Opinion: What extraterrestrials might learn on Earth NPR's Scott Simon remarks on the first congressional hearings on UFOs — rebranded now as UAPs (Unexplained Aerial Phenomena) — in 52 years. Sadly, the search for intelligent life continues.

Opinion: What extraterrestrials might learn on Earth

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The truth is out there - and may be slightly disappointing. This week, a congressional committee held the first hearings on UFOs - now called UAPs, or unexplained aerial phenomenon - since 1969. Investigators say there are now about 400 reported incidents in their database in which people reported seeing something in the skies that cannot be explained. But Scott W. Bray, deputy director of U.S. Navy intelligence, told the committee they still haven't discovered anything non-terrestrial in origin. To quote an understated line from npr.org, "none of the documented objects had attempted to communicate with U.S. aviators, and no attempt had been made to communicate with them." Though if any UAPs would like to appear on our show, I promise them Nina Totin' Bags from the NPR gift shop for carting back earthly souvenirs.

A number of years ago, I called a highly placed former government official to ask, you receive the highest-level security briefings. Is there anything we should know about UFOs? They called right back and didn't say no or yes, but said on background, we received scores of reports every year that can't be explained. Those things may not be from another planet, but we would rest easier if we knew what they were.

Those officials who testified this week said they hope to remove any stigma about reporting unexplained aerial phenomenon. They're mostly concerned the source might be earthly adversaries, not non-terrestrial ones. Ronald S. Moultrie, undersecretary for defense, intelligence and security, told the committee, we want to know what's out there just like you want to know what's out there. The highly placed government official who spoke to me also said, you'd think we would have learned something from our own planet's space explorations. Genuinely advanced discoveries are accomplished by small probes with exquisitely sensitive robotic technology, not big, shiny saucers that flash in the sky. Maybe it's just the size of a gnat, that person theorized. I haven't been able to slap a gnat off my neck since.

There are some weeks when the news is so discouraging, you might wonder what any civilization would hope to learn here anyway. We earthlings manage to dauntlessly explore space, send TikTok videos to billions and develop vaccines against deadly viruses. But we can also deploy our most superb achievements to promote our worst instincts. Some weeks, you wonder if a truly advanced civilization might come across ours in the universe and just shrug and ask, what's their problem?

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