Forty-seven years after the first "flying saucer" was reported over the Cascades, skeptics are still trying to shoot it down.
Scientific debunkers of the paranormal gathered Thursday to swap down-to-earth explanations for every-thing from astrology to alien abductions."The paranormal is all the rage in America today. My view is that the key to much or most of this phenomenon is in the eye of the beholder, and what we're dealing with is the psychological distortion of so many people to accept these claims without adequate evidence," said Paul Kurtz, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
The four-day conference is for people who encourage scientific investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims. Up to 750 people were expected for the annual conference sponsored by the group, based in Buffalo, N.Y.
The conference coincides with Friday's 47th anniversary of pilot-businessman Kenneth Arnold's report of mysterious disc-shaped objects flying over the Cascade mountains of Washington state. The 1947 sighting made headlines around the world and gave birth to the modern-day UFO movement.
Debunkers will have their work cut out for them at the opening panel on alien abductions. It features Harvard psychiatry professor John Mack, whose contro-ver-sial new book "Abduction," compiles case studies of people who say they have had sexual or reproductive experiences with aliens.
Also on the panel is Thomas E. Bullard, who has a doctorate in folklore from Indiana University and did a comparative study of roughly 300 alien abduction reports.
He says there is "something difficult to explain" about the reports and at the very least they merit more study.
"You might say I'm going into the lion's den as the dinner," Bullard said of his participation on the panel.
The theme of the conference is "The Psychology of Belief."