I notice the now-ancient Gauquelin "Mars Effect"affair continues to crop up, perennially, with considerabletime-honoured but still-fuzzy rhetoric about an alleged CSICOP "coverup", including copious laudatory mentions of Dennis Rawlins'sALSO-ancient jeremiad "sTARBABY", which appeared in "Fate" magazine.Essentially all treatments of the affair since then have been loose(and even MORE careless) descendants of the Rawlins article, oftencommitting gross distortions, such as confusing the test of Europeanathletes with the later one based on U.S. data.
The ONLY proper rejoinder I've ever seen toRawlins was a reply piece by CSICOP Fellow P. J. Klass, which "Fate"refused to publish, and which far too few have seen, over the yearssince. Robert Sheaffer and I have now scanned in the text, and areattempting to distribute it more widely. The full text may bedownloaded or File REQuested, but not FTP'd from my BBS asCRYBABY.ZIP (as Robert mentions in his comments, which follow), andI'll be mailing it to other skeptics' groups on diskette, as well asuploading it to CompuServe.
-- Rick Moen
Vice-Chair, Bay Area Skeptics
Philip J. Klass is a member of the Executive Council, Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
[Note: This article, written in 1981, was submitted for publication to FATE Magazine, in reply to Dennis Rawlins' accusations against CSICOP in his Oct., 1981 FATE article "sTARBABY". FATE adamantly refused to publish this article. Meanwhile, Rawlins was given the opportunity to make a rambling, six-page statement in the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER (Winter, 1981-82, p.58), which was published exactly as received, presenting his accusations of a "coverup." This was in addition to the 5 1/2 page article he earlier had on the "Mars Effect" in the Winter, 1979-80 issue (p.26). To this day, supporters of the paranormal still charge CSICOP with perpetrating a "coverup" on this matter. Only a relatively few people ever saw Klass's "CRYBABY", the long and detailed answer to Rawlins' "sTARBABY" charges. Now that you have the opportunity to read Klass's rebuttal, you can make up your own mind.
Klass's original text has been reproduced below, exactly as typed, with the author's permission. Spelling and punctuation have not been changed. Text that was underlined in the original appears in capital letters. - Robert Sheaffer, Bay Area Skeptics, 1991. This article is brought to you courtesy of the Bay Area Skeptics.]
"They call themselves the Committee for the ScientificInvestigation of Claims of the Paranormal. In fact, they are a groupof would-be-debunkers who bungled their major investigation,falsified the results , covered up their errors and gave the boot toa colleague who threatened to tell the truth." Thus began a 32-Pagearticle in the October 1981 issue of FATE magazine, which a a pressrelease headlined: "SCIENTIST BLOWS THE WHISTLE ON PARANORMALCOVERUP."
Since CSICOP was formed in the spring of 1976, it has been a thornin the side of those who promote belief in "psychic phenomena," inastrology, UFOs, and similar subjects and it has been criticizedsharply by FATE whose articles generally cater to those who are eagerto believe. However, this FATE article was written by skeptic DennisRawlins, who was one of the original Fellows in CSICOP and for nearlyfour years had been a member of its Executive Council. This wouldseem to give credence to Rawlins' charges -- except to those of uswith first-hand experience in trying to work with him and who arefamiliar with his modus-operandi.
Because Rawlins proposed my election to CSICOP's Executive CouncilI cannot be charged with animosity toward him, except what he laterengendered by his actions. And in a recent letter to me, Rawlinsvolunteered that I "was less involved than any other activeCouncillor" in the alleged misdeeds.
The FATE article, entitled "sTARBABY" prompted my owninvestigation into Rawlins' charges. But unlike Rawlins, who reliesheavily on his recollection of conversations several years earlier, Ichose to use hard evidence - published articles, memoranda andletters, some of which Rawlins cites in his article. When I requestedcopies of these letters and memoranda from the several principalsinvolved, all of them responded promptly and fully except for one --Dennis Rawlins, who had accused the others of "cover-up" and"censorship." RAWLINS REFUSED MY REPEATED REQUESTS TO SUPPLY HARDDATA THAT MIGHT CONFIRM HIS CHARGES, AND WHICH ALSO COULD DENYTHEM!
The results of my investigation, based on hard data, prompted meto conclude that the Rawlins article should have been entitled"CRYBABY," and that an appropriate subtitle would have been: "Awounded ego is the root of much evil."
If the editors of FATE had spent only a few hours readingpublished articles cited in the Rawlins article they could not ingood conscience have accused CSICOP of "cover-up" or of having"falsified the results." Instead, FATE chose to ignore thetraditional journalistic practice of investigating both sides of acontroversial issue and publishing both sides, as those accused byRawlins had done.
Rawlins' charges result from two tests intended to assess whetherthe position of the planet Mars at the time of a person's birth has asignificant influence on whether he/she becomes a "sports champion."This "Mars effect" hypothesis was first proposed by France's MichelGauquelin, who directs the laboratory for the Study of Relationsbetween Cosmic and Psychophysiological Rhythms, based on a study ofEuropean champions.
The first of the two tests was performed by Gauquelin himself,with results that generally were supportive of the Mars effecthypothesis by eliminating a possible objection that first had beenraised by others, i,e, not CSICOP. The only way in which CSICOP, orpersons affiliated with it, could be guilty of Rawlins' charges wouldbe if they had refused to publish Gauquelin's results or hadintentionally altered the data in his report. NEITHER OCCURRED. Nordid Gauquelin accuse CSICOP or its members of trying to "cover-up"his results or altering the data of this first test whosecalculations he himself performed, although there were somedifferences of interpretation of the implication of theseresults.
