Lights in the Sky & Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials, by Hugh Ross, Kenneth Samples, and Mark Clark (NavPress, 192 pp. plus notes)
If it is true that a book that both stimulates and irritates is a good read, then this book certainly qualifies. Finally, the Christian publishing community has (briefly) taken its head out of the sand and invited us to a serious academic treatment of the UFO / ET question. For that reason, I have reviewed the book in depth. For the faint of heart, however, I’ll start with a more condensed review.
The Short Review
This is an important book that everyone interested in ufology — Christian or otherwise — should read and digest. The short word is that, with the exception of the two chapters by Mark Clark (chs. 7-8), which purport to address the issues of government cover-ups and conspiracies, this is a sterling example of both introducing a topic to readers unfamiliar with the subject matter and judicious evaluation of said subject matter from both an intellectual and biblical perspective.
As readers of The Façade and listeners to my own appearances on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell know, I insist that it is high time credentialed academics address the UFO/ET subject. This book is a significant step in that direction. Ross's chapters (his Ph.D. is in astronomy), which deal with topics ranging from the likelihood of life on other planets, interstellar space travel, and the inter-dimensional hypothesis for ET contacts and abductions, are worth the price of the book and then some. Likewise Sample's three chapters on alien abductions and UFO cults frame the issues well. There are a few misguided statements in those chapters (addressed in the lengthier review below), but they do not diminish the value of his overview. My fear, however, is that Clark's chapters are so poorly researched and his assigned subjects engaged so dismissively that readers who desperately need to be challenged by the work of Ross and Sample will label the book as a debunking effort. If the book had started with those two chapters, anyone who seriously researches ufology would likely have just cast it aside. At the very least someone with knowledge of the well-established duplicitous paper-trail documenting a government cover-up of the UFO phenomenon should have been asked to write these chapters. Then again, the pool of Christians who treat the subject seriously is so small this is likely asking too much. ALL of the major sources that address the government documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) relating to UFOs are absent from his chapter and bibliography. Clark seems blissfully unaware that virtually every ufologist already considers the original MJ-12 documents to be fakes, and uses his scant references to these documents as a straw man. The small but significant cache of documents uncovered by dedicated researchers since the shadowy release of the original MJ-12 documents are not even introduced into the conversation. In like manner, the hundreds of military personnel, intelligence employees, astronauts, and technical experts (e.g., NASA sub-contractors, McDonnell-Douglas engineers, etc.) who have publicly testified to deliberate secrecy and disinformation are conspicuously absent. For readers who naively agree with Clark (and Ross, who, out of his field on this point, simply assumes Clark should be followed) that there is no evidence at all of a conspiracy, let me say that a cover-up of something related to the topic is easy to demonstrate. Readers should also know that the reality of a cover-up with respect to UFOs in no way contradicts the book's inter-dimensional / spiritual explanation for UFO and ET contacts. Again, let me be clear: Despite the egregious flaws of Clark's two chapters, this book is essential reading with which I agree 95% of the time. Now on to some chapter commentary and the lengthier review.
The Details at Length
The first two chapters are written by Sample, and form an introduction and an overview of the various types of UFOs. The second chapter articulates the two basic categories into which Ross and Sample group all UFO encounters. First, there are the IFOs - UFOs which are actually Identifiable Flying Objects. Most UFOs (and I would agree) can reasonably be identified as: natural phenomena misunderstood by the observer; misidentified man-made flying objects (often of classified military origin); hoaxes; and psychological dysfunction (which does not translate into some sort of mental illness). Second, there are the small number of sightings that simply defy these explanations. These are referred to throughout the book as RUFOs ("Residual UFOs"). These UFOs, the book argues (and again I concur) are non-physical but absolutely real. The question, then, is not whether there are genuine UFOs, but what exactly those UFOs (better, RUFOs) are. Sample informs us that the book will subsequently test two hypotheses for answering this question: the ETH (Extraterrestrial Hypothesis) and the IDH (Inter-dimensional Hypothesis). The former argues that RUFOs are interplanetary; the latter argues they come from another dimension (ultimately, a "spiritual plane" in religious language) and can manifest in both physical and non-physical states. Chapter 6 (written by Ross) complements the brief discussion of the IDH in Chapter 2 by overviewing the evidence for the reality of RUFOs.
