The Arizona Skeptic A Journal Promoting Critical Thinking Volume 5, Issue 2 September/Octo
The Arizona Skeptic
A Journal Promoting Critical Thinking
Volume 5, Issue 2 September/October 1991
Dianetics: From Out of the Blue?
By Jeff Jacobsen
L. Ron Hubbard, author of the book _Dianetics_: The
Modern Science of Mental Health and founder of the Church of
Scientology, was a science-fiction writer before penning the book
that would launch his fame. _Dianetics_ is a self- help book
published in 1950 which claimed to include new and unique
theories on how the mind works. Hubbard claimed that this work
was totally unprecedented; "Man had no inkling whatever of
Dianetics. None. This was a bolt from the blue."1 So there would
be no doubt as to the originality of his ideas, Hubbard wrote
that "dianetics borrowed nothing but was first discovered and
organized; only after the organization was completed and a
technique evolved was it compared to existing information."2
According to Hubbard, some philosophers of the past helped
provide the foundation of Dianetics, but the remaining research
had been done "what the navigator calls, 'off the chart.'"3
_Dianetics_ became a _New York Times_ bestseller in 1950,
and has since sold many millions of copies.
Was this a totally unique theory of the mind wrought from
Hubbard's "many years of exact research and careful testing,"4 or
was it a loose composite of already existing theories mixed with
novel, unproven ideas? This paper proposes to show that, despite
Hubbard's claims of originality, many of the ideas in _Dianetics_
were already existing and even in vogue before _Dianetics_
appeared. Either Hubbard really studied other works before he
wrote _Dianetics_, or he wasted years of his time re-inventing
Although there are no reference notes in _Dianetics_ to
see what are Hubbard's ideas and what are borrowed, we can
quickly eliminate the idea that Dianetics appeared "from the
blue" by Hubbard's own statements. In _Dianetics_ itself is the
statement that "many schools of mental healing from the
Aesculapian to the modern hypnotist were studied after the basic
philosophy of dianetics had been postulated."5 Alfred Korzybski,
Emil Kraepelin, Franz Mesmer, Ivan Pavlov, Herbert Spencer, and
others are mentioned as resources in _Dianetics_, so we must
assume Hubbard was crediting these people to some degree. He must
certainly have known, then, of at least some of the research from
his time which will be mentioned in this article. Hubbard in
other settings acknowledged Sigmund Freud (especially through
Commander "Snake" Thompson),6 Count Alfred Korzybski,7 and
Aleister Crowley8 as contributors to his ideas on the human mind.
In a speech in 1950, Hubbard stated that he had spent much time
in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital medical library in 1945 during a
stay for ulcers, where "I was able to get in a year's study."9
In fact, most of the theories and ideas in _Dianetics_
can be found in scientific literature previous to the first
publishing of Hubbard's theories. Parts of _Dianetics_, for
example, have striking resemblance to two articles found in
Volume 28 (1941) of the _Psychoanalytic Review_.
Dianetics theory posits the existence of engrams. These
are memories of events that occur around us when our analytical
mind is unconscious, and they are recorded in a separate area of
the mind called the reactive mind. A seemingly unique theory in
_Dianetics_ is that these memories begin being stored "in the
cells of the zygote--which is to say, with conception."10 These
engrams can cause problems for the person throughout life unless
handled through Dianetics auditing.
Dr. J. Sadger, nine years before the introduction of
_Dianetics_ in 1950, wrote that several of his patients were not
cured of their psychological problems until he had taken them
back to their existence as sperm or ovum. He declared that "there
exists certainly a memory, although an unconscious one, of
embryonic days, which persists throughout life and may
continuously determine an action."11 Sadger spends much time
explaining how his patients' memories of the time when they were
zygotes or even sperm or ovum had affected their adult behaviors,
noting that "an unconscious lasting memory must have remained
from these embryonic days."12 There were "unmistakable dreams" of
being a sperm in the father's testicle.
Engrams, those unconscious memories of Dianetics, are
said by Hubbard to be stored in the cells of the body and passed
on to their clone cells and finally on to the adult being.
Hubbard claimed to discover that "patients sometimes have a
feeling that they are sperms or ovums... this is called the sperm
dream."13 It was impossible, he claimed, to deny to a pre-clear
that he could remember being a sperm. But Sadger wrote about this
first, and Hubbard could well have read this in his "year's
study" at Oak Knoll Hospital.
