The REALL News


The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association
		      of Lincoln Land

Volume 1, Number 11                                December 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 -- Bob Ladendorf
From the Chairman -- David Bloomberg
The Five "Laws" of Quack Science -- Roy Auerbach
Pseudo-Science Terminology -- David Bloomberg
REALLity Check -- 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.

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).

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.


			  From The Editor
			 -- Bob Ladendorf

   Since February, when REALL was started, we have
published an issue a month. At the risk of patting ourselves
on the back, it's an accomplishment rarely done in my
experience. More often than not, newsletters have been more
"periodic" than regular.
   With 1994 about to burst upon us, I wanted to thank our
readers, supporters, and colleagues for encouraging our
skeptical inquiries. I also want to let you know that the
best is yet to come_we're planning a special, 12-page
anniversary issue in February, a full index of the first
year's writings, and lots of new articles on a range of
subjects, from "alien suckers" to an encouraging update on
the CBS/Sun "documentary" controversy.
   Speaking about the coming year and REALL's second year,
I wanted to mention that there is a third constant besides
death and taxes_it's renewal time! Yes, please save some of
that holiday money for a renewal to The REALL News. Just
check the expiration date on your newsletter label and renew
as early as you can.
   With the start of the new year, we are making our
January newsletter as the first issue of  Volume 2. So don't
look for a Volume 1, #12. You won't miss an issue.
   Happy Holidays!

					/s/ Bob Ladendorf


			 From the Chairman
			-- David Bloomberg

   Membership renewal time is drawing near for many of us.
I can tell because the REALL bank account is steadily
getting tinier and tinier (it was never very large). Also,
my renewal date is stamped on my mailing label. This will be
an important time for REALL, since the number of you who
renew will tell us how good a job we've been doing and will
determine what kind of activities we can engage in next
   We'd like to continue to bring you a high-quality
monthly newsletter, help educate the public through
outreaches such as the Illinois State Teachers Association
conference, and bring in speakers and presentations of
interest to our members. We'd also like to expand our
membership, become an official non-profit organization, and
engage in special projects to help educate the public. For
all of these things, we need money. (Yes, we even need to
pay to become a non-profit organization!)
   I don't want to turn this column into a plea for extra
donations, and I've never even considered sending out fund-
raising letters (you probably get enough of those pleas and
letters during this season anyway). I just want to ask you
to remember to renew your membership if you have enjoyed
this newsletter and/or our meetings and share our goals.  If
you have the capability, I'd also like to ask you to
consider becoming a Patron member of REALL. As the
membership form says, we will be eternally grateful!
   On a related topic, REALL is always looking for ways to
expand our membership to include everybody in Central
Illinois who is interested, but may not even know we exist.
Our members are probably the best judges of who may or may
not be interested. We have offered a gift or trial
subscription from our inception, but have not talked much
about it.  Recently, a few people have taken advantage of it
to let their friends know about REALL.
   For only $3, you can get a 3-month subscription for your
child's science teacher, your friend who shares your views
but keeps forgetting to borrow your issues of The REALL
News, your younger brother who is just starting to learn
about science, or anybody else you think might be
interested. The gift recipient will receive a letter from me
telling them who bought it for them and explaining what
REALL is all about. Gift subscriptions are probably the best
way to reach potential new members, as you can act as the
judge of who may be interested, rather than the "usual"
method of simply taking names off a mailing list.
   Well, I think I've preached to you long enough. So, bye
for now, and I'll talk to you again next year!

					/s/ David Bloomberg


		       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 Illinois.  Patron members are those giving $50 or more.
To become a patron of REALL, please see the membership form at the 
end of this issue.  Patron members are:

Alan Burge, D.D.S., Pekin		Wally Hartshorn, Springfield

David Bloomberg, Springfield		Bob Ladendorf, Springfield


                  The Five "Laws" of Quack Science
                          by Roy Auerbach

   [Editor's Note: This article is a summary of remarks
given by Roy Auerbach, a member of the Executive Committee
of The Association for Rational Thought in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Permission to edit the remarks for readers of The REALL News
was given by the organization.]

