“He who knows, why should he keep it hidden?” —Ancient Sumerian proverb
In December 1996, a physically fading Carl Sagan was admitted into the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington. There, in his final days and hours, he exchanged endearments with loved ones. His last spoken words, whatever they may have been, are appropriately remembered only by family and close friends. The subject of this chapter is not those words, but, rather, the last eight written words he left behind that are the title of a paper he was working on prior to his death, a scientific essay that he was unable to complete: “On the Rarity of Long-Lived, Non-Spacefaring Galactic Civilizations.”
As much as any other evidence presented in this book, these eight words prove beyond any doubt that Carl Sagan was an ancient alien believer and theorist throughout the course of his scientific career. They also prove that up to the very end of his life he remained sharp and in control of his faculties. Suffering through chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants, Sagan was keeping fully abreast of what was happening within NASA and SETI.
While still holding out hope for a miraculous recovery, he was working on what he knew might be his final paper. It was intended as a response to what he saw as an existential crisis in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. If he were to somehow manage to survive, he knew that there was a golden opportunity to introduce the world to his unique brand of ancient alienism:
“. . . interstellar spaceflight is technically feasible—even though an exceedingly expensive and difficult undertaking from our point of view—it will be developed . . .” “On the Rarity of Long-Lived, Non-Spacefaring Galactic Civilizations”
These two statements, one coming at the beginning of Sagan’s career and the other at the end, are mirror-image observations that essentially say the same thing from two different perspectives. The first is a double positive: If aliens exist, they will colonize the galaxy. The second is a double negative: Alien civilizations who don’t explore and colonize the galaxy are extremely rare.
I am convinced that Sagan had his Stanford Paper in mind as he was working on what he intended to be a farewell statement about his life and legacy. In true Sagan-esque fashion, Carl Sagan created a riddle, perhaps wondering how long before people would figure out that the two statements, like two bookends, not only bracket his career, but reveal his life-long belief that we are a planet and a species that has been visited and influenced by a long-lived alien civilization.
In many respects, the title of his paper encapsulates what set Carl Sagan apart from other ETI theorists. While they were playing checkers, he was playing three-dimensional chess. While they were fixated on the allure of using radio telescopes to intercept an alien signal, Sagan was viewing the situation through a 360-degree panoramic lens. His unique ability to meticulously hone in on fine details while still seeing the big picture led him to common sense inferences that rocked the SETI establishment.
His title has four component parts:
Galactic Civilizations: While others were focusing on making contact with a single advanced alien civilization in the Milky Way Galaxy, Sagan knew that if there was one, there were likely to be many. This was not renegade science. Based on the Drake Equation, most ETI theorists agree that our galaxy, with its more than one hundred billion stars, could be populated with thousands of extraterrestrial civilizations, which meant that rather than looking for a single needle in a vast cosmic haystack, they were actually looking for any one of thousands that likely exist.
Long-Lived: Out of a plentitude of alien civilizations, Sagan made the assumption that a statistically significant percentage of them would have survived the difficult childhood and adolescent stages of their evolution and become long-lived. These would be the ones that managed to survive the first precarious centuries of their scientific age, when self-annihilation through nuclear holocaust or the irreversible degradation of their environment would have been most likely to occur. Somehow they managed to figure out the key to long-term survival, knowledge that we humans desperately need to learn before it’s too late.
Non-Spacefaring: From the pool of long-lived alien civilizations, Carl Sagan next poses this question: How many of them, for whatever reason, would choose not to engage in interstellar space exploration? His use of the double negative was an ingenious strategy that has far more explicatory power and force of logic than asking how many advanced alien civilizations engage in star travel. It’s somewhat like asking how many long-lived tribes of primitive humans would not have satiated their curiosity and ventured away from their home valleys to explore what was on the other side of the mountains.
Rarity: Sagan answered his own question with his use of the word rarity. His conclusion was that the vast majority of long-lived galactic civilization would engage in star travel.
It’s clear from the title that the purpose of Sagan’s paper was to respond to the growing number of ETI theorists who, by 1990, had finally figured out that Enrico Fermi was right: If advanced alien civilizations exist, they should have made it to our planet, but they aren’t here now. To short-sighted SETI theorists, that could only mean one of two things: Either they don’t exist, as Fermi concluded, or they do exist but have good reasons why they choose not to make an appearance. Carl Sagan was willing to consider a third possibility: that they exist, have been to Earth in the past, and have since moved on.
Following are brief analyses of the three options:
Option 1: Aliens don’t exist. It’s a matter of record that many SETI scientists were raised in conservative Christian or Jewish homes and made the heart-wrenching decision to reject the faith of their parents after they were introduced to science. For them, finding hard evidence of extraterrestrial existence, which they fully expected to happen, would be more than a scientific accomplishment. It would be tangible proof that they made the right decision in leaving faith systems that teach that humans are at the center of God’s creation.
