With ‘Fans’ Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

I am often criticized in letters to the editor, which, if not published, are sometimes sent to me. If I do not quote them, the complaints go unnoticed.

This hardly seems fair to the readers who work so hard to abuse me. For example, Daniel Rightmayer calls my recent column on the CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) convention in Seattle “bilge” and suggests to my editors: “Fire him.”

He says, “Jack Smith is a phony. He is a vacuum. He has failed to live up to the basic responsibility of a journalist to know and tell the truth.”

That seems aimed specifically at the award I received from CSICOP for “responsibility in journalism.”


He calls my column “a pathetic attempt to lump recovered (or traumatic) memories of abuse with the claims of quacks and kooks.” Actually, I did not express any disbelief in recovered memories; I merely quoted Elizabeth Loftus, author of “The Myth of Repressed Memory,” who addressed the convention on that subject.

My attitude toward repressed memories is that unless they can be proved they should not be allowed to ruin lives.

Rightmayer wonders why I “revel in” the “In Praise of Reason Award” given Loftus “by a group of basically ignorant, self-important ‘scientists’? Because he is as corrupt and ignorant as they are. Yet this callous, uninformed joke of a columnist passes himself off in your pages as a ‘skeptical’ thinker.”

Actually, the meanest thing I said about the CSICOP members was that they dressed like “carwash employees.” That was unfair. It would have been more accurate to say that they dressed as if they were skeptical of fashion. Actually their clothes were casual, comfortable and charming.


Most of the abuse was aimed at my disbelief in UFOs. Of course UFO means Unidentified Flying Object, and almost any flying object I see in the skies is unidentified by me. I don’t know one aircraft from another. But in the parlance of believers, UFO means a flying object from another planet, or a flying saucer.

I don’t doubt that there are other planets with civilizations perhaps advanced enough to land flying objects on the Earth. I just don’t believe it’s happened. All the eyewitness stories of “flying saucers” and other visitors sound phony. We are a gullible species.

It seems odd to me that these visitors never make themselves known to anyone important. They always land in the boondocks somewhere and kidnap country bumpkins. I’m waiting for one of them to land on the White House lawn or in the Rose Bowl.

Kenneth Lloyd Larson writes: “I think UFOs exist, that they have visited the Earth and various continents for over 40 years, that they have an advanced technology and knowledge not yet attained by humans, that they are simply waiting and watching in case of a man-made disaster or crisis or nuclear war between Earth nations so that they can intervene in order to stop the war, and establish peace and order on Earth.”


It seems to me their benign intervention is already long overdue. If they’ve only been around 40 years or so, they arrived too late to do anything about World War II and the Holocaust. But certainly they could bring some relief to Bosnia and Rwanda. And with their advanced technology they ought to be able to cure AIDS too. What are they waiting for?

Several readers are troubled by my report that at the outset of the convention, someone asked how many delegates believed in God and not one hand was raised. (I was not present when that question was asked.)

Larson believes that UFOs are in fact the angels described in the Bible: “They seem to be here for a purpose not yet grasped or understood by us.”

Larson suggests that the delegates declined to show that they believed in God because they hesitated to admit such a belief in front of so many nonbelievers.


“The people in the audience at CSICOP were not willing to brave any ridicule or catcalls if they raised their hands and said (as we Americans have a historical and legal right to do) they believed in God. . . .

“I believe in God,” he says, “and I have a legal and historical right to say so--because if we couldn’t do this we would all be living under a communist or atheistic government. . . .”

Stephen Hawking, the brilliant British physicist, has good reason not to believe in God, or at least not to love him, since Hawking is cruelly disabled by the devastating Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hawking says man may soon know how the univer s e began (or already does)--"but I still don’t know why it began.”

Well, let us all--believers and nonbelievers alike--muddle over that one for a millennium or two.