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Hardly, Hawking: Physicist Relegates UFOs to the Lunatic Fringe

Where did we come from? How did the universe come into being? Are we alone in the universe? Is there alien life out there, and what is the future of the human race? These are the sorts of questions that great minds of science have been asking ever since our concept of a universe was first realized, and all were questions put forth by acclaimed physicist Stephen Hawking, during a lecture he gave in 2008.

During the presentation, Hawking notes that the apparent probability of life arising elsewhere in the universe, based on conditions we can observe here on Earth, seems pretty high. “On the other hand, we don’t seem to have been visited by aliens. I’m discounting the reports of UFOs… why would they appear only to cranks and weirdos?”

Cranks and weirdos, huh? While Hawking may indeed be one of the finest scientific minds of the last century, the bold assumptions and outright ignorance this statement betrays behind Hawking’s logic is disheartening, at best. As if the discussion required any further reason as to why this is the case, below I’ve chosen to take a look at a few other statements Hawking makes with regard to UFOs and alien life, and why there are more than a few problems with his views.

First of all, when it comes to the study of alien life, it’s understandable that Hawking would fall into the same trap where UFOs are accepted to be aliens from other worlds. Still, this assumption arrives all to often, and despite any hard proof to support such a connection between aliens and unidentified flying objects. While there could be a connection, for all we know, a truly scientific perspective of the UFO phenomenon must remain neutral as to what they actually may be. There is simply no way to directly associate UFOs with alien life, with no reliable frame of reference regarding what aliens may be, or if we’ve been visited.

That said, thanks to the work of journalists like Leslie Kean, Robert Hastings, and others who have gone to great lengths to document official reports by government officials, pilots, and others with officialdom who have had UFO sightings, we can rest assured knowing that “cranks and weirdos” aren’t the only UFO witnesses out there. What Hawking espouses here is representative of a very sad attitude maintained by many in the scientific mainstream, and if anything, it is the result of sheer ignorance. Statements like these are most often afforded us by individuals who, with their focus kept strictly and at all times on the matters of physics and the sciences, probably have never really had proper exposure to UFO reports that are more justifiable than those outlandish episodes to which Hawking refers.

Hawking went on in his presentation to criticize the notion that secret activities may be going on behind the scenes, as played out by our world governments. “If there is a government conspiracy to suppress the reports, and keep for itself the scientific knowledge the aliens bring, it seems to have been a singularly ineffective policy so far.” Or has it? Supposing for a moment that some clandestine organization indeed might have succeeded in keeping UFO-related knowledge from the public, might their success not be measured by the boldness of statements like this one, which Hawking makes so assuredly? If the secret had been kept effectively, for the most part, then arguably someone like Hawking, well-connected though he is in the community, would still remain in the dark about a UFO conspiracy… though again, this would only be in the event that some conspiracy did in fact exist.

In truth, there wouldn’t have to be any conspiracy for potentials to exist that Hawking hasn’t seemed to take into consideration here. He cites with confidence the failure of SETI programs in past attempts at unraveling the mysteries of alien life through discovery of coded alien messages from afar. And yet, he doesn’t stop to consider whether SETI’s real failures might have been in the limitations present with the science being employed; can we really be so bold as to assume that, if radio signals couldn’t be detected, then there is less likelihood altogether that alien life exists?

Below is a link to the short video segment where Hawking, despite his great knowledge, seems to rest his critique of the UFO enigma on a series of under-educated assumptions. What are your feelings on this line of thought, and does this sort of attitude expressed by scientists today actually more harm than good when it comes to understanding the potentials of alien cosmology?

Stephen Hawking on Alien Life: UFOs, Cranks, and Weirdos

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  • Remember, Micah: we’re talking about the same individual who, at the beginning of his career, was bragging about how we were on the verge of discovering the Unified Theory, and that this accomplishment would be like “peering into the mind of God.”

    With age he lost some of his arrogance. But not enough by the looks of it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • possibilianist G-gnome

    UPFO, you took the words out of my mouth. I tried to post here last night and said almost the same thing but something went wrong.
    It seems to me that Hawking is being paid by the same crowd that turned Sagan!!
    It is very hard for me to believe these guys are really this ignorant and close minded.
    You don’t have to look very far to know there is something going on here.

  • To be fair, his research in black holes let us know that some residual energy can escape from these cosmic behemoths, hence the termed Hawking Radiation.

    His contribution in Cosmology has been great. It’s just that so far it hasn’t been applied to things that are part of our everyday lives. But there shouldn’t an utilitarian drive behind basic research.

  • From the outside looking in its always easy to say what is really going on.
    Unfortunately, when standing in the inside the glass is mirrored.
    When you spend your life building walls of knowledge around yourself,
    You don’t brake them down without the power of an life changing experience.
    Or… And this is my favorite…
    Try explaining to a blind person…the color red…
    Without the Ability to point out something red… You are powerless…
    Experience is the only thing that will teach a man that already knows everything.

  • julianpenrod

    Hawking didn’t discover Hawking Radiation, because, at the very least, it has never been observed!

    More importantly, it has to be remembered that what he claimed was not that radiation escapes a black hole! Rather, that photons near the event horizon, but still in our space, supposedly, and this too was never proved, divide into matter and antimatter particles and one of those particles reaches us. It is not a quality of a black hole! And, remember, no black hole was ever reported to have been seen to “evaporate” the way mindless devotees of Hawking’s doggerel masquerading as “science” say they should.

    Utilitarian development is not the only discovery one can make, but it has the quality of being obvious and demonstrable. Purely theoretical “discoveries” are not proved, and can be pure flummery, supported only by quislings who also want to be praised for doing nothing!

    Hawkling is a fraud.

  • possibilianist G-gnome

    So well said and I totally agree. I hope the new young skeptic MU guy is reading all of this…. Wonder what he is thinking?

  • bright garlick

    Despite my initial criticism – I agree with you Mark – context is everything. Who knows how these comments said in Hawking”s real voice might have come across. He has a brilliant mind – I only wish it had considered the evidence that is available – with or without scientific proof !

  • bright garlick

    Spot on !

  • hidflect

    My delusion that scientists were somehow wiser beings was first shattered when I met a physicist who voted for GW Bush.. twice.

  • Long Theorized, Hawking Radiation Has Now Been Observed For The First Time

    >”Purely theoretical “discoveries” are not proved, and can be pure
    flummery, supported only by quislings who also want to be praised for
    doing nothing!”

    It’s not about theoretical ‘discoveries’; it’s about testing the validity of scientific theories by confirming their predictions with observable phenomena. If a given theory manages to make future predictions that are later confirmed, it DOES NOT mean the the theory is the stone-engraved truth; but it does mean the theory is worthy to be incorporated into our present model of how the world works, until such a time when a better theory emerges, and we are forced to reshape our model.

  • tonyinvc

    The Fry-hole or Hawking-hole conundrum rages on.

  • i wouldn’t put to much weight into anything he says anymore, apparently, according to most of the scientific community he isn’t as great as he thinks he is. in fact according to a program i watched about physics he ranks pretty low on the list of people who have contributed much to the field itself. the reason he is famous is because of all the media attention he gets as opposed to other more deserving scientists. Cranks and wierdos, what about sightings by pilots , law enforcement, military personnel. just because you see something that can’t be explained doesn’t make you an ignorant fool, some would say living your life in books and on the computer does. not trying to be mean but i doubt he gets around to the lonely corners of the world where strange things can often occur very much, that is unless that wheelchair has knobby tires and offroad capabilities. Hawking is a dick!!!!

  • weirdaustralia

    Unfortunately, Hawking’s ignorance of the very real enigma of UFOs appears widespread throughout the scientific community.

    Just as Micah felt compelled to challenge Hawking’s comments, an equally ignorant viewpoint expressed by Australian astronomer, Perry Vlahos, in an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Encounters of the third kind? Not even close, compelled me to respond in an editorial published here on Mysterious Universe back in February.

    In his article, Vlahos conceded that intelligent civilisations may exist elsewhere in the universe, but then confidently went on to say that “if they exist, they’ve not been here yet”.

    How he can make such a statement … without providing irrefutable evidence to support his claim?
    After making a number of other erroneous assertions (including equating belief in UFOs with crop circles), he concluded that, “the tiny percentage of UFO reports that remain unsolved would almost surely be a mystery no longer, were all the facts known”.
    Tell that to the former Head of Operations at the Belgian Air Staff, the Peruvian and Iranian fighter pilots and the many other reputable pilots, police officers, military personnel, politicians and citizens who have witnessed strange objects in the skies that defy any explanation. Cranks and weirdos? I think not.

  • wylekat

    This could be solved simply: Hawking needs a good, solid UFO encounter. No easier way to turn a skeptic into a believer.

    Why yes- I do speak from experience.

  • wylekat

    After a stint with “college math”, I came to the conclusion that the stuff these people use for their theories is literal bunk. Seems with all the algebra and trig and everything else, one can arbitrarily transpose the – or + signs, and add, subtract, multiply and divide however they like (or however they need to to get their version of things).

    I am of the firm belief “higher math” is nothing more than a tool for fraudsters to make the public believe anything they say- because what normal person would be able to untangle some of their mishmash of symbols, letters, numbers and exponents? I am not saying “math is evil!” because some of it is used successfully every day. Even algebra has very good uses *hears gasps from my g/f (she tried to tutor me… poor woman)* But the rest of it? HA.

  • Well that is exactly the kind of attitude that helped the Europeans find the Higgslike particle first.

    While in the meantime America is getting farther and farther behind…

    Being Pro-UFO does not mean being Anti-Science.

  • wylekat

    Ummm… not exactly what I mean. There’s math, and then there’s…. well…. “this stuff”. I read the rules, my g/f, who has gone thru college algebra with high marks recently read them, and we were BOTH completely flummoxed. FYI: I am not some kid, either. I’m 41, she’s 43. I can do algebra to a point. I admit I stink at it, too. I also am not knocking straight algebra. It’s this other stuff, the weird, sloppy math that with enough massaging, it seems any person with a degree and some peer support can make the math say whatever they want.

    Example: I took one of the “supposed” equations and plugged it straight into the calculator. All numbers, no variables (the letters). The calculator spit out what my g/f confirmed was the correct answer. The software I was to use for school? “your answer is incorrect.”. Wha??? Turns out that there’s some rule that sometimes states to invert a – to a +! And yes… SOMETIMES. I never found out the rhyme or reason for it, either. I also have a rule: if the computer or calculator cannot be used to check the answer, it is not proper math. It’s why the things were made! Not for the lazy bum to check their balance, but to check one’s work. And handle the stuff that certain people would find hard to do. They do the workload.

    This was not an attack on math and learning, this is more a complaint on the stuff that is being attached to the math, that I am sure is making it overcomplicated to the point only certain people can abuse it, and be unchallenged. Think back to the early days of books- the church forbade anyone from reading the bible (and look at the abuses they could do when they went unchallenged by people who simply could not read and understand). It took centuries, but people caught on, and the church had to back off from many of their fun projects.

    I see the same pattern here.

  • >”Think back to the early days of books- the church forbade anyone from
    reading the bible (and look at the abuses they could do when they went
    unchallenged by people who simply could not read and understand). It
    took centuries, but people caught on, and the church had to back off
    from many of their fun projects.”

    Not really, because the nice thing about Math is that anyone can do the same operations and arrive at the exact same response. Math is not open to subjective interpretation.

    I’m 38 myself, and back in the day we didn’t use scientific calculators or computers in Math class. You had to PROVE the reasoning behind your result –and sometimes you did get partial points if the result was wrong but the reasoning of your operation was elegant enough ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Believe me, I think I understand your argument, and to a point I happen to agree: Our current models of the world are imprecise and inaccurate, and some of the things that are used as to explain an observed phenomenon seems sometimes to be ‘cop outs’ to balance the equations and keep the model updated, even though the aforementioned phenomenon was interpreted very differently in the past.

    Let’s examine an easy example: Albert Einstein, the รผber-icon of theoretical genius was opposed to the idea of an expanding Universe. And so he theorized a force he called ‘Lambda’ in order to keep the Universe nice and constant. Problem is, more and more evidence keep piling up to demonstrate that damn, the Universe IS expanding after all. A rather Oopsy moment for Herr Einstein, who deemed Lambda as the lowest point in his career.

    But, as it turns out, the Universe is actually accelerating far more rapidly than what the total amount of observable energy and matter could account for. There had to be something behind this, and modern cosmologists realized Einstein’s old Lambda formulas *could* be used to try to discern this extra stuff dilating the Cosmos.

    Some scientists are still skeptic of the existence of dark matter & dark energy. They say that if the force of Gravity didn’t behave in a constant way or decayed differently at the farthest reaches of the Universe that the observed acceleration could be explained more easily without invoking obscure –no pun intended– agents.

    But the key is this: these seemingly mumbo-jumbo formulas they come up with need to be useful to PREDICT natural phenomena yet to be observed and measured. Take String theory: everyone agrees the mathematical formulas devised by String theorists are beautiful, yet they haven’t been useful to predict natural phenomena. Still, many people are still loyal to String theory, mainly because of the beauty of its theories and mathematics.

    So, as you can see, up to a point we’re in agreement. Yet I still maintain that Physics is different from Dogma, because of one key aspect: Science can refute long-held ideas with new theories and better predictions; and in an ideal world, authority in scientific circles is utterly meaningless –and everybody would take Hawking’s claims with the due grain of salt ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Damian

    It just goes to show that even the brightest minds on earth suffer from that inherent human trait of ignorance and closed perception of the endless possibilities that exist in our pea soup of time and substance! Perhaps he woke u on the wrong side of the bed!?

  • Clay Cyr

    Screw him and the wheelchair he rode in on. Although Carl Sagan was one of my heroes, he too was incredibly close-minded about this subject. Most mainstream scientists are terrified of losing their funding if they appear to lose their credibility by endorsing what the Powers that Be deny and/or ridicule.