El estudioso mexicano Vidal Belduque nos envió el artículo que exhibimos más abajo, solicitándonos nuestra opinión.

Dada la índole del artículo y sus autores, así como la manera en que algunos sectores del público podrían tomar lo que el mismo expresa, consideramos oportuno no comentarlo en pocas frases, sino analizarlo detalladamente y producir nuestra reacción al mismo.

Las partes marcadas en amarillo son aquellas en que principalmente nos hemos centrado en nuestro comentario. Esperamos que les sea provechoso.


Sovereignty and the UFO

Alexander Wendt

The Ohio State University

Raymond Duvall

University of Minnesota


Modern sovereignty is anthropocentric, constituted and organized by reference to

human beings alone. Although a metaphysical assumption, anthropocentrism is

of immense practical import, enabling modern states to command loyalty and

resources from their subjects in pursuit of political projects. It has limits,

however, which are brought clearly into view by the authoritative taboo on taking

UFOs seriously. UFOs have never been systematically investigated by science or

the state, because it is assumed to be known that none are extraterrestrial. Yet in

fact this is not known, which makes the UFO taboo puzzling given the ET

possibility. Drawing on the work of Giorgio Agamben, Michel Foucault, and

Jacques Derrida, the puzzle is explained by the functional imperatives of

anthropocentric sovereignty, which cannot decide a UFO exception to

anthropocentrism while preserving the ability to make such a decision. The UFO

can be “known” only by not asking what it is.

Keywords: sovereignty; UFOs; state of exception; undecidability; epistemology

of ignorance; Agamben

An Anthropocentric Sovereignty

Few ideas today are as contested as sovereignty, in theory or in practice.

In sovereignty theory scholars disagree about almost everything—what

sovereignty is and where it resides, how it relates to law, whether it is divisible,

how its subjects and objects are constituted, and whether it is being

transformed in late modernity. These debates are mirrored in contemporary

practice, where struggles for self-determination and territorial revisionism

have generated among the bitterest conflicts in modern times.

Throughout this contestation, however, one thing is taken for granted:

sovereignty is the province of humans alone. Animals and Nature are

assumed to lack the cognitive capacity and/or subjectivity to be sovereign;

and while God might have ultimate sovereignty, even most religious fundamentalists

grant that it is not exercised directly in the temporal world. When

608 Political Theory

sovereignty is contested today, therefore, it is always and only among

humans, horizontally so to speak, rather than vertically with Nature or God.

In this way modern sovereignty is anthropocentric, or constituted and organized

by reference to human beings alone.1 Humans live within physical

constraints, but are solely responsible for deciding their norms and practices

under those constraints. Despite the wide variety of institutional forms

taken by sovereignty today, they are homologous in this fundamental


Anthropocentric sovereignty might seem necessary; after all, who else,

besides humans, might rule? Nevertheless, historically sovereignty was less

anthropocentric. For millennia Nature and the gods were thought to have

causal powers and subjectivities that enabled them to share sovereignty

with humans, if not exercise dominion outright.2 Authoritative belief in

non-human sovereignties was given up only after long and bitter struggle

about the “borders of the social world,” in which who/what could be sovereign

depends on who/what should be included in society.3 In modernity

God and Nature are excluded, although in this exclusion they are also reincluded

as the domesticated Other. Thus, while no longer temporally sovereign,

God is included today through people who are seen to speak on Her

behalf. And while Nature has been disenchanted, stripped of its subjectivity,

it is re-included as object in the human world. These inclusive exclusions,

however, reinforce the assumption that humans alone can be

sovereign. In this light anthropocentric sovereignty must be seen as a contingent

historical achievement, not just a requirement of common sense.

Indeed, it is a metaphysical achievement, since it is in anthropocentric

Authors’ Note:We are grateful to an unusually large number of people for written comments

that improved this article significantly: Hayward Alker, Thierry Balzacq, Tarak Barkawi,

Michael Barkun, Jens Bartelson, Andreas Behnke, Janice Bially Mattern, Corneliu Bjola,

Aldous Cheung, Arjun Chowdhury, Pam Cuce, Jodi Dean, Kevin Duska, Nancy Ettlinger, Eric

Grynaviski, Ayten Gündogˇdu, Todd Hall, Eugene Holland, Bonnie Honig, Peter Katzenstein,

Sean Kay, Tahseen Kazi, Oded Lowenheim, Ramzy Mardini, Jennifer Mitzen, Nuno Monteiro,

Homeira Moshirzadeh, John Mowitt, Daniel Nexon, Irfan Nooruddin, Dorothy Noyes,

Jonathan Obert, Fabio Petito, Trevor Pinch, Sergei Prozorov, Mark Rodeghier, Diego Rossello,

Keven Ruby, Jacob Schiff, Allan Silverman, Frank Stengel, Michael Swords, Alexander

Thompson, Srdjan Vucetic, Ole Waever, Jutta Weldes, Hans Wendt, Rafi Youatt, and two

anonymous reviewers. The article also benefited from presentations at the University of

Chicago, Northwestern University, the Ohio State University, Ohio-Wesleyan University,

Princeton University, and the 2007 annual convention of the International Studies Association

in Chicago. The research assistance of Dane Imerman and Lorenzo Zambernardi is also

acknowledged. The article was inspired by a video of John Mack.


terms that humans today understand their place in the physical world. Thus

operates what Giorgio Agamben calls the “anthropological machine.”4

In some areas this metaphysics admittedly is contested. Suggestions of

animal consciousness fuel calls for animal rights, for example, and advocates

of “Intelligent Design” think God is necessary to explain Nature’s

complexity. Yet, such challenges do not threaten the principle that

sovereignty, the capacity to decide the norm and exception to it, must necessarily

be human. Animals or Nature might deserve rights, but humans

will decide that; and even Intelligent Designers do not claim that God exercises

temporal sovereignty. With respect to sovereignty, at least, anthropocentrism

is taken to be common sense, even in political theory, where it

is rarely problematized.5

This “common sense” is nevertheless of immense practical significance

in the mobilization of power and violence for political projects. Modern

systems of rule are able to command exceptional loyalty and resources

from their subjects on the shared assumption that the only potential sovereigns

are human. Imagine a counterfactual world in which God visibly

materialized (as in the Christians’ “Second Coming,” for example): to

whom would people give their loyalty, and could states in their present form

survive were such a question politically salient? Anything that challenged

anthropocentric sovereignty, it seems, would challenge the foundations of

modern rule.

In this article we develop this point and explore its implications for political

theory. Specifically, our intent is to highlight and engage critically the

limits of anthropocentric sovereignty. In doing so, we seek to contribute

to an eclectic line of critical theory of modern rule—if not sovereignty

per se—which problematizes its anthropocentrism, a line that connects

(however awkwardly and indirectly) Spinozan studies (including Donna

Haraway and Gilles Deleuze) to Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Jane

Bennett, and others.6We do so through the phenomenon of the Unidentified

Flying Object, or “UFO,”7 the authoritative disregard for which brings

clearly into view the limits of anthropocentric metaphysics.

We proceed in four sections. In the first, we describe an animating

puzzle—the “UFO taboo”—in order to set the empirical basis for our theoretical

intervention. In the next we make this taboo puzzling through an

immanent critique of the authoritative claim that UFOs are not extraterrestrial

(ET). Then, in the third section, we solve the puzzle through a theoretical

analysis of the metaphysical threat that the UFO poses to anthropocentric

sovereignty. We conclude with some implications for theory and practice.

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 609

A Puzzling Taboo


On March 30-31, 1990, two Belgian F-16s were scrambled to intercept

a large, unidentified object in the night sky over Brussels, which had been

observed by a policeman and ground-based radars. The pilots confirmed the

target on their radars (never visually) and achieved radar lock three times,

but each time it responded with violent turns and altitude changes, later

estimated to have imposed gravitational forces of 40gs. In a rare public

statement the Belgian defense minister said he could not explain the incident,

which remains unexplained today.8

One might expect unexplained incidents in NATO airspace to concern

the authorities, particularly given that since 1947 over 100,000 UFOs have

been reported worldwide, many by militaries.9 However, neither the scientific

community nor states have made serious efforts to identify them, the

vast majority remaining completely uninvestigated. The science of UFOs is

minuscule and deeply marginalized. Although many scientists think privately

that UFOs deserve study,10 there are no opportunities or incentives to

do it. With almost no meaningful variation, states—all 190+ of them—have

been notably uninterested as well.11 A few have gone through the motions

of studying individual cases, but with even fewer exceptions these inquiries

have been neither objective nor systematic, and no state has actually looked

for UFOs to discover larger patterns For both science and the state, it

seems, the UFO is not an “object” at all, but a non-object, something not

just unidentified but unseen and thus ignored.13

The authoritative disregard of UFOs goes further, however, to active

denial of their object status. Ufology is decried as a pseudo-science that

threatens the foundations of scientific authority,14 and the few scientists

who have taken a public interest in UFOs have done so at considerable cost.

