James Randi—Discuss

GNC

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#61
Semyaz said:
gncxx said:
More proof that interest in the paranormal is waning? Or is Randi admitting he'll never be satisfied with any evidence? Or is it simply not something you can reproduce in a lab to order?
Probably all of the above to some degree, and then some... Still, I hold out hopes that someone will beat the challenge at some point over the next two years.
I wouldn't hold your breath. It'll be a shame to see it go, it was one of those constants in Skepticism, now it's as if it doesn't matter anymore (which you could take as either pro- or anti- belief in the paranormal).
 

rynner2

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#62
When sceptics fight back
By Arran Frood

Conspiracy theorists have used the internet to co-ordinate increasingly slick attacks on the accepted versions of events, but now a group of scientists and sceptics has decided it's time to organise and fight back.

Conspiracy theories are pervasive and popular.

A poll for the Scripps Howard media organisation in 2006 suggested 36% of Americans suspected government involvement or deliberate inaction in the 9/11 attacks, and belief in a Kennedy conspiracy ran at 40% in the same poll.

A decade after Princess Diana's death, one survey found a fifth of Britons believed she was murdered. And to millions across the world, 2009's Apollo Moon landing 40th anniversary was a hollow sham because we have never been there.

Conspiracy theories predate the internet but the web has provided a fast, accessible platform for groups to unite, gather research and disseminate information without even meeting or leaving their houses.

While many people them find harmless fun, others believe there is a darker truth - that conspiracy theories are rewriting history, warping the present and altering the future. Enough is enough they say - it's time to fight back.

Enter the sceptics with the gathering of The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in London, the first of the conferences outside the US. A fundraising offshoot of the non-profit James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), TAM London saw scientists, writers and comedians target conspiracy theories - and their close cousins pseudoscience and medical quackery - in front of an audience loosely allied by their desire for more rational, critical thinking.

"A lot of sceptics feel very isolated," says psychologist and magician Prof Richard Wiseman. "It's not a popular position to be saying 'Father Christmas does not exist' so it motivates people and acts as a springboard for people to see what we're up to."

This brand of scepticism is not new. The movement was first galvanised in the early 80s when spoon-benders like Uri Geller claimed not to be magicians, but to really have paranormal powers. It was an age that saw a test of Geller's abilities make its way into the prestigious journal Nature.

The internet era has changed everything. The web-only film Loose Change, which questions the findings of the 9/11 commission, had already been viewed 10 million times by May 2006. It has a had a massive impact. But the sceptics are also using the internet to organise loose networks of informal meetings.

However, using the same medium to fight back is not easy, as British investigative journalist Jon Ronson found when he posted on the British 9/11 Truth Campaign website. Abused and ridiculed, his integrity was questioned because he is Jewish. "When I found myself being attacked by 9/11 conspiracy theorists I found the sceptical community very supportive," says Ronson. "When believers turn on you it is horrible. I've stopped engaging with them because it's like prodding a snake." 8)

Ronson has spent a lifetime lifting the lid on the unusual. He is about to come to greater prominence after being portrayed by Ewan McGregor in the upcoming film, The Men who Stare at Goats, also starring George Clooney. Ronson's book of the same name revealed that the US operated a secret army of psychic spies in the 1970s and 80s.

But the sceptics movement is not just about tackling conspiracy theorists who spread their message by independent means on the internet, there is also a drive to tackle bad reporting of science in the mainstream media.

The author of Bad Science, Dr Ben Goldacre's website has served as a conduit for those who want to help counter the ceaseless torrent of articles pushed out by snake oil sellers, lazy journalists and badly behaved editors. He has been the leading critic of the media's treatment of the MMR scare.

His solution is to bypass conventional routes to the public. "Mainstream media has repeatedly shown itself to be worse than useless in reporting science and health in many, many fields," says Goldacre. "Scientists should communicate directly with the public via blogs."

These sceptics can garner a good deal of public support. David Aaronovitch's has given popular talks to accompany his anti-conspiracy theory book, Voodoo Histories. Goldacre speaks at contemporary music festivals.

And TAM London's 600 seats (at £175 a pop) were snapped up in 52 minutes - despite sceptics' high priest James Randi not attending due to ill health. Instead, Randi addressed an enraptured audience via video link like a general before battle, telling delegates that "it wasn't easy to get people out of beliefs in the woo-woo world".

Randi's foundation was established in 1996 to help debunk paranormal and pseudoscientific claims, but the prize dates back to 1964 when the sceptic offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove the paranormal was real. Donations swelled the booty to more than a million dollars, but no applicants have passed the preliminary test.

The energy at events like TAM London is tangible, but are sceptics just preaching to the choir and can their success be measured?

JREF president Dr Phil Plait cites the myth that an egg hatched on the first day of spring will stand on one end. Plait says that 10 years ago half of his audience had heard of the story - now that figure is less than 10%, which he says is down to using the web to disseminate articles that prove the claim is nonsense. "Legends do die," he says.

Then there is the image or branding problem. Not all delegates like the term "sceptic" because it has negative, 'anti' connotations, similar to the way atheists are defined by something they don't believe in.

As a result, some delegates prefer to call themselves rationalists, free-thinkers or Brights. "Out there in the audience is the next generation of bloggers and media professionals," Plait says.

But even if the word is spread, will conspiracy theory believers ever listen?

Adam Savage, presenter of the television programme Mythbusters, which uses science to challenge urban legends, is not overly optimistic. He says he doesn't know of any conversions following his Emmy-nominated programme that tested Moon hoax theories.

"They want to believe desperately that someone is in charge," he says. "Even if it is someone who is working against us."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8291688.stm
 

Spudrick68

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#63
I have to agree that however myopic their belief system is, what I can't accept is how rude, arrogant and downright disrespectful Dawkins and Randi can be. They come over to me as horrible little men.
 
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#64
Spudrick68 said:
I have to agree that however myopic their belief system is, what I can't accept is how rude, arrogant and downright disrespectful Dawkins and Randi can be. They come over to me as horrible little men.
Its those who spend so much time attacking Randi & Dawkins ( especially Dawkins) that make me wonder. The personalised abuse rather than critique is particularly interesting.

They remind me of little terriers snapping at ankles.
 

stu neville

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#65
I think it's the outright disrespect Randi and (especially) Dawkins show others that don't share their views that really rankles. Personally, I don't doubt the intellect of either, nor their sincerity, but their arrogance is noticeable and does little to foster an image of men with a balanced outlook.
 
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#66
stuneville said:
I think it's the outright disrespect Randi and (especially) Dawkins show others that don't share their views that really rankles. Personally, I don't doubt the intellect of either, nor their sincerity, but their arrogance is noticeable and does little to foster an image of men with a balanced outlook.
I agree that they overdo it at times. But I have noticed that SOME posters here continually refer to Dawkins as an asshole etc. Most of those who Dawkins does battle with deserve little respect but he could be a bit more gracious in the way he puts them down.

Randi certainly overdoes it and I enjoyed the way he was lampooned in an episode of the Dilbert animated series. Randi is too quick to dismiss things like Dowsing & Hypnotism. Of course I agree with the speed which he despatchs others. ;)
 

Spudrick68

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#67
I have no problem with their arguments as such. I personally would not refer to either of them as an asshole. As stated, they can be downright disrespectful to other people, and as such command no respect, in my book.
Without the enlightment of science we perhaps would still be like lynching mobs from Monty Python.
 

KarlD

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#68
Otto_Maddox said:
Spudrick68 said:
I have to agree that however myopic their belief system is, what I can't accept is how rude, arrogant and downright disrespectful Dawkins and Randi can be. They come over to me as horrible little men.
i couldn't agree more!
Oh don't be so silly, just because they don't happen to think that you should believe every piece of loony new age bollocks going they are rude.when you are dealling with people who think that david Icke is sane then most things in the real world are going to seem rude.
 

Dr_Baltar

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#69
Otto_Maddox said:
Anonymous said:
Randi lives in a very boring world, and I pity the people who live there with him.
here! here! well said that anonymous poster.
Really? I don't get this. Or the accusation by another poster on another thread that not believing in homeopathy meant you lived in a world without wonder and imagination. I find the truths of the natural world that science has opened up to us beyond any reasonable doubt to be beautiful and wonderous enough. Of course, paranormal phenomena etc. would be very exciting if proved true, but I can't see how a lack of belief in them makes the world boring or lacking in wonder at all.
 

Spudrick68

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#70
Karl D - there are many examples where both Dawkins and Randi have been arrogant and have shown a lack of respect to some people who have a difference of opinion, but who don't "believe every piece of new age bollocks". Thats a huge generalisation.
 

coaly

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#71
The "must live in a boring world" sounds creppily similar to religious people not comprehending anyone not having faith. Just because most credulous poeple do not believe in any old mumbo jumbo *did you see that? I was being polite, rather than swearing?*... doesn't mean that their lives are unfulfilled and dreary. Quite the contrary. Imperical life is full of staggering and wonderous, almost 'spiritual' adventures and extremely interestingly breath-taking experiences. To know that things happen in nature, without the need for a load of old crap to make it, is the most humbling of all. People don't need to cling on to some form of abstract reason for unbelievable things, they happen, are around us, and are natural and explainable. It doesn't take away the magic, it adds to it!
I don't feel offended when fluffies call me arrogant, just because I don't fall for their faith, I feel lifted. :) *No offense*
 

rynner2

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#72
Exploded: the myth of a miracle bomb detector
Ben Goldacre The Guardian, Saturday 14 November 2009

It's always interesting when people take pseudoscience out of its natural habitat – north London's Islington – and off into a place where the stakes are quite high. Like the polio vaccine scare in Nigeria. Or Aids denial in South Africa. Or, in this particular case, detecting bombs in Iraq, where the New York Times and the magician James Randi have uncovered a nonsense of truly epic proportions.

A British company called ATSC is selling a device which can detect guns, ammunition, bombs, drugs, contraband ivory – and truffles. The ADE651 uses "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction" and can detect these things from a kilometre away, through walls, under the ground, under water or even from an aeroplane three miles overhead.

ATSC's device is handheld. You simply take a piece of plastic-coated cardboard for your chosen target, which has been through "the proprietary process of electrostatic matching of the ionic charge and structure of the substance", pop it into a holder connected to a wand and start detecting.

There are no batteries and no power source: you hold the device to "charge" it with the energy of your body. Then you walk with the wand at right angles to your body.

If there is a bomb on your left, the wand will drift to the left, and point at it. Like a dowsing rod.

Similar devices have been tested repeatedly and shown to perform no better than chance. No police force or security service anywhere in the developed world uses them. But, in 2008, the Iraqi interior ministry bought 800 ADE651s for $32m (£19m) and they've ordered a further shipment at $53m. :shock: These devices are being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq to look for bombs.

Last week two people working for the New York Times went through nine Iraqi police checkpoints which were using the device, and none found the rifles and ammunition they were carrying (with licences).

Major General Jehad al-Jabiri, of the Iraqi interior ministry, said: "Whether it's magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs."

How would you know? There are no independent tests of the ADE651 that I could find. The simplest explanation is that nobody could really be bothered. The magician James Randi can.

For many years, in an admirably expensive act of passive aggression, he has offered a $1m cheque to anyone who can provide proof of supernatural phenomena.

Last year he invited the manufacturers of the ADE651 to come forward to see if the device works better than chance. They have not. I guess if you've trousered $85m, you don't care about The Amazing Randi's puny cheque. 8)

General Jabiri challenged a New York Times reporter to test the ADE651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office. Every time a policeman used it, the wand pointed at the explosives. Every time the reporter used the device, it failed to detect anything.

"You need more training," said the general. :roll:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... n-goldacre
 

OneWingedBird

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#73
That's just painful, when you think about what else you can do with that kind of money :(

Also a potentially lethal pisser for someone, when it turns up a false positve :(
 

kmossel

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#74
He came out of the closet today.

How To Say It?
Swift
Written by James Randi
Sunday, 21 March 2010 12:37

Well, here goes. I really resent the term, but I use it because it’s recognized and accepted.

I’m gay.

From some seventy years of personal experience, I can tell you that there’s not much “gay” about being homosexual. For the first twenty years of my life, I had to live in the shadows, in a culture that was — at least outwardly — totally hostile to any hint of that variation of life-style. At no time did I choose to adopt any protective coloration, though; my cultivation of an abundant beard was not at all a deception, but part of my costume as a conjuror.

Gradually, the general attitude that I’d perceived around me began to change, and presently I find that there has emerged a distinctly healthy acceptance of different social styles of living — except, of course, in cultures that live in constant and abject fear of divine retribution for infractions found in the various Holy Books… In another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance.

Before publishing this statement, I chose to privately notify a number of my closest friends and colleagues — none of whom, I’m sure, have been at all surprised at this “coming out.” I’m prepared to receive the inevitable barrage of jeers and insults from the “grubbies” out there who will jump to their keyboards in glee to notify others of their kind about this statement, which to them will be yet further proof of the perfidy of the rationalist mode of life that I have chosen. Those titters of joy will be unheard over the murmur of acceptance that I confidently expect from my friends.

This declaration of mine was prompted just last week by seeing an excellent film — starring Sean Penn — that told the story of politician Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. I’m in excellent company: Barney Frank, Oscar Wilde, Stephen Fry, Ellen DeGeneris, Rachel Maddow, are just a few of those who were in my thoughts as I pressed the key that placed this on Swift and before the whole world…

I should apologize for having used Swift as the venue to publish this note, an item that is hardly the focus of what we promote and publish here, but I chose the single most public asset I have to make this statement. It’s from here that I have attacked irrationality, stupidity, and irresponsibility, and it is my broadest platform. Here is where I have chosen to stand and fight.

And I think that I have already won this battle by simply publishing this statement.

Note: To hear an extensive discussion of this issue, please listen to my appearance on For Good Reason.
http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swi ... ay-it.html
 

GNC

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#76
There's a James Randi documentary on BBC Four tomorrow (Sunday) at nine o'clock. Looks very in depth, should be interesting.
 

GNC

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#77
Anyone watch it? I won't spoil it, but it takes an interesting personal turn in the last half hour.

Before that, the usual curiosity that when people are fooled by psychics and faith healers they get angry at the debunkers rather than the psychics applies, and also the cheery observation by Uri Geller (yes, he was interviewed!) that the psychics have claimed a decisive victory over those who would expose them as frauds was oddly chilling.
 

Recycled1

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#78
I watched it. I found the "personal relationship" stuff as interesting as the debunking.

It still doesn't explain to me one or two amazing instances in my own life, that I fall back on when tempted to chuck out of the window all psychic phenomena.
 

escargot

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#79
Haven't seen it but will watch on Catch-Up or whatever it is.

I go with the flow. Not buying any snake oil and that ghost I heard last night was probably indigestion, but one sees things... :shock:

:lol:

My son and I saw The Drip as large as life together in my current house years ago. It surprised him but not me, and we discussed it at length.

In the last few years he has tried to rationalise it by saying that we only thought was saw it, it was something else but we talked it up into something weird....

But no, we both saw and heard it and investigated the circumstances fully at the time, and couldn't come up with an explanation, much as we'd have both loved to.

This is my son with the physics PhD who works on the Atlas and CMS projects at CERN. HE can't go believing in phenomena now, can he?
;)
 

Naughty_Felid

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#80
escargot1 said:
Haven't seen it but will watch on Catch-Up or whatever it is.

I go with the flow. Not buying any snake oil and that ghost I heard last night was probably indigestion, but one sees things... :shock:

:lol:

My son and I saw The Drip as large as life together in my current house years ago. It surprised him but not me, and we discussed it at length.

In the last few years he has tried to rationalise it by saying that we only thought was saw it, it was something else but we talked it up into something weird....

But no, we both saw and heard it and investigated the circumstances fully at the time, and couldn't come up with an explanation, much as we'd have both loved to.

This is my son with the physics PhD who works on the Atlas and CMS projects at CERN. HE can't go believing in phenomena now, can he?
;)
missed it the first time around what's "the drip"?
 

GNC

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#81
escargot1 said:
Haven't seen it but will watch on Catch-Up or whatever it is.

I go with the flow. Not buying any snake oil and that ghost I heard last night was probably indigestion, but one sees things... :shock:
I know what you and Recycled mean, but I tend to think a distinguishing element of the uncanny is its unpredictability, so you can't order it around at your command, it just pops into your life unbidden. Plus there's the fact as Randi and many others point out, the psychics' and faith healers' results are far easier achieved with non-supernatural trickery. I'm more likely to believe someone who saw a ghost one night and never again than someone who claims to be in regular touch with The Other Side. And wants money from it.
 

escargot

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#82
The Drip - it's goo that falls from ceilings, often in the same spot, which makes a sound and can be felt as icy cold, but which disappears when it lands and leaves no trace.

My house has attacks of it, usually in times of change, and it haunted my sceptical science teacher ex to the edge of madness. :lol:
 
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#83
gncxx said:
Anyone watch it? I won't spoil it, but it takes an interesting personal turn in the last half hour.

Before that, the usual curiosity that when people are fooled by psychics and faith healers they get angry at the debunkers rather than the psychics applies, and also the cheery observation by Uri Geller (yes, he was interviewed!) that the psychics have claimed a decisive victory over those who would expose them as frauds was oddly chilling.
Quite an interesting film. Enjoyed it. Geller is reduced to selling "power crystals" on TV!

The personal stuff was touching.

An Honest Liar
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2246565/


Tribeca Film Fest: 'An Honest Liar'

< > embed
email
James "The Amazing" Randi joins us to discuss his role in the new film by Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom, "An Honest Liar," at Tribeca Film Festival. Randi reveals how easily our perceptions are fooled by magicians, con men—even documentarians.
http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segmen ... 044c0002ce
 

FrKadash

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#85
Just watching Red Lights. It features a fake faith healer who is exposed just as Randi exposed Peter Popoff.
I saw this when it came out and forgot about it, but it is a really interesting film and rather well made.
 

Loquaciousness

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#86
I know what you and Recycled mean, but I tend to think a distinguishing element of the uncanny is its unpredictability, so you can't order it around at your command, it just pops into your life unbidden. Plus there's the fact as Randi and many others point out, the psychics' and faith healers' results are far easier achieved with non-supernatural trickery. I'm more likely to believe someone who saw a ghost one night and never again than someone who claims to be in regular touch with The Other Side. And wants money from it.
Wot he said, innit!
 
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