September 1989 +quot;BASIS+quot;, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics In
September 1989 "BASIS", newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 8, No. 9
Editor: Kent Harker
DOWN-UNDER PSYCHIC SINKS
by Mark Plummer
[CSICOP Executive Director Mark Plummer is a member of the bar in
Australia. Before coming to the U.S. to take over the reins of the
most influential skeptic's organization in the world, Mark was
director of the second most powerful skeptic's group in the world,
the Australian Skeptics.
One of the more common rejoinders we hear from those who object to
our investigations is: "What harm is there to believing in
psychics?" Listen in.]
In 1984 the founder of BAS, Bob Steiner, traveled on an Australian
tour posing as psychic "Steve Terbot." He did not charge fees or
collect any money as a psychic.
Steve Terbot attracted a great deal of media publicity and he
received a letter from an Australian psychic, John Fitzsimons. In
the letter Fitzsimons said that he had enjoyed talking astrally
with Terbot. Steiner, as Terbot, telephoned Fitzsimons and invited
him to make a special guest appearance at a scheduled meeting in
the Ringwood Cultural Centre. Fitzsimons accepted the invitation
and spoke supportively even though he knew nothing (obviously?) of
either Steiner or Terbot.
When Steiner revealed on Australian National TV that he was a
skeptic and that the whole event was a hoax, he singled out
Fitzsimons critically. The furor over the hoax died down and
nothing more was heard about Fitzsimons until about a year later,
when I, then the head of the Australian Skeptics, was approached
by four of Fitzsimons' erstwhile followers.
They told me that on the night of Bob's final TV appearance, when
the hoax was revealed, a definitely unpsychic Fitzsimons,
unprepared for what was about to be revealed, had gathered his
followers to watch the show. These people said Fitzsimons turned
ashen when he was attacked by Steiner. Fitzsimons' reaction caused
them to reassess their belief in him and in his claims. They had
several subsequent meetings with me and other committee member of
the Australian Skeptics.
The rather bizarre story unfolded: Fitzsimons had told them that
they would become psychic mediums and healers, that they could rid
world leaders of negative energies, and that the world would be
destroyed by a nuclear holocaust in 1984.
One of the four, Judith Kelly, had lost about 45 pounds on a water
diet suggested by Fitzsimons. She had had to be hospitalized for
three weeks in February 1985. Two others of the group, Reinhart and
Stratemeyer, a married couple, nearly had a marriage breakup
because of Fitzsimons' counseling.
The fourth person told the Australian Skeptics that she no longer
believed in Fitzsimons but still believed in spiritualism and would
find a new spiritual leader. I asked the four to assess the total
amount of money paid to Fitzsimons in course fees, payment for
books, loans, and other losses such as medical expenses and loss
of earnings. I told the four they would have a good case against
him. Three (Kelly and the Stratemeyers) decided to sue.
Because I was about to leave Australia to become CSICOP's Executive
Director in the U.S. I referred the three to an attorney who was
a close friend and who had a good understanding of the issues. The
case finally came to court in Melbourne in May of this year. In the
writ the three sought $A69,588 (about $55,000) for fraud, damages
for medical expenses, loss of earnings, repayment of the loans, and
payments for courses and books.
Judith Kelly told the court Fitzsimons had prescribed a water diet
so she could lose enough weight to be able to run and escape the
catastrophe he prophesied. Mrs. Kelly suffered crippling
malnutrition after she had been on the diet for three months. She
told the court she went from 79 kg to 59 kg while on the water
diet. She said the diet she began in November 1984 caused
hallucinations, vomiting, double vision and limited limb movements.
"[Fitzsimons] said I would suffer no harm," Mrs. Kelly said. "I was
convinced by the work I was doing at `The Circle' [name of the
Mrs. Kelly said she had to stop driving because she had double
vision and would reach an intersection and not know where to drive.
She said she started using public transportation but had to stop
because she could not raise her legs to the steps. A walk down the
street was also a problem. "I was like a drunk staggering down the
road, blind drunk," she said, "but I was stone cold sober."
