Former Canadian Defence Minister Denies Accomplishments of Computer Pioneers

Some people think that our politicians are rational people that care about evidence and logic. Then again, one in five believe that aliens exist and live among us. One of Canada’s former defence ministers, Paul Hellyer, may not be in the first group but can be counted within the second group. Hellyer has supposedly been a UFO believer since 1967, when he visited the opening of a UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta.

When it comes to a Canadian perspective on aliens, it seems the media go-to person is Paul Hellyer. Controversial sound bites from a former cabinet minister are hard to resist. Past comments have ranged from the absurd, to the ridiculous. Well, he’s in the news again saying something that isn’t just ridiculous, but insulting. First, the background:

Theoretical physicist (and possible future Canadian resident) Stephen Hawking was recently in the news because he said that hypothetical visiting aliens may turn out to be hostile. The London Sunday Times reports:

We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach. … If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.

Hellyer has the chutzpah to school Stephen freaking Hawking on the nature of extraterrestrial intelligent life (see CTV’s full coverage here):

The longtime cabinet minister accuses Hawking of spreading misinformation about extraterrestrials.

“I think he’s indulging in some pretty scary talk there that I would have hoped would not come from someone with such an established stature,” Hellyer said in an interview.

“I think it’s really sad that a scientist of his repute would contribute to what I would consider more misinformation about a vast and very important subject.”

Wow! Hellyer doesn’t just believe that UFOs are silently patrolling the skies, but he has the audacity to accuse Hawking of spreading misinformation. It’s one thing to think that there may be “something” to the many reports of people seeing things in the sky that they can’t identify, but to somehow know what the intentions are of these supposed alien visitors? If the visitors are so peaceful, why do they remain hidden? And what’s with all the abductions, cow mutilations, and anal probing? Is that just their way of saying hello? What evidence does Hellyer have that could tell us what aliens are like, let alone if they’re even here?

Hellyer admits that when he was defence minister, he never got any briefings on UFOs from the military. He says he got reports of sightings, and that some of them could not be explained.

Ok, so he’s got no privileged information. It’s a shame this X-minister didn’t have access to any X-files. Like other UFO believers that you would think would have privileged access, they have no new evidence to offer.

But if Hawking is so wrong, and aliens are our friends, how does Hellyer back up this claim that aliens are helping us?

“The reality is that they’ve (aliens) been visiting Earth for decades and probably millennia and have contributed considerably to our knowledge,” Hellyer said.

He says earthlings owe a lot to their alien friends. Even that computer screen on your desk, he says, can trace its origins to spaceships.

“Microchips, for example, fiber-optics, they are just two of the many things that allegedly — and probably for real — came from crashed vehicles,” Hellyer said.

This is the bit that infuriates me as an engineer. Every piece of technology on earth was invented by a human. Some simple technologies may have been discovered by accident, but all complex modern computer technologies (like microchips and fiber-optics) were invented over a long period of time, by many engineers and scientists, working very very hard.

We know this because modern technology is well understood, and its history is well documented. You would have to be really deep into UFO ideology in order to turn a blind eye to all the hard work and effort by engineers and scientists over the past century to give us what may seem like magic. His argument is nothing more than an argument from ignorance. It’s an ignorance that could easily be remedied by spending an evening reading up on computer history. Computers are such an integral part of our lives, yet people take them for granted. Maybe if more people knew the fundamentals of computer history, they wouldn’t fall for such terrible arguments like Hellyer’s. Also, the history of modern computing is just so damn interesting!

I don’t see the attraction to this form of argument for UFO believers. It requires them to imply that humanity aren’t just incapable of inventing these technologies, yet are capable of keeping a UFO conspiracy secret. I think it should be obvious that the idea of humans inventing modern technologies is a much more plausible one than it being given to us by aliens, conveniently at the rate of Moore’s law, only to have a massive conspiratorial cover-up that would involve the participation of thousands of engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians, journalists, etc. It’s like the argument that aliens built the Great Pyramid because we don’t know how it was built, with one big difference: We (i.e. humanity) know exactly how microchips are built (duh)!

I just hate to think that in 50 years, someone will look at the technology that I am currently working on and credit my hard work to an alien entity.

2 Responses to “Former Canadian Defence Minister Denies Accomplishments of Computer Pioneers”

  1. Parrot says:

    Coincidentally, I just recently wrote a blog post regarding the claims of a documentary that aliens came down and gave ancient man technologies beyond what we give them credit for.

    They often love to give the aliens credit for ancient accomplishments as well, don't they? The pyramids couldn't possibly have been built by those ancient Egyptian morons! Aliens must've done it!!

    Jonathan, I'm certain this means that we're psychically in tune… we're probably connected by an alien telepathic device of some sort.

    I'll put on my foil helmet.

  2. peter cobb says:

    cheerio old chap nice blog!

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  • Jonathan Abrams

    Jonathan Abrams is the latest founder and president of the Ottawa Skeptics. He organizes local events, makes media appearances as the token skeptic, and is one of the website maintainers. He is the host of the skepticism podcast The Reality Check. When he’s not thinking about science and skepticism, he’s working as a computer engineer, playing pinball, or doing the dishes.