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Ten Alien Encounters DebunkedAs a longtime investigator of unusual phenomena, I have no doubt that UFOs exist. UFOs, are, of course, Unidentified Flying Objects, and "unidentified" simply means that what the eyewitness saw was not immediately recognized by that person, at that time, under those circumstances. There are many things in the skies that the average person may not be able to identify from a quick look but that a pilot, a meteorologist, or an astronomer might instantly recognize. There are also seemingly unusual experiences that most people may not understand but that a psychologist can explain.
With alien encounters, we find that often an explanation lies not necessarily in the skies but in our minds. Humans are pattern-seeking creatures, and our brains try desperately to make sense of things we don’t immediately recognize. Often we are correct in our assessments of what we see and experience, but many times we simply misperceive, misunderstand, or misremember.
Those who claim to encounter aliens and see UFOs are sometimes ridiculed as crazy, but in fact we are all hardwired with the same fallible brains. While some people seek out the skeptical or scientific explanations, others decide that since they can’t explain something, no one else can either, and therefore that experience is mysterious or inexplicable.
So with that, here are 10 alleged alien encounters—those brushes with aliens (or supposed aliens) that have been definitively debunked over the years.
-- Benjamin Radford
Benjamin Radford is a writer and the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine; he is also author or coauthor of three books, including Hoaxes, Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking.
Cattle MutilationsSlide 2 of 22
Cattle MutilationsThe story:
When alien visitors are not abducting people (see number 2) or implanting things in them (number 3), or making circles in crops (number 7), they butcher cattle, either for research purposes or perhaps sadistic amusement. Since the 1970s, hundreds of animal corpses have been found with unusual or inexplicable features, including being drained of blood and having their organs removed with "surgical precision."
The real story:
Livestock predation has plagued ranchers and farmers for millennia, but it wasn’t until the last few decades (during the public’s peaking interest in UFOs) that anyone thought to attribute the deaths to aliens. Research has shown that the "mysterious" features are in fact quite ordinary and are caused by natural decay processes and scavenger attacks. Curiously, exactly the same phenomena has been attributed to not only aliens but also to Satanic cults and the dreaded chupacabra creature of Hispanic folklore.
Kendrick Frazier, ed. The UFO Invasion.Slide 3 of 22
Alien EngineersSlide 4 of 22
Alien EngineersThe story:
Science can’t explain how the Great Pyramids of Egypt were constructed; because they are so precisely aligned and designed, aliens must have had a role in creating them thousands of years ago.
The real story:
While many people assume that those living in earlier times (such as the ancient Egyptians) were not resourceful enough to possibly have created impressive engineering feats without extraterrestial aid, this is not true. Actually, the methods by which the pyramids could have been constructed are well documented, and have appeared in many places including National Geographic magazine and Mark Lehner’s book The Complete Pyramids. The only real mystery surrounding the pyramids is why anyone would still think aliens were involved.
Mark Lehner. The Complete Pyramids.Slide 5 of 22
Area 51Slide 6 of 22
Area 51The story:
Area 51 is where the U.S. government stores and studies extraterrestrial bodies and aircraft, including the unfortunate (and apparently poorly-trained) alien pilots that crashed in Roswell. Some even say that it is an officially-sanctioned landing base for spaceships.
The real story:
The simple fact of the matter is that the public doesn’t really know much about what goes on at the military base near Groom Dry Lake, Nevada (popularly but not officially called Area 51). It is a top secret military base, and there are of course perfectly legitimate government and military reasons for keeping the base’s purposes secret that have nothing to do with aliens or UFOs; 60 Minutes correspondent Leslie Stahl suggested that the area may be a dumping ground for toxic waste. There’s no reason to think that anything alien is going on there, but where there is secrecy, there will be conspiracy.
Robert Carroll. The Skeptic’s Dictionary. Available at http://www.skepdic.com/area51.html.Slide 7 of 22
The Face on MarsSlide 8 of 22