The REALL News


The official newsletter of the Rational Examination Association
		      of Lincoln Land

Volume 2, Number 8                                   August 1994

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
A Challenge to Federal & State Agencies -- James Randi
Alternative Medicine: Entertainment vs. News at NBC -- David Bloomberg
Scooby Doo, Where Are You? -- Tim Madigan


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, Kevin Brown; Newsletter
Editor, Bob Ladendorf; At-Large Members, Prof. Steve Egger, Wally
Hartshorn, and Frank Mazo.

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

   One of our more unusual pieces published in this
newsletter is this month's Scooby Doo article by Tim
Madigan, which is reprinted from CSICOP's _Skeptical
Briefs_. I remember watching the cartoon years ago with my
oldest son and mocking the cracked voice of Scooby. Now,
after thinking back on Scooby after reading Tim's article, I
was struck by the skepticism Scooby displayed. If only all
the kids growing up today were as critical. Thanks, Tim, for
reminding us of the fact that there are more ways than the
written word to teach skepticism.
   Our feature article by author James Randi is a wonderful
summary of pseudoscientific claims and a questioning of
governmental indifference to scientific testing of them.
Randi's article is an excellent follow-up to the videotape
we showed at July's meeting. His efforts to question
explanations of and beliefs in pseudoscientific and
paranormal phenomena have won him wide acclaim. Currently,
he continues to lecture on the subject, punctuating his
talks with wonderful magic tricks, and writes a regular
column for the _Skeptic_ magazine.
   REALL Chairman David Bloomberg takes on a TV network in
a REALLity Check Special article on alternative medicine. As
he points out, though, that same network also can broadcast
critical pieces of the same subject matter!
   We hope you enjoy our challenging articles this month,
and be sure to send us your comments and any clips of
interest to REALL.

					/s/ Bob Ladendorf


			 From the Chairman
			-- David Bloomberg

   Last month, we saw a video presentation of James "The
Amazing" Randi from the Skeptics' Lecture Series at
CalTech.This month, we will see another one from the series.
REALL bought these tapes from the Skeptics Society, and
almost half of the cost of the first one was paid for by
donations given at the meeting. We would like to show more
of these videos, and need your suggestions. Below is a list
of the videos currently available. If you would like to see
any of these, please let us know. Additionally, if you would
like to contribute to the cost of getting these tapes
($14.95 each when we buy three or more), let us know if
you'd like that donation to go to a specific tape or to any
we get.
   These tapes will become part of REALL's "library." We
will soon work out a policy for borrowing of these tapes
from REALL. Watch this space for more info!
   In addition, CSICOP has graciously made the "Beyond
Belief" video available to us.

   Here is the videotape list:

* The Origins of Skepticism and the JFK Assassination, by
Dr. Richard Popkin, UCLA.
* Mathemagics: How To Look Like A Genius Without Really
Trying, by Dr. Arthur Benjamin, Harvey Mudd College.
* Repressed Memories, False Memories, & Therapy Cults, by
Dr. John Hochman, Forensic Psychiatrist.
* Can Science Cheat Death? Cryonics and Life Extension, by
Mike Darwin, Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
* Mysterious and Amazing Atmospheric Phenomena, by Dr.
Bernard Leikind, Plasma Physicist, General Atomics.
* Facilitated Communication: Mental Miracle or Slight of
Hand? by Dr. Gina Green, Director of Research, New England
Center for Autism.
* The Use and Abuse of Statistics in "The Real World," by
Dr. Judith Grabiner, CSU, San Bernadino.
* Witches, Spirits, and Science in History, by Dr. Richard
Olson, Harvey Mudd College.
* The Evolution of Human Creativity and Language, by Dr.
Jared Diamon, Physiologist, UCLA Medical School.
* Skeptical Magic & Awards Night, with Penn & Teller and
James "The Amazing" Randi.
* Altered States and the Quest for Transcendence, by Dr.
Michael Shermer, Director, Skeptics Society, Science
* Evolution and Creationism: How to Debate a Creationist, by
Dr. Michael Shermer (Special 4.5 hour seminar).
* Magic and the Psychology of the Psychic and the Believer,
by mentalist Mark Edward.
* The Devil Made Me Do It! The Decline of Personal
Responsibility, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Radio
* Is E.T. Out There? The Search for Extra-Terrestrial
Intelligence, by Dr. Thomas McDonough, CalTech and SETI.
* Pseudoscience, Witch Crazes, & Chaos of Mass Hysterias, by
Dr. Michael Shermer, Director, Skeptics Society, Science
* Afrocentrism, Racism, and other Myths, by Dr. Yahudi
Webster, CSU, Los Angeles.
* A Skeptical Seance: Magic & the Paranormal in Honor of
Houdini & Halloween, by mentalist Mark Edward.
* Science Fair and Firewalk: The Physics Behind the
Psychics, with Dr. Bernard Leikind, Ron Ebert, Mark
* Pseudohistory: Holocaust Revisionism, by Dr. Michael
Shermer, Director, Skeptics Society, Science Historian.

   Also, remember folks that we still have the 20% discount
available on Prometheus Books! A new one has just come out
about "psychic detectives," and even has a chapter on Greta
Alexander! We only need a few more books to send in our
order, so hurry up and get your order to us ASAP!

					/s/ David Bloomberg


                       by James Randi

                      Animal Magnetism.

     Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), a Viennese medical
doctor who had written his dissertation on the effects of
the planets on the health of the human body after seeing a
healing demonstration by a priest named Hell, formed the
belief that magnets could induce healing powers in those who
held them. He displayed the procedure, which he called
animal magnetism, during popular sessions that he held for
French society, beginning in 1778. The phenomenon soon was
dubbed Mesmerism.
   His soirees were theatrical rather than therapeutic, and
the creme of French aristocracy elbowed one another aside
for the privilege of seeing customers sitting around a huge
vat of acid (called a baquet), holding on to iron devices
immersed in the solution, while the master, dressed in a
trailing lilac-colored robe of gold-flowered silk, gestured
with his ivory wand at entranced socialites who gurgled,
sighed, and moaned when they weren't screaming in ecstasy at
this, their latest very expensive diversion.
   An investigation of Mesmer in 1784 by the French Academy
of Sciences, in the company of U.S. ambassador Benjamin
Franklin, brought the conclusion that Mesmer was merely
using suggestion and that the clients were the usual silly
segment of the populace who support such fads. The test of
Mesmer's claims was simple, direct, inexpensive and

                      Rays from Nancy.

     Then in 1903, Professor Prosper Ren Blondlot, a
distinguished physicist of the city of Nancy, France,
announced his discovery of strange radiations that he said
emanated from every substance _ except green wood and pieces
of metal that had been "anesthetized" by dipping them into
chloroform or ether. The apparent existence of these rays
was soon confirmed by dozens of scientists around the world
through scientific papers submitted to science journals.
However, the majority of physicists declined to take
Blondlot's claims seriously, and waited for the "discovery"
to be revealed as a grave error of an otherwise competent
   A single physicist, American Robert Wood, was sent in to
Blondlot's lab by the British Association of Scientists and
after a simple procedure to test the claim without alerting
the French scientists, reported his results to Nature
magazine (then, as now, one of the leading science
journals). Wood showed the French savants that not only were
their experimental processes faulty, but their "rays" were
totally imaginary.

                 Mystery Rays from Germany.

     The disastrous affair of the "N-rays" thoroughly
embarrassed the French -- and the scientific world. It
provides us with the single most effective and important
example of scientific error through experimenter bias and
expectation, an example which might well be improved upon by
the present German fascination with the equally imaginary E-
rays in Germany, where the idea originated, as
"Erdestrahlen" or "earth rays." They are said to be
radiations that are emitted from unknown sources deep in the
ground, giving rise to "hot spots," and causing cancer.
These rays, say believers, cannot be detected by any sort of
instruments, but are believed to exist because dowsers
(those strange folks with forked sticks) -- and only dowsers
-- can sense them.
   In Germany, these invisible rays and hot spots are
accepted by almost everyone, even governmental agencies, who
pay dowsers to indicate to them how to relocate the desks of
federal employees away from the positions where E-rays can
intercept them; hospital beds are similarly moved about to
protect patients from cancer.
   Professors H. L. Konig and H. D. Betz of Munich, two
German authors of a highly supportive 1989 book on the
German government tests, refused to identify any of the
dowsers they tested in preparing their book, or even to put
the dowsers in touch with other researchers. Their reasons
for this lack of cooperation are not clear.

                        Magic Water.

