Arthur C. Clarke on UFOs
By: Brett Holman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Secondly (pp. 119-22) is his review of Leslie and Adamski's "Flying Saucers Have Landed" which also appeared in JBIS, in 1954 after Clarke's televised debunking of Adamski's saucer photos. Leaving aside the substance of his review, he concludes by reaffirming that the ETH is possible, but unlikely, and overwhelming evidence is required due to the importance of this question. "Books like `Flying Saucers Have Landed' do a real disservice by obscuring the truth and scaring away serious researchers from a field that may be of great importance. If flying saucers do turn out to be spaceships, Leslie and Adamski will have done quite a lot to prevent people of intellectual integrity from accepting the fact."
I think these quotes show that initially Clarke was fairly open-minded
on the subject of UFOs, and recognised it as a legitimate, and even important,
field of inquiry. However, his reservations about some of the wild-eyed
speculations which then passed for UFO research (eg, the contactee movement)
clearly put him off.
Finally, one of the last pieces in "Greetings, Carbon-based Bipeds!" (pp. 512-4) is entitled "More Last Words on UFOs" (published 1997). (He wrote an earlier "Last Words on UFOs", sometime in the 1970s, I think - I don't have a copy of that.) Clarke now argues that UFOs are very common - he has seen 10 of them himself, including the one with Stanley Kubrick which turned out to be ECHO-1. He bases his disbelief of the ETH on two failures - the failures of facilities like NORAD to track all these incoming spaceships (when they can track everything else) and the failures of aliens to look alien (evolution being unlikely to produce human-like ETs, in his opinion).
So I think we can trace here the development of Clarke's
opinions on UFOs. Quite open-minded in the 1950s (and as a
science fiction author and spaceflight enthusiast, how could he
not *want* UFOs to be ET in origin?), by 1961 the lack of
concrete data obtained by science plus the excesses of the
contactee movement led him to dismiss the matter entirely. Since
then, I would say Clarke clearly hasn't delved very deeply into
the subject (and would consider that a waste of time, which
admittedly as an old man with much to do, he doesn't have very
much of) and nothing that he seen in that time has changed his
opinion. But clearly, as someone interested in the subject of
extraterrestrials, he still thinks about the problem from time
to time, and considers the ETH unlikely on general grounds
(without getting into specifics).
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