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Sunday, March 25, 2012

AFRICA-Wildlife & Conservation Statistics

Wildlife & Conservation Statistics

Extinction of Species

• Every 20 minutes, the world adds another 3,500 human lives but loses one or more entire species of animal or plant life - at least 27,000 species per year. (Source: PBS)
• At the present rates of extinction, as many as 20% of the world's 7-15 million species could be gone in the next 30 years. This rate of extinction has been unprecedented since the disappearance of dinosaurs 65 million years ago (Source: WWF).

Habitat Destruction
(Source: Animal Alliance, unless stated otherwise)

• Human population reached 1 billion by 1800. Over 6 billion by 2000. Conservative estimates predict that our population will reach 9 billion people by 2050 (Source: Population Reference Bureau).

The hourly destruction of an estimated 240 acres of natural habitat is directly attributable to the growth in human populations.
• 80% of the decline in biological diversity is caused by habitat destruction.

Plight of Rhinos
(Source: International Rhino Foundation)

• Of the dozens of species of rhino that once roamed the earth, only 5 now exist.
• Where there were once over 100,000 black rhinos on the plains of Africa, there are now only 2,707 on the entire continent.
• The staggering decimation of the rhino population is due to poaching, to satisfy the demand for the horn for use in Eastern traditional medicines and as dagger handles.
• Prices up to US$40,000 a kilo have been recorded for the much prized rhino horn - more than 5 times the price of gold.

The African Elephant
(Source: CITES)

• 5 -10 million African elephants existed in 1930. Less than 1% of that number (approximately 600,000) remained when they were added to the international list of the most endangered species in 1989.
• Demand for ivory combined with loss of habitat from human settlement led to these huge declines in population.

African Wild Dog
(Source: American Museum of Natural History)

• Listed as one of the worlds most endangered canids, and the most endangered predator in Africa, there are now only between 4,000-5,000 African wild dogs in the wild.
• A century ago, African wild dog packs numbering a hundred or more animals could be seen roaming the Serengeti Plains. Today, pack size averages about 10, and the total population on the Serengeti is probably less than 60 dogs.
• Due to their large home ranges, African wild dogs are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction.
• They are widely regarded as pests, and poisoned, shot, trapped and snared in many areas.
• Their most serious threat, though, is introduced diseases. Burgeoning human populations have brought the African wild dogs into frequent contact with domestic dogs, many of which carry canine distemper and rabies.

The African Lion
(Source: Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary)

• The African lions' numbers are diminishing rapidly due to habitat destruction, persecution by livestock farmers outside of protected areas, and human greed. 10,000-15,000 free-roaming African lions remain, down from 50,000 a decade ago.
• The willingness of Asians and Westerners to pay handsomely for lion head trophies combined with the urgent need for revenue among African locals means that these great predators are increasingly hunted for sport.
• Trophy hunting not only depletes the population of the African lion, but threatens its gene pool as well. Killing the dominant male of a pride (normally the target of a trophy hunt) sets off a chain of instinctive behavior in which the subsequent dominant male kills all the young of the previous male (6-8 estimated deaths result from each male shot).

(Source: The Cheetah Spot)

• In 1900 there were about 100,000 cheetah worldwide - present estimates place their number at 10,000 -15,000 with about one tenth of those living in captivity.
• Throughout recorded history a cheetah pelt was a badge of wealth for its human owner. The animal was killed for its skin by some and captured for its hunting skills by others. More recently, increasing human populations have squeezed cheetahs and their prey from their natural habitats.

Poaching is the illegal hunting, capture, or collecting of wildlife. Snaring is a common form of subsistence poaching and can lead to the maiming of many animals not intended for consumption. (Source: Bagheera: Glossary of terms)
Canned hunts are commercial hunts, which take place on private land under circumstances that virtually assure the hunter of success. The animal is often fenced in, or has been habituated to eating at a feeding station at the same time every day. Canned hunts are prevalent in the United States and South Africa. (Source: Animalunderworld.com)




  • South Africa is Africa's biggest trader in wild animals. With 80% of Africa's trophy exports coming from South Africa.
  • Conservatively, 17 animals are killed every second in South Africa.
    Slaughterhouses, which are mostly all privatized, are largely evaluated by their own personnel.
  • Globally, the number of land-based animal slaugtered for food is 59 billion, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. This conservative figure does not account for non-slaughter deaths, under-reporting by smaller countries, and many billions of aquatic animals.
  • The South African government is deeply committed at all levels to a policy that is entirely wedded to commercialisation and privatisation of wildlife.
    Over 500.000 wild animals are exported per annum from South Africa, and 80% of all hunting trophies from the continent come from South Africa.
  • Evidence suggests that South African nature conservation policies and practices are largely either non-existent, not working, outdated, in disarray, and generally unthethical.
    Wildlife smuggling is second only to drug trafficking and has overtaken illegal gun smuggling.

Neal Grossman-"On Materialism as Science Dogma" About NDE

"On Materialism as Science Dogma"
by Neal Grossman, Dept. of Philosophy, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago

(to appear in Journal of Near Death Studies as "Who's Afraid of Life After Death?")

(The following essay focuses on the Near Death Experience (NDE) as evidence that science has -- to its detriment -- become a dogmatic belief system wedded to reductionist materialism rather than being a neutral, objective method for investigating reality of any sort. One could effectively substitute the three letters "UFO" for "NDE." The advantage of dealing with NDE is that there is no doubt whatsoever as to the existence of the phenomeon; the interpretation, of course, being another matter.)

When researchers ask the question "how can the Near Death Experience be explained", they tend to make the usual assumption that an acceptable explanation will be in terms of concepts -- biological, neurological, psychological -- with which they are already familiar. The NDE would then be explained, for example, if it could be shown what brain state, which drugs, or what beliefs on the part of the experiencer, correlates with the NDE. Those who have concluded that the NDE cannot be explained mean that it cannot, or has not yet, been correlated with any physical or psychological condition of the experiencer.

I wish to suggest that this approach to explaining the NDE is fundamentally misguided. To my knowledge, no one who has had a NDE feels any need for an explanation in the reductionist sense that researchers are seeking. For the experiencer, the NDE does not need to be explained because it is exactly what it purports to be, which, at a minimum, is the direct experience of consciousness -- or minds, or selves, or personal identity -- existing independently of the physical body. It is only with respect to our deeply entrenched materialist paradigm that the NDE needs to be explained, or more accurately, explained away. In this paper I will take the position that materialism has been shown to be empirically false; and hence, what does need to be explained is the academic establishment's collective refusal to examine the evidence and to see it for what it is. The academic establishment is in the same position today as were the cardinals who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. Why is this the case?

Before addressing this question, it is probably incumbent on to me to say a few words about the kind and strength of evidence which refutes materialism. Cook, Greyson, and Stevenson [1] "describe three features of NDE's -- enhanced mentation, the experience of seeing the physical body from a different position in space, and paranormal perception -- which (they) believe might provide convergent evidence supporting the survival hypothesis."[2] They then go on to describe 14 cases which satisfy these criteria. From an epistemological perspective, the third criterion, paranormal perception, is the most important. The materialist can, in principle, give no account of how a person acquires veridical information about events remote from his or her body. Consider, for example, the kind of case where the NDEer accurately reports the conversation occurring in the waiting room while his body is unconscious in the operating room. There is no way for the relevant information, conveyed in sound waves or light waves, to travel from the waiting room, through corridors and up elevators, to reach the sense organs of the unconscious person. Yet the person wakes from the operation with the information. This kind of case -- and there are lots of them -- shows quite straight-forwardly that there are non-physical ways in which the mind can acquire information. Hence materialism is false.

Perhaps the "smoking gun" case is the one described by Michael Sabom in his recent book.[3] In this case, the patient had her NDE while her body temperature was lowered to 60 degrees, and all the blood was drained from her body. "Her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain."[4] A brain in this state cannot create any kind of experience. Yet the patient experienced a profound NDE. Those materialists who believe that consciousness is secreted by the brain, or that the brain is necessary for conscious experience to exist, cannot possibly explain, in their own terms, cases such as this. An impartial observer would have to conclude that not all experience is produced by the brain and that therefore, the falsity of materialism has been empirically demonstrated. Thus, what needs to be explained is the abysmal failure of the academic establishment to examine this evidence and to embrace the conclusion: materialism is false, and consciousness can and does exist independently of the body.

Moreover, the evidence against materialism comes not only from the NDE, but from other areas of research as well. Both mediumship, which has been extensively investigated since the time of William James, and Stevenson-type cases of children who have verified true memories of past lives, offer an abundance evidence against materialism. The best epistemological analysis of the evidence is given by Robert Almeder. After a lengthy and detailed discussion of Stevenson-type cases, he twits Stevenson for concluding only that "it is rational to believe in reincarnation, given the evidence."[5] The proper conclusion, according to Almeder, should be "it is irrational not to believe in reincarnation, given the evidence."[6] I agree with Almeder.

Our collective irrationality with respect to the wealth of evidence against materialism manifests in two ways: (i) by ignoring the evidence and (ii) by insisting on overly stringent standard of evidence, which, if adopted, would render any empirical science impossible. The refusal of academics to examine the evidence against materialism is not new. Writing one hundred years ago, William James complains

    I invite eight of my scientific colleagues to come to my house at their own time, and sit with a medium for whom the evidence already published in our proceedings had been most noteworthy. Although it means at worst the waste of an hour for each, five of them decline the adventure. I then beg the 'Commission' connected with the chair of a certain learned psychologist in a neighboring university to examine the same medium, whom Mr. Hodgson and I offer at our own expense to send and leave with them. They also have to be excused from any such entanglement. I advise another psychological friend to look into this case, but he replies that it is useless, for if he should get such results as I report, he would simply believe himself hallucinated....This friend of mine writes ex cathedra on the subject of psychical research, declaring (I need hardly add) that there is nothing in it; ...and one of the five colleagues who declined my invitation is widely quoted as an effective critic of our evidence. So runs the world away! [7]

More recently, Michael Grosso reports a similar experience in attempting to get colleagues to read anything on the evidence for life after death.

    The type of person I have in mind will come up with weak, if not irrational, excuses for not reading the book I place in his hand. In one case, the argument ran: "It's only words on paper; no reason to take any of it seriously." Another academic said he didn't have the time. "You mean you can't find a few hours to read a book that might change your basic outlook on life and death?" I asked.

    How strange that these intelligent people should be not merely indifferent but resistant to the data. It's as if there were a conspiracy against this information, a need to make it harmless, irrelevant, or nonexistent.[8]

One of my earliest encounters with this kind of academic irrationality occurred over twenty years ago. I was devouring everything on the Near Death Experience I could get my hands on, and eager to share what I was discovering with colleagues. It was unbelievable to me how dismissive they were of the evidence. "Drug induced hallucinations", "last gasp of a dying brain", "people see what they want to see" were some of the more commonly used phrases. One conversation in particular caused me to more clearly see the fundamental irrationality of academics with respect to evidence against materialism. I asked:

    "What about people who accurately report the details of their operation?"

    "Oh", came the reply, "they probably just subconsciously heard the conversation in the operating room, and their brain subconsciously transposed the audio information into a visual format".

    "Well", I responded, 'what about cases where people report veridical perception of events remote from their body?"

    "Oh, that's just a coincidence or a lucky guess."

    Exasperated, I ask, "What will it take, short of having a Near Death Experience yourself, to convince you that it's real?"

    Very non-chalantly, without batting an eye, the response was "even if I were to have a Near Death Experience myself, I would conclude that I was hallucinating, rather than believe that my mind can exist independently of my brain." He went on to add that Dualism (the philosophical thesis which asserts that mind and matter are independent substances, neither of which can be reduced to the other) is a false theory and that there cannot be evidence for something that's false.

This was a momentous experience for me, because here was an educated, intelligent man telling me that he will not give up materialism, no matter what. Even the evidence of his own experience would not cause him to give up materialism. I realized two things in that moment. First, this experience cured me of any impulse to argue these things with recalcitrant colleagues; it is pointless to argue with someone who tells me that his mind is already made up, and nothing I can say will change it. Second, this experience taught me that it is important to distinguish between (a) materialism as an empirical hypothesis about the nature of the world, which is amenable to evidence one way or the other (this is the hallmark of a scientific hypothesis -- that evidence is relevant for its truth or falsity) and (b) materialism as an ideology, or paradigm, about how things "must" be, which is impervious to evidence (this is the hallmark of an unscientific hypothesis -- that evidence is not relevant for its truth). My colleague believed in materialism not as a scientific hypothesis which, qua scientific hypothesis might be false, but rather as dogma and ideology which "must" be true, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. For him, materialism is the fundamental paradigm in terms of which everything else is explained, but which is not itself open to doubt. I shall coin the term "fundamaterialist" to refer to those who believe that materialism is a necessary truth, not amenable to empirical evidence.

With respect to (a) materialism held as an empirical hypothesis about the world, the evidence against it is overwhelming. With respect to (b) materialism held as an ideology, evidence against it is logically impossible. A complicating factor is that the fundamaterialist typically holds the metabelief that his belief in materialism is not ideological, but empirical. That is, he misclassifies himself under (a), while his behavior clearly falls under (b). The debunker and skeptic believes that he is being "scientific" in ignoring and rejecting the evidence against materialism. He claims that the evidence is weak, that it is not compelling, that it can be easily explained away by the materialist paradigm. But when asked what kind of evidence it would take to convince him that materialism is empirically false, he is, like my colleague, usually at a loss for what to say. If he's not familiar with the data, he'll come up with a criterion of evidence which in fact has already been met. When it is pointed out to him that there exist many well-documented cases which satisfy his proposed criterion, he will simply make his criterion more stringent, and at some point he crosses the line between the reasonable demand for scientific evidence and the unreasonable (and unscientific) demand for logical proof.

This is not a minor point. Fundamaterialism is so deeply ingrained in the academic establishment that most researchers on the NDE fall prey to it. For, after presenting case after case which would satisfy any reasonable standard of empirical evidence against materialism, even sympathetic researchers almost always deem it necessary to add the disclaimer that their research does not prove that there is life after death. But no scientific hypothesis is ever proven in this sense. Theorems in logic and mathematics can be proved. In science, hypotheses are not proved; rather, empirical evidence renders a given hypothesis more or less probable. There is no such thing as logical, or mathematical certainty in science. The fundamaterialists are correct in that the hypothesis that consciousness exists independently of the body cannot be proven with mathematical certainty. But neither can any other scientific hypothesis, because empirical science deals with evidence, not proof. Evidence never "proves" a hypothesis, it just makes it more probable. And, when evidence for a given hypothesis accumulates to a certain degree, we accept the hypothesis as true. But "true" in this scientific sense never means "proven"; it means very very probable. In science there is always the possibility that a given hypothesis may turn out to be false. The fundamaterialist will not accept the hypothesis of an afterlife until it is "proven" beyond a logical possibility of being false. That is, he is using a concept of proof which belongs in logic and mathematics, not in science. And NDE researchers are playing the fundamaterialist's game when they utter caveats that their research does not prove the hypothesis of an afterlife. What researches should say, in my opinion, is simply that they have amassed sufficient evidence to render the hypothesis of an afterlife very probable, and the hypothesis of materialism very improbable.

In the above paragraphs, I have been using the terms "science" and "scientific" in its epistemological sense. Science is a methodological process of discovering truths about reality. Insofar as science is an objective process of discovery, it is, and must be, metaphysically neutral. Insofar as science is not metaphysically neutral, but instead weds itself to a particular metaphysical theory, such as materialism, it cannot be an objective process for discovery. There is much confusion on this point, because many people equate science with materialist metaphysics, and phenomena which fall outside the scope of such metaphysics, and hence cannot be explained in physical terms, are called "unscientific". This is a most unfortunate usage of the term. For if souls and spirits are in fact a part of reality, and science is conceived epistemologically as a systematic investigation of reality, then there is no reason why science cannot devise appropriate methods to investigate souls and spirits. But if science is defined in terms of materialist metaphysics, then, if souls and spirits are real, science, thus defined, will not be able to deal with them. But this would be, not because souls and spirits are unreal, but rather because this definition of science (in terms of materialist metaphysics) has semantically excluded nonphysical realities from it scope.

Peter Fenwick uses the term "science" in this metaphysical sense when he writes

    So far we've taken a largely scientific, and therefore a rather limited view of the NDE. We've been looking at mechanism, and almost everything we have said has been based on the assumption that the NDE takes place in or is constructed by the brain. We've confined "mind" to the brain because, scientifically, we have no other option. When the brain dies, the mind dies; the scientific view does not allow for the possibility of a soul, or for any form of personal survival after death.

    It is only by looking at some non-scientific views that we might find a wider explanation of the NDE....[9]

If the term "materialistic" is substituted for "scientific", then the above passage is an accurate statement with which I have no quarrel. The last sentence becomes "it is only by looking at non-materialistic views that we might find a wider explanation of the NDE...." And this is absolutely correct. Materialism is a woefully inadequate framework in terms of which to understand the NDE. And, I wish to insist, it is science itself, understood epistemologically as a metaphysically neutral method of inquiry, which has discovered the limitations of materialism. After all, the primary researchers in the field are not philosophers or theologians, but well-trained scientists and physicians, who, using standard scientific methodology, have been forced by their data to conclude that materialism cannot be the whole truth.

I stress this semantic point about how the word "scientific" should be used in part because the term carries a lot of emotional weight. To be labeled "unscientific" is sufficient for having one's work or one's self dismissed and ignored by the academic establishment. And I think this is part of the reason academics are in fact dismissive of the research on the NDE. The reasoning goes something like this: to be scientific is good; to be unscientific is bad. Science = materialism. To believe in souls and spirits, or even to talk about souls and spirits, is to talk about and/or believe in something which is not materialistic. Therefore it is unscientific, which is bad, and hence we shouldn't waste any time on it. I believe that most of my colleagues think like this. The false premise, upon which the argument hangs, is the equating of science with materialism, an equation so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to root out. But I think even the most die-hard materialist ought to grant the following hypothetical: if souls, etc. are real, that is if non-material objects exist, then it should be possible to study them, to acquire data about them, to construct generalizations and theories about them, etc., which is to say, it should be possible to study them scientifically. Hence science ought to be construed as a method of inquiry only, not as a metaphysical theory which stipulates by definition what there is, and what can or cannot exist.

