From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: alien abductions, UFOs and ETs
21 April 2009
A short note. I guess Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell can, along with astronaut Gordon Cooper, be considered as crazy as the rest of the UFO/alien community, huh? Maybe you should alert NASA's astronaut program that the men they send into space are seeing things that aren't there. I'm sure they would be glad to know that. And I guess you should complain to CNN about the stories they are spotlighting (Apr.20, 2009) to the public and have them make a disclaimer. Can't have mainstream media begin to think like all the crazies now, can we?
reply: Being wrong doesn't mean that one is crazy. You have to insist that you're right even though you've seen the overwhelming evidence against your position to qualify for that denigrating designator. In any case, CNN is only interested in ratings. They'd spotlight a talking turtle if they thought they could get away with it. I can see Wolf Blitzer doing the interview.
Edgar Mitchell isn't crazy, as far as I know, but he's not your typical astronaut. He's been a strong believer in the paranormal; he even started his own institute. You might even say that he discovered Uri Geller, and has seen other things with his own eyes that defy natural explanation. Neither his sense perception nor his ability to avoid being duped by a conjurer improved by becoming an astronaut. He's as capable as anybody of misinterpreting observational data or being duped by a minor magician. He's also capable of either lying or deceiving himself. He claims that the ESP experiment he did while in space "showed that what had worked in the laboratory also worked in space with the same positive results."* That's not true. The experiment was a joke.
Gordon Cooper's entitled to his opinion. Again, as far as I know, he's a "normie" (as the diagnosed sometimes refer to those of us who have not been diagnosed). We await the proof that the government has been hiding evidence for half a century that the aliens have landed. Anybody can claim a cover-up and conspiracy, but the proof hasn't been produced by either of these fine gentlemen.
21 Feb 2008
It seems to me that such pious dissension as yours to the notion that UFOs are of other-worldly origin and visit us regularly is driven by fear. You and other "debunkers" of UFO evidence disregard logic, disabuse the notion of participating in any serious scientific investigation of the topic on your own, and simply nay say. I laugh at some of the stories, particularly regarding abductions, but I began my belief in extraterrestrial visitations to Earth from ground zero, meaning, without any opinion on the topic at all. After careful consideration of the evidence I have seen and considered the debate from witnesses, and from scientists, psychologists and psychiatrists and lay persons on both sides of the debate, I am convinced that extraterrestrials are real, that they visit us regularly in various sorts of unfathomable spacecraft, and that we will only be seeing and hearing more and more about and from them.
reply: What is your evidence that those of us who do not share your conclusion are driven by fear? Referring to our disagreement with you as "pious" indicates you think we are belittling you because you believe UFOs are spacecraft from other worlds. Maybe you are taking our critiques too personally. We've carefully examined the evidence, too, including the evidence from the psychology of perception and belief.
You deny that "evidence" exists of extraterrestrial existence and visitation to our planet. I say that you are simply on denial. If we can put a man to death based upon eyewitness accounts, then eyewitness accounts are indeed "evidence" adequate in themselves to support the claims that alien UFOs exist and visit us. This is especially so where multiple, unrelated accounts of the same visitation are reported. Further, there are far too many such accounts by persons from all walks of life, including pilots, police officers, military personnel of all ranks, and so on, to ignore. Additionally, there are crop circles, water circles (a crop circle left spinning on water's surface for long periods, even weeks, where a USO becomes a UFO or vice-versa), landing marks, and even residues from landed crafts, among other articles of evidence.
reply: A study of the reliability of eyewitness testimony is one of the things we "debunkers" consider. Perhaps you should investigate this issue. Eyewitness testimony is the least reliable of all the kinds of evidence used in criminal trials, yet it is the most believable. We shouldn't be putting people to death on the basis of eyewitness testimony only. Nor should we believe in extraterrestrials or spacecraft from alien worlds on the basis of eyewitness testimony only. Again, studying the psychology of perception might affect your understanding of these issues.
One would have to bury one's head deep in the sand to discount such sightings as the Phoenix, Arizona lights of ten years or so ago. Even Arizona's governor at the time, who, at the time, denied any evidence of a UFO from those lights, came forward recently to admit that he had seen those lights, that the lights came from a craft over a mile across in breadth, and that he was certain it was a craft not of this planet. Of course it wasn't. Further, only conscious ignorance could lead one to deny that cave dwellers in our distant history painstakingly painted spacecraft on the walls of their abodes in multiple places across our planet, and artists through the ages have included spacecraft, flying saucers and so on, in their paintings with witnesses in the background gazing upward at them. Evidence of extraterrestrials is nothing new at all.
reply: I've examined the evidence and written about the Phoenix lights in an essay on the difficulty in fairly evaluating personal experience. You might want to examine my argument, which acknowledges how our instinct is to accept our initial feelings when evaluating sense perception, a fact which makes it very difficult to think critically about what "we just know is true because we personally experienced it." In a very real sense, thinking critically is unnatural.
