As a child and adolescent, paranormal threats would frighten and obsess me more than any ghost, vampire, or irrational phobia. The most nightmare-inducing movies for me were the Day the Earth Stood Still, Fire in the Sky, and even Mars Attacks! I was addicted to the X-Files continuity, and to books like Communion by Whitley Streiber. I kept my ear glued to Coast to Coast AM, long before the befuddled yet charming (much like my father) George Noory, during the smoky-voiced Art Bell years, managing to handle ridiculous claims and speculation with both eyebrow-raised incredulity and eager thirst for woo.
Listening to it still, but with an older more skeptical mind, it’s amazing how much hardcore paranormal believers reveal about what exactly is happening in the brain by what they say. A number of them describe alien, ghost, shadow people, and old hag encounters that, regardless of the character in place, are apt illustrations of hypnagogic dreams in action. Numerous callers, and the Mothman Prophecies author Jim Keel, claim that when supernatural forces “notice you noticed them” presumably continue to act out further for that enlightened person’s benefit. They are quite closely describing their own confirmation bias, seeing the very thing they are keyed up to look for, for that very reason. Utilising the mechanism of the brain that builds patterns out of nothing, and holding firmer to their position out of fear of their invested belief being wrong, and rewarded by the childlike part of the brain that endorses mythology, animism, imaginary friends, and religion.
Their conspiratorial-minded community reinforces that they are wiser and more enlightened for having gotten in on the secret(s). Believing their information to be factual and superior, they consider themselves the truly critical-thinking ones, because their minds are open to accept such outlandish claims. Many claim a healthy mixture of open-mindedness and skepticism, and then use this justification to heavily land in the former. Mythology is interesting stuff, and perfectly healthy to delve into, but only when recognized as perfectly false.
How can anyone really be sure that their minds, through various combinations of hypnagogic sleep states, pareidolia, or confirmation bias, aren’t fooling us into supernatural superstition no different than those in the past? Jim Kieth, himself a paranormal investigator, inadvertently revealed some of the weaknesses in his Casebook on the Men in Black, explaining how we have always had some cultural awareness of (as Terence McKenna calls it) “the Other”. Men in Black used to be iterations of Old Scratch, the devil himself, or else the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague. Greys used to be any number of various little green men, fairies, goblins, or demons. And if one doesn’t accept the more grandiose implications of a Jungian collective unconscious (used to support a metaphysically telepathic astral plane of nightmarish archetypes), but simply the deeply ingrained set of socio-psychological beliefs, then the disconnects only seem to hurt the credibility of the phenomenon being an external physical force, more than mere mental construct. One can make the argument that these phenomena actually have been observed as a constant but simply described (I would argue, widely) differently. That the inter-dimensional or mystically quantum nature of these objects and beings make them ephemeral spirits, manifesting differently. Even if this is the case, it only lends to the unfalsifiability of the whole matter.
At least with accounts of Bigfoot, the reporting and sightings throughout history are fairly consistent.
What is surprising is that even when skeptics, astronomers, astrobiologists, xenobiologists, and philosophers suppose the existence of alien intelligence, it is usually described as autocratic, organizational, and would probably have mathematically subcategorized our sector. At least partially or wholly integrated with machine, they would be cold telepathic drones, more like one giant organism than many, frightening in their passionless drive to accomplish hive goals. The commensurate measures that led to cellular life growing more diverse, apes to be social climbers, and humans to be the planet’s most winningest species, might certainly have allowed a space-faring race to survive in the perpetuity necessary for interstellar travel. Their motives would be so far removed as to seem malevolent (but in actuality no moreso than the automatic slapping of a mosquito), their technology like the ‘magic’ of Gods, their thoughts unknowable, their abilities seemingly without limit. One thing would be certain, they would have their own limits and needs, beyond our comprehension, but as important to them as ours are to us. It is frighteningly coincidental how this model fits the described greys and their behavior. Listen to any specific person on the matter, however, especially those that receive mental messages from our astrological space brethren, and you’re in for a world of intellectual hurt.
Even the Catholic Church now believes in our brothers from the stars, also saved by the Judeo-Christian God. This may not help either argument much.
The thing is, we’re all on the inside of a false centre looking out at all the things that are when we aren’t even sure what “are” means.
Ultimately, it all comes down to faith. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard believed that taking that leap of faith (be it a god or love) was ultimately scary and could prove to be wrong, and therefore should take courage. No such evidence could ever be enough to pragmatically justify the kind of total commitment involved in true religious faith or romantic love. Faith involves making that commitment anyway. Kierkegaard thought that to have faith is at the same time to have doubt. So, for example, for one to truly have faith in God, one would also have to doubt one’s beliefs about God; the doubt is the rational part of a person’s thought involved in weighing evidence, without which the faith would have no real substance. In essence, those who try to use science to prove their faith do not have real faith. Faith and scientific method are mutually exclusive. You cannot use phenomena to explain or justify itself, or rely on mostly unreliable witness testimony. Proponents or willing adherents to the supernatural should try like the dickens to falsify their own hypotheses.
This surely works the other way, and die-hard skeptics should explore the evidence of outlandish claims, if for no other reason than it is fun. Similar to theologian Tim Mawson’s claims that atheists should attempt prayer for some period of time, to strengthen their disbelief. Wouldn’t their logic would supersede any patterns of magical thinking? And how would one know which God to try this with? Of course many skeptics would argue that the burden of proof does not lie with those that posit something’s nonexistence.
What interests me most about all this is this; Why is it much more difficult to accept the existence of God or UFOs, than a pig (which you have seen before but are not looking at right now) or Japan (which you may have never directly observed)?
Happy Halloween, everyone!