The next three chapters (3-5) are written by Ross, and deal with (respectively) "Life on Other Planets," "Evolution's Probabilities," and "Interstellar Space Travel." The material in these chapters amounts to a forceful challenge of the ETH. Indeed, I would argue that any ufologist or UFO enthusiast who refuses or fails to engage Ross's material in these chapters should politely excuse themselves from the field of inquiry and the debate. Chapter 3 puts forth the argument that the probability that there are other planets capable of supporting life is extremely slim — the exact opposite of the widespread argument of ufologists that the universe is teeming with life. Ross utilizes his scholarly background as an astronomer to set for his case, but his presentation is quite readable for the layperson. Ross is not just foisting a theologically biased opinion on his readers, either. His work is drawn from the very best of scholarly journals in astronomy. As readers of my newsletter, "Behind The Façade" know, the same position has been argued by secular astronomers as well (see vol. 1, no. 5 for the review of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee). Chapter 4 sets forth the apologetic for the intelligent design of the universe and life on earth. Ross has become chiefly known for his research and writing in this area — the "intelligent design" view of old-earth creationism. In this chapter he confronts the assumption that since life evolved on earth it must have evolved on other planets. Façade readers will appreciate his succinct critique of the panspermia hypothesis. It really is must reading. Chapter 5 addresses both the logic and possibility of interstellar space travel, which is glibly assumed by proponents of the ETH. In both cases, Ross argues that such journeys by alien creatures are illogical (why would they bother given the difficulties?) and mathematically and physically impossible. With respect to the latter, his criticisms of the commonly-argued wormhole explanation for the plausibility of deep space travel is devastating, particularly in view of recent scientific criticism of that idea. The material here simply must be addressed by ETH proponents, for their most cherished beliefs in intelligent extraterrestrial life and visitation are placed squarely in the academic crosshairs by a highly credentialed astronomer and, frankly, assassinated. All this leads Ross and the reader to consider the more likely IDH.
Chapters 7-8 are the low point of the book. Clark's treatment is incredibly simplistic and naïve. He implies on pages 73-74 that the case for a UFO cover-up depends on the Roswell incident, Project BLUEBOOK (which is erroneously equated with the related Condon Report), and rumors about AREA 51. These three convenient straw men are then easily knocked down. I could produce dozens of pages detailing the problems with Clark's effort to prove that no evidence for a government cover-up of UFOs and alleged ET contact exists and his caricature of these three "lines of evidence," but I will try and restrict myself to the most salient errors and oversights. I'll then conclude my thoughts on these chapters with a few comments for Façade readers as to how I think the very real cover-up relates to the IDH which, like the authors, I also embrace.
Regarding the Roswell event, Clark "covers" it in barely two pages. In doing so he charges Roswell "believers" with changing the details of the story several times, defending the ET explanation of the crash via forgeries such as the Majestic-12 documents, assumes that Jesse Marcel, Roswell's intelligence officer could not identify scotch tape and balsa wood (the alleged remains of the crashed saucer), and asserts that the conspiratorial view of Roswell depends on repressed memories and second- and third-hand testimony. I hardly know where to begin!
First, Clark apparently did not read the books he cites in his notes, for the Roswell event and the evidence is considerably more involved than he presents. He never mentions, for example, that the Project MOGUL explanation offered by the US Air Force is actually the Air Force's third variation of its "official" explanation for the Roswell event. As Façade readers know, I do not believe the Roswell event involved ETs, but I also reject the Air Force's explanation due to its own evolution, contradictions, and its memorable but positively unforgivable defense at the 1997 CNN tele-conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Roswell event. In case readers have forgotten, this was the conference where Colonel Haines of the USAF argued repeatedly that the nearly 400 witnesses to any detail of the Roswell event of 1947 had actually experienced said event in the early 1950s. Haines explained to a shocked audience that all the witnesses suffered from "mental time compression" and collectively had all gotten the date wrong (this despite published headlines in many newspapers to the contrary). Dr. Clark might have wondered why the colonel would do this, if he was even aware of the CNN event or the transcript (still available on the Internet). The reason was to account for the alleged ET bodies at the crash scene. The Air Force (by its own sources) only started using the test dummies in the early fifties, but these dummies were referred to in its "official" MOGUL-related explanation of the bodies. Hence, to make MOGUL work as the explanation for the Roswell testimony, "time compression" had to be given as some sort of mass mind-blank explanation. Does this sound any more credible than little gray guys? While the chain of events for the Roswell event has changed over time (and Dr. Clark never bothers to consider that some changes might be due to research discoveries), nothing as ridiculous as this has ever surfaced.
