By Nigel Hannaford firstname.lastname@example.org , Calgary Herald
Fox Mulder is interviewing a pregnant young woman on an episode of the X Files. She lives in a trailer, has a double-digit IQ. No husband or boyfriend in sight.
"Who's the father?"
It turns out she has seen Star Wars dozens of time and it has become real for her.
The X-Files gang probably intended no self-mockery here but a large part of their audience is wide open to the paranormal world which the fictional FBI team investigates. This observation was made in the Calgary Herald last Monday by an American scholar of religion, Daniel Noel, who notes a development of people's belief systems in the last decades:
"Many more people seem to believe in the reality of the paranormal and do so with amazing ease."
To put it another way, it is one of the ironies of the age in which we live that never before have so many people been so well- educated and yet be so ready to fiercely believe in things for which little validation is offered. In a world based on science, the scientific method -- proposition, experiment, observation, conclusion -- is seldom invoked in consideration of the new mythology.
Granted, one cannot conduct an experiment to determine the existence of say, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Still, given the intense interest in each creature, the absence of clear pictures, animal remains or, in Bigfoot's case, scatalogical evidence, means that to believe in them, you have to want to.
Then there's the whole world of UFOs, which for true believers flows over into a political nightmare of diabolical significance.
In one version of this scenario -- this is a composite of several -- Nazi scientists were instructed by occult forces on how to build anti-gravity machines and after the war ended, retreated with their flying saucers to their secret bases in Antarctica. (This, you see, was the real reason the Americans sent a fleet of warships under Admiral Byrd to explore Antarctica. But the Pentagon will never admit it.) Anyway, now the Americans build and test flying saucers at Area 51 and the Pentagon won't admit that either because it's all part of the New World Order, which is actually controlled by the Antichrist.
It would be diverting to catalogue the fancies of the New Age, with their crystal healers, channelers, we-are-one with the cosmos, the cosmos-is-me nutbars, its numerologists and the people who want to eat their way to mental health. Space forbids.
The common thread in all of the above is that none of them offer their followers anything firm to grasp and in many cases, especially those dealing with special effects and healings, are easily disposed of by simple experiment. No matter. If you want to believe that sitting under a pyramid cures hangnails, you will.
Now, it is possible that there is some truth to some of the conspiracy theories. Maybe those strange lights in the sky are spaceships from distant galaxies and maybe there are large anthropoids in the Oregon forest. Nor am I saying that nobody was ever abducted by aliens. I am only saying there is insufficient proof for anybody to take any of this as a fact.
Religious people may well object that there really is a supernatural, a God and an anti-God and that faith alone is sufficient to believe.
True. So, those folks who want to make a religion out of the X-Files, or at any rate the kind of thing the X-Files talks about, will find their right to do so protected as an issue of religious freedom. There may be a cost: an extreme example was the 39 members of the Heaven's Gate UFO cult who committed suicide to join up with heavenly elders riding on the Hale-Bopp comet.
You have an equal right to your belief but all beliefs are not equal. Caveat emptor.
Some commentators say this credulity, which seems more typical of the 16th century, is a sign of a deep inner spiritual void, a God-shaped gap. Others characterize it as an emotional reaction to the technological world which we confront.
Maybe both, for some people. For all too many, though, it's nothing more than intellectual laziness. Just because everybody loves a mystery, doesn't mean that every mystery has a paranormal explanation.
As they say in journalism school, "If your momma says she loves you, check it out."
Nigel Hannaford can be reached at 235-7135 or by e-mail: email@example.com
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