I wish to turn my attention now to the discipline of philosophy. It would seem that, of all the disciplines, philosophy ought to be most interested in, and meticulously study, all the research on the NDE. After all, isn't philosophy supposed to be concerned with questions of ultimate meaning, of the purpose of life, of the relation between mind and body, of God? NDE research has data which are directly relevant to all of these questions. So how is it possible that philosophy has collectively managed to ignore and even ridicule this research? To those outside of academic philosophy, it may come as a surprise to learn the great majority of academic philosophers are atheists and materialists. While, as I have argued above, they incorrectly use science to support their materialism, they systematically ignore the findings of science [10] which refute their materialism. Since their materialism is not empirically based, I call it fundamaterialism, to make explicit comparison with fundamentalism in religion. Fundamentalism connotes an attitude of certainty towards one's core belief. Just as the fundamentalist Christian is absolutely certain that the world was created in the manner described by the Bible (fossil evidence notwithstanding [11]), so also the fundamaterialist is absolutely certain that there exists nothing that is not made up of matter (NDE and other evidence notwithstanding). In fact, and this is the crucial point, their respective beliefs have nothing to do with evidence. As my fundamaterialist colleague put it, "there can't be evidence for something that's false."

And, more surprisingly, even those philosophers who are not materialists (and their number, I think, is growing) refuse to look at the data. One would think that a Cartesian Dualist, or a Platonist, would eagerly devour the wealth of data which strongly support their point of view. I would like to share a few more personal experiences which highlight some of the attitudes involved. In the late seventies, when the early research on the NDE was just being published, I was involved in team-teaching a course with one of the campus chaplains. Excitedly, I shared what I was learning about the NDE with the chaplain, thinking that he would welcome empirical data which, at the very least, constituted strong prima-facia evidence for much of what he believed in -- soul, afterlife, ultimate responsibility for one's actions, Higher Power, etc. To my astonishment, he was just as dismissive of the evidence as was my fundamaterialist colleague. When I questioned him about why he was so resistant to the data, he said, in effect, that his belief in God, afterlife, etc. is based on faith, and if these things were decidable empirically, there would be no room left for faith, which for him, was the foundation of his religious convictions.

I knew then that the NDE was between a rock and a hard place, as far as being taken seriously by the two disciplines, philosophy and theology, which should be the most interested in it. On the one hand, fundamaterialist philosophers believe in the truth of materialism a priori; empirical evidence is not relevant to them, and they are committed to ignoring and/or debunking anything that looks like evidence. On the other hand, theologians and other intellectuals who do believe in an afterlife, tend to base their belief on faith, which they feel would be seriously undermined if empirical evidence were relevant to their beliefs. Moreover, once theology and religion open the door to empirical evidence, then the possibility arises that the evidence may contradict some aspects of what was believed solely on the basis of faith. Indeed, this has already happened. The evidence from the NDE, for example, suggests that God is not vengeful, does not judge us or condemn us, and is not angry at us for our "sins"; there is judgment, to be sure, but the reports appear to be in agreement that all judgment comes from within the individual, not from the Being of Light. It seems, in fact, that all God is capable of giving us is unconditional love. Well, the concept of an all-loving non-judgmental God contradicts and undermines the teachings of many religions, and it is no wonder that the religious fundamentalists are up in arms about the Near Death Experience.

One more story: a few years ago, a Plato scholar from England gave a colloquia at my university. Afterwards, I found myself sitting next to him at dinner, and he politely asked me what my interests were in philosophy. I replied that I was interested in examining the various kinds of evidence suggestive of an afterlife.[12] He, assuming falsely that my interest was in debunking the paranormal, proceeded to tell us of a recent lecture he had attended in England. The lecturer, he said (with a slight sneer of contemptuous ridicule which only the British have truly perfected) was a certain neuropsychiatrist who talked about the Near Death Experience, and (with heightened tone of ridicule) actually believed that it was real. Even though I am quite used to the limitations of my metaphysically challenged colleagues, his attitude surprised me. In the first place, here was a Plato scholar, who, like the chaplain, was summarily dismissive of even the possibility that there could be evidence that Plato's views, the views of the philosopher about whom he is an "expert", might actually be true. The first recorded NDE is at the end of Book 10 of The Republic, so I would have thought that a Plato scholar would at the very least be curious about it. But even more disturbing to me was his implied reasoning. Whenever I hear that a highly trained scientist has studied some sort of esoteric phenomena, and has come to the conclusion, based on his research, that there is something to it, my curiosity is piqued, and I want to investigate.[13] My reasoning is that, if respectable, well-trained scientists have concluded that there's something to it, then maybe there is something to it, and I proceed to read what they have to say. But my colleague, the Plato scholar, was reasoning quite differently: if a respectable, well-trained neuropsychiatrist has come to the conclusion that there might be life after death, what this shows is, not that there might be any empirical reason to believe in an afterlife, but rather, that even a rigorous training in neuropsychiatry cannot protect an individual from believing in such foolish absurdities as an afterlife. This is the reasoning of a closed mind. With respect to the question of an afterlife, his mind is already made up; like most academic philosophers, he believes a priori that there is no afterlife, and since there can't be evidence for something that doesn't exist, anyone who believes otherwise betrays a mind that has fallen victim to superstition, wishful and fuzzy thinking, irrationality, and so forth.

One conclusion I have come to over the years is that both the atheist and the believer, from the fundamaterialist to the fundamentalist, share something in common. In fact, from an epistemological perspective, what they have in common is much more significant than what they disagree about. What they agree about is this: beliefs pertaining to the possible existence of a transcendent reality -- God, soul, afterlife, etc. -- are based on faith, not fact. If this is true, then there can be no factual evidence which pertains to such beliefs. This metabelief -- that beliefs about a transcendent reality cannot be empirically based -- is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it has the status of a taboo. The taboo is very democratic in that it allows everyone to believe whatever they want to believe about such matters. This allows the fundamaterialist to feel comfortable in her conviction that reason is on her side, that there is no afterlife, and that those who believe otherwise have fallen prey to the forces of irrationality and wishful thinking. But it also allows the fundamentalist to feel comfortable in his conviction that he has God on his side, and that those who believe otherwise have fallen prey to the forces of satan and evil. Thus, although the fundamentalist and the fundamaterialist are on opposite extremes of the spectrum of possible attitudes towards an afterlife, the extreme positions they hold unites them as "strange bedfellows" in their battles against the possibility that there are matters of fact about the afterlife which empirical research might discover. The very suggestion that empirical research might be relevant to beliefs pertaining to a transcendent reality -- that such beliefs are subject to empirical constraint -- runs strongly against this taboo, and is hence very threatening to most elements of our culture.

So, at the very least, there is a failure of curiosity among the academic establishment with respect to a large body of data suggestive of an afterlife. And if I am right, if, to paraphrase Almeder, it is irrational not to believe in a transcendent reality, given the evidence, then academia is permeated by a widespread and recalcitrant irrationality which blinds it to the findings of science. I think there are three inter-related factors, or causes, which converge to generate the resistance with respect to this issue: (a) resistance to paradigm change, (b) intellectual arrogance, and (c) social taboo.

(a) Resistance to paradigm change: Ever since the publication of Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the concept of a paradigm has been a familiar, useful, albeit sometimes controversial, tool. The concept of a paradigm helps us considerably in understanding scientific revolutions, when dramatic changes occur involving deep-rooted assumptions about how things are or how things must be. All academics matriculate within the context of a specific discipline which trains its practitioners to think in terms of the currently operating paradigm. Once the operating paradigm has been internalized in the mind of the individual, other, competing paradigms appear wrong and/or foolish. For example, I seem to remember, as a graduate student, spending a pleasant afternoon ridiculing phenomenology, which is a different way of approaching philosophy than the analytic paradigm which is dominant in America. None of us had read any phenomenology, or understood what it was about, yet to us it was meaningless gibberish, foolish French philosophy. Examples, historical and personal, could be multiplied without limit. Indeed professional meetings, both in science and humanities, not infrequently degenerate into mere debunking sessions. It seems there is something very deep in us humans that causes us to dismiss and ridicule any way of thinking which is different from our own. There is a natural resistance to forms of thinking which differs from what was internalized during the educational process.

Academic philosophers matriculate within a paradigm which is largely atheistic, materialistic, and reductionistic. There is no God, only material objects and processes exist, and human experience and behavior is to be explicated mechanically in terms of brain states. Books with the terms "mind" or "consciousness" in their title, for example, tend to have as their primary goal the "reduction" of mental and conscious experience to neurophysiology. To one who has internalized this paradigm, this way of approaching things appears to be right, reasonable, objective, and sensible. The paradigm itself is rarely questioned; it is the very water in which the academic philosopher is swimming, which is why it is so difficult for one who is immersed in the paradigm to see it as a paradigm, rather than as the way things "must be". Someone operating out of a different paradigm appears to be out of touch with reality, irrational, and so forth.

So, one of the forces which cause academics to ignore, dismiss, and ridicule the evidence for an afterlife is the force of the paradigm which the individual academic has internalized. The force of a well-entrenched paradigm has, throughout history, always caused scientists and humanists to actively resist both (i) paradigms, theories and hypotheses which are different from their own, as well as (ii) information which runs counter to the general contours of their own paradigm. Indeed, I think the concept of a paradigm partly explains why philosophers are, as a whole, much more resistant to the concept of an afterlife than are scientists. (It is scientists, not philosophers, who are actively engaged in this research). It is because atheism plays a much more central role in the contemporary philosopher's paradigm than it does in the scientist's. In today's academic climate, a physicist could write a book called ``God and the New Physics'' [14], but not a philosopher.

(b) Intellectual arrogance: In addition to the normal kind of resistance with which any paradigm defends itself against change, the atheist paradigm of academia generally, and Philosophy in particular, feels especially threatened by the findings of paranormal research. This is because intellectuals like to regard themselves as the highest manifestation of intelligence on the planet, if not in the Universe. Embracing an evolutionary model according to which consciousness is correlated with brain development, intellectuals regard the human brain as the highest development of evolutionary forces [15], and an educated human brain as the highest of the high. Intellectuals like to feel that they are riding atop the crest of the wave of Evolution. This intellectual smugness is greatly threatened by paranormal research, especially the NDE, the results of which strongly suggest (I am tempted to say "clearly show" instead of "strongly suggest") that the human intellect is by no means the highest form of intelligence. The Being of Light is Itself often described as infinite intelligence and love; moreover, intermediate between the humans and God there appear to many forms of non-embodied intelligence, greatly superior to our own. And furthermore, NDEers report that they feel themselves to be more alive and intelligent while out of the body than when in the body. NDE research seems to be confirming Plato's view that the body acts as a damper on the soul's native intelligence, weighing it down, so to speak, such that the soul is not able to manifest its full intelligence as long as it is embodied in material form.

All this is deeply unsettling to us academics. When we were younger, we may have been poor at sports, we may have been frequently teased by other children for being "squares" or "nerds". But we were smart, and our whole sense of self-worth got tied up in being smart. We were praised by our teachers for getting A's, and we worked hard to achieve the highest possible academic honors and rewards. It is thus quite natural for us to desire theories which support and justify those qualities which are strongest in us. It is therefore very comforting, although blatantly self-serving, to embrace a paradigm according to which we intellectuals are the most highly evolved beings in the Universe, or at least, on the planet. So to ask us to take seriously current research on the Near Death Experience is to ask us (i) not only to entertain the possibility that the atheist paradigm in terms of which we were raised and educated might be inadequate, (ii) but also that human intelligence, of which we academics are the supreme manifestation, is not only not the highest form of intelligence in Creation, but may very well be among the lowest. No wonder there is so much resistance!

(c) Social and cultural taboo: This is the most serious and powerful source of resistance, because it involves not only the university system, but our whole culture, indeed, our whole way of life. Despite avowals to the contrary, we live in a completely atheistic and irreligious culture. To be sure, most people profess a belief in a Higher Power of some sort, and many people attend religious services regularly, but religion, by which I mean religious values, plays no role in shaping the economic and political forces which structure and control our culture. Let me explain: the primary religious value, common to all of the world's religions, is love. The religions of the world agree that Divine Love is the force which creates and sustains our world, and that our primary purpose while embodied is to grow in our ability to understand and express this love. The world's religions advocate that we practice compassion and forgiveness towards others, that we treat people as ends in themselves, and that we not value material possessions. The "goodlife", according to religion, consists, not in the pursuit of wealth, reputation, or power, but rather, in the pursuit of right relationship with the Divine.

Now, the values of our culture are diametrically opposed to the values of religion. Success in our culture is measured by wealth, reputation, and power; and the desires which are requisite for obtaining this success are greed and ambition. Religious values have been safely shunted off to at most one hour a week on Sunday morning, where they are completely ineffective in mitigating the forces of greed and ambition which drive our culture economically. The primary religious values of love and compassion play no role in shaping the economic and political life of our culture. Politicians and corporations seek only to win fame and fortune for themselves; they do not value kindness, they do not seek to share their wealth, and most importantly, they, like everyone else in our culture, measure their self worth according to their wealth, status, reputation, etc. No one gets rich by being kind to their competitors; no one gains political office by being loving towards their opponents. Religious values may be paid lip service to, but they are inoperative in our culture. Indeed, they are fundamentally incompatible with the values which do, in fact, drive our culture.[16]

The reader can probably already see where I'm going with this. Research on the NDE has yielded the following unambiguous conclusion. NDEers confirm the basic values of the world's religions. The purpose of life, NDEers agree, is Knowledge and Love. Studies on the transformative effect of the NDE show that the cultural values of wealth, status, material possessions, etc., become much less important, and the perennial religious values of love, caring for others, and acquiring knowledge about the divine ascend to greater importance. That is, the studies show that NDEers not only verbally profess the values of Love and Knowledge, but they tend to operate in accordance with these values, if not entirely, then at least more so than before.

As long as religious values are presented as merely religious values, then it is easy for popular culture to ignore them or give them minimal lip-service on Sunday mornings. But if these same religious values are presented as empirically verified scientific facts, then everything changes. If the belief in an afterlife were to be accepted, not on the basis of faith, nor on the basis of speculative theology, but as a well-confirmed scientific hypothesis, then this could not be ignored by our culture. In fact, it would mean the end of our culture in its present form. Consider the following scenario: further research on the NDE confirms in great detail what has already been established, many more cases of verified veridical perceptions while "out of body" are collected and documented, advancing medical technology makes possible many more "smoking gun" cases of the type discussed above, longitudinal studies on NDEers confirm the already observed behavioral changes aligned with their newly acquired (or recently reinforced) spiritual values, and so forth. The studies are replicated in different cultures, with the same results. Eventually, the weight of evidence begins to set in, and scientists are ready to announce to world, if not as fact, then at least as highly confirmed scientific hypotheses:

        There is an afterlife.
        Our real identity is not our body, but our mind or consciousness.
        Although the details of the afterlife are not known, we are reasonably certain that everyone will experience a life-review, in which the individual experiences not only every event and every emotion of his life, but also, the effects his behavior, positive or negative, has had on others. The usual defense mechanisms with which we hide from ourselves our sometimes cruel and less than compassionate behavior towards others seems not to operate during the life review.
        The purpose of life is Love and Knowledge -- to learn as much as possible about both this world and the transcendent world, and to grow in our ability to feel kindness and compassion towards all beings.
        A consequence of (3) is that it appears to be a great disadvantage to oneself to harm another person, either physically or psychologically, since whatever pain one inflicts on another is experienced as one's own in the life-review.

This scenario is by no means far-fetched. I believe there is already sufficient evidence to present the above propositions as "probable", or "more likely than not", based on the evidence. Further studies will only increase the probability.

When this happens, the fallout will be revolutionary. When these findings are announced by science, it will become impossible for our culture to do business as usual, either economically, or politically, or in the universities. For our universities, as I have written elsewhere [17], are institutions of our culture, and as such, manifest and perpetuate the values of our culture. It would be interesting to speculate what an economy, or a university, which tries to align itself with the above five empirical hypotheses might look like, but that is a project well beyond the scope of this paper. It is sufficient for our present purposes simply to note that acceptance of the findings of NDE researchers would mark the beginning of the end of a culture whose driving forces have been greed and ambition, and which measures success in terms of material possessions, wealth, reputation, social status, etc. The present culture, therefore, has an enormous vested interest in undermining NDE research, which it does through ignoring, debunking, and otherwise marginalizing the research.

More subtly, our culture has created an atmosphere of "taboo", for want of a better name, around any serious discussions of spirituality. This is why we tend to feel uneasy and awkward in discussing these things with colleagues. We can discuss spirituality in the academy as something that other people believe, but not as something for which there could be empirical evidence and which might be empirically true. Even the former is difficult. I remember attending a conference on Spinoza some years ago. A member of the audience wanted to ask the speaker whether he thought Spinoza was a mystic. But the questioner could not bring himself to utter the word "mystic". He stuttered and stammered until someone else asked the question for him. The taboo against spirituality is so strong in academic philosophy, that we feel awkward and embarrassed even to say the word "mystic". And this is why I say that something like a taboo is operating here, something which we have all internalized, and which generates feelings of unease and anxiety whenever spiritually is discussed as something that might be true, rather than merely intellectually, as sociology, history, psychology, or literature.

To avoid these feelings of discomfort and anxiety generated by the taboo, academics try to protect themselves by employing the same strategies that everyone uses to avoid anxiety. The first strategy is denial. By paying no attention to the research, by ignoring it and dismissing it a priori, the academic is spared the uncomfortable feelings which would arise from violating the taboo. The second strategy is to debunk, to explain away, and to otherwise marginalize the research, and sometimes even the researchers themselves.

I believe I have identified several of the major factors which are involved in academia's collective refusal to take seriously the results of research into the paranormal. Those disciplines which would be most affected by this research, such as Philosophy and Psychology, are the most resistant to the data, because the data calls into question their most fundamental presuppositions of what a person is and of what life is all about. There is thus much for academics generally, and philosophers and psychologists especially, to fear in this research.

I would like to close by telling a little story I heard about C.D.Broad. C.D. Broad was a famous British philosopher who wrote in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. He served as president of the British Society for Psychic Research, and was the last philosopher with an international reputation who believed there was something to it. Towards the end of his life he was asked how he would feel if he found himself still present after his body had died. He replied that he would feel more disappointed than surprised. Not surprised, because his investigations led him to conclude that an afterlife was more likely than not.[18] But why disappointed? His reply was disarmingly honest. He said, in effect, that he had had a good life: that he was comfortable materially, and that he enjoyed admiration and respect from students and colleagues. There is no guarantee that his status, reputation, and comfort would carry over intact into the afterlife. The rules by which success is measured in the afterlife might be quite different from the rules according to which success is measured in this life. And indeed, NDE research suggests that Broad's fears were well-founded, that "success" by afterlife standards is measured, not in terms of publications, grants, or reputation, but rather by acts of kindness and compassion to others. Perhaps those whose sense of self-worth arises primarily from their status within academia have, as Broad expressed, something to fear from the findings of NDE research.


