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The Aliens Are Not Coming

Donate Fear not; the aliens are not coming to Earth.  

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Aliens & UFOs, General Science

Skeptoid Podcast #943
July 2, 2024
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The Aliens Are Not Coming

This week, the world celebrates World UFO Day on July 2, the traditional date that some believe an alien flying saucer crashed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. World UFO Day was established informally by some UFOlogists in 2001, in support of their conviction that aliens actively visit the Earth. The suggestion is that we all turn our eyes to the skies on that day, join a UFO group, gather with other UFOlogists, and so forth. I am not planning to join them, because the fact is that no aliens are coming to Earth.

Obviously it's never appropriate to speak in absolutes. Is it possible that aliens might visit the Earth? Sure it is, but only in the strictest sense of the word "possible." Its probability is so low that is it very close to zero; close enough that I am personally sufficiently convinced that it will not happen — so when I call the impossibility of alien visitation a fact, my statement is not a literal statistical claim, because that would be unsupportable; rather it is a combination of colloquial speech and satisfaction that the probability is near enough zero that it is impossible to any reasonable, practical extent. Aliens are not coming to Earth.

Philip Klass (1919-2005) made the same claim, and bet real money on it. Klass was one of the original founding members of CSICOP alongside Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, James Randi, Martin Gardner, and others. At the time he was a senior editor of Aviation Week (now Aviation Week & Space Technology), today jokingly referred to as "Aviation Leak" because they seem to publish even more than many government, military, and industry insiders know. Klass himself once narrowly escaped prosecution for publishing industry news that turned out to be classified, and got off only because it wasn't worth declassifying it to bring it up in court. So, Klass knew his business when it came to what's in our skies, and to debunking false claims about it.

Anyway, here's what Klass bet the UFO community in 1966, and this is how it appeared in his 1974 book UFOs Explained. Accepting his challenge would cost anyone $100 a year, but if they accepted, then Klass would pay them $10,000 if any of these three things occurred:

  1. Any crashed spacecraft, or major piece of a spacecraft, is found whose design and construction clearly identify it as being of extraterrestrial origin, in the opinion of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; or

  2. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences announces that it has examined other evidence which conclusively proves that the Earth has been visited during the 20th Century by extraterrestrial spacecraft, in the opinion of the National Academy of Sciences; or

  3. The first bona fide extraterrestrial visitor, who was born on a celestial body other than the Earth, appears live before the General Assembly of the United Nations, or on a national television program.

Only one guy ever made two $100 payments, nothing else. You'd think that considering how passionately many UFOlogists take their conviction that alien visitation is a fact beyond any question, they'd have taken advantage of this free money. Klass was good for it; he lost at least one bet about UFOs and paid what he agreed to pay. He and UFOlogist Stanton Friedman had disagreed over a font used in a hoaxed government document and bet money on it. Friedman wrote in one of his books that he proved Klass wrong, and Klass paid him $1,000.

The cause of a lot of this conviction goes all the way back to a famous 1948 event, one that makes a wonderful little example of how little things have changed. It was the incident that inspired the opening sequence of the Star Trek episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday". A flight of P-51 Mustang fighter planes was going along when they were asked to divert to check out a large shimmering UFO at high altitude. Three of the Mustangs gave chase and as they passed 22,500 feet, two of them had to give up due to lack of oxygen (their planes were equipped with oxygen masks, but not of a type sufficient for such extreme altitudes). The flight leader, 25-year-old WWII veteran and Distinguished Flying Cross recipient Captain Thomas Mantell, did not acknowledge their calls, even as he passed 25,000 feet. A few minutes later he crashed and was killed, having lost consciousness from hypoxia. Subsequent investigations proved that the object was a Skyhook balloon, enormous and transparent, and still top secret and unknown to the pilots at that time.

When I say it's an example of how little things have changed, I want you to understand the full force of my words. Let's compare it to the GOFAST video, the one of the three popular US Navy videos released in 2017 that, like the Mantell incident, was a balloon:

  1. These were both cases where balloons fooled smart fighter pilots, the best of the best, into thinking some unknown extraordinary craft was right there. Pilots who — in the view of many UFOlogists — are too knowledgeable about things in the sky to be fooled.

  2. In both cases, the government eventually acknowledged that a balloon was the probable cause; and in both cases the Alien Visitation believers roundly dismissed that explanation as a coverup and propaganda. They claimed the objects displayed behavior that would have been impossible for a balloon, despite the evidence showing otherwise.

  3. The biggest difference between the two incidents was the duration of the event. While the Navy F-18 pilots saw the balloon on their screens for only about 30 seconds, the duration of the P-51 event was some 40 minutes. If those decorated pilots were unable to recognize it as a balloon when they had eyeballs on it for 40 minutes, is it any wonder the F-18 pilots couldn't recognize a balloon from a short glimpse on an infrared monitor?

So there's good reason for us to be more forgiving of modern pilots having no more prescience than pilots from bygone eras; the problems of being able to tell almost nothing about a single point in space from a great distance is a problem of geometry and lack of sufficient information, it's not a problem of skill or experience.

Simultaneously, we need to crack down and become less forgiving of people like Congresspeople and other government officials who are insisting upon identifying these blobs as extraterrestrial visitors. Every time they convene a new committee of experts to analyze the phenomenon, the committee reports there is nothing to indicate alien spacecraft, and the Congresspeople impatiently dissolve the committee and seek to form its successor; and they will probably continue repeating this until they get the answer they want.

It's their own fault for appointing UFO storytellers as their experts — people like the recent crops of "whistleblowers" and Skinwalker Ranch ghost hunters and the countless minions of the Robert Bigelows and Chris Mellons who have been financing this expansive PR campaign, and going on podcasts to tell Joe Rogan that alien space monsters are killing people and that they heard from a friend of a friend that hangars everywhere are filled with crashed spacecraft debris. Those are the experts the Congress's UFO caucus relies upon; note that in the David Grusch hearing, who was sitting in the front row but UFO writer and podcaster George Knapp and UFO filmmaker Jeremy Corbell. Not Neil deGrasse Tyson or Seth Shostak. UFO storytellers, not actual subject matter experts.

The Congresspeople could easily go instead to those more appropriate subject matter experts — the people who can actually explain to them about space and the prospects of alien visitation. To whatever degree Congress might already have gone out to seek this perspective, they evidently found it disappointing and opted to exclude it from their future work in favor of more UFOlogists.

This is proven in black and white: Senator Chuck Schumer was widely reported to have sought assistance from UFOlogist Lue Elizondo and other UFO personalities in drafting the so-called "Schumer Amendment" that adds a bunch of UFO stuff to the National Defense Authorization Act. The final version includes a provision that the US President must appoint a 9-member "Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena Records Review Board" from recommendations provided, in part, by a private nonprofit called "The UAP Disclosure Foundation." Well guess what: very shortly thereafter, a 501(c)(4) was launched called "The UAP Disclosure Fund" with its board consisting of Lue Elizondo and high-profile alien visitation advocates including Chris Mellon, Garry Nolan, even UFO podcaster Matthew Ford. It's now actually written in law that the nuttiest UFOlogists, whose views are absolutely at odds against all the relevant science, have an official role in government.

The simple fact — and part of why I am perfectly satisfied that aliens are not going to visit us — is that astrophysicists and astrobiologists know quite a lot about the science of interstellar travel, and everything we've learned tells us it's not going to happen. Compounded with the fact that in the entire history of the entire Earth, we've never found a shred of evidence suggesting aliens have ever visited in the past, we can be pretty certain the reason is that (as the physics make plain) it's not reasonably possible.

If you tell me you saw Elvis, I do not need to investigate that to find out if it's true. We have all the facts we need to know for a certainty that Elvis died in 1977, so your story must be wrong, no matter how much you believe it. If the UFO personalities say that aliens visit the Earth, I do not need to investigate that either. We already know their beliefs must be wrong.

This is why UFO experts, including the CSICOP experts mentioned earlier (and even including me), can maintain our confidence; and why no evidence to the contrary has ever been presented, to the point that in 1983, Klass published a satirical UFO curse that he would leave on the UFOlogists upon his death. It's longer than this, but this is the popular snippet most often reproduced:


To ufologists who publicly criticize me, ... or who even think unkind thoughts about me in private, I do hereby leave and bequeath: THE UFO CURSE:

No matter how long you live, you will never know any more about UFOs than you know today. You will never know any more about what UFOs really are, or where they come from. You will never know any more about what the U.S. Government really knows about UFOs than you know today. As you lie on your own death-bed you will be as mystified about UFOs as you are today. And you will remember this curse.

By Brian Dunning

Please contact us with any corrections or feedback.


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Cite this article:
Dunning, B. "The Aliens Are Not Coming." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 2 Jul 2024. Web. 18 Jul 2024. <>


References & Further Reading

117th Congress. James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2022. 1196.

Avada. "What Is World UFO Day?" World UFO Day. Avada, 13 Nov. 2012. Web. 22 Jun. 2024. <>

Klass, P. UFOs Explained. New York: Random House, 1974.

Klass, P. Bringing UFOs Down to Earth. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1997.

Rensberger, B. "Paranormal Phenomena Facing Scientific Study." The New York Times. 1 May 1976, Newspaper: 19.

Stilwell, B. "The First Air Force Pilot to Die Chasing a UFO Was Actually Chasing a Secret Balloon." Military Advantage, 31 Oct. 2022. Web. 22 Jun. 2024. <>


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