Ratha (papertygre) wrote,

Aliens and the God Module

Abducted : How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens (Hardcover)
I saw an interesting talk at work today, by the author of this book, Susan Clancy. She described a research project she conducted in psychology, interviewing alien abductees. This came about because she was originally studying sexual abuse survivors, to support a hypothesis that a number of the cases were actually "false memories," but when she was targeted by activists and called a "friend to pedophiles," she decided to change to a less controversial topic in order to study false memories. It turned out that alien abduction was not a whole lot less touchy, but she stuck with it, and her conclusions were sort of interesting.

She said she went into the project believing, with Carl Sagan, that 'people believe in pseudoscience in direct proportion to the degree to which they misunderstand science.' She said that by the end of her project, she no longer believed that. Instead, it seemed to her that otherwise sane and intelligent people turned to pseudoscience in order to fill a need they had for explanation and meaning. She said that the abductees' memories were usually horrific and painful, involving having things taken out of them, put into them, and so on; however, she asked her interviewees if they would choose to be abducted again if they could do it all over -- and every single one said that they were glad they were abducted. Many found the experience transformative, and said that it gave them a wider perspective, a feeling of being chosen and of being connected with something larger than Earthly things.

Her own explanation of alien abductions is that it usually starts from sleep paralysis, and then a desire to make sense of this experience (plus, possibly, other anomalous experiences), along with exposure to various cultural sources of alien myth, all of which combines to lead them to the idea of abduction. Then, the abductee would start to fill in memories through an interactive process of discussing it with someone else, and eventually he or she would become hostile to alternative explanations. One woman actually became furious at Clancy for suggesting that she had only suffered from sleep paralysis, after which Clancy stopped offering scientific explanations to her subjects.

Anyway, Clancy made the inevitable connection to religion in the last chapter of her book, a move that was unpopular with a lot of her readers. She had wanted to defend her subjects as not-that-crazy, but instead she wound up pissing off religious people by suggesting that their beliefs are no more logical than belief in alien abduction. Someone in the audience at Microsoft followed up on this by asking her what her own religious beliefs were, and if she thought they biased her research. Her answer focused on how no one can be totally unbiased and the point of research techniques is to try to cancel out the biases, but she did say that she just does not seem to seek religious explanations of things, it just doesn't interest her personally, even though she knows many other people seem to be wired for it.

According to an Amazon reviewer, her book says "I score low on measures of suggestibility creativity, hypnotizability, and proneness to fantasy. I don't get overwhelmed by beautiful music or vivid colors or chocolate éclairs. I don't get caught up in novels or movies, and to my mind spectacular sunsets are merely pretty." I wonder if there is a connection between the low religiosity and these characteristics.
Tags: aliens, personality, religion

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded