money left in exchange for children’s teeth, and correlated that information with all sorts of demographic variables, you might create a convincing imitation of doing real science, but none of that data would actually test the underlying premise: Is the Tooth Fairy real?”

“Likewise,” Novella continued, “documenting the position of the stars and planets and then correlating those positions with events on Earth is not science. This type of observational behavior is not capable of asking the important underlying question of if there is a causal relationship between what is observed in the sky and events on Earth.”

To do that, one would need to test a hypothesis through the Scientific Method. That would entail, at a minimum, making an observation, then a prediction, followed by testing it, trying to falsify it, attempting to replicate it, then making one’s data available to other scientists and submitting the findings and methods for peer review.

Novella further wrote that holding ancient wisdom in unjustifiably high esteem serves to minimize the efforts and accomplishments of the visionaries, inventors, and discoverers who have contributed to the wonders of the last thousand years. Persons who have this reverence possess it selectively.  Benedetto composed her essay on a word processor and posted it on the Internet, rather than chiseling it on clay tablets and transporting it by donkey.

In this non-equine delivered piece, she claimed, “If we can set modern judgments aside and learn the language of the ancient astrologers we may discover lost insights.” In other words, it’s our fault for being closedminded, not astrology’s fault for being without a plausible mechanism.

And the truth is the same now as it was in the Hellenistic period. Neither astronomers nor astrologers have uncovered empirical evidence that the positions of stellar bodies impacts Earthly events, other than the comet that obliterated the dinosaurs.

“Vanilla fudge” (Racist anthropology)

WHITEGIANTS

When I hear someone complain about having to press ‘1’ for English, I can’t help but wonder how the Cherokee and Choctaw feel about having to do it. The irony is that those who fear immigrants taking over are descended from the only immigrants who did come here and seize control of the land and culture. This made it possible for their descendants to become the majority, albeit one that is still subject to indignities like button-pushing.

To deal with the issue of other peoples having gotten here first, some on the far right have embraced concocted tales that Native Americans were preceded by a still earlier band of pale faces. There have been tales of lost tribes and civilizations for a very long time, with Atlantis, Mu, and Thule among the better known. Likewise, there have been genuine lost peoples, such as the Roanoke colonists and Mayans. But our focus here is on only peoples that are both mythical and embraced by the far right to further their agenda.

Getting a jump start on this mindset by nearly two centuries was President Andrew Jackson. In an article on the Southern Poverty Law Center website, Alexander Zaitchik wrote that Jackson defended the relocation and massacre of Native Americans in part because he was convinced the Indians had previously massacred whites. He called the latter “a once-powerful race” that had been done in by “savage tribes.” Jackson likely got this notion from an idea popular at the time, that majestic Caucasian architects had built the large mounds and earthen structures that then dotted North America.

Around the same time, the Book of Mormon likewise promoted the idea that the light-skinned had gotten here first and were responsible for the major technological advances. These ideas mostly center on inhabitants of early North America since that’s the territory the far right is seeking to claim as theirs by ancient birthright. However, there are a few exceptions, such as online writer Patrick Chouinard, who claims that the elongated skulls of Peru belonged to Nordic supermen with massive brains.

Some of the more religiously oriented among the far right assert that the Nephilim giants in Genesis were an early Aryan race, possibly the offspring of demigods and human women. Another favorite tale is that Nazi scientists, being brilliant and all, concocted a type of flying saucer and escaped Europe to take residence in subterranean Antarctica. The fact that our history books are silent on mound builders, Lamanites, and fascists cavorting with penguins is proof of a cover-up, usually perpetrated by or for Jews.

The most prominent proponent of these alternative archaeologies and histories were the Nazis. While they didn’t invent the concept of an exalted, pure Aryan race which deserved restoration to glory, they promoted it more than any other group before or since. The Third Reich version was tweaked so that Pan-Germanism became a more relevant factor than skin color and Heinrich Himmler founded the Ahnenerbe, whose goals was to document Aryans’ archeological and cultural histories. The Nazis’ most blatant attempt to take what they thought was theirs was when they thieved the swastika from ancient eastern religions. They claimed they were only reclaiming it because the symbol had been ­­­­brought to those cultures by a conquering Aryan people.

While their motivations are worse than pseudo-archeologists of the ancient alien and creationist persuasions,  proponents of an ancient white North American people use the same tactics.

They inte­rpret paintings and pottery as historical documentation rather than something created in the mind of an artist. They consider similar imagery in more than one place as evidence that one influenced the other. Perhaps most important, they pre-determine what evidence will mean, then finagle found artifacts and discovered sites to support that “conclusion.” And authors ship those findings to a sympathetic website in search of glowing reviews rather than to a scientific journal looking for review. And the reason given for not submitting for peer review is that that the establishment is against them and the findings would be repressed.

Even if the far right is correct about North America’s anthropological history, who’s to say there wasn’t an ever earlier group of people with large doses of melanin which preceded the Nordic super race? Besides, if Nordics were here first, that means we should be pressing ‘1’ for Old Saxon.

“Big Farma” (Lysenkoism)

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In the United States, opponents of evolutionary biology education generally limit themselves to trying to sneak Jesus in the back school door while ushering out Darwin. But in the Soviet Union, opponents of the theory added mass murder to their arsenal.

During Stalin’s reign, Trofim Lynseko attempted a highly idiosyncratic and untenable reworking of biology, especially the tenets espoused by Darwin and Mendel. The most basic point of Lysenkoism was that an organism’s acquired characteristics could be inherited. He also felt this could be manipulated, so that plants could be conditioned to acquire desirable traits and pass those onto succeeding generations. But this would be like saying mice could have their tails sliced off and, if this mutilation was done under the right conditions and in the right environment, the offspring of those mice would be without the appendage. The idea doesn’t work any better with plants.

In an article on Lysenkosim, The Atlantic’s Sam Kean wrote that genetics teaches that plants and animals have stable characteristics, encoded as genes, which are passed to the next generation.  Lysenko loathed this idea because he felt it denied all capacity for change. Marxists liked the idea of heredity having a limited role because that would mean any characteristics gained by living under communism could be inherited by succeeding generations. Of course, all this is the Appeal to Consequences fallacy and has no bearing on whether what was taught about genetics was true.

For his competing viewpoint, Lysenko decreed that if plants were placed in the proper setting and exposed to the right stimuli, they could be improved and pass those traits on. He rejected both natural selection and Mendelian inheritance, going so far as to dismiss the notion of genes. Soviet leaders found it attractive to have a homegrown peasant to counter Darwin, so Stalin put Lysenko in charge of the county’s farms, where he was content to attempt practical application of his ideas rather than subject them to experiment and scrutiny.

Lysenko’s notions fit in well with forced collectivist agriculture. He was able to force the farmers to participate in his experiments, which were intended to increase crop yields but which ended up exacerbating a famine. Lysenko made farmers plant seeds close together since his belief was that plants from the same class would never compete with each other. He also had bizarre practices like soaking crops in freezing water, thinking positive traits would result and be passed on ad infinitum. Additionally, he forbid the use of fertilizers and pesticides. These terrible ideas led to most of the planted food dying or rotting.

Farmers and biologists who objected were fired, sent to the gulag, or executed, a policy that makes Ken Ham’s anti-science positions seem almost reasonable. Lysenko fell out of favor and power with Stalin’s death and he remained a footnote a historical footnote for decades.

But like the flat Earth, reports of Lysnekoism’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. It has zombified and is once again infesting the scientific landscape. That these issues have gained hold again staggers belief. At the same time, even if 100 percent of the population were scientifically literate, scientific literacy would still be one generation away from potential extinction. For some persons, being iconoclastic is more important than being right.

The resurgence of Lysenkoism has been fueled by a combination of nationalism, anti-Western sentiment, and unofficial endorsement by the Russian Orthodox Church. There is an attempt to cloak the resurgence with a veneer of scientific legitimacy by piggybacking on the burgeoning epigenetics field, which studies environmental influences on gene expression and phenotype. Epigenetic factors can help shape an organism to its current environment and it’s possible for these factors to be inherited. For example, a wheat crop that has the ability to fight drought may have this property manifest if that condition occurs. However, the parent crops always had those traits, meaning epigenetics does not teach that acquired characteristics are inherited. Moreover, epigenetics centers on the work of genes, which Lysenko explicitly rejected.

The other reason some Russians are embracing Lysenko is because they have an anti-intellectual and paranoid mindset that sees malevolence behind space programs, vaccines, and genetic modification. In this case, that paranoia is combined with anti-Western sensibilities and serves as another way of coping with Cold War defeat.

“Another bad creationist” (Evolution denial)

MONKEYMAN

Perhaps the most common misperception about evolution from those who deny it is encapsulated by the question, “If man came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” While memes asking this are a Facebook semi-regular, the dozen or so fulltime professional creationists actually know that evolution does not teach this. On the Answers in Genesis website, Tommy Mitchell wrote, “The evolutionary concept of the origin of humans is not based on humans descending from modern apes but argues that humans and modern apes share a common ancestor.” Similarly, John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research noted that, “Evolutionists insist that both man and the apes came from an ape-like ancestor. Also, evolution does not propose that all members of a type evolved into another type, but that only a small group of individuals, genetically isolated from the others, evolved.”

