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More than half of American adults and than seventy five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life This level of belief rivals that of belief in God American Cosmic examines the mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions Over the course of a six year ethnographic study D W Pasulka interviewed successful and influential scientists professionals and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who believe in extraterrestrial intelligence thereby disproving the common misconception that only fringe members of society believe in UFOs She argues that widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiuity in modern media like The X Files which can influence memory and the believability lent to that media by the search for planets that might support life American Cosmic explores the intriguing uestion of how people interpret unexplainable experiences and argues that the media is replacing religion as a cultural authority that offers believers answers about non human intelligent life

10 thoughts on “American Cosmic

  1. says:

    The author is a religious expert who studies the religious and has branched into studying UFOlogists since there is a real crossover between both sets of people Both sets of people want to believe in unseen or at least unverified things hoped for and want to believe that the truth is out there in some form thus placing meaning not within the person but outside of them The author frames our meaning by how we interpret our world through our experience physical evidence and the social milieu we find ourselves currently dwelling in thereby laying the ontological it’s a word she uses multiple times foundation for our being The author mentions St Teresa of Avila in the text She tells a story from St Teresa’s diary to illustrate her point but I’ll tell another story to make a similar point the author was making St Teresa saw a mystical entity and knew it was blue but wasn’t sure if it was of the Devil or Holy but ultimately decided it must be from Jesus She had a false dichotomous framing ‘either of God or the devil’ never uite realizing that there were other just as real and probable alternatives available it could have been Ahura Mazda Buddha an alien from a another galaxy a psychotic break from reality a time traveler or maybe just something she ate the night before such as an ‘undigested piece of meat’ The point is she simplistically interpreted the meaning of the experience within the social milieu of her world’s ontological paradigm UFOlogist do the exact same thing They’ll connect the dots in such a way that they will uarantine off any data physical or experiential in such a way that they won’t admit to a cognitive dissonance when conflicting data might come in The author points out something I didn’t know to many UFOlogist the UFO itself is not what is important itself but they the UFO could just be a phenomenon that is a portal to or for something else as would be angels to believers in angels How we understand the world goes into how we give meaning to the perceptions we have from the world and that gets filtered through our culture our social milieu The author made one slight error that I want to point out She said ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ the movie was based on a book The screenplay and the book were written concurrently and the movie and the book were based on an elaboration of a short story by Clark on AI check Wiki for elaboration I know that is a picayune error but it relates to how the author describes the world of UFOs since she is saying that UFOs are a phenomenon that exist not in and of themselves but are a thing beyond themselves at least some of the people she uotes in the book would tend to agree with that It would be analogous to St Thomas Auinas viz a viz Duns Scotus and the belief in Angels and whether or not if they are sui generis uniue and if they act independently of a higher power The author does uote Auinas multiple times and just for those who are interested he would say they are of a ‘species’ and do have intellect of their own but would always act in concordance with God’s will at least after the ‘fall of man’ contrasted with Duns Scotus who would make each Angel an individual species therefore sui generis and would give them free will through their own agency but also would act in concordance to God’s plan The scholastics never argued trivialities such as ‘the number of angels on a head of a pin’ but they did get at meaningful distinctions such as ‘thatness’ v ‘whatness’ or substance v accident and ultimately this author is getting at those kind of distinctions with her perception v reality framing The UFOlogist of today can replace the word ‘flying saucer’ or ‘non human intelligence from another planet’ with how the scholastics from the middles ages or religious believers would use the word ‘angel’ from the past or believed in the Saints or divine intervention through Mary or in the prophets and a very similar ontology would result Chapter Nine had a good story on Ray and his sick dog and how it was miraculously healed The order of the perception of reality for Ray goes that he first believes a Catholic Angel healed his dog then aliens in UFOs did then beings independent of flying saucers from another galaxy or dimension did then to a near death experience explains it due to uantum consciousness connections through entanglement and all the way up to an awful History Channel documentary show that had a special on Ray being attacked by angels thus creating a new perception of reality leading to the ‘medium as the massage message’ McLuhan was uoted multiple times elsewhere in this book but unfortunately that uote wasn’t used This book is written well and was easy to digest In general UFOlogist would not be offended by it and Christians would not be offended by it Though I’m neither I wasn’t offended either since I suspected that the connection between the two existed and I wanted to have it explained to me by a religious studies expert I think the author makes a very good case that UFOlogist can be thought of as a modern day religion and she connects the dots showing that the modern day sub genre of UFOlogists appear as rational in their beliefs as were the Christians of 1650 or the religious people of today For either a classical religious person or a UFOlogist person the special pleading that would be reuired for defending their own beliefs could just as easily apply towards the other’s belief Both of them have similar ontological foundations albeit with radically different worldviews resulting but each providing them a made up meaning to life lying outside of them resulting from falsely wanting to believe in a truth that must be out there

