November 1989 +quot;BASIS+quot;, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics Inf
November 1989 "BASIS", newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 8, No. 11
Editor: Kent Harker
[For over eight years, BAS has offered $11,000 for a successful
demonstration of any paranormal phenomenon under properly
controlled circumstances. Some of those whom we have tested include
a tarot reader, a man alleging psychokinetic powers of ancient
Chinese "I-chi", a man who alleged his dog could do arithmetic and
communicate with the dead, and a woman who claimed she had psychic
powers. We have made specific challenges to the Bay Area's best-
know psychic, Sylvia Brown. Ms. Brown flatly rejected the challenge
and hurled epithets of Hitlerian motives in BAS!
The eleven thousand dollars is unclaimed, so show this challenge
to a psychic.]
We are Bay Area Skeptics (BAS), a group willing to test paranormal
claims. We are committed to learning the truth about psychic
powers, whatever that truth may be.
We hereby issue the following challenge to any and all psychics and
psychic researchers in the Bay Area: Show us just one psychic
power, of any kind, that can be demonstrated to be real under
properly controlled scientific test conditions. Claims of psychic
powers are abundant -- but we want to see somebody who can actually
demonstrate genuine (i.e., under controlled conditions) ability in
telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, paranormal
healing, or any other alleged psychic power.
If you claim to be psychic, it is to your advantage to accept this
challenge: first, because of the monetary reward, and second,
because of the recognition and prestige you will achieve as the
first person to successfully demonstrate such powers under
scientifically controlled conditions to a group of knowledgeable
Various persons associated with Bay Area Skeptics have offered a
total of $11,000 to any person who can demonstrate any psychic
power under properly controlled scientific test conditions.
Furthermore, James "The Amazing" Randi has for decades offered
$10,000 for proof of any psychic power performed under properly
controlled conditions. That sum has recently been increased to
$100,000. Bay Area Skeptics will promptly report to Randi anyone
whose powers seem worthy of testing. In both cases, the conditions
of the test will be arranged in advance with the person claiming
psychic ability. Testing will not begin until there is mutual
satisfaction that the arrangements and test protocol are fair and
Think of the enormous recognition that would be given to the first
person to convince outspoken skeptics that psychic powers are real!
Think also of the tremendous benefit to science and humanity if the
existence of miraculous powers for healing and transmitting
knowledge could at long last be proven! Think how much fun it would
be to make skeptics eat crow!
There are probably few other places in the United States where the
number of alleged psychics, and the degree of belief in psychic
powers, is as high as it is here in the Bay Area. We challenge
psychics to demonstrate that their claims are scientifically valid.
We challenge psychics to set aside their anecdotal stories and
self-serving client testimonials for a laboratory setting. If you
think you have genuine psychic powers, the advantages of accepting
this challenge are considerable.
Note: The BAS challenge is open, for practical and economic
reasons, only to those normally working and residing in the Bay
Area. If you are outside the Bay Area, consideration may be given
on a case basis. We may be reached at:
Bay Area Skeptics
4030 Moraga Street
San Francisco, CA 94122.
INFORMATION FOR THOSE SEEKING TO PURSUE THE CHALLENGE OF BAY AREA
If you are interested in being tested on your psychic claim, please
submit a letter which must include the following statements to
- A precise statement of your claim.
- Specifics of what you would do in a scientific test.
- Specifics of what you would consider to be scientific proof of
your claims. (Results must be beyond chance expectations.)
- A statement that you understand and agree that all of the
proceedings are to be considered on the record -- either side is
free to publish what has transpired.
- A statement in writing that you understand and agree in advance
that the test is mutually satisfactory, or there will be no test.
- A statement that you understand and agree that failure to concur
with the specifications of the test shall not constitute grounds
for any legal action.
Your claim must be:
- CLEAR: Statements like "You might have had heart trouble." are
- UNDERSTANDABLE: A statement such as "You have to get more
centered." is not understandable.
- SPECIFIC: Statements like "You have now or within the past three
years had some involvement in a relationship or an investment." are
- LOGICAL: If you claim that "A" will happen, and if "A" does not
happen, then you have failed to substantiate your claim.
