Sunday, April 23, 2006

On Aliens

Er, wouldn't normally do this, but sane understanding of my book Aliens; Why They Are Here has been as rare as hen's teeth. Judge, then, of my delight on receiving the following from Simon Oakes. I have slightly shortened it.

"I have just read your latest book and enjoyed it very much. It was a brave approach for someone in your position.....It is the reasons behind the need for such bravery that interest me. Essentially, in my view it is because the Cartesian split between the objective and the subjective ... which, at a conceptual level, has underpinned, not only science, but the whole of Western civilisation for the last 350 or so years - is now under pressure.... In the last 4 years I have read as much as I could get my hands on about the philosophical implications of Quantum Mechanics. But I think the profoundest thoughts about this I have read came from Werner Heisenberg who said QM represented a breakdown in the existing conceptual structure underlying science i.e. the Cartesian approach. ...he was, I think, saying was that the most succesful scientific theory of all time demonstrates that the approach that keeps what we call the "subjective" out of the equation no longer works..... Bringing back the "subjective" into reality is scary - which I think goes to the heart of what your book was about. Its scary because ... I think it undermines the appearance (illusion!?) that through science and technology we can somehow control our world. This need to maintain the illusion of control, I think, is at the root of the hold materialism has on us. In this regard, I find it interesting that even philosophers who take mind and conciousness seriously - such as Thomas Nagel, Colin McGinn & John Searle - still think that what we think of as mind and meaning somehow still ultimately supervenes on what we currently think of as the physical. That the physical still... has the last word. But this is just an implausable metaphysical act of faith! Once we fully collapse the subject/object split and meld the former with the latter, the genie is out of the bottle. Hence all the neurosis and denial your book so interestingly covered."

Go, Simon

6 comments:

  1. Excuse me if I'm being a little dim on this, but is your position that the 'alien' phenomena is something 'real' but not physical - laying somewhere inbetween the mental and physical realm?

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  2. Yes. But that's only the start of it. The issue is what do we mean when we speak of "real" in this sense? My text on this is Wallace Stevens' poem The Snow Man - or it could be the whole of Stevens' oeuvre which is about this and tis alone. Snow Man below:

    The Snow Man

    WALLACE STEVENS

    One must have a mind of winter
    To regard the frost and the boughs
    Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

    And have been cold a long time
    To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
    The spruces rough in the distant glitter

    Of the January sun; and not to think
    Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
    In the sound of a few leaves,

    Which is the sound of the land
    Full of the same wind
    That is blowing in the same bare place

    For the listener, who listens in the snow,
    And, nothing himself, beholds
    Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

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  3. Its very difficult for science to get to grips with as it belongs to that class of phenomena that are observable (apparently), yet not repeatable. It reminds me of Hitchcock's 'The Birds', in which an emotional incident (the jealousy/rivalry of a mother and girlfriend over a man) somehow errupts into an inexplicable event in the natural world.

    Its also very similar to the ancient Chinese way of thinking, in which things observed in nature were seen as 'signs of the times'. And, indeed, astrology, where it is said that we only discover a new planet when Humanity is ready to discover some new concept.

    There are also some precidents for us not perceiving reality directly, but having to 'decode' and construct what we see. For example, when anthropologists gave a piece of paper with a picture on to some of the Me'en people of Ethiopia and asked them what it was, they failed to see the picture and instead felt the paper, sniffed it, tasted it, and crumbled it in their hands and listened to the noise it made! Equally, many so-called 'primitive' tribes do not understand the use of 'perspective' in drawings (i.e. the way that objects that are far away in drawings are shown as being smaller), particularly those who don't have experience of seeing perspective at all. For example, the anthropologist Colin Turnbull spent a lot of time in the Congo studying the pygmy tribes
    who spend their entire lives in the forest - hence they have no experience in seeing long distances. One day Turnbull took his pygmy guide out of the forest, and upon seeing some buffalo some miles away, the guide asked what kind of insects they were. He had no experience of seeing distant objects, so he didn't realise that their small appearance actually just meant that they were far away.
    And of course the eyes have 'blind spots' which we never 'see' because the brain, like a sort of Photoshop graphic designer, fills these in. And when we blink our visual system very quickly switches off, and we don't perceive this either.

    So, up to this point, tradtional psychology would even agree that our perception of reality is a somewhat unreliable construct. And that is without even looking at the evidence for the unreliability of witness reports...

    Equally, in other cases of what scientists might called 'mass halucinations' - such the visions at Lourdes - some have suggested that 'geopathic stress' is opperating on all the observers brains. So there is probably enough scope within traditional psychology to account for even muliple people seeing things that weren't really there.

    Yet its when we get to reports that the UFOs were picked up on Radar, or when they are photographed, that these explanations are not enough, and one might start to think of invoking the increased status of consciousness that quantum mechanics seems to imply.

    Here, as you say, we are seeing a return to the idea that first comes consciousness, then comes reality, rather than vice versa. The thought-creates-reality idea that is becomming very popular. Although I would submit that most people who subscribe to this idea - based in great part on the Eastern philosophies, and on the work of thinkers like C.J. Jung - have misunderstood what this theory is actually saying. The claim is not actually that we 'consciously' create reality, but the 'mechanicial' *unconscious* aspects of our thinking, those that we don't control, create it.

    The retort from the materialistic scientists, of course, is that Quantum mechanics applies mostly to the subatomic realm, and not to the scale of Humans.

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  4. Just ordered your book!
    For my very own reasons, after close to half a century of serious studies, I do not call "It" Alien, but "Symbiont". Yes we do have a symbiotic relationship,disguised at times as a "predator-prey" combat.Of course it is easier to joke about the entire matter, "little green men",etc. I call that the embarassed "Simian Syndrome". We laugh and proceed to eat our bananas, or follow the no see, no hear, no talk "Thing"
    Look at all religions, ancient history, esoteric traditions,etc and THINK!
    MLZ

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