While Mitchell and Morris disagree with these conclusions, they do acknowledge that these positions accurately reflect what evolution teaches and they stress that the field does not hold that monkeys turned into men. However, they and other Young Earth Creationists ask an equally misinformed question, which could be paraphrased as, “If evolution has been proven, why are there still evolutionary biologists?” They consider the expanding and refining of evolutionary knowledge to be a weakness. As Ken Ham Tweeted, “I’m glad the Bible’s not a textbook like those used in public schools, as it would change all the time.”

That’s because, while Darwin nailed the basics that random mutation and nonrandom natural selection cause species to adapt to their environment and evolve over succeeding generations, his theory has received periodic upgrades. That is consistent with how science works. The finding of transitional fossils, the discovery of DNA, and Mendel’s experiments with heredity helped further our knowledge of evolution. Yet YECs insist the theory’s adaptability and refinement show it to be flawed, and they sometimes dub these changes “Revisionist Darwinism.”

However, the Wright Brothers are not invalidated because today’s jets fly 100 times faster and 5,000 times farther than their original creation. Alexander Graham Bell is not a fraud because we carry a small phone that can perform multitudinous functions, while his bulky stationary contraption served just one purpose. Antibiotics, vaccines, and open-heart surgery should not be avoided as “revisionist medicine” just because physicians once treated patients with trepanation, bloodletting, and homeopathy.

Science is not static, an unbending set or rules, but is the continual search to refine, expand, and yes, revise knowledge. It is an unending cyclical process that is self-correcting and self-criticizing, which invites scrutiny, and which changes when warranted by the evidence.

And this owning up to previous errors is laudable. I wrote a post about the hunt for Bigfoot and included a tidbit that no North American primate fossil has ever been found. A reader pointed out this was in error and she included a link to reputable source, Popular Science. The article quoted a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History as saying a 43 million-year-old primate fossil was discovered in Texas. I thanked the reader for bringing this to my attention. I want all nonsense exposed, even if that nonsense appears on this blog. I have adjusted my thinking with regard to North American primate fossils and will never make this claim again. I will not deny what the paleontologist said, nor declare him corrupt, inept, or a Sasquatch hunter’s shill. I will not posit that he was wrong, then seek out evidence to support this preconceived conclusion.

By contrast, Young Earth Creationism relies on faith and the rejection of facts its proponents find unpleasant. Not only can they not accept evidence that contradicts their religion, they are incapable of incorporating newfound knowledge into their belief system.

Brian Dunning at Skeptoid compared the reactions from biologists and creationists when scientists learned DNA was the genetic material by which inheritance passes from one generation to the next.  The response of the former, Dunning wrote, was to welcome and celebrate the news: “The discovery of DNA and the understanding of genetics, unknown in Darwin’s time, was a huge windfall. Whole chapters of proposed mechanisms were thrown out of the evolution textbook, volumes of new chapters were added, and unanswered questions were explained by the thousands. The theory of evolution improved immeasurably. Genetics was the single most important discovery in the history of biology.”

Meanwhile, the creationists fittingly refused to evolve their thinking. Dunning wrote, “Did anyone go back and improve Genesis? Did they add a footnote or a verse to explain how the thing with Adam’s rib worked, given the new understanding of genetics? No. The most important and significant discovery in the history of biology was completely ignored.”

Even though religion is the central feature of their lives, YECs criticize the concept of faith by declaring evolution to be just another belief system. Yet if that were true, things like the DNA discovery that expanded knowledge would be rejected.

YECs confuse faith with trust. Trust is accepting what reputably-sourced, continually proven evidence shows. Faith is believing something regardless of the truth, facts, or proof. Something that one believes on faith could be true, but this truth is not necessary for the belief to continue.

As an example of the difference between trust and faith, Dunning explained why he believes what calculators tell him. These instruments have been so reliable and consistent that he can reasonably trust their conclusions. By contrast, if the calculators’ long-term performance was spotty, Dunning’s uncompromising acceptance of the revealed equation would be faith.

