John Keel on Fort and Forteans

Justin_Anstey

Abominable Snowman
Joined
Jul 30, 2001
Messages
634
Likes
3
Points
49
#1
http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Articles/Decoding UFO-Alien Phenomena.html

"John Keel expressed vitriolic disdain for Forteans, whose efforts, he believes, have abandoned the standards set by Charles Hoy Fort.

They hate each other with a fierce passion and are completely suspicious of everyone else. When the first Fortean Society was founded in 1932, the man after whom it was named, Charles Fort, flatly refused to join, grumbling that he would sooner join the Elks. The Society’s journal, Doubt, was published at random intervals, usually one issue every two or three years, and its editorial position was that it was against everything and everybody. ...Since each Fortean has a theory to explain the bizarre things he is investigating, and since each theory contradicts all other theories, the world of Forteana is a bedlam of battered egos and misplaced sentiments. The Forteans not only expect to be ignored, they demand it.12
Keel defended Fort’s own reputation, pointing out that his sources were mostly scientific journals, not newspapers, as often claimed by ill-informed critics.

Intellectual cowardice is only one of the problems of the scientific community. Fort rubbed their noses in the swill generated by their gibberish and illiteracy. It was no secret then and now that academic publications are designed to protect the inept and to conceal ignorance. People with nothing to say, who even lack the ability to say nothing, can hide behind the academic method for a lifetime.13"

12. Disneyland of the Gods, op. cit, pp.10-11.

13. ibid, p.17.
 

tastyintestines

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 28, 2002
Messages
1,626
Likes
125
Points
94
#2
MAYBE MR. FORT WAS A ANTISOCIAL AND PARANOID, IF HE LET ME CHANNEL HIM I COULD FILL YOU GUYS IN?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
#3
Keel on Forteans

They hate each other with a fierce passion and are completely suspicious of everyone else. When the first Fortean Society was founded in 1932, the man after whom it was named, Charles Fort, flatly refused to join, grumbling that he would sooner join the Elks. The Society’s journal, Doubt, was published at random intervals, usually one issue every two or three years, and its editorial position was that it was against everything and everybody
Reading through this description I can't find anything that even resembles the Forteans. Granted, Fort refused to join the Fortean Society but this has to be put in context: Fort understood that the persons who would be attracted to any society pursuant of his work would be ''Spiritualists, Fundamentalists'' and those reacting against science, not because its methodology offended them as it did Fort, but because these people had their own positions to argue; and this was counter to Fort's entire project. Fort resisted the institutionalisation of his ideas from the word go; hence the difficult stylistics of BD et al and the obscurity of his thought. There was a particular reason Fort wrote so obliquely: it was to keep him from becoming ''established'' which, he thought, would only hamper the development of his ideas. Any faults with the Fortean Society or its magazine should, I think, be blamed on Thayer, who increasingly employed both to promote his various somewhat-dubious political ideas; not because of anything Fort did, since the man refused to have anything to do with it during his lifetime and most of the Society's activities (especially its Thayerite ''organisation'') took place after Fort's death.

''Since each Fortean has a theory to explain the bizarre things he is investigating, and since each theory contradicts all other theories, the world of Forteana is a bedlam of battered egos and misplaced sentiments. The Forteans not only expect to be ignored, they demand it.''
Although various individual Forteans may have ideas about what the phenomena of their interest is (or is not) it is not necessary that those Forteans equally hold that those ideas are absolutely and fundamentally true to the exclusion of all others. I think that one of the healthiest aspects of Forteanism is its charitability and humilitary, wherein every idea and hypothesis is worth considering and none above (or below) ridicule. As Fort wrote

theories of mine are no so god-like as to deny any right of being for all other theories
Include all, exclude nothing!

Ian
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#4
It's a shame that John Keel (a writer whose work I much admire) seems to be turning into Alf Garnett in his old age. What a load of bad-tempered tripe! Sadly, I would suggest that it is Mr Keel himself who is "completely suspicious of everyone else".
 

