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  1. 1. TheSkeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience
  2. 2. Santa Barbara, California Denver, Colorado Oxford, England
  3. 3. THESKEPTIC ENCYCLOPEDIA of PSEUDOSCIENCE Michael Shermer, Editor Pat Linse, Contributing Editor V O L U M E O N E
  4. 4. Copyright © 2002 by Michael Shermer Michael Shermer, Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, P.O. Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001 URL:, email: (626) 794-3119 (phone), (626) 794-1301 (fax) All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data The Skeptic encyclopedia of pseudoscience / edited by Michael Shermer. p. cm. Includes index. isbn 1-57607-653-9 (set : hardcover : alk. paper) — ebook isbn 1-57607-654-7 1. Pseudoscience—Encyclopedias. I. Shermer, Michael. II. Skeptic. q172.5.p77 s44 2002 503—dc21 2002009653 02 03 04 05 06 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is also available on the World Wide Web as an e-book. Visit for details. ABC-CLIO, Inc. 130 Cremona Drive, P.O. Box 1911 Santa Barbara, California 93116-1911 This book is printed on acid-free paper. Manufactured in the United States of America
  5. 5. To James “the Amazing” Randi, our hero, colleague, friend, and inspiration
  6. 6. vii Contents Introduction ix Volume One section 1 important pseudoscientific concepts Alien Abductions, Lance Rivers 3 Alternative Archaeology, Garrett G. Fagan 9 Ancient Astronauts, Kenneth L. Feder 17 Animal Mutilations, Andrew O. Lutes 23 Anomalous Psychological Experiences, Chris Duva 25 Anthroposophy and Anthroposophical Medicine, Dan Dugan 31 Astrology, Geoffrey Dean, Ivan W. Kelly, Arthur Mather, and Rudolf Smit 35 Attachment Therapy, Jean Mercer 43 Ball Lightning, Steuart Campbell 48 Bermuda Triangle, Maarten Brys 52 Biorhythms, Diego Golombek 54 Castaneda, Carlos, Phil Molé 57 Clever Hans, Thomas F. Sawyer 60 Cold Reading, Bob Steiner 63 Crop Circles, Jorge Soto 67 Cryptozoology, Ben S. Roesch and John L. Moore 71 Cults, Steve Novella and Perry DeAngelis 79 Dietary Supplements, Ricki Lewis 85 Dowsing, Steve Novella and Perry DeAngelis 93 Earthquake Prediction, Russell Robinson 95 Electromagnetic Fields and Cell Phones, Steven Korenstein 98 Fairies, Elves, Pixies, and Gnomes, David J. W. Lauridsen Jr. 101 Faster-Than-Light Travel, Roahn Wynar 104 Feng Shui, Jon Puro 108 Geller, Uri, Simon Jones 113 Handwriting Analysis and Graphology, John Berger 116 Hypnosis, Robert A. Ford 121
  7. 7. viii Ideomotor Effect (the “Ouija Board” Effect), Michael Heap 127 Laundry Balls, Roahn H. Wynar 130 Magnetic Therapy, Satyam Jain and Daniel R. Wilson 132 The Mars Face: Extraterrestrial Archaeology, Kenneth L. Feder 136 Meditation, Juan Carlos Marvizon 141 Multiple Personality Disorder, Scott O. Lilienfeld and Steven Jay Lynn 146 Near-Death Experiences, Susan J. Blackmore 152 Observer Effects and Observer Bias, Douglas G. Mook 158 Out-of-Body Experiences, Susan J. Blackmore 164 Phrenology, John van Wyhe 170 Piltdown Man (Hoax): Famous Fossil Forgery, Richard Milner 173 Placebo Effect, Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly 178 Planetary Alignments, John Mosley 181 Polygraph and Lie Detection, Marc E. Pratarelli 186 Prayer and Healing, Kevin Courcey 190 Pseudoscience and Science: A Primer in Critical Thinking, D. Alan Bensley 195 Reincarnation, Phil Molé 204 Séance, Drew Christie 209 Shamans and Shamanism, Al Carroll 211 The Shroud of Turin, Chris Cunningham 213 Societies for Psychical Research, Drew Christie 217 Spiritualism, Brad Clark 220 Stock Market Pseudoscience, Jon Blumenfeld 227 Subliminal Perception and Advertising, Rebecca Rush 232 Sun Sign Astrology, Geoffrey Dean, Ivan W. Kelly, Arthur Mather, and Rudolf Smit 235 Synchronicity, Christopher Bonds 240 Therapeutic Touch, Larry Sarner 243 Tunguska, Alan Harris 253 Tutankhamun’s Curse, Rebecca Bradley 258 UFOs, Barry Markovsky 260 Undeceiving Ourselves, Geoffrey Dean, Ivan W. Kelly, and Arthur Mather 272 Witchcraft and Magic, Julianna Yau 278 section 2 investigations from skeptic magazine Acupuncture, Dr. George A. Ulett 283 Alternative Medicine v. Scientific Medicine, Dr. Harry K. Ziel 292 Atlantis: The Search for the Lost Continent, Pat Linse 297 Chiropractic: Conventional or Alternative Healing? Dr. Samuel Homola 308 | c o n t e n t s
