Date: Tue Jun 28 1994 00:00:02 Subj: Knowledge gap=disaster SKEPTIC - Knowledge gap is for

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Date: Tue Jun 28 1994 00:00:02 From: Sheppard Gordon Subj: Knowledge gap=disaster SKEPTIC ------------------------------- Knowledge gap is formula for disaster, Sagan says 06/26/94 The Ottawa Citizen Nancy Reagan's trust in astrology, stories of alien abductions and surveys showing one in four adult Americans doesn't know the Earth revolves around the sun are all symptoms of the same dangerous disorder, says Carl Sagan. "We live in a society fundamentally based on science and technology . . . and almost nobody understands science and technology, said Sagan, the Cornell University astronomer who has become widely known for popularizing science. Because of the enormous power science has over our daily lives, this knowledge gap is a formula for social disaster and political abuse, he said. Sagan was the keynote speaker Friday for a conference, The Psychology of Belief , sponsored by the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The organization was created in 1976 by scientists and others to critically evaluate so-called "fringe science. Harvard psychiatrist John E. Mack has drawn wide media attention for urging a serious evaluation of UFO abduction and interplanetary sexual abuse claims. Mack contends that examination of these self-reported UFO abductees under hypnosis indicates they are not lying and so must be believed. But Sagan and others Friday countered that the fact that someone believes something to be true does not make it so. Sagan said it's statistically plausible that extraterrestrial life exists but that this is not the same thing as proof. "I would love it (alien visitations on Earth) even if they were short, sullen, grumpy and sexually obsessed, he said. "But there just isn't any good evidence. Elizabeth Loftus, a University of Washington psychologist and expert on "false memory syndrome, also spoke Friday of the social cost of scientific illiteracy. Loftus is a strong critic of claims of repressed memories of sexual abuse. Given the premise of unconscious repression that pervades psychology, Loftus said, the public has come to accept uncritically almost any claims elicited from people as a result of psychotherapy. But scientific studies have shown, she said, that such memories are easily created through suggestions made by the therapist during therapy. Loftus said the same phenomenon was likely at play in some of the 16th century witch-hunts. Those who urged restraint or solid evidence of alleged witchcraft, Loftus said, were often ignored or worse. "Skeptics were burned at the stake along with the witches, Loftus said. She contended that the modern, popular concept of repression in psychology -- as opposed to plain, old forgetfulness -- has


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