Deception by Design: Hypothesis Analysed

Here is a brief analysis of what I take to be the most charitable reconstruction of Neal Sibley’s unified theory of the paranormal. It should be noted that I have not read his book “Deception by Design.” I would love to do that.

Sibley offers a Unified Theory of the Paranormal (UTOP). No, he doesn’t call it that. I am reconstructing his theory. A reconstruction is an attempt to explain another person’s viewpoint in a way that makes it a) easy to understand, and, b) as strong as can be plausibly ascribed to the interlocutor.

UTOP (Unified Theory of the Paranormal)::

The Bible says there are malicious, trickster spirits called ‘demons’. They have certain properties, as described in the bible. UFOs and ghosts (and some other paranormal phenomena) behave in ways consistent with their having the properties ascribed to demons in the bible. Therefore, the best explanation of ghosts and UFOs is that they’re the work of biblical demons.

And the evidence I heard in favor of UTOP included the following: (note: this is not MY view. I am simply reconstructing my guest’s view based on my understanding of what he said in the interview and in emails with me and also not having read his book)

1.) He investigated the famous Bell Witch haunting, and was able to craft a biblical explanation for it. This despite the fact that the Bell Witch famously did some very un-demonic things, like forcing the townspeople to improve their behavior, sing religious hymns, and talk about Jesus. Thus, the Bell Witch supports UTOP.

2.) The bible says that exorcised demons will relocate to “arid places” which he thinks can be interpreted as any place drier than a human body. Thus, biblically-conforming demons explain haunted houses. Even more arid than haunted houses? Rocky places. Well, many people who mysteriously vanish in the U.S. park system vanish near rocky outcroppings (he cites Paulides’ ‘Missing 411’). Thus, biblically-conforming demons explain mysterious disappearances. Another point for UTOP.

3.) UFOs were crashing back in the 1940s and 50s. Now they don’t crash. If UFOs are demons, then this makes sense: they were faking crashes to convince us that they’re concrete tangible things. Now that we’re more or less convinced, they don’t have to bend over backwards to emphasize their concrete physicality any longer. Today, they fake being highly advanced, because the next step is to convince us that they are material messiahs. This is consistent with biblical prophesies about widespread deception in the end times. Thus, UFOs are biblical demons. More support for UTOP.

4.) People are being abducted by aliens for sexual/reproductive reasons. And this is exactly what fallen angels did before Noah’s flood, per the Book of Genesis. Jesus prophesied that in the final days it would be just as it was in the days of Noah. Therefore, the bible explains alien abductions. Thus, UFOs are biblical demons. UTOP scores.

5.) Both demons and UFOs are repelled by invoking Jesus’ name. More evidence that they’re both biblical demons. Credit to UTOP.

6.) Ghosts often come into our lives by asking permission, only to “break bad” once we’re in a relationship with them. This is precisely how demons operate. Again, they’re just biblical demons. UTOP strikes again!

Having tried to organize a couple of his main points of evidence, I will concede that only 5.) would be direct evidence in favor of ghosts and UFOs being the same phenomena, if true. Nevertheless, I think all of the evidence I mentioned is evidence for UTOP. UTOP is the view that ghosts and UFOs are biblical demons.

Something I’ve tried to outline on Reddit and in personal conversations is that we should concede that the unified nature of the theory lends it greater explanatory power and this counts in favor of the theory. There’s so much crazy, weird stuff in the world of the paranormal that it’s hard to wrap your imagination around it: hauntings, abductions, little people, thunderbirds, time warps… Recently listening to the popular podcast “Astonishing Legends,” I heard a story about a couple who drow past a vanishing CHRISTMAS STORE in the Nevada desert and were haunted by nightmares about said store for the rest of their lives. There’s just SO MUCH weird stuff in the paranormal world, that it would be very helpful for us humans if it turned out that most of that stuff had a single explanation. That said, I concede that parsimony is not the only thing we’re looking for in a good theory and the most parsimonious explanation for reality that ever became popular – Parmenides’ monism (the view that there is only one thing and it never changes and time is an illusion) is also highly implausible. But the point here, however small a point it may be, is that the biblical model Neal Sibley describes does have something going for it.

What do I think about Neal Sibley’s UTOP? Or about biblical theories of the paranormal writ large? I will save that for another post (on the S3 website). Also, I would like to talk to Neal Sibley about whether I’ve correctly represented his view before I criticize it. It really bothers me that I haven’t read the book, but again, the book is not out. I should have asked Neal Sibley for a copy though. I’ll do that and re-post if I get a chance to read the book.

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