The Scientific Take on Aliens, Psychic Powers, and Stuff Like That

"You should carry your intellect the way James Dean carried a cigarette." - Penn Gillette

I put most of my hobby writing into creation/evolution . So, there isn't as much here yet as I'd like. However, since ABC News and "The Discovery Channel" are increasingly full of BS and pseudoscience, it seemed time to start.

(TV shows like their mysteries to stay unsolved. In their quest for ratings, they tend to gloss over little details. For instance, showing you a photo, without mentioning that it is a confessed hoax. Or showing lights in the sky, without mentioning that the Air Force dropped parachute flares that night.)

I'm a scientist. And, I'm interested in "fringe" topics: things outside the scientific mainstream. By my definition, that makes me a skeptic. Other people have other definitions of "skeptic".

That said, a list:


Acupuncture seems to work, in the sense that it may relieve pain. However, the traditional claims about how it works seem to be wrong.

For one thing, the needle placement diagrams don't seem to correspond to any actual physical structures in the body. And, studies that deliberately put needles in "wrong" places got as much result as using "correct" placement.

Unfortunately, a recent acupuncture conference expressed unhappiness about being scientifically investigated. One hopes that they are clinging to tradition, rather than fearing truth.


The consensus of the scientific community is that there is no credible evidence that aliens have ever visited Earth.

It is generally felt that alien abductions and UFOs do not require aliens in the explanations. It is also felt that aliens are an extraordinary claim, since our current scientific understanding is that an alien would have to travel for centuries to get here. Why would they bother? And if they're that far ahead of us, how come they're clumsy?


The consensus of the scientific community is that astrology is an ineffective pseudoscience.

The "ineffective" conclusion is based on various statistical studies. The "pseudoscience" conclusion is a comment on the astrology community's disinterest in rigor and standards.


Academic historians are agreed that there are two leading explanations of Atlantis:

(1) There was no Atlantis. This opinion was stated by some of the ancient Greeks.

(2) Atlantis was the capital of the Minoan culture, which was the sea power of the eastern Mediterranean until the eruption of Thera in 1628 BC. There are a whole bunch of semi-good reasons for connecting the story to the Minoans.

Or it might have been (for instance) Troy, in what is now Turkey. However, all of the explanations that place Atlantis out of the eastern Mediterranean appear to be completely flako.

Face on Mars

On 6 April 1998, NASA released new pictures of the "face". Seen closer up, it's an ordinary rock outcrop, as expected. No mysterious buildings.

The movie "FairyTale - A True Story"

What's true is that Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) believed the girls' story. One of the girls later admitted that it was all a hoax. In 1917, Elsie copied some illustrations from "Princess Mary's Gift Book" (published 1915) onto cardboard. They posed the cardboard cutouts in the woods and photographed them.

Uri Geller, famous psychic and spoon bender

He has done two valuable services:

Monsters: Bigfoot, Loch Ness, Yeti, Ogopogo, Sea Monsters, et cetera

There is no theoretical reason why these can't exist. After all, they're just animals (or people). And "living fossils" have been found before. Most of the world's small life forms haven't been cataloged yet, so a few large ones aren't out of the question.

However, it is generally considered unlikely that these "monsters" exist. Except for a few expeditions to Loch Ness, the scientific community has pretty well ignored the whole idea.

To eat (without farming or herding), a human-sized land creature needs a territory measured in square miles. To be a viable species, there have to be at least hundreds of creatures. Collectively, they would leave a lot of evidence. The shortage of evidence for Bigfoot and Yetis argues for them being non-existent or near-extinct. The famous Bigfoot video shows a creature that walks just like a human in a fur suit, so it is generally thought to be a hoax.

Several Bigfoot and Loch Ness hoaxers have confessed, down through the years. Given that the Loch has been searched (and isn't all that big), the chances are getting slim that something really is there.

As Arthur C. Clarke said, if there are large unknown creatures, they are probably in the sea, where there's room. Unfortunately, the famous Plesiosaur caught by Japanese fishermen turned out to be a shark.

Psychic powers

In 1987, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences concluded that there was "no scientific justification from research conducted over 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena." In short, the consensus of the scientific community was that there's no evidence for psychic powers. That is still the consensus.

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Last modified: 18 August 2012