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A Skeptic in Hell

By Keith Taylor

Holy smokes! There I was in a Television City studio taping a program to be shown across the whole country. I was starting to wonder if it was such a good idea after all. We were winging it without a script, the famous hostess and I. She shoved a microphone in my face and wanted to know my thoughts on people from outer space, as if I had seen any.

I was there because a liveried chauffeur had picked me up in a limousine and whisked me to Hollywood to be on the Roseanne show. As president of SDARI, I had been invited to provide balance to a panel of four people who believed we've been visited by people from outer space.

Jesse Long, one of the four million people sure they were abducted by aliens from "out there," was the main guest. His tale was buttressed by three others who were "experts" on abductions. In their opinion Jesse was onto something important.

The panel consisted of Budd Hopkins, author of several books on UFOs. Hopkins also counseled other abductees like Jesse. Yvonne Smith was there too. Ms. Smith is a hypnotist and therapist who unlocks suppressed memories of folks who've been abducted. Dr. Franklin Reuhl rounded out the panel. The doctor is a theoretical nuclear physicist who has written several articles on UFOs and maintains a web site full of even more such ideas. So far as I could tell the doctor never met a wild idea he didn't buy. Roseanne Barr/Arnold et al. were accepting every comment without challenge. Not a skeptic in the bunch; it would be tough balancing an act like that.

Nor would I have much support from the audience. A show of hands indicated more believers than nonbelievers.

My invitation had been proffered a mere two days earlier, not much time to prepare, Michael Shermer's book Why People Believe Weird Things gave me some insight to stories of the weird visitations. Some web sites dedicated to skepticism plus those dedicated to alien abductions gave me a bit more information. Two of our local scientists, Barbara Hemmingsen and Elie Shneour suggested I apply Occam's Razor to the story. Occam's Razor holds that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. It was something like what Mom used to tell me: "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill."

I tried to keep all that in mind. Maybe, even if I were outgunned, I wouldn't be overwhelmed.

Up in Hollywood, they gave me a seat in the audience, up close. I listened carefully to some wowser stories. Jesse claimed he had no life of his own. The aliens would zip him up somewhere--maybe to a space ship-- without warning. It was usually done at night while he was sleeping. (Has anybody ever figured out why those things always happen at night?)

"There" they'd extract his semen. A couple times he was raped by an unattractive female--perhaps like one of the gals I saw on El Cajon Boulevard recently. During Jesse's second rape he summoned all his will power and fought for his honor. The creature must have felt spurned because she scratched his arms. From then on, the space folks simply milked the semen from him. No whoopie doopie. We were spared the details of the milking except that it was not thrilling at all. Still, raped or milked, he ended up the daddy of thirty alien/human kids, several before he was twelve. For some reason his kiddies had normal eyes and looked a lot like him. In fact, Jesse didn't see any aliens with the huge eyes like other abductees had seen. Also Jesse got to talk with his kids. They told him they were okay.

There was certainly a lot to be skeptical of. The three space experts all supported the possibility of Jesse's story and supplied some whoppers of their own. Ms. White looked awfully serious surmising "something big" was going on. She said we had more abductions reported in the past two years than in all the previous years combined. She didn't note the corresponding increase in movies and books of a similar theme.

Mr. Hopkins told us he'd heard many stories similar to Jesse's from his research and the support groups he headed. Dr. Reuhl felt the funny looking people might be part of a lost civilization or something. In fact, Dr. Reuhl had all sorts of theories. I tried to follow him, but got a bit lost when he got into the idea of Sampson's strength coming from his hair. I think I read that somewhere else. He was also concerned about the lineup of the planets a few years down the road--in the next millennium of course. Last time that happened was with the Jupiter Effect a few years ago, and we all remember the chaos that caused: the volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tidal waves, widespread riots. Hey, you do remember don't you?

Oh well.

Occam's Razor suggested a simple answer--Jesse was nuts--but I didn't get to apply it. Roseanne had beat me to it with the same question. Now it was my turn, sort of. Almost every comment I made brought a non sequitur from my the hostess. Microphone in my face, she wanted to know whether I believed it was possible for beings more intelligent than I to be "out there," or whether the government was involved in some sort of mind control game.

I suggested that more intelligent beings than I lived on my block, and the government was indeed capable of mind control. Marine Corps Boot camp would have been a swell example, but I didn't think of that until on the way home.

I did point out that the fellow had come up with an unbelievable tale without a lick of proof. I noted that the three folks supporting him all had an interest in keeping the story in front of people. I also pointed out that Carl Sagan had surmised that we would be about as likely to mate with a head of cabbage as with beings from another planet.

My comment "I'm an old farm boy and even I never tried that" was met with a smile from Roseanne. I thought it was worth a real laugh.

All of the above is cluttering up a cutting room floor somewhere.

My doubts about the massive government cover-up we always hear about did make it on the edited version. I pointed out that while in the Navy I'd worked at the National Security Agency. Even with a small group of dedicated professionals working on an esoteric project we figured we would be lucky to keep a secret for five years. Yet the common refrain is that the government kept millions of folks quiet about the most important discovery of our civilization. Hopkins said he didn't say that, then said it again in different words.

In any case, I did get in a plug for our outfit, SDARI. Also I felt I cast significant doubt on the likelihood of any truth in a whopper of a story. Perhaps it wasn't all that important, but with all the gobbledegook being told and believed, other skeptics must feel the need for a kindred spirit. Perhaps I provided them that at least.

Best of all I stuck to my guns in hostile territory. I was nervous and shaking a bit, but didn't cut and run. I fought for my honor like Jesse with the space woman. After a few years associating with skeptics in SDARI I was bolstered by the knowledge that all I had to do was to think critically. This business isn't all that tough if you simply keep asking "why?".

Afterwards Roseanne twice told me I'd done good. Skeptic or not, I wasn't about to question that.