Suspicious Minds

Steven Kurutz in The New York Times:

It was barely two hours into Day 1 of AlienCon and 500 years of accepted history and science were already being tossed out. Three thousand people had gathered inside the Civic Auditorium here for a panel discussion featuring presenters from “Ancient Aliens,” a History Channel documentary series. Everyone had questions: about whether we were alone in the universe; about what our government really knows; about humanity’s very origins. One of the network’s most popular and longest-running shows (Season 13 resumed on July 20), “Ancient Aliens” is itself a series of questions. Many are posed rhetorically by an unseen narrator intoning over a wide shot of a rubbly archaeological site. According to the show’s talking heads, extraterrestrials may have had a role not only in the extermination of the dinosaurs, but also in the construction of the Egyptian pyramids.

Carl Sagan, the popular scientist who captivated television audiences of the 1970s and ’80s, once said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

But Mr. Sagan has been dead for years, and many Americans of the internet age have been in a mood to challenge established ideas. There has been a resurgence of the flat-earth theory. More than a few believe that global warming is a hoax, that survivors of mass shootings are crisis actors. Yet for many at the conference, and elsewhere, this is not simply a political divide. We now know that the history that had been taught for years excluded the experiences of so many (African-Americans, women, the working poor). What else had been left out? Trust in the government and leaders who could set it all straight is historically low.  And there are so many people ready to believe that aliens visited Earth before recorded history that some 10,000 attendees paid to visit this conference over three days.

More here.