Another coincidental discovery of Hubbard and Sadger was
that mothers often attempt to abort their child. Sadger states
that "so many a fall or other accident of a pregnant woman is
nothing else than an attempt at abortion on the part of the
unconscious, not to mention those cases where the mother seeks to
free herself more or less forcibly from the unwanted child."14
Hubbard concurs; "Attempted abortion is very common,"15 and in
fact "twenty or thirty abortion attempts are not uncommon in the
aberee."16 Again, not an idea "from the blue."
Life in the womb was not very kind, according to one of
Sadger's patients: "Perhaps when father performed coitus with
mother in her pregnancy I was much shaken and rocked. Shall that
have been one reason that I so easily became dizzy and that all
my life I have had an aversion even as a child from swings and
carousels?"17 Hubbard, in a similar vein, insists that the mother
"should not have coitus forced upon her. For every coital
experience is an engram in the child during pregnancy."18 "Papa
becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a
running washing machine."19
There are at least three other similarities like the
"sperm dreams", commonality of abortion attempts, and fetus
discomfort during parental sex. This seems quite a coincidence,
but it is not known whether Hubbard read Sadger's article.
Suffice it to say that these are major ideas in Dianetics, but
they are not new ideas.
The second article under discussion from _Psychoanalytic
Review_ deals with the unbearable conditions during birth and the
affects of these in later life. Grace W. Pailthorpe, M.D., argued
in this 1941 article that patients should be psychoanalyzed more
deeply into the period of infancy, or at least to the 'trauma of
birth'. Otherwise no lasting therapeutic effect could be
expected. Birth has traumatized all of us, she declares, and
these unconscious memories drive us in our adulthood. "It is only
when deep analysis has finally exposed the unconscious deviations
of our vital force"20 that we can recover and enjoy life.
In _Dianetics_, the reader is left with the impression
that the ideas of birth and pre-birth memories and traumas,
multiple abortion attempts, and fetal discomfort in the womb are
new discoveries. As can be seen, this is not the case. And there
are many other impressions of "new" and "unique" that are
incorrect as well.
With Pailthorpe's article, for example, we can also note
the dramatic similarities of Dianetics with simple Freudian
psychoanalysis. There is in both the return to past times in the
patient's life to search for the source of his or her current
problems. Once these problematic memories are discovered and
treated the problems vanish. In Pailthorpe's article we have a
man who was hopelessly traumatized by the events at his birth. He
was cruelly kicked out of his "home" in the womb, and his
resistance to this was assumed to be the cause of the immediate
traumas of the nurse's and mother's attentions (which were
"painful to the child's sensitive body"21). These traumas caused
headaches and social disorders in adult life. Psychoanalysis
discovered the causes (birth trauma) and when these were brought
to the conscious level with their meaning explained, the
headaches and social dysfunctions were alleviated.
Dianetics follows this line of reasoning to a great
degree. According to Hubbard, engrams (past traumas) are
discovered in the pre-clear's past, and bringing these engrams
into consciousness (from the reactive to the analytic mind)
alleviates the disorder. Hubbard claims that after auditing
people (he had the pre-clear lie on a couch in Freudian
imitation), "psycho-somatic illness...by dianetic technique...has
been eradicated entirely in every case."22
A theory in psychoanalysis known as abreaction is so
similar to Dianetics (and preceding it by many years) that it
must be mentioned in more detail here. A 1949 article by
Nathaniel Thornton, D.Sc., gives a brief overview of abreaction
and his views on its value. Abreaction began with Freud and was
considered early on to be "one of the very cornerstones of
analytic therapy."23 This is a method of freeing a patient "from
the deleterious results of certain pathogenic affects by bringing
these affects back into the conscious mind and re-experiencing
them in all their original force and intensity."24 A patient of
one of Freud's colleagues, under hypnosis and "with a free
expression of emotion"25 was freed of all her psycho-somatic
symptoms using abreactive therapy. Pierre Janet is credited in
the article with utilizing abreactive therapy to restore painful
memories to consciousness and thus relieving a patient's
symptoms. A patient being treated with this method must
continually work through such painful memories until the patient
"could accept the fact that the original experience no longer
loomed up as a threat to him."26
Thornton concludes that abreaction is a useful tool
simply because "confession is good for the soul", and that
talking to someone about one's problems is almost always
"Auditing" in Dianetics is a virtual clone of abreactive
therapy. Auditing basically is searching through a person's past
until an engram is discovered, then continually reexperiencing
the event when the engram (painful memory) was instilled "until
the pre-clear is no longer affected" by the memory.27 Hubbard
takes abreaction to an extreme and declares that once a person
has removed all his engrams, then Dianetics has done its job and
an almost god-like human results. Once again, the similarity of
an already existing theory on the mind is presented as a great
discovery in _Dianetics_.
