February 1991 +quot;BASIS+quot;, newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics Bay Area Skeptics Inf
February 1991 "BASIS", newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics
Bay Area Skeptics Information Sheet
Vol. 10, No. 2
Editor: Yves Barbero
PSYCHICS' PREDICTIONS FIZZLE FOR 1990
by Robert Sheaffer
Jackie Onassis did not marry young rock star Jon Bon Jovi. A tidal
wave did not flood Manhattan. A meteorite did not land in the White
House Rose Garden, and a cure was not found for the common cold.
These are just a few of the many predictions that had been made for
1990 by famous "psychics", but were dead wrong, as chronicled by
the Bay Area Skeptics.
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 they made
the year before, which are always nearly 100% wrong. Each year,
however, the Bay Area Skeptics dig up the predictions made the year
before, to the embarrassment of those who made them.
Many of the "psychic" predictions made are so vague that it is
impossible to say if they came true or not: For example, Jeane
Dixon's prediction that "secrets will weigh heavily" on
Vice-President Dan Quayle is not obviously true or false. Many
other "predictions" involve things that happen every year, or else
are not difficult to guess, such as hurricanes along the Gulf
Coast, marital strife for Charles and Diana, or terrorist
incidents. Many "predictions" simply state that ongoing events and
trends will continue, such as economic uncertainty, or conflict in
the Middle East.
Other supposed "predictions" are not really predictions at all, but
are actually disclosures of little-known events that 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, the 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
unspecific, or not at all difficult to guess, not one prediction
that was both specific and surprising came true.
The famous Washington, D.C. "psychic" Jeane Dixon, who supposedly
has a "gift of prophesy", predicted that George Bush's "greatest
challenge" would come this summer when he would be forced to make
"life-and-death decisions about troubles in Latin America and
China". While those regions were relatively quiet this summer,
Dixon somehow failed to foresee Bush having any trouble with Iraq.
"The worst stock market drop of the year will come in mid-April",
she predicted; it actually occurred from August through
mid-October. She also warned that the West Coast "will be shaken
again by an October earthquake" which will "bring a volcano to
life" ["The Star", Jan. 16, 1990].
St. Louis "psychic" Beverly Jaegers, who claims to be able to make
accurate stock market predictions, predicted that defrocked
evangelist Jimmy Bakker would become a "hunted fugitive" after an
escape from prison, and that Madonna would get pregnant from an
affair with Pee-Wee Herman ["National Enquirer", July 3, 1990].
In Chicago, "psychic" Irene Hughes predicted that Jacqueline
Onassis would tie the knot with rock star Jon Bon Jovi, that Bryant
Gumbel would be fired from the "Today" show after an ugly bar-room
brawl, and that Chuck Norris would lead a group of mercenaries in
a successful attack on a Colombian drug field ["National Enquirer",
Jan. 2, 1990].
Los Angeles "psychic" Marie Graciette predicted that the largest
earthquake ever recorded would strike the sea bed near New York
City, sending in a tidal wave that would flood Manhattan ["National
Enquirer", July 3, 1990]. A meteorite would land in the White House
Rose Garden, endangering the First Family by the levels of
radiation it emits. (Meteorites are primarily made of iron and
nickel, which are not radioactive.) She also predicted that
Japanese scientists would discover a cure for the common cold while
investigating the ink spewed out by squid ["National Enquirer",
Jan. 2, 1990].
Southern Californian Clarisa Bernhardt, who claims to make
"incredibly accurate" earthquake predictions, foresaw that Barbra
Streisand would go to Cuba and wind up in a "sizzling" romance with
Fidel Castro [National Enquirer, July 3, 1990]. She also predicted
that the Major Leagues would have their first female baseball
player, whose skill would make her a superstar ["National
Enquirer", Jan. 2, 1990].
Here in Northern California, "Psychic Astrologer" Terrie Brill of
Redwood City predicted five years ago [San Francisco Examiner, Dec.
16, 1985] that 1990 would absolutely be the year that a massive
earthquake would reshape the California coastline. "If there was
doubt [about this prediction], I'd say there was doubt", she
reaffirmed to the reporter.
