Society for Scientific Exploration
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The Society for Scientific Exploration, or SSE, is a group committed to studying fringe science. The opinions of the organization in regard to what are the proper limits of scientific exploration are often at odds with those of mainstream science. Critics argue that the SSE is devoted to disreputable ideas far outside the scientific mainstream.
Of the SSE and its journal, journalist Michael D. Lemonick writes, "Pretty much anything that might have shown up on The X-Files or in the National Enquirer shows up first here. But what also shows up is a surprising attitude of skepticism."
The society's magazine, the Journal of Scientific Exploration, was established to provide a scientific forum for ufology, parapsychology and cryptozoology, having published research articles, essays, book reviews and letters on those and many other topics that are largely ignored in mainstream journals.
Skeptic Robert Sheaffer writes that the SSE journal has published articles implying that certain topics, like paranormal activities, dowsing and reincarnation, are true and have been verified scientifically. The articles, often written in impressive jargon by scientists with impressive academic credentials, try to convince other scientists that further research into those topics is warranted; but, Sheaffer argues, those articles failed to convince the mainstream scientific community.
The journal is currently edited by parapsychologist Stephen E. Braude.
The Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists says that the journal has reports about anomalies in science, particularly in the parapsychological and extraterrestrial fields. Some academics have noted that the journal publishes on anomalous issues, topics often on the fringe of science. The journal is indexed in EBSCO Information Services, which provides a range of library database services.
Journalist Michael Lemonick writes, "Pretty much anything that might have shown up on The X-Files or in the National Enquirer shows up first here. But what also shows up is a surprising attitude of skepticism."
The JSE, while presented as neutral and objective, appears to hold a hidden agenda. They seem to be interested in promoting fringe topics as real mysteries and they tend to ignore most evidence to the contrary. They publish "scholarly" articles promoting the reality of dowsing, neo-astrology, ESP, and psychokinesis. Most of the prominent and active members are strong believers in the reality of such phenomena.
Clinical community psychologist and professor of social psychology at the University of Connecticut Seth Kalichman regards the journal as a publisher of pseudoscience, with the journal serving as a "major outlet for UFOology, paranormal activity, extrasensory powers, alien abductions etc".
The SSE holds an annual meeting in the US every spring and periodic meetings in Europe. In the US meeting, around a hundred of researchers who came to hear talks on, as journalist Michael Lemonick writes, "among other things, consciousness physics, astrology and parapsychology ... [M]any of the scientists here are on the faculty at major universities, and were doing fine at conventional research. But sometimes that gets boring."
According to experimental psychologist Roger D. Nelson, head of the Global Consciousness Project, the SSE aims to "give everyone a respectful hearing. If we think a speaker is doing bad science, we consider it our duty to criticize it. We get our share of lunatics, but they don't hang around long."
1998 UFO panel
On June 19, 1998 it was reported that "an international panel of scientists" was convened to conduct "the first independent review of UFO phenomena since 1966", according to the wording used by Associated Press. The Skeptical Inquirer published an article by Robert Sheaffer who wrote that the SSE was a non-mainstream organization that was biased towards uncritically believing UFO phenomena, that the panel included many scientists that were UFO advocates but no scientists that were skeptics of UFO claims, and that all the uphold cases were old cases that had failed to convince any skeptic of its accuracy or veracity. These included the Cash-Landrum incident, the Trans-en-Provence Case and the Aurora, Texas UFO Incident.
As of 2005:
- the president was Charles Tolbert, an astronomer at the University of Virginia.
- the editor of SSE's journal was Henry Bauer, a dean emeritus at Virginia Tech.
As of 2008, the Leaders Emeritus were Peter A. Sturrock, from the Department of Physics & Department of Applied Physics of Stanford University and Larry Frederick and Charles Tolbert from the Department of Astronomy of University of Virginia.
- Michael D. Lemonick/Gainesville (2005-05-24). "Science on the Fringe". Time magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- Robert Sheaffer (September–October 1998), "Uncritical Publicity for Supposed ‘Independent UFO Investigation’ Demonstrates Media Gullibility", Skeptical Inquirer, 22.5
- "Meetings". Society for Scientific Exploration. Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- "Journals: Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group". Royal College of Psychiatrists. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- "Journals and Other Media at the Department of History of the University of North Texas". Archived from the original on 2011-07-20.
- Cross, A. (2004). "The Flexibility of Scientific Rhetoric: A Case Study of UFO Researchers". Qualitative Sociology. 27 (1): 3–34. doi:10.1023/B:QUAS.0000015542.28438.41.
- "CSICOP Responds to the Recent UFO Report Sponsored by the Society for Scientific Exploration" (Press release). Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 6 July 1998. Archived from the original on 2000-08-16. Retrieved 2012-09-03.
- Kalichman, S. C. (2005). Denying Aids: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy. Springer. p. 71. ISBN 9780387794754.
- Massimo Pigliucci; Maarten Boudry (16 August 2013). Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press. pp. 175–. ISBN 978-0-226-05182-6.
- "Council". Society for Scientific Exploration. Archived from the original on 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-06-02.