Alfred Korzybski, mentioned in passing in _Dianetics_,28
owes a debt to Hubbard for making his theories well-known,
according to some former followers of Dianetics. Bent Corydon, a
former Mission holder of Hubbard's Church of Scientology, has
made a convincing comparison of Dianetics and Korzbyski's
writings, demonstrating that there is in essence little
difference between many aspects of the two.29 In support of this
comparison, it should be noted that there was a "Korzybski fad"30
sweeping through the science-fiction community in the 1940's, of
which Hubbard was a member, and that Hubbard, as mentioned above,
had stated the contribution Korzbyski made in his research.
Corydon also mentions the book _The Mneme_ published in
1923 by Richard Simon, wherein not only the idea of engrams, but
the very word itself is used. The word "engram" is listed in the
Oxford English Dictionary as deriving from Simon's book.
_Cybernetics_, published in 1948,31 compares the human
mind to the newly developing technology of computers. Dianetics
also tells us to "consider the analytical mind as a computing
machine."32 Cybernetics speaks of "affective tone" scales,33 as
does Dianetics in a remarkably similar vein.34 _Cybernetics_ was
a very popular work at the time Hubbard was writing _Dianetics_.
We have seen that many of the ideas in _Dianetics_ which
were claimed to be unique were in fact current in the study of
the mind at the time of, or just before, the introduction of
Dianetics. It is difficult to see whether Hubbard had studied
some of these works during his "many years of exact research,"35
but as mentioned previously he does acknowledge other
researchers. At any rate, no book is written in a vacuum, so we
may conclude from the evidence that Hubbard was aware of at least
some of this research previous to writing his work. Barring
acknowledgment somewhere by Hubbard, or a list of articles and
works he had read, we can only guess as to the others.
It seems safe to conclude that the theories presented in
_Dianetics_ did not arrive "out of the blue" as claimed, but were
instead a synthesis of previous, uncredited works. In that case,
is there any reason to discount the ideas in _Dianetics_? There
certainly is. There are outlandish, unsubstantiated claims made
by Hubbard, including the possibility that cancer may be cured by
Dianetic processing,36 that colds and accidents can be
eradicated,37 IQ improved,38 life extended,39 and total recall
enjoyed.40 None of this is proven in any way other than constant
mention of previous research. The problem with this research is
that there is no tangible evidence of its existence. Hubbard in a
lecture stated that "my records are in little notebooks,
scribbles, in pencil most of them. Names and addresses are
lost... there was a chaotic picture...."41 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 of research] clean."42 He
was putting this into the hands of valid researchers "whose word
can't be disputed" so Dianetics could be legitimized by the
Unfortunately, none of Hubbard's claimed research, nor
those of his valid researchers can be found today, if they ever
really existed. And if the methods and statistical results of the
supposed research are not available, they cannot be checked and
duplicated as the scientific method calls for. Anyone can make as
many outlandish claims as he wants, but the research must be
accessible and reproducible to support those claims if he
brandishes scientific validity.
_Dianetics_ is designed as a how-to manual for
psychoanalysis. Anyone who reads the book should be able to
perform Dianetics auditing and help his fellow man become
"clear". "Dianetics is not being released to a profession... it
is insufficiently complicated to warrant years of study in some
university."43 It is better to audit someone, said Hubbard,
regardless of how well, than to not audit at all.
But this seems a bit reckless. Auditing can produce
"tears and wailings,"44 and "a patient...that...bounces about,
all unconscious of the action."45 Regardless of the auditor's
abilities, and regardless of how traumatic a session becomes for
the pre-clear, "If an auditor...can sit and whistle while Rome
burns before him and be prepared to grin about it, then he will
do an optimum job."46 This sounds more like quackery than
Children often have engrams that are restimulated by
their parents. Hubbard states that it may be necessary to remove
the children from their parents if this is the case, until the
engrams are processed.47 Here again we have Hubbard making an
outlandish proposal of splitting families in order to produce
The cells of the zygote, according to Dianetics theory,
record sounds during a period of pain (Hubbard often uses a
husband beating his pregnant wife as an example), such as "'Take
that! Take it, I tell you. You've got to take it!'"48 >From this
engram we are to believe that the child grows up to be a thief.
