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A new Netflix documentary purporting to provide proof of alien visitation fails to deliver

With its high production values and its parade of seemingly expert witnesses, Steven Greer’s film, Unacknowledged, may at first seem to provide substantial evidence of visitations by space aliens to the Earth—in particular that the Roswell incident involved an actual crashed spaceship and the bodies of its alien crew, of a massive cover-up of these contacts by the government of the United States, and the reason for the cover-up. This last is that the cover-up is part of the suppression of the science and technology of zero-point or quantum vacuum energy, which would give us unlimited, pollution-free energy and eliminate poverty and starvation throughout the world. The perpetrators of this evil conspiracy are, according to the film, those in charge of “Black Programs,” which gobble up either $40 to $80 billion a year (as it is claimed early in the film) or $100 to $200 billion (as the narrator claims later in the movie).

To anyone of a skeptical mind-set a red flag pops up early in the film when a flood of witnesses claim to have seen the crashed spaceship and the bodies of its alien crew at Area 51. I didn’t initially recognize many of the names of those witnesses. One, however stood out: Lt. Col. Philip Corso, who authored a book titled The Day After Roswell. Here is what the noted UFO investigator Stanton Friedman had to say in his review of that book:

The first part of the book, with the exception of the strange Ft. Riley, Kansas warehouse scene with an alien body being observed by Corso on July 6, seems to have nothing to do with him. He admits he wasn’t involved at all in the recovery, investigation, or evaluation of what happened near Roswell. It is almost certainly based on the many Roswell books already published by Randle and Schmitt, Moore and Berlitz, and Don Berliner and myself, but with no attempt to validate or critically evaluate anything and no credits being given.

In the second half of the book Corso seems to be taking credit for the single handed introduction of a whole host of new technologies into American industry. All this is supposedly derived from the filing cabinet of Roswell wreckage over which he was given control by General Trudeau. He is very vague about details, and there is no substantiation for any of the claims on fiber optics, Kevlar, laser weapons, microcircuits, etc.1

That the person who is taking Corso to task and implying that he is a fraud is none other than Stanton Friedman is quite telling, since Friedman is perhaps the foremost apologist for the contention that an alien spaceship crashed at Roswell and that the government is covering it up.

Another of the seemingly expert witnesses, one who also claims to have seen the bodies of the dead aliens from the Roswell crash site, is Richard C. Doty. This would seem to represent a turn-about, since Doty originally appears to have spread disinformation to lead UFO enthusiasts … on wild goose chases. According to one article:

The UFO community has been familiar with Richard C. Doty, self-proclaimed “disinformation agent” who used to work as an AFOSI officer in Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. … Most folks seem to agree that he indeed had a deep impact on the life of businessman Paul Bennewitz, owner of defense contractor Thunder Scientific Laboratories in Albuquerque located right next to Kirtland Air Force Base.2

The article quotes Doty as saying:

I do not have anything to do with UFO research or investigations. I attempted to perform certain duties which would enable our team to trap possible foreign agents working against the interest of the United States. My supervisors, however, saw my actions as being unauthorized. Therefore, I was asked to leave AFOSI, which I did voluntarily.3

Is a man who has spread deceptive information and who at one time says he had nothing to do with UFO research to be trusted when he now says he saw the crashed Roswell spaceship?

Another of the witnesses giving important testimony in the film is Maj. George A. Filer III, who claims to have chased a UFO over Stonehenge. If we were to judge the credibility of a witness based on kooky beliefs he or she might hold, Filer would not come out well. When UFO skeptic Robert Schaeffer visited a MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) symposium in 2011, he reports that Filer gave a presentation in which he made some rather startling claims about the planet Mars:

Mars, according to Filer, used to be teeming with life until it was mostly wiped out in a nuclear holocaust some 180 million years ago. He showed NASA photos of Mars that purport to contain tubes (possibly water pipes, or trains) that extend for miles, as well as underground cities. There are numerous faces on Mars, and some of them look similar to Egyptian Pharaohs. But some life still exists among the ruins. The green colors on Mars represent growths of moss and algae.4

Considering that, according to NASA, the atmosphere of Mars is about 100 times thinner than that of Earth, and that it is over 95% carbon dioxide and only 0.13% oxygen,5 one wonders what the surviving Martians are breathing.