  2. says:

    Could have been so much better thoughIt was like there were avenues the author began to go down that seemed both interesting and promising but then decided not to go all the way down leaving me frustrated

  3. says:

    At long last A book about what UFOs mean rather than what they are Because who would care about their physical reality or lack thereof if people weren't so interested in them?Pasulka is a professor of religion studying what beliefs mean to people If that wasn't enough to intrigue me the fact that the preface is an account of driving around Silicon Valley with Jacues Vallee one of the least silly UFOlogists around hooked meThe two main discussions in Pasulka's book involve 1 an invisible college of reputable scientists do investigate various facets of the UFO mystery though most do so on the down low because of professional reputation and 2 belief in UFOs is starting to take the shape of a religion albeit informally organized and to those who believe the uestion of physical reality is secondary to what their sightings and experiences mean to themThis isn't just another account of famous sightings or speculation on whether or which extraterrestrials are visiting us This comes at the topic from a far personally relevant angle Highly recommended I'll likely reread once I have a chance to digest it a bit

  4. says:

    While there's an occasional good idea in American Cosmic DW Pasulka can't seem to string together a single paragraph without resorting to hagiography pointless academic authoritarian posturing or contextless dogma In short this book is a mess and is so trite as to reuire a belief in the reader that every anecdote is self serving fiction Not a good look There are far better books about UFOlogy and far better books about modern belief systems and the emergence of mysticism in response to rapid technological changeexistential anxiety Read those instead and save yourself some time

  5. says:

    THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERSI was very disappointed in this book I wanted it to be an in depth exploration of unexplained phenomenon perhaps in the footsteps of Jacues Vallee's excellent work Vallee's name appears often in this book but it contains none of Vallee's subtle in depth examination of this enigmatic subject Unfortunately Pasula's book is in many ways indistinguishable from reactionary Catholic hagiography such as that of Jacobus da Varagine's reification of the saints in his writing in the late middle ages Pasula's saint here is a twenty first century rich entrepreneur and inventor named Tyler an homage to Fight Club I wish I were kiddingMuch of the book's conclusion concerns itself with the conversion of said Tyler from his Baptist faith to Pasula's own faith Catholicism In fact by the end of the book I began to wonder if Pasula who investigates claims of sainthood for the Vatican would be nominating Tyler for sainthood The book has a lot of references to Tyler preforming miracles complete with his unearthing an artifact at the beginning of the book which Pasula dutifully compares to the holy relics of Catholicism Again I'm not kidding Wish I wereAt the end of the book Pasula includes a uote from Martin Heidegger Only a God Can Save Us German Nur noch ein Gott kann uns retten from interview he gave to Rudolf Augstein and Georg Wolff for Der Spiegel which was published after his death in 1976 That uote sums up the subtext of her whole biased diatribe The truth is this seems to be a pro Catholic screed masuerading as a book on unexplained phenomenon If you want something to discuss casually before your next cataclysm class read it But if you want to know about the book's purported subject I'd advise you to skip it and read Jacues Vallee's classics Masters of Deception or Invisible College Patrick Harpur's Dainomonic Reality or Jeffrey Kripal's latest book Flip instead

  6. says:

    Few topics receive immediate ridicule like UFOs Although this is a programmed response—well documented by those who study it—it nevertheless keeps many professionals from following their curiosity D W Pasulka’s American Cosmic is a brave book that bucks this trend Pasulka a professor of religious studies explains how she came to be interested in UFOs The book is partially an account of a secretive man she met through official channels and partially an exploration of how religion and the paranormal particularly UFOs are related And also how technology plays into it The account is skillfully woven and it will leave you scratching your head in a place or twoI read Pasulka’s book on Purgatory a few years ago and found it fascinating In fact it informed both my last book Holy Horror and the book I’m currently writing There’s a fearlessness to her approach to topics from which many scholars shy away I can’t help but think that there’s much to the story in American Cosmic than she is able to tell Skeptics will immediately dismiss much of this of course That’s their job Still for those willing to approach the subject with an open mind this book will take you to some headspace that’s a little less than comfortableThis is a book I knew about pre publication I awaited its appearance and have been awaiting an opportunity to read it ever since As I note elsewhere Sects and Violence in the Ancient World the author was a consultant on The Conjuring The real story however may well be stranger than the fictionalized account This book is far ranging encompassing levitating saints movies clandestine locations and the Vatican’s secret library It’s better than Dan Brown though because the author knows she’s not fabricating the story

