The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher

By Martin Gardner | Go to book overview

25
PK (Psycho-Krap)

Many worthless books by writers who call themselves parapsychologists have been published in recent years, but Psychokinesis ( Souvenir Press, 1982), by John Randall, a biology teacher at Coventry School, tops them all. It is not just that he rakes over stale ground but that his book is hopelessly out of date.

Consider, for example, his enthusiastic endorsement of the psychokinetic (PK) powers of Uri Geller, the Israeli magician turned flimflam artist. Randall makes much of John Taylor's high praise of Geller, and of the spoon- bending children featured in Taylor book Superminds ( Macmillan, 1973). He never informs his readers that in 1980 Taylor wrote a book called Science and the Supernatural, in which he repudiated his earlier book and denounced all psychic metal-bending as fraud.

Consider the pages in which Randall rhapsodizes over Geller's alleged alteration of the chemical structure of a piece of nitinol wire, giving it a new "memory" that experts could not remove. That is totally false. Eldon Byrd was in error when he made this sensational claim, reporting on his nitinol tests with Geller in Charles Panati now discredited anthology, The Geller Papers ( Houghton Mifflin, 1976). Experts at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, in California, removed the wire's memory easily. This was carefully detailed in my paper, "Geller, Gulls and Nitinol" ( 1977; reprinted in Science: Good, Bad and Bogus), but either Randall never read it, or what is worse, read it but did not want to mention it.

Consider too the section in which Randall extols the "thoughtography" of Ted Serios, a Chicago bellhop, who for a short time was apparently able to project onto Polaroid film his memory of photographs he had seen earlier in magazines. No one, says Randall, ever found evidence of trickery. Nonsense. In 1967 Charles Reynolds and David Eisendrath published in Popular Photography a complete exposé of how Serios. performed his whimsical trick. Ted has been unable to replicate it since,

____________________
This review originally appeared in Nature, November 11, 1982, and is reprinted with permission.

-179-

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The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Part 1 11
  • 1 - Project Alpha 13
  • 2 - Margaret Mead 19
  • 3 - Magicians in the PSI Lab 25
  • 4 - Shirley MacLaine 32
  • 5 - Freud, Fliess, and Emma's Nose 38
  • 6 - Koestler Money Down the Psi Drain? 44
  • 7 - Targ: From Puthoff to Blue 50
  • 8 - The Relevance of Belief Systems 57
  • 9 - Welcome to the Debunking Club 65
  • 10 - The Great Stone Face 72
  • 11 - From Phillips to Morris 79
  • 12 - George McCready Price 93
  • 13 - Wonders of Science 99
  • 14 - Tommy Gold 103
  • 15 - Rupert Sheldrake 109
  • 16 - The Anomalies of Chip Arp 115
  • 17 - Thoughts on Superstrings 119
  • 18 - The Third Eye 123
  • 19 - Irving Kristol and the Facts of Life 129
  • Part 2 135
  • 20 - The Great SRI Die Mystery 137
  • 21 - Perpetual Motion 145
  • 22 - Psychic Surgery 167
  • 23 - 666 and All That 170
  • 24 - D. D. Home-Sweet-Home 175
  • 25 - PK (Psycho-Krap) 179
  • 26 - Chicanery in Science 182
  • 27 - Fools' Paradigms 184
  • 28 - Look, Shirl, No Hands! 188
  • 29 - The Channeling Mania 202
  • 30 - Who Was Ray Palmer? 209
  • 31 - Prime-Time Preachers 223
  • 32 - L. Ron Hubbard 246
  • 33 - Psychic Astronomy 252
  • Name Index 265
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