The problem is not so much that these things are taken on faith. Things are taken on faith all the time and that faith is validated (love is a great example). The problem is what is used to validate that faith. Atheists, for example. It's cut and dry. Gimme proof or leave me alone. Those that believe, however, because proof does not actually exist, have to be careful that they are not being fooled. For example, how do you know those past life experiences are real and not just some story you are making up in your head without realizing it? How do you know that spaceship wasn't just a streaking meteor? How do you know that sasquatch wasn't just my brother in law walking around shirtless at the state park (you know, a body wax wouldn't kill you, dude)? How do you know your horoscope was accurate and it wasn't just the power of suggestion making you do things? I like to say I've see too much to say the paranormal is bullshit, and I've seen too much to say it's real. This is what happens when you spend your formative years reading special effects books and how magicians do their tricks -- it makes you cast a very wary eye on ANYTHING without an immediate explanation.
Because we are choosing to believe, we owe it to ourselves and our search for truth to be as accurate as possible. This causes problems. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a big believer in the paranormal, but in the process, he allowed himself to be duped by some really obvious hoaxes. As a result, no theory advanced by Doyle can be taken seriously. By way of contrast, if aliens landed in Penn And Teller's backyard, give me a call, we'll talk. (And if they landed in Charlie Sheen's backyard, they'd go back to outer space so fast, you wouldn't believe it.)
Then, there's another problem -- that the truth of whatever it is may well be unknowable. Hypnosis, for example. This is a, by its very nature, subjective state. There is no way of telling what is really going on. Now, take a subject who someone is trying to hypnotize. They are aware they aren't being hypnotized, even as the guy is giving it everything they've got. So they play along, so as not to hurt their feelings. Result -- what this person thinks is practice is actually being fooled by his subject. Anything he will learn about hypnotizing people, his technique, etc. will be based on false data. This is someone who might start a therapy practice or something, all the while not knowing he's got it completely wrong.
When it comes to the truth being unknowable, it happens. Time makes the trial grow cold. Or so many people have fucked around with things that the scene is contaminated, to borrow a phrase from the police. Or, it is possible that a modern myth has grown, one which has nothing to do with what originally happened but is based on either speculation or reports that are not as reliable as people would like to believe, resulting in a publicly created legend that everyone focuses on while the truth, whatever it was withers and dies away due to neglect.
...such as, oh, I don't know...Roswell, New Mexico.
I like to describe whatever happened in Roswell, with people saying there was a UFO crash and the government saying it was just weather balloons, with this analogy: you have two witnesses to a crime. One's crazy, the other's a liar. How can you ever learn the truth? From just my own examinations into the writings on Roswell, I have come to the conclusion that whatever really happened has nothing to do with what is popularly understood to be "The Truth." What did happen? Who knows? Everybody who's a Roswell expert bases things not on the few news reports of the time or any sort of tangible offering, but based on what they've gotten from books and TV interviews and other such things that haven't shown their math. They find facts to fit their conclusions, not the other way around. I think about the legend of Roswell and all I can think is, somewhere, Joseph Campbell is smiling.
And here we go again. The FBI recently started a blog called The Vault for history buffs to search through and enjoy. And among the documents to recently pop up there is the actual Hottel memo. For those who don't know, the Hottel memo was written by Guy Hottel, the head of the Washington, D.C. field office of the FBI. He wrote it to J. Edgar Hoover in 1950. He wrote:
"An investigator for the Air Forces stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter. Each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape but only 3 feet tall (Oh my God! They were piloted by Tom Cruise clones! -- G), dressed in metallic cloth a very fine texture."
Now, this is so totally not news. The Hottel memo has been around for ages. What makes it different is that, while the FBI has never corroborated it, it is now up on The Vault for all to see.
What do I think? I have no idea. Notice two redacted portions of the memo. One is a name (read that, someone you could go up to and ask), the other is in the first paragraph and could provide some much needed context. What this just Hoover asking what the hell everyone was talking about and Hottel was filling him in? Was this some sort of follow up? It does say "information Concerning" in the subject header, after all. This isn't even from the year of the crash, it's three years later. There is not enough information to come up with anything usable. And remember, Hottel was in charge of the D.C. field office, not New Mexico, so it's not like he was there. And we only have this memo. No others have surfaced. And you can't say it's some sort of conspiracy. Otherwise, this one memo would still be buried so everyone can say, Aw, they're making this up!
Also, please notice the third paragraph (if you have trouble reading this, click on the image to go to the picture page, then click on it again to get the full size image). It states that all this information came from an informant. The field agent in charge there apparently didn't feel this was worth following up on. So this isn't even an eyewitness account from a trained agent, it's from someone else who hasn't been verified as far as we know.
It's not that I think the memo is phony. We know it isn't phony. It's right up on the FBI's own site. But I think the conclusions that can be drawn from it are phony. Is it proof of a conspiracy? No. Is it proof of an alien landing? No. Is it proof that the field offices really needed to get rid of the honor bars in their offices? ...maybe.
I would love proof, one way or another, about what really happened. But with everyone focusing on the smoke and mirrors, the stagehands have removed the gear, and now, no one will ever know how the trick was done and what really went into the trick.