The thought that humans may be sharing the Universe with other intelligent beings living on other planets has haunted Western theologians and religious leaders for centuries. Confirming the existence of advanced alien civilizations would prove that humans aren’t in any way special or unique, and, if we’re not special and unique, then neither are the gods that people worship and serve. For the faithful, the possibility that residents of other worlds may worship other gods, or no gods, is fundamentally objectionable.
For evangelical Christians, not finding evidence of ETI would be comforting proof that their literal interpretations of Scripture are correct. The nervous concern within the secular and scientific communities over the SETI failure to make contact has been matched by relief within conservative Jewish and Christian groups who take comfort and reassurance in the possibility that science may confirm that we are indeed alone in the Universe.
NASA and SETI have no one to blame but themselves for this situation. By allowing but a single search strategy rather than encouraging and supporting a robust competition between multiple strategies, they put all their eggs in one basket—and it has turned into a very large and messy omelet. Incredibly, they continue to make the same mistake by endorsing and funding just a single new strategy: the search for exoplanetary microbial life. They still, as of this writing, will not allow the Sagan Model to compete against the Slime Model. For now, the religious right is quietly celebrating SETI’s failure, but they know they can’t sit smugly. The odds that NASA will succeed in finding microbial life on another planet are extremely high, so high that NASA officials have issued a guarantee that it will happen within the next 10 years.
But there is a potential danger in this approach. The overly optimistic rhetoric coming out of NASA and SETI in the past, promising that an alien radio signal would be intercepted in short order, elevated hope among secularists that victory was assured. Those hopes came crashing to earth when it didn’t happen. NASA and SETI may be making the same mistake again with their prediction that the discovery of simple extraterrestrial life is eminent.
But what if it doesn’t happen? What if the Slime Model fails? Until the discovery is made, the possibility that the only life in the Universe is what is here on Earth can’t be ruled out. If, against all odds, this search ends up failing like the radio telescope experiment failed, biblical fundamentalists would have even more reason to celebrate.
Option 2: Aliens are shy. Not willing to concede that humans are alone in the Universe, and under strict orders from NASA not to revisit the Sagan Model of ancient alienism, SETI scientists had no recourse but to start inventing reasons why aliens were not showing up at their Mountain View, California, headquarters. With one exception, the reasons they came up with were so spurious, even downright silly, that it’s almost like they came from a class of kindergartners: “They can’t afford it,” or “They are so happy where they are at, they aren’t interested in exploring the cosmos,” or “Earth and humans aren’t interesting enough to warrant their attention,” or, my favorite, “They watch us from a distance like people watch animals in a zoo.” For any of these farfetched scenarios to be true would require that they apply to all alien civilizations in the galaxy, that there be no exceptions. This is so wildly implausible that these speculations were often expressed apologetically, in a tone that said “Sorry, folks, but this is the best we can do.” It makes me wonder how many of the ETI theorists coming up with these bizarre ideas were aware of the Sagan Model and were quietly thinking that it would make a lot more sense to give Sagan’s search strategy a shot.
Option 3: The Sagan Model. In about 1990, Carl Sagan, taking note of all this foolishness, saw an opening, a golden opportunity to reintroduce his theory of ancient alienism. With typical Sagan subtlety and eloquence, he called non-spacefaring and long-lived galactic civilizations “rare.” In his mind, the vast majority of them would be out and about, exploring and colonizing the far reaches of our galaxy, so of course they would have been to Earth, just as Fermi hypothesized. Sagan would have then very discreetly but forcefully suggested that perhaps aliens have been here in the past but have since moved on, and that it might be worth exploring ancient manuscripts that refer to primitive humans coming into contact with godlike beings to see if perhaps they left some kind of encrypted signal or code as proof that they were here.
SETI’s failure, the new interest among SETI scientists in Fermi’s Paradox, and major advances in rocket propulsion all created a perfect opportunity for Sagan that he couldn’t pass up. His common sense and dignified solution left the door open for alien existence, and, at the same time, resolved Fermi’s Paradox without resorting to silliness. Given the crisis that the SETI community was in, and the perplexity among the public why contact had not yet been made, Sagan was confident that he could convince both the public and the academy that his model of ancient alienism, that bore no resemblance or relationship whatever to the fluff that was being hawked in the tabloids, deserved serious consideration.
Much of what happens in science is about eliminating and abandoning theories that are proven wrong, and investing time and resources on theories that have a better chance of being true. In 1964, the Sagan Model was rejected without being given a chance to compete. It was eliminated and abandoned on the grounds that interstellar spaceflight was impossible. Though it almost disappeared from the face of the Earth, it’s still here, sitting on the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to enter the game. As theories placed ahead of it failed, there should have come a time when NASA activated a search strategy advanced by one of its most distinguished scientists, but it was clear to Sagan that the Pentagon would never allow that to happen. Sagan, seeing what was going on in the SETI community, seems to have made the decision to take matters into his own hands. He dusted off his ancient alien model with the intent of sharing it with the world, before his untimely death abruptly ended his initiative. For good reasons he was confident that any persons or organizations that might take action to dismiss his initiative, including NASA and the Pentagon, would be so overwhelmed by massive public support that they would have little choice but to get on board.
