Wednesday, 1 December 2010
The Alien Delusion - An American Quasi-relgious Syndrome?
I, like many Englishmen of my generation, owe a huge debt of thanks to our cousins across the Atlantic. As a child, I worshiped at the altar of Clint Eastwood as he played Rowdie Yates in Rawhide. I loved him then and love him still, not least for his incredible talents as a film director. My parents bought me regular copies of both D.C. and Marvel Comics; Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko ruled and I was captivated by their work. I drank, and still to this day love, Coca-Cola. I wear converse sneakers along with my 501 Levi’s and, of course, there was the music. The United States of America has gifted the world with some incredible music including the Blues, Gospel, R'n B, Jazz and, of course, Rock and Roll. Where would I be without a regular fix of Miles Davis, Frank Zappa or Captain Beefheart? Love, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Jimi Hendrix all informed my teenage years and well into my middle life.
Britain in the fifties was a grim, grey place that clung to the dim memory of the Victorian halcyon days of Empire. Parental rules were strict as were schools that resisted change and defied the liberal heart of America. Rock and Roll hit our shores and with a crash and a flash of incendiary force a youth revolution happened. I am only just about old enough to remember Teddy Boys with their drainpipe trousers (sorry guys -pants) and their frock coats but man alive were they cool! Suddenly Teds were to be seen everywhere as they emulated the God of modern music, Elvis Presley. My Mum hated them but I was an instant convert.
This liberalising attitude flooded our TVs and our mindsets. We wanted to look like and act like the Yanks. We wanted to chew gum and sport blue jeans and we did both. The fusty cobwebs of old Britannia were blown away and then four lads from Liverpool (a long way from where I was born) showed Americans and the world just what you could do with America's fabulous gift.
The Beatles summed up just how far we English had moved toward the American way of life if only by degrees but even then America had a less than friendly underbelly, a dark undercurrent that was defined by the Ku Klux Klan. Of course, those vile individuals have all but disappeared but Christian zealotry in America has not. It is, to my very European mind, the co-opposite but equally unpleasant mirror reflection of those wacky Muslims who give real followers of Islam such a bad name.
I have nothing whatsoever against anyone who selects the path of faith. My only argument against such people is my belief in science, in facts and not in dogma and ritual. I am a diabetic and as such owe my life to science.
The American zealots of faith over fact have now been joined by another sad sect. One that also lacks any real evidence to support its beliefs. They are equally as blinkered as the religious counterparts trusting to unverified sightings and dubious filmed footage to substantiate their beliefs. These foolish souls are of course the people who spend their days looking to the heavens. They are not looking for God, though, just the next visitor from space. These are the dream weavers who believe in UFO's and of crop circles created by curious alien visitors.
Personally, I believe in life on other planets. I think you would be stupid not to. We are not alone as I am sure that other planets support as mixed and varied a selection of fauna as our beautiful blue planet does.
Perhaps there may even be somewhere distant the exciting prospect of intelligent life forms such as ourselves but they almost certainly will not look like us. Nature, when in isolation and this we have learned from our own experiences, does not replicate. The thought of other bipeds is possible but highly unlikely. When we finally meet with other intelligent beings they will not bear any similarities to ourselves. I categorically do not believe in little green men who look remarkably like humans in plastic suits. Nor do I think that unidentified flying objects are necessarily something from another world. I think we need to look closer to home for such aircraft.
If these alien visitors are so advanced why do they insist on flying in such obviously human craft? These so-called spaceships strike me as being nothing more than experimental aircraft. And why is it that such visitors are seen repeatedly in or over America and always within striking distance of an air force base? Is it because they recognise that the United States is the most powerful country mankind has ever seen? If so, are they, the aliens that are, insane? Would it not be better to visit, land even, in far off Kurdistan? As for the notion that our collective governments are hiding the ‘true facts’ from us – why would they? What point would be served by that? Are they trying to protect us? Why hasn’t the worlds’ armed forces been put on alert? I know that they haven’t as my son served in the British military. Why aren’t our public transport systems liberally littered with posters alerting us to be aware, to keep an ever vigilant eye for strange looking beings?
This bizarre obsession is almost a pandemic that afflicts certain citizens of America. It is similar in so many ways to the bible belt’s determination to follow a God you cannot see, cannot touch, that I am confident it belongs to, or perhaps should be included as a syndrome. The same God Delusion that Richard Dawkins wrote of is an associate of The Alien Delusion. There are no facts only circumstantial sightings, there are no corpses only dummies and who is the biggest dummy? The ones on the pseudo-science lab, or, the believers of alien visitations?
If I sound cruel or cutting then I am sorry as it is not my intention to hurt or upset anyone. I need hard evidence before I commit to belief. Individuals who swear they have seen alien spacecraft have undoubtedly seen something but seeing for me is not believing as we all are capable of misunderstanding precisely what it is we think we have seen. Bug-eyed men cut no mustard either as the likelihood of accidentally meeting an alien, especially one so similar to myself is simply ludicrous and again without any science-based evidence to support it.
As I said, I accept the concept of life on other planets but not the notion of alien visitors. I accept leading a goodly life based on a certain set of moral life codes and principals but I do not believe in a great creator. Somehow though the two, gods and aliens, seem inextricably linked for was it not Erich Von Daniken with his book Chariots of the Gods – Was God an Astronaut that put forth this theory? Of course, it seems preposterous now but people actually believed this concept. They didn’t, as all intelligent humans normally do, ruminate and then examine it at length, they simply believed it. It is this blind faith, this acceptance without proof that I find so unbelievably, so woefully negligent.
Of course, this odd desire to believe in the unproven is nothing new. We have had gods aplenty and, not content with heavenly based deities, we also invented ghosts and faeries, vampires and werewolves, nymphs and haunted buildings. It often seems to me as if mankind will forever be shackled to its primitive beliefs in beings, not of this world. Wherever man lays down his head his idols leap up in fond abundance. Today in America we find groups of people who desire idols of an entirely different nature but still from the same irrational wellspring.
Erich Von Daniken’s pseudoscience is a fabulous theory but one littered with errors and leaps of blind conclusion. His claims are largely unsubstantiated and even if his theory is sound his evidence is virtually non-existent. Science is a constantly self-doubting method that researches each claim deliberately trying to find flaws in its theory. Each time one is submitted, such as Newton’s on gravity or Einstein’s on relativity, so fellow scientists do their utmost to find errors. In fact, it was Einstein who showed us that Newton had made mistakes with his ground-breaking submissions on gravity.
A lot of the Alien Delusion that is rampant in areas of America is borne of fear. It is suggested that any alien who visits might be visiting to size up the Earth’s potential to resist attack. This, much like man’s view of the monotheistic God, is to assume too much. God’s logic, if a god existed, may be nothing like ours but still religion persists in giving Him the self-same phobias and petty mindedness we have. They rope their human frailties and logic to something they claim to be unknowable. The same accusation can be pointed at those who think we are about to be invaded. Why would an alien life form want to attack us? Do we have something they want? If so what could it be? Do they want to subjugate us, capture us as slaves to work to their sinister cause? I strongly doubt it but if they do then tell us so we all can prepare and know what to look out for.
It is all so H.G. Wells. In fact that originator of the genre we now call science fiction, in his marvellous book The War of The Worlds showed a far greater, a far more perspicacious take on how an alien would look to us; indescribable and nothing like us at all.
I think the common link between faith in a righteous God and an alien presence is irrefutably sustained by man’s untrained, untamed creativity. His imagination is his greatest gift, it is the single thing that differentiates him from his fellow animals. It could be argued that his imagination along with his innate sense of spiritually are his defining features and that may be so but without his imagination gods would not exist and alien visitors would seem less threatening even if they did exist.
For now, though, let us rely on the tools we have and the only tool we should ever need is that of science and not speculation.
all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.