A Conspiracy Wrapped in a Paradox
“Quantify. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations.”
—Carl Sagan, Baloney Detection Kit
For a full half century, SETI dodged and weaved around Fermi’s Paradox, never taking it on head-to-head in a serious and comprehensive manner. But recently, in a quiet but historic change of heart, the SETI Institute revisited Fermi’s Paradox, and it now openly admits that it is a virtual certainty that if advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist, as the Drake Equation predicts, they would be capable of interstellar spaceflight, as the Fermi Paradox predicts, and, by all rights, some of them should have already been to Earth. This stunning change of doctrine unofficially brought 50 years of SETI’s public denial of interstellar spaceflight to an end.
Following are selected excerpts from the SETI Institute Website essay on Fermi’s Paradox. As you read, keep in mind that this is the same organization that for decades vehemently denied any possibility of interstellar spaceflight, either for humans or for extraterrestrials, a denial that turned Carl’s Stanford Paper into a lost document:
Is there obvious proof that we could be alone in the Galaxy? Enrico Fermi thought so—and he was a pretty smart man. Might he have been right?
A lot of folks have given this thought. The first thing they note is that the Fermi Paradox is a remarkably strong argument. You can quibble about the speed of alien spacecraft, and whether they can move at 1 percent of the speed of light or 10 percent of the speed of light. It doesn’t matter. You can argue about how long it would take for a new star colony to spawn colonies of its own. It still doesn’t matter. Any halfway reasonable assumption about how fast colonization could take place still ends up with time scales that are profoundly shorter than the age of the Galaxy. It’s like having a heated discussion about whether Spanish ships of the 16th century could heave along at two knots or twenty. Either way they could speedily colonize the Americas.
[Note: After introducing a several admittedly feeble explanations why we don’t see aliens walking around on Earth that have been proposed by SETI theorists over the years, the essay continues.]
The presence of aliens on Earth would neatly solve the Fermi Paradox.
But while this (UFOs) is a prevalent idea among the public, the evidence for alien visitation has failed to sway most scientists. To convince researchers, who are inherently skeptical, unambiguous and repeated detection of flying objects by satellites or ground-based radar would be required. Better yet would be indisputable physical evidence, such as the landing lights from an alien craft. In other words, something better than witness testimony is necessary, since such testimony isn’t good enough, no matter how credible the witness.
Wow! What a turnaround! Step-by-step, the author walks us through Fermi’s Paradox, acknowledging the full strength of its implications, just as Sagan did in his Stanford Paper. In fact, the reference to 16th-century Spanish sailing ships is straight out of the Stanford Paper, in which Sagan states: “The situation bears some similarity to the post-Renaissance seafaring communities of Europe and their colonies before the development of clipper and steam ships.”
Note also how similar the SETI essay is to the description of Fermi’s Paradox by David Grinspoon. This is not an accident. Grinspoon devotes an entire chapter of his book to Fermi’s Paradox, and the SETI essay is basically a highly condensed version of what in my opinion is the finest and fairest analysis of the subject in existence. When I saw this essay, I could hardly believe my eyes. For a half century, NASA and SETI had ignored the Sagan Model because it was based on alien interstellar spaceflight, a technological ability that it had deemed impossible. In one fell swoop, that impediment is erased by this essay, and Frank Drake’s argument that space is too vast for aliens to colonize is completely and irreversibly shredded.
The logic of Fermi’s argument is indisputable, but his conclusion that aliens don’t exist was based on the complete absence of any reliable scientific evidence that they are here. Sagan thought that he knew where the smoking gun evidence that Fermi demanded might be located: in ancient Sumerian related manuscripts. Without in any way changing what Fermi was saying, Sagan simply expanded his argument to include the past. In the Stanford Paper he called for a sustained search of certain ancient documents, something that never happened because of NASA’s across-the-board denial of interstellar spaceflight that flew in the face of Fermi’s logic.
