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TV Skeptic: A 'balanced' discussion of UFOs on 'Anderson'

April 25, 2012 |  7:03 pm

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Anderson Cooper asked the question "Are we being visited by aliens from space?" and devoted Tuesday's episode of his syndicated series "Anderson" to answer that question.

His guests included a woman who claimed she saw a UFO sprinkle glitter on a tree in her yard; two women who say they saw UFOs one night, and believe that hypnosis helped them recall interactions with aliens; a member of The Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), an organization dedicated to studying and publicizing UFO sightings, who barked out UFO incidents and statistics with an angry zeal; and a self-proclaimed psychic medium who said she had the ability to telepathically communicate with aliens.

She further claimed that Cooper himself had a star-family (don't we all?) living in the fourth dimension. Apparently his star-family likes to talk a lot too.

To balance these extraordinary claims — made with no convincing evidence — Cooper invited Joe Nickell, a well-respected skeptic, to join the panel. Though outnumbered, and facing the perpetual scowl of one of the UFO witnesses, Nickell did a fine job offering a coherent, yet sympathetic, response to as many of the claims as time allowed. (Although his conclusion that one witness was mistaking Jupiter for a UFO seemed hasty.)

Perhaps the best measure of Nickell's effectiveness was shown when Cooper polled the studio audience. Only a few hands were raised when asked how many believed that UFOs were alien visitors, and all but a few hands went up when asked how many didn't believe. Mark that one for the skeptics. It seems that Cooper's audience is on the ball.

Then Cooper asked how many believed that his final guest could telepathically communicate with aliens. A single hand was raised.

So, given that an "overwhelming majority" in the audience didn't believe in alien visitations; and even more of the audience (well above 99%) disbelieved in psychic communication with aliens, to whom do you think Cooper handed the microphone and its national television platform? The one audience member who believes in psychic communication with aliens, of course. 

That's what they call "balanced" on television.

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TV Skeptic

— Ed Stockly

Photo: Anderson Cooper. Credit: andersoncooper.com

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