In an effort to make our extensive video library available online free of charge, The James Randi Educational Foundation is posting high quality digital video lectures and sessions from previous Amaz!ng Meetings and other events on randi.org. Check back often to see the latest video content.
Science writer and psychiatrist Ben Goldacre takes a historical look at homeopathy and its critics while reviewing the often misrepresented results of over 200 scientific trials. His talk gives an, at times, humorous explanation of what homeopathy is and why its principles are implausible and even “childish”.
Jeff Wagg’s article about the extreme lack of casualties on board the AIRES 737 in Columbia brought to mind a similar story from 2009. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety was instituted in 1959 to test and promote auto safety. To celebrate their 50th anniversary they decided to throw a big bash, or rather, a big crash. They slammed two cars together, which is what they do fairly often. What made this crash different was that they weren’t testing crash worthyness. While Mythbusters has shown us that breaking things is fun, that wasn’t the purpose either. In this case they were doing it to show off.
In an effort to demonstrate the improvements brought about by 50 years of engineering knowledge, they crashed a 1959 Chevy Bel Air into a 2009 Chevy Malibu. It was a 40mph head on offset driver side crash; which was probably chosen because it allowed the cars to go head to head and see who came out standing. The cars were both 4-door sedans of roughly the same weight so it wasn’t a David vs. Goliath at least where momentum was concerned. The video to the right shows the crash from several angles, including from inside the cabin. Watch it, then we’ll continue talking.
Recently I was driving from Edmonton to Calgary and just outside of Edmonton I came across a sign on the highway that read, “Need a Healing?” and then touted the name of an evangelical preacher (Thurman Scrivner) who was appearing at a hotel in Leduc to ostensibly heal the infirm. Being a skeptic and a former hard-core Christian, I thought I might just go find out what this gentleman was offering those who felt they needed to be ‘healed’ by his words or deeds.
So, off I went with a good friend to one of the evenings that this gentleman was going to be ‘healing’ at the hotel. Upon our arrival we were greeted with friendship and warmth, and the environment was pleasant. There was a band that warmed up the crowd with a series of religious musical numbers and then a local preacher did some talking to the room of about 120 folks before the guest of honor arrived.
A somewhat disingenuous sign considering no healings were offered...
A couple of years back a book, movie, DVD, audio-book combination was released called The Secret. The basic premise of the The Secret was that everything in your life can be altered by you simply ‘wanting it’ bad enough. The dangers of this kind of thinking are fairly self evident, and it’s in this kind of thinking where my trip to the faith healer got me a little riled up.
As I said, the evening was much like a church service, but as it wore on the speaker began to hint that the reason people got cancer, got sick, had problems in their lives was because of their sins. Indeed, this gentleman actually suggested that a woman’s teenage son, who was shot and was clinging to life in ICU, had been shot specifically because his mother was pregnant and the baby was conceived out of wedlock.
Immediately after posting that article, I was contacted by Patrick Smith, who asked if his article influenced my article. What happened next was very interesting, so I'm going to tell the story in some detail.
As soon as Patrick sent that e-mail, I immediately looked at his article, and I thought... Wow, there's a lot of similarity here. But I hadn't read his article before I wrote mine, so how could that be? And then I remembered.
On the morning of August 18, 2010, I sleepily grabbed my iPad and browsed through two periodicals: USAToday and Slate, using their respective iPad apps. One of the featured articles in Slate was indeed Patrick's article. With horror, I thought "Holy cow, I've stolen his article."
In an effort to make our vast video library increasingly accessible, free of charge, The James Randi Educational Foundation will regularly be posting high quality digital video to randi.org. Check back often to see the latest video content.
This installment features a fun discussion with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone from The Amazing Meeting 5. They take questions from the audience and recognize James Randi as the inspiration behind the John Edward episode.The introduction is by Penn Jillette.