• SUPPORT THE SHOW AND ENJOY A PREMIUM PARACAST EXPERIENCE! Welcome to The Paracast+, seven years young! For a low subscription fee, you can download the ad-free version of The Paracast and the exclusive, member-only, After The Paracast podcast, featuring color commentary, exclusive interviews, the continuation of interviews that began on the main episode of The Paracast. We also offer lifetime memberships! Flash! Use the coupon code ufo20 to receive a 20% discount on five-year or lifetime subscriptions. And PayPal now accepts cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, in payment. We also offer a second payment method for major credit or debit cards (which also includes Apple Pay and Google Pay), so act now! It's easier than ever to susbcribe! You can sign up right here!

    Subscribe to The Paracast Newsletter!

Mental Illness, and The Abduction Phenomena



DavidRavenMoon

anonymous anomalous
Alien abduction experiences: Some clues from neuropsychology and neuropsychiatry...


Given that such accounts are almost certainly untrue...

Do you see a bias here?

You cannot accept research by someone that has their mind made up from the beginning.

But... on top of this person not believing the whole thing, they still didn't find anything wrong with the subjects!

Sleep paralysis is a ridiculous explanation for the majority of the experiences. That might fit the "old hag" syndrome, and that's about it.

Many people have an abduction experience when they are wide awake, which also runes out "vivid dream-states". I don't know about anyone else, but I know when I'm dreaming. Has anyone ever woken from a dream, and wasn't sure it was a dream?

The issue is people having an experience that doesn't fit into our accepted reality. Then the most obvious thing people so it to tell someone they were dreaming, especially little kids.
 

DavidRavenMoon

anonymous anomalous
He found that in psychological tests, so-called "experiencers" scored more highly in a number of areas, including belief in the paranormal, a tendency to hallucinate, and "dissociative" tendencies which can lead to altered states of consciousness.

I've read that report. Once again they are making the supposition that the paranormal is something that shouldn't be believed, because they don't believe in it.

I believe in the paranormal, and I've never had a hallucination, have you?

What they are doing is this; if someone says "I saw a ghost," their mind set is that since ghost don't exist, this person must be having a hallucination. That's making a couple of gross assumptions, neither of which can be proven. It's also circular logic.

Who's to say that an "altered states of consciousness" is not natural? Our brain produces N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) which is a powerful psychedelic drug. It's also very common in plants, which have been used in shamanic practices for a very long time.

Dr. Rick Strassman, who has studied the effects of DMT on humans, feels DMT affects the brain's ability to receive information. So what is experienced is not created by the experiencer, but is actually accessing another aspect of reality that our brains normally filters out.

Amit Goswami, Ph.D also feels that the brain works to interpret information and converts it to what we see as reality. A lot of stuff happening at the quantum level is not part of this "reality" until it is observed, thus collapsing the wave function.

"The rules of quantum mechanics are correct but there is only one system which may be treated with quantum mechanics, namely the entire material world. There exist external observers which cannot be treated within quantum mechanics, namely human (and perhaps animal) minds, which perform measurements on the brain causing wave function collapse."

The Nine Lives of Schroedinger's Cat - Zvi Schreiber

So what we might call another "dimension" could be something simple as "matter" which is not at the right state for us to observe, sort of the way we can't perceive radio waves, or other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.

So when we suddenly perceive something that we normally don't, the quickest way to dismiss that is to say we are hallucinating or dreaming. To say it's real is far too much work.
 

wicro

Skilled Investigator
I've read that report. Once again they are making the supposition that the paranormal is something that shouldn't be believed, because they don't believe in it.

I believe in the paranormal, and I've never had a hallucination, have you?

>snip<

Hello David,

Coming from the social sciences myself, there is a tendency within 'our' community to suppose that paranormal phenomena are 'unreal' in the sense that they should be interpreted within our current scientific frame work. That is to say 'skepticism' is the norm within most academic research as I'm sure your well aware. However a prior skepticism does not invalidate the research, indeed it is a necessary mode of inquiry ,some would argue (there are many historical reasons for this many I'm sure you are well aware ) . Certainly I would agree 'sleep paralysis' does not explain every abduction case as you point out. But to expect every scientific paper published to 'explain' all aspects of the abduction phenomena is over optimistic at the best.

Any social or psychological explanation that attempts to encompass all human experience generally has the same problem of not being applicable to every situation. You mention the example of a 'ghost', if you believed that ghost exists and they manifest within certain cultural situations and then you encounter one, where as I don't 'believe' in 'them' and experience one, which report has more validity? Well I'm not sure what the answer is , even if I don't 'believe' in 'ghosts' I am immersed in a culture that has certain expectations of what a 'ghost' 'is'. Are you or I more likely to 'see' ghosts? Certainly sociological study's do seem to point that a 'believer' is more likely to experience phenomena. That however does not, invalidate the experience of you or others but does point to a mode of inquiry that psychologist or sociologist can investigate. At the end of the day that is all we can do within our respective fields of expertise rather than provide definitive answers.

For instance 'abductees' have a tendency to be professional,middle class white woman (Bader 2007; Denzler 2001 etc). This is the same for so called 'new religious moments' (i.e 'cults') is this simply coincidence ? Possibly. But as a sociologist it does suggest that there may be a cultural influence in any experience of 'abduction'. (I am not suggesting this as a explanation merely that the correlation is interesting and worthy of investigation)

However the research in question(i.e the paper on sleep paralysis) surely points to an attempted explanation that, within certain limitation shows, that some, if not all experiences , can be attributed to psychological or sociological explanations. This should not be confronted as invalidation of your or any one else is experience but taken aboard as adding to a broad base of knowledge that help us understand the phenomenological experience of some people who are experiencing 'strange phenomena'.

The hostility by the drawing of lines between 'skeptic' and 'believer' have been done to death within these and many other forums, surely both 'camps' have something to offer? By way of example when a 'expert' agrees with your opinion (i.e Dr Strassman or Dr Goswami ) you are happy to accept their contribution so I assume that 'expert' opinion does hold some sway with yourself? Surely you would not argue that it is only 'experts' that agree with yourself that have validity?

Rather than feel threatened by contributions from differing point of view I feel that all sides within the 'great debate' may help us understand the phenomena in question. If we only accept research from those that are 'believers' (or 'skeptics' or (heaven forbid !) us that just don't know...)surely that is is a detriment to the whole 'paranormal' field?

I'm sorry to quote you for this because it obviously would be applicable to others within this thread, hopefully you will take it in the spirit it was intended. Metaphysical speculation is all well and good, but does it really help us understand the 'paranormal'? When 'academia' does investigate the phenomena, and comes to conclusions that you may feel contradicts your experience, it should be noted that this is not a personal attack on you or others (although I am well aware that it can be construed as that and is often used as such) , but done in, I hope, the spirit of inquiry.

Bader.C., 2007 UFO Abduction Support Groups : Who are the Members?
Denzler. B; 2001 The lure of the Edge : Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the pursuit of UFO's


Ewen
 

DavidRavenMoon

anonymous anomalous
Hello David,

Coming from the social sciences myself, there is a tendency within 'our' community to suppose that paranormal phenomena are 'unreal' in the sense that they should be interpreted within our current scientific frame work. That is to say 'skepticism' is the norm within most academic research as I'm sure your well aware. However a prior skepticism does not invalidate the research, indeed it is a necessary mode of inquiry ,some would argue (there are many historical reasons for this many I'm sure you are well aware ) . Certainly I would agree 'sleep paralysis' does not explain every abduction case as you point out. But to expect every scientific paper published to 'explain' all aspects of the abduction phenomena is over optimistic at the best.

There's a difference between real skepticism, and debunking, as I'm sure you know.

When you enter a research situation with your mind made up about a phenomenon, where does that leave you? You spend all your time trying to disprove something, and not collecting any real data on it. That's fine if that was the goal of your research.

Now if they had started out with that premise, saying: "we are going to attempt to show a correlation between the alien abduction phenomenon and [fill in the blank], as a way to show that said phenomenon doesn't exist", well that's different. And clearly that's what they were trying to do, and failed at it.

It has nothing to do with believing or not, as that shouldn't enter into the research. That's presenting a bias at the start, and will influence the research. You get into the whole bias conformation thing. Data can often be manipulated to confirm a hypothesis. You pick and choose what you want to use.

Now on the other end you have people who through many years of studying something like this, have reached certain conclusions. They believe their conclusions based on their own research. People like Budd Hopkins would fit into this mold. If you see repeating patterns, it's only natural to draw some conclusions. The problem here is that we still don't understand what's actually taking place. And we wont until science decides to study things like reality and consciousness as part of the whole, instead of something off to the side, treating these things as an epiphenomenon. This is a normal part of the Cartesian-Newtonian view of reality. If you can't measure it as solid matter, than it can't exist.

It's very easy for even the brightest minds to misinterpret data and reach the wrong conclusions, based on current understanding.

So let's take the ghost example. If I see a ghost, my first thought is "what is that?" Not that it's the ghost of a person. What is a ghost? We don't have an answer to that, but they are seen often enough, and have such a long history with humankind, that we have given them a noun, and it's definition is:

an apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image

Is it really a dead person? How would we know? I don't have a particular interest in ghosts. I have seen a ghost on several occasions, and once was not alone in that observation. The "ghost" also picked up and threw objects, which everyone (about five people) witnessed. What did we think it was? A ghost. Why? Well it fit the description... human form, not a lot of detail.. ghostly. It also cast a shadow, which is how we first saw it, since it was in an area we did not direct line of sight with, but we could see the shadow. Because of the situation and location, we easily ruled out it being a person. It was at the end of a long basement, which had only one unlocked entrance, which was behind us. A storage room blocked our initial direct observation of the entity. But a light in that area cast the shadow of a person on the wall.

Later we all saw it move past us. Do I believe in ghosts? I can't answer that, because that requires an explanation for what a ghost is. I know we saw something, and it was able to interact with our reality.

Now an interesting twist on this story is we had recently had a tenant die in our house, and this "ghost" proceeded to remove every object that was on top of a steamer trunk that belong to the recently deceased. Coincidence?

So, yes, I believe we saw something, and that's as far as I would go with it. There simply isn't enough data to answer what caused the phenomenon.

Back to alien abductions. It's happening to too many people to ignore it. But we also can't jump to conclusions about the cause. Ironically the simplest answer is that it is what it appears to be. That would also be what most people taking a skeptical look at something would say. Why make it into something more complicated?

Of course they wont take it at face value, because that contradicts their own personal beliefs. So they search for other causes, and they often get more far fetched then taking it at face value! In the end, no science was done, and it was more an exercise in ego. "I'm right, and I'll prove it". That's quite different from "Let's take a serious look at this and see what we can find".

For instance 'abductees' have a tendency to be professional,middle class white woman (Bader 2007; Denzler 2001 etc). This is the same for so called 'new religious moments' (i.e 'cults') is this simply coincidence ? Possibly. But as a sociologist it does suggest that there may be a cultural influence in any experience of 'abduction'. (I am not suggesting this as a explanation merely that the correlation is interesting and worthy of investigation)

Well, if we take the event at face value, perhaps that demographic is most what they are seeking. A professional middle class white woman would likely be better educated and in better health than a poor minority person. Of course it would hold true of a poor white person too, but in this country at least, minorities are often in the lower socioeconomic groups.

