Skeptical Inquirer Electronic Digest 8-4-99

Larry Klaes (
Wed, 04 Aug 1999 12:39:57 -0400

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>Subject: Skeptical Inquirer Electronic Digest 8-4-99
> Skeptical Inquirer Electronic Digest 8-4-99
> Visit the CSICOP and Skeptical Inquirer Magazine website at
> Receiving over 200,000 hits per year, the CSICOP site
>was recently rated one of the top ten science sites by HOMEPC magazine.
> In this week's SIDIGEST:
> --Skeptical Inquirer Sept./Oct. 1999 Preview
> --Tracking Media Distortion: New Shroud Pollen Study Announced
> --Carl Sagan Productions Announces Two New Television Series
> --Art Bell Claims Threats from Two Former Guests
> --FEER on China's Falun Gong Crackdown
> --Law on Access to Research Data Alarms Science
> --House Panel Eases Proposed NASA Cut
> --More Boston Globe Coverage of NEJM
> Special Report
> Flash! Fox News Reports that Aliens May Have Built the Pyramids of Egypt!
> Pseudoscience as news? The Fox Networks' handling of its primetime special
>"Opening of the Lost Tombs: Live from Egypt" raises ethical questions.
> Articles
> Where Do We Come From?
> A Humbling Look at the Biology of Life's Origin
> The origin of life on Earth is a fundamental scientific question, but we do
>not know as much as many biology textbooks would like you to believe.
> Massimo Pigliucci
> Profits and Prophecy
> Hayseed Stevens and Oil in Israel
> A fundamentalist oil entrepeneur mixes creation science, Biblical prophecy,
>and revivalist techniques for a program of oil exploration in Israel.
> Donald U. Wise
> Projective Measures of Personality and Psychopathology
> How Well Do They Work?
> Although projective techniques remain among the most popular of all
>psychological measures, many critics have branded them pseudoscientific.
> Scott O. Lilienfeld
> What Every Skeptic Should Know About Subliminal Persuasion
> Classic research by cognitive and social psychologists suggests that
>subliminally presented stimuli can be perceived and can influence
>individuals' low-level cognitions. More recent investigations suggest that
>such stimuli can also affect individuals' high-level cognitive processes,
>including attitudes, preferences, judgments, and even their behavior.
> Nicholas Epley, Kenneth Savitsky, and Robert Kachelski
> Columns
> Carlos Casteneda and New Age Anthropology
> Martin Gardner
> Notes of a Fringe Watcher
> Miracles or Deception?
> The Pathetic Case of Audrey Santo
> Joe Nickell
> Investigative Files
> Aliens Follow Their Leader
> Robert Sheaffer
> Psychic Vibrations
> The Associated Press reports the following on a new study of pollen taken
>from the Shroud of Turin. The study was released at the International
>Botanical Conference in St. Louis.
> Beyond the AP report, this new study is sure to gain media attention and
>raise new mystery mongering regarding the authenticity of the Shroud. But
>any balanced media report should acknowledge that the study's findings need
>to be verified, and that the findings do nothing to *directly refute*
>historical evidence, radio-carbon testing, and Shroud "blood" stains that
>have been found to be red pigment dye.
> As you will see, the Associated Press report leads with a proclamation that
>the study "refutes" the radiocarbon testing. A clear misrepresentation of
>the actual significance of the pollen study. Unfortunately, the AP report,
>out on the wire today, is bound to run in dozens of newspapers across the
>country tomorrow, and be picked up by radio and television. A fine example
>of media distortion of science and the paranormal as it happens.
> From the Associated Press:
> ST. LOUIS, Aug. 3 — A new analysis of pollen grains and plant images on
>the Shroud of Turin places its origin to Jerusalem before the 8th Century.
>The study gives a boost to those who believe the shroud is the burial cloth
>of Jesus and refutes a 1988 examination by scientists that concluded the
>shroud was made between 1260 and 1390. The earlier study also indicated the
>shroud came from Europe rather than the Holy Land. “We have identified by
>images and by pollen grains species on the shroud restricted to the vicinity
>of Jerusalem,” botany professor Avinoam Danin of The Hebrew University of
>Jerusalem said Monday during the International Botanical Congress here. “The
>sayings that the shroud is from European origin can’t hold.”
> For the full article, go to
> Here is what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting. As background to the
>controversy, the Post-Dispatch article cites a version of Shroud history
>tainted by pro-Shroud propaganda. Just a guess, but I assume that the
>reporter compiled the history from literature provided at the press
> Pollen study dates shroud to 8th century
> By Michael Hines
> Of the Post-Dispatch
> The renowned Shroud of Turin - believed by many to be the burial wrap of
>Jesus -- dates back to Jerusalem no later than the 8th century, an Israeli
>scientist announced here Monday. The findings, based on an analysis of pollen
>and plant images on the cloth, contradict previous carbon-dating studies that
>estimated the cloth originated 500 to 700 years later -- in Europe of the
>Middle Ages. The latest study is sure to stir more controversy over the
>shroud's authenticity, an issue that has been debated for centuries among
>religious and scientific scholars. Avinoam Danin, a botany professor at the
>Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led the team of researchers who re-examined
>pollen found on the shroud. He presented the plant studies Monday afternoon
>at the 16th International Botanical Congress at America's Center downtown.
> For the full article, go to:
> For a more accurate history of the Shroud, go to a recent summary report
>written by CSICOP Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell, author of _Inquest on
>the Shroud of Turin. You can find it at:
> Look for more information and commentary from CSICOP on this most recent
>Shroud study in the coming week.
