Why Believe in UFOs?
December 29, 2010 1 Comment
Why is support for the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (that UFOs are craft piloted by aliens) so widespread today? Part of the explanation must be the renewed interest in the subject of life on other planets. Ufologist B. L. Trench listed nearly 20 worldwide UFO investigative organizations, his favorite — Contact — had branch offices in 27 countries in 1971. And the television-viewing public eats it up. When the series “The Invaders”, was brought out about a decade ago, the American Broadcasting Company sold the show to fifteen foreign networks as well.
But there is much more to the phenomenon than the current fascination with xenological topics. Man has always had religion, it is said, both to preserve moral values and to impart a measure of predictability and uniformity to the environment. In a world where morality seems as fluid as the winds and where total annihilation may be only 15 minutes away, traditional religions have been unable to supply the answers to many hard questions. It is this uneasiness about the future that has given rise to what Ronald Story appropriately labels the “new mythology”.
The ancient-astronautists spawned by Erich von Daniken’s writings, and the contactee cults such as the Aetherius Society, The Two,and Gabriel Green’s Amalgamated Flying Saucer Clubs of America are extreme examples of a belief pattern suffusing our entire culture. Many people have begun to view extraterrestrial visitors not merely as friendly, but as technological angels who will guide us successfully through the uncertain years ahead. Just as the biblical angels were were the mythical beings proper to theage of early Christianity, UFOs and their benevolent alien occupants are the mythical beings proper to the Space Age. The famous psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung did not find it at all surprising that scientific instead of religious imagery would be used by many to assimilate the accelerated pace of modern civilization. Flying saucers serve as a partial substitute for God.
A related idea is the Status Inconsistency Theory of UFO sightings proposed by Donald I. Warren, a University of Michigan sociologist. In this theory the belief in flying saucers is linked to the degree to which a person feels alienated from society. Persons who perceive their social status (as measured by, say, income) as different from their abilities or true worth (e.g., education, ethnicity) have been found to be more likely to report UFOs than those who do not have this internal conflict. Such inconsistency forces the individual to withdraw from society to a certain extent, and the resulting void is often filled by a belief in extraterrestrial benefactors. Another modern dilemma is the virtually universal distrust of governments and politicians, and a nostalgic yearning for the great leaders of the past. There is much evidence that the known propensity of the authorities to classify and conceal has done little to reassure the public that no pertinent information on flying saucers is being withheld from them. For example, a poll taken in 1971 by the engineering periodical Industrial Research showed that 76% of the respondents believed the government was hiding some of the UFO facts. Since paranoia is self-reinforcing, the conviction that aliens are commuting to Earth has not been dampened by official proclamations to the contrary.
Finally there is the problem of boredom in daily life. With more leisure time on our hands than ever before, we seek amusement and fun. Certainly the discovery ofbeings from another world would be both an amusing and exciting distraction from routine. As Story points out tongue-in-cheek: “Who knows? They might even let us ride in one of their spaceships!”
Carl Sagan believes that flying saucers are a kind of psychological projective test — a”cosmic Rorschach” — by which humans project their hopes, frailties and self-perceptions onto alien beings. As he says, “the idea of extraterrestrial visitation resonates with the spirit of the times in which we live.”
- Recommended Reading
[Ref: Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization by Robert A. Freitas]