The Alien Abduction Phenomenon

Overview

One’s interpretation that UFOs are extraterrestrial in origin provides the foundation for understanding the alien abduction phenomenon (AAP); i.e., conscious or hypnotic induced memories of being taken by alien beings and subjected to biological procedures.  If you consider that UFOs are extraterrestrial craft, the AAP is plausible, but if you believe that UFOs are nothing more than natural or manmade phenomenon, then the AAP may be explained by one or more “non-alien” theories such as the false-memory syndrome, sleep paralysis, psychological disorders, or the psycho-cultural hypothesis, among others. Even if aliens are not abducting humans, the AAP is still an extraordinary mystery worthy of further study.  And if aliens are abducting humans, how do we prove it?

The absence of irrefutable evidence to support the belief by many UFO researchers that an alien intelligence has visited Earth, also applies to the AAP.  The strongest evidence to support the AAP is the consistency of the experience by those claiming to have been abducted (Hopkins, 1987; Jacobs, 1992; and Mack, 1995).  This anecdotal evidence, concomitant with the controversial physiological effects that may accompany the AAP like scars and implants, and the absence from expected locations at the time of abduction, verified independently in a few cases by Mack (1995), provide the primary evidence to support the AAP.  Abduction researchers also report that alien abductions occur in different members of the same families at different stages of their lives. Comparative studies by Dr. T. Bullard4 of hundreds of individuals claiming to have been abducted also suggest that the same episode recur in 80% of “high informative” cases.

Since the scientific community considers the UFO phenomenon highly unlikely, the AAP, by default is also considered a remote possibility.  This is based, in large part, on the absence of compelling physical evidence to validate that UFOs are extraterrestrial craft.  The lack of objective evidence in the form of corroborating physical evidence for first-hand accounts of alien abductions, and no witness accounts of an abduction also serve to invalidate abduction claims, and provide support for one or more “non-alien” related AAP theories mentioned above.  The scientific community also dismissed the AAP on the basis of research supported psychological explanations, which include biased or inaccurate memory, unreliable perception, social pressures motivating lies, and hypnotists influencing highly suggestible witnesses.  Scientists, for instance, claim that a person’s memory can restructure situations the abductee has seen in the media that pertain to alien abductions and UFOs. Another concern is that the subject desires and expects the abduction event and the hypnotist leads the “suggestible” person to that conclusion. In contrast, several abduction researchers such as, history professor Dr. David Jacobs, psychologist Dr. Leo Sprinkle, psychiatrist Dr. John Mack, and ufologists Thomas Bullard and Budd Hopkins, among others, support the validity of the AAP.  In 1992, a 5-day conference, chaired by M.I.T.’s Professor of Physics, Dr. David Pritchard and Harvard Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. John Mack, was held at M.I.T. to examine “the findings of various investigators studying people who report experiences of abductions by aliens, and the related issues of the phenomenon.”  The conference proceedings can be reviewed in a book by C. Bryan titled, Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: A Reporter’s Notebook on Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T which recounts cases of being taken aboard extraterrestrial spacecraft and examined by aliens. Additional information on the AAP may be obtained from the following sources:

1.International Center for Abduction Research (www.ufoabduction.com/research.htm)                                                                             2. Alien Abduction Experience and Research (www.abduct.com/books/b29.php)                                                                                          3. Alien Abduction articles on UFO Evidence (www.ufoevidence.org/topics/Abduction.htm)                                                       4. Abduction Information Center (www.virtuallystrange.net/aic/default.html)

Discussion

In the absence of compelling, irrefutable empirical evidence to support the AAP, the conclusion that aliens have abducted humans, should be regarded tenuous at best. There are numerous obstacles to accepting the authenticity of the AAP as a real event.  The anecdotal evidence, elicited by hypnosis or conscious recall, makes it difficult to accept the AAP with certainty.  The AAP which includes accounts of telepathy with alien being, movement through walls, and hybrid aliens, among others, seem implausible.  These reported events alone, as strange as they are, do not necessarily rule out the possibility that aliens are abducting humans.  However, one can’t ignore that memory can be biased or faulty; perception  ambiguous and unreliable; social pressures and social gain can motivate convincing lies; and hypnotists can influence susceptible witnesses. Consequently, the AAP may be considered as a likely combination of an individual and psycho-cultural anomaly.

The inaccuracies of memory recovered from hypnotherapy must be considered in evaluating abduction reports and the AAP. Hypnotic regression as a method to recover memories has been established as a means to generate false memories (Scheflin and Shapiro, 1989).  Further, physical evidence in the form of scars in the abductees are not convincing enough to support the AAP. Even Dr. Mack admits that the scars are “usually too trivial by themselves to be medically significant” and that the evidence overall is “maddeningly subtle and difficult to corroborate with as much supporting data as firm proof would require.”  Thus the physical evidence is not sufficiently robust to substantiate the abductees’ reports.  Therefore, in order to accept the AAP as a real event, I propose that the following corroborating evidence be required: 1) verification by independent research investigations of multiple witness accounts of independent abduction incidents; 2) verification by different investigators which document the validity of the reported “alien hybrid baby;” and 3) replicated scientific results and conclusions by different investigators which document reported “alien implant” devices to be of unknown composition and functionality.

Regardless of the actual reason(s) for the AAP, it remains a unique mystery that requires further study to better understand.  However, since information reported on the AAP has been polarized and sensationalized, the vast majority of scientists are reluctant to do so.  Additionally, as in the case of Dr. Mack, who was forced to engage in a legal battle to maintain tenure status at Harvard, researchers do not want to possibly jeopardize their reputation and career.               Despite these obstacles, I would consider many investigative psychologists and sociologists to regard the AAP an interesting research topic because of its role in the person’s life, the association between the similarity among subjective reports and memory processes, and possible psycho-cultural influences.  Such research may contribute towards our better understanding of certain aspects of the human mind, such as accuracy of encoded memory, and the reliability of hypnosis and other altered states.  Or, are aliens abducting humans?

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