Second, the Majestic-12 documents ridiculed by Clark have nearly unanimously been dismissed by what Ross and Sample call "professional ufologists." Only uninformed "true believers" take these documents as real evidence. Since none of the dozens of other available documents obtained through FOIA requests, Clark's treatment assumes for the reader that there is no other documentary evidence for either a non-MOGUL Roswell event or the existence of MJ-12 (the panel assembled to deal with — i.e., cover-up and study — the Roswell event). These presumptions are demonstrably false. Clark should have done his homework, and could have started with any of these five resources:
- Timothy Good's highly-regarded book, Above Top Secret, which documents a worldwide UFO phenomenon, and includes some of the more interesting government documents relevant to the issue (e.g., the J. Edgar Hoover memo, the Sarbacher memo);
- Richard Dolan's UFOs and the National Security State. This hefty book is the first of two volumes, and is a thorough presentation of the documentary evidence of, on one hand, the public ridiculing and downplaying of the UFO phenomenon contrasted with the private government correspondence that placed UFOs at the highest security levels of concern. Both volumes derive in part from Dolan's aborted Ph.D. thesis on the national security policies of the Truman administration. The dual paper trail is demonstrably REAL, and documents a cover-up — not of aliens, in my judgment, but, as Façade readers know, of something more sinister.
- The website of Dr. Robert Wood and his son Ryan Wood, www.majesticdocuments.com. Dr. Wood spent 43 years in aerospace engineering at McDonnell-Douglas and has, since retirement, dedicated himself to recovering documentary evidence of the existence of Majestic-12 and the military cover-up of alien contact. This website contains dozens of scanned original documents obtained from legitimate channels. The point is not that all these documents are genuine; perhaps some are not, but they have not been debunked. Rather, it is very likely most are authentic. One must either believe (and maybe this is Dr. Clark) that 50 years ago someone planted these memos in boxes in various government archives so that they could be discovered years later just to perpetuate a myth of UFO secrecy, or (far more coherently) one must believe that a good number of the documents are genuine. The latter is far more reasonable. Some of the documents contain oblique references to "Majic" or "MJ-12". Others have Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower musing about life on other planets and crash retrievals. Still others reference Douglas MacArthur's fairly well-known (at least to military historians) "Interplanetary Phenomenon Unit" and its activities — in one case, in Roswell, NM. A few (notably an exchange between Oppenheimer and Einstein) contain remarks about EBEs (Extraterrestrial Biological Entities). Dr. Wood and his son freely note any text-critical problems with these various documents, and duly scale the credibility levels of each.
- John Greenewald's website, The Black Vault. Greenewald has spent the last ten years (since he was fifteen) sending FOIA requests and archiving the responses. He scans each letter of request, its response, and each page of material he receives. The Black Vault has literally tens of thousands of pages of UFO-related documents, which, among other things, undeniably attest to the military and intelligence deliberate efforts to publicly downplay UFO and ET events while privately intimidating witnesses (and even colleagues) and struggling to understand what UFOs are.
- Dr. Steven Greer's website, www.cseti.org. Façade readers know I am no fan of Dr. Greer or his views, but Dr. Clark could have at least done enough research to come across this well-traveled site. Dr. Greer is a physician who, for the last 10-15 years has ingratiated himself with Washington's military and intelligence elite with one specific goal: to convince insiders to tell what they know about UFOs, alien contact, and relevant military secrecy in exchange for a congressional act that would exempt informants from their national security oaths. Thus far, of the 400+ informants Greer has contacted, roughly 100 have already allowed him to videotape their testimony. A dozen or so came publicly forward during a May 9, 2001 Washington Press Club conference. These witnesses are not being hypnotized, are not depending on repressed or "shaky" memories, and are firsthand participants in the events they describe. They have formidable resumes.
