JERUSALEM THE GOLDEN
SIR: “What Shall Become of Jerusalem the Golden?” by Alexander Eliot (October Atlantic) reaches more accurately the roots of possible accord in Israel than we have heard from Geneva, the United Nations, or even Camp David. The psychic centers of discord—and therefore the potential patterns of accord-lie in the triad of religious heritages in Jerusalem, old and new. If Jerusalem were made an “open city”—open to the world and to Jews, Christians, and Moslems—a golden age might return to it, and hope might return to the heart of our times. REV. ALFRED W. SWANMadison, Wis.
SIR: Despite Alexander Eliot’s mixture of a lot of myth and a little history, here is one Christian who doesn’t see anything sacred about Jerusalem the Golden. And that goes for any other pile of ruins, buildings, or real estate. As long as religious problems (in the Middle East, Ireland, or elsewhere) are based on the assumption that a physical possession is the center of the religion, no real solutions are possible. WILLIAM M. WILKERSONFlorida City, Fla.
SIR: If Jerusalem were now internationalized, who would defend it from another military onslaught? Would the United States risk war for such a small plot of land? No nation except Israel, certainly, would defend the city and keep it open for all mankind. The Bible did predict that Jerusalem would be “a burdensome stone for all people,” but how much more stable can it get in the present circumstances? ROBERT J. MONDORELaFayette, N. Y.
SIR: Eliot postulates that the key to peace is to make Old Jerusalem an
“open city.” He fails to recognize that Israel has already made all sacred areas of Jerusalem open for religious visits by both Moslems and Christians. S. G. LEHNEBirmingham, Mich.
SIR: Amazing, isn’t it, how the push to internationalize Jerusalem began the moment the Israelis captured it in the Six-Day War? From 1948, when Jordan’s Arab Legion exterminated or drove out the Jews of the Old City (thereby making it “Arab” by an act of aggression), until the Six-Day War, the Jews, who made the city holy, were denied entry to it—and no one ever complained, except, of course, the Jews. Now that the Jews have possession of the City of David, everyone is itching to have them removed. CLARA P. TREFETHENTonawanda, N. Y.
Alexander Eliot replies:
Dr. Swan goes to the heart of the matter. The only real hope for peace rests in the seeming paradox that “psychic centers of discord” such as Jerusalem the Golden actually represent “potential patterns of accord.”
Mr. Mondore’s concern is understandable. According to my proposal, however, Jerusalem the Golden would be surrounded and in that sense made doubly secure by the Israeli military presence in Greater Jerusalem.
SIR: I enjoyed reading Michael Brown’s article on ESP and PK. (Getting Serious About the Occult,” October Atlantic). However, serious problems in the discipline were unstated. Foremost is that the reported phenomena violate our most basic understanding of physics and biology. The energy requirements to pull off psychokinesis are not trivial.
True, most of the phenomena could be accomplished by the flick of the thumb—but that’s not what is being described. Rather, we have to believe that the energy is being organized by some unknown organ, radiated by another unknown organ, and that the nature of the radiation and its interaction with matter obey some unknown laws of physics. Brown clouds the issue by invoking faster-than-light particles (which probably do not exist) and black holes (which probably do exist). These phenomena require conditions that, are so far removed from what we encounter locally that they cannot influence our environment. The real point is that our lives are still dominated by the mechanics of Galileo and Newton and not by those of Einstein and Heisenberg. The other point is epistemological. Genuine physical phenomena, once described, are quickly verified and expanded. Examples abound in every aspect of science; not so for ESP and PK. On the contrary, the common experience is that a result is announced with compelling statistical significance. Next is that subsequent experiments show the statistical significance to be less . . . and less . . . and less. This is an absolute sign that the initial result was spurious, and it has occurred continuously in the ESP-PK field. These two points—the lack of reproducibility and the absence of a solid conceptual base—have convinced me that this is a fruitless line of research. HERBERT GURSKYCambridge, Mass.
Michael Brown replies:
No great exertion is needed to challenge Mr. Gursky’s claim that statistical significance in parapsychology experimentation commonly declines as research progresses. The opposite has been true. In the 1940s, when psychokinesis was first announced in statistical format, scientists got excited over odds against chance of hundreds or thousands to one. Last year at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Charles Honorton of Maimonides Medical Center analyzed fifty-four formal random-number generator experiments and found the odds at some fifty billion to one.
Mr. Gursky can’t understand why black holes and tachyons (which many of his colleagues believe do exist) should be entered into the discussion. The reason is that ESP and PK appear to upset our conceptions of time and space, as do some theories concerning tachyons and black holes. One Russian astrophysicist, Nikolai Kozyrev, believes that time itself is an energy, and that the energy behind psychic phenomena is time!