Similar to the assertion above by George Filer is the claim by Sgt. Karl Wolfe, another of the film’s witnesses, that he saw photos taken by the Lunar Orbiter of a base on the far side of the moon. In an online article titled “3 Dumbest Dark Side of the Moon Conspiracy Theories” Harrison Preston says of this claim:

Another prime candidate for our plain dumb category is one Karl Wolfe, a former sergeant in the United States Air Force. According to his own testimony for the Disclosure Project before the National Press Club in Washington DC in 2010, Wolfe claims to have been assigned to HQ Tactical Air Command in Langley, Virginia.

One day in “1965, mid-1965”, whilst assigned to the Lunar Orbiter Program, Wolfe says he saw “clear structures, buildings, mushroom shaped buildings, spherical buildings, towers” in a series of photographs of the far side of the moon shown to him by an airman in a lab he was working in.

He also stated the other airman told him “we’ve found a base on the far side of the moon.” Wolfe is very clear on the year this supposedly happened, and also the project he was a part of. It is this clarity which also serves to show why he couldn’t possibly be telling the truth.

The Lunar Orbiter Program ran from 1966 through to 1967, but the first images of the far side of the moon weren’t captured until the Lunar Orbiter 4 mission in May 1967—a full two years after Wolfe claims to have seen the structures and buildings! Lunar 4 photographed 9% of the far side, with Lunar Orbiter 5 imaging the rest in August that same year.6

A NASA report on the Lunar Orbiter missions notes that a total of 419 high resolution and 127 medium resolution photos were taken by the Lunar Orbiter missions, covering over 99% of the lunar surface.7 For all that, no alien bases show up in these photos.

Not all of the witnesses in the film can be dismissed as fraudulent or part of the lunatic fringe. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon, believed that aliens had contacted us and that the government had covered it up.8 However, he also believed in remote healing, specifically that a young psychic in Canada named Adam Dreamhealer had cured him of kidney cancer, as reported by Julie Neimark:

Edgar Mitchell, one of Adam’s strongest proponents, told me quite openly on the phone that he never had biopsy-proven cancer. “I had a sonogram and MRI that was consistent with renal carcinoma,” Mitchell recalled when I interviewed him, “which is about the best they can do without a biopsy. I didn’t have the biopsy.” Adam worked on Mitchell from December of 2003 until June, when the “irregularity was gone and we haven’t seen it since.” But he didn’t have the biopsy. Is Mitchell convinced it was cancer? Sure. Is there any definitive proof? No.9

Thus, even respected and intelligent persons can hold beliefs that are irrational.

Another astronaut who would seem to support the film’s assertion of widespread knowledge of alien visitors, at least to our solar system is Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. The movie shows a clip in which Aldrin says of the Martian moon, Phobos:

There’s a monolith, a very unusual structure on this little potato-shaped object that goes around Mars once in every seven hours. They’re going to say, “Who put that there? Who put that there?”

It would seem, from this clip, that Aldrin is saying that this is an artificial structure placed on Phobos by extraterrestrial beings. However, when one views Aldrin’s actual video, the inherent dishonesty of Unacknowledged is dramatically highlighted. Here is Aldrin’s actual statement, with the material edited out in Unacknowledged shown in italics:

There’s a monolith, a very unusual structure on this little potato-shaped object that goes around Mars once in every seven hours. They’re going to say, “Who put that there? Who put that there?” Well, the universe put it there. If you choose, God put it there.10

Skeptics are familiar with this tactic of deliberately quoting someone out of context to make it seem like they are advocating the opposite of what they are actually saying. It is a common ploy used by creationists to attempt to discredit evolutionary biologists. Here it has been used to falsely make people believe that Buzz Aldrin is saying there’s an alien artifact on Phobos. The “monolith” Aldrin refers to, by the way, bears no resemblance to the monolith in the move 2001: A Space Odyssey. While it is strange looking—a thin, vertical piece of rock—it is irregular enough to plainly be a natural object.

