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  1. #1

    I'm done with aliens

    Researcher Takes Aim at Alien Abductions
    October 15, 2005

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Associated Press) - Susan Clancy is sick of space aliens.

    The Harvard psychologist figures she has read every book and seen every movie ever made about extraterrestrials, and she has interviewed roughly 50 people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

    All in the name of scientific truth, not science fiction.

    "I have become a reluctant scholar of alienography," Clancy said.

    Clancy is bracing for a fresh round of hate mail once her book, Abducted: How People Come To Believe They Were Kidnapped By Aliens, is published by Harvard University Press later this month.

    Those who believe aliens are among us haven't taken kindly to her theory that abductees have created "false memories" out of, she writes, a "blend of fantasy-proneness, memory distortion, culturally available scripts, sleep hallucinations, and scientific illiteracy."

    That doesn't mean Clancy thinks her subjects are crazy. In fact, she was surprised how many of them seemed quite normal, intelligent and articulate.

    "Arguing weird beliefs is a very normal thing," she said in a telephone interview from Nicaragua, where she has a research job. "It's very human for us to believe in things for which there is no scientific evidence."

    When she arrived at Harvard in 1996, Clancy didn't set out to debunk the stories of little green men kidnapping people from their bedrooms and using them for painful experiments. Instead, she started her research on false memories by studying victims of sexual abuse.

    She quickly found herself the target of angry "outsiders" who accused her of trying to discredit victims. One irate letter-writer called her a "friend of pedophiles everywhere."

    Around the same time, Harvard Medical School started investigating the research methods employed by Pulitzer Prize-winning psychologist John Mack, who used hypnosis to retrieve memories from people who claimed to be alien abductees. (The school decided not to censure Mack, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver in London last year.)

    Mack's work gave Clancy an idea: Wouldn't it be easier to test her theories if she could be certain that her subjects' memories were not real? She and her adviser, Harvard psychologist Richard McNally, placed a newspaper ad that asked, "Have you been abducted by aliens?" It took less than a day for callers to fill her voice mail.

    As Clancy and McNally interviewed the abductees, they started to find some common threads. Many of them, for instance, described the terrifying experience of waking up and being unable to move, certain that an intruder was lurking in their room.

    To the Harvard psychologists, it was obvious that their subjects had suffered an episode of sleep paralysis - a state of limbo between sleep and being awake, sometimes punctuated by hallucinations.

    "It's a little bit like a hiccup in the brain. It's harmless," said McNally, adding that 20 percent of the population will experience sleep paralysis at least once.

    Many of the abductees also could be described as "spiritual people" who have abandoned conventional religious beliefs, McNally added.

    "The people convinced of this are getting genuine spiritual payoff," he said. "To encounter a naturalistic account of it is deeply offensive."

    In her book, Clancy describes her subjects' stories of abduction in detail, changing only their names.

    One man, "an articulate, handsome" chiropractor with a "strikingly attractive wife" and twin sons, claimed to have fathered hybrid babies with an alien, a "streamlined, sylph-like creature."

    Another subject, a 34-year-old artist with a college education, couldn't put a finger on her "disturbing sleep-related experiences" until he was hypnotized by an abduction researcher he found on the Internet.

    During his second hypnosis session, the artist said he recovered memories of being abducted by aliens who strapped him down on a black marble table and subjected him to a painful sexual experiment.

    Clancy said a wealth of research shows that hypnosis makes it easier for people to create false memories.

    "This is in large part because it both stimulates the imagination and relaxes reality constraints," she writes in her book.

    However, Clancy learned it was impossible to categorically disprove alien abductions.

    "All you can do is argue that they're improbable and that the evidence adduced by the believer is insufficient to justify the belief," she wrote. "Ultimately, then, the existence of ETs is a matter of opinion, and the believers have their own opinions, based on firsthand experience."

    One of those "believers" is Will Bueche, a 36-year-old Arlington resident who was working for Mack when Clancy and McNally interviewed him several years ago.

