El estudioso mexicano Vidal Belduque nos envió el artículo que exhibimos más abajo, solicitándonos nuestra opinión.
Dada la índole del artículo y sus autores, así como la manera en que algunos sectores del público podrían tomar lo que el mismo expresa, consideramos oportuno no comentarlo en pocas frases, sino analizarlo detalladamente y producir nuestra reacción al mismo.
Las partes marcadas en amarillo son aquellas en que principalmente nos hemos centrado en nuestro comentario. Esperamos que les sea provechoso.
Sovereignty and the UFO
The Ohio State University
University of Minnesota
Although a metaphysical assumption, anthropocentrism is
of immense practical import, enabling modern states to command loyalty and
resources from their subjects in pursuit of political projects. It has limits,
however, which are brought clearly into view by the authoritative taboo on taking
UFOs seriously. UFOs have never been systematically investigated by science or
the state, because it is assumed to be known that none are extraterrestrial. Yet in
fact this is not known, which makes the UFO taboo puzzling given the ET
possibility. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and
Jacques Derrida, the puzzle is explained by the functional imperatives of
anthropocentric sovereignty, which cannot decide a UFO exception to
anthropocentrism while preserving the ability to make such a decision. The UFO
can be “known” only by not asking what it is.
Keywords: sovereignty; UFOs; state of exception; undecidability; epistemology
of ignorance; Agamben
An Anthropocentric Sovereignty
Few ideas today are as contested as sovereignty, in theory or in practice.
In sovereignty theory scholars disagree about almost everything—what
sovereignty is and where it resides, how it relates to law, whether it is divisible,
how its subjects and objects are constituted, and whether it is being
transformed in late modernity. These debates are mirrored in contemporary
practice, where struggles for self-determination and territorial revisionism
have generated among the bitterest conflicts in modern times.
Throughout this contestation, however, one thing is taken for granted:
sovereignty is the province of humans alone. Animals and Nature are
assumed to lack the cognitive capacity and/or subjectivity to be sovereign;
and while God might have ultimate sovereignty, even most religious fundamentalists
grant that it is not exercised directly in the temporal world. When
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sovereignty is contested today, therefore, it is always and only among
humans, horizontally so to speak, rather than vertically with Nature or God.
In this way modern sovereignty is anthropocentric, or constituted and organized
by reference to human beings alone.1 Humans live within physical
constraints, but are solely responsible for deciding their norms and practices
under those constraints. Despite the wide variety of institutional forms
taken by sovereignty today, they are homologous in this fundamental
Anthropocentric sovereignty might seem necessary; after all, who else,
besides humans, might rule? Nevertheless, historically sovereignty was less
anthropocentric. For millennia Nature and the gods were thought to have
causal powers and subjectivities that enabled them to share sovereignty
with humans, if not exercise dominion outright.2 Authoritative belief in
non-human sovereignties was given up only after long and bitter struggle
about the “borders of the social world,” in which who/what could be sovereign
depends on who/what should be included in society.3 In modernity
God and Nature are excluded, although in this exclusion they are also reincluded
as the domesticated Other. Thus, while no longer temporally sovereign,
God is included today through people who are seen to speak on Her
behalf. And while Nature has been disenchanted, stripped of its subjectivity,
it is re-included as object in the human world. These inclusive exclusions,
however, reinforce the assumption that humans alone can be
sovereign. In this light anthropocentric sovereignty must be seen as a contingent
historical achievement, not just a requirement of common sense.
Indeed, it is a metaphysical achievement, since it is in anthropocentric
Authors’ Note:We are grateful to an unusually large number of people for written comments
that improved this article significantly: Hayward Alker, Thierry Balzacq, Tarak Barkawi,
Michael Barkun, Jens Bartelson, Andreas Behnke, Janice Bially Mattern, Corneliu Bjola,
Aldous Cheung, Arjun Chowdhury, Pam Cuce, Jodi Dean, Kevin Duska, Nancy Ettlinger, Eric
Grynaviski, Ayten Gündogˇdu, Todd Hall, Eugene Holland, Bonnie Honig, Peter Katzenstein,
Sean Kay, Tahseen Kazi, Oded Lowenheim, Ramzy Mardini, Jennifer Mitzen, Nuno Monteiro,
Homeira Moshirzadeh, John Mowitt, Daniel Nexon, Irfan Nooruddin, Dorothy Noyes,
Jonathan Obert, Fabio Petito, Trevor Pinch, Sergei Prozorov, Mark Rodeghier, Diego Rossello,
Keven Ruby, Jacob Schiff, Allan Silverman, Frank Stengel, Michael Swords, Alexander
Thompson, Srdjan Vucetic, Ole Waever, Jutta Weldes, Hans Wendt, Rafi Youatt, and two
anonymous reviewers. The article also benefited from presentations at the University of
Chicago, Northwestern University, the Ohio State University, Ohio-Wesleyan University,
Princeton University, and the 2007 annual convention of the International Studies Association
in Chicago. The research assistance of Dane Imerman and Lorenzo Zambernardi is also
acknowledged. The article was inspired by a video of John Mack.
terms that humans today understand their place in the physical world. Thus
operates what Giorgio Agamben calls the “anthropological machine.”4
In some areas this metaphysics admittedly is contested. Suggestions of
animal consciousness fuel calls for animal rights, for example, and advocates
of “Intelligent Design” think God is necessary to explain Nature’s
complexity. Yet, such challenges do not threaten the principle that
sovereignty, the capacity to decide the norm and exception to it, must necessarily
be human. Animals or Nature might deserve rights, but humans
will decide that; and even Intelligent Designers do not claim that God exercises
temporal sovereignty. With respect to sovereignty, at least, anthropocentrism
is taken to be common sense, even in political theory, where it
is rarely problematized.5
This “common sense” is nevertheless of immense practical significance
in the mobilization of power and violence for political projects. Modern
systems of rule are able to command exceptional loyalty and resources
from their subjects on the shared assumption that the only potential sovereigns
are human. Imagine a counterfactual world in which God visibly
materialized (as in the Christians’ “Second Coming,” for example): to
whom would people give their loyalty, and could states in their present form
survive were such a question politically salient? Anything that challenged
anthropocentric sovereignty, it seems, would challenge the foundations of
In this article we develop this point and explore its implications for political
theory. Specifically, our intent is to highlight and engage critically the
limits of anthropocentric sovereignty. In doing so, we seek to contribute
to an eclectic line of critical theory of modern rule—if not sovereignty
per se—which problematizes its anthropocentrism, a line that connects
(however awkwardly and indirectly) Spinozan studies (including Donna
Haraway and Gilles Deleuze) to Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Jane
Bennett, and others.6We do so through the phenomenon of the Unidentified
Flying Object, or “UFO,”7 the authoritative disregard for which brings
clearly into view the limits of anthropocentric metaphysics.
We proceed in four sections. In the first, we describe an animating
puzzle—the “UFO taboo”—in order to set the empirical basis for our theoretical
intervention. In the next we make this taboo puzzling through an
immanent critique of the authoritative claim that UFOs are not extraterrestrial
(ET). Then, in the third section, we solve the puzzle through a theoretical
analysis of the metaphysical threat that the UFO poses to anthropocentric
sovereignty. We conclude with some implications for theory and practice.
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 609
A Puzzling Taboo
On March 30-31, 1990, two Belgian F-16s were scrambled to intercept
a large, unidentified object in the night sky over Brussels, which had been
observed by a policeman and ground-based radars. The pilots confirmed the
target on their radars (never visually) and achieved radar lock three times,
but each time it responded with violent turns and altitude changes, later
estimated to have imposed gravitational forces of 40gs. In a rare public
statement the Belgian defense minister said he could not explain the incident,
which remains unexplained today.8
One might expect unexplained incidents in NATO airspace to concern
the authorities, particularly given that since 1947 over 100,000 UFOs have
been reported worldwide, many by militaries.9 However, neither the scientific
community nor states have made serious efforts to identify them, the
vast majority remaining completely uninvestigated. The science of UFOs is
minuscule and deeply marginalized. Although many scientists think privately
that UFOs deserve study,10 there are no opportunities or incentives to
do it. With almost no meaningful variation, states—all 190+ of them—have
been notably uninterested as well.11 A few have gone through the motions
of studying individual cases, but with even fewer exceptions these inquiries
have been neither objective nor systematic, and no state has actually looked
for UFOs to discover larger patterns For both science and the state, it
seems, the UFO is not an “object” at all, but a non-object, something not
just unidentified but unseen and thus ignored.13
The authoritative disregard of UFOs goes further, however, to active
denial of their object status. Ufology is decried as a pseudo-science that
threatens the foundations of scientific authority,14 and the few scientists
who have taken a public interest in UFOs have done so at considerable cost.
For their part, states have actively dismissed “belief” in UFOs as irrational
(as in, “do you believe in UFOs?”), while maintaining considerable secrecy
about their own reports.15 This leading role of the state distinguishes UFOs
from other anomalies, scientific resistance to which is typically explained
sociologically.16 UFO denial appears to be as much political as sociological—
more like Galileo’s ideas were political for the Catholic Church than like
the once ridiculed theory of continental drift. In short, considerable work
goes into ignoring UFOs, constituting them as objects only of ridicule and
scorn. To that extent one may speak of a “UFO taboo,” a prohibition in the
authoritative public sphere on taking UFOs seriously, or “thou shalt not try
very hard to find out what UFOs are.”17
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Still, for modern elites it is unnecessary to study UFOs, because they are
known to have conventional—i.e., non-ET—explanations, whether hoaxes,
rare atmospheric phenomena, instrument malfunction, witness mistakes, or
secret government technologies. Members of the general public might
believe that UFOs are ETs, but authoritatively We know they are not.
In the next section we challenge this claim to knowledge. Not by arguing
that UFOs are ETs, since we have no idea what UFOs are—which are,
after all, unidentified. But that is precisely the point. Scientifically, human
beings do not know that all UFOs have conventional explanations, but
instead remain ignorant.
In this light a UFO taboo appears quite puzzling. First, if any UFOs were
discovered to be ETs it would be one of the most important events in human
history, making it rational to investigate even a remote possibility. It was
just such reasoning that led the U.S. government to fund the Search for
Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which looks for signs of life around
distant stars. With no evidence whatsoever for such life, why not study
UFOs, which are close by and leave evidence?18 Second, states seem eager
to “securitize” all manner of threats to their societies or their rule.19
Securitization often enables the expansion of state power; why not then
securitize UFOs, which offer unprecedented possibilities in this respect?
And finally, there is simple scientific curiosity: why not study UFOs, just
like human beings study everything else? At least something interesting
might be learned about Nature. Notwithstanding these compelling reasons
to identify UFOs, however, modern authorities have not seriously tried to
do so. This suggests that UFO ignorance is not simply a gap in our knowledge,
like the cure for cancer, but something actively reproduced by taboo.
Taking this taboo as a symptom, following Nancy Tuana,20 we inquire into
the “epistemology of [UFO] ignorance,” or the production of (un)knowledge
about UFOs and its significance for modern rule. We are particularly interested
here in the role of the state, while recognizing the story is also about
science.21 Thus, our puzzle is not the familiar question of ufology, “What are
UFOs?” but, “Why are they dismissed by the authorities?” Why is human
ignorance not only unacknowledged, but so emphatically denied? In short,
why a taboo? These are questions of social rather than physical science, and
do not presuppose that any UFOs are ETs. Only that they might be.
A Key Premise and the Argument in Short
First the argument. Adapting ideas from Giorgio Agamben, supplemented
by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, we argue that the UFO
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 611
taboo is functionally necessitated by the anthropocentric metaphysics of
modern sovereignty. Modern rule typically works less through sovereign
coercion than through biopolitics, governing the conditions of life itself.22
In this liberal apparatus of security, power flows primarily from the deployment
of specialized knowledges for the regularization of populations, rather
than from the ability to kill. But when such regimes of governmentality are
threatened, the traditional face of the state,23 its sovereign power, comes to
the fore: the ability to determine when norms and law should be suspended—
in Carl Schmitt’s terms, to “decide the exception.”24
The UFO compels decision because it exceeds modern governmentality,
but we argue that the decision cannot be made. The reason is that modern
decision presupposes anthropocentrism, which is threatened metaphysically
by the possibility that UFOs might be ETs. As such, genuine UFO
ignorance cannot be acknowledged without calling modern sovereignty
itself into question. This puts the problem of normalizing the UFO back
onto governmentality, where it can be “known” only without trying to find
out what it is—through a taboo. The UFO, in short, is a previously unacknowledged
site of contestation in an ongoing historical project to constitute
sovereignty in anthropocentric terms. Importantly, our argument here is
structural rather than agentic.25We are not saying the authorities are hiding
The Truth about UFOs, much less that it is ET. We are saying they cannot
ask the question.
Although we draw on theorists not associated with epistemic realism, a
key premise of our argument is that a critical theorization of the UFO taboo
in relation to modern rule is possible only if it includes a realist moment,
which grants to things-in-themselves (here the UFO) the power to affect
rational belief. To see why, consider Jodi Dean’s otherwise excellent Aliens
in America, one of the few social scientific works to treat UFOs as anything
more than figments of over-active imaginations.26 Like us, Dean emphasizes
that it is not known what UFOs are, leaving open the ET possibility.
But for her the significance of this ignorance is to exemplify the postmodern
breakdown of all modern certainties, such that scientific truth is now
everywhere a “fugitive”—not that it might be overcome by considering,
scientifically, the reality of UFOs.
In the UFO context such anti-realism is problematic, since its political
effect is ironically to reinforce the skeptical orthodoxy: if UFOs cannot be
known scientifically then why bother study them? As realist institutions,
science and the modern state do not concern themselves with what cannot
be known scientifically. For example, whatever their religious beliefs, social
scientists always study religion as “methodological atheists,” assuming that
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God plays no causal role in the material world. Anything else would be considered
irrational today; as Jürgen Habermas puts it, “a philosophy that
oversteps the bounds of methodological atheism loses its philosophical
seriousness.”27 By not allowing that UFOs might be knowable scientifically,
therefore, Dean implicitly embraces a kind of methodological atheism
about UFOs, which as with God shifts attention to human representations
of the UFO, not its reality.
Yet UFOs are different than God in one key respect: many leave physical
traces on radar and film, which suggests they are natural rather than
supernatural phenomena and thus amenable in principle to scientific investigation.
Since authoritative discourse in effect denies this by treating UFOs
as an irrational belief, a realist moment is necessary to call this discourse
fully into question. Interestingly, therefore, in contrast to their usual antagonism,
in the UFO context science would be critical theory. In this light
Dean’s claim that UFOs are unknowable appears anthropocentrically
monological. It might be that We, talking among ourselves, cannot know
what UFOs are, but any “They” probably have a good idea, and the only
way to remain open to that dialogical potential is to consider the reality of
the UFO itself.28 Failure to do so merely reaffirms the UFO taboo.
In foregrounding the realist moment in our analysis we mean not to foreclose
a priori the possibility that UFOs can be known scientifically; however,
we make no claim that they necessarily would be known if only they
were studied. Upon close inspection many UFOs do turn out to have conventional
explanations, but there is a hard core of cases, perhaps 25 to 30
percent, that seem to resist such explanations, and their reality may indeed
be humanly unknowable—although without systematic inquiry we cannot
say. Thus, and importantly, our overarching position here is one of methodological
agnosticism rather than realism, which mitigates the potential for
epistemological conflict with the non-realist political theorists we draw
upon below.29 Nevertheless, in the context of natural phenomena like UFOs
agnosticism can itself become dogma if not put to the test, which requires
adopting a realist stance at least instrumentally or “strategically,” and seeing
what happens.30 This justifies acting as if the UFO is knowable, while
recognizing that it might ultimately exceed human grasp.
Proving Our Ignorance
Our argument is that UFO ignorance is political rather than scientific. To
motivate this argument, however, we first need to critique UFO “skepticism”
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 613
as science.31 Science derives its authority from its claim to discover, before
politics, objective facts about the world. Since today these putative facts
include that UFOs are not ETs, we have to show that this fact is not actually
We consider very briefly the strongest arguments for UFO skepticism
and show that none justifies rejection of the ET hypothesis (ETH). Indeed,
they do not come close.32 It is not known, scientifically, that UFOs are not
ETs, and to reject the ETH is therefore to risk a Type II error in statistics,
or rejecting a true explanation. Of course, this does not mean that UFOs are
ETs, either (inviting a Type I error), but it shifts the burden of proof onto
skeptics to show that a Type II error has not been made.33 The UFO taboo
is then puzzling, and open to political critique.
“There is No Evidence”
Echoing Hume’s discussion of miracles, Carl Sagan once said about
UFOs that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and the
empirical evidence for the ETH is certainly not that. If there is any ET signal
in the noise of UFO reports it is very weak. However, some evidence
warrants reasonable doubt.
Physical evidence. Usually the first objection to the ETH is the lack of
direct physical evidence of alien presence. Some ET believers contest this,
claiming that the U.S. government is hiding wreckage from a 1947 crash at
Roswell, New Mexico, but such claims are based on conspiracy theories
that we shall set aside here. Not because they are necessarily wrong
(although they cannot be falsified in the present context of UFO secrecy),
but because like UFO skepticism they are anthropocentric, only now We
know that UFOs are ETs but “They” (the government) aren’t telling. Such
an assumption leads critique toward issues of official secrecy and away
from the absence of systematic study, which is the real puzzle. In our view
secrecy is a symptom of the UFO taboo, not its heart.
While there is no direct physical evidence for the ETH, however, there
is considerable indirect physical evidence for it, in the form of UFO anomalies
that lack apparent conventional explanations—and for which ETs are
therefore one possibility These anomalies take four forms: ground traces,
electro-magnetic interference with aircraft and motor vehicles, photographs
and videos, and radar sightings like the Belgian F-16 case. Such anomalies
cannot be dismissed simply because they are only indirect evidence for ETs,
since science relies heavily on such evidence, as in the recent discovery
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of over 300 extra-solar planets (and counting).35 For if UFO anomalies are
not potentially ETs, what else are they?
Testimonial evidence. Most UFO reports consist primarily of eyewitness
testimony. Although all observation is in a sense testimonial, by itself testimony
cannot ground a scientific claim unless it can be replicated independently,
which UFO testimony cannot. Such testimony is problematic in
other respects as well. It reports seemingly impossible things, much is of
poor quality, witnesses may have incentives to lie, honest observers may
lack knowledge, and even experts can make mistakes. In view of these
problems skeptics dismiss UFO testimony as meaningless.
Problems notwithstanding, this conclusion is unwarranted. First, testimony
should not be dismissed lightly, since none of us can verify for ourselves
even a fraction of the knowledge we take for granted.36 In both law
and social science, testimony has considerable epistemic weight in determining
the facts. While sometimes wrong, given its importance in society,
testimony is rejected only if there are strong reasons to do so. Second, there
is a very large volume of UFO testimony, with some events witnessed by literally
thousands of people. Third, some of these people were “expert witnesses”—
civilian and military pilots, air traffic controllers, astronauts,
astronomers, and other scientists. Finally, some of this testimony is corroborated
by physical evidence, as in “radar/visual” cases.
In short, the empirical evidence alone does not warrant rejecting the
ETH. It does not warrant acceptance either, but this sets the bar too high.
The question today is not “Are UFOs ETs?” but “Is there enough evidence
they might be to warrant systematic study?” By demanding proof of ETs
first, skeptics foreclose the question altogether.
“It Can’t Be True”
Given the inconclusiveness of the empirical record, UFO skepticism
ultimately rests on an a priori theoretical conviction that ET visitation is
impossible: “It can’t be true, therefore it isn’t.” Skeptics offer four main
arguments to this effect.
“We are alone.” Philosophers have long debated whether life exists
beyond Earth,37 but the debate has lately intensified in response to empirical
discoveries like extra-solar planets, water on Mars, and “extremophile” organisms
back home. A thriving discipline of astrobiology has emerged, and the
view that life exists elsewhere seems poised to become scientific orthodoxy.
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 615
However, this does not mean that (what humans consider) intelligent life
exists. The only evidence of that, human beings, proves merely that intelligence
like ours is possible, not probable. The Darwinian “Rare Earth
hypothesis” holds that because evolution is a contingent process, human
intelligence is a random accident, and the chances of finding it elsewhere
are therefore essentially zero.38
This is a serious argument, but there is a serious argument on the other side
too, going on within evolutionary theory itself, where the neo-Darwinian
orthodoxy is today being challenged by complexity theorists.39 Rather than
contingency and randomness, complexity theory highlights processes of selforganization
in Nature which tend toward more complex organisms. If the
“law of increasing complexity” is correct then intelligent life might actually
be common in the universe. Either way, today it is simply not known.
“They can’t get here.” Even if intelligent life is common, skeptics argue
it is too far away to get here. Relativity theory says nothing can travel faster
than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). Lower speeds impose a
temporal constraint on ET visitation: at .001 percent of light speed, or
66,960 miles per hour—already far beyond current human capabilities—it
would take 4,500 Earth years for ETs to arrive from the nearest star. Higher
speeds, in turn, impose a cost and energy constraint: to approximate light
speed a spaceship would need to use more energy than is presently consumed
in an entire year on Earth.
Physical constraints on inter-stellar travel are often seen as the ultimate
reason to reject the ETH, but are they decisive? Computer simulations suggest
that even at speeds well below light the colonization wave-fronts of
any expanding ET civilizations should have reached Earth long ago.40 How
long ago depends on what assumptions are made, but even pessimistic ones
yield ET encounters with Earth within 100 million years, barely a blip in
cosmic terms. In short, ETs should be here, which prompts the famous
“Fermi Paradox,” “Where are They?”41
Additionally, there are growing, if still highly speculative, doubts that
the speed of light is truly an absolute barrier.42 Wormholes—themselves
predicted by relativity theory—are tunnels through space-time that would
immensely shorten the distances between stars. And then there is the possibility
of “warp drive,” or engineering the vacuum around a spaceship,
enabling it to skip over space without time dilation.43 Speculative as these
ideas are, their scientific basis is sufficiently sound that research is currently
being funded through the “Breakthrough Propulsion Program” at
NASA. They may prove to be wrong or beyond human capacity. But if
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humans are imagining them just 300 years from our scientific revolution,
what might ETs 3,000 years, much less 3,000,000, from theirs be imagining?
“They would land on the White House lawn.” If ETs came all this way to
see us, why don’t they land on the White House lawn and introduce themselves?
After all, if humans encounter intelligent life in our own space
exploration, that’s what we would do. On this view, the fact that ETs have
not is evidence they are not here.
But is it? Again there is debate. The “embargo” or “zoo hypothesis” suggests
that ETs might have quarantined Earth as a wildlife preserve.44 Or, ETs
might be interested in contact, but want humans to discover their presence
ourselves to avert a violent shock to our civilization. Finally, even humans
might not land on the White House lawn. In the popular science fiction show
Star Trek, the Federation maintains a policy of “non-interference” toward
lower life forms; might not real space-faring humans adopt a similar policy?
Whatever the answer, debates about ET intentions have no scientific basis.
“We would know.” The last skeptical argument is an appeal to human
authority: with its panoptic surveillance of the skies the modern state would
know by now if ETs were here. Of course, conspiracy theorists think the
state does know, but there is no need to embrace this debatable proposition
to call the skeptical argument into question. First, skepticism assumes an
ability to know the UFO that may be unwarranted. If ETs have the capability
to visit Earth, then they may be able to limit knowledge of their presence.
Second, no authority has ever actually looked for UFOs, the effect of
which on what is seen should not be under-estimated. Finally, in view of
pervasive UFO secrecy more is probably known about them than is publicly
acknowledged. This does not mean what is known is ET, but it could provide
further reason to think so.
Given the stakes, ignoring UFOs only makes sense if human beings can
be certain they are not ETs. We have shown there is more than reasonable
doubt: the ETH cannot be rejected without significant risk of Type II error.
What is actually known about UFOs is that we have no idea what they are,
including whether they are alien; far from proving UFO skepticism, science
proves its ignorance. With so little science on either side, therefore, the UFO
controversy has been essentially theological, pitting ET believers against
unbelievers. In this fight, the unbelievers have secured the authority of
science, giving them decisive advantage. Their views are taken as fact, while
those of believers and agnostics are dismissed as irrational belief. Since
science does not actually justify rejecting the ETH, why would unbelief be
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 617
so hegemonic? The UFO taboo is puzzling, we submit, and demands a
deeper look at how its “knowledge” is produced.
Anthropocentrism and UFO Ignorance
Authoritative insistence on knowing the UFO only through ignorance is
necessitated by the threat it poses to the anthropocentric metaphysics of
modern rule. Within modern rule we focus specifically on sovereignty, but
in our conceptualization sovereignty cannot be understood without reference
to governmentality, which sets the normative context of sovereign
decision. Thus, in what follows we both begin and end with governmentality,
while keeping our remarks to a minimum in order to focus on the metaphysics
of sovereignty per se. In doing so we recognize that the relationship
between governmentality and sovereignty is contested among political theorists.
Focused on the specific problem of the UFO taboo, we do not take
sides in this debate except to accept the view that the two aspects of modern
rule are intertwined.
Governmentality, Sovereignty, and the Exception
In thinking about the problem of rule, political scientists have traditionally
focused on either individual agents or institutional structures, in both
cases treating government as a given object. In contrast, Foucault’s concept
of governmentality is focused on the “art of governing,” understood as the
biopolitical “conduct of conduct” for a population of subjects.45 Thus, governmentality
concerns the specific regime of practices through which the
population is constituted and (self-)regularized. “Modern” governmentality
marks a shift in discourses of rule away from the state’s sovereign power—
its ability to take life and/or render it bare—and toward its fostering and
regularizing of life in biopolitics. The object of government is no longer
simply obedience to the king, but regulating the conditions of life for
subjects. To this end biopolitics requires that the conditions of life of the
population be made visible and assayed, and practical knowledge be made
available to improve them. As a result, with modern governmentality we
see the emergence of both panoptic surveillance and numerous specialized
discourses—of education, political economy, demography, health, morality,
and others—the effect of which is to make populations knowable and
subject to the regularization that will make for the “happy life.”
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A constitutive feature of modern governmentality is that its discourses
are scientific, which means that science and the state are today deeply intermeshed.
Through science the state makes its subjects and objects known,
lending them a facticity that facilitates their regularization, and through the
state science acquires institutional support and prestige. Despite this symbiosis,
however, there is also an important epistemological difference
between the two. Science seeks, but knows it can never fully achieve, “the”
truth, defined as an apolitical, objective representation of the world. To this
end it relies on norms and practices that produce an evolving, always potentially
contested body of knowledge. The state, in contrast, seeks a regime
of truth to which its population will reliably adhere. Standards for knowledge
in that context privilege stability and normalization over the uncertain
path of scientific truth. Although science and the state are allied in the modern
UFO regime, we suggest in conclusion that this difference opens space for
critical theory and resistance.
Modern governmentality directs attention away from sovereign power
and toward the socially diffuse practices by which it is sustained. Yet as
Agamben reminds us,46 sovereignty remains important, because every
regime of governmentality has outsides, even while exceeding the capacity
for regularization. This outside is both external, in the form of actors not
subject to normalization, and internal, in the form of people’s capacity to
do otherwise (hence their need to be “governed”). Ordinarily these limits
do not severely threaten modern rule, but some exceed the capacity for
Schmitt calls such situations “states of exception”: “any severe economic
or political disturbance requiring the application of extraordinary
measures,” including abrogation of law by those who govern in its name.47
Extending and modifying Schmitt’s analysis, Agamben emphasizes a “zone
of indistinction” between the juridical order and the state of exception,
which is neither fully in nor outside the law. Thus, while sometimes constitutionally
recognized, the state of exception is “not a special kind of law,”
but necessarily transcends the law.48 In Sergei Prozorov’s terms, the state of
exception is a “constitutive outside” or “excess” to law that is the latter’s
condition of possibility.49 As such, for Agamben (if not for Schmitt) a state
of exception is always potentially there, even when not actually in force,
permanently contaminating the law. On the other hand, the state of exception
also belongs to the law, since it is by the latter’s limits and/or failure
that it is known. States of exception cannot be declared willy-nilly, but must
make sense within the regime of truth they would uphold. Thus, law and the
exception are co-constitutive rather than mutually exclusive.
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 619
“Sovereign is he who decides the exception.”50 Like the state of exception
it decides, sovereignty is both outside and inside law. On the one hand,
it is the ability to found and suspend a juridical order. To that extent sovereignty
transcends the law, its decisions seeming to come out of nowhere,
like a “miracle.”51 In saying this Schmitt emphasizes sovereignty’s omnipotence,
if not to realize its intentions then at least to decide them. However,
even Schmitt recognizes that sovereign decision is not literally a miracle,
but has conditions of possibility. Among Agamben’s contributions is in
showing that those conditions include the very corpus of law that is to be
suspended in the decision of the exception. In this way sovereignty is also
inside and limited by law.
Anthropocentrism and the Undecidability of the UFO
If the limits of the governmental regime are exposed, the sovereign generally
can be counted on to survey and to securitize the threat; that is after
all what its sovereignty is for. In this light the UFO is the proverbial dog
that didn’t bark, a potential threat not only un-securitized but never even
properly surveyed. About the UFO, in short, there has been no decision as
to its status as exception, only an ignoring. The reason, we argue, lies in the
triple threat that the UFO poses to modern rule, at once physical, ontological,
Exceptions presuppose an exterior. Because modern rule is grounded in
a scientific worldview that does not recognize the existence of supernatural
phenomena, this exterior is normally understood today in purely spatiotemporal
terms.52 Threats can then take two forms, physical threats to life
and ontological threats to identity or social being.53 Given sovereignty’s
need to transform the contingency of decision into taken-for-granted
authority, it is only by reference to the intrusion of such threats into its field
of visibility that the state of exception can be justified. Importantly, the sovereign
cannot decide the terms of its encounters with these intrusions, only
their status as exception.
On one level the UFO is a traditional spatio-temporal threat, because one
of the possibilities that we must countenance if we accept that the UFO is
truly unidentified is that its occupants are ETs—and that threatens both the
physical and ontological security of modern rule. The physical threat, of
course, is that ET presence in “our” solar system would indicate a vastly
superior technology to human beings’, raising the possibility of conquest
and even extermination. (In this respect it matters greatly that They might
be Here, rather than far away as in the SETI scenario.) The ontological
620 Political Theory
threat is that even if the ETs were benign, their confirmed presence would
create tremendous pressure for a unified human response, or world government.
The sovereign identity of the modern state is partly constituted in and
through its difference from other such states, which gives modern sovereignty
its plural character. Any exteriority that required subsuming this difference
into a global sovereignty would threaten what the modern state is,
quite apart from the risk of physical destruction.
It might be argued that these spatio-temporal threats alone can explain
the UFO taboo. On this view, by virtue of the possibility that UFOs are ETs,
the UFO calls into question the state’s claim to protect its citizens, which it
would be unwilling to admit. Because the threat is so grave, the only rational
response is to ignore the UFO. States are enabled in this policy by the
fact that UFOs do not (yet) interfere with the conditions of life of human
populations, and as such have not compelled recognition.
However, at least two considerations militate against reducing the UFO
threat to spatio-temporal terms. First, states show little reluctance to ignore
other existential threats; if immigrants, pandemics, and terrorists are readily
securitized, despite states’ inability to secure their populations from
them, then why are not UFOs? Second, given that UFOs do not interfere
with modern governance, and with no indication that states actually believe
the ETH, the UFO would seem cynically to be an ideal securitization issue.
Because it leaves physical traces it can be represented as if it were real, justifying
the growth of state power, even as states know the threat is imaginary.
To be sure states may have other worries—but then all the more
reason to stage a UFO threat to bolster their capacities. Thus, Hollywood
notwithstanding, in our view the threat of the UFO is not primarily alien
invasion or the black helicopters of world government. Challenges to the
“physics” of modern sovereignty are necessary conditions for the UFO
taboo, but they are not sufficient.
The UFO threat is different in the challenge it poses to the metaphysics of
modern sovereignty, which are fundamentally anthropocentric.54 Because the
contemporary capacity to command political loyalty and resources depends
upon it, the assumption of anthropocentrism must be unquestioned if modern
rule is to be sustained as a political project. As a condition of their own sovereignty,
therefore, before modern states can deal with threats to their physical
and ontological security, they must first secure this metaphysic.
How is this done? Sovereign decision is no help, since modern sovereignty
can only instantiate an anthropocentric metaphysic, not step outside
to decide the exception to it. So here modern sovereignty must give way to
governmentality, or authoritative procedures to make anthropocentrism
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 621
“known” as fact. In contrast to past processes of normalization in which the
visions of shamans or seers were taken to be authoritative, the standards of
knowledge in modern governmentality are primarily scientific. Thus, since
there is no scientific evidence for miracles, it is known that God does not
intervene in the material world. Similarly, since there is no evidence Nature
has subjectivity, it is known not to. Anthropocentrism will be secure until
scientific evidence to the contrary comes along.
An unknown that incorporates the possibility of ETs confounds this
metaphysical certainty, creating a situation in which its status as exception
cannot be decided. We develop this suggestion using Derrida’s concept of
“undecidability,”55 while arguing that the particular form undecidability
takes in the UFO case disrupts its usual operation.
Something is undecidable when it “does not conform to either polarity
of a dichotomy, (for example, present/absent, cure/poison, and inside/outside),”
but is both at once.56 Perhaps confusingly, undecidability does not
mean a decision cannot be made, but that a decision on which side of the
binary an undecidable belongs is compelled. Undecidability is a “condition
from which no course of action necessarily follows,”57 yet which requires a
decision to resolve oscillation between dichotomous poles. The UFO is
undecidable in this sense, and thus compels decision.
However, to “decide” an exception it would seem necessary for the sovereign
first to acknowledge the existence of a disturbance in its field of visibility
and try to determine what the disturbance is. “Decision,” in other
words, suggests an effort to know potential threats rather than merely reenact
the norm, if only to make better decisions—yet states have made no
meaningful effort to know the UFO. Disturbances may be acknowledged,
but then states have mostly abjured a scientific standpoint in favor of public
relations on behalf of the established regime of truth, re-affirming that We
already know what these (unidentified) objects are (not). The effect is to
constitute the UFO as un-exceptional, but not by “deciding.”58
This suggests that we need to look more closely at the moment of transition
from undecidability to the decision, or what Derrida calls the “logic
of the palisade,”59 which in this case does not seem to be automatic. More
specifically, we propose that the UFO compels a decision that, by the
modern sovereign at least, cannot be made. The reason is the particular
character of the UFO’s undecidability, at once potentially objective and
subjective, each pole of which poses a metaphysical challenge to anthropocentric
On the one hand, UFOs appear indeed to be objects, not necessarily in
the narrow sense of something hard and tangible, but in the broader sense
622 Political Theory
of natural processes that produce physical effects. The effects are subtle and
elusive, which means that UFOs are not unambiguously objects, but radar
anomalies and other physical traces suggest something objective is going on.
As unidentified object the UFO poses a threat of unknowability to
science, upon which modern sovereignty depends. Of course, there are
many things science does not know, like the cure for cancer, but its authority
rests on the assumption that nothing in Nature is in principle unknowable.
UFOs challenge modern science in two ways: (1) they appear random
and unsystematic, making them difficult to grasp objectively; and (2) some
appear to violate the laws of physics (like the 40g turns in the Belgian
F-16 case). This does not mean that UFOs are in fact humanly unknowable,
but they might be, and in that respect they haunt modern sovereignty with
the possibility of epistemic failure. To see how this might be uniquely
threatening it is useful to compare the UFO to three other cases of what
might be seen as unknowability.
One is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in quantum theory, which
acknowledges inherent limits on the ability to know sub-atomic reality.
Since the Uncertainty Principle has not stopped physicists from doing
physics, this might seem to undermine our claim that potential unknowability
precludes a decision on the UFO as object. Yet, there are known
unknowns and unknown unknowns, and here the two cases differ. Quantum
mechanics emerged in a highly structured context of extant theory and
established experimental results, and is a systematic body of knowledge
that enables physicists to manipulate reality with extraordinary precision.
With quantum theory we know exactly what we cannot know, enabling it to
be safely incorporated into modern science. The UFO, in contrast, emerges
in a context free of extant theory and empirical research, and raises fundamental
questions about the place of human beings in the universe. That we
might never know what we cannot know about UFOs makes their potential
objectivity more problematic for the modern project.
A different problem is presented by God, whose existence science also
declaims ability to know. Once fiercely contested, the notion that God can
be known only through faith not reason is today accepted by religious and
secular authorities alike. Since God is not potentially a scientific object,
science does not consider the question to be within its purview. Miracles are
recognized by the Church, but the criteria by which they are made authoritative
are not primarily scientific. UFOs, in contrast, leave unexplained
physical traces and as such fall directly within the purview of modern
science.60 It is one of the ironies of modern rule that it is far more acceptable
today to affirm publicly one’s belief in God, for whose existence there
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 623
is no scientific evidence, than UFOs, the existence of which—whatever
they might be—is physically documented.
Perhaps the best analogue to the epistemic threat posed by UFO objectivity
is extra-sensory perception or “psi.” Here we have a subtle and elusive
phenomenon that might be objective, and which raises similar worries
about unknowability for the modern episteme.61 And here too we see
tremendous resistance from the scientific community to taking it seriously.
Nevertheless, and interestingly, psi research has been undertaken by
states,62 suggesting that potential unknowability by itself does not preclude
sovereign decision, if, were the phenomenon to become known, it could
serve human purposes.
Indeed, were the UFO merely an object, it is hard to see that its potential
unknowability would preclude a decision on its status as exception. Qua
object, and only object, the UFO threatens neither the physical nor the ontological
security of modern rule, which we have argued are necessary conditions
for the metaphysical threat from UFOs to be realized. (In this
respect the UFO contrasts interestingly with the possibility of catastrophic
asteroid impacts, which in fact has been recently constituted as a physical
threat.)63 As with other anomalies there might be sociological resistance to
seeing UFOs, but if science does its job properly, the resistance should
break down and a serious effort to identify UFOs eventually undertaken.
Unlike some objects, however, the UFO might also have subjectivity (ETs).
In itself non-human subjectivity need not be a problem for anthropocentric
sovereignty. Although modernity is constituted by a general de-animation of
Nature, debates about animal consciousness raise anew the possibility that
subjectivity is not limited to humans.64 However, while it may generate anxiety,
65 animal subjectivity does not threaten modern rule either physically or
ontologically. Superior intelligence enabled humans long ago to domesticate
animals, ensuring that any subjectivity they might have will lie safely
“beneath” human rule. By virtue of being in the solar system, in contrast, ETs
might have vastly superior intelligence, literally “above” human rule, and
thus be sovereign deciders in their own right. To our knowledge no ETs have
shown themselves, which means the UFO is not unambiguously subjective
(either), but the failure of science to justify ruling out the ETH leaves open
the possibility, and that clearly does threaten anthropocentrism. As potential
subject, then, the UFO radically relativizes modern sovereignty, disturbing its
homologous character with the threat of unimagined heterogeneity, the sovereignty
of the fully alien (non-human) Other.
In short, the UFO poses threats to modern rule on both poles of the
object–subject dichotomy that constitutes its undecidability, making a
624 Political Theory
decision in favor of one or the other intrinsically problematic. These threats
are metaphysical in the sense of raising epistemological and ontological
doubts about the whole anthropocentric idea of modern rule, not just its
realizations in actually existing states—and it is the absolute taken-forgrantedness
of that idea upon which the ability to mobilize modern power
depends. From the standpoint of modern rule, therefore, the threat of the
UFO is not unlike that of the Christian’s Second Coming, a potential materialization
of the metaphysical.
It is the triple threat of the UFO that explains states’ very different
response to it compared to other disruptions of modern norms. By calling
into question the very basis of the modern sovereign’s capacity to decide its
status as exception, the UFO cannot be acknowledged as truly unidentified—
which is to say potentially ET—without calling into question modern sovereignty
itself. Thus, far from being a deus ex machina that, through the
decision, intervenes miraculously to safeguard the norm, modern sovereignty
is shown by the UFO to be itself a norm, of anthropocentrism—and
behind this norm no further agency stands. In this way the UFO exhibits not
the standard undecidability that compels a decision, but what might be
called a “meta”-undecidability which precludes it. The UFO is both exceptional
and not decidable as exception, and as a result with respect to it the
modern sovereign is performatively insecure. The insecurity is not conscious,
but operates at the deeper level of a taboo, in which certain possibilities
are unthinkable because of their inherent danger. In this respect
UFO skepticism is akin to denial in psychoanalysis: the sovereign represses
the UFO out of fear of what it would reveal about itself.66 There is therefore
nothing for the sovereign to do but turn away its gaze from—to ignore, and
hence be ignorant of—the UFO, making no decision at all. Just when
needed most, on the palisades, the sovereign is nowhere to be found.
