Russia, an Orwellian nightmare, and Gould – Editor’s Note

Russia, an Orwellian nightmare, and Gould – Editor’s Note – Stephen Jay Gould

Fomenkism? Torsion fields and torsion generators? Retrovision? Sofaextrasens? Extreme medicine? Geopathogenic zones? Vita Cardiomags? Some of the pseudosciences rampant in Russia have an exotic sound and flavor. But looked at a little deeper, they are the same kind of nonsense that afflict the West. In Russia many of these claims and gadgets have made inroads into the ministries of government. Now high-level scientists are fighting back. In October CSICOP and the Russian Academy of Sciences sponsored a special conference in Moscow on “Science, Anti-Science, and the Paranormal.” We have three reports in this issue. CSICOP chairman and conference cochairman Paul Kurtz gives an overview. Astronomer Yuri Efremov expounds on how the achievements in astronomy in recent years quickly outstrip all pseudoscience. and give the lie to postmodernist claims of a “crisis in science,” and a need to “overthrow the scientific paradigm.” Prominent physicist Edward Kruglyakov chronicles the rise of pseudoscience and antiscience in Russia–including some of the wacky claims that have made their way into the halls of government–and reports on the special Russian Academy of Sciences commission against pseudoscience that he heads.

In this issue we publish the conclusion of “Who Abused Jane Doe?”–Elizabeth Loftus and Melvin Guyer’s narrative report on their efforts to evaluate a claim of the recovery of a repressed memory and find the real truth behind it. A short postscript hints at the legal obstacles put in their way, denying what we used to think of as free speech, open debate, and academic freedom. CSICOP Fellow Carol Tavris follows with her own behind-the-scenes look at the travails they were put through. Her article “The High Cost of Skepticism” chronicles “an Orwellian nightmare,” in which their universities, rather than supporting their rights to open free scientific inquiry, obstructed and harassed them. It is a troubling indictment of new, burdensome, institutional barriers to free inquiry.

Stephen Jay Gould is gone. His death May 20 at die age of 60 (see page 8) is a loss to science, skepticism, and the public. The best-known scientist and writer in recent times on paleontology and evolution, Gould was a first-rate evolutionary scientist, a steadfast defender of scientific ideals (and critic of creationism), and a prolific author of both scholarly works and elegant essays for the educated layman on evolutionary science (in all its wondrous aspects). Much has and will be written about him, including his brilliance, his occasional arrogance, the various views of evolutionary colleagues about his scientific work, but what I most appreciated was his writing about science for the layman. He chose to write about science for the public in a substantive way that never talked down to his audiences. He portrayed the marvelous complexity of both life and of the very human scientific enterprise, while finding wonderful humanistic connections between science and nature and everything from opera to baseball. His monthly essays in every issue of Natural History for twenty-seven years. from January 1974 through December 2000, collected into a series of memorable books, educated several generations of us about evolution and a dazzling array of topics in the history of science. First Asimov, then Sagan, now Gould. All brilliant popularizers and interpreters of science for the layman. All taken from us prematurely.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group