Cellular recordings of sounds by the cells can even be in another
language unknown to the adult or child and still cause similar
problems. All of this, again, has no evidence accompanying it,
and without such evidence it may as well be classified as mere
We have in _Dianetics_ a work by a science-fiction writer
who claims to have created a totally new and foolproof handbook
of the mind with no documentation to prove his claimed research.
This book has been actively sold by Hubbard's Church of
Scientology for many years, and yet it is simply a synthesis of
already published ideas with bizarre, unsubstantiated claims
thrown in. The theories in this book, other than those found in
previous works by others, have never been scientifically
validated, and in fact, one attempt came up dry.49 There is
little scholastic or societal benefit to be derived from this
work. S.I. Hayakawa put it well in his review of _Dianetics_:
"The appalling thing revealed by dianetics about our culture is
that it takes a 452-page book full of balderdash to get some
people to sit down and seriously listen to each other!"50
Copyright ) 1990 by Jeff Jacobsen. For permission to reprint this
P.O. Box 3541
Scottsdale, AZ 85271
1 quoted in _L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?_, by Bent Corydon and L.
Ron Hubbard, Jr. (Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart, 1987) p. 262.
2 L. Ron Hubbard, _Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health_ (Los
Angeles: American Saint Hill Organization, 1950), 12th printing, paperback,
August 1975, p. 340. (Henceforth _Dianetics_.)
3 ibid. p.400.
4 ibid. p. ix.
5 ibid. p.122.
6 Russell Miller, _Bare-Faced Messiah_ (N.Y.: Henry Holt & Co., 1987), pp.230-
7 L. Ron Hubbard, cassette tape, "Introduction to Dianetics," Dianetics Lecture
Series 1. 1950. Bridge Publications, Inc.
8 Stewart Lamont, Religion, Inc.: The Church of Scientology (London: Harrap,
9 "The History of Dianetics and Scientology" cassette tape.
10 _Dianetics_, p.130.
11 Dr. J. Sadger, "Preliminary Study of the Psychic Life of the Fetus and the
Primary Germ." _Psychoanalytic Review_ July 1941 28:3. p.333
12 ibid. pp.343-4.
13 _Dianetics_, p.294.
14 Sadger, p.336.
15 _Dianetics_, p. 156.
16 _Dianetics_, p.158.
17 Sadger, p.352.
18 _Dianetics_, p.158.
19 _Dianetics_, p.130.
20 Grace W. Pailthorpe, M.D., "Deflection of Energy, as a Result of Birth Trauma,
and It's Bearing Upon Character Formation." _Psychoanalytic Review_ July 1941
28:3 pp. 305-326, p.326.
21 ibid. p.307.
22 _Dianetics_, p.91.
23 Nathaniel Thornton, D.Sc., "What is the Therapeutic Value of Abreaction?"
_Psychoanalytic Review_ 1949 36:411-415. p.411.
25 ibid. p.412.
26 ibid. p.413.
27 _Dianetics_, p.206.
28 _Dianetics_, p.62.
29 Corydon and Hubbard, Jr., pp. 266-269.
30 Albert I. Berger, "Towards a Science of the Nuclear Mind: Science-fiction
Origins of Dianetics", _Science Fiction Studies_, 1989, vol. 16:123-141. p.135.
31 Norbert Wiener, _Cybernetics; or Control and Communication in the Animal
and the Machine_ (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1948).
32 _Dianetics_, p.43.
33 Wiener, p.150.
34 _Dianetics_, p.323ff.
35 _Dianetics_, p.ix.
36 _Dianetics_, p.93.
37 _Dianetics_, p.92.
38 _Dianetics_, pp. 90, 193.
39 _Dianetics_, p.170.
40 _Dianetics_, p.417.
41 L. Ron Hubbard, cassette tape, "What Dianetics Can Do," Dianetics Lecture
Series 2. 1950. Bridge Publications, Inc.
43 _Dianetics_, p.168.
44 _Dianetics_, p.253.
45 _Dianetics_, p.278.
46 _Dianetics_, p.179.
47 _Dianetics_, pp.154, 155.
48 _Dianetics_, p.212.
49 Jack Fox, Alvin E. Davis, and B. Lebovits, "An Experimental Investigation of
Hubbard's Engram Hypothesis (Dianetics)," _Psychological Newsletter_ 1959, 10,
50 S.I. Hayakawa, "From Science-fiction to Fiction-science", _Etc.: A Review of
General Semantics_, 1951 Vol. 8 (4) 280-293. p. 293.
_Bryant's Law and Other Broadsides_ by John Bryant
1989, The Socratic Press, P.O. Box 66683, St. Petersburg Beach, FL 33736-6683
Reviewed by Jim Lippard
I obtained a copy of this book from its author (who publishes a
number of books through his Socratic Press) because of one
article contained within it, titled "A Skeptical View of _The
Skeptical Inquirer_." I am always looking for constructive
criticism of skeptical viewpoints, but I am afraid I did not find
it in Mr. Bryant's book.
Bryant bills himself as "an internationally-recognized
philosopher and logician." In fact, he has only a B.A. in
mathematics and is unknown in academic philosophical circles. He
has published a number of papers in philosophical journals, but
despite his claim to have published "the seminal work in relative
modal logic," I have never seen a single citation of his work.
Bryant defends his anonymity with the following explanation: "Do
you know why well-known people get so much publicity? Because
they're well-known. And do you know why they're so well-known?
Because they get so much publicity. ... it remains the case that
Mr. Bryant and his work are still not well-known as compared with
the best-known authors. And what's the reason? Simple: Because
he's not well- known." I think I can come up with a better
Bryant's critique of _The Skeptical Inquirer_, which
appears in his book in a section titled "Some Moons for the Sons
of Science," is that it is "biased." He brings up two cases in
which he claims that CSICOP is guilty "if not of academic
malfeasance--then at least of ... gross and shameful ignorance."
Regular readers of this publication know that I have not
hesitated to criticize skeptics (and material in _SI_) for
various failings (see Lippard 1990), but I am afraid Bryant's
cases hardly qualify. His first case is _SI_ promotional material
from 1986 in which mention is made of people who make investment
decisions on the basis of astrology, with the obvious implication
that this is unwise. Bryant takes issue with this, claiming that
the Rocky Mountain Futures Forecast and ASTRO services, both of
which use astrology, have been quite successful in the financial
arena. Unfortunately, he fails to give sufficient data to support
this claim (only that the former averaged 26% net profit over a
three year period and that the latter both earned him some money
and was ranked the number one stock market timing service for "a
number of months" by _Timer Digest_). (In another piece in
Bryant's book, he argues that the gambler's fallacy is no
fallacy--that is, Bryant claims that multiple throws of dice, for
example, are not really independent of each other and the
probability of a particular face coming up changes over time. I
suggest that this critic of _SI_ might benefit from reading an
_SI_ article on random walks as a source of illusory correlations
(Rotton 1985), as well as a book on the foundations of
probability and induction (e.g., Pollock 1990).)
His second case is that the same piece of promotional
material denies the reality of psi. This, maintains Bryant, is
unreasonable "not merely because so many of the scientific
establishment (including several universities and government
agencies) _do_ support psi research, but also because one of the
Fellows of CSICOP is Paul Edwards, editor of _The Encyclopedia of
Philosophy_, an eight-volume work found in almost every college
library which just so happens to contain a very long
beautifully-researched and strongly-convincing article which
_forcefully supports the thesis that psi is real_" (emphasis in
original). (This article, by the way, cites only J.B. Rhine's
Pearce-Pratt experiments and S.G. Soal's now-discredited
experiments with Basil Shackleton as evidence for psi. See
Markwick (1985).) Bryant's main argument is that there is a
substantial support for the reality of psi within the scientific
community, but he gives nothing to support this other than his
reference to a single article in a philosophical (not scientific)
publication from the late 1960's. According to Bryant, the _SI_
promotional piece contains an instance of "if not of gross and
shameful ignorance of the published research support psi, then
there is _at least_ a gross and shameful ignorance of the degree
of acceptance which psi has won among establishment science." Why
believe Bryant? He doesn't give us anything but his assertion.
