by Jacques Vallee, Ph.D.
I have only recently become aware of a paper presented by Dr. Michael Swords at the July 1991 MUFON Symposium in Chicago (1). It was entitled Modern Biology and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. It stated, in summary, that (a) the general appearance and behavior of ufonauts is consistent with modern biological knowledge and that (b) the concept of interbreeding between them and humans is incompatible with such knowledge. The paper argued that the conclusions of those who like me (2) and some European researchers, objected to the ETH on biological grounds, were “products of either biases or ignorance’s.” In some cases, they were little more than “strongly worded opinions” from people who had “difficulty in keeping up with all the scientific thinking necessary to make competent pronouncements.” The balance of Swords’ presentation abandoned this polemical tone. It was cogent and represented a fair summary of relevant biological knowledge as it is generally taught. But it did not solve the argument and it failed to prove either point (a) or point (b) above. This is not the place for a detailed response. However, many of your readers have heard or read the presentation, and their attention should be drawn to three specific issues on which I believe the debate remains very much an open one.
Issue number one: In one of the articles cited by Dr. Swords I had presented five arguments against what I called the first-level interpretation of the ETH. The conclusion of my article was not that the ETH should be thrown out altogether, but that it should be restated to take these arguments into account (thus defining a “second-order ETH”). I also argued that other hypotheses should be considered. It is true that in my own opinion some of these other hypotheses are more attractive, and I do have a clear, honest disagreement with many ufologists on this point. Your readers may like to know that much has happened since this initial exchange: In an interesting response Dr. Robert Wood of McDonnell-Douglas presented new material on the side of the ETH, and a healthy debate was launched (3,4). It is still continuing. But it is an unfair oversimplification to state, as Dr. Swords does, that I regard the ETH as absurd.
Issue number three: The most straightforward part of Dr. Swords’ paper would seem to be his critique of those who, like Budd Hopkins, Dr. David Jacobs, and others, are inclined to think of some abduction experiences in terms of the ufonauts’ need for hybridization. I have criticized such views myself because it seemed to me that aliens equipped with the reported technology would have far simpler means of achieving hybridization if such was their goal, without inducing trauma in human victims. Yet when Dr. Swords states categorically that, if such beings existed, we could never interbreed with them, he may be experiencing the same “difficulty in keeping up with all the scientific thinking necessary to make competent pronouncements” which he observes among his colleagues. Thus the idea of hybridization with ufonauts may be far-fetched and unlikely, but it is certainly not scientifically absurd.
1. Swords, M. D. Modern Biology and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis.
MUFON 1991 International UFO Symposium Proceedings, pp. 51-78.
2. Vallee, J. F. Five Arguments against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified
Flying Objects. Journal of Scientific Exploration Vol. 4, No. 1,
3. Wood, R. The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is not that bad. Journal of
Scientific Exploration Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 103-111.
4. Vallee, J. F. Toward a Second-degree Extraterrestrial Theory of UFOs:
A Response to Dr. Wood and Prof. Bozhich. Journal of Scientific Exploration
Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 113-120.
Michael Swords Replies
A well-known UFO theorist has apparently decided to object to my paper delivered at the 1991 MUFON Symposium. Fine, it is a free country, and I’m sure that hundreds of others have decided that the paper is a product of Ufology’s lunatic fringe as well. I’m getting more used to this. Complex topics cannot be legitimately discussed in a few words without giving incomplete treatments and misleading impressions. Unfortunately, Ufology begs for this sort of incompleteness and impression since it is of the greatest complexity. Vallee has decided that I did not prove my two major points and says that the debate remains very much an open one. This comes as little surprise to me, since my whole point was that no one has proved anything (probably about almost any conceivable topic), and therefore debate (and serious consideration of the ETH) should be kept open, despite anti-ETH articles such as his own “Five arguments against...”. Far from attempting to prove things (a very unscientific attitude, generally), my presentation (indeed my entire brief career as an Ufologist) has been to: a) warn people against strenuously arguing to eliminate the ETH and any other defensible concept; but, secondly, b) pointing out where the current knowledge of the sciences would lead us to make our “best guess.” “Best guess” sounds like a reasonable way of behaving to me, and certainly not absolutist. Vallee’s remark that the presentation didn’t prove its points strikes at a straw man not constructed by me, and is not terribly productive in what should be a “healthy discussion,” as he phrases it. Vallee states that this is not the place for a detailed response. I agree ... for the reasons of not trivializing complex points, mentioned above. However, only a detailed discussion would be helpful, and therefore what he and I are doing here is not. Sorry, I apologize. But since forced, let’s say some things briefly about his three issues.
Issue one: I don’t agree that the ETH has to be “restated to take (Vallee’s) arguments into account,” unless it can be demonstrated that those (or any other) arguments need to be taken into account. The whole point of the MUFON talk was to show that the biological anti-ETH argument (this was all the MUFON talk addressed, so don’t lumber me with responsibility for the others — they’ll get addressed in later publications, God willing) did not, ‘given current knowledge, have to be taken as any sort of ETH “problem.” Bob Wood felt a need to address all five at once, and, fine, so he did. I chose to go into (with all due humility) some rather great depth to unravel the most complicated of the hypothetical arguments (which, by the way, was not inspired by Vallee’s own work, but by materials going at least as far back as the great paleontologist, George Gaylord Simpson). Whether Vallee concludes that the ETH is absurd (which is not quite what I said of him, but OK) or not, is somewhat irrelevant, but at the same time, his public presentation of these views at the Society for Scientific Exploration left little doubt that he viewed the ETH as “dead meat.” Why ever else did he think that Bob Wood was “inspired” to respond so stalwartly or I to immediately mention the things that I did in the Q & A of the same meeting?
Issue two: This is puzzling to me in the extreme. Please read Vallee’s comments about the need to not only explain bioform similarity but also acculturation to gravity, atmosphere, etc. Then please read my paper which speaks not only of bioform similarity, but also of gravity, atmospheres, etc. I can only assume that the respondent must have been reading a copy which was missing several pages. Since I personally sent him a copy as a courtesy, I know that the copy was complete at least on entering the U.S. Post Office at Kalamazoo. I would like to ask for the minimal courtesy of actually reading the complete text before crying foul. And, on the issue of language and culture, does anyone honestly believe that intelligent bioforms would be incapable of acculturation to those elements in us, especially to the behavioral extent that they seem typically to employ?
Issue three: This is another objection to my paper, which indicates that the respondent either did not thoroughly read the paper or did not thoroughly understand it. Since Vallee has demonstrated his capacity for intelligence many times, I must assume that this is another case of a busy man who has not had the time to properly read the relevant literature (i.e., in this case, the MUFON paper). The entirety of the science by the Radman group may well be accurate, important, and pointing to the future potential of genetic engineering. It foreshadows exactly what the MUFON paper talked about: the ultimate ability of an advanced technology to manipulate genes so thoroughly that they could hybridize anything (the “Super ET Bio technicians,” as the paper called them). The current editor of the MUFON Journal, also an intelligent man, but one who read the entire piece and understood its thrust, properly characterized this level of technology as one wherein there is no longer the need to mess about with humans, oocytes, et al, as the Technicians can now do the gene-making and manipulating essentially “from scratch,” (and certainly from far more available materials). The only way someone reading the MUFON paper could miss this is if they didn’t read it, or are not educated enough in the nature of genes, chromosomes, and sexual reproduction to get on “talking terms” with the concepts. I don’t blame anyone for the latter: as the African proverb says, “He, who does not know one thing, knows another.” I am constantly being educated by all of you on Ufological matters in this huge field of which I am a recent part.
Finally, to return to a point this probably would be best left alone: my views on “biases and ignorance’s??” I don’t back off that one bit. I believe that I am, obviously, both biased and ignorant. I believe that it is the “human condition” to be so.
We walk around receiving limited information, and using it to try to construct a reality with which we can cope. The consequent Cosmos which we envision continues to direct our quests and our beliefs, and filter our knowledge. Jacques Vallee, Carl Sagan and Michael Swords are all “ignorant” despite rather heroic efforts on their part not to be. And they’re all biased to — in each case — some rather powerful visions of what’s real, what’s likely and what’s possible. What I’m rather “tired” of, are people, who are by human nature “ignorant and biased,” telling other people what not to contemplate (such as the ETH, Parallel Realities, Time Travel, Spirituality or whatever). What I try to do is present, as best I can the information at the frontiers of science, and how that may relate to UFO phenomena, especially as regards people who try to close the doors on certain major theories.
This stuff is complex, and I don’t always get the job done.
Sorry. Also I get excited once in a while and state something a little too strongly, but if one reads the whole article one will see that I’m saying this seems to be the best guess right now, folks.
If this response seems a trifle miffed, it is due to the fact that all of us (you as readers and I as writer) probably had better things to do with our tune here than respond to (and read about) “issues” which were brought up without even reading the entire material.
As to my occasional emotionalism of caring deeply about truth, openness and the quest: I’m only human.