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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1998 > Jul > Jul 20

Why Migranes Don'T Explain UFOs

From: Mark Cashman <mcashman@ix.netcom.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 23:01:54 -0400
Fwd Date: Mon, 20 Jul 1998 05:47:47 -0400
Subject: Why Migranes Don'T Explain UFOs

The hypothesis advanced in the recently posted Magonia claims
that some close encounters may be the result of migrane or
migrane-like phenomena, in keeping with the theory that UFOs are
accounted for by the Misperception, Hallucination, and Hoax
Hypothesis (MHH).

The problem with the hypothesis is that the presented migrane
case and the comparison UFO cases differ in significant aspects:

1) The migrane account does not present any definite visual
phenomenon. By comparison, the UFO accounts present definite and
long-lasting visual phenomena which are clearly differentiated
from their background.

2) The migrane account reports a sort of free-floating, quiet
emotion. By comparison, the UFO witnesses primary emotion in the
comparison cases is fear.

3) UFO accounts similar to those presented for comparison also
manifest physical trace evidence, and are reported with multiple
independent accounts obtained on the record from witnesses. No
migrane headache which generates physical trace evidence exists
or can exist. Multiple simultaneous migranes are unheard of, and
multiple simultaneous hallucinations with the same content are
also not part of the mainstream psychological literature.

4) No information has been presented to indicate that any
migrane visual disturbance has any close parallel to the visual
perception of a UFO. One would expect the migrane literature to
be replete with complex structured visual hallucinations if this
were the case. However, one must wonder why the author neglected
to select such a case to present against the UFO cases. Surely
not all "UFO migranes" are reported as UFO cases and none as the
effect of migranes. Surely there would be a continuum of more
and more UFO-like migranes if this were a valid explanation of
even some close encounters.

As far as scientific thinking goes, the migrane hypothesis is
pretty bad. Though at least we get a hypothesis:

- Migranes cause some close encounters; for instance, those
where the witness reports a headache afterward. -

But what evidence is used to support the hypothesis?

Why, anecdotal evidence from migrane sufferers. While anecdotal
testimony from UFO witnesses is commonly scorned by MHH
proponents, it is presumably acceptable when it supports MHH.

Second, the anecdotal evidence presented, presumably the best
available - that is, the closest possible to a UFO experience -
bears little or no resemblance to a UFO account. In fact, about
the most that can be said of it is that it describes an
experience where the sufferer felt calm, tingly, heard a hum
from crickets that somehow manifested itself as color, and
continued to have these feelings for about 20 minutes. In fact,
not only does this have almost no point of similarity with
reliable UFO accounts from the literature, it also has no
resemblance to the UFO accounts provided for comparison. For
instance, in those UFO accounts, the witness reports unnatural
silence, while the migrane account refers to the sound of the
crickets. The UFO accounts refer to an object of specific
appearance, dimensions, location, and behavior, while the
migrane account refers only to a generally altered sense of
reality. The UFO accounts describe fear on the part of the
witness, while a tranquil emotion is reported by the migrane

The author then states, attempting to support by suggestion what
was not supported by the evidence: "Sacks writes of . . .
'free-wheeling states of hallucinosis, illusion, or dreaming'
which may be experienced during intense migraine auras, and be
manifest as confused or confabulatory states of which the
patient retains imperfect recollection.  These states are
composed of coherent, dramatically-organised  series of images,
and are usually compared by patients to intense, involuntary
daydreams or daymares."

One must wonder why the author did not choose one of those
accounts rather than the poorly matched one presented, if the
other accounts are such "coherent, dramatically-organised series
of images, [which] are usually compared by patients to intense,
involuntary daydreams or daymares." One can only suppose that
none of these are reported in the literature, or that none of
those reported have any resemblance to UFO material. In either
case, the contention that migrane symptoms approximate UFO
phenomena remains unsupported

Now an obvious and important discriminator for the truth of this
hypothesis would be the presence, somewhere in the hundreds or
thousands of hours of laboratory observation of migrane
sufferers, of one close encounter hallucination. The absence of
such an account makes it seem likely that no such experience

Yet another discriminator would be the presence of a likeness
between UFO reports which cannot be explained by this mechanism
and those which presumably can. If this likeness exists, one
must account for why the explanatory cause does not have
distinguishing characteristics. Clearly, this has not been done.
Yet there are many UFO reports, identical to those indicated to
be explained by the migrane hypothesis, which have multiple
witnesses, physical trace effects, and even photographs. In some
cases there are headaches, in some not. Why are those accounts
not caused by migrane similar in nature to those which
presumably are? In any other science, this would be a broad hint
that the hypothesis is incorrect, and that a more fundamental
cause for UFO reports must be sought.

The author then draws a tenuous analogy between a crisp
description of a UFO and another variant of a migrane
experience. The connection rests solely on the presence of
"zig-zag" lines perceived as part of the migraine scotomata.
Anyone with experience of this phenomenon knows that it is
similar to enlarging the blind spot to slowly cover from the
entire eye, and cannot be confused with "an object on a patch of
soil in the garden which was wine red in colour and about the
size of a drinks tray [which] remained on the ground for a few
minutes, then suddenly . . . took off, like a coin being
flipped, and spun up into the air, revealing its underside with
a series of reinforcements on the rim [and] then seemed to head
for the window [where it] gave out a blue flash".

Now, science requires the following:

1.Observe something which needs explaining (the observation).

2.Formulate a mechanism which explains it (the hypothesis).

3.Determine characteristics which differentiate an observation
consistent with the hypothesis from one which is inconsistent
with the hypothesis (the differentiator) . 4.Formulate an
experiment or an observation which will identify if the
differentiator is present.

5.Perform the experiment or observation.

6.Record and publish the results for comment and attempted
reproduction by others. If the differentiator is confirmed, then
the hypothesis may be considered correct, otherwise it is
considered incorrect.

The author of the Magonia article put forward 1 and 2, but fails
to perform 3, 4, and 5. That being the case, 6 is moot, and the
Magonia article is not science. It is no better than what many
call "pseudoscience". In fact, the contrast of the MHH
explanations with science is clear, since MHH explanations seem
to operate as follows:

1. Select an isolated aspect of the UFO phenomenon. Ignore all
of the rest of the data. Ignore any cross phenomenon patterns.

2. Find any natural, medical or optical phenomenon that bears
even a tiny resemblance to the isolated aspect.

3. Claim that the vague resemblance demonstrates that the
explanation must be true for at least some subset of UFO

4. Do not provide any discriminator. Require opponents to do so.
Evade any discriminators or results which tend to discredit the

5. If any explanation is discredited, claim it applies to some
other case, or that some variation on the explanation works, or
switch to a completely different explanation and maintain that
the original explanation was never intended to apply to the
specific case, but that some other one does, and that the
proposed explanation applies to other cases.

The weakest part of these sort of "explanations" is the need to
have a wide variety of physical, optical, psychological and
medical phenomena produce an observable result which has a
fairly uniform appearance and behavior with widespread patterns
across demographic and cultural groups (not to mention
photographs, physical traces, and medical traces, which are also
reasonably uniform). Why should migranes, mirages, delusions,
and hoaxes all produce UFOs - and, more importantly, the same
kind of UFOs? The obvious answer is - they don't. We'll have to
look deeper than the superficial MHH for answers to UFOs.

Mark Cashman, creator of The Temporal Doorway at
- Original digital art, writing, and UFO research -
Author of SF novels available at...