Note: This piece first ran in my Substack newsletter earlier this week.
Over the past few months, Extraterrestrial author Avi Loeb has tied himself more and more to the UFO community as he builds his brand as the astronomer most willing to entertain the possibility that aliens are visiting Earth. He appeared on the TMZ UFO special to speculate about military UFO videos as evidence of alien contact. He is headlining the Contact in the Desert conference of ancient astronaut, UFO, and paranormal charlatans, and he said in a podcast last month that he is in talks with wealth patrons about heading a team to investigate UFOs.
However, in his latest Scientific American column, Loeb is pulling away from the kumbaya intergalactic philosophical mind meld he imagined in his bestselling book. In Extraterrestrial, Loeb speculated that space aliens would have an advanced moral philosophy because of their longer period of development and that at least some aliens would subscribe to the tenets of 1950s existentialism, particularly the absurdity of life. It seems, though, that Loeb is changing his tune.
Now he suggests that we cannot expect aliens to behave morally. The existentialist aliens from Extraterrestrial have been replaced with a hostile power that requires a military response. Indeed, Loeb is embracing the recent U.S. government UFO report, arguing that scientists like him are obliged to study the objects discussed in the report to determine if they are hostile probes from an alien system—and how convenient that he’s currently trying to secure funding for such a task, and even volunteered to lead a Pentagon team, too.
His conclusion should disturb us because he has abandoned the awe and wonder that characterized his book—from only seven months ago!—and is now openly embracing the current (and facetiously disingenuous) UFO party line that UFOs are a national security issue. He goes even farther than Lue Elizondo and Chris Mellon and uses a Wild West metaphor to suggest that the U.S. government must start an arms race with space aliens to defend Earth from invasion:
Being the smartest species on Earth, our fate has been under our control so far. This may not hold true after our encounter with extraterrestrial AI systems. Hence, technological maturity obtains a sense of urgency for Darwinian survival in the global competition of Milky Way civilizations. Only by becoming sufficiently advanced can we overcome threats from alien technological equipment. Here’s hoping that in the galactic race, our AI systems will outsmart the aliens. Just as in the gunfights of the Wild West, the survivor might be the one who is first to draw a weapon without hesitation.
Notice how Loeb uses a Social Darwinist idea to suggest that aliens and humans must “compete” for survival and suggests that aliens must necessarily want to exploit or destroy humans, demanding a military response.
This is dangerous territory, and it is also the inevitable result of the “threat” narrative surrounding the militarization of the UFO issue. But it is deeply disturbing that Loeb either used his years building a case for himself as a moral philosopher of alien life as a bait-and-switch to become the postmodern version of a galactic Cold Warrior, or is cynically latching on to the Elizondo/Mellon narrative to enhance his own fame and funding. Either way, this can’t end well as the UFO narrative pushes further into the realm of militarization, conflict, and threat.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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