UFO Conjectures

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Oliver Sacks on Memory: It’s Faulty and it Isn’t?

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.

Oliver Sacks, writing in the February 21st, 2013 of The New York Review of Books [Speak, Memory, Page 19 ff.], tells readers that:

“All of us “transfer” experiences to some extent, and at times we are not sure whether an experience was something we were told or read about, even dreamed about, or something that actually happened to us. [Page 19]

“… many of my [Sacks] enthusiasms and impulses, which seem entirely my own, have arisen from others’ suggestions, which have powerfully influenced me, consciously or unconsciously.  [Page 20]

“The testimony of eyewitnesses is notoriously subject to suggestion and to error. [Page 21]

“Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist and memory researcher, has documented a disquieting success in implanting false memories by simply suggesting to a subject that he has experienced a fictitious event. [Page 21]

“… in the absence of outside confirmation, there is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory … from those that have been borrowed or suggested between what the psychoanalyst Donald Spence calls “historical truth” and “narrative truth.” [Page 21]

“There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or brain for ensuring the truth … of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true.

“There is no way by which the events of the world can be transmitted directly or recorded in our brains … [Page 21]

“… subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory. [Page 21]

But then, he writes:

The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare, and that, for the most part, our memories are relatively solid and reliable.” [Page 21]

And this:

“For the most part, the people who claim to be abducted by aliens are not lying when they speak of how they were taken into alien spaceships, any more than they are conscious of having invented a story – some truly believe that this is what happened.” [Page 21]


“Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.” [Page 21, finis]

Sacks allows that memory is faulty, but also allows that a combination of memory, from within a group’s social construct may include accurate memory elements.

Also he confirms that bromide that some people, when relaying false memories, are not lying, they actually believe what they are relating.

The above goes to the heart of skeptic CDA’s (Brit Christopher Allan) insistence that UFO researcher Stanton Friedman’ insertion of his extraterrestrial bias into the Roswell incident in 1978 influenced what some witnesses (Jesse Marcel Sr. particularly) “remembered.”

Other witnesses were likewise influenced by ET suggestions and biases of the ufological investigatory mavens (Randle, Schmitt, Berlitz, et al.)

French psychologist and skeptic, Gilles Fernandez feels, as do I, that the whole memory archive of Roswell witnesses is corrupted by time and flawed neurological vicissitudes.

However, Sacks cuts witnesses and abductees lot of slack: they are employing group remembrances or believe the stories they are telling – they are not lying outright.

But Sacks’ allowing memory to be false or true, with exigencies (as noted above), does not help us to get to truth – Roswell truth, or alien abduction truths.

What can be deduced from Sacks’ insights is that accounts from memory have to be seriously caveated by those who wish to know what actually happened in a UFO sighting or event, such as Roswell.

That boils down to the fact that scientific methodology and unique “forensics” are a must when it comes to resolving the UFO mystery and some of its iconic reports (Roswell).

Are UFO researchers – real researchers – up to the task?

That’s a question which begs an answer.