Mrs. Kelly said she was admitted to a hospital on February 19,
1985, and was diagnosed as having a thiamine deficiency from
malnutrition. She was in the hospital for three weeks, and she had
to spend another nine weeks convalescing. In her regular job, a
mortuary technician, she had managed only with the help of a very
She said that after she recovered she tried to rejoin The Circle,
her faith shaken only in the diet. "Fitzsimons said I had to do
individual rescue before I could come back to The Circle, and that
I would have to endure the rock for two and a quarter hours," she
told the court. Her testimony described the rock treatment as a
practice of placing a 35kg quartz boulder on her legs or hips. "In
rescue missions, Mr. Fitzsimons used crystals to concentrate
energies, like a laser," she described. She said Fitzsimons had
told her he would make her a psychic healer and trance medium.
Mrs. Felicity Hampel, attorney for Mrs. Kelly, said her client had
sold her house to pay for the Fitzsimons course. She said Mrs.
Kelly attended the courses from January 1984 and had spent $A13,676
that she was now trying to reclaim. Mrs. Hampel said that Mrs.
Kelly also sought damages for medical expenses and lost wages which
The court was told that Mrs. Kelly had rented a house with three
other followers to prepare them for living together after the world
catastrophe, and to reduce their rent payments, giving them more
money for sessions with Mr. Fitzsimons. Mrs. Kelly said that she
believed she could influence world events by helping the spirits
of world leaders, including Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Bob
Hawke, and Augusto Pinochet. Mrs. Kelly said that she had spent up
to $225 per week on Mr. Fitzsimons' courses.
Mrs. Kelly said Fitzsimons hit disciples up to six times across the
face if spirits inside them gave the wrong answers to his questions
during meetings. She said that was not the only time he hit her and
She said that Fitzsimons knew virtually every detail of his pupils'
personal lives, and he used the information to encourage the belief
that their family and friends were acting negatively against them.
Mrs. Kelly said she was required to list up to twenty sins a night.
She said that in hindsight her involvement with The Circle was
faulty and illogical. "I was so exhausted and so frightened I
couldn't look at anything clearly," she said.
Mrs. Kelly told the court she would attend rescue classes with The
Circle which sometimes went from evening until 6 a.m. She said she
and other Circle members visited spiritualist venues around
Melbourne to try to recruit members. Fitzsimons required negative
activities, called "listings," to be reported and confessed to the
rest of the group.
Mrs. Hampel asked her client if listings were like written
confessions of spiritual sins. Mrs. Kelly said they were. Hampel
said that Mrs. Kelly and two other former disciples who were also
suing Mr. Fitzsimons had believed him when they were told that they
would become psychic healers and mediums, become better people,
have physical ailments cured and become more spiritually aware.
Mrs. Hampel said that the world catastrophe predicted for the end
of 1984 was revised when it did not occur. The catastrophe scenario
turned about a nuclear holocaust which was to tilt the world on its
axis, shifting polar ice and causing earthquakes, tidal waves, and
Mr. Stratemeyer said he lost most of his $A50,000 inheritance while
he and his wife attended The Circle between March 1983 and October
1984. He said Fitzsimons had told them they could be psychic
healers and cure the disabled.
Stratemeyer said he wanted to leave the group, but realized he
would lose his wife if he did. "I could not leave. I knew I would
be divorced like other people [from the group] before me," he said.
Stratemeyer said Fitzsimons had brainwashed other people in his
group and caused them to break away from friends, family, and
Mr. and Mrs. Stratemeyer were members of the group between August
1983 and November 1984. Mr. Stratemeyer said that Fitzsimons had
not helped him in any way, and the courses had not helped his
stuttering or bladder problems. He said Fitzsimons had told him
his brother-in-law was a bloodsucker and that he should be removed
from the Stratemeyer's house.
Fitzsimons had also told Stratemeyer that he was doing the wrong
thing when he mowed his lawn instead of going to a class. Neighbors
had complained because the grass was high and the seeds were being
blown into their gardens. Mrs. Stratemeyer said she and her husband
did not renovate their house because they believed it would be
completely or partially destroyed in the world catastrophe
predicted by Mr. Fitzsimons.
Mr. Barry Fox, attorney for Fitzsimons, said his client's followers
were adults and should have realized that representations he had
made were not being fulfilled. He argued that the plaintiffs had
begun attending Mr. Fitzsimons's classes in 1983 and 1984, and they
continued to attend although they should have realized that his
representations -- if any were made -- "were not happening." "Here
was a case where over a long period of time people went back over
and over and over again, paying their money. Adult people engaged
over a long period of time going to these classes . . . and they
continued to go," he pressed.
Mr. Fox cited the case of Judith Kelly, who had told the court that
at Fitzsimons' suggestion she had gone on a water diet and lost 45
pounds so she would be able to run from an impending world
catastrophe. Mrs. Kelly had conceded, Fox said, that if she had
consulted a dietitian she would have been told that the water diet
"She became well aware of the consequences of pursuing this course
of a water diet, and chose to proceed. A mature lady pursued this
course, as she admitted, over a long period of weeks or months and
chose to hang on in the face of what would have, to ordinary
people, called for change."
Mr. Fox told the court his client's attitude was that people could
get involved if they wished. He said that Fitzsimons denied giving
an "iron-clad guarantee" of health cures or of personal
advancement. Fitzsimons only told his students they could "hope to
overcome" physical problems and achieve psychic healing at his
classes. "[Fitzsimons] quite readily concedes that if you consider
it a lot of rubbish then that's up to you," Fox said.
Fitzsimons told the court he took over leadership of The Circle in
January 1980. He had become fascinated with spiritualism and
psychism in 1978. "I thought it made life more interesting," he
offered. "I grew up with orthodox religion . . . I was taught a lot
about fear, hell, fire and damnation," he said. He said he believed
in what he taught: "I believe that we can be guided by invisible
Fitzsimons denied his business was a sham. He said he had not told
his former students that psychic healing would cure their physical
ills. He also denied a suggestion by attorney Hampel that he was
taking money from gullible people whom he conned into believing
crazy things he himself did not believe.
However, he agreed that he was operating a spiritual group
registered under the business name "Aspects" while he was an
undischarged bankrupt (an undischarged bankrupt under Australian
law is a person who has gone bankrupt but has not discharged his
debts or completed the required period as a bankrupt).
On further cross examination by Mrs. Hampel about predictions as
to the dates the world catastrophe would occur, Fitzsimons said
that in October or November 1984 he had begun to wonder if the
dates were wrong, and so had consulted the spirit guides. He
acknowledged, when questioned by Hampel, that he had taken out a
mortgage on a house in October 1984, despite the predictions. Asked
if he was hedging his bets, he said, "You can call it what you
like. I needed somewhere to live."
Fitzsimons agreed that in 1983 he had been an undischarged bankrupt
whose creditors would have received 20 or 30 cents on the dollar
in debt repayments. He also agreed that he did not declare his 1983
earnings to a trustee in bankruptcy because he did not think he had
to unless his income was high. After consulting bankruptcy
administrators he though he could run a business but could not
obtain credit unless he told lenders that he was an undischarged
The judge found Fitzsimons fraudulently misrepresented his psychic
abilities and courses. He ordered Fitzsimons to pay $A62,000
($50,000) to the three plaintiffs. After the case Fitzsimons said
he would go on teaching but with more caution. He said he would get
a legal contract drawn up before every meeting. Mrs. Kelly was
ecstatic about the result.
I learned about a program that was to air on "Family Radio," an AM
(fundamentalist) Christian station, in which a scientist was to do
some explaining. A scientist who had advanced degrees. I listened
to the (June 9) program with anticipation. At the conclusion I was
concerned to the extent that I wrote to the station and to the
speaker, Dr. Robert Gange. What follows is the essence of that
letter, written in rebuttal on June 10. In that letter I requested
a response. As of this writing there is nothing from either the
station or Dr. Gange.
I tire of fundamentalist Christians maligning science; and I am at
the same time amused when these same maligners press those with
science degrees in their ranks to the fore. The maligners decry
science but love to bathe in its credibility.
Dr. Gange began his program with an age-old question: "Can God make
a rock bigger than He can lift?" He said this was the subject of
his lesson, and that his program would explore it from a scientific
viewpoint. It is for this reason that the program content is
subject to skeptical review.
After one-half hour of circumlocution and much repetition of the
shortcomings of science, he did not answer the question. He did
worse. He obfuscated the question with examples from physics that
were misunderstandings at least and distortions at most.
