Memorial To Marcello Truzzi
Rhine Research Center
Historians will no doubt ascribe to Marcello Truzzi
an important role in the psi controversy of the latter 20th Century.
A founding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), he quickly bolted from their ranks because
of their lack of objectivity and pandering to the media. He understood
that the scientifically prestigious mantle of "skeptic" should be attributed
in the psi debate only to those who apply the principle of doubt to all
proposed explanations (or classes of explanations) of psi anomalies, not
just those they happen to dislike. Most self-proclaimed skeptics
of parapsychology fail to meet this test, but Truzzi was an exception.
As such, he carved for himself a distinct niche between advocates of paranormal
and conventional explanations of psychic phenomena, and he often tried
to serve as a referee or "honest broker" between the two sides. The
most important expression of this objective was Zetetic Scholar
(ZS), a journal he founded and edited between 1978 and 1987 as a
scholarly and fair-minded alternative to CSICOP's Skeptical Inquirer.
During its all too brief existence, ZS published a number of noteworthy
debates. The highlights (for me, at any rate) included a rather acidic
exchange between myself and James Alcock concerning his book Parapsychology:
Science or Magic? and an extended discussion of CSICOP's attempts to
debunk the neo-astrological findings of Michel Gauquelin, the so-called
"Mars Effect" controversy.
Truzzi and I were both very interested in conceptulizing
the broader psi controversy, and our thinking often moved along parallel
tracks. For example, he recognized and objected to the rhetorical
device of many critics to frame the evidence for psi as either conclusive
or worthless. He understood, as do most scientists in other contexts,
that evidence is a matter of degree. One of our disagreements was
the validity of the maxim "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."
Truzzi defended this maxim (I believe he was the one who actually coined
the phrase), although a few months before he died he expressed to me a
favorable view of an article I had written many years ago disputing it.
Truzzi always argued his points in a scholarly but
animated way that wouldn't let you get bored even if the topic was intrinsically
boring. His exuberance will be missed as much as his scholarship
by those of us who had the privilege to know him.
Presented at the 46th Annual
Convention of the Parapsychological Association. Vancouver, British
Columbia. August 2 - 4, 2003.
is Director of Research at the Rhine Research Center and editor of the