- Hardcover: 430 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (May 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1573928844
- ISBN-13: 978-1573928847
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,206,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Skeptical Odysseys: Personal Accounts by the World's Leading Paranormal Inquirers Hardcover – May 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
rofessor emeritus of philosophy at SUNY-Buffalo, Kurtz is the author of 35 books (The New Skepticism; etc.) and the founder, in 1976, of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). For two-and-a-half decades, this international organization has received endorsements from concerned scientists as it battled bogus science in its official journal, Skeptical Inquirer. Published on CSICOP's 25th anniversary, this anthology is not, as might be expected, a collection of reprints from the journal. Instead, Kurtz invited 35 skeptics to reflect on skeptical inquiry of the past 25 years. The two approaches here, as originally outlined by Kurtz, are autobiographical accounts tracing personal paths to skepticism and articles that report on the current state of research into various paranormal claims or apply skeptical investigations to specific subjects (Bible codes, ESP, magic, near-death experiences, spiritual energy). Susan Blackmore tells how an electron microscope revealed an "alien implant" to actually "be made of dental amalgam." "Science Guy" Bill Nye reviews TV's Roswell. Canadian debunker Henry Gordon examines the "nonsensical books" of Shirley MacLaine. Martin Gardner recalls how his poor-selling In the Name of Science (1952) was successfully reissued by Dover Books as Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science: "Sales skyrocketed, thanks mainly to tireless attacks on the book by guests on an all-night radio talk show hosted by Long John Nebel," and it "became one of Dover's all-time bestsellers," never out of print. Here are writers who love to stir the stewpot of scientific controversy, adding investigative insights to the intrigue and serving up informative, educational essays that are accessible and entertaining. (Aug.)Forecast: Skeptical Inquirer readers are guaranteed to pick this up, but the scope and diversity of the book make it equally attractive to a wider audience.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
"...a fascinating glimpse of who the skeptics think they are." -- Fortean Times
"...impressive and timely...a useful compilation of diverse topics in one volume." -- St. Petersburg Times, October 28, 2001
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Introduction: The Founding of the Skeptical Movement (Paul Kurtz)
=I. Twenty-Five Years of CSICOP
1. From the Editor's Seat: Thoughts on Science and Skepticism at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century (Kendrick Frazier)
2. Science vs. Pseudoscience, Nonscience, and Nonsense (James Alcock)
3. Never a Dull Moment (Barry Karr)
4. The Origins and Evolution of CSICOP: Science is Too Important to Be Left to Scientists (Lee Nisbet)
5. My Personal Involvement: A Quarter Century of Skeptical Inquiry (Paul Kurtz)
6. Why I Have Given Up (Susan Blackmore)
7. The Magician and the Think Tank (Leon Jaroff)
8. From Fate to Skeptical Inquirer (Barry L. Beyerstein)
9. UFOs: An Innocent Myth Turned Evil (Philip J. Klass)
10. The Odyssey of a UFO Skeptic (Robert Sheaffer)
11. Roswell Alien Descendants Come of Age (Bill Nye)
12. Metamorphosis: A Life's Journey from "Believer" to "Skeptic" (Gary P. Posner)
=IV. Astronomy and the Space Age
13. Killer-Comets, Pseudocosmogony, and Little Green Men (David Morrison)
14. Certain Uncertainties (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
15. Does Astrology Work? Astrology and Skepticism 1975-2000 (Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W. Kelly)
16. The Battle Against Pseudoscience: The Case of Astrology (Jean-Claude Pecker)
=VI. Popular Investigations
17. Adventures of a Paranormal Investigator (Joe Nickell)
18. Diary of a Canadian Debunker (Henry Gordon)
19. My Favorite Pseudoscience (Eugenie Scott)
=VIII. Alternative Medicine
20. "Alternative Medicine": How It Demonstrates Characteristics of Pseudoscience, Cult, and Confidence Game (Wallace Sampson)
=IX. Skepticism Around the World
21. A Dozen Years of Dutch Skepticism (Cornelis de Jager and Jan WIllem Nienhuys)
22. A New Hope: From a Good Idea to Real Change (Massimo Polidoro)
23. A Skeptic in a Strange Land (Mario Mendez-Acosta)
24. Skepticism in Russia: Past and Present (Valerii A. Kuvakin)
25. Liberation from the Dark Dungeons of Blind Belief (Sanal Edamaruku)
26. Scientists, Educators, and Journalists Against the Demon's Temptation (Luis Alfonso Gamez)
=X. Some Personal Reflections
27. Skepticism and Science (Vern L. Bullogh)
28. Let Us Reflect: How a Thoughtful, Inquiring Watchman Provided a Mark to Aim At (Michael Shermer)
29. The Importance of Skepticism (Steve Allen)
30. When Corporations Embraced "Transformational Technologies" (Bela Scheiber)
31. Confessions of a Skeptic (Martin Gardner)
32. The Breath of God: Identifying Spiritual Energy (Victor J. Stenger)
33. Skepticism About Religion (Antony Flew)
34. Beyond the Bible Code: Hidden Messages Everywhere! (David E. Thomas)
=XII. From Skepticism to Humanism
35. In Retrospect: From Skeptic to Humanist (Robert A. Baker)
This is a wonderful and broad collection of outstanding essays on skepticism and the paranormal. However, in another sense, the situation is sad, in that literature about the paranormal is often divided into two philosophical camps, the literature of the believers and the literature of the skeptics. Most books are either the believers' "WooWoo du Jour" (channeling, UFOs, ghosts, etc.) -- a vast region of thousands of fringe books, or the books are in a much smaller scientific materialist camp of under a hundred books. And sadly, neither camp SERIOUSLY considers the literature of their rivals. For example, athough right 90% of the time, skepticism often ends up throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as in native herbalism cures sometimes classified these days as "Alternative Medicine."
The fact is, whether one believes in such things or not, these things are embedded in human culture over thousands of years, and mythological thinking is part of how the human mind thinks...that is the key. One should not lump together the deceivers and outright hoaxes, with the self-deluded or cases of paradolia, as skeptic literature often does. People seek meaning and pattern in all times and all cultures. Until/unless scientific materialism can merge its accuracy and veracity with some kind of meaning/philosophy that can fulfill the human needs for myth and emotion as well as intellect, it will not succeed in replacing the myths of this age or any other. The great thing about the late Carl Sagan, is that he was one of the few scientific materialists/skeptics able to communicate in an emotionally resonant way the kind of mythic narrative that is needed, as in his immortal Cosmos: Carl Sagan (7 DVD Set) series.
Personally, I am a subscriber to the "Night Eyes-Day Eyes" philosophy, that reality is the same thing, there is both a sun in the sky and there are stars in the sky (and the sun is of course a star as well!) but which one you see depends on whether it is day or night. But they are both always there, whether we see them or not, because reality is always liable to reason. Belief and reason based on empiricism are not incompatible, but need to inform each other to achieve veracity.
Some of my favorite authors wrote articles for this volume, among them, Joe Nickell, Phil Klass, Henry Gordon, Martin Gardner, and Robert Sheaffer.
Skeptical Odysseys is a good place to hear the personal stories from said authors.