    Bueche said he has had more than a dozen "encounters" with aliens since he was a young child. These encounters with the "pale, thin beings," he said, usually happen at night, in his room, and he feels alert but "a little bit drugged" while they communicate with him telepathically.

    "It's not like they're speaking English in my mind," he said. "It's a mixture of music, pictures, feelings and impressions."

    Bueche said Clancy's theories about alien abductions, including sleep paralysis, cannot fully explain what he's experienced.

    "I think her book comes close to the truth in many ways, but it isn't able to see the potential out there for another breakthrough in how we see reality," he said.

    Clancy's conclusions aren't shared by David Jacobs, an associate professor of history at Temple University. Jacobs, who teaches a class called "UFOs and American Society," said Clancy's "Abducted" is a "typical debunking book."

    "This is junk social science, and there is a certain condescending quality to it," he said.

    Jacobs, who said he has used "hypnotic regression" to recover memories from more than 900 alien abductees, said sleep paralysis, faulty hypnosis and false memories "simply do not account for the convincing details" in abductees' stories.

    "All debunkers make one or more of the following mistakes: They ignore the data, they distort the data or they don't know the data," he said, describing himself as a "serious UFO researcher who believes the evidence is compelling that these events are happening more or less as (abductees) say."

    Clancy and McNally aren't the only psychologists who have studied alien abductees.

    Leonard Newman, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the co-author of a paper that argued alien abductees are "masochists" who enjoy the painful experiences they describe.

    "These people are not lying," Newman said. "False memories feel as real as real memories."

    Unlike Clancy and McNally, Newman did not interview any abductees firsthand, relying instead on other published accounts of abduction reports. Newman said many of his colleagues thought he was foolish to tackle the subject matter.

    "Probably it's just too darn weird for some people," he said of his masochism theory. "It's like explaining one weird phenomenon with another that people find weird."

    Clancy shares Newman's reluctance to make a career out of alien abductions. She said the volume and nasty tone of the hate mail she gets these days is far worse than what her research on sexual-abuse victims generated. In July, for instance, she appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and started receiving nasty e-mails before the show was even over.

    "I'm done with aliens," she said.

  2. #2

    I'm done with aliens

    For most people, what is more interesting or provocative may be her comparison of alien encounters to religious beliefs and experiences:

    In a provocative final section, Clancy demonstrates that Saint Teresa's account of her encounter with an angel is very close to accounts abductees give of their own encounters.

    --from an Amazon review of the book
    Dr. Clancy, raised as a Catholic, is aware of the human needs that religion fills -- and how belief in alien abduction fills them, too. "People get from their abduction beliefs the same things that millions of people the world over derive from their religions," she writes: "meaning, reassurance, mystical revelation, spirituality, transformation."

    For 'abductees,' logic is an alien concept - The Wall Street Journal
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3

    I'm done with aliens

    Whilst I don't doubt some people are imagining these things, I still believe some storys are true, I just can't believe in a universe so massive that earth is the only planet with intellegent life!! Its not a religious thing with me either, its just something that has to be. Just thinking of all our wonderful technologies, like computers and the internet, where did they come from, did someone just 'think of them' ,,I know people invent these things, but where do their ideas come from? The internet comes from the military and theres been alot said about the military having contact with other worlds, I often wonder if we just evolved or whether we where put here by others....

  4. #4

    I'm done with aliens

    Most scientists seem to believe that is likely that there is other intelligent life in this universe, or, at the very least, in other universes. By "intelligent life," however, I mean any creature that is remotely intelligent. For example, intelligent life in another galaxy could be an octopus-like species that only lives underwater and doesn't have self-consciousness like we do.

    Certainly, one can be intelligent without creating technology. There's a lot of intelligent species on earth like chimps, dolphins, elephants, octopuses, etc. But elephants and dolphins, for example, even if they were a more intelligent species, could never develop any real technology simply because their anatomy is so limiting in the way they can manipulate objects.