- TESTABLE: Statements like "You will be upset within the next few
months." are not testable.
- SIGNIFICANTLY ACCURATE: Your performance must be accurate beyond
what would be expected by chance.
- DEMONSTRABLY PSYCHIC OR PARANORMAL: For example, some psychics
predicted that the Democrats would run a woman for Vice President
in 1984. Many political analysts made the same prediction.
We look forward to your reply.
NO HARM DONE?
by Joseph Garber
The "Ramparts" section in the August "BASIS" discusses the use of
a flashing light goggle system to "synchronize the brain." The
resulting effects, you state, are less than useless. Unfortunately,
there may be more to the story than that.
A few months ago I was introduced to a young entrepreneur who was
seeking funding for a rather off-beat project. During the course
of our meeting I observed that the chap seemed to be suffering from
some physical discomfort. I inquired about his condition, and
learned that he had for the past several months been undergoing a
strenuous physical rehabilitation program. Moreover, his movements
were stringently constrained by a back brace.
When I asked about the cause of his problems he said that late in
1988 a friend persuaded him to experiment with a goggle "system"
that, in concept, sounds similar to the one described in
"Ramparts." The purported psychic benefits of the "system" piqued
his interest. He decided to give it a try. Therefore one evening
he lay down in bed, donned the goggles, put on the earphones, and
turned the "system" on.
He awoke late the next afternoon dazed and in considerable anguish.
Apparently the stroboscopic effect of the goggles had been to
induce in him what was subsequently diagnosed as an epileptic
seizure -- or something very similar (he claimed never to have been
subject to epilepsy in his life). The seizure was sufficiently
intense, and the muscle contractions sufficiently violent, that
physical damage resulted. As of April of this year, he had not
fully recovered from the episode.
It seems to me that while New Age nonsense quite clearly is
frivolous and very often callously fraudulent, it also can on
occasion be quite hazardous. Faith healers, psychic surgeons, food
faddists, and medical quacks, despicable though they are, leave in
their wakes people whose health is no worse than it was to begin
with. Practitioners whose ministrations actually INDUCE illness are
in a class alone. Welcome to the Age of Aquarius.
In late July of this year, the ever-alert eyes of John Taube
spotted a booklet titled "Is There a REAL Spirit World?" and sent
it to me. (John is a kind of human "early warning" radar system.)
The twenty-five page publication is put out by the Worldwide Church
of God in Pasadena, a well-funded organization founded by the late
Herbert W. Armstrong. The church's publishing has been the mainstay
of the ministry: millions are spent annually on printing and
distribution to every country in every major language. Armstrong
soon built Ambassador College on the grounds of his Pasadena
headquarters. His TV and radio propaganda originate from there
where he ruled with imperial power until his recent death.
In an attempt to provide evidence for tenets of the belief,
Armstrong's ministry has often co-opted material from an unlikely
source: the New Age (or, as the illusionists Penn and Teller
prefer, the "newedge"). It is a case of using the tune but changing
Skeptics find all this channeling stuff just so much hooey.
Armstrong and company find proof of other-world communication, just
through the wrong people: the devil's minions. The booklet has five
chapters: "`Channeling': What is it," "Communication With the
Dead?", "Is There a Real Spirit World?", "The `Spirit Guides' of
Channelers," and "Dreams, Dreamers and the Spirit World."
For the answer to the question posed by the first chapter title,
the authors asked Dr. Thelma Moss, a UCLA parapsychologist. They
asked the wrong person. Randi would have given a more
straightforward answer. The second chapter, authored by Keith
Stump, has some particularly interesting statements that went off
in my head. Stump's first paragraph ends with the question, "Can
a person `make contact' with dead relatives and friends, or famous
persons in history?"
Stump goes on to correctly identify the origin of modern spiritism,
the notorious Fox sisters in late March of 1848. The original story
was that their house was haunted, but soon the spirits were found
to follow the Fox sister wherever they went. The youngsters
(preteens) were able to contact spirits on the other side of the
astral plane, ask important question (like "Is aunt Ruthie happy?")
and a cooperative spirit would respond with mysterious raps. The
raps were coded: the number of raps corresponded to the numerical
equivalent of a letter of the alphabet, or other times the alphabet
would be called letter by letter until a rap came, signaling that
that was the correct one. Yes-no questions were coded two for no,
three for yes.
