Perspectives on the abduction phenomenon


Perspectives on the abduction phenomenon

Various perspectives on the abduction phenomenon have formed in order to explain the fantastical claims some have made of being forcibly taken and examined by apparently otherworldly beings. The prime differences between these perspectives lie in how much credence is ascribed to the claims themselves. Perspectives range from the assertion that all abductions are hoaxes to the literal belief that the claims are happening objectively and separately from the consciousness of the claimants.

The mainstream scientific perspective is that the abduction phenomenon has its roots in human psychology, neurology and culture, that is, it is effectively a psychosocial phenomenon. However, many among the general public, conspiracy theorists, and ufologists hold to the idea that actual extraterrestrials have been temporarily abducting people against their will.

keptical perspectives

Skeptical perspectives on the abduction phenomenon are those opinions which assert that reports of people being kidnapped and subjected to forced medical examinations by non-human creatures do not occur literally as reported. Although being only one of many competing explanations for the phenomenon, it is the only one that is widely accepted by mainstream scientists. Alternative explanations, such as the extraterrestrial hypothesis, are dismissed by academics as being pseudoscientific.

Various hypotheses have been proposed by skeptics to explain reports without the need to invoke non-parsimonious concepts such as intelligent extraterrestrial life forms. These hypotheses usually center on known psychological processes that can produce subjective experiences similar to those reported in abduction claims. Skeptics are also likely to critically examine abduction claims for evidence of hoaxing or influence from popular culture sources such as science fiction.

Psychosocial hypotheses

* Proposed psychological alternative explanations of the abduction phenomenon have included hallucination, temporary schizophrenia, epileptic seizures and parasomnia—near-sleep mental states (hypnogogic states, night terrors and sleep paralysis). Sleep paralysis in particular is often accompanied by hallucinations and peculiar sensation of malevolent or neutral presence of "something," though usually people experiencing it do not interpret that "something" as aliens. Occasionally the abduction phenomenon is also theorized to be a confused memory of past events (such as sexual abuse).
* In "The Demon-Haunted World" astronomer Carl Sagan (who failed to cite some other authors, including [http://jimschnabel.com Schnabel] ) pointed out that the alien abduction experience is remarkably similar to tales of demon abduction common throughout history. "...most of the central elements of the alien abduction account are present, including sexually obsessive non-humans who live in the sky, walk through walls, communicate telepathically, and perform breeding experiments on the human species. Unless we believe that demons really exist, how can we understand so strange a belief system, embraced by the whole Western world (including those considered the wisest among us), reinforced by personal experience in every generation, and taught by Church and State? Is there any real alternative besides a shared delusion based on common brain wiring and chemistry?" (Sagan 1996 124)

Drug induced hallucinations

* It is possible that some alleged abductees may be mentally unstable or under the influence of recreational drugs, though, as noted above, at least four mental health experts have argued against this explanation.
* It has also been noted that Terence McKenna described seeing "Machine Elves" while experimenting with Dimethyltryptamine (also known as DMT). The description of Machine Elves is often consistent with the description of "grey" aliens. In a 1988 study conducted at UNM, psychiatrist Rick Strassman found that approximately 20% of volunteers injected with high doses of DMT had experiences identical to purported Alien Abductions.

False memories created by hypnosis

* Especially criticised as unreliable is frequent reliance on hypnosis. It has been demonstrated that false memories are often very easily created, and that hypnosis can unintentionally aid in confabulation. Some abductees, however, report vivid, detailed accounts without hypnosis.
**However, Budd Hopkins writes, " ... the Hill case bears upon one popular theory which has been widely but uncritically accepted by many skeptics: the idea that such accounts must have been implanted by hypnosis, consciously or unconsciously, or by manipulative practitioners who 'believe in' the reality of such events. Simon, who hypnotized the Hills, was avowedly "skeptical" about the reality of the Hills' abduction recollections. Yet the Hills stubbornly held to their interlocking, hypnotically recovered accounts despite Simon's suggestions at the end of treatment that their memories could not be literally true. It can therefore be concluded that the bias of the hypnotist had nothing to do with the content of their hypnotic recall." (emphasis as in original; Hopkins, 218) Hopkins also cites three therapists (Drs. Robert Naiman, Aphrodite Clamar and Girard Franklin) who were quite skeptical of the reality of abduction claims, yet who all uncovered detailed abduction scenarios from their patients. (Hopkins, 218)

Hoaxes

Abductors as psychological projections

Impact of geography and culture on abduction reports

Although proponents have argued that there is a core narrative consistent across abduction claims, there is little doubt that variation occurs in the details of reports across cultures and geographic boundaries. Skeptics like Robert Sheaffer assert that this variation supports a psycho-social hypothesis as an explanation for the origin of the abduction phenomenon. The quantity and not just quality of reports appears to be affected by culture as abduction reports are made less frequently in non-English speaking countries.

The biology and attitudes of the abductors are points of drastic divergence between the home countries of different abduction claimants. Robert Sheaffer observes:

"In North America large-headed gray aliens predominate, while in Britain abduction aliens are usually tall, blond, and Nordic, and South America tends toward more bizarre creatures, including hairy monsters."

Sheaffer also sees similarity between the aliens depicted in early science fiction films, in particular, "Invaders From Mars", and those reported to have actually abducted people. Commonalities exist in the appearances, behavior, technology and societies of fictional and allegedly real abductors. Furthermore, the contents and structure of the "abduction narrative" as outlined by researchers like Nyman and Bullard was already established in fictional form by 1930 in a Buck Rogers strip.

The strip depicts an alien craft piloted by martian "Tiger Men" which capture a female character and subject her to similar treatment as those in real-world abduction claims. The story is structurally more similar to the archetypal narrative outline devised by Bullard than the vast majority of those in Bullard's own catalogue of cases!

However, Bullard does not see evidence for influence on abduction claimants from science fiction sources.Bullard, Thomas E. "The Variety of Abduction Beings." In: Pritchard, Andrea & Pritchard, David E. & Mack, John E. & Kasey, Pam & Yapp, Claudia. "Alien Discussions: Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference". Cambridge: North Cambridge Press. Pp. 90-91.] In an essay, Bullard writes that "The small showing for monstrous types and the fact that they concentrate in less reliable cases should disappoint skeptics who look for the origin of abductions in the influence of Hollywood. Nothing like the profusion of imaginative screen aliens appears in the abduction literature."

Fufor chairman Richard Hall holds the opnion that "the available statistics are inadequate to answer the question" of whether or not abduction reports are truly affected by geography and culture.Hall, Richard. "Are UFO Abductions a Universal or a Culturally Dependant Phenomenon." In: Pritchard, Andrea & Pritchard, David E. & Mack, John E. & Kasey, Pam & Yapp, Claudia. "Alien Discussions: Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference". Cambridge: North Cambridge Press. Pp. 191-193.]

In his books on the subject, Harvard Medical School professor Dr. John Edward Mack explained that common features of alien abduction experiences in North America include the feeling of paralysis; the perception of having been transported immaterially, frequently through a beam of light; the sense of having been surgically probed or implanted with devices; the freezing or slowing of time; and sexual or reproductive contact or manipulation by the aliens.

There are however cultural differences in perception of these reported incidents. The frightening "terror abduction" experience is reported mainly in the USA, while in the rest of the world, the ET encounters are said to be largely benevolent -- this apparent incongruity perhaps raising a question as to the phenomenon's origins.

As noted above, the so-called Greys are most popularly associated with abduction reports. Again, however, this seems to be a North American paradigm best-known since the 1980s. On the contrary, some researchers (such as Kevin D. Randle in his 1997 book, "Faces Of The Visitors: An Illustrated Reference To Alien Contact") have noted a vast variety of alleged creatures have been reported in abduction accounts worldwide, with some of the alleged creatures not even described as humanoid.

Although in North America, "aliens" of extraterrestrial origin are the most commonly blamed in these incidents, in Europe and other parts of the world, the beings involved are as often perceived to be demonic or spiritual in origin. Common elements in the descriptions of abductions and visitations vary by region and local culture, with only a very few elements being the same worldwide, such as an otherworldly sensation, reports of mind control, repressed memories being rediscovered, and sexual experiences. These elements, and many aspects of what witnesses describe, are very common in old stories of encounters with faeries, demons, and other magical creatures.

* Skeptics argue that the raw details of abduction accounts have been featured in science fiction since at least the 1930s, and that these details have had widespread currency, thereby influencing and shaping expectations of what an encounter with extraterrestrials might entail. For example, a 1935 issue of "Amazing Stories" featured on its cover an illustration of a being with large eyes and a large head who was restraining a human from entering a room where another human was reclined on a table with another large-eyed creature examining her. See Rogerson's four-part article, and Martin Kottmeyer's "Entirely Unpredisposed" in external links.
**Others have argued against this idea; folklorist Thomas E. Bullard asks, "If Hollywood is responsible for these images, where are the monsters? Where are the robots?" (Bryan, 50).

Role of hypnosis and investigators

Hypnosis is frequently used by abduction researchers to help recover memories of so-called missing time periods, and has been done so since the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. For nearly as long it has been a source of cotroversy and target from abduction skeptics, who often believe hypnosis to be unreliable or even to be the source of the abduction narratives themselves. However, there is still controversy among experts on just how reliable memories retrieved under hypnosis can be.

Abduction researcher and folklorist Thomas Bullard notes that hypnosis does complicate things for researchers because hypnotized subjects researched in other contexts, such as law enforcement, remember more details even though the additional recovered details are not necessarily accurate. Bullard also notes that the hypnotized subjects become suggestible, "edit [ing] their thoughts less rigorously," thus becoming more likely to confabulate, or even opening themselves to the implanation of false memories. Skeptic Robert Sheaffer also cites research done into hypnosis as a method for enhancing memory that concludes that false memories, subjectively real to the patient, can be created merely through suggestions while they are in a hypnotic trance as support for the hypothesis that hypnosis itself is the causative source of some abduction claims.

Skeptics Robert Sheaffer and Phillip J. Klass agree that individual abduction researchers appear to exert influence on the characteristics of narratives retrieved during hypnotic recall.Sheaffer, Robert. "A Skeptical Perspective on UFO Abductions." In: Pritchard, Andrea & Pritchard, David E. & Mack, John E. & Kasey, Pam & Yapp, Claudia. "Alien Discussions: Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference". Cambridge: North Cambridge Press. Pp. 382-388.] This influence tends to shape recovered abduction narratives in a way that reinforces the preconceived biases of the individual researcher. Klass jokingly recommends those considering hypnotic regression to uncover abduction memories to vist Leo Sprinkle, whose regression sessions more frequently "uncover" reports of benevolent aliens.

Thomas E. Bullard, while not an abduction skeptic per se, has noted that the presence or absence hypnosis as a method for memory retrieval in abduction claimants seems to effect descriptions of the abductors themselves. Hypnotically assisted recall is more likely to produce descriptions of the "standard" Grey humanoid while cases where hypnosis was "not" used "include more variety." However, rather than take a firmly skeptical position based on this observation, Bullard says "Whether hypnosis shapes and implants memories, or breaks through a surface screen memory to reveal the true appearance of the beings, remains a question in need of resolution." He adds in another paper that he feels that in the case of abductees the use of hypnosis to recall memories "has more the character of a genuine breakdown of a barrier than the buildup of a good story."Bullard, Thomas E. "The Overstated Dangers of Hypnosis." In: Pritchard, Andrea & Pritchard, David E. & Mack, John E. & Kasey, Pam & Yapp, Claudia. "Alien Discussions: Proceedings of the Abduction Study Conference". Cambridge: North Cambridge Press. Pp. 196-198.] Although he concedes that hypnosis is a topic from which abduction skeptics "argue from a position of strength."

Despite some concessions to skeptics, Bullard still mainstains that the prominence of hypnosis in abduction research does not undermine the veracity of the abduction phenomenon itself. He observes that not all narratives emerge under hypnosis, and that in a sample of 104 abduction reports he believes have "high-quality [and] high-reliability" one fourth were not recovered under any hypnotic influence at all and that in many of the cases the "were" at least some memories of the alleged abductions were present before hypnosis. Furthermore after comparing "50 sequence and content elements" between hypnotically assisted and pure memory cases he was unable to find any significant differences between the content of both categories' reports.

These same 104 cases, Bullard believes, rebut the claims of skeptics that the hypnotists are imposing narratives formed of their own biases onto the suggestible subject; because the claims were studied by "50 different individuals or groups" no single researcher had the power to bias the resulting narratives, yet the recovered memories show the consistency characteristic of abduction reports. Bullard also claims that after observing four different hypnotists that the disposition of the therapist had no significant effect on recovered memories and "the variety of within each investigator's body of cases was as great as the variety among the investigators as a whole."

* Especially criticised as unreliable is frequent reliance on hypnosis. It has been demonstrated that false memories are often very easily created, and that hypnosis can unintentionally aid in confabulation. Some abductees, however, report vivid, detailed accounts without hypnosis.
**However, Budd Hopkins writes, " ... the Hill case bears upon one popular theory which has been widely but uncritically accepted by many skeptics: the idea that such accounts must have been implanted by hypnosis, consciously or unconsciously, or by manipulative practitioners who 'believe in' the reality of such events. Simon, who hypnotized the Hills, was avowedly "skeptical" about the reality of the Hills' abduction recollections. Yet the Hills stubbornly held to their interlocking, hypnotically recovered accounts despite Simon's suggestions at the end of treatment that their memories could not be literally true. It can therefore be concluded that the bias of the hypnotist had nothing to do with the content of their hypnotic recall." (emphasis as in original; Hopkins, 218) Hopkins also cites three therapists (Drs. Robert Naiman, Aphrodite Clamar and Girard Franklin) who were quite skeptical of the reality of abduction claims, yet who all uncovered detailed abduction scenarios from their patients. (Hopkins, 218)

Parallels with other spurious phenomena

Abduction skeptic Robert Sheaffer notes similarities between claims of witchcraft and claims of alien abductions. He notes similar imagery involving non-human creatures, uncovered memories and sex being involved in both the abduction phenomenon and the activities of those accused of witchcraft. Sheaffer finds the commonalities compelling and suggests that the two movements share a common underlying psychopathology.

* Researchers in the field of NDE and OBE notice the similarities between abduction experiences and OBEs, thus leading them to the conclusion that abduction experiences are closely related to out-of-body experiences.cite web | url = http://www.robertpeterson.org/ufoobe.html | title = robertpeterson.org | accessdate = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ]
* Author Carl Sagan, in a minor piece in Parade Magazine (1993), was among the first to examine the explicit relationships between the alien abduction phenomenon and historical narratives of abduction by demons and fairies.
* Science writer [http://jimschnabel.com Jim Schnabel] tied modern-day abduction narratives to those of 16-17th century demonic possession and witchcraft cases, some current Third World spirit-possession syndromes, and even the sexual abuse and "satanic ritual abuse" claims that mesmerized many American psychiatrists in the 1980s and 1990s. Schnabel pointed out that the social dynamics in all these cases also typically feature a male priest or therapist surrounded by a bevy of females competing for his attention -- and scandalous tales of these males succumbing to all this temptation and having sex with their "patients" are as old as the abduction-type narratives themselves. In his 1994 book "Dark White" and in a peer-reviewed paper in the journal "Dissociation", Schnabel argued that the alien abduction phenomenon, at least as it has evolved around American "abduction therapists" like Budd Hopkins, David Jacobs and John Mack, is part of a spectrum of culturally-specific phenomena perhaps best known as "self-victimization syndromes."
* California based therapist Gwen Dean noted forty-four parallels between alien abduction and satanic ritual abuse (SRA). Both emerged as widespread phenomena in the late 1970s and early 1980s, both often use hypnosis to recover lost or suppressed memory. Furthermore, the scenarios and narratives offered by abductees and SRA victims feature many similar elements: both are typically said to begin when the experiencer is in their youth; both are said to involve entire families and to occur generationally; the alien examination table is similar to the satanic altar; both phenomena focus on genitals, rape, sexuality and breeding; witnesses often report that the events happen when they are in altered states of consciousness; both phenomena feature episodes of "missing time" when the events are said to occur, but of which the victim has no conscious memory. (Bryan, 138-139)
* It is worth noting that many events reported during purported abductions often have parallels in anthropology, folklore and religion: Especially frequently correlate with certain imagery persistent in shamanic experiences (e.g., surgery-like procedures, foreign objects implanted in the body) and faerie contact stories, for instance. John Edward Mack, for one, suggested that modern abduction accounts should be considered as part of this larger history of visionary encounters. Jaques Vallee has written extensively on the similarity between the present alien abduction phenomenon and the tradition of human encounters with fairies.

Paranormal, religious, and conspiratorial perspectives

There have been a variety of explanations offered for abduction phenomena, ranging from sharply skeptical appraisals to uncritical acceptance of all abductee claims. Others have elected not to try explaining things, instead noting similarities to other phenomena, or simply documenting the development of the alien abduction phenomenon.

Extraterrestrial hypothesis

* Some have argued that alien abduction is a literal phenomenon: extraterrestrials kidnap humans in order to conduct studies or experiments. This is a well-known popular explanation, but has seen very little support from most mainstream scientists.
* UFO researcher Jenny Randles cited "an interesting study in which individuals were asked to describe imaginary alien abductions." (Bryan, 49) If these invented scenarios were similar to allegedly genuine abduction accounts, it might demonstrate that supposedly genuine accounts were indistinguishable from invented accounts. The study, however, found little in common between the two types of narratives, and the intense emotional reactions of actual abductees when recounting their experience, are absent. Bryan writes "Randles's findings strike me as significant: people who are asked to describe imaginary abductions do "not" come up with the scenarios, sequences or beings described by the overwhelming majority of abductees. The 'medical examination,' such a major, recurring aspect of the abductees stories, is entirely absent from the imaginer's accounts." (Bryan, 49)

Imaginal realm hypothesis

* Various authors, for example Jacques Vallée and John Mack have suggested that the dichotomy, 'real' versus 'imaginary', may be too simplistic; that a proper understanding of this complex phenomenon may require a reevaluation of our concept of the nature of reality.

"Abductors" as demonic manifestations

"Abductors" as angelic manifestations

Abduction experiences as a result of government mind control

* In a lengthy article, Martin Cannon makes the admittedly speculative argument that memories of alien abductions might in fact have been created in the "abductees" by a secret government mind control program, such as MKULTRA. cite web | url = http://www.constitution.org/abus/control.htm | title = constitution.org | access date = 2007-08-10 | publisher = ]

Individual perspectives

Michael Persinger

In a long article, Dr. Michael Persinger argues that most of the features of the abduction phenomenon can be explained as the manifestation of measurable functions of the human brain. Persinger writes that the "main theme" of his article "is to explore visitation experiences, now attributed by many people to UFO and implicitly "extraterrestrial' phenomena, from the perspective of modern neuroscience... From an operational perspective, the average visitation experience attributed to an alien entity is indiscriminable from average mystical or religious experience attributed to gods and to spirits. Instead we have been trying to isolate those areas of the brain and those electromagnetic patterns within the brain that are involved with the general visitation experience." (Persinger, 263)

He goes on to argue that "Nearly every basic element of mystical, religious, and visitor experience has been evoked with electrical stimulation" of test subjects' brains. (Persinger, 270). Individuals with some forms of epilepsy often experience vivid hallucination, and Persinger suggests that the same areas of the brain are activated in these individuals as in those who experience extraordinary visitations.

"Most people who report these experiences [alien abduction] display average to above average intelligence, are not 'crazy' and are very aware of the social and personal consequences of their experiences upon their families, friends and vocational opportunities." (Persinger, 278)

Persinger relates a specific case of a "thirty-five year old woman" who "reported ... the presence of multiple, elongated humanoids, in shimmering gray-silver clothes, that would surround her bed for a few nights every month." The woman hesitated to tell her regular physician of the encounters, for fear that she'd be seen as "crazy". (Persinger, 278) The woman was prescribed a low dose of "the antiepileptic compound carbamazepine" and after regular use of the medication, the visitations "disappeared". Persinger is quick to note that "This does not indicate that all people who report visitor experiences associated with UFOs are undiagnosed epileptics or that the phenomena will cease when with this particular medication. Instead, it indicated that well-formed and meaningful experiences, attributed to alien sources and sufficient in magnitude to disrupt the person's sense of self and adaptability, can be associated with periods of electrical activity that can be affected by treatments not typically associated with these types of experiences." (Persinger, 278)

He also cites polls indicating that up to one third of people have had some sort of similar experience: 39% of more than 1700 people polled over 20 years have answered "yes" to the question "At least once in my life very late at night, I have felt the presence of another Being." (Persinger, 280). Given that visitor experiences are somewhat common, and that worldwide, they tend to follow the same patterns, Persinger suggests that while underlying neurological factors give the experience its basic form, how such events are interpreted is shaped by cultural factors: "Because human brains are more similar than they are different, the themes of these experiences have been and remain remarkably similar across space and time. The details are simply punctuation from the person's culture." (Persinger, 296)

Persinger's hypothesis ties into another observation that alien abduction is in many regards similar to shamanic initiations.

James McClenon'sFact|date=January 2008 hypothesis illuminates many similarities between alien abduction stories and the historical accounts of mythological encounters with incubi and succubi, i.e. sleep paralysis, small un-earthly intruders at night, sexual activity/abuse, etc. ... This is an indicator of our predisposition and our willingness to accept these modern day myths, stories, and beliefs.

ee also

References

External links


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