This has been a very unusual week, and for that matter a very unusual period, for space news. First former President Clinton talked about Area 51 and extraterrestrials on Jimmy Kimmel's show. Then, in a move that still has many - your present author included - scratching their heads, Pope Francis I gave his unusual sermon in which he openly stated that if Martians - note the reference to a near neighbor rather than a different star system - demanded baptism, the Roman church should welcome them. As I pointed out in last Thhursday's News and Views from the Nefarium, this statement came after a month of Vatican attention on matters extraterrestrial, when the Vatican astronomer Funes indicated he thought that aliens might not have to be baptized. Then, following Francis I's gentle "corrective statement," Guy Consolmagno made similar extraterrestrial statements at a commencement address in Georgetown. My conclusion and high octane speculation from all this was that we are looking at the first quiet steps in the "updating" of the papal claims and their extension into outer space - and whoever might be out there - itself.
Indeed, if one looks back at recent space events during the past few years, and takes a synoptic view of them, it is a strange picture. There was the curious "Norway spiral" incident, in which a a Russian missile test firing was apparently interferred with by a strange "spiral" apparition over northern Norway. "Coincidentally," Europe's version of HAARP, EISCAT, was apparently turned on full blast on or near the time of the Russian test. This was followed by a strange pronouncement by German Chancellorin Merkel who indicated that Germany "didn't really need" the US's "missile defense shield". We went ahead with plans to deploy it in Europe anyway.
Then there was the strange affair of the Chelyabinsk meteor. A month prior to this bollide's explosion over this major Russian city, and major center of the Russian nuclear industry, former Russian president Dmitri Medvedev made curious statements that Russia needed to spend a lot of money and build an "asteroid monitoring and defense system," in concert with other powers optimally, but unilaterally and on its own if it could not. Then the meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk a month later, and some videos were circulated indicating the possibility that someone or something deliberately exploded the object in order to prevent the possibility of it slamming into the ground and causing much more damage. Some even speculated that someone else had deliberately hurled the object at Russia.
Last year, as all of this was occurring, I published Covert Wars and the Clash of Civilizations, in which I argued the equally high octane speculation that, in their efforts to address and understand the UFO phenomenon, and perhaps even to initiate some form of communication, the breakaway civilization/secret space program/national security apparatus - whatever one wishes to call it - would leave no historical text unexamined, and no historical stone unturned, in its effort to understand the phenomenon and communicate. I suggested that things like crop circles may be such an attempt. It was, I thought, a strange and bizarre argument to make, for it implied that some version of the "ancient astronaut theory," of von Daeniken's Chariots of the Gods, would actually be an a hypothesis informing some of these efforts.
Well, this week many of you, including Ms. B.H. and Mr. S.D. sent me versions of the following story. It seems that NASA is entertaining precisely such ideas and concepts:
There is, toward the end of the article, the usual bow to any potential ET's "Radical Otherness":
"‘Like archaeologists who reconstruct temporally distant civilisations from fragmentary evidence, Seti researchers will be expected to reconstruct distant civilisations separated from us by vast expanses of space as well as time.
"‘As we attempt to decode and interpret extraterrestrial messages, we will be required to comprehend the mindset of a species that is radically Other.’"
But the idea of examining ancient texts and lore that suggest such previous contact tell a different story, namely, one of genetic compatibility. "Radical otherness" is not in view. Rather, what is in view is "radical similarity," or to use repeat one of my favorite ideas, humanity has "cousins" out there.
What really intrigues me about this book however - and I have not read it, merely this article - is what else it apparently states:
"In one section, for example, William Edmondson from the University of Birmingham considers the possibility that rock art on Earth is of extraterrestrial origin.
"‘We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them,’ he writes.
"‘For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by aliens.’
"The book is titled Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication."
I find this interesting at any number of levels. First, is the level of detail. Most versions of ancient astronaut theory have it that petroglyphic art of the type depicted in the article are not the creations of "ETS" but rather of primitive man attempting to record his encounters with "the gods." Here what is being suggested is a slight variation on the theme: petroglyphs are not human art, but ET's art, a proposition that, given the crude nature of petroglyphic art, I find difficult to believe.
Nonetheless, what really intrigues here is the "macrolevel," for such speculations are being openly entertained in a study by NASA indicate something profound has happened in western culture in the decades since von Daeniken's Chariots first appeared. When that book first came out, it provoked a fire storm of controversy, and at the head of the line of "denouncers and debunkers" were religious conservatives and fundamentalists, and, of course, academics, eagerly pointing out the flaws and assumptions of the book. The idea was fringe.
Now, it is seriously - even if only briefly - entertained in a serious "academic" study. It's about five decades after the fact, but better late than never.
What it more intriguing, however, is that the study may constitute something of a backhanded admission, that the type of speculations I advanced in Covert Wars and Clash of Civilizations may not be all that far off base, and that such speculations, briefly admitted in public, may constitute a much more staple line of investigation secretly than might first be imagined.
In any case, it's more strange "space news" in a year that has proven thus far to be a slow drip of very strange space pronouncements. And that suggests some serious social engineering might be taking place.
See you on the flip side.