February 1990 +quot;BASIS+quot;, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics Inf
February 1990 "BASIS", newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 9, No. 2
Editor: Kent Harker
PSYCHICS' 1989 PREDICTIONS FIZZLE
by Robert Sheaffer
[When psychics make predictions, especially at the beginning of a
New Year, they count heavily upon our short memories for the
howlers they habitually commit. Experience teaches that they are
safe in that reliance. Except for BAS.
Much to the consternation of the psychics, Robert Sheaffer, past
Chair of BAS, keeps the predictions of the more notable
practitioners, blows the cobwebs off with the dawn of the New Year,
and tots up the score for us in this, BAS's annual psychic review.
If one claims to be psychic, his or her predictions ought to be
correct. If the predictions are NOT correct, well. . . .
Robert is a software engineer and author of "The UFO Verdict" and
"Resentment Against Achievement". These annual predictions go out
to many other publications nationwide.]
Northern Californians were told not to worry about a major
earthquake in 1989. Fidel Castro did not die in a savage hurricane,
a UFO did not crash in a Kansas tornado. Ted Kennedy did not marry
Donna Rice, nor did Prince Charles suffer a nervous breakdown.
These were just a few of many predictions that had been made for
1989 by famous psychics, but were dead wrong, as chronicled by Bay
At the end of each year, many well-known psychics issue predictions
for the coming year. Twelve months later, they issue another set of
predictions, conveniently forgetting those made the year before,
which are always nearly 100% wrong.
Many of the psychic predictions are so vague that it is impossible
to say if they came true or not. For example, Jeanne Dixon's
prediction that Senator Edward Kennedy "will have a hard spring and
summer" dealing with doctors and lawyers is not clearly true or
false. Many other "predictions" involve things that happen every
year, or else are not difficult to guess, such as hurricanes in
Florida, marital strife for Charles and Diana, or terrorist
incidents. Many "predictions" simply state that ongoing events and
trends will continue, such rising house prices, or conflict in
Other supposed "predictions" are not really predictions at all, but
are actually disclosures of little-known events which are already
under way, such as movie productions, business ventures, or
developing scandals. Because questionable claims of having made an
amazing prediction frequently are made in the wake of major news
stories, Bay Area Skeptics only evaluates predictions that were
widely known before the events they claimed to foretell. While some
predictions did of course come true, especially those that were
nonspecific, or not at all difficult to guess, not ONE prediction
which was both specific AND surprising came true.
The famous Washington, D.C. psychic Jeanne Dixon, who supposedly
has a "gift of prophecy," predicted that Prince Albert of Monaco
would announce his engagement, as would his son Prince Albert, that
"Egypt's government will totter," that Eddie Murphy would get
married, and that war would break out again in Korea. "The world
will be rocked by a major earthquake during the first week of
April." Some hospitals, she predicted, will start scheduling
surgeries according to the phases of the moon.
Televangelist Jimmy Baker would face "a short jail sentence": Baker
actually received 45 years! Jeanne Dixon did indeed predict that
the Berlin Wall would be coming down -- but not until the 21st
New York psychic Shawn Robbins predicted that Fidel Castro would
die when "a Havana building collapses during a savage hurricane."
She also predicted that Michael Jackson would become romantically
involved with Robin Givens, resulting in Jackson being K.O.'d by
Denver psychic Lou Wright predicted that Prince Charles would
suffer a nervous breakdown, that Charles Manson would escape from
prison, and that Barbara Walters would successfully negotiate the
release of an American hostage in the Middle East.
St. Louis psychic Beverly Jaegers, who claims to be able to make
accurate stock market prophecies, predicted that a UFO would crash
during a Kansas tornado, resulting in three dazed aliens being
taken into custody by National Guardsmen. She also predicted a
major riot in Washington, DC between pro and anti-smoking forces,
resulting in several buildings being burned down.
New York psychic John Monti predicted that Ted Kennedy would -
announce plans to marry Donna Rice, and that televangelists Jim
Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart would meet, and get into a bloody
Here in Northern California, Psychic Astrologer Terrie Brill made
a reassuring prediction that she repeated several times. She told
the "San Francisco Chronicle" in August, "I predicted last year
before the New Year on KGO radio and TV and KCBS that there would
be a 5.2 earthquake this year with some aftershocks, but that I
didn't see a major 7-pointer destroying the Bay Area."
Exactly two months and three days later, the Bay Area was struck by
a magnitude 7.1 earthquake, causing great devastation. Brill had
also predicted in December, 1985 that Reagan would not finish his
term in office, a prediction that became false on January 20, 1989.
Based on the continuing failure of the psychics to make accurate
predictions over the years, Bay Area Skeptics urges everyone --
including the media -- to exercise some healthy skepticism when
psychics and other purveyors of the paranormal make extra-ordinary
claims or predictions. Anyone who swallows the psychics' claims
year after year without checking the record is setting a bad
example for students and for the public.
It is important to note that no psychic succeeded in predicting the
genuinely SURPRISING news stories of 1989: the Berlin Wall coming
down, and the unraveling of Communist power throughout Eastern
Europe; a major destructive earthquake with its epicenter in Santa
Cruz County, closing the Bay Bridge; and the sudden death of Andrei
Sakharov. These major news stories were so unanticipated that
someone would have had to be truly psychic to have predicted them!
Given the number of so-called psychics out there, one would expect
that at least a few of them would have correctly predicted these --
unless, of course, all such claims of psychic powers are without
Bay Area Skeptics is a group of people from all walks of life who
support the critical examination of paranormal claims, such as
psychic powers, UFOs, astrology, Bigfoot, biorhythms, etc. Similar
skeptics' organizations are active in many other areas of the
country, including southern California, New York, Colorado,
Illinois, Arizona, Texas, and Ohio. The Committee for the
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) is an
international skeptics' organization, made up of many famous
writers, scientists, and investigators, such as Martin Gardner,
Stephen Jay Gould, James "The Amazing" Randi, Isaac Asimov, and
many others. Similar skeptics' groups have also formed in many
foreign countries, including Australia, Canada, France, the United
Kingdom, Mexico, and India. All of these groups cooperate in making
their findings available to other researchers, and to the public.
BAS has realized one of the more prosperous years of its history in
1989. Our subscription base and contributions have been stronger
than ever. While most small organizations teeter on the financial
brink and are therefore forced to use far too much time and energy
chasing badly needed funds, we have enjoyed the benefits of
relative financial security. The freedom that gives us to
concentrate effort where it is more effective is powerful and
We extend special thanks to those who have made contributions above
the regular subscription rate. These extra funds have made it
possible to pay for enhancements to the newsletter that would not
otherwise have been possible. We have been able to replace an aging
phone recorder and pay for simple office supplies.
The energy of a lot of very dedicated people, too many to name,
have helped us achieve some significant goals. Thank you everyone.
We look forward to a banner 1990.
Beginning balance $1,559.84
Bank fees $37.65
Hall rental & equipment $592.35
Year-end balance: $3,675.87
FRAKNOI ON KGO
[The following is an excerpt of the KGO (San Francisco) radio Jim
Eason program of Nov. 9, 1989 with guest BAS board member Andy
Fraknoi. Andy is a frequent and very popular guest. He is the
director of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. (John Taube
recorded and transcribed this portion of the show).]
Eason: One more quick question and we will get back on the phone.
This may not be a quick answer but it is a quick question. Can you
tell me, definitely, once and for all, exactly how this was all
Fraknoi: In 25 words or less?
E: Can you give me a definite answer as to how this all can about?
F: No. And I think you would be very disappointed if I could.
E. All right. Then why do you get so upset when somebody says they
have a theory called "creation"?
F. Well, very carefully. I think most astronomers DON'T feel
uncomfortable at all with the idea of creation. The "big bang"
which we talk about, is this big explosion which we think made the
universe as it is today, is a creation event. There is nothing
really incompatible with ideas of creation and evolution.
Where scientists get [upset] is the idea that it all happened 6,000
years ago, that life did not evolve, but life was placed here,
one-by-one, carefully as in a jigsaw puzzle. That is the sort of
thing where we are absolutely contravening all the evidence of
hundreds of years of investigation. That's what the creationists
want. They want to go back to a very strict fundamentalist view of
religion, supplanting what we teach in science. I think that is
where the disagreement is. The disagreement is not between creation
and evolution: it's between this narrow fundamentalist view that
says the world was created in seven days, in 4004 B.C., on October
23, which in fact is their date. That sort of narrow view is what
we disagree with, but that is what they want us to teach.
E: When I was a young fellow back in North Carolina going to Sunday
School, I used to hear about the creation of the universe and the
world and so forth. It was explained then -- and this goes back
years and years ago -- as the Bible says, a day is to God as a
1,000 years. So a day is a relative term and nobody nailed down
that 4,000 years. It happened for about 100 years. I think you guys
are way out of date.