    "Do Any Near-Death Experiences Provide Evidence for Survival of Human Personality after Death?", Emily Cook, Bruce Greyson and Ian Stevenson, Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol.12, No. 3, p. 377, 1998.
    Ibid, p 377
    Light and Death; Zondervan Publishing House, 1998, chapter 3
    Ibid, p.49
    Robert Almeder: Death and Personal Survival
    William James: Frederic Myers Service to Psychology, in The Works of William James; Essays in Psychical Research, Harvard, 1986, p.194
    Michael Grosso, PhD. Fear of Life after Death in What Survives?, Gary Doore (ed); Tarcher, 1990. (Italics mine)
    Peter Fenwick, The Truth in the Light, Berkeley Publishing, 1997, p.249
    I think it is time to be quite candid about this; there is a tremendous body of research on the paranormal, accumulated since the time of William James, which should properly be called the "findings of science", because the researchers have been trained scientists who adhered to strict, methodologically scientific rules of evidence. When I say that the findings of science refutes materialism, I am using the term refutes in the standard empirical (not logical or mathematical) sense in which a hypothesis (in this case materialism) is said to be refuted, or falsified, by strong evidence to the contrary.
    Fundamentalists are just as inventive in explaining away fossil evidence as fundamaterialists --at least those who bother to look at paranormal research --are at explaining away NDE research. One particularly ingenious fundamentalist explanation is that, when God created the world 5000 plus years ago, He created it with fossils and dinosaur bones in place, to make it look as if the world were older, as a sort of test of our faith. The Creationist then challenges the evolutionary scientist to "prove" that God did not in fact create the world in this way. One does not need to be an astute logician to see that the Creationist's hypothesis is unfalsifiable in principle, hence unscientific, and hence, the evolutionary scientist does not need to show (because it cannot in principle be shown) that God did not Create the world with the fossil evidence in place. The arguments of those fundamaterialists who look at the evidence from paranormal research are just as convoluted, involving unfalsifiable premises, confusing evidence with proof, etc. See Almeder, op. cit., for a more detailed examination of some of the convolutions the fundamaterialist must undergo in order to save his materialism.
    As an aside, I must say that it has taken me twenty years to gain the courage to be able to reply simply and honestly to questions pertaining to my interests. The taboo against having any interest in the paranormal except for the purpose of debunking it has persisted in academia since the time of William James; and the punishment for violating this taboo is to be ridiculed and marginalized by colleagues. My fear, which has now left me, of being on the receiving end of such ridicule has kept me silent for many years. Everyone desires approval from their peers, and I have nothing but admiration for those researchers whose love for truth gave them the courage to publish their findings despite fears of their colleagues' disapproval.
    e.g. William James on mediumship, John Mack on UFO's, Brian Weiss and Ian Stevenson on reincarnation, etc.
    Paul Davies
    Although, it must be noted that intellectuals are not consistent in their application of their own criteria. If species intelligence is to be correlated with brain development, then dolphins and whales must be regarded as the most intelligent life forms on the planet.
    I do not mean only the corporate and political culture, but popular culture as well. Consider, for example the value of forgiveness, common to all religions. In what per cent of our movies is the protagonist a hero because he has successfully applied this value and has forgiven his enemies? Compare this with the percentage of movies in which the protagonist is a hero because he successfully applied the opposite value of vengeance and destroyed his enemies.
    See my Context & Content in Academia; Parts 1 and 2, as yet unpublished.
    C. D. Broad reached this conclusion based on studies of mediums and apparitions. The evidence available today, through NDE research and Stevenson-type cases, is even more compelling

UFO - The “Varginha ET Case.”


