Evolution of alien theories
The idea of extra-terrestrial life is not as new as it may sometimes feel. In fact, according to an article in Scientific America, the idea has been around since as early as 200 A.D. Much like most bizarre concepts in life, it was first recorded in a book born from a place of fantasy and imagination.
The book in question, titled True Story, was written by Lucian of Samosata. While the story in itself details a fantastical adventure of a trip to the moon and an encounter with various forms of foreign life, the concept was far from being real. Additionally, the writer did not try convincing us it was anything more than a story. However, it emphasises just how long we have wanted to believe in the idea of life on other planets.
To put this into perspective, we only learned that the Earth was round and that it revolved around the sun in the 1600s. It was in the 1920s, that Edwin Hubble discovered that the Milky Way was just one galaxy sitting in a large expanse of nothingness that we now refer to as the universe.
So, the idea of aliens existed before we even knew about outer space. In the early days, however, ideas from religion, fantasy and superstition all blurred into and out of each other leaving little space for any real record of alien theories.
A few decades later, advancements in technology helped to develop a new concept: Unidentified Flying Objects. The first UFO sighting was recorded in 1947, by a man named Kenneth Arnold who claimed to have seen nine high speed flying saucers shoot across the sky. Thus began the era of belief in the existence of aliens and the new fear of a potential attack.
In the very same year, on July 8th, the Roswell Daily Record distributed papers containing some concerning news. The paper read, "RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region." The news reported a man having found a "mysterious 200-yard-long wreckage" that was discovered near an Army field in New Mexico. Initially, the press release by the army that used the words "flying saucer" was very quickly retracted. In a public record of an FBI document, the investigation was said to have been stopped once it was declared that the object found resembled a "high altitude weather balloon with a radar reflection."
This paved the path for UFOs to become a more permanent part of American folklore. From that point on, there were several more sightings in the 1950s and 1960s. This further solidified the belief and spread the rumours that not only do aliens exist but they are paying us secret visits. The government seemed to be dead set on covering it up. This gave way to numerous conspiracy theorists who took it upon themselves to try and make sense of these events.
All the secrets and cover ups all collectively remain hidden in what came to be known as Area 51, which is a highly classified United States Air force facility situated in Nevada. This area has become the target of endless theories about its mysterious conditions and its alleged involvement with aliens.
Alongside Area 51, another concept that slowly began to change our views were claims of abduction. Alien abduction is what shifted people's minds from curiosity to fear. Aliens had gone from being ethereal beings from distant planets to being technologically advanced creatures watching our every move, paying visits to our clueless race and vulnerable planet.
Abduction reports began as early as the 1950s with Brazilian Antônio Vilas-Boas making the first claim of alien abduction to gain widespread attention. According to the Pacific Standard, Antônio, saw flashing lights in the sky and beings that looked like "five-foot-tall humanoids wearing overalls and a helmet." Before he knew it, he was aboard the ship. While this series of events may seem bizarre, the man died swearing that he was telling the truth.
Another case titled The Hill Abductions turned many heads in 1961. This case garnered more attention because of the people involved. Barney Hill was a postal worker and a civil rights leader while Betty, his wife, was a social worker and a civil rights advocate.
What stands out about this is that unlike Antônio, whose claims may initially seem far-fetched because no one could corroborate his story, The Hill Abduction involved two people with the same experience. To sum it up, their encounter with the aliens were far friendlier, as these aliens were more interested in studying them.
Psychologists picked apart their stories to explain how such memories could possibly exist. But the claims never stopped. There are several others that followed after these further contributing to the idea that aliens exist and are out to get us.
The concept of aliens has integrated itself into every culture and different mediums of entertainment. Science Fiction is a genre that can almost be largely attributed to aliens, starting from heart-warming family favourites like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to suspenseful blockbusters like the Alien franchise. Books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, etc. all still bear an intense fascination, and fear, of aliens.
In a universe that is so incomprehensibly large, it would make sense that we are not the only living beings on a small planet in a tiny galaxy amongst so many. While we have not seen actual evidence of aliens' existence yet, we are also yet to see evidence of their absence.
In that case, stay safe, everyone. Run if you see lights in the sky because, sure, it could be planes. But it could also be aliens.
1. EarthSky. Byrd, D. (2021, November 20). Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe.
2. FBI Vault. . (n.d.). FBI Records: The Vault — Roswell UFO Part 1 of 1
3. Pacific Standard. Heaney, K. (2014, January 24). How You Might Come to Believe You've Been Abducted by an Alien.
4. History Channel. (2009, October 27). History of UFOs
5. Lacina, L. (2020, January 15). How Betty and Barney Hill's Alien Abduction Story Defined the Genre.
6. O'Neill, T. (2014, August 19). When did humans first consider the possibility of alien life?
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