UFO-JFK-X-NEO-Q: The Alpha Omega of Conspiracy Theory

Counterclockwise from top left: 1947 Roswell newspaper headline announcing the flying saucer; the UFO poster in The X-Files; Covid-19 virus; logos for The X-Files and Q Anon; still from the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination; and the red pill born in the Matrix. Graphic by Barry Vacker, with images in the public domain; protected under the Fair Use Doctrine.

In conspiracy theory, the true believers are millions of copies of Neo, downing red pills as they break free from the Matrix. Copies of copies of copies. The new Neos were born in the desert near Roswell, shocked on the streets of Dallas, made heroic in Hollywood, validated on the History Channel, and now many feel empowered by the prophecies of Q—yearning to be born again in “the desert of the real,” to quote from Morpheus in The Matrix.

“Flying saucers”—“single bullet theory”—“the truth is out there”—“the Matrix is everywhere”—“where we go one we go all”—these are concepts and slogans that accelerated conspiracy into pop consciousness over the past seven decades. For many millions of people, on the left and the right, from new age spirituality to age-old religion, conspiracy theory has become an entire worldview, with its own cosmology and structure that satisfy deep philosophical needs. After all, the “deep state” taps into deep fears.

Note: This Essay Was Written Before the Insurrection

This essay was written before January 6, 2021, when Q-inspired wannabe Neos—along with White Supremacists and Christian Nationalists—stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent insurrection, aiming to overturn a fair election and install a neofascist dictator. Of course, the “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theory was that democrats had “stolen” the election with fraudulent votes in key battleground states. Never mind that election officials in fifty states had verified the vote totals and found no evidence of any fraud that would have come close to overturning the winner in any state. In reality, “Stop the Steal” was the actual conspiracy, a coordinated plot to enact a coup d’etat in the United States, with millions of Americans apparently ready for a totalitarian tomorrow. Just like Nostradamus and Revelation predicted on the History Channel or Reddit. I wonder if “QAnon Shaman” was a big fan!

[Where needed, I have added comments about the insurrection in relevant sections of this essay.]

Hollywood and the History Channel

Long celebrated by Hollywood and the History Channel, the mainstream champions of pseudoscience and paranormalism, it’s no surprise conspiracy theory plays a key role in contemporary pop culture. The History Channel has long been intellectually bankrupt, with endless loops of conspiracy theories, Ancient Aliens, Nostradamus prophecies, and Revelation doomsday scenarios, all making claims about past or future apocalypses, when the real apocalypse in happening in the brains of the true believers—the destruction of reason and reality. This issue has roots that are deeper and older than Facebook and Twitter. UFO-JFK-X-NEO-Q, that’s the alpha omega of 21st century conspiracy theory, the origins for the alternative “reality” in the minds of millions. “Stop the Steal” should apply to reality, because reality has been stolen and replaced by an alt-fact worldview, a simulation of thinking powered by sacred scrolls and scrolling through Q and Twitter.

Obviously, I am being playful with the letters and alpha omega. That’s because the point of this essay is not to refute the conspiracies, but to show the philosophical role conspiracy theory plays in 21st century culture and consciousness—and to have a little fun while we do it. After all, it does not matter how many times prophecies fail, the true believers will find another one to “predict” the future. America is utterly whacked out on conspiracy and Q is the new Nostradamus. At the end of the essay, I outline three steps to address conspiracy theory (beyond the obvious of refuting them).

Prototyping Conspiracy Narratives

“Alpha” is not only the first letter of the Greek alphabet, it is a word that stands for the first stage of product development — when alpha prototypes are released for testing among consumers. Twenty-first century conspiracy theory was first prototyped with missing UFOs in Roswell and the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, followed by the deep state theories in Oliver Stone’s JFK, Fox Network’s The X-Files, Neo’s journey in The Matrix, and Q’s Revelation-like prophecies.

Conspiracy theory creates mythologies with origins and destinies to model an entire alternative reality or alternative history, to provide a sense of meaning and purpose to events on our speck of a planet in a NASA universe of two trillion galaxies. In contrast to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope, and 21st century cosmology, conspiracy theory offers a worldview in which the true believers are still central to everything, the center of all truth, value, purpose, and meaning.

