Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions

Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions

Excerpt

Isaac Asimov

Not very long ago, I attended a conference at which, among other things, the reliability of the news media as purveyors of scientific information was discussed.

One person at the conference table described, with considerable contempt, an item on a television news program which went into detail concerning someone who claimed he had perfected a perpetual motion device, one which got energy out of nowhere.

It was reported "straight." No effort was made by the news program to point out that according to the best scientific knowledge of the day such a device is flatly impossible; that any number of perpetual motion devices had been presented to the world in the past and that not one had really worked; that all the inventors, in every case, had either been honestly mistaken or were knowingly perpetrating hoaxes.

Whereupon, another person at the conference table (a reporter) grew amused. It was, he thought, excitement over nothing.

He said, "Oh, well, what harm does it do? The newspeople are merely reporting a claim and, if it doesn't work, so what? No one is damaged!"

Whereupon I leaned forward and said, "You really don't see the harm it does? The world has now been plunged into an energy crisis. The availability of energy is going down year by year, the price is going up year by year, and the underpinnings of civilization are growing weaker as a result, year by year.

"If civilization is to survive, humanity is going to have to make hard decisions and take strenuous action, and as soon as possible.We cannot continue to waste energy. We must develop alternate sources. We dare not continue to be heedless of the problem.

"And then some newsman tells tens of millions of people of a claim that energy can be obtained out of nowhere and feels no responsibility at all for telling them that the claim is undoubtedly mistaken.He . . .

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