One of the nation's foremost physicists today compared parapsychologists to magicians and called on the nation's leading scientific organization to sever all its ties with them.
"The decade of permissiveness is now well past so it is time to drive the pseudos from the workshop of science," Dr. John A. Wheeler of the University of Texas said on the last day of the 145th national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. "I suggest that the board of directors will serve science well to vote parapsychology out of the AAAS."
Parapsychology is a spinoff of psychology that investigates psychic phenonema, mental telepathy, extrasensory perception and feats of clairvoyance that cannot be explained in physical terms.
The board of directors had no comment on Wheeler's suggestion except to point out that members of the Parapsychology Association are only affiliate members, a status they have enjoyed for the last 10 years. A spokeswoman for the AAAS said the board could not even act on Wheeler's suggestion since he had not submitted it as a formal proposal.
"There is no intention in this proposal to deny parapsychologists full freedom of speech and a forum for their fribbles," said Wheeler, once professor of astrophysics at Princeton University and a onetime member of the AAAS board of directors. "There is forum enough already in a country that can afford 20,000 astrologers and only 2,000 astronomers."
Wheeler made his proposal at a symposium on the "role of consciousness in science" during which psychologists at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., described their attempts to explain telekinesis and extrasensory perception.
"Faith healers can be prosecuted and confidence men can be sent to jail but no one would propose that parapsychologists be prevented from soliciting," Wheeler said. "But why should the name 'AAAS Affiliate' be allowed to give those solicitations an air of legitimacy?"