Physicist and science writer David Grinspoon, whose family had been close friends with the Sagan clan, writes about Fermi and his famous challenge to his peers in his delightfully informative book, Lonely Planets:
However conservatively you work the numbers in the Drake Equation, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we live in a widely inhabited galaxy, even if stars with living worlds are only one in a million. Fermi thought that, by this same logic, we should already have been visited. What if, in addition to developing radio technology for communications, advanced species also develop interstellar travel and decide to explore or migrate to planets around other stars? Then, isn’t a search for their presence in our own solar system just as valid as a radio search for their distant messages? How, then are we to interpret the fact that, as yet, we have found no scientifically accepted evidence for the past or present visitation of intelligent aliens? Can’t we conclude that they do not exist and save ourselves the trouble of searching for signals?
Note also how similar the SETI essay is to the description of Fermi's Paradox by David Grinspoon. This is not an accident. Grinspoon devotes an entire chapter of his book to Fermi's Paradox, and SETI essay is basically a highly condensed version of what in my opinion is the finest and fairest analysis of the subject in existence.
The SETI essay on Fermi’s Paradox is a historic concession that, by all rights, should have made front-page news in every newspaper and heralded by every media outlet in the world. For the SETI Institute to publicly acknowledge that it is a near certainty that if extraterrestrial civilizations exist, they would have the technical ability to engage in interstellar spaceflight and had more than enough time to reach Earth—is the most exciting and, in many ways, the most shocking development in its 50-year history. It is tantamount to a public concession that the Sagan Model of ancient alienism might very well be true. All that would be needed to conclusively prove that Sagan was right would be to discover the alien signal he predicted might be found in ancient manuscripts.
In this amazing essay, SETI does what Sagan did in 1962: link the Drake Equation with Fermi’s Paradox with the 10-billion-year age of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Drake Equation is a compelling argument that extraterrestrials exist “out there.” Fermi’s Paradox is an equally compelling argument that states that if aliens are “out there,” then they should be, or should have been, “down here.” SETI, apparently, now agrees.
SETI’s admission that alien star travel is highly likely runs against its original justification for conducting a radio telescope search that was premised on the false notion that interstellar spaceflight is impossible for aliens and for humans. This was why the subject was never discussed at the Green Bank Conference, and why Sagan’s Stanford Paper was rejected and abandoned without proper investigation and analysis. Now that interstellar spaceflight is considered a given, the question to ask is: If aliens could have and should have already visited Earth, why would they bother sending us radio signals? Fermi’s Paradox makes the search for an alien signal with radio telescopes somewhat of an unnecessary afterthought. By accepting alien star travel as an existential reality, SETI has constructed a perfectly logical explanation for its failure to detect an electronic signal, and an equally compelling reason for it to open up an active investigation of the Sagan Model and proceed with haste to test any evidence that may proves that Sagan was right.
Go back to the SETI essay and begin with the sentence “The presence of aliens on Earth would neatly solve the Fermi Paradox.”
This is a critical point in the essay. After effectively describing the full force of the Fermi Paradox, the author does something that I consider so disingenuous that it reminds me of tactics routinely employed in pseudoscience. He blunts the main thrust of Fermi’s Paradox by identifying but a single alternative to radio telescopes: finding direct evidence of alien spaceships (UFOs). The author leaves no room and gives no opportunity for Fermi’s Paradox to be solved in any other way except by these two means. He leaves the uninformed reader thinking that if direct evidence of UFOs isn’t produced, the only fallback position is a continued radio telescope search for an electromagnetic signal. There’s Strategy A and Strategy B, with no mention of Carl Sagan’s Strategy C.