Middle class professionals might also be more prone to explore new age type movements. And I think often women are more open to such things. My wife (who is a professional African American women) is part of a "new thought" church, but has little interest in UFOs, and takes my personal experience stories with a grain of salt, since she has nothing to reference it too.

It could also be these are the people who came forward with their story.

Then, if a person has no place in their worldview for UFOs and aliens, what would they interpret such an event as?

I have a close male friend in his 40's, and he doesn't seem to have an interest in UFOs, and when I bring the subject up, he's clearly uncomfortable with it. On Sunday we were driving up Rt 46 West in Clifton, NJ. The sun was setting, and against the backdrop of pretty clouds, was a stationary object. It was brighter than the clouds, and appeared to be an oblong shape. First it looked round, but it was clearly wider than it was tall. It was far off in the distance, and it was hard to see hard edges on it.

So I said something like "hey, do you see that? I wonder what it is? Maybe an odd small cloud?" It really didn't look like a cloud. We thought maybe it was landing lights on a jet, but it wasn't moving. He thought it was Venus. I told him it was too large, and not bright enough, Venus looks like a bright star, and also this was in front of the clouds. I had a camera with me too, and the batteries were dead.

So he said "No, I think it's venus.. it's the crescent. I used to sit on my roof and watch this thing at night for hours. It would just sit there" He gestured with his hands a crescent with upward pointing ends, and about an inch or two across at arm's length. I told him that when Venus is seen as a crescent, it's rather small and not as bright, and you need a telescope to see the crescent. You can't see it with your unaided eyes. And the crescent doesn't point up. Plus he's legally blind in one eye. So it had to be something larger than Venus. So finally, he said laughing uncomfortably, "maybe it's a UFO." People have it in their minds that it's a joke subject, and not to be taken seriously. It must be "almost certainly untrue..."

The point of this story is, while we didn't know what we saw, he had witnessed repeated odd sightings, and just wrote it off as Venus. So there are probably many people who don't report these things.

Another example; I knew a girl that I went to school with, and years later I ran into her and she told me a story that when she was a kid, maybe 4 or 5, she fell down the stairs to her front porch. When she got to the bottom, there was a small shiny thing with small beings by it. She ran back into her house screaming for her mother, who figured the fall down a few steps was the reason.

So I'd bet you can meet many people with strange stories. Many are dismissed as a misinterpretation of something else, and many more are tucked away because of fear.

Rather than feel threatened by contributions from differing point of view I feel that all sides within the 'great debate' may help us understand the phenomena in question. If we only accept research from those that are 'believers' (or 'skeptics' or (heaven forbid !) us that just don't know...)surely that is is a detriment to the whole 'paranormal' field?

I agree. I prefer to just have the data. I like reading the high strangeness stories, and while I find some of the theories interesting, they often just cloud up the situation. I know something is going on, but don't know what it is.

But the problem with the majority of skeptics, and I'm talking about the famous ones, is that they do not bother to look at the data. They have their mind made up, and that's it. The host of the Skeptical Universe podcast was guest on another podcast talking about pets that know when their owners are coming home, and said something that if he didn't believe in a certain subject, that was the end of it. He said a 60 foot tall Jesus could be walking up the street and he still wouldn't believe it! So obviously he has his mind firmly in the Cartesian-Newtonian materialistic view of the Universe. So anything that doesn't fit that view, must be an anomalous artifact of some other mechanism.

Or, like my friend's interpretation of some unknown thing in the sky, it's just not a good explanation.

So disbelievers wont even entertain the notion, and believers often also are not being objective. It is a subjective field though, and that might be the way it always is. These are experiences people are having. Sometimes they leave physical evidence, and often they do not. When it's shown that the subject has no mental problems, then it should be an indication that they experienced something, and not written off as "Given that such accounts are almost certainly untrue..."

The hostility by the drawing of lines between 'skeptic' and 'believer' have been done to death within these and many other forums, surely both 'camps' have something to offer? By way of example when a 'expert' agrees with your opinion (i.e Dr Strassman or Dr Goswami ) you are happy to accept their contribution so I assume that 'expert' opinion does hold some sway with yourself? Surely you would not argue that it is only 'experts' that agree with yourself that have validity?

It's easy to be hostile when you are being told you did not experience something by people who never had an experience. Those that did, such as Jacque Vallee, changed their opinion on the subject. It's easy to explain away someone else's experience, but not as easy to explain away your own.

If someone said you were being "almost certainly untrue", wouldn't you get pissed off?

I don't agree with everything Dr. Strassman or Dr. Goswami say, but I respect that they are saying something. I was once a nuts-and-bolts ETH guy. But on my own I started getting the feeling that something else is at work here. It's just too weird. This is from personal experiences, as well as reading about the subject, and just plain thinking about it. "UFO believers" would get angry with me.

And some stuff just makes sense. When Jacque Vallee started to make the connection between UFOs and our various legends of fairies and little people, etc., I resisted at first, because I thought they were ETs. But it started to make sense just based on the evidence. We clearly have a rich history of interacting with non human entities. Now that doesn't explain what they are, and it also doesn't prove they are not the same as the "aliens" or that the aliens are not making themselves appear to be other things. Or maybe there is a vast array of phenomenon going on. And it's likely a natural part of out existence.

I found the work of Dr. Strassman interesting, because his subjects were having similar interactions with beings as in typical UFO abduction encounters. Some even with "grays", and of course at first Dr. Strassman overlooked these stories as he had no interest in UFOs. And DMT also crates the "near death" experience. Are they all interrelated somehow? I think so.

Dr. Goswami is interesting because he ties in the quantum paradoxes with a plausible explanation. I've long been fascinated by quantum mechanics, so that's what lead me to read the Self-Aware Universe. I also like the writings of Dr. Fred Alan Wolf.

But Goswami takes things in a very religious path, and that I'm not so interested in.

So these were both people who had ideas that were not part of my belief system. It was not a matter of them validating my ideas, as me finding ideas that made sense, especially when intertwined. Before I read these books, I had no knowledge of DMT or Goswami's ideas that the Universe is brought into physical existence by consciousness. Totally new ideas to me.

I mentioned them because I see a correlation with the various phenomena. We can't get too hung up on what's "real", because we don't exactly know what "real" is. I think I'm typing on a keyboard, and in fact it's composed of mostly nothing. And it's not even all that different from me. We accept something as "matter" when it's more accurately just a state of non matter. Quantum paradoxes occur because sometimes things are not matter.

dB has often wondered if UFOs can do the things they do because at that point in time they might not be totally based in this reality. Sometimes they are real, or solid, and other times not. I've also thought this... if you can reduce your mass to zero, you can travel very fast with little energy used, and no effects like sonic booms and friction. Clearly things do this on the quantum level, so why couldn't an advanced technology be based on these principles? Maybe for them, going from here to there is a form of quantum jump.

But when you get professionals who are clearly trying to validate their own thinking, and offer up really lame explanations like these people were hallucinating, or had sleep paralysis, that's just insulting someone's intelligence, and usually mine!

I have VERY weird dreams, and very mundane ones. I know they are dreams, no matter how lucid they are. I also dream in color. I think the vast majority of the population knows when something is a dream. Even if you take a psychedelic substance, you know it. And that still doesn't say that what people see when taking these things isn't real.

I'm sorry to quote you for this because it obviously would be applicable to others within this thread, hopefully you will take it in the spirit it was intended. Metaphysical speculation is all well and good, but does it really help us understand the 'paranormal'? When 'academia' does investigate the phenomena, and comes to conclusions that you may feel contradicts your experience, it should be noted that this is not a personal attack on you or others (although I am well aware that it can be construed as that and is often used as such) , but done in, I hope, the spirit of inquiry.

