Jan 09 2008
Fundamentalist Skeptics In The News
Illustration from FATE magazine, October, 1981
In light of the recent announcement by the James Randi Educational Foundation that theyÂ
are will beÂ withdrawing their one million-dollar ESP challenge, I was reminded of this excellent 1981 article by Dennis Rawlins. It is long and detailed, but reveals some of the forces at work in the early days of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal (CSICOP.) The reasons for Marcello Truzzi’s early exit from the group become obvious: some of the founding members were apparently more worried about their preconceptions and personal image than any real research into paranormal claims.
Rawlins’ article is an insider’s look at one of CSICOP’s early investigations into the so-called “Mars Effect”: the idea that people born under a certain astrological sign would exhibit talent in athletics. When it was found that a scientific examination of the data actually confirmed this, some members of the governing board (including Randi) first pushed for a repeat of the statistical number-crunching, and then actually tried to cook the data before releasing the report findings.
Of course, the confirmation of the Mars Effect could have been a coincidence, but CSICOP was apparently unwilling or unable to repeat the experiment with other astrological theories does little to restore faith in their aims or methodology, at least in the early 1980s.
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