Page 17 - The 'X' Chronicles Newspaper - Late January 2019
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Alien Abductions Down Dramatically                                                                                      17

           Why alien abductions are                       diagnosed with schizophrenia or other mental   believed Christianity’s central tenet).  That
                                                          health issues, found that 6 percent of them    makes Hillary Clinton’s campaign promise to
                 down dramatically                        reported experiencing a hallucination unrelated  open up files on Area 51 look all the more canny.
                                                          to drugs, alcohol, or sleep. Finally, Michael         It also points to a strange moment for us
                                                          Shermer, prominent  American skeptic and       humans, for how our understanding of our place
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                                                          columnist for Scientific  American, notes,     in the universe has changed over the last 50
                                                          “Sometimes people just make stuff up.”         years. “We’ve become more materialistic,
          Other social currents, some of them peculiarly
                                                                 By the end of the 1990s, the alien      scientific, secular, and yet we are exactly the
          American, informed these stories and our
                                                          abduction bubble had burst. Ratings fell for the  same human beings . . . with the same
          interest in them. Space exploration in the 1950s
                                                          “The X-Files.” In  April 2001, reports (later  physiological and psychological makeup. Our
          and ’60s forced the country to admit that a vast
                                                          denied) circulated that the British Flying Saucer  brains are hard-wired to believe in something
          unknown lay beyond our atmosphere — at the
                                                          Bureau, 1,500 members strong at its peak, was  other than ourselves,” said Clarke. “People will
          same time, the Cold  War inspired existential
                                                          shutting down after a long dry spell of no     carry on believing it because I think it’s just a
          fear of invasion.  The 1960s and ’70s were
                                                          sightings. Five months later, two planes crashed  natural part of what we are.”
          attended by horizon-broadening mysticism,
                                                          into the Twin Towers and no one cared about           On that point, some skeptics and some
          publicized experimentation with drugs —
                                                          little green men anymore. “X-Files” director   believers agree.  There’s a long history of
          people talked about out-of-body experiences.
                                                          Chris Carter, at the 2008 San Diego Comic Con,  anomalous experiences attributed to angels,
          The 1980s saw an explosion of angst around
                                                          declared that after 9/11, the mood just wasn’t  fairies, gods, and monsters — nonhuman contact
          “stranger danger,” with a near-constant reports
                                                          right anymore. In 2006, Ben Macintyre,         experiences made to fit a cultural context. Those
          of child abduction and sexual molestation, and
                                                          columnist for  The  Times, declared that the   experiences point to something common in
          then, recovered and repressed memory.  Alien
                                                          Internet had undermined belief in UFOs and     human consciousness. “We have had
          abduction stories absorbed those strains, re-
                                                          alien visitation: “The unidentified flying object  experiences throughout history that demonstrate
          inventing them as anal probes and sinister
                                                          has been identified, and cannot fly any more.  that we are connected to something greater than
          hybrid breeding programs.
                                                          ET has gone home.” Skepticism, it seemed, had  ourselves,” Guiley said.
                 Meanwhile, psychologists like French
                                                          killed the UFO.                                       Or maybe not. In 1979, Pulitzer Prize-
          were examining alien abduction narratives from
                                                                 Except that it hadn’t. Not really.      winning poet James Merrill published
          a more skeptical perspective.  And what they
                                                                 David Clarke is a UFO researcher who    “Mirabell: Books of Number,” a work
          found is that the truth wasn’t so much out there
                                                          investigated the British government’s UFO files  transcribing the poet’s conversations with spirits
          as it was in our heads. “People have weird
                                                          — a former believer, he’s now a skeptic and    using a Ouija board. “If the spirits aren’t
          experiences in all societies, given that our
                                                          author of several books, including “How UFOs   external, how astonishing the mediums
          nervous systems are the same the world over,”
                                                          Conquered the World.” In his view, the Internet  become!” he said in an interview.  The
          explained French. “It’s the interpretations that
                                                          didn’t kill alien belief so much as offer up   implication is perhaps disappointing — it’s not
          might differ.”
                                                          hundreds of echo chambers for it to thrive in. “I  spirits, it’s not aliens, it’s just us — but also
                 A small but stubborn percentage of alien
                                                          think there are just as many people who believe  beautiful.  And useful. “Investing time and
          abduction experiences defy clear scientific
                                                          that these things happen, but I think that they’ve  money into why people have these kinds of
          explanation, but many of the rest can have a
                                                          retreated from public view and they just talk to  extraordinary experiences might help us to
          number of different physiological or
                                                          themselves,” said Clarke. “In order for you to be  answer fundamental questions that we don’t
          psychological explanations, including epilepsy,
                                                          a party to that, you need to buy into that reality.”  have answers for, like why do we have
          which can be preceded by visual disruptions,
                                                                 Skeptics want to believe that fewer     consciousness? I don’t believe in aliens, but I do
          narcolepsy, or sleep paralysis.
                                                          people believe, that more people are aware of  believe that something unusual is happening to
                 In normal sleep, your body is relaxed
                                                          explanations like sleep paralysis or false     these people and it ought to be studied,” said
          nearly to the point of paralysis, presumably to
                                                          memories. “People are capable of these         Clarke.
          keep you from acting out your dreams. Sleep
                                                          fantastic experiences without them being real         Solving those riddles takes a lot of
          paralysis is a disruption of lucid dreaming in
                                                          outside of the brain,” said Shermer, adding, too,  serious work, leads to a lot of dead ends, and
          which the mind partially wakes but finds that
                                                          that the camera-phone age is increasing the    might not prove satisfying even if we arrive at
          the body has not. It can be terrifying:
                                                          burden of evidence on experiencers.            answers. Which is why, in the end, it may just be
          Individuals report sensing entities in the room
                                                                 Experiencers want to believe that public  easier to attribute to aliens all the many
          with them and being unable to move, pressure
                                                          skepticism is subsiding. Rosemary Ellen Guiley,  wonderful things that we simply do not
          on their chests, out-of-body-like sensations
                                                          a prolific American writer about paranormal and  understand about the condition of being human.
          coupled with intense, heightened emotions. In
                                                          mystical experiences, explained, “More people
          the past and in other cultural contexts, this
                                                          are willing to talk about their experiences    Linda Rodriguez McRobbie is an  American
          experience was attributed to demons or evil
                                                          because media has opened the door, because     freelance writer living in London. []
          spirits or a religious phenomenon. In America,
                                                          there has been a lot of media attention on all
          science fiction was increasingly part of
                                                          kinds of experiences, positive and negative. . . .
          mainstream entertainment, and stories about
                                                          This is validating, that they can talk about it and
          alien contact experiences were covered as news,
                                                          not be ridiculed.”
          so aliens seemed like a plausible explanation for
                                                                 Yet if periodic polls are any indication,
          these experiences.
                                                          Americans have remained consistent on the
                 Then there’s the slippery nature of
                                                          subject of aliens for the last three decades. At
          memory itself. The richness of a remembered
                                                          any given moment, roughly 10 percent of
          experience is no guarantee of its objective
                                                          Americans believe they’ve seen a UFO.  A
          reality, even less so if that memory was
                                                          Gallup poll from 1990 found that 47 percent of
          “recalled” through hypnotic regression. Though
                                                          respondents believed UFOs were “real,” as in
          now largely dismissed by mainstream             alien. A 2015 Ipsos poll found that 56 percent of
          psychology, hypnotic regression remains
                                                          Americans believed in UFOs.  American
          popular with experiencers. Psychologists say
                                                          disbelief of the government line on UFOs has
          that discerning true memories of actual events
                                                          also remained steady. In 1996, 71 percent
          from true memories of imagined events is
                                                          thought the government was hiding something;
          impossible, especially if the individual was
                                                          it was 79 percent in 2012, according to a
          predisposed to believe in paranormal or alien
                                                          National Geographic Survey. In other words,
                                                          more people believe that the US government is
                 Additionally, there’s old-fashioned
                                                          covering up evidence of alien life than believe
          hallucination. A recent international survey of  that Jesus is the son of God (a 2013 Harris Poll
          more than 30,000 people, none of who were
                                                          survey found that 68 percent of respondents
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