The Arizona Skeptic A Journal Promoting Critical Thinking Volume 6, Issue 1 July/August 19
The Arizona Skeptic
A Journal Promoting Critical Thinking
Volume 6, Issue 1 July/August 1992
Science and Dianetics
By Jeff Jacobsen
L. Ron Hubbard constantly makes the claim that dianetics is a
"scientific fact." In fact, he makes that claim 35 times in
_Dianetics_. For example, "All our facts are functional and these
facts are scientific facts, supported wholly and completely by
laboratory evidence" (p. 96). Hubbard shows that he highly
regards correct scientific experimentation by carefully hedging
his approval of another scientific experiment done by someone
else. This test was conducted in a hospital to see whether
unattended children became sick more often than attended children.
"The test... seems to have been conducted with proper controls"
(p. 143), he cautiously states, not having apparently seen the
entire written report.
In _The Phoenix Lectures_, Hubbard is also critical of the
early psychiatric work of Wundt in the latter 1800s: "Scientific
methodology was actually not, there and then, immediately
classified... what they did was unregulated, uncontrolled, wildcat
experiments, fuddling around collecting enormous quantities of
I am similarly cautious about Hubbard's experiments,
especially since there seems to be no record of how they were
done, what exactly the results were, what kind of control group
was used, whether the experiments were double blind, how many
subjects there were in each experiment, and other pertinent data.
I have asked ranking Scientologists for this data, and have
fervently searched for it myself, and have yet to see it. This
brings up the question of whether Hubbard can call his original
And, in keeping with the need to understand each word we use,
it brings up the question of just what science is. What does it
take for someone to legitimately make the claim that his ideas are
scientifically proven? When can something be called a scientific
As with many subjects in life, the deeper one looks into
science, the murkier it gets. There is not even one single
agreed-upon definition for science in the scientific community.
Those people who seek to establish a unifying definition are
dealing in what is called the philosophy of science. One of the
most respected and most influential of these is Karl Popper.
Popper claims that no theory can be called scientific unless it is
falsifiable, that is, unless it can be demonstrated that
deliberate attempts to prove a theory wrong are unsuccessful.
Thus, a theory must open itself up to criticism from the
scientific community to see whether it can withstand critical
Popper's formulation for scientific validation is:
(1) It is easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for
nearly every theory--if we look for confirmations.
(2) Confirmations should count only if they are the result of
_risky predictions_; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the
theory in question, we should have expected an event which was
incompatible with the theory--an event which would have refuted
(3) Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it
forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the
better it is.
(4) A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event
is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as
people often think) but a vice.
(5) Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify
it, or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability: some
theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation, than
others; they take, as it were, greater risks.
(6) Confirming evidence should not count _except when it is
the result of a genuine test of the theory_; and this means that
it can be presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to
falsify the theory. (I now speak in such cases of "corroborating
(7) Some genuinely testable theories, when found to be false,
are still upheld by their admirers--for example by introducing _ad
hoc_ some auxiliary assumption, or by re-interpreting the theory
_ad hoc_ in such a way that it escapes refutation. Such a
procedure is always possible, but it rescues the theory from
refutation only at the price of destroying, or at least lowering,
its scientific status.2
The falsifiability approach is a good one, because no theory
can be proven as a fact unless every case possible is individually
example to see that it applies to every possible case. For
example, a popular example of a "fact" in science classrooms of
the 19th century was that "all swans are white." This was,
however, shown to be untrue when a variety of swan in South
America was discovered to be black. This "fact" was proven wrong
by a previously unknown exception to the rule, and this example
points out that it is never entirely possible to prove a theory in
the positive without examining every possible case of that theory.
(It is, of course, not possible to completely falsify many
theories also, but for the sake of brevity I would refer the
reader to Popper's _Logic of Scientific Discovery_ for further
arguments on this subject.)3
Let us go now momentarily to one of Hubbard's scientific
Its [the reactive mind's] identity can now be certified by any
technician in any clinic or in any group of men. Two hundred and
seventy-three individuals have been examined and treated,
representing all the various types of inorganic mental illness and
the many varieties of psychosomatic ills. In each one this
reactive mind was found operating, its principles unvaried.4
After the brief discussion previously of science, we can
begin to question Hubbard's claim to scientific validity. Exactly
who were these 273 people? Were they believers in Hubbard's
theories or a representative sample of the public at large?
Exactly how was the experiment conducted that proved the existence
of the reactive mind? This needs to be known so others can try it
to test for variables that Hubbard may have overlooked, to see if
his experiment produced a statistical fluke, and to help in
conducting experiments to try to disprove the theory. The more
times an experiment is conducted, the more likely it is shown to
be true, keeping in mind of course that no matter how many times
an expedition went looking for white swans, it would find them, so
long as they didn't go to South America.
