«JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION A Publication of the Society for Scienti¢c Exploration Volume 22, Number 1 2008 Page Editorial 1 Editorial Peter ...»
It is difficult to pin down instances of the withering effect of incredulity on budding ideas. Prejudice can rationalize itself as caution or be easily disguised by other appearances. A surveying committee may conceal from the applicant, and even from itself, the real reasons for turning down a request for funds. Yet there are grounds for believing that research in psychiatry in this country has become excessively influenced by the theories of psychoanalysis. I know of two first-rate investigators who have had great difficulty in obtaining support for their projects because (so the available evidence strongly suggests) their ideas run counter to psychoanalytic concepts. One eminent psychiatrist, much experienced in such matters, told me in discussing one of these cases that it is now extremely difficult to obtain support for psychiatric research projects which Scientists with Half-closed Minds 139 are not psychoanalytical in orientation. (He was referring to psychological and psychotherapeutic projects, not biochemical or neurophysiological ones.) Another leading American psychiatrist recently published a vigorous protest in one of our professional journals against the centralization of psychiatric research and its control by committees which permit a few persons to swing enormous funds toward a few favorite or fashionable themes of research.
Freedom to Act Foolish Defenders of grants for project research claim that they permit scientists to get funds long before they are sufficiently well known to receive support for themselves. This supposes that we can support scientists directly only when they have already become well known—certainly a most unsatisfactory criterion of worth and one more likely to lead to a search for publicity than for truth.
A second symptom of harmful conservatism is the figures published by the National Science Foundation on the distribution of funds for research. In the years between 1940 and 1954—a period in which sums allocated for research skyrocketed—the funds available for basic research (i.e., research not bound to any immediate application) increased ten times. But in this same period the percentage of funds allocated for basic, as opposed to applied, research decreased by half.
Moreover, applied research has become increasingly important in the universities which have traditionally remained free to support new ideas and their testing. Recently, in order to maintain themselves against rising costs (or so they rationalize, perhaps), universities have accepted more and more contracts for applied research. According to a report prepared by Dr. Vannevar Bush in 1945, basic research received 70 per cent of all the funds devoted to research by universities before World War II. This contrasts sadly with a recent estimate derived from the report of the National Science Foundation that basic research now accounts for only 35 per cent of universities’ research funds.
One remedy would be to give more money directly to scientists for themselves, rather than for special projects. The federal government has already begun this on a small scale, although we apparently lag far behind the Russians.
Such a system would have its weaknesses in this country, as it undoubtedly has in Russia. Its mistakes would be more obvious and perhaps more wasteful than those of the present system. But if we had more failures, we might also have more new knowledge. Certainly we will have no new knowledge at all unless we continue to foster ideas which shake present beliefs. Prophets have warned us.
John Dewey told us ‘‘every great advance of science has issued from a new 140 Ian Stevenson audacity of imagination.’’ And Whitehead wrote that ‘‘every great idea sounds like nonsense when first propounded.’’ During the planning of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, someone asked Dr. Simon Flexner, who was one of the chief architects of modern medicine: ‘‘Are you going to allow your men to make fools of themselves at your Institute?’’ As it turned out the Rockefeller Institute made many more discoveries than fools, but the freedom to make a fool surely contributed to its extraordinary success. Scientists at the Rockefeller Institute were given full support to pursue their own work in their own ways.
Unfortunately, this system had almost no imitators (except in Russia) and even the Rockefeller Institute departed in later years from its original principle. Today we badly need not only new institutes of the kind it was, but new freedom to pursue strange ideas. And scientists themselves must encourage each other to think brazenly and experiment boldly.
When I read about the now-primitive treatments practiced by our predecessors in medicine a hundred years ago, I cannot refrain from smiling at some of their fatuous remedies. My smile includes a little pity for them because they knew so little and some pleasure for us because we have come so far. Then I hope that a hundred years from now, some medical descendant will read our books with similar pleasure for similar reasons. If he does, this supposes that we in our time have remained humble about our knowledge and receptive to the new ideas which will furnish the justification for his pity. May it not be said of us: ‘‘No man having drunk old wine, straightway desireth new; for he saith ‘The old is better’.’’ Note 1 Stevenson, I. (1958). Scientists with Half-closed Minds. Harper’s Magazine, 217, 64–71. Copyright (c) 2003 ProQuest Information and Learning Company Copyright (c) Harper’s Magazine Foundation. Reprinted with permission.
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A dozen or so years ago, I decided to ‘‘get serious’’ about the many psi experiences that I have had during my life. So I documented the most memorable ones, included a resume, and sent these materials to many individuals whom I had identified through my research of the paranormal.
