--============_-1363351995==_============ Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" P.S. I am sending in an order for books, plus an explanation for delay in posting your article. Best regards, Joe --============_-1363351995==_============ Content-Type: text/plain; name="Csicop-and-Skeptic.2"; charset="us-ascii" Content-Disposition: attachment; filename="Csicop-and-Skeptic.2" Path: igor.rutgers.edu!newsserver.jvnc.net!darwin.sura.net!howland. reston.ans.net! spool.mu.edu!olivea!hal.com!decwrl!netcomsv!netcomsv!scicom!p aranet!p0.f31.n 1012.z9.FIDONET.ORG!Bob.Dunn From: Bob.Dunn@p0.f31.n1012.z9.FIDONET.ORG (Bob Dunn) Newsgroups: alt.paranet.ufo Subject: CSICOP & Skeptic 1/6 Message-ID: <248.2D584D61@paranet.FIDONET.ORG> Date: 8 Feb 94 04:46:00 GMT Sender: ufgate@paranet.FIDONET.ORG (newsout1.26) Organization: FidoNet node 9:1012/31.0 - ParaNet ALPHA, Lincoln NE Lines: 160 Pg. 39 RHETORIC AND ACTIVITIES The primary focus of the Committee has been to influence the media and public opinion on the paranormal, and its rhetorical methods and activities are mainly directed to that goal. Thus, the group's language and projects have been fashioned for a popular approach rather than for disinterested scientific commentary. Choice of Targets When CSICOP first began, it focused on paranormal topics. This posi- tion has shifted slightly over the years, but the Committee primarily restricts its commentary to areas considered marginal or "fringe" by the scientific establishment. Carl Sagan (1987) gave an extensive listing of topics covered by the Committee: Pg. 40 the Bermuda Triangle; "Big Foot" and the Loch Ness monster; "crashed" flying saucers; claims that you can levitate yourself by meditating; ESP; the view that the Earth is really flat; the Shroud of Turin; divining rods and water witching; Nostradamus; the notion that more crimes are committed when the moon is full; palmistry; numerology; "remote viewing"; cult archaeology; a Soviet elephant that talks fluent Russian and a Soviet "sensitive" who, blindfolded, reads books with her fingertips; Edgar Cayce and other "prophets " sleeping and awake; diet quackery; ancient maps of Antarctica; "dream telepathy"; faith-healer fraud; analysis of a poltergeist in Columbus, Ohio and how the scam was discovered; fire walking; phrenology; the "hundredth monkey" confusion; biorhythms; creationism; the emotional lives of plants; the systematically inept predictions of Jeanne Dixon and others; dianetics; Carlos Castenada [sic] and "sorcery"; the search for Noah's Ark; the "Amityville Horror" hoax; miracles; mummies' curses; Atlantis and other "lost" continents; and innumerable cases of acute credulity by newspapers, magazines, and television specials and news programs. (p. 12) Although this is not a complete list, it is representative. A quick scan of the above will reveal few topics that have any substantial scientific constituency that champions their investigation. The International Society of Cryptozoology, the Society for Scientific Exploration, and the Parapsychological Association (PA) are perhaps the only three professional scientific societies that could be said to investigate a few of these areas. Of these three, the PA has by far the highest professional-level publication standards. CSICOP has a policy of not conducting research itself, and this has reduced its vulnerability to criticism. Sociologists of science Pinch and Collins (1984) examined the benefits of this policy. They noted that CSICOP's tactics: can only be used in complete safety by organizations that do not engage in controversial science themselves. Only by avoiding having to face up to the problems of doing controversial science, and by avoiding the changed consciousness concerning scientific method which accompanies such engagement, can an attack from the canonical model be sustained without difficulty. (p. 539) In fact, they specifically suggested that the critics not engage in empirical research if they were to be effective in promoting their agenda. They pointed out that in controversial areas, qualified scientists are often engaged in disputes over research findings and interpretations and that a large component of establishing scientific knowledge involves human negotiation and not just "consulting the facts." If CSICOP had continued to undertake its own research, scientists might again point out errors in its procedures and ambiguities in its interpretations. That could threaten CSICOP's image of authority. Pg. 41 Statements by CSICOP stress the importance of its mission and urge that others become involved. CSICOP portrays itself as a tiny minority battling an overwhelming, irrational tide. (19) In fact, there is almost an apocalyptic strain in some writing. An announcement of the founding of the Committee stated: "We ought not to assume that the scientific enlightenment will continue indefinitely ...like the Hellenic civilization, it may be overwhelmed by irrationalism, subjectivism, and obscurantism" (Kurtz, 1976b). Members suggest that some beliefs are dangerous and must be combatted urgently. Rhetoric to establish scientific legitimacy. The Committee emphasizes its claim of being "scientific," and the leadership seems very conscious of this task. The back cover of most issues of "SI" lists the stated objectives, all of which are scientific. The recruiting of prestigious scientists as figure-heads also enhances its credibility. However, Dennis Rawlins, former Executive Council member (and still an extreme skeptic), reported that some fellow counselors