To secularists battling religionists, SETI’s failure revived fears that fundamentalist Christians might be right—that humans are alone in the Universe. It was a major setback, but not enough for them to embrace the Sagan Model.
DARPA, however, saw in SETI’s failure a way to turn lemons into lemonade. It decided to embrace the idea that humans are alone in the Universe, and, for that reason, they now argue that it is imperative that humans develop interstellar spaceflight capability so that we can colonize and seed the Milky Way Galaxy with our gifts of intelligence and civilization. Our destiny, we are now being told, is to do what any advanced species would do if it was the only advanced species in existence: go forth and multiply.
DARPA’s argument is that our long-term survival depends on humans becoming a spacefaring multi-planetary species. In what are known as black swan scenarios, DARPA scientists remind us that Earth could be struck with a massive meteor that could wipe out life, or that human extinction could come about by nuclear war, or an outbreak of a new airborne influenza resistant to all known antibiotics, or by irreversible environmental degradation. If we were to establish colonies on Goldilocks planets circling other suns, the human species on Earth might be destroyed, but human life in the galaxy would continue on.
All of this makes sense if you don’t think about it very deeply. DARPA admits on its interstellar Websites that it wouldn’t take many generations for humans living on other planets in radically different environments to become fundamentally different than what humans are on Earth. In other words, to us, they would be aliens; and to them, we would be the aliens. DARPA fails to mention that the aliens we might create would not be under our control or dependent on us in any way. They would have their own governance, their own culture, their own values, and their own aspirations. This might conceivably include invading Earth, wiping out our species, and replacing us with their own kind. After all, they would still possess our darker traits, such as our impulse to conquer, dominate, and destroy. There would be no guarantee that the aliens we created would be kind and benevolent. As a non-human species, they might, in their minds, have good reasons to want to kill the gods that created them.
The saving grace in all this is that despite what DARPA/NASA scientists are saying, the Pentagon has no intention of sending humans to other planets in distant solar systems. It would take too much time and cost too much money. It’s all window dressing, a cunning effort to soften public resistance to the colonization of Mars. All the Pentagon is interested in is developing interstellar spacecraft armed with advanced weapon systems that will enable the United States and the West to dominate and control this solar system. The way they see it, the epic struggle between our values and our way of life, and those who oppose us, will be won or lost in stellar space, not interstellar space. If the United States and the West aren’t the first to explore, conquer, and colonize all areas within our solar system, we are in eminent peril.
The Galactic Confederation
So far, nothing has been found on any of the planets or moons or asteroids in our solar system that would be worth the effort or expense to mine and transport back to Earth, and whatever scientific research that needs to be done, could be done more safely and more affordably with unmanned rocket ships and robots equipped with artificial intelligence. The only reason to develop interstellar spaceflight capability and to establish colonies on Mars and other places in our solar system would be to maintain and extend military superiority. DARPA’s objectives were opposite to Carl Sagan’s values, just as his dreams of world peace and global cooperation were regarded as Pollyannaish and hopelessly naive by the Pentagon.
Sagan was right and the Pentagon is wrong on this matter. Long term survival of the human species can never be won by military dominance. In fact, just the opposite is true: Weaponizing space is the fastest way to human extinction. Sagan saw evidence in ancient manuscripts of a possible Galactic Confederacy of advanced civilizations that owe their long-lived survival to mutual respect and cooperation rather than military domination. He knew that if the human species is to survive and become long-lived, a path must be blazed that will move us in a different direction, away from the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) in which we are now headed.
The people who comprise DARPA and Jason are civilian scientists, not military brass. In their minds, what they are doing makes sense, because, while supporting legitimate science, they are also keeping the world safe from tyranny. To them, it’s a win-win situation. But they are thinking terrestrially, in many respects not all that different from the anthropocentric thinking of the Catholic Church in pre-Copernican days. The grim reality is that the decision to rush headlong into the weaponization of space may guarantee the destruction of our species, not its long-term survival. My message to the patriotic members of DARPA and Jason is to dare to think about a cosmic reality, the way Carl Sagan did, and consider the possibility that he may have been right about a Galactic Confederation.
To Sagan, this could be the reason why aliens have not made their appearance to modern humans. If they are remotely monitoring the progress of human civilization, they may not think that we qualify to join their club. It may be that the human species must first come together and demonstrate that we have the maturity and wisdom to explore and develop space in unity and in peace. If we can do that, it might allow us a chance to one day become a member of the Confederation. If we can’t, then we don’t deserve it.