Two other notes are appropriate. Readers (and Dr. Clark) would do well to go back and read the chronology of the history of human experimentation in the U.S. since 1931 included in vol. 1, no. 6 of my newsletter. Most of these experiments were held secret for quite a long time (decades). Yes, conspiracies and cover-ups are a part of life and the workings of evil on this planet. It does the populace no good to deny what history has exposed. It never ceases to amaze me how people (Christians!) can claim to believe in intelligent evil and fail to recognize that intelligent evil can be organized and use people to its ends. Dr. Ross approvingly quotes (p. 123) J. Allen Hynek's insightful comment that RUFOs are "a spiritual system that acts on humans and uses humans." This is all a conspiracy is, so why the aversion and ridicule? Second, Dr. Clark would do well to take a look at the documentation detailing the efforts of the late NM Congressman Steven Schiff to obtain the records of the Roswell event. His search ended with a GAO (General Accounting Office) letter informing him that all records of the Roswell event had been destroyed without congressional approval. If it was just MOGUL, and the MOGUL explanation was already out in the public, why do that?
Hopefully this give the reader an idea of what Dr. Clark doesn’t bring to the table. My own view is that RUFOs are best explained by the IDH, and that most (but not all, using Ross and Sample's own criteria) of what these sources and witnesses document and have covered-up falls into the IFO category. The point of my criticisms are that the Roswell event did indeed initiate a bona fide cover-up, one that partially involved secret man-made technology, but which also includes cover-up of RUFO data and, frankly, a very evil agenda that has, for 50 years, used UFOs as a distraction. Men and women within our government have participated in this documented cover-up, most for patriotic reasons and without knowledge of the evil they were and are helping to perpetuate.
Back to the rest of the book!
Chapters 9-11 are authored by Dr. Ross and are a further explication of the IDH and its ramifications. The thesis that the IDH is most coherently articulated in spiritual terms is put forth here. Again, these chapters are well written and informed. There are a few minor misstatements or omissions to note. Dr. Ross is surely aware that his explanation of a Creator who exists and operates outside of time has been criticized by evangelical Christian philosophers (like William Craig), and so less categorical language may have been appropriate. The word for "create" (bara') in Genesis 1:1 does not necessarily mean "to make something brand new or to make something out of nothing" (but it can). For example, we are told that God "created" (bara') humankind in Gen. 1, but in Genesis 2 we are told that God used pre-existing material (the dust of the ground) to form (yatsar) man. This shows these two Hebrew words can be interchangeable, and thus bara' can mean creation using pre-existing material. Ross's discussion of the non-contradiction of an extra-dimensional being manifesting in genuine physical flesh is much appreciated, but he should have applied this to Genesis 6:1-4 to be consistent. Mention of the "celestial flesh/body" in I Cor. 15 could also have added to the discussion. These are minor complaints, though. Of more interest to Façade readers are Ross and Sample's comments (here and elsewhere) of angels. Neither author is a biblical scholar or Semitist, and so they inevitably draw their understanding of angels from the English Bible, not the Hebrew or Greek text, or ancient near eastern comparative data. This should not deter readers who are familiar with my own work on the divine council and the fallen gods of Psalm 82 and other texts. Although a more precise angelology is of great help in addressing the ancient astronaut mythology foisted upon the public by a few ufologists and the IDH, the treatment here is still quite beneficial.
Chapters 12-14 are Sample's summary of the alien abduction phenomenon. Although more research could have been conducted here (such as Dr. Greg Little's research comparing medieval demonization with abductee testimony), the content is readable, reasonably complete, and accurate, save for a few items. For example, no mention is made of the reptilian alien-type being present during abductions. The motif of flying reptilian beings or such beings occupying flying craft in ancient texts is global and should not be overlooked. I am not sure what the reason was for this oversight. On page 137 mention is made of the possibility that abductions are demonically implanted memories or pseudo-memories. No thought is given to the idea that implanted memories could be of human origin. One thinks immediately of MILABs (military abductions) here, where victims have either unconscious or conscious recall of military contexts for their abductions and an alien scenario being psychologically implanted in their minds. The commonalities of abductee testimony with ritual abuse is also overlooked (Sample references the 1992 MIT conference on alien abduction, but apparently overlooks the paper delivered at that conference on this very subject).
