Posted by mattusmaximus on May 4, 2009
Recently, while I was hanging around on the JREF Forum – an awesome place to go chat about science, skepticism, and critical thinking – someone posted the following image, taken by the NASA Spirit rover, from the surface of Mars…
What, if anything, do you see? If you’re like me, you see a rocky surface with a particularly big rock (relatively speaking) right in the middle of the photograph.
Well, it seems that some in the UFO-alien woo crowd has decided that this image constitutes “evidence” of past or present alien intelligence on Mars, because – here it comes – the “rock” in the middle of the picture is actually an alien skull.
Never mind the fact that no one has ever actually seen an alien skull, which begs the obvious question of how you even know what to look for, but a much more plausible explanation – in keeping with Occam’s Razor – is likely. This is another classic case of pareidolia, defined at the Skeptic’s Dictionary as…
Pareidolia is a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. For example, in the discolorations of a burnt tortilla one sees the face of Jesus Christ. Or one sees the image of Mother Teresa or Ronald Reagan in a cinnamon bun or a man in the moon.
Under ordinary circumstances, pareidolia provides a psychological explanation for many delusions based upon sense perception. For example, it explains many UFO sightings, as well as the hearing of sinister messages on records played backwards. Pareidolia explains Elvis, Bigfoot, and Loch Ness Monster sightings. It explains numerous religious apparitions and visions. And it explains why some people see a face or a building in a photograph of the Cydonia region of Mars.
So, there you have it – another amusing example of UFO-alien proponents bleating on and on about something which really only seems to exist within their heads. It won’t be long before someone – my guess is uber-woo Richard Hoagland – claims that NASA is part of a conspiracy to cover up the “truth” of intelligent alien life on Mars.
While I would very much like there to be intelligent alien life on Mars, wishing does not make it so. But what is clear to me is that, at least among some of my fellow homo sapiens, there seems to be a lack of intelligence.
This entry was posted on May 4, 2009 at 11:52 pm and is filed under aliens & UFOs, space. Tagged: alien, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, ET, illusion, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, life, mars, Martian, microbes, NASA, Occam’s Razor, optical illusion, pareidolia, photography, skeptic, skepticism, space, Spirit rover, UFO, unidentified flying object. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.