HOWEVER, GAUQUELIN DID PUBLICLY ACCUSE RAWLINS OF DISTORTION ANDMISREPRESENTATION, with implied criticism of CSICOP because Rawlinsthen was a member of its Executive Council. There would be otheroccasions when CSICOP would be criticized because of Rawlins'intemperate statements and actions.
This criticism was published by CSICOP in the Winter l978 issue ofits publication, THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER (p. 80). In it Gauquelinwrote: "How, in spite of all this data could one distort andmisrepresent the effect in question and sow doubts on the subject?Dennis Rawlins, a member of CSICP ... has done just this in a polemicwhich appeared in the Fall-Winter 1977 issue of that (CSICOP's)journal." In "sTARBABY," Rawlins tries to shift the blame for histransgressions to CSICOP.
According to "sTARBABY," CSICOP Chairman Prof. Paul Kurtz was theprincipal architect of the alleged cover-up. Yet in reality it wasKurtz, then editor of THE HUMANIST magazine (published by theAmerican Humanist Assn.) who printed the lengthy paper by Gauquelindescribing the seemingly favorable- for-him results of the first testin the Nov/Dec,l977 issue (p. 30). What kind of doubletalk is thiswhen Rawlins and FATE charge that Kurtz's decision to publish testresults favorable to an "adversary" represents a "cover-up"? Rawlinsmight better have waited until "l984" to resort to such"double-speak" accusations.
Because the issues are complex and because two differentpublications and organizations were involved, it is useful to recountbriefly the events that led to the first Mars effect test, which isat the root of the Rawlins/FATE charges, and the second testsperformed using data for outstanding U.S. athletes. Based oncalculations performed by Rawlins himself, the U.S. champions testshowed a very UNFAVORABLE result for the claimed Mars effect, whichRawlins confirms in "sTARBABY." And these Rawlins-computed resultswere published, without change, by CSICOP.
The Sept/Oct. l975 issue of THE HUMANIST carried an article byL.E. Jerome that was critical of astrology in general and of the Marseffect in particular. When Gauquelin sought an opportunity forrebuttal, Kurtz provided it in the Jan./Feb. 1976 issue of THEHUMANIST, which also carried several other articles on astrology.Because Gauquelin's article claimed that the Mars effect had beenconfirmed by Belgian Committee for the Scientific Investigation ofAlleged Paranormal Phenomena (created some 25 years earlier), thatgroup also was invited by Kurtz to submit an article for publication.Belgian Comite Para, as it is called, confirmed Gauquelin'scalculations. But it questioned his statistical assumption "that thefrequency distribution of the hours of birth during the day (thenych-themeral curve) is a constant distribution...", i.e. that thereis an equal probability of a person being born during any hour of theday.
This seemed important because the Mars effect hypothesis holdsthat persons born during an approximately two-hour period just afterMars has "risen" or during a comparable period after Mars is at upperculmination (zenith), are more likely to become sports champions thanpersons born during other hours of the day. If there is an equalprobability of a person being born in any one of the 24 hours, then4/24, or l6.7%,of the general population should be born when Mars isin one of these two "key sectors." (Because of combined orbitalmotions of Earth and Mars, the percentage of the day in which Mars isin two key sectors is approximately l7%. But Gauquelin reported that22% European champions in his data base had been born when Mars wasin the two key sectors, significantly higher than the l7%"benchmark."
Because of the issue raised by Comite' Para, Kurtz consultedstatistics professor Marvin Zelen who in turn proposed a control testthat could resolve the statistical issue raised by Comite' Para. ThisZelen proposed test, also published in the same (Jan./Feb. 1976)issue of THE HUMANIST, suggested that Gauquelin should gather birthdata for "non-champions" who had been born in the same local areasand within three days of a RANDOMLY SELECTED sub-sample ofGauquelin's "champions" who seemed to show the Mars effect.
If only 17% of these NON-champions were born when Mars was in thetwo key sectors, this would void the issue raised by Comite Para. Butif roughly 22% of the NON-champions also were born when Mars was inthe two key sectors, this would undercut the Mars effect hypothesis.Zelen's article concluded that the proposed test offered "anobjective way for unambiguous corroboration or dis-confirmation." Inretrospect it would have been more precise had he added: "...of theissue raised by Belgian Comite Para." If Gauquelin's sample of"champions" data was "biased," as Rawlins first suspected, this couldnot possibly be detected by the Zelen-proposed test.
The same issue of The Humanist carried another article, byastronomy professor George O. Abell, which was very skeptical ofastrology in general. But unlike Rawlins who dismissed the Marseffect out-of-hand and "didn't believe that it merited seriousinvestigation yet" (FATE: p. 74), Abell wrote that if Gauquelin'sfindings were correct, they were "extremely interesting."
However, Abell included the following note of caution: "If all ofGauquelin's work is re-checked, and his results hold up, then it isnecessary to repeat the experiment with a new sample, say in theUnited States. If that sample should give the same result, thenfurther verification is in order, until it is absolutely certain thatthe effects are real and reproducible. That is the way science works;reproducibility of results is necessary before fundamental new lawscan be inferred." This sage advice clearly indicated the limits ofwhat conclusions could be drawn, and could not be drawn, from theresults of the upcoming Zelen test, and even from a complete re-checkof Gauquelin's original data on European champions, which was notattempted. It should be stressed that at the time this first (Zelen)test was proposed, CSICOP did not yet exist. Several months later,when it was formed (initially under the auspices of the AmericanHumanist Assn.), Kurtz became its co-chairman and later its chairman.Zelen and Abell were named Fellows, but not to CSICOP's ExecutiveCouncil. In l980, Abell was elected to replace Rawlins on theCouncil.