Was Hubbard seeking confirmation in his experiments or was he
attempting to refute his theory, as Popper suggests a true man of
science would do? Designing a test that will provide confirmation
of a thesis is not difficult.
A Real Experiment Comes Up Dry
Hubbard does mention an experiment to perform that can prove the
existence of engrams:
If you care to make the experiment, you can take a man,
render him "unconscious," hurt him and give him information. By
Dianetic technique, no matter what information you gave him, it
can be recovered. This experiment should not be carelessly
conducted because _you might render him insane_.5 (emphasis in
Three researchers at the University of California, Los
Angeles, decided in 1950 to give this experiment a try.6
If an individual should be placed, by some means of [sic]
other, into an unconscious state, then, according to traditional
psychology, no retention of the events occurring about him should
take place and consequently, no reports of such events can be
elicited from the individual, no matter what methods of
elicitation are employed (hypothesis I). According to dianetics,
retention should take place with high fidelity and, therefore an
account of the events can be elicited by means of dianetic
auditing (hypothesis II).7
The Dianetic Research Foundation of Los Angeles cooperated
with the experimenters by providing a subject and several
qualified auditors. The subject was a 30-year-old male who worked
for the foundation and was considered a good candidate for the
experiment by the foundation since he had "sonic" recall and had
been audited. The experiment was carefully laid out according to
dianetic theory and was at all times done under the cooperation
and suggestions of the Foundation.
The subject was knocked unconscious with .75 grams of sodium
pentathol by Dr. A. Davis, M.D., who is one of the authors of the
experiment. When the subject was found to be unconscious, Mr.
Lebovits was left alone with the subject while two recording
devices recorded the session. Mr. Lebovits read a 35-word section
of a physics book to the subject, administering pain during the
reading of the last 18 words. He then left the room, and the
patient was allowed to rest for another hour, at which time he was
Two days later, the professional auditors from the Dianetic
Research Foundation began to audit the subject, trying to elicit
the engram, or recording of the experiment that according to
dianetic theory resided in the subject's reactive mind.
The auditors did elicit several possible passages from the
subject and supplied these to the experimenters. The results were
that "Comparison with the selected passage shows that none of the
above-quoted phrases, nor any other phrases quoted in the report,
bear any relationship at all to the selected passage. Since the
reception of the first interim report, in November 1950, the
experimenter tried frequently and repeatedly to obtain further
reports, but so far without success."8
The experimenters concluded by stating that while their test
case was only one subject, they felt that the experiment was well
done and strongly suggested that the engram hypothesis was not
validated. I know of no other scientifically valid experiment
besides this one by non-dianeticists which attempted to prove
Hubbard's engram theory.
There is one point I consider the most damning to Hubbard's
attempt to cloak dianetics in scientific validity. While he seems
to be inviting others to conduct their own investigations (and
thus seems to be open to attempts to refute his claims), he never
explains his own experimental methods, thus closing the door to
the scientific community's ability to verify his claims. In order
to evaluate Hubbard's claims, the scientific community would seek
to replicate his experiments to see if the same results were
obtained and to check for possible influences on the experiment
Hubbard may have overlooked. They would also, as Popper suggests,
try to shoot holes in the theory, either on a logical basis or by
conducting refutational experiments.
If Hubbard really respected science, he would welcome and
help the scientific community in its attempts to both support and
refute his theories. But he and his successors in Dianetics and
Scientology refuse to join in scientific debate over the merits of
his ideas, maintaining a dogmatic rather than scientific stance.
My attempts to get the experiments from the Church of Scientology
have been in vain. I have never heard of anyone who has seen
them, nor even anyone who claimed to know how they were conducted.
It is mainly for this reason, I believe, that dianetics cannot
claim scientific validity. Until Hubbard's supposed original
experiments are released to the public, dianetics can only be
called science fiction.
As a footnote, the only reference I found to Hubbard's actual
notes on any original experiments was on a taped lecture by
Hubbard in 1950. He stated at that time that "my records are in
little notebooks, scribbles, in pencil most of them. Names and
addresses are lost... there was a chaotic picture..." A certain
Ms. Benton asked Hubbard for his notes to validate his research,
but when she saw them, "she finally threw up her hands in horror
and started in on the project [validation] clean."9 If this is the
type of material Hubbard was basing his "scientific facts" on,
then there is probably no need to even see them to be able to
reject them with good conscience.
