'We May Not Be Alone' NPR's Scott Simon considers the infinite possibilities of alien life.
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'We May Not Be Alone'

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'We May Not Be Alone'

'We May Not Be Alone'

'We May Not Be Alone'

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This week, a former Pentagon official told the media, "My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone" ... and the world kept on turning. AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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AFP/Getty Images

This week, a former Pentagon official told the media, "My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone" ... and the world kept on turning.

AFP/Getty Images

Sometimes a story makes you wonder: Why do we pay attention to anything else?

Luis Elizondo, who used to run a formerly secret government program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, this week told a number of news organizations, including NPR, "My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone."

Mr. Elizondo has left the Pentagon, it should be noted, to help begin a commercial company called To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science. They shared videos, just declassified by the government, taken by U.S. Navy pilots who had a close encounter off the coast of California in 2004 with what they said looked like a 40-foot-long white Tic Tac. The object flew faster than their F/A-18 fighter jets but left no detectable turbulence.

Commander David Fravor told reporters this week the object they saw was "something not from Earth."

A former military intelligence official in charge of a secret government program says, "We may not be alone," and people go back to their screens. People see an inexplicable video of a flying object that an unflappable Navy pilot called "something not from Earth" and flip to a new screen. No mobs marched in panic and desperation on hearing, "We may not be alone." This week we heard those words — and went on.

The implications may be staggering. But over the past few decades, people around the world have gotten to know fictional but compelling aliens, like Gort, the Klingons, E.T. and Chewbacca. A War of the Worlds may seem less likely than any war we might contrive on our own. For 50 years, we've also been able to see ourselves in the portrait of our planet: the beautiful, fragile blue marble spinning so alive and yet apart in the darkness of universe of space we don't know, that we can't even see, that maybe we can't even imagine.

I'm one of those who believe there must be something, even someone else, out there, not because of anything we've learned this week, but because of what life always reveals about infinite possibilities.

As 2017 rolls to a close, you may think of the words toward the end of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, when we've seen the staggering, fragile and abiding beauty of life, love and loss in the smallest ordinary details. "Scholars haven't settled the matter yet," says the Stage Manager, "but they seem to think there are no living beings out there. Just chalk ... or fire. Only this one is straining away, straining away all the time to make something of itself."