It might, at this point, seem as though this review is nothing more than an attack on the character of the witnesses. However, there is really nothing of substance to the film except the testimony of these people, many of who show evidence of questionable veracity. Despite claiming there are “Black Programs” secretly controlling information about extraterrestrial contacts and suborning the scientific establishment and the press, Greer and his associates give no evidence to support this assertion beyond the witnesses. In this regard, the film asserts that, since mainstream media has been suborned, the truth about UFOs has been forced onto the pages of the tabloids. This is almost comical, since this was one of the gags of the movie Men in Black.

From time to time Greer does read from what appear to be redacted secret documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. However, their headings are never shown. One reason we might doubt their authenticity is that they are coupled with yet another statement dishonestly taken out of context. Victor Marchetti, former Special Assistant to the Executive Director of the CIA is quoted as saying:

We have, indeed, been contacted—perhaps even visited—by extraterrestrial beings, and the U.S. Government, in collusion with other national powers of the Earth, is determined to keep this information from the general public.

The quote is from a 1979 article by Marchetti in a no longer published magazine called Second Look, titled “How the CIA Views the UFO Phenomenon.” While that magazine is defunct, the article is available on a number of websites. In it Marchetti first admits that he has no firsthand experience with UFOs, has never seen one, and has no empirical or physical evidence of their existence. He then says the following, and here the material edited out in the quote above is added in italics:

My theory is that we have, indeed, been contacted—perhaps even visited—by extraterrestrial beings, and that the U.S. Government, in collusion with other national powers of the Earth, is determined to keep this information from the general public.11

So the filmmakers grossly misquoted Marchetti by removing the statement that it was his theory that we have been contacted by extraterrestrial beings, dishonestly quoting him as saying that extraterrestrial beings have definitely contacted us and that he knows definitively that our government is covering it up.

Earlier in the film, Greer says that Carl Sagan originally supported the idea that UFOs were real and had said that it was clear Earth was not the only inhabited planet. Greer then says:

After he was threatened by the intelligence community, and blackmailed, he then began to debunk the issue.

So, was Sagan originally a UFO believer, silenced and cowed by those running the Black Programs? Here’s what Carl Sagan actually said about extraterrestrial intelligence:

It now seems quite clear that Earth is not the only inhabited planet. There is evidence that the bulk of the stars in the sky have planetary systems. Recent research concerning the origin of life on Earth suggests that the physical and chemical processes leading to the origin of life occur rapidly in the early history of the majority of planets. The selective value of intelligence and technical civilization is obvious, and it seems likely that a large number of planets within our Milky Way galaxy—perhaps as many as a million—are inhabited by technical civilizations in advance of our own. Interstellar space flight is far beyond our present technical capabilities, but there seems to be no fundamental physical objections to preclude, from our own vantage point, the possibility of its development by other civilizations.12

Here Sagan is merely running a thought experiment extrapolating the possible number of extra-terrestrial civilizations based on the number of potential planets in our galaxy, a very common theme in SETI literature. In any case, there is no evidence that Carl Sagan was threatened by the government or that he was ever anything other than a skeptic concerning reported contacts by UFOs.

Unacknowledged is divided into three acts. The first act, titled “Embarrassment of Riches,” asserts that the evidence of extraterrestrial contact is overwhelming. It isn’t. The second act, “Down the Rabbit Hole,” claims, but does not substantiate, a grand cover-up conspiracy. Act three, titled “The Lost Century,” begins with the assertion that Nicola Tesla had found an inexhaustible source of energy and that, upon his death, his files were confiscated by the powers that be. The energy source in question is called zero point energy or quantum vacuum energy. In the film, Mark McCandlish, military aeronautic illustrator says of this force:

The amount of energy in a cubic meter of space-time is 1026 power. That’s ten with 26 zeros behind it. That’s enough energy in a coffee cup to boil all the oceans of Earth completely away into steam.

