I recently saw the latest installment of Men in Black. Like other films in the series, it features Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in roles only they could play. And like the others, it casts extra-terrestrial beings in a rather unflattering light.
According to a survey that caught my eye today, 80 million Americans should be hoping aliens don’t take offense. Market research indicates that 36 percent of the population believes that UFOs are real. Asked whether they believe aliens have visited our planet, 36 percent said they have, 48 percent aren’t sure, and only 17 percent said they don’t believe so. In addition, 79 percent of us believe the government has kept information about UFOs a secret, and more than half think there are real-life “Men in Black”-style agents who threaten people who spot UFOs.
What does this information reveal about us? For starters, our logic could use some work. If 79 percent of Americans think the government is hiding information about alien visits to our planet, but only 36 percent of us think they’ve actually visited, the math indicates that 43 percent of us think our government is hiding information about events that haven’t happened.
Besides the obvious wackiness the survey seems to indicate, I think something more substantial is at work. It’s interesting that so many people are convinced the government has kept information about UFOs a secret. If it has, how would we know? Such an assertion is by definition grounded not in empirical evidence or experience but opinion. But in our culture, perception is reality.
To my father, my laptop computer would be a fancy typewriter. To my grandfather, it would be a paperweight. Both would be right. Our view of the world is by necessity the result of our experience as interpreted by our intellect. (Philosophers call this “Kantian epistemology,” but that’s another subject for another day.) Taken to its conclusion, such a worldview would assert that there is no such thing as objective truth—there’s just your “truth” and my “truth.” Or as Oprah Winfrey likes to say, there’s “your personal truth.”
Here’s the problem: when we no longer feel the need to evaluate our beliefs by empirical evidence, we lose objectivity. When we’re wrong, we don’t know it until it’s too late. People who say “I don’t believe in hell” and therefore think they won’t go there may find they were mistaken on both counts.
I have no objective way to know if the government is hiding UFO information from us. But I do have an objective way to know the God of the universe: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).