Life-in-outer-space version of fundamentalism

December 5, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More

I was recently reminded that the widespread belief in supernatural beings constitutes only one version of a much bigger problem.  The problem is this: people have been turning off their skepticism in droves and allowing their fantasies to substitute for disciplined factual inquiry.   When they turn off their skepticism, they start fantasizing about a wide variety of things, none of which are supported by evidence.  They start believing in the wisdom and the benevolence of the “free market,” for example.  They believe in both ethereal beings floating around the Earth and in little green men from outer space.  This reminder that non-rigorous thinking takes many forms occurred while I listened to a prominent AM radio station while I was driving home.  The host of the show, George Noory, features all kinds of un-self-critical guests:

Coast to Coast AM mostly emphasizes very unusual topics, and is full of personal stories related by callers. While program content varies, most nights are focused toward the paranormal, and subjects such as the occult, remote viewing, hauntings, shadow people, psychic predictions, conspiracy theories, UFOs, crop circles, cryptozoology and science fiction literature, among other paranormal and unusual topics. Since the terrorist attacks carried out in the United States on September 11, 2001, the events of that day (as well as conspiracy theories surrounding them) and current U.S. counter-terrorism strategy have also become frequent themes.

I heard the show on St. Louis channel KTRS AM, but Coast-to-Coast AM is a nationally syndicated show.

Image by Xochicalco at Dreamstime (with permission)

The particular episode I heard featured Richard Hoagland, who is considering running for President of the U.S., and who claimed to be some sort of expert on space aliens.  Here’s Noory’s description of the information Hoagland provided relative to the recent NASA announcement that arsenic eating bacteria exist:

In the second hour, Richard C. Hoagland posed the question– “Is it possible that this is an actual extraterrestrial life form which happened to find its right niche in Mono Lake after falling down from the skies?” He further suggested that today’s announcement could be part of NASA’s plan to lay out a foundation before declaring the existence of extraterrestrial life.

When I heard Hoagland speaking and when I read his website, the arrival of the space aliens reminded me of claims regarding the Second Coming.  There was lots of wild rhetoric, incessant hand-waving and no meaningful evidence.   Hoagland has thrown the scientific method out the window, but he poses as a scientific expert, drenching the audience in scientific-sounding jargon.

I was trying to find his credentials on Hoagland’s website, but I couldn’t find any.  Here’s what Wikipedia has gathered:

His writings claim that advanced civilizations exist or once existed on the moon, Mars and on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, and that NASA and the United States government have conspired to keep these facts secret. He has advocated his ideas in two published books, several videotapes, lectures, interviews, and press conferences. His views have never been published in peer-reviewed journals.

At Wikipedia, you’ll also learn that Hoagland was awarded the Ig Nobel prize.

I only listened for 15 minutes, turning it all off when I heard claim after claim (without evidence) that sentient aliens are hiding behind every asteroid and, oh yeah, that we are “all” about to become “pregnant.”

Noory and Hoagland are simply cranks, you might think.  That might be true, but keep in mind that they are cranks on a show that claims to reach 3-5 million listeners every night, listeners who tune into 500 radio stations from coast to coast.

If only three million folks started listening to broadcasts that featured first rate science every night instead of charlatans . . .   If only they would read some quality science books and magazines from their public library, or visit some excellent science websites, or if only they would sign up for high quality science lectures on DVD (“The Teaching Company” is a great source of high quality science lectures).   If only.

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Category: American Culture, ignorance, snake oil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Erich writes:—"The problem is this: people have been turning off their skepticism in droves and allowing their fantasies to substitute for disciplined factual inquiry. When they turn off their skepticism, they start fantasizing about a wide variety of things, none of which are supported by evidence. They start believing in the wisdom and the benevolence of the “free market,” for example. They believe in both ethereal beings floating around the Earth and in little green men from outer space."

    All of this shares one common feature—it removes all need for responsible behavior and places the ultimate responsibility in Something Else. If you have no control over things to begin with, nothing is your fault. If you have no control because Other Things are acting on your behalf (or even if they are acting to block you), then you have justification for abandoning attempts at self-reliance and accountability. Both angels and "Grays" provide the same escape clause. The Free Market is another idea that basically gives people who don't want the responsibility of thinking things through and running their own lives a pass.

    By extension, their panic at people who DO take control is understandable—such people are messing things up, making it tough for these other-worldly powers to do their job well, and hence making it difficult for everyone.

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Turning off skepticism also allows government officials to "justify" allocating massive amounts of the countries resources to fighting wars against "evil" different-looking others and going to great lengths to keep the People in the dark and to keep the People emotionally riled and paranoid.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    You can lead a man to reason, but you can't make him think.

    You can tell a man a quirky story, and make him believe.

  3. Mike M. says:

    A topic pertinent quote: "Every war results from the struggle for markets and spheres of influence, and every war is sold to the public by professional liars and totally sincere religious maniacs, as a Holy Crusade to save God and Goodness from Satan and Evil."

    Robert Anton Wilson -Cosmic Trigger II

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