...And in the eye

If you have eyes, you've probably seen strange lights in the sky, and if you don't have eyes, you've probably heard people talking about them. Strange lights that move fast, strange lights that move slow , strange lights with other, smaller, stranger lights inside them. The Earth’s night sky is full of odd little things that are hard to understand. But what are they? Meteors? Comets? Supercats?

According to Jon Kelly, one of three independent eyewitnesses to a UFO sighting on September 12th of this year, the strange lights are “potentially extraterrestrial interdimensional vehicles communicating with Earth-based observers in urban environments while being recorded on camera.” And he's got the footage to prove it. Sort of. The video is available on the Seattle Exopolitics Examiner website, and its subject is indeed a UFO, in that it can't be identified. It also appears to be flying, and is probably an object. It was observed shortly after the passing of a Perseid meteor, but doesn't appear to be a meteor itself.

This isn't the first time Kelly has caught luminous aerial phenomena on film. He attended the 2009 Science, Spirit and World Transformation Conference in Mt. Adams, Washington. His video of a dot of light passing overhead was featured in the Examiner last July. It was the typical shaky, hard-to-follow fare usually associated with UFO sightings on tape. While the light can be clearly seen to move relative to stars in the night sky, its origin is certainly puzzling.

What was it? Where did it come from? Why is it here? Kelly believed at the time that it “might be possible to explore these questions through a study of eyewitness testimonies involving the analysis of their speech recordings played in reverse and the interpretation of unconscious messages discovered through this process.”

The Psychology of Sightings

This is all very interesting speculation, but you can see now why his testimony might strain credulity. Jon Kelly is clearly a man led by belief. His interpretations of the lights all follow a similar theme (that being space aliens), and his deductions are nebulous at best.

Surely, there must be a more scientific approach. Perhaps the best line of attack is a psychological one, in which we can learn the source of our explanations for the bizarre, rather than go looking in vain for the source of the bizarre itself.

Dr. Leonard George, who has never met anyone named George Leonard but occasionally receives his mail, is a Cap psych prof with a penchant for “the finer and the stranger things in life,” according to a description of his research interests on our own university website. Professor George is the author of two books, entitled Crimes of Perception and Alternative Realities, dealing with heresy and the paranormal, respectively. His previous research into strange phenomena and anomalistic psychology make him the local authority on the subject. We sat down to discuss this most recently reported local sighting.

Cap Courier: So what is it exactly that makes people interpret things they can't explain the way they do?

Leonard George: Most UFO sightings that come in to the police or journalists go along the lines of... ‘First I noticed this light in the sky, then I noticed it was moving, and then I looked even more closely and I could make out little tiny windows, and possibly little men waving at me.’

When investigators check out this type of report, what they very often discover is that the witness was actually looking at the planet Venus in the night sky. Of course, the planet Venus doesn't move around, and it doesn't have little windows on it with little men waving. That is added by the human mind... [an analytical overlay] that we're performing all the time, from birth until death.

The world we're experiencing is not the world out there – it's a construction of our own minds. We are indirectly connected to the world through our senses. The brain's job is to take radically incomplete information, fill in all the blanks and create a world that is a coherent place. That place is in the mind. In many circumstances of incomplete information, the brain will rely on what it expects to find –sometimes what it hopes to find, sometimes what it fears to find – and then use that backdrop as guidance to fill in the information.

We find with UFO sightings, for example, that they tend to come in waves.

CC: What's the most likely explanation for that density?

LG: Well, [he says jokingly] I think it's the aliens coming to Earth in convoys. That's one theory. Another very distinct possibility is that it has to do with waves of expectation. You may read in the newspaper that people are reporting that they've seen some extraterrestrial thing… so that when your brain gets some radically incomplete glimpse of something, it will consult this rumour.

Completing the Puzzle

ITN news reports that “new figures reveal a huge spike in UFO sightings this year,” indicating that we are currently in the peak of one of these waves. As it happens, there have been many such waves in the past.

Some effort has gone into the investigation of UFOs, the most well-known inquiry being Project Blue Book, headed by low-ranking officers in the US Air Force from 1952 to 1969. According to an official document released to the public by the Air Force entitled USAF Fact Sheet 95-03, “of a total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remained 'unidentified.'” That's a spooky six percent of all cases reviewed. But hardcore fringe ET enthusiasts have a reputation for being frustrated with government documents, and government officials have a reputation for being frustrated with hardcore fringe ET enthusiasts. Still, the appetite for answers is never satisfied.

CC: Even with the official research, what's causing people to remain so scared or excited or dismissive about this atypical celestial phenomena?

LG: I think the frustration comes from the brain's programmed need to complete the incomplete. It's really hard for us not to be sure. It's hard for us to be humble.

If we prefer to live in a universe where there are no flying saucers visiting, then it's pretty easy to dismiss the evidence. If somehow we have the other passion, and we think it would be more intriguing and romantic if there were visitors from other realms, then we would probably be a lot more impressed by the very same set of data. It leaves us in a humble position. Most of what is out there, we don't know. It's possible we'll never know, no matter how advanced science gets – that's the human situation.

CC: So you feel all of human knowledge will end up being a fairly negligible portion of what there is to know?

LG: I think that's guaranteed, because our senses and our minds are the result of evolutionary processes as far as we know, and those processes were mainly driven by our ancestors in Africa millions of years ago running away from saber-toothed tigers and trying to find sexy mates. So we've evolved senses that allowed our ancestors to do that – that says nothing about the nature of reality. The senses we have just maximize mating strategies of apes, and most of what's going on in the cosmos might be irrelevant to that and we have no access then, because of the way we've evolved.

CC: Are alien visitors from outer space just an updated myth? Are these strange lights in the sky the same thing that have been seen in the past as gods or angels?

LG: There's no doubt that the experiences people report today with UFOs are not new. People have been reporting these things for as long as there have been written records, in fact, and each culture interprets these things in their own ways – sky-spirits, faeries, witches on broomsticks, extraterrestrials. It's possible that there is an underlying stimulus that is interpreted according to cultural background. That seems very likely. It does seem that encounters with something inconceivable are part of the human story, and we may never get to the bottom of what some of these stimuli actually are.

Enigma Decoded

It is our “changing cultural template,” as Prof. George later put it, with which we stencil out our experience. A person might see a bright thing flying around and immediately assume some tiny dude must be in control, but finding the cause of that assumption will be a much more rewarding journey than finding the tiny dude.

An important fact to consider, when thinking about UFO sightings, is that human beings can only see as much as the eye can take in, or as Antonio Rosmini said it in his “New Essay Concerning the Origin of Ideas”: “The coloured surface we perceive is as big as the retina touched by light.” By the power of gray matter, we turn those retinal sensations into the illusion of, say, a sandwich. It's impressive, but visual understanding of the sandwich will always be limited by the skills of the noggin/eye combination. Ergo, understanding of other visual things, such as spacecraft from other planets, is just as limited.

To understand ourselves, though, we find no such limitation. That's the beauty of the mind. How's that for spooky?

To learn more about little green men, listen to the music of Frank Zappa or Steve Vai.

//Sky Hester

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