THE LURE OF THE ETERNAL WHY: A MATTER OF CURIOUSLY ADDICTIVE SCIENTIFIC HUNGER
Attention, fellow space abductees! No, I can’t prove the fact of my abduction conclusively to the satisfaction of the skeptics of the world. I can’t even remember being abducted. But my husband says it’s the only possible explanation for the changes he has observed in me in the past twenty-five years.
But let us put aside the empirical questions – “Who? When? Where? What?” – slam shut the Skeptic’s Dictionary, suspend our disbelief, and migrate into the philosophical domain.
Why do humans profess to have clear and distinct impressions of things that do not exist? Why do normally inoffensive theologians come to blows over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Why do we persist in our never-ending quest for that elusive entity, the soul?
Why does that confounded chicken keep crossing the road? And why, oh why, do aliens continue to probe us?
Sex comes to mind immediately. A cursory examination of mythology unearths many tales of the impregnation of nubile earth women by god-like beings. There is even a tantalizing reference in the Bible: Genesis 6:1-4.(2) These orgies of miscegenation allegedly resulted in the proliferation of heroes, monsters, giants, demigods and other unusual specimens. But we don’t see too many of those nowadays. Or do we? Perhaps those seven-and-a-half-foot basketball players and breathtakingly ugly professional wrestlers need not be explained in terms of human genetics and the misuse of pharmaceuticals. Perhaps the side-show exhibits that used to be so popular are not frauds after all. Perhaps cousin Joe’s peculiar tendencies have nothing to do with the fact that great-aunt Matilda saw a black cat in the ninth month of pregnancy …
But let’s move on. It is a reasonable supposition that we flatter ourselves when we imagine that aliens would find us sexually attractive. More likely, we are merely a minor diversion, a transient hobby, like an aquarium or an ant farm. The persistent probing may be no more enigmatic than the kid who sits industriously pulling the wings off flies, causing parents to fret about the possibility of astronomical psychotherapy bills in the future. Makes you shudder, doesn’t it – after millennia of regarding humanity as the supreme achievement of the universe, we might discover that extraterrestrial beings consider us too insignificant to merit any consideration or protection as we are casually exploited.
Which brings us to scientific research. Are we experimental subjects? For what purpose? What could aliens possibly learn from us that they haven’t had ample time to learn already?
This is exactly the same question that Millicent, the Metaphysically-Minded Mouse, is asking of her spiritual leader down at Acme Labs.
MILLI: Reverend, why do The Hands keep taking our people?
HOLYMOUSE: That is not for us to know, my child. The Hands give, and The Hands take away.
We can rest secure in the knowledge that there is a higher purpose to it all.
MILLI: But those who come back tell terrible stories of what happened to them! If The Hands are good and wise, why do they keep torturing us?
HOLYMOUSE: Shun those heretics! They have lost their faith, so they are trying to steal yours as well. Obviously, they were found unworthy …
MILLI: Eeeek! The Hands are back again! Why are they doing this to us?
HOLYMOUSE: Courage, my child! A great destiny awaits you!
EXPERIMENTER 1: Ouch! She bit me!
EXPERIMENTER 2: I told you – wear gloves.
EXPERIMENTER 1: I wasn’t hurting her – why did she bite me?
EXPERIMENTER 2: Well – wouldn’t YOU bite if someone was going to shave your back and pour acid on it?
EXPERIMENTER 1: She’s a mouse. She doesn’t know what’s going on.
EXPERIMENTER 2: How do you know? Haven’t you ever watched *Pinky and The Brain*?
If the Roper survey financed by Robert Bigelow is to be believed, aliens have probed a hundred million earthlings without leaving behind sufficient evidence to motivate Carl Sagan to do more than comment “It’s surprising more of the neighbors haven’t noticed.” These are obviously very advanced beings, well beyond the reach of our puny scientific information-gathering methodology. Determining why they find us so fascinating is substantially more challenging than Pinky and The Brain’s mission to achieve world domination. That being the case, we must ponder another question: Why do WE persist in probing those elusive and possibly non-existent aliens?
As a species, we are drawn irresistibly by the lure of Curiously Addictive Scientific Hunger to boldly go where no one has gone before, to set up polls and research projects, to put marks on paper and blips on our computer screens, to concoct TV specials and miniseries. Sometimes the resulting media frenzy takes on a life of its own, spinning off into the entertainment industry, spawning a maelstrom of believers, skeptics, con artists, midway ride designers, script writers and entertainers, urged ever onward by the siren song of the aforementioned Curiously Addictive Scientific Hunger. Even serious scientists like Linda Blackmore are not immune: would there be so much interest in, or funding for, sleep paralysis research if it were not an alternative explanation to the alien abduction experience?
Think about it. Without the alien abduction industry, our entire economy might collapse. At the very least, there would be a serious recession, with countless lost jobs and new welfare recipients to burden the taxpayer. The last thing we need is a definitive rational explanation of the phenomenon.
To update the eighteenth-century French thinker Voltaire: If aliens did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. It’s all a matter of C.A.S.H.