Over at Robert Shaeffer's Bad UFOs blog, there is a disturbing post about the National Atomic Testing Museum, a Las Vegas-area museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. Apparently, the museum has turned itself over to speculative claims about extraterrestrials and UFOs, including the wild and fact-free speculation about alleged Roswell alien technology reverse engineered at Area 51. (Funny, didn't we just "learn" last year that Josef Mengele faked the Roswell aliens so Stalin could crash a fake flying saucer to fool the Americans?)
This is sad on many levels, but one of the most disturbing is the involvement of the U.S. government in promoting this nonsense. The Atomic Testing Museum received the right to become a "National" museum in January when President Barack Obama signed the Defense Authorization Bill. The language had been put in the bill by Nevada's senator, Harry Reid (D) and House member Joe Heck (R). This bipartisan effort made the Atomic Testing Museum one of just three dozen national museums in America.
How did the museum celebrate?
Within two months of receiving its new designation, the museum held a symposium on whether Area 51 was an alien processing plant, under the bizarre title "Area 51: Myth of Reality." Well, the physical parcel of land exists, so there's that. A new exhibit followed, including alien blow-up dolls, UFO-themed artwork, and "information" about the Roswell crash. Most disturbing of all, the museum labeled material from Russia "authentic alien artifacts" despite no such proof. (And really, if they're the only documented artificial extraterrestrial artifacts on earth, what are they doing in the back room of a Vegas museum?) All of this was now held under the banner of the Smithsonian Institution.
Shaeffer was outraged that a Smithsonian-affiliated museum would even broach the topic of UFOs, which he considers prima facie unworthy. I'm OK with museums having exhibits on topics of public interest--and no one can argue UFOs aren't of interest to the public--but I am outraged that the museum is using its government designation, enacted by the Congress and signed by the President, to provide a UFO narrative that does not make clear the government's position and scientific findings about UFOs: that is, that they are not alien spacecraft. It's interesting look at UFOs as a sociological phenomenon, but any museum that portrays them as actual extraterrestrial craft (with "real" ET "artifacts" no less!) is undeserving of government sanction.
The only thing that could be worse is if the government declared Ancient Aliens a "national" scientific treasure.
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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