Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hawking vs. Hellyer

Paul Hellyer is at it again.

Regular readers of Skeptophilia may recall about a year ago when I wrote about the peculiarities of Canada's former defense minister (read the post here).  And by "peculiarities," I don't mean curious and charming little eccentricities you might chuckle about in our northern neighbors, such as participating in pastimes like "curling."  I mean blathering on about ideas that make me wonder if he should be medicated.

Last year, he went on record as saying that it is his belief that there is a "shadow US government" that has been in contact with aliens, and that this shadow government is selling out large parts of the world in exchange for alien super-technology.  Myself, I'm not so sure this is a bad idea.  I would happily cede (say) Iran and North Korea to the aliens, given that those countries' current governments seem determined to make things as big a mess as possible and it's hard to see how the aliens could do much worse, if in payment the aliens could give me a jet pack and a Star Trek-style transporter.  It would be worth giving up a few countries just to see the looks on my students' and coworkers' faces as I flew into school wearing my jet pack, or (better yet) simply materialized in a shimmer of sparkles just as class was about to start.

Of course, the difficulty with all of this is that the shadow government, and in fact the aliens, don't seem to exist, a point that seems to be lost on the Honorable Mr. Hellyer.  But that hasn't stopped him from taking center stage again, this time in an interview on MSNBC, to rail against physicist Stephen Hawking for "spreading misinformation."

We are, Hellyer said, on the verge of an intergalactic war.  I guess since last year, the shadow government has pissed off the aliens to the point that they're ready simply to zoom in, beat the crap out of us, and take over.  So what we should be doing is building defensive bases on the moon, because we could "see them better from there, and shoot the alien ships down if necessary."

Then, nearly in the same breath, he says that he's not really sure if the aliens are our enemies after all.

"There is no evidence that I have seen that has convinced me that they are in fact enemy," he told the interviewer, who was wearing an expression that seemed to say, "If this guy comes any closer to me, I'm getting right the hell out of here."

"What I would like to know is whether this classification of alien enemy still exists or it doesn't," Hellyer went on, "and if it exists what the evidence is on which the United States government bases its conclusion."

After all, he says, aliens have been visiting us for millennia, and have already contributed greatly to our scientific and technological knowledge.  For example, the microchip and fiber optics, Hellyer says, originated on another planet.  I don't know about that, but I think an extraterrestrial origin is clearly indicated for the phenomenon of "dubstep," which sounds to my ears like an electronic keyboard having sex with a dial-up modem, and was apparently meant to be appealing only to non-human intelligences.

Be that as it may, Hellyer has now set his sights on a fairly lofty target, and I don't mean a spaceship.  He has now levied some pretty serious criticism at renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, for abusing his position as one of the world's most famous scientists to give us the wrong ideas regarding aliens.

Hawking, in an interview, was asked what he thought about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, and if he thought that aliens had visited the Earth.  Hawking responded that he thought it entirely possible that there was alien life, but said that if UFOs were real, it was an indication of a technology so far ahead of ours that we could be at serious risk if they came here.  We might, he said, be ants in relation to them, intelligence-wise -- meaning that the aliens might see no particular ethical problem with wiping us out.

Now Hawking, being a scientist, is someone for whom evidence is the ultimate arbiter of truth, and was clearly speaking in the hypothetical, what-if context, consistent with the way the question had been phrased.  Hellyer, of course, didn't take it that way, because he thinks the aliens are already here, evidence be damned.

"I think he's indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature," Hellyer said about Hawking.  "I think it's really sad that a scientist of his repute would contribute to what I would consider more misinformation about a vast and very important subject."

Well, he really told you, Dr. Hawking.  How dare you claim to have any insight into the workings of the universe, with your paltry little Ph.D. in physics.  As compared to Hellyer, for crying out loud, who is the ex-Minister of Defense for Canada!  Ha!  Top that!

Well, okay, we probably should be listening to Stephen Hawking over Paul Hellyer, frankly, especially given that the Honorable Mr. Hellyer's skull seems to be filled with cobwebs and dead insects.  Be that as it may -- if next week the aliens declare war on us, demanding their fiber optics cables back, don't say he didn't warn us. 

No comments:

Post a Comment