Ig Nobel Award goes to Maharishi's (onetime) Lord of Immortality

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Andrew A. Skolnick

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Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
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Dateline: Boston, Oct. 8, 1998 -- The 1998 Ig Nobel Ceremony to
recognize scientists and others whose achievements "either cannot or
should not be reproduced" was a grand affair. Tonight, at Harvard
University's Sanders Theater, ten truly disserving men and women
received Ig Nobel prizes in honor of their ditzy if not dubious
achievements. Among the most disserving of these recipients was Dr.
Deepak Chopra, onetime "Lord of Immortality" for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
founder of Transcendental Meditation and the source of Total Knowledge.

The Ig Nobel Board of Governors chose Deepak for the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize
in Physics. I think the board made a most wise choice. Rumor has it
that he's been in the running for at least 4 years (at least, that's how
long I've been nominating him). The Ig Nobel Board cited Deepak's
"unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness."

The packed house of academics, students, and others from the Harvard
community were so moved when the award was accepted in Deepak's honor by
*Nobel* Laureate Sheldon Glashow (Physics, 1979), they broke out
chanting, "Dee-pak! Dee-pak! Dee-pak!" and I had to wipe a tear from my
eye.

Although Deepak no longer sits at the side of the Maharishi, the Yogi
nevertheless should be proud. Deepak is now the second person to win an
Ig Nobel for work based on Maharishi's teachings. The first was Ig Nobel
laureate John Hagelin, who won the 1994 Ig Nobel Peace Prize "for his
experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18
percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C."

Asked whether Tony Nader, Maharishi's latest leading medicine man, was
being considered for the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, Marc Abrahams,
founder of the Ig Nobels and editor of AIR, would neither deny nor
confirm the rumor.

To learn more about what has been called "the world's most (un)coveted
awards," see my articles on the Ig Nobels and the Annals of Improbable
Research (AIR):

http://www.ama-assn.org/sci-pubs/journals/archive/jama/vol_279/no_13/jmn80038.htm

and check out AIR's Web site, http://www.improbable.com


--Andrew Skolnick http://nasw.org/users/ASkolnick
I speak only for myself, not for any other individual or organization.

Lawson English

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Oct 11, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/11/98
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Andrew A. Skolnick <asko...@nasw.org> said:

> The first was Ig Nobel
>laureate John Hagelin, who won the 1994 Ig Nobel Peace Prize "for his
>experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18
>percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C."

And of course, John, one of the top theoretical Physicists in the world ,
insists that anyone who proclaims that the DC study was seriously flawed
should examine it more carefully.

If you like, make up a list of issues that you and others have with the
study (be specific and non-confrontational, please) and I'll forward it to
John's Center for rebuttal on these newsgroups. It might be interesting to
see what, if anything, he has to say in response, no?

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B. Mullquist

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Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
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In article <3620F5...@nasw.org>, "Andrew A. Skolnick" <asko...@nasw.org> says:
>
>Dateline: Boston, Oct. 8, 1998 -- The 1998 Ig Nobel Ceremony to
>recognize scientists and others whose achievements "either cannot or
>should not be reproduced" was a grand affair. Tonight, at Harvard
>University's Sanders Theater, ten truly disserving men and women
>received Ig Nobel prizes in honor of their ditzy if not dubious
>achievements. Among the most disserving of these recipients was Dr.
>Deepak Chopra, onetime "Lord of Immortality" for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
>founder of Transcendental Meditation and the source of Total Knowledge.
>

Guess who's gonna get the Porr Nobel!

Andrew A. Skolnick

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Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
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Lawson English wrote:
>
> Andrew A. Skolnick <asko...@nasw.org> said:
>
> > The first was Ig Nobel
> >laureate John Hagelin, who won the 1994 Ig Nobel Peace Prize "for his
> >experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18
> >percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C."
>
> And of course, John, one of the top theoretical Physicists in the world ,
> insists that anyone who proclaims that the DC study was seriously flawed
> should examine it more carefully.
>
> If you like, make up a list of issues that you and others have with the
> study (be specific and non-confrontational, please) and I'll forward it to
> John's Center for rebuttal on these newsgroups. It might be interesting to
> see what, if anything, he has to say in response, no?

Lawson, don't get me wrong. I believe John Hagelin truly deserved an Ig
Nobel Prize.

--Andrew Skolnick http://nasw.org/users/ASkolnick
http://www.aaskolnick.com/photography/

Lawson English

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Oct 12, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/12/98
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>> If you like, make up a list of issues that you and others have with the
>> study (be specific and non-confrontational, please) and I'll forward it
to
>> John's Center for rebuttal on these newsgroups. It might be interesting
to
>> see what, if anything, he has to say in response, no?
>
>Lawson, don't get me wrong. I believe John Hagelin truly deserved an Ig
>Nobel Prize.

In other words, you enjoy taking cheap shots but don't have any actual
criticisms of substance to make about the study that won John the Ig Nobel
Prize...


Betcha the guys that awarded the prize don't have any substantial
criticisms, either...

("but SOME categories of crimes went up during that period and those are
the ones that WE consider the ONLY important categories and therefore,
we're going to ignore any and all statistical analysis of the data and
merely assert that John's claim is wrong because we don't want to believe
that he could be right and will mock him or anyone else who threatens our
beliefs...")


Sheesh.

Judy Stein

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Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
to
In article <3620F5...@nasw.org>,
"Andrew A. Skolnick" <asko...@nasw.org> wrote:

> Dateline: Boston, Oct. 8, 1998 -- The 1998 Ig Nobel Ceremony to
> recognize scientists and others whose achievements "either cannot or
> should not be reproduced" was a grand affair. Tonight, at Harvard
> University's Sanders Theater, ten truly disserving men and women
> received Ig Nobel prizes in honor of their ditzy if not dubious
> achievements. Among the most disserving of these recipients was Dr.

(One wonders if "disserving" was intended as wordplay, or whether
this is just one more of Andrew's characteristic typos.)

> Deepak Chopra, onetime "Lord of Immortality" for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
> founder of Transcendental Meditation and the source of Total Knowledge.

For the record, MMY isn't himself the source of "Total
Knowledge." Rather, the techniques he teaches are said to give
access to it for anyone who practices them. (Incidentally, I
don't recall ever having seen the phrase "Total Knowledge" used
in the TM context; it may be that Andrew has invented it for the
occasion, as he does so many things.)

<snip>


> Although Deepak no longer sits at the side of the Maharishi, the Yogi
> nevertheless should be proud. Deepak is now the second person to win an
> Ig Nobel for work based on Maharishi's teachings.

It should be noted that while it's correct to say Dr. Chopra's
work is, or at least was, "based on Maharishi's teachings,"
Chopra's "unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies
to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness" is his
own. Moreover, it does not pretend to be scientific.

The first was Ig Nobel
> laureate John Hagelin, who won the 1994 Ig Nobel Peace Prize "for his
> experimental conclusion that 4,000 trained meditators caused an 18
> percent decrease in violent crime in Washington, D.C."

On the other hand, it should also be noted that Hagelin's
"experimental conclusion" was in fact based on serious
statistical research.

> Asked whether Tony Nader, Maharishi's latest leading medicine man, was
> being considered for the 1999 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine, Marc Abrahams,

Nader is not, in fact, Maharishi's "medicine man."

> To learn more about what has been called "the world's most (un)coveted
> awards," see my articles on the Ig Nobels and the Annals of Improbable
> Research (AIR):

Actually, if you check out the link to the AIR site
(http://www.improbable.com), you'll find that what's behind the
Ig Nobels isn't quite as Andrew chooses to portray it here. The
awards are not intended as slaps in the face to the recipients.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
+ Judy Stein * The Author's Friend * jst...@panix.com +
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judy Stein

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Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
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In article <B2476EF...@206.165.43.57>,
"Lawson English" <eng...@primenet.com> wrote:

[Andrew wrote:]


> >Lawson, don't get me wrong. I believe John Hagelin truly deserved an Ig
> >Nobel Prize.
>
> In other words, you enjoy taking cheap shots but don't have any actual
> criticisms of substance to make about the study that won John the Ig Nobel
> Prize...
>
> Betcha the guys that awarded the prize don't have any substantial
> criticisms, either...
>
> ("but SOME categories of crimes went up during that period and those are
> the ones that WE consider the ONLY important categories and therefore,
> we're going to ignore any and all statistical analysis of the data and
> merely assert that John's claim is wrong because we don't want to believe
> that he could be right and will mock him or anyone else who threatens our
> beliefs...")

Critics rarely even know *that* much about the results.

Sometimes they know the murder rate went up slightly. But they
don't know that the other categories--assault, robbery, and
rape--went down very substantially during the experiment. That
fact is never publicized by the anti-TMers like Andrew.

However, it should be emphasized, as I noted in another post,
that the Ig Nobel awards are for fun, not for criticism or
mockery, contrary to what Andrew would have you believe. On the
face of it, it *does* sound absurd that meditation could lower
the crime rate.

But the Ig Nobel sponsors point out that many things which at one
time sounded absurd have turned out to be of great importance.

Judy Stein

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Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
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In article <3620F5...@nasw.org>,
"Andrew A. Skolnick" <asko...@nasw.org> wrote:
<snip>

> The Ig Nobel Board of Governors chose Deepak for the 1998 Ig Nobel Prize
> in Physics. I think the board made a most wise choice. Rumor has it
> that he's been in the running for at least 4 years (at least, that's how
> long I've been nominating him). The Ig Nobel Board cited Deepak's

> "unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life,
> liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness."

I think it would be fun at this time to revisit one in particular
of the many parts of Andrew's JAMA article on TM that don't,
shall we say, accurately reflect the facts.

He writes:

"Some of those who have been favorably impressed by books and
presentations on Maharishi Ayur-Veda say they are intrigued by
the apparent connection between the discoveries of quantum
physics and the mysticism behind the healing system."

In fact, many, many people, including many entirely legitimate
and highly reputable scientists, are intrigued by the possible
connections between quantum mechanics and "mysticism" generally.
This is by no means peculiar to those who are impressed by
Maharishi Ayur-Veda (as Andrew knows but fails to inform the
reader).

(Note also that Andrew does *not* say these people's intrigue
about QM-mysticism connections comes from Chopra's books or,
indeed, from TM or MA-V material. In fact, some people who are
familiar with quantum mechanics who encounter presentations
dealing with "mystical" ideas are struck by the apparent
parallels even when none have been suggested.)

"In his 1990 book `Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide,'
Chopra claims that the practices of TM and Maharishi Ayur-Veda
are supported by quantum physics..."

Actually Chopra makes no such claim. He points to some
interesting potential parallels and *speculates* as to whether
there might be a correspondence between MA-V principles and those
of quantum mechanics. Nowhere does he claim MA-V principles must
be valid on the grounds that they are supported by quantum
mechanics.

"...and refers readers who want `more insights into these ideas'
to `The Cosmic Code: Quantum Physics as the Language of
Nature'...by the eminent physicist Heinz R. Pagels, PhD."

Andrew goes on to cite at some length Pagels' distaste for the
drawing of parallels between physics and "mysticism," implying
that Chopra was being deceptive when he referred readers to
Pagels for "more insights into" Chopra's ideas.

However, this implication is deliberately deceptive on Andrew's
part.

