France opens UFO files

The French agency for UFOs just opened their database. Unfortunately, the CNES/GEIPAN web site has generally been down since then, presumably due to the heavy traffic. In these conditions, I’m not sure that the add prominently featured at the bottom is really helpful:

This site was built using the CNES-SiTools Framework. SiTools is Copyright © 2004-2005 by CNESSiTools

Why should we show any interest in UFOs?

I don’t think opening up this archive will change anybody’s mind on the topic. For those who believe, there are already a large number of sites with tons of “evidence”. For those who don’t, there are similarly convincing arguments against. So this is one case where the human brain has trouble sorting things out, simply because the available evidence is not strong enough one way or another.

Is there any point talking about this, if we can’t prove anything? I believe there is. In many fields of science, evidence is statistical. It’s the accumulation of facts that, individually, mean very little, which together form evidence. Over time, we learned how to locate small solid bodies outside of the Earth’s atmosphere with sufficient precision that some predictions and useful observations can be made about meteors. For a very long time, this was not the case. Similarly, if one person sees little men in a flying saucer, it does not mean much, but if dozens of people report similar incidents over the span of a few decades, then there may be some truth to the observations.

Not scientific, but not necessarily “false” either

It remains very frustrating for scientists, of course, because they can’t reproduce the phenomemon at will. So there is a strong temptation to classify this as “non science”. And, in the present state of knowledge, that’s really what it is. It is not a science not necessarily because it is not true, but because we do not know what to make of the little evidence we have. There is no theory which would allow us to predict when and where UFOs will land, for example.

But from “not science”, another step is often taken, which is: “it’s false”, or “it’s bogus”, or “there can be no extraterrestrial because Albert Einstein said that we can’t travel faster than light”. That step is irrational. We cannot deny evidence on the basis that we don’t know what to do with it. It would be like saying “Dear Mr. Sherlock Holmes, this person cannot be dead, because I am unable to explain how the murderer proceeded”. That would have made for much less interesting books, don’t you think?

Personal UFO experience

But in this “polluted” atmosphere surrounding UFOs, making a personal opinion on the topic in today’s context is difficult, in particular when you have not seen a UFO yourself. Even when you have seen one, you still won’t know what to believe. There is a big gap between “unidentified” and “extraterrestrial”. I saw a “UFO” once, but “U” here only means I could not identify it personally, and found it “misbehaved”. “Misbehaved flying object”, that might be a better acronym… What I know, however, is that I saw something I could not explain, and denying it would simply be lying to myself. Again, not a very logical attitude…

So, what did I see? Well, it was not that impressive: walking in the countryside one evening, I saw a light shoot rapidly skywards. It could have been an amateur rocket, though in my recollection, it was a bit fast for that, and I don’t remember hearing a noise nor seeing any smoke. To this day, I still have no idea what it was, and I will probably die ignoring whether it was a weather balloon (unlikely), martians (unlikely as well), some optical effect (why not), or a probe from a remote region of the galaxy (now, that is quite likely…).

Whether the archives of the GEIPAN will help solving that mystery, only time will tell.

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