Two responses were all that I received: One of these was from Dr. Ian Stevenson. His letter was specific to my particular experiences, and his advice was practical and unassuming. He identified an organization within an hour-anda-half drive from my home which he felt might be helpful to me. I followed up on his recommendation and made several visits to this organization, which I found informative and interesting, further stoking the fire in me to learn more about what others were doing to unravel these mysteries.
Dr. Stevenson closed his initial response to me with an invitation to meet with him should my travels take me to the Charlottesville area. A year or two later I called him, reminded him of his invitation, and set up a meeting. He was very hospitable and warm in making the arrangements. We met, and I met his very learned and erudite staff as well, a most enjoyable experience.
In the years that followed, we met several times, and my respect for Ian grew more and more, and not only for Ian the scientist, but also for Ian the man: his dignified yet totally gracious manner, his good-humoredness and wit, and his youthful approach to life—tennis, anyone?—and trips to remote areas of India!
In time, I thought of Ian as a friend and hoped he felt the same toward me.
This led me to asking him a question which long since had been on my mind, and as I sat in his office on one of my visits, I simply blurted out: ‘‘Ian, do you believe in reincarnation?’’
After a significant pause, he turned to me and in very measured words said:
‘‘The physical marks present strong evidence.’’ Then silence.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOREditor: Commendations to you, Dr. Sturrock, and your Associate Editors for the tributes to Ian Stevenson, MD. I thoroughly enjoyed the articles and remembrances from those who wrote of their associations with Dr. Stevenson and his many contributions to so many disciplines.
I wish to provide a few comments to underline what others have written about Dr. Stevenson: a scholar and a gentleman.
During 1980–1981, he and I exchanged a half dozen letters, with reports and some audiotape recordings. I had referred a family to him, and he had referred a family to me, for the investigation of POLs (Possible Other Lifetimes). His intelligence, and experience, were on a higher level than mine; yet, he treated me as a peer.
I was busy as a faculty member and Director of Counseling and Testing, University of Wyoming. Also, I was attempting to establish, on campus, the Rocky Mountain UFO Conference (1980–2000). Yet, his schedule of activities, writing, and travel gave me a different perspective of stamina and commitment.
Although his writing indicated his skepticism about the use of hypnotic procedure to investigate ‘‘cases of reincarnation type’’, he encouraged me in my hypnosis sessions with a family and their possible earlier lifetimes together.
Also, he tolerated my report of ‘‘psychological resonance’’ (channeling information about the possible family interactions). Although the channeled information may have added ‘‘flavor’’, it probably did not add ‘‘substance’’ to the previous information that he had gathered so skillfully.
I treasured the opportunity to exchange correspondence with Ian. I assume that he continues his spiritual path in service to Humanity & Creation.
May we all share more Love & Light.
R. LEO SPRINKLE Laramie, WY Editor: While Bill Bergston’s survey of the membership is useful in canvassing the views of SSE members on ‘‘scientific anomalies’’, one aspect caught my attention, which I will use to make an important point, without any criticism of the survey and its worthwhile objectives. In the questionnaire, the scale of responses to ‘‘scientific anomalies’’ (phenomena such as UFOs, out of body
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experiences, etc.) was graded by the degree of skepticism the item engenders in the reader. I had submitted to JSE last year a paper on ‘‘dowsing the vocabulary’’, in which I reported on practical experiments with a method of dowsing that evinces subconscious responses to phenomena in divination mode.
It gives quantitative values for our emotive and practical vocabulary, which span a wide range of vital energies when expressed on the Bovis Scale. I can already imagine a significant proportion of readers putting on their skeptical hat at the mention of ‘‘dowsing’’ and ‘‘Bovis’’, but without having tried the method themselves, I ask them to bear with me for a few more minutes. For example, when I hold in mind the emotion ‘‘Skepticism’’, I receive readings that are substantially below the levels registered for practical words, such as ‘‘assess’’, ‘‘consider’’, or ‘‘evaluate’’, and of course much lower than for emotional words, such as ‘‘joy’’, ‘‘love’’, ‘‘family’’, ‘‘friendship’’, etc. One conclusion is that at the time of Galileo and later, ‘‘proto-scientists’’ had to invent a vocabulary that falls within what I have called (Caddy 2007) ‘‘the band of rationality’’, excluding emotive words, in order that the logical consequences of initial assumptions and observations can be followed without the distraction of either ‘‘doubt’’ or ‘‘inspiration’’. From practical experience, I have noted that paranormal or ‘‘anomalous phenomena’’ are difficult to induce while negative emotions dominate the mind; perhaps because these create a ‘‘morphic field’’ such as those suggested by Rupert Sheldrake? My working hypothesis is that an observer should avoid skepticism when evaluating a ‘‘scientific anomaly’’, since the skeptical mind filters out phenomena that contradict its accepted axioms. It seems better to phrase questions alternatively, such as asking whether the evidence for the phenomenon in question is adequate, incomplete, or lacking. Even in the circumstances that the last response is chosen, this does not preclude an improvement in methodology or new evidence from easily reversing an initial opinion.
A Post script: My paper on dowsing the vocabulary was rejected for publication in the JSE; apparently on the grounds that dowsed responses are subjective. The referee/editor suggested that the paper would have been suitable for publication if I had been attached to an electroencephalogram, and if it had been written by the professional neurologist making observations from electronic instruments on his dowsing ‘‘guinea pig’’. I mention this to make the point that ‘‘anomalies research’’ is heuristic; often the only way to gain partial verification is to present a method for testing by a wider audience. At present however, the only way to read my paper is to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will send a copy.
JOHN CADDY Latina, Italy Letters to the Editor 559 Editor: Comment on Dieter Gernert, ‘‘How to Reject Any Manuscript,’’ JSE, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2008, p. 233–243.
There is very little that is really new in this interesting and provocative paper.
It is well known that on rare occasions even Nobel class work has been rejected by one or more sets of referees. A fellow in Spain named Juan Miguel Campanario has written about this subject. He often refers to the Citation Classic Commentaries that were published in Current Contents, which demonstrated that on occasion these highly cited papers were rejected even by journals as respected as Nature. Wolfgang Glanzel and I published a paper in The Scientist about the myth of delayed recognition: Glanzel W. and Garfield E., ‘‘The Myth of Delayed Recognition–Citation analysis demonstrates that premature discovery, while rare, does occur: Nearly all significant research is normally cited soon after publication’’, The Scientist 18(11): 8–8 June 7, 2004. Original article in The Scientist,http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14757/.
Quite frankly when you consider the tens of millions of papers and books that have been published, it is surprising to me that it is so rare that such paradigm breaking papers are delayed or rejected. One wonders what Gernert would consider an acceptable level of rejection considering the huge volume of publication. Indeed many people would argue that rejection rates should be even higher. I am glad he agrees that peer review does serve a useful purpose if properly administered. I’ve had a lot of positive experiences with the system and a few bad ones. The worst two cases involved papers that were actually requested of me by the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and Science, respectively.
In the case of NEJM, the then editor, who is justifiably a highly respected editor and scientist (Arnold Relman), after making me go through several revisions of my manuscript, refused to publish it because it would be ‘‘unseemly’’ for a paper published in NEJM to show how much higher NEJM ranked as compared with the other journals in the study. After delaying my paper for almost two years, he turned it down but within a few months it was accepted by Edward Huth, the editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The second paper was requested by Daniel E. Koshland when he was editor of Science. It took me almost two years to write what I thought would be my magnum opus for Science, since I had published two core papers there in 1955 and 1964,1 which are both highly cited. By the time I sent in the ‘‘Synoptic history of the Science Citation Index’’ manuscript, Dan had retired from Science. His successor Floyd Bloom, a highly respected neuropharmacologist, refused to publish the manuscript after delaying it for six months or more. The extensive revisions he requested would have delayed the paper another year. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to speak in Copenhagen and my ‘‘talk’’ was published in an established European journal of library science. The full text is available under the title ‘‘From Citation Indexes to Informetrics: Is the tail wagging the dog?’’ Libri, 48(2), p. 67–80, June 1998. Based on oral presentation–Center for Informetric Studies, Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, December 15, 1997.
560 Letters to the Editor,http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/papers/libriv48(2)p6780y1998.pdf/. The original title was ‘‘A Synoptic History of the Science Citation Index’’. That it has been cited only 26 times in ten years tells you something about the importance of where you publish. Had it appeared in Science or some other leading journal I have no doubt that it would have been more widely read and cited.
ReferencesGarﬁeld, E. ‘‘Citation Indexes for Science: A New Dimension in Documentation through Association of Ideas.’’ Science, 122(3159), p. 108–11, July 1955; and Garﬁeld, E. ‘‘Science Citation Index–A New Dimension in Indexing.’’ Science, 144(3619) p. 649–54, 1964. See also: Garﬁeld, E.
‘‘Citation Indexing for studying science,’’ Nature, 227 (5259) p. 669–671, 1970.
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We regret that, by mistake, the Reviewer’s comments on ‘‘Memory and Precognition’’, by Jon Taylor, were included as an Appendix to that article (Issue 21.3, pp. 553–571). These comments referred to an earlier version of the manuscript, and they had already been addressed in the version that was published.