In this respect, the article is blatantly misleading, and departs from David Grinspoon’s narrative, in which he writes: “How, then, are we to interpret the fact that, as yet, we have found no scientifically accepted evidence for the past or present visitation of intelligent aliens? [emphasis added]”
By specifically including the possibility of past aliens visitations as well as the possibility that they may be currently present, Grinspoon’s interpretation of Fermi’s Paradox is fair, accurate, and without bias. It leaves us to assume that Mr. Grinspoon would be in favor of testing concrete evidence that may confirm the Sagan Model because he has stated that he thinks it plausible that aliens may have visited Earth in past ages. Theoretical astrophysicists apparently now agree that if Earth has not been visited by aliens, our Galaxy must be the most pathetic and backward place in the entire Universe, and that the aliens who inhabit our Galaxy, if there are any, are little more than the cosmic equivalents of Harry and Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber. For the SETI essay to specifically not mention past alien visitations as a possible resolution to Fermi’s Paradox is either an example of professional ineptitude or extreme prejudice. The author ignores Sagan’s research and states that SETI would be interested in testing what someone claimed were UFO landing lights. In an obviously intentional and inexcusable act of neglect of formal scientific research, neither Sagan’s name nor his Stanford Paper is mentioned.
We may never know why SETI chose to leave out the possibility of past alien visitations and focus solely on UFOs and radio telescopes as the only solutions to Fermi’s Paradox. A cynic might suggest that it was a preemptive attempt to keep the Sagan Model out of the discussion. It may even have been because, when this essay was written, NASA and SETI were aware of the discovery of hard evidence that may confirm Sagan’s ancient alien theory.
The author of the SETI essay, if he was fair and inclusive, should have added Sagan’s search plan to the list as a Strategy C, but he didn’t. The only solution to Fermi’s Paradox that is offered in the essay as an alternative to SETI’s radio telescope strategy is an outdated and totally debunked theory about UFOs that has been around longer than SETI has been in existence. Like SETI, UFO advocates have produced zero evidence, despite millions of ardent believers who would be quick to produce hard data if they had it. In effect, the author slipped in a red herring, a false positive that has been so thoroughly discredited that it has no hope of being revived. UFO theory, in effect, is SETI’s official straw man. They keep propping it up and then knocking it down, each time making a radio telescope search appear, by comparison, all the more scientific and reasonable. This begs the question: How would the Drake Model stack up against the Sagan Model in a fair and impartial side-by-side competition?
By failing to mention the Sagan Model, even while it admits to the probability of alien interstellar spaceflight, SETI seriously distorts the facts while generating a smokescreen that keeps people from considering a scientifically credible option to both UFOs and SETI. What is most egregious is that in failing to mention the possibility of finding evidence of past alien visitation to Earth as a way of solving Fermi’s Paradox, SETI, for the second time in its history, has slammed the door in Sagan’s face, and, frankly, I find this lack of respect for a truly great scientist and even greater human being very disturbing.
Without fanfare, SETI added the Fermi Paradox essay to its Website, perhaps hoping that no one would notice the seismic shift it has created in SETI doctrine, a fundamental change that opens up stunning new possibilities that it had previously considered off limits. SETI’s admission that alien interstellar spaceflight is a near certainty creates the perfect opportunity for it to publicly acknowledge its error in dismissing the Sagan Model as bad science. Instead, it has added insult to injury by not mentioning the existence of the Stanford Paper, or the possibility that if Sagan’s theory of ancient alienism were proven true, it would solve the Fermi Paradox just as effectively as UFO landing lights. All I can say is shame on NASA, shame on SETI, and shame of any professional skeptics who may be complicit in this cover-up.
SETI’s admission that interstellar spaceflight is possible is certainly commendable, but it can’t take away the humiliation and suffering that Sagan experienced throughout his career for believing in alien star travel while SETI was doing its best to deny it. Neither can it buy back the 50 years that the Sagan Model has been secretly covered up by NASA.
