Thursday, August 25, 2011

Alien Encounters Debunked: 8 Reasons Not to Believe

In all of the universe, are we the only advanced civilization and if we aren't, are we being visited by others?
Are we alone in the universe or merely “one voice in a cosmic fugue.?” For astronomers, that is perhaps the biggest question (rivaled only be how the universe began) one could ask, the affirmative answer to which would undoubtedly be the biggest discovery in the history of mankind.

In the past week, aliens have been in the news quite a bit. Last Sunday, the new Discovery Channel show called “Curiosity” tackled the question of what would happen to Earth should aliens invade. In the middle of the week, people all over the world woke up to sensational headlines claiming that NASA endorsed a report that stated, among other things, aliens could seek to destroy Earth because of global warming, the detection of which at a cosmic level could signal an up and coming civilization that could pose a threat to an established cosmic order of sorts and, as a result, could be perceived as a threat, one to be dealt with harshly. Lastly, a Chinese UFO sighting at an airport that generated a mini buzz at week's end turned out to be, of all things, a cloud.

So, with all of these disappointments, is there any real reason to believe in aliens at all?

Short answer, not really.

Yes, there is definite scientific interest in aliens and discovering whether they exist or not. Evidence of this fascination? The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been operating for over 50 years, first privately, then on taxpayer money, and now back to private contributions. In addition, many of the planetary probes sent to other worlds have had instruments designed to look for life. This is especially true in the case of robots sent to Mars.
Unfortunately, despite all our probing (sorry) around, so far as we know, we are alone in the universe. Look as we may, we have yet to come across any cosmic signal traveling through space that could be the product of an alien civilization, any evidence of alien life inn any form on another planet, nor have we found anything scientifically verifiable in regards to the presence of aliens here on Earth. When it comes to evidence in regards to aliens being real, it is flimsy to say the least, namely witness testimony of lights (which could be many things) in the sky and harrowing tales of alien abduction (often first revealed under hypnosis).
Needless to say, in the court of science, such evidence would not be admissible as, scientifically speaking, eyewitness testimony is worthless because of the following reasons:
1. People can be mistaken right from the get-go, observations can be wrong.
2. The creation of false memories. Through retelling and interaction with other witnesses, one's original story, over time, becomes distorted. This is the proverbial fish story.
3. The need to fill in details. Sometimes observations are incomplete and, in order to please a willing audience, people will "fill in" the gaps as best they can.
4. Time. As time passes, witnesses' memories start to fade, leading to inaccuracy.
5. Bias. People can simply see what they want to see and ignore what they don't want to remember. In this case, it seems reasonable that a lot of people staying out in the cold to see the UFOs were probably already believers.
6. Subjectiveness. Different people interpret things their own way. The mind is not a camera.
7. People lie. Whether it be to seek fame, profit, or fulfill some other personal need, people can deliberately exaggerate or even outright lie to stretch their 15 minutes of fame.
Want more on the subject of eyewitness fallibility? Check out these links:
New York Skeptics (with self-tests)
Synthesized baloney detection kit (pay attention to #3)
Visual Expert

Popular Science
Stanford Journal of Legal Studies

With all of this "evidence: going for them, it is no wonder why serious scientists no not take claims of alien activity on Earth all that seriously. Any why should they? Which brings us to the 8tth reason not to believe in alien visitation: there is no hard evidence to back up he sensational claims.

For believers, the most compelling evidence for aliens being real are the claims of abductions during which the unfortunate humans are subjected to all kinds of horrific experiments, during the course of which aliens implant something into a person's body. Now, with all the tales of alien abductions floating around (there are some studies that place the total number of people experiencing alien contact at up to 5% of the United States population, or about 15 million people), there should be at least one case of some foreign object not of this Earth coming out of some alleged abductee's body.

Unfortunately, no such cases have surfaced.

One of the hallmarks of alien abduction tales are claims of aliens implanting foreign objects into the body and the resultant scars. Now, believing such tales requires a major leap of faith. First, in many cases, supposed abductions are not just one-off happenings, but take place over the course of years, often beginning in childhood. Most of the time, these “memories” are only brought out years later under hypnosis after a supposed adulthood event. Now, in reliving supposedly repressed events buried deep in the mind, its is easy to imagine how one can recall being subjected to an alien examination and then finding, upon awakening, a mysterious scar on one's body whose origin cannot be accounted for.

Now, thinking logically, what is easier to believe: that the scar resulted from some forgotten childhood accident, an unfortunate slip of a kitchen knife, or space aliens implanting a foreign object into one's body? As plausible as the first two scenarios (and any such similar things) are and as unlikely as the third is, any alleged abductee making such a claim is asking us to essentially believe the old “well, I don't know how it got there, so it could have been the (insert answer here),” playing on the idea of “well, you can't
disprove me, either.”

Needless to say, in the court of science, the evidence has to be a lot stronger. So, what of the cases where something is actually removed from the body?

So far, nothing that cannot be found on Earth has yet to be pulled out of an alleged abductee's body. Glass? Yes, it's been removed but, on the other hand, glass is a very common Earthly substance. Metals? They've been surgically removed, too, but metals are to be found all over the place. The simple truth is that, of all the supposed alien implants, none have been found to contain some completely new, not found on this Earth compound, which would be a dead giveaway for the truth of someone's otherwise unsubstantiated tale, nor has some clear product of high technology, say a computer chip, been removed, either.

Now, in these types of cases, the believers will always come back with claims of, “well, their technology is far in advance of ours. With our primitive technology, we could never recognize their technology for what it is any more than a cave man would recognize a computer chip.” On the contrary, with our electron microscopes, our scientists need to be given a little more credit as they could easily tell the difference between a piece of ordinary glass and one that had data carrying properties, sorry.
In the end, for people sitting on the proverbial fence, scientists are not closed-minded when it comes to aliens. In fact, one can obtain a Ph.D in astrobiology if one wishes to so so. However, after so many false cases and outright lies, there is good reason for any scientist to use extreme caution when investigating claims of an alien presence here on Earth, especially when the hard evidence for such tales has yet to come forth.

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