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Robert A. Baker
Born June 27, 1921(1921-06-27)
Blackford, Kentucky, U.S.
Died August 8, 2005 (aged 84)
Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Psychology
Institutions Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory
Human Resources Research Office at Fort Knox
University of Kentucky
Alma mater University of Kentucky
Stanford University
Known for Ghost and UFO investigations. Critic of psychiatric pseudoscience and coercion.

Robert Allen Baker Jr. (June 27, 1921 – August 8, 2005) was an American psychologist, skeptic, author, and investigator of ghosts, UFO abductions, lake monsters and other paranormal phenomena. He wrote 15 books[1] and is a Past Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[2]

Contents

Early life

He was born in 1921 in Blackford, Kentucky. His father did shoe repair and his mother was a drugstore clerk. Despite their own lack of education, his parents encouraged him to seek an education from an early age. He attended primary school in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 1939.[3] He served in the Army Air Forces as a cryptographer during World War II, and began reading about human psychology at that time. [4]

Academic career

He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1948 and returned to receive a masters degree in psychology. He received his doctorate in psychology from Stanford University in 1951.[3]

After receiving his PhD, he became a staff scientist at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, doing military research. In 1953 he joined the Human Resources Research Office at Fort Knox, where he did human factors research relating to the Army.

He served on the faculty of Chico State College and Indiana University Southeast and as a staff psychologist for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.[5] In 1969 he joined the faculty of his alma mater University of Kentucky in the psychology department. He spent four years as chairman of the psychology department.[4] He spent the next 20 years of his career here, until retirement.

He served as president of the Kentucky Psychological Association and was a fellow of the American Psychological Association.[6]

He was a critic of pseudoscience in the practice of psychiatry and psychotherapy, and of the coercive nature of psychiatry. He wrote a book on this topic and allied himself with Thomas Szasz in this criticism.[7]

Career as a skeptic

His parents instilled skepticism in him from an early age. He was interested in ghosts as a child, but was disappointed to discover upon investigation that the noises emanating from a nearby "haunted cave" were actually natural in origin.[4]

As a university psychologist, he sometimes encountered cases with a paranormal element. He would do his best to find a non-paranormal explanation or resolution for these cases, and eventually gained a reputation as a "ghost buster".[4]

When Joe Nickell was seeking an advanced degree at the University of Kentucky, the two met. They later worked together on several paranormal investigations and co-wrote a book on the topic. Nickell once said, "No one knew more about alien abductions than Robert Baker."[6]

After retiring from the university in 1989, he devoted much of his time to scientific skepticism, writing several books on related topics including hypnosis, ghosts, alien abductions and false memory syndrome. He used his expertise in psychology to argue that many paranormal phenomena can be explained via human psychological effects such as hallucinations or sleep paralysis.

He was an organizer with and served as president of the Kentucky Association of Science Educators and Skeptics.[6] He wrote numerous articles and book reviews for Skeptical Inquirer magazine[8][9][10] and CSI's Skeptical Briefs newsletter.[11][12][13]

In 1999, a panel of skeptics named him among the two dozen most outstanding skeptics of the 20th Century.[14]

See also

Bibliography

References

  1. ^ CSICOP (12 August 2005). "CSICOP Laments Passing of Two World Class Paranormal Experts Philip Klass and Robert Baker". Press release. http://www.csicop.org/remembrance.html. Retrieved 4 December 2008.  
  2. ^ "CSICOP / Fellows". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. http://www.csicop.org/about/fellows.html. Retrieved 4 December 2008.  
  3. ^ a b Abstracts of Dissertations for the Degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education. Stanford University. 1951. pp. 325–327. http://books.google.com/books?id=SdxRAAAAMAAJ. Retrieved 8 December 2008.  
  4. ^ a b c d Bernstein, Adam (12 August 2005). "Obituary: Psychology Expert Robert Baker; Unmasked Ghostly Apparitions". The Washington Post. pp. B05. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/11/AR2005081102036_pf.html. Retrieved 4 December 2008.  
  5. ^ "Dr Robert Allen Baker, Jr. (1921 - 2005)". Find A Grave. August 11, 2005. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=11519683. Retrieved 4 December 2008.  
  6. ^ a b c "Robert Baker 1921 - 2005". Kentucky Association of Science Educators and Skeptics. http://www.kases.org/baker.htm. Retrieved 4 December 2008.  
  7. ^ Baker, Robert A. (Winter 2003), "Psychiatry’s Gentleman Abolitionist", The Independent Review VII (3): 455–460, ISSN 1086-1653, http://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_07_3_baker.pdf, retrieved 2008-12-28  
  8. ^ Baker, Robert A. (Fall 1986), "How To Bust a Ghost", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 11 (1): 84–90, ISSN 0194-6730  
  9. ^ Baker, Robert A. (Winter 1987/1988), "The Aliens Among Us: Hypnotic Regression Revisited", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 12 (2): 147–162, ISSN 0194-6730  
  10. ^ Baker, Robert A. (March/April 2000), "Can We Tell When Someone Is Staring at Us?", Skeptical Inquirer (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 24 (2):  ?, ISSN 0194-6730, http://www.csicop.org/si/2000-03/stare.html, retrieved 2008-12-29  
  11. ^ Baker, Robert A. (June 1995), "Have You Seen "The Light?"", Skeptical Briefs (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 5 (2):  ?, ISSN 1060-216X, http://www.csicop.org/sb/9506/light.html, retrieved 2008-12-29  
  12. ^ Baker, Robert A. (September 1997), "A Skeptic's Notebook: Prayer Wars", Skeptical Briefs (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 7 (3):  ?, ISSN 1060-216X, http://www.csicop.org/sb/9709/baker.html, retrieved 2008-12-29  
  13. ^ Baker, Robert A. (June 2000), "The Case of the Missing Poltergeist", Skeptical Briefs (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) 10 (2):  ?, ISSN 1060-216X, http://www.csicop.org/sb/2000-06/poltergeist.html, retrieved 2008-12-29  
  14. ^ Skeptical Inquirer magazine (14 December 1999). "Skeptical Inquirer Magazine Names the Ten Outstanding Skeptics of the Century". Press release. http://www.csicop.org/articles/19991214-century/. Retrieved 29 December 2008.  

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