Memorial To Marcello Truzzi

John Palmer
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.

John Palmer is Director of Research at the Rhine Research Center and editor of the Journal of Parapsychology.