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Skeptic email list - Jan 99 updates

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  • Eric Krieg
    Hi folks, the cover article of this weeks Time is pretty cool: all about how genetic engineering can help us all. I was surprise surveys show half of people
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 4, 1999
    • 0 Attachment
      Hi folks,

      the cover article of this weeks Time is pretty cool: all about how genetic
      engineering can help us all. I was surprise surveys show half of people
      against it even though you can cure crippled kids and modify plants to
      make their own pesticides. People seem to fear what they don't understand.

      The latest Skeptical Briefs has a neat article on the history of literal
      snake oils and another about claims involving exposing young kids to
      classical music. You can get that publication from CSICOP for just 20$/yr

      Here's a prognostication from me: You have now entered a major year for nut
      cases to come crawling out of the woodwork. I encourage skeptics who have
      friends wallowing in Y2K disaster fantasies to get them to make a gentlemen's
      bet about the extent of the "disaster". - then you can dispense some due
      rubbing in later. I used to believe some of the chicken-little-du-jour in the
      1970's. I have a page on the subject of
      eschatology at:
      http://www.voicenet.com/~eric/escha.htm
      I see the most likely threat to everything being a comet or asteroid taking
      out our little blue haven of life. Another reason to support science is that
      it would be science and engineering which could help us avoid an "extinction
      level event".
      I don't know how many of you finally saw the Fox special exposing hoaxes like
      the alien autopsy - what the network neglected to mention was that they share
      a lot of blame for promulgating such nonsense on the rest of their shows.

      oh, and here's a url of a guy who sells rings to give you eternal life:
      http://www.alexchiu.com/
      I'm not too sure how you prove something like that


      I close with a repost of the last CSICOP email:


      =============================

      Subject:
      SI DIGEST 12-31-98
      Date:
      Thu, 31 Dec 1998 14:52:34 EST
      From:
      SkeptInq@...
      Reply-To:
      CSICOP Announcement <CSICOP-ANNOUNCE@...>
      To:
      CSICOP-ANNOUNCE@...




      SKEPTICAL INQUIRER ELECTRONIC DIGEST
      December 31, 1998

      SI Electronic Digest is the biweekly e-mail news update of the Committee for
      the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP.) Visit
      <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/">http://www.csicop.org/</A>. Rated one of
      the Top Ten Science Sites on the Web by HOMEPC magazine.

      The Digest is written and edited by Matthew Nisbet and Barry Karr. SI Digest
      has over 2500 readers worldwide, and is distributed via e-mail from the
      Center for Inquiry-International, Amherst NY, USA.

      To subscribe for free to the SI DIGEST, go to:
      <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/list/">http://www.csicop.org/list/</A>

      PERMISSION IS GRANTED TO REPRINT OR REPOST ON THE WEB. WE ENCOURAGE
      TRANSLATION INTO OTHER LANGUAGES.

      PLEASE FORWARD TO YOUR SKEPTICAL FRIENDS.
      Send comments, media inquiries and news to:
      SINISBET@... (716-636-1425 x219)

      CSICOP publishes the bimonthly SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, The Magazine for Science
      and Reason. The Jan/Feb 1999 issue features a Special Report on Armageddon
      and the Prophets of Doomsday.

      To subscribe at the $17.95 introductory Internet price, go to:
      <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/si/subscribe/">
      http://www.csicop.org/si/subscribe/</A>

      In this week's SIDIGEST:
      --OPINION: Fears of the Apocalypse
      --REVIEW: Fox's "World's Greatest Hoaxes: Secrets Finally Revealed"
      --Failed Psychic Predictions Featured in SF Chronicle Editorial
      --Council for Media Integrity Stock Fund Continues to Grow
      --CONFERENCE: Science Meets Alternative Medicine, Feb. 26-28


      OPINION: FEARS OF THE APOCALYSE
      by Paul Kurtz

      Chairman, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
      Paranormal; Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, State University of New York at
      Buffalo

      As we approach the year 2000 we are surrounded by prophets of doom who
      predict that terrible disasters await us. Is the world about to end? Are we
      living in the last days of civilization? Will the human species and the planet
      earth be engulfed in fire storms, earthquakes, floods, or be destroyed by the
      impact of an asteroid? Obviously the year 2000 has special significance in
      these scenarios, for it marks the beginning of a new millennium and has been
      adopted as the deadline for many end-time prophets.

      But we may ask: Does the new Millennium start January 1, 2000 or 2001? The
      calendar we use begins at year 1 instead of 0 -- for a zero was left out in
      the transition from B.C. to A.D. Thus, a century does not begin with a double-
      zero year, but ends with it. If this is the case, the new century and
      millennium begin with an 01-year, not an 00-year.

      The Western world measures the beginning of the new millennium by the alleged
      birth of Jesus Christ, but most non-Christian cultures in the world differ in
      their calendar origin. The Chinese year in 1998 is 4696, the Hebrew calendar
      5760. For the Muslims, the calendar begins in 622 A.D., when Muhammad went
      from Mecca to Medina, and 1998 is actually the year 1420. Thus, January 1st,
      2000 or 2001 is really a meaningless non-event -- an expression of Western
      socio-cultural prejudice, of no special significance in the nature of things.

      Nonetheless, there is a perennial concern for the future. Human beings always
      wish to peer ahead and know what will ensue tomorrow or next year or in the
      next century. Many of these interests are based on hype and/or expectations of
      a better and more promising world. But there are often predications of gloom,
      and great apprehension. For many the Apocalypse seems to be almost a wish
      fulfillment. The mundane world lacks the drama that a fertile apocalyptic
      imagination produces.

      Secular predictions, those not based in religious or New Age belief, often
      gain the greatest attention and credibility in the media. We currently are
      enjoying a period of great economic optimism, as stock markets soar in the
      U.S. and Europe. The bulls dash forward with rosy forecasts. Some people even
      predict a long boom in which the economic cycle has been overcome.

      By contrast, the bears focus on the negative: The year-2000 computer bug will
      wreak havoc everywhere, oil shortages will appear, inflation will re-ignite,
      and the Dow will plummet from 10,000 to 6,000 in a short period of time.

      Probably the most frightening secular prognostications are environmental
      scenarios of runaway population growth and devastating ecological pollution.
      Demographers told us only a decade ago that population growth would increase
      exponentially and that there was no way to stop it. But, in many parts of the
      world, there has been a significant decrease in the rate of population growth.
      Many maintained only twenty years ago that by 1980 the atmosphere would be so
      polluted that we would need to wear gas masks year-round -- not even in Los
      Angeles has this occurred! Ecologists have warned that we would deplete our
      natural resources and run out of oil, gas, and other fossil fuels in the near
      future. In the long run they are probably correct, but new resources have been
      discovered and new sources of energy developed.

      Overhanging all of this is the sword of Damocles -- nuclear energy. Nuclear
      fears have engulfed large sectors of society. Anything related to radiation is
      considered diabolical, and greatest of all is the fear of a thermonuclear
      holocaust. We are admonished on all sides that death stares us in the face and
      that some miscalculation will inevitably trigger a worldwide nuclear war.

      A second area for doomsday prophecies are religiously based. Indeed, we today
      find hundreds of millions of people who interpret the world primarily through
      a biblical lens and see their own end-of-the-world scenarios. The message that
      prophets are preaching is one of a millennial Armageddon. They are truly
      convinced that we are living in "the last days," and they view earthquake
      tremors, wars, and rumors of war as signs of the impending apocalyptic
      disaster. Indeed, this generation, many of them insist, is the last
      generation, and this was all foretold in the Old and New Testaments.

      A third kind of doomsday prophesy is that offered by followers of the New Age
      movement. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
      Paranormal (CSICOP) have examined a great number of the paranormal claims that
      are proliferating today from psychics, fortune tellers, seers, and gurus of
      various kinds. These include the failed predictions of Edgar Cayce, "the
      Sleeping Prophet," who warned of a massive shifting of the poles in the years
      2000-2001. They involve a number of suicide cults, such as the UFO-related
      "Heaven's Gate" and the French-Swiss-Canadian space-age religion, "The Order
      of the Solar Temple." There are also numerous astrological predications of
      disaster due to planetary alignments, and psychics are now having a field day
      in their Armageddon prophecies.