In Intelligent Life in the Universe, Sagan references Sumerian legends about the cosmos being governed by a representative and democratic assembly of the gods. Sagan writes: “Such a picture is not altogether different from what we might expect if a network of confederated civilizations interlaced the Galaxy.” He also writes: “If interstellar spaceflight by advanced technical civilizations is commonplace, we may expect an emissary, perhaps in the next several hundred years. Hopefully, there will then be a thriving terrestrial civilization to greet the visitors from the far distant stars.” Sagan spent 40 years thinking about extraterrestrials in this broad, comprehensive way, which is why, when he died, the hawks in the Pentagon who wanted to weaponized space had to have breathed a collective sigh of relief. In his final years they had to have been terrified that Sagan, the most beloved and trusted scientist on the planet, might break his coerced silence and announce his belief in ancient alienism to the world. The title of his last paper was a defiant shout-out to whoever might be listening about what he stood for and what he believed in. Included in the obituary of Carl Sagan should be a declaration that he died a martyr for universal peace.
By 2010, with Carl Sagan gone, the Pentagon had growing confidence that it finally had an unimpeded path to its development of an interstellar spacecraft, a trajectory that would financially and politically carry it through to the end of the century and beyond. With international terrorism on the rise, the nation was leaning right, toward a more hawkish mindset. With a Republican Congress and hope for a new Republican president, they envisioned generous support from politicians who were alarmed that the United States might be losing its technical superiority in space to the Chinese. They were also confident that there would be broad support from an American electorate nostalgically yearning for a return to the good old days of great accomplishments in space, like the Apollo missions to the Moon.
At the same time, the public was beginning to forget about Carl Sagan. Most millennials don’t know who he was, and most of those who do only remember his famous Cosmos television series and his support for the radio telescope experiment. In practical terms, the Stanford Paper was a lost document and Sagan’s writings on ancient alienism in Intelligent Life in the Universe never existed. On top of all this, tabloid ancient alienism had become so rooted in popular culture that the Pentagon was certain that anyone crazy enough to advocate for a science-based study of the subject would be laughed out of town.
Free from all resistance and confident that it could fend off all challenges, DARPA began to invest in interstellar research. Early in the new millennium, NASA, without fanfare, quietly launched two initiatives though designated surrogates: the 100 Year Starship Project and Icarus Interstellar. Presumably, the goal was to colonize Mars before the middle of the century, and then build a starship capable of sending humans into interstellar space by the end of the century. In the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time, NASA is currently providing cover for the Pentagon’s plans to weaponize space by searching for a particular planet in a particular star system that is capable of sustaining human life. We are being told that when humans arrive on that planet and set up camp, our species will have secured a long-term life insurance policy against our extinction here on Earth. All of this is a front to keep the public from knowing the truth.
The question of whether or not there is other intelligent life in the Universe has been successfully subsumed. People don’t talk about it much anymore. The goal is no longer about searching for intelligent life, it’s to find simple life on another planet that has evolved independent of life on Earth. The high expectation of the public in past years to make contact with ET have been effectively muted. Instead of finding an alien signal, all the talking heads at NASA are now speaking and writing about what a thrilling and historic moment it would be to discover a distant planet that has living extremophiles on it. Though this shifting of priorities from the Drake Model to the Slime Model has left many ETI purists disappointed, their consolation prize is that if NASA finds mold spores on a distant planet in the Goldilocks zone, it is almost certain that somewhere else in the Galaxy there is intelligent life. Just be patient and go with the program, we are told. The search for simple life on other planets initiative, although it may be of some legitimate scientific value, is a smokescreen to cover up the secret intentions of the Pentagon.
The nexus between looking for habitable planets and looking for simple life on other planets is that, at first glance, neither has anything to do with the military. By focusing on these two grand objectives, NASA presents itself to the public as a peace-loving organization dedicated to pure science and the long-term survival of the human species. All reasonable people would agree that both are noble pursuits. But the harsh reality is that NASA is a puppet, and the puppet master, the Pentagon, has zero interest in habitable worlds outside of our own solar system, or in finding simple life on distant planets or, for that matter, in extraterrestrials. The dark side of the Moon cares only about one thing: military superiority by winning and holding the high ground.
This raises the issue: If NASA and SETI were to scientifically confirm the reception of an alien signal and message, would they share it with the public? There is ample testimony from within their own respective organizations that they might not. Following are two examples.
“Humans concerned about their personal and institutional interests might resist the dissemination of some alien information, or seek to brand it as dangerous, immoral, or subversive.”
Physicist Paul Davies, chairman the SETI’s Post-Detection Taskgroup, echoed Michaud’s concerns. He writes:
The first decision would be whom to tell and how. In this scenario, the published Protocol would almost certainly break down. I personally feel that the implications of receiving such a message would be so startling and so disruptive that, although eventual disclosure is essential, every effort should be made to delay a public announcement until a thorough evaluation of the content has been conducted, and the full consequences of releasing the news carefully assessed in light of the Taskgroup’s recommendations.