At this point, there is no indication that NASA and SETI have any intentions of openly recognizing the Sagan Model of ancient alienism or in testing any evidence that supports it. This is not only a shame and an embarrassment for NASA and SETI, it is a terrible blow to the legacy of the man they openly honor as a pioneering genius in ETI theory.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
In spring 2015, the National Geographic television channel began advertising that it would begin airing Neil deGrasse Tyson’s syndicated program, StarTalk. On Monday, April 20, with pen and paper in hand in case the subject of extraterrestrial existence came up, I made it a point to watch. Tyson’s guest that evening was astrophysicist Charlie Liu, and the theme of the program was about the legitimate science behind the famous Star Trek series, and the adventures of the crew of the Starship Enterprise as they explored the Cosmos. It was the perfect scenario for the subject of aliens to come up— and, much to my delight, it did.
As Charlie and Neil bantered back and forth in conversation, they began to discuss the subject of whether humans will ever engage in interstellar spaceflight, and, if so, how many more lifetimes it might be before we get there. Neil is then asked if that day will ever come, and Tyson’s response was “I don’t see why not.”
And then they got into what was clearly an awkward discussion for Tyson. Charlie began talking about eventual human colonization of the galaxy as our species “goes where no man has gone before,” and spreads our DNA throughout the Cosmos like they did on Star Trek. Neil tries to change the subject by stating that anything like that could not happen in a single lifetime. But Charlie is persistent, and Neil agrees that it could be done, not in a human lifetime, but as a species. Charlie then adds that there is still plenty of time for us, as a species, to spread out and go to the stars, and Tyson builds on that argument by noting how bacterium in a petri dish will inexorably divide, multiply, and spread—until the entire solution is “colonized.”
At that moment, Tyson says, “Something like Fermi’s Paradox.” After the break, they moved on to another subject.
What may have been Tyson’s Freudian slip of the tongue in mentioning Fermi’s Paradox in the context of human space travel is that if it is probable that human civilization will one day travel to the stars, highly evolved aliens who began exploring the galaxy millions of years ago should have already been to Earth. It apparently dawned on Tyson that Charlie Liu had walked him into a catch-22 situation where the audience might quickly deduce that, from both a logical and a scientific perspective, the odds that aliens, if they exist, have not been to Earth, are virtually nil.
The subject on StarTalk the following week was also about the possibility of human interstellar spaceflight, as Tyson and cosmologist Janna Levis discussed the science behind the movie Interstellar. Clearly, interstellar spaceflight is a subject that strikes a common chord among the public. With such broad worldwide interest, I suspect that Frank Drake and other NASA scientists who still vehemently deny advanced aliens that capability will not be invited as guests on the show anytime soon.
Many NASA scientists, including current administrator Charles Bolden, envision the possibility that humans might someday be able to build a Starship Enterprise. In fact Tyson even said how much it would cost: $46 billion. But NASA is not willing to attribute a Starship Enterprise to aliens because that would make the Drake Model quantitatively inferior to the Sagan Model. Why would aliens send radio signals to Earth when they can get here physically?
For Carl Sagan, there was nothing at all paradoxical in Fermi’s observation. Sagan calculated from math, from logic, and from the historical record, that aliens have been to Earth. The science is on the side of Enrico Fermi, Carl Sagan and ancient alien theory, not on the side of NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics. Those who continue to argue against the latest science by using the completely discredited argument that the distances between inhabited worlds is too great for any species to traverse, no matter how long lived and technologically advanced they might be, are either delusional or disingenuous.
A Preponderance of Evidence
In the early 1960s, NASA was presented with two ETI search strategies, one space-based and the other Earth-based. It had a choice. It could choose one or the other, or it could implement both. Based purely on the science, the Sagan Model was demonstrably superior, making the odds of it succeeding much higher than the odds of intercepting an alien signal with radio telescopes. Yet NASA went with Frank Drake and radio telescopes, which left them with the problem of what to do with the Stanford Paper. With complete arrogance and disdain for the scientific method, NASA administrator James Webb selected the Drake Model and then, I believe, went to great lengths to suppress and conceal the Stanford Paper.