First, he misquotes Chopra's book. Chopra's actual words are,
"The following is a selected bibliography that offers insights
into some of the ideas expressed in this book."

Andrew's misquote was designed to lead readers to believe Chopra
has specifically cited Pagels as support for Chopra's ideas. But
this is not the case. What I quoted, in fact, is a note at the
beginning of a short list of recommended reading and refers to
all the items on the list, but only to *some* of the ideas in the
book. (As it happens, many of the ideas in the book are not even
Chopra's; he cites many different sources and views.)

In the text, Chopra briefly explains a number of quantum
mechanical principles. With reference to the Pagels item on the
reading list, the note is suggesting that readers who want to
know more about these principles will find an excellent
introduction to them in "The Cosmic Code," a classic and very
rigorous discussion of physics principles for the general reader.

Nowhere does Chopra suggest or hint or imply that Pagels
sanctions Chopra's speculations, contrary to Andrew's
deliberately false innuendo.

The other items on the reading list consist of the following:

- Three of Chopra's own books
- A book by Michio Kaku, a respected physicist, called "Beyond
Einstein"
- Two books on Ayurveda (not Maharishi Ayur-Veda) by non-TMers
- Five TM publications
- A book edited by Zen practitioner Ken Wilber called "Quantum
Questions: The Mystical Writings of the World's Great
Physicists." Wilber's introduction to these pieces explicitly
disavows the relevance of any parallels between quantum physics
and mysticism, as do the pieces in question.

Obviously Chopra's note at the beginning of the reading list
means just what it says, not what Andrew has twisted it to mean
(by misquoting it, taking it out of context, and presenting
Pagels' position as if it contradicted Chopra's citation of
Pagels).

Had Chopra wanted to claim support for his own ideas, he could
have cited many dozens of current books and articles, many by
reputable scientists, that would have done precisely this. The
fact that he cited Pagels instead, in fact, demonstrates that he
was more interested in referring the reader to an unimpeachable
source of accurate information on quantum mechanics, even if that
source disagreed with his own ideas.

Ironically, many of the writers who speculate on the relationship
between physics principles and consciousness, which speculations
Pagels so detested, *do* cite Pagels in support of their ideas.

Andrew then writes:

"In [Cosmic Code], however, [Pagels] denounced as `nonsense'
attempts to tie quantum physics to Eastern mysticism. He wrote,
`Individuals who make such claims have substituted a
wish-fulfilling fantasy for understanding.'"

Readers might think these two quoted bits occur in the same
context; they don't, they're taken from different parts of the
book. They also might think, from how Andrew has written this
paragraph, that Pagels was broadly denouncing "attempts to tie
quantum physics to Eastern mysticism." He wasn't. Andrew has
even taken *Pagels* out of context. Certainly Pagels *did*
oppose such attempts, but the two phrases in quotes refer to much
more specific ideas--ideas which, moreover, are not mentioned at
all in Chopra's book.(*)

Andrew has correctly characterized Pagels' position, but he's
fudged his evidence in his eagerness to "get" Chopra.

(And Pagels, Andrew claims, was a friend of his. If he'll play
fast and loose with what a friend has written to make a point,
imagine what he'll do with someone he doesn't like. Wonder what
Pagels would have thought of Andrew misusing his words to falsely
accuse someone else of deception? No matter how repelled Pagels
would have been by Chopra's ideas, I suspect he had more
integrity than to allow Chopra to be dishonestly attacked and
would have been apoplectic to find a *friend* had done so by
misrepresenting Pagel's own words.)

Finally, Andrew quotes an affidavit Pagels provided on behalf of
someone who was suing the TM movement, which says, in part,
"There is no known connection between meditation states and
states of matter in physics."

First of all, this affidavit was written several years before
Chopra's book was published (as was "Cosmic Code"), although
Andrew doesn't tell the reader this, allowing the reader to
assume Pagels was specifically referring to Chopra's ideas.

Second, those familiar with TM who read the affidavit in full
will quickly recognize that Pagels had neglected to learn what TM
*does* say with regard to quantum mechanics. The connection he
denies in the quote above, for instance, is not claimed by TM.

Pagels makes many other statements of his personal opinions as if
they were established fact when, indeed, there are many reputable
physicists who strongly disagree with him.

Andrew knows this as well. Yet he cites Pagels as if he were the
last word on physics and Eastern philosophies of consciousness.

But this is a minor dishonesty, compared to Andrew's implied
accusation against Chopra, which he has manufactured out of thin
air and presented to the readers of the most prestigious medical
journal in the world. (Andrew, by the way, some time back
confirmed on the newsgroup that deception by Chopra in this
instance is precisely what he meant to imply. I didn't read that
into what he wrote.)

The premise that a respected (although conservative) physicist
would have been disgusted by Chopra's ideas is incontestable. If
Andrew had simply made that point, he'd be on firm ground.

But Andrew wasn't content with mere disagreement. He had to
manufacture deliberate deception on Chopra's part, and since
there was no such deception, Andrew had to engage in his own.

And now it's come back to bite him on the butt, as have so many
others of his countless disingenuities.

------------
(*) The sentence "Individuals who make such claims have
substituted a wish-fulfilling fantasy for understanding" refers
specifically to the claims that Bell's inequality theorem proves
that "telepathy is verified" and "all parts of the universe are
instantaneously interconnected," and that "this implies
communication faster than the speed of light."

The word "nonsense" is taken from an entirely different part of
the book and is used by Pagels to characterize a particularly
muddle-headed distortion of a position taken by Einstein; this
distortion was invented by Pagels for the occasion so he could
make a specific point in response. The "nonsense" in question
has nothing whatsoever to do with anything Chopra had written
about (nor does it even have anything to do with Bell's
inequalities).

Mr. Foot Grenade

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Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
to
Hot damn, Judy - you've kicked Andy's silly ass again. He's about as
dense as Carl Sagan used to be when he drifted into nonscientific areas.
Keep up the good work.

Andrew A. Skolnick

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Oct 13, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/13/98
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Judy Stein wrote:
<snipt>

> For the record, MMY isn't himself the source of "Total
> Knowledge." Rather, the techniques he teaches are said to give
> access to it for anyone who practices them. (Incidentally, I
> don't recall ever having seen the phrase "Total Knowledge" used
> in the TM context; it may be that Andrew has invented it for the
> occasion, as he does so many things.)

Judy will lie about anything to disparage her critics, even something as
silly as this. She's seen TM's Maharishi Open University web pages,
which claims to be "Offering Total Knowledge for Everyone"
(http://www.mou.org/), so she knows what she wrote is not true.

<snipt>

> > To learn more about what has been called "the world's most (un)coveted
> > awards," see my articles on the Ig Nobels and the Annals of Improbable
> > Research (AIR):

Judy snipped the URL to these articles on the Ig Nobels:
http://www.ama-assn.org/sci-pubs/journals/archive/jama/vol_279/no_13/jmn80038.htm



> Actually, if you check out the link to the AIR site
> (http://www.improbable.com), you'll find that what's behind the
> Ig Nobels isn't quite as Andrew chooses to portray it here. The
> awards are not intended as slaps in the face to the recipients.

Judy is such an inveterate liar, I imagine she adds at least 10 minutes
to the time when asked just to keep in practice. As someone who has
written about the Ig Nobels and has nominated two Ig Nobel laureates, I
can say with good justification that Judy doesn't know what the hell
she's talking about -- as in often the case.

Dan

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Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
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Great, Andrew's back to tell us how stupid we are.

Dan

Judy Stein

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Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
In article <36240554...@proaxis.com>,
"Mr. Foot Grenade" <eas...@proaxis.com> wrote:

> Hot damn, Judy - you've kicked Andy's silly ass again. He's about as
> dense as Carl Sagan used to be when he drifted into nonscientific areas.

With one major difference. Carl Sagan didn't habitually tell
lies.

Judy Stein

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Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
Oh, by the way, Andrew, how are you coming with your research
into my resume? You remember, you promised to show everyone that
it was filled with lies. I even emailed you a list of contact
people for the resume items to make the arduous task of checking
them out easier for you. It's been several months now. When can
we expect to see your results?

In article <362409...@nasw.org>, you wrote:
> Judy Stein wrote:
> <snipt>
> > For the record, MMY isn't himself the source of "Total
> > Knowledge." Rather, the techniques he teaches are said to give
> > access to it for anyone who practices them. (Incidentally, I
> > don't recall ever having seen the phrase "Total Knowledge" used
> > in the TM context; it may be that Andrew has invented it for the
> > occasion, as he does so many things.)
>
> Judy will lie about anything to disparage her critics, even something as
> silly as this. She's seen TM's Maharishi Open University web pages,
> which claims to be "Offering Total Knowledge for Everyone"
> (http://www.mou.org/), so she knows what she wrote is not true.

Well, no, actually I've never visited those Web pages. So it
appears to be Andrew--once again--who is lying, doesn't it?

(And even if I *had* seen them, on what basis could Andrew assert
that I really did recall the "Total Knowledge" phrase?)

<snip>


> > Actually, if you check out the link to the AIR site
> > (http://www.improbable.com), you'll find that what's behind the
> > Ig Nobels isn't quite as Andrew chooses to portray it here. The
> > awards are not intended as slaps in the face to the recipients.
>
> Judy is such an inveterate liar, I imagine she adds at least 10 minutes
> to the time when asked just to keep in practice. As someone who has
> written about the Ig Nobels and has nominated two Ig Nobel laureates, I
> can say with good justification that Judy doesn't know what the hell
> she's talking about -- as in often the case.

Notice that Andrew doesn't offer any challenges to anything I
said; he cannot, so he substitutes his usual lying bluster.
(Notice also that if I really didn't know what I was talking
about, I would not, of course, be lying. When Andrew is caught
in one of his many misrepresentations, he tends to get a little
mixed up.)

In his previous post Andrew tried to lay responsibility for
Chopra's ideas on quantum mechanics at Maharishi's feet. You'll
notice he snipped that part, and my response, pointing out that
Chopra's quantum mechanical speculations are his own, and that,
moreover, he has never presented them as science. Likewise he
snipped the part where I pointed out that Hagelin's conclusions
about the effect of meditation on crime in DC were the product of
a statistical study (which was overseen and approved by a number
of independent experts).

Let me say it another way: If you check out the link to the AIR

site (http://www.improbable.com), you'll find that what's behind

the Ig Nobels isn't quite as Andrew chose to portray it here.

The awards are not intended as slaps in the face to the
recipients.

That Andrew has been closely associated with the Ig Nobels and
knows what they're really about confirms how deliberately
misrepresentational his post to alt.m.t was. Indeed, his own
article in JAMA on the Ig Nobels gives a clearer sense of their
purpose (he didn't dare misrepresent it in JAMA, since many of
his readers would be familiar with the awards).

So let's see who's *really* lying here.

From an article in "Wired" magazine, 10/10/97, "A Gala Night for
Weird Science" by Scott Kirsner (accessible from the AIR site):

The goal of the Igs is to make science more accessible, according to
Eric Schulman, a researcher at the National Radio Astronomy
Observatory, who delivered a two-minute oral history of the universe
at the event. "It's a great time, because it totally contradicts the
notion that scientists are stuffy people," Schulman said. "And it
shows that if you make science humorous, you can get the average
person interested in understanding it."

"The initial idea [for the Igs] was to have a goofy awards
ceremony," says [founder and emcee Marc] Abrahams, who has hosted
the event since 1991, its first year. "We wanted to get
everything we could think of that was dignified and have it
appear in some backward, upside-down, or twisted fashion."...

"If there is a serious part to it," muses Abrahams, "it's too see if
we can seduce more people to get interested in science - people who
think it's scary, or impossible to understand, or just plain boring."

And from Andrew's very own JAMA article:

Abrahams stresses that the Ig Nobel awards are presented in
good-natured fun and are never meant to ridicule anyone. Well, hardly
ever. The awards are "an effective way to get people interested in
science, which they often think is scary or yucky," he said. "It's an
underhanded way of seducing people into thinking about science.
Although some awards may sound critical, they usually just quote,
without comment, the research in question. Scientists can nominate
themselves for the coveted awards. They can also nominate their
enemies."

According to Abrahams, science that seems absurd can have considerable
merit. He cites the research of the Norwegian physicians who won the
1996 Ig Nobel in biology for their study of how garlic, ale, and sour
cream affect the appetite of leeches. "This research may sound
sophomoric, but there's purpose behind it, since leeches are again
being used in medicine. Suppose you're doing microsurgery to reattach
a finger; what do you do if your leech is not hungry? The conventional
wisdom from 150 years ago-when doctors used lots of leeches-was that
garlic, ale, or sour cream stimulates the creatures' appetite. Barheim
and Sandvik set out to advance the cause of medicine by testing that
wisdom. They discovered that beer makes leeches lazy and
undisciplined, much the way it affects us, and, while garlic attracts
the little bloodsuckers, it also kills them. So much for traditional
medical wisdom."

"Many scientific discoveries originally appeared as irrelevant as the
leech study may today," Abrahams said. "One hundred plus years ago,
doctors were hooted out of medicine for saying you should wash your
hands before surgery. Today, in many hospitals it's not unusual to
find several doctors who wash their hands before surgery. Just because
something is funny does not mean it's bad. But it doesn't mean it's
not bad, either."...

The awards serve to remind scientists not to cling too closely to any
sacred cows. "To do so risks being mooed if not gored at the next Ig
Nobel prize ceremony," Abrahams said.

I think it's quite safe to say that Andrew has read his own
article, and therefore that he knows what he said in the post I'm
responding to is not true; he also knows he misrepresented the Ig
Nobels in his earlier post, just as I said.

*Andrew* may choose to consider anyone who gets an Ig Nobel award
to have been slapped in the face thereby, but he knows (as
demonstrated by the quote from his own article) that this isn't
what the folks who give the Ig Nobels intend. Indeed, a good
portion of Andrew's article is devoted to reporting the
objections of a prominent British scientist to the Ig Nobel
awards because the scientist considered them insulting, and
Abrahams's strenuous denials that this was their intent.

Many of the awards are given for projects that have a perfectly
legitimate purpose but just *sound* funny. For example (from the
AIR Web site):

BIOLOGY
Peter Fong of Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for
contributing to the happiness of clams by giving them Prozac.
["Induction and Potentiation of Parturition in Fingernail Clams
(Sphaerium striatinum) by Selective Serotonin Re- Uptake
Inhibitors (SSRIs)," Peter F. Fong, Peter T. Huminski, and
Lynette M. D'urso, "Journal of Experimental Zoology, vol. 280,
1998, pp. 260-64.]

And:

MEDICINE
To Patient Y and to his doctors, Caroline Mills, Meirion
Llewelyn, David Kelly, and Peter Holt, of Royal Gwent Hospital,
in Newport, Wales, for the cautionary medical report, "A Man
Who Pricked His Finger and Smelled Putrid for 5 Years."
REFERENCE: The paper was published in "The Lancet," vol. 348,
November 9, 1996, p. 1282.

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
Um, Andrew?

Is that

"Hoist *by* your own petard?"

or

"Hoist *with* your own petard?"


Either way, you're airborne.


Judy Stein <jst...@panix.com> said:
Andrew Skolnick said:

><snip>
>> > Actually, if you check out the link to the AIR site
>> > (http://www.improbable.com), you'll find that what's behind the
>> > Ig Nobels isn't quite as Andrew chooses to portray it here. The
>> > awards are not intended as slaps in the face to the recipients.
>>
>> Judy is such an inveterate liar, I imagine she adds at least 10 minutes
>> to the time when asked just to keep in practice. As someone who has
>> written about the Ig Nobels and has nominated two Ig Nobel laureates, I
>> can say with good justification that Judy doesn't know what the hell
>> she's talking about -- as in often the case.

[snipt]

>That Andrew has been closely associated with the Ig Nobels and
>knows what they're really about confirms how deliberately
>misrepresentational his post to alt.m.t was. Indeed, his own
>article in JAMA on the Ig Nobels gives a clearer sense of their
>purpose (he didn't dare misrepresent it in JAMA, since many of
>his readers would be familiar with the awards).
>
>So let's see who's *really* lying here.
>
>From an article in "Wired" magazine, 10/10/97, "A Gala Night for
>Weird Science" by Scott Kirsner (accessible from the AIR site):
>

[snipt]


> "The initial idea [for the Igs] was to have a goofy awards
> ceremony," says [founder and emcee Marc] Abrahams, who has hosted
> the event since 1991, its first year. "We wanted to get
> everything we could think of that was dignified and have it
> appear in some backward, upside-down, or twisted fashion."...
>
> "If there is a serious part to it," muses Abrahams, "it's too see if
> we can seduce more people to get interested in science - people who
> think it's scary, or impossible to understand, or just plain boring."
>
>And from Andrew's very own JAMA article:
>
> Abrahams stresses that the Ig Nobel awards are presented in
> good-natured fun and are never meant to ridicule anyone. Well, hardly
> ever.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Calthos

unread,
Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
Dan wrote:
>
> Great, Andrew's back to tell us how stupid we are.
>
> Dan

Well, Dan, it's a lousy job, but somebody's gotta do it.

George DeForest

unread,
Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
>> Andrew A. Skolnick <asko...@nasw.org> wrote:
>> ...Deepak Chopra, onetime "Lord of Immortality"

>> for Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental
>> Meditation and the source of Total Knowledge...

>>
> Judy Stein <jst...@panix.com> wrote:
> For the record, MMY isn't himself the source
> of "Total Knowledge." Rather, the techniques
> he teaches are said to give access to it
> for anyone who practices them.
> (Incidentally, I don't recall ever having seen
> the phrase "Total Knowledge" used in the TM context;
> it may be that Andrew has invented it for the
> occasion, as he does so many things.)


In this case, Judy, I think you missed my post of Oct 8
which Andrew may be referring to. It was the text from
their website, of an ad the movement is running for MOU,
(the new satellite presentations by MMY live). The ad is
planned for newspapers globally. For the full ad,
see <http://www.mou.org/ad/ad1.html>
.
"Maharishi Open University will teach the students
the Total Knowledge of Natural Law..."
"The courses on Total Knowledge will be taught by Maharishi..."
"...education for everyone's inner Self - Atma -
the ocean of consciousness, which is infinite Bliss,
Total Knowledge and infinite organising power."
"The President of the University, Professor Tony Nader
has received his weight in gold for his scientific discovery
that Total Knowledge--the total administering intelligence
of the universe--is hidden in the human brain physiology."
"...will fully awaken consciousness, giving students
the experience of the Unified Field of Natural Law -
the field of Total Knowledge."
"Unique Results of Maharishi Open University's
Total Knowledge-Based Approach..."
.
One could say, its the latest buzz-word.
.
Totally Yours,
George DeForest
gd...@peakaccess.net


Lawson English

unread,
Oct 14, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/14/98
to
Calthos <cal...@hotmail.com> said:

And this is the function of what?

A "skeptic?"

A person who has decided that they know best for other people?

What do you call someone who has decided that they should go around telling
people that they are stupid?

What do you call someone who approves of such a person?

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
George DeForest <gd...@peakaccess.net> said:

>"The President of the University, Professor Tony Nader
>has received his weight in gold for his scientific discovery
>that Total Knowledge--the total administering intelligence
>of the universe--is hidden in the human brain physiology."

Lurkers should note that this was pretty much a publicity stunt/joke. What
Dr. Nader received was his weight in gold in research grants, or so I have
been told.

Avital Pilpel

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to

Dan wrote in message <3624a7c1...@news.m.iinet.net.au>...

>Great, Andrew's back to tell us how stupid we are.
>
>Dan

The truth DOES hurt, doesn't it?

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
In article <kR6V1.332$fE6.6...@ptah.visi.com>,
jeremy@please don't spam me .wavefront .com wrote:

> In sci.skeptic Mr. Foot Grenade <eas...@proaxis.com> wrote:
> : Hot damn, Judy - you've kicked Andy's silly ass again. He's about as
> : dense as Carl Sagan used to be when he drifted into nonscientific areas.

> : Keep up the good work.
>
> I do not believe I have heard Mr. Sagan referred to as 'dense'
> before...

He could be extremely dense when he drifted into nonscientific
areas. Awhile back I posted excerpts from a review of his last
book that made this very point, with examples from the book.

Mr. Foot Grenade

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
Yes, Judy, I remember your fine posts from that very book review which
showed the limits of Dr Sagan's knowledge. It amazes me that so many
skeptics who disavow cults and gurus treat Sagan, Asimov, Gardner and
others as Mahamaha Shree-Ji Sciencegod Buddhas. Sagan's incredible
subjectivity combined with his second-hand "research", qualified him as
a bit of a - now what _are_ those skeptical terms; oh, yes - charlatan,
flim-flam man, con artist, etc. Those untrained in critical thinking
will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.
Strange that Sagan's foisting of critical thinking against
"pseudoscience and New Age supersition" is actually a double-edged
sword: critical thinking is useful to, and has been well employed by,
paranormal proponents as well as "skeptics". What Sagan and his
disciples need is a taste of their own medicine. People who read Sagan
critically can prescribe the dosage.

Ralph Page

unread,
Oct 15, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/15/98
to
Mr. Foot Grenade wrote:


I would still like to hear some specific, concrete examples
of Sagan's spurious logic with regard to paranormal, etc.
If you can't come up with any yourself, maybe you could cite
the source Judy brought up. Commenting on Sagan's
'misinformation' and 'spurious logic' without any sort of
example or analysis makes the statement look more like a
vague opinion.

--
-Ralph Page

"Just because a bunch of atheists are better writers
than the guys who wrote the bible doesn't necessarily
make them right!" - Owen Meany

B. Mullquist

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <3626A380...@proaxis.com>, "Mr. Foot Grenade" <eas...@proaxis.com> says:
>
>Yes, Judy, I remember your fine posts from that very book review which
>showed the limits of Dr Sagan's knowledge. It amazes me that so many
>skeptics who disavow cults and gurus treat Sagan, Asimov, Gardner and

<snipped>
Phantastic rhythm in Mr. Foot's text!

ictiobus

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to Ralph...@prodigy.net
Ralph Page wrote:

>
> Mr. Foot Grenade wrote:
>
>
> > Yes, Judy, I remember your fine posts from that very book review which
> > showed the limits of Dr Sagan's knowledge. It amazes me that so many
> > skeptics who disavow cults and gurus treat Sagan, Asimov, Gardner and
> > others as Mahamaha Shree-Ji Sciencegod Buddhas. Sagan's incredible
> > subjectivity combined with his second-hand "research", qualified him as
> > a bit of a - now what _are_ those skeptical terms; oh, yes - charlatan,
> > flim-flam man, con artist, etc. Those untrained in critical thinking
> > will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.
> > Strange that Sagan's foisting of critical thinking against
> > "pseudoscience and New Age supersition" is actually a double-edged
> > sword: critical thinking is useful to, and has been well employed by,
> > paranormal proponents as well as "skeptics". What Sagan and his
> > disciples need is a taste of their own medicine. People who read Sagan
> > critically can prescribe the dosage.
>
> I would still like to hear some specific, concrete examples
> of Sagan's spurious logic with regard to paranormal, etc.
> If you can't come up with any yourself, maybe you could cite
> the source Judy brought up. Commenting on Sagan's
> 'misinformation' and 'spurious logic' without any sort of
> example or analysis makes the statement look more like a
> vague opinion.
>
> --
> -Ralph Page
>

Yeah, I've been lurking here a while and I get this crap too. I agree
with Ralph. Let's get it straight. Do you have any specific examples of
how Sagan, Randi, and others have used spurious, non-standard, logic to
evaluate the psychic stuff out there. None of this vague
genearlization. Give us specifics and also indicate where the errors
are and how you would do it differently.

Ictiobus

Avital Pilpel

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to

John A. Stanley wrote in message ...

>And, I'll bet if I were to follow-up your snotty anti-TM comment with
>a snotty anti-Semitic comment you'd throw a hissy fit.


Are you comparing making fun the stupidities of TM to religious persecution?


Avital Pilpel

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to

Mr. Foot Grenade wrote in message <3626A380...@proaxis.com>...

> Those untrained in critical thinking
>will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.

Or to silly cults like TM who claim people can fly.

The difference, of course, that Sagan and many others exposed MANY specific
examples of the spurious logic and misinformation on part of the TMers,
while the TMers who rant about Sagan's "spurious logic" cannot give one
example of it, except by redefining "spurious logic" to mean "any argument
that does not agree TM works".

Avital Pilpel

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <362759...@aol.com>,
ictiobus <icti...@aol.com> wrote:
<snip>

> Yeah, I've been lurking here a while and I get this crap too. I agree
> with Ralph. Let's get it straight. Do you have any specific examples of
> how Sagan, Randi, and others have used spurious, non-standard, logic to
> evaluate the psychic stuff out there. None of this vague
> genearlization. Give us specifics and also indicate where the errors
> are and how you would do it differently.

Or you'll huff and puff and...

As I pointed out to Ralph, we discussed Sagan here at some length
and in some detail back in June. And I pointed out some of the
problems with Randi and with debunking attempts generally quite
recently, a month or so ago, in an exchange with a guy named Brad
from sci.skeptic. Look it all up on Deja News.

It's interesting that you simply arrogantly *assume* we're just
flapping our gums. Maybe it would behoove you to do a little
homework in the newsgroup archives first (as the regulars on
sci.skeptic would no doubt require of a newbie there before the
newbie was permitted to demand an accounting of opinions
expressed by skeptics on topics which had been previously
extensively discussed).

Be warned: skeptopaths are eaten for breakfast here on
alt.meditation.transcendental.

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <B24AFC1...@206.165.43.153>,
"Lawson English" <eng...@primenet.com> wrote:

> George DeForest <gd...@peakaccess.net> said:
>
> >"The President of the University, Professor Tony Nader
> >has received his weight in gold for his scientific discovery
> >that Total Knowledge--the total administering intelligence
> >of the universe--is hidden in the human brain physiology."
>
> Lurkers should note that this was pretty much a publicity stunt/joke. What
> Dr. Nader received was his weight in gold in research grants, or so I have
> been told.

That's what the news release said explicitly that the gold was to
be used for.

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <703jku$eqv$2...@supernews.com>,
"George DeForest" <gd...@peakaccess.net> wrote:
<snip>
> > Judy Stein <jst...@panix.com> wrote:
<snip>

> > (Incidentally, I don't recall ever having seen
> > the phrase "Total Knowledge" used in the TM context;
> > it may be that Andrew has invented it for the
> > occasion, as he does so many things.)
>
> In this case, Judy, I think you missed my post of Oct 8
> which Andrew may be referring to. It was the text from
> their website, of an ad the movement is running for MOU,

I saw the post, but I didn't look at it very closely. As you
know, that sort of extreme hype turns me right off. I was more
interested in the mechanics of satellite reception of the
courses.

> One could say, its the latest buzz-word.

Indeed.

It's just that Andrew makes up so much of what he says about TM,
when you come across something you're not familiar with in the TM
context, the most reasonable assumption is that he made it up.

One of my favorites is Andrew's assertion that TMers "address
Maharishi as `His Holiness.'"

I'd bet a good deal of money that no TMer has ever addressed
Maharishi as "His Holiness."

"His Holiness, could you tell us more about..."

Right.

In formal contexts, MMY is *referred* to by his full title as
"His Holiness, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi." And in some *very* formal
contexts, he may be addressed as "Your Holiness" (although I
can't recall ever having heard this). But in the vast, vast
majority of instances, he's both referred to and addressed as
"Maharishi."

Andrew, of course, wanted to give the impression that TMers
regard Maharishi as Catholics regard the Pope (his blooper in
using "address" rather than "refer to" nothwithstanding).

If Catholics routinely addressed and referred to John Paul as
"Pope," as if it were a nickname ("Pope, what do you think
about..." "Pope says that..."), maybe he'd have a point.

But, of course, they don't. And they *do* routinely refer to the
Pope as "His Holiness" (with and without his full title) and
address him as "Your Holiness."

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <3626B840...@prodigy.net>,
Ralph Page <RALPH...@prodigy.net> wrote:
<snip>

> I would still like to hear some specific, concrete examples
> of Sagan's spurious logic with regard to paranormal, etc.
> If you can't come up with any yourself, maybe you could cite
> the source Judy brought up. Commenting on Sagan's
> 'misinformation' and 'spurious logic' without any sort of
> example or analysis makes the statement look more like a
> vague opinion.

Why don't you go look up the discussion that took place here
about Sagan back in June? Do a Deja News search for Sagan in
alt.meditation.transcendental. The thread started with a post
from Andrew Skolnick in June (or late May), quoting Sagan on TM
from "Demon-Haunted World." I pointed out a host of spurious
statements just in those couple of paragraphs, and the discussion
went on from there. My quote excerpting the book review should
be somewhere in those threads as well.

Your assumption that we are just indulging in "vague opinion" is
quite mistaken, if typical from a skeptopath. We've already
provided lots of examples and analysis, and I don't believe we're
obliged to go through them all again just because you happened to
miss them the first time around.

I'm rather surprised, however, that you weren't aware of of the
many *mainstream* criticisms of Sagan. It isn't just the folks
you would consider fuzzy-headed New Agers who recognized his
deficiencies.

He was unquestionably brilliant in a certain limited area, one of
the best of the science popularizers (at least when he didn't try
to apply science to what he himself didn't understand). But
possibly because of all the popular acclaim he received, he
acquired a certain hubris about the extent of what he was
qualified to comment on--a very human failing.

The problem was that he was so charismatic and charming and
appeared so authoritative and knowledgeable that many folks were
seduced into assuming everything he said was pure gold. And he
in turn bought into the public's perception of him.

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <708b2k$jfm$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,
"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:

> Mr. Foot Grenade wrote in message <3626A380...@proaxis.com>...
>
> > Those untrained in critical thinking
> >will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.
>
> Or to silly cults like TM who claim people can fly.

More like to silly skeptics who assume the reports of other
skeptics are accurate.

First, TM isn't a cult.

Second, TM claims *it is potentially possible* for people to fly.
It does not claim people are flying *now*, or that any particular
individual will fly within a given time frame.

Moreover, as I just pointed out to Lou, the notion that those who
fully develop their potential will be able to do things science
considers impossible is hardly a "fringe" view, nor is it only
the view of fuzzy thinkers.

> The difference, of course, that Sagan and many others exposed
> MANY specific examples of the spurious logic and misinformation
> on part of the TMers, while the TMers who rant about Sagan's
> "spurious logic" cannot give one example of it, except by
> redefining "spurious logic" to mean "any argument that does not
> agree TM works".

Your arrogance is exceeded only by your ignorance (but not by
much).

The only remarks of Sagan I'm aware of concerning TM are those he
made in "Demon-Haunted World." They amounted to a few paragraphs
and most certainly "exposed" nothing except his own ignorance and
arrogance.

If you know of other public comments Sagan made about TM, I'd be
interested to learn where they can be found. There may well *be*
some, but I've never seen them. I would seriously doubt,
however, that they are any more valid than what he wrote for
"Demon-Haunted World."

What follows is a repeat of a post I made back in June containing
a close analysis giving specific examples of the spurious logic,
as well as the misinformation, in Sagan's paragraphs on TM from
"Demon-Haunted World."

First I'll reproduce his remarks in their entirety. (I was
tempted to reproduce them by themselves and ask the skeptics to
evaluate them, then post my own analysis to embarrass the
skeptics by showing their lack of critical thinking, but Avital's
comments above will prove to be so embarrassing I don't think I
need to go through that exercise.)

"Perhaps the most successful recent global pseudoscience--by many
criteria, already a religion--is the Hindu doctrine of
Transcendental Meditation (TM). The soporific homilies of its
founder and spiritual leader, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, can be
seen on television. Seated in the yogi position, his white hair
here and there flecked with black, surrounded by garlands and
floral offerings, he has a *look*. One day while channel surfing
we came upon this visage. "You know who that is?" asked our
four-year-old son. `God.'

"The worldwide TM organization has an estimated valuation of $3
billion. For a fee they promise through meditation to be able to
walk you through walls, to make you invisible, to enable you to
fly. By thinking in unison they have, they say, diminished the
crime rate in Washington, D.C., and caused the collapse of the
Soviet Union, among other secular miracles. Not one smattering of
real evidence has been offered for any such claims. TM sells folk
medicine, runs trading companies, medical clinics and "research"
universities, and has unsuccessfully entered politics.

"In its oddly charismatic leader, its promise of community, and
he offer of magical powers in exchange for money and fervent
belief, it is typical of many pseudosciences marked for
sacerdotal export. As amusing as some of pseudoscience may seem,
as confident as we may be that we would never be so gullible as
to be swept up by such a doctrine, we know it's happening all
around us. Transcendental Meditation and Aum Shinrikyo seem to
have attracted a large number of accomplished people, some with
advanced degrees in physics or engineering. These are not
doctrines for nitwits. Something else is going on."

Boy, that really puts those TMers in their place, don't it,
Avital? Sagan just exposed the hell out of TM, didn't he? I
mean, how can we possibly hold our heads up in public? Just look
at all those specific examples of spurious logic and
misinformation on part of the TMers!

My analysis from June follows. I'll await your apology for the
comments you made above.

From: jst...@panix.com (Judy Stein)
Newsgroups: alt.meditation.transcendental,sci.skeptic
Subject: Re: Heinz Pagels and Carl Sagan Agree on TM
Date: 21 Jun 1998 18:58:00 -0400
Message-ID: <rxFZrq2B...@panix.com>
References: <358C9F...@nospamnasw.org>

In article <358C9F...@nospamnasw.org>,
"Andrew A. Skolnick" <asko...@nospamnasw.org> wrote:
<exchange about Heinz Pagels deleted>

> And here is what Carl Sagan wrote in his New York Times Bestseller, *The
> Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark*:

OK, let's have a closer look at what Sagan wrote:

> "Perhaps the most successful recent global pseudoscience--by many
> criteria, already a religion--is the Hindu doctrine of Transcendental
> Meditation (TM).

What criteria? And on what basis does he claim it is a *Hindu*
doctrine? Has he examined what TM teaches, examined what
Hinduism teaches, and compared the two? Has he considered TM's
response to the charge that it is Hindu doctrine? He doesn't
even report that TM maintains it is *not* Hindu doctrine.

The soporific homilies of its founder and spiritual
> leader, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,

Weasel phrase, "soporific homilies." As if that were an
established fact rather than a matter of opinion. But he's
leading up to something, as we'll see.

> can be seen on television.

As it happens, MMY was "seen on television" for only a short
period on a cable channel in California (and perhaps a few other
places--Lawson?).

> Seated in the yogi position,

(That would be lotus position. There are countless "yogi
positions.")

his white hair here and there flecked with black,
> surrounded by garlands and floral offerings, he has a *look*.

Ah, a "look." Objective evidence of...what?

> One day while channel surfing we came upon this visage. "You know
> who that is?" asked our four-year-old son. "God."

Well, there you go. If Sagan's four-year-old son takes a gander
at MMY and thinks he's God, obviously MMY is engaged in some
really serious pseudoscience. <snort>

The worldwide TM organization has an
> estimated valuation of $3 billion.

And so...?

> For a fee they promise through meditation to be able to walk you
> through walls, to make you invisible, to enable you to fly.

Here Sagan has obviously relied on other accounts by skeptics,
which themselves were most likely based on TM-Ex materials. He
hasn't bothered to verify the skeptics' reports with
authoritative sources. He *assumes* the skeptics' reports are
themselves authoritative, an assumption not based on objective
evidence.

The walking-through-walls and invisibility siddhis haven't been
taught since the mid-'70s, first. Second, no such promises are
made by TM. In fact, you have to demonstrate in writing that you
understand you haven't been promised anything before you're
allowed to take the course.

> By thinking in unison

"Thinking in unison" is a highly inaccurate description of what
goes on in TM-Sidhis practice. Again, Sagan hasn't bothered to
check to see whether his *assumption* about what the TM-Sidhis
entail is correct. But it's part of what he's leading up to.

they have, they say,
> diminished the crime rate in Washington, D.C., and caused the collapse
> of the Soviet Union, among other secular miracles. Not one smattering of
> real evidence has been offered for any such claims.

Here Sagan cites one claim that has been documented (not proved)
via very elaborate statistical studies, some of which were
published in peer-reviewed journals (prior to the big 1993 DC
study, which has not been published, although it is available
for review), along with another claim that could never be
documented and which TM does not claim to have documented. By
citing the two together, he implies there is no more evidence for
the second than for the first, which is simply incorrect.

Nor does TM consider reduction of crime via TM/TM-Sidhis practice
to be "miraculous." That's another weasel word. It's one thing
to claim, "We do miracles!" and quite another to present a
detailed account of how the claimed results are supposedly
achieved based on scientific principles, along with supporting
statistical evidence. Whether one thinks the account makes
scientific sense or the statistics hold up is a different issue.
TM does not claim to work miracles; it claims to utilize natural
principles.

TM sells folk
> medicine, runs trading companies, medical clinics and "research"
> universities, and has unsuccessfully entered politics.

(Hm, I guess Sagan disagrees with Andrew here, since Andrew claims
what TM sells is not traditional Ayur-Veda "folk medicine" but
something TM invented itself just to make money.)

Note the weasel use of quotes around "research." MUM *is* a
research university. Even if one does not consider the hundreds
of published, peer-reviewed scientific studies on TM conducted at
MUM to be "real" research (again an assumption, not an
established fact), there is plenty of research on non-TM-related
topics that goes on at MUM and which likewise has been published
in peer-reviewed journals. Moreover, MUM researchers routinely
get research grants from NIH and other respected scientific
institutions, for studying non-TM-related *and* TM-related
matters.

> In its oddly charismatic leader,

"Oddly"?

> its promise of community,

TM doesn't promise "community," but since "community" is a
standard promise of cults, Sagan thought he'd throw it in.

> and the offer of magical powers in exchange for money and
> fervent belief,

TM does not consider the siddhis "magical." Nor does belief play
any role in what *is* offered.

> it is typical of many pseudosciences marked for sacerdotal export

"Sacerdotal: of or relating to priests or a priesthood." Now TM
is supposedly exporting a priesthood. Where's the objective
evidence, Dr. Sagan?

As amusing as some of
> pseudoscience may seem, as confident as we may be that we would never be
> so gullible as to be swept up by such a doctrine,

Note that Sagan has not described any doctrine.

we know it's happening
> all around us. Transcendental Meditation and Aum Shinrikyo seem to have
> attracted a large number of accomplished people,

This is perhaps the most seriously biased and thoughtless comment
Sagan makes, to equate Aum Shinrikyo, with its deadly poison gas
attacks, and TM--with no qualification whatsoever, no indication
that there are any significant differences between the two.

> some with advanced degrees in physics or engineering. These are
> not doctrines for nitwits. Something else is going on."

And now we get back to the hints Sagan has been dropping
throughout the paragraph: the "soporific homilies," the
bewitching of Sagan's son, MMY's "odd" charisma, his "look,"
TMers "thinking in unison," the "promise of community."

Somebody, astonishingly, suggested here that Sagan was showing
his open-mindedness with his "Something else is going on" remark,
that he meant there *could* be something to TM, that maybe it
*wasn't* really pseudoscience.

In fact, what Sagan is suggesting is that there is something
sinister about TM--that all these accomplished and intelligent
people are victims of hypnotic mind control. That's the
"something else" he refers to. That's the assumption he makes
and wants the reader to make as well.

And *that* is based on the assumption that TM cannot possibly
have anything valid to say, even though Sagan obviously doesn't
know what TM says, except for what other skeptics who aren't any
better informed than he is have said TM says.

Note that Sagan offers *no* objective evidence we could go check
out for ourselves

[Added 10/16: Andrew Skolnick had claimed that Sagan said nothing
that was not backed up by objective evidence we could go check
out for ourselves.--JS]

that TM is a pseudoscience. Everything he
mentions is "evidence" only if one first assumes the conclusion,
i.e., that TM's claims cannot be valid. And a lot of what he
mentions as "evidence" is inaccurate as well.

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <708ask$jc4$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,
"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:

Are you equating snotty anti-Semitic comments with religious
persecution?

Or did you completely miss the point of John's remark?

And let's see, you appear to have credited yourself with making
fun of the stupidities of TM. Well, unless I've missed some of
the traffic, the "snotty anti-TM comment" John is referring to,
made in response to someone else's remark about Andrew telling
TMers how stupid they are, reads (in its entirety):

"The truth DOES hurt, doesn't it?"

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <36240554...@proaxis.com>,
"Mr. Foot Grenade" <eas...@proaxis.com> wrote:

> Hot damn, Judy - you've kicked Andy's silly ass again. He's about as
> dense as Carl Sagan used to be when he drifted into nonscientific areas.

With one major difference. Carl Sagan didn't habitually tell
lies.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <3627e3d4...@news.clark.net>,
nos...@buzz.off (Bob Casanova) wrote:

> On Thu, 15 Oct 1998 18:38:08 -0700, in sci.skeptic, "Mr. Foot Grenade"
> <eas...@proaxis.com> wrote:
>
> >Yes, Judy, I remember your fine posts from that very book review which
> >showed the limits of Dr Sagan's knowledge. It amazes me that so many
> >skeptics who disavow cults and gurus treat Sagan, Asimov, Gardner and
> >others as Mahamaha Shree-Ji Sciencegod Buddhas. Sagan's incredible

<snip>

> Then you should have no trouble providing numerous examples supporting
> your claims about Sagan, Asimov, Gardner et al, right?
>
> Don't forget the cites.

See two posts from me today dealing with Sagan. Awhile back I
posted a lengthy analysis of a disastrously inaccurate article
Gardner had written for Skeptical Inquirer on Doug Henning and
TM. And back in June I provided evidence to support the claim
Foot Grenade makes above about the excessively reverential
attitude of Sagan's followers.

A month or so I had a long exchange with a guy named Brad from
sci.skeptic concerning Randi and debunking approaches generally.

All these should be available on Deja News.

I'll leave Asimov to Foot Grenade.

Judy Stein

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
In article <3628e495...@news.clark.net>,
nos...@buzz.off (Bob Casanova) wrote:

> On Thu, 15 Oct 1998 17:40:19 -0500, in sci.skeptic, jsta...@gate.net
> (John A. Stanley) wrote:
>
> >In article <705p70$blt$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,


> >"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:
> >>
> >>Dan wrote in message <3624a7c1...@news.m.iinet.net.au>...
> >>>Great, Andrew's back to tell us how stupid we are.
> >>

> >>The truth DOES hurt, doesn't it?
> >

> >And, I'll bet if I were to follow-up your snotty anti-TM comment with
> >a snotty anti-Semitic comment you'd throw a hissy fit.
>

> Is TM now considered to be a subrace of H.sap?

Gosh, Bob missed the point as well.

(Perhaps you should have written "anti-Jewish" rather than
"anti-Semitic," John, for the benefit of the obsessively
literal.)

Mr. Foot Grenade

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
Bravo, Judy. It's predictable that the skeptos want an immediate rehash
of debates that happened earlier in the group. It's also hilarious that
they want others to do their homework for them. They seem to *prefer*
second-hand reporting, rather than going to sources themselves and doing
their own research. It's not difficult: they can find a title by one of
the debated authors, read it *critically*, research the subjects the
book claims to debunk, and then skeptos will be prepared to communicate
meaningfully on the subject at hand. But instead, they sit around on
their lazy butts, *requiring* opponents to provide "evidence" - when all
the time, the evidence is available to all. Apparently they would
rather receive their information second-hand from "mystics", "TM'ers",
"New Age proponents", "UFO cultists", etc., than from first-hand
investigation. It's a trip to Suckerville to fall into the skepto trap
of "provide me with evidence while I lie around here taking a nap."
Nope, we have the evidence, but we got it by the work you skeptos are
too lazy to do, and we won't hand it to you on a silver platter. Get
your own platter and fill it with the fruits of your own labors. Then,
if your own research differs from ours - or even if it doesn't - there
will be a level debating field. Until then, you can go fly a kite.

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
ictiobus <icti...@aol.com> said:

>Yeah, I've been lurking here a while and I get this crap too. I agree
>with Ralph. Let's get it straight. Do you have any specific examples of
>how Sagan, Randi, and others have used spurious, non-standard, logic to
>evaluate the psychic stuff out there. None of this vague
>genearlization. Give us specifics and also indicate where the errors
>are and how you would do it differently.

OK, I can't speak for Sagan, but here's a little gem from Randi's
_Flim-Flam_:

In it, he mentions the TM organization's claim that the group meditation in
Iowa lowered the crime rate and then quotes an Iowan official saying that
the crime-rate had no gone down to prove them wrong.

I can't answer to which statistic is correct, but the fact is the TM
research on crime generally uses the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics figures
because these are presumeably uniformly evaluated from state to state.

The fact that the Iowa official says one thing while (I assume) the FBI
figures say another may only mean that the FBI defines categories of crime
differently than the state of Iowa does.

It says nothing about whether or not crime actually did go up, down or
sideways in Iowa during that time.

Here's the possibilities as I see them:

I'm wrong -the TM organization cited the Iowa statistics and not the FBI
ones.
I'm wrong -the TM organization DID cite the FBI statistics but they are
identical to the FBI ones and
either the TM organization lied or mis-read the FBI statistics.
The Iowa official lied.
The Iowa official was mistaken.
Randi lied about what the Iowa official said.
Randi was mistaken about what the officia said.
The FBI mis-read/printed the Iowa stats.
The FBI lied about the Iowa stats.
The FBI uses different criteria than Iowa to define crime in the Uniform
Crime Statistics report.

Any of the above could be the correct explanation about the discrepancy. As
you can see, there are explanations where no-one need to have lied, was
mistaken, or even misread/misheard the question/answer and we would still
have the TM organization reporting one thing while the Iowa official would
be reporting something else.

Randi never considered any of the above as far as I can tell. This is
traditional with professional skeptics: assume the worst and attack
whole-heartedly.

Ralph Page

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
Judy Stein wrote:
>
> In article <3626B840...@prodigy.net>,
> Ralph Page <RALPH...@prodigy.net> wrote:
> <snip>
> > I would still like to hear some specific, concrete examples
> > of Sagan's spurious logic with regard to paranormal, etc.
> > If you can't come up with any yourself, maybe you could cite
> > the source Judy brought up. Commenting on Sagan's
> > 'misinformation' and 'spurious logic' without any sort of
> > example or analysis makes the statement look more like a
> > vague opinion.
>
> Why don't you go look up the discussion that took place here
> about Sagan back in June? Do a Deja News search for Sagan in
> alt.meditation.transcendental. The thread started with a post
> from Andrew Skolnick in June (or late May), quoting Sagan on TM

> from "Demon-Haunted World." I pointed out a host of spurious
> statements just in those couple of paragraphs, and the discussion
> went on from there. My quote excerpting the book review should
> be somewhere in those threads as well.

Thanks for the pointers. I have attempted to search
Dejanews in the past (looking for some of Pete Stapleton's
predictions and I found it was next to impossible when the
poster is as prolific as you or Pete. I deleted what seems
like hundred of posts between you and Andrew (I think it was
Andrew you went toe to toe with) not long ago and the
thought of wading through all that was none too appealing.
If Sagan's name was in the subject line of the thread, I
will have no trouble.



> Your assumption that we are just indulging in "vague opinion" is
> quite mistaken, if typical from a skeptopath. We've already
> provided lots of examples and analysis, and I don't believe we're
> obliged to go through them all again just because you happened to
> miss them the first time around.

I didn't say it was a vague opinion, as I am sure you
noticed. I just stated that broad, general statements give
that appearance. No, you are not obliged at all and I
appreciate that you responded. Foot Grenade didn't. And I
asked him twice.

I try to avoid making statements like Foot Grenade made,
even in this usenet forum where anything goes. It just
seems inappropriate to slam a third party without properly
backing it up. The fact that you or he may have discussed
it a couple of months ago is not that relevant. Just my
opinion of course.



> I'm rather surprised, however, that you weren't aware of of the
> many *mainstream* criticisms of Sagan. It isn't just the folks
> you would consider fuzzy-headed New Agers who recognized his
> deficiencies.

I guess I just missed them.

> He was unquestionably brilliant in a certain limited area, one of
> the best of the science popularizers (at least when he didn't try
> to apply science to what he himself didn't understand). But
> possibly because of all the popular acclaim he received, he
> acquired a certain hubris about the extent of what he was
> qualified to comment on--a very human failing.
>
> The problem was that he was so charismatic and charming and
> appeared so authoritative and knowledgeable that many folks were
> seduced into assuming everything he said was pure gold. And he
> in turn bought into the public's perception of him.

You're right there, he seemed like a really nice guy and, in
fact, everything I ever heard led me to believe that he was
pretty rational about the 'paranormal'.



> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> + Judy Stein * The Author's Friend * jst...@panix.com +
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

--

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 16, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/16/98
to
Avital Pilpel <ap...@columbia.edu> said:

>
>John A. Stanley wrote in message ...
>

>>And, I'll bet if I were to follow-up your snotty anti-TM comment with
>>a snotty anti-Semitic comment you'd throw a hissy fit.
>
>

>Are you comparing making fun the stupidities of TM to religious
>persecution?

Calling someone stupid is hardly simply making fun of them.

When you can't make a distinction between beliefs/opinions, and the people
that hold them, there is really no difference between that attitude and
persecution except that you haven't started to pick up rocks yet.

Bob Casanova

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
On Thu, 15 Oct 1998 18:38:08 -0700, in sci.skeptic, "Mr. Foot Grenade"
<eas...@proaxis.com> wrote:

>Yes, Judy, I remember your fine posts from that very book review which
>showed the limits of Dr Sagan's knowledge. It amazes me that so many
>skeptics who disavow cults and gurus treat Sagan, Asimov, Gardner and
>others as Mahamaha Shree-Ji Sciencegod Buddhas. Sagan's incredible

>subjectivity combined with his second-hand "research", qualified him as
>a bit of a - now what _are_ those skeptical terms; oh, yes - charlatan,

>flim-flam man, con artist, etc. Those untrained in critical thinking


>will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.

>Strange that Sagan's foisting of critical thinking against
>"pseudoscience and New Age supersition" is actually a double-edged
>sword: critical thinking is useful to, and has been well employed by,
>paranormal proponents as well as "skeptics". What Sagan and his
>disciples need is a taste of their own medicine. People who read Sagan
>critically can prescribe the dosage.

Then you should have no trouble providing numerous examples supporting


your claims about Sagan, Asimov, Gardner et al, right?

Don't forget the cites.

(Note followups, if any)

Bob C.

Reply to cas @ pop3.clark.net (without the spaces, of course)

"Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness
to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt."
--H. L. Mencken

Bob Casanova

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
On Thu, 15 Oct 1998 17:40:19 -0500, in sci.skeptic, jsta...@gate.net
(John A. Stanley) wrote:

>
>In article <705p70$blt$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,
>"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:
>>
>>Dan wrote in message <3624a7c1...@news.m.iinet.net.au>...
>>
>>>Great, Andrew's back to tell us how stupid we are.
>>>

>>>Dan


>>
>>The truth DOES hurt, doesn't it?
>

>And, I'll bet if I were to follow-up your snotty anti-TM comment with
>a snotty anti-Semitic comment you'd throw a hissy fit.

Is TM now considered to be a subrace of H.sap?

(Note followups, if any)

Harold L

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
>The walking-through-walls and invisibility siddhis haven't been
>taught since the mid-'70s, first.

Why were these teachings abandonned anyway?

I propose as with most cults, religions, and psuedoscience belief
institutions, the doctorines and teachings are often updated to
attract more followers. As society evolves and science advances,
fewer people accept such supernatural claims. If you want to stay in
business you must diversify.

The widespread cult industry that prevailed in the 70's appears to be
making a comeback in the 90's as "New Age". Except the new age claims
are much more vague. They promise intangible and therefore unprovable
benefits. There are fewer promises of physical miraculous results.

Intorudcing TM 2.0 with 90% less fat and no walking through (or into)
walls.

>Second, no such promises are made by TM. In fact, you have
>to demonstrate in writing that you understand you haven't been
>promised anything before you're allowed to take the course.

That's a good disclaimer. That way the students can't take you to
court when they realize the truth.

--HL

tm_ingj...@my-dejanews.com

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
In article <708b2k$jfm$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,

"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:
>
> Mr. Foot Grenade wrote in message <3626A380...@proaxis.com>...
>
> > Those untrained in critical thinking
> >will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.
>
> Or to silly cults like TM who claim people can fly.
>

Eint it fani that flais kan duu meni things piipl kan't.

-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
http://www.dejanews.com/ Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
Harold L <har...@ntwebpro.com> said:

>>The walking-through-walls and invisibility siddhis haven't been
>>taught since the mid-'70s, first.
>
>Why were these teachings abandonned anyway?

The purpose of the TM-Sidhis course is to promote development of higher
states of consciousness. Presumeably, in the relatively short amount of
time that we can devote to each technique found in the Yoga Sutras of
Patanjali, some techniques are more beneficial for this purpose than
others. The period in the mid-70's was a time of experimentation on the
part of MMY. He was testing the effects of the various siddhis on people
and obviously decided that the siddhis-in-question weren't the best to use
for his purposes.

Brian Milnes

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to

John A. Stanley wrote in message ...
>
>In article <708ask$jc4$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,

>"Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:
>>
>>John A. Stanley wrote in message ...
>>
>>>And, I'll bet if I were to follow-up your snotty anti-TM comment with
>>>a snotty anti-Semitic comment you'd throw a hissy fit.
>>
>>
>>Are you comparing making fun the stupidities of TM to religious
persecution?
>
>Not everything associated with TM is stupid, just as not everything
>associated with Judaism is stupid (dump that Zionism crap and the
>barbaric mutilation of neonatal boys and you'd have removed pretty
>much all the stupidity from Judaism.)

What about Hasidic (sp.?) fundamentalism, John?

Brian

George Black

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to

>Be warned: skeptopaths are eaten for breakfast here on
>alt.meditation.transcendental.
>

>++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
>+ Judy Stein * The Author's Friend * jst...@panix.com +
>++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Then with all haste haul your backside out of sci.skeptic

Tomorrow is only a day away.

George

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
George Black <g...@galaxycom.net.nz> said:

Excuse, what does the charter for sci.skeptic say that it is for?

Back-patting of skeptics of skeptical stances, or the rational discussion
of non-mainstream beliefs and practices?

As it happens, I don't believe that skeptopaths are any more rational about
THEIR beliefs than any other True Believer so get YOUR backside out of
sci.skeptic if you feel that you were targetted by the term "skeptopath."

Andrew A. Skolnick

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
Judy Stein wrote:
>
> In article <708b2k$jfm$1...@apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>,
> "Avital Pilpel" <ap...@columbia.edu> wrote:
>
> > Mr. Foot Grenade wrote in message <3626A380...@proaxis.com>...
> >
> > > Those untrained in critical thinking
> > >will fall easy victim to Sagan's spurious logic and misinformation.
> >
> > Or to silly cults like TM who claim people can fly.
>
> More like to silly skeptics who assume the reports of other
> skeptics are accurate.
>
> First, TM isn't a cult.

That's the stubborn opinion of Judy Stein, noted apologist for the TM
cult.

The opinion of most authorities on cults? Members of the TM Movement are
members of a religious cult that follows the Maharishi.

> Second, TM claims *it is potentially possible* for people to fly.
> It does not claim people are flying *now*, or that any particular
> individual will fly within a given time frame.

Judy is a liar. The Maharishi and at least some of his followers have
gone on record to say that TMers have already levitated. She prefers
people forget Maharishi's appearance on the Merv Griffin Show in 1978,
when, in response to the Maharishi claiming that 40,000 students took
his Yogic flying course, Griffin asked how many had learned to levitate.
"Thousands!" the Maharishi declared.

> Moreover, as I just pointed out to Lou, the notion that those who
> fully develop their potential will be able to do things science
> considers impossible is hardly a "fringe" view, nor is it only
> the view of fuzzy thinkers.

"Develop their potential" is Judy-speak for "levitation, walking through
solid walls, becoming invisible, and developing the strength of an
elephant" -- all claims made by the TM Movement for its TM-Sidhi
technique.

--Andrew Skolnick http://nasw.org/users/ASkolnick
I speak only for myself, not for any other individual or organization.

Andrew A. Skolnick

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
Harold L wrote:
>
> >The walking-through-walls and invisibility siddhis haven't been
> >taught since the mid-'70s, first.
>
> Why were these teachings abandonned anyway?
>
> I propose as with most cults, religions, and psuedoscience belief
> institutions, the doctorines and teachings are often updated to
> attract more followers. As society evolves and science advances,
> fewer people accept such supernatural claims. If you want to stay in
> business you must diversify.
>
> The widespread cult industry that prevailed in the 70's appears to be
> making a comeback in the 90's as "New Age". Except the new age claims
> are much more vague. They promise intangible and therefore unprovable
> benefits. There are fewer promises of physical miraculous results.
>
> Intorudcing TM 2.0 with 90% less fat and no walking through (or into)
> walls.
>
> >Second, no such promises are made by TM. In fact, you have
> >to demonstrate in writing that you understand you haven't been
> >promised anything before you're allowed to take the course.
>
> That's a good disclaimer. That way the students can't take you to
> court when they realize the truth.
>
> --HL

Precisely. The TM Movement was sued by students who were unhappy being
bamboozled.
Hell, cigarette companies have gotten away with murder by slapping some
silly warnings on their labels.

Unlike TM courses, disclaimers do give you the power of invisibility and
the strength of an elephant.

Lawson English

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
Newcomers should note that these issues have been raised by Andrew
countless times and have been addressed countless times. Andrew knows our
answers and either doesn't accept them or doesn't care. Certainly, it
appears that he isn't interested in rational discussion of the issues, but
only in attempting to discredit an organization and people who have taken
classes via the organization.

THIS is being a skeptic?

Not in my book. The fact that so many skeptics keep silent when Andrew does
his little skeptopath song and dance on sci.skeptic certainly suggests that
sci.skeptic is populated primarily by religious fanatics.

Andrew A. Skolnick <asko...@nasw.org> said:
>
>The opinion of most authorities on cults? Members of the TM Movement are
>members of a religious cult that follows the Maharishi.
>

How many authorities on cults are there? Who says that they are
authorities? Why? And how many actually insist that members of the TM
Movement are members of a religious cult that follows the Maharishi?
Numbers, please? Do they insist that EVERY practitioner of TM is a member
of the TM-cult? What about every practitioner of the TM-Sidhis?

BTW, while we are at it, just what constitutes a member of the TM Movement?
Am I such a member? Why? Is my son? Is his mom, who no longer practices the
technique? Is my best friend, who only practices the technique when he is
exhausted and can't sleep? Are the hundreds of participants in the
TM-hypertension study recently published in the journal _Hypertension_,
members of this cult? What about the 11,000 prison inmates in Senegal who
learned TM by order of the president of the country?

Please define your terms.

>> Second, TM claims *it is potentially possible* for people to fly.
>> It does not claim people are flying *now*, or that any particular
>> individual will fly within a given time frame.
>
>Judy is a liar. The Maharishi and at least some of his followers have
>gone on record to say that TMers have already levitated. She prefers
>people forget Maharishi's appearance on the Merv Griffin Show in 1978,
>when, in response to the Maharishi claiming that 40,000 students took
>his Yogic flying course, Griffin asked how many had learned to levitate.
>"Thousands!" the Maharishi declared.

*I* learned how to levitate the TM way, Andrew. So has EVERY person who
ever took the course. However, that doesn't mean that I or anyone else CAN
levitate. Having learned the technique that Patanjali claims will lead to
"passage through the skies" isnt' the same as actually accomplishing the
end-point of the technique (assuming, of course, that the end-point
exists).

Since the point of the technique, both as expoused by Patanjali AND
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is to become enlightened, rather than merely "pass
through the skies," this isn't some minor point, but the central theme of
the whole of Yoga as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The entire
third chapter (out of 4) is devoted to the Siddhis techniques, of which
Yogic Flying is one. Invisibility is another. Walking through walls is yet
another. Strength of an elephant (which you mention below) is another.
There's several score of them listed in [Patanjali]. The TM organization
teaches a select few, of which "Yogic Flying" is the most famous and
[melo-] dramatic.

>
>> Moreover, as I just pointed out to Lou, the notion that those who
>> fully develop their potential will be able to do things science
>> considers impossible is hardly a "fringe" view, nor is it only
>> the view of fuzzy thinkers.
>
>"Develop their potential" is Judy-speak for "levitation, walking through
>solid walls, becoming invisible, and developing the strength of an
>elephant" -- all claims made by the TM Movement for its TM-Sidhi
>technique.

All of these are claims that Patanjali makes for the techniques he lists in
his Yoga Sutras. The TM organization teaches a sub-set of these techniques
and maintains that Patanjali's purpose in listing them is so that people
might practice them as part of their practice of Yoga. The purported power
is merely a side-effect of using the particular technique to grow towards
enlightenment.


But you're aware of our claims and ignore them.

Typical skeptopath.

Avital Pilpel

unread,
Oct 17, 1998, 3:00:00 AM10/17/98
to
Judy Stein wrote in message ...

>First, TM isn't a cult.

Yes, it is. Not perhaps as destructive to members as other cults, but still
a cult. It has all the requirments: A charismatic leader who can do no
wrong; silly claims about impossible things; and most important of all -
fleecing money from the gullible cult members in order to line the pockets
of their leader(s).

>Second, TM claims *it is potentially possible* for people to fly.

Not according to the laws of physics it ain't. And there is not ONE TINY
ITSY BITSY SMALL LITTLE SHREAD OF VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE provided by ANYBODY in
the TM, or anybody else for that matter, that the laws of physics are wrong
or that they can break them. A lot of tall tales and vague promises - yes;
evidence - no.

If you mean "potentially" in a *logical* sense, then it is just as
"potentially possible" for people to turn into fire-breathing dragons or for
the world to end this minute.

>It does not claim people are flying *now*, or that any particular
>individual will fly within a given time frame.

Oh, I see. And I can turn into a fire-breathing dragon.

Note I didn't say I can do it *now*, or that I will be able to do it in any
"given time frame". Note also that I never *did* in fact turn into a fire
breathing dragon in the past. I just claim that I *can* do so if I *really*
wanted to (and there weren't all those bad skeptics around doubting my
ability to do so and filling me with "negative energy" by asking me to
actually *do* what I claim is oh-so-possible).

Surely this is enough evidence for you, if you are convinced by what TM says
about people flying: After all they wouldn't just *lie*, would they, right?
Neither would I, right?

So, I am more powerful and amazing than the Maharishi Yogi (sp?) himself.
After all, he is a rather powerless person who only claims he could *fly* if
he really wanted to, without giving one shread of evidence that this is
possible. I, on the other hand, *could* turn into a fire breathing dragon
(with *really* big wings, too, so I could *also* fly!). If he doesn't have
to produce any evidence, neither do I.

>The only remarks of Sagan I'm aware of concerning TM are those he
>made in "Demon-Haunted World." They amounted to a few paragraphs
>and most certainly "exposed" nothing except his own ignorance and
>arrogance.

OH? I have the book right here (so much for my "ignorance" on the matter).
The quote is from p. 16 of the soft cover edition.

Yup. He sure did. It shows TM for what it really is: a money-making agency
for its founder, based on people given empty promises "for a fee". Since
they have a lot of income from members and no outcome except for claming
that it is "possible" for people to fly with no evidence and claiming that
it was "thinking in unison" that collapsed the soviet union (or whatever),
two claims with
not one shread of evidence for them, no wonder this fraud "Maharishi" raked
in $3 billion.


>OK, let's have a closer look at what Sagan wrote:
>
>> "Perhaps the most successful recent global pseudoscience--by many
>> criteria, already a religion--is the Hindu doctrine of Transcendental
>> Meditation (TM).
>
>What criteria?

Is *this* the case of "spurious logic" you find? Obviously Sagan simply
means very obvious and simple things: e.g. TM has a charismatic leader like
many religions leaders, a doctrine it claims is true (e.g. that people can
fly), a community of believers which hold TM's tenents to be true on faith,
a division of the wolrd to "believers" and "nonbelieves", etc.

Besides, for this logic to be "spurious", it would help if something in
Sagan's reasoning or claims *depended* on the fact that Sagan *called* it a
religion. Nothing in his argument does; he just uses the name here.

He does not claim, for example, that TM is bunk becasue religions are bunk
and TM is a religion. He claims it is bunk becasue it makes silly,
unverifiable, and outrageious claims that have no evidence. This is a fact -
no matter whether you - or Sagan - call TM a religion, a cult, or anything
else.

> And on what basis does he claim it is a *Hindu*
>doctrine? Has he examined what TM teaches, examined what
>Hinduism teaches, and compared the two? Has he considered TM's
>response to the charge that it is Hindu doctrine? He doesn't
>even report that TM maintains it is *not* Hindu doctrine.

TM maintains that people can fly, too.

> The soporific homilies of its founder and spiritual
>> leader, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi,
>
>Weasel phrase, "soporific homilies."
> As if that were an
>established fact rather than a matter of opinion.

By this criteria, nobody can ever use *any* adjectives becasue they are
always "matters of opinion" and not of "fact". Is the mountain outside
large? Yes? Is that a *fact*, or is that your *opinion* becasue you are
smaller than it?

Similarly with "bad" and "good". Is it a "bad" thing to rob you, assult you,
and burn your house? If you say "yes", does that mean "bad" is just a
"weasel word" by you to introduce *your* standards and values, just bcasue
it isn't quntifiable like "500 tons" or "two meters" are? Of course not!

See what I mean?

If someone says a montain is "large" instead of "it weighs 500 billion
tons", is that just "a matter of opinion"? No, becasue the adjective "large"
is correctly used to describe the mountain in this way by most speakers.

Similarly, "soporific homilities" are what these homilities are - by the
standard of most reasonable english speaking people who use the word
"soporific".

>> can be seen on television.
>
>As it happens, MMY was "seen on television" for only a short
>period on a cable channel in California (and perhaps a few other
>places--Lawson?).

So Sagan uttered a true statement. It can be seen on television. Presnet
tense, becasue this was the case when he *wrote this sentence*, at the time
his four-year-old son said the Maharishi is"god" when he saw him on TV.

>> Seated in the yogi position,
>
>(That would be lotus position. There are countless "yogi
>positions.")

So?

> his white hair here and there flecked with black,
>> surrounded by garlands and floral offerings, he has a *look*.
>
>Ah, a "look." Objective evidence of...what?

Simple, your willful ignorance notwithstanding. It is evidence of the
impression the Maharishi Yogi obviously tries to convey - of this smart,
all-knowing sage who *could* really fly, if he *wanted* too. Sagan's son was
obviously impressed by this "look".

It is just as objective as the fact that when I see someone frown I can say
he looks angry, or when I see someone smile he looks happy. Similalry when
I - or Sagan - see someone who looks like the Maharishi yogi, we get the
impression in my previous paragraph.

>> One day while channel surfing we came upon this visage. "You know
>> who that is?" asked our four-year-old son. "God."
>
>Well, there you go. If Sagan's four-year-old son takes a gander
>at MMY and thinks he's God, obviously MMY is engaged in some
>really serious pseudoscience. <snort>

No, but this is *not* Sagan's claim or way of reasoning. Sagan's claim here
is that the Maharishi has a "look", which - despite not being defined
explicitly - is obviously there. The fact that it is not quantifiable is no
more evidence it isn't there than the fact that I can't quantify how your
(or anybody's) face looks means they don't look like anything.

> The worldwide TM organization has an
>> estimated valuation of $3 billion.
>
>And so...?

See above. Where does this money come from? From the TM followers. Where
does it go? To the Maharishi's personal funds and projects. What does the
Maharishi give back to his believers for these $3 billion? *Promises* that
people *could* fly and baseless claims with no evidence that meditating
together lowers crime. What does this make the Maharishi? A fraud.

>> For a fee they promise through meditation to be able to walk you
>> through walls, to make you invisible, to enable you to fly.
>
>Here Sagan has obviously relied on other accounts by skeptics,
>which themselves were most likely based on TM-Ex materials. He
>hasn't bothered to verify the skeptics' reports with
>authoritative sources. He *assumes* the skeptics' reports are
>themselves authoritative, an assumption not based on objective
>evidence.

TRANSLATION OF JUDY'S RANT: Sagan hit a sore spot which she cannot refute or
turn into a word-game about the meaning of common English words.

Of course, one could go on how Judy uses "weasel words" like "obviously",
"most likely", and "authoritive", which - as Judy told us - are meaningless
words since they do not point to anything "objective", so they are nothing
but "personal opinion". Shame on you for using weasel words, Judy. But
let's stick to Sagan...

>The walking-through-walls and invisibility siddhis haven't been
>taught since the mid-'70s, first.

TRANSLATION: until the cult was firmly established enough to no longer need
*such* outrageous lies. Did the Maharishi use some of his $3 billion to
refund the money of people who joined TM due to these even more outrageous
claims of the earlier years? No? thought so.

> Second, no such promises are
>made by TM.

...any more.

> In fact, you have to demonstrate in writing that you
>understand you haven't been promised anything before you're
>allowed to take the course.

And this is supposed to be proof of TM's *innocence*????

TM is using here the same fraudulent scheme used in so-called "pyramid
schemes", psychic phone lines, and other frauds: you must sign or agree to a
disclaimer that the money you send is "legally" a free gift, or the psychic
phone call
"for entertainment purposes only".

In all three cases, you *are* promised - if not directly, *very* strongly so
by implication - that you will get rich, or talk to a real psychic, or be
able to fly; the "paper signing" ritual is just an attept to thwart possile
lawsuits when the gullible person realizes that you *cannot* make money from
a pyramid scheme, that there *are* no real psychics, and that people *can't*
fly.

>> By thinking in unison
>


>"Thinking in unison" is a highly inaccurate description of what
>goes on in TM-Sidhis practice. Again, Sagan hasn't bothered to
>check to see whether his *assumption* about what the TM-Sidhis
>entail is correct. But it's part of what he's leading up to.

The point is that whether it is accurate or not according to the TMers is
not the point. Sagan calls it "thinking in unison"; the TMers call it
"organizing our psychic energies into a concentrated form of the good of the
universe" - or whatever.

The *point* is, that *whether* you call what TMers did "thinking in unison"
*or* whatever the TMers call it, there IS NOT ONE SHREAD OF EVIDENCE it had
*anything* to do with lowering crime, or the collapse of the soviet union,
or any other world event, let alone cause them.

> they have, they say,
>> diminished the crime rate in Washington, D.C., and caused the collapse
>> of the Soviet Union, among other secular miracles. Not one smattering of
>> real evidence has been offered for any such claims.
>
>Here Sagan cites one claim that has been documented (not proved)

"not proven" is right. All that study showed is that *maybe* crime became
lower in Washington, D.C. at the time the TMers did whatever they did - and
even *this point* is under dispute.

But this means *absolutly nothing* even if true, becasue the claim was that
the TMers thing *casued* the decrease in crime. However, for every decrease
in crime there is an enourmous number of events that happened at the same
time *except* for the TMers praying, or whatever it was they did.

For example, at the time of this crime wave decrease, I went to the bathroom
1,546 times (say). therefore, I can just as easily claim It wasn't the TMers
thinking togethers which decreased crime in Washington, D.C. but it was the
psychic manifestations of me going to the bathroom that did it.

And, of course, me "going to the bathroom" is just the INACCURATE TERM
laymen use to describe the REAL metaphysical and deep things that I was
doing! After all, remember, I *could* turn into a dragon if I really wanted
to, so you better believe I didn't just "go to the bathroom" any more than
the TMers were just "thinking in unison".

I could explain more about this - what I was *really* doing in the bathroom
that reduced crime is closely tied to the way I *could* turn myelf into a
dragon - but you will have to send me money to reach such a level of
metaphysical understanding. The Maharishi doesn't teach for free, either,
now does he?

>By
>citing the two together, he implies there is no more evidence for
>the second than for the first, which is simply incorrect.

I doubt very much Sagan invented this - TM is obviously silly enough with
its claims that people could fly and meditation reduces crime, so there
would hardly be any need for him to invent any more silliness.

Can I cite the exact source of this claim? No. But I *do* recall you
claiming that TM no longer claims this and never said that while Mr.
Skolnick immeditaelly showed that TM did in fact do so. Therefore, your
denials carry little weight, considering the fact you were caught lying more
than once about the claims TM makes.

>Nor does TM consider reduction of crime via TM/TM-Sidhis practice
>to be "miraculous." That's another weasel word. It's one thing
>to claim, "We do miracles!" and quite another to present a
>detailed account of how the claimed results are supposedly
>achieved based on scientific principles

What the TMers "science" is not really science; it is the usual new-age
metaphsical babble which tends to use the words "quantum mechanics" and
other catch-phrases a lot, as if they actually knew anything about Quantum
mechanics or what physics really is like.

CALLING it "based on scientific principles" does not make it so, when the
TMers claims are in violation of the laws and principles of physics - that
is, the principles of *real* physics that *real* physicists do experiments
with, not what the TMers *call* physics.

Therefore, it *is* a claim that TM can work miracles: that it can violate
the laws of (real) physics. After all, if I claim that my ability to turn
into a red dragon is "based on scientific principles" it doesn't make it
so - *especially* when I also use *my own definiton* of what "scientific
principles" are, like the TMers do, now does it?

>, along with supporting
>statistical evidence.

BWHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!

> Whether one thinks the account makes
>scientific sense or the statistics hold up is a different issue.

No, it is the main issue.


What determines whether it is a "miracolous claim" or not depends on whether
it is a claim that is in violation of the *real* laws of physics, not on
whether or not it violates what the TMers *call* "the laws of physics".

Since the TMers claims violate the *real* laws of physics in a big way and
their so-called "physics" is merely nonsensical babble which has no relation
to real physics, the TM'ers claims are claims of miracles.

>TM does not claim to work miracles; it claims to utilize natural
>principles.


Only that these "natural principles" are only "natural principles" according
to *them*, and not according to any physicist or serious scientist.
Physicists have other, far less flattering words to describe what the TMers
*CALL* "natural principles".

> TM sells folk
>> medicine, runs trading companies, medical clinics and "research"
>> universities, and has unsuccessfully entered politics.
>
>(Hm, I guess Sagan disagrees with Andrew here, since Andrew claims
>what TM sells is not traditional Ayur-Veda "folk medicine" but
>something TM invented itself just to make money.)


Again, you are meddling with words here. Whether TM invented these
traditional medicines or not, it is irrelevant to the *main point*: TM sells
these medicines. These medicines do not work. Therefore, TM is selling snake
oil.

>Note the weasel use of quotes around "research." MUM *is* a
>research university.

According to the dictionary defintion, maybe. According to the standards of
science, no. The "research" done there bears *NO RELATION EXCEPT IN NAME* to
any REAL research that is done in any REAL university. Contrary to what you
claim, it does no work that is peer reviewed in the real sense of the word.
It does no "research" that gives repeatable results. It publishes no
reproducible results. Etc., etc. Not real research.

> Even if one does not consider the hundreds
>of published, peer-reviewed scientific studies on TM conducted at
>MUM to be "real" research

NAME ONE.

Oh, wait: the "peers" that review these "hundreds" of articles are fellow
TMers, right? And the journals where these "studies" were published were
*also* pro-TM journals with an agenda, right?

Gee... what a surprise...

> (again an assumption, not an
>established fact), there is plenty of research on non-TM-related
>topics that goes on at MUM and which likewise has been published
>in peer-reviewed journals.

Again, NAME ONE.

And at any rate, if you are using the *non*-TM research in such institutions
as proof that there is "research" going on there, you're case is in *deep*
trouble. Obviously Sagan's point is that there is *no such thing as TM
scientific research*. He is correct. The fact that there *might* be some
research on *non-TM-related* topics in such institutions is besides the
point! If anything, it shows that the TMers *know* that there is no real "TM
research" and that they must do *some* real research in their institutions
to justify their name.

> Moreover, MUM researchers routinely
>get research grants from NIH and other respected scientific
>institutions, for studying non-TM-related *and* TM-related
>matters.


So what? TT practitioners, too, get such grants. TT is still bunk. Who is
doing research is decided not by who gets money, but by who can show
significant reproducible results about their research subject. All the
research in "TM related subjects" showed NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER to the truth
of any of the tenents of TM. People *still* cannot fly, and TM *still* does
not lower crime, nor is anybody getting any close to either one of these
goals. They might be getting money, but they are not *really* doing any
research, now are they?

>> In its oddly charismatic leader,
>
>"Oddly"?


Yes.

>> its promise of community,
>
>TM doesn't promise "community," but since "community" is a
>standard promise of cults, Sagan thought he'd throw it in.


TM does promise community: like in other cults, "the believers" form a
community with a feeling of brotherhood due to the shared knowledge of "the
truth" from their "leader", which makes them special as opposed to the
"non-believers".

Of course it does not promise a community on any formal paper, but *no* cult
does that; it doesn't mean that the feeling of community is not one of its
strong drawing points of cults in general and TM in particular.

>> and the offer of magical powers in exchange for money and
>> fervent belief,
>
>TM does not consider the siddhis "magical."

It still is, what TM "considers" nothwithstanding. It makes claims that
violate the laws of physics.

> Nor does belief play
>any role in what *is* offered.


Maybe, but nobody *without* fervent belief in TM claims will ever *take*
whatever TM offers seriously, now would day?

>> it is typical of many pseudosciences marked for sacerdotal export
>
>"Sacerdotal: of or relating to priests or a priesthood." Now TM
>is supposedly exporting a priesthood. Where's the objective
>evidence, Dr. Sagan?


Sagan obviously simply mean that TM plans even further expansion. Evidence?
Look at its history.

> As amusing as some of
>> pseudoscience may seem, as confident as we may be that we would never be
>> so gullible as to be swept up by such a doctrine,
>
>Note that Sagan has not described any doctrine.


How about the claims that by some sort of mysterious force people would be
able to fly and lower crime while meditating?