There was a full moon one night last week, an event that some otherwise sensible people believe makes the crime rate go up. But there is no basis in fact to support that view, which is made clear in an article in the current issue of the Skeptical Inquirer, the quarterly journal of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. For the last eight years the committee, based in Buffalo, N.Y., has done yeoman's service in putting before the public the truth about such things as astrology, ESP, UFOs, dowsing, creationism, phrenology and other pseudoscientific claptrap. Unfortunately, the circulation of the Skeptical Inquirer is minuscule compared to that of the National Enquirer, a purveyor of such nonsense.
The aim of the committee and of its recently formed local chapter, the Southern California Skeptics, is to put claims about the paranormal to the tests of real science and of common sense. Invariably, fringe science is exposed as the fraud that it is. The Southern California branch recently demonstrated that fire-walking does not require special mental powers or out-of-body experiences. It is explainable by the ordinary rules of physics.
One of the leading Skeptics is James (the Amazing) Randi, a magician who once demonstrated that Uri Geller's claims of psychokinesis were simple magic tricks. For 21 years Randi has offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who can give "proof of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power demonstration under properly controlled conditions." So far, his 10 big ones remain safely in his pocket, and it is unlikely that he will ever have to part with them.