Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Alien Abduction behind the Zion curtain

While I may not be a loyal reader of the Salt Lake City Weekly newspaper, I had to pick up a copy when I noticed three big headed gray fellows on the cover along with the headline, "Touched By An Alien." The cover story starts off with a trio of anecdotes shared by people who believe they were abducted by aliens. Next, some quotes from a representative of the Mutual UFO Network are plugged into the story. So far so good, I haven't been convinced that people are, seemingly at random, being abducted by aliens from their homes and cars but nothing in the article is wildly offensive either. Then the article introduces a hypnotherapist who, "prefers," to work with people who, "wish to explore their extraterrestrial experiences."

Now, it would have been nice if the author of the article had taken the hypnotherapist to task about the appropriateness of this approach. I guess hypnotherapy uses and abuses could be a story for another day. Personally, I find it odd that there are hypnotherapist who uncover repressed memories of alien abduction, others who find ritualistic cult abuse and others who tap into past life experiences. I am still waiting to hear from the practitioner of hypnotherapy who has stumbled onto all of them. What seems more likely, that these unexplained phenomena are going on and are discovered only by hypnotherapists who specialize in in aliens or cults or that suggestible people are being led down a primrose path by unscrupulous individuals? Then we can get into the whole topic about the nature and accuracy of human memory and it gets more complicated from there.

All bashing of hypnotherapy aside, back to the article. To bring some balance to the story, a skeptic and an atheist got to share four paragraphs toward the end of the article. Kudos to Partick Orlob, president of Salt City Skeptics (who knew such an organization existed?) for bringing up the alternative explanation of sleep paralysis without coming across as snarky or condescending. Also, bonus points to Joel Layton of Atheists of Utah (again, who knew) for getting a Carl Sagan quote into the article, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," says Cosmic Carl. I would have been alright with the skeptic and atheist getting less space in the story since it looked like they were going to get the last word in, but the last three paragraphs switch back to the alleged abductees sharing tales of extraterrestrial intercourse and post-coital alien goo, quite the final image for the article to leave you with.

While after reading the article for the first time I felt it wasn't so bad, upon a closer look it is disappointingly uncritical. The MUFON person isn't challenged about the vast number of UFO sightings they claim are taking place all the time and the applications of hypnotherapy are not taken to task. I am alright with the alleged abductees not being challenged or interrogated. These are people who think that something bizarre and unsettling has happened to them and ridiculing them accomplishes nothing. Equal time for skeptics would have been nice, even though I think the little space they were given in the article was persuasive.

As always, questions, comments or allegations I am part of the vast government cover up of the awful truth are welcome.