Since the spirits apparently have material knuckles with which to
rap, is it unreasonable to presume that they have larynxes with
which to speak, for a much greater economy of effort? Whatever.
After the death of Kate Fox, an elderly, contrite Margaret Fox
confirmed how the whole charade had worked. The girls had perfected
a technique whereby they could slip big-toe joints in somewhat the
same manner as snapping ones fingers, except that the joint would
thump against a shoe sole and resonate through the floor or other
hard surface. (The spirits were inexplicably silent when suspicious
investigators perched the sisters' shoeless, outstretched legs on
They became so adept at it that they learned they could do it with
other toe joints. Since any apparent movement to produce the sound
was not discernible, some of the most prestigious investigators -
- Sir William Crookes, for example -- at a loss for a prosaic
explanation declared the Fox sisters' spiritual contacts to be
genuine. The early credibility of the Fox sisters was based heavily
upon their ages: How could or would mere children be so audacious
as to tempt the credulity of sophisticated adults?
For years the sisters enjoyed wealth, prestige and acclaim as a
result of their demonstrations. People from all over the world
courted their favor and sought the advice of spirits contacted
through their mediumship. Many clients whose relationships and
problems had been left unresolved by the death of a friend or
relative found settlement of the inner conflicts through Kate and
Margaret, thus affording a self- justification for the deceit.
Stump asserted that there were many well-researched cases in which
mediums were found to be genuine. He declared that there were
"well-documented cases of spirit photography" while acknowledging
that there are mostly frauds. In no instance did he give references
-- or even mention any names of the principals -- for any case he
cited except the Fox sisters.
Curious why Kate and Margaret were the only specific names given,
I phoned Stump in early August. I identified myself and the
affiliation I was representing for the call, and to my surprise he
knew about CSICOP and claimed to be a subscriber to the "Skeptical
He assured me he had all the resources and references to the cases
he wrote about and said he would be happy to send them to me. Since
he had written the chapter some two years earlier, he said it would
take him a few days to assemble everything, but he promised he
would get the information to me very quickly. In early September
I sent him the following letter (edited slightly):
Dear Mr. Stump:
I spoke with you nearly a month ago on the phone about a selection
you did for the publication, "Is There a REAL Spirit World?",
specifically, the article "COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAD?"
I'm sure you have been very busy, and you may have forgotten the
assurance you gave me that you would shortly send me the references
you did not include in your article. I asked specifically for the
cases in which "There are serious mediums . . . who have stood up
under the most RIGOROUS scrutiny of investigators. [p 7]" It would
be nice to even know a name behind these alleged miracles.
Inclusion of references should be the minimum standard when such
extraordinary events are alleged.
Your approach to "spirit photographs" suffers the same omissions.
You acknowledge that "A large percentage . . . have been shown to
be bogus. . . ." Your next paragraph, however, asserts that "others
have stood up to the tests of investigators." again without so much
as a hint of which others or by what investigations.
Since you are familiar with the work of CSICOP, you know about the
many offers of money for a successful demonstration of some psychic
phenomenon under controlled conditions. (BAS has an $11,000 offer.)
There are many hundreds of thousands of dollars awaiting such an
event. I find it difficult to understand why those alleging such
incredible powers should not be pleased to make us skeptics eat our
words and take our money at the same time.
If paranormal advocates are too genteel to humiliate us and take
filthy lucre, it could be arranged to do the testing very privately
and then donate the winning money to a charity of their choice --
maybe to the Worldwide Church of God.
I can't imagine that the Worldwide Church of God is interested in
anything less than the truth. I can't imagine you would want to do
anything to promote untruth coming from frauds or from the deluded,
even if the latter are of the "self" variety. Because of your
responsibility to your readers and to the truth, I can't imagine
you would offer as proof any material evidence that hasn't passed
the most rigorous scientific tests of validity.