This would certainly be an impressive energy source—if we could use it. The problem is that we may never be able to use it. The film never really explains what zero point energy is. A physics website points out that, while it is abundant it is also diffuse:

Zero-point energy is the energy that remains when all other energy is removed from a system. This behaviour is demonstrated by, for example, liquid helium. As the temperature is lowered to absolute zero, helium remains a liquid, rather than freezing to a solid, owing to the irremovable zero-point energy of its atomic motions. (Increasing the pressure to 25 atmospheres will cause helium to freeze.)13

Can this energy actually be accessed? The website goes on to say:

As to whether zero-point energy may become a source of usable energy, this is considered extremely unlikely by most physicists, and none of the claimed devices are taken seriously by the mainstream science community. Nevertheless, SED interpretation of the Bohr orbit (above) does suggest a way whereby energy might be extracted. Based upon this a patent has been issued and experiments have been underway at the University of Colorado (U.S. Patent 7,379,286).14

That research into extracting zero point energy is being performed at the University of Colorado belies the movie’s claim that the government is keeping this free energy source from us.

The film also claims in passing that a car that can run on water, invented by Stanley Meyer, was also suppressed. Cars that can run on water are a recurring theme in pseudoscience. Writing in Nature, Philip Ball says of this car:

We're not alone. We never were. Unacknowledged: An Exposé of the World’s Greatest Secret

And then there is poor Stanley Meyer, inventor of the “water-powered car.” Meyer just wanted to give people cheap, clean energy. But the oil companies clearly couldn’t have that and so harassed and intimidated him (the internet says so it must be true). In 1996 he was found guilty of “gross and egregious fraud” by an Ohio court. He died in 1998 after eating at a restaurant; the coroner diagnosed an aneurysm, but the conspiracy web still suspects he was poisoned.

It’s not easy to establish how Meyer’s car was meant to work, except that it involved a fuel cell that was able to split water using less energy than was released by recombination of the elements.15

And so, with zero point energy and cars that run on water the film descends into the realm of perpetual motion machines.

One question that is never even posed in the film, let alone answered, is why the space aliens, who Greer says are probably concerned by our warlike tendencies, haven’t used their immense energy resources and advanced technology to overwhelm the evil perpetrators of the Black Projects by, for example, simply commandeering the air waves and the internet to expose the cover-up and give the information to everyone on Earth. It would seem that despite their vaunted technology, they can’t do what Edward Snowden did. END

About the Author

Tim Callahan is religion editor of Skeptic magazine. His books include Secret Origins of the Bible, and Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? both published by Millennium Press. He has also researched the environmental movement, and his article “Environmentalists Cause Malaria! (and other myths of the ‘Wise Use’ movement)” appeared in The Humanist. He has co-authored UFOs, Chemtrails, and Aliens: What Science Says.

  2. Hayakawa, Norio. “Did Richard C. Doty ruin the life of Albuquerque businessman, Paul Bennewitz?”
  3. Ibid
  4. Schaeffer, Robert. 2011. “A Skeptic does the MUFON Symposium—Part 5 of 5.” Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe. August 13.
  6. Preston, Harrison “3 Dumbest Dark Side of the Moon Conspiracy Theories”
  8. ”UFO UpDates: Edgar Mitchell On The UFO Cover-up” October 11, 1998. Archived from the original on January 28, 2007.
  9. Neimark J. 2005. “The Big Bird, the Big Lie, God and Science” Skeptical Inquirer November 29.
  11. Marchetti, Victor. 1979. “How the CIA Views the UFO Phenomenon” Second Look vol. 1. No. 7, May.
  12. Sagan, Carl. 1963. “Unidentified Flying Objects.” The Encyclopedia Americana.
  13. “Zero Point Energy” Calphysics Institute
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ball, Philip. 2007. “Burning water and other myths” Nature (published online) 14 September.

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