privately admitted to him that the word "scientific" should not have appeared in the name of CSICOP (personal communication, April 20, 1987). He directly quoted one member as describing "SI" as "a propaganda sheet...essentially [a] rhetorical magazine that is to go to shapers of opinion like editors. (20) Rawlins has considerable documentation for this and many other revealing statements. In seeking to enhance its legitimacy, CSICOP largely ignores the ref- ereed scientific journals that deal with the paranormal (e.g., "Journal of Parapsychology, "Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research", "Journal of Scientific Exploration", "Journal of UFO Studies", "Cryptozoology). The PA-affiliated "Journal of Parapsychology" has been published for more than 50 years, the "Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research" for more than 80. The existence of these journals is rarely acknowledged in the pages of "SI", and when they are mentioned it is usually only in passing. (21) In fact, the Committee claims that "the Skeptical In- quirer is the only major periodical in the world that examines paranormal and occult claims from a scientific viewpoint" (CSICOP fund-raising letter of September 18, 1987). Pg. 42 Religious metaphor. CSICOP's rhetoric sometimes invokes religious metaphors. The dust jacket of one of Randi's (1990b) recent books de- scribes him as having "missionary zeal." In introducing an earlier book of Randi's, Isaac Asimov wrote: "We may find salvation through the wise use of science" (1980, p. x). Lawrence Cranberg, a president of the Austin society, has described his group as "engaged in scientific missionary work" (Clarke, 1986). Even some behavior of skeptics can be seen as metaphorically religious. Members of local affiliates have worked as "missionaries," passing out skeptical literature to heretical "believers" at psychic fairs and similar events (e.g., Leonhard & Butler, 1986; Mayhew, 1985-1986). A quasireligious orientation was apparent to one reporter from a major science magazine when Susan Blackmore presented at the 1986 CSICOP conference in Colorado. Blackmore emotionally described her own failure to find evidence for ESP. Speaking to me, the reporter characterized Blackmore's presentation as being "like a testimonial at an AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] meeting." Nicholas Wade (1977a), writing in "Science", described CSICOP's magazine as "the sword of its faith" (p. 646) . Decrying the "dangers" of the paranormal. Even at the beginning of CSICOP, the Committee decried the "dangers" of the paranormal. Boyce Rensberger (who was awarded CSICOP's "Responsibility in Journalism Award" ["CSICOP Awards," 1986]) reported that the Committee claimed that belief in "parapsychology may bring a society of "unreason." It was also asserted that "some 200 people were known to have killed themselves as a result of believing an unfavorable horoscope, palm reading or other alleged forecast of the future" (Rensberger, 1977). No support was given for this statement, and as far as I can tell, none has appeared since. CSICOP has continued to proclaim the "dangers." A fund-raising letter signed by the Executive Council declared: "Belief in paranormal phenomena is still growing, and the dangers to our society are real" (dated March 23, 1985). Gary Posner, an M.D. and leader of the Tampa Bay Skeptics, has claimed that believers in the paranormal may have a pathological medical condition, saying they may be "afflicted with a thought disorder that manifests in ... a faulty sense of reality" and their "irrational behavior ...may be more compatible with a diagnosis of ambulatory schizophrenia...than with mere naivete" (1978, p. 79). Posner made this statement despite the fact that surveys show that over half the population in this country has had psychic experiences (Greely, 1975;Haraldsson & Houtkeeper, 1991). James Alcock (1981) expresses fear in his anticipation of psi application: But what chaos we would have. There would, of course, be no privacy, since by extrasensory perception one could see into people's minds. Dictators would no longer have to trust the words of their followers; they could "know" their feelings... What would happen when two adversaries each tried to harm the other via PK? The gunfights of the Old American West would probably pale by comparison. (p. 191) Pg. 43 Several scientists have suggested that emotional resistance and fear of psi are partly responsible for the opposition to parapsychology (e.g., Eisenbud, 1946; Irwin, 1989; LeShan, 1966; Tart, 1982a; Wren-Lewis, 1974). The comments of Wren-Lewis are noteworthy; even before CSICOP began, he wrote: "_But the plain fact is that the clearest evidence of strong emotion nowadays comes from those who have antireligious feelings_" (emphasis in the original; Wren-Lewis, 1974, p. 43). Alcock's writings provide examples that support this contention. Vilification of advocates of the paranormal. Several CSICOP members portray advocates of the paranormal as loathsome human beings. Accord- ing to his book, Henry Gordon frequently proclaims: "Every psychic I know or have heard of is an absolute fraud" (1987, p. ix). Medical doctor and writer Michael Crichton (1988) (22) observed this tendency of the debunkers and wrote: "I was disturbed by the intemperate tone of many writers I admired; there was a tendency to attribute the basest motives to their opponents" (p. 356). Use of ridicule. The use of ridicule is a pervasive element in the rhetoric of CSICOP and "SI". Gardner encouraged it by popularizing H. L. Mencken's now frequently quoted "one horse-laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms" (Gardner, 1981 , [p. vii]). Lest there be any remaining confusion, Gardner later made his position explicit: The rest of us did not regard debunking as such a negative word. We felt that when pseudoscience is far enough out on the fringes of irrationalism, it is fair game for humor, and at times even ridicule. (1983a, p. 213) Yet another example of belittling the opposition is the subtitle of the first edition of Randi's (1980) book, "Flim-Flam!: The Truth About Unicorns, Parapsychology, and Other Delusions". The general use of ridicule by CSICOP can be seen in the pages of "SI", where caricatures and cartoons are used to denigrate those discussed. Such illustrations are very rare in scientific journals but are common fare in religious magazines such as "American Atheist" and "Free Inquiry". Influencing the Media The treatment of the paranormal in the media is a primary concern of CSICOP. This emphasis is obvious in its "Manual for Local, Regional and National Groups" (1987). Seventeen pages are devoted to "Handling the Media" and "Public Relations"; in contrast, only three pages are given to "Scientific Investigation." No scientific references were cited in the "Scientific Investigation" section, but the reader was referred to Kurtz's (1986) book, "The Transcendental Temptation", for an explanation of the scientific method. (23) The priority given to the media is also apparent in many articles in "SI" and in newsletters of the local groups. Pg. 44 Kurtz (1985c) recognizes that "the media are a dominant influence in the growth of belief in the paranormal" (p. 357), and at one time he was reported to appear on 5 to 10 TV or radio shows a week (Bartlett, 1987), which attests to the priority he gives to the media. In fact, the mass media may be the most effective way to communicate with the _scientific community regarding the paranormal. McClenon (1984) found that most elite scientists form their opinions about parapsychology from newspaper reports. Nationally aired television programs that treat psychic topics in a neutral or positive light are a CSICOP target. The Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Fairness Doctrine regarding the NBC series "Exploring the Unknown" (Kurtz, 1977a, 1978d). The FCC rejected the complaint, and CSICOP appealed the ruling in U.S. District Court (Kurtz, 1979b). The Committee also complained to NBC regarding its program "The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena" (Kurtz, 1979a). CSICOP was especially disturbed by the NOVA program, "The Case of ESP," even though a number of Committee members were featured in it. CSICOP wrote an open letter of complaint to the executive producer, and the cover story of the Summer 1984 issue of "SI" was an attack on that NOVA segment. One of the long-term projects of CSICOP has been to get every news paper astrology column to carry a disclaimer. At the beginning of the project, the Committee issued a press release; two weeks later, it sent a letter to "all U.S. newspapers," calling on them to publish CSICOP's disclaimer (Frazier, 1985). The project has met with limited success. The Summer 1986 issue of "SI" noted that six papers then carried a statement, and the Spring 1990 magazine reported that 33 papers did (Frazier, 1990a). The Committee has made a concerted effort to cultivate contacts within the media. For example, Leon Jaroff, an editor for "Time", was made a Fellow of the Committee. He wrote an article for "Time" focusing on Randi's debunking work; the piece included a full-page picture of Randi (Jaroff, 1988). Needless to say, such publicity would be expensive, if purchased. CSICOP publicizes its "Responsibility in Journalism" awards, which are given at their conventions, and Committee members have presented material at a science workshop for journalists (Frazier, 1989a, p. 123). Pg. 45 In the summer of 1990, "SI" carried an announcement of the formation of a new organization called the Center for Inquiry ("Center for Inquiry," 1990; Flynn, 1990) whose purpose was to promote the skeptical view in the electronic media. Tom Flynn, cofounder of Catholics Anonymous, was named director. One of the projects was to produce a news magazine format radio show with skeptics such as James Alcock, Susan Blackmore and Ray Hyman. (For several months the term "Center for Inquiry" was used by CSICOP in more than one context; it now refers only to the headquarters complex [Karr, 1991].) The local groups have been active with the media also. As might be expected, the affiliates concern themselves more with local radio and newspapers rather than with the national television networks. Some of the groups have been especially active. Even as early as its fourth meeting, the Austin group listed seven different media contacts or appearances for that month. One member volunteered to organize a "Psychic Alert" system to contact other members by phone when call-in radio shows covered the paranormal (McFadden, 1982). The Cleveland society states that they "try to serve as a media resource in Northeast Ohio" ("Membership," 1986). One of their members agreed to organize a speakers bureau, and others were reported to be developing a weekly radio program (O'Connor, 1985). Another issue of their newsletter carried an article on how to write effective letters to editors (Rickards, 1986). The Colorado organization is likewise involved; in a letter from Bela Scheiber dated June 8, 1986 requesting payment of dues, it noted that they have "assisted local TV stations in news projects. Provided speakers for radio talk shows. Responded to articles in the local press." The Northwest Skeptics have been active too. Some of the lead articles in their newsletters have such titles as "Media & Skeptics" (Dennett, 1985a) and "Skeptics on T.V." (Dennett, 1985b) The above are just a _few_ examples. Contact with the media is one of the most common topics discussed in newsletters of the local groups. Magicians' Activities The conjurors in CSICOP have influence, and their involvement has proven beneficial for both the organization and the magicians. Magic performances are frequently included in CSICOP's conferences. Daryl Bem performed at the first international conference in 1983, and David Berglas performed at the London conference 1985. Three magicians performed at the banquet of the 1986 conference held in Colorado, and Penn and Teller presented a show at the 1987 convention. Many of the local groups have also featured magic performances. Con- juror David Alexander performed at a banquet of the Southern California Skeptics (Mitchell, 1986); the Cleveland debunkers' group arranged for Randi to speak ("Professional Charlatan," 1985), and the Houston group presented Steve Shaw as a guest speaker ("HAST Dinner," 1987). Rory Coker performed and explained several mentalism effects for the Austin society (McFadden, 1983). One of the founding members of the National Capital Area Skeptics (NCAS) is Jamy Ian Swiss, an active magician who appeared on the September 1987 cover of "Genii". Swiss performed a number of times to promote the skeptics, and members of NCAS produced a seance show apparently based on Eugene Burger's (1986) book "Spirit Theater". One of the most aggressive groups in promoting magic has been the Sacramento Skeptics Society . They published a column describing fake psychic effects and methods in their newsletter, (24) and their March 1987 meeting featured seven conjurors. Pg. 46 The educational efforts by magicians are effective in attracting publicity to the groups. The conjurors also benefit because professional magicians need publicity in order to obtain new bookings. Leadership roles in CSICOP and local groups can provide visibility and have thus enhanced the careers of several, notably James Randi and Robert Steiner. Research by magicians. As mentioned earlier, CSICOP conducts no research itself, and even the three scientist members of the Executive Council have undertaken little research on their own. As far as I know, of the three (Alcock, Beyerstein, and Hyman, all psychologists), only Hyman has published even one scientific ESP experiment (McClenon & Hyman, 1987), and that study fell "short of scientific acceptability" under Hyman's (1984-1985, p. 129) own criteria because it was not published in refereed journal. In contrast, magician James Randi has engaged in much "research," and this has been given frequent coverage in the pages of "SI" (e.g., Randi, 1983a, 1983b). In 1983, sociologist Harry Collins warned against giving nonscientists control over scientific procedures. He spoke specifically of conjurors, noting that the magic community is "a group whose values include secretiveness and financial self-interest above the quest for truth" (Collins, 1983, p. 931). Collins's words were to prove prescient, as illustrated by Randi's involvement in the "high dilution" affair. In 1988, Jacques Benveniste and colleagues published a paper in "Nature" that gave support to some ideas of homeopathy (Davenas et al., 1988). After the publication of the Davenas et al. report, a small group was named to examine the procedures of the experiments, and Randi was appointed as one of the three members. The subsequent accounts depict Randi as capitalizing on the opportunity for showmanship and disrupting the business of the laboratory (Benveniste, 1988). Randi made public innuendoes of fraud and incompetence. Later he gave presentations about his involvement. During one of them, he mimicked the Gallic mannerisms of Benveniste and made highly derogatory comments about "French science"; many in the audience were offended (Inglis, 1988b). Pg. 47 "SI" eventually published an article critical of Randi (Shneour, 1989), though it was relegated to the back pages. Shneour wrote specifically of "careless" criticisms, "squander[ing]" "credibility" (p. 95), and even noted that there was a "preconceived bias that Benveniste's data was fraudulently generated" (p. 94). Both Collins (1988) and Shneour (1989) warned that such practices could be destructive to the conduct of science. Randi (1990a) had little to say in reply. (25) Although the magicians in CSICOP have attacked psychics, they have said very little about people such as Kreskin,(26) David Hoy, or other similar entertainers who are well connected in the magic community. (27) Many mentalists maintain that performers should claim genuine abilities even if they do not believe in them. Certainly Randi, Ray Hyman, and Martin Gardner (28) are well aware of this situation, yet they rarely, if ever, criticize publicly such performers. Hyman holds membership in the Psychic Entertainers Association, which has a number of members who encourage performers to falsely claim psychic abilities. If Gardner, Hyman, or Randi undertook an expose, they would likely antagonize the conjuring establishment. Pg. 48 Protesting the Paranormal in Academia Another task of the local groups has been to protest courses favorable to the paranormal. CSICOP encouraged such