By Philip J. Klass
Philip J. Klass is a member of the Executive Council, Committee for the
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
[Note: This article, written in 1981, was submitted for
publication to FATE Magazine, in reply to Dennis Rawlins's
accusations against CSICOP in his Oct., 1981 FATE article
"sTARBABY". FATE adamantly refused to publish this article.
Meanwhile, Rawlins was given the opportunity to make a
rambling, six-page statement in the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER
(Winter, 1981-82, p.58), which was published exactly as
received, presenting his accusations of a "coverup." This
was in addition to the 5 1/2 page article he earlier had on
the "Mars Effect" in the Winter, 1979-80 issue (p.26). To
this day, supporters of the paranormal still charge CSICOP
with perpetrating a "coverup" on this matter. Only a
relatively few people ever saw Klass's "CRYBABY", the long
and detailed answer to Rawlins's "sTARBABY" charges. Now
that you have the opportunity to read Klass's rebuttal, you
can make up your own mind.
Klass's original text has been reproduced below, exactly as
typed, with the author's permission. Spelling and
punctuation have not been changed. Text that was underlined
in the original appears in capital letters. -- Robert
Sheaffer, Bay Area Skeptics, 1991. This article is brought
to you courtesy of the Bay Area Skeptics' BBS,
415-570-0359, from which it is available for downloading,
although not via FTP.]
"They call themselves the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
Claims of the Paranormal. In fact, they are a group of
would-be-debunkers who bungled their major investigation, falsified the
results , covered up their errors and gave the boot to a colleague who
threatened to tell the truth." Thus began a 32-Page article in the
October 1981 issue of FATE magazine, which a a press release headlined:
"SCIENTIST BLOWS THE WHISTLE ON PARANORMAL COVERUP."
Since CSICOP was formed in the spring of 1976, it has been a thorn in
the side of those who promote belief in "psychic phenomena," in
astrology, UFOs, and similar subjects and it has been criticized sharply
by FATE whose articles generally cater to those who are eager to
believe. However, this FATE article was written by skeptic Dennis
Rawlins, who was one of the original Fellows in CSICOP and for nearly
four years had been a member of its Executive Council. This would seem
to give credence to Rawlins' charges -- except to those of us with
first-hand experience in trying to work with him and who are familiar
with his modus-operandi.
Because Rawlins proposed my election to CSICOP's Executive Council I
cannot be charged with animosity toward him, except what he later
engendered by his actions. And in a recent letter to me, Rawlins
volunteered that I "was less involved than any other active Councillor"
in the alleged misdeeds.
The FATE article, entitled "sTARBABY" prompted my own investigation into
Rawlins' charges. But unlike Rawlins, who relies heavily on his
recollection of conversations several years earlier, I chose to use hard
evidence - published articles, memoranda and letters, some of which
Rawlins cites in his article. When I requested copies of these letters
and memoranda from the several principals involved, all of them
responded promptly and fully except for one -- Dennis Rawlins, who had
accused the others of "cover-up" and "censorship." RAWLINS REFUSED MY
REPEATED REQUESTS TO SUPPLY HARD DATA THAT MIGHT CONFIRM HIS CHARGES,
AND WHICH ALSO COULD DENY THEM!
The results of my investigation, based on hard data, prompted me to
conclude that the Rawlins article should have been entitled "CRYBABY,"
and that an appropriate subtitle would have been: "A wounded ego is the
root of much evil."
If the editors of FATE had spent only a few hours reading published
articles cited in the Rawlins article they could not in good conscience
have accused CSICOP of "cover-up" or of having "falsified the results."
Instead, FATE chose to ignore the traditional journalistic practice of
investigating both sides of a controversial issue and publishing both
sides, as those accused by Rawlins had done.
Rawlins' charges result from two tests intended to assess whether the
position of the planet Mars at the time of a person's birth has a
significant influence on whether he/she becomes a "sports champion."
This "Mars effect" hypothesis was first proposed by France's Michel
Gauquelin, who directs the laboratory for the Study of Relations between
Cosmic and Psychophysiological Rhythms, based on a study of European
The first of the two tests was performed by Gauquelin himself, with
results that generally were supportive of the Mars effect hypothesis by
eliminating a possible objection that first had been raised by others,
i,e, not CSICOP. The only way in which CSICOP, or persons affiliated
with it, could be guilty of Rawlins' charges would be if they had
refused to publish Gauquelin's results or had intentionally altered the
data in his report. NEITHER OCCURRED. Nor did Gauquelin accuse CSICOP or
its members of trying to "cover-up" his results or altering the data of
this first test whose calculations he himself performed, although there
were some differences of interpretation of the implication of these
HOWEVER, GAUQUELIN DID PUBLICLY ACCUSE RAWLINS OF DISTORTION AND
MISREPRESENTATION, with implied criticism of CSICOP because Rawlins then
was a member of its Executive Council. There would be other occasions
when CSICOP would be criticized because of Rawlins' intemperate
statements and actions.
This criticism was published by CSICOP in the Winter l978 issue of its
publication, THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER (p. 80). In it Gauquelin wrote:
"How, in spite of all this data could one distort and misrepresent the
effect in question and sow doubts on the subject? Dennis Rawlins, a
member of CSICP ... has done just this in a polemic which appeared in
the Fall-Winter 1977 issue of that (CSICOP's) journal." In "sTARBABY,"
Rawlins tries to shift the blame for his transgressions to CSICOP.
According to "sTARBABY," CSICOP Chairman Prof. Paul Kurtz was the
principal architect of the alleged cover-up. Yet in reality it was
Kurtz, then editor of THE HUMANIST magazine (published by the American
Humanist Assn.) who printed the lengthy paper by Gauquelin describing
the seemingly favorable- for-him results of the first test in the
Nov/Dec,l977 issue (p. 30). What kind of doubletalk is this when Rawlins
and FATE charge that Kurtz's decision to publish test results favorable
to an "adversary" represents a "cover-up"? Rawlins might better have
waited until "l984" to resort to such "double-speak" accusations.
Because the issues are complex and because two different publications
and organizations were involved, it is useful to recount briefly the
events that led to the first Mars effect test, which is at the root of
the Rawlins/FATE charges, and the second tests performed using data for
outstanding U.S. athletes. Based on calculations performed by Rawlins
himself, the U.S. champions test showed a very UNFAVORABLE result for
the claimed Mars effect, which Rawlins confirms in "sTARBABY." And these
Rawlins-computed results were published, without change, by CSICOP.
The Sept/Oct. l975 issue of THE HUMANIST carried an article by L.E.
Jerome that was critical of astrology in general and of the Mars effect
in particular. When Gauquelin sought an opportunity for rebuttal, Kurtz
provided it in the Jan./Feb. 1976 issue of THE HUMANIST, which also
carried several other articles on astrology. Because Gauquelin's article
claimed that the Mars effect had been confirmed by Belgian Committee for
the Scientific Investigation of Alleged Paranormal Phenomena (created
some 25 years earlier), that group also was invited by Kurtz to submit
an article for publication. Belgian Comite Para, as it is called,
confirmed Gauquelin's calculations. But it questioned his statistical
assumption "that the frequency distribution of the hours of birth during
the day (the nych-themeral curve) is a constant distribution...", i.e.
that there is an equal probability of a person being born during any
hour of the day.
This seemed important because the Mars effect hypothesis holds that
persons born during an approximately two-hour period just after Mars has
"risen" or during a comparable period after Mars is at upper culmination
(zenith), are more likely to become sports champions than persons born
during other hours of the day. If there is an equal probability of a
person being born in any one of the 24 hours, then 4/24, or l6.7%,of the
general population should be born when Mars is in one of these two "key
sectors." (Because of combined orbital motions of Earth and Mars, the
percentage of the day in which Mars is in two key sectors is
approximately l7%. But Gauquelin reported that 22% European champions in
his data base had been born when Mars was in the two key sectors,
significantly higher than the l7% "benchmark."
Because of the issue raised by Comite' Para, Kurtz consulted statistics
professor Marvin Zelen who in turn proposed a control test that could
resolve the statistical issue raised by Comite' Para. This Zelen
proposed test, also published in the same (Jan./Feb. 1976) issue of THE
HUMANIST, suggested that Gauquelin should gather birth data for
"non-champions" who had been born in the same local areas and within
three days of a RANDOMLY SELECTED sub-sample of Gauquelin's "champions"
who seemed to show the Mars effect.
If only 17% of these NON-champions were born when Mars was in the two
key sectors, this would void the issue raised by Comite Para. But if
roughly 22% of the NON-champions also were born when Mars was in the two
key sectors, this would undercut the Mars effect hypothesis. Zelen's
article concluded that the proposed test offered "an objective way for
unambiguous corroboration or dis-confirmation." In retrospect it would
have been more precise had he added: "...of the issue raised by Belgian
Comite Para." If Gauquelin's sample of "champions" data was "biased," as
Rawlins first suspected, this could not possibly be detected by the
The same issue of The Humanist carried another article, by astronomy
professor George O. Abell, which was very skeptical of astrology in
general. But unlike Rawlins who dismissed the Mars effect out-of-hand
and "didn't believe that it merited serious investigation yet" (FATE: p.
74), Abell wrote that if Gauquelin's findings were correct, they were
However, Abell included the following note of caution: "If all of
Gauquelin's work is re-checked, and his results hold up, then it is
necessary to repeat the experiment with a new sample, say in the United
States. If that sample should give the same result, then further
verification is in order, until it is absolutely certain that the
effects are real and reproducible. That is the way science works;
reproducibility of results is necessary before fundamental new laws can
be inferred." This sage advice clearly indicated the limits of what
conclusions could be drawn, and could not be drawn, from the results of
the upcoming Zelen test, and even from a complete re-check of
Gauquelin's original data on European champions, which was not
attempted. It should be stressed that at the time this first (Zelen)
test was proposed, CSICOP did not yet exist. Several months later, when
it was formed (initially under the auspices of the American Humanist
Assn.), Kurtz became its co-chairman and later its chairman. Zelen and
Abell were named Fellows, but not to CSICOP's Executive Council. In
l980, Abell was elected to replace Rawlins on the Council.
The results of this first (Zelen) test were published in the Nov./Dec.,
l977 issue of THE HUMANIST, where the issue first was raised, although
by this time CSICOP had its own publication. Gauquelin and his wife
Francoise were given nearly six large-size magazine pages to present
their findings without censorship. Gauquelin reported having
difficulties in obtaining data for non- champions born within several
days of champions in small towns, so he said that non-champions birth
data had been obtained only from the large cities in France and Belgium,
The Gauquelins reported that these data showed that only l7% of the non-
champions had been born when Mars was in the two sectors which seemed to
resolve the issue earlier raised by Belgium's Comite Para in favor of
the Mars effect.