The fact that the supposed existence of psychic phenomena would contradict our sacrosanct physical laws—something clearly emphasized in the article— is no reason to abandon hope. Instead of discarding the phenomena because they do not fit our methodologies, we should consider altering our methods to capture the phenomena, especially in a realm of inquiry so rich in potential theoretical and practical implications. To quote Sir John Herschel: “Occurrences which, according to received theories, ought not to happen, are the facts which serve as clues to new discoveries.”
BASHING THE EDITOR
SIR: The Luddite flavor of Robert Manning’s September editorial on public opinion polling bothers me. I am not sure that I see what benefits would emerge from the respondents’ strike he urges. Manning is concerned, along with a growing number of thoughtful people, about invasion of privacy at a time when each of us trails a string of electronic dossiers. What is troubling about cross-connected data banks is that the information they contain is often extorted from us as a by-product of insurance claims, loan applications, etc., and that this information is then used to make decisions that affect us as individuals, often without our knowledge even that a decision is being made. Certainly neither characteristic is true of opinion polling, where falling response rates over the past few years testify to the voluntary nature of data collection. As to the second point, no
responsible survey research organization ever releases information about individual respondents without permission; curiously enough, the depersonalization of being merged into a statistical mass actually works to protect individual privacy in this case. As to the alleged loss of electionnight suspense as a result of public opinion polling, I can not think of anyone aside from “President” Thomas Dewey who would agree with that. Other elections suggest that the bandwagon effect of political polling is overstated. But suppose it is true? Haven’t we always had opinion leaders? In the days before large-scale polling, didn’t concerned people eagerly wait to see who the newspapers were going to endorse, or what Lippmann said about it? If the bandwagon is going to roll at all, I personally am a little more comfortable with the idea of the people in the driver’s seat rather than an elite of self-conscious shapers of opinion. If the losses associated with opinion research are trivial, the benefits should not be ignored in an era that is becoming painfully conscious of its limited resources. Polling is a relatively simple, inexpensive, and accurate way of sending up a trial balloon before investing in any project dependent on public acceptance. This holds whether the project is electing a President or marketing a new sandwich spread. ROBERT KERNISH National Analysts Philadelphia, Pa.
Robert Manning replies:
Mr. Kernish’s is an intelligent and gentlemanly response to a curmudgeonly proposition. The only way to learn what benefits might accrue from a citizens’ moratorium on responding to pollsters’ questions is to muster one, and I concede that this is an unlikely eventuality.
I don’t find it as easy as he does to equate contemporary political polls with the works of “an elite of selfconscious shapers of opinion.” The polls purport to tell us what the results will be; the “shapers,” in their syndicated columns and editorials, more often than not tell us why we should vote as they would like us to vote. Polls are used increasingly by would-be leaders seeking to discover how the people desire to be led, who thereby expose themselves to the temptation to follow rather than to lead. The classic example comes to us from the pre-polling past, in the person of a European general who, seated in the window of his club, saw an entire regiment of troops fleeing down the avenue in disarray. “That is my regiment and I must follow it!” he shouted. “After all, I am their commander!”
ADVICE AND CONSENT
SIR: Tracy Kidder’s article on the Clamshell Alliance (“The Nonviolent War Against Nuclear Power,” September Atlantic) was a pleasure to read. However, Kidder’s analysis of Clamshell leadership is in error. The Alliance strives to be genuinely leaderless, much like an American predecessor, the Industrial Workers of the World. Day-today activities of the organization are directed and carried out by thousands of Clamshell activists purposely working in local groups throughout New England, not by a select vanguard of movement stars. Characterizations such as Kidder’s “most obvious leaders . . . in deep hiding” are creations of an elite-oriented medium. DON MICHAK Nuclear Information and Resource Service Washington, D.C.
Tracy Kidder replies:
Judging from what I saw at Seabrook, I believe that, the Clam does indeed strive to be leaderless. But I don’t think I invented leaders, as Mr. Michak seems to be suggesting. I met several Clams who certainly seemed to have been doing some leading, and I got the definite impression that if they weren’t in hiding, they were at least striving to keep their heads down.
SIR: Does Henry Brandon mean geophysical rather than geothermal units of horizontal resistance when he talks of the quake resistance of nuclear power plants in “Iran: Persian Miniatures Drawn From Life” (October Atlantic)? I think that he does. JACK KNUDSON Cupertino, Calif.
SIR: Congratulations on having secured Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon to construct the Atlantic Puzzler. They are at the top of those who have helped to raise the word puzzle to the rank of a literary form. I have the same pleasure from solving one of their puzzles as from reading a good story or poem. GERTRUDE MOAKLEY New York, N.Y.