1L. Ron Hubbard, _The Phoenix Lectures_ (Los Angeles: Bridge
Publications, 1982), p. 203.
2Karl Popper, _Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of
Scientific Knowledge_ (N.Y.: Harper Torch Books, 1963), pp. 36-37.
3Editor's Footnote: There have been many books and articles
relevant to this issue published in the philosophy of science in
the decades since Popper's _Logic of Scientific Discovery_ was
first published (1934 in German; 1959 in English), and it is the
opinion of many philosophers (Larry Laudan being one notable
example) that there is no principled way of distinguishing science
from pseudoscience, or even from nonscience. A recent overview of
some different "theories of science" may be found in chapter 2 of
Ronald N. Giere's _Explaining Science: A Cognitive Approach_
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). Popper's
"falsifiability" criterion probably is the most popular criterion
for distinguishing between science and pseudoscience used by
scientists themselves, the problem is that it appears to rule out
some scientific theories and include some nonscientific ones (see,
e.g., Laudan's articles in Michael Ruse's _But Is It Science_
(Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1988), reviewed in AS, February/March
1990 and July 1990).
4L. Ron Hubbard, _Dianetics_ (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications,
1987), pp. 70-71.
5Ibid, p. 76.
6Jack Fox, Alvin E. Davis, and B. Lebovits, "An Experimental
Investigation of Hubbard's Engram Hypothesis (Dianetics),"
_Psychological Newsletter_ 10(1959):131-134.
7Ibid, p. 132.
8Ibid, p. 133.
9"What Dianetics Can Do," Lecture Series 2, 1950.
Reprinted with permission from _The Hubbard is Bare_ by Jeff
Jacobsen. Copyright (c) 1992 by Jeff Jacobsen, P.O. Box 3541,
Scottsdale, AZ 85271.
A Healthy Dose of Sarsaparilla
By Jerome L. Cosyn
Hanging in my living room is an advertising poster from sometime
in the late 1800s. It hangs in my house largely because of the
wonderful artwork: a lovely, angelic, round-cheeked young girl,
with blue eyes and curly blonde tresses and rosebud lips. A
vision of virginal Victorian virtue, the epitome of youthful
innocence and beauty, a paragon of health and rectitude, she gazes
serenely into the distance, head turned slightly to profile in a
posture that conveys wonder and hope and a guileless and
immaculate strength. Pride without arrogance. Innocence without
gullibility. A slight flush of rose in her cheeks reveals her
energetic enthusiasm for life, for this child faces each new day
with eager confidence. Her eyes betray no hint of worry or guilt
or fear; she has never known pain or disease or suffering. In
this painting is encapsulated everything the white Anglo-Saxon
Victorian American parent could possibly hope for his children.
The artist--totally unknown, of course--had an enormous talent:
the ability to distill the dreams and hopes and grandeur of a
proud and growing culture from a palette of oil colors onto
The portrait, naturally enough, takes up most of the poster:
near-life size head and shoulders of the girl centered against a
neutral background. Across the top, in tastefully bold-faced
letters done in an eye-pleasing, jaunty calligraphy, not too
large, not too bold, not too gaudy, is the name of the product:
Ayer's Sarsaparilla. In the upper right and upper left corners, in
slightly smaller, more sedate print, are the phrases: "Makes the
Weak Strong" and "Improves the Complexion, Purifies the Blood".
Across the bottom is the slogan:
"How fair she grows from day to day."
How quaintly absurd we find such claims today, for a simple
product once known as a "tonic" (which is still the general term
for soda pop in certain areas of the country) but which was
essentially the drink we now call root beer. What would we think
of A&W root beer advertised as "Makes the Weak Strong"? How about
"Improves the Complexion, Purifies the Blood"? The sophisticated
American mind of today would of course scoff at such pretensions,
even if truth-in-advertising laws let them slip through. We know
better than to place our faith in wild claims of health and vigor
from ordinary foodstuffs. We can smile at the naive charm of
those simpler times, seeing through such transparent attempts to
manipulate us as easily as a modern ten-year-old dispels the myth
of Santa Claus.
Nowadays we would never be taken in by snake-oil incantations
and absurd assertions from fast-talking medicine show hucksters.