F: No that's not true. You just have to go to San Diego and go to
this place called the Institute for Creation Research and they are
writing about dates like 6,000 years ago, 10,000 years ago. You
just have to read their literature. Now you are right -- the kind
of intelligent people who think carefully about religion and
science don't find much problem there. For most people the Bible is
allegorical. It is not a science text book -- that almost is an
insult to the Bible to call it a science text book. It is a great
work about morality, about history, about spirituality. It is not
a word-for-word description of scientific events. And to take when
you say seven days and make it literally seven [twenty-four-hour]
days or say that it happened so few years ago is a tremendous
disservice to religion as well as to science.
E: But the people who say that the world was created 4, 5, or 6
thousand years ago, and insist on that, I think are a definite
minority. I don't know too many people who believe that.
F: That's right. And the interesting thing -- if you think God in
all of her wisdom could have created the world four thousand year
ago, why not two minutes ago, right in middle of Jim Eason show?
The world was created with all the memories of the past put in our
heads to begin with?
There is a "flood of occult nonsense", says Hal Draper from
Berkeley. He recognizes the monumental task of counteracting it and
suggests we expand our outreach. Limited resources are, of course,
the primary problem: time, money and bodies. Still, he suggests
that we might be able to avail ourselves of some free air time
through "free speech" slots offered by some local TV stations. Our
$11,000 challenge is a catchy item, one that could stir media
interest and give us an opportunity.
We need two things to do this: (1) a spokesperson, and (2) a
statement. If YOU would like to get involved, write a free-speech
statement that could be delivered in 60 seconds or less. Send your
suggestion to the Editor, Box 32451, San Jose, CA 95152. We will
choose the best one, or make something of a composite from several
to come up with what we think would be an exceptional bit and then
try to schedule some air time. If you or someone you know has
outstanding delivery and credible self-presentation, include his
or her name with your submission.
Do it now or you'll forget it.
by Bob Steiner
Sorting through the accumulated papers on my desk, I fell to musing
about the enormous amount of wisdom contained therein. I will give
you just a sampling.
-- "SUPPRESSED C.I.A. DOCUMENTS PROVE U.S. POSSESSES REMAINS OF
U.F.O.'S & ALIEN BEINGS"
Our last 8 Presidents have been in on "The Ultimate Cover-up"
Now for the first time, all the facts about this "cosmic Watergate"
are being released to the public because you have a right to know
This was an ad for "MJ-12 & THE RIDDLE OF HANGAR 18", on the back
cover of the Winter 1989-90 issue of "Caveat Emptor".
-- "Section 5702: Trade or Business Property. The phrase `property
used in the trade or business' means (1) property used in a trade
or business." (Commerce Clearing House: "Federal Tax Guide 1990".
Chicago: Commerce Clearing House. 1989, 2128.)
This gives great clarity to an otherwise confusing term in the -
Internal Revenue Code.
-- "Just as there are not atheists in foxholes, there are no
skeptics of big government in the wake of an earthquake or
hurricane. They all fall to their knees before the Federal
Emergency Management Agency and shout, `I believe!'" (Jacob Sullum:
"Disastrous Relief." "Reason". January 1990, 6.)
-- "Miss, n. A title with which we brand unmarried women to
indicate that they are in the market. Miss, Misses (Mrs.) and
Mister (Mr.) are the three most distinctly disagreeable words in
the language, in sound and sense. Two are corruptions of Mistress,
the other of Master. In the general abolition of social titles in
this our country they miraculously escaped to plague us. If we must
have them let us be consistent and give one to the unmarried man.
I venture to suggest Mush, abbreviated to Mh." (Ambrose Bierce:
"The Devil's Dictionary". New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 
"Palmistry, n. The 947th method (according to Mimbleshaw's
classification) of obtaining money by false pretences.
It consists in `reading character' in the wrinkles made by closing
the hand. The pretence is not altogether false; character can
really be read very accurately in this way, for the wrinkles in
every hand submitted plainly spell the word `dupe.'"
The imposture consists in not reading it aloud.
[(Ramparts is a regular feature of "BASIS", and we welcome your
participation. Clip, snip and tear bits of irrationality from your
local scene and send them to the Editor. If you want to add some
comment with the submission, please do.)]
Bill Hoch clipped from the S.F. "Chronicle" a tidbit about a
Tahitian spiritual healer who killed a patient while healing her.
His cure, worse than anything the poor woman could ever have had,
consisted of "walking on her, beating her and jumping up and down
on her stomach."
So much for the notion that faith healers can't make you any WORSE.