This past December, she predicted that Oprah Winfrey would marry,
that Manuel Noriega (who was then holed up in the Vatican Embassy
in Panama) would be released, but not to the United States, and
would be killed by a Panamanian before six months had passed ["San
Francisco Examiner", Dec. 28, 1990]. Brill charges her clients $195
an hour for predictions such as these. Twelve months ago, Brill
went on record predicting an earthquake that would make the Bay
Area "fall into the ocean" during 1991 ["San Jose Mercury-News",
Jan. 1, 1990], but in view of her previous dismal track record, the
Bay Area Skeptics see no cause for alarm.
Based on the continuing failure of the "psychics" to make accurate
predictions over the years, the Bay Area Skeptics urge everyone --
including the press -- to exercise some healthy skepticism when
"psychics" and other purveyors of the paranormal make extraordinary
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 1990: the invasion and
occupation of Kuwait by Iraq; Hussein's holding of thousands of
foreign hostages as "human shields"; George Bush saying yes to "new
taxes"; and the stunning electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in
Nicaragua. 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
The 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 Examination 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 been formed in many
foreign countries, including Australia, Canada, France, the United
Kingdom, Mexico, and India. These groups cooperate in making their
findings available to other researchers, and to the public.
[Robert Sheaffer is a technical writer and UFO expert. He is one of
the founders of Bay Area Skeptics. Sheaffer has written a new book,
tentatively titled "Christian Resentment." It should be released
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
MORE ON THE FLUORIDATION FLAP
by Thomas H. Jukes, PH.D.
"BASIS", December 1990 and January 1991 gives a large amount of
space to publicity about John R. Lee, also to his long article. Was
this to drum up an audience for him? Bob Steiner (page seven, Jan.
1991) is amazed that there is so much distaste for Lee's output.
Ordinarily, most people yawn and leave when a flat-earther, or
someone who says the world will end next week, mounts a soapbox.
The difference here, Bob [Steiner], is that some of us are
interested in helping children grow good teeth. We are in the field
of public health; we are not magicians. We have been working for
fluoridation for years. Lee's assertions are NOT harmless
In addition to protecting freedom of the press, an editor is
supposed to "copy-edit" manuscripts. Why did Lee's monologue (Dec.
1990, page three) escape this? Plants and animals are of female and
male SEXES, not GENDERS. And why was Lee given space to maunder on
and on about Rabelais, Galileo, Aristotle et al., quite irrelevant
to his topic? Space is valuable.
Lee says fluoride used in fluoridation is a "toxic waste product of
industry." This is nonsense. Fluorine is a chemical element.
Sea-water contains 1.4 parts per million of fluoride -- more than
the 1.0 ppm recommended for drinking water. Lee quotes National
Institute of Dental Health data, and then alleges, without any
authority, that the data are wrong.
He says, "when skepticism is silenced, science (and our health in
this case) suffers." Health suffers when anti-fluoridationists get
their way. Lee has never been silenced, even though he is dangerous
to our children's health. He has been reciting unsubstantiated
propaganda for years. No one has tried to shut him up. As Bob
Steiner found out, no "pro-fluoridation health professional" would
share the platform with Lee.
by Rick Moen
Bay Area Skeptics Secretary
Dr. John R. Lee's topic (fluoridation) is a bit far afield for a
skeptics' group, but when magician Bob Steiner asked my opinion on
hosting him, my sole question was "Will he be interesting?" Answer:
"Absolutely." For me, that was the end of the matter, as with
almost all the BAS activists Steiner consulted.
Thus, I'm surprised at the controversy. Some people feel we should
refuse Lee a forum, or impose conditions never applied to other
speakers. Why? Apparently, some think BAS exists to promote the
received wisdom of science, shutting out unconventional viewpoints,
which should be dismissed unheard.
This attitude quite simply runs counter to the principles and
purpose of the skeptics' movement. It would make a mockery of our
intent to consider claims FAIRLY AND IMPARTIALLY, albeit
critically. It would reduce us to closed-minded, ideological
cheerleaders of the science establishment. Worse, it would make us
DULL -- preachers to the converted. Worse still, it might even make
us DEAD WRONG: Some mavericks just might be correct. We prefer to
help people to JUDGE FOR THEMSELVES, airing both sides.
BAS has in the past had, as speakers and authors, UFOlogists,
parapsychologists, creationists, and proponents of various unusual
claims. They have always been treated with friendliness, respect,
and appreciation. If I have my way, they always will. The
suppression of unconventional views, and advocates of that
suppression, have NO PLACE in the skeptics' movement. The rest of
us will benefit from being stimulated, entertained, and perhaps
enlightened by exposure to a wide range of views.
P.S.: In a related matter, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach has
always been a good friend of Bay Area Skeptics, a friendship we
especially appreciate because of its rarity.
I interpreted the editor's small piece "Auerbach in Business"
(12/90 "BASIS") as a perhaps overly rowdy jibe between friends. I
hope Auerbach will consider it as such, and regret any offense we
have given him.
THERE'S THE CART; BUT WHERE IS THE HORSE?
by Bob Steiner
Loyd Auerbach, a parapsychologist, has long worked with BAS. He has
been an avid supporter and activist, and has willingly and freely
donated his time and expertise to give presentations at our
Bay Area Skeptics has a long history of fairness in its
investigations. It does not publicize results before there are
results to publicize.
Bay Area Skeptics and Loyd Auerbach have a history of many years of
friendship, and of exchange of ideas and information.
It was therefore surprising and embarrassing to read the editorial
in the December 1990 "BASIS" entitled "Auerbach in Business." It
took a considerable slam at Loyd Auerbach and his new business. It
was, according to the editorial itself, based upon an article our
editor read in the "San Francisco Chronicle". No investigation had
been made. No communication with Loyd had taken place.
Additionally, the editorial mentioned the master's degree in
parapsychology that Loyd earned from John F. Kennedy University,
and then appended the footnote: "The Catholic Church has long
opposed traffic in the Paranormal. It must be a wonderful irony
that a school named after one of their most prominent members
issues such degrees." That was uncalled for. Furthermore, since
when has Bay Area Skeptics held the Catholic Church up as the
benchmark for our scientific investigations of the paranormal?
It may indeed be proper for Bay Area Skeptics to take a look at
Loyd's new business. However, until that look has taken place, and
until there is some communication with Loyd -- and he has never
ducked communication with BAS -- it is out of place to try him in
Loyd Auerbach deserves better treatment than that ... and so does
Bay Area Skeptics.
"AUERBACH IN BUSINESS" FLAP
by Loyd Auerbach
I read the short piece in the December "BASIS" about my business,
and I have to say I'm quite disappointed in "BASIS". As you know,
I've lectured to the Bay Area Skeptics more than a couple of times
over the past several years, and have had a high regard for your
group. In discussions with others in parapsychology (and in the
media, in fact) I have defended Bay Area Skeptics as a group
tending to be more skeptical than dogmatic, unlike other such
groups around the country. After reading "Auerbach in Business" I
may have to rethink my position.
First of all, let me say that the Office of Paranormal
Investigations as an organization has been operating for over a
year. I, of course, have been conducting such investigations for
ten years now. None of the members of my group think of or refer to
ourselves as "New Age." What we do has nothing to do with the
mysticism and spiritual mind-set of New Age folk.
While our mailing address is Orinda, I will repeat to you what I
have said to every reporter who has interviewed me: We have no
physical offices in Orinda or anywhere else. Cost of renting office
space what it is today, we'd have to have investigations going all
the time to afford office leasing. There are not enough reported
cases (or unreported cases, more than likely) in the Bay Area or
anywhere else to support office space at what we charge.
We charge for our time, not for a guarantee of removing "any loose
poltergeists from the premises." Our case typically cost clients
$50 (exceptions being cases outside of the immediate Bay Area; $100
for a case in the central valley as one example). Cases typically
involve two or more investigators, and have included a clinical
psychologist on more than one occasion.
Clients get several things out of our investigations, not the least
of which is someone willing to listen to them. In addition, what
they get includes: 1) an investigation of a situation which others
may dismiss as "crazy" without looking into it; 2) an investigation
in which the primary causes looked for and examined are "normal"
ones rather than paranormal; 3) referrals to counselors or
psychologists who can help further, and 4) effectively, a
"mini-course" on parapsychology and on how easy it is to
misinterpret ordinary occurrences as paranormal ones.
"Don't forget to ask about the warranty should you make use of
their services." To quote our brochure: "O.P.I. does provide a
thorough investigation in such cases and an understanding of what
is most likely happening, but NO one can GUARANTEE the removal of
such phenomena. Our first obligation is to help the clients through
such situations, and to provide advice or referrals based on
research and investigative findings."
