Biosphere Part III 
Author Message
 Biosphere Part III

     McKenna says  the answer he  got left him shocked  and stupefied.
"The two people  with me were  a couple," he  says. "The woman was  an
Australian aborigine named Moondancer. The guy was an Englishman named
Nava. Turns out  that Nava had been  a very important member  in their
core group,  he had been the man who  negotiated the purchase and then
managed their sheepfarm  in Australia. He basically said  he was being
punished and  had been reduced to  being just a speedboat  crew member
because  he had married  someone outside the  core group.  Here we are
sitting around the  campfire in the  Amazon in 1980  and I said  'Core
group, what core  group? What's the bottom  line?' And he looks  at me
and says: 'The bottom line is, we are going to Mars.' I said, 'Whoaaa!
Hey, you must  be smoking too many of these  little brown cigarettes.'
But, man, they were serious."
     Harvard-educated  researcher Wade  Davis  [[ITALICS]The  Serpent  and  
[ITALICS]Rainbow[italics]] had also spent some time on board the
[ITALICS]Heraclitus[italics], and wrote a
letter back  to a  friend describing  the  atmosphere surrounding  the
project as  "oppressive. . . almost totalitarian. . .  hippie fascism.
Most  importantly they  seem  to  have no  knowledge  nor interest  in
botany." In 1985  Davis denounced Allen's group publicly  and told the
press he  had been lured into working with  them for money. The allure
seems strong.
     Another  veteran of the  [ITALICS]Heraclitus[italics] adventure--
constantly touted
by  Biosphere  managers  as  proof  of  their   expert  background  in
ethnobotany-- is Dr.  Al Gentry, of the Missouri  Botanical Garden and
current Secretary  of the Organization  for Flora Neotropica.  "I work
out  of  Iquitos  frequently  and  some years  ago  someone  from  the
Institute of Ecotechnics  came to me and  asked me to go  out on their
boat  to  do some  ethnobotany on  the  Amazon. I  said  sure," Gentry
recalls  in an interview with  the [ITALICS]Voice[italics]. "I  went to see  
them on the
boat a few times  where they were doing  some theater. We did  do some
plant collecting in the Amazon. But mostly, I would say, they tried to

pass themselves off as something they were not. There was one person I
would  be the most critical  of, one guy who  was passing out cards in
Iquitos saying he  was a Ph.D. when  he wasn't, Robert Hahn."  Hahn is
today director of marketing for the Biosphere project.
     Since  then,  Gentry says,  the  synergists have  twice  tried to
associate the Missouri  Botanical Gardens with their  global projects.
"They kind  of wanted to use  our name for  a Puerto Rico  project and
when the Biosphere came  along they were again trying to associate us.
But no  way. When I  saw on  TV that they  were doing this  space dome
thing, I just couldn't believe it."

     The  tactic of hustling  up respected scientists  to window-dress
scientifically  hollow projects-- the  highest expression of  which is
the  Biosphere--  has  been  refined  since  the  synergists'  origin.
Professor  Veysey's 1971  account of  his stay  on the  Synergia Ranch
describes John Allen's  attempt to organize  a conference on  ecology.
His followers  were given stiff  deadlines for  pulling expert  panels
together and were  sent on frenzied searches for  information based on
"milking local  sources," Veysey  wrote. "These  forays sometimes  led
them to libraries. . . where in the span of a few hours they would try
to become familiar with the  scientific literature. An important  part
of the  challenge  was  to be  able  to locate  the  most  trustworthy
information. . .  proceeding from scratch."
     Numerous researchers and academics have told the [ITALICS]Voice[italics]
of similar
attempts to be  contracted or just straight-out used  by the Biosphere
core group  as scientific cover  for their science  fiction. Physician
and natural medicine  researcher Dr. Andrew Weil described  a 12-year,
on-and-off courtship by  the synergists which, he says thankfully, was
never consummated.
     "I was first  approached back in 1979  when I was at  the Harvard
Botanical Museum," Weil  tells the [ITALICS]Voice[italics] in an  interview
conducted at
his Tucson  home. Kathelin  "Honey" Hoffman,  now  of the  Biosphere's
"Scientific Research Committee,"  came to him "like a  ball of energy"
about the [ITALICS]Heraclitus[italics] project and-- in  Weil's words
"pumping me for  a
lot of information on plants." Weil was invited to the Synergia Ranch,
witnessed one of the howling dinners, talked for hours with John Allen
and was "pumped for more" of his expertise. Weil says for years he was
enticed  with grant  offers  from the  synergists,  exploited for  his
knowledge,  and then left  in the cold,  mostly because he  had made a
public statement suggesting the group might be  a cult. "I feel that I
was  just ripped  off, constantly  pumped, enticed with  promises, and
always left dangling. And as the years went by I was  really disgusted
to  see all  these academics,  who  should know  better, just  jumping
through hoops for them."
     When the  time came  to build the  Biosphere, the  group realized
that a mere university library of the sort used during the days of the
Synergia  Ranch  conferences would  be  insufficient  to fill  in  the
scientific gaps  of a $100  million project. John Allen  needed bigger
patsies.   He  found   an  entire   university   research  lab--   the
Environmental Research Laboratory of  Tucson's University of Arizona--
at  his disposal. Or  at least, he  found a lab  management willing to
compromise its honest scientists.
     An estimated  $5 million in  Biosphere funding was thrown  at the
cash-starved ERL, which became chief scientific consultant to the dome
project.  At least  $400,000  of  that sum  was  routed through  Oasis
Systems, a  private company that  the University allowed  ERL director
Carl Hodges to establish for  himself and select associates.  Needless
to say, Hodges--  himself with no  advanced scientific degrees,  being
much  more an  administrator  than  a  scientist--  became  a  zealous
defender of the Biosphere. "They  are visionaries and scientists, they
have excellent science,  they have in-house  people trained in  almost
every field." Hodges  says in an interview with the [ITALICS]Voice[italics].
"This is an
incredibly significant project."
     At any given time, as many as  40 ERL scicntists were deployed on
the Biosphere project, concentrating their work primarily in the areas

of intensive agriculture and oxygen/carbon cycles.
     But soon a  number of ERL scientists found  themlselves aghast to
be connected  with scientific  managers who  knew nothing  of science.
Biosphere directors  simply claimed credit  for the real work  done by
the hired expert drones.
     "lt works like this," says one former ERL scientist who quit  the
project  in disgust. "The  SBV people came  to us and  showed us their
original   drawings  for  the  Biosphere,  probably  done  by  Margret
Augustine.  Really, they were laughable, idiotic  designs. No value of
any  kind. After they  chose Pearce Systems  as an  engineering firm I
suppose Pearce gently  moved Margret into accepting his  own design to
make it functional."
     Another source, a key contractor with Pearce,  confirms that "co-
architect"  Augustine's   original  draft  plans  were  "primitive,  a
sketch."  At least  hundreds of  thousands  of dollars  were given  to
Pearce to present several feasible options on the original sketch.
     "About  six highly efficient  counterproposals were given  to the
Biosphere people," says the source, who sat in on the design meetings.
"All I  can say  is that Margret  and Allen,  after spending  all that
money, quickly looked at Pearce System's drafts and said, `Thanks very
much, but  just  do the  original version  we gave  you.' They  didn't
really  listen to  Pearce's  engineering  arguments.  So  what  Pearce
Systems did was  deftly translate Margret's  sketch into something  as
performance-driven as possible, but certainly not all that it could or
should be.  For example, Augustine  had this vision of  a dramatically
vaulted structure, a very complex one, for their intensive agriculture
area.  Pearce wanted to eliminate some  of that complexity to make the
agricultural area  more efficient.  But Allen and  Augustine said  no.
They wanted it to look just like Margret's drawing."

