The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher

By Martin Gardner | Go to book overview

14 Tommy Gold

No clear line separates good science from bad; or, to put it more technically, no solution is known for what philosophers of science call the "demarcation problem" of finding sharp criteria for the ways good science should operate. This is hardly surprising, because all values have fuzzy boundaries. Who knows how to be sure when a novel is good or bad, or a painting, or a person, except at the extremities of spectrums? On the other hand, we couldn't talk at all if we didn't constantly make useful distinctions like day and night, even though twilight is ambiguous.

Sociologists who love to browbeat the scientific establishment for its rigid orthodoxy are seldom concerned with the speculations of those genuinely creative scientists who are often called "mavericks" because they delight in needling their peers with wild theories. Such a maverick is Thomas, or "Tommy," as he is known, Gold. His career is a thousand times more interesting and more significant than that of an irrelevant crank like Velikovsky. He is a distinguished scientist who may be--I stress the word may-- on the threshold of triggering an authentic "paradigm shift" in geology.

Born in Vienna in 1920 and educated in England, Gold began his career as an engineer, designing radar equipment for England's Royal Navy during World War II. In 1959 he became chairman of the Astronomy Department at Cornell University, where he is now a professor, and where he founded and for 20 years directed the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research.

No top scientist of recent decades has been less timid than Gold in publishing brilliant but highly unorthodox theories that range over many sciences. Unlike the dogmas of crackpots, Gold's conjectures are almost always based on hard data and a thorough knowledge of the relevant science. His theories are carefully reasoned, usually testable, published in orthodox journals, and strongly debated by other experts. Babe Ruth was famous for his home runs, but he also had unusually high numbers of strikeouts. Gold's record is similar. The price a maverick scientist pays for constantly tossing out bold theories is that most of them turn out to be wrong. But the hits can be spectacular.

-103-

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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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