Moore is Less

Patrick Moore. Can you Speak Venusian? A Guide to Independent Thinkers. David and Charles, 1972.
This collection of Moore's experiences with pseudo-scientists, both notorious and unknown. is a disappointing work. The treatment never rises above the superficial. There is, for example, no attempt to discuss the psychological and sociological factors which generate pseudo-scientists, and account for the popularity which people such as Velikovsky, Adamski and Von Daniken undoubtedly possess.

The extent of his researches seems to be very limited, his treatment of the historical perspective of many of the beliefs is poor. He sees for instance quite unaware of the contemporary "hollow earth" cults in the United States, and his treatment of several other topics is extremely sketchy. Moore claims to admire "independent thinkers”, but one cannot help wondering how sincere he is. Almost all the people mentioned in the book are espousing views which are safely too absurd for anything. The general theme of these independent thinkers seems to be reactionary. They postulate a variety of geocentric, anthropocentric 'womb consciousness', all very far removed from the radical expansionism of Copernicus and Bruno, to which Moore compares them. Moore gives his accolade to those barmpots yet ignores really independent thought from scientifically qualified personnel. He seems to be completely ignorant of serious parapsychology and ufology. A bare mention of Rhine, none of Hynek, Heuvelmans, or even such borderline figures as Dingle, Thom and Heyerdahl, etc.

As might be expected, Moore's treatment of UFOs is as superficial as the rest, being limited to to Adamski, Allingham, Shuttlewood, the Aquarius Society, Bernard Byron with his Plutonese and, from the sidelines, Von Daniken. Apparently Moore regarded them all as sincere. Whether that was meant to be taken seriously or not, I cannot say. You'll be sorry to learn that Moore didn't catch the Warminstor bug on the top of Cradle Hill after all.

"After some time , however, I persuaded the team to dip the illuminations, and we began to see luminous specks crossing to and fro amongst the stars. I thought that they were artificial sa ellites, but Arthur assured me that they were Saucers, and I concentrated on trying to train my binoculars on them. We also saw a glow in the sky, and again there was a difference of opinion; Arthur maintained that it was connected with interplanetary craft, and rejected my suggestion that it was a low flying cloud illuminated by the moon. We stayed for some time , but after twelve o'clock it became clear that nothing more was going to happen, and we decided to call it a day-or rather a night."

What struck me in reviewing this work was the similarity between Moore and many of the cranks encountered in ufology; the same incapacity to present sustained, rational arguments; the wandering into side issues and attacks on opponents. Throughout the book there are quite irrelevant attacks on child psychiatrists, the modern education system, 'student yobs', with which Moore seems to have a neurotic obsession; the tendency to resort to invective and arguments from authority - I remember a TV programme in which Moore almost went into fits when a scientist challenged his views on space travel. Moore often appears sympathetic to the 'space brothers' notion, and his extreme opposition to ufology - which at the same time obsesses him - is an attempt to exorcise these irrational impulses from his own mind.

Furthermore, Moore is not a scientist, he has absolutely no formal academic qualifications. Has this given him a sense of insecurity, so that he must continually prove himself more scientific than the scientists themselves? We can leave discussion of Moore's motivations to the psychologists that he despises so much. It would be a pity for ufologists to regard him as a representative scientist. This would be as unfair to the scientific community as would regarding Arthur Shuttlewood as a representative ufologist be to ufologists. -- Peter Rogerson, Merseyside UFO Bulletin, volume 6, number 3, January 1974.

1 comment:

Terry the Censor said...

This review is unintentionally hilarious. I read Moore's book a few years ago and found it to be deeply ironic in tone: excessive shows of civility working as unrelenting ridicule. To read it any other way seems wilfull.

Moore does not need to analyse. The best method here is "give 'em enough rope." This comes across clearly in the accompanying television programme, especially the segment where a man provides samples of several alien languages -- that is, obviously random sounds and doodles. Criticism of this insane demonstration would be pointless; showing it is sufficient.

It is too bad the reviewer could not enjoy this delightful book. I recommend it highly.