Do I dare type it?
All those people, those victims of alien abductions, ghosts, ghouls and demons, did they just dream it up?
In a June 2014 essay by Karen Emslie published by Aeon Magazine, she discusses her battle with sleep paralysis, her experiences and the experiences of roughly 6% of the world's population. According to Emslie, the problem is as ancient as humanity itself. Dreams have always played a vital role in story telling and story making; sleep paralysis is the lucid living of that story, bad or good, terrifying or beautiful. As Emslie points out in her essay, alien abductions are most likely caused by sleep paralysis. It's a tough pill to swallow for the believers, especially those believers who have experienced an abduction event. The facts, so far, suggest she's correct. So let's talk about reality...
In Meditations on First Philosophy, a philosophical text by Rene Descartes, he presents his famous dream argument where he argues that the dream world and reality are far too similar to tell apart; to paraphrase Descartes, how does one know they are awake or dreaming as both states stimulate the five senses? Descartes moves on to suggest that reason is the key piece to the puzzle; the famous cogito ergo sum which posits that I exist in reality because there is an "I" that thinks I exist in reality.
In simpler terms, "thinking you exist is tantamount to actually existing".
Sleep paralysis is the brain actively engaging the five senses while the subject is asleep, but the events in the dream are just as real to the senses as they would be were the subject awake. We measure our shared reality, day to day, using our senses. I feel the floor beneath my feet, I can taste and smell my coffee, I hear the radio, I see the sun. When we dream, or fall into sleep paralysis, we do exactly the same; we move about the dream using our five senses. We know enough about the brain today that our perception of the world exists within synapses and neurons firing across the lobes of our brain; so which is more real, the world within our mind or what we call reality?
How does this affect the fine line between the dream world, reality and the abduction question which haunts various cultures? Is thinking you've been abducted tantamount to being abducted?
Descartes' dream argument is merely a device to establish that our five senses can not be trusted. He does posit a real world governed by the laws of nature,
but the only way we can understand those laws is via logic and reason.
The question is; do alien abductions fit into our shared experiential "real world" measured by logic and reason? Unfortunately, they do not. Just because I've seen, heard, tasted, smelled and felt something does not necessarily mean it is actually there. It means my brain may have fired neurons into synapses, but it does not mean that it exists outside of my own mind. Sleep paralysis, dreaming, is a version of reality- it just isn't the reality we all share together. Are people really being abducted?
I guess it all depends on how you define "real".