Today, Americans are vastly more aware, more perceptive than those
simple minded bumpkins of yore. We're seasoned, sharp and
cynical, educated, worldly. We know about health and medicine and
nutrition because there are thousands of books and magazine
articles, talk show interviews and free government pamphlets,
concerned co-workers and relatives and even complete strangers on
the street to explain it to us. We can't get through a day
without being told a dozen times what's truly healthful and what
to avoid; we're bombarded, lambasted, inundated with endless
volleys of wellness programs and organic vegetables, workouts and
smokeouts, vitamins and minerals and high-fiber, low-sodium
alternatives. We monitor our calorie intake, our caffeine intake,
our sugar intake, our sodium intake, our cholesterol intake; we
watch the MSG and eschew carcinogens. We aerate, chlorinate, and
fluoridate; we exercise and aerobicize. In even the smallest
towns can be found a cornucopia of organic bean curd, hydroponic
tomatoes, hand-made marmalade and high-protein low-fat tofu. In
short, we are the most health conscious, medically aware,
biologically in-tune society that mankind has ever produced, and
it would be completely impossible for so obvious a canard as
"Purifies the Blood" to deceive even a simple minded hick from out
in the sticks where they can't even get MTV.
These days, when we are told that a certain breakfast cereal
will prevent cancer, we know that it is true, because clean-cut,
smarmy, bespectacled men with straight white teeth and
conservative ties and white smocks stand before us clutching
clipboards like stone tablets handed down from the mount by the
god of scientific scrutiny, with actual factual objective reports
that prove it to be so. Television advertising is awash in a
veritable Sargasso Sea of graphs and charts and diagrams and
statistics and reports, from the AMA, the ADA, the FDA and
ubiquitous independent study teams, demonstrating to us with
unimpeachable authority that the products offered to us are
blessed and beneficial. C. Everett Koop is tireless, writing
books, giving interviews, doing research, traveling everywhere,
checking everything, providing a steady, life-giving stream of
facts to keep us healthy and prolong our lives. And if you can't
believe a former Surgeon General of the United States of America,
who can you believe?
A bran muffin a day will add years to your life. The right
facial cleanser will actually slow the aging process. Mothers who
care about their kids would rather die than feed them the wrong
brand of peanut butter. A simple shot glassful of cough syrup
will eradicate enough symptoms to fill several chapters of a
medical encyclopedia. Chicks dig guys who use tartar control
toothpaste. The nutritionally correct choice of bread will build
your body in a baker's dozen ways. Just one of these pills will
cause your body to burn away as many calories as if you'd run a
marathon--and it's COMPLETELY SAFE! You take your life in your
hands if you use a product that isn't doctor tested, clinically
proven, medically effective, nutritionally beneficial, dentist
approved and scientifically validated.
Yes, gone are the days of primitive hucksterism and those
quaintly transparent claims of health and vitality from ordinary
food and hygiene products. American health awareness has come of
age. "Purifies the Blood" indeed.
We've come a long way, baby.
_Jerome L. Cosyn is a software engineer and freelance writer, a
former contractor for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center, and has
recently had his first article accepted for publication outside
the U.S., in_ The Skeptic _magazine of Great Britain. He lives in
_Combatting Cult Mind Control_ by Steven Hassan
1988, Park Street Press, 226 pp., $16.95 (hb), $12.95 (pb)
Reviewed by Chaz Bufe
Cults: it's rare that people can agree on even a definition of
them, and one sardonic explanation has been that "cult" is a
pejorative term employed by members of any given religion to refer
to other religions. Dictionary definitions are equally vague: "a
group or sect bound together by devotion to or veneration of the
same thing, person, ideal, etc.," so it's little wonder that there
is no consensus on what constitutes a cult.
Thus, those who prefer precision in language can only welcome
Steven Hassan's new book, _Combatting Cult Mind Control_. While
Hassan's prime concern is to provide information of "exit
counseling" for cult members, in the course of his discussion he
furnishes much needed information about the nature and defining
characteristics of cults.
In preparation for his discussion of exit counseling (a
noncoercive alternative to "deprogramming"), Hassan, a former
member and high-ranking official of the Unification Church, or
Moonies, lists several different types of cults. Specifically, he
lists religious cults such as the Unification Church and the
Church of Scientology; political cults such as the Lyndon LaRouche
organization; psychotherapy cults such as EST; and commercial
cults, though he doesn't name any (Amway comes to mind).
What all these have in common is what Hassan considers the
defining characteristic of destructive cults: "mind control."
According to Hassan, "mind control is used to change a person's
belief system _without informed consent_ and make him _dependent
on outside authority figures_." Quite often, cults initiate the
mind-control process through the use of deceptive recruiting
techniques. One way in which cults such as the Unification
Church, Church of Scientology, and LaRouche organization do this
is through the operation of front groups which recruit
unsuspecting members of the public. Then, once a potential member
has been sucked into the cult's controlled atmosphere, the cult
proceeds to reconstruct his or her personality.