When someone presents him/herself to the church as a representative
of science, he or she has a special obligation. The lab coat donned
by such a representative is thus a kind of priesthood vestment. One
assuming this representative role has an even higher degree of
responsibility than the pastor preparing to address his
congregation: The congregation must invest greater faith in the
scientist than is afforded their presbyter because the subject
matter of the pastor is attainable by the average parishioner,
whereas particle physics, for example, is likely beyond that same
Dr. Gange obfuscated the question he proposed to answer by making
some false and misleading comparisons with scientific principles.
He urged that there are in science many mysteries, paradoxes,
principles and theories so abstruse as to defy our common-sense
knowledge. The listener was tacitly led to deduce that since many
acceptable scientific ideas are counter-intuitive, there is nothing
to be ashamed about what may on the face of it appear absurd in
the theistic realm. In all of this, Gange avoided answering the
The most blatant misuse in his examples was of the wave/particle
nature of light. Before Einstein, light was demonstrated to behave
like a wave (reflection, interference, etc.). With the
photoelectric cell, Einstein's theory that light also had the
properties of a particle (called a photon) was vindicated.
Many subsequent experiments have confirmed this, notably with
lasers. In other words, EMPIRICAL considerations have led us to
these conclusions, not abstract, mathematical and philosophical
models, as Dr. Gange taught. The physical interpretation of this
dual nature is known as the PRINCIPLE OF COMPLIMENTARITY. An
everyday example makes it easy to understand: We have all seen the
picture of identical faces in silhouette, facing each other. Is it
a picture of a flower vase or a picture of two faces? It can be
either. BUT IT CANNOT BE BOTH AT THE SAME TIME AND PLACE.
This is the crux of the matter, something that goes to the heart
of science and the scientific method. There is no paradox, nothing
really mysterious about this dual nature of light. We can design
an experiment to observe either representation, but we cannot, and
I emphasize the importance of noting this distinction, we cannot
observe both phenomena simultaneously (meaning, of course, at the
same time and place). Light is one or the other.
Dr. Gange therefore misrepresented this physical concept by leading
his audience to believe that this property of light is 1) not
understood by science, and 2) paradoxical like the question that
was the theme of his presentation and my response. He wanted his
listeners to believe that the subject question has a scientific
counterpart which is alike qualitatively and quantitatively.
Science is based on two irreducible components: 1) formal symbolic
logic, and 2) empiricism.
Formal logic without experimental confirmation may lead to sterile,
philosophic musings. Empiricism without sound, logical
underpinnings may lead to frivolous or nonsensical propositions.
A scientist wants first for his propositions to abide by the
fundamentals of sound logic. He knows that it is pointless to begin
experimental design when ordinary syntactic and semantic logic are
violated. Modern mathematics, really formal logic in a utilitarian
form, has been an incredibly powerful tool to analyze the
propositions of science.
What is one of the most basic of all the axioms of logic (I hasten
to add that all the axioms are basic, i.e., not derivable from any
of the others.)?: The Law of Contradiction. Simply stated, this
law precludes the possibility of a statement being both true and
false AT THE SAME TIME AND PLACE. Statements violating this law
are self-contradictory. If a proposition violates this most
fundamental tenet, it is nothing more than arrant nonsense. As soon
as this canon is violated nothing called science may follow. (A
rational inquirer would hope that ANYONE would flee from
With this bit of background, It is also important to make certain
there is common agreement of the term "paradox". The loose
definition is that which appears to be self-contradictory. The
formal definition is that the proposition is indeed self-
Now to examine the theme question, "Can God make a rock bigger than
He can lift?" It is instructive to ask why the question was posed
in the first place. The answer is to demonstrate the absurdity
(most absurdities arise directly or indirectly from violation of
the Law of Contradiction) of the notion of omnipotence. Theists are
forever teaching that God can do ANYTHING. It does not require a
very astute first-year student of logic to immediately inquire if
God may therefore violate the Law of Contradiction.
The question of God and this rock boils down to this: It is self-
contradictory -- a violation of the Law of Contradiction. It is a
formal paradox. If the theist makes his bed with the patent
absurdity of the omnipotency of God, He must lie in the
consequences of it, not try to equivocate and philosophize about
how science, too, has its difficult-to-understand principles.