Like a doe-eyed orphan sitting alone and forgotten alongside a busy highway, the Sagan Model of ancient alienism sits alone on the sidelines of scientific theoretical thought, while more astronomers, cosmologists, physicists, and astrobiologists than one can name or count, in search of a deeper meaning and purpose in the Universe, have been migrating to Eastern mysticism and New Ageism. I am referring to highly credentialed scientists and intellectuals, well trained in Western experimental science, who have thrown caution to the wind as they rush head-long into such esoteric and metaphysical concepts as cosmic consciousness, universal mind, quantum weirdness, parallel universes, multi-verses, alternate reality, and on and on. The scientific imperative to choose the simpler over the more complex would mean that the more reasoned approach would be to consider ancient alienism the better option. Why the mass exodus away from empirical Western science? I believe that one factor is that the great promise of the Drake Model, a thoroughly Western construct, has failed. SETI’s ultimate goal was to make radio contact with advanced aliens who would teach us about ultimate Reality. Had it succeeded, everyone would have hailed it as a triumph for Western science, and the exodus to the East would never have happened. Expectations of its success were so high that when contact failed to occur, the pendulum swung to the other extreme, away from Western science and into Eastern mysticism.
Seeing little hope of finding answers to life’s deepest questions in the West, scientists began trying to synthesize Western physics with Eastern metaphysics. Fueling this flight to the East has been the Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that issues generous financial grants and awards to Western scientists who come up with innovative new ways of unifying Western science with Eastern religion.
The result has been a plethora of exotic non-verifiable schemes that are so lacking in Western rigor and discipline that 14th-century English Franciscan monk William of Ockham, who invented the law of parsimony, must surely be rolling over in his grave. Also known as Occam’s razor, this foundational principle of Western science dictates that when there are multiple explanations for an observed phenomenon, one should choose the simplest, the most natural, and the one requiring the fewest special pleadings.
Hybrid East/West models of cosmology violate Occam’s razor with impunity. So, one has to ask: What’s going on? Why is it that highly skilled men and women trained in the West have turned to the East, where there little knowledge or appreciation of the value of critical thinking, testing and verification, peer review, quantification, replication, and other principles that serve as the foundation of Western scientific thought? Equally alarming, books on the contorted schemes that flow out of this syncretism are regularly passed off as scientific and appear in the popular science sections of local bookstores instead of in the New Age section where they rightfully belong.
Carl Sagan was an empiricist, and totally committed to Western science. He did not believe in taking shortcuts to the truth by appealing to the voodoo science of either the West or the East, where unseen and unknown forces define and control the fabric of the Universe. Sagan was convinced that the scientific method, though sometimes slow and arduous, was not only the best way, but the only way, for humanity to progress. There is, after all, a good reason why the Age of Science was spawned in the West during the English Enlightenment, and why young aspiring scientists in the East still come to the West to be educated.
The Sagan Model is a thoroughly Western construct, and I maintain that it accomplishes what Eastern and New Age models of reality promise but fail to deliver on. Anyone searching for answers to deep cosmological questions, who doesn’t want to abandon the core principles upon which Western science and philosophy have been built, should support the Sagan Model. Rather than being orphaned and forgotten, it deserves a chance to either succeed or fail. Why have so many practitioners of Western theoretical science leapfrogged from the Drake Model into Buddhism without giving the Sagan Model a chance to compete? Because NASA and the Pentagon won’t allow it. The Sagan Model has never been formally recognized and activated by the scientific establishment, and just as Sagan was making plans to take an end run around the establishment, his life was taken from him.
A Legacy Moment
Knowing that the odds that he would beat his rare form of cancer were not good, Carl Sagan chose the subject of what he suspected would be his last scientific endeavor with deep forethought. With a career that spanned 40 years, the range of material that he could have written about was literally as large as the Universe. I venture to say that few of his millions of admirers would have guessed that his swan song, his last tome, would be about long-lived extraterrestrial civilizations exploring and colonizing interstellar space, keeping an eye on and occasionally intervening with emergent species like our own.
Though the contents of Sagan’s unfinished essay have not been made easily available, it’s obvious from the title how Sagan wanted to be remembered. Not as a science popularizer, and definitely not as an advocate for a radio telescope search for an electromagnetic alien signal. Despite being under a strict gag order not to divulge his personal opinion on the subject, Carl Sagan made it crystal clear from this title that he wanted to be remembered as an ancient alien theorist. It is therefore incumbent on those of us who want to preserve his legacy to do everything within out power to make sure his last wish as a scientist be fulfilled, even if it is at odds with the popular narrative being propagated on this, the 20th anniversary of his death.
For 30 years, the NASA and SETI establishments vigorously denied the possibility of interstellar spaceflight. The sole reason for that denial was to ensure that the Sagan Model of ancient alienism would never be taken seriously. Now that NASA and the Pentagon are actively building an interstellar spacecraft, how would it be possible for anyone to argue that Sagan doesn’t deserve the highest reward for daring to challenge an established belief?
Unfortunately, Sagan has not been afforded the honors due him because he inserted his research on interstellar spaceflight into a paper that predicted that long-lived aliens have been traversing the galaxy for thousands of years and visited Earth in past ages. The harsh reality is that no mainstream scholar or scientist was willing, or is willing, to seriously and openly consider Sagan’s theory, even though, if independently confirmed by new discovery evidence, it would be among the greatest scientific achievements in history.
The deeper reason why scientists and intellectuals are unwilling to take on Sagan’s science-based model of ancient alienism has little or nothing to do with science and everything to do with psychology. If science confirms that advanced extraterrestrials have been to Earth and interacted with primitive humans, the Western scientific mindset that has evolved over the past four centuries would be utterly and irrevocably shattered beyond recognition. Like returning to pre-school, highly educated people with advanced degrees behind their names would have to start all over again, from scratch. The Sagan Model would become the Creed for the New Millennium, and many of the most hallowed beliefs of the mainstream establishment would need to be radically reconstructed or be allowed to fall by the wayside.
Scientists estimate that there are about one billion Earth-like plants in our Milky Way Galaxy and that there is a high probability that some of them have intelligent life. Carl’s Stanford Paper is a theoretical framework for arguing that it’s more probable than not that some of those advanced extraterrestrials have visited Earth. The historical data that Sagan produced in Intelligent Life in the Universe is concrete evidence that supports his theory. There is enough credible material to begin an intelligent, science-based conversation on the possibility that Earth is a visited planet. I suggest that it’s time that rational people begin that conversation and see where it leads. If Carl Sagan was right, we may now be closer to proving the existence of extraterrestrials than at any time in SETI history, and closer to securing the legacy of Dr. Carl Edward Sagan as the man who led science through a wasteland of false leads and dead-end methodologies to what may at long last be the Promised Land of Contact between ETI and humans.
The reality is that NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics feared Carl Sagan as they feared no one else. Others they could take head on, but with Sagan they had to run and hide. They could spread the sensational claims of others out under the light and show to the world where they were wrong. With Sagan’s research, all they could do was to try to conceal and suppress it so that it never found its way into the public consciousness. Now that the Sagan Model is out in the open and in the sunlight, how will they react? What will they do with it? And how will they react to my claim that Carl Sagan died just as he was preparing to display his research openly, in the sunlight, so that it could be properly vetted with full transparency?
Carl Sagan thought that there are likely thousands of advanced alien civilizations in the Milky Way Galaxy that are in constant contact with one another. He also speculated that our species may be so backward and warlike that it hasn’t yet earned the right to become a part of the Galactic Consortium. Looking around and seeing our violent tendencies, our gross neglect of basic human rights, our strange anti-scientific superstitions, and our shocking disregard for our fragile environment, Carl Sagan surmised that aliens might conclude that we humans still have a long way to go before we are invited to join the club. If Sagan was right and we have been visited by godlike aliens, then perhaps there is an encrypted key in some ancient Sumerian manuscript that, if found, would unlock a much larger message—a message that we need to help put us put on a course that will propel our species toward global peace and prosperity. If we can move in that direction, even if slowly and incrementally, then perhaps someday we will be welcomed into the presence of our cosmic neighbors.
Humans have been in the age of science for 400 years. If we foolishly manage to destroy ourselves in the next 600 years, we will have had the dubious distinction of joining an unknown number of civilizations that are classified by SETI theorists as short-lived. On the positive side, if we survive as a species for another 600 years, there is a fighting chance that we will become one of the long-lived societies in the galaxy that last for millions or even billions of years. In this hopeful scenario, it is certain that we will have solved many of the major problems we currently face here on Earth, enabling us to venture into deep space out of strength, not out of desperation. Unfortunately, there is a Sword of Damocles hanging over us, and it’s in the bloodied hands of a Pentagon war machine that is intent on expanding and escalating the arms race into deep space.
I’m convinced that, in the long run, Sagan will be remembered not for being a science popularizer, but for the model of ancient alienism that he developed in 1962 at Stanford University. Carl Sagan dared to think outside of the box—even while that box was still under construction. His deep commitment to, and lifetime interest in, ancient alienism can no longer be questioned. I am honored and humbled to be playing a very minor role in drawing the world’s attention to a sadly neglected aspect of his illustrious career by highlighting his Stanford Paper, which I regard without question as the most brilliantly conceived document in SETI history.
Triumph or Tragedy?
Now that Sagan’s work is known, the challenge will be to carve out a place in academia, be it ever so humble and precarious, for the scientific study of the ancient alien model he created. To this end, serious fact-based papers, both in favor of and against his model, will be received and posted on my Website, as will comments and commentary from the general public. The goal is to start building an archive of intellectually honest research material from which current and future generations can learn and to which they can contribute.
