For Immediate Release 12/31/96
For More Information,
contact Barry Karr at (716) 636-1425
AMHERST, N.Y. — The Council for Media Integrity (CMI) and the Committee for
the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), will be
holding a press conference on Thursday, January 9, 1997, at the Los Angeles
Airport Hilton and Towers Hotel, 5711 W. Century Blvd. in the San Lorenzo "B"
room of the hotel from 11:00 am - 12:00 noon.
Those taking part in the press conference include CMI Co-chairpersons Glenn
Seaborg, Nobel Prize-winner and University Professor of Chemistry, University
of California; and Steve Allen, author, TV personality, creator of The
Tonight Show; along with CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell; Eugenie
Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education; Dr.
Wallace Sampson, Clinical Professor of Medicine, Stanford University, and
Board Chairman of the National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF).
Also attending the event will be Bill Nye from the television series Bill Nye
the Science Guy. An Emmy award winning joint production of PBS, Disney, and
the National Science Foundation, the show is seen on PBS and through
syndication. Targeted at young people, Bill Nye the Science Guy makes
science fun, lively, and fascinating. Nye will be receiving the Council For
Media Integrity "Candle in the Dark" Award for his outstanding contributions
to the public's understanding of science and scientific principles.
The Council also plans to present an award to Dan Aykroyd, host of the new
television program, ‘The Psi Factor.’ Dubbed “The Snuffed Candle Award,” it
is meant to recognize Aykroyd “for encouraging credulity, presenting
pseudoscience as genuine, and contributing to the public’s lack of
understanding of the methods of scientific inquiry.”
The Council is sponsored by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), based in Amherst, New York and publisher
of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The charter members of the Council
include many distinguished figures from the world of science and academia:
Stephen Jay Gould, zoologist, Harvard University; Gerald Holton, physicist,
Harvard University; Sir John Maddox, editor emeritus, Nature magazine;
Eugenie Scott, anthropologist, Berkeley; Gerard Piel, former president,
American Association for the Advancement of Science and former publisher of
Scientific American; Carl Sagan, professor of astronomy, Cornell University;
Leon Lederman, Nobel Prize-winner; and John Rennie, editor-in-chief,
Scientific American; among others.
According to Paul Kurtz, chairman of CSICOP and coordinator of the new
Council, “The media have now virtually replaced the schools, colleges, and
universities as the main source of information for the general public. . . .
the irresponsibility of some of the media in the area of science and the
paranormal is a worldwide problem. But it especially applies to the United
States, where the media have been distorting science, and in particular
presenting pseudoscience as genuine science. Indeed, we are appalled by the
number of ‘documentaries,’ which are really entertainment programs,
presenting fringe science as real science.
The major networks have been running two or three such specials almost every
month. Recently there have been programs on prophecies, astrology, psychic
powers, creationism, Noah’s Ark, angels, alien abductions, etc. This is in
addition to the popular ‘Unsolved Mysteries,’ ‘X-Files,’ and ‘Sightings,’ as
well as new programs such as ‘Paranormal Borderlands,’ and ‘Poltergeist,’ and
‘The Psi Factor.’”
The Council is also critical of the many talk shows devoted to the
paranormal, in which claims in favor of the paranormal are given a platform
but skeptical dissent is rarely heard. A statement endorsed by members of the
Council maintained that, “If the United States is to continue to provide
leadership and compete in the global economy, then we need to raise the level
of scientific literacy and understanding of the general public.
“We are not, of course, asking that TV producers not run these shows or make
a profit. We surely do not wish to censor the media. We only ask that they
provide some balance and provide some appreciation of the scientific
approach. The council will monitor such programs, and attempt to persuade
producers, directors, writers, and the general public to leave room for the
appreciation of scientific methods of inquiry. “We realize that the media are
being attacked from all sides, but we think that a plea for raising the level
of understanding of science should be heard.
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