  8. 8. ix Christian Science as Pseudoscience, Robert Miller 316 EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Gerald M. Rosen, Richard J. McNally, and Scott O. Lilienfeld 321 Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence?: A Reappraisal of a Classic Skeptics’ Axiom, Theodore Schick Jr. 327 Facilitated Communication, Gina Green 334 Homeopathy, William Jarvis and the National Council Against Health Fraud 347 Immortality: The Search for Everlasting Life, Steven B. Harris 357 The Liquefying “Blood” of St. Januarius, James Randi 371 Psychoanalysis as Pseudoscience, Kevin MacDonald 373 Psychotherapy as Pseudoscience, Tana Dineen 384 Pyramids: The Mystery of Their Origins, Pat Linse 397 Satanic Ritual Abuse, Jeffrey Victor 413 Science and God, Bernard Leikind 423 Science and Its Myths, William F. McComas 430 Science and Religion, Massimo Pigliucci 443 Skepticism and Credulity: Finding the Balance between Type I and Type II Errors, Bill Wisdom 455 Thought Field Therapy, David X. Swenson 463 Velikovsky: Cultures in Collision on the Fringes of Science, David Morrison 473 Witchcraft and the Origins of Science, Dr. Richard Olson 489 Witches and Witchcraft, Clayton Drees 499 Volume Two section 3 case studies in pseudoscience from skeptic magazine The Alien Archetype: The Origin of the “Grays”, John Adams 513 Anastasia: A Case Study in the Myth of the Miraculous Survival, Tim Callahan 520 Ancient Astronauts: Zecharia Sitchin as a Case Study, Eric Wojciehowski 530 Holistic Medicine: The Case of Caroline Myss, Phil Molé 537 Police Psychics: Noreen Renier as a Case Study, Gary P. Posner 547 Pseudoarchaeology: Native American Myths as a Test Case, Kenneth Feder 556 Pseudoarchaeology: Precolumbian Discoverers of America as a Test Case, Ronald Fritze 567 Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, James Randi 580 c o n t e n t s |
  9. 9. x Psi and Psi-Missing, Todd C. Riniolo and Louis A. Schmidt 592 Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memory Syndrome: A Father’s Perspective as a Test Case, Mark Pendergrast 597 Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memory Syndrome: A Patient’s Perspective as a Test Case, Laura Pasley 606 Recovered Memory Therapy and False Memory Syndrome: A Psychiatrist’s Perspective as a Test Case, John Hochman 615 section 4 science and pseudoscience— for and against Evolutionary Psychology as Good Science, Frank Miele 623 Evolutionary Psychology as Pseudoscience, Henry Schlinger Jr. 636 Memes as Good Science, Susan J. Blackmore 652 Memes as Pseudoscience, James W. Polichak 664 Race and I.Q. as Good Science, Vince Sarich 678 Race and I.Q. as Pseudoscience, Diane Halpern 694 Race and Sports as Good Science, Jon Entine 705 Race and Sports as Pseudoscience, Michael Shermer 714 Science Is at an End, John Horgan 724 Science Is Just Beginning, John Casti 739 The Science Wars: Deconstructing Science Is Good Science, Dr. Richard Olson 743 The Science Wars: Deconstructing Science Is Pseudoscience, Norm Levitt 750 section 5 historical documents Creationism: “Mr. Bryan’s Address to the Jury in the Scopes’ Case. The Speech Which Was Never Delivered,” by William Jennings Bryan 763 David Hume’s “Of Miracles”: From An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1758 785 Mesmerism: “Report of the Commissioners Charged by the King to Examine Animal Magnetism, Printed on the King’s Order Number 4 in Paris from the Royal Printing House,” by Benjamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier 797 What Ever Happened to N-Rays? Robert Wood’s 1904 N-Ray Letter in Nature 822 Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects, by Edward Condon 826 Epilogue: Let Us Reflect, Michael Shermer 861 List of Contributors 867 Index 879 About the Editors 903 | c o n t e n t s
  10. 10. xi Colorful Pebbles and Darwin’s Dictum An Introduction I n a session before the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1861, less than two years after the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species, a critic claimed that Darwin’s book was too theoreti- cal and that the author should have just “put his facts before us and let them rest.” In a let- ter to his friend Henry Fawcett, who was in attendance in his defense, Darwin explained the proper relationship between facts and theory: About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorize; and I well remember someone say- ing that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that any- one should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service! Few thinkers in Western history have had more profound insights into nature than Charles Darwin, and for my money, this quote is one of the