The same issue of THE HUMANIST carried an article jointly authored by
Zelen, Kurtz, and Abell, that began: "Is there a 'Mars Effect'? The
preceding article by Michel and Francoise Gauquelin discusses the
experiment proposed by Marvin Zelen and its subsequent outcome. Their
conclusions come out in favor of the existence of a 'Mars effect'
related to sports champions. It is the purpose of this article to
discuss the analysis of the data and to point out the strengths and
weaknesses of the evidence in favor of the 'Mars effect.'"
The Zelen/Kurtz/Abell article raised some questions about the results.
For example, that "the 'Mars effect' only appears in Paris, not in
Belgium or in the rest of France." The article concluded: "lf one had a
high prior 'belief' that there is a Mars effect, then the Gauquelin data
would serve confirm this prior belief. In the other hand, if the prior
belief in the existence of a Mars effect was low, then this data may
raise the posterior belief, but not enough to accept the existence of
the Mars effect."
Rawlins charges that publication of this article, following the
uncensored Gauquelin paper,"commited CSICOP to a cover-up." (FATE: p.76)
Yet is characteristic of scientific controversy for one party to
question or challenge another's interpretation of the data. And
Gauquelin would do so following the second test without being accused of
a "cover-up" in "sTARBABY."
In the same issue of THE HUMANIST, in a brief introduction written by
Kurtz, the first "linkage" with CSICOP occurred. Kurtz wrote: "Thus,
members of CSICP involved in this inquiry believe that the claim that
there is a statistical relationship between the position of Mars at the
time of birth of individuals and the incidence of sports champions among
them has not been established ... to further the cause of scientific
inquiry, the committee has agreed (with Gauquelin) to make an
independent test of the alleged Mars effect by a study of sports
champions in the United States."
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins charges that the U. S, champions test was a
"diversion." Clearly the Gauquelins themselves did not view it in this
light, judging from the concluding statement in their article which
said: "Let us hope that these positive results may induce other
scientists to study whether this effect, discovered with the European
data, appears also with the U.S. data."
On March 28, 1978, SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER THE RESULTS OF THE FIRST TEST
WERE PUBLISHED, Rawlins sent Kurtz a copy of a three- page memorandum he
had prepared a year earlier (March 29, 1977). It contained a very
technical analysis of the issue raised by Comite Para, which prompted
Rawlins to conclude that the 22% figure reported for European champions
was not the result of a disproportionate share of births of the general
population during the early morning hours when Mars often was in one of
the two key sectors. In this analysis, Rawlins concluded that Gauquelin
had "made fair allowance for the effect."
But Rawlins had not written this three-page memo until several month
AFTER the Zelen test had been proposed in THE HUMANIST. Shortly after
preparing the analysis, Rawlins had sent a copy to Prof. Marcello
Truzzi, then editor of CSICOP's publication. Truzzi had decided not to
publish it but sent a copy to Gauquelin. IF the Rawlins analysis of 1977
took account of all possible demographic factors -- and there is some
disagreement on this question -- it was much too technical to be
understood by persons without expertise in statistics and celestial
When Rawlins finally got around to sending this analysis to Kurtz on
March 28, 1978, his letter of that date did NOT criticize Truzzi or
CSICOP for not having published it earlier. Rather, Rawlins admitted, "I
should not have kept my (Mar. 19, 1977) memo..private after all." He did
suggest that perhaps it might now be published in THE HUMANIST. But by
this time Kurtz no longer was its editor. More important, the results of
the first (Zelen) test already had been published several months
If, as Rawlins would later charge in"sTARBABY," the Zelen/Kurtz/Abell
article published several months earlier in THE HUMANIST amounted to a
"cover- up," Rawlins did not make such an accusation to Kurtz when he
wrote him April 6, 1978. Instead, Rawlins wrote; "I think our best bets
now are 1. The main European investigation might seek to discover how
the Eur. samp (of Gauquelin) was (hypothetically) fudged -- check orig.
records microscopically for some sort of Soal trick. 2. Proceed with the
U.S, test, where we know we have a clean (unbiased) sample."
This April 6, 1978, letter clearly shows that while Rawlins suspected
that Gauquelin had manipulated his European champions data ("Soal
trick") he found no evidence of wrong-doing by Zelen/Kurtz/Abell. On
April 26, 1978, in another letter to Kurtz, following his visit with
Rawlins in San Diego, Rawlins wrote that he "was certain" that
Gauquelin's original data "was biased, but not sure how." Rawlins
concluded this letter on a cordial note: "Now, wasn't it great visiting
sunny, funny, California -- and getting to see a real live nut religion
launch itself in San Diego? ... hope you'll get back this way soon
It was at about this time that CSICOP came under fire for Rawlins'
actions in another matter. In the summer of 1977, Rawlins and Abell had
been invited to be panelists in a symposium on astrology to be held
March 18, 1978 at the University of Toronto at which Gauquelin, among
others, would participate. The invitation came from Dr. Howard Eisenberg
on the stationary of the University's School of Continuing Studies. Both
Rawlins and Abel had accepted. Then, in late September, 1977, Eisenberg
withdrew the invitations on the grounds that "the response from
potential speakers...has yielded an incredible acceptance rate of 100%.
This places us in the embarassing position of not being able to sponsor
all of you," i.e. pay travel expenses and allow formal presentations.
On Feb. 6, 1978, Rawlins wrote to the president of the University of
Toronto, protesting what he said were "a number of oddities" associated
with the symposium, including an imbalance between the number of
astrology supporters and skeptics. The Rawlins letter charged that "this
conference looks to be a pretty phoney confrontation, which will
therefore give the irrational pseudo-science of astrology an
evidentially-unmerited 'academic' boost in public credibility..."
Rawlins sent a copy of his letter to another university official.
Rawlins' suspicion of a loaded panel may have been justified. But the
letter of protest was written on CSICOP stationery and signed "Dennis
Rawlins, Executive Council, CSICOP." Another regretable action was a
Rawlins telephone call late at night to a university astronomy
professor, Robert Garrison, which gave the impression that Rawlins was
speaking in behalf of CSICOP. In fact, Rawlins had taken these actions
without consulting other Council members and without official approval
to use CSICOP's name. In early April 1978, a copy of the Rawlins letter
had reached Truzzi, who also had been invited and dis-invited to
participate in the conference. The Rawlins letter claimed that Truzzi
had co-authored "an astrology-supporting paper...and so rates as a
strange sort of skeptic." Truzzi sent Kurtz a copy of this Rawlins
letter with a note that said: "Since Dennis' letter is on Committee
stationery, would appear he is writing on behalf of the Committee, I
trust that will not happen again."
Rawlins' actions were reported in the Canadian magazine SCIENCE FORUM
July/August 1978, in an article written by Lydia Dotto. The article,
entitled "Science Confronts 'Pseudo- Science'", began; "It was after
midnight on a Saturday night when University of Toronto astronomer Bob
Garrison was awakened by a phone call. The caller identified himself as
a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
the Paranormal, and according to Garrison, he spent the best part of the
next hour urging the U of T scientist not to participate in the
conference on astrology...Dennis Rawlins, a California astronomer and
science writer and a member of the Committee, acknowledged in an
interview that he made the call, but denied he was trying to talk
Garrison out of attending the conference...this and other incidents
surrounding the conference have become something of a cause celebre,
particularly since the event was cancelled shortly before it was to have
taken place in mid-March. Predictably, ACCUSATIONS BEGAN TO FLY THAT
SCIENTIFIC OPPONENTS OF ASTROLOGY WERE ENGAGED IN A CAMPAIGN TO SUPPRESS
FREEDOM OF SPEECH." (Emphasis added.)
Indeed they did, much to CSICOP's embarassment. Britain's New Scientist
magazine, in its June 29, 1978, issue, quoted the Canadian magazine in
an article that began: "Earlier this year an astronomer at the
University of Toronto, Dr. Bob Garrison, was awakened by a phone call
from a member of Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
the Paranormal. The caller allegedly spent most of the next hour trying
to dissuade Garrison from taking part in a conference on astrology."
This New Scientist account was picked up by FATE magazine, which in turn
attributed the action to CSICOP rather than to one Council member. FATE
commented: "If you have difficulty understanding their (CSICOP) motives,
remember that here is a dedicated group of witch-hunters seeking to burn
nonbelievers at the stake." (How ironic that FATE now is promoting the
views of the same person whose intemperate earlier actions had provoked
FATE's harsh criticism.) The same criticism of CSICOP, because of
Rawlins' actions surfaced again in a feature article in THE WASHINGTON
POST (Aug. 26, 1979). The article, syndicated and published elsewhere,
was written by Ted Rockwell who was identified as a member of the
When I learned of the Rawlins incident, I was shocked as were others on
the Council. But all of us hoped that Council members had learned an
important lesson from the incident and that it would have a maturing
effect on Rawlins. Yet before another year had passed Rawlins would once
again demonstrate his inability to distinguish between official CSICOP
actions and those of its individual members.
Originally it was expected that the required calculations of Mars'
position at the time of birth of U.S. champions (for the second test)
would be performed by Prof. Owen Gingerich of Harvard University. But
during the summer of 1978 the Harvard astronomer was on an extended
leave so Kurtz asked Rawlins to perform the celestial mechanics
computations. Rawlins did so and found in sharp contrast to Gauquelin's
findings that 22% of the European champions were born when Mars was in
the two key sectors, and compared to the "chance" benchmark figure of
17%, only 13.5% of the U.S. champions were born when Mars was in the two
key sectors. Thus, Rawlins' calculations showed that if Mars had any
effect on champions, it was a pronounced NEGATIVE effect for U.S.
On Sept, 18, 1978, Rawlins prepared a four-page report describing the
procedures he had used in his calculations and a summary of the results.
But Rawlins could not resist including some denigrating charges against
Gauquelin. For example: "Gauquelin was well known in his teens for his
casting of horoscopes (a practice he has since disowned)..." The
comments were both gratuitous and inappropriate.
Relations between Rawlins and Gauquelin had been strained since CSICOP
published a long, rambling Rawlins attack (Fall/Winter 1977) in which he
accused Gauquelin of "misgraphing the results of the Belgian Comite Para
check on his Mars-athletes link..." Gauquelin had responded with the
charge that Rawlins had distorted and misrepresented the facts in a
letter which then was scheduled to be published shortly in the Winter
1978 issue of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. The same issue also would carry a
sharp rejoinder from Rawlins.
Thus it is hardly surprising that Kurtz decided that it would be best if
the upcoming summary report on the results of the U.S. champions test
should be written by Zelen, Abell and himself -- especially since the
three of them had jointly authored the earlier article and Abell had
proposed the U.S. test. If Kurtz instead had suggested that the U.S.
champions test report be jointly authored with Rawlins instead of Abell,
"sTARBABY" might never have been published. This is evident from
numerous Rawlins complaints in"sTARBABY." For example, Rawlins complains
that the day after Kurtz received his Sept. 18, 1978, report (with the
ad hominem attack on Gauquelin) "Kurtz wrote Abell to suggest KZA
(Kurtz, Zelen and Abell) confer and prepare the test report for
publication (EXCLUDING ME)." (Emphasis added.) (P.79.)
Rawlins also complains that Kurtz asked Zelen and Abell "to verify the
work," i.e. Rawlins' calculations. (P.80.) Because of the importance of
test, it was good scientific protocol to ask other specialists to at
least spot-check Rawlins' computations. Then Rawlins reveals he was
angered because "Abell asked countless questions about my academic
training." (P. 8O.) Inasmuch as Rawlins lists his academic training as
being in physics rather than astronomy, Abell's questions seem
Further evidence of Rawlins' wounded ego is his complaint that "not only
was Abell being invited to the press conference (at the upcoming Council
in Washington, D.C.), he was to be the CSICOP spokesman on astrology in
Washington." (P.81) Rawlins said he "strongly protested the
high-handedness of the choice of Abell as the speaker at the annual
meeting...I emphasized that CSICOP had plenty of astronomers associated
with it (Carl Sagan, Bart Bok, Edwin Krupp and others), all of them
nearer Washington than Abell who lived all the way across the country,
in the Los Angeles area." (In fact, Krupp also lived in Southern
California, Bok lived Arizona, and Sagan then was working in California
on his "Cosmos" television series.)
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that Abell had been invited to speak
because "Kurtz was trying to suppress my dissenting report (of Sept. 18,
1978) and (by not paying my travel fare) to keep me from the December
Council meeting while inviting to Washington as a prominent CSICOP
authority the very person whose appointed task I HAD MYSELF PERFORMED"
(his italics, p. 81). In reality, there was no question that Rawlins'
Sept, 18, 1978, report, describing his analytical procedures, needed to
be published. The only question was whether it should include the ad
hominem attack on Gauquelin.
It was not until approximately one year AFTER the results of the Zelen
test were published in THE HUMANIST that Rawlins first charged the use
of "bait-and-switch" tactics--what he calls "BS"--had been employed.
This allegation was contained in his letter of Nov. 2, 1978, to Zelen,
with a copy to Kurtz. BUT RAWLINS STILL DID NOT CHARGE THAT THIS
AMOUNTED TO A "COVER-UP," OR THAT CSICOP WAS INVOLVED. Quite the
opposite. A few weeks later when the Winter 1978 issue of THE SKEPTICAL
INQUIRER was published, there was a Rawlins response which said: "It
SHOULD BE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD THAT CSICP AS A BODY NEVER HAD ANYTHING TO
DO WITH THE HUMANIST ZELEN TEST 'CHALLENGE'...PUBLISHED BEFORE THE
COMMITTEE WAS FOUNDED"(Emphasis added.)
Like most members of CSICOP's Executive Council who had not been
involved either in the first (Zelen) test or the subsequent U.S.
champions test, and who were not sufficiently expert in celestial
mechanics, statistics or astrology to take a prior interest, my first
exposure to the controversy came during the Council meeting in
Washington in early December, 1978, when Rawlins unleashed a rambling
harrangue. Understandably I was confused by Rawlins' charge that CSICOP
somehow was involved in a Zelen test-results cover-up that had occurred
more than a year before which contradicted his just-published statement
in THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER stating that the original Zelen test was NOT a
Despite my efforts to understand Rawlins' allegations, it was not clear
to me (and to many other Council members) just what it was that he now
was claiming had been"covered-up." After three years of working with
Rawlins I was well aware of his proclivity for making harsh, exaggerated
charges. Most often these were directed against supporters of the
para-normal, but sometimes also against Council members who disagreed
with his proposals for intemperate actions against "the believers." For
example, Rawlins had charged that Truzzi was involved with the "Church
Beyond having difficulty in understanding the specifics of Rawlins'
charges, I failed to grasp what he thought should be done to correct the
alleged problem. Because the hour was getting late and Council members
had to leave to catch flights back home, I suggested to Rawlins that he
write a memorandum that clearly and concisely set forth the basic issues
and that he recommend appropriate corrective action. In this way Council
members could better comprehend the matter and consider corrective
action if such were justified. Rawlins cites this in "sTARBABY" and
claims he was the only party who had put the issues in writing. BUT HE
DID NOT SEND COPIES OF SUCH MEMORANDA TO COUNCIL MEMBERS. ONE LOGICAL
EXPLANATION FOR THIS IS THAT PREVIOUSLY HE DID NOT BELIEVE THE MATTER
INVOLVED CSICOP OR REQUIRED COUNCIL MEMBERS' ATTENTION.
Rawlins was the last one to leave my apartment (where we had been
meeting that night) and he continued his earlier harrangue but without
clarifying the issues. Later, he called me from the airport to continue
the discussion. Again I asked that he clarify the issues for me and
other Council members by preparing a memorandum. I assured Rawlins that
since I had not been involved in either of the two tests and since he
had recommended my election to Council, he could expect me to be at
least neutral if not sympathetic.
Rawlins never responded to my request. About six weeks later (Jan. 17,
1979), he did circulate a five-page memo to CSICOP Fellows and Council
members. It was a "baby sTARBABY" which cited a number of ALLEGED
mistakes that had been made by OTHERS involved in the tests and in
CSICOP's operations. I replied on Jan. 31 saying that his memo was "for
me an unintelligible jumble." I added: "without meaning to give offense
to a friend, I once again urge you -- as I did at our meeting here -- to
outline the problem...then outline your recommendations. And please do
not assume, as you have done, that all of us follow the G-affair as
closely as you have done." My letter concluded: "Skip the
invective...outline the problem clearly, concisely, and offer your
Rawlins never responded to this request. Today, following my recent
investigation, I know why. There was no cover-up, except in Rawlins'
troubled mind, fed by the fires of a wounded ego and, perhaps, by
embarassment over his unauthorized intervention in the University of
Toronto symposium. Rawlins was unable to recommend specific corrective
action because nothing could have saved his wounded ego unless it were
possible to turn back the clock and to have invited Rawlins to be the
CSICOP speaker on astrology in Washington and to replace Abell in
writing the report on the results of the U.S. champions test.
Readers of "sTARBABY" might easily conclude that Rawlins believes that
Zelen/Kurtz/Abell, in the Nov/Dec. 1977 issue of THE HUMANIST, should
have conceded "Gauquelin has won" and cancelled plans for the U.S.
champions test. Yet had they done so, Rawlins would have been outraged
because such a concession would imply that the Zelen test had proved the
Mars effect beyond all doubt and this was not true. Had
Zelen/Kurtz/Abell even contemplated such a concession, I am certain that
Rawlins would have urged that they be ousted from CSICOP.
"sTARBABY" reveals that Rawlins imagines many things that simply are not
true, such as his charge that I was involved in a plot to suppress his
discussions of the Gauquelin test at the 1978 Council meeting. His
article implies that Council meetings are characterized by attempts to
suppress dissenting views. In reality one usually hears almost as many
different viewpoints as there are Council members present. And Kurtz is
the most unconstraining group chairman I have ever known in the many
organizations of which I have been a member.
Even on easily ascertainable matters, Rawlins chooses to rely on his
vivid imagination or recollections rather than take time to check the
facts. For example, in "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that he was an
"associate editor" of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, as well as being a member
of its editorial board -- which he was [not]. Rawlins makes that claim
in seven different places in his article. One would expect that a person
who imagines himself to be an associate editor of a publication over a
period of several years would at least once look at that publication's
masthead, where its editorial staff is listed. Had Rawlins done so he
would not have made this spurious claim.
This is not an error of great consequence. But when I pointed it out to
him, his response was revealing, especially because he accuses others of
being unwilling to admit to error and of resorting to "cover-up."
Rawlins' letter of Sept. 21, 1981, explained that at a Council meeting
HELD FOUR YEARS EARLIER he remembers that "Kurtz called all Ed. Board
members 'Associate Editors'...I adopted to save syllables." Rawlins
tries to justify his misstatement of fact on the grounds that he was
able to save approximately 42 characters in his 75,000-character-long
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that the full-day meeting of the Council
in Washington was held at the National Press Club because this was "the
temple of CSICOP's faith." (P. 86.) Had Rawlins asked me, I would have
informed him that I had selected the National Press Club because it was
the lowest-cost facility in downtown Washington that I could find. But
Rawlins decided he knew the answer without bothering to investigate.
This is neither good science nor good journalism.
In the previously cited Rawlins memorandum of Jan. 17, 1979, following
the Washington meeting, he wrote that he planned to reduce his
involvement with CSICOP. He added that there was no reason to "hide"
CSICOP's problems "from the public. So I may inform a neutral,
responsible, unsensational member of the press re the foregoing." In
reality Rawlins already had taken such steps at the December Council
meeting whose press seminar was attended by an experienced journalist
with a known empathy for some paranormal claims. During the early
afternoon Rawlins and this journalist left the meeting together and
returned together several hours later. But this journalist never
published anything on the matter, possibly because he has as much
difficulty in understanding Rawlins' charges as did Council members.
According to "sTARBABY," in mid-1979, Rawlins received a letter from
Jerome Clark of FATE magazine, expressing an interest in learning more
about Rawlins' complaints against CSICOP. Rawlins claims that shortly
afterward "I told the Council I'd be open with FATE." I question the
truthfulness of his statement because Rawlins did not bother to attend
the next Council meeting in December, 1979, nor have I been able to
locate any Rawlins letter or memorandum to substantiate this claim.
"sTARBABY" claims that "as the FATE-story realization set in, Council
reacted like the White House when it learned that John Dean had sat down
with the prosecution (during the Watergate scandal). (P.91) This claim I
know to be false. The prospect of a Rawlins article in FATE was never
discussed at the 1979 or 1980 Council meetings, nor by memorandum during
the two intervening years. Otherwise CSICOP would have prepared a
response which it could have released immediately following publication
of "sTARBABY," preventing Rawlins from boasting that failure of CSICOP
to respond quickly to his many charges indicated an inability to do so.
