Date: Fri Oct 15 1993 09:40:20
From: Marty Leipzig
Subj: A quick note to a publisher.
I am rather new to this echo, yet I thought that a little piece
of correspondence I penned to one of those "publishers and
panderers of the paranormal" who send gaudy, glitzy flyers about
all sorts weird, wild and supposedly wonderful phenomena; would
be most appropriate to this forum. I do hope no one objects
(note: some names and places have been changed to further indict
Mr. R. U. Foeureal
Editor: Gullibullshit Press
666 Post Oak West P.O. Box 999
East Harbor, NT 58385-3498
Dear Mr. Foeureal:
I recently received your company's offer for a free copy of the
book "Mysteries of Mind, Space and Time. The Unexplained." The enclosed
materials in the package include your letter asking "....If you're not
sending for your FREE book-- would you please tell me why?..." Inasmuch
as I have no interest in receiving this, nor any other book of this
set; I will most gladly tell you why I must decline your offer. But as
a caveat, remember, you DID ask...
I am a professional industrial scientist and science educator. Along
with that one probably should also add: skeptic, cynic and unrepentant
realist. As such, I try to maintain an open mind to that which, at
least superficially, appears to be "unusual ," out of the norm or that
which is labeled "supernatural" or "unknown." I liken having an open
mind to that image of a door that is locked, but has in front of it a
"Welcome" mat; rather than flinging open the doors and shouting "Come
on in, no one's home." Yet, that latter mindset is exactly to what your
book appears to be soliciting.
A quick perusal of the package that I was sent reveals such
overburdened and melodramatic voyeurisms as ghosts, extraterrestrials,
psychics, exotic outsized reptiles and assorted supernatural
nonsensicals. Quite an eclectic group of "phenomena" aimed at such a
general audience. But, recall, extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence. Where exactly is this evidence? Or, is this
just being offered to, for the most part, an unsuspecting and
uncritical public as "gospel"; i.e., something that must be accepted as
true, without regard to the evidence (or more precisely, the lack
thereof) just because it appears in print? As the scientific community
must disregard that which is non-evidentiary, which immediately propels
these volumes into the realm of pseudoscience and fantasy, I must be
forced to view the latter as the proper conclusion.
Perhaps that was the exact impetus (aside from the monetary)
driving the publication of these volumes; not one of producing
scientifically accurate (or remotely plausible) books, but rather ones
of "shock, schlock and sensationalism." If so, that is entirely your
prerogative. I value our constitutional right to various freedoms and
so emulate Voltaire, inasmuch as I may not agree with what you say, but
will defend your right to say it. What does concern me though is the
muddling and merging of science and pseudoscience promoted in your
brochure, and, ergo, this series. For instance, the splashy
frontispiece foldout featuring Dr. Dale Russell's anthropified
_Stenonychosaurus_, regarding the speculation of archosaurian
evolution past the K/T extinction event, literally cheek-by-jowl
with reports of UFO abductions and mysterious, unknown sea creatures.
As a member of a number of national and international scientific
societies, and as a science educator frequently called to deliver
lectures to largely non-scientific audiences, I am keenly aware of the
overwhelming, and alarming, depth of scientific ignorance manifested in
American society today. Fully 95% of the US population are functionally
scientifically illiterate. Handmaidens to this ignobility are the lack
of critical thinking, unquestioned acceptance, and illogic; a seedbed
for the healthy festering of superstition, dogma and irrationality. It
is to this that I object most strongly.
Perhaps you may regard my tone as one of being too harsh or too severe.
After all, it's just a series of harmless books, correct? I see it
entirely differently. Never previously have we stood before the
technological and scientific crossroads that we do today. This science
and technology impacts every citizen profoundly on a daily basis, yet
so piteously few understand the merest moiety of the basic body of
knowledge. In fact, certain individuals revel in the fact of this very
ignorance. They cannot, or will not, see the possible value of
scientific projects; and readily retreat into an unnatural world,
devoid of fact or substance, but that seems more fantastic or
fascinating than that which we call reality. This inevitably will lead
to a splintered and stratified society, and indeed, is quite
unmistakably apparent forthwith. Surely, a more well paved path to
perdition could not be constructed.
Of course, I do not lay blame for this sorrowful situation upon
you or your publishing house, per se, but pseudoscientific
sensationalism of this stripe acts as nothing more than fertilizer
of a blighted harvest.
For this reason I must reject your free offer.
Dr. Martin R. Leipzig
enclosure: Free Book Offer Card
... Skeptical? Me? I don't believe that....
--- Blue Wave/Max v2.12
* Origin: A Little Corner in Time BBS (1:106/113.0)