You used the example of the Fox sisters as proof of mediumship. You
are aware that they are confessed frauds. The Bar Association of
New York City hired the Academy of Music hall on the evening of 21
October 1888 for an announcement by Margaret Fox Kane: (1)
There is no such thing as a spirit manifestation. That
I have been mainly instrumental in perpetrating the fraud
of spiritualism upon a too-confiding public many of you
already know. It is the greatest sorrow of my life. . .
. When I began this deception, I was too young to know
right from wrong.
One year later she recanted her confession, leaving us to decide
which time she was lying. With the great humiliation one would
suffer, I wonder what motive could cause one to declare oneself a
fraud other than to unburden a heavy conscience. Apparently she
found that it was easier to make a dishonest buck. Her lifelong
experience had taught her that her believers are long on credulity
and very short memory.
A year later she knew her confession would fade into oblivion,
hastened by charges that she was coerced to make it. (When she made
the confession, the only coercion came from a seared conscience
that evidently abandoned her a year later.) At the very least,
insofar as your article is concerned, I should think that prudence
would require that a case as controversial as hers must not be
among examples of spirit contacts, let alone the ONLY specific
example you chose to cite. If the Fox sisters are your star
witnesses, I would judge that the credibility of your whole case
stands upon toothpicks in sand at best.
Finally, you acknowledge that fraud and deceit are the norm in this
spiritism business. In your last paragraph you spear your readers
with a false dichotomy: "There remain certain manifestations for
which no entirely satisfactory explanation has been offered --
other than ACTUAL SPIRIT CONTACT." In other words, if there is a
residual 1% that cannot be explained by some KNOWN method of
flummery we are forced to put the case in the spirit-contact genre.
We would be pleased to offer you other possibilities.
A version of this letter will appear in print, and I offer you
space for up to a 2,500-word rebuttal in our newsletter. I hope to
hear from you as you promised. Sincerely, (signed)
As of the date of publication there is no response, and my phone
calls have not been returned.
What a shame that the readers of that booklet have little chance
of learning about alternate viewpoints on the question. Paranormal
blather is spread about the land as widely as oxygen: one has only
to breath to get it. One must spend money or go to a BIG library
to find skeptical critiques.
1. "A Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology". Kurtz (editor). 1985.
US VS. THEM
The scientific creationists have declared war on the classroom. The
normal course of what goes into the schools is the result of a
consensus backed by the best and most current evidence. The
fundamentalist creationists have chosen a revolutionary way to
circumvent -- and subvert -- the normal scientific process: the
One of their mainstay positions is that there is a clear dichotomy
between evolution and creation: one is either a satanically
inspired, Marxist evolutionist or a fundamentalist creationist.
From information polls about personal beliefs, that us-them
mentality pitches about 80% of the people who believe in some form
of divine creation off the narrow fundamentalist ledge firmly into
the camp of atheistic satanists.
We know such thinking is asinine, but it is reassuring to hear the
same from those in what is clearly a middle ground. This sentiment
was recently expressed in a thoughtful and incisive letter from
Rev. H. James Hopkins, published in "The San Francisco Examiner".
Rev. Hopkins pastors the Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland.
"BASIS" spoke with Rev. Hopkins and he gave his permission to
reprint here his letter:
PASTOR FOR SCIENCE
As one who has very fundamentalist religious roots but has moved
to accept a much more moderate theological outlook, I am very much
aware of the accuracy of your article entitled "Creationists fight
Indeed, "the issue of whether the belief of creationism should be
taught side by side in California science classes with the theory
of evolution is decidedly unsettled." I am reminded of this every
time I visit the church of my parents. There the war against the
"infidel evolutionists" is waged with great passion and regularity.
However, those entrusted with developing curricula for our state's
public schools should not be pressured into calling ancient
statements of belief "science." The biblical story of creation
is a profound religious statement. People of faith still comb it
for stirring truths and practical insights into the ways of God
with the world. To use it as a scientific text is to misunderstand
its intent and to misunderstand its applications.
Science has a vital job to do in inviting our students to explore,
appreciate, appropriate and conserve the wonders of the cosmos.
This is a big enough job to do without trying to burden scientists
and teachers of science in the public schools with the job of
interpreting religious truth. I urge our state Board of Education
to let the scientists do their work with joy and I encourage all
churches to do their work with joy. The Board of Education needs
to know that many professing Christians do not expect them to do
our work for us.