opposition by publishing an article, "Pseudoscience in the Name of the University," subtitled: "What Should be Done About Extension Courses That Use the University's Prestige to Promote Pseudoscience?" (Lederer & Singer, 1983). This piece decried the growing number of such courses affiliated with universities. (29) It appears that not all local affiliates have been active in these protests, but some have (e.g., "CSU Sells Pseudoscience," 1988a, 1988b; Dennett 1985-1986; "Psychics and Skeptics," 1985; Scheiber, 1986). The efforts have been directed primarily toward noncredit courses in adult education programs, but some have targeted university courses for credit. Not surprisingly, these campaigns generated antagonism toward the groups, and in the Pendragon case, discussed later, legal action was taken because of such a campaign. In November 1987, CSICOP issued a short statement saying that academic institutions should "ensure that there is a proper procedure for the approval of the content of such courses and that the persons teaching such courses should have the appropriate training and qualifications" ("CSICOP statement," 1987). Other routes have been taken to promote skeptical views within aca- demia. Some of the local groups offer courses, lecture series, and workshops on the paranormal. Others have awarded prizes for essay contests and science fairs, and CSICOP has instituted a campus lecture series (Sandhu, 1990). The 1991 conference had a session titled "Teaching Critical Thinking With the "Skeptical Inquirer." (30) NEW HORIZONS In a 1986 editorial, Kendrick Frazier discussed CSICOP's broadening horizons. He indicated that the Committee would revise its scope to include topics outside the paranormal. Some of the topics listed were creationism, chiropractic, dream interpretation, and arthritis cures. The cultural scene of the paranormal has been continually shifting, and CSICOP has had to slightly redefine its role. New Topics Opposition to the creationists is one activity that attracted attention. The Southern California Skeptics enlisted the aid of 72 Nobel laureates in filing an _amicus curiae_ brief regarding a Louisiana statute promoting creationism (Seckel, 1986-1987). This provided CSICOP with increased visibility and attracted allies in its battle against the paranormal. The National Center for CSICOP also involves itself in the medical arena and has a "Paranormal Health Claims Subcommittee." Recently, "SI" has included a few articles addressing fringe areas of medicine. Prometheus Books published a book by two philosophers attacking holistic medicine (Stalker & Glymour, 1985). (Stalker is a CSICOP member.) The National Council Against Health Fraud made CSICOP an affiliate. They too have joined the battle against the paranormal and published an article decrying Shirley MacLaine in their newsletter ("Is Shirley MacLaine," 1987) . Pg. 49 As can be seen in Figure 1, the circulation of "SI" has stagnated after rapid growth. This must be of concern to the Committee. In a recent note, Frazier (1990b) indicated that more attention was being given to "science, critical inquiry, and science education" (p. 116). This further suggests that CSICOP is striving to define its role. Media interest in the paranormal can vary, and during some periods the paranormal is not always considered newsworthy. Alternative topics may attract attention when the paranormal fails to do so. However, there are some hazards in diversification. If the Committee becomes too broadly focused, it runs the risk of losing its identity. Whereas there are already a number of organizations engaged in the fights against creationism and quackery, CSICOP has yet to demonstrate that it has something new to offer in these arenas. The New Age Perhaps the most pertinent cultural change during CSICOP's existence has been the rise of the New Age movement (Melton, Clark, & Kelly, 1990). The occult explosion of the 1970s resulted in an increased level of belief in the paranormal. A number of participants in the psychic boom were then in their early and mid-twenties. These people have moved into positions of some financial and political power and now form the base for what is called the New Age movement. In fact, several major publications have run stories on this movement (e.g.,"New York Times" [Lindsey, 1986] "U.S. News and World Report" [Levine, Kyle, & Dworkin, 1987]; "Wall Street Journal" [Hughes, 1987]). It is not possible to provide a crisp definition for the New Age, but typically it is associated with channeling, wholistic health, use of crystals, Eastern thought, and psychic abilities. It can be characterized as a network in flux rather than a rigid hierarchical structure (Ferguson, 1980), and there is no agreed upon institutional leadership that might provide inertia and clear identity. The New Age is partly a search for religious and spiritual values, and Hastings (1991, p. 195) suggested that it is a "revitalization movement," a term introduced by anthropologist A. F. C. Wallace (1956). From a sociological perspective, the growth of CSICOP might be seen as a reaction to this movement. Many aspects of the New Age are opposed by CSICOP, and the Com- mittee's 1988 conference focused on them (Shore, 1989) as did the Sum- mer 1989 issue of "SI". "SI" articles on the New Age are usually derogatory and rarely display the disinterested scientific analysis found in papers presented at scientific conferences such as those of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the Religious Research Association. Pg. 50 Legal Concerns One of the problems that will confront the Committee for some time to come is the issue of libel. This problem first emerged with the local affiliates. The cofounder of the Northwest Skeptics, John Merrell, sent press packages to news agencies claiming that psychic Noreen Renier was misleading the public with fraudulent claims. Renier sued and won a judgment of $25,000 (Auerbach, 1991; Guarino, 1986). In 1986, Gharith Pendragon began a battle with the Hawaii Skeptics. He alleged that he lost teaching positionsbecause of pressure the Hawaii Skeptics brought to bear. This led to a publicized legal fight, and CSICOP was named in the suit. It was ultimately settled in CSICOP's favor (Frazier, 1989b), but it undoubtedly cost the Committee considerable time and money. Shortly after the beginning of the Pendragon battle, CSICOP attempted to distance itself somewhat from the local groups and no longer referred to them as affiliates. But it is not only statements by the local groups that have caused problems. Randi's statements have drawn fire. In an interview for "Twilight Zone Magazine (Wiater, 1988) and at a meeting of the New York Area skeptics, Randi claimed that Eldon Byrd, a friend of Uri Geller, was a child molester and in prison. The New York Skeptic later admitted this was untrue ("Geller Files," 1989), but Byrd sued, naming CSICOP as one of the defendants. Randi also claimed that Geller had launched a blackmail campaign against him (Wiater, 1988), and Geller also filed a number of suits against Randi and CSICOP (Moseley, 1991b). This led to Randi's resignation from the Committee to avoid its being named in subsequent suits. Several newsletters published an appeal from Randi (1991) that said "I'm in trouble folks. I need help." The battle attracted wide media attention, including the "Wall Street Journal" (Marcus, 1991) and "Scientific American" (Rennie, 1991). Whatever the outcomes, these legal battles will undoubtedly prove costly, and according to Mike Sullivan (1991) of the North Texas Skeptics, "Paul Kurtz warned at the 1991 convention in May that the Committee may not be around for the next annual convention" because of financial problems. CONCLUSIONS CSICOP has exerted enormous effort and mobilized considerable re- sources in its battle against the paranormal. Some of the leaders have devoted much of their professional careers to the cause. Their strenuous activity attests to the Committee's belief in the importance of the truth or falsity of parapsychological claims and their significance for mankind. Pg. 51 Although recognizing the importance of the paranormal, CSICOP elected not to conduct scientific research, but rather it has undertaken an extended public relations campaign. The Committee actively attempts to influence the media, and it has complained to the FCC under the Fairness Doctrine. CSICOP seeks endorsements from scientific luminaries, despite the fact that few, if any, of these luminaries have ever published scientific research on the paranormal. CSICOP has also fostered a grass roots movement that assists it in influencing popular opinion. These activities display more parallels with political campaigns than with scientific endeavors. CSICOP's message has often been well received, particularly among scientific leaders. The growth of CSICOP, the circulation figures of "SI", and the academic credentials of its readership prove that there is wide interest in the paranormal among the most highly educated members of our society. Many readers of "SI" undoubtedly assume that CSICOP presents the best available scientific evidence. The readers are rarely told of the existence of refereed scientific journals that cover parapsychology. The effect of CSICOP's activities is to create a climate of hostility toward the investigation of paranormal claims; indeed, at one CSICOP conference, the announcement of the closing of several parapsychology laboratories was greeted with cheers. Surveys show that over half the adult population in the U.S. have had psychic experiences and believe in the reality of the phenomena (Gallup, 1982; Greeley, 1975, 1987; Haraldsson & Houtkooper, 1991). Those who have had the experiences but encounter the debunking attitudes of apparent "scientific authorities" are likely to conclude that science is a dogma and inapplicable to important aspects of their lives. Vallee (1990) has suggested that debunkers "are among the primary contributors to the rejection of science by the public" and are "contributing to the growth of irrational movements in modern society" (p. 21). Ironically, CSICOP's activities will likely inhibit scientific research on the paranormal and might potentially foster an increased rejection of science generally. -- END -- FOOTNOTES --------- 1 - An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 30th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, August 5-8, 1987. 2 - I would like to thank Michaeleen Maher, Keith Harary, Robert Durant, and Marcello Truzzi for commenting on earlier drafts of this paper. I would also like to thank Marcello Truzzi, William Rauscher, Jerome Clark, Diane Morton, and Tom Melver for providing materials. 3 - Pronounced "sigh cop." 4 - There are groups that have scientifically investigated psychic claims, notably the Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1882, and the American Society for Psychical Research, founded in 1885. The Parapsychological Association, established in 1957, is an association of professional researchers and is affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 5 - A fourth group, conservative Christians, have also attacked the paranormal (e.g., North, 1988; for an overview of some recent works, see Lewis, 1989). Though their literature is sizeable, it has had little impact on secular academic debates, but it should not be overlooked when considering the paranormal in larger social contexts. 6 - Lamont was made Honorary President of the American Humanist Association in 1974, shortly before it sponsored the formation of CSICOP. 7 - Haldane, Lamont, and McCabe were all promoters of the Stalinist U.S.S.R. 8 - The reader should not be left with the impression that only skeptics are associated with rationalist positions. Several pyschical researchers have been allied with rationalism, atheism, and humanism. 9 - A couple years later, Kurtz garnered media attention by promoting his "Humanist Manifesto II" (1973; Martin, 1973). 10 - Before the study, Kurtz (1975) had expressed strong opposition to astrology. In a lengthy editorial, he urged newspapers to label their astrology columns as follows: "Warning: If taken seriously, this column may be dangerous to your health!" (emphasis in original, p 20). This suggests a strong bias in anticipated outcome of the research, a charge CSICOP members have made regarding proponents of the paranormal. 11 - Atheism may or may not be considered a religion. However, atheism is clearly a religious position or religious view. 12 - Kurtz retired from the university in 1991 (personal communication from Paul Kurtz, August 14, 1991). 13 - Kurtz's definition of religion seems rather broad. For instance, he denounced the movie 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', calling it a "sequel to 'The Ten Commandments', 'Ben Hur', and other religious extravaganzas" (Kurtz, 1978c, p. 4), and he went on to decry the religious symbolism in it. 14 - Gerald Piel, former president of the AAAS and editor of "Scientific American", made the decision against Mims. Shortly thereafter, Piel gave the keynote address at CSICOP's 1990 convention and received the Committee's "In Praise of Reason Award" (Shore, 1990). 15 - As of March 1991, the Executive Council included James Alcock, Barry Beyerstein, Kendrick Frazier, Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman, Philip Klass, Paul Kurtz, Joe Nickell, Lee Nisbet, and James Randi (personal communication from Barry Karr, March 12, 1991). In May 1991, James Randi resigned because of legal problems, and Susan Blackmore became a member shortly before that. Blackmore's role on the Executive Council will not be considered in this paper because she has not served long enough to substantially influence policy; of course, Randi's contribution will be discussed. 16 - The Board of Directors consists of Alcock, Frazier, Kurtz, and Nisbet. 17 - The Summer 1991 issue of "SI" listed 55 Fellows and 58 Consultants (113 official members). The same day I interviewed Kurtz, Barry Karr, CSICOP Executive Director, told me that CSICOP had about 200 members. This directly contradicted Kurtz. I was told that a full list of members was not available. 18 - Seckel wrote at least three articles for "SI"; he edited two volumes published by Prometheus Books. Seckel's picture appeared three times in "Sl"; two of these were taken by Executive Council member, Philip Klass; the thud included Klass. Randi served on the board of directors of SCS. Seckel served on CSICOP's College and University Lecture Series Sub-committee along with Paul Kurtz and Ray Hyman. The leadership of CSICOP was well acquainted with Seckel. 19 - Despite their self-portrayal as a small, struggling minority, the circulation of "SI" dwarfs that of the scientific parapsychology journals, as seen in Figure 1 . 20 - This can be compared with a published statement made by Gardner (Barcellos, 1979, p. 242). 21 - Elsewhere I have described this strategy as "dissuading as debunking," as displayed in articles by Ray Hyman (Hansen, 1991). By implying that there is little or no scientific parapsychological research, readers are dissuaded from locating the refereed scientifc jour- nals and examining the reports themselves. 22 - Crichton had originally prepared a lecture after a promise from CSICOP Fellow Paul MacCready to secure an invitation to speak to the Southern California Skeptics. The invitation never came, and Crichton included the prepared talk as a 23-page chapter in his book. The Public Relations Director of CSICOP reviewed Crichton's book for "SI" but did not even allude to the chapter dealing with CSICOP and the skeptics (Karr, 1989). 23 - Among other things, "The Transcendental Temptation" suggested that Jesus and Lazarus had a homosexual relationship. 24 - These columns sometimes have been taken word for word from "Magick", a newsletter for mentalists (e.g., compare the column in "Psientific American", July 1986, pp. 3-4, with "Magick", No. 316, pp. 1577-1578; or "Psientific American", January 1987, pp. 5-6, with "Magick", No. 322, p. 1609; no credit was given to "Magick"). Terence Sandbeck, president of the Sacramento Skeptics Society, admitted he was responsible for this (personal communication, April 4, 1987). 25 - Randi's antics should have come as no surprise to members of CSICOP because he has engaged in similar behavior in relation to psi research. Krippner (1977), Rao (1984), Targ and Puthoff (1977, pp. 182-186), and Tart (1982b) have all documented glaring errors of Randi. Dennis Stillings has demonstrated that "Randi is capable of gross distortion of facts" (Truzzi, 1987, p. 89). Randi has been quoted as saying, "I always have an out" with regard to his $10,000 challenge (Rawlins, 1981, p. 89). Puthoff and Targ (1977) documented a number of mistakes. In a published, handwritten, signed letter, Randi replied offering $1,000 if any claimed error could be demonstrated (see Fuller, 1979). Fuller proved Randi wrong. In a rejoinder to Puthoff and Targ (1977), Randi reversed himself (for a clear example, see point number 15 in Randi, 1982, p. 223). Randi should have paid the $1,000, but he never did. 26 - Kreskin appeared at the 1991 CSICOP convention as an authority on hypnosis, and a recent Prometheus catalog advertises one of his books. Surprisingly, Kreskin (1973) claims psychic ability (e.g., "In using ESP as a form of communication, I receive information in images rather than in symbols" [p. 8]; "_by telepathic suggestion alone_, I ordered her to choose Albuquerque, which she did" [p. 40]). His more recent publicity material makes similar claims (e.g., "The Amazing Kreskin: Biography," 1988). 27 - A rare exception was a brief attack on Russ Burgess, a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association (Rawlins, 1977, pp. 74-75). 28 - Earlier in his career, Gardner wrote an article under a pseudonym suggesting that magician Stanley Jaks had genuine psychic powers (Groth, 1952) (personal communication, June 7, 1989). 29 - Ironically, this article was coauthored by CSICOP member Barry Singer, who was charged with "inappropriate" teaching of his own course. He lost his academic position because he openly gave students credit for sexual experiences (Singer, 1982/83). CSICOP member Vern Bullough (1982/83) stated that "Singer's account...raises serious questions of ethics" and "he quite obviously violated the rights of his students" (p. 10). 30 - An article by Swords (1990) indirectly suggests that the use of "SI" might not be altogether effective. Science Education, an anticreationist group, has lumped psi with creationism and health quackery in its literature (e.g., its brochure titled "What Can _You_ Do About Anti-Evolutionism?", undated). ---- Table 1 Magicians Who Are Or Have Been Official Members Of CSICOP Richard Busch Shawn Carlson Milbourne Christopher*+ Persi Diaconis*+ Eric Dingwall* Martin Gardner*+ Henry Gordon* Ray Hyman* Joe Nickell Mark Plummer James Randi*+ Robert Steiner* Marcello Truzzi* ---- * = indicates sufficiently known to be included in "Who's Who in Magic (Whaley, 1990) + = indicates sufficient prominence to be included in "The Encyclopedia Of Magic and Magicians" (Waters, 1988) ---- Table 2 DISTRIBUTION OF MEN AND WOMEN IN SKEPTICS' GROUPS Scientific and Leaders of Local Groups Fellows Technical Consultants Men 53 52 38 Women 3 4 2 Figures based on pages 447-448 and the inside covers of the Summer 1990 issue of the "Skeptical Inquirer." ----- Table 3 Members of CSICOP who have _publically_ identified themselves as holding nontheistic or atheistic views ============================================================= == CSICOP Member Source of Information ------------------------------------------------------------- --- George Abell Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Isaac Asimov Free Inquiry, Spring 1982, p. 9 Brand Blanshard Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Vern Bullough Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Mario Bunge Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Bette Chambers Humanist, Sept/October 1973, p. 9* Francis Crick Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Jean Dommanget Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Paul Edwards Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Antony Flew Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Yves Galifret Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Murray Gell-Mann Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Stephen Jay Gould Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Sidney Hook Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Marvin Kohl Humanist, Nov/December 1973, p. 5* Paul Kurtz Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Gerald A. Larue Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Paul MacCready Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ Ernest Nagel Free Inquiry, Fall I988, p. 59+ John W. Patterson American Atheist, May 1983, p. 12-14 Mark Plummer American Atheist, June 1983, p.29-33 W. V. Quine Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 59+ James Randi Who's Who In America (1990, p. 2683) Carl Sagan Free Inquiry, Fall 1988 p. 59+ Al Seckel Free Inquiry, Summer 1986, p. 54 B.F. Skinner Humanist, Sept/October 1973, p. 9* Gordon Stein Free Inquiry, Fall 1988, p. 48-50 Robert Steiner Robertson (1984) Marvin Zimmerman Humanist, Sept/October 1973, p. 9* ============================================================= ========= + See "The Academy of Humanism" (1983) for statement on nontheistic beliefs. * See "Humanist Manifesto II" (1973), p. 5, for statement on nontheistic beliefs. ---- ** EOF ** --- ~ SLMR 2.1a ~ All hope abandon, ye who enter messages here. - JetMail v1.14a3 - Unregistered QWK Mail Door for Spitfire -- Bob Dunn - via ParaNet node 1:104/422 UUCP: !scicom!paranet!User_Name INTERNET: Bob.Dunn@p0.f31.n1012.z9.FIDONET.ORG ======================================= =============================== Inquiries regarding ParaNet, or mail directed to Michael Corbin, should be sent to: mcorbin@paranet.org. Or you can phone voice at 303-429-2654/ Michael Corbin Director ParaNet Information Services --============_-1363351995==_============--