Aliens and ontology: Are abductions “not real” if they’re “just dreams”?

Note the predictable materialist-reductionist assumption that characterizes a newly reported round of research into the alien abduction phenomenon. Because people could be trained to see/experience aliens and abductions while such phenomena were clearly not physically happening, Michael Raduga of Los Angeles’ Out-of-Body Experience Research Center deemed the phenomena themselves to be, therefore, illusory products of the human mind.

From Live Science and its sister site, Life’s Little Mysteries (with emphases added by me):

Researchers say they have conducted “the first experiment to ever prove that close encounters with UFOs and extraterrestrials are a product of the human mind.” In a sleep study by the Out-Of-Body Experience Research Center in Los Angeles, 20 volunteers were instructed to perform a series of mental steps upon waking up or becoming lucid during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences culminating in encounters with aliens. According to lead researcher Michael Raduga, more than half the volunteers experienced at least one full or partial out-of-body experience, and seven of them were able to make contact with UFOs or extraterrestrials during these dream-like experiences.

Raduga designed the experiment to test his theory that many reports of alien encounters are actually instances of people experiencing a vibrant, lifelike state of dreaming. If he could coach people to dream a realistic alien encounter, he said, that could prove that reports of such encounters are really just a product of our imaginations.

– “Alien Abductions May Be Vivid Dreams, Study Shows” (October 26, 2011)

From the Daily Mail (with emphases added by me):

Lead researcher Michael Raduga said, ‘Alien contact is not indicative of the existence of otherworldly civilizations, but rather of a poorly studied state of consciousness that people fall into inadvertently…The fact that UFOs and extraterrestrials may be deliberately encountered in a controlled manner, and within a few days proves that such experiences are a product of the human brain.’

— “Alien abductions are ‘just dreams’: Researchers train people to meet ETs in their sleep” (Oct. 27, 2011)

Reading this, I can’t help wondering whether Raduga has ever heard of — to name just one pertinent counter-example — the DMT research conducted by Rick Strassman, and the entirely anti-reductionist attitude that he  adopted while trying to interpret and understand the results. Strassman led numerous test subjects through multiple DMT trips over a period of years, and sat right beside them the whole time, and saw no aliens or other-dimensional beings himself — and yet he refused to reject out-of-hand the subjects’ accounts of entering other worlds and encountering such beings. Instead, he approached the whole thing with a truly open mind and used the data as a spur to philosophical/ontological and scientific reflection about the nature of reality itself and the possibility of alternative realms or dimensions that exist alongside the empirical one and are just as real as (or maybe even more real than?) it is.

Even more starkly, I can’t help wondering what Raduga makes of the more pervasive phenomenon of religious experience, whose accompanying particulars are no less invisible to and undetectable by empirical observation than the typical alien abduction experience (although all of these things — spiritual/religious phenomena, alien/UFO activity, and other supernatural and paranormal things — do have a tenacious tendency to impact the empirical world occasionally and erratically in ways that defy duplication and repeatability and, therefore, confirmation or disconfirmation in laboratory experiments). Would Raduga and Co. blithely announce that they have proved religious experience is likewise “mere” mental projection if they could teach people to produce it at will?

Well, actually, that might be exactly what they would say, given the similar line of thought that has been advanced regarding, for example, the connection between religious experience and temporal lobe epilepsy.  Then there are the related assertions from Michael Persinger about the significance of the experiences produced by his famous “God helmet.” A simple web search turns up the fact that Raduga himself is known for both his OBE focus and his non-belief in metaphysical matters. We’re living in the age of neuro-everything, including neurotheology. Neurological reductionism is a part of the zeigeist. Maybe “neuroparanormality” will be next.

If so, its popularity won’t make it any less wrong-headed. Neurological reductionism of any kind only pretends to answer questions, when in reality it begs and buries them, and then tries to act as if the conversation is over.

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on October 27, 2011, in Paranormal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hey, Matt. I´m kinda lost. I mean, you got to point me out the readings of what you read so I can understand the things the same way you do! I´m on the reductionism side of the scale.

  2. hahaha…I dig! It’s true that nowadays it’s neuro-everything, it saddens me, it annoys me. We have to allow that it’s a decent approach, they are trying their best to help humanity with answers after all, even if they’re running away from the questions.

    I’m always baffled by the ‘illusory’ claim because even if it’s illusory, is it not part of our world? If it’s an “illusory” product of their prized ‘neuro’-brain, is that not still their precious neuro-world? I wonder, the brain is part of this world, if it produces something, it still is part of this world, whether we who call ourselves rational see it as illusory or not.

    I am just using their ideas, the whole deal about neuro-everything just appals me.

  3. But, but, at the same time, we have all these things… if we open the world to ALL, then, where to stop? Everything may be “real”… I don´t know…

    You guys read “The invisibles” comic?

  4. You have a point there Rafael, that is the question to ask “where do we stop?”, what could be described as real and what could not? That’s a more beneficial question to ask than just lobbing them into arbitrary boxes without checking our philosophical foundations of these lobs.

  5. Hello Matt, nice post! The reductionism of the positivist strain is by far the most blunt tool for a phenomenological inquiry into pneumatological concepts.

    Here is my paper, under work, examining the origin of Science from Myth, the development of the empirical from the spiritual. Hope you find something worth your while there!

    http://glossolilacs.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/the-geology-of-the-real/

    • The study isn’t even worth discussion, actually, unless it’s to show how easily any old dubious press release is picked up and spread around online. After a couple of minutes digging around, I discovered that Raduga is just a guy from Russia who charges people to take his classes in lucid dreaming. The “research” should not be considered scientific or anything other than purely anecdotal.

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