Governmentality and the UFO Taboo
To this point we have concentrated on the question of “why?” the UFO
taboo, in response to which we have offered a structural answer about the
logic of anthropocentric sovereignty. However, there is a separate question
of “how?” the taboo is produced and reproduced, since structural necessity
alone does not make it happen. It takes work—not the conscious work of a
vast conspiracy seeking to suppress the truth about UFOs, but the work of
countless undirected practices that in the modern world make the UFO
“known” as not-ET. Bringing our argument full circle, this is the work of
modern governmentality, upon which the normalization of the UFO is
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 625
thrown back by the absent sovereign. Yet this work too is problematic,
because modern governmentality usually proceeds by making objects visible
so they can be known and regularized, which in the UFO case would be
self-subverting. Thus, what are needed are techniques for making UFOs
known without actually trying to find out what they are.
One might distinguish at least four such techniques: (1) authoritative
representations, like the U.S. Air Force’s claim that UFOs are “not a
national security threat,”67 the portrayal of ufology as pseudo-science, and
the science fictionalization of UFOs in the media; (2) official inquiries, like
the 1969 Condon Report, which have the appearance of being scientific but
are essentially “show trials” systematically deformed by a priori rejection
of the ETH;68 (3) official secrecy, which “removes knowledge” from the
system;69 and finally (4) discipline in the Foucauldian sense, ranging from
formal attacks on the “paranoid style” of UFO believers as a threat to modern
rationality,70 to everyday dismissal of those who express public interest
in UFOs, which generates a “spiral of silence” in which individuals engage
in self-censorship instead.71
Much could be said from a governmentality perspective about these
techniques, which are amply documented in the ufological literature, but
we lack the space to do so here. Instead, we have focused on explaining
why all this anti-UFO work is necessary in the first place, which goes to the
fundamental puzzle with which we began our argument: given the many
reasons to study UFOs, why aren’t they taken seriously? To answer this
question the specific techniques by which the UFO is normalized can be a
distraction, since ignorance is multiply realizable at the micro-level.
Notwithstanding the importance of governmentality to a critical theory of
anthropocentric rule, it is to the performative insecurity of modern sovereignty
that one must look first.
We have called ours a “critical” theory, in that it rests on a normative
assumption that the limits of modern rule should be exposed. In the present
context this means that human beings should try to know the UFO.
Although we believe the case for this presumption is over-determined and
overwhelming, it is not a case we can make here. Nevertheless, it seems
incumbent upon us to follow through on the practical logic of our theory,
so taking its desirability as given, in conclusion we address the question of
resistance to the UFO taboo.
626 Political Theory
The structuralism of our argument might suggest that resistance is futile.
However, the structure of the UFO taboo also has aporias and fissures that
make it—and the anthropocentric structure of rule that it sustains—potentially
One is the UFO itself, which in its persistent recurrence generates an
ongoing need for its normalization. Modern rule might not recognize the
UFO, but in the face of continuing anomalies maintaining such nonrecognition
requires work. In that respect the UFO is part of the constitutive,
unnormalized outside of modern sovereignty, which can be included
in authoritative discourse only through its exclusion.
Within the structure of modern rule there are also at least two fissures that
complicate maintaining UFO ignorance. One is the different knowledge
interests of science and the state. While the two are aligned in authoritative
UFO discourse, the state is ultimately interested in maintaining a certain
regime of truth (particularly in the face of metaphysical insecurity), whereas
science recognizes that its truths can only be tentative. Theory may be stubborn,
but the presumption in science is that reality has the last word, which
creates the possibility of scientific knowledge countering the state’s dogma.
The other fissure is within liberalism, the constitutive core of modern
governmentality. Even as it produces normalized subjects who know that
“belief” in UFOs is absurd, liberal governmentality justifies itself as a discourse
that produces free-thinking subjects who might doubt it.72 It is in this
context that we would place the recent disclosure by the French government
(and at press time the British too) of its long-secret UFO files (1,600
reports), including its investigations of selected cases, of which the French
acknowledge 25 percent as unexplained.7
3 Given that secrecy is only a contingent
feature of the UFO taboo, and that even the French are still far from
seeking systematic knowledge of UFOs, this disclosure is not in itself a
serious challenge to our argument. However, the French action does illustrate
a potential within liberalism to break with authoritative common
sense,74 even at the risk of exposing the foundations of modern sovereignty
The kind of resistance that can best exploit these fissures might be called
militant agnosticism. Resistance must be agnostic because by the realist
standards of modernity, regarding the UFO/ET question neither atheism nor
belief is epistemically justified; we simply do not know. Concretely, agnosticism
means “seeing” rather than ignoring the UFO, taking it seriously as
a truly unidentified object. Since it is precisely such seeing that the UFO
taboo forbids, in this context seeing is resistance. However, resistance must
also be militant, by which we mean public and strategic, or else it will
Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 627
indeed be futile. The reproduction of UFO ignorance depends crucially on
those in positions of epistemic authority observing the UFO taboo. Thus,
private agnosticism—of the kind moderns might have about God, for
example—is itself part of the problem. Only breaking the taboo in public
constitutes genuine resistance.
Even that is not enough, however, as attested by the long history of
unsuccessful resistance to the UFO taboo to date.75 The problem is that
agnosticism alone does not produce knowledge, and thus reduce the ignorance
upon which modern sovereignty depends. For a critical theory of
anthropocentric rule, therefore, a science of UFOs ironically is required,
and not just a science of individual cases after the fact, which can tell us
only that some UFOs lack apparent conventional explanations. Rather, in
this domain what is needed is paradoxically a systematic science, in which
observations are actively sought in order to analyze patterns from which an
intelligent presence might be inferred.76 That would require money, infrastructure,
and a long-term commitment of the kind that to date has been
possible only for epistemic authorities, or precisely those actors most resistant
to taking UFOs seriously. Still, given the potential disjunction of interest
between science and the state, it is possible here for science to play a
key role for critical theory. Whether such a science would actually overcome
UFO ignorance is unknowable today, but it is only through it that We
might move beyond the essentially theological discourse of belief and
denial to a truly critical posture.
Modern rule and its metaphysics are extraordinarily resilient, so the difficulties
of such resistance cannot be overstated. Those who attempt it will
have difficulty funding and publishing their work, and their reputations will
suffer. UFO resistance might not be futile but it is certainly dangerous,
because it is resistance to modern sovereignty itself. In this respect militant
UFO agnosticism is akin to other forms of resistance to governmentality;
however, whereas sovereignty has found ways of dealing with them, the
UFO may reveal an Achilles heel. Like Achilles, the modern sovereign is a
warrior whose function is to protect—in this case, from threats to the norm.
Unlike conventional threats, however, the UFO threatens humans’ capacity
to decide those threats, and so cannot be acknowledged without calling
modern sovereignty itself into question. To what extent that would be desirable
is a large normative question which we have bracketed here.77 But taking
UFOs seriously would certainly embody the spirit of self-criticism that
infuses liberal governmentality and academia in particular, and it would,
thereby, foster critical theory. And indeed, if academics’ first responsibility
is to tell the truth, then the truth is that after sixty years of modern UFOs,
628 Political Theory
human beings still have no idea what they are, and are not even trying to
find out. That should surprise and disturb us all, and cast doubt on the structure
of rule that requires and sustains it.
Comentario a “Sovereignty and the UFO” de los profesores Alexander Wendt y Raymond Duvall - por el Mgtr. Milton W. Hourcade
En 21 páginas los autores desarrollan una típica exhibición de intelectualidad, pero carente de sustancia y sobre todo, de conocimiento del tema que abordan.
Ni Wendt ni Duvall han investigado en sus vidas una denuncia de OVNI, ni tienen la más pálida idea de lo que es investigar, analizar, concluir, cotejar datos y educarse en la lectura de muchos y buenos libros donde se aprende a tener nociones de Astronomía, Física, Fotografía, Psicología, etc. Y sobre todo, a separar lo falso de lo verdadero y a aplicar el método científico.
Antropocentrismo y soberanía
Los autores dicen que la soberanía es antropocéntrica, y esta es una afirmación tautológica. Podrían decir simplemente que es una creación humana, como tantas otras. La física, la química, la astronomía, la música, la pintura, el arte en general, la política, todo es producto del ser humano, pero no hay tal “centrismo”, sino un ajuste a la realidad.
Todo es elaborado, creado y hecho por humanos para humanos. Acusar a eso de “centrismo” es verdaderamente absurdo a menos que se pretenda crear una categoría de hipotéticos seres inteligentes no-humanos ante los cuales el antropocentrismo sería una forma implícita de discriminación por no tenérseles en cuenta o negar su existencia.
Hasta ahora, no existe una sola prueba con valor científico de que sea necesario rendir pleitesía a la supuesta existencia de seres inteligentes no humanos.
La soberanía no tiene nada que ver con platillos volantes. La soberanía es una consecuencia directa de la libertad y la ejercen los estados para decidir sus propios asuntos en forma totalmente independiente de otros estados.
La soberanía afirma la independencia de cualquier otro poder o estado.
La soberanía permite elaborar leyes y decretos y mantener el orden interno de una nación.
Si los autores se atreven a sugerir que la soberanía de las naciones se vería vulnerada ante la presencia de un poder extraño (v.g. “extraterrestre”) nuevamente los autores caen en pura especulación y parecen regodearse en la idea de esa vulneración de la soberanía.
Afirman que “la soberanía es la provincia de los humanos solamente”. ¿Y de quién habría de ser si no? Al parecer los autores sustentan esta ridiculez afirmando que “Se supone que los animales y la naturaleza carecen de capacidad cognitiva y/o subjetividad para ser soberanos.”
Aquí rayan ya en el dislate total.
Los autores agradecen a una nómina de personas que les han hecho llegar sus comentarios. Son 50 en total, y de ellos, sólo dos (de los cuales desconocemos sus comentarios) están vinculados al tema UFO, a saber: Mark Rodeghier y Michael Swords. Los restantes 48 no son investigadores ni estudiosos del tema, y hasta donde conozco y sé, ninguno es conocido en el ámbito ufológico.
Agregan que su artículo “fue inspirado por un video de John Mack”. Ni siquiera por la lectura de su libro, simplemente un video. Una base muy débil para cualquier trabajo serio sobre el tema.
Pero estos profesores están centrados en cuestionar la soberanía, como cuestión política y metafísica, ese es su verdadero objetivo, y el tema UFO es una especie de excusa de elección finalmente equivocada, para plantear su argumento.
Así hablan de la “amenaza metafísica que el UFO plantea a la soberanía antropocéntrica”, lo cual es una situación hipotética que no tiene base alguna.
Argumentando a favor de algo no-humano, los autores llegan a decir que “desde 1947 más de 100.000 UFOs han sido denunciados en todo el mundo”. Pero no se detienen siquiera por un instante a pensar que lo que sustancialmente importa no es la cantidad de denuncias sino cuántas de esas denuncias fueron capaces de quedar en pie luego de una investigación y análisis sobre bases científicas, aplicando el rasero de Occam.
“Sin embargo, ni la comunidad científica ni los estados han hecho serios esfuerzos para identificarlos”. Aquí vuelven a equivocarse por ignorancia.
A esta altura del artículo no mencionan al “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects” conducido por la Universidad de Colorado bajo contrato con la Fuerza Aérea de Estados Unidos.
Este estudio, estuvo dirigido por el prestigioso físico Dr. Edward U. Condon y en él participó un equipo científico multidisciplinario.
Personalmente y en su momento analicé a fondo y discutí varios aspectos de dicho estudio (ver mi libro: “Fenómeno OVNI: desafío a la Ciencia”). Los autores hacia el final de su trabajo lo mencionan sólo para encajarlo dentro de una política de silencio.
Pero no se puede desconocer el trabajo realizado, que en la publicación del The New York Times, comprende un libro 963 páginas escritas con pequeña letra de tamaño 1 em.
Desconocen el trabajo del GEIPAN francés, un organismo totalmente científico dedicado a la investigación y estudio del tema. Desconocen el estudio secreto por décadas hasta que fue dado a conocer públicamente, llevado a cabo por la Inteligencia de la Real Fuerza Aérea del Reino Unido, desconocen –por supuesto—el trabajo de la CEFAE y ahora CIAE de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina.
Así, se atreven a seguir diciendo: “Con variaciones no significativas, los estados –todos los 190+ de ellos- han sido notoriamente desinteresados asimismo. Unos pocos han ido a través de las propuestas de estudiar casos individuales, pero aún con pocas excepciones esas averiguaciones no han sido objetivas ni sistemáticas y ningún estado ha observado realmente a los UFOs para descubrir grandes patrones.”
Esta afirmación es temeraria y una vez más revela la ignorancia de los autores en el tema.
Además, referirse a “descubrir grandes patrones” me trae en el recuerdo a lo que en su tiempo hizo Aimé Michel, que terminó en un gran fiasco.
Los tales “grandes patrones” son una suposición sin sustentación fáctica alguna.
Su osadía no se detiene allí sino que se atreven a criticar al programa científico SETI “que busca por signos de vida en torno a distantes estrellas. Sin evidencia alguna sobre tal vida, ¿por qué no estudiar los UFOs, que están cercanos y dejan evidencia?”
Este argumento lo he leído en páginas web que comercian con el tema UFO y en comentarios de fanáticos del mito E.T.
Me da la impresión que estos intelectuales han sido pésimamente orientados por amigos personales o por algunos personajes nefastos que sostienen el mito extraterrestre, y les han dado “argumentos” que ellos repiten sin siquiera analizar la falta de lógica e incoherencia de los mismos.
Los autores afirman –una vez más desde su desconocimiento del tema y su tratamiento—“¿Por qué son descartados por las autoridades? ¿Por qué la ignorancia humana no sólo no es reconocida sino enfáticamente ignorada? En breve, ¿por qué un tabú?.
Si los autores supieran del tema, de cómo empezó, quién creó la sigla UFO, y a qué se le llamó inicialmente UFO en Estados Unidos, se darían cuenta que las autoridades no descartaron el tema, ni lo hicieron tabú.
Y aquí llega el meollo del tema que estos expertos en Ciencias Políticas pretenden argumentar y para lo cual, utilizan el tema UFO como pretexto.
Es entonces cuando afirman que el antropocentrismo “está amenazado metafísicamente por la posibilidad de que los UFOs sean ETs.” Como consecuencia de ello, esgrimen que por eso el tema UFO no se estudia (lo cual no es cierto).
Y continúan en esta línea al expresar: “Al no permitir que los UFOs puedan ser científicamente conocidos…” --lo cual es una falsa premisa--, luego insisten en que “muchos dejan trazas físicas o en el radar y film, lo cual sugiere que son naturales más bien que fenómenos supernaturales y por tanto pasibles en principio a investigación científica.”
Aquí cometen otro error conceptual grave al decir que porque los UFOs “dejan trazas físicas o en el radar” son “naturales y no supernaturales”. Se les olvidó decir que son artificiales. Porque los aviones, helicópteros, etc. son captados por radar, ¡pero no son naturales!
Estos profesores creen que nadie investiga científicamente el tema UFO, y menos los estados, oficialmente. Quienes estamos en el tema sabemos que se equivocan totalmente.
El problema del residuo
Al mejor estilo de los que se autotitulan de “ufólogos”, los autores parten de dos premisas falsas: a) los UFOs son entidades específicas, determinadas y como tales existen; y b) el corazón del tema está en los casos no explicados.
Como ejemplo citan las observaciones de un triángulo volante en Bélgica, al 30 y 31 de Marzo de 1990 y dicen que “permanece inexplicado hasta hoy”. El artículo que presentan es de 2008, y la explicación del caso se dio en 2011.
