Saturday, August 28, 2010

Truth and Accuracy 101, Part Three of Three

Increasing our knowledge about some of the more common explanations for reports of alleged alien abduction will assist us in identifying truth and accuracy. Obtaining a working knowledge of the following circumstances serves many productive purposes.

Physiological Circumstances

Some reports of alien abduction are attributable to physiological circumstances such as sleep paralysis and sleep apnea. Sleep paralysis is a natural and normal condition which occurs every time we sleep. It is upon waking while the body remains in paralysis-mode which has become the widely misunderstood topic of discussion within UFO circles. Symptoms include fear, disorientation, and hallucinations. This commonly includes perceptions of lights, intuitions that someone or something is present that should not be, perceptions of floating, and even perceptions of entities or similar such ominous figures.

Sleep apnea is a very common yet serious condition experienced by millions of people. Breathing is obstructed while sleeping, resulting in a loss of oxygen to the brain among other occurrences. The loss of oxygen may result in numerous adverse circumstances including hallucinations and a drastic decline in the ability to think clearly. It is therefore common that a person cannot accurately distinguish between circumstances such as what they are thinking, what they were dreaming, and objective reality.

Additional physiological circumstances which if untreated can result in situations that are no doubt being confused with alleged alien abductions include, but are by no means limited to, diabetes and epilepsy. Testimonies of seizures and disorientation associated with certain diseases are extremely similar to testimonies provided by alleged abductees. These testimonies may include the person experiencing memory loss, finding them self inexplicably in a certain location, and discovering bruises and similar body markings which they cannot explain yet in reality result from their seizures. If such a person happens to be interested in UFO lore to an inordinate extent, they may associate their experiences with alleged aliens rather than seek proper medical treatment. This will particularly be the case if members of the UFO community discourage medical treatment while reinforcing and supporting the belief that the individual is an alien abductee.

It should be noted that the above physiological circumstances by no means account for all reports, yet most certainly account for some. Certain credentialed researchers have attempted to make all reports fit into such explanations, understandably resulting in a backlash of criticism from the UFO community. While such research indeed indicates a lack of knowledge of some of the more interesting reports on behalf of the researchers, I invite consideration that the opposite extreme is no more valid. Certain explanations indeed apply to some reports, and certain explanations do not apply to some other reports.

Psychological Circumstances

Some reports of alien abduction are attributable to behavior and perceptions related to emotional trauma, various personality disorders, schizophrenia, and a host of additional psychiatric conditions, particularly if the conditions go untreated. As is the case with physiological circumstances, it is all the more likely that the suffering individual will continue to not seek treatment while trying to compile evidence of their supposed interactions with aliens if members of the UFO community provide positive reinforcement for the behavior.

A staple of schizophrenia, for instance, is an inaccurate belief that a malicious and covert conspiracy is being perpetrated that involves an implant. This commonly includes paranoia, an inaccurate belief in the existence of stalkers, inaccurate perceptions of telepathic messages, and that implants have been used to control thoughts and actions.

Similarly, mental health professionals are extremely well acquainted with numerous very common psychiatric occurrences that include inaccurate perceptions of a hidden group of stalkers that have some kind of perceived authority. This is a very common theme. Such occurrences are common to an extent that the suffering individuals are often able to reasonably function within society and with their conditions going relatively unnoticed for all practical purposes. However, the possible lack of an obvious psychiatric condition is by no means necessarily indicative of the extent that the individual silently suffers.

More About Extreme Emotional Trauma

It is difficult to overemphasize the relevance of extreme emotional trauma to the abduction phenomenon. Trauma is simply inherent among self-described abductees. This is particularly relevant in light of the established facts about the manners in which our current and future perceptions will be influenced by our previous experiences, particularly traumatic experiences.

Symptoms commonly include a lack of an ability to think critically, a tendency to over personalize various situations that are impersonal, and a tendency to suspect connections between various events of which there are in fact no conclusive connections. Additional symptoms include a lack of ability to recall events clearly, a lack of ability to recall events in an accurate chronological order, and a perceived loss of memories, both short term and long term. The significance of such symptoms should be readily apparent to those that are familiar with the abductee demographic.

This is by no means to imply that the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater. However, a reasonably working knowledge of emotional trauma will enable the objective seeker of truth to surmise certain circumstances that are indeed relevant.

Among such relevant circumstances is that while any given self-described lifelong abductee may have indeed experienced one or more situations of interest, it is extremely probable that they have misinterpreted at least some of the circumstances and subsequent details. All of their experiences are not necessarily due to the same explanation. As a matter of fact, it is virtually impossible due to the nebulous and traumatic nature of the experiences. Multiple explanations as described above will simply logically apply, and the more familiar we become with such information then the more likely it is that we will recognize its relevance when applicable.

As members of the UFO community, each and every one of us have a personal responsibility to support truthful and accurate information, as well as a personal responsibility to minimize the demand for the supply of inaccurate information. Making a proactive decision to interact with qualified professionals, demonstrating a willingness to rationally consider viable information, and making a conscious decision to be part of the solution will only aid the objective truth seeker.

Truth and Accuracy 101, Part Two of Three

My first descent as an adult into what would prove to be the convoluted and dysfunctional UFO community took place during the early 1990s. Fortean subject matter had been near and dear to my heart and mind as a child. I had understandably, however, taken somewhat of a sabbatical from the considerations of the likes of Sasquatch, ghosts, and aliens as I experienced adolescence and eventual adulthood. I revisited such subject matter during my twenties and subsequently began attending UFO-related public events what has now been some 20 years ago.

Doing so resulted in attending the public presentations, exchanging contact information with individuals that I identified as potentially helpful, developing functional relationships with such individuals, and similar such networking activities. I additionally read a great deal. My efforts were designed to assist me in learning the truth about what was actually known about unidentified flying objects and what at least initially appeared to be the related subject matter, such as the abduction phenomenon.

It became apparent very early on that a great deal of suspension of judgment would be required. This would simply be necessary in order to hear people out, consider their testimonies and claims, and to thoroughly consider the possible validity of the alleged research being conducted.

I sat through virtually countless lectures about what is allegedly known about UFOs and aliens, a combined years upon years of interactions with alleged alien abductees and the investigators thereof, and have participated in more private meetings, phone calls, e-mails, and snail mail with such people than I would ever be able to fully recall. I made it my business to meet some relevant players, meet what became dozens of self-described abductees, and to evaluate my personal observations of the circumstances. This included and continues to include consulting with mental health professionals, certified hypnotists, scientists, and similar such qualified experts that explore ufology. It also includes interacting with both high profile as well as relatively unknown abductees via options such as one-on-one interactions and abductee support groups.

What became completely and absolutely apparent to me, above all else and without any question whatsoever, is that the vast majority of people desire to believe in one thing or another and will go to virtually any extent to do so. They simply do not care about truth and accuracy as compared to finding any tidbit of hearsay whatsoever, no matter how irrational and lacking in credibility, that will support their preferred and premature conclusions. This is primarily the case regardless of the demographic being considered: researcher, author, alleged alien abductee, hard line skeptic, education or lack thereof, or any other such circumstance. They don't care about truth, they just want to “win.”

There are exceptions, but such people are indeed exceptions. When one is identified, they should be enthusiastically supported because they are a rare diamond in the rough.

Those obsessed with winning do not care how many innocent witnesses are exploited, how many families are ruined, or how many careers are sacrificed. They do not care how much of a laughing stock they make of themselves, those around them, or the UFO community as a whole. They do not care how biased their practices may be, how negligently they treat innocent bystanders, or how psychologically damaged any given individual may become that is used in support of promoting their agenda. They only care about promoting the agenda, regardless of its specific details, lack of objectivity, or lack of rational validity.

There are many things that motivate such people. Some of them have been employed to professionally muddy the waters, as is the case with the confirmed connections between the Central Intelligence Agency and the publications of such tabloid nonsense as contained within the National Enquirer.

There are many such reasons for the erratic behavior that is so prevalent within the UFO community. Perhaps the most detrimental behavior of all, though, even more so than the intentional liars and the professional saboteurs, is those who promote the work of the liars without ever so much as initially looking into its validity.

Why do people do such things? Because they want to win.

They do not care if what they say is true. They rationalize that the ends justify the means, as if they are lobbying for the passing of a bill or campaigning for the election of a political candidate. They use the Internet to post tabloid article after tabloid article, without ever so much as running a simple search on the author or witnesses contained therein, much less actually dropping such people an e-mail or giving them a quick phone call. They just want to litter the 'net with more propaganda than can be achieved by their perceived adversaries.

Practicing the identification of truth and accuracy does not require special credentials. It simply requires willingness and responsibility. That's all it takes. It just takes a desire to actually know the truth, identify credible sources such as addressed in part one of this post, and to refrain from adding to the problem by spreading lies and disinformation.

We should all be in absolute agreement that promoting disinformation only hurts all legitimate truth seekers. We should all be in complete agreement that we want accurate, truthful information.

In the third and final part of this post I will address some of the factually supported explanations for select reports of alleged alien abduction. My willingness to rationally listen to the qualified experts, in the same open-minded manners that I originally listened to the witnesses, resulted in both increasing my knowledge of such explanations as well as increasing my credibility among such experts. This should be a shared goal of members of the UFO community.