[From Dr. Terence Hines, associate professor of psychology at Pace
University in New York:]
I must take issue with part of Bob Steiner's "The Blood Readers"
piece in the August 1989 "BASIS". He says that the claim that "Big
Mafioso" have blood type O is nonfalsifiable. While the claim is
certainly very silly and almost certainly wrong, it is certainly
NOT nonfalsifiable. It may, in fact, be very difficult to falsify,
but that does not make it NONfalsifiable.
Many, many (most?) hypotheses in science are difficult to falsify
(one needs lots of fancy equipment and training to do so), but that
does not make them NONfalsifiable! The point of nonfalsifiability
is that there is no CONCEIVABLE evidence that would show the
hypothesis to be wrong. As Steiner himself demonstrates with his
example of the survey of "Big Mafioso," it is easy to conceive of
data that would show this particular hypothesis to be wrong.
The issue of nonfalsifiability and pseudoscience is a very
important one so it's vital to be clear.
Professor Hines has raised some interesting points. First, we have
substantial agreement on the concept of falsifiability:
1. The issue of nonfalsifiability and pseudoscience is a very
2. It is vital to be clear on the issue.
3. If the claim I addressed were MERELY extremely difficult to
falsify, that would not make it nonfalsifiable.
For the benefit of all of us, a brief review of the principle of
falsifiability seems to be in order. A brief summary and one
example should suffice. I can think of no better source than the
writings of Karl R. Popper. It is he who first put forth the
excellent concept of falsifiability. After detailing the
considerations, he offers the following conclusion:
One can sum up all this by saying that THE CRITERION OF
THE SCIENTIFIC STATUS OF A THEORY IS ITS FALSIFIABILITY,
OR REFUTABILITY, OR TESTABILITY.
He gives the following example: (1)
Astrology did not pass the test. Astrologers were greatly
impressed, and misled, by what they believed to be the
confirming evidence -- so much so that they were quite
unimpressed by any unfavourable evidence. Moreover, by
making their interpretations and prophecies sufficiently
vague they were able to explain away anything that might
have been a refutation of the theory had the theory and
the prophecies been more precise. In order to escape
falsification they destroyed the testability of their
theory. It is a typical soothsayer's trick to predict
things so vaguely that the predictions can hardly fail:
that they become irrefutable.
Now we have one of the criteria of falsifiability: If the subject
to be addressed is so vague and so imprecise as to be untestable,
it is nonfalsifiable.
The issue is clear. The assertion that most of the "Big Mafiosi"
have blood type O is: nonfalsifiable per Steiner, and falsifiable
per Hines. In order to address the issue, we must analyze the
The word "most" is no problem. I accept that to mean "more than
"Blood type O" causes no problem. Science has clearly identified
That leaves us to deal with the words "Big" and "Mafiosi."
"Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary" defines "Mafioso" as
follows: n. pl. -si: a member of the Mafia or a mafia.
Please note that a mafioso may be a member of either THE Mafia,
with a capital "M", or A mafia, with a lower-case "m." From that
we conclude that the plural, "mafiosi," may be members of THE Mafia
. . . or of A mafia . . . or both . . . or members of several
mafias . . . which may or may not include THE Mafia.
In the same dictionary, we find the definition of "Mafia" to be:
n. 1: a secret society of political terrorists 2: a
secret organization composed chiefly of criminal elements
and usu. held to control racketeering, peddling of
narcotics, gambling, and other illicit activities
throughout the world 3: (often not cap): a group of
people of similar interests or backgrounds in a
particular field or enterprise. [Would members of
Congress satisfy this requirement? How about the Boy
Scouts? Astrologers? Bay Area Skeptics?]
"The Oxford Illustrated Dictionary" defines "mafia" as:
n. 1. (in Sicily) Spirit of hostility to the law and its
ministers prevailing among a part of the population;
also, those who share in this spirit (not, as often
supposed, an organized secret society). [Would the
hippies of the 1960s have qualified under this
definition?] 2. Secret international criminal
From this point, if we could pin down what the "mafia" is, which
we cannot, we would have to decide with a degree of certainty
worthy of science whether secretaries and bookkeepers are
"mafiosi." How about lawyers and accountants? What about government
officials who take payoffs? What about the street gang of teenagers
running drugs in the schools? How about the preteens who stand on
the sidelines and simply admire and share the spirit of hostility
of those teenagers?