If some Christians are in the lion's den lately, they only have
themselves to blame. The spectacle of Oral, the two Jims (who give
new meaning to our word "jimmy"), and Tammy sobbing rivers of
mascara have almost been surreal. As they trucked Bakker off to
prison, his ever-credulous followers prayed, believing that there
would be divine intervention, loosing him from the manacles in a
dramatic, supernatural reprieve.
As painful as it is to be witness to this circus, only money and
credulity suffered the worst trampling in the abuses of those
charlatans. "BASIS" has reported some real heart-rending tragedies
that are permanent: the victims of the faith-healing cults.
The Christian Scientists -- who are anything but scientists, and
less than Christian in the way they treat their sick children --
are finally getting their just desserts. California is in the
vanguard of the nation in setting aside notions that somehow
Christian Science could be exempted from the responsibility of
parents to attend to the health and well-being of their children
under the theory that state intervention is restraint of the free
exercise of religious liberty. If parents fail to take prudent,
tested measures for the care of a child, they may be judged liable
if harm comes despite the banner in which the negligence is
BAS secretary Rick Moen clipped a piece from the S. F. "Examiner"
that related some testimony in a State Assembly hearing on the
practice of faith healing. Stunned committee members listened --
actually, watched -- to a woman communicate by sign language how
she lost her hearing at age seven because her "Christian Science
parents [refused] to seek medical help." She "explained how the
pain in her ears had grown day by day, but her parents had told her
it was a lack of faith that had led to her illness."
The 37-year-old woman was part of a group called to testify in
hearings before the Assembly vote on AB2325, a measure introduced
by Assemblyman Nolan Frizzelle. The measure would "prohibit
prosecution of parents whose children die of illnesses or injuries
treatable with modern medicine, and exempts faith healers from
reporting cases of suspected child abuse." The bill didn't pass in
the first half of the session and was up for reconsideration when
the second session convened in January.
Frizzelle urged that religious freedom is at issue in the measure -
- the precious freedom that is part of the foundation of American
In reply, Rita Swan, a former member of the cult who had lost a
child to meningitis, said, "Does the committee really believe that
Christian Science can heal bacterial meningitis? Some of us would
rather have our children back than all the religious freedom in the
The "San Francisco Chronicle" ran a report about financial advisor
Alan Feinstein who turned to the subscribers of his own financial
newsletter to solicit "participants in a project `Operation
He said that over 5,000 people paid $10 (and two stamped,
self-addressed envelopes) to get a "three-page letter marked
`confidential' that tells them to look up at the sky at precisely
at 10 p.m. EDT on June 29 and spend a full minute repeating the
questions: `Is there any way we can communicate? Can you send me a
sign of your existence?'"
For the next couple of weeks the participants were to write down
any "unusual events, thoughts or dreams" and send their accounts to
Feinstein who would then send the result to all the other
What this was to accomplish was not revealed.
Feinstein would probably send them the results from the veranda of
his new condo on Aruba, from where he is sipping mint juleps.
From the pages of the "Contra Costa Times" (11-24-89) comes another
article sent by Rick Moen. This one is a book review. We could
hardly have prepared ourselves for this, although we can suppose it
was inevitable: "Astrological Gardening".
Then again, it is no more a shredding irrationality to suppose that
the compulsions of the heavens have their sway on the flora than it
is alleged they do on the fauna. Originally, only the fate of Homo
sapiens fell under the purview of the zodiac. After some centuries,
confederations of humans -- kingdoms -- were adjudged to have a
starry destiny. In our own time other select members of vertebrate
taxa have become the focus of oracles trying to widen the scope of
their clientele with pet astrology. Rover could be a lion, or a
fish, or a sheep.
The author of the book, Louise Riotte, whom the "Times"
characterizes as "off the beaten path," assures readers that "her
method is legitimate."
". . . every detail of a plant's and animal's development is guided
by the zodiac," she advises. "Aquarius, for example, rules the base
of the plant stem, while Virgo oversees the process of digestion in
the plant." If it is legitimate, one will surely find the evidence
in any college-level botany text.
By the time our table has been set with crops farmed organically
and tuned through propitious aspects we won't need any
chiropractic, holistic medicine, or acupuncture.
Psychics are notorious for explaining away their failures. This
problem often exists with those who claim they are doing legitimate
scientific research in parapsychology laboratories. When
replication attempts by skeptics fail they have excuses. They cry
conspiracy and claim they have a new paradigm. But they have
failed, in over 100 years of concentrated study, to produce a
workable theory of "psi".