(A similar version of this story was published in the August and
 September 1998 issues of the MUFON UFO Journal)
On the night of January 13, 1996, the North American Aerospace Defense Command reportedly notified Brazilian authorities that it had tracked a number of UFOs over the western hemisphere that night and one or more had come down near the city of Varginha in the state of Minas Gerais.
Brazilian authorities were quickly notified and they immediately alerted Army units near Varginha (Var-ZJEEN-yuh).
It was the beginning of one of the most intriguing events in UFO history, the “Varginha ET Case.” Civilian investigators believe that over the next several weeks at least two and perhaps as many as six alien creatures were captured or killed and turned over to American authorities, and that a UFO may have crashed.
Eyewitnesses described the creatures as humanoid and three to four feet tall. They had dark brown, hairless skin that was very oily, big triangular heads with three short “horns” on top, and huge red eyes that were vertically oval. The arms were long and thin, the legs short and thin. They had no obvious noses or ears and only slits for mouths. The creatures weren’t wearing clothing and no sex organs were visible. They had unusually large veins growing out of their necks and running down their shoulders, arms, chest and back, making them look like weight­ lifters.
The “Varginha case” is a complicated one involving a series of incidents that apparently began on Saturday, January 13, but did not come to public attention until more than a week later after three young women spotted one of the creatures in a vacant lot. The young women had just finished helping a woman get ready to move to a new home on Saturday, January 20 and were walking to their own homes. Around three o'clock in the afternoon, they were passing through the Jardim Andere district of Varginha.
"We decided to take a short cut through a vacant lot," said Liliane da Silva, then sixteen, who was with her sister Valquíria, fourteen, and a friend, Kátia Xavier, twenty-two (shown from left to right in the photo at right, which was taken in the vacant lot by Vitório Pacaccini, one of the investigators).
Kátia was a maid for the woman who was moving, and the sisters, still in school, were helping her pack household goods. The three were walking to their homes in the Santana neighborhood just north of Jardim Andere.
The short cut took them on a narrow path through the vacant lot, which was then filled with tall grass and weeds. On their left was an empty cinder block building. When they were about fifty feet into the lot, something caught Liliane's attention.
"Look at that!" she cried. About twenty feet away was a strange creature squatting next to the building with its left side to them (the yellow spot in the photo below shows where the creature was crouching; note the same white paint mark on the wall in the photo above.).
The creature's left arm was between its legs and the right was next to the building. Its feet were hidden in the grass, and the girls never saw the hands or feet.
"It had oily brown skin with big eyes and three 'horns' on its head," Liliane said.
The huge veins running down its neck into the shoulders reminded Valquíria of “a big, soft bull’s heart. We thought it was the Devil.”
To Kátia, who was married and had three children, it was “not a human or an animal, nothing like a monkey or anteater. We got a good look at the creature.”
They found it repulsive but the huge red eyes and the “horns” were what disturbed them most. They stared for a stunned few seconds, then screamed and recoiled in fright.
The creature turned its head and looked at them, seemed almost frightened and crouched a bit lower, perhaps trying to hide from them. The women fled back to the street behind them, turned right and ran away as fast as they could. They didn't stop until they reached the Silva home more than twenty blocks away.
After they calmed down about twenty minutes later, Kátia and the girls' mother Luiza asked a neighbor to drive them back to the vacant lot. By the time they got there, the creature was gone, Kátia said, “but we could see the grass mashed down and we could smell sulfur or ammonia.” (In the photo are, from left, Bob Pratt, Liliane, Kátia in yellow pants, unidentified boys, and Valquíria in blue shorts.)
News of the incident spread quickly throughout the neighborhood and about ten thirty the next morning reached the ears of Varginha’s leading UFO investigator, Ubirajara Franco Rodrigues. He was then forty two and lived less than a mile from where the women saw the creature.
He got a phone call from a shop owner who had heard that “some girls had seen a weird animal, like a little monster.“
The report was interesting but it meant nothing to Ubirajara, a lawyer and university professor who has been investigating UFOs in the Varginha area since the 1970s. By evening, though, he had heard more rumors and then began trying to find out what had happened.
A friend named Sergio who worked at a TV station helped him and it took them several days to identify and locate Kátia and the sisters. These were days in which confusing and seemingly contradictory rumors were flying all over the city.
“Some people were saying a creature had been captured by Military Police and taken to Regional Hospital, that it had a big belly, seemed to be pregnant and made a noise like it was crying,” Ubirajara said.
“We talked to a boy who said he saw the capture but his words didn’t make any sense. He was too childish and very confused.”
They tracked down a woman who also supposedly had seen the capture “but she ran away the moment we approached her. Her husband tried to convince her to talk to us but she refused.”
When Ubirajara (below left) finally talked to the three women, they were still quite emotional about what happened. All three cried as they told their story.
In the following days he questioned them several more times and each time they related the same details without variation, bursting into tears the first several times. He became convinced they were telling the truth.
The rumors continued. A nurse reluctantly told Ubirajara that a section of Regional Hospital had been blocked off for some hours the night of January 20, with access being denied to patients, visitors and even employees. Soldiers and Army vehicles had been parked outside, and unidentified physicians from other cities had come to the hospital.
On Monday the 22nd, all hospital employees were called together and told that everything that had happened that weekend was to be ignored because “it was just a training exercise for doctors and military personnel.”
Then they were told that if anyone (“especially that lawyer Ubirajara”) should inquire about it, they were to deny everything.
The creature was reportedly transferred from Regional Hospital to Humanitas Hospital, which is much smaller and is in a more secluded location. More troops were seen there.
One report said the creature, apparently dead, was seen lying in an open box propped up by two sawhorses in the Humanitas Hospital’s walled-in parking lot. Fifteen people – military men, doctors and others – were said to have stood around the box, watching as one of the doctors used tweezers to pull a long, thin black tongue out of the creature's mouth.
Rumors abounded, even in schoolyards. One youngster was heard saying: “My daddy told me about the ET and said everything is true and he has seen a film but this is very dangerous and you cannot tell anyone.”
Ubirajara checked around and learned that a relative of the child’s father worked at a nearby Army base and was under house arrest at the base.
Ubirajara went to Military Police headquarters and talked to the commander, a lieutenant colonel. When Ubirajara explained why he was there, the colonel said he knew nothing about any creature but offered to check it out. Ubirajara phoned repeatedly over the next few days but was never able to reach the man again.
That was when Ubirajara began to believe something unusual really had taken place and that officials were hiding it. He became certain a day or so later when a friend talked with a policewoman who had been on duty on Saturday, January 20.
She said the police received a number of phone calls that morning through the emergency number from people “saying they saw a little monster. But we thought they were kidding and didn’t pay any attention to them.”
For nearly a month the investigation proceeded in the belief that only one incident had occurred – that the three women had seen a creature which was later captured – and that for unknown reasons the authorities were trying to hush it up.
What was difficult to understand was that some of the rumors said the creature had been captured in the morning of January 20 BEFORE the three young women saw it in the afternoon.
The investigation entered a new phase in mid-February when Vitório Pacaccini joined the investigation. Pacaccini, who lived a hundred and ninety miles away in the state capital, Belo Horizonte, did not know Ubirajara at the time. He had learned about the case only on Sunday, February 11, when he read a newspaper story about the three women and the creature.
Pacaccini (right), then thirty two, had been a member of CICOANI, a UFO organization in Belo Horizonte, for eighteen years. At a special meeting two nights later, the members discussed the Varginha report, decided to investigate and chose Pacaccini to go to Varginha.
This was a practical choice for several reasons. First, his job as an import-export consultant had no set hours and allowed him considerable free time. Secondly, he had grown up in Três Corações, a city just fifteen miles east of Varginha. Furthermore, he had already made plans to go to Três Corações, where his widowed mother still lives, for the annual Carnaval festivities at the end of the week.
Três Corações plays a significant role in the case. ESA (Escola de Sargentos das Armas, or the Army’s school for sergeants), the area’s largest Army base, is located there and personnel from the base are believed to have taken a major role in the hunt for and capture of the creatures.
The day after the CICOANI meeting, February 14th, Pacaccini drove to Três Corações, phoned Ubirajara to introduce himself and set up a meeting for the following day.
In an extraordinary coincidence, shortly after arriving at his mother’s home Pacaccini got a phone call from a friend saying a man who knew about the capture of the creature would be willing to talk to him.
The three met late that night in a secluded area, where the man described how four firemen had captured the creature on the MORNING of January 20 and took it to ESA.
The informant’s story helped clear up the confusing rumors. Only then did Ubirajara and Pacaccini realize there had been two creatures, one captured in the morning and taken to ESA and one seen by the three women, which may have been caught later that day and taken to the Regional Hospital.
Eventually, Ubirajara and Pacaccini came to believe the authorities had captured or killed at least four other creatures and possibly as many as six.
Originally Pacaccini had intended to conduct his own investigation but after meeting with Ubirajara and exchanging information with him, the two agreed to work together.
Over the next six months or so Pacaccini was able to make frequent trips to Varginha from Belo Horizonte. This took much of the burden off Ubirajara, who had a busy law practice and taught two nights a week at a university where he was a law professor and a lecturer in philosophy.
The two weren’t working blind. The case quickly attracted the attention of newspapers, radio and TV stations and began to get considerable publicity, both locally and nationally. Ubirajara received hundreds of phone calls, many from people who knew something about what had happened, or knew someone who knew someone who…
They checked out every rumor and report, and tracked down every witness or potential witness.
Among other things, they heard about a farm couple who saw a UFO very early on the morning of January 20 (true); a woman who saw a creature at the city’s zoo (true); a portable radar station that was trucked in from southern Brazil (unconfirmed); a motorist who saw a creature weeks later (true); and a military man who told a friend he had helped capture “an ET” (unconfirmed).
There were also rumors about another military person whose uniform got so “oily” in capturing a creature that his wife burned his clothing (unconfirmed); the mysterious death of a policeman who had captured one creature (true); and the puzzling deaths of five animals at the zoo (true).
Ubirajara and Pacaccini eventually were able to talk to twenty five firsthand witnesses – civilians, Military Policemen, Army personnel, doctors and others. They also learned the identities of nearly every military person involved with the creatures in any way.
At the same time, investigators in other cities were also helping, mainly by checking rumors that on January 23 several creatures had been convoyed to the renowned University of Campinas, where an autopsy was performed on one creature. The university is located in Campinas, a city more than two hundred miles south.
This story is based mainly on visits we made to Varginha in March 1996, just two months after most of these events took place, and again in August 1997. We spent four days there the first time, talking with Ubirajara and Pacaccini, before very much was known, and six days the second visit.
We were able to interview the three young women involved, Liliane on both visits, and another witness, a jogger whose testimony is related later.
In addition we were able to visit several sites where things occurred. This included the then-vacant lot where the girls saw a creature, a steep embankment several blocks away where another creature was seen, the woods where that creature was captured, and a huge pasture beside it where armed soldiers were seen searching for something. The lot is no longer vacant and several houses have been built there.
Only Ubirajara was available the second time we went to Varginha, Pacaccini being elsewhere in the state. Ubirajara’s time was limited because of his law practice and his teaching. In addition, he was leading a UFO conference in a nearby city the last four days of our visit.
In the beginning Ubirajara told us: "As an attorney, if I was in a court of law and had to prove that the firemen had captured an alien from another planet – with proof coming from an accredited place like the University of Campinas which would issue an official notice that said, ‘One dead alien blah, blah, blah, of this blood type or other’ – we have not been able to get that.
"We believe such reports exist and that this actually happened. I can prove – with testimony and witnesses, and we HAVE the witnesses – that these things occurred, but we don't have any official reports. A creature was captured but where it came from we can't prove without analysis.”

Following are some of the things we learned. In all instances, the creatures were much like the one described by the three young women. (In the scene below, photographed from the crest of the hill at Suécia Street, you see the tops of the trees in the woods and, just beyond, homes in the Santana district).