At the time this momentous decision was made, NASA was a fledgling government bureaucracy led by individuals with high aspirations to see it grow into a classic government institution with a multi-billion-dollar budget, tens of thousands of employees, and huge political power and influence. NASA’s first administrator, Dr. T. Keith Glennan, was a scientist who had been president of Case Institute of Technology. There is little doubt that he would have appreciated the value of competition in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. The second NASA administrator, James Webb, was in charge at the time the Stanford Paper and ancient alien theory were up for consideration. He is described on NASA’s Website: “As a longtime Washington insider, he was a master at bureaucratic politics.” This is compelling evidence that Webb, not a scientist, was, in fact, a Pentagon plant who was under orders to vet every conceivable project that had anything to do with space, including the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, to make sure that it had the potential to be militarily useful.
Webb had no qualms violating the fundamental scientific principle of pursuing excellence by encouraging competition. He was confronted with two search strategies. One had military value, the other didn’t. One created jobs for NASA astronomers, the other didn’t. One would enlarge NASA’s budget, the other wouldn’t. Before either plan was officially accepted, Webb picked a winner and a loser. Drake won, Sagan lost.
Carl Sagan’s Stanford Paper, with its claim that any truly advanced aliens would have already been to Earth, was considered a disaster at NASA. The Sagan Model would require NASA to hire archeologists, anthropologists, historians, and other academics who had no connection to space, which would have forced it outside of its institutional mandate. This was not only a distasteful prospect for NASA, but, if implemented, it might have raised questions in Congress about a NASA overreach.
Yet, all the Sagan Model amounted to was a nuanced reiteration of Enrico Fermi’s comment that if advanced extraterrestrials exist anywhere in our galaxy, they should already have been to Earth. Fermi may have created the tiger, but it was Carl Sagan who gave it teeth. Sagan is now gone, but his tiger is back and it’s biting NASA in the ass. After more than a half century, the Sagan tiger is finally out of its cage and on the prowl.
Carl Sagan’s Stanford Paper put NASA at a crossroads. It could either stay true to its commitment to science and the scientific method, and recommend a two-pronged search strategy, or sell its soul to the military-industrial complex and go exclusively with a lessrigorous search strategy that was compatible with its mandate and stated sphere of interest. In crafting the Stanford Paper with the help of a NASA grant, the young and brilliant Carl Sagan had created a NASA nightmare, and it put him so deep into James Webb’s doghouse that he would never get out.
NASA chose the Morrison/Cocconi Paper over Sagan’s Stanford Paper. It was a deliberate and calibrated act of pure political expediency that defied and violated the scientific ethic and left Carl Sagan’s 10-year investment in ancient alien research out in the cold. NASA leadership chose the single search strategy that they knew would bring it huge sums of government money and keep its astronomers gainfully employed for decades—over a scientifically superior strategy that would have shifted funding and notoriety away from NASA and direct it to academic disciplines that had nothing to do with space exploration.
Carl Sagan, as one of America’s brightest young space scientists, was one of the astronomers responsible for the founding of NASA in 1959. One can only imagine the shock in the embryonic NASA establishment when, three years later, Sagan introduced a theory in which he claimed that an Earth-based search for evidence of extraterrestrial existence would be far more likely to succeed than a space-based search.
Normally, when one scientist attacks the work of another scientist that has been peer reviewed and published, it is imperative that it be a critical and respectful analysis that addresses specific issues in microscopic detail. But the outrage against Sagan and his Stanford Paper was so palpable at NASA that its scientists were allowed—even encouraged—to attack him with impunity with such off-the-cuff epithets as “bad science” and “something that you might read on the back of a cereal box” without fear of reprisal. It was open season, and Sagan was in everyone’s crosshairs.
