Chapman University Finds Continued Growth in Paranormal Beliefs, Including Rising Support for Atlantis, Ancient Astronauts
Each year, Chapman University publishes its annual survey of American fears, and each year the results get worse. In the two metrics that I have monitored over the past three or four cycles, we have witnessed self-reported belief in ancient astronauts and lost Atlantis-like civilizations climb to record levels, among the highest rates of belief ever recorded. Belief in Atlantis became a majority belief last year, and it now stands at 57%, up from 55% last year. Belief in ancient astronauts rose from 35% to 41%, representing a plurality of respondents. (The remaining respondents either disbelieved or were unsure—the latter category not exactly being great for the side of science.)
For comparison’s sake, here is the chart representing results for the past four years. Please note that the survey did not ask about Atlantis in 2015.
Even Chapman University noted dryly that “What is striking is how rapidly such beliefs are rising.” The reasons for this are unclear.
While the exact level of belief indicated by the survey is open to debate due to the survey’s methodology and the tendency of respondents to lie about their beliefs, the general thrust of the result cannot be denied. Belief in ancient astronauts and lost civilizations is increasing and represents a disturbingly large proportion of the American population.
The upward trend in belief doesn’t have an easy explanation. There is no clear reason that belief should be increasing by such magnitude each year. The media might be to blame, but nothing has really changed on the History channel or elsewhere to account for such a dramatic shift. More research is needed, but it seems that growth has occurred in tandem with the rise of ideological affiliation as a defining factor in American cultural life.
The only unexpected news in the survey, really, is that Atlantis lost its crown as the most popular paranormal belief, narrowly eclipsed by belief in haunted houses, which came in at 58%.
If these results are anything close to accurate, we are witnessing a full-scale cultural retreat from reason that it seems difficult to divorce from the other manifestations of cultural denial of facts in favor of fantasy, ideology, and belief.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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