Under normal sleep conditions, most dream activity is immediately forgotten or fades fairly soon after waking into consciousness. Extreme sleep deprivation breaks down the wall between reality and fantasy. You have severe hallucinations that seem as real as the sensations and perceptions of daily life. The words you hear and speak are recalled like a normal memory. The people you see are as corporeal as those in real life.
During the inaugural 1982 race, I slept three hours on each of the first two nights and consequently fell behind the leader, who was proving that one could get by with considerably less sleep. By New Mexico, I began riding long stretches without sleep in order to catch up, but I was not prepared for the hallucinations that were to come. Mostly they were the garden-variety hallucinations often experienced by weary truck drivers, who call the phenomenon "white-line fever": bushes form into lifelike animals, cracks in the road make meaningful designs, and mailboxes look like people. I saw giraffes and lions. I waved to mailboxes. I even had an out-of-body experience near Tucumcari, New Mexico, where I saw myself riding on the shoulder of Interstate 40 from above.
Finishing third that year, I vowed to ride sleepless in 1983 until I got the lead or collapsed. Eighty-three hours away from the Santa Monica Pier, just shy of Haigler, Nebraska, and 1,259 miles into the race, I was falling asleep on the bike so my support crew (every rider has one) put me down for a forty-five-minute nap. When I awoke I got back on my bike, but I was still so sleepy that my crew tried to get me back into the motorhome. It was then that I slipped into some sort of altered state of consciousness and became convinced that my entire support crew were aliens from another planet and that they were going to kill me. So clever were these aliens that they even looked, dressed, and spoke like my crew. I began to quiz individual crew members about details from their personal lives and about the bike that no alien should know. I asked my mechanic if he had glued on my bike tires with spaghetti sauce. When he replied that he had glued them on with Clement glue (also red), I was quite impressed with the research the aliens had done. Other questions and correct answers followed. The context for this hallucination was a 1960s television program—The Invaders—in which the aliens looked exactly like humans with the exception of a stiff little finger. I looked for stiff pinkies on my crew members. The motorhome with its bright lights became their spacecraft. After the crew managed to bed me down for another forty-five minutes, I awoke clear-headed and the problem was solved. To this day, however, I recall the hallucination as vividly and clearly as any strong memory.
Now, I am not claiming that people who have had alien abduction experiences were sleep deprived or undergoing extreme physical and mental stress. However, I think it is fairly clear that if an alien abduction experience can happen under these conditions, it can happen under other conditions. Obviously I was not abducted by aliens, so what is more likely: that other people are having experiences similar to mine, triggered by other altered states and unusual circumstances, or that we really are being visited secretly by aliens from other worlds? By Hume's criterion of how to judge a miracle—"no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish"—we would have to choose the first explanation. It is not impossible that aliens are traveling thousands of light years to Earth and dropping in undetected, but it is much more likely that humans are experiencing altered states of consciousness and interpreting them in the context of what is popular in our culture today, namely, space aliens.
Humans have achieved space flight and even sent spacecraft out of the solar system, so why couldn't other intelligent beings have done the same thing? Perhaps they have learned to traverse the enormous distances between the stars by accelerating beyond the speed of light, even though all laws of nature known to us prohibit this. Perhaps they have solved the problem of collisions with space dust and particles which would shatter a spacecraft traveling at such enormous speeds. And somehow they have reached such technological sophistication without destroying themselves in their versions of war and genocide. These are very hard problems to solve, but look how much humans have accomplished since 1903 when the Wright brothers lofted their tiny craft into the air for twelve seconds. Should we be so arrogant as to think that only we exist and that only we could solve such problems?
This is a subject discussed at great length and in great detail by scientists, astronomers, biologists, and science fiction writers. Some, like astronomer Carl Sagan (1973, 1980), believe that the odds are good that the universe is teeming with life. Given the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy, and the hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe, what are the chances that ours is the only one that has evolved intelligent
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