Atacama "Humanoid" DNA Test Controversy Unveils Connections between Robert Bigelow and Tom DeLonge's To the Stars
As much as I don’t want to spend more time talking about the sad case of a 40-year-old stillborn baby girl from the Atacama region of Chile whose corpse was repurposed as an “alien” body, I am increasingly disturbed by the problematic nature of the UFO community’s response to the DNA tests conducted on the body and published recently, tests that showed that the corpse was in fact human. Some recent developments are worth highlighting because of the light they throw on the darker corners of ufology.
First, there is the widely publicized problem of the unauthorized export of a human corpse and tests that were conducted on her without the permission of her family, her community, or the Chilean government. This has received widespread censure and condemnation from scientists, bioethicists, and indigenous rights activists the world over. As the Chileans dryly noted, no one would be half so blasé if a white American’s dead baby had been stolen, turned into a circus sideshow, and “tested” to see if it was really human. But what troubled me even more is that lead research Garry Nolan, who has no training in DNA research (he’s a microbiologist and immunologist), saw no problem with the research he conducted, rationalizing that there was no reason for him to question where the body came from or to treat it with the same respect afforded to human remains elsewhere. Nolan concluded that the body belonged to a human being in 2012 but nevertheless persisted with the fiction that it was of unknown origin for six more years.
The journal that published Nolan’s results, Genome Research, stated that it had no ethical concerns about testing the body because it was dead, which meant that it was not a “human subject” in need of ethical protection, and because they too pretended it was an unknown species. “Current human subjects research policies do not typically cover the study of specimens of uncertain biological origins, such as the Atacama skeleton.” But there lies the rub: The research concluded definitively that the skeleton is in fact human, which ought to have triggered ethical protections, even if we accept the ridiculous notion that no one suspected a manifestly human skeleton of being human. At whatever point one determined it was human, one ought to have sought to do right by the tiny body.
Worse, this sets a dangerous precedent. If a human corpse can be reassigned to a nonhuman category and then studied as though it were a rock or a tree, then any body one wishes to study without the encumbrance of ethics can similarly be suspected of belonging to a ridiculous supernatural category. Native bones are now Nephilim bones and may be raided at will, for example. This is deeply problematic, recalling as it does past centuries when the bodies of brown and black peoples were considered to be from separate, lesser species that could be studied like livestock. It was always a convenient fiction, but one I would have hoped died with the twentieth century.
Further out in the field of crazy, this incident has also touched off a battle between ufologist Steven Greer, who promoted the corpse as an alien, and Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, which employs Nolan. Nolan, who rather grotesquely refers to the child’s corpse as “Ata,” has been shockingly open about his loyalty to DeLonge’s enterprise. He wrote an article about the Atacama skeleton research for To the Stars, and in it, he expressed his love for To the Stars:
For me, it underscores why I was excited to be a part of To The Stars Academy. I know the others on the team share my dedication to using good science for the study of biological issues and physical phenomena that mainstream science to date has ignored. Like Ata… there will be lessons, and hopefully we’ll be able to turn those lessons around to create things and understandings that benefit everyone. It starts by asking, “What is that?” It continues by stating… “I can understand that.” It concludes by actually doing it. (ellipses and emphasis in the original)
It’s interesting that To the Stars wants to tie its brand to an ethically dubious enterprise, but doing so racks up points against Greer, who has given a series of blistering interviews attacking Nolan as part of a vast conspiracy to undermine Greer. Greer, of course, has no ethical qualms about marketing and displaying the purloined bones because he believes them to belong to a space alien.
Greer blasted Nolan’s research as “utter and complete junk” before tying Nolan and, by extension To the Stars, to a lengthy rant against the United States: “I think the United States has become a lost cause. The corruption here is so bad, the corruption of the media, the collusion with academia… and the intelligence community is so entrenched that we need help from Russia and China and Brazil and Chile and Bolivia and – wherever – France…” He also made a direct appeal to Russian president Vladimir Putin to seize a leadership role in UFO research: “This is one of my messages to Vladimir Putin and to China: ‘Do not wait for the United States.’ The United States, at this point has lost its ability to lead on this matter.”
