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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1997 > Nov > Nov 10

Re: Clark on Abductions 2/2

From: Greg Sandow <gsandow@prodigy.net>
Date: Sun, 9 Nov 1997 23:47:56 -0500
Fwd Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 08:56:35 -0500
Subject: Re: Clark on Abductions 2/2

Memory, to rip a lyric from "Porgy and Bess" out of context, is a
sometimes thing. We're constantly being reminded of that by
abduction skeptics, so it's amusing to find our silly friend
Peter providing a perfect example.


> Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 19:20:41 -0500
> From: Peregrine Mendoza <101653.2205@compuserve.com> [Peter
> Brookesmith]


At issue is Martin Kottmeyer's contention that Betty and Barney
Hill derived their description of UFO aliens at least in part
from an "Outer Limits" episode. Betty Hill denies that she and
her husband ever watched the show, but Peter notes:


> There is also a point in [John] Fuller's book {The Interrupted
> Journey], I think during the initial UFO sighting, at which
> Betty exclaims > something like "Jeez, Barney, what've you
> seen in all those > 'Twilight Zone' shows you watch?", which I
> can't put my finger on > at the moment. This isn't conclusive
> evidence of anything, but it  is somewhat suggestive.

The passage in question, on page 174 of the paperback edition,
reads as follows. Betty Hill is being questioned under hypnosis
by Dr. John Simon, a psychiatrist who didn't believe the
abduction episode really happened. Betty Hill is describing
something that happened, she says, when she and her husband saw
their UFO:

BETTY: And then Barney came over and got in the car, and he said,
"They've seen us, and they're coming this way." And I laughed and
asked him if he had watched "Twilight Zone" recently on TV. and he
didn't say anything.

DOCTOR: Why did you mention "Twilight Zone"?

BETTY: Because the idea was fantastic.

DOCTOR: Had there been anything like this on "Twilight Zone"?

BETTY: I don't know. I never see "Twlight Zone." But I had heard
people talk about the program, and I always was under the
impression that it was a way-out type of thing. and so when he
said that they had seen us, and that they were swinging around
and coming in our direction, I thought his imagination was being
overactive.

Sorry, Peter.

In the face of Betty Hill's denial, Kottmeyer defends his idea,
noting:

> I was intrigued to hear that Betty Hill denies that her
> husband Barney would have seen "The Bellero Shield"
> episode of THE OUTER LIMITS because they did not "watch
> that kind of TV program," she being "rather more
> intellectual than one might guess." It must be pointed
> out that the ad campaign for THE OUTER LIMITS pitched the
> show as one of "conspicuous excellence" and that one
> piece for TV Guide bore the come-on "They Deal in Ideas -
> and Outer Space." The particular episode of interest "The
> Bellero Shield" was richly Shakespearian in tone with
> parts adapted from "MacBeth." If allusions to Shakespeare
> are not one of [the] major symptoms of being an
> intellectual, it would be hard to know what is. It was a
> show by intellectuals and pitched partly as philosophy to
> the network brass. Betty Hill is not helping her case
> with such an upside-down reason as the basis of her
> denial.

> [You say] there is no proof that Barney Hill saw "The
> Bellero Shield" and none he did not. Take another look at
> the argument I made in "The Eyes That Spoke." The
> similarity between the alien in "The Bellero Shield" and
> the ufonaut described by Barney is not limited to the
> rare trait of wraparound eyes. They also share the unique
> bond of having eyes that speak. I also cite other
> features like a tilted bullet-like head which are less
> unique but also argue for a close relationship. It is
> hard to develop a rigorous statistical argument in
> situations like this, but my back-of-the-envelope
> calculations suggests odds against chance of the traits
> of wraparound eyes and speaking eyes appearing together
> in an SF production in the same month as Barney's
> hypnosis session are on the order of 100,000,000 to 1.
> Include the other features and the zeros string out even
> further.

> Suitably astonished, I've asked him how he arrived at that
> figure, and await the response. The intermediary who initially
> passed "Of Martian Cats" to Martin K. commented:

> As you can see from the attached, the Yeoman Farmer of
> Carlyle is a bit touchy about Jerome Clark's favorite
> attempt to refute the Barney Hill/Bellero Shield
> connection (though oddly enough Clark's favorite talisman
> to ward off criticism of abduction research, Bullard,
> found Martin's argument convincing). I tend to agree with
> Martin that the incredible coincidence that Barney Hill
> described an alien with talking eyes that looked so
> similar to the Bifrost alien just days after the episode
> aired is pretty good circumstantial evidence that Barney
> was exposed to the Bellero Shield alien's image. Betty's
> denial is pretty thin gruel, unless someone is going to
> seriously argue that she can remember every single show
> (not just series), commercial or trailer that Barney saw,
> even a part of, in the 1960s. I like to imagine what
> Clark's response would be to such a simplistic argument
> against one of his pet theories.

May I ask if the skeptical community has quite lost its mind
here, or rather its common sense? The notion of compelling eyes
was hardly invented on this "Outer Limits" episode. Has neither
Kottmeyer, Brookesmith, or the unnamed gentleman who passed on
Kottmeyer's remarks never encountered such expressions --
familiar enough in literature and everyday life -- as "His eyes
transfixed me," "Her eyes bored right through me," and "I was
hypnotized by his eyes"? The notion of compelling eyes, and even
eyes that speak, is so widespread as to be very nearly a cliche.

You don't even need an "Outer Limits" episode to find sources for
Betty and Barney Hill's fixation on alien eyes. Albert Innaurato,
a playwright with a passion for music, often writes on opera for
the New York Times and Opera News. Once, either in an article or
in a conversation with me, he mentioned seeing Maria Callas live
when he was very young, from a distant balcony seat in
Philadelphia. Wishing to convey her power as an actress, he
commented that, even far away from the stage, he had the notion
that he could see her eyes, and that they were focussed directly
on him. Are we now to conclude that HE saw this "Outer Limits"
episode, or -- which would be equally ridiculous -- that he's an
abductee, and fixated on Maria Callas's eyes only because he'd
already fallen under the spell of the aliens?

Huge alien eyes are also not exactly new in popular culture, as
anyone knows who's old enough to have encountered the familar old
science-fiction term "bug-eyed monster" (affectionately
abbreviaed, during my youth, as BEM).

And would any of these eagle-eyed skeptics care to name
similarities -- outside of the description of the aliens --
between the "Outer Limits" story and the tale told by Betty and
Barney Hill?

What's at stake here is simple reason, and common sense. Are we
actually asked to take the following remark seriously?

> Betty's
> denial is pretty thin gruel, unless someone is going to
> seriously argue that she can remember every single show
> (not just series), commercial or trailer that Barney saw,
> even a part of, in the 1960s.

May I remind the increasingly frustrating Peter that he himself
has insisted on a cardinal point of scientific method -- that
hypotheses, in order to be seriously considered by science, have
to be falsifiable? In other words, if there's no way to prove
something wrong, there's no way for science to weigh its
probability.

Here we have a perfect example of a proposition that can't be
disproved. Betty and Barney Hill, it's claimed, derived their
alien from a television show. "But," cries Betty, "we never
watched that show!"

"Ah," say the skeptics, "but can you be sure? Can you account for
absolutely everything you saw on TV during that long-ago era?" Of
course they can't. Nobody could. So the skeptics' allegation
can't possibly be disproved. So much for their claim that they're
scientific. Like so many mere mortals, they practice scientific
method only when it suits their purposes. With no positive
evidence, they declare something to be true, unless it can be
disproved with the kind of absolute certainly not obtainable
anywhere, about anything. I only hope they take their life
savings out of the sock under their pillow, and invest it all in
the stock market, using similar logic. I won't be able to resist
smirking at the result.

And of course what's most disgraceful about them is their
absolute certainty. While the best people on what might be called
the pro-UFO side of the argument state their beliefs with
becoming modesty, the skeptics make their own case in the
language of absolute truth. Worse, they resort to derision. Worst
of all, they misrepresent the arguments against them. I have
never -- and I repeat, never -- seen a skeptical discussion of
abductions that comes even close to stating the opposing case
that abduction researchers make.

Case in point, from Peter's latest:

> Insofar as the "research" of abductionists is not objective, and
> insofar as they rely on "techniques" that are irretrievably
> flawed in execution and untrustworthy in principle (read the
> literature on "memory retrieval" in child abuse and RSA cases,
> and the Royal Society of Psychiatrists' report on same that
> contributed to their decision to outlaw hypnotic and related
> techniques, and top that with the emerging revisionist literature
> on repressed memory), then agnosticism about abductions becomes a
> moral abdication and and intellectual snare and delusion.

Peter, who has written a book on abductions, and ought to know
better, conveniently neglects to note that:

1. The case for abductions doesn't depend on hypnosis. Many
abductees remember all of their experiences consciously, and
virtually every abductee has SOME conscious memory, ranging from
mere traces to substantial recall. Virtually every abductee has
conscious memories of what might be called "pre-abduction"
experiences (beings glimpsed by the bed, unaccountable lights in
their rooms, and so forth).

2. The case against "recovered memories" (and the use of hypnosis
to recover them) is made only against memories that can't be
corroborated. There's been a plague, in recent years, of people
who make accusations of sexual abuse, solely on the basis of
memories allegedly recovered by hypnosis, even though these
memories can't be otherwise corroborated. Whether or not hypnosis
actually can recover memories is quite a different question,
which at this point is not at all settled. Laboratory research
has convincingly demonstrated that hypnosis can't recover trivial
memories, but whether it recovers traumatic memories has barely
been investigated. Psychological journals have, in fact, printed
papers demonstrating cases when hypnosis has, in fact, recovered
traumatic memories whose accuracy could later be corrorborated.
It's true that abduction reports haven't been corroborated by
objective evidence, but the similarity of abduction recollections
(both hypnotically and non-hypnotically collected) is at least
suggestive. Nobody, in fact -- or at least nobody with any sense
-- believes in abductions soley because abductees claim to
remember them. It's the similarities in abduction accounts that
make abductions plausible. Peter may not be convinced by those
similarities, but to unhorse them, he would, like other skeptics,
have to bring in further hypotheses -- that abductees have been
contaminated by the media, let's say, or that they're fed the
standard abduction tale by careless or dishonest investigators.
We could argue forever about whether these theories have any
merit, but to support or oppose them isn't my point. My point
right now is that Peter doesn't mention these refinements in his
violent denunciation of abduction research and abduction
researchers. His denunciation, in other words, is all but
wilfully dishonest (to throw one of his accusations back in his
own teeth). He knows, or ought to know, that the argument is far
more complex than he makes it. And without these refinements, his
denunciation is worthless. It's the classic attack on a straw
man.

I adore Peter as a human being, but I find his arguments here not
just ignorant, but also intellectually dishonest on a gigantic
scale. To demonstrate how this is so, I'll ask him publicly
something I've also asked him in private. Then we can all await
his response.

When he was working on his abduction book, he sent me e-mail
asking my opinion about something that he felt Budd Hopkins and
David Jacobs had been less than honest about. I won't mention
what it is, since this was a private communication, and I don't
know if the matter in question is something Peter would want to
say publicly.

In reply, I gave him my opinion of the question he'd asked, and
then asked him a question in return. My question was about an
allegation David Jacobs frequently makes. Abduction reports are
so consistent, Jacobs says, that once an abductee starts to
describe an alleged alien procedure, he himself knows in detail
what's coming next. He says he could tell the exact story, before
it drops from the abductee's hypnotized or non-hypnotized lips.
Even more specifically, he says he now can recognize most of the
medical implements the aliens allegedly use. Once an abductee
mentions any of them, Jacobs says, he knows exactly what they're
going to say the aliens do with it.

I've never seen Jacobs corroborate these claims. But then, I've
never tried to write a book about abductions. Since Peter was
writing such a book, I asked him more or less this question.
"Peter, you've accused David Jacobs and Budd Hopkins of being
dishonest on a certain point. You also now know, if you didn't
before, that Jacobs makes claims about the consistency of
abductee accounts, claims which, if substantiated, would rather
strongly suggest that the accounts might be genuine. Which of
these two questions are you going to investigate first? Which is
more important to your research?"

OK, Peter -- I'll ask you this again. Is your research objective,
or fatally biased toward one side of this complex question?
You've evidently spent some of your research time reading the
"emerging" critique of repressed memory. Have you spent any time
at all trying to prove or disprove the astonishing -- and
centrally relevant -- pro-abduction claims that David Jacobs
makes?

Greg Sandow


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