Aliens and Allosaurs and Elves? — Oh My!

By Timothy Furnish Published on June 19, 2024

Last week, reports surfaced of an as-yet unreleased Harvard University study on UFOs and UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). The conclusion? Extraterrestrials who are already on Earth (or perhaps our moon) who are living in stealth mode could be the pilots of these crafts.

But the paper also outlines three other possibilities, postulating other kinds of Non-Human Intelligences (NHIs):

  1. an advanced ancient human civilization, only remnants of which survive (think of the lost city of Atlantis);
  2. prehistoric, technologically savvy hominid or reptilian species, whose survivors hide in the shadows underground, or beneath the oceans (think of the Nephilim); or
  3. “cryptoterrestrials” who rely more on magic than technology, such as “fairies, elves, [or] nymphs.”

I Want to Believe … or Do I?

Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe in some or all of these things — at least theoretically. (I blame all those books I read by the likes of Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and one J.R.R. Tolkien. Perhaps they made me so open-minded some of my brains fell out.)

But then, I only have a doctorate in history from Ohio State. This study comes from Harvard’s “Human Flourishing Program,” which is one of the few remaining departments at that illustrious school which has not (yet) been accused of plagiarism. So before we dismiss it out of hand, let’s take a deeper dive.

Aliens Are So 2021

Three years ago, here on The Stream-Files, I wrote about aliens. That was about the time the U.S. government tacitly admitted that aliens are a real possibility — although just a few months ago the Pentagon denied any alliance or secret deals between our government and ETs exist.

For us modern humans professing Christianity, what are the theological implications of these possible cryptoterrestrials?

This new study unveils a twist on the standard UFOs/UAPs theory, however. This time, it’s that these alien aviators have been on and around Earth and its lone satellite for centuries, if not longer, rather than coming in fresh waves from other solar systems. (By the way, can science writers please learn that the terms “interstellar,” which means traveling between star systems, and “intergalactic” — traversing between entire galaxies — are hugely different? I see the latter used often when the former is meant.)

But this alien theory no longer surprises. In fact, it’s almost become passé. The truth, according to the eggheads at Harvard, could be even further out there.

Atlantis, Anyone?

According to legend, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago, Homo sapiens developed civilization to a high level and then collapsed. Think Plato’s Atlantis, or Tolkien’s Númenor. (Long considered “fringe archaeology,” the Harvard HFP is now pushing it into the mainstream.) As the study postulates, survivors of such prehistoric people(s) might be behind the UAPs, not aliens from other star systems.

Is this far-fetched? Yes. But impossible? Perhaps not.

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Science says our species emerged 300,000 years ago, in Africa, then migrated to the rest of the planet. If you prefer a shorter chronology, we still have solid archeological evidence of civilization going back almost 12,000 years: notably Göbekli Tepe, in modern Turkey, which was populated during the Neolithic era (9500 to 8000 BCE).

Fast-forward eight millennia to Egypt’s pyramids. We still don’t know for sure how they were built. But the TV series Life After People has raised the question of how long it would take for our current civilization’s infrastructure to disappear without us to maintain it. Certainly less than 10,000 years, and that’s not even positing a global flood.

So a similar case can be made for why no remains of such antediluvian human culture as the Atlanteans’ has been found. But even allowing that absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence, this theory seems more speculative than solid.

Logical Lizards?

Plausibility plummets even more with the “hominid or theropod cryptoterrestrial” concept. If you’re old enough, you might have run across such ideas before. The TV show Sliders (1995–2000) had as humans’ main enemies the “Kromaggs”— creatures based on our earlier cousins, Cro-Magnons. The 1970s TV show Land of the Lost included intelligent reptilians called “Sleestak.” (So did Dr. Who, which used a different name for them.)

But, to be fair, theorizing prehistoric, nonhuman civilization has not been limited to entertainment. Five years ago, a pair of literal rocket scientists published a paper on this very topic, cribbing from the Tardis-traveling Time Lord: “The Silurian Hypothesis: Would It Be Possible to Detect an Industrial Civilization in the Geologic Record?” (International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2019).

Probably not. Especially considering that such a civilization failed to stop its own demise.

White Magic — or Black?

If aliens, Atlanteans or astute allosauruses are not your bag, those brainy Crimsonites have provided another option: “Entities that are less like homegrown aliens and more like ‘earthbound angels.’”

At this point, I wonder if the Harvard crew hadn’t been hitting the campus bars when they wrote this paper. Do they actually believe this one?

However, for many Christians, this is the most likely explanation for UFOs/UAPs. There’s another term for an “earthbound angel”: a demon. As Elton John sang 50 years ago, “I’ve seen movements in the clearing/someone sent you something satanic.” Many Evangelical Protestants and Eastern Orthodox believe that UFOs/UAPs are demonic manifestations. (The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is too busy dealing with what it deems to be clear-cut demons to weigh in on this debate.)

Personally, I’d prefer that “magical cryptoterrestrials” simply be some of Tolkien’s Elves who decided to skip that last ship to Valinor, and are now busy in some unreachable forest glen, still forging swords that glow blue when enemies are about. As Arthur C. Clarke famously said, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So maybe by this point, some six millennia after Sauron’s fall, the Elves have graduated from running for days without tiring to flying magical crafts.

Did Christ Die for Them?

For us modern humans professing Christianity, what are the theological implications of these possible cryptoterrestrials? C.S. Lewis, long ago, provided some guidance on the issue of aliens, which is applicable to the other categories of possible NHIs.

  • Do they possess a rational soul?
  • Are they, like us, fallen creatures?
  • If so, did Christ die for them?
  • Is the Cross and Resurrection the only mode of redemption available for them?

I believe that the answer to all these questions is “yes” (except in the case of demons, which James 2:19 tells us are clearly capable of monotheism but not saving faith or redemption).

Colossian 1:15–20 says that in Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created, that God’s fullness dwells in Him, and that through Christ God will “reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross” (NIV).

However, while extraterrestrials, evolved Neanderthals, or elves might be redeemable by God, they also might still be hostile toward us. We humans have been fighting each other since we got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. How much more might NHIs dislike us upstarts and seek to (re)claim the Earth? Especially should they possess their own technological juggernaut of jihad or crusade.

The authors of that Harvard study were probably just having a bit of fun. Probably it wasn’t actually a Deep State trial balloon to get the public ready for the unveiling, eventually, of some really bad news.



Timothy Furnish holds a doctoral degree in Islamic, world and African history from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in theology from Concordia Seminary. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor, and occasional media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS).

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