Steveash5

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jan 19, 2005
Messages
136
Likes
1
Points
32
#5
Fort and Forteans

It seems an over strong responce certainly, though I do sympathise with it in some ways. For instance I've often noted in modern 'Fortean' articles a kind of weird pro-science attitude more akin to the sceptics society than the stance of Fort, and a tendency to debunk. A kind of cowardly attempt to be 'intellectually respectable' or something perhaps. Where as Fort's attitude was very different to this, a true sceptic of scientism and more of a creative mystifier than a boring debunker. But my Fortean history isn't up to knowing where this rot set in. Maybe as implied above its a fear of the cosmic cranks moving in? But its very odd that in a post modern age where the shakiness of science is more obvious than ever, and the philosophy of science is in something of a cul de sac, that this should have happened. Not that I see Fort as anti science per se but rather as an anomalist who pushed the envelop on the scientific paradigm rather than use it as a restraint like many seem to today.
 

J_Frank_Parnell

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jan 18, 2005
Messages
210
Likes
3
Points
34
#6
graylien said:
It's a shame that John Keel (a writer whose work I much admire) seems to be turning into Alf Garnett in his old age. What a load of bad-tempered tripe! Sadly, I would suggest that it is Mr Keel himself who is "completely suspicious of everyone else".
i don't know. i can think of plenty of criticisms of a lot of 'forteans' [not ALL but definitely SOME]. pompous, closed-minded, doctrinaire, arrogant, self-assured.

a lot seem to have come up with a theory on a subject that they can not actually prove that they will then stick to regardless of the illogicality of that position and will spend every waking moment to destroy any counter argument or anything that doesn't fit in with their blinkered view of the universe and their aforementioned personal grand theory. they also constantly shift the goal posts so as to never be proven wrong.

or am i just reeling from it having been monday today?
 

J_Frank_Parnell

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jan 18, 2005
Messages
210
Likes
3
Points
34
#7
oh, i forgot to add 'smug'.

a quote i just stumbled across:

Fort (1874-1923) asserts that scientists often argue according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence and ignore, discredit, or suppress facts that conflict with their preferred theories.

just like many forteans, then.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,023
Likes
151
Points
114
#8
graylien said:
It's a shame that John Keel (a writer whose work I much admire) seems to be turning into Alf Garnett in his old age. What a load of bad-tempered tripe! Sadly, I would suggest that it is Mr Keel himself who is "completely suspicious of everyone else".
That's funny. I've got him down as a bit of an, 'unreliable witness.' Like, Charles Berlitz, or Erich von Daniken, only slightly smarter (and possibly more knowing).

Some great ideas, wrapped up in a, sometimes, possibly, unscrupulous narrative.

Just my personal opinion, of course. ;)
 

tastyintestines

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 28, 2002
Messages
1,626
Likes
125
Points
94
#9
J. Frank


A "some" percentage of any group of people will be smug and the other labels you used.







Oh and sorry for yelling in that old post up top.
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#10
Actually, I'm beginning to think that Keel had a point. There seems to be an awful lot of chest-beating and repetitive by-the-numbers 'debate' in Fortean circles. I dare say I've been guilty of such behaviour myself, come to think of it. It's all beginning to seem a bit superficial and pointless.

As to science - individual scientists may well be biased and even dishonest, but thanks to peer review and the march of the generations, science as a whole steadily progresses. I'm not sure the same can be said for Fortean studies. Have 'Forteans' really made any contribution to the sum of human knowledge?
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,023
Likes
151
Points
114
#11
graylien said:
Actually, I'm beginning to think that Keel had a point. There seems to be an awful lot of chest-beating and repetitive by-the-numbers 'debate' in Fortean circles. I dare say I've been guilty of such behaviour myself, come to think of it. It's all beginning to seem a bit superficial and pointless.

As to science - individual scientists may well be biased and even dishonest, but thanks to peer review and the march of the generations, science as a whole steadily progresses. I'm not sure the same can be said for Fortean studies. Have 'Forteans' really made any contribution to the sum of human knowledge?
Perhaps, Keel has just found Forteans to be a bit less credulous than some of his other readers?

I've began to consider Forteanism to have quite good qualities as another form of tool for textual analysis, a form of free thinking, slightly humorous, 'BS' detector.