Our novice logician can follow the clear light that illuminates the
simple resolution showing the contradiction imposed by the
omnipotence dogma. There is no confusion or clutter or even
profundity. The notion of omnipotence forces a contradiction,
clearly and simply: God can make a rock bigger than He can lift,
and there is no rock so massive that He cannot lift it.
For the theist, several paths are possible, two of which I offer
here. One is to stop believing that the things of God have to
follow ANY kind of logic. The apostle Paul seems to take this anti-
intellectual approach in I Cor. 1 & 2. At least he is honest in the
open acceptance of demonstrated absurdity. In this case, the
scientists who subscribe to God's omnipotence should cease trying
to "explain," too, for the resulting contortions are painful to
those who know better.
Another path would be to renounce the contradictory notion and
believe that God can get the things done that He wants to do
without having to violate the laws of logic in the process. This
latter path seems doomed because most theists would apparently
rather have God's power be absurd than to be limited in any sense.
For those who opt for honest acceptance of the living reality of
the absurdity, all comparisons with science in this matter must
If religion and science are maintained separately, a live-and-let-
live policy will allow peace. Mix them and one has bad religion and
bad science. There was bad religion, I think, on the program; and
certainly bad science.
THE FIRING LINE
BAS has been sending shock waves throughout the Bay Area during the
last month. It wasn't so long ago that paranormalists had the media
to themselves. Most of our success in presenting a counter has come
from the early work of BAS founders, notably Robert Steiner and
Robert Sheaffer. Steiner, a consummate magician, has been
entertaining audiences and exposing bunkum for the better part of
the last 20 years.
When the media are offered trenchant (and entertaining) rebuttals,
things begin to move. We are now at a point when the two major AM
radio stations (KCBS and KGO) regularly call upon BAS to confront
paranormal protagonists. In one of the most recent encounters, BAS
board member Dr. Shawn Carlson was asked to debate psychic Pat
MacEnerney on KCBS' "Nightline." The show lasted one and one-half
hours and was a stunning triumph for rationality.
Shawn's delivery was masterful -- no great surprise since he is
something of a nationally recognized expert on astrology (he did
some of his Ph.D. work on astrological claims). Shawn is a skilled
Bob Steiner was the guest on KGO radio on both the Jim Eason and
the Michael Krasny shows. The Eason stint was fun because Steiner
and Eason were kidding back and forth with Steiner pulling magic
stunts to the great delight and amazement of Eason. Bob led Jim to
try to find alternate explanations of alleged paranormal phenomena.
The questions posed and the answers suggested caused Eason to
reconsider some positions he had not thought to analyze critically
before. The same was certainly true of the listening audience.
Bob's approach is to educate through the entertainment value of his
sleight-of-hand techniques. His stature as a lecturer has grown
over the years.
The real piece de resistance for skepticism was the 1-1/2 hour,
internationally broadcast TV show hosted by Bill Bixby. Titled
"Exploring Psychic Powers," the central figure was CSICOP's James
"The Amazing" Randi, featuring his $100,000 psychic challenge. The
presentation was an absolute blow away for the paranormalists.
The worst bomb came at the expense of a Chicago astrologer who,
after interviewing 12 people (each within three years of age and
a different astrological sign) designated the symbol to which he
thought each should fit. Each person was instructed to stand in
front of a panel bearing the sign to which the astrologer had
matched him or her. Bixby then asked those for whom the sign did
NOT match to take one step forward. Every one did.
A San Francisco psychic in a Zener card test scored 50 out of 250
hits: exactly what chance predicts. An L.A. aura analyst said
twelve of twelve partitions had people behind them: four did. A
Kentucky dowser said eight of twenty boxes contained water bottles:
only five did, and he didn't even get all the five. A psychometrist
from St. Louis matched only two of twelve people's key chains to
San Jose psychic "Sly" Brown agreed to appear, but would not allow
herself to be formally tested. She was given time to saunter
through the audience rendering her usual gibberish. Her performance
could not have been worse if it had been orchestrated by us. She
asked a woman, in typical cold-reading technique, "Who is Bill?"