     In the "alternate healing" modality known as homeopathy
we find an excellent example of an attempt to make
sympathetic magic work. Its founder, Samuel Hahnemann (1775-
1843), believed that all illnesses develop from only three
sources: syphilis, venereal warts, and what he called "the
   The motto of homeopathy is Similia similibus curantur
("Like cures like"). It claims that doses of substances that
produce certain symptoms will relieve those symptoms;
however, the "doses" are extremely attenuated solutions or
mixtures, so attenuated that not a single molecule of the
original substance remains. In fact, the homeopathic
corrective is actually pure water, nothing more. The theory
is that the vibrations or "effect" of the diluted-out
substance are still present and work on the patient.
Currently, researchers in homeopathy are examining a new
notion that water can be magnetized and can transmit its
medicinal powers by means of a copper wire.
   The royal family of England adopted homeopathy at its
very beginning and have retained a homeopathic physician on
staff ever since.
   The only concern of homeopaths is to treat the symptoms
of disease, rather than the basic causes, which they do not
recognize. Thus homeopathy correctly falls into the category
of magic.
   In 1988, a team (including the author) organized by
Nature magazine visited France to examine the claims of a
scientist there who had carried out what appeared to be
correctly implemented, properly designed tests of a basic
homeopathic claim, with a sufficiently large data base from
which to draw the conclusion that the claim was genuine. He
also asserted that his results had been independently
replicated by other labs. A simple three-day examination of
his methods and results showed that there was much to be
desired in them, and a subsequent attempted replication by
another laboratory indicated that this claim of homeopathy
was invalid.

                Hot Interest in Cold Fusion.

     We are currently still toying with the idea that the
notion of "cold fusion," a system which is claimed to be
able to produce massive amounts of atomic energy cleanly,
cheaply and effectively endlessly, may be valid, largely
because of the millions of dollars that various agencies and
other sponsors have poured into it, in spite of the careful
appraisal of the scientific world that has rejected it as
poor science.

                  Perpetual Emotion, Again.

     A Mississippi man named Joe W. Newman actually obtained
signatures from 30 scientists who said his "free energy"
machine -- which is in actuality a huge direct-current motor
powered by a massive stack of batteries -- is a valid
invention. The Mississippi Board of Energy & Transport
invested several million dollars in Mr. Newman's device.
Newman, who holds other valid patents for ideas that really
do work -- one is a cigarette-making machine, thus showing
another of his contributions to mankind -- refuses to accept
the "perpetual motion" label for his design, insisting that
it is a "free energy" idea. However, if the output of his
machine is simply connected to the input, he should have an
ever-running system. This he has apparently never managed --
or tried -- to do.

                *** The Burning Question ***

     These few examples, from many such available, give rise
to this simple question: why is it such a difficult matter
to convince any federal agencies in this country to perform
simple, inexpensive tests of such matters as homeopathy,
chiropractic, perpetual motion, dowsing, polygraphs,
graphology, astrology, Christian Science healing and other
easily tested notions that add to the public's confusion and
distraction, as well as causing irreparable financial,
physical and emotional damage?
   The National Institutes of Health, given $3,000,000 by
an eager congressman, has frittered away that funding by
doling out more than thirty grants to practitioners of
various forms of quackery and very doubtful science -- not
to test the basic claims of their specialties, but to
examine various applications and parameters of totally
unsubstantiated methodologies. What's needed are
uncomplicated tests of the methodologies themselves, not
their corollaries. One does not examine the Santa Claus myth
by measuring chimneys to find out if a fat man in a red suit
can squeeze down them.
   If Ben Franklin could do this simple task so effectively
more than two centuries ago, surely we can do it today? And
if we don't, what is the reason?

   [This article was transmitted over the Internet by Mr.
Randi on June 27, 1994.]


    Alternative Medicine:  Entertainment vs. News at NBC

         A REALLity Check Special by David Bloomberg

   NBC aired another in its series of supposed
documentaries in the form of _Cured! Secrets of Alternative
Healing_ (7/5). This was a documentary in the same sense
those CBS/Sun Pictures shows were documentaries_for those of
you new to _The REALL News_, this is NOT a compliment.
   Essentially, this show was the same as we have come to
expect: Get some quotes from a skeptic, then bash him around
with anecdotal stories and bad acting of scenes which
"really happened." Anybody who has followed the claims of
alternative medicine can guess the types of stories they
had. The show claimed, among other things: the bubonic
plague was cured with homeopathy (they claimed three times
as many people treated this way survived, but cited no
source); "qi" as used in ancient Chinese "medicine" has been
proven to be valid (to the contrary, it's been shown to have
no effect in every scientific study); homeopathy for your
pet works, and always remember that you must take into
account your dog's personality when prescribing homeopathic
"medicine" for him.
   James "The Amazing" Randi sent out two notes about this
schlockumentary via the Internet. Among his comments:
   "[Olympia] Dukakis, the actress, was the host guru,
proclaiming that everyone has a right to choose alternative,
cheaper modes of medical treatment. Ok, I accept that. BUT
   "It was the expected load of misinformation, wild claims
about totally unproven 'ancient wisdom' and 'alternative
   "How is it that NBC can choose to poison the
intellectual community to sell sponsor time? ... The
skeptics who did appear were edited beyond effectiveness."
   It almost goes without saying that I am in total
   However, if there is an amusing side to this (and it's
difficult to find one when a major network broadcasts an
irresponsible show which can lead those in need of medical
aid to useless treatments), it is the show that aired after
this one: _Dateline NBC_. They had a story about a specific
claim relating to alternative medicine and, frankly, they
skewered the practitioner (rightly so).
   Lucas Bovier (I'm guessing on the spelling here) resides
in the Dominican Republic and practices "ozone therapy" on
sick people. Why does he live there? Because he's wanted in
the U.S. for practicing medicine without a license. Where
did he get his M.D.? He didn't. He got his engineering
degree at a military school and is a former Green Beret.
That is his medical background.
   He claims his ozone therapy can cure pretty much
anything, ranging from the common cold to cancer and AIDS.
He claims to have a 90 percent success rate, yet when he
provided a list of "successes" to _Dateline_, they could not
find a single one among them. Instead, they found that
several were dead, several still very sick, and three in
remission from cancer. However, those three had undergone
conventional treatment for their cancer, and their doctors
said it was probably in remission before the ozone therapy.
   So how does this therapy supposedly work? Well, in the
case of cancer, the ozone is given through an IV, through
the skin, vaginally, anally, etc. Then the ozone (which is a
reactive form of oxygen) supposedly attacks the cancer
cells. Why does it only attack the cancer cells and not
healthy ones? Because healthy cells need oxygen and so
absorb the ozone, whereas cancer cells don't. Why don't
they? Because cancer cells are actually plant cells. How
does he prove that the ozone works? He shoots ozone onto a
rubber glove and the glove breaks up. Have you gotten all of
that? When _Dateline_ showed the film and interview to an
officer of the National Council Against Health Fraud, he
almost fell out of his chair laughing. I mean, where does
one begin when a guy claims cancer is a plant and that
because a gas attacks a rubber glove it can cure diseases?
   But Bovier says he doesn't need to do scientific
studies. He won't go to the medical establishment with his
wondrous discovery because they have lots of money and he
doesn't. Makes perfect sense, right? Wait, there's more. He
claims Magic Johnson's doctors came to him and learned ozone
therapy so they could cure him. Then they went back and used
the therapy on Johnson for two months, curing him of HIV.
Johnson's staff say no such thing ever occurred and,
unfortunately, Johnson is still HIV-positive. But wait,
there's more.
   _Dateline_ discussed the case of a woman who had
terminal cancer, and conventional medicine had done all they
could and lost the battle. So she gathered $12,000 and went
to Bovier. Her sister and mother, who went with her, started
to notice severe problems. When they pointed out these
problems (one allegation is that he didn't even use sterile
needles), they were asked to leave, at gunpoint, according
to the sister. They finally got their sick relative out of
the therapy_with the help of the U.S. Embassy_and back to a
Miami hospital, where she died shortly after. Did the cancer
kill her? Nope, it was blood poisoning. Remember the
allegations of non-sterile needles?
   So what did Bovier have to say about this? He said the
woman was "sacrificed" in order to try to convince the
Dominican government to extradite him back to the U.S. He
claimed that she was sent to die under his care as part of a
government plot against him.
   Funny how this guy didn't make it onto that show earlier
in the evening. Of course, that show was likely put on by
the entertainment division of NBC, while _Dateline_ is a
news division production (with the entertainment division
strictly out of any sort of input, ever since the GM truck
fiasco). The timing of the _Dateline_ show makes me wonder
if there isn't a small feud going on between the
entertainment and news divisions, or if it was just a happy
coincidence. Considering that this was _Dateline's_ third
investigation into alternative medicine claims, hopefully,
news will win out. But considering the ratings _Cured!_
probably got, I'm not counting on it.

   Randi also encouraged everybody to write to NBC and let
them know what we think of this nonsense being portrayed as
a "documentary". I would like to second that.  Here is the

   30 Rockefeller Plaza
   New York, NY 10112

   I would further suggest that somebody do a bit of
research and get a list of the advertisers, and then we can
send letters to them. Any takers?


                 Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
                       by Tim Madigan

   While in Winter Park, Florida, in April, temporarily
escaping the Buffalo snows, I met a _Skeptical Inquirer_
reader named John Clements. In the midst of a highly
esoteric conversation ranging from the origins of war to the
possibility of controlling human genetic evolution, he
mentioned in passing some information I found highly
disturbing: "Scooby Doo" is back on the air. My hair nearly
stood on end as I contemplated the return of a Saturday
morning cartoon I thought had met its natural end decades
ago. Visions of myself watching this inane and long-
forgotten show during my prepubescent years flashed through
my head. Perhaps this is what some psychologists have called
"repressed memories."
   But John cut short my withering comments with a strong
defense of the show. He reminded me--for I must admit I had
no real recollection of anything other than its maddeningly
incessant theme song, "Scooby-Doobie-Doo, Where are You?"--
that the cartoon actually espoused a skeptical message. The
title character, a talking dog with a speech impediment, and
his human colleagues Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy (the
last-named being a sort of poor man's Maynard G. Krebs),
were members of Mystery, Inc., an organization that
investigated supposed paranormal happenings. And they always
came up with a rational explanation at the end of each
   After this enlightening conversation, I visited a Winter
Park used book store and chanced upon a copy of _Scooby Doo
in the Haunted House_, which I promptly bought for a
quarter, along with a copy of Plato's _Republic_ and a book
on idiot savants. An eclectic collection, but only the
Scooby Doo book had pictures. It detailed the adventures of
Scooby and his friends (including his nephew, Scrappy Doo)
as they investigate a house supposedly haunted by the ghost
of a long-dead pirate. The gang does some exploring of the
old house, which is near the site of a soon-to-be-opened
superhighway. They discover that the owner's sister is
trying to scare him into selling his beloved home so that
she can make a big profit. She had lured him away from the
mansion for two weeks, and in that time hired a sound and
light crew to install an elaborate set-up to trick him. The
whole affair is discovered when the cowardly Scooby
accidentally falls through a fake chimney and lands on the
computer that had created the ghostly happenings.
   After reading this story, I gained a new found respect
for "Scooby Doo" and began to wonder if my own skeptical
attitude was not nurtured at the font of this cartoon from
my youth. Perhaps those Saturday mornings in front of the
television were not spent in vain. This was a cartoon with a
   Alas, John had given me a sad piece of information. The
revised "Scooby Doo," he said, has deviated from its
original theme, and become nothing more than a pale version
of Ghost Busters. The goblins and demons are treated as real
now, and there are no more rational denouements. Scooby Doo
is only a shell of his former self.
   Are we skeptics going to stand for such a bastardization
of a television classic? I say we rally to the cause, demand
the return of the original episodes, and appoint the chief
canine of Mystery, Inc. the official mascot of _Skeptical
Briefs_. Now, more than ever, Scooby-Doobie-Doo, we need

   {Tim Madigan is president of the Western New York

   [This article originally appeared in the June 1994 issue
of _Skeptical Briefs_, the newsletter of the Committee for
Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. It has
been reprinted with permission.]  [The paper copy also
featured a picture of the cover of the Scooby Doo book.
Subscribe to _The REALL News_ to make sure you don't miss
any further graphics!]


		      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:

David Bloomberg, Springfield    John Lockard, Jr., Urbana
David Brown, Danville           Robert Smet, Ph.D., Springfield
Alan Burge, D.D.S., Morton      Edward Staehlin, Park Forest
Wally Hartshorn, Springfield    Ranse Traxler, O'Fallon
Bob Ladendorf, Springfield


			Letters to the Editor

    We at REALL encourage letters to the editor about any article
or topic covered in The REALL News.  We want to make this a forum
for _all_ our members.  (Letters may be edited if too long.  Name,
address and phone number must be included with the letter.)


		 Predictions for Future Issues

** Looking into the _Sun_ -- and other tabloids
** Cancer Clusters
** Loch Ness Hoax
** The Panicky Guy


			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, scientific, UFO, evolution/creation, and urban legend
text files.

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


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Last modified Sun Jul 07 02:05:57 1996. Email comments to whartsho@mail.fgi.net