UFOs and Gorillas – Reviewing Kirkus Reviews take on American Cosmic

Posted in > ANALYSIS by David on October 30, 2018

American Cosmic - UFOs, Religion, Technology - Diana PasulkaKirkus Reviews has posted their synopsis of Dr. Diana Pasulka’s forthcoming book, American Cosmic: UFOs, Religion, Technology (Oxford University Press, 2019)  – in the process offering us an incredible opportunity to see a prime example of the ‘What Gorilla?’ behavioral phenomenon that Dean Radin, senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, has pointed out in the past:

“Imagine you’re watching a basketball game. Your favourite team is wearing white and the other team is in black. In the midst of the action, someone in a dark gorilla suit calmly walks to the centre of the court, waves to the crowd, then walks off the court. Do you think you would notice this peculiar event? Most people might say yes. Most people would be wrong.”(1)

Radin is drawing on research into ‘inattentional blindness’ – as he explains in an article for New Dawn Magazine, “when we pay attention to our favourite white-shirted basketball team, the likelihood of clearly seeing darker objects moving about is substantially reduced. That includes even obvious objects, like gorillas.” The same can occur when we encounter messages and ideas that do not fit our comfortable assumptions about reality. In addition, we face another psychological trick called ‘confabulation,’ in which memories form to fit a logical narrative rather than the actual experience.

Now imagine a well respected academic with focused expertise on how media affects belief and behavior writes a book based on years of in-depth ethnographic and archival investigation into the UFO phenomenon and how it relates to the development of our current technological society – do you think that a piece from Kirkus Reviews would highlight the importance of this peculiar event? Most people might say yes. Most people would be wrong:

“As the author documents, about one-third of Americans believe in UFOs. Enthusiasts hold conventions, and their websites pepper the internet, but Pasulka discovers a subculture of scientist believers who keep their research secret for fear of ruining their reputations. There is also an entirely public subculture of entrepreneurs that supports studies and serious amateurs working to document sightings, many of whom work equally hard to detect the ever present hoaxes. Many believers seem rational, and the fact that physical evidence remains steady at zero does not change matters.”

If you haven’t read the pre-publiction preface on the American Cosmic website (3) – or listened to any of Pasulka’s appearances on numerous podcasts – this might seem like a feasible description of the book – but I would ask you to consider (as I have in the past with OUP’s dry synopsis) if the review that Kirkus has posted sounds like the same book that lead Jacques Vallee to say:

“From a solid base of scholarship Dr. Pasulka introduces us to the players at the frontier of biological and physical research to pose some age-old questions in new ways: Can the human spirit transcend space/time? How will religious traditions be reframed when they collide with the long-suppressed evidence of non-human consciousness in our environment?

Her sharp insight is drawn from her research into spiritual phenomena, updated by her travels from the UFO crash sites of New Mexico to the archives of the Vatican.

The result is a timely introduction to the revelations in our collective future.”

Vallee mentions ‘players at the frontier of biological and physical research’ – Kirkus Reviews mentions a ‘public subculture of entrepreneurs…and serious amateurs.’

Vallee was part of the core team that designed the early computer conferencing systems that lead to the internet – the Kirkus reviewer is…anonymous.

Let’s just sit on that fact without falling (too far) into the error of appealing to Vallee’s authority – and lets not ignore the reality that Kirkus Reviews’ staid, somewhat spammy and outdated format precludes it from any kind of real analytic depth in comparison with more contemporary media.

Once American Cosmic is published you’ll be able to grab a copy and see for yourself whether the strange way reviewers seem to lose their contextual literacy and confabulate the contents of the book when encountering it speaks to a gorilla in the room or not.

Taking the UFO Phenomenon Seriously – Religion, Narrative, Media and the Flying Saucer

(1) https://www.newdawnmagazine.com/articles/what-gorilla-why-some-cant-see-psychic-phenomena

(2) https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/dw-pasulka/american-cosmic/

(3) https://americancosmic.com


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