The REALL News


The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association
                      of Lincoln Land

Volume 1, Number 3                                    April 1993
Electronic Version

If you like what you see, please help us continue by sending
in a subscription.  See the end of newsletter for details.

In This Issue:

From the Editor -- Wally Hartshorn
From the Chairman -- David Bloomberg
The Misconceptions of Evolution -- Ranse Traxler
Saucers for Sale: An Evening with a UFO Cheerleader
		-- Bob Ladendorf & David Bloomberg


The Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL)
is a non-profit educational and scientific organization.  It is
dedicated to the development of rational thinking and the application
of the scientific method toward claims of the paranormal and fringe-
science phenomena.

REALL shall conduct research, convene meetings, publish a newsletter,
and disseminate information to its members and the general public.
Its primary geographic region of coverage is central Illinois.

REALL subscribes to the premise that the scientific method is the
most reliable and self-correcting system for obtaining knowledge
about the world and universe.  REALL not not reject paranormal claims
on a priori grounds, but rather is committed to objective, though
critical, inquiry.

_The REALL News_ is its official newsletter.

Membership information is provided elsewhere in this newsletter.

Editor:  Wally Hartshorn
Editorial Board and Organizing Committee:  David Bloomberg (Chairman),
Wally Hartshorn, Bob Ladendorf.

P.O. Box 20302
Springfield, IL 62708

Unless stated otherwise, permission is granted to other skeptic
organizations to reprint articles from _The REALL News_ as long
as proper credit is given.

The views expressed in these articles are the views of the individual
authors and do not necessarily represent the views of REALL.


			  From The Editor
			-- Wally Hartshorn

     Welcome to another issue of The REALL News!  Spring has finally
arrived and warm weather is just around the corner (fingers crossed,
knock on wood, various other assorted good-luck charms invoked).
With the nicer weather, I'm hoping a few of the hold-outs among you
will begin attending REALL meetings.  This month's meeting would
certainly be a good one to start with!  (See the Chairman's Column
for details.)
     THIS IS YOUR LAST FREE ISSUE!  [Doesn't apply to electronic version.]
     Alas, some of you still haven't become members of REALL or even
simply subscribers to The REALL News.  If you want to change that,
please copy or clip out the membership form at the bottom of page 7
[end of file for electronic version], fill it out, and mail it with your
check to the address indicated.  Better yet, bring it with you to the
next REALL meeting!
     This month's issue of The REALL News features "The Misconceptions
of Evolution," by Ransom Traxler of the St. Louis Association for the
Teaching of Evolution (SLATE).  It was the basis for his lecture at
a meeting of the Missouri Association for Creationism.  I'm curious as
to what kind of reception it received.  Perhaps we can have Mr. Traxler
as a speaker sometime and find out.
     Our other feature article is "UFOs for Sale:  An Evening with a
UFO Cheerleader," by our own Bob Ladendorf and David Bloomberg.  A few
months ago they attended a local presentation by Bill Knell.  As is
pointed out in the article, it would take several issues of The REALL
News to discuss all of the points made by Mr. Knell.  (Luckily, I haven't
been short of articles to this point, so that wasn't necessary!)
     Lastly, I've decided that I really don't have the time to devote
to this newsletter, so I won't be running for the position of editor
when elections are held.  For those of you who are wondering what you
would need to be the editor, perhaps the most basic requirement is a
computer with desktop publishing software and access to a laser printer.
(Well, you could do things the old-fashioned way, pasting things up by
hand, but computerized desktop publishing is far better.)  I use
PageStream on an Amiga, so if by some stroke of good coincidence the
next editor also uses PageStream on an Amiga, let me know and I can
provide you with the templates for the newsletter.
     I've enjoyed editing The REALL News, but I'm simply too busy to
continue.  The May issue will presumably be my last, so I'll see you then!


		         From the Chairman
			-- David Bloomberg

                   The Frustrations of Skepticism

     Sometimes it can be so frustrating to be a skeptic,
trying to educate people about the paranormal.  Last month I
found out that an acquaintance, I'll call her Ann, sent a
letter to a local psychic about doing some readings.  I
started talking to her about it when somebody else walked in
and joined the conversation (I'll call her Bea).  I told
them both a true story about how this particular "psychic"
couldn't even see through a fake story a friend had told her
about his family.  Indeed, she made some predictions based
on this story, never once even suggesting it wasn't true.
     Bea immediately began making excuses for the psychic:
"Maybe she was tired after a long day...Maybe the psychic
had misinterpreted something..." etc.  The explanations got
so ridiculous that a third person sitting nearby said, "Bea,
it sounds like you NEED to believe in this psychic."
     Further discussion brought both Ann and Bea to agree
that, yes, the really only remember the few "correct"
predictions; yes, the more stories about "correct"
predictions by the psychic are told, the more "accurate" she
is said to be; yes, videotaping the psychic would probably
show that she is quite often wrong and/or gives generic
readings; no, she would probably not agree to be taped for
just these reasons.  It was also brought up that this same
psychic had made several predictions for Ann years ago.  Ann
claimed she was right on the money.  Yet another person
walked up who pointed out that, in fact, one of the
predictions claimed to be on the money was over a year off.
Bea made more excuses, "Oh, she's always a year off, plus or
minus."  I pointed out that I could make predictions that
were almost guaranteed to come through within that three-
year timespan.
     As this progressed, I thought, "Great!  They understand
the way these "psychics" work."
     But maybe I was kidding myself.  They still plan on
going through with the readings.  They will still continue
to believe in her accuracy and do all the things we
     Sometimes it can be so frustrating to be a skeptic,
trying to educate people...and realizing that some just
don't want to be educated.


	Special guest lecturer Detective Bruce Walstad (President
of Professionals Against Confidence Crimes, magician, psychic-
buster, author, etc.) will speak at our April 26 meeting!
He will be speaking on a variety of subjects dealing with
the supposed psychics he has encountered, and various con-
games.  He will also bring some of his books to sell, with
special discounted prices for members.  Tell your friends,
tell your neighbors, tell your neighbors' friends!

Board elections will be held at the May meeting (probably
May 17).  If you want to run, submit your name to an
Organizing Committee member, or just show up at the meeting
and speak up.  Officers will be elected by the Board members
either at a Board meeting immediately following or later
that month, depending on everybody's availability.

REALL's finalized Constitution is available to anybody who
is interested.  You can pick one up at a meeting, or, if you
can't make a meeting, drop us a note and we'll send it to you.

	                Late Breaking News!

	We received a news release dated March 25, 1993 from
CSICOP which says, in part, "A federal court has imposed
$106,433.97 in sanctions against self-proclaimed psychic Uri
Geller for his prosecution of a libel suit against the Committee
for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
[These] represent the fees and costs incurred by CSICOP in defending
the lawsuit through June 30, 1992.  The court also authorized
CSICOP to request reimbursement for the additional fees and costs
incurred in defense of the litigation."  For further information,
come to the next REALL meeting!


                  The Misconceptions of Evolution

                       By Ransom R. Traxler

     In spite of our technical society and our public school
system, most people believe in many misconceptions about
evolution.  This is due, in part, to educators who wish to
avoid controversy or who do not fully understand the subject
they teach.  Furthermore, anti-evolutionists knowingly
propagate these erroneous beliefs in their religious crusade
against science.  As a systematic biologist (in whose field
organic evolution begins), I wish to correct a few of these
myths.  These statements are not just personal beliefs--they
are facts and concepts supported by volumes of research and
agreed upon by those scientists who are most knowledgeable
about the subject.

    _Evolution is just a theory._  Evolution is a valid
scientific theory, just like electricity, gravity, atoms,
light, cells, and disease-causing germs are valid scientific
theories also.  For example, we are taught that the earth
orbits the sun; scientists call this the heliocentric
theory.  A theory in science is a highly-tested, verified
and demonstrated explanation for observed facts, not "a
guess or conjecture."  To state that evolution is only a
theory is the same as stating that gravity is only a theory.
Knowing this, who would still wish to contest it by jumping
off a building?
     _Evolution is not based on facts._  There are facts and
theories about evolution.  The facts of evolution are that
the earth is billions of years old and that the life on it
has changed over that time.  The fossil record is clear that
life living today differs greatly from that living, say, 300
million years ago.  In between we have a vast collection of
fossils that, as one looks at younger and younger specimens,
become more modern-looking.  The theories of evolution are
about what caused this metamorphosis.  We know several
mechanisms that can produce changes in organisms:  natural
selection, genetic drift, the founder effect, genetic
recombination and mutations are just a few.  The debates
scientists have are about the mechanism of evolution, not
the fact that it has occurred.  Practicing scientists do not
doubt evolution.
     _Darwin invented evolution._  Would one say that Newton
invented gravity or Einstein invented time?  The evidence
for evolution had been known by scientists for centuries.
In the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the
early naturalists, who were also clergy, discovered that the
earth was very old and that life was very different in the
past.  However, evolution was not generally accepted because
no one knew how it was happening.  In the nineteenth century
Darwin was the first to propose a valid mechanism to explain
what produced evolution.  Since then his mechanism, natural
selection, has been thoroughly tested and was rapidly
accepted by scientists everywhere.  Likewise, continental
drift was thought of since Benjamin Franklin's time, but it
was not until the 1960's that a valid mechanism, plate
tectonics, was discovered.  Today scientists accept it as
they accept evolution.  We now have several mechanisms that
explain how evolution occurs, discovered by many scientists
over the last century.
     _Evolution is caused by blind chance._  In all aspects of
evolution (cosmic, chemical and organic) natural laws and
principles can explain what has occurred.  These influences
act as a controlling force that guides evolution to
predictable outcomes.  Cosmic evolution is governed by the
laws of physics, not chance.  Gravity and nuclear reactions
cause the birth and death of stars and planets (we have
witnessed these events with telescopes).  Chemical evolution
abides by the laws of molecular reactions which can produce
complicated organic molecules naturally (we have witnessed
this in the laboratory).  Organic evolution is directed by
biological principles such as natural selection and
genetics, which again we have observed in the laboratory.
The odds are, at the moment of conception, over
70,000,000,000,000 (70 million million) to one that your
genes will not come together in the combination now in your
body.  However, you are here and it was all controlled by
the principles of genetics.  Natural forces and laws govern
and direct evolution, not "blind chance."
     _Complex organisms, such as ourselves, must have been
designed by a more complex, intelligent creator._  This
argument has been shown to be logically and scientifically
false for at least a hundred years, yet it is still used by
anti-evolutionists in their religious crusade.  Logically
for their argument to be true, two criteria must be adhered
     One:  everything as complex as a living organism must
have been designed.  No exceptions, or else we could be here
not by design but by the natural process of evolution.
     Two:  everything as complex as a living organism must
have a designer even more complex than it is.  If this was
not true, then we could have been designed by a less complex
primate who, in turn was designed by a less complex mammal,
and on and on to a primordial cell.  This is a teleologic
view of evolution.
     Since the two conditions above must be true or the
design argument fails miserably then who designed our more-
complex-than-we-are-designer?  And who, in turn, designed
him?  These two conditions require an infinite number of
designers, each one more complex than the one he designed.
     Scientifically, there is another choice instead of a
designer or blind chance; evolution, which is guided by the
laws and forces of nature.  We have documented cases of
changes produced by natural selection, which acts as a
"designing force" to make organisms better suited to their
environment.  However, it is not as perfect as an omnipotent
designer would be.
     There are thousands of examples of poor design in
nature.  Many organisms use modified organs that barely suit
their need; many organisms have vestigial parts that do not
help them but could actually harm (wisdom teeth and appendix
in us, hind limbs in whales and snakes, and much more).  If
this is the work of a designer, then it was a terrible job.
We, with artificial selection (breeding) and genetic
changes, are improving on some of the poor designs of
     _Creationism is another scientific explanation._  This is
definitely not true.  Creationism is a religious belief
based on the Bible.  Evolution is a scientific explanation
based on observation, experimentation and objective
evaluation.  None of the vast store of scientific data we
have supports a literal interpretation of the Book of
Genesis.  The small amount of "scientific" evidence
propagated by "scientific creationists" has been
investigated by the scientific community using the
scientific method (just like evolution has been for over 150
years).  Most of these claims were abandoned by scientists
over two centuries ago because the data and experiments did
not support them.  The newest claims were found to be
distortions and misrepresentations of firmly established
data.  Creationism is a religious belief and, as such,
everyone is free to believe it or not; but as a scientific
explanation, it has no support whatsoever in fact.
     _Creationism should be given equal time in the science
class because so many people believe in it._  Many people
believe in astrology; should it be given time in an
astronomy class?  Or how about alchemy in a chemistry class?
Numerology in a mathematics class?  Atlantis and ancient
astronauts in a history class?  Flat-earth in a geography
class?  If some people believe that 6x9=42, should we give
the students two multiplication tables and let them choose
which one they will use?  The science classroom is not where
religious beliefs should be presented as fact for the
student to accept or reject as he/she wants.  Instead, the
classroom is where the current knowledge in the field is
presented to students to increase their understanding of
that subject.
     _Evolution should not be taught because it is
unimportant._  Evolution is to biology as atoms are to
chemistry.  It is the unifying concept that connects
genetics, anatomy, medical science, taxonomy and many others
into a comprehensible framework.  It is THE central idea of
biology that ties together all its subparts.  Evolutionary
biology explains the distribution of life on this planet,
tissue rejection in transplants, and how our body works.  In
other fields cosmic evolution is the center of astronomy (it
tells us how the universe and stars function) and earth
evolution is the basic concept of geology (it tells us how
the earth came to be as it is today).
     What would chemistry be like without atoms to explain
how and why chemicals react as they do; or physics without
the concept of energy being able to convert into different
forms to explain how a steam engine works?  What if a
teacher felt that atoms or energy were unimportant and
ignored them in his/her chemistry or physics class?  Without
the why and how explained by evolution, much of science
becomes a meaningless collection of facts with no logical
association or understanding.
     _Evolution should not be taught because it is contrary
to some people's religious beliefs._  First of all our
government is religiously neutral according to our
Constitution.  Therefore, religion cannot be a factor in
determining the curriculum.  Secondly, the teacher has the
obligation to present the students all the knowledge of the
subject being taught based on their level of understanding.
Any science teacher who fails to present evolution properly
to the students betrays the trust placed in them by the
public and acts in an unprofessional manner.
     _Evolution should not be taught because it promotes the
religion of secular humanism._  Evolution is a science and
that is all it is.  People are free to form whatever
philosophies or religions they want based on whatever source
they want.  Some people have formed their belief system
around old books variously translated through the years.
Primitive people use a god or gods to explain ordinary
occurrences in nature because that is the only way they can
comprehend the world around them.  Scientists of all
religions accept evolution because it is the best scientific
explanation we have not because of some religious reason.
As a religiously-neutral science, it should be taught in the
     _Evolution is anti-God._  Impossible, for science just
like mathematics is neutral towards any religious belief.
Science and religion are two separate philosophies dealing
with different realms.  Religion deals with the supernatural
and cannot be supported by experimentation--it must be
accepted by faith alone.  Science deals with the natural
universe and its discoveries can be confirmed or disproved
by experimentation--scientific ideas are accepted by the
scientific community based on evidence.  Evolution, as any
science, can never say anything about the "Ultimate Cause"
of the universe and our existence; these can only be
answered by religion.  Since these two philosophies deal
with different realms, there is no basic conflict between
     _Evolutionists are atheists._  Many scientists and
science teachers are devoutly Christian or Jewish.  Some of
the great founders of evolutionary biology were strong
theists.  A few of us are atheists.  This is because we are
able to separate the two realms of our lives--the spiritual
and the material.  Since evolution does not deny the
existence of a Supreme Being, one is free to hold whatever
beliefs there are in one.  Saying that "evolutionists are
atheists" is just like saying "apple-lovers are orange-
haters."  One can like (or dislike) both apples and oranges.
     _Scientists believe in evolution as their religion since
they do not believe in God._  The religious beliefs of
scientists are as varied as it is in any group of
professional people.  Unfortunately our secondary school
textbooks and various media sources like to use the phrase
"Scientists believe..." whenever they present evolution as
if the scientists hold a unique religious belief.  This is
especially harmful when facts are presented, because it
gives the student or layperson the idea that the facts are
not supported by evidence and can be accepted as
questionable.  What would happen if a teacher were to say,
"Mathematicians believe that 5x6=30" or "Historians believe
that we fought a civil war in the 1860's?"  Instead of
saying "Scientists believe in evolution" one should say
"Scientists accept evolution based on the overwhelming
objective evidence in its favor."
     _Evolution is "The Big Lie" that Satan tempted Eve with
in the Garden of Eden._  This may not sound like a scientific
statement, but it is repeated frequently by the "scientific
creationists."  In fact one such group, the Institute for
Creation Research, publishes a book entitled The Lie:
Evolution with a large poster showing a serpent holding an
apple marked EVOLUTION.  These people state that scientists
lie while they spread "The Truth."  So then what is "The
     Creationists are the masters of prevarication.  In
their presentations they frequently make false statements
about science and scientists; anyone familiar with biology
or geology can spot them.  Then why do they do it?
     One reason could be that they are ignorant about
science and, therefore, make many mistakes.  However, they
say that they are experts on evolution and have some degree
in engineering or theology to prove it.  A practicing
scientist knows these statements are false and ridiculous;
many of us have exposed them as such.  Then why are they
still frequently repeated?
     The other possibility is that these anti-evolutionists
know the statements are false, yet repeat them anyway.  Many
of the "scientific creationist" debaters make statements
they cannot prove; in fact, many scientists have proved
their claims as false and they have admitted their error.
Yet in their next debate or presentation, they repeat these
falsehoods unabatedly.
     I can show anyone the scientific evidence to support
what I said above.  This is more than what "scientific
creationists" can do.  In this country anybody can hold
whatever religious beliefs they want to; however, when they
say that these beliefs are scientific and should be taught
in public schools, they must produce evidence to support
what they say.  I have always found it amazing how many
falsehoods and distortions are said by those spreading "The
     There are many more misunderstandings about evolution
which a quality science education will expose.  Until such
teaching becomes the standard, we scientists and educators
need to reveal these myths for what they are--an attempt to
mislead the public and discredit the scientists and teachers
who have devoted their lives to increasing our knowledge of
the universe solely for the purpose of converting students
and the public to a specific religious belief system.


[This article was the basis for Traxler's lecture before the
 Missouri Association for Creationism meeting in April, 1991.
 Ransom R. Traxler is the Director of the St. Louis
 Association for the Teaching of Evolution (SLATE), P.O. Box 462,
 O'Fallon, IL 62269-0462.  This article reprinted with permission
 from the May/June 1991 issue of _The American Rationalist_.
 Permission to reprint this article must be obtained in writing from
 _The American Rationalist_, P.O. Box 994, St. Louis, MO 63188.]


                          Saucers for Sale:
                  An Evening With A UFO Cheerleader

                 By Bob Ladendorf and David Bloomberg

[Bob Ladendorf and David Bloomberg attended the "U.F.O.s Around
The World" slide show given by Bill Knell, of Island Skywatch, in
December of last year.  They videotaped the show, with Knell's
permission; this is their evaluation of that lecture.]

     Watching Bill Knell present his two-hour slide show
history of UFOs is like sitting in on a major product sales
presentation at a trade show:  a lot of sales talk mixed
with very little critical comment.  A self-proclaimed "UFO
Investigator," Knell showed up in Springfield, Illinois on
December 14 to give his talk to several dozen interested
individuals in a Holiday Inn room.  This wasn't free,
of course, but cost $10 a head, plus he had publications and
UFO-related tapes selling as high as $30, including the
discredited MJ-12 papers.
     A large, soft-spoken middle-aged man with seemingly
boundless energy as he unendingly discussed UFO matters,
Knell seemed to be a nice man, one who indeed travels with
his wife and children from place to place giving his slide
show and displaying crudely made posters full of UFO
clippings and tiny, handwritten copy that one must get down
on knees to read (see photo).  A sort of traveling salesman
with his family in tow.
     But what of his messages?  What are the results of his
investigations?  Does he give a balanced history of UFOs?
In his presentation, Knell sketched a number of claims,
concluding they probably involved alien spacecraft and/or a
huge conspiracy at the highest levels of the U.S. (and other
countries') government.  His evidence consisted largely of
photographs, many of which were blurry, indistinct, and, in
the least, inconclusive; videos of lit, unclear objects;
eyewitness accounts; and personal testimony.
     During his presentation, the room remained dark, and he
seamlessly finished one topic and launched into the next one
barely pausing for a breath and, consequently, discouraging
any questions from the audience during the actual lecture.
At the end, he took a few questions but continued his
constant talking, effectively preventing any extended
discussions or follow-up questions about his evidence.
     Even briefly discussing all of Knell's claims and
information would fill several newsletters.  Luckily, much
of that information has been investigated or debunked
before.  For example, Knell spent time dealing with the
Nazca lines and von Daniken (which most mainstream UFO
groups now totally disavow), the Bermuda Triangle, the "face"
on Mars, the Roswell crash, etc.
     In addition, it is simply impossible to check out much
of the information presented, since it is often related as
first- or second-hand accounts.  He went here or there and
talked to him or did that.  Or, in other cases, he claims to
have verifiable evidence for some obscure case or another,
but won't show it to his audience because of his "fears" due
to some conspiracy (see below for conspiracy details).  A good
example of this is the photo he claims to have which supposedly
shows a car surrounded on all sides by trees.  According to him,
it was lifted by an alien craft and deposited in this strange
position.  Such a photo would seem to be excellent evidence,
if it really did show that the car couldn't have gotten to
that location by ordinary means.  Alas, he says he is afraid
to show it.
     However, there are still plenty of points that can be
checked.  Some of them are made easier by Knell when he
contradicts himself within the lecture.  It is difficult to
catch such contradictions at first listen due to his rapid-
fire style, but they are certainly there.
     For example, early in his talk, he discussed how the
shape of UFOs has stayed very much the same throughout their
history.  He uses this to try to show consistency.  Later,
however, he discusses the wide variety of shapes, including
saucers, cigars, triangles, etc., without mentioning the
obvious discrepancy.
     At other times, he made statements which, while not
self-contradicting, are still easily shown to be bunk.  He
made one such statement when discussing a supposed secret
room used by the government to store alien spacecraft.  He
said it was even hidden to "X-ray satellites, and believe
me, there are such things."  While this fits nicely into
some of the conspiracy theories he espouses (again, see
below), it simply doesn't seem to be true.  While there are
likely "X-ray satellites", they are probably used for
measuring X-rays originating in space.  There would be
little use for an X-ray satellite to scan the Earth, for
several reasons.  First, according to several meteorologists
questioned by the authors, the atmosphere absorbs the vast
majority of X-rays.  Also, X-ray pictures are generally made
by having some detector (usually film) BEHIND the target.
While there are technologies that use scattered X-rays, they
would not be the least bit useful for satellite photography.
So the listener has only Mr. Knell's word against this
evidence that any such thing exists.
     An even better example of this was his discussion of
the Carp, Canada, UFO case.  REALL Organizing Committee Chairman
David Bloomberg discussed some of this at the first REALL meeting,
so only a brief summary will appear here.  Basically, Knell
claimed that he was sent the video of a UFO, the photo of the
supposed alien (which looks more like a guy in a bad mask than
anything else), and some Canadian government documents.
Unfortunately for his case, this case was recently featured on
both Unsolved Mysteries and Sightings, where a significantly
different picture was drawn.  Foremost among the differences is
that the investigator interviewed on those shows, while saying the
tape may show a "real" UFO (as opposed to a hoax), admitted
that the photo of the alien and the government documents
were almost certainly hoaxes.  The documents, in particular,
were full of misspellings, referred to a conspiracy dealing
with China, aliens, Israel, and nuclear weapons, and was,
overall, just a poor imitation of Canadian government
documents.  None of this was relayed by Knell.  He flashed a
slide of the documents on the screen briefly and told the
audience that he had come into possession of them through a
Freedom of Information request.
     Other problems with his presentation of this case
revolve around his story that he knows the alleged
photographer ("Guardian"), and the description of the events
that surrounded the making of the video.  These things are
all contradicted by several other UFO investigators who
claim that they, not Knell, were contacted by Guardian.  All
in all, Knell's presentation of this case smacks of
embellishment, at the very least.  One is forced to wonder
if the other information he presented is as accurate as
     Another technique that Knell uses, which can be noticed
by a careful listener, is the setting up and knocking down
of "straw men".  For example, referring to the two men in
England who came forward a little while ago and admitted
that they had made a number of crop circles, Knell says,
"a couple of guys said, `Yeah, we made ALL the circles in
England.'" (Emphasis added)  He goes on to explain why they
couldn't possibly have done so and concludes with, "I guess
they're probably liars."  Unfortunately for Mr. Knell, those
men never claimed to have made ALL the circles.  According
to the Winter, 1992 Skeptical Inquirer (p. 148), the two men
"claimed they had been responsible for MANY of the giant
wheat-field patterns made over the years."  (Emphasis added)
Yes, he is correct in stating that they couldn't have made
them all.  But since they never claimed to, his argument
amounts to nothing.  He uses this type of technique several
times throughout the lecture, especially when discussing
items which have gotten the attention of skeptics in the
past.  His actions in knocking down straw men is only one
indication that he may be more of a UFO cheerleader than an
     The most consistent thread throughout Knell's lecture
is the conspiracy.  Of course, the government (and probably
foreign governments too) is conspiring to keep secret the
"fact" that we have been visted by (and captured) aliens.
In order to keep this secret, they have obviously needed to
do some strange things.  For example, one guy who took some
seemingly pretty good photos of UFOs in Gulf Breeze,
Florida, was found to have apparently been hiding a model of
the EXACT craft in his attic (he sold his house and the new
residents found it).  Knell implies that the FBI visited
this man, stole construction material from him, crafted the
model, and planted it in the attic.
     Other parts of the conspiracy include his thoughts that
the U.S. built the former Soviet Union's space shuttle (in
order to help defend the world from a possible alien
invasion), and government agencies have undertaken various alleged
illegal activities.  Of course, he doesn't leave out the infamous
MJ-12 papers.  These documents are alleged to support the idea
that there is/was a secret government project dealing with UFOs.
As mentioned earlier, he even sells copies of the papers, but
no copies of the many articles debunking them, such as those
written by Phil Klass (SI, Winter 1987-88; SI, Spring 1988; SI, Winter 1990).
He also presented no information about the debunking in the lecture
itself, even though he admitted in one-on-one questions
after the lecture that they may very well be fake.  What he
did say in the lecture was that he doesn't know "if this is
true.  We don't know because the government denies these
documents are real."  As with other such theories, the
government's denial only furthers the conspiracy, with
little regard for the possibility that the government denies
that the documents are real for the simple reason that THEY
     Finally, at the end of the presentation, Knell opened
up the floor to questions.  However, rather than answering
many of them, if those answers might have brought out
possible contradictions or evidence contrary to the
information he had presented, he talked around the issue.
For example, Bloomberg asked him, "I see several contradictions
in many cases.  Aliens fly here from many light years away,
only to crash into a farmhouse.  Some abductees have massive
operations and come back without a mark, yet others have
relatively minor 'surgery' done to them, and show huge scars
to prove it.  And some UFOs do their best to hide from
anybody who might be watching, while at other times they fly
around with all their lights on.  How do you account for
these?"  Knell never answered the question.  Instead, he
said something about how humans simply can't understand the
thinking process of aliens, because they are so different.
He didn't give time for a followup, but jumped to the next
question.  Another person tried to ask a followup later, but
Knell again avoided answering, earning a shaking head from
that questioner.
     Bill Knell claims to be a UFO investigator.  An
unbiased investigator is one who searches for the facts of
an event and reports the results accurately and with
measurable aspects of evidence, as in criminal
investigations.  "[Investigators] work throughout their
investigation fully recognizing that even a minor
contradiction or error may destroy confidence in their
investigation." (Criminal Investigation, 2nd Edition, Weston
and Wells, p. 1)  However, Knell seems more inclined to
shrug off contradictory evidence.  In many cases, he
certainly doesn't present it to his audience, even when he
knows it exists.  He claims to want people to make up their
own minds based on all the evidence, but only gives half of
the story.  All these things make him seem less an
investigator and more a UFO cheerleader or salesman.



                 Predictions for Future Issues

Paranormal Beliefs in Medieval Times
Martin Kottmeyer on Flying Saucers
Psychic Detectives
Survey Results


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Last modified Sun Jul 07 02:05:22 1996. Email comments to whartsho@mail.fgi.net