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The Last Abduction

On BoA:Audio episode #606, the Ufology Year-in-Review, Tim referred to the Emma Woods/David Jacobs debacle as 2010's biggest story in Ufology. I have to disagree. The Emma Woods debacle is but a tangent of a larger story. Along with Carol Rainey's exposè of ex-husband Budd Hopkins' appalling methodology (or a lack thereof) and behaviors in Paratopia Magazine (1), UFO Magazine's Emma Woods front-cover story (2), and other revelations (3), we are witnessing the collapse of alien abduction research.

This has been a long time coming. Recent trends in the UFO research community, such as the slow shift away from the extraterrestrial hypothesis and the rise of the Disclosure/Exopolitics movement, have marginalized Hopkins and Jacobs. Though the last ten years has seen their importance and prominence diminished, as compared to their role during the last two decades of the twentieth-century, Hopkins and Jacobs were still well respected researchers, above the cesspool of ugly personalities that dominates Ufology.

While Hopkins and Jacobs may fade away, they would leave behind an influential legacy, not just within Ufology but popular culture (4). That is certainly the case now (and not for the better). I do not think anyone could have predicted their reputations and legacy imploding in such a spectacular fashion.

The UFO research community is starting to realize what the skeptics already knew about Hopkins and Jacobs for almost three decades now. Read chapter three of Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Strange Things and see how many of Shermer's "Twenty-five Fallacies that Lead Us to Believe Weird Things" Hopkins and Jacobs engage in (5). Wrapped in pseudo-scientific nonsense, their methods are not just suspect, using a tool (hypnosis) they have demonstrably little understanding of, open to confabulation both unintentional and purposeful, but dangerous as well.

For the majority of their three decade careers, Hopkins and Jacobs thrived on an environment of ignorance. Skeptics posed no threat to them as they had an audience ready to dismiss the criticisms of skeptics for the sin of being skeptical. Hopkins and Jacobs were dependent on that audience's inability to fact-check their claims. Evidence indicates Hopkins and Jacobs knew how shaky their foundation was (6).

But the advent of the internet ended the environment of ignorance. Whether it be case-specifics or claims about validity and accuracy of their methods, Hopkins and Jacobs could finally be fact-checked. Critical-thinkers, whether believers or skeptics, did so. Alien abductions were found to not fit in the calcified box that they tried to force them into (7). Carol Rainey titles her article "The Priests of High Strangeness" though this is not accurate. In a bid for respectability, Hopkins and Jacobs scrubbed accounts of anomalies. This left critical-thinkers with an important question: how can you trust a researcher who does not give you all the facts?

Further, information about the benefits and drawbacks of hypnosis became more readily available. Critical-thinkers discovered what skeptics and actual experts on hypnosis had been saying all along, that hypnosis, as a tool, is far different than Hopkins and Jacobs bare-assertions fallacies about it (our methods are accurate because we say they are accurate). Still, it was slow to filter through the Ufology as a whole. Hopkins and Jacobs' stature seemed enough to win them a pass. But Emma Woods and revelations that followed could not be ignored. Hopkins and Jacobs have been exposed as two men with no idea what they are doing, except in the most insidious sense.

Not that has stopped some within Ufology from trying. The rationalizations and excuses used to defend Jacobs and Hopkins are as infuriating as they are pathetic. None have used facts to explain their actions, instead relying on ad hominems bordering on the misogynistic. Emma Woods has been called "crazy", Carol Rainey a "scorned ex-wife", as if either of these labels, even if true, make their accusations false.

Some have held Jacob's response to Emma Woods as gospel. But no reasonable, knowledgeable observer can read Jacob's response as a cogent defense or see him as anything other than a desperate man, attempting to weasel out of his own long-stated beliefs, showing what little faith he has in them (9). Others have attempted to dismiss the allegations because of Hopkins' failing health. And, as Carol Rainey points out in her Paratopia article, an old-guard within Ufology have fought any criticism of Hopkins and Jacobs not out of concern about the truth (as should always be our chief concern in this field) but how Ufology is perceived by the public-at-large.

I do not see how alien abduction research can survive the self-destruction of Hopkins and Jacobs. While there are students of Hopkins and Jacobs, do we want them to take up the mantle of their mentors? The Hopkins-Jacobs scenario dominates, as well as their attitudes about the use of hypnosis. On a recent episode of another podcast, MUFON director Clifford Clift voiced the same falsehoods about hypnosis as Hopkins and Jacobs (10). And in light of the behavior of the mentors, can anyone following in their footsteps and subscribing to their beliefs ever be considered credible?

The collapse of alien abduction research is very unfortunate because I think it to be a valid subject for scientific inquiry. I do not think it is an objective reality but a psychological phenomenon, a result of an altered state of consciousness (as a long-time sufferer of sleep-paralysis, resulting in vivid, intense hallucinations, I would love to see a study into the sleep patterns and disorders of abductees). However if mainstream scientists were reluctant to examine the subject before, there is no way they will approach it now due to the taint of Jacobs and Hopkins. It is ironic that the very men who dedicated their lives to giving the subject respectability are the ones who ultimately destroyed it.

Endnotes & Links.

1. paratopia.net/paratopia_magazine/mag_preview_final.pdf

2.Jeremy Vaeni's excellent UFO Magazinearticle is a good primer on what all the Emma Woods mess is about.

3.Paratopia 92, Deb Kauble unleashed; cyberears.com/cybdirect/10914.mp3

4.The Hopkins-Jacobs scenario has permeated popular culture. Ask any lay-person to describe an alien abduction and they will describe the Hopkins-Jacobs scenario, thanks to shows such as the X-Files.

5."Theory Influences Observations", "The Observer Changes the Observed", "Equipment Constructs Results", "Anecdotes Do Not Make Science", and "Scientific Language Does Not Make a Science", stand out.

6. theparacast.com/forum/threads/8173-Hopkins-Ex-wife-Dumps?p=107456#post107456

7. See for example, Lee Parish's 1977 abduction.

8. See episode 55 of Paratopia, interview with Dr. Scott Lilienfield; hostedwith.cyberears.com/9284.mp3

9. Jacob's response to Emma Woods

10. The Paracast, January 23, 2011.

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