For their part, states have actively dismissed “belief” in UFOs as irrational

(as in, “do you believe in UFOs?”), while maintaining considerable secrecy

about their own reports.15 This leading role of the state distinguishes UFOs

from other anomalies, scientific resistance to which is typically explained

sociologically.16 UFO denial appears to be as much political as sociological—

more like Galileo’s ideas were political for the Catholic Church than like

the once ridiculed theory of continental drift. In short, considerable work

goes into ignoring UFOs, constituting them as objects only of ridicule and

scorn. To that extent one may speak of a “UFO taboo,” a prohibition in the

authoritative public sphere on taking UFOs seriously, or “thou shalt not try

very hard to find out what UFOs are.”17

610 Political Theory

Still, for modern elites it is unnecessary to study UFOs, because they are

known to have conventional—i.e., non-ET—explanations, whether hoaxes,

rare atmospheric phenomena, instrument malfunction, witness mistakes, or

secret government technologies. Members of the general public might

believe that UFOs are ETs, but authoritatively We know they are not.

In the next section we challenge this claim to knowledge. Not by arguing

that UFOs are ETs, since we have no idea what UFOs are—which are,

after all, unidentified. But that is precisely the point. Scientifically, human

beings do not know that all UFOs have conventional explanations, but

instead remain ignorant.

In this light a UFO taboo appears quite puzzling. First, if any UFOs were

discovered to be ETs it would be one of the most important events in human

history, making it rational to investigate even a remote possibility. It was

just such reasoning that led the U.S. government to fund the Search for

Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), which looks for signs of life around

distant stars. With no evidence whatsoever for such life, why not study

UFOs, which are close by and leave evidence?18 Second, states seem eager

to “securitize” all manner of threats to their societies or their rule.19

Securitization often enables the expansion of state power; why not then

securitize UFOs, which offer unprecedented possibilities in this respect?

And finally, there is simple scientific curiosity: why not study UFOs, just

like human beings study everything else? At least something interesting

might be learned about Nature. Notwithstanding these compelling reasons

to identify UFOs, however, modern authorities have not seriously tried to

do so. This suggests that UFO ignorance is not simply a gap in our knowledge,

like the cure for cancer, but something actively reproduced by taboo.

Taking this taboo as a symptom, following Nancy Tuana,20 we inquire into

the “epistemology of [UFO] ignorance,” or the production of (un)knowledge

about UFOs and its significance for modern rule. We are particularly interested

here in the role of the state, while recognizing the story is also about

science.21 Thus, our puzzle is not the familiar question of ufology, “What are

UFOs?” but, Why are they dismissed by the authorities?” Why is human

ignorance not only unacknowledged, but so emphatically denied? In short,

why a taboo? These are questions of social rather than physical science, and

do not presuppose that any UFOs are ETs. Only that they might be.

A Key Premise and the Argument in Short


First the argument. Adapting ideas from Giorgio Agamben, supplemented

by Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida, we argue that the UFO

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 611

taboo is functionally necessitated by the anthropocentric metaphysics of

modern sovereignty. Modern rule typically works less through sovereign

coercion than through biopolitics, governing the conditions of life itself.22

In this liberal apparatus of security, power flows primarily from the deployment

of specialized knowledges for the regularization of populations, rather

than from the ability to kill. But when such regimes of governmentality are

threatened, the traditional face of the state,23 its sovereign power, comes to

the fore: the ability to determine when norms and law should be suspended—

in Carl Schmitt’s terms, to “decide the exception.”24

The UFO compels decision because it exceeds modern governmentality,

but we argue that the decision cannot be made. The reason is that modern

decision presupposes anthropocentrism, which is threatened metaphysically

by the possibility that UFOs might be ETs. As such, genuine UFO

ignorance cannot be acknowledged without calling modern sovereignty

itself into question. This puts the problem of normalizing the UFO back

onto governmentality, where it can be “known” only without trying to find

out what it is—through a taboo. The UFO, in short, is a previously unacknowledged

site of contestation in an ongoing historical project to constitute

sovereignty in anthropocentric terms. Importantly, our argument here is

structural rather than agentic.25We are not saying the authorities are hiding

The Truth about UFOs, much less that it is ET. We are saying they cannot

ask the question.

Although we draw on theorists not associated with epistemic realism, a

key premise of our argument is that a critical theorization of the UFO taboo

in relation to modern rule is possible only if it includes a realist moment,

which grants to things-in-themselves (here the UFO) the power to affect

rational belief. To see why, consider Jodi Dean’s otherwise excellent Aliens

in America, one of the few social scientific works to treat UFOs as anything

more than figments of over-active imaginations.26 Like us, Dean emphasizes

that it is not known what UFOs are, leaving open the ET possibility.

But for her the significance of this ignorance is to exemplify the postmodern

breakdown of all modern certainties, such that scientific truth is now

everywhere a “fugitive”—not that it might be overcome by considering,

scientifically, the reality of UFOs.

In the UFO context such anti-realism is problematic, since its political

effect is ironically to reinforce the skeptical orthodoxy: if UFOs cannot be

known scientifically then why bother study them? As realist institutions,

science and the modern state do not concern themselves with what cannot

be known scientifically. For example, whatever their religious beliefs, social

scientists always study religion as “methodological atheists,” assuming that

612 Political Theory

God plays no causal role in the material world. Anything else would be considered

irrational today; as Jürgen Habermas puts it, “a philosophy that

oversteps the bounds of methodological atheism loses its philosophical

seriousness.”27 By not allowing that UFOs might be knowable scientifically,

therefore, Dean implicitly embraces a kind of methodological atheism

about UFOs, which as with God shifts attention to human representations

of the UFO, not its reality.

Yet UFOs are different than God in one key respect: many leave physical

traces on radar and film, which suggests they are natural rather than

supernatural phenomena and thus amenable in principle to scientific investigation.

Since authoritative discourse in effect denies this by treating UFOs

as an irrational belief, a realist moment is necessary to call this discourse

fully into question. Interestingly, therefore, in contrast to their usual antagonism,

in the UFO context science would be critical theory. In this light

Dean’s claim that UFOs are unknowable appears anthropocentrically

monological. It might be that We, talking among ourselves, cannot know

what UFOs are, but any “They” probably have a good idea, and the only

way to remain open to that dialogical potential is to consider the reality of

the UFO itself.28 Failure to do so merely reaffirms the UFO taboo.

In foregrounding the realist moment in our analysis we mean not to foreclose

a priori the possibility that UFOs can be known scientifically; however,

we make no claim that they necessarily would be known if only they

were studied. Upon close inspection many UFOs do turn out to have conventional

explanations, but there is a hard core of cases, perhaps 25 to 30

percent, that seem to resist such explanations, and their reality may indeed

be humanly unknowable—although without systematic inquiry we cannot

say. Thus, and importantly, our overarching position here is one of methodological

agnosticism rather than realism, which mitigates the potential for

epistemological conflict with the non-realist political theorists we draw

upon below.29 Nevertheless, in the context of natural phenomena like UFOs

agnosticism can itself become dogma if not put to the test, which requires

adopting a realist stance at least instrumentally or “strategically,” and seeing

what happens.30 This justifies acting as if the UFO is knowable, while

recognizing that it might ultimately exceed human grasp.