The larger the universe unveiled by science, the larger the conspiracies needed to fill the vastness, exemplified by UFOs and Ancient Aliens. The larger the government, the larger the global systems of trade, the larger the realms explained by science, the larger and more outlandish must be the conspiracies. Hence QAnon. Conspiracy theory provides grand narratives to order the chaos of events beyond the believers’ control, to map a participatory construction of “reality”—free from the “fake news” of mainstream media, liberated from the classrooms of the Ivory Tower. For true believers, conspiracy theory is the challenge to the “elites” in media and academia.

The Alpha and Omega of Conspiracy

Wherever there is an alpha, there is an omega, the last letter in the Greek alphabet. For every beginning that is hopeful, there is an end that is fearful and must be fought — together the alpha and omega of pop culture are welcomed by conspiracy theory, which functions to fill the voids in scientific meaning and secular philosophy. That’s the existential and spiritual function of all major conspiracy theory—beginnings and ends, voids filled, and purpose and meanings saved.

UFO

It’s no coincidence flying saucers exploded in pop consciousness after World War II, just at the earliest beginnings of the space age, while following on the heels of the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US military. Three radical concepts were entering popular consciousness.

1) We now had the power to wipe out civilization, to completely self-destruct in a collective act of suicide. This is an omega point, an end which must be fought, even as humanity ramped up the nukes in the Cold War.

2) Humanity had the potential to develop rockets that could fly around the planet, into space, perhaps event to the moon or Mars.

3) The universe is much larger than we had long thought, as Edwin Hubble’s discoveries of the expanding were filtering outside the scientific academies and the term “big bang” entered the popular vocabulary in 1950 (via science broadcasts on radio). This is an alpha point, a new beginning for humanity.

From these alpha and omega points, the UFO conspiracy emerged. Aliens could be our saviors or our destroyers. In NASA’s universe of two trillion galaxies, stretching across 100 billion light years, with untold zillions of stars and planets, the science and evolutionary percentages strongly suggest there are other life forms out there — including intelligent beings and advanced civilizations. That’s why I think intelleigent life probably exists elsewhere in the cosmos. But have the extraterrestrials visited Earth, a tiny speck of a planet orbiting an ordinary star in a remote part of a galaxy, one among trillions?

Roswell

In 1947, a rancher named William Brazel found a cluster of strange debris about 30 miles north of Roswell, New Mexico. As shown in the Roswell Daily Record headline above, the U.S. Air Force stated it was a “flying saucer,” only to flip-flop the next day and say it was a “weather balloon.” Thus, the flying saucer or “UFO” conspiracy was born. Roswell is ground zero for UFO conspiracy theory and even has the UFO Museum, which draws visitors from around the world.

It only took Hollywood four years to put the flying saucer on the big screen, with the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), still one of the coolest science-fiction films ever made. In the film, an extraterrestrial savior named Klaatu arrives to welcome humanity to join the other peaceful planetary civilizations, yet with a warning that we cannot extend our violence off the planet. If we do, Klaatu says Earth will be reduced to “a burned out cinder.” Five years later, there was all-out war in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956).

Endless alien and UFO movies have followed, with the extraterrestrials being enlightened saviors or evil destroyers. In Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), the extraterrestrials are friendly and peaceful, while the government tries to cover-up their existence. In contrast, the aliens in Independence Day (1996) are bent upon wiping out humanity.

These images are not the same as empirical evidence. Every documentary I have seen on UFOs follows the same formula. There are world-weary truth tellers showing us strange photos and blurry documents, while narrating a tale of endless stories, rumors, speculations, and hearsay “evidence” from various sources, all claiming there is a deep state conspiracy involving the most powerful governments of the world. The empirical, independently verifiable evidence is never provided.

As the scientist Carl Sagan said about UFOs, we have “stories of things, but not the things in themselves.” We have numerous blurry or unclear images in photos and videos, of mysterious lights in the sky, but not one shred of physical evidence. In a universe stretching of two trillion galaxies across 100 billion light years, are we so special to have been discovered, visited, monitored, assisted, or even abducted by advanced extraterrestrials? Extraordinary claims should require extraordinary proof. The same holds true for Ancient Aliens. My full critique of Ancient Aliens is posted here in Medium.

