SCIENTISTS ARE HARD-LINE SKEPTICS. Only after failing to debunk, say, the big bang do they accept the evidence. But in Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens (432 pages. Scribner's. $22), Harvard psychiatry professor John E. Mack makes only a cursory pass at disbelief before buying the idea that extraterrestrials are filching human sperm and ova in order to create better earthlings. Mack (who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1977 for a biography of T. E. Lawrence) told NEWSWEEK in an interview, "I've racked my brains to discover an alternative explanation" for the accounts he heard of kinky kidnappings by aliens. He came up empty and boarded the interplanetary bandwagon at the first stop.
Over the last three years, Mack has treated 76 people-housewives, musicians, businessmen-who claim aliens snatched them. "Abduction" looks at 13 of the cases. All give similar details: a beam of light, a circular ship, big-eyed humanoids and often the services of an outer-space proctologist. "Ed" remembers being coolly seduced by a space succubus; he was a teenager at the time and had been asleep dreaming of girls. Catherine recalls being forcibly stripped and delivered of a half-alien fetus. Her earth job is a "nightclub receptionist." If warning bells haven't already gone off for the reader, "Edward Carlos's" baroque tale of "angels" and miracle cures should be Big Ben. In a footnote, Mack labels it a "literary collaboration" between psychiatrist and subject, but doesn't elaborate.
There's a lot Mack doesn't do. He failed to run standard psychological tests on more than a few subjects because it was too time-consuming and expensive. He says that little supporting forensic evidence can be found because the aliens' advanced technology is too "subtle." So why couldn't their technology clone humans from the DNA in a toenail, instead of dragging people to the mother ship for bondage and discipline? The aliens' green politics are also remarkably similar to Mack's; their agenda is to make a race that will stop polluting planet Earth. At one point, Mack concedes the aliens might merely hail from "some other reality" instead of outer space. If we ever do accept the existence of alien body snatchers, it will be in spite of Mack's book, not because of it.