The results of this first (Zelen) test were published in theNov./Dec., l977 issue of THE HUMANIST, where the issue first wasraised, although by this time CSICOP had its own publication.Gauquelin and his wife Francoise were given nearly six large-sizemagazine pages to present their findings without censorship.Gauquelin reported having difficulties in obtaining data for non-champions born within several days of champions in small towns, so hesaid that non-champions birth data had been obtained only from thelarge cities in France and Belgium, The Gauquelins reported thatthese data showed that only l7% of the non- champions had been bornwhen Mars was in the two sectors which seemed to resolve the issueearlier raised by Belgium's Comite Para in favor of the Marseffect.
The same issue of THE HUMANIST carried an article jointly authoredby Zelen, Kurtz, and Abell, that began: "Is there a 'Mars Effect'?The preceding article by Michel and Francoise Gauquelin discusses theexperiment proposed by Marvin Zelen and its subsequent outcome. Theirconclusions come out in favor of the existence of a 'Mars effect'related to sports champions. It is the purpose of this article todiscuss the analysis of the data and to point out the strengths andweaknesses of the evidence in favor of the 'Mars effect.'"
The Zelen/Kurtz/Abell article raised some questions about theresults. For example, that "the 'Mars effect' only appears in Paris,not in Belgium or in the rest of France." The article concluded: "lfone had a high prior 'belief' that there is a Mars effect, then theGauquelin data would serve confirm this prior belief. In the otherhand, if the prior belief in the existence of a Mars effect was low,then this data may raise the posterior belief, but not enough toaccept the existence of the Mars effect."
Rawlins charges that publication of this article, following theuncensored Gauquelin paper,"commited CSICOP to a cover-up." (FATE:p.76) Yet is characteristic of scientific controversy for one partyto question or challenge another's interpretation of the data. AndGauquelin would do so following the second test without being accusedof a "cover-up" in "sTARBABY."
In the same issue of THE HUMANIST, in a brief introduction writtenby Kurtz, the first "linkage" with CSICOP occurred. Kurtz wrote:"Thus, members of CSICP involved in this inquiry believe that theclaim that there is a statistical relationship between the positionof Mars at the time of birth of individuals and the incidence ofsports champions among them has not been established ... to furtherthe cause of scientific inquiry, the committee has agreed (withGauquelin) to make an independent test of the alleged Mars effect bya study of sports champions in the United States."
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins charges that the U. S, champions test was a"diversion." Clearly the Gauquelins themselves did not view it inthis light, judging from the concluding statement in their articlewhich said: "Let us hope that these positive results may induce otherscientists to study whether this effect, discovered with the Europeandata, appears also with the U.S. data."
On March 28, 1978, SEVERAL MONTHS AFTER THE RESULTS OF THE FIRSTTEST WERE PUBLISHED, Rawlins sent Kurtz a copy of a three- pagememorandum he had prepared a year earlier (March 29, 1977). Itcontained a very technical analysis of the issue raised by ComitePara, which prompted Rawlins to conclude that the 22% figure reportedfor European champions was not the result of a disproportionate shareof births of the general population during the early morning hourswhen Mars often was in one of the two key sectors. In this analysis,Rawlins concluded that Gauquelin had "made fair allowance for theeffect."
But Rawlins had not written this three-page memo until severalmonth AFTER the Zelen test had been proposed in THE HUMANIST. Shortlyafter preparing the analysis, Rawlins had sent a copy to Prof.Marcello Truzzi, then editor of CSICOP's publication. Truzzi haddecided not to publish it but sent a copy to Gauquelin. IF theRawlins analysis of 1977 took account of all possible demographicfactors -- and there is some disagreement on this question -- it wasmuch too technical to be understood by persons without expertise instatistics and celestial mechanics.
When Rawlins finally got around to sending this analysis to Kurtzon March 28, 1978, his letter of that date did NOT criticize Truzzior CSICOP for not having published it earlier. Rather, Rawlinsadmitted, "I should not have kept my (Mar. 19, 1977) memo..privateafter all." He did suggest that perhaps it might now be published inTHE HUMANIST. But by this time Kurtz no longer was its editor. Moreimportant, the results of the first (Zelen) test already had beenpublished several months earlier.
If, as Rawlins would later charge in "sTARBABY," theZelen/Kurtz/Abell article published several months earlier in THEHUMANIST amounted to a "cover- up," Rawlins did not make such anaccusation to Kurtz when he wrote him April 6, 1978. Instead, Rawlinswrote; "I think our best bets now are 1. The main Europeaninvestigation might seek to discover how the Eur. samp (of Gauquelin)was (hypothetically) fudged -- check orig. records microscopicallyfor some sort of Soal trick. 2. Proceed with the U.S, test, where weknow we have a clean (unbiased) sample."
This April 6, 1978, letter clearly shows that while Rawlinssuspected that Gauquelin had manipulated his European champions data("Soal trick") he found no evidence of wrong-doing byZelen/Kurtz/Abell. On April 26, 1978, in another letter to Kurtz,following his visit with Rawlins in San Diego, Rawlins wrote that he"was certain" that Gauquelin's original data "was biased, but notsure how." Rawlins concluded this letter on a cordial note: "Now,wasn't it great visiting sunny, funny, California -- and getting tosee a real live nut religion launch itself in San Diego? ... hopeyou'll get back this way soon again."