JFK

In 1962, the United States and the former Soviet Union almost triggered a full-scale nuclear war, which would have destroyed most of humanity and civilization. This omega moment was known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The cool hand of President John F. Kennedy was central to preventing the atomic apocalypse, along with a few sane leaders in the Soviet Union. Peace prevailed. The world breathed a sigh of relief.

Tragically, a year later in 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated on the streets of Dallas, in broad daylight, in one of the most horrifying scenes ever caught on film. The JFK assassination conspiracy might never have been born were it not for Dallas businessman Abraham Zapruder, who, while filming the passing motorcade, captured the moments of the shots hitting Kennedy.

The Warren Commission provided the official government position by concluding that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone as the sole assassin, firing three shots from behind while nested in the Texas School Book Depository Building. The Warren Commission also presented the “single bullet theory,” which claimed that the first bullet that struck Kennedy then struck Texas Governor John Connally (seated in front of Kennedy). The bullet supposedly passed through Connally’s shoulder and thigh, after which the pristine bullet was found on Connally’s stretcher in Parkland Hospital. Completely absurd, but the single bullet theory was needed to maintain the coherence of the Warren Commission Report.

Though mass media provided frames of the Zapruder film, the frames with the fatal head shot were not shown to audiences. Nevertheless, many conspiracy books were soon published, such as Rush to Judgment (1966) and Six Seconds in Dallas (1967). A decade after the assassination, the first Hollywood movie was produced (Executive Action, 1973), wherein a small cabal of mysterious men orchestrated the killing of President Kennedy.

Blowing Holes in Minds and TVs

In 1975, Geraldo Rivera and Dick Gregory screened a bootleg copy of the Zapruder film on late-night television, including the fatal head shot. The images shocked Americans, metaphorically blowing holes in minds across the United States and soon the world.

Kennedy’s skull is literally blown wide open, his head jolting backward, with brain matter exploding in the air. Viewers in Geraldo’s TV studio can be heard to gasp. I am sure gasps and screams were heard in living rooms across America, as if holes were blown in the TV screens. The clear implication was a conspiracy and coup d’ètat. Who did it? What did it mean? Was America still a democracy? Omega.

Such questions were like gaping voids, which must be filled. If democracy is in trouble, such ends must be resisted. In 1976, the House of Representatives formed the “Select Committee on Assassinations,” which re-visited the assassination evidence and concluded a conspiracy was likely. Democracy seemed still alive.

By 1991, JFK conspiracy fever reached its apex with Oliver Stone’s JFK, which presented a sprawling “deep state” version of the assassination. The expertly made film expressed Boomer angst and tarnished democratic ideals, with a message that seemed to fill some of the philosophical and political voids left by the holes blasted in Kennedy’s head.

For the record, I think the Zapruder film clearly suggests there were two shooters in Dallas—thus there was a conspiracy. But, I think it was a very small group who did it (maybe just 3–5 people were involved), which makes it even more scary for the government and Americans. My full explanation is posted here in Medium, which also explains why I do not buy the “9/11 Truth” conspiracy theories.

In the end, the JFK assassination effectively marks the omega point for Americans blindly trusting its government.

X

The X-Files appeared at a very unique moment in history, with profound alpha and omega moments. By 1991, the Cold War was over (omega) and a new era of space exploration was under way (alpha). The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990 and after corrections were made to the mirror, the telescope began unveiling an epic universe to the curious Earthlings on a tiny rock in space. So far, Hubble has had little impact on the cultural and political narratives on Earth, other than it seems to have joined the internet and social media in contributing to the decline in religious beliefs.

Everything is Connected

By far the best produced of all conspiracy shows, The X-Files was a cult hit that aired on Fox Network from 1993 to 2001, then again in 2016 and 2018. The series also spawned two big budget Hollywood films (The X-Files: Fight the Future, 1998; The X-Files: I Want to Believe, 2008). In essence, The X-Files featured two FBI agents confronting a far-reaching deep-state conspiracy theory, buttressed by pseudoscience and paranormalism.

Every time agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) presented a scientific explanation for mysterious events, it was countered by the pseudoscientific or paranormal version championed by agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Throughout the series, it was made clear that pseudoscience was not merely a valid counter to real science, but the better and more magical worldview. In many ways, the show was a direct attack on science and reason.

In The X-Files narrative, everything was connected, with sprawling conspiracies orchestrated by a secret cabal, tucked away in the deep state of the American military-industrial complex. Building on the Roswelll-UFO conspiracy theory, the story of “alien autopsies” played a key role in the overall narratives of The X-Files. So did UFOs.

With regard to the Kennedy assassination, The X-Files series featured an episode that depicted the assassination as the workings of a shadowy figure known only as “The Cigarette Smoking Man” (“Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” season 4, episode 7, 1996). At a much younger age in 1963, the Cigarette Smoking Man fired the Kennedy head shot from the front, while Oswald was the “patsy.” Later, the Cigarette Smoking Man orchestrated the killing of extraterrestrials who crash-landed on Earth. In late episodes, we learn that aliens are breeding with humans so they can take over our planet. Massive conspiracies to counter the massive universe of the Hubble telescope.

JFK’s assassination, UFOs, alien coverups, strange diseases, mad scientists, bio-warfare, alien-human hybrids—anything was possible, everything was connected in The X-Files, the televised precursor to QAnon. All that was needed for the transition from X to Q was NEO in The Matrix.

NEO

The Matrix exploded into pop consciousness in 1999, precisely as the new millennium dawned and fears of Y2K loomed at the end of the 20th century. Alpha and omega mindsets were all over America and the world. Still are.

In the opening of the film, the title — THE MATRIX — emerges from a glowing cascade of numbers. Slowly zooming in on a single digit — 0 — moviegoers are propelled through the zero, through the void, the mediated realm of nothingness, the virtuality of “the Matrix.” At once, The Matrix presented an alpha and omega moment in our culture. Suddenly young Neos were everywhere. And many who saw themselves as Trinity and Morpheus, too.

In The Matrix, humans are unknowingly wired into to a global computer network, where the mediated world has become the “real world” for everyone — except for Morpheus (brilliantly played Laurence Fishburne) and his band of rebel hackers. The Matrix presents a deep state conspiracy protected by artificial intelligence programs circulating throughout “the Matrix,” a metaphorical version of the internet. The conspiracy here is not about a particular event, such as UFOs or JFK’s murder, but rather a conspiracy about all of “reality.” Of course, the only way one can know this conspiracy is to follow Neo (Keanu Reeves) and swallow the red pill provided by Morpheus. [This essay presents only a brief summary of The Matrix. For my more detailed explanation of the multiple levels for reading the film, check out my previous essay in Medium: “Welcome to the Desert of the Red Pill.”]

Have Any of QAnon’s Red-Pillers Read Neo’s Book?

I wonder how many of the red-pilled “rebels” populating QAnon and Trump rallies have read the only book featured in The Matrix trilogy? Maybe 1 in 10,000? 1 in 100,000? 1 in 1,000,000? That book is key to grasping the meaning of The Matrix and the red pill.

Early in the The Matrix, Neo opens a green book called Simulacra and Simulation by media philosopher Jean Baudrillard, the central theorist of “hyperreality.” The book is hollowed out to secretly store computer disks and other items. When Morpheus says “the Matrix is everywhere,” he is drawing from Baudrillard.

Simulacra and Simulation was first published in French in 1981. This was long before the internet appeared on the scene. With the arrival of the internet, the ideas seemed prophetic. To get Baudrillard’s key ideas, you have to realize he is more metaphorical than literal. On page 1, Baudrillard wrote:

“Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless that map that precedes the territory.”

Rather than represent reality, the media and their technologies anticipate, generate, and reproduce realities—as illustrated by Disneyland, Las Vegas, Times Square, Dallas Cowboys Stadium, etc. What we call “reality” is really the global system of hyperreality, a hollowed existence of screens and surfaces — an artificial world of clones, copies, celebrities, fakes, facades, replicas, reproductions, substitutes, spectacles, social media, staged events, and endless simulacra (copies in which the original is no longer needed, desirable, or exists).

For Baudrillard, there was no conspiracy, secret cabal, or puppet masters. Just the continual evolution of our technologies, coupled with our endless desire to reproduce the world in our own image in order to give us meaning. Media technology has ended the distinctions between the fictional and the authentic — between the symbol and what it stands for. We live in a world where the signs and symbols of the real have largely replaced the real. To paraphrase Baudrillard, hyperreality is more real than real, more true than true, more beautiful than beautiful. The maps obliterate the territories, the maps generate the territories, the maps are the territories. That’s how conspiracy theory proliferates—copies of copies of copies, maps of maps of maps.

