Monday, November 12, 2007

UFO Sightings and Religious Testimony

Dennis Kucinich's UFO sighting:

In Shirley MacLaine's new book, the actress and longtime friend of Dennis Kucinich makes an interesting claim: During a visit to her home in Washington state, Kucinich said he saw a UFO and heard messages from it.

"Dennis found his encounter extremely moving," MacLaine writes. "The smell of roses drew him out to my balcony where, when he looked up, he saw a gigantic triangular craft, silent, and observing him.

"It hovered, soundless, for 10 minutes or so, and sped away with a speed he couldn't comprehend. He said he felt a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind."

Tim Russert asked Kucinich during the last Democratic debate if he had seen a UFO and Kucinich answered:
Uh, I did. And the rest of the account. It was an unidentified flying object, OK? It's like, it's unidentified. I saw something. Now, to answer your question. I'm moving my, and I'm also going to move my campaign office to Roswell, New Mexico, and another one in Exeter, New Hampshire, OK? And also, you have to keep in mind that Jimmy Carter saw a UFO, and also that more people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush's presidency.

Here we have a very successful politician, who is quirky to be sure but not obviously insane or prone to hallucinations, testifying that he saw a UFO. To be fair, he didn't clearly admit to Russert anything else that MacLaine said, but neither did he really deny it.

I think this provides an interesting window into various religious apologetic arguments.

C.S. Lewis, for example, popularized the argument that because of the things Jesus said, he must have been either a liar, a lunatic, or indeed the Lord. If MacLaine is to be believed, then by Lewis's logic, Kucinich must be either a liar, a lunatic, or someone who actually had the experience MacLaine described.

The Bible-Science apologists would focus on the fact that, technically, a UFO is nothing extraordinary -- it's just a flying object that we can't identify. This seems to be the route Kucinich attempted at the debate. Just like the Biblical Flood might have been a more local flood, Kucinich's UFO might have just been a weather balloon or a stealth bomber.

The mythologists would claim that Kucinich didn't mean his story literally -- it was an allegory for the Iraq war, or something.

So what are we skeptics to believe? If MacLaine is telling the truth about what Kucinich told her, I'm actually kind of stumped. I see no motive for him to have fabricated the story. I suppose a hallucination is possible, although I would assume hallucinations of that magnitude don't happen to otherwise sane people, unless some sort of drugs are involved, and we have no evidence that Kucinich was on any drugs, either. Another obvious explanation is that MacLaine either made up the story or seriously embellished it, or that Kucinich lied to her or embellished it to her. But I don't find that explanation especially compelling, either, because if she had lied or embellished it, Kucinich should have denied it more strongly, and if he had lied or embellished it to her, I don't see why he wouldn't deny it to Russert or at least explain what he had done in some way. Finally, there's no reason UFO's -- in the alien craft sense -- couldn't exist, although it seems unlikely that they would do things like Kucinich described without doing enough to confirm to more than fourteen percent of Americans that they exist.

In the end, I guess I'd bet on Kucinich having had some sort of hallucination. That's also my guess about various religious people's personal testimonies of seeing God or having other "supernatural" experiences, whether it be Moses's burning bush or some random Christian seeing Jesus in his bedroom at 4 am. Religious people who take such testimony seriously while dismissing someone like Kucinich out of hand are clearly biased and should reconsider their thought processes. So should the apologists.


jewish philosopher said...

Extraordinary events require extraordinary proof.

But how unlikely is it that God would have told us what He wants us to do, as He did at Mt. Sinai?

Theresa said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. He smelled roses, went to the balcony, saw an unidentified object and felt moved. Even her account doesn't describe anything miraculous.

Theresa said...

Oh, the "heard direction in his mind part"

Jacquie Bockius said...

Why is it so hard for you (and many others) to acknowledge that YES, there are unidentified flying objects in our realm? And indeed they may come from other dimensions or planets. Have you not done any real research on the subject? There has been tangible, physical proof that we have and are being visited. It is NO hallucination!

Anonymous said...

Yea, JA, do the research. I've heard they have really hot chicks in other dimensions.