Cults do this through a three-state process: unfreezing,
changing, and refreezing. "Unfreezing" refers to techniques such
as those used by the Moonies to disorient potential members at
Unification Church "retreats." These include sleep deprivation,
complete denial of personal privacy, malnourishment, the use of
deliberately confusing language ("The more you try to understand
what I am saying, the less you will never be able to understand
it. Understand?"), guided meditations, confessions, and prayer
sessions. Once a potential member is "unfrozen," cults move
quickly to "change" him or her, to impose a new personality
structure. This is done through indoctrination: "Repetition,
monotony, rhythm: these are the lulling, hypnotic cadences in
which the formal indoctrination is generally delivered." In their
disoriented state, "unfrozen" potential recruits are often told
that their "old self" is holding them back, and that they should
ask God what to do with their lives. Not surprisingly, "God"
usually answers that they should join the cult.
Once the new cult identity has been established, it is
"refrozen." This is done through several means including
disownment of one's "old" self and interests (in as dramatic a
manner as possible), teaming up with a more established cult
member who serves as a model, immediate assignment of the new
member to recruit others, the adoption of a new name, and radical
alteration of personal appearance, as in the Hare Krishnas. Once
the new personality has been "refrozen," cults cement their hold
on the new member by deliberately fostering phobias which make the
idea of leaving the cult a terrifying prospect, by stripping him
or her of assets (which makes admission that she or he has made a
mistake by joining the cult extremely painful), and, probably most
important, by teaching the new member thought-stopping techniques.
Cults, virtually without exception, are virulently anti-
intellectual, and they emphasize blind acceptance of their
teachings as a cardinal virtue. Doubt and questioning--in other
words, critical thought--are considered sinful and dangerous, and
in many cults members are told that their doubts come directly
from the devil. A Moonie slogan expresses this cult position
quite succinctly: "Stamp Out Doubt."
This is done through thought-stopping techniques, especially
the use of hypnotic praying and chanting. Whenever doubt raises
its frightening head, cult members can stop it dead in its tracks
through repetitions praying and chanting. (It's of more than
passing interest to note that at least one mainstream religion,
the Catholic Church, makes use of thought-stopping techniques; for
generations Catholic school children have been taught by their
religious instructors that they should ward off "impure thoughts"
through repetitious prayer.)
After presenting his analysis of cult mind-control, Hassan
then lists several complementary methods through which the hold of
cults upon members can be broken. These revolve around re-
establishing contact with the member's "real self" and very
carefully influencing the person to begin thinking for himself
once again. For legal and ethical reasons Hassan prefers this
approach to coercive "deprogramming" (despite the fact that he
himself underwent a successful deprogramming), and he cites in
detail a large number of cases which demonstrate the effectiveness
of his style of exit counseling. In many ways, these cases
constitute the most fascinating portion of this very readable
book, and they should provide great encouragement to anyone with a
friend or family member in the clutches of a cult.
One especially useful section of the book, and one which
skeptics will find of particular interest, instructs readers in
ways to unsettle cult members during chance street encounters.
Hassan observes that straightforward verbal attacks almost always
leave cult members feeling like members of a persecuted, virtuous
minority, and end up strengthening their commitment to the cult.
He believes that appearing to be sympathetic and interested, and
then (after initial rapport has been established), asking
questions such as "Is your group considered to be controversial by
anyone? If people are critical of your group, what are their main
objections?" "What does your group believe? Does it believe that
the ends justify the means? Is deception allowed in certain
circumstances?" and "What are the three things you like least
about the group and the leader?" are much more effective ways to
shake a cult member and to influence him or her to leave the cult
Overall, _Combatting Cult Mind Control_ is a gold mine of
information for curious skeptics and for families with members in
cults. There are, however, certain aspects of Hassan's beliefs
and of his approach to "exit counseling" which, I suspect, most
skeptics would find disturbing. Probably the most troubling
aspect is that while Hassan does encourage cult members to
question and to doubt, he does not encourage them to do so in a
systematic manner; that is, his approach does not teach or
encourage scientific thinking--and it doesn't even seem to
recognize that it exists. Thus, Hassan considers former mind-
control cult members who have subsequently joined fundamentalist,
creationist churches to be successes. He relates instances of his
working with a Church of Christ preacher, Buddy Martin, during
"exit counseling" sessions. In some cases, members of Christian
fundamentalist cults (such as "shepherding" churches) have
"exited" from their cults directly into Martin's cult.
