Following my “live and learn” strategy, after having written a bit about UFOs, let me now make some meta-comments.
For most intellectuals, UFOs are a topic “beyond the pale” and “outside the Overton window”. As was the topic of sex once, not because people didn’t think sex existed, but because of a consensus it wasn’t a “serious” topic. We generally know which topics do and don’t have this label, even if we don’t have much of an idea of why each label was once applied.
Since I started talking about UFOs, I’ve more clearly seen some of the rules we apply to talk near the edge of acceptable topics. The edge isn’t that sharp, so these are rules that apply more strongly but in a graded way as you approach closer to the edge, and then perhaps go past it.
As you approach the edge of the pale, your tone is supposed to become more jocular, your language less precise and more evocative, and your writings short and infrequent. High prestige people are allowed to go a bit further toward or past the edge without modifying their writings quite as much in these directions. You are expected to eagerly lampoon any who violate these rules.
We can think of all this as our having a “vote” on whether to move the Overrton window, with high prestige people of course getting far more votes. If you go much further than usual in taking such a topic seriously, as your attempt to argue for moving the window, that will mostly fail, as you will mainly be seen as losing your standing to vote on the topic.
I’ve noticed that this topic of UFOs makes me feel especially uncomfortable. I look at the many details, and many seem to cry out “there really is something important here.” But I know full well that most people refuse to look at the details, and are quick to denigrate those who do, being confident in getting wide social support when they do.
So I’m forced to choose between my intellectual standards, which say to go where the evidence leads, and my desire for social approval, or at least not extra disapproval. I know which one I’m idealistically supposed to pick, but I also know that I don’t really care as much for picking the things you are supposed to pick as I pretend to myself or others.
We often fantasize about being confronted with a big moral dilemma, so we can prove our morality to ourselves and others. But we should mostly be glad we don’t get what we wish for, as we are often quite wrong about how we would actually act.
p(aliens) is one factor. Significance is another. Significance in this case is large - thus some of the interest. p(aliens) needs to be very small to make aliens worth ignoring. Scientific consensus is that p(aliens) is indeed very small, but overconfidence is a common bias, so not everyone will be convinced.
Banks only real special feature is their credibility. Anyone can issue promisory notes, and if the person or organisation is credible enough and enough notes are issued, then those notes become a type of money. That's all paper money was for several hundred years. Now there is legislation regulating things, but money is still at heart the same thing. Yes it is created by bank lending, but in the absence of bans on lending in the form of transferable and convieniently denominated forms money will always spontaneously come into existence.
Governments can spend, and that might help things sometimes, but if they spend in the form of transferable and conveniently denominated debt, then from a money point of view they are just doing the same thing as a private organisation issuing promisory notes. Provided inflation stays within reasonable bounds, there's no monetary problem. If the government spends on useful things then fine.