my son thinks aliens are from Mars

Last night, my son and I looked up and saw exactly what we saw last Nov. 18 (meteorite shower night).
Little white pinpoints of light slowly and sometimes wiggly making their way across the sky from east to west.
I figure maybe they are cosmic dust or something.
This gets my son to thinking that there really are aliens flying around our atmosphere.
Also he thinks maybe bigfoot really does exist.

Please people, give me some posts explainging, in a way a 10 year old can understand, exactly why logic and facts oppose these “beliefs”.
thank you.

That is faulty thinking. Only some aliens come from Mars.

Sounds like you and he have a trip to the library ahead of you. 10 year olds can be pretty savvy. I’d explain it in terms you’d use for just about anyone, and simplify whatever he doesn’t understand.

I’ve told him theres no “evidence” for this.
I’m trying to raise a skeptic here…

Actually, I think most aliens are from Mexico.

And one of the last confirmed Bigfoots died about a century ago: William “Bigfoot” Wallace, after whom a town in Texas was named.

It would be nice to get a serious answer…

I think the trip to the library would be a good start on a serious answer.

But you also may point out that, skeptic or no, there are more things in this universe that are not clearly understood than there are things that are.

(Like that last sentence, for example.)

Seriously, vanilla, I think you can discuss this with him in terms of scientific method, which he should be studying in school about now anyway. You can talk about how scientists come up with their ideas, that it’s dependent on proving something IS rather than proving it ISN’T.

And by all means, raise a skeptic. Could Bigfoot exist? Sure, it COULD. But given the evidence we have at hand and the improbability that such a creature could remain so well hidden for so long casts some doubts on its existence. However, it’s totally possible that tomorrow one could walk out of the woods, get captured, and we’d have to deal with it.

James Randi’s book, “Flim-Flam!” is a great introduction to skepticism and the paranormal. Read it and with him and discuss it with him. I know that I for one got grabbed by the stories of Randi debunking things and found that ultimately much cooler than the malarkey itself.

And please assure him that this isn’t taking the ‘magic’ out of life or ruining anything. You’re strengthening his brain, giving him good tools he’ll be able to use forever.

Now the problem, as I see it vanilla, is that, if I’m not mistaken, you have a pretty strong Christian background, and it’s possible that sooner or later your son will turn that tool on his religion. That may be a problem unless you know how to reconcile these things. I’m not intending this as an anti-religion slam, please understand, just a caution that this could cause a conflict for him unless you know of how to address it. I don’t know the details of your particular belief system, so I’m not sure how much of a problem that would be.

Good luck. We need more people being smart!

Why not just show him pictures taken from the various unmanned missions to Mars showing it to be a vast desert, with absolutely no signs of civilization? Also, hit the library.

thank you, and understood.
I’ve read all of Randi’s books, maybe Sagan has written one for children.
If not, he should have!
Maybe I’ll direct him to my sig

A possible approach…

There’s no evidence for aliens on Mars, but there’s also plenty of evidence that there AREN’T aliens on Mars. Goodness knows people have looked, sent lots of spacecraft there, and the best they’ve found are what might or might not be fossilized bacteria.

No civilizations, no canals, no pyramids or faces, just a vast cold desert with hardly any air to breathe and no liquid water. But people like to hear and tell stories of creatures from another planet, so you’ll see “Martians” on TV all over the place. They’re just stories. (Don’t believe what you see on TV, etc)

Another thing you could do [shameless plug for my line of work ahead] is to take him to your local planetarium. (If you need help finding one in your area, let me know.) They’ll no doubt have a live show about the night sky where you can ask questions. You can find out how to see Mars in the real sky (and also find out what those shooting stars really are.) Ask about aliens on Mars, too - it’s not an unusual question. Hopefully, your son will eventually discover that space is wild and weird enough without having to invoke ‘aliens’.

By the way, Mars is going to be big in the news come August, when it will be the closest to Earth it’s been in many thousands of years. Astronomers will be paying a lot of attention to it, since they’ll have a great view, and it will be very bright in the sky. Plus there are lots of unmanned spacecraft on their way to land there. This is a great time to “get into” Mars!

Heh, heh, heh…You’re not looking at it right. :smiley:

I was fascinated by UFOs at that age, and read everything about the subject that I could possibly get my hands on. At first I found only credulous books about how UFOs and aliens were responsible for everything in the Bible and all kinds of historical events and so on, and, while I wasn’t a true believer, I was awfully attracted to the notion. At that age, big, overreaching theories that seem to explain everything in one fell swoop were very appealing to me.

Then I started finding other books that suggested a different sort of overreaching explanation–human psychology. :slight_smile: Put the right books in his hands, and I’m sure he’ll do fine.

MARS??! HAHA!! Everyone knows aliens come from Uranus!

Thats something a 10 year old can understand :slight_smile:

If you want to start the boy down the proper scientific path of discovery and healthy skepticism, take him to an observatory. Go to the Mars exhibit. Point out the wonders of Mars that are verified and photographed. Point out the flaws in his theory and help him devekop a better one. Help him to learn that with every theory, some effort must be undertaken to back it up. Gather proof and evidence to support the theory. Go to the observatory yourself before you go there to your son and check it out. Then go with him and Dazzle him with your astonomical know how.

Most issues of Skeptic Magazine include a section called “Junior Skeptic” which treats many of these subjects in a way that’s fun for kids about your son’s age. It’s a pretty good magazine all-around.

I think it is important not to stifle the imagination though; critical thinking is all well and fine for evaluating other people’s claims, but on its own its pretty poor grounding for innovative thinking. (NB: I am not recommending tthe promotion of odd ideas like the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot, just suggesting that “hey!, what if…” is not an approach to be scorned entirely discarded).

Skeptic though I am, I don’t know that it’s anything to be too deeply concerned about at this point. When I was about that age, I was firmly convinced that UFO’s were alien spaceships (and the U.S. government knew this, but was covering it up to avoid causing a public panic); that things like telepathy and telekinesis were real, or at least perfectly plausible; and that the Loch Ness Monster was real and probably a pleiosaur.

If you get him interesting in reading the right science fiction authors, that might help. For me, I read stuff by Isaac Asimov because I was a science fiction fan, and he wrote science fiction. Pretty soon, I was wandering all over the library–“Hey, here’s another Asimov book; hmm, this one’s all about the ancient Greeks–well, why not?” I would up reading about all sorts of topics that way. Anyhow, the right science fiction authors will probably naturally get him reading non-fiction science as well, and may even lead to hard-core skeptical debunkings. You could try nudging him in that direction; I don’t recall anyone even doing that for me (although I suppose I might have missed it). I don’t think I had any great epiphanies about any of those subjects; I just learned more and gradually grew out of such beliefs as I came to see the problems with the evidence or reasoning behind them and the conflicts between those claims and other things I knew about the world.

We did go to our local Planetarium last May to see Saturn, which was in a good viewing way then.
They did a slide on Mars and the “face”.
He had heard that all crafts sent to Mars suddenly never made it; its a mystery.
I did call the planetarium yesterday about those lights going from east to west.
They are exactly what we saw last Nov. 18 (the day of the leonids).
But, like the November ones, they went slowly, as slowly as an airplane would’ve.
The guy said he wasn’t sure, but it could’ve been a passby of (sic?) behootek meteor showers.
I know we saw them, both times.

Prometheus Books (which published Randi’s Flim-Flam!) publishes a catalog once or twice a year. They publish a line of books about skepticism for kids you might want to have a look at.

So, you want him to read books on proctology? :confused: :wink:

are you kidding?
He loves to say the word fart!