A lot has been made of an unusual provision in a pandemic relief bill passed last year that required government agencies to provide an analysis of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” or, in layman’s terms, UFOs. The ensuing report out Friday, however, rains on the parade of those who hoped the military would determine there was alien activity on Earth: It found no evidence that UFOs are alien in origin.
People who think we have footage of spaceships flown by little green men (or little gray men or, according to the “Men in Black” films, a pug) are unlikely to be swayed by this. True believers may in fact counter that the report couldn’t prove that UFOs aren’t from outer space, which is indeed correct: The report didn’t state that the UFOs were not from outer space (the report didn’t even mention the word “alien”). But a failure to eliminate a hypothesis is not evidence for a hypothesis.
Based on the information currently available to my remotely located editor, it’s not possible for her to eliminate the hypothesis that this article was actually typed by a hedgehog that got extremely lucky when walking on a keyboard. But that is not evidence that “Adam Larson” is just a pseudonym for an eccentric insectivore, nor does it make the belief that I am a hedgehog reasonable. (For the record, I am not a hedgehog.)
Likewise, while the intelligence report didn’t eliminate the hypothesis that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin, it is also likely unable to eliminate the hypotheses that UFOs are dragons or flying pigs or the Norse god Odin riding Sleipnir, his magical eight-legged horse. Unidentified flying objects are just that: airborne objects that we can’t identify.
In fact, it would be odd if the report said the government could rule out an extraterrestrial origin of UFOs while still knowing next to nothing about what they are, just like it would be strange for a report on an unidentified serial killer to determine that the killer is not from Tulsa, Oklahoma, even though nothing else of their origins is known.