Another troubling point is that Hassan--in the admitted total
absence of physical evidence--insists that there are underground
satanic cults engaging in "ritual sex, bloodletting, ...the
killing of animals" and "ritual murder." Given that Hassan seems
to have no appreciation for scientific investigation, it isn't
terribly surprising that he's been taken in by the tabloid-style
hype concerning "satanic cults." But it is saddening. Because he
presents so much valuable information in the book, it seems quite
likely that many readers will accept as true his unfounded
statements about "satanic cults." (For sane analyses of the
"satanic cult" question, see _In Pursuit of Satan_, by Robert D.
Hicks, Prometheus Books, 1991, and _Satan Wants You_, by Arthur
Lyons, Mysterious Press, 1988.)
Two minor, but irritating, aspects of _Combatting Cult Mind
Control_, in its hardback version, are that it has no index--a
crying need in a book of this type--and that it was "typeset" on a
laser printer. I've seldom seen a worse-looking "typesetting"
job; and I find it mystifying that the publisher would spend the
very large sum of money necessary to print a hardcover book, but
deliberately fill it with 300-dot-per-inch, laser-printed sludge.
Fortunately, these problems were corrected in the subsequent
But, even if they had been left uncorrected, these problems
would be relatively minor. _Combatting Cult Mind Control_ is well
written, often fascinating, and provides a wealth of information
on the nature and practices of destructive cults. It belongs on
the bookshelf of every skeptic with an interest in cults; and it
should provide hope to anyone with a loved one in the grip of a
_Chaz Bufe is the author of_ Alcoholics Anonymous: Cult or Cure?
_(reviewed in_ AS_, January/February 1992) and presently lives in
Tucson. This review is reprinted, with permission of the author,
from_ The Match!_, Summer 1992, pp. 33-35. A slightly different
version also appeared in the Bay Area Skeptics' newsletter,_
BASIS_, November 1991, pp. 3, 5._
Michael Persinger and Tectonic Strain Theory
By Jim Lippard
The March/April _Arizona Skeptic_ printed my review of _Space-Time
Transients and Unusual Events_ by Michael A. Persinger and
Gyslaine F. Lafreniere, a 1977 book which attempted to find
correlations between various alleged anomalies, finding
significant correlations between such events and solar and
geophysical forces. In that review, I called this alleged
correlation "interesting" and stated that it "deserves further
investigation," while expressing some reservations about some of
Persinger's data. As it turns out, Persinger's theory, known as
"tectonic strain theory" or TST, has been subjected to further
investigation. What follows is a bibliography assembled by Chris
Rutkowski of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at the
University of Manitoba, who has himself published a number of
works critical of Persinger (see below).
"Geophysical Variables and Human Behavior: XVI. Some Criticisms."
_Perceptual and Motor Skills_ 58(1984):840-842.
"Geophysical Variables and Behavior: XXXIV. Further Comments."
_Perceptual and Motor Skills_ 63(1986):18.
"Earthlights, earthquakes, UFOs and the TST; or, Who is Michael
Persinger and Why is He Saying Those Things About Me?"
_International UFO Reporter_ 11(1, 1986):4-8.
"Explaining Everything with the TST: A Response to Paul Devereux."
_International UFO Reporter_ 11(6, 1986):22.
"UFOs as Natural Phenomena." In Evans, H. & Spencer, J., eds.
_UFOs 1947-1987: The 40-Year Search for an Explanation_. London:
Fortean Tomes, 1987, pp. 273-279.
"Geophysical Alternatives." In Spencer, J. & Evans, H., eds.
_Phenomenon_. London: Futura, 1988, pp. 301-307.
(with Marc del Bigio) "UFOs and Cancer?" _Canadian Medical
Association Journal_ 140(June 1, 1989):1258-1259.
"Radiative Processes and the Generation of UFO Experiences."
_International UFO Reporter_ 14(5, 1989):9-11, 23.
"Critical Comments About Earth Lights and the TST." _Journal of
UFO Studies_ (n.s.) 2(1990):144-146.
"The TST: Down for the Count." _Journal of UFO Studies_ (n.s.)
Other Critical Works
Mauge, C. "Persinger's Tectonic Strain Theory: Strengths and
Weaknesses." _Magonia_ no. 24, November 1986, pp. 13-18.
Campbell, S. "Lights of Fancy." _Probe Report_ 3(4, April 1983).
Campbell, S. "UFO Data." (letter) _New Scientist_ (September 15,
Campbell, S. "UFOs and Faults." (letter) _New Scientist_ (October
_Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric_ by Howard Kahane
1992, 6th edition, Wadsworth, 350 pp.
Reviewed by Jim Lippard
I have been teaching logic and critical thinking courses at the
University of Arizona for the last few years and have tried a
number of different approaches and textbooks in each. For logic,
my favorite book has been Howard Kahane's _Logic and Philosophy: A
Modern Introduction_. As a result, after teaching critical
thinking three times previously with different texts each time,
none of them quite to my satisfaction, I decided to try Kahane's
book designed for critical thinking courses, _Logic and
Contemporary Rhetoric_. I believe I've found a winner.
