From the beginning of the abduction phenomenon, debunkers, critics, and proponents have organized their knowledge about abductions based on incomplete evidence and culturally determined attitudes. As knowledge grows, theories must be revised. As we learn more, the verities of the past become the naivetes of the present. All knowledge is subject to change as new evidence is developed. With this is mind, we must revise some of our assumptions in light of new, sometimes disconfirmatory, and even disturbing, information. Although there is much that needs to be rethought, I would like to discuss some theories and thinking that presently need critical reevaluation.
All UFO researchers are aware of the muddled and “shoot-from-the-hip” thinking that non-UFO researchers, skeptics, and, especially, debunkers have employed over the years. They have linked the abduction phenomenon to a myriad of internally generated phenomena with a wide range of causative factors.
These explanatory systems are based on either a fundamental lack of knowledge of the abduction phenomenon or on a systematic disregarding of the disconfirmatory evidence within it. For particularly ill-informed skeptics, the list to chose from is long — psychosis, fabrication, fugue state, science fiction, media contamination, folklore, mass hysteria, hypnosis problems, fantasy prone personalities, suggestive people, sleep paralysis, and so on. The more sophisticated skeptics employ these explanations, or a combination of them, and constantly develop new ones when the older ones are shown to be untenable. Screen memories of sexual abuse, came into currency in the mid-1980s, temporal lobe lability also of the mid-1980s, fantasy prone personalities, current in the late-1980s, sleep paralysis of the early 1990s, false memory syndrome of the mid-1990s, and by the late 1990s, the trendy “millenialism.” These explanations tend to fall out of favor and then make “come-backs” from time to time as debunkers refuse to let go of the oldies but goodies.
As disparate as the critics’ explanations are, they have an important commonality — they come in successive fads, one after another. For decades, debunkers and skeptics have attempted to link the phenomenon to abduction accounts to certain causative factors within the society. Debunking explanations tend to be dynamic, changing, and linked to the cultural currents in the society. For example, When sexual abuse became prominent in the press, debunkers seized upon it as an answer to abductions. When False Memory Syndrome became a “hot” problem, its exponents thought they had found the answer to abductions. The same has been true of wave after wave of explanations.
Contrary to the debunkers’ opinions however, like the UFO phenomenon itself, the basics of the abduction phenomenon have, over the years, remained the same regardless of what is current in the society. The essential parts of Barney and Betty Hill’s early 1960s account are operative today. Even the essential parts of the 1957 Antonio Villas Boas case are informative and operative now. Rather than the abductions, it is the explanations that have proven to be societally linked and temporally bound. They are, in essence, faddist. In this way, the explanations reveal more about popular culture and the society from which they spring than they do about the etiology of the abduction phenomenon. They reveal a fundamental lack of knowledge and engagement with the phenomenon on a primary level that nearly all debunkers share. And no one has ever been able to duplicate the complex abduction narrative within a clinical or laboratory situation from a person who was not an abductee.