Date: Tue Jun 28 1994 00:00:08
From: Sheppard Gordon
Subj: Mack at Skeptic conf.
Skeptics eager to debunk claims of alien abductions
06/25/94 Seattle Times
John Mack is a Harvard psychiatrist, the founding director of a renowned
psychiatry department at Massachusetts Cambridge Hospital and a Pulitzer
Prize-winning biographer of Lawrence of Arabia. He also believes about 90 of
his patients have been abducted and molested by space aliens. He's written a
new book on that subject called Abductions: Human Encounters With Aliens.
This week, Mack addressed an overflow audience at the national convention of
the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, a
skeptics' group that made a heated discussion hotter by confronting Mack with
a female journalist who had hoaxed him with an abduction story he swallowed.
The timing was apt: Friday was the 47th anniversary of the first modern
reported sighting of flying saucers, made by a pilot near Mount Rainier in
The debate posed an intriguing question: Are skeptics justified in demanding
physical proof and conformance with physical laws, or is the scientific
community closing its mind to compelling evidence of what Mack called
"something not of this world but which enters into this world?
The convention is addressing not just the alien-abduction issue but human
belief in repressed memories of past abuse, angels, conspiracy theories and
questionable "expert courtroom testimony.
Mack said his patients' stories were so compelling he is convinced there are
realities and realms beyond scientific laws and human senses. "We are the
condemned prisoners of rationalism, he quoted.
But Donna Bassett, a North Carolina freelance journalist who posed as an
abductee, said Mack is simply gullible.
"I've never seen a UFO, nor have I ever been abducted, she said. "I faked it.
The (research) environment was disturbing. There was no scientific method
Among the arguments: Delusion: University of Kentucky psychologist Robert
Baker said abduction stories fit a common "hypnogogic sleep condition that
will affect four to five per cent of U.S. citizens in their lifetime -- or
more than 10 million people -- who will wake to a vivid hallucination that a
ghost, demon or alien is in their room. Similar visions have been recounted
since the Middle Ages, he said.
Motive: "Many of these people are in it for the money, says William Cone, a
California psychiatrist who has treated alleged abductees. He says others are
troubled and seeking an identity that abduction stories give them. "Some of
these people are just certifiably nuts, he added. "Not all of them.
Mack said his patients were often reluctant to share their experience and
include a businessman running for Congress, two children under age three and
a paraplegic with scars from a claimed spaceship medical examination that the
paralysed man could not have made himself.
Evidence: Baker says no abductee has returned with a surgical implant,
spaceship souvenir, photograph or other artifact that has withstood
scientific scrutiny. No hybrid children have turned up as proof of alleged
alien-breeding programs. Members of the audience argued abductions are
primarily a U.S. cultural phenomenon, with few reports in most other