So far, O.P.I. is not anywhere near a profit-making venture, with
any monies taken in used to support our answering services (live
people to talk to, not a tape) and printing. We do not take every
call that comes in and rush out and investigate, turning down
potential cases because the situations don't warrant an
investigation (perhaps an explanation or referral over the phone).
In some of the reports there's an easy normal explanation, in
others, the experience happened too long ago, and in still other
calls there is the need simply for referral to a clinician who can
help. We turn many of those down, even though the people are
willing to pay for us to come out anyway.
Our investigations are part data-gathering, part explanation, and
mostly education. If O.P.I. is ever to be a true profit-making
venture, it will be because of our consultations with the media, as
well as through seminars and workshops we will be offering in the
future. We are not really "GHOSTBUSTERS" any more than the Bay Area
(or any other part of the country) is "spook central, as New York
was in that film.
I hope this clears up a few things. Next time, perhaps you'll [The
Editor] think to check before alienating someone who has never been
an "enemy of the Bay Area Skeptics".
[To ask for an attractive brochure listing their services, contact
the Office of Paranormal Investigations at their "mail drop": P.O.
Box 875, Orinda, CA 94563-0875. Phone: 415-553-2588.]
MORE ON FLUORIDATION FLAP (2)
by Ernest Newbrun, D.M.D., PH.D.
Professor of Oral Biology and Periodontology
School of Dentistry
University of California, San Francisco
I am amazed that an organization such as Bay Area Skeptics chooses
to provide a platform for John Lee's paranoid conspiracy theory
concerning water fluoridation as a "toxic waste product" of
industry in collusion with "the medical and dental bureaucracies"
and the U.S. Public Health Service. He has used "BASIS" as a
platform for his distorted view of this one public health measure
which has done more than any other in preventing the pain and
discomfort of tooth decay.
In citing the Rand Corporation analysis of the National Preventive
Dentistry Demonstration Program (NPDDP), he totally misrepresents
their findings which were summarized as follows: "Children's teeth
found to be healthier than expected. Most preventive measures
proved to be more expensive -- and less effective. The value of
water fluoridation underscored."
John Lee deliberately omitted the conclusion of the Rand analysis
of the NPDDP that water fluoridation was a "best buy" in terms of
cost/benefit of caries preventive measures. A review of the
efficacy of communal water fluoridation in reducing dental caries
based on surveys conducted in the last decades of caries prevalence
in fluoridated and nonfluoridated communities in the United States,
as well as in Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand
shows that not only for children and adolescents, but also for
adults and seniors, there is a consistently and substantially lower
caries prevalence in fluoridated communities.
Concerning the safety of water fluoridation, it is well to keep in
mind the admonition of Paracelsus, "All substances are poisons,
there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates
a poison and a remedy." Certainly, fluoride in high dosage is
toxic. However, at one part per million the safety of communal
fluoridation has been well documented.
STATEMENT ON WATER FLUORIDATION
by Thomas H. Jukes, Ph.D.
(Professor of Biophysics and Medical Physics,
University of California, Berkeley)
Fluoridation of drinking water is generally regarded by scientists
as one of the major achievements in public health nutrition.
Perhaps the closest analogues are iodized salt to prevent goiter
and vitamin D in milk to prevent rickets.
In January 1985, the Federation of American Societies for
Experimental Biology noted that fluoridation at one part per
million reduces the incidence of dental caries by about 60 percent.
Fluoridation is recommended by the World Health Organization and
the United States National Academy of Sciences. It was included in
the recent recommendations for Dietary Goals for England.
Nevertheless, 110 million Americans receive a water supply that is
deficient in fluoride. If each person in this population gets only
two extra cavities, the cost of not fluoridating the water is
estimated to be $3 billion for tooth fillings alone.
Fortunately, San Francisco is not in this category. However, if
fluoride is removed from San Francisco drinking water, the cost to
consumers would be in the millions, not counting pain and
discomfort to disadvantaged children.
In the United States, studies began in 1945 with one ppm of
fluoride being added to the public water systems.
In the past 35 years, findings from subsequent studies on water
fluoridation have all verified its action in preventing tooth
decay. Most important, the method was devoid of harmful effects.
Despite organized opposition, over 80 million of the United States'
population are now drinking artificially fluoridated water, while
another eight million drink natural fluoride water. Six states have
mandatory water fluoridation laws.
According to Joseph Volker, DDS, Ph.D. --
"Water fluoridation is superior to other methods of
fluoride treatment since no trained personnel are
required to give the treatment, nor is any extra effort
required by those benefitted. The time required of the
dentist for corrective care and the cost per child is
half of that necessary in nonfluoride areas. For the 88
million with communal fluoride water supplies the
reduction in suffering and the financial savings are too
vast to estimate accurately.
"Premature loss of primary (baby) teeth resulting from
dental decay is one of the major causes of crooked teeth
in children. Children drinking fluoridated water have
only half as many tooth extractions as those in
nonfluoridated communities. Consequently, there are less
malocclusions and less need for preventive and corrective
Through water fluoridation, the maturing of the teeth, during and
after the cutting state is hastened markedly. Fluoride once built
into the teeth is retained through the entire lifetime of the
individual. The cost of fluoridation is about 25 cents per person
per year. The lifetime cost for a person living for 70 years will
be about $17 to reduce dental bills by about 60 percent.
Opposition to fluoridation is based on scare tactics and
misrepresentation of science. Fluorides are represented as "toxic
and corrosive." This is not true at one part per million. For that
matter, sodium and chlorine, which combine to form table salt, are
both toxic and corrosive in the elemental state.
Fluorine as fluoride is a nutritionally essential trace element,
like iron zinc or iodine. Fluoridation of drinking water has no
positive or negative effect on incidence of mortality rates due to
cancer, heart disease, intracranial lesions, nephritis, cirrhosis,
mongoloid births, or from all causes together. The Director General
of the World Health Organization stated in 1975: "Fluoridation of
communal water supplies should be the cornerstone of any national
program of dental caries prevention." WHO also pointed out that
preliminary studies indicated that increased fluoride intake after
permanent tooth eruption may improve the strength of bones in older
The status of fluoridation was appraised by Dr. Virginia L.
Richmond in "Thirty years of fluoridation: A Review," in the
"American Journal of Clinical Nutrition", January 1985, vol. 41,
pp. 129-138, with 80 references. I strongly recommend this as a
[Thomas H. Jukes, Ph.D., is a long time advisor to Bay Area
WHAT CULTS ARE REALLY LIKE -- WITH MARGARET THALER SINGER
by Carol Baumgartner
Are You Cult Material? You very well may be, if you are mild or
moderately mannered, if you are a depressed type of personality, if
you suffer from guilt feelings, feelings of inadequacy, or if you
are the gullible type of person, according to Margaret Thaler
Singer, Ph.D., who spoke to a meeting of Bay Area Skeptics in
These are just a few of the types of people who can be easily
manipulated and recruited into a cult through thought reform
programs. Everyone, at some time in their life can be susceptible
to being drawn into a cult. No one is totally immune.
The process is basically to recruit, indoctrinate, then totally
control members and to maintain that control to promote their
ideology. Cults maintain control and manipulate with rewards and
punishments. Deceptive methods are used to recruit people, then
their guilt is used against them to manipulate them. Persons are
told that the "Secrets of Life" will be revealed to them and that
all non-members are lesser beings and when they come into the group
they will learn the secrets.
Many people drop out of school, give up their careers and friends.
Engagements, marriages, and families are broken up. Prospective
cult members are taken away from their support system and told that
their past life is "No good." They are made to feel guilty over
their past. Cult members lives are ultimately under the total
control of the leaders of the cult. There is control of all
communication with former friends, family members, and even with
other cult members. Cult members are made to feel powerless. They
are manipulated and made to feel guilty whenever possible.
While attending San Diego State University, Robin Kliger was
introduced to the Shri Chinmoy Cult. She dropped out of school
after undergoing several months of indoctrination. She was a member
of Shri Chinmoy for over eight and a half years and became their
Chief of Public Relations. She expressed to her parents that she
had desires to leave this cult but felt that she could not break
away because of feeling psychologically paralyzed. She was moved
underground by the cult, so her parents could not find her and then
moved to another country. She was eventually kidnapped by her
parents through de-programming. Robin gave us valuable insight into
what motivates people to join cults and how very hard it is for
those same people to break away from the psychological terrorism of
There are over 5,000 cults in the United States, some are
religious, some are health related, and some are the UFO cults to
name a few. Many of these cults, are multi-million dollar
organizations which operate under tax exempt non-profit 501-C-3
STEINER PUZZLE FLAP
by Fred Convers
In regard to "Answer to Puzzle Number One" (Nov. 1990):
Bob Steiner is probably just trying to show how easily we can be
taken if we don't bother to do probability arithmetic.