Most of these events took place in or near Varginha. It is a lively, busy city of about a hundred and twenty thousand people in the south of Minas Gerais, a state nearly as large as Texas. Minas has thousands of cities, towns and villages, nearly twenty million people, many ore-rich mines and other natural resources and lots of industries, including auto manufacturing plants.
Varginha (seen from the air in the photo below provided by Vitório Pacaccini) is almost equidistant from Brazil’s three largest cities – about two hundred miles north of São Paulo, two hundred miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro and nearly two hundred miles south of Belo Horizonte. It has a number of industries, including multinational corporations (American, Canadian, English and French), and is a leading coffee exporting center. It has three hospitals, four universities and vocational-technical training centers, four daily newspapers, four radio stations and three TV stations.
Much of the state of Minas Gerais is mountainous. Varginha is thirty one hundred feet above sea level and is spread out over a number of hills. Contrary to some Internet reports about the case, there are no jungles or predatory wild animals within at least a thousand miles. The countryside is lush and green, with much of it devoted to growing coffee.
Many of the main incidents in the case occurred in or near a big patch of woods that separates the Jardim Andere and Santana neighborhoods. Both districts are about a mile and a half east of downtown. The woods run a bit more than a mile north and south and are up to three hundred yards wide east and west. A small stream runs through the woods.
An east-west street connecting Jardim Andere and Santana cuts through the middle of the woods, and a single set of railroad tracks runs north-south through the area, skirting the upper edge of the woods on the Jardim Andere side.
A number of well-worn paths run through the woods and a huge adjoining pasture. People going to and from Jardim Andere and Santana use them regularly.
The three young women who saw the creature had planned to go through these woods as they took a short cut home. They were walking downhill when they entered the vacant lot, which is three blocks above the railroad tracks and the woods.
Pacaccini – who owns a business arranging for the shipment of goods into and out of Brazil in seagoing cargo containers and also manages his family’s three coffee farms – was told that NORAD had notified Brazilian authorities about the UFOs.
In his book about the incident, Incidente em Varginha, Pacaccini said that in Belo Horizonte in July 1996 a Brazilian Air Force officer told him NORAD had notified CINDACTA, the Brazilian civilian-military air traffic control system, and CINDACTA alerted the ESA Army command in Três Corações. This was on January 13, but what time of day or night is not known.
Other than one incident to be related in a moment, there were no UFO sightings in the vicinity of Varginha on January 13 or January 20, but many were reported throughout the region as well as around the country before and after those dates and continuing through much of the year.
On Friday January 12, thirty five-year-old Carlos da Souza drove across São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, and checked into a hotel in the northern suburb of Mairiporã. He was going to Três Corações, about one hundred fifty miles to the north, and wanted to get an early start the next morning.
Souza owned an exterminating business and his hobby is flying ultra light planes. He planned to meet other ultra light pilots in Três Corações to arrange for a competition.
He awakened at four o'clock on the morning of Saturday, January 13, got into his red pickup truck and headed north on the heavily traveled Fernão Dias highway (BR 381) which connects São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
The drive was uneventful until about eight o'clock, when he was about three miles south of the intersection with MG 26, of a state highway that leads to Varginha to the west and Três Corações to the east. A muffled roaring sound interrupted his thoughts, and he wondered if something was wrong with the truck.
He stopped to check but when he stepped down from the cab he realized the noise was coming from a cigar-shaped craft about four hundred feet in the air just west of the highway. The sun was reflecting off it.
The craft was traveling north, almost parallel to the highway, at forty to fifty miles an hour. It was silver-colored and appeared to be thirty to forty feet long and twelve to fifteen wide.
It had at least four windows along the side and what looked like a big jagged hole four or five feet in diameter in the front. There was a long dent or crack running from the hole back to the middle of the craft, from which point white smoke or vapor was coming out.
Astonished and excited, Souza jumped in his pickup and followed the UFO for about ten miles. It soon crossed over to the east side of the highway and eventually passed over some small mountains. Then it went into a sharp thirty-degree dive and disappeared from sight.
Souza thought it had crashed and began looking for a way to get to the area. About twenty minutes later he found a dirt road and turned onto it.
Minutes later he drove over the crest of a hill and there before him was wreckage spread all over a hilly field of knee-high grass. He also saw about forty soldiers and two male nurses, two trucks, a helicopter, an ambulance and three cars. All were Army vehicles.
Everyone was busily running around picking up pieces of debris. One truck already held a chunk half the size of a mini-van. A strong smell of ammonia and ether hung in the air.
It was a terrible crash and Souza doubted that anyone had lived through it. He was surprised to see anyone there, let alone the military. He didn’t know at the time that the site was only seven miles from the ESA Army base in Três Corações.
He parked and walked toward the wreckage, thinking he could help. He picked up a piece of aluminum-like material that was very light. It floated to the ground when he dropped it.
Then one of the men spotted him, shouted and in an instant armed soldiers rushed toward him. They ordered him to leave immediately. He protested, thinking someone had been badly hurt or killed, but a corporal screamed at him to get out and that “this is none of your business!”
Souza got back in his truck and drove away. But he was so astounded by what he’d seen that he abandoned his trip and headed back toward São Paulo. About ten minutes later he stopped at a roadside restaurant to have coffee and think about what had happened.
The emotional impact was so great that he was still sitting there two hours later when a car drove up with two men. They were in civilian clothes but military haircuts and bearing. One got out and walked up to him, asked if his name was Carlos da Souza, then asked what he’d seen.
“I saw everything and I know something happened there,” Souza said.
“You haven’t seen anything,” the man replied, then related many details of Souza’s personal life. “You live on such and such a road, in such and such a city, you’re married to so and so, and you’re the father of so many children, and your mother is so and so. If you tell people what you saw, it’s going to be very bad for you. We already have a complete printout on your whole life.”
Such personal information is readily available to authorities by computer once someone’s license number is known. The man warned Souza not to say anything to anybody, and then left.
All this occurred on January 13, one week before the three women saw the creature in nearby Varginha, but for nine months Souza told no one except his wife and two close friends.
He explained that he was frightened by the man’s threat. A twenty-year military dictatorship had ended only a few years earlier, and some of Souza’s relatives “disappeared” during the dictatorship, so he kept quiet.
He was not aware of the “ETs” in Varginha until the following September when he read a magazine article written by Claudeir Covo, a São Paulo safety engineer and a lifelong ufologist who had been working with Ubirajara and Pacaccini.
Souza contacted Covo, who eventually persuaded him to return to Varginha to show him and Ubirajara where he had seen the wreckage.
An inspection of the area – now nine months later – showed no indication that a crash had occurred, nor was Ubirajara subsequently able to find any farmers, farm workers or anyone else in the area who knew anything about a crash.
Not everyone believes Souza’s story, and even Ubirajara and Covo (it was Covo who told us what Souza said) have reservations about it because no other witnesses could be found. Also, some elements of his story were similar to things that had been portrayed in the movie Roswell.
In addition, Souza’s description of the UFO was almost identical to one seen by a farm couple on the morning of January 20 that the investigators – and much of the public – had known about since early in the investigation.
However, on a later visit to the site, Ubirajara and members of his Varginha UFO group found an area of ground about four hundred feet square that seemed to have been replaced by sod.
Furthermore, during the early stages of the investigation, several military witnesses said they had seen pieces of a crashed craft being transported into ESA by two Army trucks on January 13 and that later the wreckage was convoyed to the national aerospace center in São José dos Campos near São Paulo.
“There are things that favored Souza’s report,” Ubirajara told us, “but we have to say we could not verify it.”
Early on the morning of Saturday, January 20 on a farm six miles east of Varginha, Oralina de Freitas, then thirty seven, was awakened by the sound of cattle milling around, mooing and bellowing. A digital clock on the bedside table said one fourteen in the morning.
Oralina opened the window and saw the cattle were very agitated and stampeding all over the pasture three hundred to four hundred feet away. Then she saw a cigar-shaped object just above the cattle. There was no moon but the craft gave off a faint light.
Oralina called out to her husband, Eurico, forty, and he rushed to the window. “My God!” he cried. “There’s a submarine above my pasture.”
They could see gray smoke or vapor coming out of the back as it moved slowly, in a sort of rocking motion, only fifteen to twenty feet above the ground.
Neither Eurico nor Oralina ventured outside, but stood at the window watching as the object took forty five minutes to pass ever so slowly out of sight over a ridge about two thousand feet away, heading in the direction of Varginha.
They had the impression that it was having difficulties of some kind because of the very slow way it was moving. If the UFO was making any sound, the bellowing of the cows drowned it out.
All this time the cattle remained panicky and frightened but the couple’s four dogs, although awake, showed no reaction. Eurico and Oralina’s four children, aged twelve to twenty, slept through it all.
Ubirajara learned about the incident six days later. The couple, who oversee the farm, told the owner what happened. He in turn told a friend of Ubirajara’s who passed the story on to him.
The farm house is only about five miles cross country from the spot where Carlos da Souza said he first saw a similar UFO on January 13.
In Brazil, the Military Police are not members of a military organization or part of the armed forces. Instead, they are state police under the control of a state's governor.
Military policemen perform a variety of duties, including patrolling highways, putting down riots, and rescuing people in floods and other disasters. They are also the firemen for the entire nation, and one of their duties as firefighters is capturing mad dogs, wild animals and dangerous snakes.
It was in this latter capacity that four firemen answered a call around eight thirty on the morning of January 20 about a strange creature being seen near the woods in Jardim Andere. One or more persons had phoned police, who alerted the Fire Department.
By the time the firemen responded, three boys twelve to fourteen years old had seen the creature as they were walking along Rua Suécia. This is the first street above the woods and runs parallel to the woods. A steep, two hundred-foot-long embankment begins at the street level and leads down to the railroad tracks and the woods just beyond.
As the kids were watching, a man and a woman came walking by, not together, and they saw the creature also. At this time the creature was slowly shuffling down the precipitous bank toward the woods. The boys had been throwing stones at it trying to get a reaction from it, but the woman told them to stop.
When the firemen arrived in a fire truck, they told everyone to leave immediately, saying it was a secret Army operation. By then the creature had disappeared into the woods.
Wearing their regular uniforms and heavy gloves and carrying nets, the firemen went down the bank, crossed the tracks and entered the woods in search of the creature.
It took them two hours to capture it, partly because it kept running away from them in the dense growth, and partly because they didn’t know what it was and they were wary of it. They caught glimpses of it from time to time but it kept scurrying away from them.
If you walk into the woods (left), as we have, it’s easy to see why the creature was able to elude the firemen for so long. Thick, tangled bushes and countless trees (below) prevent you from seeing very far, and the footing is tricky even when following one of the paths. The terrain is rough and uneven, all up and down with almost no level areas. Cars and trucks can be heard on nearby streets but are seldom seen.
When the men were finally able to throw a net over the creature, it offered no resistance. It made a buzzing or humming sound as they struggled up the hill with it in the net.
