Avi Loeb Doubles Down on New Status as Ancient Spaceship Guru; Plus: Joe Rogan Says Tom DeLonge Can't Recognize UFO Hoaxes
Last week, I wrote about the way that Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who suggested that the interstellar object Oumuamua might be an alien probe, seems to be using his speculative hypothesis to engage in pseudo-religious philosophizing about morality and ethics. In a profile published on Monday in the Washington Post, he basically confirmed everything I gleaned from his recent Scientific American blog post, and he added an extra dollop of a cult of personality. It seems as though he wants to use the possibility of ancient astronauts to make himself the astronomical version of Jordan Peterson or Steven Pinker. The key passage of the article features Loeb discussing how he can parlay the publicity over his ersatz kumbaya cosmology into greater fame and fewer work responsibilities:
In a matter of months, Loeb has become a one-man alternative to the dirge of terrestrial news.
Regardless of whether his hypothesis about Oumuamua’s origin as a space alien probe holds water (most scientists say it doesn’t, but it is not impossible—though the latest thinking is that it is a chunk of comet dust), Loeb’s attitude grates on me. Throughout the interview with the Post, he seems eager to cast himself as a populist standing against a cabal of elitist scientists. At one point, he literally says that he doesn’t subscribe to a “class system” that ranks academics as “elite.” He said that while posing for heroic photos beside the Great Refractor, a nineteenth century telescope, and name-dropping the famous people he’s met.
Loeb also has adopted the language of ancient astronaut theorists, referring to “cosmic modesty” to suggest that humans should presume that advanced aliens exist and that humans are not special, a lesser version of the traditional ancient astronaut refrain that humans are “arrogant” if they don’t imagine that superior space aliens are in control of our destiny. Both are inversions of the traditional religious claim that humans are the center of creation. While Loeb’s position is defensible, and statistically logical, the language he uses is more reflective—as I noted last week—of social and political posturing than scientific inquiry.
The end of the piece is telling. The reporter notes that Loeb prompted his freshman astronomy students to recognize him as the man who speculated about Oumuamua’s alien origins and smiled broadly when one of them does.
Loeb hit upon a claim that sparked popular interest, and it seems that he is prepared to ride it to pop culture fame.
Speaking of which… Most readers will remember that former Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge has used his rock star fame to promote his eclectic To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, and its multipronged mission to develop UFO-themed media, pursue UFO disclosure, and develop high-tech propulsion technologies to mimic UFOs.
Anyway, his former bandmate Travis Barker was on the Joe Rogan Experience this week, and he and Rogan discussed DeLonge’s lifelong passion for UFOs.
The most telling exchange came when Rogan described how he and DeLonge watched alleged UFO videos together and Rogan was able to immediately identify the videos as fake. But despite watching what Rogan described as some of the most clearly fake UFO videos ever made, Rogan said that DeLonge credulously believed every one of them to be authentic. “In his mind, he was seeing a real alien spaceship,” Rogan said. This is reminiscent of the time that DeLonge shared a still from Steven Spielberg’s Taken and mistook it for a government photograph of a UFO. This kind of extreme credulity explains a lot about To the Stars.
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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