How about non-violent, non-revolutionary, philosophical anarchists?
Are those silent, law-abiding, non-violent persons also "mafiosi,"
based upon their beliefs, upon which they take no action? Would
they still be "mafiosi" even if they never speak of their beliefs?
How would you identify them?
I submit that the numerous AND CONTRADICTORY definitions of "mafia"
make it IMPOSSIBLE, even in theory, to state with any degree of
certainty who are "mafiosi." The concept is so vague and so
imprecise that any claim about such undefinable persons is
untestable, irrefutable, and nonfalsifiable.
Having established that we cannot possibly, even in theory,
identify who are the "mafiosi," we must now determine whether we
can identify who are the "BIG mafiosi." Then we must see if we can
perform blood tests on them.
That leads us to a very interesting conjecture. Would it be a more
difficult task to define, identify, find, and take blood samples
from the "big mafiosi" than it would be to simply define in a
clear, non-contradictory manner who are just plain-old mafiosi? The
answer is No. There are not degrees of difficulty beyond
1. Popper, Karl R. 1963. "Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth
of Scientific Knowledge". New York: Harper & Row. 1963. p. 37.
[Who says there is an intellectual conspiracy among skeptics? We
are no harder on "outsiders" than we are on ourselves. It is
probably safe to say there will be round II to this matter. --
DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART VIII
by William Bennetta
Parts I through VII of this article have described the continuing
effort by the ICR Graduate School (ICRGS) to gain reapproval, from
the California State Department of Education, as a source of
advanced degrees in science and in science education. The ICRGS is
an arm of the Institute for Creation Research, a fundamentalist
ministry that promotes the religious pseudoscience called
"creation-science." The founder and president of the ICR is Henry
Morris, a preacher and former engineer who poses as an expert in
geology, biology, paleontology and various other fields in which
he has no detectable credentials.
In Part VI, I told that the Department had sent a committee of
examiners to the ICR, in early August, to make a new assessment of
the ICR's operations. Four of the committee's five members are
scientists from campuses of the University of California or the
California State University. The fifth, evidently selected by the
ICR, is from a Bible college in Ohio.
In Part VII, I told of the reaction by Henry Morris and his
associates to the committee's visit: Foreseeing that the committee
would declare the ICRGS defective and unworthy of approval, and
that the chief of the Department, Bill Honig, would follow the
committee's judgment, the ICR men tried to win sympathy from the
press and the public. On 31 August they held a "news conference"
to denounce Honig and to distribute a fiercely misleading account
of their transactions with his Department, but they achieved only
modest success. Most news organizations apparently recognized that
the ICR men's only "news" was their own desperation.
The examining committee has not yet submitted its report, nor has
there been any other substantive development, during the month
since I wrote Part VII, in the ICR case per se. The ICR men have
not been idle, however, and in September they mailed a new batch
of religious pamphlets to their followers. One of those pamphlets
merits special attention from anyone who is interested in the ICR
case or in creationism, and I shall tell about it here. W.B.,
By definition, creationism is a fundamentalist political movement
that seeks to impose onto the population at large, by political
means, a body of religious beliefs that revolve around the creation
stories in the King James version of the Holy Bible.
The creationists' most conspicuous efforts today are directed
against science: They strive to suppress science education in the
public schools, to undermine the public's understanding and
appreciation of science, and to censor science itself. Their
ultimate goal is to abolish science altogether and to replace it
with a pseudoscientific system for affirming biblical narratives
and beliefs. That system is "creation-science."
Because the creationists' campaign against science and science
education is so prominent, and is so large a part of their current
program, the implications of creationism in other realms are often
overlooked. Yet those implications are strong and clear -- and
nowhere clearer than in the creationists' assiduous denigration of
all religious traditions and supernatural beliefs but their own:
Any other beliefs are denounced as an evil frauds or are patronized
as degenerate vestiges of biblical truths that are known, in proper
form, to fundamentalists only.
