Friday, January 23, 2009
Sagan and the Hill encounter
Sagan's pervasive condescension notwithstanding, I agree with him that the Hill abduction is far from the definitive case claimed by some UFO researchers (or, as Sagan would have it, "enthusiasts"). But perhaps more troubling are the numerous liberties taken with the Hills' account in the dramatization. To the best of my knowledge, the Hills never described the UFO landing directly in front of their car; rather, they recalled a "roadblock" where they were accosted by beings assumed to be members of the UFO's crew. (Before their abduction, Barney had stopped the car to observe the airborne object through binoculars, shattering his previous conviction that the odd light that had been trailing them was a satellite or other mundane phenomenon.)
Sagan's fanciful depiction of the alleged UFO occupants is at least as disconcerting. Why, for instance, the spooky glowing eyes? While they may have a desirable cinematic effect, the Hills described nothing of the sort. Neither did they recall walking dazedly toward the landed craft without being accompanied by the occupants.
Perhaps these are minor points, and I might not bother complaining had "Cosmos" not been a science miniseries. But if a dramatization's purpose is to reconstruct an event, Sagan's effort falls conspicuously short. And while I tend to agree with Sagan's breakdown of the "star map" controversy, I fail to understand why Betty Hill's possibly garbled recollection undermines the overall validity of her testimony. Sagan appears to delight in using the star map as a straw man. While his specific points are well-made, he effectively ignores the purported abduction itself.
To my mind, the Hill encounter -- whatever it represents -- constitutes a single stitch in a tapestry of claims of extraterrestrial contact. To regard it without the benefit of context, both folkloric and contemporary, is to purposefully misunderstand its significance.