- November 16-17, 1990: I met Robert Baker at a CSICOP UFO Workshop in
Tucson, Arizona, where he signed my copy of They Call It Hypnosis with the inscription:
To Jim Lippard
A wonderful and
Robert A. Baker
17 November 1990
I was fortunate to have a few brief conversations with Baker regarding
hypnosis and volition, which was a topic of interest to me at the time,
as I was taking a philosophy of law course which had mentioned some criminal
cases involving hypnotic control. I discussed with Baker the Model Penal
Code's exception for "conduct during hypnosis or resulting from hypnotic
suggestion" in its definition of what constitutes a "voluntary act"
(MPC Section 2.01 (2)). I thought (and still think) that Baker's book was
an excellent summary of various theories of hypnosis and hypnotic behavior.
My summary of the UFO workshop was published in Skeptical Briefs new
series vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 2-3.
- July/August 1991: I published
a positive review of Baker's They Call It Hypnosis in The Arizona
Skeptic (vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 6-7). My review was overwhelmingly
positive ("Robert Baker has written an entertaining and useful book ... despite
these minor flaws, this remains one of the best books on the subject of hypnosis
I have read. I recommend it highly." is how the review begins and ends). My
criticisms were that the book contained many typos, did not delve as deeply as
it could have into the subject of hypnosis and volition, the book fails to note
disagreement on the part of David Spiegel regarding whether there are
differences in the EEG patterns of hypnotized and non-hypnotized individuals,
and that Baker's rejection of hypnotic susceptibility scales seemed inconsistent
with his approval of work by researchers such as Spanos whose work relies on
- January/February 1992: I published
a response by Baker to my review of his book ("Comments on Lippard's Review of
They Call It Hypnosis," The Arizona Skeptic vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 2-4). Baker's response elaborated on his view of hypnosis and volition, his disavowal of hypnotic susceptibility scales, and on EEG measurements. I was pleased with his response and offered no counterpoint.
- January 23, 1993: I submitted a critical review of Ivan Zabilka's Scientific Malpractice to the Skeptical Inquirer. It was rejected on January 25, 1993 because Robert Baker had already submitted a review of the same book on December 19. I immediately submitted it to Skeptic
magazine. It was accepted on February 2 and
published in the Spring 1993
issue of Skeptic (vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 86-88). The review made no
mention of Baker, since it had nothing to do with him. I had no idea at the
time that Baker and Zabilka were even acquainted with each other.
- June 27, 1993: I wrote
a letter to the Skeptical Inquirer
regarding "some inaccuracies in Robert Baker's review of Ivan Zabilka's
Scientific Malpractice." This letter was published in the Winter 1994
issue, p. 220.
In my opinion, the letter was more of a clarification than a criticism.
- September 1993: Robert Baker
writes a brief review of Skeptic magazine in KASES File,
the newsletter of the Kentucky Association of
Science Educators and Skeptics. In it, he writes that "Personally, I am not convinced that we need a competitor to the Skeptical Inquirer, nor that
Skeptic magazine is all that good." The only evidence he cites to
support his negative opinion is "a negative review of Ivan Zabilka's Scientific
Malpractice. Although not too negative, it, unfairly in my opinion,
accused Zabilka of neglecting the scientific issues in the debate." He falsely
states that "Lippard's major complaint is that Zabilka didn't write the book
that Lippard would have written."
I found this nothing short of bizarre, and wrote
a letter of response on
January 3, 1994, after being sent a copy. In my letter, I note that Zabilka
had written to me acknowledging his mistakes and informing me that the book
had been cut by about half its original length by the publisher. I wrote
in my letter that "Had I known this prior to publication, I would have
changed my review to recognize it." This letter appeared in the January
1994 KASES File, pp. 2,11, and was followed by
another peculiar reply from Baker. This response states that "Lippard
has been upset with me ever
since I wrote a favorable review of Zabilka's short but very well written book
Scientific Malpractice" and that "One doesn't have to be a genius to see that
Lippard is, for some unknown reason, upset with Zabilka's book--otherwise, he
would not be going on and on trying to put Zabilka and me in our place."
- Fall 1993: Terence Hines submitted a review of Baker's Hidden
Memories to The New York Area Skeptic, after having had it
rejected without explanation by the Skeptical Inquirer. (Sources:
Terence Hines, personal communication; Wayne Tytell, "A Must-have Book for Every
Skeptic," The New York Area Skeptic, Spring 1995, p. 11. Tytell's
title refers to Hines' book, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, not to
Baker's, which he calls "the worst he had authored ... poorly written and poorly
edited.") I did not learn about this sequence of events until July 1994.
- April 15, 1994: On this fateful day I read a posting to the sci.skeptic
newsgroup from Rutgers University chemist Jody Hey pointing out the
similarities between portions of an article by William Grey and a book
review by Robert Baker, both printed in the Spring 1994 Skeptical
My only public comment was to quote the identical portions in
more detail than Jody Hey did. I sent copies of the articles to Kendrick
Frazier and to William Grey in email. Frazier responded with Baker's
explanation, and was perturbed that I had posted publicly. I pointed out
that I had only commented on what had already been revealed by Jody Hey,
proceeded to post Baker's explanation publicly. That was my last public
comment on the matter until I released my Baker report on the Internet on
June 17, 1995.
Over the next few days I began looking at other Baker book reviews to see
if there was anything else like this. There was, and as I found instances I
sent them to Kendrick Frazier. I received no response, and so also sent
copies to other CSICOP Executive Council members whose email addresses I had.
- April 25, 1994: By this time, the continued lack of response prompted me to
send paper copies of the materials I had assembled to CSICOP Executive
Council members Susan Blackmore and Béla Scheiber, both of whom I assumed
would at least acknowledge that there was something to be looked into. I
- April 28, 1994: William Grey submitted a letter to the Skeptical
Inquirer regarding the Baker book review in the Spring 1994 issue. This
letter was published in the Summer 1994 issue, p. 445, with a reply from
Kendrick Frazier explaining how the error went unnoticed even though Grey's
article had appeared in the same issue.
- May 11, 1994: I received a telephone call from Tucson Skeptics Society
member James McGaha, asking me what my beef is with Robert Baker. I sent him
copies of some of my evidence. After receiving it, he maintained that five
Ph.D.s had examined it, and none thought that there was any plagiarism involved.
I asked if he could put me in contact with any of them, but he declined.
- June 14, 1994: I learned that McGaha had told another skeptic that I had
been making a major issue of the Baker affair with public postings on the
Internet, that Baker had cause to sue me and that he (McGaha) was encouraging
I had previously been unfair to Australian skeptics Ian Plimer and
Barry Price (contrary to the attitude McGaha had expressed to me at the time
those events took place, when I considered him to be a friend of mine), that
Michael Shermer had issued a press release to the media asking them to
contact the Skeptics Society instead of CSICOP, and that I had suffered
a nervous breakdown which was apparently responsible for my actions. I
a letter to McGaha rebutting each of these claims and asking
him to cease and desist from his probably actionable defamatory statements.
I have not exchanged a word with McGaha since, even though I invited his
rebuttal and would have expected an apology from any human being with an
ounce of integrity.
- June 18, 1994: Robert Baker wrote a letter to a skeptic which claimed that
"CSICOP is on my side and Jim has done himself harm" and that "if he persists
I well may have to resort to legal steps." He also claimed that "I have
never before been accused of plagiarism," which appears to me, in light of
the Hines review, to have been a lie.
- June 22, 1994: I assembled my
"Scholarly Impropriety in the Work of Robert A. Baker," which I distributed
to some CSICOP Executive Council members and leaders in local and regional
skeptical groups at and after the Seattle CSICOP conference.
At about the same time, I learned of a written reply by Baker which
addressed only some of the instances of unattributed copying in his book
reviews (but not those in his Winter 1987-88 Skeptical Inquirer article
or his books). Neither Baker nor any of his supporters ever sent me a
copy, though I managed to obtain one at the CSICOP conference and found it
unworthy of response.
- July 2, 1994: I wrote to some CSICOP Executive Council members and leaders
in local and regional skeptical groups that I considered the matter to be more
or less resolved and that "This is my final word on the subject unless
something else happens to bring it up again."
- July 11, 1994: I first learned that Hines had brought up the issue of
unattributed copying in Baker's work in his book review of Hidden
Memories a year earlier, and wrote to Hines to obtain a copy. After
receiving it, I recommended to Skeptic that it publish an edited
version, and suggested to Hines that he submit it for publication there.
- June 17, 1995: Upon receiving my copy of the July/August 1995 Skeptical
Inquirer, I was pleased to see that Hines' review had finally seen print,
but was greatly disturbed by Baker's response, which contains falsehoods
that the magazine's editor should have known to be falsehoods. I collected
evidence to show that, contrary to Baker's denial, his work does lift from
that of Terence Hines, and posted it to skeptical Usenet newsgroups, along
with information about how to obtain copies of my June 22, 1994 report on
other unattributed copying in Baker's works that CSICOP and Baker have
refused to publicly acknowledge.
When I called Hines to find out why the Skeptical Inquirer
suddenly decided to publish his review, he said that it was accepted after
he told Kendrick Frazier that Skeptic was prepared to publish it.
Apparently these are the "special circumstances" mentioned in Kendrick
Frazier's introductory comment on the review, which begins "We normally
don't publish reviews of three-year-old books. There are, however, special
circumstances in this case."
- June 1995: Baker wrote, but apparently did not widely distribute, a
"Response To James Lippard Re My Unattributed Copying."
- August 1995: "Diogenes, Jr." (Marcello Truzzi) distributed
the satirical "A New Case of Scientific Serendipity?", offering the Baker
affair as evidence for a hitherto undiscovered paranormal phenomenon.
UFOlogist Jerome Clark began pressing CSICOP Executive Council member
Philip Klass on the Baker issue, arguing that this proves that skeptics have
a double standard regarding internal criticism--they demand it of "believers"
but refuse to engage in it themselves. Those skeptics who attempt to engage
in it are deemed traitors.
At some point I learned that my name has been listed by CSICOP as a reason
why CSICOP is not on friendly terms with the Skeptics Society, even though
the Skeptics Society is continually open to cooperation with CSICOP.
- October 10, 1995: George Hansen
commented on the Baker affair in Saucer
Smear vol. 42, no. 9, pp. 6-7, in what appears to be an attempt to
goad Klass into commenting on the matter.
- October 17, 1995: I finally obtained a copy, fourth hand, of Baker's June
"Response To James Lippard Re My Unattributed Copying." Based on
the errors in Baker's chronology of events and his bizarre remarks published
in KASES File, it is my opinion that he took personally my criticism of
Zabilka's book and my letter to Skeptical Inquirer in response to his
review of that same book. I am very sorry that he feels this way, as neither
of those writings of mine were intended to be taken personally. I believe
that these precursors to my unintended discovery of unattributed copying in
Baker's work has led him to see me as his persecutor. My only wish at this
point is that he and CSICOP will take a more objective view of the situation
and publicly acknowledge what is manifestly evident to everyone else--that
Baker's copying of the words of others has gone beyond what is proper in
- August 8, 2005: Robert Baker died at his home in Lexington, KY, at the
age of 84. (Lexington-Herald obituary)