While I think there is more support in the scientific community
for psi than some skeptics care to admit (see, for examples, the
critical commentaries following Rao & Palmer's (1987) article
arguing for psi), the overwhelming majority is still against it,
as parapsychologists frequently bemoan (see the same set of
In a postscript following Bryant's short attack, he
prints a letter submitted to _SI_ which went unpublished. In this
letter, he touts Whitley Strieber's book _Communion_ as "a clear
effort to investigate alien encounters in a scientific and
rational way." Say what? The fact that pro-UFO investigation
organizations such as the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) dismiss
Strieber is evidence enough that Strieber is beyond the fringe,
but I fail to see how anyone can read his work and obtain
Bryant's conclusions. (Here I might suggest Bryant read Philip
Klass's work on UFO abductions (Klass 1988).)
Bryant's letter goes on to claim that the October 1989
television program "UFO Coverup?" (an atrocious live program
hosted by Mike Farrell) was "powerful" and "convincing," and
complains that skeptic James Oberg had essentially nothing to
say. I think the latter is more due to the format of the program
(which gave the skeptics no more than five minutes time) and
perhaps to shock on the part of Oberg at the absurdity of what
had come before in the program. That Bryant found this program
convincing illustrates a complete lack of familiarity with the
skeptical literature on UFOs. Combined with his credulous opinion
of _Communion_, I am strongly inclined to doubt his ability to
critically analyze arguments.
At the conclusion of Bryant's rejected letter, he
suggests that _SI_'s audience might benefit from reading a number
of "very skeptical views of _SI_"-- his own "A Skeptical Look at
_The Skeptical Inquirer_," Robert Anton Wilson's book _The New
Inquisition_, and chapter five of Michel Gauquelin's
_Birthtimes_. I have just described the first of these. The
second, Wilson's book, was critically reviewed in a past issue of
this publication and found to contain extremely shoddy research
and numerous inaccuracies (Lippard 1988). I have not read the
third of these, but I suspect it is an account of Gauquelin's
involvement in the CSICOP "Mars Effect" controversy (a genuine
example of skeptical failure) which I briefly described in my
article on misrepresentations by skeptics (Lippard 1990).
In short, Bryant's article has nothing new to add to
arguments against the credibility or reliability of CSICOP or
_SI_. His book, while sometimes entertaining, is written in the
grating pedantic tone of a man who thinks he is God's
intellectual gift to the universe but whose elliptical arguments
and failure to cite or even demonstrate familiarity with the work
of others in the subjects on which he is writing should set off
alarms in the mind of the critical reader.
Klass, Philip J. (1988) _UFO-Abductions: A Dangerous Game_. Prometheus
Lippard, Jim (1988) "Book Review: _The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism
and the Citadel of Science_ by Robert Anton Wilson," _The Phoenix Skeptics
---- (1990) "Some Failures of Organized Skepticism," _The Arizona Skeptic_,
January, pp. 2-5.
Markwick, B. (1985) "The Establishment of Data Manipulation in the Soal-
Shackleton Experiments," in Paul Kurtz, ed., _A Skeptic's Handbook of
Parapsychology_, Prometheus Books.
Pollock, John (1990) _Nomic Probability and the Foundations of Induction_.
Oxford University Press.
Rao, K. Ramakrishna and Palmer, John (1987) "The anomaly called psi: Recent
research and criticism," _Behavioral and Brain Sciences_ 10(December):539-643.
Rotton, James (1985) "Astrological Forecasts and the Commodity Market:
Random Walks As a Source of Illusory Correlation," _Skeptical Inquirer_
Hypnosis and Free Will
By Jim Lippard
Most hypnosis researchers maintain that hypnotized persons cannot
be induced to do anything contrary to their own personal moral
code. At least one article in the scientific literature denies
this claim (Loyd W. Rowland, "Will Hypnotized Persons Try To Harm
Themselves or Others?", _Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology_ 34(1939):114-117, described in William Corliss' _The
Unfathomed Mind: A Handbook of Unusual Mental Phenomena_, pp.
120-123). These experiments involved subjects sticking their
hands into a box containing a rattlesnake (which was actually
fake) or throwing acid into the face of an experimenter (who was
behind an unseen panel of glass). A possible rejoinder to this
experiment is the same as a criticism made of Stanley Milgram's
"obedience to authority" experiments, where subjects believed
they were assisting in a psychological experiment by giving
painful electric shocks to another test subject (actually a
simulating assistant of the experimenter). The response is to say
that the experimental situation was one in which the subject had
complete trust in the experimenter and put all responsibility
into his hands. But is there any reason to believe that this
effect is limited to the experimental laboratory?
