'What's Out There' Is Not 'What's Here'The "Q&A" feature...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 15, 1993

'What's Out There' Is Not 'What's Here'

The "Q&A" feature March 2 -- "Should government reveal its UFO data?"-- quoted four UFO believers at a recent conference debating whether the government should end its secrecy on UFOs. I find two aspects of this article troubling.

First, the article, and apparently the UFO "specialists," never questioned the premise that the government is engaged in a cover-up of UFO evidence. Nor was any evidence of a cover-up presented, which is not surprising.

For 45 years, the few government documents published by UFO enthusiasts as alleged proof of a cover-up have either concluded that there is no evidence of alien origin of any object studied, or have been shown to be outright forgeries.

The UFO-ers should try harder. If they could verify that a government plot to conceal data has somehow escaped the Great Washington Leak Machine for 45 years, it could be a more astounding find than verified alien contact!

Second, the article did not distinguish between two very different issues: the likelihood of aliens existing elsewhere versus that of their having visited Earth. The article said " 'What's out there' consumes many researchers with sound academic and professional credentials." Indeed, many researchers believe that in a galaxy with 200 billion stars and a universe with 100 billion galaxies, some rare stars are likely to have planets that support intelligent life.

Radio telescopes operated by the Planetary Society and NASA are listening for evidence of far-off civilizations. Radio waves, which travel at the speed of light, may be our only hope of making contact with other beings, so great are the distances of space.

But "what's out there" is not the same issue as "what's here." If aliens could travel from the nearest star (four light years away) at a million miles per hour, it would take them more than 2,600 years to get here. And why Earth? Weak radio broadcasts, evidence of our civilization, have been escaping into space for less than a century; this makes it improbable that other beings are aware of our existence.

Nonetheless, our media abound with "true" tales of saucer landings, lurid bedroom invasions and abductions of humans by large-eyed creatures. Authors have made fortunes claiming that aliens visited the pharaohs and the Mayan kings, and that the Air Force has recovered crashed flying saucers and their dead alien pilots. But since the UFO fad began in the late 1940s, there has been no evidence that compels researchers with "sound credentials" to conclude that alien craft have ever visited this planet.

For people who are disappointed about this reality, there are some good alternatives to UFO hysteria. Learn about our fascinating universe in school, on PBS or in real science books.

Or enjoy a good novel or fictional movie about alien contact that nobody is trying to tell you is not fiction.

Larry D. Rosen

Baltimore

All Gays Are Not Promiscuous

I am writing in response to Robert J. Chase's Feb. 27 letter about the question of the legal status of homosexual people.

Mr. Chase tells us that many gay men are promiscuous and inflicted with more sexually transmitted diseases (STD) than any other social group. He uses this as a basis for the argument that their lifestyle is self-destructive and therefore should not be accepted by our society.

First I would like to point out that even if many gay men are promiscuous, many are not and many gay women are not. It does not seem logical to say that all homosexuals should be penalized because some number are promiscuous. After all, many heterosexuals are promiscuous, too. Also, if I remember former Surgeon General Everett Koop correctly, gay women are the least likely to be inflicted with an STD. Unless Mr. Chase's argument is that only gay women should be able to fully exercise constitutional rights, there seems to be a logical gap here.

More important than this gap, however, is the question: Is it correct to protect and allow a person to engage in a behavior or lifestyle that can lead to self-destruction? If your answer is ''no,'' then far more important than forbidding homosexuality, our laws should forbid eating meat. Your chances as an meat-eater of dying from stroke, heart-attack or cancer related to saturated fat are significantly higher than your chances of dying from AIDS or any other STD.

If we would allow the government to make such a personal decision as with whom a person should sleep, surely we should allow the government to decide matters such as what one should eat. Especially because so many more people die from their eating habits than from sexual habits.

And of course, eating meat is not our only self-destructive habit. Does Mr. Chase favor denying constitutional rights to people who drink alcohol, eat or drink caffeine, don't exercise enough, chew tobacco, or any of the other self-destructive choices Americans make?

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