No, I enjoyed your post. I just feel that some academia don't do the subject justice. And often it's not something they even want to bother with. You can't get a grant studying UFO abductions, and they often feel it would ruin their career. We all have bills to pay.

Meanwhile there have been academics that have studied these things, and when they come up with alternate views about reality, they are criticized as not being scientific or just being "out there". If you rock the boat, that's bound to happen.

We wont get any progress in this area until we have real research done by open minded people, and likely new methods will be needed.

I feel we have gotten ourselves in a corner, and let material science block off the other paths that need to be explored. We discover new things all the time, and often by accident. These new things have always changed science. And that's the way it should be.
 

Jonah

Skilled Investigator
Do you see a bias here?

You cannot accept research by someone that has their mind made up from the beginning.

But... on top of this person not believing the whole thing, they still didn't find anything wrong with the subjects!

Of course there's a bias. Drs. Clancy and McNally (Harvard) share the same view, and yet still cannot rationally explain away the phenomenon (not for lack of trying).

The report then, in my mind, becomes a much more powerful counter to the "mental illness" dodge many cling to. One does have to wonder however, with such bias, was the subject selection process influenced from the outset - subconsciously or otherwise?
 

Jonah

Skilled Investigator
For instance 'abductees' have a tendency to be professional,middle class white woman (Bader 2007; Denzler 2001 etc).

I'm curious Wicro, if the statement "'abductees' have a tendency to be professional, middle class white woman" is accurate since the info was taken from Baders "UFO Abduction Support Groups : Who are the Members?" according to the citation. Wouldn't the more accurate statement be "'abductees' who seek help through support groups have a tendency to be professional, middle class white woman"?

Simply striving for accuracy here....or was there more info in the articles cited indicating general overall tendencies as to abduction demographics? If so, can you be more specific as to where it might be found? It could simply be that "professional, middle class white woman" tend to be 'joiners' rather than reading more into it than that.

This is the same for so called 'new religious moments' (i.e 'cults') is this simply coincidence ? Possibly. But as a sociologist it does suggest that there may be a cultural influence in any experience of 'abduction'. (I am not suggesting this as a explanation merely that the correlation is interesting and worthy of investigation)

I'll defer from commenting on the second quote until I hear back (basically curious if Wicro will hold to his position that a correlation still exists if the interpretation of the first statement was incorrect).
 

wicro

Skilled Investigator
I'm curious Wicro, if the statement "'abductees' have a tendency to be professional, middle class white woman" is accurate since the info was taken from Baders "UFO Abduction Support Groups : Who are the Members?" according to the citation. Wouldn't the more accurate statement be "'abductees' who seek help through support groups have a tendency to be professional, middle class white woman"?

It is a very good point Jonah, are 'support group' representative of all 'abductees'? This is important point. In fact it would be a great area of study! However I am unaware of any evidence that refutes the conclusions of the paper quoted, although 'proving' that it was (or was not) representative would be problematic. I am assuming the researcher chose this approach since it gave access to a large survey database. Denzlers book does offer some support that this indeed the case, but that is hardly conclusive.

However there is multitude of sociological evidence that so called 'cult' membership is indeed predominantly from the group I described. Curiously I just finished reading a paper published in the European Journal of Parapsychology (Volume 23.1 2008) Contacts by Distressed Individuals to UK Parapsychology and Anomalous Experience Academic Research Units - A Retrospective Survey Looking to the Future ( Coelho, Tierney and Lamont 2008) ( This is obviously not related to purely abduction phenomena)) that between the years 1992 - 2005 the gender difference was marginal although no details are given of the socio economic status of the individuals, somewhat refuting what I would expect.

My point being (if) these two groups do have similar social economic, gender and ethnic groups, that would be worthy of further study rather than as offering any definitive conclusions on the nature of the phenomena.

I have skirted around your question enough I think! You have a valid criticism to the point I raised that would require more research before we (well 'I') could deduce a commonality between the two groups. Thanks for raising the point.
 
Top