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Alien to Science

By happenstance rather than plan, we recently watched a segment of a two-hour network special. Title: "Confirmation: The Hard Evidence of Aliens Among Us?"

Generally, we prefer to ignore charlatans forecasting the decline and fall of American civilization, the coming stock market crash, Y2K armageddon, and other approximations of the end of the world. But this particular show struck a chord of dismay.

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Not dismay that space aliens are here on the street and at the supermarket alongside Elvis. But dismay that a TV network owned by General Electric - one of the world's leading corporations based on science, technology, and financial savvy - should be serving up such fallacious pseudo-science to a citizenry whose science literacy is in decline and certainly doesn't need a further push downward from a hokey docudrama.

OK, Orson Welles did a 1938 radio dramatization of an alien Earth invasion. But at least he let on that he was staging H.G. Wells's fictional "War of the Worlds." On the Feb. 17 show viewers had to see through fake "hard evidence" including so much grainy and eerie film that one would think video camera work was in its infancy.

Like most of humanity, we're enthusiastic about our planet's space programs. Pictures transmitted back from probes of Mars, Venus, Saturn, etc., are extraordinarily fascinating. They represent major achievements in human history. And we join in the hope that SETI and other astronomical searches will turn up evidence of life elsewhere in the universe. But, please, don't undermine such genuine scientific effort with pseudo-science gimcrackery.

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