      We live in a highly developed scientific and technological society. We face
      awesome problems. If we are to solve them, we must draw upon the best critical
      intelligence available. We need to use our rational powers, not abandon them.
      In free societies anyone is entitled to his convictions. Yet democracy
      presupposes an educated citizenry. When apocalyptic faith is intermingled with
      ideology, it can have deleterious social, political, and military
      consequences.

      As a world society fueled in progress by science and reason, we have a
      responsibility to examine those claims being made about our collective future,
      whether they are based upon so-called revealed prophecies or not, and to
      submit them to empirical criticism. There is thus a compelling need for
      critical examination of the prophecies of doom -- whether secular, religious,
      or New Age -- for they have serious implications for the world at large.

      ______________________________

      REVIEW: FOX'S "WORLD'S GREATEST HOAXES FINALLY REVEALED"
      by Ben Radford
      Skeptical Inquirer Managing Editor

      On Monday, December 28, 1998, the Fox network broadcast "World's Greatest
      Hoaxes: Secrets Finally Revealed," part of a series of sensationalistic
      expos�s. TheFox network is, of course, infamous for its high-rated but lowbrow
      specials and series programming hawking every manner of paranormal and
      pseudoscientific claim, as well as such cerebral and upscale fare as Guinness
      World Records featuring the world's biggest tumor.

      It is refreshing, then, to see Fox feature a skeptical take on paranormal
      subjects that the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
      Paranormal have been addressing for decades. The special was narrated by Lance
      Henrickson, who himself has appeared in many paranormal productions such as
      the film Omen 2: Damien, as a psychic detective in the television series
      Millennium, and a slew of grade-B horror films.

      The usual Fox staples of hyperbole, contradicting assertions, and flat-out
      incorrect statements were all present. For example, in the first five minutes,
      the claim was made that the 1938 "War of the Worlds" panic was the result of a
      hoax. Orson Welles' most famous broadcast was not a hoax at all; it was indeed
      a panic followed by mass hysteria, but there was no intent to deceive (see
      "The Martian Panic Sixty Years Later," Skeptical Inquirer 22(6),
      November/December 1998).

      The special began with footage of alleged Bigfoot sightings. The first was the
      famous 1967 Patterson film, followed by two additional, even more highly
      suspect videos allegedly of other Bigfoot-type creatures. Later segments
      featured photos taken at Loch Ness in Scotland; UFO footage filmed by Billy
      Meier at his Swiss ranch; and of course the much-hyped"Alien Autopsy" segment
      (supposedly from the Roswell, New Mexico saucer crash) broadcast in 1995.

      It takes brass, and a lot of it, for Fox to loudly tout the "Alien Autopsy" as
      a hoax when Fox itself was instrumental in feeding it to the American public
      in the first place. Fox's role in promoting the faked footage on their special
      "Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?" on August 28 and September 4, 1995 was
      conveniently and repeatedly glossed over [see Skeptical Inquirer 19(6),
      November/December 1995].

      Fox returned to their roots with two faked segments, one depicting a lake
      monster and the other a scene showing UFOs flying over a city and beach. They
      were broadcast, the narrator said, to show how convincing faked video footage
      can be. The point might have been more persuasive, however, had they asked a
      few teenagers on a limited budget to create the hoaxes. I don't think anyone
      was surprised that the multi-million dollar Fox network could create (or
      commission) such "impressive" fakes.

      CSICOP was nowhere to be seen, but interviewees did include skeptic Kal Korff,
      who spoke about the Billy Meier photographs and also commented on the
      Patterson film. Korff's book, Spaceships of the Pleiades: The Billy Meier
      Story, was reviewed in the March/April 1996 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. A
      special effects consultant for the film Jurassic Park was also on hand to
      discuss how videotape and film can be faked using computers and various
      techniques.

      The program left its viewers with the impression that much of what was
      presented was newly discovered and examined by the vanguards of truth, Fox
      Broadcasting. Yet Skeptical Inquirer readers got stories on the hoaxes years
      or even decades earlier. The famous 1934 "surgeon's photograph" of a head and
      neck in Loch Ness was reported to be a hoax in 1994 [SI 18(4), Summer 1994];
      some of the other "Nessie" photos shown in the Fox special were examined and
      questioned in this magazine fifteen years ago [SI 9(2), Winter 1984-1985]. And
      claims that Billy Meier's UFO photographs were hoaxes also first appeared in
      Skeptical Inquirer nearly twenty years ago [see SI 4(4), Summer 1980]. As
      skeptical as the Fox special was, the network was a little late to the table.

      Despite several flaws, the broadcast was generally well done, and their
      investigation of the Patterson Bigfoot film, though cursory, was the best I'd
      seen. They also tracked down one of the actors in a forerunner film to the
      "Alien Autopsy" footage, who detailed how and where the scenes were filmed. On
      balance, the Fox special probably helped skeptics much more than it hurt them.
      Although it was not of the same caliber as a special that appeared several
      months earlier on scams (narrated by Judd Nelson), it was nonetheless a
      valuable teaching tool for the public. What a shame that skeptical subjects
      must be packaged like sensational paranormal fare to gain an audience of
      millions.

      ____________________


      Ben Radford





      FAILED PSYCHIC PREDICTIONS FEATURED IN SF CHRONICLE EDITORIAL

      It's that time of year again for the psychics to receive their grades for
      1998, and the national media is delighted to hear that they've failed. Gene
      Emery's annual accounting of failed psychic predictions has gained notice from
      dozens of radio stations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is featured in
      an editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle. To read the editorial go to:
      <A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-
      bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/12/31/ED31890.DTL">
      http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/1</A>

      Look for more media coverage to come. The full text of Gene Emery's failed
      psychic predictions is available on the CSICOP website at:
      <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/articles/psychic-
      predictions/">http://www.csicop.org/articles/psychic-predictions/</A>

      _______________

      COUNCIL FOR MEDIA INTEGRITY STOCK FUND CONTINUES TO GROW
      For information about the Media Stock Fund, contact Barry Karr at
      skeptinq@... or (716) 636-1425 x217.
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      In its latest effort in the battle against uncritical presentations of the
      paranormal and pseudoscientific in the media, the Committee for the Scientific
      Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and it's "media watch-dog"
      arm, the Council for Media Integrity (CMI), continue to expand the highly-
      successful media stock fund.

      Aimed at providing leverage for CSICOP's response to the entertainment
      industry's lucrative commercial marketing of fringe science and psuedoscience,
      CMI is asking friends and supporters to help it aquire common stock in media
      conglomerate companies. The Media Stock Fund will allow CSICOP and the CMI to
      take part in shareholder meetings, where it can question the increasing
      infatuation with the paranormal in television programming.

      "We are deliberately targeting each of the major television networks and
      well-known media conglomerates - Westinghouse (CBS), General Electric (NBC),
      NewsCorp (Fox), Time Warner (WB, Turner Broadcasting), and Disney (ABC)," says
      Paul Kurtz, chairman of CSICOP. "The media have now virtually replaced the
      schools, colleges, and universities as the main source of information for the
      general public. The irresponsability of the media in the area of science and
      the paranormal is a world wide problem. But it especially applies to the
      United States, where the media have been distorting science and, in
      particular, presenting psuedoscience as genuine science. Indeed, we are
      appalled by the number of 'documentaries,' which are really entertainment
      programs, presenting fringe science as real science."