It was at about this time that CSICOP came under fire for Rawlins'actions in another matter. In the summer of 1977, Rawlins and Abellhad been invited to be panelists in a symposium on astrology to beheld March 18, 1978 at the University of Toronto at which Gauquelin,among others, would participate. The invitation came from Dr. HowardEisenberg on the stationary of the University's School of ContinuingStudies. Both Rawlins and Abel had accepted. Then, in late September,1977, Eisenberg withdrew the invitations on the grounds that "theresponse from potential speakers...has yielded an incredibleacceptance rate of 100%. This places us in the embarassing positionof not being able to sponsor all of you," i.e. pay travel expensesand allow formal presentations.
On Feb. 6, 1978, Rawlins wrote to the president of the Universityof Toronto, protesting what he said were "a number of oddities"associated with the symposium, including an imbalance between thenumber of astrology supporters and skeptics. The Rawlins lettercharged that "this conference looks to be a pretty phoneyconfrontation, which will therefore give the irrationalpseudo-science of astrology an evidentially-unmerited 'academic'boost in public credibility..." Rawlins sent a copy of his letter toanother university official.
Rawlins' suspicion of a loaded panel may have been justified. Butthe letter of protest was written on CSICOP stationery and signed"Dennis Rawlins, Executive Council, CSICOP." Another regretableaction was a Rawlins telephone call late at night to a universityastronomy professor, Robert Garrison, which gave the impression thatRawlins was speaking in behalf of CSICOP. In fact, Rawlins had takenthese actions without consulting other Council members and withoutofficial approval to use CSICOP's name. In early April 1978, a copyof the Rawlins letter had reached Truzzi, who also had been invitedand dis-invited to participate in the conference. The Rawlins letterclaimed that Truzzi had co-authored "an astrology-supportingpaper...and so rates as a strange sort of skeptic." Truzzi sent Kurtza copy of this Rawlins letter with a note that said: "Since Dennis'letter is on Committee stationery, would appear he is writing onbehalf of the Committee, I trust that will not happen again."
Rawlins' actions were reported in the Canadian magazine SCIENCEFORUM July/August 1978, in an article written by Lydia Dotto. Thearticle, entitled "Science Confronts 'Pseudo- Science'", began; "Itwas after midnight on a Saturday night when University of Torontoastronomer Bob Garrison was awakened by a phone call. The calleridentified himself as a member of the Committee for the ScientificInvestigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and according to Garrison,he spent the best part of the next hour urging the U of T scientistnot to participate in the conference on astrology...Dennis Rawlins, aCalifornia astronomer and science writer and a member of theCommittee, acknowledged in an interview that he made the call, butdenied he was trying to talk Garrison out of attending theconference...this and other incidents surrounding the conference havebecome something of a cause celebre, particularly since the event wascancelled shortly before it was to have taken place in mid-March.Predictably, ACCUSATIONS BEGAN TO FLY THAT SCIENTIFIC OPPONENTS OFASTROLOGY WERE ENGAGED IN A CAMPAIGN TO SUPPRESS FREEDOM OF SPEECH."(Emphasis added.)
Indeed they did, much to CSICOP's embarassment. Britain's NewScientist magazine, in its June 29, 1978, issue, quoted the Canadianmagazine in an article that began: "Earlier this year an astronomerat the University of Toronto, Dr. Bob Garrison, was awakened by aphone call from a member of Committee for the ScientificInvestigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The caller allegedly spentmost of the next hour trying to dissuade Garrison from taking part ina conference on astrology."
This New Scientist account was picked up by FATE magazine, whichin turn attributed the action to CSICOP rather than to one Councilmember. FATE commented: "If you have difficulty understanding their(CSICOP) motives, remember that here is a dedicated group ofwitch-hunters seeking to burn nonbelievers at the stake." (How ironicthat FATE now is promoting the views of the same person whoseintemperate earlier actions had provoked FATE's harsh criticism.) Thesame criticism of CSICOP, because of Rawlins' actions surfaced againin a feature article in THE WASHINGTON POST (Aug. 26, 1979). Thearticle, syndicated and published elsewhere, was written by TedRockwell who was identified as a member of the ParapsychologicalAssociation.
When I learned of the Rawlins incident, I was shocked as wereothers on the Council. But all of us hoped that Council members hadlearned an important lesson from the incident and that it would havea maturing effect on Rawlins. Yet before another year had passedRawlins would once again demonstrate his inability to distinguishbetween official CSICOP actions and those of its individualmembers.
Originally it was expected that the required calculations of Mars'position at the time of birth of U.S. champions (for the second test)would be performed by Prof. Owen Gingerich of Harvard University. Butduring the summer of 1978 the Harvard astronomer was on an extendedleave so Kurtz asked Rawlins to perform the celestial mechanicscomputations. Rawlins did so and found in sharp contrast toGauquelin's findings that 22% of the European champions were bornwhen Mars was in the two key sectors, and compared to the "chance"benchmark figure of 17%, only 13.5% of the U.S. champions were bornwhen Mars was in the two key sectors. Thus, Rawlins' calculationsshowed that if Mars had any effect on champions, it was a pronouncedNEGATIVE effect for U.S. athletes.
On Sept, 18, 1978, Rawlins prepared a four-page report describingthe procedures he had used in his calculations and a summary of theresults. But Rawlins could not resist including some denigratingcharges against Gauquelin. For example: "Gauquelin was well known inhis teens for his casting of horoscopes (a practice he has sincedisowned)..." The comments were both gratuitous andinappropriate.