Doing so builds the collective credibility of the UFO community. Equally importantly, increasing our knowledge of factually supported explanations enables us to have a much higher probability of accurately differentiating between the legitimately interesting reports of alleged alien abduction and the tabloid nonsense.

Truth and Accuracy 101, Part One of Three

There are any number of methods that can be used to gather information that will assist a person in forming an accurate evaluation of any given situation or subject matter. The first step of any of these methods is that the person develop a sincere desire to find the truth. They must be willing.

Truth is defined as conformity to fact or actuality. The sincere truth seeker must therefore have a willingness to review and weigh a diverse variety of information if it is credible and presented in a competent manner, even if it may sometimes contradict a preexisting and preferred belief system. If you have not yet come to terms with step one, it is simply impossible to advance any further prior to doing so.

Once a person comes to terms with developing an ability to objectively evaluate competently presented information, regardless of the initial emotional discomfort that it may invoke, they may then confidently move further along the path of discovery. They have then become a sincere seeker of truth.

A key factor on the path is the ability to define standards of admissible evidence and to consistently maintain a commitment to doing so. The choice of making this commitment must be made much more than once. Continuous conscious decisions are a requirement of remaining committed to truth and accuracy.

The definition of admissible evidence should of course include items that the professional research community defines and recognizes as credible. Such items include Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents, files from the U.S. Patent Office, official court documents, and similar such material that can be readily authenticated. This would include certain articles published in newspapers and professional journals. Additional items of admissible evidence should include books, research papers, and similar such material that is not wildly speculative, is authored by individuals that hold credentials that qualify them as experts on the subject matter being addressed, and particularly in which they consistently cite verifiable sources for their resulting work.

Admissible evidence recognized by the professional research community also includes books and research papers that may be written by individuals that do not hold impressive credentials but consistently cite credible and verifiable sources, conform to critical thinking, and subsequently abstain from making leaps in logic. Such items are particularly considered admissible if the intent and purpose of such work was to justify further investigation into the lines of reasoning, as opposed to the work having been presented as conclusive if, in fact, it was not conclusive. It just depends on the extent that the author in question has conducted professional research and then composed the findings in a competent and an objective manner, regardless of credentials or a lack thereof.

Additional items that are defined as admissible evidence by the professional research community include information obtained from the official websites of institutions of higher learning. This may include files such as final grant reports, articles written by qualified experts, and the documented and verifiable circumstances that are relevant to the consideration of any given subject.

Items such as mentioned above are not the only forms of admissible evidence as recognized by the professional research community. Such items do, however, happen to rank among the most commonly used due to being universally recognized as indicative of competency and professionalism when utilized in a book, research paper, or public presentation.

Please note that a commonality from one item to the next is that each item is readily available for verification, public review, and peer review by qualified experts. This is a very important point and can virtually not be overemphasized.

For any given point to be established as factual, whether we are discussing anything from automobile performance to alleged alien hybrids, the supporting data must be available for verification and review. This is where the rubber hits the road and we separate established fact from circumstances such as a hypothesis, possible hoax, and subjective and unsubstantiated opinion. These are the ways of the objective seeker of truth.

This is not to suggest that additional items such as witness testimony and circumstantial evidence should be exclusively defined as inadmissible. I repeat: This is not to suggest that additional items such as witness testimony and circumstantial evidence should be exclusively defined as inadmissible.

However, we must be committed to appropriately weighing the credibility of each item of evidence that makes up our body of evidence, and therefore appropriately incorporate each item into forming our evaluation of what is suggested by the evidence. If it is simply not yet possible to form a conclusion as established by the publicly reviewable facts, then attempting to form the conclusion, much less impose it upon others, is nothing less than detrimental to the process of identifying truth and accuracy. This is the case regardless of the circumstances of debate.

I choose to clarify that I am not suggesting that the value of emotional support should be minimized. Actually, many are well aware of my advocacy of the significance of emotional support, the value of obtaining quality emotional support, and the value of the resulting increased emotional intelligence.

However, the objective identification of truth and the pursuit of receiving validation of our emotions can be two entirely different subjects and activities, and should often be approached as such. This editorial just so happened to deal with the former, the identification of truth.

In future entries I will describe some aspects of my journey through the often frustratingly misguided and overly passionate UFO community. I will address some of the factually supported explanations that most certainly apply to some reports of alleged alien abduction that are in actuality misinterpretations. These explanations became apparent to me through my efforts to identify truth and accuracy. I will additionally address how our willingness to acknowledge and accept the fact that such explanations indeed apply to some reports builds each of our credibility and the resulting collective credibility of the UFO community. This should be a shared goal and should be the case regardless of our personal experiences, what some other more fantastic explanations may possibly be for some other reports, and/or our preferred stance on the abduction phenomenon.