> For more information, go to
> Carl Sagan Productions announces a new television series:
> Collision Course: The Quest for Truth
> A ten hour television series conceived by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan explor
>ing the lives of famous revolutionaries in the history of thought. Each of
>these personalities had to overcome enormous conflicts in their personal and
>professional life. Their scientific inquiries put them on a Collision Course
>with government, business, religion and society. They were and are heroes in
>The Quest For Truth. The series
> will include dramatic recreations with scripted dialog performed and
>directed by renowned actors and directors. Produced in High Definition
>Television (HDTV) with 5.1 Chanel Dolby Digital surround sound (16 to 9
>aspect ratio). Available January 2000.
> Carl Sagan Productions (West) Inc.
> 7165 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California 90046-4417 USA
> Phone: 323-969-9595 Fax: 323-969-8883
> Contact: Kent Gibson or Ann Druyan ( )
> The Worlds of Carl Sagan
> Time Magazine commented "With terrestrials like Carl, who needs extras?" He
>was like no other... We are producing a four hour documentary miniseries
>about the life of astrono mer Carl Sagan, author of the COSMOS television
>series (the most popular science TV series ever produced - 600 million
>viewers worldwide). Carl Sagan also authored thirty best selling books
>communicating the worlds and wonders of science to a lay audience. A
>participant in every scientific NASA mission of the first four decades of the
>Space Age, he did pioneering research on planetary atmospheres, the origin of
>life and intelligence on earth and the search for it elsewhere. His work on
>Nuclear Winter and the Regan -Bush STAR WARS scheme had global political
>consequences. The program will contain clips of COSMOS as well as the movie
>Contact, and interviews from renowned people who Carl touched personally.
>Produced in High Definition Television (HDTV) with 5.1 Channel Dolby Digital
>surround sound. Available July 1999.
> Carl Sagan Productions (West) Inc.
> 7165 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California 90046-4417 USA
> Phone: 323-969-9595 Fax: 323-969-8883
> Contact: Kent Gibson or Ann Druyan (
> The Las Vegas Review Journal ran the following article on July 27. For the
>full text go to:
> Radio talk show host Art Bell claims two former guests have threatened him
>and caused him to fear for his safety since he filed a defamation lawsuit
>against them in May. Bell obtained temporary protective orders June 21 in
>Pahrump Justice Court against Colorado resident David John Oates and Montana
>resident Robert A.M. Stephens.
> For the full NY TIMES article printed July 31, go to:
> The proposition is simple enough: Public dollars pay for a lot of scientific
>research, so data from that research should be available to the public. At
>the request of Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, a proposal
>saying just that passed quietly one evening last October, without hearings or
>debate, as a one-sentence amendment to the 4,000-plus-page appropriations
>bill. Under the amendment, anyone can write a request to the Government under
>the Freedom of Information Act and get "all data produced" by a published
>study paid for with any public dollars, and potentially receive everything
>from a summary of findings to a scientist's notebooks or E-mail or, in some
>cases, information about patients.
> Read the AAAS letter to Congress on this matter at:
> The Far Eastern Economic Review reports on the Falun Gong-China controversy
>in its latest issue. For the full article go to:
> CHINA -- Alarmed at the number of party cadres and PLA soldiers who belong
>to the Falun Gong sect, Beijing is cracking down. This heavy-handed move
>risks turning what is now a benign threat, if a threat at all, into a more
>militant and dangerous movement. For unlike restive ethnic minorities or
>democracy activists, the Falun Gong's millions of members are middle-aged,
>middle-class and fit seamlessly into Chinese society. And hard-core followers
>who once practised publicly under Falun Gong banners have now become faceless
>and hard to identify.
> The Associated Press reports that the House Appropriations Committee voted
>Friday (Aug. 2) to ease proposed cuts in NASA's budget but left the space
>agency well short of what President Clinton wants for next year.
> NASA's extra $400 million was part of an effort by majority Republicans to
>bolster support for a massive $92 billion measure financing veterans,
>housing, space and environment programs for the coming fiscal year. The panel
>also boosted spending for veterans' health care by $700 million, responding
>to pressure from veterans' groups.
> ``This is one step in the process,'' said Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., alluding
>to even bigger spending increases expected to emerge from budget bargaining
>this fall with Clinton.
> Even so, the overall bill, which passed by voice vote, faces an
>administration veto threat for its reductions in space, housing and other
>programs. Though the added funds would bring NASA's 2000 budget to about
>$12.7 billion, that remains $1 billion below this year's budget and $900
>million short of Clinton's request.
> For the full article, go to
> For full article, go to:
> Journal torn by dispute on new ventures
> By Richard A. Knox, Globe Staff, 08/01/99
> WALTHAM - The words ''Massachusetts Medical Society'' are deeply chiseled
> into the granite of the organization's sprawling new $50 million
>headquarters on a woodsy campus here. But maybe it should be ''Massachusetts
>Medical Publishing Society.'' To a degree few appreciate, the lifeblood and
>the fortunes of the 218-year-old Medical Society depend on the renowned New
>England Journal of Medicine and, to a much smaller extent, a dozen newer,
>lesser-known periodicals. Publishing accounts for 95 percent of the Medical
>Society's $73 million budget. The profits largely flow from the venerable
>New England Journal, a weekly that manages to be the planet's most-cited
>medical journal and a household word to lay readers worldwide...
> _______________
> SI Electronic Digest is the biweekly e-mail news update of the Committee for
>the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP.)
> Visit
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> CSICOP publishes the bimonthly SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, The Magazine for Science
>and Reason. The special July/August 1999 issue is devoted to the topic of
>science and religion and contains articles by Stephen Jay Gould, Steven
>Pinker, Richard Dawkins, and Steve Allen.
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> --30--