      The practice of organizing shareholder response within a company is common
      among advocacy groups that seek socially responsible corporate conduct through
      shareholder-passed resolutions. As a share-holder, CSICOP and the CMI will
      have opportunities to attend shareholder meetings, submit viewpoints to
      shareholder publications, and sponsor shareholder resolutions. While
      exercising these and other rights, CSICOP will be representing a broad,
      international constituency who support the critical investigation of the
      paranormal and fringe-science claims from
      a responsible, scientific viewpoint to the public at large.

      "The fund will allow us to make shareholder meetings into accountablility
      sessions for the media giants when they package superstition and psuedoscience
      as fact," says Kurtz. "We realize that the media are being attacked from all
      sides, but we think that a plea for raising the level of underatanding of
      science should be heard."

      CONTACT BARRY KARR AT 716-636-1425 X217 OR AT SKEPTINQ@... FOR MORE
      INFORMATION.
      _________________

      CONFERENCE: SCIENCE MEETS ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

      The following is advance notice of a February national conference held in
      Philadelphia that gathers top scientists and physicians to take a critical
      look at alternative medicine.

      The conference features keynote addresses from Marcia Angell, MD, Executive
      Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and George Lundberg, MD, Editor
      of the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).
      ____________________________________________________________________
      Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the journal Scientific Review of Alternative
      Medicine Present:

      SCIENCE MEETS ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
      A National Conference for Medical Professionals and Consumers
      February 26-28, 1999
      Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia
      Call 1800-634-1610 to Register.

      ***Featuring Keynote Addresses by Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor of the
      New England Journal of Medicine and George D. Lundberg, MD, Editor of the
      Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).****

      How strong (or weak) is the evidence? What's the impact on doctors and
      patients?
      What are the implications for medical ethics, government, and the media?

      SCHEDULE

      -FRI, FEB. 26-

      7:00pm Reception

      -SAT., FEB. 27-

      8-830am Conference Opening Address

      830-1100 Science and Alternative Medicine(AM);Exploring Points of Conflict
      (Plenary)

      Physics, Scientific Law, and Homeopathy
      Biochemistry and Nutritional Supplements
      Biology and 'Life Forces'
      Clinical Errors in Alternative Medicine

      11-1200Noon

      Keynote Address:
      George D. Lundberg, MD
      Editor, Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA)

      2-500pm AM and the Psychology of Belief and Perception (Plenary)

      The Psychology of Belief
      Why Worthless Therapies Seem to Work
      Personal Coversions to AM Therapies

      7-900pm Banquet and Special Address

      SUN., FEB 28

      8-12noon Scientific Critiques of AM Therapies and Theories(Plenary)

      The Crisis of Herbal Cures in Europe
      Acupuncture
      Chiropractic
      Naturopathy
      Mind/Body Therapies
      Case Study: Herbs and Supplements

      2-300pm Keynote Address: Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor of the New
      England Journal of Medicine

      300-5pm AM and Medical Ethics

      Therapeutic Touch: What is the Harm?
      The Ethics of Alternative Medicine
      Is it Right to Promote Unproven Therapies?

      300-500pm AM, Government, and the Law (Concurrent)

      The FDA and Unproven Health Claims
      Perils of the Marketplace: Profits, Hype and Harm

      300-500pm Educating Physicians and Consumers

      AM and Medical Journals
      AM and Medical Schools
      Critical Thinking for Physicians
      Why We Need Better AM Research

      Conference Speakers Include:

      Wallace Sampson, Clincal Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, Editor
      of SRAM; Paul Kurtz, Publisher of SRAM, Professor Emeritus, SUNY at Buffalo;
      Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor, New England Journal of Medicine; George
      Lundberg, MD, Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association;
      Robert Park, PhD, Executive Director, American Physical Society; Saul Green,
      PhD, emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer
      Institute, New York; John Renner, MD, Clinical Professor of Family Medicine,
      University of Missouri, Kansas City; Barry Beyerstein, PhD, Dept. of
      Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia; James Alcock,
      PhD, Dept. of Psychology, Glendon College, York University; William Jarvis,
      PhD, Executive Director, National Council Against Health Fraud; Stephen
      Barrett, MD, Board Chairman of Quackwatch, Inc., and Board Member of the
      National Council Against Health Fraud; Donal P. O'Mathuna, MD, Professor of
      Bioethics and Chemistry, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Columbus, Ohio;
      Lawrence J. Schneiderman, MD, Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine,
      University of California, San Diego School of Medicine; Lewis Vaughn,
      Executive Editor, SRAM; Andrew Skolnick, Science Writer

      ACCOMODATIONS AND TRAVEL INFORMATION

      Rooms are available at the beautiful Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia at special
      rates for conference attendees: $130 for a single, $145 for a double. For
      reservations call (215) 735-6000, fax (215) 790-7766.

      The Warwick is located at 1701 Locust Street. It is within walking distance
      of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Franklin Court, and the Betsy Ross
      House. The Philadelphia Zoo is 20 minutes away.

      REGISTRATION

      $250 per person for all sessions Saturday and Sunday.

      $125 per STUDENT for all sessions Saturday and Sunday.

      $125 per person for DAY admission on only Saturday or Sunday.

      BANQUET is $30 per person Saturday night, Feb. 27.

      CREDIT CARD ORDERS MAY CALL TOLL FREE 1800-634-1610 OR FAX TO 716-636-1733.
      FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT BARRY KARR AT 716-636-1425 X217 OR EMAIL
      SKEPTINQ@...

      The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (SRAM) is a peer-reviewed
      medical journal dedicated to providing scientific, rational evaluations of
      unconventional health claims. Its purpose is to apply the best tools of
      science and reason to determine the validity and effectiveness of treatments.
      It will dismiss no claim a priori, but consider it on its own merits. It will
      reject no claim because it fits, or fails to fit, some paradigm. It will,
      using scientific methods and reasonable criteria, seek justified answers to
      two questions: "Is it true?" and "Does this treatment work?" SRAM is
      sponsored by the Council for Scientific Medicine.

      __________________


      --
      sincerely,

      Eric Krieg eric@... fax (215) 654-0651
      http://www.phact.org/e/skeptic

      --
      sincerely,

      Eric Krieg eric@... fax (215) 654-0651
      http://www.phact.org/e/skeptic
    • Stardrive9@xxx.xxx
      Thanks for the new post, Eric. And I wanted to thank you for signing the letter criticizing religion-bashing in the new Skeptical Inquirer. Though not a
      Message 2 of 8 , Jan 4, 1999
      • 0 Attachment
        Thanks for the new post, Eric. And I wanted to thank you for signing the
        letter criticizing religion-bashing in the new Skeptical Inquirer. Though not
        a theist myself (not there's anything WRONG with it) I think the major dangers
        skeptics need to combat are anti-science arguments and critical thinking
        failures. It's hard enough to deal with those without antagonizing potential
        theist allies. However, as long as Paul Kurtz holds the reins at SI, you can
        expect no change in policy there.
        Regarding the Y2K manufactured hysteria, I recommend a good web article by
        Aaron Lynch at http://www.mcs.net/~aaron/tmc.htm
        -Stardrive9
      • Steve Wong
        Dear Eric Am seriously considering a move to more rational part of the Country, since I live in the Flake Area of the Flakiest State, SF Bay Area. I have
        Message 3 of 8 , Jan 10, 1999
        • 0 Attachment
          Dear Eric
          Am seriously considering a move to more rational part of the Country, since
          I live in the Flake Area of the Flakiest State, SF Bay Area. I have already
          been labeled as "negative" and "closed-minded" since I sound off on the
          follies of "est", Scientology, astrology, alternative medicine and no longer
          consider the White Man as the devil. This area has already slipped into
          folly,wishful thinking, and superstition. Tons of magazines on New Age,
          Alternative Medicine and such on the rack, I am lucky to find a copy of
          "Skeptic" magazine though. Rational thought is out, nonsense is "in" and if
          you don't toe the line, you will be "shunned" socially.
          Steve Wong
          -----Original Message-----
          From: Eric Krieg <eric@...>
          To: skeptic@onelist.com <skeptic@onelist.com>
          Date: Monday, January 04, 1999 8:35 PM
          Subject: [skeptic] Skeptic email list - Jan 99 updates


          >From: Eric Krieg <eric@...>
          >
          >Hi folks,
          >
          >the cover article of this weeks Time is pretty cool: all about how genetic
          >engineering can help us all. I was surprise surveys show half of people
          >against it even though you can cure crippled kids and modify plants to
          >make their own pesticides. People seem to fear what they don't understand.
          >
          >The latest Skeptical Briefs has a neat article on the history of literal
          >snake oils and another about claims involving exposing young kids to
          >classical music. You can get that publication from CSICOP for just 20$/yr
          >
          >Here's a prognostication from me: You have now entered a major year for nut
          >cases to come crawling out of the woodwork. I encourage skeptics who have
          >friends wallowing in Y2K disaster fantasies to get them to make a
          gentlemen's
          >bet about the extent of the "disaster". - then you can dispense some due
          >rubbing in later. I used to believe some of the chicken-little-du-jour in
          the
          >1970's. I have a page on the subject of
          >eschatology at:
          >http://www.voicenet.com/~eric/escha.htm
          > I see the most likely threat to everything being a comet or asteroid taki
          ng
          >out our little blue haven of life. Another reason to support science is
          that
          >it would be science and engineering which could help us avoid an
          "extinction
          >level event".
          > I don't know how many of you finally saw the Fox special exposing hoaxes
          like
          >the alien autopsy - what the network neglected to mention was that they
          share
          >a lot of blame for promulgating such nonsense on the rest of their shows.
          >
          >oh, and here's a url of a guy who sells rings to give you eternal life:
          >http://www.alexchiu.com/
          >I'm not too sure how you prove something like that
          >
          >
          >I close with a repost of the last CSICOP email:
          >
          >
          >=============================
          >
          >Subject:
          > SI DIGEST 12-31-98
          > Date:
          > Thu, 31 Dec 1998 14:52:34 EST
          > From:
          > SkeptInq@...
          > Reply-To:
          > CSICOP Announcement <CSICOP-ANNOUNCE@...>
          > To:
          > CSICOP-ANNOUNCE@...
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > SKEPTICAL INQUIRER ELECTRONIC DIGEST
          > December 31, 1998
          >
          > SI Electronic Digest is the biweekly e-mail news update of the Committee
          for
          >the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP.) Visit
          > <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/">http://www.csicop.org/</A>. Rated one of
          >the Top Ten Science Sites on the Web by HOMEPC magazine.
          >
          > The Digest is written and edited by Matthew Nisbet and Barry Karr. SI
          Digest
          > has over 2500 readers worldwide, and is distributed via e-mail from the
          >Center for Inquiry-International, Amherst NY, USA.
          >
          > To subscribe for free to the SI DIGEST, go to:
          > <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/list/">http://www.csicop.org/list/</A>
          >
          > PERMISSION IS GRANTED TO REPRINT OR REPOST ON THE WEB. WE ENCOURAGE
          >TRANSLATION INTO OTHER LANGUAGES.
          >
          > PLEASE FORWARD TO YOUR SKEPTICAL FRIENDS.
          > Send comments, media inquiries and news to:
          > SINISBET@... (716-636-1425 x219)
          >
          > CSICOP publishes the bimonthly SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, The Magazine for
          Science
          >and Reason. The Jan/Feb 1999 issue features a Special Report on Armageddon
          >and the Prophets of Doomsday.
          >
          > To subscribe at the $17.95 introductory Internet price, go to:
          > <A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/si/subscribe/">
          >http://www.csicop.org/si/subscribe/</A>
          >
          > In this week's SIDIGEST:
          > --OPINION: Fears of the Apocalypse
          > --REVIEW: Fox's "World's Greatest Hoaxes: Secrets Finally Revealed"
          > --Failed Psychic Predictions Featured in SF Chronicle Editorial
          > --Council for Media Integrity Stock Fund Continues to Grow
          > --CONFERENCE: Science Meets Alternative Medicine, Feb. 26-28
          >
          >
          > OPINION: FEARS OF THE APOCALYSE
          > by Paul Kurtz
          >
          > Chairman, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
          >Paranormal; Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, State University of New York
          at
          >Buffalo
          >
          > As we approach the year 2000 we are surrounded by prophets of doom who
          >predict that terrible disasters await us. Is the world about to end? Are we
          >living in the last days of civilization? Will the human species and the
          planet
          >earth be engulfed in fire storms, earthquakes, floods, or be destroyed by
          the
          >impact of an asteroid? Obviously the year 2000 has special significance in
          >these scenarios, for it marks the beginning of a new millennium and has
          been
          >adopted as the deadline for many end-time prophets.
          >
          > But we may ask: Does the new Millennium start January 1, 2000 or 2001? The
          >calendar we use begins at year 1 instead of 0 -- for a zero was left out in
          >the transition from B.C. to A.D. Thus, a century does not begin with a
          double-
          >zero year, but ends with it. If this is the case, the new century and
          >millennium begin with an 01-year, not an 00-year.
          >
          > The Western world measures the beginning of the new millennium by the
          alleged
          >birth of Jesus Christ, but most non-Christian cultures in the world differ
          in
          >their calendar origin. The Chinese year in 1998 is 4696, the Hebrew
          calendar
          >5760. For the Muslims, the calendar begins in 622 A.D., when Muhammad went
          >from Mecca to Medina, and 1998 is actually the year 1420. Thus, January
          1st,
          >2000 or 2001 is really a meaningless non-event -- an expression of Western
          >socio-cultural prejudice, of no special significance in the nature of
          things.
          >
          > Nonetheless, there is a perennial concern for the future. Human beings
          always
          >wish to peer ahead and know what will ensue tomorrow or next year or in the
          >next century. Many of these interests are based on hype and/or expectations
          of
          >a better and more promising world. But there are often predications of
          gloom,
          >and great apprehension. For many the Apocalypse seems to be almost a wish
          >fulfillment. The mundane world lacks the drama that a fertile apocalyptic
          >imagination produces.
          >
          > Secular predictions, those not based in religious or New Age belief, often
          >gain the greatest attention and credibility in the media. We currently are
          >enjoying a period of great economic optimism, as stock markets soar in the
          >U.S. and Europe. The bulls dash forward with rosy forecasts. Some people
          even
          >predict a long boom in which the economic cycle has been overcome.
          >
          > By contrast, the bears focus on the negative: The year-2000 computer bug
          will
          >wreak havoc everywhere, oil shortages will appear, inflation will
          re-ignite,
          >and the Dow will plummet from 10,000 to 6,000 in a short period of time.
          >
          > Probably the most frightening secular prognostications are environmental
          >scenarios of runaway population growth and devastating ecological
          pollution.
          >Demographers told us only a decade ago that population growth would
          increase
          >exponentially and that there was no way to stop it. But, in many parts of
          the
          >world, there has been a significant decrease in the rate of population
          growth.
          >Many maintained only twenty years ago that by 1980 the atmosphere would be
          so
          >polluted that we would need to wear gas masks year-round -- not even in Los
          >Angeles has this occurred! Ecologists have warned that we would deplete our
          >natural resources and run out of oil, gas, and other fossil fuels in the
          near
          >future. In the long run they are probably correct, but new resources have
          been
          >discovered and new sources of energy developed.
          >
          > Overhanging all of this is the sword of Damocles -- nuclear energy.
          Nuclear
          >fears have engulfed large sectors of society. Anything related to radiation
          is
          >considered diabolical, and greatest of all is the fear of a thermonuclear
          >holocaust. We are admonished on all sides that death stares us in the face
          and
          >that some miscalculation will inevitably trigger a worldwide nuclear war.
          >
          > A second area for doomsday prophecies are religiously based. Indeed, we
          today
          >find hundreds of millions of people who interpret the world primarily
          through
          >a biblical lens and see their own end-of-the-world scenarios. The message
          that
          >prophets are preaching is one of a millennial Armageddon. They are truly
          >convinced that we are living in "the last days," and they view earthquake
          >tremors, wars, and rumors of war as signs of the impending apocalyptic
          >disaster. Indeed, this generation, many of them insist, is the last
          >generation, and this was all foretold in the Old and New Testaments.
          >
          > A third kind of doomsday prophesy is that offered by followers of the New
          Age
          >movement. The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
          >Paranormal (CSICOP) have examined a great number of the paranormal claims
          that
          >are proliferating today from psychics, fortune tellers, seers, and gurus of
          >various kinds. These include the failed predictions of Edgar Cayce, "the
          >Sleeping Prophet," who warned of a massive shifting of the poles in the
          years
          >2000-2001. They involve a number of suicide cults, such as the UFO-related
          >"Heaven's Gate" and the French-Swiss-Canadian space-age religion, "The
          Order
          >of the Solar Temple." There are also numerous astrological predications of
          >disaster due to planetary alignments, and psychics are now having a field
          day
          >in their Armageddon prophecies.
          >
          > We live in a highly developed scientific and technological society. We
          face
          >awesome problems. If we are to solve them, we must draw upon the best
          critical
          >intelligence available. We need to use our rational powers, not abandon
          them.
          >In free societies anyone is entitled to his convictions. Yet democracy
          >presupposes an educated citizenry. When apocalyptic faith is intermingled
          with
          >ideology, it can have deleterious social, political, and military
          >consequences.
          >
          > As a world society fueled in progress by science and reason, we have a
          >responsibility to examine those claims being made about our collective
          future,
          >whether they are based upon so-called revealed prophecies or not, and to
          >submit them to empirical criticism. There is thus a compelling need for
          >critical examination of the prophecies of doom -- whether secular,
          religious,
          >or New Age -- for they have serious implications for the world at large.
          >
          > ______________________________
          >
          >REVIEW: FOX'S "WORLD'S GREATEST HOAXES FINALLY REVEALED"
          >by Ben Radford
          >Skeptical Inquirer Managing Editor
          >
          >On Monday, December 28, 1998, the Fox network broadcast "World's Greatest
          >Hoaxes: Secrets Finally Revealed," part of a series of sensationalistic
          >expos�s. TheFox network is, of course, infamous for its high-rated but
          lowbrow
          >specials and series programming hawking every manner of paranormal and
          >pseudoscientific claim, as well as such cerebral and upscale fare as
          Guinness
          >World Records featuring the world's biggest tumor.
          >
          >It is refreshing, then, to see Fox feature a skeptical take on paranormal
          >subjects that the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
          the
          >Paranormal have been addressing for decades. The special was narrated by
          Lance
          >Henrickson, who himself has appeared in many paranormal productions such as
          >the film Omen 2: Damien, as a psychic detective in the television series
          >Millennium, and a slew of grade-B horror films.
          >
          >The usual Fox staples of hyperbole, contradicting assertions, and flat-out
          >incorrect statements were all present. For example, in the first five
          minutes,
          >the claim was made that the 1938 "War of the Worlds" panic was the result
          of a
          >hoax. Orson Welles' most famous broadcast was not a hoax at all; it was
          indeed
          >a panic followed by mass hysteria, but there was no intent to deceive (see
          >"The Martian Panic Sixty Years Later," Skeptical Inquirer 22(6),
          >November/December 1998).
          >
          >The special began with footage of alleged Bigfoot sightings. The first was
          the
          >famous 1967 Patterson film, followed by two additional, even more highly
          >suspect videos allegedly of other Bigfoot-type creatures. Later segments
          >featured photos taken at Loch Ness in Scotland; UFO footage filmed by Billy
          >Meier at his Swiss ranch; and of course the much-hyped"Alien Autopsy"
          segment
          >(supposedly from the Roswell, New Mexico saucer crash) broadcast in 1995.
          >
          >It takes brass, and a lot of it, for Fox to loudly tout the "Alien Autopsy"
          as
          >a hoax when Fox itself was instrumental in feeding it to the American
          public
          >in the first place. Fox's role in promoting the faked footage on their
          special
          >"Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?" on August 28 and September 4, 1995 was
          >conveniently and repeatedly glossed over [see Skeptical Inquirer 19(6),
          >November/December 1995].
          >
          >Fox returned to their roots with two faked segments, one depicting a lake
          >monster and the other a scene showing UFOs flying over a city and beach.
          They
          >were broadcast, the narrator said, to show how convincing faked video
          footage
          >can be. The point might have been more persuasive, however, had they asked
          a
          >few teenagers on a limited budget to create the hoaxes. I don't think
          anyone
          >was surprised that the multi-million dollar Fox network could create (or
          >commission) such "impressive" fakes.
          >
          >CSICOP was nowhere to be seen, but interviewees did include skeptic Kal
          Korff,
          >who spoke about the Billy Meier photographs and also commented on the
          >Patterson film. Korff's book, Spaceships of the Pleiades: The Billy Meier
          >Story, was reviewed in the March/April 1996 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. A
          >special effects consultant for the film Jurassic Park was also on hand to
          >discuss how videotape and film can be faked using computers and various
          >techniques.
          >
          >The program left its viewers with the impression that much of what was
          >presented was newly discovered and examined by the vanguards of truth, Fox
          >Broadcasting. Yet Skeptical Inquirer readers got stories on the hoaxes
          years
          >or even decades earlier. The famous 1934 "surgeon's photograph" of a head
          and
          >neck in Loch Ness was reported to be a hoax in 1994 [SI 18(4), Summer
          1994];
          >some of the other "Nessie" photos shown in the Fox special were examined
          and
          >questioned in this magazine fifteen years ago [SI 9(2), Winter 1984-1985].
          And
          >claims that Billy Meier's UFO photographs were hoaxes also first appeared
          in
          >Skeptical Inquirer nearly twenty years ago [see SI 4(4), Summer 1980]. As
          >skeptical as the Fox special was, the network was a little late to the
          table.
          >
          >Despite several flaws, the broadcast was generally well done, and their
          >investigation of the Patterson Bigfoot film, though cursory, was the best
          I'd
          >seen. They also tracked down one of the actors in a forerunner film to the
          >"Alien Autopsy" footage, who detailed how and where the scenes were filmed.
          On
          >balance, the Fox special probably helped skeptics much more than it hurt
          them.
          >Although it was not of the same caliber as a special that appeared several
          >months earlier on scams (narrated by Judd Nelson), it was nonetheless a
          >valuable teaching tool for the public. What a shame that skeptical subjects
          >must be packaged like sensational paranormal fare to gain an audience of
          >millions.
          >
          >____________________
          >
          >
          >Ben Radford
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > FAILED PSYCHIC PREDICTIONS FEATURED IN SF CHRONICLE EDITORIAL
          >
          > It's that time of year again for the psychics to receive their grades for
          >1998, and the national media is delighted to hear that they've failed.
          Gene
          >Emery's annual accounting of failed psychic predictions has gained notice
          from
          >dozens of radio stations, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is featured
          in
          >an editorial in today's San Francisco Chronicle. To read the editorial go
          to:
          > <A HREF="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-
          >bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/12/31/ED31890.DTL">
          >http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1998/1</A
          >
          >
          > Look for more media coverage to come. The full text of Gene Emery's failed
          >psychic predictions is available on the CSICOP website at:
          ><A HREF="http://www.csicop.org/articles/psychic-
          >predictions/">http://www.csicop.org/articles/psychic-predictions/</A>
          >
          > _______________
          >
          > COUNCIL FOR MEDIA INTEGRITY STOCK FUND CONTINUES TO GROW
          > For information about the Media Stock Fund, contact Barry Karr at
          >skeptinq@... or (716) 636-1425 x217.
          > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
          > In its latest effort in the battle against uncritical presentations of the
          >paranormal and pseudoscientific in the media, the Committee for the
          Scientific
          >Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) and it's "media
          watch-dog"
          >arm, the Council for Media Integrity (CMI), continue to expand the highly-
          >successful media stock fund.
          >
          > Aimed at providing leverage for CSICOP's response to the entertainment
          >industry's lucrative commercial marketing of fringe science and
          psuedoscience,
          >CMI is asking friends and supporters to help it aquire common stock in
          media
          >conglomerate companies. The Media Stock Fund will allow CSICOP and the CMI
          to
          >take part in shareholder meetings, where it can question the increasing
          >infatuation with the paranormal in television programming.
          >
          > "We are deliberately targeting each of the major television networks and
          >well-known media conglomerates - Westinghouse (CBS), General Electric
          (NBC),
          >NewsCorp (Fox), Time Warner (WB, Turner Broadcasting), and Disney (ABC),"
          says
          >Paul Kurtz, chairman of CSICOP. "The media have now virtually replaced the
          >schools, colleges, and universities as the main source of information for
          the
          >general public. The irresponsability of the media in the area of science
          and
          >the paranormal is a world wide problem. But it especially applies to the
          >United States, where the media have been distorting science and, in
          >particular, presenting psuedoscience as genuine science. Indeed, we are
          >appalled by the number of 'documentaries,' which are really entertainment
          >programs, presenting fringe science as real science."
          >
          > The practice of organizing shareholder response within a company is common
          >among advocacy groups that seek socially responsible corporate conduct
          through
          >shareholder-passed resolutions. As a share-holder, CSICOP and the CMI will
          >have opportunities to attend shareholder meetings, submit viewpoints to
          >shareholder publications, and sponsor shareholder resolutions. While
          >exercising these and other rights, CSICOP will be representing a broad,
          >international constituency who support the critical investigation of the
          >paranormal and fringe-science claims from
          > a responsible, scientific viewpoint to the public at large.
          >
          > "The fund will allow us to make shareholder meetings into accountablility
          >sessions for the media giants when they package superstition and
          psuedoscience
          >as fact," says Kurtz. "We realize that the media are being attacked from
          all
          >sides, but we think that a plea for raising the level of underatanding of
          >science should be heard."
          >
          > CONTACT BARRY KARR AT 716-636-1425 X217 OR AT SKEPTINQ@... FOR MORE
          >INFORMATION.
          > _________________
          >
          > CONFERENCE: SCIENCE MEETS ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
          >
          > The following is advance notice of a February national conference held in
          >Philadelphia that gathers top scientists and physicians to take a critical
          >look at alternative medicine.
          >
          > The conference features keynote addresses from Marcia Angell, MD,
          Executive
          >Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and George Lundberg, MD,
          Editor
          >of the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).
          > ____________________________________________________________________
          > Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the journal Scientific Review of
          Alternative
          >Medicine Present:
          >
          > SCIENCE MEETS ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
          > A National Conference for Medical Professionals and Consumers
          > February 26-28, 1999
          > Warwick Hotel, Philadelphia
          > Call 1800-634-1610 to Register.
          >
          > ***Featuring Keynote Addresses by Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor of
          the
          > New England Journal of Medicine and George D. Lundberg, MD, Editor of the
          > Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).****
          >
          > How strong (or weak) is the evidence? What's the impact on doctors and
          >patients?
          > What are the implications for medical ethics, government, and the media?
          >
          > SCHEDULE
          >
          > -FRI, FEB. 26-
          >
          > 7:00pm Reception
          >
          > -SAT., FEB. 27-
          >
          > 8-830am Conference Opening Address
          >
          > 830-1100 Science and Alternative Medicine(AM);Exploring Points of Conflict
          > (Plenary)
          >
          > Physics, Scientific Law, and Homeopathy
          > Biochemistry and Nutritional Supplements
          > Biology and 'Life Forces'
          > Clinical Errors in Alternative Medicine
          >
          > 11-1200Noon
          >
          > Keynote Address:
          > George D. Lundberg, MD
          > Editor, Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA)
          >
          > 2-500pm AM and the Psychology of Belief and Perception (Plenary)
          >
          > The Psychology of Belief
          > Why Worthless Therapies Seem to Work
          > Personal Coversions to AM Therapies
          >
          > 7-900pm Banquet and Special Address
          >
          > SUN., FEB 28
          >
          > 8-12noon Scientific Critiques of AM Therapies and Theories(Plenary)
          >
          > The Crisis of Herbal Cures in Europe
          > Acupuncture
          > Chiropractic
          > Naturopathy
          > Mind/Body Therapies
          > Case Study: Herbs and Supplements
          >
          > 2-300pm Keynote Address: Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor of the New
          > England Journal of Medicine
          >
          > 300-5pm AM and Medical Ethics
          >
          > Therapeutic Touch: What is the Harm?
          > The Ethics of Alternative Medicine
          > Is it Right to Promote Unproven Therapies?
          >
          > 300-500pm AM, Government, and the Law (Concurrent)
          >
          > The FDA and Unproven Health Claims
          > Perils of the Marketplace: Profits, Hype and Harm
          >
          > 300-500pm Educating Physicians and Consumers
          >
          > AM and Medical Journals
          > AM and Medical Schools
          > Critical Thinking for Physicians
          > Why We Need Better AM Research
          >
          > Conference Speakers Include:
          >
          > Wallace Sampson, Clincal Professor of Medicine at Stanford University,
          Editor
          >of SRAM; Paul Kurtz, Publisher of SRAM, Professor Emeritus, SUNY at
          Buffalo;
          >Marcia Angell, MD, Executive Editor, New England Journal of Medicine;
          George
          >Lundberg, MD, Editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association;
          >Robert Park, PhD, Executive Director, American Physical Society; Saul
          Green,
          >PhD, emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, Memorial-Sloan-Kettering Cancer
          >Institute, New York; John Renner, MD, Clinical Professor of Family
          Medicine,
          >University of Missouri, Kansas City; Barry Beyerstein, PhD, Dept. of
          >Psychology, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia; James
          Alcock,
          >PhD, Dept. of Psychology, Glendon College, York University; William Jarvis,
          >PhD, Executive Director, National Council Against Health Fraud; Stephen
          >Barrett, MD, Board Chairman of Quackwatch, Inc., and Board Member of the
          >National Council Against Health Fraud; Donal P. O'Mathuna, MD, Professor of
          >Bioethics and Chemistry, Mount Carmel College of Nursing, Columbus, Ohio;
          >Lawrence J. Schneiderman, MD, Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine,
          >University of California, San Diego School of Medicine; Lewis Vaughn,
          >Executive Editor, SRAM; Andrew Skolnick, Science Writer
          >
          > ACCOMODATIONS AND TRAVEL INFORMATION
          >
          > Rooms are available at the beautiful Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia at
          special
          >rates for conference attendees: $130 for a single, $145 for a double. For
          >reservations call (215) 735-6000, fax (215) 790-7766.
          >
          > The Warwick is located at 1701 Locust Street. It is within walking
          distance
          > of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Franklin Court, and the Betsy Ross
          >House. The Philadelphia Zoo is 20 minutes away.
          >
          > REGISTRATION
          >
          > $250 per person for all sessions Saturday and Sunday.
          >
          > $125 per STUDENT for all sessions Saturday and Sunday.
          >
          > $125 per person for DAY admission on only Saturday or Sunday.
          >
          > BANQUET is $30 per person Saturday night, Feb. 27.
          >
          > CREDIT CARD ORDERS MAY CALL TOLL FREE 1800-634-1610 OR FAX TO
          716-636-1733.
          >FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT BARRY KARR AT 716-636-1425 X217 OR EMAIL
          >SKEPTINQ@...
          >
          > The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (SRAM) is a peer-reviewed
          >medical journal dedicated to providing scientific, rational evaluations of
          >unconventional health claims. Its purpose is to apply the best tools of
          >science and reason to determine the validity and effectiveness of
          treatments.
          >It will dismiss no claim a priori, but consider it on its own merits. It
          will
          >reject no claim because it fits, or fails to fit, some paradigm. It will,
          >using scientific methods and reasonable criteria, seek justified answers to
          >two questions: "Is it true?" and "Does this treatment work?" SRAM is
          >sponsored by the Council for Scientific Medicine.
          >
          > __________________
          >
          >
          >--
          > sincerely,
          >
          > Eric Krieg eric@... fax (215) 654-0651
          > http://www.phact.org/e/skeptic
          >
          >--
          > sincerely,
          >
          > Eric Krieg eric@... fax (215) 654-0651
          > http://www.phact.org/e/skeptic
          >
          >------------------------------------------------------------------------
          >To unsubscribe from this mailing list, or to change your subscription
          >to digest, go to the ONElist web site, at http://www.onelist.com and
          >select the User Center link from the menu bar on the left.
          >
        • Stardrive9@xxx.xxx
          Steve Wong writes: Am seriously considering a move to more rational part of the Country, since I live in the Flake Area of the Flakiest State, SF Bay Area. I
          Message 4 of 8 , Jan 10, 1999
          • 0 Attachment
            Steve Wong writes:

            Am seriously considering a move to more rational part of the Country, since

            I live in the Flake Area of the Flakiest State, SF Bay Area. I have already

            been labeled as "negative" and "closed-minded" since I sound off on the

            follies of "est", Scientology, astrology, alternative medicine and no longer

            consider the White Man as the devil. This area has already slipped into

            folly,wishful thinking, and superstition. Tons of magazines on New Age,

            Alternative Medicine and such on the rack, I am lucky to find a copy of

            "Skeptic" magazine though. Rational thought is out, nonsense is "in" and if

            you don't toe the line, you will be "shunned" socially.

            ****
            Come on, Steve. People will disagree with your point of view everywhere you
            go, especially if you go around angrily sounding off about things you know
            will upset them. If you really want to introduce others to a more rational
            and skeptical view of things, you need to be where people who don't think that
            way actually live. Do you really think you'd be happier sitting around having
            coffee in Buffalo with Paul Kurtz while blizzards bury your car and close down
            the liquor stores?
            Instead of preaching and antagonizing, perhaps dealing with irrational
            concepts in a rational, thoughtful, and kind way will work far better. And if
            you're really a Skeptic, be a little skeptical of skepticism itself.
            Best regards,
            John Thomas
            p.s. Of course you *are* right about the white man not being a devil.
          • Steve Wong
            Dear John Thanks for the perspective. I m not sure though if you catch my drift, I am a Bay Area native, recently born-again Skeptic, who traveled alot and
            Message 5 of 8 , Jan 10, 1999
            • 0 Attachment
              Dear John
              Thanks for the perspective. I'm not sure though if you catch my drift, I am
              a Bay Area native, recently born-again Skeptic, who traveled alot and found
              out that the outside World is indeed, different. Have been through a lot of
              the "NewAge", HPM(human potential movement)nonsense, took "est", had a few
              crystals, listened to lots of New Age music. I guess now that I am a
              rational human being, I can see very clearly the depth and comeback of
              superstition and hokum. This Area swims in it, and discourages any
              challanging thoughts. Re: WhiteMan as the Devil, this is the undercurrent of
              a lot of the local Media (Bay Guardian, SF Chronicle) it is implied subtley
              and blatently, that all evil was and is caused by White people. I used to
              believe this when I was in college. Perhaps I can be more diplomatic, but I
              don't see the point of not speaking of what you see as true when so much
              falsehood is slung around. I will not tolerate BS and unchallanged idiocy.
              There are at least a few people who listen when I say that it's useless to
              blame the White Man for the situation you are in. Am also a born-again
              "Maleist" or Masculanist, who is very vocal on Father's rights and Male
              inequities. This, being in the hotbed of radical feminism, is not considered
              too cool, but I hope some Males may hear me and start thinking . All this
              confrontation and such would be very acceptable if I were a Black "Rap"
              artist, rapping about "bitches" and "hos"and offing white cops,but I am not.
              Will be more diplomatic, but please realize that it's hard to keep a
              straight face when everyone is talking in tongues and seeing auras.
              There are none more cynical than ex-NewAgers.
              Steve Wong
              > ****
              >Come on, Steve. People will disagree with your point of view everywhere
              you
              >go, especially if you go around angrily sounding off about things you know
              >will upset them. If you really want to introduce others to a more rational
              >and skeptical view of things, you need to be where people who don't think
              that
              >way actually live. Do you really think you'd be happier sitting around
              having
              >coffee in Buffalo with Paul Kurtz while blizzards bury your car and close
              down
              >the liquor stores?
              >Instead of preaching and antagonizing, perhaps dealing with irrational
              >concepts in a rational, thoughtful, and kind way will work far better. And
              if
              >you're really a Skeptic, be a little skeptical of skepticism itself.
              >Best regards,
              >John Thomas
              >p.s. Of course you *are* right about the white man not being a devil.
              >
              >------------------------------------------------------------------------
              >To unsubscribe from this mailing list, or to change your subscription
              >to digest, go to the ONElist web site, at http://www.onelist.com and
              >select the User Center link from the menu bar on the left.
              >
            • Stardrive9@xxx.xxx
              ... Actually, Steve, my story is not unlike yours at all. I ve lived in the Bay Area for 20 years, but I picked up my astrology, hand-reading and tarot
              Message 6 of 8 , Jan 10, 1999
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                In a message dated 1/10/99 2:44:36 PM, swingd@... writes:

                >Dear John
                >
                >Thanks for the perspective. I'm not sure though if you catch my drift,
                >I am
                >
                >a Bay Area native, recently born-again Skeptic, who traveled alot and found
                >
                >out that the outside World is indeed, different. Have been through a lot
                >of
                >
                >the "NewAge", HPM(human potential movement)nonsense, took "est", had a
                >few
                >
                >crystals, listened to lots of New Age music. I guess now that I am a
                >
                >rational human being, I can see very clearly the depth and comeback of
                >
                >superstition and hokum. This Area swims in it, and discourages any
                >
                >challanging thoughts.

                Actually, Steve, my story is not unlike yours at all. I've lived in the
                Bay Area for 20 years, but I picked up my astrology, hand-reading and tarot
                practice in LA where I'm originally from. I've been an officer of a UFO
                investigative group, cast and read people's astrological charts, taught hatha
                yoga, traveled to India, received three different "spiritual " names, gone to
                Esalen, been through four different psychotherapists (mostly Jungian), and in
                general done the whole irrationalist trip. But it was also here in the Bay
                Area that I began to notice that many of the things that were supposed to work
                didn't actually do so, picked up a copy of "Skeptical Inquirer" off the
                newsstand out of curiosity about three years ago, and began to shed my
                illusions.
                I'm a recent born-again convert also, but I also haven't forgotten that you
                can believe this sort of stuff without being a complete fool or being
                dismissible as a "flake". I was open to a more rational way of seeing things
                and I finally did so without being harassed or preached to by rationalists.
                Those other folks who dismiss your comments now are potentially as open as I
                was. They just don't want to have their current beliefs violently assailed or
                be treated with contempt. The Bay Area, after all, is the only small region of
                the country with two Skeptics' organizations.
                Though it's currently the fashionable belief among skeptics that the world
                is about to be overwhelmed by a flood of irrationalism, I've observed myself
                that most people don't really take their own beliefs all that seriously. It's
                more like a hobby: reading sun-sign astrology books to help glamorize often
                dull lives, buying crystal pendants to spend some of that surplus income
                earned from routine and unfulfilling jobs.
                Treating those whose beliefs differ from our own with respect is simply
                the first step toward a dialogue that will allow us to discuss rationally
                those differences. And emotional involvement with our belief in skepticism
                and rationality makes us no different from those we oppose. If we were truly
                secure in our rationality we wouldn't need to seek continually the agreement
                of others. If we were wrong all those years we were New Agers, why are we so
                sure we're right about everything now?
                Best wishes,
                John Thomas
              • Steve Wong
                Dear John Thanks for the feedback,so our backgrounds are not that dissimilar. Being a born-again anything can induce one to be a pain in the ass. Have dealt
                Message 7 of 8 , Jan 10, 1999
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                  Dear John
                  Thanks for the feedback,so our backgrounds are not that dissimilar.
                  Being a born-again "anything" can induce one to be a pain in the ass. Have
                  dealt with "baby" Christians, 12 steppers, "est"holes and other true
                  believers. Probably it's a bit of self-rage at myself for following this
                  garbage for decades. Good call on being calm and rational, even though one
                  is surrounded by screaming maniacs. Must be more like Spock, not McCoy.
                  Glad to know there are other rational humans in the Country.
                  Steve Wong
                  >
                  > Actually, Steve, my story is not unlike yours at all. I've lived in the
                  >Bay Area for 20 years, but I picked up my astrology, hand-reading and tarot
                  >practice in LA where I'm originally from. I've been an officer of a UFO
                  >investigative group, cast and read people's astrological charts, taught
                  hatha
                  >yoga, traveled to India, received three different "spiritual " names, gone
                  to
                  >Esalen, been through four different psychotherapists (mostly Jungian), and
                  in
                  >general done the whole irrationalist trip. But it was also here in the Bay
                  >Area that I began to notice that many of the things that were supposed to
                  work
                  >didn't actually do so, picked up a copy of "Skeptical Inquirer" off the
                  >newsstand out of curiosity about three years ago, and began to shed my
                  >illusions.
                  > I'm a recent born-again convert also, but I also haven't forgotten that
                  you
                  >can believe this sort of stuff without being a complete fool or being
                  >dismissible as a "flake". I was open to a more rational way of seeing
                  things
                  >and I finally did so without being harassed or preached to by rationalists.
                  >Those other folks who dismiss your comments now are potentially as open as
                  I
                  >was. They just don't want to have their current beliefs violently assailed
                  or
                  >be treated with contempt. The Bay Area, after all, is the only small region
                  of
                  >the country with two Skeptics' organizations.
                  > Though it's currently the fashionable belief among skeptics that the
                  world
                  >is about to be overwhelmed by a flood of irrationalism, I've observed
                  myself
                  >that most people don't really take their own beliefs all that seriously.
                  It's
                  >more like a hobby: reading sun-sign astrology books to help glamorize often
                  >dull lives, buying crystal pendants to spend some of that surplus income
                  >earned from routine and unfulfilling jobs.
                  > Treating those whose beliefs differ from our own with respect is simply
                  >the first step toward a dialogue that will allow us to discuss rationally
                  >those differences. And emotional involvement with our belief in skepticism
                  >and rationality makes us no different from those we oppose. If we were
                  truly
                  >secure in our rationality we wouldn't need to seek continually the
                  agreement
                  >of others. If we were wrong all those years we were New Agers, why are we
                  so
                  >sure we're right about everything now?
                  > Best wishes,
                  > John Thomas
                  >
                  >------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  >To unsubscribe from this mailing list, or to change your subscription
                  >to digest, go to the ONElist web site, at http://www.onelist.com and
                  >select the User Center link from the menu bar on the left.
                  >
                • Fred
                  ... I did the est thing a long while back, right after I had pulled out of the COBU thing (see cobu.org), and I m very glad I didn t waste my money, especially
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jan 15, 1999
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                    Steve Wong wrote:

                    > From: "Steve Wong" <swingd@...>
                    >
                    > Dear John
                    > Thanks for the perspective. I'm not sure though if you catch my drift, I am
                    > a Bay Area native, recently born-again Skeptic, who traveled alot and found
                    > out that the outside World is indeed, different. Have been through a lot of
                    > the "NewAge", HPM(human potential movement)nonsense, took "est", had a few
                    > crystals, listened to lots of New Age music.

                    I did the est thing a long while back, right after I had pulled out of the COBU
                    thing (see cobu.org), and I'm very glad I didn't waste my money, especially
                    after having given COBU 90% of my paycheck for 4 or 5 years!!!!

                    > I guess now that I am a
                    > rational human being, I can see very clearly the depth and comeback of
                    > superstition and hokum. This Area swims in it, and discourages any
                    > challanging thoughts. Re: WhiteMan as the Devil, this is the undercurrent of
                    > a lot of the local Media (Bay Guardian, SF Chronicle) it is implied subtley
                    > and blatently, that all evil was and is caused by White people. I used to
                    > believe this when I was in college.

                    I have never believe such nonsense, despite being under intense pressure to do
                    so back when I was a kid. Then, as now, I see everyone as individuals, period --
                    some of whom just happens to get caught up in such idiotic ideas as "all White
                    Men are Evil".

                    > Perhaps I can be more diplomatic, but I
                    > don't see the point of not speaking of what you see as true when so much
                    > falsehood is slung around.

                    Well, SOMEONE has to speak up to counter the falsehood slush. You just have to
                    find new ways of making your point without leaving yourself open for attack.

                    > I will not tolerate BS and unchallanged idiocy.
                    > There are at least a few people who listen when I say that it's useless to
                    > blame the White Man for the situation you are in. Am also a born-again
                    > "Maleist" or Masculanist, who is very vocal on Father's rights and Male
                    > inequities.

                    Males do get the short-end of the stick in this country. Up until recently my
                    role as "Father" has tended to be ignored by certain types. And it still is
                    largely by society. Yet society is ready to bitch and moan when some of those
                    fathers can't meet their child support payments. All of a sudden, we become
                    "real important" when money comes into the picture. And we're labeled "dead-beat
                    dads" if we aren't forking over 80% of our salary and net worth. What is wrong
                    with this picture?

                    > This, being in the hotbed of radical feminism, is not considered
                    > too cool, but I hope some Males may hear me and start thinking . All this
                    > confrontation and such would be very acceptable if I were a Black "Rap"
                    > artist, rapping about "bitches" and "hos"and offing white cops,but I am not.

                    I think ALL cops stink (with a few notable exceptions), But it is because I've
                    had such a horrible time with them in the past. Including my own sister, who was
                    a cop. Even last year I was stopped for speeding in CT, but the state trooper
                    insisted on doing a drug search, despite the fact my WHOLE FAMILY was in the
                    car, including my newborn baby. Talk about gall. And I'm not even going to get
                    started on NJ and PA. 6-figure income, wife and 3 kids, and I STILL get hit with
                    drug searches. Go figure.

                    > Will be more diplomatic, but please realize that it's hard to keep a
                    > straight face when everyone is talking in tongues and seeing auras.
                    > There are none more cynical than ex-NewAgers.

                    One of my biggest pet peeves with New Age music is that some of the music that I
                    was into long before the "New Age" term was invented is thrown into that
                    category. If you are familiar with Klaus Schultze, Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine
                    Dream, Micheal Stearns, and the like, you'll know what I'm talking about.

                    Space Music when I was a kid was the equivalent of a "high" for me. Never
                    touched real drugs. But I did load up on some pretty "far out" music. Ah, yes -
                    I recall those days. There was this cool radio station in Philadelphia - WXPN
                    (at least they were cool in the 70's and early to mid 80's, until this jerk took
                    them over) and I would stay up all night long every weekend listening to 6 hours
                    of "Star's End." These days, I can barely keep my eyes open for that long!

                    I have another problem: Since I am an atheist, yet having to deal with people
                    who still believe in myths, I am trying to come up with ways of comforting them
                    when they are going through hell without using the "G" word. I am now
                    experimenting with "May the Peace of the Universe be with you", but I fear that
                    may have too much of a "New Age" twang to it. Actually, anything that I come up
                    with that is not derived from mainstream Christianity will sound like New Age
                    pap. It is a vexing problem. I am enamored with the Universe from a purely
                    scientific and mathematical perspective, but that awe is tough to transmit to
                    others without a similar understanding. Any ideas?

                    -Fred
                    mitchellware.com
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