Oddly enough, though, given the nature of human-kind, people like you bullishly persist in claiming that such sightings are the result of mass hallucinations, weather balloons, or something else with a comfortable, logical explanation, such as gas from too much salsa. As I said, such denial in the face of all the overwhelming evidence of the existence and presence in our world and our dimension of extra-terrestrial spacecraft, with aliens obviously at the wheels of those ships, can only be the result of cold fear. But, do not fear sir. If the aliens wished to harm us, as they have demonstrated when the Soviets attacked their ships, they could and would have. In fact, you should take heart: The aliens are quite likely the source of our ultimate ancestry and all of our various Gods. One need only read the Bible to find evidence supporting this latter notion, at least. Lots of UFO sightings and even contacts in the Bible. I do not doubt God's existence myself. I believe in one almighty, incomprehensibly powerful and omniscient creator. I take great comfort in the belief that God is the aliens' God too. I wish you a similar faith.
reply: Again, you say we must disagree with you out of fear, but you give no reason for that claim. What are we supposed to be afraid of? The aliens? God? You admit your beliefs are based on faith, not evidence. You have faith the Bible is an accurate record of UFO sightings. You say you take comfort in the belief that God is the aliens' God, too. Your faith may not be based on fear but it is not based on a thorough evaluation of the evidence.
2 April 2003
A few years ago I began to suffer small strokes (Transient Ischemic Attacks or TIA's). They've stopped now due to diet, exercise and several stents. When I was experiencing the TIA's I also suffered from sleep paralysis. This is the syndrome many think is the cause of people thinking they were abducted by aliens.
My first one occurred in a hotel room in Las Vegas. It wasn't aliens who attacked me though it was ghost wolves I remembered seeing in an old cartoon when I was a child. The experience seemed to be absolutely real at the time. The ghost wolves grabbed me and tried to drag me out the 6th floor window. I kicked, punched and wrestled with the wolves until I woke up. The room was a mess. Evidently I thrashed around and knocked over a lamp. I also sustained rug burns on my hands that looked exactly like the scoop marks alien abductees claim to have. Back home I experienced a half dozen more episodes, each with a different cast of characters. On one occasion I must have thrown myself out of bed trying to wake up. I awoke seemingly floating in the air, this was the sensation this condition caused. Naturally I crashed to the floor at 32 feet per second. The last one was the strangest of all. My son and my dog came into my bedroom when they heard me yelling in my sleep. My eyes were open and I could see both of them but they were standing not in my bedroom but in the strange dreamscape I had been trying to escape.
I suppose I could have gone along with the X-Files stuff, the dreams
fit with the alien abduction hypothesis, but I've always been a rational
person. These occurrences seem real but I know they were all in my mind.
There's a saying, if you hear hoof beats outside your window it's probably
horses not zebras. The people who think sleep paralysis is alien abduction
are thinking zebras not horses. I hope anyone who has one of these episodes
consults a doctor; they might be suffering from blood loss to the brain as I
was. This condition can be fatal.
26 Nov 99
Re: Betty and Barney Hill "Abduction" Scenario
A former colleague of mine who studied ethnicity and race relations at Oakland University proposed the following alternative explanation for the famous "alien abduction" case. One of the facts of the case that many researchers, skeptics, and UFO buffs tend to overlook is that the Hills were an interracial couple, and that the "abduction" allegedly occurred in 1961, a time when racial tensions in America were high, and, to paraphrase author James W. Loewen, a couple such as the Hills might have reasonably feared being "killed or beaten by white racists simply for holding hands as an interracial couple or eating together in a restaurant" (_Lies My Teacher Told Me_, 228). According to my colleague's theory, the Hills fabricated the sensational tale of being kidnapped by alien beings in order to intentionally draw attention from the media, thus placing themselves somewhat "in the public eye," locally if not nationally. Their story gained them not only media coverage, but also the attention of a prominent psychiatrist, Dr. Benjamin Simon. Regardless of whether reporters, the public, or the doctors who examined the Hills actually believed them (Dr. Simon did not, stating that the story was a "fantasy"), the recognition the story brought the couple helped ensure that they would not become the victims of a racist attack. In other words, it's harder to get away with killing a famous person than it is to get away with killing a "nobody." The "fame" the Hills generated with their story might just have been enough to ensure that, if one or both of them ever met an untimely demise in a dark alley, they would be more likely to be missed, the crime would be more likely to be reported in the media, law enforcement would be less likely to "look the other way," etc. Thus, by "making themselves famous" with their alien abduction tale, the Hills were setting up a deterrent to any hate crimes that might be perpetrated against them. The Hills really were fearing for their lives, though not from the threat of alien abduction, but from the threat of racist violence.
In closing, I'd like to point out that their strategy does seem to
have worked. When Barney Hill died seven years later, it was of natural
causes, and Betty Hill survived him for years afterward (neither ever
reported any further "abductions"). Unfortunately, their story,
born of desperation, seems to have been the inspiration for the hundreds
of later accounts that make up the "alien abduction" phenomenon.
If my colleague's theory is sound (and I think it has some merit), then
how very ironic it is indeed that one couple's attempt to protect
themselves during turbulent and dangerous times seems to have spawned an
entire "movement" based on paranoia, irrationality, and
reply: I wouldn't presume to be able to get inside the Hills' heads and pinpoint their motivation, conscious or subconscious. If this were there motivation, I think it might have been easier to have moved to Sweden.
26 Oct 1999
reply: Oh, oh. Whenever anyone addresses me as "professor" I can feel the trouble. Reminds me of when my mother would call me "Robert" instead of Bobby.
Accepting the fact of alien existence and integrating it into our consciousness is perhaps the most important activity one can do in this life. Denying this would be akin to dogs imagining that humans are holograms created by other dogs. I suppose that hamsters have yet to integrate the pinkness of the presence that occasionally manifests itself in its world of wood chips and treadmills as that of a human hand, and I also suppose that humans have yet to integrate silver disks as craft from otherworldly beings. For the hamster the human hand is probably a deformed treadmill, or a funny kind of woodchip pile. For humans such as yourself, the silver disk is a story of insufficient evidence and "people who just don't know how to reason".
reply: I can understand why someone might find the meaning of life in alien existence, but how denying this is akin to dogs imagining humans are holograms created by other dogs is alien to me.
Another common tactic of UFOlogists is to claim that the skeptic cannot prove that what was seen was not an alien craft.
This is true, namely, that the skeptic cannot prove that what was seen was not an alien craft. It is also true that nothing outside of mathematics (logic) can be proven, and even within mathematics, a proof consists in showing that it follows from the axioms, which are themselves taken as unprovable. To prove something is to embed our ignorance in more primitive assumptions, i.e., the assumption that our axioms are true and that our rules of inference are truth-preserving. Interesting to note is that no mathematician produces proofs this way (through transitive closure of a rule of inference upon a set of axioms). Instead they 'know' their theorems before the proof is supplied, and then publish their theorem after coming up with a proof later. The words "proof" and "truth" as used in common parlance are quite different things. A good book on what a proof really 'proves' is "Proofs and Refutations" by Imre Lakatos. What we're doing in the real world when we 'prove' something is show that the contrary is extremely improbable.
You then write:
One is supposed to infer from this fact that the perception probably was of an alien craft. This kind of reasoning is known as the argumentum ad ignorantiam. A claim does not become true or reasonable if a contrary claim cannot be proved to be true.
Sir, What you say is of course true, that is, that a claim does not become true because it cannot be disproven, but what does this have to do with the eye-witness account? I have read much of the available literature, and I have never read anyone trying to forward the kind of reasoning that you cite here. I think you must have heard this in a coffee-shop somewhere and slapped it up on your website.
reply: You can think that, but you'd be wrong. What I've read many times from UFOlogists is an account by an eyewitness and a question for the skeptic: What else could it be but an alien spacecraft? or The only logical explanation is that this was a real experience of alien abduction. The first is a type of argumentum ad ignorantiam; the latter is a false dilemma. Just because a true believer can't come up with a plausible alternative hypothesis, doesn't mean there isn't one. There are always other explanations that are equally or more logical.
If an eye-witness reports a UFO sighting you must either
1. Assume the witness is suffering from some sort of aberration, or has a mental disorder (which could be very likely!) 2. The witness saw what they saw, which may or may not be explicable conventionally.
Since I find it hard to believe that ALL of these people are insane, I must believe that at least one of them is telling the truth. If even one report is true, if even one report cannot be explained away with a "conventional" explanation (and what's conventional in assuming that all these people are publicity-seeking nuts?), if even one of these reports is true, the aliens are among us.
reply: There is another possibility which you have overlooked: eyewitnesses often make mistakes. They interpret their perceptions incorrectly. Sometimes they are assisted in reconstructing an experience by alien abduction "experts" and end up constructing "memories" of events that never happened. You seem to assume that perception does not involve interpretation.
The fact that some genius cannot come up with an explanation for something is irrelevant to whether the correct explanation should be couched in terms of visitors from outer space. The choice is not either (A) we know this conventional explanation is correct, or we must conclude that (B) aliens have visited us.
Sir, the fact that some genius cannot prove something is VERY relevant. Geniuses do all sorts of things that are very relevant, such as finding cures for diseases and inventing nuclear bombs. If our greatest geniuses cannot explain UFO's away, then it's relevant.
It seems more reasonable to believe that the only reason we cannot explain these sightings by conventional means is because we do not have all the evidence; it not because these sightings are probably due to alien visitations. If we had all the evidence, we would probably be able to explain the sightings by some conventional means. The fact that we cannot prove that Mr. and Mrs. Barney Hill were not abducted by aliens, does not support the hypothesis that they were abducted by aliens.
reply: You mock me, sir. Surely, you recognize that I am being facetious when I refer to UFOologists as geniuses. No true genius would spend any more time on Betty and Barney Hill than on Betty and Barney Rubble.
Sir, you have two choices:
1.Assume that Betty and Barney Hill were insane, or hallucinating, or both. 2.They are telling the truth.
There are no other possibilities, professor!
I wish you and your students the very best of luck, professor.
reply: Wrong. I have a third choice. I can look at the evidence and conclude that the Hills case is a typical case of confabulation.
I wish you the best of luck, too, Mr. Gould.