About the Red Pill

In a key scene, Morpheus says to Neo, “Welcome to the desert of the real,” and both are situated next to a rocky landscape, near a smoldering metropolis, all located inside a TV hyperreality. This is a clever reference to a line on page 1 of Simulacra and Simulation, where Baudrillard suggests that the real or authentic reality is no longer accessible, no longer knowable outside our mediated perceptions and technologies. The remaining “real” realities, if they exist, reside in “the desert of the real,” those natural deserts that exist far outside the metropolises, or maybe in the cultural deserts existing in the fissures within the metropolises. The deeper meaning of the red pill is that are no easy exits, no sure-fire way to freedom, no backdoor escape from hyperreality.

Yet, screens in hand, the conspiracy true believers remained trapped in the Matrix, the existing system they fight to preserve, all the while wandering “the desert of the real” in search of salvation and redemption. The simulacra of the future past. Enter Q.

Q

The internet and social media are Baudrillard’s hyperreality and humanity’s narcissism on steroids. Spanning the globe, the networks of the internet and social media are dense and complex. Images and information pour in from all over. Layer upon interlinked layer. The more one digs, the more one becomes immersed. The rabbit hole. Everything seems connected, deeper and deeper. Endless links, blogs, sources, websites, and YouTube videos. Political propaganda, government lies, corporate coverups, and now photoshop and deep fakes. Maps overtaking territories, maps obliterating territories, maps becoming new territories. It’s hard to tell what is true and false. Tribes galore, fans and followers, hives and swarms. Tik Tok, Instagram, Pinterest. Information overload. Hyperreality everywhere. The Matrix. Chaos!

To keep the dominant ideological systems intact, the chaotic vastness of cyberspace must be countered by a vastness of conspiracies, thus the alpha/omega codes of UFOs, JFK, The X-Files, and The Matrix have all been amplified, along with Apollo 11 and 9/11 conspiracies, Flat Earthers, Young Earthers, and so on. But, that is not enough on Planet Earth. Enter Q.

The conspiracy structure is always the same, even with Q. There is “someone” with access to secret knowledge about the events of the world, able to see and reveal hidden causes. Maybe it’s a renegade doctor, a turncoat scientist, a millitary expert, or a person with high security clearance, a la Q. This hidden knowledge will empower the powerless, tribalize the marginalized, and give voice to the rebels fighting for “freedom” and against “tyranny.” The secret knowledge is to be shared, with followers adding their takes and spreading it spread far and wide, thus effecting a mass movement. Self help becomes self delusion, brainwashing masquerading as braininess.

QAnon is fan culture and cosplay for conspiracy theory, champions of unreason for the unreal. Gods of the hyperreal. Gamers unite!

Q: The New Nostradamus?

In effect, Q is an online Nostradamus of the Right, offering cryptic plans, philosophical musings, and Revelation-like prophecies in a hyperreal setting, where the layers of maps (Q’s messages) have created a mental territory completely unhinged from empirical reality. Q’s messages are the contemporary and more complex versions of the “quatrains” that made Nostradamus a hit on the History Channel. No wonder social media is packed with QAnon groups and sites with millions of followers. Maybe Q is one person, several persons, true believers, or merry pranksters. It does not really matter. It works like a religion with its own attendant dogma and simulacra and I suspect the original Q or Qs know this.

As with Nostradamus’s quatrains, anything can be made to seem possible and preordained by the statements of the Qs. The day after 9/11, the most searched for book on the internet was The Prophecies of Nostradamus. Imagine that—seeking a prophetic explanation for 21st century events from a 16th century astrologer! Just wait till Election Night 2020, or the day after. QAnon boards will be white hot. So might the streets of America.

For me, it is not hard to understand why so many Q followers believe the Coronavirus pandemic was created or orchestrated to take down President Trump. Imagine the narcissism in the assumption that 2.3 million people worldwide have died from Covid, billions are wearing masks, and doctors and nurses are exaggerating the severity of the pandemic—just to take down their celebrity deity in the White House. Is that so different from believing there is no need to wear a mask because a God has your back, believing that the unseen, never empirically verified Creator of the universe has a special protection plan just for you—but did not bother to protect your neighbors or prevent 450,000 deaths in America and 2.3 million Covid deaths worldwide? Now that’s a real conspiracy theory!

