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It’s a great time to believe in aliens.

Last week, the New York Times published a viral article about reports of UFOs off the East Coast in 2014 and 2015. It included an interview with five Navy pilots who witnessed, and in some cases recorded, mysterious flying objects with “no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes” that appeared to “reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.”

No one is quite sure what they saw, but the sightings are striking. And they’re part of a growing fascination with the possibility of intelligent alien life.

According to Diana Pasulka, a professor at the University of North Carolina and author of the new book American Cosmic, belief in UFOs and extraterrestrials is becoming a kind of religion — and it isn’t nearly as fringe as you might think.

More than half of American adults and over 60 percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This tracks pretty closely with belief in God, and if Pasulka is right, that’s not an accident.

Her book isn’t so much about the truth of UFOs or aliens as it is about what the appeal of belief in those things says about our culture and the shifting roles of religion and technology in it. On the surface, it’s a book about the popularity of belief in aliens, but it’s really a deep look at how myths and religions are created in the first place and how human beings deal with unexplainable experiences.

A lightly edited transcript of my conversation with Pasulka follows.

To read more, click here.
Category: Weird Desk