SKEPTICAL ODYSSEYS: Personal Accounts by the World's Leading Paranormal Inquirers

Paul Kurtz, Author . Prometheus $27 (430p) ISBN 978-1-57392-884-7

Professor emeritus of philosophy at SUNY-Buffalo, Kurtz is the author of 35 books (The New Skepticism; etc.) and the founder, in 1976, of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal). For two-and-a-half decades, this international organization has received endorsements from concerned scientists as it battled bogus science in its official journal, Skeptical Inquirer. Published on CSICOP's 25th anniversary, this anthology is not, as might be expected, a collection of reprints from the journal. Instead, Kurtz invited 35 skeptics to reflect on skeptical inquiry of the past 25 years. The two approaches here, as originally outlined by Kurtz, are autobiographical accounts tracing personal paths to skepticism and articles that report on the current state of research into various paranormal claims or apply skeptical investigations to specific subjects (Bible codes, ESP, magic, near-death experiences, spiritual energy). Susan Blackmore tells how an electron microscope revealed an "alien implant" to actually "be made of dental amalgam." "Science Guy" Bill Nye reviews TV's Roswell. Canadian debunker Henry Gordon examines the "nonsensical books" of Shirley MacLaine. Martin Gardner recalls how his poor-selling In the Name of Science (1952) was successfully reissued by Dover Books as Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science: "Sales skyrocketed, thanks mainly to tireless attacks on the book by guests on an all-night radio talk show hosted by Long John Nebel," and it "became one of Dover's all-time bestsellers," never out of print. Here are writers who love to stir the stewpot of scientific controversy, adding investigative insights to the intrigue and serving up informative, educational essays that are accessible and entertaining. (Aug.)

Forecast: Skeptical Inquirer readers are guaranteed to pick this up, but the scope and diversity of the book make it equally attractive to a wider audience.

Reviewed on: 07/30/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
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