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		       The REALL News

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The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association
		      of Lincoln Land

Volume 1, Number 9                                  October 1993
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Electronic Version

If you like what you see, please help us continue by sending
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In This Issue:

From the Editor -- Bob Ladendorf
From the Chairman -- David Bloomberg
Who is Susan Blackmore? -- Robert E. McGrath
The Omega Projection -- Martin Kottmeyer

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Purpose:
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.

Board of Directors:  Chairman, David Bloomberg; Assistant Chairman,
Prof. Ron Larkin; Secretary-Treasurer, Wally Hartshorn; Newsletter
Editor, Bob Ladendorf; At-Large Members, Prof. Steve Egger, Frank
Mazo, and Kevin Brown.

Editorial Board:  Bob Ladendorf (Newsletter Editor), David Bloomberg
(electronic version editor), (one vacancy).

REALL
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.  REALL also requests that you send
copies of your newsletters that reprint our articles to the
above address.

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

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			  From The Editor
			 -- Bob Ladendorf

   In this month's issue, we feature articles by writers
who wrote for The REALL News previously. Robert McGrath, who
also spoke to our group on his photoanalysis of the Loch
Ness "monster," discusses the work and career of
parapsychology researcher turned skeptic (and now CSICOP
board member), Susan Blackmore. His account may introduce
many of our readers to her work.
   Martin Kottmeyer reviews a book concerning the
connections between those having near-death experiences and
end-of-the-world fantasies with those alleging UFO
encounters. The book by Kenneth Ring also deals with a "Mind-
at-Large" concept. "Ring advances a theoretical construct
termed `Mind-at-Large,'" Kottmeyer writes, "that senses that
the planet is now imperiled and releases seeds of salvation
into mentally fertile humans to later flower with prophecy."
Kottmeyer's description of "some quasi-transpersonal
external Mind-at-Large" reminds me of the "Overmind" in one
of my favorite sci-fi novels, Childhood's End, by Arthur C.
Clarke. In that book, the Overlords (aliens) take over the
earth just as the Americans and Russians were going to
annihilate each other, ushering in a period of peace _
uneasy at that. Humankind eventually evolves into the
"Overmind," flowing into an amorphous, cosmic consciousness
entity.
   Perhaps there is truth in the old saying, "Life imitates
art."

					/s/ Bob Ladendorf

		   ==============================

			 From the Chairman
			-- David Bloomberg

   Well, it's been a rather hectic month for me. On the 1st
and 2nd of the month, I manned a booth along with Steve Best
of Gateway Skeptics and Ranse Traxler of the St. Louis
Association for Teaching and Education at the Illinois
Science Teachers Association (ISTA) annual convention. The
three groups, along with the National Center for Science
Education (NCSE), went in together on the booth in order to
inform Illinois science teachers about creationist activity
in public schools, as well as generally trying to interest
science teachers in our groups.
   NCSE sent us some wonderful literature to hand out, and
I kept a copy of each brochure so you can look through it
yourself if you're interested. We printed up an
informational sheet which we hoped would be of particular
interest to science teachers, and still have extra copies of
these, so if you know any science teachers you'd like to
introduce to REALL, come pick some up and hand them out
freely.
   Between the ISTA convention and then a family emergency,
I couldn't get a "REALLity Check" together for this issue,
but watch for a bigger and better one next month.
   Our next meeting is on Monday, October 18 (probably just
a few days after you get this issue). I will be speaking on
the ISTA convention and a bit on the creation/evolution
controversy in public schools. I don't want to give away too
much, but here is a teaser: The representative of a
scientific equipment company in the booth across the way
from ours was a good friend of the head of the Missouri
creationists group and was himself a "young-earth"
creationist. But to find out what happened, with him and
others, you have to come to the meeting!

					/s/ David Bloomberg

		   ==============================

		     Who is Susan Blackmore?
                      by Robert E. McGrath

   I'm not particularly skeptical about Susan Blackmore. I
consider her one of today's most important skeptics,
scientists and students of the paranormal. Her life and work
are an inspiration and a model of creative engagement,
rational inquiry and personal integrity. She has shown the
right way to scientifically study paranormal phenomena,
courageously pursued the truth wherever the evidence has
led, and has repeatedly criticized "skeptics" who reject
claims of the paranormal on less than rational grounds. When
Dr. Blackmore speaks, I listen.
   Blackmore's scientific work is impressive. _Beyond the
Body_ [1] is the most complete examination of "out of body
experiences" (OBEs) to date and will probably never be
surpassed. This book is based on the unparalleled archives
of the Society for Psychical Research in London,
anthropological data, esoteric lore and scientific data of
various kinds. She examined theories of the OBE based on
religious, philosophical, pseudoscientific and scientific
ideas. Characteristically, she personally experienced as
much as possible of the "out of body" phenomena and gives
careful consideration to the reported experience of others.
Blackmore emphasizes an experiential definition of the OBE:
the experience of being "out of the body" is real and
scientifically indisputable. This approach provides a
rational basis for examining the OBE, without committing one
to any particular explanation of it. Blackmore is sure the
experience is real, if somewhat rare, although she is
convinced that nothing actually leaves the body during an
OBE.
   _Beyond the Body_ represents the foundation of one of
Blackmore's continuing lines of research. She has
investigated other phenomena which may or may not be related
to OBEs, including "near death experiences" (NDEs), "lucid
dreams," and altered states of consciousness, including
meditation. Throughout this work, Blackmore seeks to
understand these experiences and their meaning. She examines
questions that scientific psychology recognizes as
fundamental, if scientifically intractable: the nature of
consciousness, self-consciousness, experience, imagination
and memory. She holds (quite correctly) that the
"paranormal" experiences she examines can and must be
brought into "normal" psychology, however difficult that may
be. This she has done with some success.
   In seeking to understand the "out of the body"
experience, Blackmore has asked: "What is an `in the body'
experience?" Despite the fact that we all have this
experience much of the time, and usually take it for
granted, there is precious little "scientific explanation"
of this phenomenon. Blackmore's theories seek to tie
together the everyday "in the body" experience, OBEs, NDEs,
and other altered states of consciousness, using rational,
testable scientific hypotheses. In this she has had some
impressive success. [2,6,7]
   Professor Blackmore has had much less success
investigating conventional parapsychological phenomena, such
as precognition, psychokinesis, and remote viewing. She has
written of her initial belief in psi, the tantalizing hints
she observed, and how the apparent evidence of psi vanished
each time she applied tighter scientific controls. Her
personal experiences seemed to show the reality of psi, yet
she was unable to produce any scientific evidence for it, or
replicate studies by others which seemed to show it.
Further, she found much of the published "evidence" and
"theory" to be invalid or inadequate. Her scientific
training forced her to conclude that she could find no
evidence that psi exists. These developments are discussed
autobiographically in two books [3,4].
   The conflict between her convictions based on personal
experience and what she knew based on science presented a
personal crisis for Blackmore. This sort of crisis has
probably happened to many people. In response, some people
might conclude that there really is "nothing there," and
move on to easier scientific topics. Others might abandon
rationality and science, preferring to trust their own
personal experiences of psi. Blackmore could not do either;
she responded to the crisis by seeking to explain the
conflict itself. If psi does not exist, she considered, why
did she (and so many others) believe it did? Like the
question of "in the body experiences," this leads to
profound and important psychological questions, such as,
"Why do people believe in the paranormal?" and "Why are some
experiences felt to be `paranormal' and others not?"
   These ideas have led to a second important line of
research: the examination of the psychology of "psychic
experiences." Blackmore has identified what she describes as
"cognitive illusions" analogous to "perceptual illusions."
Just as "visual illusions" are "the price we have to pay for
a perceptual system that does very well in a confusing
world," cognitive illusions may be "the price we pay for the
way our brains look for connections in chance and
probability." [5, p. 62] Psychologists find perceptual
illusions valuable because they may reveal details of how
people normally perceive the world. Blackmore's "psychic
illusions" may be valuable for the same kind of reason: they
may reveal how people ordinarily judge chance, infer cause
and effect, and find patterns.
   Examination of cognitive illusions has led to the
consideration of the psychology of belief and skepticism. In
her 1991 address to the Committee for the Scientific
Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) at the
time of her selection for its Executive Council, Blackmore
discussed the classic parapsychological concept of sheep
(those who tend to believe in the paranormal) and goats
(those who tend to disbelieve the paranormal). Events in the
world are usually ambiguous and might be produced by a known
cause, an unknown cause, or chance. We usually do not know
"the truth," and routinely draw inferences based on limited
data. When faced with a pattern of occurrences for which
there is no solid explanation (which happens all the time),
different people will draw different inferences. Sheep will
tend to infer that operation of unseen "psychic" forces.
Goats will tend to see coincidence, or perhaps unknown but
"perfectly natural" forces. Attributing all ambiguous events
to mysterious, psychic powers closes one to much of the real
world. Attributing all ambiguous events to chance closes one
to the unexpected and the new. Both these positions are
undesirable. Blackmore calls upon us to be open to the
unexpected, while critical of what it seems to show. She
imagines continuously soaring, at first sheep-ish, then more
goat-ish, and back again. She calls this, "being a `flying
horse,'" and calls upon us all to join her in this category.
(See [8].) This is both sound psychological theory and good
skeptical practice.
   Beyond her contributions to knowledge, I am attracted to
Susan Blackmore because she takes it all so darned
personally. Her work is completely self-centered: she has
spent her life attacking the questions she thinks are
important. She asks, "Who am `I'?", "What does it mean to be
`me'?", "Is there something more than physical reality?",
"How can we really know?" She has repeatedly said, "I don't
know", and "I may be wrong", but she has never stopped
asking good questions. Despite the difficulty of these
questions, she has not given up, nor has she compromised her
high standards of inquiry. Who is Susan Blackmore? Even she
doesn't know. But I think she's great.

   Some Books and Articles by Susan Blackmore

1.   _Beyond the Body_. Heinemann, London, 1982. American
     paperback edition, Academy Chicago Publications,
     Chicago, 1992.
2.   "A Psychological Theory of the Out-Of-Body Experience,"
     Journal of Parapsychology, Volume 48, 1984, pp. 201-
     218.
3.   "The Adventures of a Psi-Inhibitory Experimenter," in _A
     Skeptic's Handbook of Parapsychology_, Paul Kurtz, ed.,
     Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1985.
4.   _The Adventures of a Parapsychologist_. Prometheus Books,
     Buffalo, 1986.
5.   "The Lure of the Paranormal," _New Scientist_, Volume
     127, September 22, 1990, pp. 62-65.
6.   "Lucid Dreams," _Skeptical Inquirer_, Volume 15, Number
     4, 1991, pp. 362-370.
7.   "Near Death Experiences: In or Out of the Body?",
     _Skeptical Inquirer_, Volume 16, Number 1, 1991, pp. 34-
     45.
8.   "Psychic Experiences: Psychic Illusions," _Skeptical
     Inquirer_, Volume 16, Number 4, 1992, pp. 367-380.

[Robert E. McGrath, a University of Illinois research
programmer who lives in Urbana, wrote our June cover story,
"Vampires--Myth and Reality," and presented a photoanalysis
of the "Loch Ness "monster" at a recent meeting of REALL in
Springfield.]

(A graphic ran on the front page, with this story.  It had the 
quote, "The sleep of reason produces monsters" within it and can
be obtained by download or FidoNet file request as SKEPTIC.BMP
from The Temples of Syrinx BBS, (217) 787-9101, Fido 1:2430/2112.
The graphic is courtesy of the Georgia Skeptics.)

		   ==============================

                      The Omega Projection
                       by Martin Kottmeyer

Review of Kenneth Ring's _The Omega Project: Near-Death
Experiences, UFO Encounters, and Mind at Large_, William
Morrow, 1992.

   _The Omega Project_, it must first be said, is a marvelous
achievement and will be properly recognized as a landmark in
the study of the psychology of the UFO experiences. It gives
us a solid empirical base for the first broad overview of
the mental landscapes of people who have been caught up in
the UFO myth.
   Two fundamental observations should perhaps be offered
before proceeding to my particular bone of contention: how
UFOlogy's world destruction fantasies should be interpreted.
Ring's finding that UFO encounterers believe in alternate
realities will prove to be crucial in the inevitable
questions about their reality-testing skills and definitions
of psychopathology. Second, the compelling linkages between
near-death experiences and UFO encounters will prove to be
eventually explicable in terms of the neurophysiology of the
brain in crisis. The self-observed inversion of behaviorial
patterns after near-death experiences and UFO-related mental
states has obvious parallels in the generalized reversal of
conditioned behavior observed by Pavlov when some dogs
nearly drowned in a flood at his lab. He subsequently
achieved the same result by means of torture. Ring's
findings suggest a significant portion of UFO experiences
are a product of transient or reactive paranoid psychosis.
This does not exclude other obvious mechanisms such as
nightmares, active imaginations, and hoaxing from being
reasons for alleged UFO experiences. No one should expect
every experience to be explicable by a single process.
   The treatment of world destruction fantasies among UFO
experiencers by Ring is the topic I choose to focus on here
because it is a subject which has captured my theoretical
interest in the past . (See "Dying Worlds, Dying Selves,"
_Ufo Brigantia_ #47, Jan. 1991, pp. 24-32, and "Ego Freakout
and Saucerers of Doom," _The Wild Places_ #3, late 1991, pp.
24-28.)
   Ring found that fully 85 percent of UFO experiencers
report an increase in their concern for planetary welfare --
60 percent said it strongly increased. This provides a nice
panoramic backdrop against which to view a study of Bedroom
Visitor Contacts by Jenny Randles in her 1983 book _Ufo
Reality_, which found the motif of imminent earth catastrophe
as a reason for alien visitation in 28 percent of the cases
of this form of UFO experience.This also provides solid
support for the often expressed sentiment that end-of-the-
world style beliefs are an unusually repetitive feature to
UFO experiences. Certainly, it is a feature of the UFO
landscape which is hard to overlook.
   Ring echoes the consensus that the message of apocalypse
pervades the literature of UFO abductions. He brings us
Betty Andreasson's abductions and the portents of ecological
horror in _The Watchers_ as a prominent example. He shuns
Raymond Fowler's literal acceptance of her experiences as
truly extraterrestrial, but he feels "the message" should
not be ignored. There is a sensitivity among abductees to
the concerns of ozone depletion and deforestation.
Confronted with somewhat similar yet somewhat different
nuclear annihilation concerns of contactees, he squeezes
them into his schema by regarding them as a similar species
of ecological consciousness. Ring advances a theoretical
construct termed "Mind at Large" that senses that the planet
is now imperiled and releases seeds of salvation into
mentally fertile humans to later flower with prophecy.
Abductions reflect dark forebodings and intuitions that
dress messages in space age fascinations to steal our
attention and awaken us to the planet's plight before it is
too late. They are a diagnostic warning coded in symbols and
images which, correctly interpreted, spurs us to right
action.
   This all sounds hopefully rational and leaves one with
the gentle glow that abductions are really important after
all and not the waste of time they can seem when the
spaceship model is found in the attic or the current guru
shoots himself in the foot. The glow fades, however, in the
cold dark of history. Most alien prophecies of cataclysm
over the decades have no evident ecological component.
Contactees have warned of cosmic debris clouds, comets of
doom, colliding suns, nuclear firestorms, and our planet
blowing up. The most common scenario in the literature has
the earth flipping over with the continents sinking Atlantis-
like into the drink. Trying to decode these images into
environmental concerns would require elaborate and dubious
apologetics. Moreover, the aliens rarely request political
or other substantial action. They ask us to be good and
transmit good vibes,which environmentalists would not regard
as a helpful response.
   The prophecies have an absurd air of caricature.
Andreasson warns that mankind will soon become extinct
through sterility _ an outrageously perverse sentiment in
the context of earth's ballooning population. Aliens
repeatedly warn that human actions threaten "the balance of
the universe." Can aliens be that astronomically illiterate
or contactees be that prideful of human powers? Dates for
the end-time cataclysm have been repeatedly set and
repeatedly shown to be wrong. Why does the Mind at Large
present its message in a roundabout way, so
overdramatically, so irrationally? If the planet is in
peril, why not say it straight out and present the argument
in a reasonable form?
   World destruction fantasies have been with humans since
aboriginal times and pervade mythology and cultural history.
This suggest a more uniformitarian approach involving human
psychology as its locus of genesis. In fact, psychologists
have already done some thinking on world destruction
fantasies since they encountered them often in their work.
The idea which seems to have gained widest acceptance is
that they represent projections of an internal catastrophe.
The self when faced with death and mental disintegration
expresses its personal loss of stability through a metaphor
involving the fate of the world. Such fantasies have long
been known to occur in conjunction with paranoid fantasies
and within states of reactive psychosis. Triggers include
certain forms of individual crisis events, organic brain
dysfunction, and hallucinogens, such as LSD.
   That the genesis is personal and not societal or some
quasi-transpersonal external Mind at Large is sometimes
reasonably apparent. Andreasson's prophecies of sterility
make simple projective sense when we recall her painful
memories of having had a hysterectomy that necessitated an
abortion. To speak of the balance of the universe may puzzle
one at first in its blatant derangement, but to fear one's
own balance of mind is threatened by the fears prompted by
nuclear annihilation is easily understood. This will perhaps
seem to be a species of interpretation analogous to Ring,
but the intent is not to decode a message but to unscramble
a fiction to recognize its creative mechanisms and
understand why a UFO experience should not fool you to think
it should be treated with the same respect as a logician's
syllogism.
   Ultimately, world destruction fantasies should be seen
more as a diagnostic sign that the UFO mythos is a paranoid
delusion than as an omen of the fate of the world sent by a
cryptic Mind at Large. Ring may have gotten the wrong angle
on the data in this instance, but, on the positive side, at
least he did not follow Fowler into naive apocalyptic belief
that Andreasson is literally correct. Abductions, I safely
predict, will be explained by known psychological processes.
The Omega Project, knowingly and unknowingly, is proving to
be an important advance in demonstrating that proposition.

[Martin Kottmeyer is a regular contributor to _The REALL
News_ and has written for several British publications,
including _Magonia_, _UFO Brigantia_, and _The Wild Places_.
He lives in Carlyle, Illinois.]

		   ==============================
The report of my death was an exaggeration.
		-- Mark Twain

[Death is] nature's way of telling you to slow down.
		-- _Newsweek_ (4/25/60)

		   ==============================

                        A Nod to our Patrons

REALL would like to thank our patron members.  Through their extra
generosity, REALL is able to continue to grow as a force for critical
thinking in Central Illinois.  Patron members are those giving $50
or more.  To become a patron of REALL, please see the membership form
below.  Patron members are:

     Alan Burge, D.D.S., Pekin         Wally Hartshorn, Springfield
     David Bloomberg, Springfield      Bob Ladendorf, Springfield

		   ==============================

    BUY PROMETHEUS BOOKS THROUGH REALL AND GET A 20% DISCOUNT NOW

We are placing an order as soon as we have a minimum of 10 books.  To
order through REALL or to get a Prometheus Books catalog, come to the
next meeting, or send us a check for the book(s) minus 20% + $1 for
shipping and pick u the book(s) at a following meeting, or call us.

		   ==============================

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		 Predictions for Future Issues

* Current Research Updates on Top Ten Paranormal/Fringe Science Activities
* Paranormal Beliefs in Medieval Times
* The End of the World!
* Using Computer Bulletin Boards for skeptical information
* Who is Susan Blackmore?

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			Skeptics Online

If you have a computer and a modem, you owe it to yourself to
participate in the skeptic message areas on the computer BBS
networks.  Here in Springfield, call The Temples of Syrinx at
(217) 787-9101.  David Bloomberg operates this BBS, which carries
the FidoNet SKEPTIC, EVOLUTION and UFO conferences, internationally
distributed message areas for discussing topics of interest to
skeptics.  He is also carrying ParaNet conferences, all dedicated
to UFO and paranormal topics.  You can also find a wide variety of
skeptic text files.

	     The Temples of Syrinx -- (217) 787-9101
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REALL News

Last modified Sun Jul 07 02:05:31 1996. Email comments to whartsho@mail.fgi.net