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Archive for November, 2008

That is the gist of this blog post from Greg Bishop. Follow the link to his post, which leads to a news article about how more people in the UK say they believe in ETs / aliens and “the supernatural” than God.

This isn’t news to anyone who follows the intersection of UFOs and religion. Way back when I started this blog, I began with Christopher Partridge’s book UFO Religions. Partridge also authored a book called The Re-enchantment Of The West that I reviewed for an online publication. As this book notes, a few years ago the religion of “Jedi” had a more significant following than mainline Christianity. That ought to tell you something. It isn’t any sort of intellectual battle that’s being waged that has led to this reversal of religious adherence (Jedis are fiction, you may recall). Rather, it’s about three things: (1) a distaste for the deadness inside the church, something that is the result of the church’s moral compromises; (2) the yearning for the supernatural that is characteristic of postmodernism, which movement itself is a reaction to the INABILITY of modernistic science to provide conclusive answers to the big “why” questions; and (3) an intellectual apathy within the church that refuses to creatively address how sacred Scripture dovetails nicely with the wondrous scientific advances that point to the design of our world, choosing instead old, dead, creedal formulations or tired, unworkable prooftexting of the Bible that shows anything but intellectual rigor.

One wonders that, if it’s about intellectual superiority, why figures very opposite to the UK are the norm in the United States. You wouldn’t wonder that if you had been with me at the conference last week. Among the 6000 attendees I doubt we had any Jedis. But scholarship has also failed. It’s amazing to me the number of believing scientists I have known (university professors in all the hard sciences) when juxtaposed with the number of lay people who have little or no theistic or Christian faith. Scholarship has failed to excite the laity, and those ministers who reach the laity.

And for Greg Bishop: If John Lennon would be smiling at this, it wouldn’t be because he’d reached some satisfying conclusion after careful thought and research. It would be because he’s either willingly among the intellectually bankrupt, or had been consigned to that place because of the failures of the church context in which he grew up, including his home life. I’m a friend of one of Lennon’s childhood friends (through the teen years), a scholar with whom I’ll be getting together here in the states in early December. I think I’ll ask him about this. My guess is that he’ll put John in the second category. Lastly, Greg, if given the choice, who’d be burning books today? Would the people who believe in intelligent design be burning books about Darwinism (for the record, I don’t plan to burn the one I just bought), or would it be the other way around? Intelligent design scientists are the ones that want both sides heard, not the other way around. So please don’t hold your breath waiting for a book burning (they’d be too apathetic in the UK anyway).

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Just a heads up. Tonight I plan to post the rest of the Psychological Inquiry articles for readers, just so everyone has the set. I’m going to be moving on to more specific peer-reviewed articles dealing with religion and ETs. For starters, at the conference I was at (Society of Biblical Literature, the big annual event for scholars in biblical studies; about 6000 attendees in Boston this year), I purchased a book called Theological and Scientific Commentary on Darwin’s Origin of Species. Why, you ask, with all the other geek purchases I could have made (like a new grammar of Hittite)? It has a good number of pages devoted to Darwinism and theological perspectives on ET life. I’ll share some of that material with you in the days to come.

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I think the highlights of the last few articles are page 134 (3rd page of the PDF) from “The Ordinary Nature of Alien Abduction Memories” and pages 140-141 (pp. 2-3 of the PDF) from “The Construction of Space Alien Abduction Memories.”

The former details the very small percentages of those who experience at least four of Jacobs’ five “abduction events” and how the small percentage (2%) can be accounted for by equally rare but less spectacular explanations. This points to the need among abduction researchers to provide some form of corroborative evidence that rules out the alternative explanations. Only then can ANYTHING out of the “terrestrial” range of possibilities be entertained with coherence.

The latter deals with how humans can indeed construct false memories. Especially interesting is the role of hypnosis in the formulation of those false memories, since abductions are overwhelmingly “remembered” under hypnosis.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen any of these researchers deal with physical evidence of some physical event (e.g., marks on the body). The phenomenon of luminescence on the body discovered by Derrel Sims of course came along much later than these articles.

Here are the next two articles:

6. Escaping the Self or Escaping the Anomaly? By: Hall, Robert L.. Psychological Inquiry, 1996, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p143, 6p; Abstract Focuses on the article ‘Toward an Explanation of the UFO Abduction Phenomenon: Hypnotic Elaboration, Extraterrestrial Sadomasochism, and Spurious Memories,’ by Leonard S. Newman and Roy F. Baumeister, which appeared in the April 1996 issue of the journal ‘Psychological Inquiry.’ Newman and Baumeister’s explanation for claims of UFO abductions; Factors that lead to the development of false memories.

7. When Explanations Fail: Science and Pseudoscience in Psychology. By: Hull, Jay G.. Psychological Inquiry, 1996, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p149, 3p; Abstract Presents comments on the article ‘Toward an Explanation of the UFO Abduction Phenomenon: Hypnotic Elaboration, Extraterrestrial Sadomasochism, and Spurious Memories,’ by Leonard S. Newman and Roy F. Baumeister, which appeared in the April 1996 issue of the journal ‘Psychological Inquiry.’ Lack of internal coherence in Newman and Baumeister’s explanation for claims of UFO abductions.

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I’ve noted on Coast to Coast AM and other shows that there are scientists out there that do NOT think the bigness of the universe improves the odds of there being intelligent ET life. One book that makes that point is Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe.  Now astronomer Hugh Ross addresses the same question in a new book profiled on the Colliding Universes blog.

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