He added that humans used to think Earth was flat and supported on the back of a giant turtle. Scientific breakthroughs have since shown our planet to be round and orbiting a star. Most people accept this, though a few deny it. But some who accept these truths still use the previous delusions regarding’s Earth’s shape and motion as reasons to reject what biologists teach today. Now, what science has previously taught should be rejected if the reason for the revision was arrived at through the Scientific Method of observation-hypothesis-prediction-experiment-analysis-interpretation-publication-replication. But it should not be rejected if the reason for doing so is to hold onto an unbending position in order to protect a pet cause.

“Dead with the water” (Raw water)

WATER

Anti-vaxxers may soon be challenged in their role as the most prominent spreader of preventable diseases. Another science-challenged trend focuses on what adherents call raw water. It is based on the idea that any treatment of H2O is detrimental and that water should be consumed untreated, unsterilized, and unfiltered. And if you don’t live near  a river or stream, companies like Live Water and Tourmaline Spring will deliver raw water to you.

The trend is driven in part by distrust of tap water, particularly its fluoridation and the lead pipes which deliver some of it. Proponents also contend that filtration removes beneficial minerals.

The lead pipe issue is the one concern grounded in reality. Flint, Mich., is the most hideous example of what can happen if the problem is inadequately addressed. But better regulation and bottled water would fix this, while raw water would not. Another concern is that water treatment facilities are unable to remove all trace pharmaceuticals, but these levels are so low as to be innocuous. And even if they did pose a danger, that hazard would not be alleviated by raw water, which by nature goes through no treatment process.

Besides these deficiencies, raw water claims are awash, so to speak, in the appeal to nature and antiquity fallacies. The Live Water website boasts, “Earth constantly offers the purest substance on the planet as spring water. We celebrate this ancient life source that humanity flourished from, since the beginning of our existence. We trust it’s perfect just the way it is.”  

The website also recommends consuming the product within one lunar cycle of having purchased it. This is more appeal to nature, for even if drinking the water within 29.5 days was optimal, the company could just say that rather than mentioning the moon and pandering to the nature crowd.

Singh acknowledges that reverse osmosis gets rid of most of the nasty stuff in water, but says it also makes the water “dead.” He fails to explain precisely what that means, but seems to allude  that the process robs water of probiotics and beneficial bacteria. He likewise asserts that this good bacteria will kill its bad counterpart. It’s true that good bacteria sometimes vanquishes the bad, but there’s no evidence this is occurring in the raw water being peddled. Besides, bad bacteria is already filtered out in the treated and bottled water Singh is campaigning against.

Which leads to the issue of ingesting harmful bacteria. Drinking raw water could be your chance to be on TV, specifically Monsters Inside Me. Waterborne disease is still rife in some places. Giardia, amoebic dysentery, cholera, hepatitis A, salmonella, shigella, and e. coli caused many deaths before the advent of sewage and water treatment systems. These tragedies continue in the Third World, with its abundant supply of natural, raw water.

Singh and other advocates are correct when they say customers might get more minerals from their product, but those minerals may include arsenic. Flowing spring water, while appearing pristine and pure, will contain animal feces and possibly deadly microbes. Therefore, disinfecting this water if planning to drink it is crucial to preventing the spread of dangerous viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Drinking water in the wild should only be done in a last-ditch effort to avoid dehydration and if doing so, the CDC recommends boiling it first, or if that’s impossible, chemically treating and filtering it.  

Since Singh and other enthusiasts appeal to antiquity, allow me to point out that civilizations have been trying to clean their water for 3500 years. For instance, the Egyptians and Greeks used charcoal, sunlight, boiling, and straining to try and filter out impurities. Fast forward a few millennium and by the early 20th Century, public water utilities were removing disease-causing microbes via chlorine disinfection. This helped to substantially reduce instances of typhoid and cholera.

While apparently being OK with cholera-causing bacteria in his drinking water, Singh draws the line at fluoride. He asserts without evidence that fluoridation is designed not to fight tooth day, but to accelerate brain decay. Sing told the New York Times, “Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it’s a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health.” I won’t bother calling him a conspiracy theorist since he took care of that himself. But I will call him the latest in a sad line of anti-science lowlifes that threaten to reverse centuries of progress and knowledge.

  

“Aye in the sky” (UFO surveillance)

L

Late last year, The New York Times and Politico both published stories confirming that the US government had conducted a long-running, furtive study of unidentified flying objects.

Called the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, it collected video and audio recordings of UFO incidents. An anonymous senior intelligence official quoted by Politico revealed that the main reason was to determine if Russia or China was using military technologies the U.S. was still unaware of.

The Times piece included images of a Navy jet being surrounded by a glowing aura that traveled at high speed while rotating. While the preferred inference of some readers was that it was an alien spacecraft, a more terrestrial explanation suffices.

John Lester Miller, who impressively managed to write an entire book on infrared imaging, described what caused the seeming UFO during an interview with Robert Schaeffer of the Bad UFOs blog. Miller explained that the image resulted from a processing byproduct known as ringing:

“When in white hot, you will see that the aura around it is dark and when in black hot, it is brighter than the background. This is the image processing algorithm compensating for the large signal on neighboring pixels where the signal is not there. The algorithm doesn’t know the shape of the object and over-processes the neighboring pixels.” He added this happens when the captured image is of an object over a cold background, which would describe jet engines obscured by high altitude clouds.

The results were also another example of the stagnant quality of UFO imagery. In a world of increasingly vibrant colors, stunning clarity, and 4K ultra- high definition resolution, the standard candid of Invaders From Mars remains blurry photos and shaky, out-of-focus videos.

The program ran from 2007 to 2012 and today one of its researchers, Luis Elizondo, heads an organization dedicated to UFO research. It was his statement to CNN that most got UFO buffs excited. He said, “These aircraft are displaying characteristics that are not currently within the U.S. inventory, nor in any foreign inventory that we’re aware of.” These supposed limitations on American technology and our ignorance of other countries’ systems were extrapolated by Elizonda into a personal belief that it counts as evidence of alien visitation.

But Dave Mosher of Business Insider interviewed Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, who took a more measured approach. Certainly the military wants to know what’s going on when it sees aircraft above its airspace it can’t identify. But that doesn’t equate it to being Zontar, the Thing From Venus.

Probably the most sizable obstacle to overcome would be distance. If one could devise a spacecraft that could get to the moon in an hour, this ultra-swift mode of cosmic transport would need to maintain this pace for 27 years to reach Neptune and for nearly three millennium to reach the next closest solar system. This hypothetical journey also assumes managing the logistics of repair, refueling, medicine, and food, all while avoiding the perils of deep space.

Shostak said there are about 1,400 solar systems within 50 light years of us Earthlings. This seems to offer plenty of opportunities for the construction of flying saucers or wormhole-threading devices, but the number is actually quite tiny when thinking about one of them being advanced enough to visit us. These systems could house microbial life, which if found, would be the biggest science story of the 21st Century. But that find would have no bearing on supposed UFOs. Discovering the rough equivalent of a goat on an exoplanet would be more noteworthy and carry more profound consequences, but it would still not explain glowing aerial orbs. And even a civilization advanced as what Earth will be in 4018 would likely be insufficient to manage this interplanetary journey.

Of course, there could be a super-advanced civilization that has managed warp speed travel. And maybe even a civilization still more super-advanced which has attained beyond warp speed travel. And everyone except you could be a hologram, but until evidence surfaces indicating this, that notion should be dismissed, as should these sci-fi transportation scenarios.

Furthermore, these supposed travels would seem to be serving little point. They do not involve the mid-20th Century Hollywood staple of requesting an audience with our leader. The landings are in the Nevada desert or on a remote hilltop, never in Times Square. While there are alleged eyewitnesses that board these crafts, no souvenirs are collected, no clear imagery of the visit is obtained, and no goodwill ambassador stays behind.

So these interplanetary interlopers travel all this way and are content to flatten crops, maintain an extensive rectal probing program, and make cameos in wobbly cellphone videos. Some extreme believers say aliens are with us in disguise and are interbreeding with humans while taking the form of shape-shifting reptilians who occupy executive leadership and high government positions. They makes these extraordinary claims without satisfying Carl Sagan’s stipulation that they be accompanied by extraordinary evidence.

These claims are also a reflection of the times. There were no reports of these close encounters by contemporaries of Socrates, Leif Ericson, or Jane Austen because the idea in those eras would have been so absurd no one would have ever dreamt it. Only with the advent or rocket technology and the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne did the notion of interstellar travel come along, and with it, the idea of trips coming from the other direction.

Shostak rejects the notion that the most recent video equates to proof that these trips have been made. He said 90 percent of sightings can be identified and he told Mosher they usually involve “issues with camera hardware, unfamiliar optical effects, atmospheric phenomena, bright stars and planets, and the presence of unmanned aerial vehicles.”

The other 10 percent are of undermined origin, meaning that they are unexplained, not that the explanation is extraterrestrial. To make the E.T.  deduction is to commit a logical fallacy by claiming that absence of evidence equals evidence of absence. Specifically in this case, the assertion is that since the flying object cannot be explained terrestrially, that means it must have come from outer space. This is not a sound conclusion. For one, it fails to consider that the object may have come from inside a hollow Earth.