deepest single statements ever made on the nature of science itself, particu- larly in the understated denouement. If scien- tific observations are to be of any use, they must be tested against a theory, hypothesis, or model. The facts never just speak for them- selves. Rather, they must be viewed through the colored lenses of ideas—percepts need concepts. When Louis and Mary Leakey went to Africa in search of our hominid ancestors, they did so based not on any existing data but on Darwin’s theory of human descent and his argument that because we are so obviously close relatives of the great apes of Africa, it is there that the fossil remains of our forebears would most likely be found. In other words, the Leakeys went to Africa because of a con- cept, not a precept. The data followed and confirmed this theory, which is the very oppo- site of the way in which we usually think sci- ence works. If there is an underlying theme in this en- cyclopedia—a substrate beneath the surface topography (to continue the geologic metaphor)—it is that science is an exquisite blend of data and theory, facts and hypothe- ses, observations and views. If we conceive of science as a fluid and dynamic way of think- ing instead of a staid and dogmatic body of knowledge, it is clear that the data/theory stratum runs throughout the archaeology of human knowledge and is an inexorable part of the scientific process. We can no more ex- punge from ourselves all biases and prefer- ences than we can find a truly objective Archimedean point—a god’s-eye view—of the human condition. We are, after all, humans, not gods.
  11. 11. In the first half of the twentieth century, philosophers and historians of science (mostly professional scientists doing philosophy and history on the side) presented science as a pro- gressive march toward a complete understand- ing of Reality—an asymptotic curve to Truth— with each participant adding a few bricks to the edifice of Knowledge. It was only a matter of time before physics and eventually even the social sciences would be rounding out their equations to the sixth decimal place. In the second half of the twentieth century, profes- sional philosophers and historians took over the field and, swept up in a paroxysm of post- modern deconstruction, proffered a view of science as a relativistic game played by Euro- pean white males in a reductionistic frenzy of hermeneutical hegemony, hell-bent on sup- pressing the masses beneath the thumb of di- alectical scientism and technocracy. (Yes, some of them actually talk like that, and one really did call Isaac Newton’s Principia a “rape man- ual.”) Thankfully, intellectual trends, like social movements, have a tendency to push both ends to the middle, and these two extremist views of science are now largely passé. Physics is nowhere near realizing that noble dream of explaining everything to six decimal places, and as for the social sciences, as a friend from New Jersey says, “Fuhgeddaboudit.” Yet there is progress in science, and some views really are superior to others, regardless of the color, gender, or country of origin of the scientists holding those views. Despite the fact that sci- entific data are “theory laden,” as philoso- phers like to say, science is truly different from art, music, religion, and other forms of human expression because it has a self-correcting mechanism built into it. If you don’t catch the flaws in your theory, the slant in your bias, or the distortion in your preferences, someone else will. Think of N rays and E rays, polywater and the polygraph. The history of science is littered with the debris of downed theories. Throughout this encyclopedia, we explore these borderlands of science where theory and data intersect. As we do so, let us continue to bear in mind what I call Darwin’s dictum: “all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service.” Using the Encyclopedia One important tool in finding the right bal- ance between theory and data or ideas and facts is a broad base of knowledge tempered with wisdom in making judgments about knowledge claims. Without the facts, you can’t “judge for yourself” (as television documen- taries often suggest viewers do) in any objec- tive manner. What we hope to provide in this encyclopedia is a thorough, objective, and bal- anced analysis of the most prominent scientific and pseudoscientific controversies made in the name of science, mixing both facts and theory. The encyclopedia entries are written at a level appropriate