According to Erin McAweeney (a social media researcher): “The strongest bridge we found between QAnon and non-QAnon communities was spirituality and religion.” As Adrienne LaFrance details in The Atlantic, QAnon’s statements and prophecies appeal to the apocalyptic thinking inherent in many of America’s religions. Add on all the New Age and pseudoscientific “spirituality” communities involved in QAnon, along with the Trump-Pence White House, and you have an anti-mask, anti-science movement that has enabled the deaths of 450,000 in America. [Given the current 3% death rate in the U.S., the total deaths will surely rocket well past 500,000 in America, maybe even reach 700,000 or more. The long-term effects for those who survive may be severe.]

Yet, for the true believers, Q signals the “Great Awakening” and nothing can stop it. #WWG1WGA (“Where We Go One, We Go All”). Collective rapture and mass death at the same time.

This “Great Awakening” is both their dream and delusion—coming after the first Black president (Barack Obama) and the first female presidential candidate (Hillary Clinton), surely signs of the changing of the political guard in terms of race and gender. Kamala Harris as the candidate for Vice-President further illustrates the point.

The symbolism of Obama and Hillary (hope and progress toward equality) is countered by President Trump, a racist and sexist liar, combined in a narcissistic reality-TV star and billionaire celeb who is an avowed follower of conspiracy theory. In the 24/7 spectacle, nothing validates a belief like a celebrity. Add on Mike Pence, avowed creationist, and you have two symbols of the dominant belief systems being challenged in America — white patriarchal supremacy and blind religious belief.

In terms of demographic trends, aging Boomers and Gen Xers may well be the last majority for these belief systems. They lost their ideals with JFK’s death, lost their space future with Ancient Aliens, and lost their freaking minds in Q, along with many others. After all, their maps have assassinated the territories! No wonder they’re ready for violent insurrections and neofascist dictators. Real assassinations are next on the playlist. Just scroll down.

Solutions? There is No Single Bullet Theory

Unlike the Warren Commission, there is no “single bullet theory” that can solve the massive conspiracy problem. It’s a deep state level of consciousness, a false flag neural network, a Roswell red pill worldview.

Obviously, conspiracy theories need to be confronted and refuted as often as possible. But, sadly, that has not stopped conspiracy theory from proliferating over the past seven decades. There is no sign Hollywood or the TV networks will stop producing films and shows that capitalize on pseudoscience and paranormalism. There are tons of conspiracy videos in YouTube. When I did a Google search for UFOs, ads appeared for Ancient Aliens. The maps keep generating the territories.

The only real solution is long term (and even this may not prevail):

1) We need to massively increase science and critical thinking education for every student in every public school—from kindergarten to grad students.

2) Filmmakers need to produce science-fiction films that inspire awe and wonder, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey.

3) Networks like the History Channel need to be denounced and discredited, as do Hollywood studios that produce movies celebrating paranormalism, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories. Executives, producers, directors, writers, and actors must be called to account for their decisions to promote unproven claims and known falsehoods. The same goes for the televangelists and conspiracy lunatics like Alex Jones. This does not mean limiting their First Amendment rights, but it also does not mean that platforms continually be provided to them so that their maps can assassinate the territories of reality. They must be challenged at all levels—via the box office and ratings, via technology and losing cable and web platforms, and intellectually with better a worldview and philosophy.

4) Artists and philosophers need to step up—big time! They need to collectively develop a widely-embraced secular narrative that provides a sense of hope, purpose, and common destiny for humanity, a species that shares a tiny rock in space, yet remains philosophically lost amid two trillion galaxies. Of course, that narrative must be ecologically sane and include universal human rights for everyone—and that means everyone!

5) Celebrate that the cosmic truth—the expanding universe, populated with untold numbers of stars, planets, supernovas, black holes, life forms, and perhaps even advanced civilizations—is way cooler than conspiracy theory and creation myths. Schools and universities should mandate that every student complete a basic “Introduction to Astronomy” course.

Given all of the above, the Roswell Museum exhibits were still kitschy fun!

“Klaatu, Barada, Nikto.” (See the film!)

[Thanks to my friend, Michelle Vardeman for lending her editorial expertise to make this essay better.]