Simon Hoggart and Mike Hutchinson
Richard Cohen Books, London, 1995.
One of the good things about this book is that it is so well-illustrated and attractive to look at that it might lure the paranormalist to read it, and (who knows?) absorb some of the reasoning in the text.
It covers the usual gallimaufrey of fads and fancies, and I will just pick a few choice samples. The problem for astrologers of the precession of the equinoxes, whereby the zodiac has shifted by 26 degrees since Ptolemy's chart of 140 AD, are discussed in a chapter called "Foretelling the Past".
"The BBC interviewed several followers of astrology about the shift of the stars' positions. 'I wouldn't believe it,' said one, 'because I'm a Scorpio and that's the way I am, and nothing is going to change it.' 'I do think I'm very much a Leo, so I'd be a bit dubious that it was wrong, actually,' said another. People seem to want to be pigeon-holed, and resent attempts to tell them that they might have been given the wrong stereotype." (p.115)
Various tests are mentioned:
"One classic occurred when the psychologist Geoffrey Dean sent a large group of astrologers a natal chart which, he told them, belonged to the singer Petula Clark. They speedily came up with descriptions which matched her bubbly, amiable, out-going personality. Unfortunately, the chart was actually for the mass murderer Charles Manson." (p.125)
The drawback about this book being aimed at a broad market, of course, is that if you want to know about Dean's work, you have to consult another book, such as Hines, to find a reference.
The authors make a good point about that troubled vocation, parapsychology:
"Real science is. . . cumulative. It builds on itself. The discovery of radio waves led to more research which led to broadcasting, X-rays, radar and space travel. Parapsychologists are still stuck with people trying to force a machine to come up with a one or a zero, or sitting blindfold figuring out whether someone in the next room has drawn a picture of a ship or a house. Parapsychologists believe that if they finally do enough experiments, they'll show how people can communicate with anyone without sensory contact. Meanwhile real scientists have invented the mobile phone." (p.149)
PSYCHOLOGY OF BELIEF AND SUPERSTITION
© Paul Taylor 2001