Marcello Truzzi: An Appreciation
Late on Sunday afternoon February 2, 2003, I received a call from
Kris Truzzi, informing me that his father, Marcello Truzzi, died at 3 pm
that day. The cause of death was the cancer Marcello had been battling
off and on for seven years. Kris informed me that around the middle of
the week his father suddenly took a turn for the worse, and his health
declined rapidly after that.
Marcello, a sociologist at Eastern Michigan University (Ypsilanti),
was a dear friend of mine. We last spoke when he called me on a Sunday
afternoon, almost precisely a week, even to the hour, before he passed
on. He was bedridden but reasonably optimistic, though realistic, about
his condition. He was not a religious man, but he remarked calmly that
he was not afraid to die. My impression, however, is that he did not expect
to go so quickly, because he talked at length about his thoughts for a
personal and intellectual autobiography. It would have been a fascinating,
But then Marcello was a fascinating and original man. I first met him
in 1977, around the time he left the Committee for the Scientific Investigation
of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which he co-founded with Paul Kurtz.
It soon became apparent to Marcello (as well as to Kurtz and many others
who were looking on) that he and Kurtz had fundamental philosophical differences.
Kurtz and other hard-liners in the organization suspected that he was soft
on anomalous claims and insufficiently committed to the crusade against
"irrationalism," in CSICOP's often-used characterization of contrary opinion.
For his part Marcello felt he was a true skeptic, who doubts, rather than
a debunker (he later preferred "scoffer"), who denies.
In an interview J. Gordon Melton and I conducted with him in his home
in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1979, he eloquently laid out those views. The
interview appears in the September and October 1979 issues of Fate.
He wrote and published frequently, his writings reflecting his wide range
of interests, including stage magic, music, carnivals and circuses (he
was born into a prominent European circus family), the sociology of science,
folklore, anthropology, psychology, popular culture, politics. Perhaps
the paper that best summarizes his views on anomalous subjects is
his "Zetetic Ruminations on Skepticism and Anomalies in Science," which
appeared in his own journal, Zetetic Scholar 12/13 (1987). Unfortunately,
he never did expand that essay into a full-length book, though from time
to time he talked about it.
To the end he doubted, but he did not deny. He thought that whether
or not they were ultimately proved to be as extraordinary as they seemed,
the issues raised by anomalous experiences, and investigated by serious,
critical-minded ufologists, cryptozoologists, and parapsychologists, are
legitimate ones which science dismisses or ignores to its own detriment.
In our last conversation he spoke of the fundamental uncertainty that underlies
all existence and understanding.
I might note here that it was Marcello, not Carl Sagan, who coined the
often-misattributed maxim "Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence."
In recent years Marcello had come to conclude that the phrase was a non
sequitur, meaningless and question-begging, and he intended to write a
debunking of his own words. Sad to say, he never got around to it.
No single human being influenced my thinking on UFOs and other anomalies
as Marcello did. Over the years we spoke, usually over the phone, dozens
and dozens of times. Sometimes his ideas provoked or even annoyed me, but
he never failed to force me to think deeper and harder because of that.
He was smarter than any five other humans combined. I suspect that every
day that passed by, he had at least one insight that had never occurred
to anybody else. It is sad to reflect that that wonderful, unceasingly
creative intelligence is now lost to this world. My last words to him were,
"Take care of yourself. There's only one of you."
Beyond that, he was a good and valued friend, a warm and funny man,
whom it was an honor and a delight to know. I loved him. I will miss him
is author of many books on UFOs and Fortean topics and co-editor of International