We needed a filler episode on the podcast, and I thought it would be fun to cover Hunt for the Skinwalker. It was fun, but little did I know how perfectly timed the episode would be (or did I? How deep does this go?). One short week after the episode came out the “news” was filled with headlines like the following:
I found myself having conversations with friends and family who, having just realized how into this stuff I was, realized I was the perfect person to discuss this with. I also found myself reading story after story of people who are freaking out, or who are wondering why everyone isn’t freaking out.
What I Actually Believe
If you follow this blog, or if you follow me on goodreads you’ll know that I read a lot of books on religion (both mainstream and otherwise), magic, aliens, demons, etc. I like to think about ways in which reality might be more complicated than what we ordinarily experience. I like to imagine that there might be something more to consciousness than an emergent property of a sufficient number of connected neurons. I don’t think any of these books I read paint a completely accurate picture of the true nature of reality, nor do I hold any strong belief that the phenomenon they describe even exist.
I believe that the scientific method is the best tool we have for understanding our world and informing ourselves to make good decisions. I believe that good science requires well-documented experiments, a presentation of findings and subsequent peer review, reproduceable results, and accurate predictions. If you come up with a theory that fails to adequately predict future events and your findings cannot be reproduced by other independent scientific teams, then your theory is unscientific. As such, any unscientific theory would not be a good basis for future decision making.
The TL;DR of all this is that my interest in the paranormal does not factor into my decision to take vaccines, my trust scientific institutions, or who I vote for. Conspiratorial thinking can become a dangerous mind virus that will ultimately destroy the believer. Large scale, frankly ridiculous, government conspiracies have certainly existed. Unmasking them requires that one be able to distinguish low quality evidence (eye witness reporting) from high quality evidence (independently verifiable physical proof).
Ghost Hunting, UFO’s, cryptids, etc. are all very fun to think about and discuss. There are worse ways to spend a Saturday night than hanging out in a “haunted house” with your friends. Along the way, just be very aware of those things which you desperately want to believe, and be very skeptical of anyone who tells you only what you want to hear.
Skinwalkers at the Pentagon
There is a second book written by Colm Kelleher and George Knapp called Skinwalkers at the Pentagon. We may cover it on the podcast at some point. What you may be interested to know about this book is that after the events chronicled in Hunt for the Skinwalker, Bob Bigelow did not immediately give up on the ranch. Instead, he sought government funding for further research. Funding that he got thanks in no small part to his friendship with Senator Harry Reid.
This funding culminated in The Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP). The authors would like you to marvel at this achievement. They would prefer that you not think of this as a senator funneling public money to his weird friend. In fact, they would like to remind you that this, unlike healthcare or school lunches, was a bipartisan effort. Throwing money at your rich friend’s weird ranch is something everyone can get behind! AAWSAP is one of many government programs that has investigated the strange stuff happening in the sky. The greatest achievement of the current “disclosure” movement is getting the government to admit that these programs exist.
Why Am I Acting Like It’s Just Another Week When We Were Just Told ALIENS EXIST!
One final piece of advice: extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. This is why the scientific consensus can be so frustratingly slow to change. Inevitably, there will be new ground-breaking, life-changing discoveries that are forced to sit idle while they are meticulously confirmed by the scientific body. A person might reasonably ask: What are we waiting for?! This could save lives right now.
What this person might not be thinking about is the volume of new, potentially ground-breaking, potentially life-changing discoveries that have turned out to be incorrect, ineffective, or harmful. You tend not to hear about the things that didn’t pan out, while movies are made about under appreciated geniuses struggling against the old guard. The greater the potential impact of a discovery, the more caution that should be exercised in assessing its veracity.
Enthusiasts are taking a certain whistleblower’s information at face value. Many are making the assumption that more compelling evidence has been shown to the senate in closed sessions. If there is more compelling evidence, then I will be very happy to read about it when it is released publicly. It’s certainly fun to imagine what that evidence might be. I’d love to see a non-human biological intelligence’s body as much as the next weirdo.
Let us remember, though, that this is the United States senate. Let us remember the level of proof required for them to approve the invasion of nations, a decision which would cost the lives of tens of thousands (including American’s). I find the notion that they would not allow someone to make irresponsible statements about UFO’s on the senate floor without first providing credible, hard evidence laughable, to say the least.
In the absence of hard evidence, we have only the whistleblower’s word to go on. That is not nothing, but it also isn’t much. The whistleblower may be incorrect. The whistleblower may be lying or may have been lied to. Sadly, people do lie. There are numerous incentives to do so.
As I’ve said before, I have a lot of fun thinking about these things. Based on the response to this episode, I’m not alone. In some ways, the response to this episode scared me a little bit. The truth is that I would not have done this episode if I had realized that aliens would be making headlines around the same time as its release.
I wanted to convey that these topics can be a lot of fun to think about when you don’t want to believe in them too strongly and maintain a healthy skepticism. The headlines have brought some of the worst aspects of the “paranormal community” bubbling back to the surface. I have seen plenty of people who are furious at the world for not accepting testimony of second and third hand accounts as irrefutable proof of alien existence. I have seen some people expressing genuine fear that we are at the mercy of such entities who may wish us harm. It isn’t my intention to feed that fire in any way. I just wanted to tell some jokes about a haunted ranch.