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An anthology of pro's--who are anti-gullibility, fraud, deception, and delusion. Astronomer Abell (UCLA) and co-editor Singer (Psychology, Cal State, Long Beach) have assembled some of the canniest critics of the paranormal and let their collective skills speak for themselves. There's Sagan on Velikovsky, Nolen on psychic healing, Asimov on life after death, Gardner on parapsychology (and quantum mechanics)--along with lesser known but equally authoritative lights on UFOs, pyramids and lost continents, and the like. The editors provide scholarly introductions addressing the human propensity to believe and to be misled. They may also have exercised a fine editorial hand throughout, for there is a noteworthy clarity and coherence in style. None of the contributors harangues; the put-downs are generally civil, leaning toward a more-in-sorrow tone. Indeed, Klass sees in Joseph Jastrow's notion of ""congenial conclusions"" (""beliefs that would make life more interesting if true, and have an engaging air of plausibility"") the very appeal that non-scientific phenomena hold for many. Yet by their verve and finesse, the scientists demonstrate that truth--or its rigorous pursuit in science--yields even more exciting conclusions, and presents greater wonders, than pyramid power, yeti, or astral bodies. While much of the content has been covered in books and articles by the experts, some will be new to many readers--from Singer's revelations on Kirlian photography to the rather discouraging word (in a telling essay by Abell) that there are over 10,000 professional astrologers in the US. As proper rationalists, the scientists do not deny what can't be proven--visits from extraterrestrial civilizations, for example. They even acid a chapter by Frank Drake, enthusing about the need to continue to tune in to what may be Out There. Altogether satisfactory, then: a wonderful one-volume addition to the skeptic's library shelf.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Scribners