At first glance, Greer’s anti-American ranting doesn’t seem clearly connected to Nolan’s research, which has not changed its conclusions since Nolan first declared the body human in Greer’s own Sirius documentary half a decade ago. But many ufologists see DeLonge’s group as too closely aligned to the U.S. government because so many of its leaders are former U.S. government employees. They also suspect DeLonge himself of being a disinformation agent, witting or unwitting, spreading Pentagon propaganda.
As if all of this weren’t awful enough, when Nolan referred above to the “biological issues and physical phenomena” that “mainstream science” refuses to accept, there’s a pretty good chance that he is alluding to Christopher “Kit” Green’s work using remote viewing and other psychical fantasies to contact space aliens and explore other worlds. Nolan and Green are working together to study the genetics of people who claim to have met space aliens or who have had alleged psychic experiences in the hope of finding DNA markers connected to such phenomena. Both Nolan and Green are working on this with Hal Puthoff, who is a famous name in the field of parapsychology, having left Scientology to pursue remote viewing. Puthoff trained Paul H. Smith, a CIA remote viewer who claimed to sense alien structures on the moon.
Now here is the kicker: Puthoff’s various endeavors found him working with billionaire UFO believer Robert Bigelow on various UFO phenomena, and Puthoff wrote the proposal Bigelow made for the Pentagon’s UFO-hunting contract, the same “aerial phenomena” investigation that former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid pushed through Congress at Bigelow’s instigation. Puthoff also served as a physicist for the Pentagon’s UFO program after it was funded, according to Tom DeLonge. But Puthoff isn’t just a close associate of Bigelow, he’s also a member of To the Stars Academy, serving as its vice president for science and technology, and recently entered into negotiations for a deal to sell the company the rights to the idea to use space lasers to beam satellites into orbit, an acquisition announced on Tom DeLonge’s Facebook page in March as part of a bid to drum up investment dollars to fund the company’s massive royalty payments owed to DeLonge. A search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office online database finds no patents or patent applications in Puthoff’s name for the period for which records are available (1976-present), so it is unclear what is being sold, but DeLonge is currently asking investors to fund the acquisition by buying more shares in To the Stars.
And all that doesn’t even account for the fact that Las Vegas UFO journalist George Knapp worked with Bigelow, helped convince Reid to fund the Pentagon program, publicized Bigelow’s space alien research, and interviewed Puthoff on Coast to Coast to puff up To the Stars. He was also the one who proudly reported Puthoff’s involvement with Bigelow’s Pentagon bid. It also doesn’t include Jacques Vallée’s involvement in the various parts of this story, since he is both on Bigelow’s payroll (as a science consultant to Bigelow’s company) and someone publicizing highly similar claims about alien alloys that are also coming out of Bigelow’s UFO research and To the Stars.
I genuinely don’t know what’s going on here, but I don’t like it. There is something weird and wrong about so few people being so closely tied together and benefiting from millions of dollars in taxpayer funding and a multimedia campaign to convince the public to buy both merchandise and stocks to generate even more money. And they aren’t even trying to hide it. All of this information is posted on the internet, where anyone with decent Google skills can put it together and see how incestuous the Bigelow-DeLonge axis has become. It would be one thing if these men were doing good work, but all they have produced is a smokescreen of debunked claims, pie-in-the-sky fantasies, and dubious claims.
So, when Greer attacks Nolan many years after Nolan first contradicted Greer’s claims, there is much more to it than a defense of space aliens. Greer isn’t part of the golden circle of Bigelow-adjacent ufologists, and he seems to resent it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities, and subscribe to Culture & Curiosities, my Substack newsletter.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.