On July 7, 1947, an American mythology was born. What has become known as “The Roswell UFO Incident” was first reported on this date 61 years ago today. It is a date that lives in infamy for the extra-terrestrial acceptance crowd, and it is a day of solemn reminding for those that have spent years or decades trying to untangle the knots of this larger-than-life phenomena.
Roswell is a pseudoscientific beacon for both true-believers and rational skeptics. For those of us in the USA, there is perhaps no greater prevailing or culturally penetrating pseudoscience. The true-believers embrace Roswell and hold it high as a symbol of their NEED to believe, combined with their distrust of government, especially the military. To them, it is the shining example that validates their investiture in mysticism and the paranormal. To many of the true-believers, Roswell is embraced as a person would embrace a religion.
As skeptics, we also hold Roswell aloft as an example to the world of just how pseudoscience and magical thinking can launch and thoroughly sustain an unrelenting attack on our science and culture. Roswell combines many of the pseudosciences that skeptics regularly need to refute and counter-attack: unidentified flying objects, visitations by extra-terrestrials, government and military conspiracy theories, misconceptions and misidentification of technologies, frauds and charlatans (such as the creators of the fake “Alien Autopsy” film), and the mystical components of the Roswell mythology, such as prophecies.
The Skeptics’ Guide audience is probably no stranger to the real facts of The Roswell UFO Incident (a classified military balloon crashed in the desert). However, if you are looking for more of a definitive de-bunking of everything Roswell, I suggest that people read any of Philip Klass’ books on the subject, or if you just want one book to read, try “The UFO Invasion: The Roswell Incident, Alien Abductions, and Government Coverups”, by Kendrik Frazier, Barry Carr, and Joe Nickell.
Although I could not find any decent polling data on people’s belief in The Roswell UFO Incident specifically, I was able to find this survey: 62% of people believe we are being visited by aliens from outside this solar system. The Roswell mythology has endured nicely in the last half of the 20th century, and there is no sign of a let up as we continue into the 21st century. The Roswell virus has no cure, and too many people do not possess the antibodies (i.e. critical thinking skills) to remedy themselves.
As a side note, for those who enjoy parody, check out Futurama and their Emmy-Award winning episode “Roswell That Ends Well.” The brainchild of Matt Groening (a good skeptic in his own right), Futurama does a delightful job of poking fun at the ridiculousness of all of the nonsense that is The Roswell UFO Incident.