Suitbert Ertel's Preface
After having contributed my share to The Tenacious Mars Effect, I switched into a reader's role - with surprising reactions. Instead of feeling at ease with what the book provides - the settling of four decades of controversy on Michel Gauquelin's planetary claim - I was bewildered by having set aside two urgent issues:
First, how can it come about and what does it mean that certain eminent people are more frequently born when planets have certain positions in the sky? On what grounds did the Gauquelin claim, an apparent descendant of ancient and medieval world views, nestle in our labs despite those 300 years spent replacing such views by our scientific enlightenment? How could the Mars effect makes its way with the help of the most objective among our scientific tools? Regrettably, the present book absorbed all our efforts at testing the evidence for planet-birth relations, problems of exploration were postponed. These problems, no doubt, will assail us, once the evidence is accepted. Hopefully, this book is setting the stage for the next act of expanding research.
Secondly, what is wrong with us scientists who kept Gauquelin's claims, brought forward by him since 1955, stifled for four decades? I myself needed the span of 1975 to 1985 to overcome my disgust on imagining that some jelly superstition might have been confirmed by exact statistics. What made me avoid taking more seriously the reports sent out by Gauquelin's Laboratoire des Rhythmes Cosmiques et Psychophysiologiques, an amazing output of his and his first wife's dedicated scientific endeavour? What made the skeptics organizations of Belgium, America, France and the Netherlands, keen guardians of our scientific business, bungle the challenge when faced with planet-birth frequency correlations? I have come to realize that the Mars effect drama might be symptomatic: It might reflect the fallacy of a lurking pseudo-rationality shared by most members of our scientific institutions. In this book I did not pursue the sociological dynamics of our intellectual establishment on a broader scale, as my efforts were devoted to only one sore case at hand. I wanted to get it straight, so I provided the best possible information for our readers as potential jurors. In this pursuit I received invaluable help from co-author
Kenneth Irving who will wind up this preface in his own way.
We at first hoped that our chapters could have been published together with contributions from the skeptic's side, but our efforts at doing this were rebutted by publishers of skeptical literature. The Urania Trust in London were generously provided the facilities to get this book published. Hopefully, its challenge will find some forum for further public debate wherever that may be.
Suitbert Ertel, Göttingen, 20th June 1995
© Suitbert Ertel, 1996