Are UFOs Alien Spacecraft?
Why we used to imagine we saw angels visiting us and now we imagine we’re seeing alien ships
All brains deal in the business of pattern recognition. Mammalian brains are very sophisticated pattern-recognition machines, enabling animals to navigate and interact in complex ways with their environments. In order to do so reliably, brains “fill in the gaps” by providing the illusion of certainty when in reality some elements are missing. All animals are unaware of this function. For example, we humans have two blank areas in the center of our vision but as our brain automatically “fills in the gaps” we’re entirely unaware of the fact. Likewise, much of our everyday perception is in fact comprised of shortcuts, and very often these shortcuts result in erroneous perceptions, yet we remain entirely unaware of our errors.
Some brains enable animals to create abstract concepts, which are meta-patterns used to organize sub-patterns in a useful way. This mechanism is, for example, the basis of racism. Instead of having to take the time and expend the effort to determine whether or not an individual person could be a threat or an ally, racists use the color of their skin as a meta-indicator. So, for a white racist, someone with a dark skin is automatically assigned a variety of sub-concepts. In reality many or all of these sub-concepts will be entirely false, but for the person doing the assignment the benefits are (a) rapidity and ease of assignment, and (b) the avoidance of the inevitable mental discomfort that would come from making any attempt to perform a more adequate reality-based assessment.
Furthermore, as for most of our evolutionary history it was maladaptive for us to be in a state of uncertainty (“should I flee, or fight?” “Is this good to eat, or poisonous?”) we have brains that automatically give us the illusion of certainty and we tend to reject subsequent information that runs contrary to our initial choice and the belief that gave rise to it. We also hate ambiguity and will adopt beliefs that enable us to have the sense of removing ambiguity provided those beliefs are easily assimilated (e.g. not at all complex and requiring no meaningful intellectual effort). Countless studies have shown that we naturally form beliefs very quickly, often on the basis of highly…