A man gave me the "arm test" when I volunteered in a paranormal
"experiment" to show the weakness caused by having my "aura" cut.
He began by pushing down at the wrist of my horizontally
outstretched arm. Then he "sliced" my aura with a sweeping vertical
movement of his hand. The arm test was again administered and he
asked me if it had not been easier for him to push my arm down
after he whacked up my aura. My negative reply drew this
observation made to the rest of the participants: "The test was
He then gave the same test to a female subject. She concurred that,
yes, it had been easier for him to push her arm down after he cut
her aura, to which he proclaimed the test a success and the result
Heads I lose, tails he wins.
Many of those swept up in the anti-intellectualism of the past
fifteen years talk as if science, with a capital "S," is some
monster. Our challengers often accuse us of being narrow minded to
the point that the only thing that matters to us is science, or
that we behave as if there is no validity to non-scientific
questions. Science recognizes that only material questions can be
tested in a scientific way. This simply puts metaphysical things
outside the venue of science. The very nature of science forces the
focus on the material. Love, devotion, ethics, art appreciation,
etc. are all immaterial, and science recognizes the validity of
these areas of human concern and interest. Life would be dreary if
there was only science.
Those who are not familiar with skeptical literature often
challenge: "Well, if there really is nothing to this psychic
business, where does it all come from? There are so many people who
have had extraordinary experiences that there just has to be
SOMETHING to it."
This is the where-there's-smoke-there's-fire argument. Psychic
ideas arise in the same way any others do. Anything that is
imaginable has its purveyors, no matter how asinine. There is no
limit to the audacity of human concoctions. Critical thinking
skills are scarcely taught in our schools. Few people are
interested in looking at what they think and how they think it.
Unaided, we are poor at finding cause-effect relationships. Herein
lies the power of the scientific method -- it gives procedures by
which we can OBJECTIVELY establish careful links between cause and
The ancients had gods to explain nature -- gods for everything.
When something went awry, it was because they had failed in some
propitiatory offering, or they had neglected some ritual, or any of
a myriad of complex reasons they had to make sense out of the
senseless. It is much easier to postulate some mysterious force
than to search for the real cause. Atlas is easier to understand
than gravity. (Most of those gods have succumbed to a disease that
is always fatal to deities: uselessness.) The psychic is a
dressed-up-in-modern, 5th-century shaman, with the same
prescientific mysterious forces, energies, and emanations.
Since the scientific approach to a question seeks to eliminate
clouding emotion, people sense the scientific approach as cold and
unfeeling. From the viewpoint of those not disposed to a scientific
way of examination, the emotional component of a question is likely
to be as important as reality itself. An example of this came to me
as I listened on my car radio to a man from the Southwest Radio
Bible Church. He said that if evolution is correct, there is no
value to anything -- as if human value judgments bore the greatest
weight upon truth. He said that if he were to "believe in
evolution, you'd better watch out. I would steal all your money,
rape your daughters when I felt the whim, and kill anyone who got
in my way." I felt happy that he is a Christian.
Many require some institution or extrinsic motivation to control
their behavior -- a lamentable mortal trait. Love, kindness,
gentility, and honesty in dealing with others are moral attributes
independent of any institution or philosophic persuasion.
Skeptics want to know the truth. If the truth is harsh, do we want
a glitzy veneer to insulate us from it? Isn't harsh truth better
than sweet sophistry? We want hard answers to hard questions. We
demand evidence more compelling than ones wishing and hoping.
Is skepticism negative?
Another common criticism is that skepticism is negative. Some have
commented that "BASIS" is negative. This is quite wrong. Voicing an
objection or a critique can be a very positive thing. Often, the
easiest way to attack error is from the "negative." It is usually
much easier to prove that a statement is false than true: a single
negative example can suffice to disprove, whereas no finite number
of positive examples can serve to prove.
An important function of BAS is our work in combating fraud, a kind
of consumer protectionism. It was not too long ago when we read
that faith healer Peter Popoff has filed for bankruptcy in federal
court. We did something very positive: saved many people from his
fraud. I am delighted to hear him rage against the "secular
humanists that use Satan's power to thwart God's purposes."
Pointing out what is wrong can be a useful metier.
It is a red herring to charge that if one hasn't a solution to a
problem he or she must not talk about it. One doesn't have to be a
surgeon to know that something, maybe life-threatening, is wrong.
We may not know how to fix the serious fiscal problems in the
country, but that should not stop us from railing against fiscal
irresponsibility in government. It is a cop-out to sit back and say
nothing until we have a proposal to fix things. Besides, if
everyone screamed that something is wrong and we want some expert
to do something, it might get done.