The woman said she didn't know anyone by that name, to which the
unflappable Brown rejoined, "You MUST know SOMEONE named William,
or Bill. EVERYONE knows a Bill!" The woman thought a moment and
then shook her head. "No, I don't know anyone." STILL able to pick
herself up, Brown glibly said, "Well, sometimes these things are
in the future."
Uri Geller made much ado about the fact that he was appearing for
the first time on the same show with Randi. We wonder how clear it
was to the viewing audience that Geller did not submit to ANY form
The most dangerous event that occurred, from our standpoint, was
a viewer-audience ESP test. We really dodged a bullet, by the luck
of the cards. The test consisted of the five Zener cards, displayed
in columnar fashion, with a phone number beside each. Viewers were
to call in on the number corresponding to a card of their choice.
At the end of the show, the tally came in: 42% chose the wavy lines
card. (The preselected target card was locked in a box.) Guess
which Zener card was the middle one in the list?
Whoever designed this test failed to take the geometry into account
and the psychological effect this would have for making a biased
choice. The distribution of the callers' choices were almost a
perfect Bell Curve clustered about the geometrical center of the
column of Zener cards.
Had the preselected card been the wavy lines (it was the square),
almost all the success realized in the rest of the program would
have been instantly forgotten with such an abnormal proportion of
the callers choosing the correct card. With a 20% chance of
disaster, we were very fortunate. Let's hope that when so much is
at stake, more thought is put into the design to preclude such a
DEGREES OF FOLLY: PART VI
by William Bennetta
The first five parts of this article ran in "BASIS" in February,
March, April, May and July. They told how the Private Postsecondary
Education Division (PPED) of the California State Department of
Education, in August l988, staged an "assessment" of the ICR
Graduate School (ICRGS). The school is an arm of the Institute for
Creation Research, a fundamentalist ministry promoting the
religious pseudoscience called "creation-science."
The assessment was made by a five-man committee that had been
chosen by, and was managed by, a PPED officer named Roy W. Steeves.
The committee included two ringers -- George F. Howe and G. Edwin
Miller -- who had been linked closely to the ICR or to the ICR's
president, Henry Morris. The committee produced a false, misleading
report that concealed the real nature of the ICR, promoted the
ICR's scientific pretensions, and said that the Department's chief,
Bill Honig, should approve the ICR as a source of master's degrees
in biology, geology, "astro/geophysics" and science education.
Two of the committee's legitimate members, James Woodhead and
Stuart Hurlbert, then sent separate reports to Honig, telling the
truth about the ICR. Steeves -- writing to the PPED's director,
Joseph P. Barankin -- endorsed the ICR and urged that Honig should
grant the approval that the ICR wanted.
Honig, at least in statements that he gave to the press last
December, refused the approval. In January, however, the Department
drew back from that decision and began to negotiate with the ICR;
and on 3 March, Barankin and the ICR reached an agreement. The ICR
would revise its curriculum, purging the "ICRG's interpretations"
from all courses that would count toward degrees. (The ICR claimed,
and Barankin evidently believed, that science courses purged of
interpretation would be like courses at accredited schools. I asked
Barankin, in a letter, whether he had had advice from anyone who
knew about science, but he did not answer.) To learn whether the
ICR had made the contemplated revisions, the Department would send
a new examining committee; one member would be selected by the ICR.
The new committee is now at work, and I shall tell something about
it here. I assume that my readers have seen the earlier parts of
this article. -- W.B., 12 August
A QUESTION OF INTENTION
Did the ICR ever really intend to revise its "science courses" and
curriculum, excise "ICRGS's interpretations" from degree programs,
and (in the words of its agreement with the Department) "conform
the classroom lectures, course textbooks, and other course aspects"
to science courses at accredited schools? Documents issued by the
ICR may suggest an answer.
On 8 March, mere days after the agreement had been reached, the
ICRGS's dean, Kenneth Cumming, sent a letter and a brochure to a
prospective applicant for admission to the ICRGS. The brochure
conspicuously proclaimed that the ICRGS's "Purpose" was:
"Education, research, and publication in scientific and Biblical
creationism." (Both the letter and the brochure said that the
ICRGS's programs were approved by the State of California. They
told nothing about the events of 1988, nor did they tell that
continued approval depended on a new review by the Department.)