A disadvantage of some critical thinking texts is that the
authors sometimes don't seem well-versed in logic. Kahane, the
author of a popular (and entertaining) logic text, doesn't suffer
from this problem. _Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric_ is well
organized, filled with up-to-date and relevant examples (including
some from the _Skeptical Inquirer_), and is enjoyable to read as
well as to teach from. My students appear to be enjoying the book
The nine chapters of the book give the reader an introduction
to arguments and reasoning, a classification of forms of
fallacious reasoning, a discussion of impediments to cogent
reasoning such as superstition, prejudice, and self-deception, and
a discussion of the use and misuse of language. Three chapters
address specific forums of argument: advertising, the news media,
and school textbooks. Examples in the book address such issues as
the paranormal and fringe sciences, political and economic issues,
scientific controversies, and more. Still more examples are drawn
from cartoon sources such as _Doonesbury_ and _Calvin and Hobbes_,
each illustrating some particular fallacy in a memorable way.
This book is highly recommended for all skeptics; my only
reservation is its excessive price (almost $30 for a paperback).
Given the price, it is probably worthwhile to look for previous
editions at used bookstores that deal in college texts.
_Sai Baba's Miracles: An Overview_ edited by Dale Beyerstein
1992, privately published, 128 pp., $10
Dale Beyerstein, a philosophy professor active in the British
Columbia Skeptics and co-editor (with his brother Barry) of the
recent Prometheus book _The Write Stuff_, has assembled a
fascinating look at the alleged miraculous powers of Indian guru
Sai Baba. The book simply takes Sai Baba's claims one at a time,
quoting from books by his followers, and then examines the
evidence produced by investigations of his critics. Sai Baba
claims to be omniscient and omnipotent, to have resurrected the
dead, to have telepathic powers, to have materialized objects from
nothing, and to have fulfilled ancient prophecies of both the
Bible and the Koran.
Beyerstein's book shows discrepancies between accounts of Sai
Baba's followers, internal inconsistencies in Sai Baba's claims,
and presents plausible explanations for every alleged miracle in
this book. In one case, a materialization which Sai Baba
performed before a camera exhibits strong evidence of sleight-of-
hand. The videotape is available from Sai Baba's followers.
The book is in a format which makes both easy reading and quick
reference (should Sai Baba begin to gain a following in the
southwestern U.S.; apparently he has followers in Canada). There
are a fair number of typographical errors, but this is certainly
forgiveable in light of the nature of the publication (5.5-inch by
8.5-inch, laserprinted with cardstock cover, self-published).
Copies of the book may be obtained from Dale Beyerstein, Apt.
A, 1267 W. 70th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6P 2Y4, Canada.
Jeff Jacobsen's previous contribution to the _Arizona Skeptic_,
"Dianetics: From Out of the Blue?" (_AS_, September/October 1991)
was reprinted in the British and Irish skeptics' magazine, _The
Skeptic_ (vol. 6, no. 2).
Jim Lippard has recently been criticizing creationism before
a largely creationist audience in two radio debates on Christian
station KVOI 690 AM in Tucson. The debates were both with Monty
Wyss, head of the Tucson Association of Creationists and principal
of Tucson Christian School, and took place on June 12 (for one
hour) and July 7 (for two hours). The debates were taped (though
only the first 90 minutes of the July 7 debate), and copies may be
obtained by sending blank cassettes and S.A.S.E. (with appropriate
postage) to Jim Lippard at P.O. Box 42172, Tucson, AZ 85733. Also
see the Margaret Niel article listed in "Articles of Note," this
Newsletter Production Volunteers Needed
As you have no doubt noticed, this publication has not been
arriving to your mailbox on time. This is not because of lack of
material, or even because of lack of a completed newsletter. The
bottleneck in the production is getting copies made, folding and
stapling them, and mailing them off. If you would like to
volunteer your labor (copying, staples, and stamps are paid for
out of the Phoenix Skeptics' account) to get the newsletters out
in a more timely manner, please contact the Phoenix Skeptics or
the newsletter editor.
Applications are also being accepted for the position of
editor, to take over the job sometime in 1993.