We must accentuate the positive, but that doesn't mean we should
ignore the negative. Error, if blissfully ignored, will run
roughshod over the positive. There is a kind of entropic principle
here that says error, left to its own, will increase and swallow -
everything. False concepts must be resisted at every turn or the
world will drown in the darkness of error.
The history of human intellectual achievement is one of violent
struggle against the inertia of intellectual sloth. We are more
given to feelings than to thought. If something affects our well
being and sense of security it will have a much better chance of
succeeding in the marketplace of ideas than what may be hard
We mortals are no different from an electric current: most will
take the path of least resistance.
SAME OLD SHROUD, SAME OLD TRICKS
by William Bennetta
In the December 1988 issue of "BASIS" I described a shrine, at the
Corpus Christi Roman Catholic church in Port Chester, New York,
that was dedicated to veneration of the Shroud of Turin. The shrine
had been created by Father Peter M. Rinaldi, who was the pastor of
Corpus Christi from 1950 to 1977.
Rinaldi is one of the most conspicuous devotees of the shroud in
the United States, and he has been promoting it vigorously for
several decades. He has declared unequivocally that it is the cloth
in which the corpse of Jesus was wrapped for burial, and he has
insisted that the images on the shroud must have originated
supernaturally. He also has tried to further those beliefs by
writing several booklets that enlist pseudoscientific claims and
severely misrepresent legitimate scientific work. Rinaldi's
booklets carry such titles as "When Millions Saw the Shroud" (1979)
and "I Saw the Holy Shroud: A Study of the Shroud of Christ"
(1983). They rely heavily on false or distorted information and on
the Top-Scientists-Stumped approach to miracle-mongering.
As my readers may recall, I visited the shrine at Corpus Christi
during the very week (in October 1988) when the national press
reported that the shroud had been discredited by radiocarbon
dating: Tests performed with the cooperation of Roman Catholic
authorities had indicated that the cloth was no more than 750 years
About a year later, in November 1989, I returned to Corpus Christi
to see how, if at all, the results of the radiocarbon work had been
accommodated or had been conveyed to the faithful. I was
accompanied, as I had been during my first visit, by my brother,
There had been no obvious changes in the shrine, nor had there been
any modification or moderation of the claims made on the placards
that attested to the shroud's authenticity as a relic of Jesus's
death and resurrection. A close inspection showed, however, that
there was indeed something new: A new placard hung in a recess so
dimly lighted that I used a flashlight to read and transcribe what
the placard said. Here is the whole of it; the initials P.M.R.
doubtless denote Rinaldi:
On the Shroud: Questions and Answers
Q: What is being planned for the Shroud?
A: A new series of tests is in the planning stage. The
carbon-14 test, which recently dated the Shroud to the
14th century A.D., in no way solved the mystery of the
astounding image of Christ on the cloth.
Q: What makes the image so mysterious?
A: It is the only such portrait of the dead Christ known
to exist in the world, a portrait which by right should
not as much as exist, since it is really not made of
anything. No artist's brush has touched the Shroud. There
is not the least trace of any coloring substance on the
image of that battered, crucified body except where the
open wounds left reddish dark stains which have
positively been identified as blood stains. Even more
extraordinary is the fact that the portrait, a
shadow-like imprint over the entire length of the cloth,
is a perfect photographic negative, and is
three-dimensional. Experts claim that the image could
only have been produced by a process akin to scorching.
Q: Does this mean that the image could be the result of
a miracle, such as a sudden burst of light or radiant
heat at the instant of the resurrection, as some people
A: Scientists are not comfortable with miracles. What
they look for is a natural, scientific explanation of the
Shroud image. So far, none has been found.
Q: But if the recent carbon-14 test dated the Shroud to
the 14th century A.D., then surely some medieval artist
must have produced the portrait.
A: There are scientists who question the validity and the
results of that test. They will undoubtedly call for a
new carbon-14 test should the forthcoming research on the
image prove in a positive way that no artist in the
middle ages or at any time could produce such a portrait.
Q: Will the mystery of the Shroud ever be solved?
A: Scientists admit that they never will be able to prove
the Shroud's authenticity in a definite, conclusive way.
It is known that even the Church never officially stated
that the Turin Shroud is Christ's actual burial cloth.
There will always be a margin of doubt as to the origin
and the nature of this mysterious object.
Actually, it is just as well that it be so. Our faith in
the Lord Jesus does not depend on the Shroud's
authenticity. At best, the Shroud is only a sign of our
faith and hope in Christ. Pope Paul VI put it
beautifully: "Aside from what scientists and researchers
have said or may yet say about the Shroud, this
incomparable portrait of the Man of Sorrows will continue
to touch the minds and hearts of people for ages to come.
It will speak to them of the boundless love of Christ for
mankind, for `He has loved us and sacrificed himself for
us' (Eph. 5:2)."
In this is all the value, all the importance of the Turin
Shroud. --- P.M.R.
So Rinaldi was still up to his old tricks, starting with that
first, dramatic declaration: The radiocarbon tests had "in no way
solved the mystery of the astounding image of Christ on the cloth."
What "mystery"? If the "mystery" was the question of how the images
had been formed, then Rinaldi's declaration was both inane and
misleading. The radiocarbon tests could not have elucidated that
question, nor had anyone expected them to do so. The tests were
intended merely to establish the age of some linen, and they showed
that it had been made from flax that had grown in the 13th or 14th
But perhaps the "mystery" that Rinaldi had in mind was the question
of whether the cloth was the shroud of Jesus? In that case,
Rinaldi's declaration was simply false: The radiocarbon tests had
dispelled that "mystery" by soundly precluding the possibility that
the cloth and Jesus had existed at the same time.
Several other statements offered on Rinaldi's new placard were
comparably misleading or false, and I decided to enlist the help of
an expert in analyzing them. I sent Rinaldi's whole text to Joe
Nickell, the author of "Inquest on the Shroud of Turin" (1983;
Prometheus Books), and I asked for his comments. Here is an excerpt
from Nickell's reply:
Father Rinaldi's statements are unfortunately rather
typical of those of today's shroud devotees. They pay lip
service to science while hinting at the miraculous and
repeating half-truths. . . .
Rinaldi maintains that except for the "blood," the shroud
lacks "the least trace of coloring substance," yet
[Walter C. McCrone Associates, a prestigious research
company in Chicago] actually discovered artists' pigments
-- notably red ocher and vermilion -- on the image.
Indeed, McCrone conducted a "blind" study which showed
the ocher was a significant component of image -- but not
off-image -- areas.
Rinaldi further asserts that "reddish dark" stains "have
positively been identified as blood stains." He doesn't
mention that the identification resulted from
questionable procedures or that the stains repeatedly
failed the accepted, standard tests of internationally
known forensic serologists. Real blood, of course, does
not remain red for nearly two millennia, nor does it
Neither is the shroud image "a perfect photographic
negative"; instead it has only the quasi-negative
qualities that could result from an artistic rubbing
technique used in conjunction with a bas-relief
sculpture. Nor is the "three-dimensional" quality quite
what Rinaldi represents it to be. A microdensitometer
plotting of its lights and darks actually reveals a
grotesquely distorted profile, and it was only through a
series of dubious "corrective" factors that visually
pleasing results were obtained.
As to the radiation-scorch hypothesis for the image
formation, that was discredited long ago. For one thing,
real scorches exhibit reddish fluorescence, whereas the
shroud images do not fluoresce at all.
In fact, the shroudologists are bereft of any viable
hypothesis for the image formation, but by attempting to
shift the burden of proof to skeptics -- who have
repeatedly been refused access to the cloth -- they
continue to foster the "mystery" of [this] medieval fake.
Creating doubt about the radiocarbon dating is merely an
additional part of that approach.
Rinaldi's final dodge -- in which he says that the religious value
of the shroud does not depend on its being authentic -- seems to
echo what the archbishop of Turin said in 1988, when he announced
the results of the radiocarbon dating.
I cannot understand why Rinaldi, if he really shares the
archbishop's view, feels compelled to mislead his followers and to
misrepresent what scientists have done and what scientists have
"I PREDICTED LAST YEAR  BEFORE NEW YEARS ON KGO RADIO AND TV
[SAN FRANCISCO] AND KCBS THAT THERE WOULD BE A 5.2 EARTHQUAKE THIS
YEAR WITH SOME AFTERSHOCKS, BUT THAT I DIDN'T SEE A MAJOR 7-POINTER
DESTROYING THE BAY AREA."
-- Terri Brill, Psychic Astrologer,
"San Francisco Examiner", August 14, 1989 [sixty-three days before
by Earl Hautala
[(A rebuttal of the "Editor's corner," Dec. "BASIS")]
Einstein had something to say about the validity of mathematics
which relates to Euclid's axiom about "points": "As far as the laws
of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far
as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
Whitehead and Russell in "Principia Mathematica" tried to derive
mathematics from the canons of logic. It didn't succeed as well as
they hoped. No less an authority than Irving Copi ("Symbolic
Logic") says that the business of logic has to do with making VALID
inferences, ASSUMING that the premises are true. We cannot deal
with "formal" systems concerned with making inferences until we
agree on the definitions of the subjects and predicates.
Definitions suffer from problems like the messier aspects of
biological experimentation. We find that people have "individual
variation" in their use of words. In order to close the "universe
of discourse" relating to the terms "big" and "Mafioso," we have to
reach agreements about who would qualify for either of these
verbalisms. (Do "capos" count, or does a "big" mafiosi have to be
the head of more than one family?)
Until such preliminaries are worked out in detail to the mutual
satisfaction of the contending parties, the proposition "Most big
Mafiosi are blood type O" is as non-falsifiable as "Most X's are
Y's." Since I have no indication that such preliminary definitions
have been reached, I would have to err on the side of skepticism.
As I read the proposition, it stands as non-falsifiable.
BAS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair: Larry Loebig
Vice Chair: Yves Barbero
Secretary: Rick Moen
Treasurer: Kent Harker
Kent Harker, editor; Sharon Crawford, assoc. editor;
Kate Talbot, distribution; Rick Moen, circulation
William J. Bennetta, Scientific Consultant
Dean Edell, M.D., ABC Medical Reporter
Donald Goldsmith, Ph.D., Astronomer and Attorney
Earl Hautala, Research Chemist
Alexander Jason, Investigative Consultant
Thomas H. Jukes, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
John E. McCosker, Ph.D., Director, Steinhart Aquarium
Diane Moser, Science writer
Richard J. Ofshe, Ph.D.,U. C. Berkeley
Bernard Oliver, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center
Kevin Padian, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
James Randi, Magician, Author, Lecturer
Francis Rigney, M.D., Pacific Presbyterian Med. Center
Wallace I. Sampson, M.D., Stanford University
Eugenie C. Scott, Ph.D., Anthropologist
Robert Sheaffer, Technical Writer, UFO expert
Robert A. Steiner, CPA, Magician, Lecturer, Writer
Ray Spangenburg, Science writer
Jill C. Tarter, Ph.D., U. C. Berkeley
February meeting . . .
Satanism, by Jim Peron
Wednesday, February 21, 7:30 pm
Free Forum Books
Free Forum Books is at 1800 Market Street, San Francisco. The 101
overpass to Franklin cannot be used (earthquake). Instead, go from
City Hall west on Market to Octavia. From Divisadero, go east to
Octavia. Street parking is simple at that time of evening. You may
also park around the corner at the U. C. extension for a couple of
Watch for coming events in the BAS CALENDAR, or call 415-LA TRUTH
for up-to-the-minute details on events. If you have ideas about
topics or speakers leave a message on the hotline.
WARNING: We STRONGLY URGE that you call the hotline shortly before
attending any Calendar activity to see if there have been any
SATANISM AND CHILD ABUSE
Hardly a day goes by when we don't read of Satanic murders or the
sexual abuse of children during a Satanic religious ritual. It is
the staple of certain daytime talk shows and sells plenty of
tabloids when they're not otherwise busy with end-of-the year
predictions or libeling movie stars.
Jim Peron, who has long studied this phenomenon, suggests that
there is something considerably more sinister than breakfast table
titillation. It is a means to oppress minorities. Jews, during the
Middle Ages, were often accused of ritual child sacrifices.
Similarly, sexual minorities are being accused of the same violence
Are there REAL Satanic cults ready to do violence to our
unsuspecting youth? Is it all a red herring? Is there a political
agenda behind the accusations? Is it simply a commercial
attention-getter by the unscrupulous?
Join fellow skeptics at Free Forum Books in San Francisco and hear
Jim Peron expand on this important (and current) theme with
examples from history and the modern world and judge for yourself.
See the "Calendar" for directions to the meeting.
Opinions expressed in "BASIS" are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect those of BAS, its board or its advisors.
The above are selected articles from the February, 1990 issue of
"BASIS", the monthly publication of Bay Area Skeptics. You can
obtain a free sample copy by sending your name and address to BAY
AREA SKEPTICS, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco, CA 94122-3928 or by
leaving a message on "The Skeptic's Board" BBS (415-648-8944) or on
the 415-LA-TRUTH (voice) hotline.
Copyright (C) 1990 BAY AREA SKEPTICS. Reprints must credit "BASIS,
newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco, CA
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank