Alien Abduction

The strange thing about alien abductions is that they are so inconsistent. Why are some aliens from Venus, some from the Pleiades, and some from Zeta Reticuli? Why do Americans meet short gray aliens, but Europeans meet tall blond ones?

And why are abductions almost never reported to the police? Why are so many abductions not tied to other forms of evidence, such as sightings? Why has no one brought back an alien cigarette lighter? Why are all the "implants" identical to natural body growths? Why are abductees from a certain personality class? Why would aliens fiddle with people's sex organs? It's almost as if such reports are sexually charged hallucinations on the part of the abductee.

The hallucination idea was less obvious a few decades ago, when abductions took place on lonely country roads at night. Now, it seems, the aliens walk through the walls of your bedroom. And when they're finished, they leave the same way. Oh, piffle.

I understand that Whitley Strieber's abduction book, 'Communion', describes some non-UFO-related hallucinations. That is a big, fat clue. Strieber denies having been diagnosed with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE). There are reports that he has said otherwise, and he admits that he was given EEG tests for TLE. The book 'Seized' reports that Strieber underwent an MRI scan, with results indicative of TLE.

Some doctors think that perhaps a million Americans have mild, undiagnosed TLE. To me, that explanation for abduction reports seems far more persuasive than inconsistent, bumbling, surgery-mad aliens who can walk through walls. But why would everyone have the same hallucination? Well, they don't quite, remember? Which is precisely consistent with movies and books and TV having created a cultural standard. Folklorists find parallels to demons, fairies, and other supernatural tricksters of old.

But TLE need not be the only explanation. There is another media-driven trend: Satanic ritual abuse. Remarkable reports describe regular weekly mass murders. Yet, law-enforcement authorities have no evidence to support these claims -- no documented marks of torture, no bones of sacrificed adults, infants or fetuses, and no reputable eyewitnesses. But there are apparently thousands of these reports. A common conclusion is that almost all of the reports are due to False Memory Syndrome.

The basic idea is that memories "recovered" under hypnosis may be completely synthetic. The mind manufactures them to suit the situation. Even worse, hypnosis is not required: visualization will do. A person in therapy is suggestible. They are troubled: they desire to please the therapist: the memories provide an escape, or a scapegoat. Scientology auditing produces memories of "Emperor Xenu", and of past lives, in exactly this way. Read, for example

Creating False Memories, Elizabeth F. Loftus, Scientific American 277,3 (September 1997) pp 70-75

Was abduction suggested to abductees? Yes. Strieber, for instance, first "remembered" aliens when he was hypnotized by an abduction believer. Dr. Mack's subjects report being prepped with UFO literature.

Are there really millions of abduction reports? No. The Roper survey estimated that there were 4 million US abductees, but they arrived at that by asking 6,000 people if they had ever woken up paralyzed. Given their bogus survey technique, I would have to say that no one knows.

TLE and FMS are not the only possible mundane explanations for a given abduction report. But I will stop here. The point is, the existence of a report is not in itself convincing evidence that aliens are involved. And the existence of many reports is no more convincing than the best one. Which is to say, not very convincing.

Last modified: 6 March 2003

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