Relations between Rawlins and Gauquelin had been strained sinceCSICOP published a long, rambling Rawlins attack (Fall/Winter 1977)in which he accused Gauquelin of "misgraphing the results of theBelgian Comite Para check on his Mars-athletes link..." Gauquelin hadresponded with the charge that Rawlins had distorted andmisrepresented the facts in a letter which then was scheduled to bepublished shortly in the Winter 1978 issue of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER.The same issue also would carry a sharp rejoinder from Rawlins.
Thus it is hardly surprising that Kurtz decided that it would bebest if the upcoming summary report on the results of the U.S.champions test should be written by Zelen, Abell and himself --especially since the three of them had jointly authored the earlierarticle and Abell had proposed the U.S. test. If Kurtz instead hadsuggested that the U.S. champions test report be jointly authoredwith Rawlins instead of Abell, "sTARBABY" might never have beenpublished. This is evident from numerous Rawlins complaintsin"sTARBABY." For example, Rawlins complains that the day after Kurtzreceived his Sept. 18, 1978, report (with the ad hominem attack onGauquelin) "Kurtz wrote Abell to suggest KZA (Kurtz, Zelen and Abell)confer and prepare the test report for publication (EXCLUDING ME)."(Emphasis added.) (P.79.)
Rawlins also complains that Kurtz asked Zelen and Abell "to verifythe work," i.e. Rawlins' calculations. (P.80.) Because of theimportance of test, it was good scientific protocol to ask otherspecialists to at least spot-check Rawlins' computations. ThenRawlins reveals he was angered because "Abell asked countlessquestions about my academic training." (P. 8O.) Inasmuch as Rawlinslists his academic training as being in physics rather thanastronomy, Abell's questions seem justified.
Further evidence of Rawlins' wounded ego is his complaint that"not only was Abell being invited to the press conference (at theupcoming Council in Washington, D.C.), he was to be the CSICOPspokesman on astrology in Washington." (P.81) Rawlins said he"strongly protested the high-handedness of the choice of Abell as thespeaker at the annual meeting...I emphasized that CSICOP had plentyof astronomers associated with it (Carl Sagan, Bart Bok, Edwin Kruppand others), all of them nearer Washington than Abell who lived allthe way across the country, in the Los Angeles area." (In fact, Kruppalso lived in Southern California, Bok lived Arizona, and Sagan thenwas working in California on his "Cosmos" television series.)
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that Abell had been invited to speakbecause "Kurtz was trying to suppress my dissenting report (of Sept.18, 1978) and (by not paying my travel fare) to keep me from theDecember Council meeting while inviting to Washington as a prominentCSICOP authority the very person whose appointed task I HAD MYSELFPERFORMED" (his italics, p. 81). In reality, there was no questionthat Rawlins' Sept, 18, 1978, report, describing his analyticalprocedures, needed to be published. The only question was whether itshould include the ad hominem attack on Gauquelin.
It was not until approximately one year AFTER the results of theZelen test were published in THE HUMANIST that Rawlins first chargedthe use of "bait-and-switch" tactics--what he calls "BS"--had beenemployed. This allegation was contained in his letter of Nov. 2,1978, to Zelen, with a copy to Kurtz. BUT RAWLINS STILL DID NOTCHARGE THAT THIS AMOUNTED TO A "COVER-UP," OR THAT CSICOP WASINVOLVED. Quite the opposite. A few weeks later when the Winter 1978issue of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER was published, there was a Rawlinsresponse which said: "It SHOULD BE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD THAT CSICP AS ABODY NEVER HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE HUMANIST ZELEN TEST'CHALLENGE'...PUBLISHED BEFORE THE COMMITTEE WAS FOUNDED"(Emphasisadded.)
Like most members of CSICOP's Executive Council who had not beeninvolved either in the first (Zelen) test or the subsequent U.S.champions test, and who were not sufficiently expert in celestialmechanics, statistics or astrology to take a prior interest, my firstexposure to the controversy came during the Council meeting inWashington in early December, 1978, when Rawlins unleashed a ramblingharrangue. Understandably I was confused by Rawlins' charge thatCSICOP somehow was involved in a Zelen test-results cover-up that hadoccurred more than a year before which contradicted hisjust-published statement in THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER stating that theoriginal Zelen test was NOT a CSICOP-sponsored effort.
Despite my efforts to understand Rawlins' allegations, it was notclear to me (and to many other Council members) just what it was thathe now was claiming had been"covered-up." After three years ofworking with Rawlins I was well aware of his proclivity for makingharsh, exaggerated charges. Most often these were directed againstsupporters of the para-normal, but sometimes also against Councilmembers who disagreed with his proposals for intemperate actionsagainst "the believers." For example, Rawlins had charged that Truzziwas involved with the "Church of Satan."
Beyond having difficulty in understanding the specifics ofRawlins' charges, I failed to grasp what he thought should be done tocorrect the alleged problem. Because the hour was getting late andCouncil members had to leave to catch flights back home, I suggestedto Rawlins that he write a memorandum that clearly and concisely setforth the basic issues and that he recommend appropriate correctiveaction. In this way Council members could better comprehend thematter and consider corrective action if such were justified. Rawlinscites this in "sTARBABY" and claims he was the only party who had putthe issues in writing. BUT HE DID NOT SEND COPIES OF SUCH MEMORANDATO COUNCIL MEMBERS. ONE LOGICAL EXPLANATION FOR THIS IS THATPREVIOUSLY HE DID NOT BELIEVE THE MATTER INVOLVED CSICOP OR REQUIREDCOUNCIL MEMBERS' ATTENTION.
