To the State Journal-Register
About Heaven's Gate

David Bloomberg
P.O. Box 20302
Springfield, IL 62708

March 28, 1997

Letters to the Editor
The State Journal-Register
One Copley Plaza
Springfield, IL 62705

To the Editor:

"It’s a very dangerous thing to believe in nonsense." That was the response given by well-known skeptical investigator and magician James "The Amazing" Randi to an interviewer who asked why he spent so much effort exposing paranormal and pseudo-scientific frauds. That quote now occupies the masthead of the newsletter for the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land (REALL), a local group I chair. Unfortunately, recent news of the mass suicide of 39 people who believed they would be picked up by a nonexistent alien ship supposedly hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet has put this quote into sharp focus.

Often, UFO claims are laughed off. The late Carl Sagan was one of few people who not only saw the danger in these beliefs, but discussed it in the popular press (such as Parade magazine). While certainly there are many of us who understand the dangers of believing in nonsense, we have not been very successful at getting that message across in widely-read publications, with these issues often staying on the fringes, ignored by many scientists and most of the media.

After all, belief in alien visitors is harmless, right? It’s fun, and don’t we all want a little fun?

All too often, it takes something like this to show that it’s not harmless. 39 people are dead because they believed this particular brand of nonsense. Other nonsense is being peddled all over the world, from the homeopathic products you find in the drug store to the "psychic" down the street; I hope it doesn’t take more incidents like this one to make people realize it.

David Bloomberg, Chairman
Rational Examination
Association of Lincoln Land

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