  7. says:

    This alternated between a really dense read integrating discussion of uantum theory and consciousness studies with case studies of credible yet many times invisible scientists biotechnologists and computer engineers who are absolutely convinced that extraterrestrial life what Pasulka terms the phenomenon exists Pasulka a religious studies scholar claims that she seeks to explore the effects of belief in UFOs as a new form of religion on individuals and society than stake a claim to belief in the phenomenon's ontological reality but it certainly seems as if she skews in the direction of its veracity She so matter of factly states as plausible specific readings of miraculous encounters with angels and other beings in Scripture through the lens of extraterrestrial contact events ie Ezekiel's vision as one of an alien craft that one can't help but interpret her position as one that sees such links as being possible if not likely The weight of the witnesses she includes astronauts such as Edgar Mitchell a renowned ufologist also seeks to push the reader to consider their claims as eminently truthful A bigger issue I had with the book is that it was difficult to follow the main thread of the argument at times Is it about ways that nonhuman intelligence use sensitive individuals as receivers whose DNA downloads information from aliens? And that this is the next logical step in human evolution? Is it the ways in which media and culture define our understanding of UFOs and dictate reality for us? There's a lot on Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey and the monolith as a kind of movie screen And why does a major player who claims regular contact with nonhuman intelligence through rigorous protocols of meditation water intake and exposure to sunshine convert to Catholicism towards the end? Some really intriguing sections but it just felt like there was a bit too much going on

  8. says:

    This was a fascinating read Pasulka applies her methodology as a religion researcher to the UFO community and examines how modern technology and media play into what in her mind are the euivalent to religious experiences for some This was very interesting to me on multiple levels First I love the X Files and am interested in UFOlogy alien stuff lol so I found her comparisons of experiences and sighting to documented miracles within the church fascinating TO be clear she's not exactly saying all this stuff is true but instead saying that the parts of our brains that light up and process these two things are the same We have the same kinds of reactions to them and process them in similar ways She extends this concept to digital media literacy which as a librarian is HUGE for me This was disheartening though because she basically said that we've created our own Matrix situation and most of us are willingly buying into it even defending it She talked a lot about the concept of reality and how often we as humans reject it in favor of something elsesomething like emotion This is why when the FAKE video of Nancy Pelosi looking drunk made the rounds and then was very widely rebuked and outed as fake my cousin who hates Pelosi and loves owning libs decided it was important to him to continue to share the false video and perpetuate the lie than delete his previous tweets and stop the spread of misinformation eye roll hard This is a really interesting read for folks interested in extraterrestrial experiences religious events and how technology is creating a new kind of god we best back away from

  9. says:

    I finished this book faster than anything I’ve read in the last 10 years I found out about it after Ezra Klein interviewed her last week on his podcast Honestly though this book is divisive If you’re looking for proof of aliens or government coverups this isn’t going to really scratch your itch It does however raise all sorts of wild as hell uestions about how billionaires astronauts scholars and everyday people explore the subject of the unknown Pasulka is a professor of religious studies and her style really lends itself to a fun and easy to follow discussion I am not saying I believe or agree with some of the people highlighted in this book I do find this topic absolutely fascinating though 55 stars

  10. says:

    In progress but I thought it would be irresponsible for me to shelve this book and hence raise its profile without a few notes as a reminder to key up your skepticism and talk back to texts I'll update this review sponsored by my Patreons when I finish reading The nonfiction premise of this book is intriguing and compelling and I think a broad spectrum of readers interested in the humanities andor science fiction will be interested in the research topic Around page thirty I began to have a few uestions about a couple author inferences which were not in evidence the use of solely anonymous sources that are the subject of whole chapters and the masking of key locations I'm going research ethnography standards and nuances in order to better understand what's typical and expected of this type of scholarshipUpdate The I read this text the uestions I have about the approach format and ethics involved particularly in the area of media studies and expertise I suggest not accepting upfront without evidence that this text has any kind of authority It's also fair and necessary to consider Is this book a text about religion as advertised or a religious text? Where is Cosmic on that spectrum? The author's promotional interviews should also be taken into account especially as this is a book that attempts to engage with media influence and the author's appearances on pseudoscientific paranormal podcasts have influenced how this book is received by believers And so a final uestion What's the author's responsibility here? And was that responsibility observed?My answer is no This is a religious text that adds to the mythology conspiracy theory and normalization of the magical thinking behind ufology Related The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan