Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Charles Hoy Fort

Charles Hoy Fort (6 August 1874 – 3 May 1932) was an American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena.

Jerome Clark writes that Fort was "Essentially a satirist hugely skeptical of human beings' — especially scientists' claims to ultimate knowledge". (see Pyrrhonism for a type of skepticism strongly reminiscent of Fort's). Clark describes Fort's writing style as a "distinctive blend of mocking humor, penetrating insight, and calculated outrageousness".

Writer Colin Wilson describes Fort as "a patron of cranks", and also argues that running through Fort's work is "the feeling that no matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels."

Fort's books sold well, and remain in print. Today, the term Fortean or Forteana is used to describe various anomalous phenomena. Check out Fortean Times.

Some Quotations
  • "Now there are so many scientists who believe in dowsing, that the suspicion comes to me that it may be only a myth after all".
  • "One measures a circle, beginning anywhere".
  • "My own notion is that it is very unsportsmanlike to ever mention fraud. Accept anything. Then explain it your way".
  • "But my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidence?"
  • "If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?" (Often attributed to Fort, but not found in his books or letters)
  • The fittest survive.
What is meant by the fittest?
Not the strongest; not the cleverest--
Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive.
There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive.
"Fitness," then, is only another name for "survival."
That survivors survive.

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