At this point I want to pause and note the significance of these items. Implanted memory and the IDH paradigm are, I believe, related. In this regard, Dr. Ross notes with curiosity on page 118 that RUFO experiences (and abductions, I might add) often follow generational bloodlines. The reader should add to these three elements Sample's passing observations (pp. 140-141) in regard to the "occult ancestry" of UFO contact and the role of Madame Helena Blavatsky and her Theosophy movement. The same Blavatsky and other occultists played important roles in the development Hitler's and Himmler's occult-Aryan mythology which fueled the holocaust. It is no coincidence, in my view, that much of ufological lore (including the Roswell event with its PAPERCLIP ties) goes back to Nazi occultism. I have been collecting scholarly references on this and related subjects for a few years now, including several recent dissertations. These seemingly disparate threads are actually intimately related, and this contention can be documented in high scholarship. A high-quality scholarly introduction to the interrelationship of these items, along with the connections of the ancient astronaut idea with a "master race" ideology, is professor J. Godwin's Arktos.
In the final full chapter, Ross and Sample mercifully spare the ufological community yet another simplistic Christian "expose" on how the Bible contains references to UFOs (or, how it props up the ETH). However, I do have a problem with the contention put forth here and in earlier chapters that basically all people who experience RUFOs have occult activity in their background. While I would agree with Ross and Sample that RUFOs are best explained by evil spiritual forces, this is an overstatement (they use the word "demon" whereas that would only be one category of evil entity for me in view of my background in Hebrew and Semitics). I personally know several people who came from solid Christian homes, including one pastor's child, who were visited by "aliens" at a very early age — and such visitations occurred before and after conversion. I could agree that occult activity is a "prerequisite" for most RUFO activity, but to push it to a completely categorical cause-effect explanation is an exaggeration. Ross's statement on page 124 illustrates our difference of opinion here:
"According to the Bible, demons can attack only those individuals who, through their activities, invite the attacks."
Ross cites several passages in defense of this view (Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:15-43: Judges 9:22-57; I Samuel 15:1-16:23; Psalm 106:36-43; Luke 11:14-26; Acts 13:6-11; 17:12-20; I Corinthians 10:18-22; Revelation 9:20-21). None of these references actually makes the point that dabbling in satanic activities will produce RUFO experiences. Rather, they are warnings and commands against engaging in occult activities. Luke 11 and Acts 13 perhaps speak to some sort of spiritual bondage brought on by such activity.
While the Bible is clear on these prohibitions, this proof-texting does not make the point Ross is putting forth in the quotation; that is, they do not say that demonic forces will only attack those who invite attack. This is simply poor theology, and I suspect that this common position among Christians who venture into ufology is articulated for the express purpose of comforting Christians that they will not be abduction victims if they avoid the occult. The reason I say the theology here is lacking is because Christians are not immune from any other type of evil whether it is "invited" or not. Christians are the victims of random violence (witness Columbine); they suffer at the hands of corrupt and evil people through no fault of their own. They are victims of uninvited fraud. When it comes to the more "directly demonic," Ross's position simply does not reflect the worldview of either the Old or New Testament, and in a way ties the hand of Providence from using this particular evil for His own glory. For instance, the evil bloodlines that emerged from the Genesis 6 incident attacked the people of Israel — God's people. This was their very reason for being. There were demonic strongholds in the Old Testament (like Bashan) whose threats were so real and ever-present that the "foe from the north" motif became proverbial in biblical literature. There is no hint that most or all of these threats were invited. We are told in I Peter 5:8 that Satan is OUR adversary, and so naturally he seeks to devour Christians. The text does not qualify his destructive appetite by noting "only if we invite his attacks." Must Christians invite "the fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph. 6:16) for them to come? Does it make any sense to "put on the whole armor of God" (Eph. 6:11ff.) so as to withstand the devil when he and his minions won't touch us without being invited? When we wrestle against "principalities and powers" (Eph. 6:12) is it our own fault for inviting the conflict? Did Jesus have to invite his own satanic temptation? Does spiritual warfare only happen when it is invited? This view is theologically incoherent. The biblical worldview has believers of all ages being the target of satanic attack. Granted, engaging in occult activity is undoubtedly providing a gateway for satanic activity in the form of RUFOs (or other manifestations), but my point is that such activity is not a necessary prerequisite for such visitations.
The book ends with three appendices relating to how the "fine tuning" of the universe's intelligent design. Although the "fine tuning" argument has been criticized by secular philosophers ("if God loved creating intelligent life so much, why did he make the conditions for it so dramatically unlikely"), these appendices are valuable. Consequently, readers are advised to follow the intelligent design argument not only via Ross's hard scientific data (and the work of others, like Michael Behe, who is referenced in The Façade), but also through the scholarship of evangelical philosophers, whose work can be referenced through the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS).