Latest Anti-Fascist Readings

James Farmelant farmelantj at
Sun Dec 19 09:29:01 MST 1999

On Sun, 19 Dec 1999 09:46:48 EST Apsken at writes:
>tallpaul at wrote:
>>  Thus, I ask Lawrence for his source for his claim that "According
>>  CSICOP, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer, only white men are
>>  skeptics."
>    I am not surprised that leftists can find value in the pages of
>Skeptical Inquirer, but it is important to keep in mind the
>aspects of its sponsors, the Committee for the Scientific
>Investigation of
>Claims Of the Paranormal.

I think a lot of that has to do with CSICOP's founder, Paul Kurtz
who is a cold war liberal in the Sidney Hook mode.  I do
consider CSICOP's work in exposing faith healing, paranormal
claims etc. to be inherently progressive but it is also evident
that they nevertheless have reactionary blinders of their own
which diminish the potential impact of their work.  Their refusal
to do outreach to African-Americans, Hispanics, women and
other groups greatly diminishes the impact of their work while
condemining many members of these groups to the continued tyranny
of superstition.  In this respect CSICOP reminds me a bit of many
of the Enlightenment philosophes of the 18th century who
despite their championing of science and reason and their
opposition to the tyranny and superstion of Church and
state were also contemptous of the masses and often
very elitist.

>    Being an opponent of mysticism, faith healing, and many of the
>evils (widespread belief in paranormal phenomena) exposed by CSICOP, I
>subscribe to the Skeptical Inquirer. The listed "Outstanding Skeptics"
>cover story of the current issue -- are all white men. Like the
>the Ivy League scientific elite identifies itself by looking in a
>mirror, and
>excludes or subordinates those whose images fail to match.
>    I have subscribed to that publication since its first issue (and
>to its
>competitor, The Skeptic), and have been irritated all along by its
>gratuitous snipes at Marxism, feminism, affirmative action, and
>These are caricatures and wink-and-nod dismissals, not scholarly
>examinations. When they have published scholarly critiques, they have
>employed demagoguery that would not be permissible in, say, a critique
>faith healing or dowsing.

Concerning Marxism and skepticism, Marx & Engels at one point
devoted considerable effort at combating spiritualism which in
their day was quite popular among many socialists just as New
Age beliefs are popular with many progressives in our day.
Engels devoted a chapter of his *Dialectics of Nature*
to debunking spiritualism and the occult.  I would like
very much to see an article on this in Skeptical Inquirer
or The Skeptic.

All very true .

> In the early years, I sent occasional
>letters of
>protest. Not one was ever published. Even so, I sent a protest last
>regarding the racially- and gender-biased list of Outstanding

Skeptical Inquirer will occasionally publish a token feminist
or two but only very occasionally.

>    For what it may be worth, I regard Ida B. Wells, Carter Woodson,
>W.E.B. DuBois as being among the century's leading skeptics, pioneers
>who had
>to create alternative institutions to expose bogus scholarship and
>but false and harmful common beliefs because official society had no
>for them.

One would think that the exposures of the fallacies of so-called
scientific racism would have ranked high in the achievments
of skepticism.

>    Here are some of my other complaints about CSICOP:
>    CSICOP panders to the IQ crowd by promoting Marilyn Vos Savant's
>claim to
>having the world's highest IQ score, as recorded by that weighty
>resource, The Guinness Book of World Records. (What other reason could
>have for regarding Vos Savant's drivel as wisdom?

Ms. Vos Savant is an intelligent enough woman but if she really
does have the highest IQ in the world what does that tell us
about IQ tests?

>On the other hand,
>being a
>woman, she has not been designated an Outstanding Skeptic.)

Not only were there no women in the listing of the top ten
skeptics, there were also no women in the top 24 either.
On the other hand in the listing of "other persons who
received votes" there were some women listed including
Barbara McClintock, Elizabeth Loftus, Simone de Beauvoir,
Susan Blackmore, and Rachel Carson.

>    In some instances, CSICOP experts are entertainers who refuse to
>explanations that would enhance people's knowledge of the hoaxers they
>expose. One of the Outstanding Skeptics is conjuror James Randi, who
>frequently refutes hoaxes by duplicating them, and assuring readers
>that his
>methods are not paranormal, but nevertheless, true to the magicians'
>code, he
>often doesn't disclose the secret of his own method (although
>frequently he
>does reveal the hoaxers' secrets).

You might be interested to learn about the Indian Rationalists
who specialize in exposing the frauds of India's swamis, yogis,
gurus, and the other multitudes of "god-men" that flourish
there.  Since many of these god-men live shamelessly off the
of the poor, the Indian Rationalists have in order to combat their
influence adopted the practice of sending out their members
into villages where they will  duplicate the feats of the god-men
and then show the people how these tricks were performed.
In this way the Rationalists seek to combat religious superstition
and promote popular enlightenment.  Something that we
as leftists and Marxists ought to be strongly supportive of.

>    In other instances, CSICOP conceals embarrassments concerning its
>Outstanding Skeptics. Isaac Asimov, to take one example, wrote a
>introduction to a book that regarded the Tunguska bolide as a space
>piloted by extraterrestrial voyagers. But the anti-UFO crowd at CSICOP
>never gone after Asimov for this heresy.

Speaking of CSICOP's tendency to coverup embarassments in
their own ranks, I remember there was controversy a few years
ago when one of their leading figures was accused of plaguarism.
As I recall it took a long time before CSICOP would come clean
on that matter.  Also, speaking of James Randi.  Randi as you
probably know has over the years been sued numerous times
by the Israeli spoon-bender Uri Geller.  Although whenever any
of these cases have gone to court they have been invariably
dismissed, the cost of defending them has eaten up most of
Randi's financial resources.  A few years back he was pressured
by the powers that be in CSICOP to resign from their board
because it was feared that they might left exposed to litigation
by Geller.  This profile in courage has hardly endeared
CSICOP to many people within the skeptics movement.

>    In disputes between indigenous peoples' claims to ancestral
>remains or
>cultural artifacts and academics' desire to appropriate them for
>study, CSICOP sides with the academics.
>    But CSICOP avoids disputing the bogus scientific claims used to
>capitalist plunder of people and the environment.

CSISCOP has on occasion taken swipes at what they reagarded as
unfounded claims made by
environmentalists.  I cannot recall them taking similar swipes
at the unfounded claims made by industry spokespeople.

Jim F.

>Ken Lawrence

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