Et tu, National Geographic? Et tu?
Earlier this month, NatGeo, the cable TV version of the venerable National Geographic magazine, aired its first episode of “Chasing UFOs,” thereby joining other cable channels supposedly dedicated to science and history that have descended into the ridiculous and fraudulent world of the “paranormal.”
The show purports to take a skeptical look at the phenomenon of UFO belief but the show’s hosts seem all too credulous about the silly claims made by people that they have actually seen an alien spaceship or have some sort of evidence that a spaceship flew by recently.
It’s truly sad that a respected institution dedicated to science and discovery, the National Geographic Society, would give its imprimatur to such goofy notions as space aliens and interstellar travel. Anyone with even the barest understanding of the enormity of space and a slight inkling of what E=mc2 means knows interstellar travel is highly unlikely.
But, given the cutthroat nature of cable television and the popularity of paranormal programming, it’s understandable why National Geographic would dip its stately toe into these sewers – there’s money there.
There has been an explosion of paranormal programming in the past decade. A&E, SyFy, The History Channel and Discovery channels host the majority of them. They feature breathless hosts seeking aliens, ghosts, mind readers, fortunetellers and the like. Many using some kind of gadget or gizmo with scientific sounding names to “detect” evidence of whatever folderol they’re after.
It’s only a matter of time before some latter-day Egon Spengler arrives in his Ecto-1 and dons a proton pack to thwart some evil specter.
Sadly, these shows exist not because any of this tripe is true but because millions of Americans believe in this nonsense. Why, the barest creak of a floorboard in a dark house HAS to be evidence of a spirit passing by.
According to polls, about a third of Americans believe in UFOs and another third believe in ghosts. Half of Americans believe in ESP or that there are psychics who can see the past or the future or talk to or “sense” the dead.
This type of flimflammery has been around for eons. Whether it’s the Oracle at Delphi or the daily newspaper horoscope, there have always been charlatans ready and eager to separate the gullible from their money. That these shows reside merely for the sake of money on television cable channels supposedly dedicated to science is what’s galling.
Belief in the supernatural is rooted in religion, most of which teach their adherents to believe in some sort of eternal life. Therefore it’s not a far leap from believing that when you die some part of you moves on to some other dimensional existence to believing that a few people might get waylaid on the journey and are still hanging around to scare the bejesus out of you when you’re alone in the house on a dark and stormy night.
It’s also a short jump from believing in a supreme being controlling the universe to believing in a superior being from another planet coming to Earth to help us or harm us, depending on your state of optimism.
There are no ghosts, people can’t read minds or predict the future and while there may be intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it’s improbable that they would be able to build a craft capable of crossing the void of space to visit us and that when they got here after a journey of thousands of years they’d only reveal themselves to rural rubes out plowing fields at night, remaining undetectable to telescopes or radar.
There are only us and we only live one life. Stop pining away for immortality or salvation from some mystical or mythical beings and make the most of the time you have on this earth.
It’s all there is.
(As far as we know).