charles fort

Anomalistics [uh-nom-uh-list-iks] is the use of scientific methods to evaluate anomalies (phenomena that fall outside of current understanding), with the aim of finding a rational explanation. The term itself was coined in 1973 by Drew University anthropologist Roger W. Wescott, who defined it as being the ‘serious and systematic study of all phenomena that fail to fit the picture of reality provided for us by common sense or by the established sciences.’

Wescott credited journalist and researcher Charles Fort as being the creator of anomalistics as a field of research, and he named biologist Ivan T. Sanderson and ‘Sourcebook Project’ compiler William R. Corliss as being instrumental in expanding anomalistics to introduce a more conventional perspective into the field. Anomalistics covers several sub-disciplines, including ufology (the study of unidentified flying objects), cryptozoology (the study of hidden animals), and parapsychology (the study of psychic events).

According to Marcello Truzzi, Professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University, anomalistics works on the principles that ‘unexplained phenomena exist,’ but that most can be explained through the application of scientific scrutiny. Further, that something remains plausible until it has been conclusively proven not only implausible but actually impossible, something that science does not do. In 2000, he wrote that anomalistics has four basic functions: to aid in the evaluation of a wide variety of anomaly claims proposed by protoscientists; to understand better the process of scientific adjudication and to make that process both more just and rational; to build a rational conceptual framework for both categorizing and accessing anomaly claims; and
to act in the role of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) to the scientific community in its process of adjudication.

In the view of Truzzi, anomalistics has two core tenets governing its scope: Research must remain within the conventional boundaries, and must deal exclusively with ’empirical claims of the extraordinary,’ rather than claims of a ‘metaphysical, theological or supernatural’ nature. According to Truzzi, before an explanation can be considered valid within anomalistics, it must fulfill four criteria. It must be based on conventional knowledge and reasoning; it must be kept simple and be unburdened by speculation or overcomplexity; the burden of proof must be placed on the claimant and not the researcher; and the more extraordinary the claim, the higher the level of proof required.

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