Returning, chronologically, to the fall of 1979, CSICOP was preparing to
publish the results of the U.S. champions test in the Winter 1979-80
issue of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. Rawlins demanded the right to revise
and expand his original Sept, 18, 1978, paper, and was given that
opportunity. Furthermore, according to "sTARBABY," Rawlins informed Ken
Frazier, editor of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, "that if there were any
alterations not cleared with me, I wanted a note printed with the paper
stating that deletions had occurred over the author's protest and that
the missing portions could be obtained directly from me." (P. 92.)
Frazier (who had been recommended for the position by Rawlins himself),
acting on the recommendation of Prof. Ray Hyman, a Council member who
reviewed the Rawlins paper and the others, and on Frazier's own long
editorial experience, decided to delete the sentence referring to
Gauquelin's earlier interest in traditional astrology. Frazier also
opted to delete another sentence that read: "In this connection I must
also say that, given the self piekill upshot (sic) of their European
(nonchampions) adventure plus their failure to perform independently the
U.S. study's technical foundations (sector position, expectation curve),
I find it amusing that ZKA (Zelen, Kurtz, Abell) are the main
commentators on this test in THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER." Once again
Rawlins' wounded-ego had manifested itself.
On Nov, 6, 1979, Rawlins sent a memo to other members of the Editorial
Board complaining that his article "has been neatly censored here and
there, so I have asked to add a statement saying so and suggesting that
readers who wish to consult the original version may do so by contacting
me. This sentence has itself been bowdlerized (so that it reads as if no
tampering occurred)." Frazier had proposed an alternative sentence,
which was published at the end of the Rawlins paper, that read: "Further
commentary on the issues raised in this paper and in these notes is
available from the author." Rawlins' address also was published.
This is the basis for Rawlins' harsh charges of "censorship" against
Frazier, the man whom he had so highly recommended for the position. If
Rawlins' complaint were justified, every working journalist could make
the same accusations regularly against those who edit his/her copy to
assure clarity and good taste and to avoid libel. In response to
Rawlins' charges, Frazier wrote to members of the Editorial Board
explaining what had transpired. Frazier noted, "Dennis seems to believe
his position as a member of the Editorial Board gives his writings
special status exempt from normal editorial judgment. None of the rest
of you has ever suggested this," i.e. demanded privileged treatment. So
because Rawlins was not given privileged treatment, he charges
In the same Nov. 6, 1979, letter charging censorship, Rawlins complained
that he alone among Council members had not been reimbursed for his
travel expenses of $230 to the previous Council meeting in Washington.
Rawlins said that he would need $400.00 for travel to attend the
upcoming Council meeting in New York and added "I won't do that unless
all 63O dollars are here beforehand." Kurtz promptly sent Rawlins a
check for $350 as a travel advance and assured him he would be
reimbursed for previous travel expense as soon as he submitted an
expense account--which Rawlins had never done (In "sTARBABY," Rawlins
characterizes this as a "ridiculous excuse" for failure to reimburse him
earlier.) Rawlins cashed the $350 check but did not attend the New York
Council meeting, nor did he inform the Council that he would not attend.
Rawlins never refunded the $120 difference between $230 he claimed was
due him and the $350 he received. Yet Rawlins professes to have been
shocked and surprised when the Council voted unanimously not to reelect
Rawlins at its New York meeting. (Since Rawlins seems so easily shocked
and surprised, I suspect he was equally surprised at the resignation of
Richard M. Nixon.)
Two months later, Rawlins wrote to Frazier saying he wished to resign
from the Editorial Board. But he insisted that the resignation should
not take effect until his statement complaining about not being
reelected "in absentia" was published. This Rawlins statement claimed
that he had not been reelected solely because he had criticized
"CSICOP's conduct during ITS FOUR YEAR INVOLVEMENT in testing
Gauquelin's neo- astrology..." (Emphasis added.)
Had Frazier opted to publish this grossly inaccurate statement, which he
did not, readers might well have wondered if there were really two
different Dennis Rawlins, recalling barely a year earlier when a Rawlins
letter had been published which said: "It should be clearly understood
that CSICOP as a body never had anything to do with the Humanist Zelen
test 'challenge'..." When Frazier accepted Rawlins' resignation, this
prompted Rawlins to complain that he had been removed from the Editorial
Board without "cause or written notice." Later, following a mail ballot
of Council members, CSICOP dropped Rawlins from its list of Fellows.
(The vote against Rawlins was 6:1.)
The foregoing highlights the key issues and actions that prompted FATE
and Rawlins to charge that CSICOP "bungled their major investigation,
falsified the results, covered up their errors and gave the boot to a
colleague who threatened to tell the truth." (After my investigation, a
re-reading of "sTARBABY" gives me the feeling that I am reading a Pravda
account explaining that the Soviets moved into Afghanistan to help the
Afghans prevent an invasion by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.)
Were it possible to turn back the clock, undoubtedly Kurtz, Zelen and
Abell would try to be more precise in defining test objectives and
protocol and would do so in writing. And more time would be spent in
more carefully phrasing articles dealing with such tests. But all CSICOP
Council members and Fellows have other full-time professions that
seriously constrain time available for CSICOP efforts.
Were it possible to turn back the clock, the Council should have
insisted in the spring of 1978 that Rawlins issue a public statement
that he had erred in using CSICOP's name in support of his personal
actions connected with the University of Toronto's planned astrology
symposium. Failure to do this has resulted in an unjustified blot on
CSICOP's modus-operandi. Also at that time the Council should have
developed a policy statement, as it recently did, that more clearly
delineates activities that members perform officially in behalf of
CSICOP and those carried out as private individuals.
When a small group of persons met in Buffalo in May, 1976, to create
CSICOP, their motivation was a concern over the growing public
acceptance of claims of the paranormal. CSICOP was created to provide a
counter-balance to those who espouse a variety of claims, ranging from
UFOs to astrology, from the "Bermuda Triangle" to psychic phenomena.
With the benefit of experience, it was apparent that there was an
extreme spectrum of viewpoints on the Council. Rawlins was at the
"hit-'em-hard" extreme, while Truzzi was at the opposite pole and
resigned after a couple years, partially as a result of behind-the
scenes plotting by Rawlins which he admits in "sTARBABY." Now Rawlins
has departed and, in my view, CSICOP is much the better for it.
CSICOP never has tried to destroy those organizations that promote
belief in paranormal causes. But individuals in these organization have
tried to discredit CSICOP, even going so far in one instance as to
circulate a forged letter.
FATE magazine made wide distribution of the Rawlins "sTARBABY" article
in reprint form, together with its press release. Prof. R.A. McConnell,
University of Pittsburgh, founding President of the Parapsychological
Association, also distributed copies to CSICOP Fellows and Council
members, among others. In his accompanying letter, McConnell said he
believed the "Rawlins report is certainly true in broad outline and
probably true in every detail...He has created a document of importance
for the history and philosophy of science." McConnell quoted an "unnamed
scientist" as claiming that "Rawlins has uncovered the biggest scandal
in the history of rationalism." McConnell characterized CSICOP as "an
intellectually dishonest enterprise."
FATE and McConnell have demonstrated the intrinsic flaw in the basic
approach of those who promote claims of the paranormal -- THEIR
EAGERNESS TO ACCEPT CLAIMS OF EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS WITHOUT RIGOROUS
INVESTIGATION. Neither FATE nor McConnell contacted CSICOP officials to
check out Rawlins' charges. This demonstrates why CSICOP is so sorely
The late President Harry Truman phrased it well: "If you can't stand the
heat, stay out of the kitchen." CSICOP is "in the kitchen" by choice and
intends to remain there despite the heat. The response of CSICOP's
Council and its Fellows to recent events shows that the Committee is not
an easy victim of heat- prostration.
If the Mars effect, or any other paranormal hypothesis, should ever be
demonstrated using rigorous scientific procedures, there simply is no
way in which the small group of individuals involved in CSICOP could
ever hope to suppress such evidence. Nor have I found any CSICOP Council
member or Fellow who is so foolish as to try.
[In the years following "sTARBABY", Rawlins has continued to
receive publicity by making sensational charges of
scientific coverup and fraud. In 1988, he made national headlines
by renewing an earlier charge he had made before CSICOP's
founding, this time supposedly supported by a new-found
document: that Admiral Peary never actually reached the
North Pole during his famous expedition in 1909, but instead
fabricated his navigational records to make it appear as if
he had. A New York Times article of October 13, 1988 carries
the headline: "Peary's Notes Said to Imply He Fell Short of
Pole." It begins: "New evidence based on navigational notes
by Robert E. Peary indicates that the Arctic explorer fell
short of his goal and deliberately faked his claim in 1909
that he was the first person to reach the North Pole,
according to an analysis by a Baltimore astronomer and
historian ... Dennis Rawlins, an independent scholar who
trained as an astronomer and who has a long-standing
interest in Peary's expedition, said yesterday that his
analysis of the navigational notes, mainly sextant readings
of the sun to establish geographic position, indicated that
Peary knew that he had come no closer than 121 miles from
the Pole." Officials of the National Geographic Society
promised to examine Rawlins's data, but added "We believe
Mr. Rawlins has been too quick to cry fake."
After a three-month investigation of Rawlins' charges, a
press conference was sponsored by The Navigation Foundation
at which they dismissed his "sensational claims". As
reported in a Baltimore Sun story syndicated Feb. 2, 1989,
"Since October [Natl. Geographic] Society President Gilbert
M. Grosvenor and others had quietly endured Rawlins's public
calls for debate and unconditional surrender on the Peary
issue." The Society was willing to take seriously an
analysis by the British explorer Wally Herbert, based on
other evidence, that a navigation error may have caused
Peary to miss the pole by about 45 miles. "Suggesting that
Peary might not have reached the Pole is one thing," said
Grosvenor. "Declaring Peary a fraud is quite another."
Rawlins held his own "informal press conference" afterwards,
reports The Sun, in which Rawlins "admitted he had confused
time readings for chronometer checks with altitudes of the
sun and had mistaken serial numbers on the chronometers for
navigational observations." Rawlins conceded, "My
interpretation has some problems, and I acknowledge that.
It's fair to say that, if I'm saying Peary was a fraud, I
think I have not yet met the burden of proof."
Finally, in December, 1989, a 230-page report commissioned
by the National Geographic Society was released, concluding
that Peary actually did reach the Pole. As reported in a
story on p.1 of the New York Times, Dec. 12, 1989, a new
analysis of Peary's records by professional navigators
concluded that Peary's final camp was not more than five
miles from the Pole. "The report said, there was no evidence
of fraud and deception in the explorer's records. But one
critic, Dennis Rawlins, a Baltimore astronomer and
historian, said he remained convinced, despite the new
study, that Admiral Peary did not reach his goal and had
faked his claim."
Robert Sheaffer, Nov., 1991]