At some time during the search, one of the firemen had returned to the truck and radioed his commander, told him what was happening and asked him to join them. By the time the creature was carried up to the street, the commander had arrived – as had an Army truck with two officers and a sergeant. It is believed that the fire commander had notified them.
The firemen handed the creature over to the Army men with little or no discussion. It was put in a wooden box, which was then covered by a canvas and put in the back of the truck with two men sitting beside it. The truck then left in a hurry to return to the Army base in Três Corações. The firemen and their commander then returned to the fire station.
Some time between one thirty and two in the afternoon, a jogger saw seven armed soldiers cross a small footbridge from Santana and enter the pasture next to the woods in Jardim Andere. The pasture is on the side of a long hill leading five to six hundred yards up to the railroad tracks and Suécia Street above, where the fire truck had parked that morning. (In this photo, taken from the top of the hill near Suécia Street, the red dot shows the location of the footbridge, just left of the dot. To give an idea of the size of the pasture, just above the blue dot in upper center of photo is a person walking along one of the paths.)
Two of the soldiers were carrying automatic rifles and all were wearing side arms. Two also carried small rectangular, aluminum-colored boxes or suitcases. 
The jogger wondered what they were doing. He had intended to take a short cut down through the pasture and across the same bridge but changed his mind.
The soldiers grouped into a V formation and moved up the hill. They searched a small grove of trees just below the tracks, apparently found nothing, then turned and moved toward the big woods.
The jogger, seeing them enter the woods, continued straight ahead for several blocks and then turned to his right into the street that leads through the woods to Santana. Just a minute or so later, he heard three distinct shots.
Astonished and extremely curious, the jogger returned to the street that overlooks the woods and saw an army truck with soldiers in it now parked there.
At that moment, four of the soldiers who had gone into the woods came struggling up the steep embankment carrying two bags, two soldiers to each bag. One bag was squirming as if something alive was in it, but the other had no movement.
The bags were heaved into the truck, the soldiers climbed in and the truck sped away. (At right, looking up the hill from the woods. The path is the one the three young women had intended to take as they walked home. The roof tops of several houses on Suécia Street can be seen at top, and a single rail of the railroad tracks can be seen just beyond the fence post in the lower left corner.)
Just what was in the bags is not known. However, it would seem safe to assume it wouldn’t take seven armed soldiers to capture a wild animal when four firemen without weapons had captured another “wild animal” in the same woods a few hours earlier and had turned it over to Army personnel without any discussion.
This was the encounter the three women had. For some weeks the only thing most people knew about the “Varginha ET” was that Liliane, Valquíria and Kátia had seen a creature at three o'clock in the afternoon on January 20.
That incident, described in detail earlier, was publicized literally around the world. But, as we now know, it was just one in a series of related events.
Luiza da Silva, the mother of the two sisters, said that when she and Kátia went to the vacant lot, they saw an impression in the grass where the creature had been and they also noticed a strong odor. But less than three hours later all that vanished.
"There was a hailstorm at six o'clock that was absolutely unprecedented," said Ubirajara. "It lasted only three or four minutes but it broke windshields and everything and wiped out all traces of the creature in the vacant lot."
During or just after the storm, soldiers and military policemen continued their search. Among them were two plainclothes Military Police agents who spotted yet another creature – possibly the one that the three women had seen that afternoon. It was hiding in a construction site in the Santana-Jardim Andere area not far from the woods.
The two men were able to capture it and force it into the back seat of their unmarked police car. It may have been ill because the men reportedly took it to a small public health clinic for treatment. However, the doctor there refused to go near the creature and told them to take it to a hospital.
Sometime during all this, one of the officers, twenty three-year-old Marco Chereze, stopped by his parents’ house, soaked from the rain. He told his mother he was on a mission and would be working all night. He asked her to tell his wife he wouldn't be home for dinner, changed his clothes and left.
Only Chereze is believed to have handled the creature with his bare hands while capturing it, and he became gravely ill some days later with an unusual infection. He was admitted to a hospital with a very high fever.
He rapidly lost use of his arms and legs, and was unable to feed himself. At the end, he turned blue and failed to respond to treatment. He died on February 15.
The only advice authorities gave his family was that his coffin should be sealed, that the funeral should take place without delay, and that burial should take place within a few hours.
His father later recalled that several weeks earlier when rumors of ETs first began to circulate, Marco was convinced that this was only the beginning of a lot of trouble.
Marco's grandmother said that one night when the first reports of ETs came out in the newspapers, she was watching TV with him and his wife when a movie about aliens came on. Marco immediately switched the set off and said sharply: "Don't watch that – it's nonsense!" His outburst was puzzling and he offered no explanation.
Chereze's family reportedly sued the Military Police because (1) the cause of his death was never explained, (2) the results of any autopsy were never revealed – the only thing of note was a lab report saying a "small quantity of toxic material" had been found in his body – and (3) allegedly his official records were altered to state that he wasn't on duty that night.
On the evening of April 21, Terezinha Clepf, her husband and some friends attended a birthday party at a restaurant in Varginha’s zoo. Around nine o'clock, after Mrs. Clepf finished eating, she went outside to sit on the verandah by herself and smoke a cigarette. Several minutes she began to feel uneasy.
“I felt that someone was looking at me,” she said later. The porch was dark but some light was coming from the restaurant. “I turned to my left and saw a strange creature staring at me.”
It was about fifteen feet away and appeared to be four to five feet tall. “I didn’t know what it was, an animal or whatever,” Mrs. Clepf, then sixty seven, said.
“It was very ugly. It was brown and had a brightness or shininess to the skin. The eyes were big and red and the mouth was just a stroke. He stayed there looking at me.”
She was so terrified she could barely move for several minutes. Then, afraid to make any sudden movement, she slowly got up and walked back inside. She looked back once and the creature was still staring at her. It was several days before she could tell her husband about it.
After that incident was publicized, Leila Cabral, director of the zoo, contacted Ubirajara and Pacaccini and told them that five animals had mysteriously died at the zoo about a week before Mrs. Clepf’s experience. An anteater, two deer, a blue macaw and a bobcat died suddenly and unexpectedly.
The anteater was healthy and tame. It died because of an “unidentified toxic substance,” Ms. Cabral said. The deer died of “caustic intoxication without apparent cause” and no cause of death could be determined for the macaw and bobcat.
Around ten o'clock on the night of May 3 or 4, Liliane and Valquíria da Silva and their mother Luiza were asleep at their home in Santana when someone knocked on the front door. The father was working as a fare collector on a bus and the family’s two older daughters were at school.
Mrs. Silva went to the front door and saw four men dressed in dark suits. She thought they were associated with Ubirajara but soon realized they were strangers. By then, however, the men had gently pushed their way inside and insisted on talking to Liliane and Valquíria.
Luiza got the girls up and everyone gathered in the small living room, with the girls and mother sitting on one sofa, the four men on another sofa opposite them.
One man was about fifty, the others in their early thirties. They were polite but businesslike. Only the older man and one of the others talked.
They never identified themselves but spent more than an hour trying to get the girls to change their story and even implied they would be paid a lot of money if they made their denials publicly on TV.
Afraid to object, Luiza said they would think it over.
“They never raised their voices but we felt intimidated,” Liliane told us when we talked to her for the second time in 1997.
The men finally left but told them not to follow them or try to see what kind of car they were driving. The men were never seen again and the girls did not withdraw their story.
A twenty one-year-old biology student, Ildo Lúcio Gordino, was driving from Três Corações to Varginha around seven thirty that night. As he was rounding a curve, a strange animal started to cross the highway.
“I had slowed because of the curve,” Ildo said. “About forty meters ahead the headlights shone on a dark brown thing with hair all over its body. It had huge eyes that reflected red in the headlights. It covered its face with its hands and crouched down.”
Ildo was badly frightened and he drove past the creature, which rose up and hurried back into the bushes.
When Ubirajara and Pacaccini investigated, they were surprised to find it had happened almost in front of the farm where Eurico and Oralina de Freitas had seen a UFO on January 20.
A seventh creature was seen several times in May 1996 in Passos, a city about forty miles north of Varginha, but whether it should be included as part of the “Varginha ET” case is questionable because this one was violent.
A twenty-year-old man named Luciano said he was walking home late one dark night when a hairy creature about five-foot-five and with a strange growl jumped out from the trees and attacked him. Luciano is six-foot-five and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds but was knocked to the ground, his shirt and jacket ripped by sharp claws.
He kicked out and knocked the creature off balance, jumped up and ran but was knocked down again. In the scuffle, Luciano kicked the creature in the groin, causing it to double over, and Luciano was finally able to escape to a nearby house.
Pacaccini investigated the incident and he saw Luciano’s injuries and torn clothing. He is convinced Luciano was telling the truth.
A week later Pacaccini and another investigator found three other persons in Passos who said they too had been attacked. Not knowing what the creature was and for lack of a more accurate term, all four victims described it as a “werewolf. “
Pacaccini believes the Passos creature is real and unexplained but doubts it is related to the Varginha creatures because of its size, hairiness and vicious nature.
“We are talking about a completely different creature, in a totally different situation,” Pacaccini said.
Almost from the beginning, some investigators were convinced that the creatures dead and alive had been taken to the United States.
This conviction was based largely on (1) the belief that these creatures truly were from some place other than Earth, and (2) statements made by disgruntled military personnel who resented the idea that Brazil would relinquish control of the aliens and turn them over to the U.S.
This conviction was further strengthened in early March 1996 – just five weeks after the initial incidents – by the visit to São Paulo and other parts of Brazil of Warren Christopher, then U.S. Secretary of State, and NASA Director Daniel S. Goldin, ostensibly to arrange for a Brazilian astronaut to join a future Space Shuttle flight.
We have felt from the very beginning that this is a strong case. There were just too many witnesses, even though most of them cannot be identified for fear of official retribution.
It was probably inevitable that from the beginning the case would be compared to Roswell. The constant denials by authorities indicate an official cover-up – as many believe is true in the Roswell case. However, many ufologists now believe the Roswell case has been discredited.
The Varginha case, on the other hand, is still relatively fresh and UFO investigators were immediately able to gather considerable evidence, including testimony from more than two dozen firsthand witnesses.
The investigation continues, although it is doubtful that any of those witnesses will ever be able to come forward and tell publicly what they know, or whether the government will ever acknowledge what happened.Copyright 1998 by Bob Pratt and Cynthia Luce

NOTE: All of the military and police personnel involved in this incident were reassigned to other parts of the country within months of the incident. The two chief investigators, Ubirajara Rodrigues and Vitório Pacaccini, have continued their investigations, but separately.
Each has also written a book about the case, both in Portuguese. Pacaccini published Incidente em Varginha in late 1996. Ubirajara’s book, O Caso Varginha, was published in late 2001. Pacaccini has also written an English version that has not yet been published. (In March 2002 Pacaccini cut back on some of his business activities to enroll in a two-year university program that led to his earning a doctorate in business administration in 2004.)