It's not every day that Team Obama talks about E.T. But in a recent post on the official White House website, a high-ranking official in the president's Office of Science & Technology Policy took the time to respond to a burning question from UFO conspiracy theorists. Here's what happened:
How did the White House wind up talking about UFOs?
The White House has a petition site called "We the People" that allows users to pose questions. If a petition gets enough signatures, it is reviewed by the White House staff and receives an official response. And two petitions, signed by a total of more than 17,000 people, demanded that the government come clean if it was hiding knowledge of extraterrestrial life. The petitioners wrote: "The people have a right to know. The people can handle the truth."
What did the White House say?
"Thank you for signing the petition and asking the Obama administration to acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth," the White House's Phil Larson cordially replied. "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race." And, perhaps to the dismay of conspiracy theorists, Larson stated flatly: "In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye."
And that's all there is to it?
Well, not exactly. At least one conspiracy theorist unsatisfied with the White House's response is still "sure" that "there are many secret government programs that the president doesn't know exist," says Melissa Bell at The Washington Post. And Larson did leave the possibility of alien life open for debate, admitting that "among the trillions and trillions of stars," the odds are "pretty high" that a planet like our own may support life, says Britain's Daily Mail. But because the distance between planets is so vast, the likelihood of contact with actual extraterrestrials is still "extremely small."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
Subscribe to the Week