Commander McDonald to Captain Rickenbacker

April 5th, 2010 Posted in Letters to the Lab, People in Parapsychology

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On November 1, 1943, Commander Eugene F. McDonald, the founder and president of the Zenith Radio Corporation, sat down and wrote WWI hero Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who was then working for Eastern Airlines.

My Dear Eddie:

“… I am enclosing a copy of my letter to Dr. [Joseph] Banks Rhine of Duke University written in March of this year. This letter I wish you would stick in your pocket and read at your leisure. I wrote the letter to encourage Dr. Rhine to carry on in his work and not be stopped by scientific scoffers.”

“In 1923 I put on the first program that was ever produced for radio on the subject of telepathy on our radio station WJAZ. I did this with the cooperation of Dr. Robert Gault, head of the Department of Psychology of Northwestern University, and Dr. Gardner Murphy of Columbia.”

“In 1938 I put on a program on extra-sensory perception which program was supervised not only by Dr. Gault but also by Dr. [Joseph] Banks Rhine, who was then starting his work at Duke University on extra-sensory perception. This program I put on the national chain and carried it on for nearly a year. There was no faking. It was a sincere attempt to make extra-sensory perception a subject which should be discussed …”

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“Before I used Dr. [Joseph] Banks Rhine I called a number of scientists out on my yacht each Sunday to interview him and ascertain whether or not in their opinion they thought he was conservative.”

“I’ll never forget what our great physicist, Dr. Arthur Compton, said. After he talked with Dr. Rhine for over three hours on my yacht he said, “Rhine, I was asked out here to ascertain whether or not you were conservative enough. My answer is going to be that you are too conservative. You’re trying to explain everything by the laws of science. You can’t do that. There are too many facts which we must accept cannot be explained by the now known laws of science.”

McDonald then closed his letter by asking Rickenbacker to keep his letter to Rhine confidential.
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Rickenbacker said he read the letter to Rhine with interest, but I have to say, he doesn’t sound very enthusiastic in his answer. He sounds like he was just being polite.

But after googling him for a while I see he had a few psychic experiences during the war (and near-death experiences) so he was definitely open-minded about the subject.

Also, McDonald mentions a recent American Magazine article of Rickenbacker’s titled: When a Man Faces Death. McDonald said it was one of the most inspiring articles he has ever read, but he makes an interesting correction. He says Rickenbacker made a mistake that “so many people make in referring to the science as ‘mental telepathy.’ All telepathy, as we know it, is mental.” So Rickenbacker must have written about telepathy in the article.

I want to add that I love the story McDonald told about Compton saying Rhine was too conservative. Years later Rhine would say that Compton was too credulous.

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  1. 2 Responses to “Commander McDonald to Captain Rickenbacker”

  2. By Greg on Apr 9, 2010

    Of course I think Dr. Arthur Compton was right. I have no idea whether Dr. Rhine was too conservative or not, but I completely agree that ESP cannot be adequately explained by science alone.

    Frankly, I’m rather surprised that people ever started to imagine that the description of scientific laws was adequate to explain the entire universe and everything in it.

    If one simply thinks about it for a moment, they will realize there are no scientific laws to explain inspiration, serenity, terror, compassion, love, beauty, and a huge number of other forces that are active every day.

    So why should we expect scientific laws by themselves to explain things like clairvoyance, telepathy, etc., etc?

    Restricting ourselves to scientific definitions alone has caused materialism to gain predominance as the chief world view.

  3. By alanborky on Apr 10, 2010

    Stacy, it seems to me one of the great misunderstandings about science is it’s anything more than an incredibly useful method.

    This in turn’s led to the failure to realise the method’s only scientific when you yourself use it for verification purposes, otherwise it doesn’t matter who’s telling you what they’ve used it to find out – what they’re claiming is hearsay.

    The perfect example’s that Korean professor an’ his supposed dog cloning results. The fact he was ‘found out’ doesn’t vindicate anything – for all we know his exposers cooked their results as much as he supposedly cooked his in order to make their reputation by destroying his.

    Look at Madeleine Ennis’ homeopathic experiment results: she set out to discredit homeopathy but had the integrity to admit – thus risking professional censure and opprobium – she’d obtained results she couldn’t explain away.

    According to the likes of Wikipedia, though, subsequent attempts to reproduce her results failed – what it now for some reason no longer mentions is Ennis subsequently commented on these follow-up attempts they not only altered her protocols but also used different materials to her, making them thus different experiments.

    In short, the strength of science is also its weakness because, like religion, the vast artifices assembled upon its flimsy though strikingly effective foundations’re entirely predicated on faith.

    Even if you disregard that unwelcome truth – or the periodic interweaves, grafts or splices of rationality or common sense (as and when suits) – it remains the case no matter how high grade the data produced the data’s still subject in the final analysis subject to interpretation, at which point it becomes a case of which of the various interpretations, (for innumerable sociological/historical/psychological/political etc., etc., etc., reasons), is favoured over the others.

    That’s why I find it hilarious reading Rhine claiming Compton was too credulous when Rhine himself’s still viewed in exactly the same way by many others.

    p.s. I don’t know about Rickenbacker’s pilotry or psychicness, but he sure made good guitars!

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