Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Q. I claim that, by that definition, all organized religion is fundamentally psychotic. Do you agree?

DD: There is definitely a similarity, but more interesting are the differences: most deeply religious people can be entirely effective and clearheaded agents on behalf of their curious beliefs. Nothing disorganized about their behavior.

Q. Why are people who claim to be alien abductees looked upon askance while those who see the Virgin Mary [are] not?

DD: There are good reasons to believe that many who claim to be alien abductees have actually had a traumatic sexual experience at the hands of some abusing member of the family, or other sexual abuser. For them this is just the socially easiest way of "explaining" their traumatic memories, and their PTSD symptoms, and they may be entirely sincere in their hallucinated memories. (So John Mack was probably half right: these people had indeed had a terrible experience; it just wasn't with aliens.) The phenomenon should be studied with a suitably rigorous methodology (not the way Whitley Strieber "investigated" it). But that's tough, since ethical and legal problems arise immediately. That's no accident. It's an instance of Nicholas Humphrey's Argument from Unwarranted Design (in his excellent book LEAPS OF FAITH). Now why should it be that the juiciest and most contagious tales of horror and wonder always seem to involve circumstances that are systematically difficult to investigate? These myths spread because they can spread, just like the virus for the common cold.

Daniel Dennett really needs to read Joseph Campbell. Like, seriously.