It has been observed that some science fiction stories seem to make the opposite point to the one made in the classic cartoon series Scooby Doo. This image highlights the contrast well, using Doctor Who as the specific example:
We can all appreciate stories that explore scenarios in which aliens visited our planet in the past and/or continue to do so in the present and future. The issue seems to be treating such entertaining storytelling options as though they are relating factual or historical information.
Does the same apply to stories of religion and the supernatural? We can all appreciate tales of magic or of gods and humans interacting. But those too, if treated as factual accounts, can have problematic and even toxic effects – particularly if those who treat their own stories in this way then set out to show that theirs are really true, while everyone else’s are false.It would be easy to view this as a matter of religion and superstition on the one hand vs. science and skepticism on the other. But the line is not so clear cut. I don’t think that it is only those who prefer religion to science who embrace the “ancient aliens” viewpoint, and indeed, some regard it as precisely a scientific alternative to, or explanation of, religious phenomena which those who adhere to the religion in question would be quick to reject. And there are other examples of the same phenomenon.
So the more interesting questions seem to me to be the following. First, is there a danger in watching too much X-Files or Stargate or Doctor Who, and not enough Scooby Doo? And if not, then what precisely determines whether someone can enjoy such stories without treating them as factual or realistic accounts, or as offering a view of or approach to knowledge and history to be adopted?
On a somewhat related note, check out the recent article on IO9 about whether it is possible to tell compelling science fiction stories without resorting to things that are essentially magic.