Racism Plummeted When People Were Told Aliens Exist
Lately people in our audience have been bringing up the thought: "should we be focusing on space, extraterrestrials and colonizing space if we can't get our shit together here on earth?"
A fair question. When you look at the state of our earth and the culture within us that is driving its destruction, it does make sense to clean up our act here first before venturing off into other world's and destroying those.
Another way to look at it is, should we be spending our energy on other terrestrial bodies when our own requires our full attention? Yet again a fair question as we continually grasp at straws attempting to figure out what 'the best way forward' is for our species.
But what if the power to change ourselves and our planet can, in part, come from a shift in consciousness and thought brought on by the reality of 'other worlds?' What if a spark of 'cosmic consciousness' can inform us with a useful strategy to tackle our biggest challenges?
I'll argue this point in this piece utilizing a fascinating study as well as some profound reflections from astronaughts who returned from space. Hopefully you'll bear with me as we dive in.
Of course, I also want to address the title of this piece as it includes the word "racism" which we will need to unpack. I feel this term is used far too often these days, especially in cases where the classical definition of racism is not at all present. Instead, we are culturally going to lengths to re-define racism when in reality we should be seeking to better understand what exactly is going on within people who tend to be intolerant to others. In short, racism exists, but I feel we are quickly calling everything 'racism' these days and it's not helping to solve anything. More on this as we go.
How Did Society Get This Way?
Since I was a kid all I could remember was asking: "why do we do the things we do on earth? If humans made society in this way, can't we just uncreate it and make something new?"
This questioning turned into theories as I became more interested in aliens. As I laid out in my full interview for Steven Greer's latest documentary Close Encounters of The Fifth Kind, I believe there is the potential for humans to evolve in their thinking and being by coming to learn about and acknowledge the existence of extraterrestrials.
Put in a simple thought experiment, imagine how your current worldview would change if you learned without a doubt that aliens existed. Truly challenge yourself to consider this beyond perhaps some initial thoughts that may not allow you to get deep into this feeling.
If a thought experiment is not game for you right now, no problem, a very similar and grounded thought experiment like this was done in a fascinating study by Dr Karen Stenner, and the results are quite intriguing.
Outlined in her book The Authoritarian Dynamic, Stenner designed a double blind study to find out how various people tolerate those who looked or thought differently from them in society.
To perform the study, well trained student interviewers were randomly assigned to visit homes of the 'white' people previously assessed as the most extreme “libertarians” and “authoritarians.” The purpose of this was to see how the two groups differ in various aspects of 'difference tolerance.'
For the study, some of the student interviewers were African American, and others white. During recorded interviews at the homes of subjects, the interviewers asked broad and open ended questions provided by Stenner. Audio recordings and observation logs were analysed following the interviews.
Now as we discuss the results of the study lets set some important context. Stenner's definitions of authoritarians and libertarians don't necessarily fall in line with what you might understand them to be at the moment. So it's useful to set some context here.
Stenner describes 'authoritarians' as those who are strict with obedience and conformity. They often want others to be the same as them and are prone to support coercion to get people to 'fall in line.'
'Libertarians' she sees as people who prize diversity, and who are often energized and excited to spend time getting to know people who are different and who have different views, even if they don't always agree.
According to Stenner, the crucial distinction between her 'libertarians' and 'authoritarians,' is that during the interviews, libertarians were generally excited and engaged when talking about political differences, theories around dealing with crime, and were generally comfortable fully engaging with interviewers who were black or brown.
Whereas authoritarians were often nervous and frightened by people of color, and were less ready to give their time to them. Further, they became more 'unhinged' by exploring people's differences. She adds that authoritarians tend to highly value 'oneness' or 'sameness' from the standpoint of belonging to a 'tribal-like' group - us vs them.
To be clear, these 'authoritarian' type individuals aren't necessarily on one side of the political spectrum. Often times those in the extremes of the left or the right are attempting to control the speech, choices or lives of others. "Just think - fall in line and shut up or else we'll cancel you!"
Personally, I feel Stenner acknowledges a key point around the term 'racism' as well. As mentioned, this is a term that I feel is used too often these days and doesn't tell us much about a given situation. Yet it seems to be used often because of the reaction it gets.
“Ultimately, much of what we think of as racism, likewise political and moral intolerance, is more helpfully understood as ‘difference-ism,’” defined as “a fundamental and overwhelming desire to establish and defend some collective order of oneness and sameness.”
Dr Karen Stenner
A noteworthy takeaway that will be key in discussing the 'alien part' is simply that authoritarians generally hold a consciousness of 'us vs them' when it comes to trivial and large societal issues and everyday occurrences - a tribal type of thinking and being that seems wildly prevalent in today's divisive times.
The Alien Experiment
With the knowledge of libertarian and authoritarian households in hand from the previous experiment, an entirely separate study now unfolds. This one was meant to manipulate the way authoritarians perceive “us” and “them.”
Interviewers again go to the houses of 'white people' and are told that NASA had verified the existence of alien life. They were told that the beings look “very different from us in ways we are not yet even able to imagine.”
That simple statement of widescale difference in appearance produced some fascinating results. The previously measured racial intolerance of authoritarian subjects decreased by half. According to Stenner, this suggested that their intolerance was not so much about or against a certain racial group, but simply intolerance against 'otherness.'
A simple change in the way they defined "us" and "them" caused a wildly quick altering of their perception and treatment of other humans. According to Stenner, the act of creating a new superordinate group using the aliens made black people look more like ‘us’ than ‘them’ to the authoritarians. Their perception was altered almost instantly. A simple acknowledgement of ET life created a large shift in consciousness.
The authoritarians not only became kinder to black people, they also became more lenient on criminals — suggesting perhaps a buildup of acceptance and understanding.
Authoritarians are *primarily* difference-ist rather than racist per se (thus they reject not just racial/ethnic others but also moral 'deviants' & political dissidents). To a white authoritarian black people seem more like "us" than "them" as soon as there are green people afoot
— Dr. Karen Stenner (@karen_stenner) November 6, 2018
It's about working w. the (potential) good in everyone--with who they really are--rather than futile attempts to change innate predispositions. Auths are obsessed with protecting "us" which is what creates all those negative impacts for "them". So we change perceps of who is "us"
— Dr. Karen Stenner (@karen_stenner) November 6, 2018
Now there are some obvious next questions here. If we move from humans that are different from us as being "an enemy" per se, to aliens being 'the enemy,' aren't we still operating from a place of intolerance? Sure.
But part of this nervousness we have about people who are different from us is biological. We have evolved this way to an extent. This doesn't mean that we should seek to simply accept intolerance where it is harmful, but that we must look at what mechanisms are at play here.
This doesn't mean we are a victim to our biology when it comes to how we assess other humans. We live in different times than the ones that helped form our biology. Whether you believe the entire story of evolution or whether you entertain alternative theories around 'how we initially got here,' our past included times almost nothing like what life looks like today. As a result the nature of our brains and nervous systems formed from those times. Now, a lot can be done with a sense of self-awareness and to 'evolve' our biology in a sense, but this is a topic best explored in a different piece.
I also think it is somewhat reasonable to consider that we would of course have an initial nervousness about aliens if they showed up in a public square here on earth. Our exposure to them has been next to zero - at least in my view ;)
While one shift in consciousness and thinking can lead to greater acceptance of other humans, another shift in self awareness and exploration of consciousness can lead to a deeper sense of curiosity and approach to how we consider alien beings as well. But again, that's for another article all together.
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Some Key Takeaways
There are some obvious limitations to this study and I think its results are worthy of us to sit with an embodied awareness and consider them more deeply. Nonetheless, I think there are some interesting conclusions to play with.
Stenner's study suggests that we become more tolerable the more we realize how similar we are, not the more we think about everyone's differences. Now think of the means by which our culture is trying to control speech, views, and actions towards people of color, different cultures, different sexual orientations etc.
Does forcing views and tolerance on people work? According to this study, no. Instead, focusing on where we are similar works best to create more unity. Then, our differences become ways in which the human experience is enriched, as opposed to our differences becoming an obsession everyone MUST acknowledge.
Next I think it's worthwhile to consider statements from various astronauts returning from space that represent another input in the form of 'cosmic consciousness' - or what is sometimes called the 'overview effect.'
Dr Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man on the moon, said that when he was returning to earth from space he had an experience that he'll never forget. He felt an overwhelming sense of connectedness looking back at earth that altered his regular state of consciousness. This was profound for him, and encouraged him to want to engage the next several decades of his life explore the nature of consciousness and quantum mechanics.
Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences 1973 to study anything from consciousness to psychic phenomenon. All things connected to the idea that everything is consciousness and everything is connected. All this because of his experience in space.
Then there is Afghanistan’s only astronaut, Abdul Ahad Mohmand. He flew to space on a Soviet spacecraft with two cosmonauts in 1988. When arriving to the space station he had the chance to speak with the then Afghan president by phone.
Abdul Ahad Mohamand outlines what happened:
“I read out a statement, an address to the entire world. I said that the war should end, that we should all unite. That people, particularly Afghans, didn’t need this war.”
Abdul Ahad Mohmand
It seems like such a simple and obvious things, why would people truly want war? But the fact that Mohamand spent his time speaking with the Afghan president stating such words makes me yet again go back to this expanding of consciousness that can come from experiences like this.
On one hand, a man is sent into space to have a swift change in their thinking, while on another hand a simple visitor coming to a door letting them know that "aliens exist" caused a similar reaction.
Perhaps, like our company motto has been for almost 15 years, "change starts within." And looking for predictable ways to induce that change in thinking and being is our only way towards a better world in a time where we deeply need solutions.