James Webb’s fateful decision to go with radio telescopes and, perhaps, to cover up Sagan’s ancient alien research was so successful that today, when people think of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, they automatically think of radio telescopes. Conversely, those same people, when they think of ancient aliens, automatically think of junk science and scam artists. From a historical perspective, NASA owns the ETI genre lock, stock, and barrel. Carl Sagan, the Stanford Paper, and his ancient alien theory are nowhere to be found on NASA’s radar screen, and every Sagan biographer I have read has either failed to mention the Stanford Paper or buried it in obscure verbiage.
Cause for Concern
Committing the search for extraterrestrial intelligence to an exclusively space-based enterprise, although it may have served Pentagon interests and help build NASA’s organizational pyramid, was putting it on a trajectory that was doomed to failure. Now that the radio telescope experiment is all but dead, one would think that NASA would have no choice but to reconsider ancient alienism as a viable alternative, but that isn’t the case. Like the weird family that keeps Grandpa’s lifeless body in a living room rocking chair so they can continue to cash his social security checks, NASA is hesitant to publicly admit the obvious, that the radio telescope experiment has failed and the corpse is beginning to stink. Even worse, it appears that NASA is prepared to keep SETI’s lifeless body artificially propped up in perpetuity, evidently thinking that as long as it is not formally abandoned, the chances that someone will rediscover Sagan’s work on ancient alienism will be minimal.
The era we live in represents but a small slice of the approximately 10,000 years that humans have been civilized. What would prompt SETI to think that claims of present-day alien activity are worth considering, but not claims of past alien visitations? Why would SETI express a willingness to test physical evidence of UFOs, but not physical evidence left behind by aliens who may have been on Earth thousands of years ago for extended periods of time and have since left?
Considering that NASA is currently working on interstellar spaceflight, it is entirely reasonable to think that advanced aliens might have visited Earth in the past and then moved on. Why is it necessary to prove that Extraterrestrials are here on Earth today to prove they exist?
The SETI Institute needs to clarify itself on this issue. Assuming the underlying theory is sound and the evidence is empirical, why would it not test data that was discovered in an ancient manuscript? Why is it only landing lights that dropped off an alien spacecraft that SETI is willing to examine?
WWCD (What Would Carl Do)?
On the June 15, 2015, episode of StarTalk, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s featured guest was NASA administrator General Charles Bolden. He predicted that humans would be on Mars in about 20 years, and then he went on to say that he can envision a time, far off into the future, when humans will follow the Voyager spacecraft and travel beyond our solar system—exactly what Carl Sagan proposed in the Stanford Paper. And, if humans will someday do that, why couldn’t advanced aliens, thousands or millions of years ago, have developed the technology to reach Earth? Sort of makes sense, doesn’t it?
If proving the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is as important as everyone thinks it is, then why leave any credible search strategy unattended or any credible evidence uninvestigated? Carl Sagan’s model of ancient alienism and new discovery evidence that supports that model are on the shelf, waiting to be properly vetted by qualified experts. On this 20-year anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death, if NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics continue to deny that Carl Sagan was an ancient alien theorist, who is going to step forward and honor Sagan’s legacy in a truthful manner? Setting the record straight may require a mass petition by Sagan’s millions of adoring fans. If we insist that the Stanford Paper be extended the attention it deserves, and that all serious research on the subject of ancient alienism be openly recognized, perhaps we can foil Pentagon hopes that the world will forget about Carl Sagan.
Some might say that if the Sagan Model is ever confirmed, the credit should go to Enrico Fermi, not Carl Sagan. After all, as early as 1943, Enrico Fermi was floating the idea among his peers that if extraterrestrials exist anywhere in our galaxy, they should have already been to Earth. So wouldn’t he deserve credit for the theory based on having made the prior claim?
The answer is no, because Enrico Fermi was fully occupied in important research unrelated to extraterrestrials, and he limited his involvement to that of an anecdotist. The fact is, Enrico didn’t have time to be an ETI theorist. Carl Sagan picked up on Fermi’s casual anecdote and put flesh on the bones. Sagan became the world’s first ancient alien theorist in the full scientific meaning of the term. Fermi may have primed the pump, but it was Sagan who delivered the water.
