Some of us had been wondering if the release this June of the preliminary report from the Pentagon’s UAP Task Force would have much of an impact on the feelings and beliefs of the public when it comes to the reality of UFOs. The results of a new survey released this week by Gallup seem to put that question to rest. The report concluded rather unambiguously that UFOs (or UAP as the government prefers to call them) are real, physical objects, some of which we have no adequate explanation for. With that in mind, Pew asked people one of the next logical questions. Do you believe that some of them may be of extraterrestrial origin or will they all be adequately explained by human activity on earth or natural phenomenon?
Half of the country still isn’t buying the alien explanation, also known in the community as the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH), but the number willing to consider it rose to 41%. That’s an 8 point increase just since they asked the question in August of 2019. Meanwhile, the number of people who remain convinced that everything being seen has an earthly explanation dropped from 60% to 50%.
More Americans are taking UFOs seriously than just two years ago. When asked which of two theories better explains UFO sightings, 41% of adults now believe some UFOs involve alien spacecraft from other planets, up eight points from 33% in 2019. Half of Americans, down from 60% in 2019, remain skeptical, saying all UFO sightings can be explained by human activity or natural phenomena. Another 9% are unwilling to venture a guess.
The recent change spans a period when UFOs have received significant coverage in mainstream news publications. This includes a spate of articles in 2019 focused on leaked footage of mysterious flying objects taken by Navy pilots. While the Department of Defense has not suggested these or any UFOs involve alien visitors, the Navy has acknowledged the leaked video is authentic, and in 2020, it commissioned a task force to study “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP).
This has been a steady but still remarkable shift in the public’s attitude. At this point, if you don’t think that UFOs are real and you don’t want to take the government’s word for it, there’s probably not much left to say to you. Your attitude probably won’t be changing unless one of the tic tacs lands on your lawn or you get abducted. But there’s something going on in the skies.
As far as those survey results go, there’s one other thing to note. While 50% are rejecting the ETH out of hand and 41% are accepting the possibility, the other 9% wouldn’t venture an opinion. And for most of those, that probably translates to “maybe.” Slowly but surely, we seem to be turning into a nation of believers.
This was always going to be the next step in the conversation, at least in my opinion. For the years since the release of the New York Times’ bombshell 2017 article on AATIP until the release of the June report, plenty of us were urging caution. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. All we’re asking the government, for now, is to tell us whether or not the UFOs are real and if they are truly unidentified rather than being some of our own top-secret technology. They don’t have to tell us what they are or where they came from… just tell all of the pilots and others who have seen them that we’re not crazy.
But quietly, in the back row of the class, everyone knew what the next step was when they admitted the UFOs are real. Okay. If they’re not ours and they’re not Russian or Chinese, where did they come from? Who built them? Who, if anyone, is flying them?
That’s where the ETH comes in. If anything, solving this mystery will likely prove vastly harder than just confirming that there are unknown objects intruding on our restricted airspace. After all, until someone manages to produce a crashed craft or an alien body, the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis is precisely that… a hypothesis.
For a bit of history on this part of the debate and some analysis of these latest reports, a bit of recommended reading is this new piece at The Debrief by my friend Micah Hanks. He discusses how scientists remain in conflict over the ETH question, with many still rejecting it out of hand while others have begun to warm to the idea. What everyone agrees on is the need for more good, repeatable data for scientists to study.
In the science community, there is almost no one who will tell you that the idea of life elsewhere in the universe beyond our own blue world is impossible. The question of whether that life is primarily pond scum in alien oceans or technologically capable advanced intelligent species will produce more of a divide. But the idea that such life has been crossing the interstellar void to visit us is still a massive bridge too far for many. But perhaps an answer to that ancient mystery is still yet to come. I certainly hope so.