Are we alone in the universe? This is the mother of all questions and one that has probably haunted us as a species from the time the first primitive human happened to glance skywards.
If you look up on a clear, cloudless night away from city lights, you might see around 2,000 to 5,000 stars. A decent telescope extends the visible sky by several orders of magnitude. Scientists tell us that this is a minute fraction of all the stars that exist in the universe, estimating that there are something in the order of 10 to the power of 21 stars out there, each with its own potential network of planets. This is a mind-boggling number and it would be arrogant to believe that Earth's place as being the only planet capable of sustaining life is unique. If only the tiniest portion of these were able to support life, say one millionth of one percent, the number of life-bearing worlds 'out there' would be huge.
In 1960, Dr Frank Drake attempted to describe in mathematical terms the possibility of life elsewhere and basically concluded that it was as good as certain. The question therefore goes beyond whether we are alone in the universe to: (1) Is there life elsewhere in the universe that has advanced to at least the same level it has on Earth? and (2) Have they visited us?
The universe is a vast place. Our closest neighbour Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light years away. This means that a spacecraft travelling at the speed of light would take a little over four years and two months to get there. Using our current technology, the quickest a manned spacecraft from Earth could travel this distance is around 100,000 years. Simply put, just a journey would be impossible. If we have been visited by life from elsewhere, they must have technology much more advanced that our own. Advanced technology means more highly evolved beings, so if we have been visited, it is by a civilisation (or civilisations) significantly more advanced than our own.
The Bible is littered with vague references to otherworldly visitations and the same is true elsewhere in history. The question of whether we have been visited by life from other worlds really ramped up a notch following whatever happened at Roswell, New Mexico in July 1947. On July 8, 1947 the Roswell Daily Record trumpeted the capture of a "Flying Saucer" on the Foster homestead some 30 miles north of Roswell. Later that day it was claimed that it was nothing more than a weather balloon and a conspiracy theory that would fire the public imagination was borne.
Since that day, one of the original military personnel involved with the recovery, Major Jesse Marcel, stated in 1978 that there had been a cover-up and that it was an alien spacecraft. In 1989, former mortician Glenn Dennis claimed that there had been alien autopsies performed at Roswell. There was even some footage released in 1995 of an alien autopsy (although this later turned out to be an elaborate hoax). Statements were made by a number of key personnel, notably the Roswell public affairs officer, Walter Haut, claiming that the popular account was true. Subsequent official hearings though have amended the original view to a secret military project called Project Mogul involving special weather balloons to detect possible Soviet missiles and aircraft.
In 1993, Steven Greer instigated The Disclosure Project to try and free up the classified data held by the US Government in relation to Roswell and other incidents, as well as the mysterious Area 51, a mecca for UFO buffs. The Disclosure Project called on an impressive array of witnesses, mostly from within military and government ranks.
Arguably the most explosive piece of testimony came from US Army Sergeant Clifford Stone. Stone claimed that there is a top secret manual in military circles that describes 57 alien species and that there aliens living among us. Explosive stuff. He is an articulate and credible witness with a lengthy military record. The problem is that he originally spoke of 7 species and the number has since grown. Like the Roswell incident, the story seems to change with each re-telling.
Whether anything mysterious happened at Roswell is debatable, but this doesn't exclude the possibility that we have been visited by beings from other worlds. The volume of evidence, from pictures of unidentified objects in our skies to multiple unrelated witness testimonies and physical evidence using medical and psychological examinations as well as laboratory analysis of unidentified material, is sufficient to suggest that we have either been visited or something beyond our level of understanding is going on.
The sheer numbers and the mathematical probabilities involved suggests that life must exist elsewhere. Until we receive an indisputable visit, along the lines of "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds", it is best to keep an open mind on the question of whether anyone has visited us and to hedge our bets by taking better care of our planet.