for high school and college stu- dents conducting research in science and pseudoscience, members of the media looking for a balanced treatment of a subject, and those in the general public who desire a highly readable yet trustworthy resource to go to for the most reliable assessments of the most con- troversial and interesting mysteries involving our universe, our world, and ourselves. As the subjects span all manner of claims from around the world, audiences and markets across the globe will be interested in reading these volumes. In addition, members of the media desperately need a reference resource in order to quickly get their minds around a subject, to book guests on both sides of an is- sue in order to properly set up a debate, and to get “just the facts” needed for the sound-bite story that is often demanded in the hectic world of journalism. Every newspaper, maga- zine, radio, and television producer and inter- | i n t r o d u c t i o nxii
  12. 12. viewer should keep a copy of this encyclopedia right between the dictionaries and reference works on contacting experts. This two-volume encyclopedia encompasses claims from all fields of science, pseudo- science, and the paranormal, and it includes both classic historical works and modern analyses by the leading experts in the world who specialize in pseudoscience and the para- normal. The encyclopedia is heavily illustrated (these subjects lend themselves to both histori- cal and contemporary images), and most en- tries offer a respectable bibliography of the best sources on that subject from both the skeptics’ and the believers’ perspectives, allow- ing readers to conduct additional research on their own after learning what the encyclope- dia’s expert author has had to say on the sub- ject. To make this encyclopedia original and dif- ferent and to provide readers with a variety of subjects and analytic styles in order to prop- erly follow Darwin’s dictum of getting a healthy balance of data and theory, five cate- gories of pseudoscience analyses are presented here: 1. A-to-Z listings. The Encyclopedia of Pseu- doscience includes an A-to-Z section of subject analyses conducted by scientists and research- ers, exploring phenomena such as alternative medicine, astrology, crop circles, handwriting analysis, hypnosis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, séances, spiritualism, subliminal perception, UFOs, witchcraft, and much more. These fifty-nine entries are written in a straightforward manner and are of moderate length and depth, offering some theoretical foundation but not to the same extent as the articles in subsequent sections. 2. Investigations. Articles in this section consist of research investigations carried out by scientists and scholars as originally pub- lished in the pages of Skeptic magazine, re- published and repackaged here for the first time. These twenty-three articles are more than brief summaries of subjects as presented in the A-to-Z section; they are also skeptical analyses and include much more extensive re- search and bibliographies. Such analyses are applied to acupuncture, Atlantis, chiropractic, facilitated communication, homeopathy, im- mortality, and many other topics, and there are several critical pieces on the pseudoscience often found in psychology and psychotherapy. These latter pieces are especially important: although some forms of pseudoscience are seemingly harmless—astrology and crop circles come to mind—other forms can be exception- ally dangerous, particularly those dealing with the mind and behavior. 3. Case studies. The Encyclopedia of Pseudo- science includes a special section comprising thirteen in-depth analyses of very specific case studies originally conducted for Skeptic maga- zine and used here as part of the larger phe- nomena under investigation. For example, three special articles are devoted to recovered memory therapy and false memory syndrome— one from a psychiatrist’s perspective, one from a patient’s perspective, and one from a father’s perspective. Through these case studies, the reader will be given a complete analysis of a subject. The cases will interest both amateurs and professionals in a field, and they are ideal for research papers by students or background research by scientists and professionals. Jour- nalists and interested readers wanting details on a case study need go no further than this section of the encyclopedia. 4. For-and-against debates. The Encyclope- dia of Pseudoscience includes the most original section ever compiled in an encyclopedia in the form of a “pro and con” debate between experts, allowing readers to judge for them- selves by hearing both sides of an issue. Thus, for instance, “Memes as Good Science,” by ex- perimental psychologist Susan Blackmore, is contrasted with “Memes as Pseudoscience,” by cognitive psychologist James W. Polichak. Even more controversially, the study of “Race and xiiii n t r o d u c t i o n |
