Monday, April 16, 2007

A Skeptic is born, or how UFOlogy broke me

This is a major revelation to me, and it's something that I've recently come to notice: I don't believe in flying saucers. (UFOs are a different matter, just by definition.) The more exposure I have to UFOlogy and the like, the more I realize that these are just sad, sad individuals looking for some sort of higher meaning to things.

Somewhere along the road of their lives, something changed. I'm reminded of the woman in upstate New York who snaps fuzzy photos of aircraft and claims that they're alien spacecraft. If I remember correctly, she had a death in her immediate family (a child, I believe), and since then she's been snapping her UFO photos. The fact that she always takes her photos in the flight path of the local airport is almost never brought up, and it's ignored by the UFO community that supports her.

The woman needs therapy, but she's having her delusions supported by people who need to believe in aliens. It's an unhealthy cycle, and it's all sorts of crazy.

Now, what I have to clarify is that I want this stuff to be real. I mean, how cool is the concept that alien races are covertly visiting our planet, and doing stuff? That's just really cool SF there, and man do those stories rock, but they're just that.

They're stories.

Stanton Friedman spins a great story, and his enthusiasm for the subject is intoxicating. At the same time, it's become more and more obvious that the guy is a snake oil salesman who knows there's a market for his stories. The fact that he throws around well-worn, self-coined, catch-phrases illustrates that, and if I hear "Cosmic Watergate" one more time, I think I'm going to vomit. David Sereda uses UFOlogy to sell his goofy new agey crap, dragging down Dan Aykroyd with him, and same goes with Timothy Good. Former pro-footballer David Icke is a certifiable fruitcake who obviously had a breakdown a few years back, and is now publicly illustrating it.

I'd point out Whitley Streiber, but I really don't know where he falls in this. Same with Budd Hopkins. They're both key figures and somewhat showman like, but at the same time, really try to stay out of the limelight. Only the fact that Streiber is an author, who's made alien abduction and UFOs the latter part of his career, makes him seem less than reliable, but when interviewed, he's pretty low-key about things.

Mind you, those are just the showman of the field. There are others out there who aren't trying to make a buck off things, and whose earnest interest is drowned out by these hucksters and nut-cases. You've got people like Nick Pope, who ran the British government's official UFO investigation department for years, and all the others who just investigate for investigation's sake that leave any sort of agenda behind. There's also the two legends of UFOlogy, J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallée, who have left this legacy behind them, and it's the people who have reluctantly picked it up that honour them.

Now, back to me.

I've been listening to a lot of Coast to Coast AM, and from there, I've been investigating a lot of this stuff on my own through various channels. I've gone through the various UFO web fora, and I've checked out the mailing lists, and I've come to one conclusion: the people who actively live this stuff just have no objectivity on the subject. They're either believers or debunkers, with nothing in between. They aren't me, I'm not them, and I will never, ever fit into either side of things. I'm too open-minded to be a debunker, but I'm far too rational to be a believer.

I've got the Mulder "I Want to Believe" poster, and I really do want to believe. Thing is. I can't. The stories, for the most part, tend to be way too fantastic and/or inconsistent to be real. This is more than likely due to the need to embellish that most storytellers fall prey to, and as such, the credibility of their stories become suspect. While I love a good UFO, abduction, or conspiracy yarn, I find that they're just that. Yarns. The convincing stuff just convinces me that there's something more out there, but the more out there stuff convinces me that we'll never know what it is.

The believers have made a skeptic out of me, and that looks like I'll ever be. Skeptical.


(Update 08/11/07: I change my opinion later.)

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