Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

01 July 2007

Flying Objects

Do you believe in UFO's? Such an emotional issue, such passion on both sides. I know plenty of people who summarily dismiss even the possibility of UFOs as childish rubbish not even worthy of discussion. And yet others believe just as vehemently in their existence.

I used to live in one of the nation's hot-spots for UFO sightings. The Pensacola suburb of Gulf Breeze, Florida was the home of Ed Walters, a building contractor who claimed to have sighted and been visited by aliens on numerous occasions beginning in 1987. He even took photographs of their craft, the authenticity of which is still debated to this day. His story was chronicled in the book, "The Gulf Breeze Sightings."

There is a segment of society that vigorously, fervently debunks any such "flying saucer" stories. The debunkers went after Walters with great gusto. He was branded as a kook and a faker, and is still regarded rather unkindly in some circles. We haven't heard much from Walters lately, and in fact reports of UFO sightings have dropped off too.

For as long as I lived in Gulf Breeze and the Pensacola area (which was during Walters’ purported sightings), I never saw a single UFO. As a pilot, my eyes are always turned skyward (watching planes, the weather, etc.). But I've never seen anything even remotely puzzling or inexplicable. Some of my friends have though. They've seen lights that behaved in very strange, non-customary ways - at least, non-customary as we currently understand physics. And my friends are debatably not idiots or LSD-takers; they typically do not wear hats of tin-foil. You can read more about the Gulf Breeze controversy
here. I think it gives a fairly objective overview of the events.

I bring this up because in his blog, a friend of mine (and current helicopter pilot for PHI), Hal Johnson has a link to another blog by a guy named Kevin Randle. Randle is a former Viet Nam helicopter pilot and author who's been involved in the subject of UFO's since the 1970's. Randle's blog is called, "
A Different Perspective."

As far as modern "Ufology" is concerned, it all starts with an incident near Roswell, New Mexico back in June of 1947 (as the U.S. Army Air Forces was becoming the separate U.S. Air Force).

Now, depending on whom you believe, either an alien spaceship or a weather/spy balloon crashed on a ranch outside of Roswell. Either bodies were recovered or they weren't. The debate rages still. Kevin Randle is one of the foremost authorities on the Roswell incident. It is a subject of which he will not let go. His books stand alone in their steadfast adherence to known facts, not rumor or innuendo or hearsay and avoidance of hyperbole. He is baffled by the discrepancies in all of the stories, both official and unofficial.

To me, the most curious thing about about "Roswell" is that it happened before the invention of the Mighty American Spin Machine, before the days of smooth, slick public relations and disinformation campaigns. Indeed, Roswell may have been the impetus for them.

The discovery of an alien spaceship crash must have been huge news to the local military brass! The head of the Army Air Force base must have thought that this revelation would surely be greeted with great worldwide enthusiasm and excitement. So Air Intelligence Officer Major Jesse Marcel was directed to issue a press release stating that an alien disk had been found. Marcel had actually been out to the site and had seen the wreckage with his own eyes. But within days, this story was changed to say merely that a "weather balloon" had crashed.

Huh? Say what?

That's the thing that has always struck me as odd. Why would the military initially claim that a spaceship had crashed and been found? These guys weren't dummies; Roswell was a base for bombers with nuclear weapons (the 509th Bomb Group, the same one that dropped the atomic bombs on Japan). Major Marcel was not some uneducated, gullible boob private with a big imagination. Surely he could tell the difference between a weather balloon and "something else." But no, the military said that he was mistaken. Subsequently, he said he was mistaken too. He retracted his "alien spaceship" story and went with the weather balloon story.

Okay, back on topic, please. People are divided into two camps: Those who believe in UFO's and those who don't. But I think the real questions should be, "Do you believe in the possibility of alien life? Or are we 'it?’ Are we God's only living creation in the universe?" Which actually begs the question, "If you believe in God, whom you cannot see or prove the existence of, do you also believe in UFO's?"

Like I said, I've never seen a UFO. But I am open to the possibility that we are not the only life form in the universe. In other words, I don't dismiss them out of hand as so many do. I cannot prove they exist, but I won’t swear that they don’t.


David said...

Multiple "Nerve Strikes" there Bob,

Gov, Mil, Spin and UFO's? They all go together don't they? LOL!

"WE" can't be all there is in an infinite universe.

My $0.02

PS: How else would we explain Bowie?!

Hal Johnson said...

I'm with ya, Bob: of all of the stuff that came out of the Roswell incident, the one thing that leaves me scratching my head the most is the fact that Major Marcel made his initial statement about a spaceship, then retracted his claim.

I'm sort of a fence sitter on UFO's, but I suppose if you were to put a gun to my head and yell, "Decide, dammit!" I'd put my big toe on the believer side of the fence. Why? Well, I'll probably have to commit a minor ripoff of your blog post, and post my own entry with an explanation.

And y'know, David may be onto something with that Bowie thing.

Redlefty said...

I believe in God, and I also believe there are other intelligent beings in the universe. Lots of them, actually.

My sentiments align with Carl Sagan, who after getting a handle on the size of the universe, said it would be an "awful waste of space" if we were the only sentient beings.

Whether or not the UFO sightings and/or Roswell incident are examples of alien visitation... I really am undecided. It's fascinating to study and ponder, though!

Bob Barbanes said...

Redlefty, funny you mention Carl Sagan. I remember one episode of "Cosmos" in which he calculated the odds of life existing elsewhere in the universe and considered them to be too, err...astronomical (to make an awful pun) to think that there is. Which was disheartening for me. I thought the odds would sort of favor it. I agree that it would be an awful waste of space.

But when you think about it...not to get all spiritual or anything...but for those of us who do believe in God, given how immense the universe is supposed to be, why did He make it so big and only put tiny little *us* in it? Doesn't make logical sense, does it? Couldn't He have economized and just made the Milky Way galaxy and left it at that?

No, I've gotta believe that, to coin a phrase, we are not alone.

And finally, no matter what *did* happen at Roswell, it is curious that there are *still* so many questions and discrepancies, all these years later.

Hal Johnson said...

For me, it's almost mind-boggling to contemplate that, in the whole universe, we're IT. I wasn't aware of Sagan's statement.

Redlefty said...

Fascinating, Bob -- I had seen a few of those formulae for estimating the probability of intelligent E.T. life, but didn't know about Sagan's conclusions.

It makes me laugh, though, because in the formulae I've seen, every single factor in the equation is a complete SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess). If you take a guess, and multiply it by a guess, to a factor of another guess... it usually doesn't work out very well. Sagan sure was a smart dude, though, so I'm curious about his approach.

I've worked for companies who use a similar SWAG multiplication process for financial forecasts. Didn't work well for them either. :)

Funny that even though I'm usually extremely pragmatic and empirical, this is a case where I get a hint of the universe's size and simply say, "It's too freakin' big. There's somebody else out there. And they're surely too far away to ever find us, but they're out there."

Anonymous said...

I missed a class this afternoon and I ended up spending the day reading your blog from day one. You're a very gifted writer. Or maybe I'm biased because I love aviation. Don't matter. Everyone else seems to agree.

Re: Carl Sagan

I'm not aware of his position on this. As far as I know he was always searching for E.T. His movie Cosmos was one of the most spiritual movies I ever watched and it touched on everything from God to politics to E.T.

Anyway sorry to backtrack this far. Hope you don't mind.

Bob Barbanes said...

Rodolfo, you've got me going back and re-reading stuff I wrote years ago...that would be kinda like forcing Paul McCartney to sing "Please Please Me" again in a concert today. (Oh wait...he already does that?) Okay, maybe the Beatles comparison is unfair. But truly, in blog terms, a post that's a year old is more stale than Tom Green's career.

Which is the long way to say thank you for the compliment.

I just regret that you wasted so much time reading this crap that it caused you to miss a class. I hope it wasn't Sex Ed.!

I don't know whether Carl Sagan ever modified his position re: other life in the universe. After all, the television episode of "Cosmos" I was referring to first aired in 1980, and Sagan didn't die until 1996. Still, his calculations lead him (and us) to a conclusion that it was highly unlikely from a mathematical standpoint that there was life on other planets, although not impossible.

Now, please do not miss any more class. But if you'd like to discuss this further, maybe you could, as Rodney famously said to Sally Kellerman's character in "Back To School," call me when you have no class.