Like everyone else who has ever entered the woods hoping to bag a deer, an elk, or a bear, when hunting season came along I would constantly be looking to the ground for fresh tracks that would indicate that the game I was stalking was nearby. And, as every hunter has experienced, sometimes there would be no fresh tracks, only lots of older ones, evidence that the quarry, though it had once been in the area, had since moved on.
When Fermi made his offhand remark he was evidently thinking only about aliens leaving fresh tracks, not aliens from the past who may have left tracks that they had once been to Earth but had since moved on. For Carl Sagan, the ultimate alien hunter, looking for signs of past alien visitations to Earth was a natural thing to do. He knew that there were no aliens on Earth today, but when he looked into the historical record he saw unmistakable signs that they were once here.
Sagan’s expanded interpretation of Fermi’s thesis to include the past as well as the present created a second Earth-based search strategy that, in theory, complemented the UFO movement in much the same way that it complemented the Drake Model. All three had the same goal—to prove the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence— but each had a different way of reaching that goal. While Frank Drake was looking for alien radio signals and UFOlogists were looking to the skies for flying saucers, Sagan thought it reasonable to investigate ancient manuscripts for signs of aliens past, and he found them.
Sagan knew that it would require a professional and thorough investigation of manuscripts related to the Sumerians before his model of ancient alienism could be dismissed. He resisted the efforts of some of his peers who tried to discredit his research by using the “guilt by association” ploy that attempted to lump his model in with UFO theory. It doesn’t work; the Sagan Model is a completely different kind of animal. Modern professional skeptics might try the same tactic by lumping his model in with tabloid ancient alienism, even though the differences between the two are as stark as night and day. Having dismissed UFOs, but still acknowledging the strength of Fermi’s observation, Sagan refined his statement by calculating that the odds that aliens have been on Earth in the past and have since moved on, are the same as the odds that they exist. In other words, if long-lived hyper-intelligent and hyper-advanced extraterrestrials are real, as the Drake Equation predicts, then it is a near scientific certainty that they have been to Earth—and, conversely, if, after an exhaustive search, no evidence is found that they have been to Earth, it is reasonable to conclude that they do not exist, so why bother with a radio telescope search, or, for that matter, with any other kind of search?
Carl Sagan built a solid theoretical base for ancient alienism so that credible scientific institutions could be ready to test and analyze any concrete evidence that might be discovered that had the potential to confirm his theory. We now have the theory and we know where to look for the evidence. All that is needed is for a credible scientific organization to test the data and release the results.
Impossible or Inevitable?
In his recollection of the 1961 Green Bank Conference, Frank Drake was of the opinion that the reason the subject of alien visitations to Earth was not discussed was because everyone there thought that interstellar spaceflight, either for aliens or for humans, was impossible. That extreme anachronistic position is now thoroughly falsified. In one of the latest books on the subject, Beyond (2015), University of Arizona professor Chris Impey concludes that the only thing that can stop humans from developing the technology to explore interstellar space within the next couple of centuries is self-annihilation. He writes:
The 100 Year Starship project is funded by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In 2012, a million dollar grant was awarded to former astronaut Mae Jemison and the non-profit organization Icarus Interstellar, for work toward interstellar travel in the next hundred years. It’s important to realize that the majority of the speculative research on interstellar travel is being undertaken by professional physical scientists and engineers, with the work published in scholarly journals and books.
I have to ask: How is it humanly possible for a modern scholar to write a book about interstellar spaceflight and not mention Carl Sagan’s Stanford Paper? Incredibly, Impey even discusses the Bussard ramjet as a possible means of propulsion—the same system that Carl Sagan mentioned in his Stanford Paper in some detail. Writing at length about interstellar spaceflight, either pro or con, and not referencing Sagan’s 1962 groundbreaking research on the subject is perplexing. One possible explanation is that it would be almost impossible to credit Carl Sagan with being one of the world’s first interstellar spaceflight theorists—without also revealing that he was an ancient alien theorist, a historical fact that NASA doesn’t want divulged.
