Date: Thu Aug 19 1993 11:26:00 To: All Subj: Skeptic Conf Starts today UFO - ONE THING'S F

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Date: Thu Aug 19 1993 11:26:00 From: Sheppard Gordon To: All Subj: Skeptic Conf Starts today UFO ------------------------------- ONE THING'S FOR SURE, DOUBTERS WILL GATHER 08/16/93 PORTLAND OREGONIAN Summary: Eugene will play host to a convention of people with a definitely skeptical outlook on a lot of claims. People who make doubting their business will gather in Eugene this week for a conference that will examine everything from palm reading to quackery. The conference, whose theme is "The Skeptic's Toolbox," bills itself as the only one of its kind in the country. It begins its five-day run Thursday on the University of Oregon campus. The collection of seminars, speeches and workshops are the brainchild of UO Professor Ray Hyman, who has written extensively on the critical evaluation of so-called paranormal claims. Hyman specializes in the psychology of human error and deception. Hyman maintains that poor thinking skills and lack of scientific understanding have helped to create a burgeoning belief in paranormal events, such as mind reading, extra-sensory perception and psychic predictions. A group he founded several years ago, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, trains scientists to be true skeptics. The group also is a co-sponsor of the UO conference. "In the past, we found that the public was being fed only one side of paranormal things such as haunted houses and psychic tendencies," said Barry Karr, executive director of Skeptical Inquirer, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based magazine with a circulation of 40,000 that reaches 72 nations. "Our primary aim is to ensure that both sides of the issue are presented." Karr said his group has used healthy doses of skepticism to debunk at least two paranormal myths. The first involved high-priced seminars that offered to imbue pupils with the positive mental imagery needed to walk across hot coals without getting burned. As it turned out, Karr said, the only things getting burned were the suckers who shelled out up to $300 per seminar. "We proved that people who didn't take the seminars didn't get injured, either," he said. "That's because simple laws of physics dictate that hot coals are poor conductors of heat. Anyone who steps over them quickly enough won't be harmed." The other myth involved a wide-spread rumor that United States military officials in New Mexico had not only recovered the body and spacecraft of a crashed UFO in 1947, but that they also had persuaded President Truman to sign an executive order covering up the incident. However, a thorough search of documents in the Truman Library revealed that the signature on the order had been snipped and pasted from another, wholly unrelated document. It might take a psychic to predict whether anything so impressive will be debunked at the UO conference. But based on the list of speakers, the best debunkers in the country will be there. Among those slated to speak are: *Loren Pankratz, a Portland psychologist who is regarded as the world's leading expert on the Munchausen syndrome, which refers to patients who successfully fake serious illness. *Bob Fellows, a mentalist and illusionist with a degree from Harvard, who works for the International Cult Education Program and contends that mind-reading is actually nothing more tha mind manipulation. *Jerry Andrus, a lecturer for Harvard and other universities who has studied how people reach the wrong conclusions for the "right" reasons. Registration cost for the entire conference, which begins with a 7:30 p.m. dinner Thursday, is $135 per person. Room and board reservations can be made by calling 1-800-634-1610. --- WM v3.01/92-0356 * Origin: STARGATE BBS.(FAX) 1:278/714 NY 718-519-8042 (1:278/714.0)


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