Potentially, many times more useful than Jaques Derrida's 'Deconstructionism' and much less damaging, because it doesn't take itself too seriously. Perhaps, that's just me. though?
 

J_Frank_Parnell

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jan 18, 2005
Messages
210
Likes
3
Points
34
#12
tonyblair11 said:
J. Frank


A "some" percentage of any group of people will be smug and the other labels you used.







Oh and sorry for yelling in that old post up top.
fair point. i had my walkman on anyway.
 

J_Frank_Parnell

Devoted Cultist
Joined
Jan 18, 2005
Messages
210
Likes
3
Points
34
#13
graylien said:
Have 'Forteans' really made any contribution to the sum of human knowledge?
yeah, we now know that there is no possibility of aliens and everthing you though was weird was just sleep paralysis. :?
 

fortist

Fresh Blood
Joined
Sep 18, 2005
Messages
24
Likes
0
Points
17
#14
Intellectual ombudsman

graylien wrote: Have 'Forteans' really made any contribution to the sum of human knowledge?
It's not necessary to "contribute to the sum of human knowledge" in order to be of benefit; Forteans serve an important function in questioning and challenging our knowledge, and the means by which it is organised and sorted; a sort of intellectual ombudsman. The problem is, that there are very many people and organisations out there happily gathering and presenting data and theories; but not many who are actively urging us to question them; and many of those who do ask that we question do so with the ulterior motivation of having us question one thing, only to accept theirs. Forteans, which no particular product to sell, ask only that we think carefully before buying.

Ian
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#15
Historically, perhaps, Fort and his followers made an important cultural contribution. But perhaps Forteanism - like Marxism - is a product of late 19th century thinking that has long since become obsolete. The science of today is very different from the mechanistic, Newtonian science against which Fort was rebelling, and it is no longer considered radical to challenge scientific methodology or to question the omnipotence of science. Similary, relativism is no longer a radical standpoint, nor is promoting 'paranormal' phenomena as being worthy of study.

Considering that 'Fortean' thinking now permeates the cultural mainsteam, is there really any purpose left for 'organised' Forteanism in the 21st Century?
 

tastyintestines

Justified & Ancient
Joined
Jan 28, 2002
Messages
1,626
Likes
125
Points
94
#16
You just gave me knowledge. If not for Fort I would not know this or you. I think you are worthy and have a purpose. :D
 

fortist

Fresh Blood
Joined
Sep 18, 2005
Messages
24
Likes
0
Points
17
#17
But perhaps Forteanism - like Marxism - is a product of late 19th century thinking that has long since become obsolete
It seems reasonably certain that certain late C19 philosophies had an influence upon Fort; however since he declined to cite his influences, this is impossible to affirm without doubt. However simply because his influences were fin de siecle, this does not mean that his own ideas are in any way obsolescent; philosophies do not usually "date" in that way; see the continuing popularity and influence of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, etc.

The science of today is very different from the mechanistic, Newtonian science against which Fort was rebelling, and it is no longer considered radical to challenge scientific methodology or to question the omnipotence of science
Science is not completely different. The philosopher of science Nancy Cartwright has pointed out that scientists use multiple and incompatible theories and methodologies - such as Newtonian and relativistic physics. Furthermore challenges to scientific methodology are still quite radical. Paul Feyerabend, the "maverick" philosopher of science, wrote a book criticising scientific methodology for being duplicitous in the late seventies and received an enormous intellectual and personal backlash (prompting his later remark "I wish I had never written that fucking book"). Furthermore there is still considerable resistance to criticisms of "scientific omnipotence" (perhaps "scientism" is better), since science remains the supreme cognitive authority and shows no signs of losing that esteemed status.

Moreover it was not "science" or "scientific method" that Fort was criticising; nor was it important to him to "be radical". There is much confusion surrounding Fort and his attitude towards science. His criticisms were of "exclusionist" science (or more broadly, exclusionism in any form). It was radical because it was very new and was directed against the rising star of science, in which people were starting to put a lot of faith (and money). The radicality or not of the criticisms is irrevelent.