Interestingly, Impey discusses Fermi’s Paradox, but appears to buy into the NASA line that the only solution to it is if someone bags a UFO. He makes no mention of the fact that it can be solved equally well by finding conclusive evidence in an ancient manuscript that aliens have been to Earth in past ages and have since left.
At the same time, it’s hard to blame any serious science writer for not wanting to broach the subject of ancient alienism. The waters of that subject have been so polluted by tabloid blarney that for a credible science writer to even mention the words “ancient alien” in his text as a reasonable thesis is to run the risk of being tarred and feathered by the mainstream scientific establishment. The question must be asked: Who is to blame for this sad state of affairs? Why hasn’t the study of ancient alienism been recognized as an academically legitimate and science-based discipline? The blame lies with NASA, and it is NASA that has the power to change the situation by taking the lead and encouraging and supporting rigorous and disciplined research on the subject.
A NASA Conspiracy?
In my estimation, NASA’s suppression of the Stanford Paper was a conspiracy that destroyed the legacy of its most famous scientist, so let’s break it down. To have a conspiracy, you need five things: knowledge, motive, means, execution, and cover-up. Let’s examine each of these in regard to both allegations.
NASA provided the original funding for the Stanford Paper and it is preserved in its official archives, so its knowledge of Sagan’s ancient alien theory is undeniable.
The Sagan Paper was an alternative ETI search strategy that didn’t have military value, and, if implemented, would not have brought government money to NASA and would not have created jobs for astronomers. NASA, under orders from the Pentagon, buried Sagan’s research before it saw the light of day.
NASA had absolute control over Carl Sagan’s career as a space scientist. They had the power to boot him out and they had the power to turn him into a superstar. Trapped in a coercive environment, Sagan had little choice but to capitulate and to give up on his dream of seeing the ETI search platform he developed become a reality.
After the Stanford Paper was written, it was peer reviewed and published in a respected scientific journal. That was the moment when it should have been critically scrutinized and critiqued by other scientists and academics in formal papers, some of which would have likely been published in scientific journals. Instead, it was as if the Stanford Paper had never been written. There are no recorded interactions of any kind, and, even though it was a NASA product, there is no record of any NASA response or analysis. For the formal research of a respected scientist who was openly acknowledged to be a leading expert in his field to be so universally ignored and not allowed due process is unprecedented in the annals of science.
From the time the Stanford Paper was written, any mention to NASA about past alien visitations to Earth was met with the instant response that interstellar spaceflight, either for humans or extraterrestrials, was physically impossible. In a classic example of group-think, interstellar spaceflight was considered such a laughably implausible idea that it was considered not worth talking about. This broad-based denial effectively bamboozled the public into believing what we now know is a myth. Can any NASA scientist keep a straight face and insist that long-lived aliens would not have developed the technology to reach Earth—when NASA is actively engaged in developing an interstellar starship by the end of this century?
Does this add up to proof of a 30-year conspiracy? I think so, but I’ll leave it for readers to decide for themselves. At the very least, an unholy and misguided triumvirate of NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics have some serious explaining to do. Why has the Stanford Paper been suppressed, and why hasn’t the truth about Carl Sagan’s belief in ancient aliens been told? The best that those of us who care about Sagan’s legacy can do is to seek to repair his reputation and fight for the restoration and implementation of the ETI model he developed.
There are a lot of very blunt questions that need to be asked, and NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics need to respond fully and honestly. If they don’t, they risk being implicated for attacking Carl Sagan’s character and competence. Now is the time for NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics to speak out and defend themselves. In the light of the discovery of new facts in the historical record, for them to remain silent would be self-incriminating. Today, almost 60 years after it began, the NASA conspiracy to keep the public from learning that Carl Sagan believed in ancient aliens is still in force.