Ufologist and astronomer Jacques Vallée was born on this day in 1939.
He started as a “legit” astronomy research associate, working at one point with NASA on the first computerized map of Mars. But a sighting of a UFO over his home in 1955 and witnessing the destruction of a tape of another sighting while working at the French Space Committee in 1961 sparked his interest in the “fringe” topic. Vallée had the added benefit of a solid background in astronomy to assist him in his research.
To be honest, some UFOlogy stuff makes my head hurt—but I find Vallée pretty solid. I suppose a lot of the attraction of his work for me has to do with his movement away from strictly the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) of UFOs and alien sightings to the multidimensional visitation hypothesis.
This is analogous to the movement away from Literal Conspiracy Theory to Quantum Conspiracy Theory—essentially saying that perhaps the origin of these creatures is not an actual physical craft from an actual physical planet, but rather something far stranger and possibly more subjective. (Note: it’s not saying that these sightings aren’t necessarily real.)
In 1990 Vallée published the paper “Five Arguments Against the Extraterrestrial Origin of Unidentified Flying Objects.” His 5 arguments were as follows:
- unexplained close encounters are far more numerous than required for any physical survey of the earth;
- the humanoid body structure of the alleged “aliens” is not likely to have originated on another planet and is not biologically adapted to space travel;
- the reported behavior in thousands of abduction reports contradicts the hypothesis of genetic or scientific experimentation on humans by an advanced race;
- the extension of the phenomenon throughout recorded human history demonstrates that UFOs are not a contemporary phenomenon; and
- the apparent ability of UFOs to manipulate space and time suggests radically different and richer alternatives.
The key Vallée text here is 1969’s Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers, in which he surveys similar “sightings” stretching all the way from the stuff of fairyland to then-contemporary UFOlogy.
Vallée was also the direct inspiration for the character Lacombe, played by director François Truffaut, in the 1977 movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
He seems like one of the last living members of a whole group of contemporaries (“The Invisible College,” maybe?) who shared and transmitted knowledge on these types of topics.