   Quackery and sound science are not clearly
distinguishable categories. Although some sciences are easy
to assign to one category or the other, some contain
elements of both, and sorting them out requires careful
investigation. Mere weirdness does not automatically consign
a science to quackery -- legitimate science considers such
far-out topics as alternative universes and wormholes.
   The first law of quack science is *Think Big*. Quack
sciences rarely concern anything less expansive than a
theory of the origin of the universe, or least the solar
system. Another favorite target of quack science is the
discovery of extraordinary significance, for example, an
anti-gravity device, or cold fusion, touted as the solution
to the world's energy problems. Quack sciences are also
likely to take on the giants of sound science, rarely
attacking the lowly assistant professor, preferring instead
to claim that Einstein (or Newton, Pauling, or Feynman) was
   The second law of quack science is *Think Difficult*. The
laws of a quack science are usually claimed to be very
difficult to verify. Some researchers may be able to detect
the effect, others are not. The effect appears to be
sporadic for undetermined reasons. Equipment that detects
the effect reliably seems to be hard to come by. The claim
is often made that the effect is just beyond the reach of
current scientific technology. These same problems occur in
sound science, too. But in time, they vanish from sound
science as better methods are developed. Quack science is
rarely blessed with such progress, and the difficulties
   The laws proposed by quack science may be difficult to
verify for other reasons -- equipment may be unavailable for
inspection, procedures may be unobservable, raw data may be
missing, and summary data may not be published in a usable
form. Such weaseling occurs in legitimate science, too. It
is occasional rather than systematic, however, and is not
tolerated by an alert scientific community. Research which
is unavailable for thorough inspection and replication is
eventually discarded by sound science.
   The third law of quack science is the *Rule of Paranoia*:
"I'm a genius and they're out to get me." Often the quack
scientist views himself or herself as brilliant, which may
explain the characteristic tendency to take on the giants of
science like Einstein. They are also likely to view
themselves as victims of persecution. Fellow scientists are
seen as dishonest blockheads who reject the quack
scientist's papers, grant applications, and requests for
promotion. Huge organizations--the government, business, the
"Eastern Establishment," the Trilateral Commission_repress
his work. This is a fairly reasonable position to take,
considering the reaction of sound scientists to quack
efforts. The quack may not be a genius, but legitimate
scientists may very well be out to attack her or his
research. The uproar over cold fusion is a good example of
this characteristic of quack science.
   Fourth, quack science is likely to adhere to a
characteristic law of dissemination: *No Criticism Allowed*.
A typical maneuver is to release the astounding findings to
the press before they are available to the scientific
community in standard refereed journals. The refereed
journals may be passed over in favor of self-publication,
where no hyper-critical fellow researchers can slow the flow
of information by objecting to the methods used. Publication
in conference proceedings, also unrefereed, is another
typical path for the dissemination of quack science. The
common effect shared by these methods is the production of
citable, quotable, published research unimpeded by peer
review. This allows the public to absorb the new alleged
findings in the absence of immediate critical response.
   And finally, the quack scientist is typically a *Lonely
Hero of the Laboratory*, isolated in his or her discovery.
Scientific advances normally are produced through a social
process that involves communities of scientists over
time--new findings are often not unexpected and are usually
compatible with earlier work. The quack scientific
discovery, however, is likely to arrive out of the blue,
unsupported by previous research. The isolation of the work
is often apparent in the exclusive lingo used to clothe the
research--terminology unheard of in mainstream science.


                     Pseudo-Science Terminology
                         by David Bloomberg

   Several months ago, we here at _The REALL News_ heard from
some REALL members that we were tossing around terms that
weren't necessarily commonly known.  Our original intent was
to provide a glossary of terms. Due to the size of the
project, and the size of other projects at the same time, we
haven't been able to put this together yet.  However, the
reader may consider this the first of an irregular series of
articles discussing terms used frequently in the skeptical
literature and debate.

                        Young vs. Old

   While we have a tendency to paint all creationists with
the same brush, they are actually quite a varied bunch who
often argue as much among themselves as they do with
scientists. They can generally be broken down into two main
groups:  young-earth and old-earth.
   Young-earth creationists generally believe that the
universe was created exactly as the Bible states. They are
also often referred to a Bible literalists. In other words,
the universe, earth, man, etc. was created in six days.
   Old-earth creationists are not as literal. They still
believe that man was created as-is, without evolution, but
they admit the scientific evidence showing that the earth is
a great deal older than 6,000 years or so. They generally
reconcile this with their religious beliefs by assigning
each "day" of biblical creation to an "age" lasting millions
of years.
   To some young-earth creationists, old-earth creationism
is simply a "cop-out." This was the response I received when
talking to the young-earth creationist I met at the Illinois
Science Teachers Association annual conference in October.
Indeed, as I mentioned, young-earth creationists often spend
as much time attacking the old-earth creationists as they do
   It should be noted that both of these groups are totally
against evolution and differ mainly in their acceptance or
rejection of geological evidence. Both reject fossil and
biological evidence.
   I hate to further confuse things, but I feel I must make
one rather long side note. A well-known creationist recently
polled American citizens and claimed that 80 percent of them
were "creationists". The survey's question, however, was
something similar to:  "Do you believe in a creator God?" He
assumed that anybody who answered positively was a
creationist. This is a false assumption. It is quite
possible to believe in a creator God without rejecting
evolution. There are many people who believe that God
created the universe through the Big Bang (or a similar
method) and then created man through evolution.
Creationists, both young-earth and old-earth, would
certainly never accept this.  But this is a belief, and as
such, has no place in scientific argument. Did God create
the Big Bang? It is quite impossible to say scientifically.
Since REALL only deals with scientifically-testable claims,
this falls outside the boundary of our area.
   There are mounds of scientific evidence to support
evolution. There is no scientific evidence to support
creationism. The Supreme Court has ruled that the teaching
of creationism is tantamount to the teaching of religion,
and thus forbidden in public schools.  When creationists,
whether young-earth or old-earth, attack evolution as
"another belief system," they ignore these simple facts.


                         REALLity Check
                       by David Bloomberg

      For a welcome change, there are a lot of "hurrahs" to go
around in this edition of "REALLity Check."

                      College Campus Cults

   The first of our "hurrahs" goes to the _Illinois Times_,
which reported about the Champaign-Urbana Church of Christ
(Oct. 21), a group widely considered to be a cult.  _20/20_
also did a similar story a few weeks earlier on the national
group related to the C-U one. The article discussed some of
the methods used by the group to ensnare new members, along
with the general spread of cults on college campus.
   Cults on campus feed on the insecurities of new students
out away from home. They use this to make students feel more
secure in their group, often having them sever all ties
besides those to the cult.
   In fact, the _Daily Illini_ had done a lengthy
investigative report on the C-U Church of Christ
approximately four years ago. At the time of that article, I
had a letter to the editor published about my next-door
neighbor, who had been a member of the group for a school
year. This neighbor told me of how the group instructed
members to ignore outsiders, including friends and family.
They also, according to the article and my friend, practice
what I would call "seedy" recruiting tactics, including
getting a recruit to spill his or her guts to a church
member, who then would tell the Bible-study leader. The
Bible-study leader would then pick out appropriate passages
for that recruit, but act as if they were random, or
straight from God. In this way, it would seem to the recruit
that God was speaking directly to him or her.
   So, if this cult was exposed four years ago, why are
they still around, continuing the same practices? This is
not an easy question to answer. For one thing, colleges
always have a continuing influx of possible new recruits.
It's unlikely that even seniors now remember the story done
by the _Daily Illini_ so long ago. I would probably not even
remember it if it hadn't struck so close to home.
   Also, cults seem, in many ways, like con games. We may
be able to teach a few people to avoid them, but there are
still far too many out there who fall prey. Education is the
best weapon against cults, but we cannot educate those who
refuse to learn.
   It seems that cults are on the rise, and this is
something that will become especially widespread as we
approach the year 2000, which seems to hold a magical
significance to many cults.
   In response to this article, the _Illinois Times_
published my letter in the next issue, which contained much
of the information above.
   In related news, the _Chicago Tribune_ reported (Dec. 8)
on an Illinois Senate Education Committee public forum
dealing with cults on college campuses, mainly focusing on
the same group discussed above. Former church members,
including one whose parents had him wrested away, testified,
calling it "abusive" and "destructive" and claiming that
"mind control" was used.

                    Illinois Creationism

   The _Illinois Times_ receives a second "hurrah" for their
November 24 cover story on the evolution/creation debate in
Illinois public schools. REALL member Professor Malcolm
Levin was among those interviewed for and quoted in the
   They did a great job in presenting the facts of the
issue (National Center for Science Education Director, Dr.
Eugenie Scott, gave it a thumbs up) and highlighted the fact
that anybody who realizes that evolution is the key to
biology is not automatically "anti-God."  Unfortunately,
this fact seems to have been missed by at least one letter
writer (Dec. 2), who stated in a letter in the following
issue that evolution is a godless religion. But a later long
letter (Dec. 9) made a number of very good points about
science and creationism. In addition, a letter from REALL
was printed, describing our group and how we can help get
out information on creationism and other pseudo-science to
anybody who is interested.

                     Spirits or Parents?

   The _Chicago Tribune_ reported (Oct. 9) that an Arizona
psychologist lost his license to practice after he used
exorcism as a "treatment" for a 10-year-old boy.
   The boy had allegedly been beaten, tortured, etc. by his
parents, and is now in the care of a foster family. The
psychologist claims it was his exorcism that "cured" the
boy. I tend to think it more likely that it has something to
do with being away from the torture and beatings.
   This psychologist had actually been given a warning and
probation for using exorcism as treatment in the past. He
even says, "It's a sad state when the board can't recognize
prayer as treatment."  No, it's a sad state when a
psychologist, who should be trained in such matters, thinks
that prayer is a valid treatment.  Hurrahs to the state

                   Dateline Does It Again

   Our fourth "hurrah" of this issue goes once again to
_Dateline NBC_ for coverage of a story on alternative medicine
(Nov. 2).  Earlier this year, _Dateline_ exposed homeopathy
and some homeopathic practitioners for selling water and
ethanol as "medicine." This time, they hit a specific
doctor, Kurt Donsbock (I'm not really sure if that's the
correct spelling, but that's the way I'm going to spell it
for this article) for selling his supposed cancer cure south
of the border.
   Dr. Donsbock claims that he has been persecuted by the
medical profession, and law enforcement apparently things he
is a quack, so he moved to Mexico to build his own hospital.
There he charges $10,000 for a three-week treatment,
apparently mostly consisting of hydrogen peroxide "therapy"
that is supposed to give the body more oxygen to help fight
the cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, says there
is no evidence that such "therapy" helps; in fact it may
   So how can Donsbock make those claims? He has a video
claiming a 70 percent  remission/recovery rate. But those
people featured in the video as success stories don't seem
to be as successful as he would like us to think. One, in
fact, does seem to have gone into remission, but there are
cases of spontaneous remissions in medical history. The
other 4, however, all used conventional treatment in
addition to Donsbock's "therapy."  In fact, one is a paid
employee of his, and one has died from the cancer that he
implies was cured in the video.
   That would seem to close the book on Donsbock -- but
wait, there's more!  It seems that Donsbock is not actually
an M.D., but a "graduate chiropractor" with a doctorate in
naturopathy. Do you think that's bad enough?  It gets worse.
According to _Dateline NBC_, there were no such courses at the
college from which he claims to have gotten his degree at
that time. He, however, insists his degree is valid. The
authorities in Oregon seem to disagree with him, and claim
his degree is counterfeit, and suspect that two other
medical certificates that he has are also counterfeit. For
one thing, his name is misspelled exactly the same on each
of those three (now you see why I don't know how to spell
his name).
   When confronted by this evidence during his _Dateline_
interview, he denied it and then got up and walked away,
saying the interview was over, and kicking the reporter out.
   Surely, that had to be the end of it?  Nope, there is
one more straw on the camel's back. One of _Dateline's_
producers ordered some "nutritional supplements" from a
company that, according to the report, is associated with
Donsbock's hospital. That supplement was tested and found to
be about 50 percent methamphetamine (speed). When _Dateline_
presented this evidence to him as they were being kicked
out, he called the reporter a liar and, later, his lawyer
wrote to them saying he had no connection to the mail order
   So he continues to complain that he is being persecuted.
_Dateline_ showed some footage of him speaking to his
patients, and he acted more like a preacher than a doctor. I
expected them to break out in song, "We will overcome...".
But perhaps he needs to learn the difference between
persecution and prosecution.

                      High Profile FMS

   I have often wondered what it would take to bring
something like false memory syndrome (FMS) more into the
public eye and had thought that a high-profile accusation
was probably what would do it. Little did I know that such a
case was right around the corner.
   For those of you who have been out of the country in
recent weeks, Cardinal Bernardin, of Chicago, has been
accused of molesting a man some 20 years ago in Cincinnati,
but the man claims he just recently remembered the incidents
under therapy. I would not dare to say whether the charges
are true or not--that's what our court system is for--but the
charges have brought media focus on the issue of FMS.
   For two Sundays in a row (Nov. 14, Nov. 21), the _Chicago
Tribune_ featured front-page articles on FMS. These articles
featured interviews with psychologists examining FMS cases,
as well as with people who had undergone therapy and are now
claiming that their therapist caused the formation of false
   So, a conditional "hurrah" goes to the general media for
finally realizing that there is something strange going on
in these cases. But it is unfortunate that a high-profile
case is necessary before the media and public even realize
that a controversy exists. There are already probably
innocents in jail for molestation that simply never
happened, while some therapists continue to tell their
patients that, "If you think you might have been molested,
you have been."


A special membership survey was included in the regular version of
this issue.  Since members are the ones being surveyed, and it is
highly unlikely that they will be reading this version instead of
the paper version, the survey has not been reproduced here.



		 Predictions for Future Issues

* Who Is Ray Hyman?
* Alien Suckers


			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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Last modified Sun Jul 07 02:05:33 1996. Email comments to whartsho@mail.fgi.net