In June, when the ICRGS had begun its summer session and presumably
was running its revised and conformed degree programs, the ICR
mailed the June-July-August issue of its quarterly devotional
booklet, "Days of Praise".
The back cover bore the same boiler-plate that had appeared on all
the earlier issues. It described the ICR as "A UNIQUE complex of
evangelistic, missionary and educational ministries," and it listed
the "ICR Graduate School of Creationist Science" as one of those
ministries. I speculate, then, that be ICR -- regardless of what
its agreement with the Department said -- may actually have
intended to continue doing business as usual, dispensing the same
In parts IV and V of this account, I told of the Department's
efforts to obscure and rationalize the fiasco of last August.
Department functionaries first had issued evasive, false or
misleading statements and then had simply ignored inquiries. In
early June, when I was writing Part V, they had failed to
acknowledge several letters that asked how G. Edwin Miller had got
onto the committee that Steeves had assembled for assessing the
Later in June, however, the Department resumed answering mail, and
at least two people who had inquired about the matter of Miller
received a form-letter signed by Shirley A. Thornton, Bill Honig's
"Deputy Superintendent, Specialized Programs Branch." It said, in
At this point, it seems irrelevant to discuss the
relationships of Mr. Howe or Mr. Miller. The committee
on which they served has written its report and been
disbanded. The final committee decision was to deny
reapproval. . . . ICR is now in the process of taking
corrective measures which shall be verified by another
qualitative review and assessment committee this August.
Consequently, we are focusing our efforts on ensuring
that the most qualified and impartial panel possible will
be selected for [the new assessment committee]. You have
my assurance that extra diligence will be taken to
ascertain whether committee members have any affiliation
whatsoever with ICR or related organizations; if you have
any recommendations on how to do so, please share them
with Dr. Joseph Barankin, Director, Private Postsecondary
Education Division, . . .
This seemed to say that the Department was taking a different
stance. It was not admitting that the 1988 committee's proceedings
had been defective, but neither was it still trying to justify
them. And it evidently saw that the picking of the new committee
would demand care and expertise.
THE NEW COMMITTEE
As I write this, the members of the new committee have just
finished their visit to the ICR. They were there on 7, 8, 9 and 10
August, and they now will give some weeks to the writing of their
The members are: Christopher J. Wills, a geneticist from the
department of Biology, University of California at San Diego;
Richard E. Dickerson, chief of the Molecular Biology Institute,
University of California at Los Angeles; Everett C. Olson, a
vertebrate paleontologist from the Department of Biology,
University of California at Los Angeles; Lawrence S. Lerner, a
physicist and historian of science from the Department of Physics-
Astronomy, California State University at Long Beach; and Leroy E.
Eimers, from the Department of Science and Mathematics, Cedarville
Eimers evidently is the member who, under the agreement between
the ICR and the Department, was chosen by the ICR. Cedarville
College is a Bible school in Cedarville, Ohio. (During a period in
the 1950s it was called Cedarville Baptist College and Bible
I do not know why the ICR picked an Ohioan rather than a
Californian, nor do I know much about Eimers himself. Unlike the
four others on the committee, he is not listed in the 1989-1990
edition of "American Men & Women of Science"; and neither he nor
his college department is in the 1986-1987 edition (the most recent
one available to me) of "Directory of Physics & Astronomy Staff."
At least two of the Californians on the committee have had earlier
experience with creationism and can be expected to show some
special understanding of creationists and the ICR. Dickerson has
served as a scientific expert in two legal actions that arose from
creationists' attacks on science education in public schools, and
Learner was a member of the state panel that recently drafted the
new "Science Framework" to guide science instruction in the public
schools of California.
The draft has been opposed strenuously by creationists, because it
lays strong emphasis on forthright teaching of scientific
information about the history of Earth and the history of
organisms. (See Diane Curtis's story "The Evolution Battle
Evolves," in the "San Francisco Chronicle" for 20 July.) Lerner
also has written at least two articles that dealt wholly or partly
with creationism, and I have had the pleasure of being the co-
author of one of them. (See "The Treatment of Theory in Textbooks,"
which ran in April 1988 in "The Science Teacher", the monthly of
the National Science Teachers Association.)
The committee is being managed by Jeanne Bird, who joined the PPED,
as a staff consultant, this spring. She is now one of the PPED's
assistant directors. When I talked with her by telephone on 21
July, she was cordial but reticent. She said that she held no
degree in science or in law, but she would tell no more about her
education. Nor would she say what kind of work she had been doing
for the PPED, or whether she had had any experience in managing the
assessment of degree-granting institutions.
SIDEBAR: MEET PROFESSOR JOHN
D. James Kennedy is a fundamentalist preacher who makes commercial
religious programs for both television and radio. His headquarters
operation, Coral Ridge Ministries, is in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
His enterprises include a daily, half-hour radio show called
"Truths That Transform".
On 10 May, that show offered an interview with Henry Morris's son
John. John Morris has worked at the ICR for some years and now
holds at least two jobs there: administrative vice-president and
"full professor of geology." One of his geological specialties is
discovering that humans and the great dinosaurs lived, very
recently, side by side. (See his book "Tracking Those Incredible
Dinosaurs and the People Who Knew Them", issued in 1980 by the
ICR's publishing arm, Master Books.) He also searches for the
remains of Noah's ark.
The interview on "Truths That Transform" was conducted by one of
D. James Kennedy's associates, who asked: "What does evolution have
in common with the New Age and Marxism?" The putative answers were
provided by John Morris, who also promoted a religious video in
which he recently had appeared. The video is called "The Evolution
Conspiracy: A Quantum Leap into the New Age". After telling his
radio audience that there was no evidence for organic evolution,
and that "doctrinaire evolutionists are also doctrinaire atheists,
and most of 'em are Marxist," he tried to link evolutionary science
to the New Age:
It's just -- you know, there's no evidence in the fossil
record that [organic evolution] ever did occur;
scientific law shows that it couldn't occur, statistics
show that it's highly unlikely -- impossibly unlikely --
and so evolutionists, even, are abandoning this concept
of pure naturalism, of naturalistic evolution. What
they're doing, though, instead of moving over into the
creationist camp, they're moving into another sort of
evolution. Uh, instead of being naturalistic evolution,
they're -- they're saying now that these sorts of things
couldn't happen without an overriding mind, without a
But instead of attributing that to God, they're --
they're basically saying that nature is alive, that
Mother Nature is thinking -- that -- this is the essence
of Eastern mysticism. Uh, it's the New Age movement. You
would be surprised how much of the technical, scientific
literature talks about this idea that nature is alive,
that it thinks and it does this on purpose. . . . So the
New Age movement is very definitely evolutionary, and
modern evolution is moving in the direction of the New
Age. In fact, they used to show the -- the monkeys, you
know, getting bigger and bigger and turning into man.
Well, now the drawings, they go beyond man into man in
a lotus position. My goodness, this is the essence of the
All this was news to me. I had not known of any scientific law
showing that organic evolution could not occur; I had not noticed
that scientists were flocking to the New Age movement; I had never
seen scientific drawings in which monkeys (or anything else) got
bigger and bigger until they turned into a man in the lotus
position; and I surely had not know that this was "the essence of
the satanic world-view." I hope that John Morris explained all
those things to the new visiting committee that the Department of
Education sent to the ICR on 7 August, so that the committee's
members could fully appreciate the work and intellect of the ICR's
"full professor of geology." -- W.B.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS
Suddenly we are twice the size. BAS has doubled its subscribers and
its commitments. We need help.
Yves Barbero has been appointed to be the meeting coordinator as
well as CSICOP liaison to entice them to bring the 1991 convention
to San Francisco, so he must give up his long-time job of folding
and stapling the newsletter. We need a distribution committee.
We need a publicist, too. This job has been handed around from
board member to board member in addition to their other duties. It
needs the primary attention of an outgoing person, someone willing
to learn the media ropes of the Bay Area. Perhaps it needs to be
handled by a committee. We're open to suggestions.
While experience is welcome, enthusiasm and willingness are the
Come to the VOLUNTEERS COORDINATING COMMITTEE MEETING on Sept. 13th
at 7 p.m. at the home of Yves Barbero, 1073 Dolores Street, San
Francisco. For further information, call (415) 285-4358 (evenings).
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 September, 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