Electronic Version of the Newsletter
ASCII text versions of the _Arizona Skeptic_ are available
beginning with volume 5, number 1 (July/August 1991). They are
presently available for download from GEnie's PSI-NET area and the
Cleveland Freenet Skeptics SIG. If you would like ASCII versions
of the newsletter to upload to local bulletin boards or other
commercial services such as CompuServe or Prodigy, you may obtain
them by sending a 3.5-inch diskette to the editor at P.O. Box
42172, Tucson, AZ 85733 (send either a disk mailer and postage or
an S.A.S.E.) or, if you have Internet access, by sending email to
email@example.com (or firstname.lastname@example.org). Also
available is an index (by author and by subject) to all published
issues of _The Arizona Skeptic_. Specify Macintosh or MS-DOS
format. Subsequent issues will become available as they are
published; issues prior to volume 5 may also become available in
The Phoenix Skeptics will meet at the Jerry's Restaurant on
Rural/Scottsdale Road between McKellips and the river bottom, with
lunch at 12:30 on the first Saturday of each month except where it
conflicts with a holiday.
The September meeting will be on the second Saturday, the 12th.
The scheduled speaker is Chaz Bufe, author of _Alcoholics
Anonymous: Cult or Cure?_ (reviewed in _AS_, January/February
Articles of Note
Jacob Cohen, "Yes, Oswald Alone Killed Kennedy," _Commentary_
93(June 1992):32-40. A look at the movie JFK and the case against
multiple gunmen in the Kennedy assassination.
David H. Freedman, "A Chaotic Cat Takes a Swipe at Quantum
Mechanics," _Science_ 253(August 9, 1991):626. Joseph Ford of
Georgia Tech claims to have found a flaw in quantum theory. When
a physical system called Arnol'd's cat is transformed from
classical theory to quantum theory and back, its chaotic aspect is
lost, and that's not supposed to happen. This is just in theory,
but Ford thinks he can come up with a physical experiment which
will demonstrate that quantum mechanics is wrong.
Herbert Lindee, "Ghost Lights of Texas," _Skeptical Inquirer_
16(Summer 1992):400-406. Lindee offers a possible solution to
mystery lights seen in Marfa and Saratoga, Texas (see also the two
articles on the Marfa lights in _AS_, May/June 1992; Lindee's
solution is _not_ compatible with James Long's description of the
lights he saw).
Pamela Lister, "A Skeptic's Guide to Psychics," _Redbook_ (July
1992):102. A semi-skeptical look at psychic readings in a
surprising place. Most magazines in this genre are regular
purveyors of astrology, numerology, and holistic medicine; it is
gratifying to see some space given to skepticism.
Charles C. Mann, "Extinction: Are Ecologists Crying Wolf?"
_Science_ 253(August 16, 1991):736-738. An article which
discusses some difficulties which arise in estimating the number
of species and their rate of extinction, which generally supports
the case made by Julian Simon (_AS_, March/April 1992, pp. 4-5).
Margaret Niel, "The Timeless Debate: Evolution vs. Creation,"
_Good News_ (Tucson evangelical Christian paper) 5(June 1992):21-
22. A fairly objective (considering the source) examination of
some creationist arguments and evidence against them, though it
doesn't present any of the evidence for evolution, despite the
fact that much was given to the writer in a taped two-hour
interview. The July 1992 issue of the newspaper prints a letter
from Jim Lippard in response to this article.
Edward Sorel, "Religion in the News," _The Nation_ 254(June 22,
1992):847. This one-page collection of newsclippings (no sources
given) and Sorel cartoons includes one claiming that Moscow
University has named a building after L. Ron Hubbard, given him an
honorary (and posthumous) Doctor of Literature degree, and will be
publishing a Russian-language edition of _Dianetics_.
The Arizona Skeptic is the official publication of the Phoenix
Skeptics and the Tucson Skeptical Society (TUSKS). The Phoenix
Skeptics is a non-profit scientific and educational organization
with the following goals: 1. to subject claims of the paranormal,
occult, and fringe sciences to the test of science, logic, and
common sense; 2. to act as clearinghouse for factual and
scientific information about the paranormal; and 3. to promote
critical thinking and the scientific method. The contents of The
Arizona Skeptic are copyright (c) 1992 by the Phoenix Skeptics
unless otherwise noted. Material in this publication with Phoenix
Skeptics copyright may be reprinted provided that The Arizona
Skeptic and the author are provided copies of the publication in
which their work is reprinted. Address all correspondence to the
Phoenix Skeptics, P.O. Box 62792, Phoenix, AZ 85082-2792.
Submissions for publication in The Arizona Skeptic may be sent to
Jim Lippard, P.O. Box 42172, Tucson, AZ 85733 or electronically to
LIPPARD@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU. All manuscripts become the property of
the Phoenix Skeptics, which retains the right to edit them.
Subscription rate is $12.50 per year.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank