Positive Evidence for Space Aliens?

Finding explanations for what we observe is the essence of what science is. At the simplest level is it looking at the world and making sense of why we see what we see.

Science comes when we seek explanations in a systematic way. We take what we have observed, find an explanation that fits what we have observed, and then, and this is the hardest part, question our assumptions to see if we should change our explanation, or more likely, expand our explanation.

As I was getting my hair cut this past week, my barber, an ancient alien theorist/enthusiast regaled me with what he’d heard on the television. I didn’t gainsay him because I wanted a decent haircut, not a Boot Camp Special.  He had a very vague concept of what constituted proof that he regaled me with.

Understanding the scientific process requires applying the process of science to the process of science itself. In the end, you end up with a greatly expanded understanding of how not just science works but also how we interact with the universe.

I will give one example of a misapplication of science.

A few years ago an asteroid, which we named Oumuamua, came from outside our solar system and passed through our solar system. This was the first asteroid to be positively identified as having an unbound orbit. It got a lot of attention and there were a few ideas proposed, such as gasses venting from the inside, or even we had measured its shape and mass incorrectly because it was spinning rapidly, or any number of possibilities.

Two astronomers at Harvard proposed the idea that Oumuamua was actually a spacecraft from an alien race. Their argument rested on the fact that as Oumuamua began its journey out of the solar system its velocity was not changing as we would expect. Its velocity was consistently too high. This would mean that there was something giving Oumuamua a push on its way out.

There is nothing wrong with proposing that something is evidence for extra-terrestrial life, it is after all an open question in science. But their motivation for their conclusion was flawed. Their argument rested on the fact that our measurements of Oumuamua’s motion did not fit with our other measurements of its properties. Put simply, there was a difference between what was measured and what was calculated for its speed.

The problem with the alien spaceship theory was that there was no positive evidence pointing toward that idea. There only existed uncertainty in how its motion could be explained by our other measurements of Oumuamua.

In the measurements of Oumuamua, there was some uncertainty regarding its dimensions, spin, composition, and mass. Oumuamua’s motion was not outside the possibility that it was just an asteroid and nothing else, just unlikely. Thus its motion did not constitute positive evidence for Oumuamua being an alien spacecraft.

Something is positive evidence iff its presence, or our knowledge of it, can only be explained by the proposed theory. That is if the explanations needed to accommodate the new observations break our current understanding and theories at a fundamental level.

In the case of Oumuamua, the difference between the measurements and calculations did not fundamentally break our understanding of physics. It didn’t even make it exceptionally difficult to find other explanations that did not require it to be an alien spacecraft. Hence it could not count as positive evidence for it being an alien spacecraft.

If, for example, Oumuamua had been emitting regular radio signals with a defined pattern, then that would be positive evidence. In our understanding of physics, there is no way for a hunk of space rock to make radio signals with a regular pattern. But to have its motion be slightly off from what we calculated is not positive evidence. Therefore not only is the idea not supported by the evidence but proposing the idea was not supported by the evidence.

The critical thing that separates new scientific ideas from normal speculation is that there must be positive evidence first. This is a minimum bar to separate science from non-science. Finding evidence of aliens is perfectly within the realm of science, but we must be careful because not all things can be positive evidence for aliens.

 

A flying saucer from outer space crash-landed in the Utah desert after being tracked by radar and chased by helicopters. The year was 2004, and no space aliens were involved. The saucer, pictured here, was the Genesis sample return capsule, part of a human-made robot Genesis spaceship launched in 2001 by NASA itself to study the Sun. The unexpectedly hard landing at over 300 kilometers per hour occurred because the parachutes did not open as planned.

41 COMMENTS

    • It would be a real tragedy if the space aliens said, “take me to your leader,” we took them to Pedo Joe and they vaporized both him and Ho.

  1. One of the more secretive military base is Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah. The few military personnel and dependents there call it Area 52. My son, the Medic, was cleared to visit any place there if needed. Extremely security conscience even with his wife and father, he did tell me, “Dad, there are no aliens here. There are things that would blow your mind but they are all man made”.

  2. Well hell, that blows all my fantasies and speculation right out the airlock. I was hoping (smoking hopeum) that there was an alien craft inbound. Seems out of character for two Harvard astronomers to make that certain of a declaration about an object that followed most of the parameters we understand as an asteroid and make fools of themselves, but, you are talking about Harvard… Don’t ya hate it to have to button that lip when someone is doing a service for you and you fear an outcome you didn’t want.

  3. My chemistry instructor in college, Dr. Wild Bill Fately, worked at area 52. His job was to do autopsy’s on any aliens. He said that every time somebody’s pet monkey died, they would shave it and send it to them. His words; “we had the biggest supply of bald dead monkeys the world has ever seen!” He was a hoot!

  4. One of my favorite Jesse Stone quotes: “If you’re not getting the answers you want, check your premises.”

    We have made great strides in understanding our universe, whether at microscopic level with DNA to what’s beyond our atmosphere and to some degree, solar system. God made us inquisitive for a reason. As for DNA, you’d have to be a total nutjob to commit murder, with Cold Cases being solved more and more, and fewer actually going cold. As for the universe exploration, what’s next may be epic.

    Very interesting read LL.

  5. I’m a little surprised at this analysis. Oumuamua’s clearly ACoC (Anglican Church of Canada), a lifeless, barren rock spinning out into the icy void of deep space. Of course it could also be a failed space alien spaceship, its communicator broken and incapable of course correction, the venerable Church of England, perhaps.

  6. Interesting how they were going to recover the Genesis capsule, using a helicopter to snatch a parasail out of the sky. Talk about perfect timing.

  7. Um, you can get naturally occurring radio signals from rock formations. Loud signals? No. But they are there.

    Yet another potential nail in the ‘aliens exist’ coffin.

    Too bad we couldn’t get a probe near Oumuamua. Would have been interesting to get some close-up video and analysis of whatever gasses were being outgassed.

    • Just wait, it’ll come around again…if it was alien life driving. Otherwise, it will remain one of those unexplained things we get to impose our own imaginations upon, be them right or wacko.

      All this UFO phenomena may be explainable, or could be interdimensional travelers popping in and out of our visual, or could be angelic beings checking in on us. I stand out on the front deck looking at the stars and voicing, “Hey, pretty good pasture for a landing, horses are in the corral…up to you.” Nothing. Instead they go to Arkansas and land in some bubba’s yard.

      • Then there is all that unwholesome probing. How many times must you probe to figure out what’s in there and what comes out?

          • In some groups in the US the probing space aliens would fit right in, which gives rise to the question of whether these subculture groups are actually ALL space aliens.

    • Had he lived a little longer, I think some of his positions would have been modified, but he was right about many things.

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