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Flying Saucers and Other Fairy Tales

I am completely in favor of federal spending on U.F.O. research, an outlay whose existence was revealed to surprisingly little paranoid excitement by this newspaper last week. It is a sign of civilizational health to devote excess dollars to the scientific fringe, and to hope that bizarre secrets still await discovery even in our satellite-surveilled world. So good for Harry Reid and his little-green-men-obsessed billionaire pal for keeping the flame of weird curiosity alive. But I also doubt that such research will ever prove that the strange lights and vessels filmed by human pilots actually belong to a starfaring species that’s come to our planet to study, experiment and eventually offer us a hand up or else ruthlessly invade. Other sapient species may indeed be out there, but the most parsimonious explanation for all the U.F.O. encounters since Roswell is not that our nuclear testing or space program finally inspired the galaxy to come see what humanity is all about. Rather, it’s that our alien encounters, whether real or imaginary, are the same kind of thing as the fairy encounters of the human past — part of an enduring phenomenon whose interpretations shift but whose essentials are consistent, featuring the same abductions and flying crafts and lights and tricks with crops and animals and time and space, the same shape-shifting humanoids and sexual experiments and dangerous gifts and mysterious intentions. This was the argument of Jacques Vallée, a French-born scientist and a wonderful character in the annals of ufology, who wrote a wild book in the heady year of 1969 called “Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers,” which The Times’s U.F.O.-spending scoop gave me an excuse to read.

Read More: The New York Times

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