For an example of how creationists scorn other religious traditions
as mere corruptions of biblical lore, consider this: They have
announced that the Australian aborigines' Dreamtime stories are
simply defective recollections of events recounted in the Book of
Genesis, and that the aborigines colonized Australia after the time
of Noah's flood. (The announcement was made in l986 in "Ex Nihilo",
a creationist magazine.
A year later, it was properly noted in "The Bumbling, Stumbling,
Crumbling Theory of Creation Science", a booklet issued by the
Catholic Education Office in Sydney. The booklet's author, Barry
Price, commented: "Surely it must be close to blasphemy to dismiss
the aspirations, hopes and religious history of a proud people as
`racial memories of Creation and the Tower of Babel'!")
Or consider an unsigned article in the September 1989 issue of
"Back to Genesis", one of the monthly bulletins published by the
ICR. Here is the whole article, verbatim; the ellipses appear in
DID YOU KNOW . . . that the Havasupai Indians living in
the Grand Canyon believe this Canyon originated as a
result of a flood?
. . . "Before there were many people on earth there were
two gods: Tochapa of goodness, and Hokomata of evil.
Tochapa had a daughter named Pu-keh-eh, whom he hoped
would become the mother of all living. Hokomata, the
evil, was determined that no such thing should take
place, and he covered the world with a great flood.
Tochopa [sic], the good, felled a great tree and hollowed
out the trunk. He placed Pu-keh-eh in the hollowed trunk,
and when the water rose and flooded the earth, she was
secure in her improvised boat.
"Finally the flood waters receded and mountain peaks
emerged. Rivers were created; and one of them cut the
great gushing fissure which became the Grand Canyon.
"Pu-keh-eh, in her log, came to rest on the new earth.
She stepped forth and beheld an empty world.
"When the land became dry, a great golden sun rose in the
east and warmed the earth, and caused her to conceive.
In time, she gave birth to a male child. Later, a
waterfall caused her to conceive, and she gave birth to
a girl. From the union of these two mortal children came
all the people on the earth. The first were the
Havasupai, and the voice of Tochopa [sic] spoke to them
and told them to live forever in peace in their canyon
of good earth and pure water where there would always be
plenty for all. . . ."
This is, of course, a recognizable (albeit distorted)
version of the worldwide Flood of Noah's day. It adds
more evidence to support the fact that all peoples are
descended from Noah and have a common cultural
The "creation-scientists" promulgate such absurd stuff in the
service of their "two-model" doctrine, which starts with the
declaration that there are only two possible views of "origins."
One view comes from literal readings of the Bible; the other comes
from natural science; and the two are opposed in a kind of zero-
sum contest, so that any evidence supporting the first must be an
indictment of the second.
To sustain that nonsense, creationists must ignore, twist or
trivialize all the other views of "origins" that exist now or ever
have existed. If they were to admit that there are more than two
views, their "two-model approach" would collapse, and all their
arguments for teaching biblical beliefs in public-school science
classrooms would become arguments for teaching religious ideas from
countless other sources as well. That is not what the creationists
want. They want the schools to propagate fundamentalist beliefs
only, as the only ones that deserve to be taken seriously.
So they disdain the aborigines' Dreamtime lore as an ersatz
Genesis, and they represent the aborigines themselves as
unfortunates who cannot recall what really happened back at Babel.
They turn Pu-keh-eh into an ersatz Noah, turn her hollowed tree
into an ersatz ark, and turn the Havasupai into people whose faulty
memories have substituted a matriarch for a nautical patriarch.
In the same way, they dismiss any number of other myths as debased
versions of biblical tales -- false versions that are unworthy of
inclusion in any consideration of "origins" but that somehow, while
being false, show that the Bible is true.
When we see that creationism and "creation-science" entail the
systematic denial or denigration of most of the world's religions,
cultures and cultural history, we see how broad the social
implications of creationism really are. Those implications must be
publicized and apprehended more widely, especially among public-
school officials and teachers. Far too many educators -- misled by
too many mindless newspaper stories about "evolution" -- imagine
that the creationists despise science alone, and that teachers of
history or social studies or literature have nothing to worry
about. That is wrong.