Of major concern is what writers of popular and academic books and articles do with the name of Carl Sagan now that he has been identified as an ancient alien theorist. Sagan is, by far, the most cited name in ETI literature, lending instant weight and authority to the subject. Will authors and speakers continue to reference the man who courageously stood up to the military-industrial complex, or will they cave in to the establishment and blacklist Sagan as a scientific leper with whom they want nothing to do? Will future books and articles on ETI distinguish between science-based ancient alienism and tabloid models, or will they continue to perpetuate the lie that there is only one kind—the pseudoscientific? As writers try to figure out what to do with Carl Sagan and his belief in ancient aliens, my hope is that they will take the high road and not allow the work of one of the great thinkers in modern science to fall by the wayside.
Throughout this book I have been hard, but I think fair, on professional skeptics such as Michael Shermer, who, I believe, will play a major, and perhaps decisive, role in what happens to the legacy of Carl Sagan. If skeptics abandon Sagan because of his belief in ancient aliens, it will be a far more difficult challenge to correct and rebuild his reputation as a leader in critical thinking and ETI research. On the other hand, should they embrace the Sagan Model as a scientifically legitimate thesis, it would be a valuable endorsement that would make it easier for other writers to continue to use the name of Carl Sagan in their citations.
Finally, a word of advice to those who may read this book and develop a keen interest in ancient alienism: Don’t drink the Kool Aid that popular ancient alien theorists are serving up. Consuming their gibberish will not only lower your IQ, it will move you in the opposite direction from where Carl Sagan wanted the world to go. It may take a while for the dust to settle, but be patient and wait for credible scholars to weigh in on the subject. For those who have a hunger and curiosity to learn more about the Sumerians and the Sagan Model, and to keep up with unfolding developments, I refer you to my Website.
I am well aware that in this book I have raised more questions than I have provided answers. I hope to resolve that imbalance in the future by sharing additional research material collected over the past four decades, and I look forward to what others may contribute to the cause. In the months and years ahead, what I will be looking for from critics is their considered rebuttal to my claim that Carl Sagan was an ancient alien theorist.
I have hopefully allayed people’s fears about visiting aliens by assuring everyone that they are no longer physically living among us, and, while they were here, they were benevolent and altruistic, always acting in our best interests. We can be confident that there is no cause for alarm, and new reason to hope for a bright, exciting, and enduring future for our species. As Sagan often reminded us, we have only just begun our journey to the stars. The next step along that journey belongs to science historians who, it is hoped, will amend the biography of Carl Sagan so that it reflects his deep lifelong commitment to ancient alienism and, in the process, create a new narrative and a restored legacy.
What we do need to fear are the secret collaborations going on among the Pentagon, defense contractors, and high-tech companies such as Google and IBM. There is no doubt in my mind that exotic new weapons are being developed and covert plans are being made in private that will determine the fate of the world—without the world having a voice. If there is one thing we need to fear more than the ignorance and superstition of the masses, it’s the immeasurable wealth and unbridled power that are in the hands of a relatively small handful of mostly unknown and unaccountable kingmakers.
In this 20-year commemoration of Sagan’s death, those of us who stand in awe and admiration of his life and work have the opportunity to correct an official record that is factually wrong and disturbingly misleading. We need to band together and demand that Sagan be recognized first and foremost as an ancient alien theorist who, in 1962, at Stanford University, crafted a science-based model that predicted that aliens, the Apkallu, were on Earth in the Ancient Near East, teaching principles of civilization to the Sumerians. We need to band together and demand that science analyze and investigate the Stanford Paper in light of recent developments and new discovery data. The true legacy of Carl Sagan is just beginning to come to light, and if Sagan’s fans and admirers stand firm, his legacy will survive for the ages.
In Preparing for Contact, author George Michael describes the process that scientist use to separate legitimate science from pseudoscience as “boundary work,” which he defines as “to make positive attributions about one’s research while denigrating the work of pseudo scientists who ignore or misapply the rules of science.” The purpose of boundary work is “to gain standing with peers, granting agencies, and the public.”
This is the process that established radio telegraph SETI as a mainstream scientific enterprise. Now that Carl Sagan’s work in ancient alienism has been identified and isolated from non-scientific models, will there be NASA and SETI scientists, academics and experts in other fields, and professional skeptics who will step forward and do the boundary work that will be required to make science-based ancient alienism a respected and mainstream area of endeavor?
An indelible benchmark has been established: that Carl Sagan, while still young and in his intellectual prime, became a serious ancient alien theorist who predicted that Earth has been visited by extraterrestrials in historical times. From this point in time and into the future, it is hoped that NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics will openly and without apology add this biographical fact to his extraordinary list of accomplishments, citing it as a badge of honor rather than an embarrassing stain on a truly remarkable and distinguished career. Until this goal is attained, it will be next to impossible to find credible scholars and scientists willing to openly examine the Stanford Paper and other potential evidence that supports the Sagan Model. I and many others will be watching carefully to see what individuals and institutions do with the public disclosure that Sagan was a lifelong believer in past alien visitations to Earth. Will the cover-up go on and the facts continue to be ignored, or will honest truth-tellers step forward and help set the record straight?
