Editorial — On extraterrestrial life

Glenn Rutherford

The truth is people have been seeing and talking about unidentified flying objects, unidentified anomalous phenomena — flying saucers — for decades.

The “modern era” of flying saucer discussion and interest began in 1947 after a pilot named Kenneth Arnold reported seeing several silvery objects skipping through the skies near Mt. Rainier. A reporter wrote that the seven objects looked like “saucers” in the sky, and the term “flying saucers” soon became a part of the public lexicon.

That same year the U.S. Air Force reported that it had recovered material from an unidentified object that crashed near Roswell, N. M. They put out an official press release on July 8 saying that wreckage of a flying saucer had been recovered.

The next day, however, the Air Force said, “Nothing to see here; it was just a weather balloon.”

The resulting controversy still rages.

Kentucky has its own place in the history of flying objects, too. About half a year after Roswell, a Louisville native, Capt. Thomas Mantell, was killed when his Kentucky Air National Guard P-51 crashed while he was attempting to get a close look at a shiny UFO near the border with Tennessee.

Mantell passed out after climbing above 25,000 feet without oxygen — he allegedly radioed that he was “going in for a closer look. It’s metallic and tremendous in size.”

His body was recovered in the wreckage of his Mustang fighter near Franklin, Ky., and in the years since, research has concluded that it was almost certainly a then-secret U.S. Navy Skyhook weather balloon.

Since 2017 interest in this subject has been invigorated by a report in the New York Times which chronicled encounters by Naval aviators with a plethora of strange things in the sky. And in recent weeks a former CIA officer has made claims that, even for this unconventional topic, has, in aviation parlance, “pushed the envelope.”

David Grusch, also a retired Air Force major, claims the U.S. has long had a program to recover crashed UFOs, and has several in its possession, along with deceased operators of those not-of-this-earth objects. In other words, Grusch’s unsubstantiated claims insist that we are not alone.

This is potentially a big deal and provides Earth’s leaders with an existential dilemma: Once we know for certain, do we tell everybody?

A Rand Corporation study in 1960 predicted that news of other-worldly life would put Earth’s societies into shock. Religions would be the first to suffer, the study indicated, and many would collapse.

But hold on a minute. When it comes to this controversial subject, you might say the Catholic Church is light-years ahead of the extraterrestrial curve.

In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas was already discussing the possibility of life on other worlds. In the early 14th century, French priest and philosopher John Buridan wrote that the notion that life existed only on earth “implies imposing a limit to the power of God.”

“We hold from faith that just as God made this world, so could he make another or several other worlds,” he said.

More recently Pope Francis has said that, if extraterrestrial aliens were to make themselves known to us, he wouldn’t hesitate to accept and help them.

If one wanted to be baptized, he speculated in 2014, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. The church, he said, turns no one away, even extraterrestrials.

So the bottom line here is simple: If someone knows the truth about all this UFO and otherworldly speculation, let the rest of us know. Please. We can handle it.

Glenn Rutherford
Record editor emeritus

Glenn Rutherford
Written By
Glenn Rutherford
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