Is it E.T. — or a Goose?

The calls were coming thick and fast to a local news station. Callers claimed that a brilliant light had appeared in the night sky moments before. It hovered for a minute and then suddenly shot off at incredible speed. What was it? Some callers were certain they had the answer: a UFO -- an Unidentified Flying Object. Well, maybe it was . . . for about five minutes. After that, it would probably be an identified flying object: a comet, perhaps, or a satellite. In his book, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, astronomer Hugh Ross writes that 99 percent of all UFOs are later found to have a perfectly rational explanation. But the fact that so many people think they may have seen a UFO shows how completely our age accepts the possibility of intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe. According to Ross, half of all Americans believe UFOs are real, not simply the product of someone's over-active imagination. One recent poll indicates that 13 percent of our neighbors believe they have actually seen a UFO. One researcher estimates that during the 1970s, around one hundred UFO sightings worldwide were reported every night. Given that many sightings probably go unreported, Ross writes, "the number of sightings may in fact range into the millions." Since the so-called "flying saucer age" began in 1947, the U.S. Air Force and private investigators have looked into thousands of UFO reports. Their conclusion? Nearly all can be explained by natural or manmade causes. For instance, people often report the planet Venus as a UFO because they don't realize how bright the planet can appear at certain times of the year. The same goes for stars close to the horizon: Atmospheric turbulence and columns of warm air cause them to twinkle rapidly in red and blue colors. What else gets people into a UFO panic? Meteor swarms, hot ionized gas, ball lightning, reflected light, blimps, fireworks, military aircraft, high altitude ice crystals -- even flocks of birds, who sometimes carry phosphorescent dust on their bellies and wings. Why do people automatically think "UFO" when they see something strange? A big part of the answer is that in recent decades, we've been hit with a deluge of cultural mythmaking about alien life. Every summer, for example, Hollywood gives us another blockbuster about extraterrestrials: like E.T., Signs, Contact, Independence Day, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, to mention just a few. Second, God designed humans to want to believe in something. That's the image of God that is in us. But as G. K. Chesterton famously put it, when we reject the God of the Bible, we don't believe in nothing; we believe in everything -- including Little Green Men. Intriguingly, according to Ross, one percent of UFOs defy rational explanation. These residual UFOs, as they are called, are often witnessed by groups of highly credible people, like pilots and astronomers. Who or what are they? Tomorrow I will talk about the answer. You'll find out why Dr. Ross believes that we ought to take these UFOs seriously, because the answer lies at the heart, not only of the UFO controversy, but of the Christian faith itself. For further reading and information: Benjamin Wiker, "Alien Ideas: Christianity and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life," Crisis, November 2002. Hugh Ross, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men (NavPress, 2002). Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God? (Word Books, 1994). Peter Augustine Lawler, Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (ISI Books, 2002). Gina Dalfonzo, "Sign Language: Signs and the Biblical Worldview," BreakPoint Online, 30 August 2002. Stanley Kurtz, "Mission Worth It?" National Review Online, 12 January 2004. Adam Keiper, "Mission to Mars," NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE, 9 January 2004. Adam Keiper, "A New Vision for NASA," The New Atlantis, Fall 2003. See recent BreakPoint commentaries: "The Cosmic Drama," "'Maybe We're All Martians,'" and "Lunarians, Venusians, and Martians."


Chuck Colson


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