First, assume a large population with the usual 1:1 sex ratio. The
order is of no significance, as is more easily seen with three
children. The known girl has a 1.00 probability of being a girl;
the others 0.50. Thus, there is a 1.00 x 0.50 x 0.50 = 0.25
probability they are three girls. It matters not where the 1.00 is
In the two child problem, consider all cases:
The first may be assumed the girl and the second unknown: then the
probability is 1.00 x 0.50 = 0.50:
The second may be assumed the girl and the first unknown: then the
probability is 0.50 x 1.00 = 0.50.
Or 1.00 x 0.50 = 0.50 x 1.00 = 0.50 (one in two).
The table is (perhaps deliberately) misleading. On first glance,
one assumes that probabilities are to be equal for each possible
number. In fact:
Possibility Number Probability
Second, consider a small population:
Two girls and two boys are in a room. Two of them are mine, one a
girl. What are the odds that both of mine are girls?
"What would life be like without arithmetic but a scene
of horrors?" -- Sydney Smith 1835
[Other readers of "BASIS" and the BBS have also commented on the
math of BOB STEINER's puzzle.]
1991 European Skeptical Congress
CALL FOR PAPERS
Place: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Time: Friday 4th and Saturday 5th October 1991
Language of Discourse: English
Level: Scientifically interested laymen
Presentation period: About 35 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of
Potential speakers are invited to submit abstracts before April
15th, 1991. Full-length papers should be submitted before October
1st, 1991. It is expected that the talk will comprise a compressed
version of this paper.
Papers should preferably deal with RECENT INVESTIGATIONS, or
discuss EMPIRICAL DATA that fellow skeptics will consider worth
No unifying topic is required, but the following deserve particular
attention in view of the forthcoming European integration:
Policies of governmental and societal groups (e.g. insurance
companies) about pseudoscience and the paranormal. Under
"government" should be considered the legislative, executive and
Subtopics could be:
=> policies in the field of health
=> policies in the field of education, e.g. school projects in
teaching and critical thinking
=> funding of research into the paranormal (e.g. earth rays,
=> taxation policies (deductibility of services like dowsing,
astrological consulting, clairvoyance, etc.)
Abstracts, full length papers and inquiries should be directed to
Dr. J. W. NIENHUYS
5581 VA Waalre
by Wallace I. Sampson, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Medicine
[This letter was sent to KQED by long time Bay Area Skeptics
advisor Dr. Sampson. It has been edited and considerably
A long time member of KQED, I am more than disappointed, (frankly,
just short of enraged) to have seen KQED sponsor fiction as news --
the program "Bad Chemicals" shown December 30th. The entire
production staff should be embarrassed by this piece of just plain
bad reporting. It is non-factual, and prejudiced. Apparently the
staff has been duped into believing and supporting a phenomenon of
imagined wrongs, conversion reactions, fakery, misdiagnosis, and
pseudoscience, all supported by a social system that reinforces
beliefs that are so stupid, they strain belief.
First, commercially used chemicals account for only two percent of
all cancers. "Natural" chemicals in food probably account for over
30 percent, and most of those have not been tested. Second,
reactions to chemicals are well known and described in scientific
medical literature. The people shown in the program do not have
chemical sensitivities or toxicities.
I am asked to believe that a woman troubled by headaches and nausea
who disappears from her husband and children, and isolates herself
in a Berkeley apartment for ten years is a victim of chemical
sensitivities, and not of her own personality disorder.
The narrator claims that "sick building syndrome" costs one hundred
billion dollars a year. That is one fourth of the annual medical
costs in the US. I am expected to believe it?
Inter-spaced are segments showing physicians and psychologists
explaining the symptoms and disabilities. What would they be doing
without these patients? Are they good enough to practice medicine
without reinforcing delusion? Are they just telling these patients
what they want to hear?
We are then treated to the interview of an entrepreneur who sells
products to the afflicted. Including those phased to the lunar
cycle! There's talent for marketing that should be rewarded. There
are more than two ways to make a buck here.