Similary, relativism is no longer a radical standpoint, nor is promoting 'paranormal' phenomena as being worthy of study.
Relativism is still highly contested (see the introductions to any recent anthologies on it) - and againl, why must it be radical? And paranormal phenomena still suffers from academic and intellectual exclusion; but maybe that will change over time. But Fort was not, in my view, first a paranormalist, but a philosopher.

Considering that 'Fortean' thinking now permeates the cultural mainsteam, is there really any purpose left for 'organised' Forteanism in the 21st Century?
Is Forteanism "organised"? Aside from the few societies, the readers of FT and the users of this forum? And need it be organised? It might very well work better as a collective, a band of kindred spirits - and Fort himself warned against organisations concerned with anomalous phenomena.

Ian
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#18
I'd say that the radicalism of Fort's ideas was very relevant to why they initially gained a following. When an philosophy or scientific theory is first proposed, it attracts both supporters and detractors by the mere fact of its novelty - and the possibility that it may prove superior to entrenched methods of thinking. But as time passes, the new idea has to prove its worth - and if it turns out to be a dead end it should be abandoned.

So, has Fort's philosophy proved it's worth? Has it made any real impact on the world? The theory of relativity led to the atom bomb. The theory of Marxism led to the founding of the trade union movement (now itself fast becoming obsolete). What did Fort's theories lead to?

I fear that 'Forteanism' has become little more than a whimsical form of scepticism, which reached its nadir with the likes of 'wacky vicar' Lionel Fanthorpe's banal TV series.

As to the 'exclusionism' of science, science is 'exclusionist' simply because it is a body of complex and specialist knowledge about which most people (including myself) are profoundly ignorant. You can't enter a meaningful dialogue with a Frenchman if you can't speak French. And you can't enter a meaningful dialogue with a scientist if you have no understanding of science.
 

fortist

Fresh Blood
Joined
Sep 18, 2005
Messages
24
Likes
0
Points
17
#19
graylien said:
I'd say that the radicalism of Fort's ideas was very relevant to why they initially gained a following. When an philosophy or scientific theory is first proposed, it attracts both supporters and detractors by the mere fact of its novelty - and the possibility that it may prove superior to entrenched methods of thinking. But as time passes, the new idea has to prove its worth - and if it turns out to be a dead end it should be abandoned.
Fort was radical, but then he was ahead of his time. But I'd be careful against positing the success of a new theory as being due to its novelty; one could propose any novel theory, but if it's not coherent, consistent, reasonably plausible, etc., etc., it will attract no-one but cranks. A theory must have merit. But then the merits of a theory are contingent, and the history of ideas shows how the fortunes of theories and ideas fluxes back and forth.

graylien said:
As to the 'exclusionism' of science, science is 'exclusionist' simply because it is a body of complex and specialist knowledge about which most people (including myself) are profoundly ignorant. You can't enter a meaningful dialogue with a Frenchman if you can't speak French. And you can't enter a meaningful dialogue with a scientist if you have no understanding of science.
Well, Fort thought that all phenomena - from continents to nation-states to scientific theories - were generated and sustained by exclusionism: and so not just science but *everything* is exclusionistic. Science is just a case in hand. But Fort did seem to think that if you were aware of the methods of exclusionism, then you could apply them to understanding any phenomena; whether you know anything about science or not. (But of course Fort did know science very well, despite what his detractors say!)

Ian[/quote]
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2006
Messages
10
Likes
0
Points
17
#20
Re: Fort and Forteans

Steveash5 said:
It seems an over strong responce certainly, though I do sympathise with it in some ways. For instance I've often noted in modern 'Fortean' articles a kind of weird pro-science attitude more akin to the sceptics society than the stance of Fort, and a tendency to debunk.
Spot on and the most disappointing feature of these forums to me.
 

stu neville

Commissioner.
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2002
Messages
11,468
Likes
4,228
Points
234
#21
Re: Fort and Forteans

BookOfMysteries said:
Steveash5 said:
It seems an over strong responce certainly, though I do sympathise with it in some ways. For instance I've often noted in modern 'Fortean' articles a kind of weird pro-science attitude more akin to the sceptics society than the stance of Fort, and a tendency to debunk.
Spot on and the most disappointing feature of these forums to me.
In what way? Yes, we do have fairly robust scepticism, but equally we have true belief. In the main, I think you'll find the mindset is predominantly Fortean, certainly over either of the latter. Tentative acceptance and tentative speculation in absence of definite proof one way or the other is the general esprit d'corps.

Remember, the woo sites think we're all skeptics, and the skeptic sites think we're all woos. We must be doing something right :).
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,023
Likes
151
Points
114
#22
Re: Fort and Forteans

stuneville said:
...

Remember, the woo sites think we're all skeptics, and the skeptic sites think we're all woos. ...
And, that's the way it should be. :imo:


Never let them be sure, as to whether we're going to stick a flower down their gun barrel, or kick 'em in the groin! ;)
 
Joined
Jun 21, 2006
Messages
10
Likes
0
Points
17
#24
Re: Fort and Forteans

stuneville said:
BookOfMysteries said:
Steveash5 said:
It seems an over strong responce certainly, though I do sympathise with it in some ways. For instance I've often noted in modern 'Fortean' articles a kind of weird pro-science attitude more akin to the sceptics society than the stance of Fort, and a tendency to debunk.
Spot on and the most disappointing feature of these forums to me.
In what way?
I see a lot of conditioned behaviour and attempts at armchair expertise, a type of behaviour John Keel has ALWAYS despised since he did so much field research - he derides it in Strange Creatures for example and quite rightly so. I also do field research and I despise it too.

I am not interested in the slightest degree in rehashes of "widely believed facts" that "explain" things. Fort himself had nothing but contempt for that sort of easy pat answer and it is humbug no less than the Jenny Tollivers and the "every shadow is a sasquatch" school of monster hunting.

I don't not what the woo stuff's all about, but in terms of investigators versus debunkers I find these forums to be on the debunker side of the fence. And it is indeed a fence.

Trotting out school teacher level explanations to phenomena that geniuses have been baffled by for centuries is not only not good enough as an approach it is in total flagrant disregard for Charles Fort. It is so alien to his original writings I find myself wondering whether the people who act in his name have even read him in some cases.

Think I am going to shoot through.

On a less related note, the waiting period to be validated for this forum... is just odd. And no I don't mean in a Fortean way.
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#25
But surely Fort was the ultimate 'armchair researcher'? He did all his investigations in libraries rather than 'in the field', after all.
 
Joined
Aug 10, 2005
Messages
12,023
Likes
151
Points
114
#26
graylien said:
But surely Fort was the ultimate 'armchair researcher'? He did all his investigations in libraries rather than 'in the field', after all.
Textual analysis. Well ahead of his time. ;)
 

stu neville

Commissioner.
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2002
Messages
11,468
Likes
4,228
Points
234
#27
Re: Fort and Forteans

BookOfMysteries said:
..... in terms of investigators versus debunkers I find these forums to be on the debunker side of the fence. And it is indeed a fence.
How deep have you looked? There are a third of a million posts on this board. Reading and evaluating them all in about 5 days would be prodigious, to say the least.
Trotting out school teacher level explanations to phenomena that geniuses have been baffled by for centuries is not only not good enough as an approach it is in total flagrant disregard for Charles Fort. It is so alien to his original writings I find myself wondering whether the people who act in his name have even read him in some cases.
As is dismissing all the available evidence on the basis of a small sample, wouldn't you say?
Think I am going to shoot through.

On a less related note, the waiting period to be validated for this forum... is just odd. And no I don't mean in a Fortean way.
Well, we're choosy who we let in ;).
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#28
It's perhaps also worth pointing out that a lot of Fort's raw material was drawn from scientific journals. Yes - those narrow-minded scientists who wouldn't accept the existence of Bigfoot if it ran up and bit their faces off were actually collecting and publishing Fortean material long before Fort himself did.
 
Joined
Jul 31, 2004
Messages
4,442
Likes
3,157
Points
184
Location
Norwich.
#30
In which case maybe we should adopt Beckjord as our new figurehead. He does plenty of field research and he certainly isn't trammelled by the narrow-minded paradigms of conventional science.
 
Top