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teve Volk: Fringe-ology It's rare to come across a book that dives headfirst into that foul bog

of the p aranormal without the intent of either bashing in the brainpans of skeptical deb unkers or of true believers. How are you going to sell books unless you have all the answers?  Steve Volk, a Philly beat reporter, has dealt with enough crime and corruption s tories to know that the only way to approach an acrimonious subject is to kneeca p the idiots on both sides of the fence, tell them to shut the hell up and move on to the people at the heart of the story. In Fringe-ology Volk talks with and listens to scientists nd astronauts, skeptics and true believers, and everybody nsive selection of topics that usually tend to get snorts of the reading public. Illiterates, too, come to think of and hippies, shrinks a in-between, on an expa and guffaws from most it.

Ghosts? Give me a break. Ufos and psychics? Lose all your marbles? Near-death ex periences? Too much valium, buddy. Fact is, credible people experience things not easily quantifiable by scientific methods in use today. You know somebody who has had an experience that defies c omprehension -- everyone does -- and most people don't ever tell their stories b ecause they'd be swiftly labeled loonies. So how many millions of people have ha d strange experiences, even discounting those easily explained away, throughout all of history? That's one big-ass pile of people. What Volk argues for is a rational approach to what is labeled paranormal. How c ome everybody accepts string theory or the possibility of multiple dimensions as legitimate subjects of inquiry, yet one is ostracized and lampooned for suggest ing it might be worthwhile studying the already statistically proven matter of ' remote viewing'? Or for believing that some dogs know when their masters are com ing home even at irregular hours. The results show something fickle and elusive and very unreliable, but the statistical blip remains significant. There are more things in heaven and earth, Harry. For example, the author visits the town of Stephenville, TX, where hundreds of p eople saw something mighty peculiar flying above their heads a couple of years a go and interviews the residents who remain baffled, furious and frustrated at th eir lack of answers. He talks to Allan Botkin who helps war veterans induce after-death communication with loved ones. He tackles lucid dreaming with Stephen LaBerge and tells the c urious story of how Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was bamboozled by an opportunistic spirit ualist. Fringe-ology is a superbly readable overview of current research into the unexpl ained and is suitable for anyone interested in the fields it covers. What really makes this book worth your attention is that Volk offers NO definitive answers on anything. His mantra is "I don't know." He argues intelligently and eloquentl y for common sense. Drop your dogmas and think for yourself. Isn't curiosity at the heart of discovery? --JT Lindroos