    Also, even if a more intelligent species in a different galaxy has a lot of technology and is sending signals right now, it would probably take millions of light years to reach us. We would obviously be dead by then. The SETI program hasn't picked up any signals, and this is at least due to the fact that we are so remotely removed from other galaxies by both space and time. And since nothing can go faster than the speed of light, the idea of species visiting us from other galaxies is just science fiction unless one can travel through theoretical wormholes, which is highly, highly unlikely. In Carl Sagan's movie Contact, a female human goes through wormholes without dying, but that's a movie.

    I know people invent these things, but where do their ideas come from?
    They build from the ideas of those who came before them. You can see this happening each day in computer science, biotechnology, medicine, etc. In psychology, for example, Freud was partly influenced by the philosopher Schopenhauer, whose philosophy was influenced by Buddhism.

    BTW, the Emmy award-winning TV series "Taken," which was produced by Steven Spielberg and is on DVD, is very entertaining. It portrays the myth of alien abduction as if it were true.

    And an interesting quote from Susan Clancy:

    "It probably doesn't matter much to the abductees whether they are right or wrong," she comments. "They simply feel better because of what they believe."

    Alien abduction claims explained - Harvard University Gazette
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  5. #5

    I'm done with aliens

    Maybe Mrs. Clancy should stick with writing the type of letters the other guy with her surname writes. ;)

    Essentially she states that there is no scientific evidence of E.T's, asserting that the entire notion of E.T. life is somehow fallacious, when in fact denying it is a logical error. I think even the most conservative estimates of the Drake equation show this (though admittedly it is difficult if not impossible to currently account for two or three of the last variables in that equation).

    Daniel's assertion, in this thread, that if an advanced E.T. society were sending signals now it would take "millions of light years to reach us and we would be dead" is either a naive and ignorant statement or just dishonest. What if, Daniel, these E.T.'s sent the signal one million years ago? We should be receiving them now. No astronomical nor biological theory states that life could not have been advanced on other planets in other galaxies one million (or more) years ago. The universe is about 14 billion years of age, and our own solar system is only about 5 billion years of age. If a signal took one million light years to reach us, that would indicate by default that the signal originated from beyond our own galaxy (since our galaxy is about 31,000 parsecs in diameter). We have about 200 billion stars within a roughly 31,000 parsec (100,000 light year) distance within our own galaxy. Our galaxy is one of about 100 billion observable galaxies. The numbers are not playing in favor of the hardened skeptics.

    Do I think E.T's come and snatch innocent secretaries, firefighters and psychologists (grin) from their beds at night? Nah, I think sleep paralysis is the best explanation. My point merely is that for scientists like Clancy to play expert outside their field and attempt to delve into astrophysics and astrobiology is a bit misleading for the lay readers who think that just because PhD follows a name that the preceeding words shall be regarded as the final dictum on a given subject -- even on a subject they are not really that familiar with.

    E.T.'s probably exist. Do they visit us? Maybe, but I certainly doubt the fantasies and income generating tales of the Betty and Barney Hills of the world.

  6. #6

    I'm done with aliens

    Do I think E.T's come and snatch innocent secretaries, firefighters and psychologists (grin) from their beds at night? Nah, I think sleep paralysis is the best explanation. ... E.T.'s probably exist. Do they visit us? Maybe, but I certainly doubt the fantasies and income generating tales of the Betty and Barney Hills of the world.
    ...which, I believe, was the prime point of the article by Dr. Clancy.

    Since it appears that you agree with that conclusion, I'm confused as to why you are "attacking" her or Daniel...

