The WHY-Files

The Journal of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York


Volume 5, Issue 6 June, 1999

 
 
 

June Meeting

`` `Creation Science' Fact or Fiction?''

Among the more persistent pseudo-sciences is creationism. Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin's Origins of Species, creationism has been challenging the science of evolution for the public's support in one form or another. Prior to Origins, creationism was a theory accepted by some scientists, but the accumulated evidence of over 150 years has left it with little empirical or logical footing. This has not deterred creationists.

On June 2, 1999, Dr. Donald Whisenhunt, Jr., a biochemist with General Electric, will discuss the claims of creationists, and evaluate them in the light of modern science.

This month's meeting is being held from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm at the Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY. Meetings are free and open to the public. We schedule our meetings at the Guilderland Public Library on the first Wednesday of each month. Check our web site for information about future and past presentations.

ISUNY Mailing List

If you have an email address, you can receive announcements of ISUNY meetings, and other events by subscribing to the ISUNY announce list. Postings average one a month, prior to meetings when The Why-Files appears online. However, other events of interest to skeptics may be announced via the list. To subscribe, send email with SUBSCRIBE ISUNY-ANNOUNCE in the body of the message to isuny-announce-request@rigel.sss.rpi.edu.

May Meeting

The program for the May meeting was a panel discussion of Science Fiction, Fact and Pseudo-Science. ISUNY President Mike Sofka served as Moderator. Panel members were Ron McClamrock (SUNY Albany professor of philosphy), Aaron Broadwell (SUNY Albany linguist), Bob Mulford and Anne Reuter. Bob Mulford, metallurgist and "hard science fiction" fan spoke about science fiction necessarily as fiction having to end up going beyond what science may currently have support or evidence for. The 'best' science fiction would carefully include accurate facts, scientifically supportable to set up the situation at which the work would have to extrapolate in order to carry out the plot, but if well presented, this stretch should not produce any 'clang.'

Ron McClamrock advised that any science fiction would be a better source of science than the TODAY show. ESP and telepathy are omnipresent in science fiction, but there is not any good evidence for the mind/body old-fashioned dualism.

Anne Reuter, aspiring science fiction writer, spoke about the strictures that must be followed in maintaining a balance between plot development and character experience. Anne pointed out that science fiction in the movies depends on humanoid beings; because terrestrial species have symmetrical structure, alien life forms are portrayed as being symmetrical because humans have had to portray them. New reliance on computer generated images may change that dependence.

Aaron Broadwell's reference point was ``how do these people [alien life forms] communicate?'' Professor Broadwell had previously given a class in the Klingon language at SUNYA. He also recommended the language developed by J.R.R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings as being well-constructed and possessing an appropriate grammatical structure. He believed that Star Trek's universal translator was unrealistic, and rather a cop-out. He speculated that alien communication could be by visual or chemical means as well as using sound to produce language. He spoke about the theory that the form of your native language influences your perception of the world. Testing has not shown evidence for this; perceptions of the world are largely distinct from the language you speak.

The assembly was very appreciative of the presentation by the panel.

-Dorothy Sager

Dot Sager is ISUNY's Secretary and co-editor of The Why-Files She can be reached by email at carlsager@worldnet.att.net.

Newsletter Articles

If you attend local meetings, view programs of interest to ISUNY members, or have a skeptical topic you wish to discuss, consider writing an article for The Why-Files. Membership articles contribute greatly to the quality of The Why-Files. Articles and letters can be emailed to the editor at sofkam@rpi.edu, or by U.S. mail to Michael Sofka, 8 Providence Street, Albany, NY 12203. Disks and hardcopy will be returned at the next ISUNY meeting. The deadline for articles in the September, 1999 issue is August 15th, 1999.

Membership Renewals

The expiration date for your ISUNY membership is printed on your mailing label. Dues can be mailed to the treasurer at the address on the back page of this newsletter, or paid at our monthly meeting (make checks out to ISUNY). Your dues cover newsletter and speaker expenses. If the date on the mailing label is circled, it means our records show your membership has expired, and you may be dropped from the mailing list. If your renewal date is incorrect, please bring the error to our attention. Despite our best efforts to keep the mailing list up-to-date, we do make mistakes.

ISUNY ``Chat N' Chew''

The ISUNY Chat n' chew will be held 7:00 pm, Tuesday, June 15 at the Ocean Palace Restaurant, 855 Central Ave, Albany, across from the Hannaford Plaza. Chat n' Chews are an attempt to see if purely social events, with no formal program, are of interest to our members. If you enjoy the after meeting get togethers, this is an attempt to hold the same type of informal gathering, but at an earlier hour and a different location. A non-Wednesday was chosen, since many people have wanted non-Wednesday events as well. This is an experiment, and its success or failure will determine the likelihood of other events of this sort. If you plan to attend, please contact Peter Huston at 393-3478 or e-mail phuston@capital.net. The May Chat N' Chew was canceled, since several of the regulars could not make it.

Ask The Skeptic

I have heard this question twice in two different forms. As I feel it's important, I'm going to answer. Close examination will reveal very peculiar referencing. I invite knowledgable parties to critique this article and give comment and feedback, especially, if they can offer more definitive sources for the opinions offered.

Question: You have frequently criticized the idea of repression of memories stating that it is false. For instance, although some psychotherapists believe that horrible memories can be repressed, with, their subconscious burying it so that they don't have to deal with the experience. Yet this idea does not stand up to scientific study.

Nevertheless, I believe that repression is true. For instance, I knew somebody who was in a terrible car accident and when the accident was over could remember nothing of what happened. Isn't this evidence of repression? If not, what happened?

Answer: There are several explanations of why someone might be in a bad car accident and claim not to remember it.

The first is the simplest, and I will deal with it only briefly. Perhaps the person is simply lying. This is most common if they were doing something that they do not wish to discuss prior to the accident or know that their actions caused the accident and are facing possible legal problems. For example, 17 year old Johnny Hotrodder decides to drive his mom's car with his feet instead of his hands like he saw in a movie. He crashes it into a tree, destroying the car. When asked by his mom (Mrs. Hotrodder) and the cops and the judge as to what happened to cause this mysterious accident in the middle of clear and straight road, he responds with the classic legally recommended phrase, ``I have no clear recollection.'' It is theoretically possible that he might even continue claiming amnesia right through therapy, rather than admit that he was driving like an idiot---after all, sometimes it's better to talk to a therapist than it is to be screamed at by Mom for totalling her car.

Some car accidents are intentional, caused by persons with suicidal desires, and they might feel ashamed and welcome the chance to be in therapy for amnesia instead of emotional problems. Clearly to discuss all the reasons why a person, healthy or otherwise, might wish to lie about an automobile accident is beyond the limits of this paper. Besides, deceit should not be overstressed. It is not the only cause for such a claim. Actual amnesia in an accident is possible for at least two reasons.

The first is something known as the adrenal stress response. The sudden release of large doses of adrenaline into the bloodstream does funny things to the brain. Among these are loss of clear thinking and fine reasoning. That is, you become more animalistic in your actions. Another result of this process is that your memory of the course of the event after the release of adrenaline is often quite fuzzy. This is very common to people who get in fights. Last time I was in a fight was in 1995, and I do not remember all the details. I remember the events that led up to the fight, but I do not remember all of the parts of the actual fight. There is no detailed memory of what happened in my brain as none was ever created at the time of the event due to large doses of adrenaline. For a complete explanation of this whole thing, I'm going to recommend an advanced self defense book, at least until somebody gives me a more mainstream neurologically oriented source. So for further details, see the fine book, Real Fighting: Adrenaline Stress Conditioning through Scenario-Based Training by Peyton Quinn (1996, Paladin Press, Boulder). There's no reason why such an adrenaline stress response could not be produced by an automobile accident.

A second explanation is a concussion. According to the advanced EMT and Paramedic text, Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support, Second Edition. (1986,1990, Emergency Training, Akron Ohio) ``A cerebral concussion is thought of as a `shaking up' of the brain. A traumatic temporary loss of consciousness and the associated memory deficit without underlying brain injury is a hallmark of cerebral concussion. Memory deficits include inability to remember events prior to (retrograde amnesia) or after the event (antegrade amnesia). Most commonly, concussions may have a retrograde amnesia. Short-term memory loss produces anxiety and may include repetition of questions or seemingly unimportant statements. A major cause of this type of behavior is frontal lobe injury, and some of these patients may be very combative. Concussions are generally associated with only transitory deficits, with no identifiable lasting brain injury.'' (pp. 199-200)

But is it possible to have a concussion with no visible injury or without even striking one's head against an object? The answer is yes. Firstly, it is possible for a person to receive a concussion from their brain striking the interior of the skull wall in a high speed situation---the skull stops and the brain, floating inside, floats right into the bone at high speed. It then bounces back and strikes the opposite side of the skull's interior as well.

Secondly, there exists something known as a torquing injury to the brain stem. As everyone knows, the brain sits in the skull on top of the neck. The spinal cord extends down the interior of the spinal column. Where the brain and the spinal cord join at the base of the skull, there is a part of the brain called the brain stem. In the event of a sudden release of energy which twists or ``torques'' the head (from whatever cause), the brain stem often gets stretched beyond healthy limits and the person suddenly becomes fully or partially unconscious. In a high speed car accident, such twisting injuries can often happen without anything actually striking the head. Therefore, this injury is underdiagnosed at the hospital.

For more information on torquing brain stem injuries, see the above book or, and I hesitate to say this but it is very clear, Peyton Quinn's fine video Blitzkrieg Attacks: Knockout Blows from the Bouncer's Trade (1993, Paladin Press.) By the way, Quinn is not just a self defense instructor, he's also a former high school math and science teacher which illustrates his clear, analytical and logical explanations of complex subjects. And again, if anyone out there can recommend better sources, please send them in to The Why Files.

-Peter Huston

Peter Huston's work appears regularly in the Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic. He is the author of two books, most recently Scams from the Great Beyond by Paladin Press, Boulder, CO. Peter's current writing projects includes a sequel to Scams.

Ask The Psychic

Question: Mr. Psychic, I just saw The Phantom Menace, which was billed as the first episode of Star Wars. I'm not sure, but I think I saw Star Wars on TV. Did this movie come out on TV first? Or, is it a remake? What do you think of the movie? Is it an accurate representation of life in outer space?

-Out of Touch in Albany

Answer: Dear Out to Lunch. Yes, I did see Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In fact, yours truly, David Quinne, had a small part in the film. Watch for me during the Chariot Race.1

Regarding your confusion, you are not alone. The Phantom Menace is indeed the first of the Star Wars films. Episodes IV, V and VI were released to theaters starting two decades ago. Why? Government cover-up, of course. The public was not ready for episodes I, II and III twenty years ago. The entire Star Wars series was channeled to George Lucas by Rambo, a disembodied being from beyond Global Warming. Rambo revealed many technologies and spiritual secrets that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. To prevent public panic, the government applied pressure to George Lucas to release only episodes IV--VI, and then only in an edited form. Not until 1997 was the public allowed to see the censored scenes, when Star Wars episodes IV, V and VI were re-released.

Even now, there is some doubt that the public has been shown all that Lucas saw in his original visions. You'll note how the relationship between the Jedi and the Sithians is left unclear. Is the chancellor (soon to be emperor) a Sith? If he is, what happened to his horns? I strongly suspect that what we saw was an actor standing in for the real Sithian master. Only when the government releases all UFO secrets, can we be sure that we've seen the entire movie.

Setting politics aside, the movie's portrayal of extraterrestrials is better than most. At least the Zeta Reticulans are not running around, kidnapping farmers and novelists. I admit to having some qualms about the way the Naboo were portrayed. While the Naboo are a constitutional monarchy, the Queen is not ``elected,'' she is appointed by the council of land holders. It's one of the few powers they have left, and it was a shame they were slighted for what I see as political correctness.

-David Quinne, CPP

David Quinne, ISUNY's psychic in residence, is an internationally published author whose work has been translated into at least two languages, one of which is most likely Hungarian. He lives in Loweville, NY with his long-time paramour Amber Sapphire. They have two dogs, a llama named Dolly, and raise prize sheep.

The Puzzler

Questions for the fun of it.

  1. How deep is the ocean?
  2. What company in New York State releases the most hazardous air pollutants , based on the most recent data?
  3. Is spinach a good source of dietary iron?
  4. What softens the bones in canned fish?

Answers

(1) Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench of the South Pacific is 35,820 feet deep and is the lowest place in the oceans. That's about seven miles down and compares to Everest at about five miles up. (2) Eastman Kodak with 6.9 million pounds per year. This is over twice that for number two! (3) NO! The oxalic acid content of spinach interferes with the absorption of iron. It is still a great vegetable, however. (4) Heat applied to the sealed cans to kill spoilage organisms also softens the bones. Some believe incorrectly that oil packed with the fish softens the bones.

-Carl Sager

Future ISUNY Meetings

June 2nd is the last meeting of the regular skeptic season. Our next meeting will be September 8th, the second Wednesday of September. For this fall, the ISUNY board is organizing talks on: Recovered memory therapy and UFO abductions, Chaos Theory, Dream interpretation and projective methods, How to lead and mislead with statistics, Economics: The dismal science, and Cultural anthropology. If you have an idea for a meeting topic, or a speaker suggestion, please share it with one of the ISUNY officers at any of our regular meetings.

All ISUNY meetings are free and open to the public. We usually meet 7:00 pm at the Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY. We always attempt to schedule our meetings the first Wednesday of each month (except for July and August), but the Library cannot guarantee that a room will always be available. Please check our web site, or The Why-Files in case of a scheduling conflict, or other changes to the meeting schedule.

Local Meetings

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers meet the third Tuesday of each month at the Schenectady Museum. Meetings begin at 7:30 pm. For more information, contact Alan French at (518) 374-8460.

The Capital District Humanist Society meets the second Sunday of each month at the Sage Colleges Albany Campus on New Scotland Avenue. The meetings begin at 1:15 pm. For more information, contact Bill Batt at (518) 462-5068.

Albacon '99---The premier Science Fiction Convention for the Northeast is returning September 17--19, 199. It will feature discussion panels, an art show, a dealer's room, gaming, artists, authors, and fans from around the world. See http://www.albacon.org/ for more information.

ISUNY Lending Library

The Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York maintains a library of books, newsletters, magazines, video and audio tapes addressing various paranormal topics. ISUNY members may borrow material from this library on a month-by-month basis. If you would like to borrow a book, newsletter or tape, see our librarian, Lewis Treadway, before or after any ISUNY meeting. All material is lent free to members except for tapes for which we ask a $1.00 donation that will be used to purchase further library material.

Thank You

Thank you to Peter Huston, Michael Sofka, Dorothy Sager and Carl Sager for their contributions to this newsletter. Thanks also go to Peter Huston, Robert Mulford, and Dorothy and Ralph Hoyt and especially Dot Sager for their help planning and publicizing ISUNY meetings, and to Herb Jones for publicity and room arrangements with the Guilderland Library. A additional special thank you to Dorothy Sager for copy-editing. Dot does an excellent job removing typos and errors from our newsletter. You've probably already forgotten about the remaining errors.

ISUNY thanks all of its members for their support. We would especially like to thank our Patron members: Tom Benton, Jordan Coleman, Charles Davies, Larry Jones & Barbara Eisenstadt, Alan & Susan French, Dr. Richard H. Lange, Christopher Masto, Hugh A. McGlinchey, Bob & Dee Mulford, Dorothy and Carl Sager, Mike & Carla Sofka, William White, Guier Scott Wright.

About the Newsletter

The WHY-Files is the newsletter of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York.

Articles, reviews and letters can be sent to the editor at sofkam@rpi.edu, or to 8 Providence Street, Albany, NY 12203. Hard copy and disks will be returned only if accompanied by a self-addressed and stamped envelope, or at regular club meetings.

The newsletter was typeset using the document preparation system written and placed in the public domain by Donald Knuth of Stanford University. Macros for this newsletter are available at http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/tex.html. The Why-Files are available at: http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/isuny/.

Unless otherwise stated, permission is granted to other skeptical organizations to reprint articles from The Why-Files as long as proper credit is given. The Why-Files also requests that you send copies of your newsletters that reprint our articles. All articles printed in The Why-Files remain the copyrighted property of their author.

Articles, reports, reviews, and letters published in The WHY-Files represent the views and work of individual authors. Their publication does not necessarily constitute an endorsement by Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York or its members unless so stated.


1 I was Sebulba's stunt double. I have played many small roles as extras in movies, including about 2 seconds in Ironweed, and two episodes of NBC's Law & Order. But, working with George Lucas and this interstellar cast was an experience without compare. My only complaint is the costume; makeup took 8 hours, and I had to walk on my hands and drive with my toes during most of the on-camera scenes.