Why, Kean asks, is there such a strong taboo against taking the UFO subject seriously when there is so much evidence for it? Rather than an intentional conspiracy, Kean speculates that the U.S. government might be as baffled as everyone else on the UFO question. In an interesting essay included in the book titled “Militant Agnosticism and the UFO Taboo,” two political scientists, Alexander Wendt and Raymond Duvall, advance a theory as to why the U.S. government has supposedly been less than forthcoming on the UFO question. As they point out, skeptics cite a number of seemingly intractable obstacles to interstellar travel to argue against the extraterrestrial hypothesis. Nevertheless, Wendt and Duvall argue that the origins of the UFO taboo are political, not scientific.
As they see it, the prospect of UFOs presents three major challenges to the sovereignty and credibility of the state. First, if UFOs are accepted as truly unidentified, then that proposition would acknowledge a potential threat, which could undercut the legitimacy of the state insofar as protection against potential threats is the most elemental function of the government. Second, a confirmation of the presence of UFOs would create tremendous pressure for a world government that today’s territorial states would be reluctant to form. Third, and most important, the extraterrestrial possibility would call into question the anthropocentric model of modern sovereignty, which as they explain, forms the basis of the authority of states to command the loyalty of their subjects. The arrival of extraterrestrial aliens, they assert, would be something analogous to the Christian “Second Coming.” In such a scenario they ask, to whom would people give their loyalty? Could states survive if such a question became salient?
In sum, Wendt and Duvall argue that the presence of UFOs creates a deep, unconscious insecurity in which certain possibilities are unthinkable because of their political implications. As a consequence, the taboo emerges not so much from a vast conscious conspiracy seeking to suppress “the truth” about UFOs. Rather countless undirected practices that help us “know” that UFOs are not extraterrestrial in origin and can therefore be disregarded are carried out by the government, but not in the style of a covert conspiracy.