Así dicen: “Luego de una inspección minuciosa muchos UFOs resultan tener explicaciones convencionales, pero hay un núcleo duro de casos, quizás 25 o 30 por ciento, que parece resistir tales explicaciones”.
La más reciente información procedente del GEIPAN, reduce a los no identificados en un 3,5%.
En la experiencia de 50 años ininterrumpidos de investigación en Uruguay, el CIOVI admitió que –por diferentes causas—los “no identificados” iban de un 0,5 a un 1 %.
En la experiencia de la CEFAE, ahora CIAE, de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina, luego de la investigación de cada denuncia de UFO aplicando la ciencia, lo no identificado es 0%.
Y si bien los autores en una parte de su artículo dicen “no tenemos idea de lo que sean los UFOs”, luego se lanzan a la afirmación de lo extraterrestre.
“Nuestro argumento es que la ignorancia de los UFOs es política más que científica…..Consideramos muy brevemente los argumentos más fuertes para el escepticismo sobre los UFOs y mostramos que ninguno justifica el rechazo a la hipótesis ET.”
Y siguen: “Habitualmente la primer objeción a la HET es la falta de evidencia física directa de la presencia alienígena. Algunos creyentes en los ET contestan esto declarando que el gobierno de EE.UU está ocultando restos de una caída en Roswell, Nuevo México, en 1947, pero tales declaraciones están basadas en teorías conspirativas que dejaremos de lado aquí. No porque necesariamente estén equivocadas sino porque, como el escepticismo sobre los UFOs, son antropocéntricas.”
Prosiguen diciendo: “En tanto no hay una evidencia física directa para la ETH, sin embargo, hay considerable evidencia física indirecta para ello en la forma de UFO anomalías que aparentemente carecen de explicaciones convencionales –y para las cuales los ETs son entonces una posibilidad. Esas anomalías toman cuatro formas: trazas en el suelo, interferencia electro-magnética con aviones y motores de vehículos, fotografías y videos, y observaciones por radar como el caso belga de los F-16.”
Y atención a esto: “Tales anomalías no pueden ser descartadas simplemente porque son sólo evidencia indirecta para los ETs, dado que la ciencia descansa ampliamente en tal evidencia en el reciente descubrimiento de más de 300 planetas extrasolares (y contando). Porque si las anomalías no son potencialmente ETs, ¿qué otra cosa son?” preguntan desafiantes, a la vez que muestran haberse rendido al mito.
De paso, actualmente los planetas extrasolares llegan a la cifra de más de 4 mil, aunque directamente observados son unos pocos, y la mayoría son inferidos.
Más adelante los autores culminan su razonamiento expresando: “Brevemente, la evidencia empírica sola no garantiza rechazar la HET. Tampoco garantiza aceptación, pero esto coloca la barra muy alta. La pregunta hoy no es “¿Son los UFOs ETs? Sino ¿hay suficiente evidencia que pueda garantizar un estudio sistemático?” Y de mi punto de vista, la respuesta es no.
No hay suficiente evidencia de que los UFOs como tales existan. Pueden existir aparatos volantes no convencionales producidos por algún país o por empresas privadas. Puede existir algún tipo de fenómeno natural poco conocido o aún en estudio. Pero el UFO como tal es una categoría preterida ya.
Respecto al porcentaje de casos no explicados, ese pretendido “núcleo duro” de que hablan los autores del artículo, considero muy oportuno transcribir los conceptos expresados por el Comodoro (R) Rubén Lianza, de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina, quien dirige el Centro de Identificación Aero-Espacial (CIAE).
“En ese sentido, resulta muy aventurado y hasta prematuro elaborar cualquier hipótesis basada solamente en un Caso No Resuelto, dado que su no-resolución no es garantía de nada, ni de origen ordinario, ni de origen extraordinario.
Cuando aparecen noticias de un caso “No Identificado” por un Gobierno, en lugar de enviar un mensaje de “temporariamente no identificado” algunos parecen interpretarlo siempre como “definitivamente no identificable”. Pero esa mala interpretación no es de los Gobiernos, sino de la gente, especialmente de aquellos que están ansiosos por una “homologación” oficial de su hipótesis favorita.
En todo proceso investigativo con la suficiente cantidad de casos, siempre habrá un porcentaje de ellos que quedará sin resolver, no necesariamente porque el objeto sea paranormal o extraordinario sino simplemente por falta de datos. Existen accidentes sin resolver, existen crímenes sin resolver, pero su falta de resolución (incluso por Organismos Oficiales) NO es garantía de que dichos crímenes hayan sido cometidos por seres paranormales o con poderes mágicos. La mera presencia de ese residuo de casos no resueltos, en realidad no aporta nada valioso al conocimiento humano, al menos hasta que el objeto pase a ser “Identificado”.”
Los autores vuelven a reiterar que “ninguna autoridad jamás realmente ha buscado UFOs, el efecto de lo cual sobre lo que es visto, no puede ser subestimado.”
En una palabra: la falsa afirmación que hacen les sirve de trampolín para decir que esa actitud de las autoridades tiene un efecto aplastante sobre quienes denuncian haber visto algo extraño.
Esto no es así, y de eso dan cuenta la cantidad de lo que técnicamente llamamos “denuncias de UFO”, o “UFO reports”.
La amenaza a la soberanía
“A un nivel el UFO es una tradicional amenaza espacio-temporal, porque una de las posibilidades que debemos enfrentar si aceptamos que el UFO es verdaderamente no identificado, es que sus ocupantes son ETs y eso amenaza tanto la seguridad física como ontológica del orden moderno.”
Siguiendo con esa forma de pensar los autores dicen: “Sobre esta visión, y en virtud de la posibilidad de que los UFOs sean ETs, el UFO cuestiona la declaración del estado de proteger a sus ciudadanos, lo que no desearía admitir. Porque la amenaza es tan grave, la única respuesta racional es ignorar al UFO.”
Ellos presuponen lo inexistente como existente.
Por otro lado vuelven a insistir con que “no obstante, los estados no han hecho un esfuerzo significativo para conocer el UFO.”
Por otro lado, y gratuitamente llegan a afirmar: “El UFO…..plantea interrogantes fundamentales acerca del lugar de los seres humanos en el universo.” Esto no es sólo totalmente especulativo, sino que presupone la existencia de una inteligencia superior que con su sola presencia nos cuestionaría.
Para ello vuelven a afirmar que “Los UFOs, en contraste, dejan trazas físicas inexplicadas…los UFOs, cuya existencia –cualquiera pueda ser—está físicamente documentada.”
Los autores imaginan cosas extraordinarias, y creen en ellas como para insistir en que a la humanidad los UFOs le plantean una especie de “jaque mate”.
73 años han pasado del caso que lo comenzó todo. El tema UFO siempre tuvo el desarrollo inicial de una nueva etapa o variante en los Estados Unidos, y eso tiene que hacer pensar.
El artículo dice: “si la ciencia hace su tarea adecuadamente, la resistencia se quebrará y un serio esfuerzo por identificar a los UFOs finalmente será emprendido”.
Ese esfuerzo está emprendido y ya lleva años. El CIAE es un claro y contundente ejemplo. Pero no sólo en la Argentina hay investigadores ubicados en la línea de la identificación aeroespacial, que es el más acertado enfoque que ha tomado el tema, también los hay en Chile y en México. Y yo en Estados Unidos también estoy en esa línea, además de tener la distinción de haber sido designado como Asesor Internacional honorario del CIAE.
Los autores expresan al final de su artículo: “lo que se necesita es paradójicamente una ciencia sistemática, en la cual las observaciones sean activamente buscadas a fin de analizar patrones de los cuales se pueda inferir una presencia inteligente”.
El problema es que cuando se ejerce lo que ellos mismos demandan, una investigación científica seria y responsable, los UFOs desaparecen, y entonces no hay “patrones de los cuales se pueda inferir una presencia inteligente”.
Lo que sí se puede inferir es cómo sigue actuando el mito ET en la sociedad. La influencia que en ello tienen los medios, y cómo la gente en general da más atención a la fantasía que a la realidad. Porque, si bien la mentira tiene un poder especial al excitar la imaginación, al final de todo, la verdad es lo único que cuenta.
Milton W. Hourcade, Iowa City,
1º de Febrero de 2021.