    My point merely is that for scientists like Clancy to play expert outside their field and attempt to delve into astrophysics and astrobiology is a bit misleading for the lay readers who think that just because PhD follows a name that the preceeding words shall be regarded as the final dictum on a given subject -- even on a subject they are not really that familiar with.
    I don't think this is at all fair to the author. First, who these days is ever "regarded as the final dictum on a given subject", Ph.D. or not? That is the very antithesis of the scientific method, in fact, which is basically "question everything, even the evidence offered to support a hypothesis, until all other explanations have been conclusively eliminated". I'd also note that she is hardly going outside her field - she is examining the question of whether the sleep paralysis syndrome and other known factors in psychology could account for the reports, and especially the similarities among reports, of alien abduction.

    Clancy's conclusions aren't shared by David Jacobs, an associate professor of history at Temple University. Jacobs, who teaches a class called "UFOs and American Society," said Clancy's "Abducted" is a "typical debunking book."

    "This is junk social science, and there is a certain condescending quality to it," he said.

    Jacobs, who said he has used "hypnotic regression" to recover memories from more than 900 alien abductees, said sleep paralysis, faulty hypnosis and false memories "simply do not account for the convincing details" in abductees' stories.
    I also find it odd and rather selective that you attack Dr. Clancy who actually IS operating within her field but not the views of Dr. Jacobs, who is a professor of history - and using reports obtained by hypnosis to justify his beliefs: How is that acceptable to you? Given his comments, I highly doubt that he has the training or the critical understanding of how hypnosis works to be considered an expert or to draw the viable conclusion that his methods provide "convincing details"...

  7. #7

    I'm done with aliens

    Regarding SETI and receiving signals from possible previous civilizations, I agree that its possible that SETI could, any day now, get a signal from a previous civilization. However, lots of people, including myself, believe that SETI would have picked up something by now. Maybe if they launch receivers into space they will get a better chance, I don't know.
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. #8

    I'm done with aliens

    Precisely. The SETI@home project may be realtively new; the SETI project itself is not. After all these years, what are the results?

    I would love to believe that there are other planets somewhere that contain life. I'd be even happier to learn that there are planets with sentient life. To be honest, it would surprise and dismay me to think that in the entire universe we are the only planet able to sustain life.

    That doesn't mean it makes any sense to me to perceive aliens around evry corner.

  9. #9

    I'm done with aliens

    Heh. I tend to believe there is life out there somewhere. However, if they are more intelligent than we are, they've taken one look at this muddled mess and are beating feet (or warp drives) in the opposite direction! ;-D

  10. #10

    Re: I'm done with aliens

    My view towards ET
    Do the other extra-terrestrial life will show themselves to us?

    Well.. just see what we, humans, acts toward our earth and even our own kind. Most of our actions based on desire to compete and it have many chances to become destructive from being egoistic to kill each others. I think our hatred to certain diff such as race and such also based on this desire to compete.

    Intellectual life that might able to visit us would have better knowledge, I think they have surpass/don't have this destructive phase of balancing and seeing what we have done.. prefer to stay away until we extinct or learn :P , they aren't too dumb to teach us directly.

    If they come.. there won't be 'tea talk with alien'. We tends to aggressive to something that we can't understand. If they give us knowledges, that just a way to make us faster on kill each others.

    My view towards abduction
    It is an old case. Wake up in middle of sleep, can't move, felt burdened, seeing something unbelievable..

    At Europe's past there was what called Succubus and Incubus. They are demons which humps the victim at their dream, giving pleasure which if you not struggle to stop it, will end to death.

    Here at Indonesia, where people believe at witchdoctor and genies, when the symptom happen they will hallucinate about our legendary spirits, whatever they give terror or power to the person. In some religious fanatics, they hallucinate angels or demons. I won't surprise if I hallucinate dragons *grins*.

    So, these things depends on what we believe or what we 'believe but deny it'. When we walk through dark alley and say to ourself 'there is no ghost', means we believe there are ghosts but deny our belief .

    What more unique is when there are similarities on belief, there are events which people get same insight, even those which separated oversea. My theory is this is the power of our brain.. we only use max 20% of our consciousness right?

    Last, there is no point to discourage what some1 belief, true or false. Believes is our ray of hope, might be destination of living, moral control, etc...

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