This is the fact: Through his Stanford Paper and his book Intelligent Life in the Universe, Carl Sagan established a scientific baseline for ancient alien research. His hope and expectation were that he and others would build on that foundation so that, year-by-year, and decade-by-decade, his theory would continue to mature, as new arguments in favor of his thesis accrued, as new supporting evidence was discovered, and as flaws in the model were eliminated. Over time, he anticipated a growing corpus of material related to ancient alienism that would attract more support, fuel more research, and incite more debate.
Instead, what Sagan got from his peers in the astronomy community, who viewed the search for extraterrestrial existence with radio telescopes as a long-term job-security program, were immediate indignation, rejection, and suppression, which, in turn, created the vacuum that pseudoscientific ancient alien theorists moved into with alarming ease and effectiveness.
Carl Sagan never had any desire to “own” the ancient alien genre. He was hoping, I’m sure, to draw bright young scholars and scientists into the discussion who, like him, would not be afraid to challenge the establishment. These would be young visionaries who would generate scientific papers, write books, and hold conferences on Sagan’s wildly exciting theory.
Whether young scientists seize the opportunity or not will shed a telling light on the current scientific environment. Is there still so much fear of the Pentagon within the space sciences community that no one will dare to actively and openly engage the Sagan Model? Will the pervasive influence of the military-industrial establishment continue to intimidate would-be enthusiasts who might fear that they would be placing their careers in jeopardy if they were to get involved? Are there old-guard NASA and SETI people around who still think that interstellar spaceflight is impossible, and who will discourage young scientists from contemplating the possibility that Sagan was right?
Sagan wrote that every legitimate science has its pseudoscientific counterpart. What he failed to mention was the order of their appearance. Sometimes it is the pseudoscience that comes first, the best example being young-Earth creationism being widely believed before Charles Darwin gave us the theory of evolution. In other instances, it is the science that comes first and the pseudoscience afterward. A great example of this is quantum mechanics, which inspired, and continues to inspire, a raft of pseudoscientific spinoffs.
Chronologically, Sagan’s science-based ancient alien theory came before Erich von Däniken’s pseudoscientific model. The problem is that Sagan’s work was so effectively censored and suppressed by NASA that von Däniken is widely, and falsely, credited with being the father of ancient alienism. This improper attribution immediately turned the entire genre into a caustic cesspool with such a heavy stigma attached to it that no respected scientist in his or her right mind would dare broach the subject as a plausible possibility.
It is not too late to set the record straight and restore science based ancient alienism to its rightful place as an academically legitimate area of research. The only way this can be accomplished is to spread the news about Carl Sagan’s work on the subject. Because it is clear that NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics aren’t interested in making that happen, it will be up to individuals who have been positively impacted by Sagan’s life to get the job done. Would you be willing to help? On my Website is a petition that demands that NASA activate the Sagan Model and test all empirical evidence that appears to support that model. Your signature would be appreciated.
Wild and Free
In Northern Idaho there is a river that for thousands of years flowed wild and free, from its snow-fed tributaries high in the Grand Teton Mountains to the Snake River, then to the Columbia, and, finally, to the sea.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a massive government agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, decided that the Teton River needed a dam, despite the fact that every environmental, economic, and geological study advised against it. More than 300 feet high and 1,700 feet across at the base, it was intended to be a monument to human ingenuity and a triumph of technology over nature. But as the reservoir behind the dam was about to reach its carrying capacity, leaks began to appear, and on Saturday, June 5, 1976, the dam collapsed, sending a wall of water downstream to wreak death and destruction.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, a young Carl Sagan was like a wild and free-flowing river, a mind gifted with torrents of creativity interspersed with quiet pools of deep reflection. Then, in 1964, a federal agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, without any scientific justification, made the fateful decision to tame that river by building a dam, putting Sagan in shackles that would never be broken. No sooner was it built than leaks began to appear, but NASA, SETI, and professional skeptics looked the other way. They refused to admit that it was a tragic mistake to try to harness a brilliant mind and force it to places it didn’t want to be. Without minimizing his incredible accomplishments, which were more than most men or women would dare dream of, the world got a toned down and scaled-back version of what Sagan could have been had he been allowed the freedom to pursue his dreams.
For the remainder of his life, Carl Sagan was denied his destiny of exploring the possibility of past alien visitations to Earth. Now, in the year 2016, 20 years after Sagan’s death, the dam that NASA built is finally about to collapse, and the cascading visions and introspective thoughts of Carl Sagan regarding ancient aliens will, it is hoped, finally be allowed to flow free.