For entertainment, we see Ms. Saltzman, who sacrificed herself to
the media by not sniffing the film crew beforehand so that she
could demonstrate her muscle dysfunction. I've seen better acts in
emergency rooms by addicts demanding drugs, and by poor actors who
want attention. Well, she got her fifteen minutes of fame. But she
forgot to alter her speech to be consistent with the contortions of
her arms and legs. This was not an effect of chemicals. It was
fakery or delusion.
A dentist insists that his symptoms are due to chemicals, yet he
admits he had the equivalent of a nervous breakdown in his office
at the time.
The attempt to show Drs. Terr and Brodsky were apparently for
balance. These two respected authorities in the field were
portrayed as unfair, lackies of chemical companies, and uncaring
for patients. Although they were given thirty seconds for fairness
to explain their points of views, the editorializing for the other
side was unmistakable.
The program was inaccurate, naive, prejudiced, and completely
missed the point of the phenomenon of EI. The people with the
symptoms do have somatization. It is usually a reaction to
depression and intolerance to stressful situations. It was
described by FREUD in his famous case histories. It is
characteristic of patients to lack insight into their problems,
they are often not good candidates for direct psychotherapy, and
are very difficult to handle because of their paranoia. The
clinical ecology doctors who support them are not only wrong, they
reinforce their patients' delusions instead of helping them to gain
THE SKEPTIC'S ELECTRONIC BULLETIN BOARD
=> 2400 Baud, 415-648-8944
=> 24 hours, 7 days a week
=> Rick Moen, Sysop
STANFORD COURSE IN MEDICAL FRAUDS
Wallace Sampson, M.D., a founder and longtime advisor to BAY AREA
SKEPTICS, has announced additional lectures of the annual course
in medical fads.
=> Feb. 5: The Cult Experience -- Margaret Thaler Singer,
Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley
=> Feb. 12: Effects of Radiation and Electromagnetic Fields --
Leonard Sagan, M.D., Electric Power Research Institute, Palo
=> Feb. 12: Holistic Medicine, Charlatan Therapy, Homeopathy --
Wallace Sampson, M.D., Stanford
=> Feb. 19: Effects of Herbicides and Pesticides -- J. Gordon
Edwards, Ph.D. -- Dept. of Biological Sciences, San Jose State
=> Feb. 26: Mentalism, Magic, Psychic Surgery, Con Games --
Robert Steiner, Esq.
=> Mar. 5: Holism, Quantum Mechanics, and Extrasensory Perception
-- A Panel of Physicists to be announced.
=> Mar. 12: "Dead Week" optional lecture by student vote.
For information regarding the exact location and possible course
changes, call Dr. Sampson at 415-961-5548, or The Skeptic's Board
BBS at 415-648-8944. Future classes will be announced in these
PRIZE FOR BEST ANSWER
How many psychics does it take to screw in a light bulb? (Blank
pages don't count!)
| This box has been turned over |
| to the skeptical astrologer, |
| who has been promised complete |
| editorial freedom. |
The flim-flam, double talk of food labeling and commercials is
unbelievable. It misleads people into thinking certain foods are
healthy when they are not! People can be tricked and end up being
candidates for heart attacks, cancer, obesity and/or diabetes.
Ann del Tredici, a nutritionist and registered dietician, will
demonstrate how deceptive labeling "dopes" the public into thinking
that they are using healthy foods.
The president-elect of the American Heart Association, Marin
Chapter, will also offer easy to remember guidelines will be
offered for safe and healthy food choices when shopping.
Learn, once and for all, how to read a label properly without going
to law school!
February meeting . . .
TRICKS AND DECEPTIONS OF FOOD LABELING
by: Ann del Tredici, R.N.
Wednesday, February 20th, 7:30 pm
El Cerrito Library
The El Cerrito Public Library is at 6510 Stockton Ave. From Route
80, take the Central Ave. exit (the third exit north of University
Ave.). Go east about three blocks and turn left on San Pablo Ave.,
continue three blocks and turn right on Stockton. The library is on
the right in the third block.
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
BAS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair: Larry Loebig
Vice Chair: Yves Barbero
Secretary: Rick Moen
Treasurer: Kent Harker
Yves Barbero, editor; Sharon Crawford, assoc. editor;
Wilma Russell, distribution; Rick Moen, circulation
Kate Talbot, meeting coordinator; John Taube, media watch
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
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, 1991 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) 1991 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