Ever had an experience you couldn’t explain or witnessed something seemingly supernatural? Aliens check both these boxes. According to a 2021 survey by market research company, Ipsos, two in three Canadians believe in extraterrestrial life. Why are aliens such a popular subject? I think there are many reasons, but the bottom line is, we’re attracted to the mystery.
UFOs in our own backyard
One of the best-documented UFO sightings in Canada happened here in Nova Scotia. On Oct. 4, 1967 residents of the small fishing town, Shag Harbour, began calling in reports of a flying object crashing into the water. It was first believed to be a plane suffering engine failure but scouring of the alleged crash site turned up no wreckage or bodies.
Despite this report, and reports through the years, no one has officially made contact with alien life. Most recently in alien news, the New York Times reported in June that American intelligence officials could find no evidence that, “aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft, but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military.”
This lack of evidence opens doors for creativity when we consider what an extraterrestrial might look like, eat or how they would operate as a society.
Fear of the unknown
In 2020, at the height of COVID-19 lockdown, Canada reported a 43 per cent increase in UFO sightings, according to Winnipeg-based Ufology Research. Were there more flying saucers in the sky or did Canadians have more time to think about the unknown?
H.P. Lovecraft, American horror and science fiction author, said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
Are we searching for aliens in the vastness of space to alleviate fear of the unknown? Even with the advancement of science and space travel, we don’t know the boundaries of the universe. I believe the possibility of intelligent life outside of earth somehow makes the universe feel a little less lonely.
While I do believe there is life besides humanity, maybe even life that resembles ours, I’m not entirely sold on the idea of visits from alien life.
Aliens in popular culture
The draw to a possible alien existence is clear in the movies, books and video games we consume. From childhood cartoons like Disney’s Lilo and Stitch to Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise and beyond, humans push the boundaries of our imaginations to fill this need to understand the unknown.
Does the popularity of aliens in pop culture reflect the number of believers in the world? Is belief a requirement of extraterrestrial fascination? I would think not. After all, we are drawn to many types of fiction with no need for reality to factor. So, maybe it isn’t just the possibility they exist that piques our interest.
Space travel and contemplations
Some of us are fascinated by aliens because we’re fascinated by the universe. Avi Loeb, Harvard University astrophysicist, was featured in a piece this year by Scientific American, citing his belief of alien existence, proving that even the most knowledgeable on the subject of space have considered life on other planets.
Perhaps we just want to know what this world is capable of. Is human life on Earth a fluke? If there’s life in our little corner of the Milky Way, is it so improbable sentient life exists out there somewhere too?
Maybe aliens take up so much space in our thoughts because we’re interested in the possibility of an encounter of the third kind? Who wouldn’t want to solve a mystery where the prime suspects are from a different planet?
The existence of aliens is still up for debate, but I think a large part of the allure of aliens is the debate as to whether they exist. It challenges what we currently know about our universe. It inspires us to search for indications not only of existence but of a possible earth visit from extraterrestrials.
Until we have definitive proof of their extraterrestrial life, we are still haunted by the question: are we truly alone?
The truth is yet to be seen
Whether we will ever confirm an extraterrestrial reality in our lifetime, it’s still exciting to consider the possibilities. Wondering what to do this Halloween? Consider taking a drive to the South Shore to visit the Shag Harbour Incident Society Interpretive Centre, a UFO museum in honor of the supposed sighting. You never know what you might find hidden among the clues of our backyard encounter.