Proving Our Ignorance

Our argument is that UFO ignorance is political rather than scientific. To

motivate this argument, however, we first need to critique UFO “skepticism”

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 613

as science.31 Science derives its authority from its claim to discover, before

politics, objective facts about the world. Since today these putative facts

include that UFOs are not ETs, we have to show that this fact is not actually


We consider very briefly the strongest arguments for UFO skepticism

and show that none justifies rejection of the ET hypothesis (ETH). Indeed,

they do not come close.32 It is not known, scientifically, that UFOs are not

ETs, and to reject the ETH is therefore to risk a Type II error in statistics,

or rejecting a true explanation. Of course, this does not mean that UFOs are

ETs, either (inviting a Type I error), but it shifts the burden of proof onto

skeptics to show that a Type II error has not been made.33 The UFO taboo

is then puzzling, and open to political critique.

“There is No Evidence”

Echoing Hume’s discussion of miracles, Carl Sagan once said about

UFOs that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” and the

empirical evidence for the ETH is certainly not that. If there is any ET signal

in the noise of UFO reports it is very weak. However, some evidence

warrants reasonable doubt.

Physical evidence. Usually the first objection to the ETH is the lack of

direct physical evidence of alien presence. Some ET believers contest this,

claiming that the U.S. government is hiding wreckage from a 1947 crash at

Roswell, New Mexico, but such claims are based on conspiracy theories

that we shall set aside here. Not because they are necessarily wrong

(although they cannot be falsified in the present context of UFO secrecy),

but because like UFO skepticism they are anthropocentric, only now We

know that UFOs are ETs but “They” (the government) aren’t telling. Such

an assumption leads critique toward issues of official secrecy and away

from the absence of systematic study, which is the real puzzle. In our view

secrecy is a symptom of the UFO taboo, not its heart.

While there is no direct physical evidence for the ETH, however, there

is considerable indirect physical evidence for it, in the form of UFO anomalies

that lack apparent conventional explanations—and for which ETs are

therefore one possibility These anomalies take four forms: ground traces,

electro-magnetic interference with aircraft and motor vehicles, photographs

and videos, and radar sightings like the Belgian F-16 case. Such anomalies

cannot be dismissed simply because they are only indirect evidence for ETs,

since science relies heavily on such evidence, as in the recent discovery

614 Political Theory

of over 300 extra-solar planets (and counting).35 For if UFO anomalies are

not potentially ETs, what else are they?

Testimonial evidence. Most UFO reports consist primarily of eyewitness

testimony. Although all observation is in a sense testimonial, by itself testimony

cannot ground a scientific claim unless it can be replicated independently,

which UFO testimony cannot. Such testimony is problematic in

other respects as well. It reports seemingly impossible things, much is of

poor quality, witnesses may have incentives to lie, honest observers may

lack knowledge, and even experts can make mistakes. In view of these

problems skeptics dismiss UFO testimony as meaningless.

Problems notwithstanding, this conclusion is unwarranted. First, testimony

should not be dismissed lightly, since none of us can verify for ourselves

even a fraction of the knowledge we take for granted.36 In both law

and social science, testimony has considerable epistemic weight in determining

the facts. While sometimes wrong, given its importance in society,

testimony is rejected only if there are strong reasons to do so. Second, there

is a very large volume of UFO testimony, with some events witnessed by literally

thousands of people. Third, some of these people were “expert witnesses”—

civilian and military pilots, air traffic controllers, astronauts,

astronomers, and other scientists. Finally, some of this testimony is corroborated

by physical evidence, as in “radar/visual” cases.

In short, the empirical evidence alone does not warrant rejecting the

ETH. It does not warrant acceptance either, but this sets the bar too high.

The question today is not “Are UFOs ETs?” but “Is there enough evidence

they might be to warrant systematic study?” By demanding proof of ETs

first, skeptics foreclose the question altogether.

“It Can’t Be True”

Given the inconclusiveness of the empirical record, UFO skepticism

ultimately rests on an a priori theoretical conviction that ET visitation is

impossible: “It can’t be true, therefore it isn’t.” Skeptics offer four main

arguments to this effect.

“We are alone.” Philosophers have long debated whether life exists

beyond Earth,37 but the debate has lately intensified in response to empirical

discoveries like extra-solar planets, water on Mars, and “extremophile” organisms

back home. A thriving discipline of astrobiology has emerged, and the

view that life exists elsewhere seems poised to become scientific orthodoxy.

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 615

However, this does not mean that (what humans consider) intelligent life

exists. The only evidence of that, human beings, proves merely that intelligence

like ours is possible, not probable. The Darwinian “Rare Earth

hypothesis” holds that because evolution is a contingent process, human

intelligence is a random accident, and the chances of finding it elsewhere

are therefore essentially zero.38

This is a serious argument, but there is a serious argument on the other side

too, going on within evolutionary theory itself, where the neo-Darwinian

orthodoxy is today being challenged by complexity theorists.39 Rather than

contingency and randomness, complexity theory highlights processes of selforganization

in Nature which tend toward more complex organisms. If the

“law of increasing complexity” is correct then intelligent life might actually

be common in the universe. Either way, today it is simply not known.

They can’t get here.” Even if intelligent life is common, skeptics argue

it is too far away to get here. Relativity theory says nothing can travel faster

than the speed of light (186,000 miles per second). Lower speeds impose a

temporal constraint on ET visitation: at .001 percent of light speed, or

66,960 miles per hour—already far beyond current human capabilities—it

would take 4,500 Earth years for ETs to arrive from the nearest star. Higher

speeds, in turn, impose a cost and energy constraint: to approximate light

speed a spaceship would need to use more energy than is presently consumed

in an entire year on Earth.

Physical constraints on inter-stellar travel are often seen as the ultimate

reason to reject the ETH, but are they decisive? Computer simulations suggest

that even at speeds well below light the colonization wave-fronts of

any expanding ET civilizations should have reached Earth long ago.40 How

long ago depends on what assumptions are made, but even pessimistic ones

yield ET encounters with Earth within 100 million years, barely a blip in

cosmic terms. In short, ETs should be here, which prompts the famous

“Fermi Paradox,” “Where are They?”41

Additionally, there are growing, if still highly speculative, doubts that

the speed of light is truly an absolute barrier.42 Wormholes—themselves

predicted by relativity theory—are tunnels through space-time that would

immensely shorten the distances between stars. And then there is the possibility

of “warp drive,” or engineering the vacuum around a spaceship,

enabling it to skip over space without time dilation.43 Speculative as these

ideas are, their scientific basis is sufficiently sound that research is currently

being funded through the “Breakthrough Propulsion Program” at

NASA. They may prove to be wrong or beyond human capacity. But if

616 Political Theory

humans are imagining them just 300 years from our scientific revolution,

what might ETs 3,000 years, much less 3,000,000, from theirs be imagining?

They would land on the White House lawn.” If ETs came all this way to

see us, why don’t they land on the White House lawn and introduce themselves?

After all, if humans encounter intelligent life in our own space

exploration, that’s what we would do. On this view, the fact that ETs have

not is evidence they are not here.

But is it? Again there is debate. The “embargo” or “zoo hypothesis” suggests

that ETs might have quarantined Earth as a wildlife preserve.44 Or, ETs

might be interested in contact, but want humans to discover their presence

ourselves to avert a violent shock to our civilization. Finally, even humans

might not land on the White House lawn. In the popular science fiction show

Star Trek, the Federation maintains a policy of “non-interference” toward

lower life forms; might not real space-faring humans adopt a similar policy?

Whatever the answer, debates about ET intentions have no scientific basis.

We would know.” The last skeptical argument is an appeal to human

authority: with its panoptic surveillance of the skies the modern state would

know by now if ETs were here. Of course, conspiracy theorists think the

state does know, but there is no need to embrace this debatable proposition

to call the skeptical argument into question. First, skepticism assumes an

ability to know the UFO that may be unwarranted. If ETs have the capability

to visit Earth, then they may be able to limit knowledge of their presence.

Second, no authority has ever actually looked for UFOs, the effect of

which on what is seen should not be under-estimated. Finally, in view of

pervasive UFO secrecy more is probably known about them than is publicly

acknowledged. This does not mean what is known is ET, but it could provide

further reason to think so.

Given the stakes, ignoring UFOs only makes sense if human beings can

be certain they are not ETs. We have shown there is more than reasonable

doubt: the ETH cannot be rejected without significant risk of Type II error.

What is actually known about UFOs is that we have no idea what they are,

including whether they are alien; far from proving UFO skepticism, science

proves its ignorance. With so little science on either side, therefore, the UFO

controversy has been essentially theological, pitting ET believers against

unbelievers. In this fight, the unbelievers have secured the authority of

science, giving them decisive advantage. Their views are taken as fact, while

those of believers and agnostics are dismissed as irrational belief. Since

science does not actually justify rejecting the ETH, why would unbelief be

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 617

so hegemonic? The UFO taboo is puzzling, we submit, and demands a

deeper look at how its “knowledge” is produced.

Anthropocentrism and UFO Ignorance

Authoritative insistence on knowing the UFO only through ignorance is

necessitated by the threat it poses to the anthropocentric metaphysics of

modern rule. Within modern rule we focus specifically on sovereignty, but

in our conceptualization sovereignty cannot be understood without reference

to governmentality, which sets the normative context of sovereign

decision. Thus, in what follows we both begin and end with governmentality,

while keeping our remarks to a minimum in order to focus on the metaphysics

of sovereignty per se. In doing so we recognize that the relationship

between governmentality and sovereignty is contested among political theorists.

Focused on the specific problem of the UFO taboo, we do not take

sides in this debate except to accept the view that the two aspects of modern

rule are intertwined.

Governmentality, Sovereignty, and the Exception

In thinking about the problem of rule, political scientists have traditionally

focused on either individual agents or institutional structures, in both

cases treating government as a given object. In contrast, Foucault’s concept

of governmentality is focused on the “art of governing,” understood as the

biopolitical “conduct of conduct” for a population of subjects.45 Thus, governmentality

concerns the specific regime of practices through which the

population is constituted and (self-)regularized. “Modern” governmentality

marks a shift in discourses of rule away from the state’s sovereign power—

its ability to take life and/or render it bare—and toward its fostering and

regularizing of life in biopolitics. The object of government is no longer

simply obedience to the king, but regulating the conditions of life for

subjects. To this end biopolitics requires that the conditions of life of the

population be made visible and assayed, and practical knowledge be made

available to improve them. As a result, with modern governmentality we

see the emergence of both panoptic surveillance and numerous specialized

discourses—of education, political economy, demography, health, morality,

and others—the effect of which is to make populations knowable and

subject to the regularization that will make for the “happy life.”

618 Political Theory

A constitutive feature of modern governmentality is that its discourses

are scientific, which means that science and the state are today deeply intermeshed.

Through science the state makes its subjects and objects known,

lending them a facticity that facilitates their regularization, and through the

state science acquires institutional support and prestige. Despite this symbiosis,

however, there is also an important epistemological difference

between the two. Science seeks, but knows it can never fully achieve, “the”

truth, defined as an apolitical, objective representation of the world. To this

end it relies on norms and practices that produce an evolving, always potentially

contested body of knowledge. The state, in contrast, seeks a regime

of truth to which its population will reliably adhere. Standards for knowledge

in that context privilege stability and normalization over the uncertain

path of scientific truth. Although science and the state are allied in the modern

UFO regime, we suggest in conclusion that this difference opens space for

critical theory and resistance.

Modern governmentality directs attention away from sovereign power

and toward the socially diffuse practices by which it is sustained. Yet as

Agamben reminds us,46 sovereignty remains important, because every

regime of governmentality has outsides, even while exceeding the capacity

for regularization. This outside is both external, in the form of actors not

subject to normalization, and internal, in the form of people’s capacity to

do otherwise (hence their need to be “governed”). Ordinarily these limits

do not severely threaten modern rule, but some exceed the capacity for


Schmitt calls such situations “states of exception”: “any severe economic

or political disturbance requiring the application of extraordinary

measures,” including abrogation of law by those who govern in its name.47

Extending and modifying Schmitt’s analysis, Agamben emphasizes a “zone

of indistinction” between the juridical order and the state of exception,

which is neither fully in nor outside the law. Thus, while sometimes constitutionally

recognized, the state of exception is “not a special kind of law,”

but necessarily transcends the law.48 In Sergei Prozorov’s terms, the state of

exception is a “constitutive outside” or “excess” to law that is the latter’s

condition of possibility.49 As such, for Agamben (if not for Schmitt) a state

of exception is always potentially there, even when not actually in force,

permanently contaminating the law. On the other hand, the state of exception

also belongs to the law, since it is by the latter’s limits and/or failure

that it is known. States of exception cannot be declared willy-nilly, but must

make sense within the regime of truth they would uphold. Thus, law and the

exception are co-constitutive rather than mutually exclusive.

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 619

“Sovereign is he who decides the exception.”50 Like the state of exception

it decides, sovereignty is both outside and inside law. On the one hand,

it is the ability to found and suspend a juridical order. To that extent sovereignty

transcends the law, its decisions seeming to come out of nowhere,

like a “miracle.”51 In saying this Schmitt emphasizes sovereignty’s omnipotence,

if not to realize its intentions then at least to decide them. However,

even Schmitt recognizes that sovereign decision is not literally a miracle,

but has conditions of possibility. Among Agamben’s contributions is in

showing that those conditions include the very corpus of law that is to be

suspended in the decision of the exception. In this way sovereignty is also

inside and limited by law.

Anthropocentrism and the Undecidability of the UFO

If the limits of the governmental regime are exposed, the sovereign generally

can be counted on to survey and to securitize the threat; that is after

all what its sovereignty is for. In this light the UFO is the proverbial dog

that didn’t bark, a potential threat not only un-securitized but never even

properly surveyed. About the UFO, in short, there has been no decision as

to its status as exception, only an ignoring. The reason, we argue, lies in the

triple threat that the UFO poses to modern rule, at once physical, ontological,

and metaphysical.

Exceptions presuppose an exterior. Because modern rule is grounded in

a scientific worldview that does not recognize the existence of supernatural

phenomena, this exterior is normally understood today in purely spatiotemporal

terms.52 Threats can then take two forms, physical threats to life

and ontological threats to identity or social being.53 Given sovereignty’s

need to transform the contingency of decision into taken-for-granted

authority, it is only by reference to the intrusion of such threats into its field

of visibility that the state of exception can be justified. Importantly, the sovereign

cannot decide the terms of its encounters with these intrusions, only

their status as exception.

On one level the UFO is a traditional spatio-temporal threat, because one

of the possibilities that we must countenance if we accept that the UFO is

truly unidentified is that its occupants are ETs—and that threatens both the

physical and ontological security of modern rule. The physical threat, of

course, is that ET presence in “our” solar system would indicate a vastly

superior technology to human beings’, raising the possibility of conquest

and even extermination. (In this respect it matters greatly that They might

be Here, rather than far away as in the SETI scenario.) The ontological

620 Political Theory

threat is that even if the ETs were benign, their confirmed presence would

create tremendous pressure for a unified human response, or world government.

The sovereign identity of the modern state is partly constituted in and

through its difference from other such states, which gives modern sovereignty

its plural character. Any exteriority that required subsuming this difference

into a global sovereignty would threaten what the modern state is,

quite apart from the risk of physical destruction.

It might be argued that these spatio-temporal threats alone can explain

the UFO taboo. On this view, by virtue of the possibility that UFOs are ETs,

the UFO calls into question the state’s claim to protect its citizens, which it

would be unwilling to admit. Because the threat is so grave, the only rational

response is to ignore the UFO. States are enabled in this policy by the

fact that UFOs do not (yet) interfere with the conditions of life of human

populations, and as such have not compelled recognition.

However, at least two considerations militate against reducing the UFO

threat to spatio-temporal terms. First, states show little reluctance to ignore

other existential threats; if immigrants, pandemics, and terrorists are readily

securitized, despite states’ inability to secure their populations from

them, then why are not UFOs? Second, given that UFOs do not interfere

with modern governance, and with no indication that states actually believe

the ETH, the UFO would seem cynically to be an ideal securitization issue.

Because it leaves physical traces it can be represented as if it were real, justifying

the growth of state power, even as states know the threat is imaginary.

To be sure states may have other worries—but then all the more

reason to stage a UFO threat to bolster their capacities. Thus, Hollywood

notwithstanding, in our view the threat of the UFO is not primarily alien

invasion or the black helicopters of world government. Challenges to the

“physics” of modern sovereignty are necessary conditions for the UFO

taboo, but they are not sufficient.

The UFO threat is different in the challenge it poses to the metaphysics of

modern sovereignty, which are fundamentally anthropocentric.54 Because the

contemporary capacity to command political loyalty and resources depends

upon it, the assumption of anthropocentrism must be unquestioned if modern

rule is to be sustained as a political project. As a condition of their own sovereignty,

therefore, before modern states can deal with threats to their physical

and ontological security, they must first secure this metaphysic.

How is this done? Sovereign decision is no help, since modern sovereignty

can only instantiate an anthropocentric metaphysic, not step outside

to decide the exception to it. So here modern sovereignty must give way to

governmentality, or authoritative procedures to make anthropocentrism

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 621

“known” as fact. In contrast to past processes of normalization in which the

visions of shamans or seers were taken to be authoritative, the standards of

knowledge in modern governmentality are primarily scientific. Thus, since

there is no scientific evidence for miracles, it is known that God does not

intervene in the material world. Similarly, since there is no evidence Nature

has subjectivity, it is known not to. Anthropocentrism will be secure until

scientific evidence to the contrary comes along.

An unknown that incorporates the possibility of ETs confounds this

metaphysical certainty, creating a situation in which its status as exception

cannot be decided. We develop this suggestion using Derrida’s concept of

“undecidability,”55 while arguing that the particular form undecidability

takes in the UFO case disrupts its usual operation.

Something is undecidable when it “does not conform to either polarity

of a dichotomy, (for example, present/absent, cure/poison, and inside/outside),”

but is both at once.56 Perhaps confusingly, undecidability does not

mean a decision cannot be made, but that a decision on which side of the

binary an undecidable belongs is compelled. Undecidability is a “condition

from which no course of action necessarily follows,”57 yet which requires a

decision to resolve oscillation between dichotomous poles. The UFO is

undecidable in this sense, and thus compels decision.

However, to “decide” an exception it would seem necessary for the sovereign

first to acknowledge the existence of a disturbance in its field of visibility

and try to determine what the disturbance is. “Decision,” in other

words, suggests an effort to know potential threats rather than merely reenact

the norm, if only to make better decisions—yet states have made no

meaningful effort to know the UFO. Disturbances may be acknowledged,

but then states have mostly abjured a scientific standpoint in favor of public

relations on behalf of the established regime of truth, re-affirming that We

already know what these (unidentified) objects are (not). The effect is to

constitute the UFO as un-exceptional, but not by “deciding.”58

This suggests that we need to look more closely at the moment of transition

from undecidability to the decision, or what Derrida calls the “logic

of the palisade,”59 which in this case does not seem to be automatic. More

specifically, we propose that the UFO compels a decision that, by the

modern sovereign at least, cannot be made. The reason is the particular

character of the UFO’s undecidability, at once potentially objective and

subjective, each pole of which poses a metaphysical challenge to anthropocentric


On the one hand, UFOs appear indeed to be objects, not necessarily in

the narrow sense of something hard and tangible, but in the broader sense

622 Political Theory

of natural processes that produce physical effects. The effects are subtle and

elusive, which means that UFOs are not unambiguously objects, but radar

anomalies and other physical traces suggest something objective is going on.

As unidentified object the UFO poses a threat of unknowability to

science, upon which modern sovereignty depends. Of course, there are

many things science does not know, like the cure for cancer, but its authority

rests on the assumption that nothing in Nature is in principle unknowable.

UFOs challenge modern science in two ways: (1) they appear random

and unsystematic, making them difficult to grasp objectively; and (2) some

appear to violate the laws of physics (like the 40g turns in the Belgian

F-16 case). This does not mean that UFOs are in fact humanly unknowable,

but they might be, and in that respect they haunt modern sovereignty with

the possibility of epistemic failure. To see how this might be uniquely

threatening it is useful to compare the UFO to three other cases of what

might be seen as unknowability.

One is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in quantum theory, which

acknowledges inherent limits on the ability to know sub-atomic reality.

Since the Uncertainty Principle has not stopped physicists from doing

physics, this might seem to undermine our claim that potential unknowability

precludes a decision on the UFO as object. Yet, there are known

unknowns and unknown unknowns, and here the two cases differ. Quantum

mechanics emerged in a highly structured context of extant theory and

established experimental results, and is a systematic body of knowledge

that enables physicists to manipulate reality with extraordinary precision.

With quantum theory we know exactly what we cannot know, enabling it to

be safely incorporated into modern science. The UFO, in contrast, emerges

in a context free of extant theory and empirical research, and raises fundamental

questions about the place of human beings in the universe. That we

might never know what we cannot know about UFOs makes their potential

objectivity more problematic for the modern project.

A different problem is presented by God, whose existence science also

declaims ability to know. Once fiercely contested, the notion that God can

be known only through faith not reason is today accepted by religious and

secular authorities alike. Since God is not potentially a scientific object,

science does not consider the question to be within its purview. Miracles are

recognized by the Church, but the criteria by which they are made authoritative

are not primarily scientific. UFOs, in contrast, leave unexplained

physical traces and as such fall directly within the purview of modern

science.60 It is one of the ironies of modern rule that it is far more acceptable

today to affirm publicly one’s belief in God, for whose existence there

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 623

is no scientific evidence, than UFOs, the existence of which—whatever

they might be—is physically documented.

Perhaps the best analogue to the epistemic threat posed by UFO objectivity

is extra-sensory perception or “psi.” Here we have a subtle and elusive

phenomenon that might be objective, and which raises similar worries

about unknowability for the modern episteme.61 And here too we see

tremendous resistance from the scientific community to taking it seriously.

Nevertheless, and interestingly, psi research has been undertaken by

states,62 suggesting that potential unknowability by itself does not preclude

sovereign decision, if, were the phenomenon to become known, it could

serve human purposes.

Indeed, were the UFO merely an object, it is hard to see that its potential

unknowability would preclude a decision on its status as exception. Qua

object, and only object, the UFO threatens neither the physical nor the ontological

security of modern rule, which we have argued are necessary conditions

for the metaphysical threat from UFOs to be realized. (In this

respect the UFO contrasts interestingly with the possibility of catastrophic

asteroid impacts, which in fact has been recently constituted as a physical

threat.)63 As with other anomalies there might be sociological resistance to

seeing UFOs, but if science does its job properly, the resistance should

break down and a serious effort to identify UFOs eventually undertaken.

Unlike some objects, however, the UFO might also have subjectivity (ETs).

In itself non-human subjectivity need not be a problem for anthropocentric

sovereignty. Although modernity is constituted by a general de-animation of

Nature, debates about animal consciousness raise anew the possibility that

subjectivity is not limited to humans.64 However, while it may generate anxiety,

65 animal subjectivity does not threaten modern rule either physically or

ontologically. Superior intelligence enabled humans long ago to domesticate

animals, ensuring that any subjectivity they might have will lie safely

“beneath” human rule. By virtue of being in the solar system, in contrast, ETs

might have vastly superior intelligence, literally “above” human rule, and

thus be sovereign deciders in their own right. To our knowledge no ETs have

shown themselves, which means the UFO is not unambiguously subjective

(either), but the failure of science to justify ruling out the ETH leaves open

the possibility, and that clearly does threaten anthropocentrism. As potential

subject, then, the UFO radically relativizes modern sovereignty, disturbing its

homologous character with the threat of unimagined heterogeneity, the sovereignty

of the fully alien (non-human) Other.

In short, the UFO poses threats to modern rule on both poles of the

object–subject dichotomy that constitutes its undecidability, making a

624 Political Theory

decision in favor of one or the other intrinsically problematic. These threats

are metaphysical in the sense of raising epistemological and ontological

doubts about the whole anthropocentric idea of modern rule, not just its

realizations in actually existing states—and it is the absolute taken-forgrantedness

of that idea upon which the ability to mobilize modern power

depends. From the standpoint of modern rule, therefore, the threat of the

UFO is not unlike that of the Christian’s Second Coming, a potential materialization

of the metaphysical.

It is the triple threat of the UFO that explains states’ very different

response to it compared to other disruptions of modern norms. By calling

into question the very basis of the modern sovereign’s capacity to decide its

status as exception, the UFO cannot be acknowledged as truly unidentified—

which is to say potentially ET—without calling into question modern sovereignty

itself. Thus, far from being a deus ex machina that, through the

decision, intervenes miraculously to safeguard the norm, modern sovereignty

is shown by the UFO to be itself a norm, of anthropocentrism—and

behind this norm no further agency stands. In this way the UFO exhibits not

the standard undecidability that compels a decision, but what might be

called a “meta”-undecidability which precludes it. The UFO is both exceptional

and not decidable as exception, and as a result with respect to it the

modern sovereign is performatively insecure. The insecurity is not conscious,

but operates at the deeper level of a taboo, in which certain possibilities

are unthinkable because of their inherent danger. In this respect

UFO skepticism is akin to denial in psychoanalysis: the sovereign represses

the UFO out of fear of what it would reveal about itself.66 There is therefore

nothing for the sovereign to do but turn away its gaze from—to ignore, and

hence be ignorant of—the UFO, making no decision at all. Just when

needed most, on the palisades, the sovereign is nowhere to be found.

Governmentality and the UFO Taboo

To this point we have concentrated on the question of “why?” the UFO

taboo, in response to which we have offered a structural answer about the

logic of anthropocentric sovereignty. However, there is a separate question

of “how?” the taboo is produced and reproduced, since structural necessity

alone does not make it happen. It takes work—not the conscious work of a

vast conspiracy seeking to suppress the truth about UFOs, but the work of

countless undirected practices that in the modern world make the UFO

“known” as not-ET. Bringing our argument full circle, this is the work of

modern governmentality, upon which the normalization of the UFO is

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 625

thrown back by the absent sovereign. Yet this work too is problematic,

because modern governmentality usually proceeds by making objects visible

so they can be known and regularized, which in the UFO case would be

self-subverting. Thus, what are needed are techniques for making UFOs

known without actually trying to find out what they are.

One might distinguish at least four such techniques: (1) authoritative

representations, like the U.S. Air Force’s claim that UFOs are “not a

national security threat,”67 the portrayal of ufology as pseudo-science, and

the science fictionalization of UFOs in the media; (2) official inquiries, like

the 1969 Condon Report, which have the appearance of being scientific but

are essentially “show trials” systematically deformed by a priori rejection

of the ETH;68 (3) official secrecy, which “removes knowledge” from the

system;69 and finally (4) discipline in the Foucauldian sense, ranging from

formal attacks on the “paranoid style” of UFO believers as a threat to modern

rationality,70 to everyday dismissal of those who express public interest

in UFOs, which generates a “spiral of silence” in which individuals engage

in self-censorship instead.71

Much could be said from a governmentality perspective about these

techniques, which are amply documented in the ufological literature, but

we lack the space to do so here. Instead, we have focused on explaining

why all this anti-UFO work is necessary in the first place, which goes to the

fundamental puzzle with which we began our argument: given the many

reasons to study UFOs, why aren’t they taken seriously? To answer this

question the specific techniques by which the UFO is normalized can be a

distraction, since ignorance is multiply realizable at the micro-level.

Notwithstanding the importance of governmentality to a critical theory of

anthropocentric rule, it is to the performative insecurity of modern sovereignty

that one must look first.


We have called ours a “critical” theory, in that it rests on a normative

assumption that the limits of modern rule should be exposed. In the present

context this means that human beings should try to know the UFO.

Although we believe the case for this presumption is over-determined and

overwhelming, it is not a case we can make here. Nevertheless, it seems

incumbent upon us to follow through on the practical logic of our theory,

so taking its desirability as given, in conclusion we address the question of

resistance to the UFO taboo.

626 Political Theory

The structuralism of our argument might suggest that resistance is futile.

However, the structure of the UFO taboo also has aporias and fissures that

make it—and the anthropocentric structure of rule that it sustains—potentially


One is the UFO itself, which in its persistent recurrence generates an

ongoing need for its normalization. Modern rule might not recognize the

UFO, but in the face of continuing anomalies maintaining such nonrecognition

requires work. In that respect the UFO is part of the constitutive,

unnormalized outside of modern sovereignty, which can be included

in authoritative discourse only through its exclusion.

Within the structure of modern rule there are also at least two fissures that

complicate maintaining UFO ignorance. One is the different knowledge

interests of science and the state. While the two are aligned in authoritative

UFO discourse, the state is ultimately interested in maintaining a certain

regime of truth (particularly in the face of metaphysical insecurity), whereas

science recognizes that its truths can only be tentative. Theory may be stubborn,

but the presumption in science is that reality has the last word, which

creates the possibility of scientific knowledge countering the state’s dogma.

The other fissure is within liberalism, the constitutive core of modern

governmentality. Even as it produces normalized subjects who know that

“belief” in UFOs is absurd, liberal governmentality justifies itself as a discourse

that produces free-thinking subjects who might doubt it.72 It is in this

context that we would place the recent disclosure by the French government

(and at press time the British too) of its long-secret UFO files (1,600

reports), including its investigations of selected cases, of which the French

acknowledge 25 percent as unexplained.7

3 Given that secrecy is only a contingent

feature of the UFO taboo, and that even the French are still far from

seeking systematic knowledge of UFOs, this disclosure is not in itself a

serious challenge to our argument. However, the French action does illustrate

a potential within liberalism to break with authoritative common

sense,74 even at the risk of exposing the foundations of modern sovereignty

to insecurity.

The kind of resistance that can best exploit these fissures might be called

militant agnosticism. Resistance must be agnostic because by the realist

standards of modernity, regarding the UFO/ET question neither atheism nor

belief is epistemically justified; we simply do not know. Concretely, agnosticism

means “seeing” rather than ignoring the UFO, taking it seriously as

a truly unidentified object. Since it is precisely such seeing that the UFO

taboo forbids, in this context seeing is resistance. However, resistance must

also be militant, by which we mean public and strategic, or else it will

Wendt, Duvall / Sovereignty and the UFO 627

indeed be futile. The reproduction of UFO ignorance depends crucially on

those in positions of epistemic authority observing the UFO taboo. Thus,

private agnosticism—of the kind moderns might have about God, for

example—is itself part of the problem. Only breaking the taboo in public

constitutes genuine resistance.

Even that is not enough, however, as attested by the long history of

unsuccessful resistance to the UFO taboo to date.75 The problem is that

agnosticism alone does not produce knowledge, and thus reduce the ignorance

upon which modern sovereignty depends. For a critical theory of

anthropocentric rule, therefore, a science of UFOs ironically is required,

and not just a science of individual cases after the fact, which can tell us

only that some UFOs lack apparent conventional explanations. Rather, in

this domain what is needed is paradoxically a systematic science, in which

observations are actively sought in order to analyze patterns from which an

intelligent presence might be inferred.76 That would require money, infrastructure,

and a long-term commitment of the kind that to date has been

possible only for epistemic authorities, or precisely those actors most resistant

to taking UFOs seriously. Still, given the potential disjunction of interest

between science and the state, it is possible here for science to play a

key role for critical theory. Whether such a science would actually overcome

UFO ignorance is unknowable today, but it is only through it that We

might move beyond the essentially theological discourse of belief and

denial to a truly critical posture.

Modern rule and its metaphysics are extraordinarily resilient, so the difficulties

of such resistance cannot be overstated. Those who attempt it will

have difficulty funding and publishing their work, and their reputations will

suffer. UFO resistance might not be futile but it is certainly dangerous,

because it is resistance to modern sovereignty itself. In this respect militant

UFO agnosticism is akin to other forms of resistance to governmentality;

however, whereas sovereignty has found ways of dealing with them, the

UFO may reveal an Achilles heel. Like Achilles, the modern sovereign is a

warrior whose function is to protect—in this case, from threats to the norm.

Unlike conventional threats, however, the UFO threatens humans’ capacity

to decide those threats, and so cannot be acknowledged without calling

modern sovereignty itself into question. To what extent that would be desirable

is a large normative question which we have bracketed here.77 But taking

UFOs seriously would certainly embody the spirit of self-criticism that

infuses liberal governmentality and academia in particular, and it would,

thereby, foster critical theory. And indeed, if academics’ first responsibility

is to tell the truth, then the truth is that after sixty years of modern UFOs,

628 Political Theory

human beings still have no idea what they are, and are not even trying to

find out. That should surprise and disturb us all, and cast doubt on the structure

of rule that requires and sustains it.



Comentario a “Sovereignty and the UFO” de los profesores Alexander Wendt y Raymond Duvall  - por el Mgtr. Milton W. Hourcade

En 21 páginas los autores desarrollan una típica exhibición de intelectualidad, pero carente de sustancia y sobre todo, de conocimiento del tema que abordan.

Ni Wendt ni Duvall han investigado en sus vidas una denuncia de OVNI, ni tienen la más pálida idea de lo que es investigar, analizar, concluir, cotejar datos y educarse en la lectura de muchos y buenos libros donde se aprende a tener nociones de Astronomía, Física, Fotografía, Psicología, etc. Y sobre todo, a separar lo falso de lo verdadero y a aplicar el método científico.

Antropocentrismo y soberanía

Los autores dicen que la soberanía es antropocéntrica, y esta es una afirmación tautológica. Podrían decir simplemente que es una creación humana, como tantas otras. La física, la química, la astronomía, la música, la pintura, el arte en general, la política, todo es producto del ser humano, pero no hay tal “centrismo”, sino un ajuste a la realidad.

Todo es elaborado, creado y hecho por humanos para humanos. Acusar a eso de “centrismo” es verdaderamente absurdo a menos que se pretenda crear una categoría de hipotéticos seres inteligentes no-humanos ante los cuales el antropocentrismo sería una forma implícita de discriminación por no tenérseles en cuenta o negar su existencia.

Hasta ahora, no existe una sola prueba con valor científico de que sea necesario rendir pleitesía a la supuesta existencia de seres inteligentes no humanos.

La soberanía no tiene nada que ver con platillos volantes. La soberanía es una consecuencia directa de la libertad y la ejercen los estados para decidir sus propios asuntos en forma totalmente independiente de otros estados.

La soberanía afirma la independencia de cualquier otro poder o estado.

La soberanía permite elaborar leyes y decretos y mantener el orden interno de una nación.

Si los autores se atreven a sugerir que la soberanía de las naciones se vería vulnerada ante la presencia de un poder extraño (v.g. “extraterrestre”) nuevamente los autores caen en pura especulación y parecen regodearse en la idea de esa vulneración de la soberanía.

Afirman que “la soberanía es la provincia de los humanos solamente”. ¿Y de quién habría de ser si no? Al parecer los autores sustentan esta ridiculez afirmando que “Se supone que los animales y la naturaleza carecen de capacidad cognitiva y/o subjetividad para ser soberanos.”

Aquí rayan ya en el dislate total.


Los autores agradecen a una nómina de personas que les han hecho llegar sus comentarios. Son 50 en total, y de ellos, sólo dos (de los cuales desconocemos sus comentarios) están vinculados al tema UFO, a saber: Mark Rodeghier y Michael Swords. Los restantes 48 no son investigadores ni estudiosos del tema, y hasta donde conozco y sé, ninguno es conocido en el ámbito ufológico.

Agregan que su artículo “fue inspirado por un video de John Mack”. Ni siquiera por la lectura de su libro, simplemente un video. Una base muy débil para cualquier trabajo serio sobre el tema.

Pero estos profesores están centrados en cuestionar la soberanía, como cuestión política y metafísica, ese es su verdadero objetivo, y el tema UFO es una especie de excusa de elección finalmente equivocada, para plantear su argumento.

Así hablan de la “amenaza metafísica que el UFO plantea a la soberanía antropocéntrica”, lo cual es una situación hipotética que no tiene base alguna.

Argumentando a favor de algo no-humano, los autores llegan a decir que “desde 1947 más de 100.000 UFOs han sido denunciados en todo el mundo”. Pero no se detienen siquiera por un instante a pensar que lo que sustancialmente importa no es la cantidad de denuncias sino cuántas de esas denuncias fueron capaces de quedar en pie luego de una investigación y análisis sobre bases científicas, aplicando el rasero de Occam.

“Sin embargo, ni la comunidad científica ni los estados han hecho serios esfuerzos para identificarlos”. Aquí vuelven a equivocarse por ignorancia.

A esta altura del artículo no mencionan al “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects” conducido por la Universidad de Colorado bajo contrato con la Fuerza Aérea de Estados Unidos.

Este estudio, estuvo dirigido por el prestigioso físico Dr. Edward U. Condon y en él participó un equipo científico multidisciplinario.

Personalmente y en su momento analicé a fondo y discutí varios aspectos de dicho estudio  (ver mi libro: “Fenómeno OVNI: desafío a la Ciencia”). Los autores hacia el final de su trabajo lo mencionan sólo para encajarlo dentro de una política de silencio.

Pero no se puede desconocer el trabajo realizado, que en la publicación del The New York Times, comprende un libro 963 páginas escritas con pequeña letra de tamaño 1 em.

Desconocen el trabajo del GEIPAN francés, un organismo totalmente científico dedicado a la investigación y estudio del tema. Desconocen el estudio secreto por décadas hasta que fue dado a conocer públicamente, llevado a cabo por la Inteligencia de la Real Fuerza Aérea del Reino Unido, desconocen –por supuesto—el trabajo de la CEFAE y ahora CIAE de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina.

Así, se atreven a seguir diciendo: “Con variaciones no significativas, los estados –todos los 190+ de ellos- han sido notoriamente desinteresados asimismo. Unos pocos han ido a través de las propuestas de estudiar casos individuales, pero aún con pocas excepciones esas averiguaciones no han sido objetivas ni sistemáticas y ningún estado ha observado realmente a los UFOs para descubrir grandes patrones.”

Esta afirmación es temeraria y una vez más revela la ignorancia de los autores en el tema.

Además, referirse a “descubrir grandes patrones” me trae en el recuerdo a lo que en su tiempo hizo Aimé Michel, que terminó en un gran fiasco.

Los tales “grandes patrones” son una suposición sin sustentación fáctica alguna.

Su osadía no se detiene allí sino que se atreven a criticar al programa científico SETI “que busca por signos de vida en torno a distantes estrellas. Sin evidencia alguna sobre tal vida, ¿por qué no estudiar los UFOs, que están cercanos y dejan evidencia?”

Este argumento lo he leído en páginas web que comercian con el tema UFO y en comentarios de fanáticos del mito E.T.

Me da la impresión que estos intelectuales han sido pésimamente orientados por amigos personales o por algunos personajes nefastos que sostienen el mito extraterrestre, y les han dado “argumentos” que ellos repiten sin siquiera analizar la falta de lógica e incoherencia de los mismos.

Los autores afirman –una vez más desde su desconocimiento del tema y su tratamiento—“¿Por qué son descartados por las autoridades? ¿Por qué la ignorancia humana no sólo no es reconocida sino enfáticamente ignorada? En breve, ¿por qué un tabú?.

Si los autores supieran del tema, de cómo empezó, quién creó la sigla UFO, y a qué se le llamó inicialmente UFO en Estados Unidos, se darían cuenta que las autoridades no descartaron el tema, ni lo hicieron tabú.

Y aquí llega el meollo del tema que estos expertos en Ciencias Políticas pretenden argumentar y para lo cual, utilizan el tema UFO como pretexto.

Es entonces cuando afirman que el antropocentrismo “está amenazado metafísicamente por la posibilidad de que los UFOs sean ETs.” Como consecuencia de ello, esgrimen que por eso el tema UFO no se estudia (lo cual no es cierto).

Y continúan en esta línea al expresar: “Al no permitir que los UFOs puedan ser científicamente conocidos…” --lo cual es una falsa premisa--, luego insisten en que “muchos dejan trazas físicas o en el radar y film, lo cual sugiere que son naturales más bien que fenómenos supernaturales y por tanto pasibles en principio a investigación científica.”

Aquí cometen otro error conceptual grave al decir que porque los UFOs “dejan trazas físicas o en el radar” son “naturales y no supernaturales”. Se les olvidó decir que son artificiales. Porque los aviones, helicópteros, etc. son captados por radar, ¡pero no son naturales!

Estos profesores creen que nadie investiga científicamente el tema UFO,  y menos los estados, oficialmente. Quienes estamos en el tema sabemos que se equivocan totalmente.

El problema del residuo

Al mejor estilo de los que se autotitulan de “ufólogos”, los autores parten de dos premisas falsas: a) los UFOs son entidades específicas, determinadas y como tales existen; y b) el corazón del tema está en los casos no explicados.

Como ejemplo citan las observaciones de un triángulo volante en Bélgica, al 30 y 31 de Marzo de 1990 y dicen que “permanece inexplicado hasta hoy”. El artículo que presentan es de 2008, y la explicación del caso se dio en 2011.

Así dicen: “Luego de una inspección minuciosa muchos UFOs resultan tener explicaciones convencionales, pero hay un núcleo duro de casos, quizás 25 o 30 por ciento, que parece resistir tales explicaciones”.

La más reciente información procedente del GEIPAN, reduce a los no identificados en un 3,5%.

En la experiencia de 50 años ininterrumpidos de investigación en Uruguay, el CIOVI admitió que –por diferentes causas—los “no identificados” iban de un 0,5 a un 1 %.

En la experiencia de la CEFAE, ahora CIAE, de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina, luego de la investigación de cada denuncia de UFO aplicando la ciencia, lo no identificado es 0%.

Y si bien los autores en una parte de su artículo dicen “no tenemos idea de lo que sean los UFOs”, luego se lanzan a la afirmación de lo extraterrestre.

“Nuestro argumento es que la ignorancia de los UFOs es política más que científica…..Consideramos muy brevemente los argumentos más fuertes para el escepticismo sobre los UFOs y mostramos que ninguno justifica el rechazo a la hipótesis ET.”

Y siguen: “Habitualmente la primer objeción a la HET es la falta de evidencia física directa de la presencia alienígena. Algunos creyentes en los ET contestan esto declarando que el gobierno de EE.UU está ocultando restos de una caída en Roswell, Nuevo México, en 1947, pero tales declaraciones están basadas en teorías conspirativas que dejaremos de lado aquí. No porque necesariamente estén equivocadas sino porque, como el escepticismo sobre los UFOs, son antropocéntricas.”

Prosiguen diciendo: “En tanto no hay una evidencia física directa para la ETH, sin embargo, hay considerable evidencia física indirecta para ello en la forma de UFO anomalías que aparentemente carecen de explicaciones convencionales –y para las cuales los ETs son entonces una posibilidad. Esas anomalías toman cuatro formas: trazas en el suelo, interferencia electro-magnética con aviones y motores de vehículos, fotografías y videos, y observaciones por radar como el caso belga de los F-16.”

Y atención a esto: “Tales anomalías no pueden ser descartadas simplemente porque son sólo evidencia indirecta para los ETs, dado que la ciencia descansa ampliamente en tal evidencia en el reciente descubrimiento de más de 300 planetas extrasolares (y contando). Porque si las anomalías no son potencialmente ETs, ¿qué otra cosa son?” preguntan desafiantes, a la vez que muestran haberse rendido al mito.

De paso, actualmente los planetas extrasolares llegan a la cifra de más de 4 mil, aunque directamente observados son unos pocos,  y la mayoría son inferidos.

Más adelante los autores culminan su razonamiento expresando: “Brevemente, la evidencia empírica sola no garantiza rechazar la HET. Tampoco garantiza aceptación, pero esto coloca la barra muy alta. La pregunta hoy no es “¿Son los UFOs ETs? Sino ¿hay suficiente evidencia que pueda garantizar un estudio sistemático?” Y de mi punto de vista, la respuesta es no.

No hay suficiente evidencia de que los UFOs como tales existan. Pueden existir aparatos volantes no convencionales producidos por algún país o por empresas privadas. Puede existir algún tipo de fenómeno natural poco conocido o aún en estudio. Pero el UFO como tal es una categoría preterida ya.

Respecto al porcentaje de casos no explicados, ese pretendido “núcleo duro” de que hablan los autores del artículo, considero muy oportuno transcribir los conceptos expresados por el Comodoro (R) Rubén Lianza, de la Fuerza Aérea Argentina, quien dirige el Centro de Identificación Aero-Espacial (CIAE).

“En ese sentido, resulta muy aventurado y hasta prematuro elaborar cualquier hipótesis basada solamente en un Caso No Resuelto, dado que su no-resolución no es garantía de nada, ni de origen ordinario, ni de origen extraordinario.

Cuando aparecen noticias de un caso “No Identificado” por un Gobierno, en lugar de enviar un mensaje de “temporariamente no identificado” algunos parecen interpretarlo siempre como “definitivamente no identificable”.  Pero esa mala interpretación no es de los Gobiernos, sino de la gente, especialmente de aquellos que están ansiosos por una “homologación” oficial de su hipótesis favorita.

En todo proceso investigativo con la suficiente cantidad de casos, siempre habrá un porcentaje de ellos que quedará sin resolver, no necesariamente porque el objeto sea paranormal o extraordinario sino simplemente por falta de datos. Existen accidentes sin resolver, existen crímenes sin resolver, pero su falta de resolución (incluso por Organismos Oficiales) NO es garantía de que dichos crímenes hayan sido cometidos por seres paranormales o con poderes mágicos. La mera presencia de ese residuo de casos no resueltos, en realidad no aporta nada valioso al conocimiento humano, al menos hasta que el objeto pase a ser “Identificado”.”

Los autores vuelven a reiterar que “ninguna autoridad jamás realmente ha buscado UFOs, el efecto de lo cual sobre lo que es visto, no puede ser subestimado.”

En una palabra: la falsa afirmación que hacen les sirve de trampolín para decir que esa actitud de las autoridades tiene un efecto aplastante sobre quienes denuncian haber visto algo extraño.

Esto no es así, y de eso dan cuenta la cantidad de lo que técnicamente llamamos “denuncias de UFO”, o “UFO reports”.

La amenaza a la soberanía

“A un nivel el UFO es una tradicional amenaza espacio-temporal, porque una de las posibilidades que debemos enfrentar si aceptamos que el UFO es verdaderamente no identificado, es que sus ocupantes son ETs y eso amenaza tanto la seguridad física como ontológica del orden moderno.”

Siguiendo con esa forma de pensar los autores dicen: “Sobre esta visión, y en virtud de la posibilidad de que los UFOs sean ETs, el UFO cuestiona la declaración del estado de proteger a sus ciudadanos, lo que no desearía admitir. Porque la amenaza es tan grave, la única respuesta racional es ignorar al UFO.”

Ellos presuponen lo inexistente como existente.

Por otro lado vuelven a insistir con que “no obstante, los estados no han hecho un esfuerzo significativo para conocer el UFO.”

Por otro lado, y gratuitamente llegan a afirmar: “El UFO…..plantea interrogantes fundamentales acerca del lugar de los seres humanos en el universo.”  Esto no es sólo totalmente especulativo, sino que presupone la existencia de una inteligencia superior que con su sola presencia nos cuestionaría.

Para ello vuelven a afirmar que “Los UFOs, en contraste, dejan trazas físicas inexplicadas…los UFOs, cuya existencia –cualquiera pueda ser—está físicamente documentada.”

Los autores imaginan cosas extraordinarias, y creen en ellas como para insistir en que a la humanidad los UFOs le plantean una especie de “jaque mate”.

73 años han pasado del caso que lo comenzó todo. El tema UFO siempre tuvo el desarrollo inicial de una nueva etapa o variante en los Estados Unidos, y eso tiene que hacer pensar.

El artículo dice: “si la ciencia hace su tarea adecuadamente, la resistencia se quebrará y un serio esfuerzo por identificar a los UFOs finalmente será emprendido”.

Ese esfuerzo está emprendido y ya lleva años. El CIAE es un claro y contundente ejemplo. Pero no sólo en la Argentina hay investigadores ubicados en la línea de la identificación aeroespacial, que es el más acertado enfoque que ha tomado el tema, también los hay en Chile y en México. Y yo en Estados Unidos también estoy en esa línea, además de tener la distinción de haber sido designado como Asesor Internacional honorario del CIAE.

Los autores expresan al final de su artículo: “lo que se necesita es paradójicamente una ciencia sistemática, en la cual las observaciones sean activamente buscadas a fin de analizar patrones de los cuales se pueda inferir una presencia inteligente”.

El problema es que cuando se ejerce lo que ellos mismos demandan, una investigación científica seria y responsable, los UFOs desaparecen, y entonces no hay “patrones de los cuales se pueda inferir una presencia inteligente”.

Lo que sí se puede inferir es cómo sigue actuando el mito ET en la sociedad. La influencia que en ello tienen los medios, y cómo la gente en general da más atención a la fantasía que a la realidad. Porque, si bien la mentira tiene un poder especial al excitar la imaginación, al final de todo, la verdad es lo único que cuenta.

Milton W. Hourcade, Iowa City,

1º de Febrero de 2021.