[BOLD]Never Let Science get in Your Way[bold]

     Other contract  consultants soon  sickened of  having their  best
scientific  opinions-- the  ones they  were being  paid to  offer-- be
simply  ignored, or  in some  cases, shouted  down by John  Allen. ERL
scientists Merle Jensen and David  Stumpf as well as ERL administrator
Wayne Collis-- all  of whom resigned from  the project-- told the  CBC
that research  review meetings were  often marked by an  atmosphere of
"verbal {*filter*}" perpetrated by John Allen.
     "Two instances stand  out," Stumpf tells the [ITALICS]Voice[italics].  
"Back in '85
at one of the introductory meetings al ERL, I presented some first cut
information   about    the   human    plant   oxygen/carbon    dioxide
interrelationship,  indicating that  CO2 buildup  could  be a  serious
problem. John Allen vigorously interrupted, telling  me, `I don't know
why  you're approaching  the  science this  way. . .   everything will
balance   properly.'  It  was  apparent  that  conflicts  between  our
traditional approach and the Biosphere 2 New Age approach was going to
be a problem.
     "Approximately  a year  and  a  half  later,"  Stumpf  continues,
"during the  yearly Biosphere  2 conference, I  presented a  poster on
ERL's computer models. And the next day I gave a short presentation of
our results to a gathering  of approximately 50 staff and sscientists.
We had determined that our first  computer modelling efforts indicated
that seasonal variations in CO2 could be dramatic and possibly too low
in  the summer for plant growth.  I didn't get very  far into the talk
when Allen  stood up  and began  to  attack the  model as  ridiculous,
unrealistic, unnecessary, and  a waste of time. As  his na ve critique
continued, I was given no opportunity to reply.
     "Traditional  science  was  not the  correct  approach  for these
people,  it  was not  giving  them  the  results they  required.  More
ominously, ERL director Carl Hodges,  instead of defending the efforts
of his scientific staff, sided with John Allen."
     "Let's  put it  this way, Allen  and his  people are driven  by a
vision and  they don't  let anything  get in  their way,"  as one  ERL
scientist at the meeting put it.
     Indeed,  Hodges apparently shares  John Allen's disdain  for open

debate and criticism,  one of the pillars of  scientific method. After
Stumpf appeared  on screen for  the CBC, he was  repeatedly threatened
with  legal  action   by  Hodges,  whose  attorneys   drafted  several
recantations to be signed. Stumpf steadfastly refused.  But Jensen and
Collis both signed  disclaimers after their TV  appearance, indicating
they had no  intention of doing any harm  to Biosphere. When contacted
by the  [ITALICS]Voice[italics] to  speak  about his  experience,  Jensen
said,  "I'm  a
college professor with a limited income. I can't afford to talk to the
     But through  independent sources  the [ITALICS]Voice[italics] has  
obtained a  1987
memo from Jensen-- a Ph.D. from Rutgers with 19 years of time spent on
the ERL staff-- written to  ERL management that underlines the tension
between authentic scientists and the Biosphere hustlers.  ln his memo,
Jensen complains  that "Safari"-- one of Allen's  cofe group members--
called him in  regard to his "recommending five  books in Horticulture
which  she can  read  in order  for her  to  qualify for  a  degree in
Horticulture from the Institute of Ecotechnics.  I personally will not

mentality toward higher education and science that has given rise to a
complete  disregard  to  the  fundamentals  and  principles  of  plant
science. . .  ERL  has indeed a challenge to not only pioneer the">food
support   systems  for  Biosphere   2  but  [to   also]  maintain  its
     Following  in the  best  authoritarian traditions  established by
Allen back  on the Synergia  Ranch, the  CBC itself was  threatened by
legal action before it even aired its 1989 documentary. The CBC did go
ahead with thc  program, even mentioned the threats in a coda, but has
been scared  out of  circulating its documentary  in the  U.S. Earlier
that year, the [ITALICS]Christian Science World Monitor Television[italics]
magazine did
a short segment questioning the scientific basis of Biosphere and also
immediately  came under threats--  legal and otherwise--  from Allen's

Brian Siano,                                Delaware Valley Skeptics
Rev. Philosopher-King of The First Church of the Divine Otis Redding


Sun, 06 Feb 1994 07:51:38 GMT
 [ 1 post ] 

 Relevant Pages 

1. Biosphere III?

2. Oberg Part III (actually its the first part of the essay)

3. Biosphere Articles Part 1

4. Biosphere Articles Part 3

5. Biosphere Articles Part 2

6. Biosphere Articles Part 5

7. Biosphere Articles Part 4

8. Biosphere Articles Part 6

9. Biosphere Articles Part 7

10. Biosphere Articles Part 8

11. Biosphere Part II

12. Biosphere Part IV

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