The September "Back to Genesis" also offered a revelatory one-page
piece by Henry Morris's son John, who is the ICR's administrative
vice-president and "full professor of geology." Prof. John's
headline asked: "Do The Difficult Questions Have Answers?" His text
said that they surely did, and he gave ten examples. Here, in full,
are the five that I found most engaging:
2) Where did God come from? The Bible reveals God as
self-existent. This is a basic assumption of
Christianity, but all the facts of nature support the
validity of this assumption.
3) Where did Cain get his wife? Adam and Eve had "sons
and daughters" (Genesis 5). Such unions were a genetic
problem by the time of Moses, but were not a problem so
soon after Creation.
4) Human color differences? Genetic studies have shown
that all humans have the same color, although some have
more of the skin-coloring agent than others.
5) Where did the races come from? All humans are
descended from Noah's family. Isolation of language
groups following the dispersion at the Tower of Babel
caused certain characteristics to be expressed which best
fit the local environment.
6) What about the dinosaurs? The Bible reveals that land
animals were created on Day Six of Creation Week. There
is much evidence that humans and dinosaurs have lived at
the same time.
I read Prof. John's Q-and-A effort in several ways. It is a
reliable sample of the breezy pronouncements that pass for
"science" at the ICR. It is a compelling index to the intellectual
condition of the ICR's audience. And most importantly, it is a
declaration about the fate of the ICR's "graduate school": To me,
it says that the ICR men have decided against making any serious
attempt to save that "ministry," and that they already have written
the school off. Let me explain:
If Bill Honig denies the school's application for reapproval -- as
the ICR men, by their own accounts, expect him to do -- then their
only real hope will lie in a lawsuit. I have speculated, in Part
VII of this article, that the ICR men will not go to court; and
Prof. John's most recent performance has convinced me that my
speculation was right. I cannot imagine that anyone who expected
to sit on a witness stand and pose as a "scientist," and who
expected to be questioned by well prepared adversaries, would today
be publishing claims about Moses's genes and Fred Flintstone's
S.B.190 BECOMES LAW
S.B.190, State Senator Becky Morgan's bill for reforming the
regulation of unaccredited schools that operate in California, was
signed into law by Governor George Deukmejian on 1 October. A
summary of the law's provisions will accompany the next installment
of "Degrees of Folly."
THE BIBLE BELT BECKONS
If the ICR men fail to obtain Bill Honig's reapproval of their
"graduate school," and if they want to remain in the science-degree
business, they may move their operation to another state.
On 8 September, I called Donald Drake, who is the acting vice-
president of Tennessee Temple University, a Bible college in
Chattanooga. Rumor had it, I said, that Tennessee Temple already
had offered the ICR a new home. Was the rumor right?
"There has been interaction about it," Drake replied,"but I can't
define it any more than that. My understanding now is that [the ICR
men] are going to stand and fight it out in California. But if that
doesn't work, I'd be very excited to see them come here. I think
they would have a much more cooperative relation with our state
than they've had in California. -- W.B.
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
CATASTROPHISM: TRUE OR FALSE
Remember Immanuel Velikovsky's "Worlds in Collision" and the slew
of imitators who followed? How can we forget these Wagnerian views
of the cosmos? They certainly took a normally lively debate about
cosmology to new levels of absurdity. What makes this sort of view
appealing? Where does it stand now? Who are the new proponents?
More important, how do scientists deal with questions of cosmology?
Come and hear Dr. David Morrison, CSICOP fellow and head of the
Space Science Division at NASA Ames Research Center bring us up to
Dr. Morrison is the author of 8 books and over 100 research papers
(the recent most popular of which is "Cosmic Catastrophe," co-
authored with Clark Chapman). He has an asteroid (2410-Morrison)
named after him -- fitting because his primary research is
asteroids and planetary satellites using the techniques of optical
and infrared astronomy. David is an investigator on the Voyager,
Galileo, and comet rendezvous missions.
Join us and at the same time have a look at the recently remodeled
Morrison Planetarium kindly put at our disposal by the staff.
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 November, 1989 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) 1989 BAY AREA SKEPTICS. Reprints must credit "BASIS,
newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, 4030 Moraga, San Francisco,
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank