Scientists Unswayed by Discoveries from the Pentagon’s UFO Program

UFO, Harry Reid
Former Senator Harry Reid superimposed over screen capture of UFO sighting. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Warrior Poet YouTube and Senate Democrats / Wikimedia.
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The New York Times’ bombshell report this week on the Pentagon’s classified UFO program rekindled a longstanding American belief in the possibility of alien visits.

Mystique about interstellar encounters attracts a far broader contingent than just UFO enthusiasts. In the decade after World War II, the US experienced such a surge in reported UFO sightings that the government created Project Blue Book to examine the phenomenon. From 1952 to 1969, Air Force personnel reviewed 12,618 incidents and concluded that 701 remained “unidentified,” though not definitively extraterrestrial or dangerous.

But by the turn of the century, 80 percent of the country thought the government was concealing evidence of extraterrestrial existence, according to a 1997 CNN/Time poll conducted on the 50th anniversary of a reported UFO sighting in Roswell, New Mexico.

One avid believer in alien visits is former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who initiated and secured the funds for the recently revealed Pentagon project. Established in 2007, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), is a $22 million initiative to investigate the origins of observed UFOs. The bulk of the money went to Bigelow Aerospace, a Nevada-based research company headed by Reid’s longtime friend and fellow believer, Robert Bigelow. One of the more shocking disclosures from the Times story is that the company converted several Las Vegas buildings into warehouses to store debris from “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

Though the Department of Defense eventually terminated funding in 2012 to invest in more pressing issues, officials continued to collect and investigate footage of reported sightings. A heavily scrutinized clip shows a Navy pilot tailing an aircraft enclosed in a glowing aura, apparently traveling and rotating at an astonishing speed.

Videos of this sort led Luis Elizondo, head of the Pentagon’s UFO Unit, to say that “there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone.”

Scientists are less convinced. Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said the object in one bit of footage may just be a reflection; astronomer Seth Shostak suggested that the decision to recruit Bigelow, someone with predetermined views about the phenomenon, alone undermines the program’s objectivity; astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and MIT professor Sara Seager pointed to a faulty interpretation of UFOs: unexplained objects need not be extraterrestrial in nature.

“The universe brims with mysteries,” Tyson said. “Just because you don’t know what it is you’re looking at doesn’t mean it’s intelligent aliens visiting from another planet.”

The first two videos include the aforementioned encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object, plus a new interview with the Navy pilot. The third shows Tyson’s perspective on UFO origins.    

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from UFO (christianplass / Pixabay).

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10 responses to “Scientists Unswayed by Discoveries from the Pentagon’s UFO Program”

  1. Rick Robertson says:

    We will go down in human history as the most manipulated society ever.

  2. Stephen Barnard says:

    This article is so astonishingly poor in every way that I’m really not even sure where to begin the critique, so I won’t. Suffice it to say, my planned year-end contribution to this website will not happen.

    • james warren says:

      So because you read an article that you subjectively label “poor” then every article is of no use for you? Your logic escapes me. BTW, right now I am captive in the mother ship.

    • Stephen Barnard says:

      I did not say that I had no use for any other article on this website, only that my planned contribution will not happen, although I may still contribute a smaller amount. I am completely agnostic on the question of UFOs/ETs and what they are or where they come from, which I think is the only truly scientific stance to take on this topic with what we currently know.

      However, based on publicly available government documents, as well as the testimony of government officials and scientists world-wide, anyone who would posit that this is a topic unworthy of very serious consideration has simply not looked at the issue in any serious way, in my opinion. If you are at all open to this idea, I would suggest reading the work of Leslie Kean (one of the authors of the times article) on this topic.

      Relative to any important issue which has implications that run counter to the prevailing paradigm, superficial and slanted press coverage as well as ridicule often function as means by which power structures with vested interests in the dominant paradigm keep people with generally open minds from critical thought about the topic in question, whether wittingly or not.

      Many topics that are investigated on this website are indeed subject to these very same means of control by the mainstream press, academia and the culture at large. Thus, I would expect better editorial decision making by anyone posting articles on this website.

      I could make many more detailed criticisms of this article itself, but that is a bit beside the point.

    • james warren says:

      Thanks for clearing that up.

      Here is a painting from the Middle Ages which shows what looks like a UFO hovering behind Mary and the infant John the Baptizer:

      There are other examples shown of strange objects in other medieval scenes.

  3. Joe McCarthy says:

    This article does nothing but repeat what we’ve already heard in the MSM. What’s the point other than to say “Hey we mentioned the UFO story on our website?” Do what you normally do and get back to us when you’ve actually found something we haven’t heard before

  4. MarkSegal says:

    Claire, don’t you think “Scientists” is way too broad a pronouncement? When I see it used, I usually suspect propaganda. Maybe “a few scientists acknowledged” is more accurate.

  5. Even if UFOs are nothing more than an unidentified “natural” phenomenon, they are worthy of investigation. As the USAF has proven, 48 years of ignoring them hasn’t made them go away. They aren’t products of the Cold War, they are an enduring mystery of human consciousness and I think we deserve some answers based in solid science. Anything else is just the trumpery of an incipient new religion!

  6. KeithA says:

    These comments by Shostak, deGrasse Tyson, McDowell and Seager don’t actually address the details of the visual sightings by the pilots (four pilots in total) for the 2004 incident, the observations and recording by their on-board equipment or the fact these objects were repeatedly picked up by the systems on the Nimitz/Princeton battle group.

    • Manny Revuelta says:

      I guess the scientists don’t really care to investigate further. They just care to pontificate or play devil’s advocate. Quite sad since this phenomena occurs worldwide and is quite
      extraordinary. And nobody insinuated that they are driven by aliens.