As The Atlantic put it earlier this year, “Talking about UFOs can be a nasty business.”

It seems to have gotten even nastier in an age where so many people question government and scientists. 

And it doesn’t help when a UFO enthusiast in Mexico appears before the Mexican Congress with two tiny mummified bodies from Peru that he claims are space aliens and the most important discoveries in the history of humankind. 

The enthusiast, Jaime Maussan, said one of the creatures is female and was discovered to have eggs inside her. Imagine that. Sounds like the beginnings of a predictable movie premise.

And, speaking of movies, the two bodies just happen to look a lot like E.T., from a movie of the same name about 41 years ago. The tiny lifeless creatures aren’t begging anyone to let them phone home, but images of the bodies are available for everyone to examine and form opinions about on their own modern phones.

Reuters quoted Maussan as saying, “I believe that this phenomenon is the only one that gives us the opportunity to unite.”  

Did he say unite? Apparently, few things divide people more than the question of alien life forms visiting earth, and of who might be covering up information.

Scientists said the creatures are frauds, and that this was a previously debunked and perhaps criminal stunt. Reuters said previous such “finds” were found to be “mutilated mummies of pre-Hispanic children, sometimes combined with bits of animal parts.”

Maussan says he has DNA studies that show they are not from this earth.

Reuters asked a Mexican scientist to review those results. The scientist said “they indicated normal life on Earth.”

Legislators fill the lower house of Congress at the National Congress in Mexico City.
Legislators fill the lower house of Congress as they wait for the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, at the National Congress in Mexico City, Dec 1, 2018. Experts from Mexico, the United States, Japan and Brazil gathered before the Mexican Congress on Sept. 12, 2023, to share their findings on the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrials that date back to 2017 in the sandy Peruvian coastal desert of Nazca. | Marco Ugarte, Associated Press

And Peru, where the creatures supposedly originated, is not impressed. The culture minister said a criminal investigation is underway to determine how the samples left the country.

The lessons here are clear. One is that supposed evidence of extraterrestrial visits to Earth always seem to soar close to the murky waters of make-believe. Another is that the notion of unity on the subject of UFOs can make politics look like a Sunday School meeting.

As I wrote two years ago, people might be more inclined to believe the evidence if someone could capture a video that looked a little clearer than a prenatal ultrasound, circa 1980.

Which doesn’t mean we’re a nation of unbelievers. A Gallup poll in 2021 found that 41% of Americans believe at least some UFO sightings could be alien spacecraft from other planets. 

A Pew survey from roughly the same time period confirmed those results, but it also found that 65% of Americans believe intelligent life exists on other planets, and they don’t see UFOs as threats.

That’s a solid majority, but still nowhere close to unity.

Humans have a natural yearning for greater understanding among the endless sea of stars and planets that fill space. The James Webb Telescope, although the product of an independent government agency many seem to distrust, has taken this yearning to new levels. 

According to space.com, NASA recently tested its ability to find possibly inhabited planets by demonstrating that the telescope could detect intelligent life on Earth from a great distance away.

Which sounds like the setup to a joke. At the least, it suggests the telescope might need a little tweaking regarding intelligence detection.

Which brings me back to NASA, which earlier this year appointed a panel to begin seriously studying UFOs, or as it calls them, unidentified anomalous phenomena, or UAPs. That was an about-face for the agency, which used to avoid the subject.

The panel released its first report last week after reviewing hundreds of UFO … er … UAP sightings. Its conclusion sounds responsible and logical, but it won’t make anyone happy. It was, as the BBC put it, “There’s no proof aliens exist, but they might.”

Also, NASA has appointed someone to head up an effort to create a “robust database” that, with the help of AI, might bring a bit more clarity to the subject in the future.

The agency won’t say who this is in order to protect that person from harassment — the kind members of the panel have received. The kind that made The Atlantic say “NASA would probably like everyone to stop getting worked up over aliens.”

As for those Peruvian aliens in Mexico? The BBC quoted NASA scientist David Spergel saying, “Make samples available to the world scientific community and we’ll see what’s there.”

As if that would put an end to it.