Rawlins was the last one to leave my apartment (where we had beenmeeting that night) and he continued his earlier harrangue butwithout clarifying the issues. Later, he called me from the airportto continue the discussion. Again I asked that he clarify the issuesfor me and other Council members by preparing a memorandum. I assuredRawlins that since I had not been involved in either of the two testsand since he had recommended my election to Council, he could expectme to be at least neutral if not sympathetic.
Rawlins never responded to my request. About six weeks later (Jan.17, 1979), he did circulate a five-page memo to CSICOP Fellows andCouncil members. It was a "baby sTARBABY" which cited a number ofALLEGED mistakes that had been made by OTHERS involved in the testsand in CSICOP's operations. I replied on Jan. 31 saying that his memowas "for me an unintelligible jumble." I added: "without meaning togive offense to a friend, I once again urge you -- as I did at ourmeeting here -- to outline the problem...then outline yourrecommendations. And please do not assume, as you have done, that allof us follow the G-affair as closely as you have done." My letterconcluded: "Skip the invective...outline the problem clearly,concisely, and offer your recommendations."
Rawlins never responded to this request. Today, following myrecent investigation, I know why. There was no cover-up, except inRawlins' troubled mind, fed by the fires of a wounded ego and,perhaps, by embarassment over his unauthorized intervention in theUniversity of Toronto symposium. Rawlins was unable to recommendspecific corrective action because nothing could have saved hiswounded ego unless it were possible to turn back the clock and tohave invited Rawlins to be the CSICOP speaker on astrology inWashington and to replace Abell in writing the report on the resultsof the U.S. champions test.
Readers of "sTARBABY" might easily conclude that Rawlins believesthat Zelen/Kurtz/Abell, in the Nov/Dec. 1977 issue of THE HUMANIST,should have conceded "Gauquelin has won" and cancelled plans for theU.S. champions test. Yet had they done so, Rawlins would have beenoutraged because such a concession would imply that the Zelen testhad proved the Mars effect beyond all doubt and this was not true.Had Zelen/Kurtz/Abell even contemplated such a concession, I amcertain that Rawlins would have urged that they be ousted fromCSICOP.
"sTARBABY" reveals that Rawlins imagines many things that simplyare not true, such as his charge that I was involved in a plot tosuppress his discussions of the Gauquelin test at the 1978 Councilmeeting. His article implies that Council meetings are characterizedby attempts to suppress dissenting views. In reality one usuallyhears almost as many different viewpoints as there are Councilmembers present. And Kurtz is the most unconstraining group chairmanI have ever known in the many organizations of which I have been amember.
Even on easily ascertainable matters, Rawlins chooses to rely onhis vivid imagination or recollections rather than take time to checkthe facts. For example, in "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that he was an"associate editor" of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, as well as being amember of its editorial board -- which he was [not]. Rawlinsmakes that claim in seven different places in his article. One wouldexpect that a person who imagines himself to be an associate editorof a publication over a period of several years would at least oncelook at that publication's masthead, where its editorial staff islisted. Had Rawlins done so he would not have made this spuriousclaim.
This is not an error of great consequence. But when I pointed itout to him, his response was revealing, especially because he accusesothers of being unwilling to admit to error and of resorting to"cover-up." Rawlins' letter of Sept. 21, 1981, explained that at aCouncil meeting HELD FOUR YEARS EARLIER he remembers that "Kurtzcalled all Ed. Board members 'Associate Editors'...I adopted to savesyllables." Rawlins tries to justify his misstatement of fact on thegrounds that he was able to save approximately 42 characters in his75,000-character-long article!
In "sTARBABY," Rawlins claims that the full-day meeting of theCouncil in Washington was held at the National Press Club becausethis was "the temple of CSICOP's faith." (P. 86.) Had Rawlins askedme, I would have informed him that I had selected the National PressClub because it was the lowest-cost facility in downtown Washingtonthat I could find. But Rawlins decided he knew the answer withoutbothering to investigate. This is neither good science nor goodjournalism.
In the previously cited Rawlins memorandum of Jan. 17, 1979,following the Washington meeting, he wrote that he planned to reducehis involvement with CSICOP. He added that there was no reason to"hide" CSICOP's problems "from the public. So I may inform a neutral,responsible, unsensational member of the press re the foregoing." Inreality Rawlins already had taken such steps at the December Councilmeeting whose press seminar was attended by an experienced journalistwith a known empathy for some paranormal claims. During the earlyafternoon Rawlins and this journalist left the meeting together andreturned together several hours later. But this journalist neverpublished anything on the matter, possibly because he has as muchdifficulty in understanding Rawlins' charges as did Councilmembers.
According to "sTARBABY," in mid-1979, Rawlins received a letterfrom Jerome Clark of FATE magazine, expressing an interest inlearning more about Rawlins' complaints against CSICOP. Rawlinsclaims that shortly afterward "I told the Council I'd be open withFATE." I question the truthfulness of his statement because Rawlinsdid not bother to attend the next Council meeting in December, 1979,nor have I been able to locate any Rawlins letter or memorandum tosubstantiate this claim.
"sTARBABY" claims that "as the FATE-story realization set in,Council reacted like the White House when it learned that John Deanhad sat down with the prosecution (during the Watergate scandal).(P.91) This claim I know to be false. The prospect of a Rawlinsarticle in FATE was never discussed at the 1979 or 1980 Councilmeetings, nor by memorandum during the two intervening years.Otherwise CSICOP would have prepared a response which it could havereleased immediately following publication of "sTARBABY," preventingRawlins from boasting that failure of CSICOP to respond quickly tohis many charges indicated an inability to do so.
Returning, chronologically, to the fall of 1979, CSICOP waspreparing to publish the results of the U.S. champions test in theWinter 1979-80 issue of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. Rawlins demanded theright to revise and expand his original Sept, 18, 1978, paper, andwas given that opportunity. Furthermore, according to "sTARBABY,"Rawlins informed Ken Frazier, editor of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER, "thatif there were any alterations not cleared with me, I wanted a noteprinted with the paper stating that deletions had occurred over theauthor's protest and that the missing portions could be obtaineddirectly from me." (P. 92.)
Frazier (who had been recommended for the position by Rawlinshimself), acting on the recommendation of Prof. Ray Hyman, a Councilmember who reviewed the Rawlins paper and the others, and onFrazier's own long editorial experience, decided to delete thesentence referring to Gauquelin's earlier interest in traditionalastrology. Frazier also opted to delete another sentence that read:"In this connection I must also say that, given the self piekillupshot (sic) of their European (nonchampions) adventure plus theirfailure to perform independently the U.S. study's technicalfoundations (sector position, expectation curve), I find it amusingthat ZKA (Zelen, Kurtz, Abell) are the main commentators on this testin THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER." Once again Rawlins' wounded-ego hadmanifested itself.
On Nov, 6, 1979, Rawlins sent a memo to other members of theEditorial Board complaining that his article "has been neatlycensored here and there, so I have asked to add a statement saying soand suggesting that readers who wish to consult the original versionmay do so by contacting me. This sentence has itself been bowdlerized(so that it reads as if no tampering occurred)." Frazier had proposedan alternative sentence, which was published at the end of theRawlins paper, that read: "Further commentary on the issues raised inthis paper and in these notes is available from the author." Rawlins'address also was published.
This is the basis for Rawlins' harsh charges of "censorship"against Frazier, the man whom he had so highly recommended for theposition. If Rawlins' complaint were justified, every workingjournalist could make the same accusations regularly against thosewho edit his/her copy to assure clarity and good taste and to avoidlibel. In response to Rawlins' charges, Frazier wrote to members ofthe Editorial Board explaining what had transpired. Frazier noted,"Dennis seems to believe his position as a member of the EditorialBoard gives his writings special status exempt from normal editorialjudgment. None of the rest of you has ever suggested this," i.e.demanded privileged treatment. So because Rawlins was not givenprivileged treatment, he charges "censorship."
In the same Nov. 6, 1979, letter charging censorship, Rawlinscomplained that he alone among Council members had not beenreimbursed for his travel expenses of $230 to the previous Councilmeeting in Washington. Rawlins said that he would need $400.00 fortravel to attend the upcoming Council meeting in New York and added"I won't do that unless all 63O dollars are here beforehand." Kurtzpromptly sent Rawlins a check for $350 as a travel advance andassured him he would be reimbursed for previous travel expense assoon as he submitted an expense account--which Rawlins had never done(In "sTARBABY," Rawlins characterizes this as a "ridiculous excuse"for failure to reimburse him earlier.) Rawlins cashed the $350 checkbut did not attend the New York Council meeting, nor did he informthe Council that he would not attend. Rawlins never refunded the $120difference between $230 he claimed was due him and the $350 hereceived. Yet Rawlins professes to have been shocked and surprisedwhen the Council voted unanimously not to reelect Rawlins at its NewYork meeting. (Since Rawlins seems so easily shocked and surprised, Isuspect he was equally surprised at the resignation of Richard M.Nixon.)
Two months later, Rawlins wrote to Frazier saying he wished toresign from the Editorial Board. But he insisted that the resignationshould not take effect until his statement complaining about notbeing reelected "in absentia" was published. This Rawlins statementclaimed that he had not been reelected solely because he hadcriticized "CSICOP's conduct during ITS FOUR YEAR INVOLVEMENT intesting Gauquelin's neo- astrology..." (Emphasis added.)
Had Frazier opted to publish this grossly inaccurate statement,which he did not, readers might well have wondered if there werereally two different Dennis Rawlins, recalling barely a year earlierwhen a Rawlins letter had been published which said: "It should beclearly understood that CSICOP as a body never had anything to dowith the Humanist Zelen test 'challenge'..." When Frazier acceptedRawlins' resignation, this prompted Rawlins to complain that he hadbeen removed from the Editorial Board without "cause or writtennotice." Later, following a mail ballot of Council members, CSICOPdropped Rawlins from its list of Fellows. (The vote against Rawlinswas 6:1.)
The foregoing highlights the key issues and actions that promptedFATE and Rawlins to charge that CSICOP "bungled their majorinvestigation, falsified the results, covered up their errors andgave the boot to a colleague who threatened to tell the truth."(After my investigation, a re-reading of "sTARBABY" gives me thefeeling that I am reading a Pravda account explaining that theSoviets moved into Afghanistan to help the Afghans prevent aninvasion by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.)
Were it possible to turn back the clock, undoubtedly Kurtz, Zelenand Abell would try to be more precise in defining test objectivesand protocol and would do so in writing. And more time would be spentin more carefully phrasing articles dealing with such tests. But allCSICOP Council members and Fellows have other full-time professionsthat seriously constrain time available for CSICOP efforts.
Were it possible to turn back the clock, the Council should haveinsisted in the spring of 1978 that Rawlins issue a public statementthat he had erred in using CSICOP's name in support of his personalactions connected with the University of Toronto's planned astrologysymposium. Failure to do this has resulted in an unjustified blot onCSICOP's modus-operandi. Also at that time the Council should havedeveloped a policy statement, as it recently did, that more clearlydelineates activities that members perform officially in behalf ofCSICOP and those carried out as private individuals.
When a small group of persons met in Buffalo in May, 1976, tocreate CSICOP, their motivation was a concern over the growing publicacceptance of claims of the paranormal. CSICOP was created to providea counter-balance to those who espouse a variety of claims, rangingfrom UFOs to astrology, from the "Bermuda Triangle" to psychicphenomena. With the benefit of experience, it was apparent that therewas an extreme spectrum of viewpoints on the Council. Rawlins was atthe "hit-'em-hard" extreme, while Truzzi was at the opposite pole andresigned after a couple years, partially as a result of behind-thescenes plotting by Rawlins which he admits in "sTARBABY." Now Rawlinshas departed and, in my view, CSICOP is much the better for it.
CSICOP never has tried to destroy those organizations that promotebelief in paranormal causes. But individuals in these organizationhave tried to discredit CSICOP, even going so far in one instance asto circulate a forged letter.
FATE magazine made wide distribution of the Rawlins "sTARBABY"article in reprint form, together with its press release. Prof. R.A.McConnell, University of Pittsburgh, founding President of theParapsychological Association, also distributed copies to CSICOPFellows and Council members, among others. In his accompanyingletter, McConnell said he believed the "Rawlins report is certainlytrue in broad outline and probably true in every detail...He hascreated a document of importance for the history and philosophy ofscience." McConnell quoted an "unnamed scientist" as claiming that"Rawlins has uncovered the biggest scandal in the history ofrationalism." McConnell characterized CSICOP as "an intellectuallydishonest enterprise."
FATE and McConnell have demonstrated the intrinsic flaw in thebasic approach of those who promote claims of the paranormal -- THEIREAGERNESS TO ACCEPT CLAIMS OF EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS WITHOUT RIGOROUSINVESTIGATION. Neither FATE nor McConnell contacted CSICOP officialsto check out Rawlins' charges. This demonstrates why CSICOP is sosorely needed.
The late President Harry Truman phrased it well: "If you can'tstand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." CSICOP is "in the kitchen"by choice and intends to remain there despite the heat. The responseof CSICOP's Council and its Fellows to recent events shows that theCommittee is not an easy victim of heat- prostration.
If the Mars effect, or any other paranormal hypothesis, shouldever be demonstrated using rigorous scientific procedures, theresimply is no way in which the small group of individuals involved inCSICOP could ever hope to suppress such evidence. Nor have I foundany CSICOP Council member or Fellow who is so foolish as to try.
In the years following "sTARBABY", Rawlins hascontinued to receive publicity by making sensational charges ofscientific coverup and fraud. In 1988 he made national headlines byrenewing an earlier charge he had made before CSICOP's founding, thistime supposedly supported by a new- found document: that AdmiralPeary never actually reached the North Pole during his famousexpedition in 1909, but instead fabricated his navigational recordsto make it appear as if he had. A New York Times article of October13, 1988 carries the headline: "Peary's Notes Said to Imply He FellShort of Pole." It begins: "New evidence based on navigational notesby Robert E. Peary indicates that the Arctic explorer fell short ofhis goal and deliberately faked his claim in 1909 that he was thefirst person to reach the North Pole, according to an analysis by aBaltimore astronomer and historian ... Dennis Rawlins, an independentscholar who trained as an astronomer and who has a long-standinginterest in Peary's expedition, said yesterday that his analysis ofthe navigational notes, mainly sextant readings of the sun toestablish geographic position, indicated that Peary knew that he hadcome no closer than 121 miles from the Pole." Officials of theNational Geographic Society promised to examine Rawlins' data, butadded "We believe Mr. Rawlins has been too quick to cryfake."
After a three-month investigation of Rawlins'charges, a press conference was sponsored by The NavigationFoundation at which they dismissed his "sensational claims". Asreported in a Baltimore Sun story syndicated Feb. 2, 1989, "SinceOctober [Natl. Geographic] Society President Gilbert M.Grosvenor and others had quietly endured Rawlins' public calls fordebate and unconditional surrender on the Peary issue." The Societywas willing to take seriously an analysis by the British explorerWally Herbert, based on other evidence, that a navigation error mayhave caused Peary to miss the pole by about 45 miles. "Suggestingthat Peary might not have reached the Pole is one thing," saidGrosvenor. "Declaring Peary a fraud is quite another." Rawlins heldhis own "informal press conference" afterwards, reports The Sun, inwhich Rawlins "admitted he had confused time readings for chronometerchecks with altitudes of the sun and had mistaken serial numbers onthe chronometers for navigational observations." Rawlins conceded,"My interpretation has some problems, and I acknowledge that. It'sfair to say that, if I'm saying Peary was a fraud, I think I have notyet met the burden of proof."
Finally, in December, 1989, a 230-page reportcommissioned by the National Geographic Society was released,concluding that Peary actually did reach the Pole. As reported in astory on p.1 of the New York Times, Dec. 12, 1989, a new analysis ofPeary's records by professional navigators concluded that Peary'sfinal camp was not more than five miles from the Pole. "The reportsaid, there was no evidence of fraud and deception in the explorer'srecords. But one critic, Dennis Rawlins, a Baltimore astronomer andhistorian, said he remained convinced, despite the new study, thatAdmiral Peary did not reach his goal and had faked hisclaim."
Robert Sheaffer, Nov., 1991