Oh, this is going to be sticky. Sit tight.
Look, I’m sure that John Brownlee is a very nice fellow, but he can get my hackles up faster than any other scifi blogger (fan writer? what do we call ourselves these days?), and I am almost certain the blame for this falls on the format of his “Daily Scan” over at AMC’s SciFi Scanner. As the Twitterocalpyse has shown, keeping opinions to under 200 characters is a recipe for the most potent snark the planet has ever seen.
Everyone once and a while, though, Brownlee slaps off a comment a bit too pat, and today was a doozy of an example. Last year on GalacticMu we wrote about astronaut Edgar Mitchell who, in a radio interview, openly came out as an eye-witness to NASA’s extraterrestrial shenanigans. Since we wrote that, he’s begun to speak at conferences and gatherings, talking — in that humorless way that only old men who saw wartime can — about what he knows.
A recent CNN article prompted Mr. Brownlee to say this about Dr. Mitchell:
“A former NASA astronaut claims the US government has proof that man is not alone in the universe. Frankly, it sounds like someone in the Army pulled a bit of a practical joke on him.”
My gut reaction is pretty strong. I want to say some things that aren’t nice to Mr. Brownlee, but since I respect him and enjoy his work, I’m going to try and focus on Mitchell.
Dr. Mitchell is a peaceful fellow with a penchant for the mystical, a point of fact that most people will attempt to use to discredit him. However, one might ask if this isn’t the kind of epic personality-reconfiguring a person might go through after learning the irrefutable proof that humanity is not the universe’s only self-aware intelligence. And while a practical joke might be responsible for a single event, Dr. Mitchell can describe many events where he discussed, at length, the existence of extraterrestrial life with a person of gravitas.
I mean, when an ornithologist in the bayou believed he saw the thought-to-be-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker? People listened. But somehow a man who was a test pilot, a pilot instructor, a Freemason and has a doctorate from MIT sees something and he’s dismissed as the victim of a practical joke? I’m completely serious here — as a science groupie, yes, but a serious one — but Mitchell’s talk is good data. In the natural (earthly) world when a figure of experience believes something to be true, it behooves us to listen to them. There might not be empirical proof, but we don’t always have time for empirical proof. Sometimes we have to go on a gritty combination of gut instinct and flawless herd-following skills.
So in summary: according to Mr. Brownlee’s most recent Daily Scan: on one hand we have a man who can intellectually outperform us and who has been into space saying THERE IS LIFE OUT THERE, FOLKS, WHICH MEANS WE NEED TO GET OUR SHIT TOGETHER FOR REALS , and on the other hand we have J.J. Abrams hyping his Star Trek movie, and guess which one Mr. Brownlee makes fun of?