  13. 13. | i n t r o d u c t i o nxiv Sports as Good Science,” by author Jon Entine, is contrasted with the study of “Race and Sports as Pseudoscience,” which I authored. Also in- cluded are debates on evolutionary psychology, on the question of whether science is at an end, and on the science wars. These twelve articles, originally published in Skeptic magazine, have been used extensively by high school teachers and college professors around the world as supplemental reading material for students in search of the terms of a debate on one or more of these vital and controversial issues. 5. Historical documents. The encyclopedia includes five classic works in the history of sci- ence and pseudoscience. For example, the first scientific and skeptical investigation of a para- normal/spiritual phenomenon—mesmerism—is offered in the “Report of the Commissioners Charged by the King to Examine Animal Mag- netism, Printed on the King’s Order Number 4 in Paris from the Royal Printing House.” Pub- lished in 1784, five years before the French Revolution, this piece was the first attempt to put to the test (including under controlled conditions) a quasi-scientific phenomenon. What made this report so special was that the test was conducted by none other than Ben- jamin Franklin and Antoine Lavoisier. So, as you work your way through this ency- clopedia—either moving from start to finish or, more appropriately for this genre, skimming and scanning and plucking out what is needed or wanted—remember Darwin’s dictum that every observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service. Remember, as well, the words of wisdom offered by the Har- vard paleontologist who inherited Darwin’s mantle, Stephen Jay Gould, in a 1998 essay entitled “The Sharp-Eyed Lynx, Outfoxed by Nature”: The idea that observation can be pure and un- sullied (and therefore beyond dispute)—and that great scientists are, by implication, people who can free their minds from the constraints of surrounding culture and reach conclusions strictly by untrammeled experiment and ob- servation, joined with clear and universal logi- cal reasoning—has often harmed science by turning the empiricist method into a shibbo- leth. The irony of this situation fills me with a mixture of pain for a derailed (if impossible) ideal and amusement for human foibles—as a method devised to undermine proof by au- thority becomes, in its turn, a species of dogma itself. Thus, if only to honor the truism that liberty requires eternal vigilance, we must also act as watchdogs to debunk the authoritarian form of the empiricist myth—and to reassert the quintessentially human theme that scien- tists can work only within their social and psy- chological contexts. Such an assertion does not debase the institution of science, but rather enriches our view of the greatest dialectic in human history: the transformation of society by scientific progress, which can only arise within a matrix set, constrained, and facili- tated by society. It is my fondest hope that this encyclopedia will facilitate a deeper understanding of pseu- doscience and in the process illuminate the process of science itself. Michael Shermer General Editor
  14. 14. The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience
  16. 16. A n alien abduction involves the removal of a human being by an extraterres- trial species for the purpose of med- ical experimentation, crossbreeding, or spiri- tual enlightenment. Many skeptics believe that abduction narratives are related to a vari- ety of experiences such as sleep paralysis and dreams, rather than actual events in the phys- ical world. Persons who claim to have experi- enced alien abduction can be divided into two categories: abductees (subjects of alien exper- iments who suffer traumatic scarring from the abduction) and experiencers (subjects of alien experiments who derive spiritual enlighten- ment as a result). An individual’s placement within one of these categories shows a correlation with the abduction researcher(s) with whom he or she has had primary cont