There are also, however, a number of reported cases of
criminal actions being performed by hypnotized persons. For
example, Leo Katz's book _Bad Acts and Guilty Minds_ (1987,
University of Chicago Press, pp. 128-133) describes legal cases
from Germany where unethical hypnotists induced patients to give
them large sums of money, commit crimes, and attempt murder and
suicide (the latter two failed). One response to this is to claim
that the defendants were simply using hypnosis as an excuse to
avoid prosecution, that they wouldn't have done what they did if
they had not already been predisposed to do so (this response,
like the one above to the experiments, is made by Robert A.
Baker--see my review of his book _They Call It Hypnosis_, in _The
Arizona Skeptic_, July/August 1991).
The latest issue of the _Fortean Times_ (#58, July 1991)
reports the prosecution of a 57-year-old man, Nelson Nelson, who
sexually assaulted at least 113 women, preceded by hypnosis. In
Michael Goss' article, "The Eyes Have It," he reports that most
of the women assaulted by Nelson over a 25-year period did not
report it and were only discovered because Nelson kept a diary of
his exploits. The only source cited for this, however, is "daily
papers for 2 May 1991." No newspapers, no locations are cited
(the author lives in Essex, England). Goss also reports a
psychiatrist, Clifford Salter, whose medical license was revoked
in 1982 for abusing women under hypnosis. (Again, no sources, and
the details are too sketchy to know whether hypnosis really
played a significant role at all. After all, Salter was allegedly
The November/December issue of _The Arizona Skeptic_ will feature
an update on the fallout from the article "Some Failures of
Organized Skepticism" by Jim Lippard which appeared in the
January 1990 issue, reviews of _The Satanic Verses_ and William
Corliss' _The Unfathomed Mind: A Handbook of Unusual Mental
Phenomena_, and letters to the editor.
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 October 5 (Don Lacheman of Sun Magic will
give a demonstration), November 2 (Louis Rhodes, director of the
Arizona Civil Liberties Union, will speak), December 7
(predictions for 1992 will be made), and January 4 (Rene
Pfalzgraf, a Neuro- Linguistic Programmer, will speak). Meetings
are on the first Saturday of each month except where it conflicts
with a holiday.
Articles of Note
Peter W. Huber, "Quack Attack," _Reason_, October 1991, pp.
25-31. Describes the "medical fantasy" of clinical ecology and
how quack Bertram W. Carnow has earned millions of dollars for
plaintiffs in unfounded lawsuits against chemical companies by
providing his "expert" testimony. (Article is an excerpt from
Huber's book, _Galileo's Revenge: Junk Science in the Courtroom_,
1991, Basic Books.)
Alun Anderson, "Britain's Crop Circles: Reaping by
Whirlwind?", _Science_ 253(30 August 1991):961-962. An article
which takes it for granted that many crop circles aren't hoaxes,
focusing on Terence Meaden's plasma/wind vortex theory of crop
circles. It concludes with a quote from Meaden: "I hope we'll get
some firm answers soon...I don't want to be one of those
scientists who is taken seriously 100 years after dying."
Larry Eichel, "2 British artists say they created 'crop
circles'," _The Arizona Daily Star_ (Knight-Ridder story),
September 10, 1991, pp. 1A-2A. Meaden needn't have worried:
artists Doug Bower and David Chorley confessed to creating the
crop circle hoaxes since 1978. (Also see William E. Schmidt, "2
'Jovial Con Men' Take Credit (?) for Crop Circles," _The New York
Times_, same date, p. B1.)
John Rennie, "Psychic vs. Skeptic," _Scientific American_
265(September 1991):39-40. A report on Uri Geller's lawsuits
against James Randi.
Lawrence Wright, "Sympathy for the Devil," _Rolling
Stone_ #612(September 5, 1991):62-68, 105-106. The second in a
series on "True Believers," this is an interview with Anton LaVey
of the Church of Satan. Wright uncovers some falsehoods in
LaVey's (Howard Stanton Levey) autobiography.
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 ) 1991 by the Phoenix Skeptics
unless otherwise noted. Reprinting of 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, Dept. of Philosophy,
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank