I’ll go ahead and warn you up front: this post is going to deal with UFOs. By reading it–and for that matter, by my own act of writing it–we’re both likely to be labeled as individuals with extreme political viewpoints, fantasy proneness, or psychological disorders like schizophrenia.
No, seriously. This, according to Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey, who in her recent article, “The Fear That Drives Our Alien Belief” cites studies performed by researchers at the Universities of Westminster and Vienna, is in large part the perceived explanation behind our belief in UFOs. Dewey states in her piece that UFO enthusiasts “believe [UFOs] exist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, citing a 1994 letter to abduction researcher John Mack which said the idea of alien visitation contradicts “virtually all of the basic laws of physics, chemistry and biology on which modern science depends.by
7 Replies to “Fear-Driven, or Pure Drivel? Washington Post is Confused About UFO Phenomenon”
My thoughts would include suggesting consideration be given to the extent data from the professional mental health community is typically excluded from ufology, particularly the alien abduction genre. While I think you, Mr. Hanks, make some reasonable and valid points, I would nonetheless feel inclined to point out that if figures such as the late John Mack are going to be accepted and even promoted within the UFO community, then a fair amount of time and attention should also be afforded to understandings of why some people say and believe things that are simply untrue.
The mental health community can offer much understanding and insight into the principle isuues. While such understandings do not provide conclusive explanations for all reports of paranormal phenomena, it is negligent of us to collectively deny such circumstances ever apply. Perhaps most concerning, when we completely omit mental health concerns from the pursuit of learning more about alleged aliens, as is currently commonly the case, we do everyone involved a disservice. Truth suffers, witnesses suffer, the UFO community suffers and, of course, those who would be much better served by mental health services than by overly enthusiastic hypnotists suffer.
All of that stated, of course there are some seemingly intriguing UFO reports, and everyone who thinks so is indeed not schizophrenic. I nonetheless think the professional mental health community should be offered more consideration in the course of ufology than is currently the case, and I do not see how sincere truth seekers could think otherwise.
Do people who report UFO sightings or abductions suffer from psychological issues? Perhaps. But then, it becomes a matter of determining whether or not that psychological problem stems from an external source, or simply from a purely internal disorder.
If the mental health community is to offer understanding & insight into this issue, then I humbly suggest they consider shifting from the materialistic framework which simply neglects any kind of transcendental or visionary experiences, dismissing them as simple aberrations of the mind. Like the late John Mack used to say, ours is a particularly peculiar society in its refusal to acknowledge spiritual experiences.
That refusal might the origin of many of the syndromes & maladies the mental health community is seeking to treat in the first place. Once we realize this, we might be able to extract that annoying splinter in our mind that is driving us mad.
Dewey’s article shows the errors in reasoning I’d expect when it comes to analyzing “inexplicable” phenomena, for instance:
“What is it about UFOs that drive so many people to believe they exist despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary?” And in the same paragraph, quoting Mack, “such visitations ‘contradict virtually all of the basic laws of physics, chemistry and biology on which modern science depends’.”
I wonder what “overwhelming” evidence there is that UFOs do not exist? Is the “reasoning” that they’d contradict basic laws of science alone evidence already? But Mack says it himself – they contradict laws “on which modern science depends”.
In the end, it’s maybe much about those dependencies, and ultimately Dewey and like-minded people depend on established worldviews delivered by (mainstream) science, forgetting science itself has always been an error prone and highly self-correcting enterprise…
(As a side note, in 1903 mainstream scientists and press claimed the first flights of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk were hoaxed, after all the flights contradicted scientific dependencies at the time).
I think modern psychologists are having a field day with the “believers” but in the end the “believers” are just one more practical example for them to contemplate the trait of the human mind to “cry for meaning”. I think the psychological “explanations” for any paranormal beliefs are just the same – a cry for meaning, only at the other end of the spectrum. But it might be a while before psychology will implement “Obsessive Debunking Disorder” as a serious condition…
I’m using a lot of speech marks as I’m convinced one major problem in the discussion is the lack of appropriate language. We just don’t seem to have the right words to describe and explore phenomena that (still) lie beyond comprehension, or the words we use have too many different meanings to too many different people.
Not sure though if we can actually draw a line between “fear-driven” and “pure drivel”. Isn’t it just one more divider where we’d have to overcome boundaries? Those phenomena are too complex (on both sides) and their exploration may not be possible by drawing even more lines. Fear as well as drivel are words with highly subjective connotations…
So while I commend your approach in UFO Singularity, I can’t help but wonder if anyone is on the “right path”. Perhaps we really and totally have to unlearn everything we’ve learned first before we can understand what’s going on. Personally I “believe” we haven
Hi Micah, Jack, RPJ, and Johann!
Happy Saturday to you as well, Steph. Top notch contribution. as always 🙂
Hola my dear Senor Junkie! You are too kind, steph
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